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Doug’s Columns 2001 « Douglas Fisher



Doug’s Columns 2001

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, December 30, 2001
ID: 12950186
TAG: 200112300373
SECTION: Comment
ILLUSTRATION: drawing by Tim Dolighan
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Both the global and domestic signs say to me that economically and politically Canada will have it tougher in 2002 than in 2001 – and 2001 has not been a cakewalk.
The likelihood is high that before 2003 rolls in, public unrest with the leadership of Jean Chretien will be tilting against his desire to remain in office until April, 2003, the 40th anniversary of his election as an MP.
Regularly, our politics shares with hockey the prime place in our national interests. Thus, a federal election campaign becomes a lengthy highlight of the year for political journalism. Right behind an election and hockey comes a leadership contest in one of our major political parties.
We’re almost certain not to have an election next year, and the odds are rather long, say 5-1, on a Liberal leadership race. As for the leadership certainty in 2002 – i.e., the Alliance party’s vote to replace Stockwell Day – it is far more likely to be mildly amusing or a bit aggravating than a decision whose determination grips hundreds of thousands beyond the membership of the party. My hunch is Stephen Harper will win a tight race.
Prime Minister Jean Chretien will be bedevilled even more in 2002 than this year by his failure to nip completely the organizing and fund-raising by would-be successors in his cabinet. It is too late to bottle them up, and the preliminary skirmishing of candidates will get considerably rougher in 2002. An added dimension to the rivalry will be the clear emergence of John Manley, the Foreign Affairs minister, as a favourite rating closer and closer to Finance Minister Paul Martin, the so-called cinch, and ahead of Industry Minister Brian Tobin.
Manley represents real change in style and pace to either Martin or Tobin or to the PM. In what way? In candour, straight talk and less hokum. He will not be far behind Martin by the end of the year if my assumption is right that relations with the U.S. in both the international and continental context will be to the fore.
Surely, factors external to Canada itself (and its rather slight influence on their resolution) will shadow the world next year with uncertainty and high risks.
My reading is that Americans far and wide, up or down the social and economic scale, have been more shaken than many realize at the seething hatred towards them, their exercise of military and economic power and the tidal effects of popular American culture.
Mastering terrorism’s menaces has become the burden of far more than the United States, but it has the leadership of it, and at this stage we only know how hard it will be for the Americans and their allies and client states to attain mastery over violence made so awful by suicidal hatred and unpredictability.
The hatred may be deepest in those regions where Islam prevails, but it is not exclusive to the Middle East and South Asia. Even in Canada, our own association with American policies and actions bothers a lot of our citizens: far from a majority, thanks be, but enough to keep a lot of us querulous and bothered, in particular by the saturating flow over us of what so often seems America’s excessive and excluding patriotic hype and self-congratulations.
If it is certain 2002 will be a year of global fretting over geopolitics dominated by an America led by George Bush, for us there is an even more practical, everyday worry. An American recession means a Canadian recession, and we all know that an escalation in congressional moves to enhance American security or to protect American jobs and production from imports is a shaker for us. (See time-consuming and expensive border-crossing requirements or the imposts on Canadian softwood lumber exports to the U.S.)
There is also a fair chance that in 2002 there will be deeper concern in our domestic politics over two worrying features of our economy: the heavy discount of the Canadian loonie vis-a-vis the U.S. dollar, and the contrary investment patterns in which the worth of foreign investment here has declined steadily whereas by and large Canadian investment abroad has been holding up well.
Opinion polling over the past three or four years has kept telling us that what Canadians want most are high standards and immediate access in our health care. Federal-provincial relations have been testy on this issue since the mid-’90s cutbacks of federal health payments to the provinces. Even with the departure of Ontario Premier Mike Harris from politics we may be sure this feds vs. the provinces wrangle will continue all year on both the money Ottawa should transfer to the provinces for health care and on how much some of the provinces will open health care to the private sector.
A promising aspect of 2002 lies with Quebec and its French-speaking majority. Their community has been a prime Canadian problem, historians say, since the 1840s and the Durham Report. To use a medical term, from the viewpoint of the Rest of Canada, Quebecois separatism seems in remission. It is hard to conjure up the deeds or lack of them which might set it flaring again in 2002.
In the coming year, the most troubled parts of Canada seem sure to be in the west, from Ontario to the coast. The Prairies’ farm economy is fragile and another dry summer would worsen it. The low prices for farm products, and the huge crimp in logging and sawmilling caused by heavy American imposts on our wood exports, have been directly hurting the communities of at least half the west’s federal constituencies.
In the year, as recession boosts unemployment in the cities of Canada, more and more politicians and interest groups will be demanding major spending projects by governments to give the jobless work, and this will complement the demands for help which have been coming through the last two quarters from the grain farmers and the wood producers. And so we can expect an addendum budget by late spring from the Chretien government to show it cares.
Is this projection of a dire year in Canada too negative?
One would hope so. But look backwards, back past that fateful Sept. 11 to early this year when high-tech stocks began to crumble and big layoffs began to come at the likes of Nortel. Through the months to the explosion of terrorism we got confident assurances from our leaders, including the minister of finance and the new head of the Bank of Canada. Remember how they said we were relatively recession-proof, compared to the Americans?
To conclude, at this time we seem to be without a useful alternative in the political system to the Chretien government. The most discouraging features of the government are twofold: the wearing away of the vision it gave Canada eight years ago of excellent capabilities and a fresh start; and now a too familiar, decrepit ministry, half of whom would be unable to improvise even a sensible explanation of their priorities.
Oh, what a drastic overhaul there should in 2002 of the federal cabinet! But this is unlikely, because Jean Chretien cherishes what he has.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 26, 2001
ID: 12949665
TAG: 200112260378
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


The drinking problem which Alberta Premier Ralph Klein has acknowledged was more common among federal and provincial politicians one or more generations ago.
A pattern of hard drinking by many MPs was evident in and around the House of Commons when I came to it as an MP in 1957. An example of this was an often maudlin debate in the House one night in 1962 on Canada’s finances. The lead orators of the major parties – Tory, Liberal, and New Democrat, were known drinkers. They had come in from dinner half-cut. Each had a glass of gin at hand on his desktop for sipping.
The debate lurched along, sometimes droll but increasingly it wandered, a travesty of the renowned “cut-and-thrust.” Nevertheless, what occurred was not described by the reporters present.
Why not? After all there was still some advocacy of “temperance” in the early ’60s.
Some of the forbearance, despite any spur from partisan rivalry, was because each caucus had its problem boozers. And those reporters covering the Hill shared an attitude that drinking made working and living easier. Members of the federal, and most provincial press galleries, had a central work site, usually near the chamber where beer or liquor was available to them almost any time from early morning till late at night.
I became more knowing about this through a controversy when two members of the press gallery threatened me with a slander suit and the gallery executive asked my party leader, Tommy Douglas, to censure me publicly for a remark of mine heard in a radio commentary on an Ottawa station, saying in effect: “Everyone knows about the boozers of the press gallery.”
This slur was put together from phrases I’d used when joshing an out-of-town reporter who’d broached me in my Hill office early one day. He needed a long item in a hurry for his station in B.C., and I was the only politician handy for an interview. The night before, he’d been drinking and missed an interview with a minister.
I knew he would edit the taping so I began, I thought humorously, by referring to booze as a common hazard in his line of work. Shortly after the taping he met an Ottawa- based radio reporter and let him listen to the tape. The man made a copy of it; then, by adroit cutting he turned my jocularity into scorn for the press. He closed a brief, punchy item with the question: How long will reporters suffer the tarring of their reputation by this sanctimonious jerk of an MP?
My calumny never broadened into a national story, I think because reflection by politicians and gallery members on what might be lost if unlicensed availability of alcohol on the Hill became the nub of a court action. The incident faded away after I apologized to the gallery executive, explaining that an exchange of banter had been sliced down to an invidious description of a group.
In the days of this controversy I learned a lot on past and current doings of MPs with alcoholic beverages. And a decade later, while taking part in an inquiry of the Ontario Legislature’s functions, I found similarities at Queen’s Park, Victoria, and Quebec City with the drinking customs on Parliament Hill, although there were indications a slow decline in drinking as a social bond was under way in each locale.
Ralph Klein’s open vow to beat his curse set my recall going on the contrast of today’s drinking patterns with those on the Hill 40 years ago and at Queen’s Park 30 years ago.
Within the precincts of the legislative buildings today there is far less drinking, gregariousness, and I’d say less conviviality and socializing. How did this come about? It wasn’t from any open or veiled campaign to get rid of the booze (as has happened so totally with tobacco). The alteration came indirectly, a consequence of changes in routines and roles, accentuated by television’s effect on political behaviour.
Consider these factors: the end of night sittings; the drop in sitting days; the shortening of time given passage of bills; the predictability of recesses and holidays through the year; the near total shutdown of the buildings on Saturdays and Sundays; the generous travel allowances which let MPs and MPPs go readily back and forth to ridings; the rising proportion of both female MPs and female journalists; and the nigh total decamping of media people to do most of their work beyond the parliamentary precincts.
The Hill – and along with it, the press gallery – is much less a gregarious, masculine community than it was, say, in the Pearson years. From my observations, the press club bar across the street from the House (where MPs are honorary members) is a quiet shadow of what it was even 20 years ago. The primacy today of the partisan tilting in the oral question period and the scrums which follow it, has stylized and simplified what MPs do in the most numerous association they have on the Hill. And aside from the crowd in the House for QP, rarely are more than two ministers in the House or more than 30 MPs (out of 300-odd).
Gone are the through-the-night poker games of yore. Even on weeknights lit windows on Parliament Hill are scarce. As a community, it’s empty most of the day and often for weeks and weeks. Recently a veteran of the House protective staff told me excessive drinking by MPs is now a rare problem.
Yes, some MPs and reporters may be steady drinkers, some even at Klein’s stage of addiction, but there’s nothing near what used to be. And despite what the change has done to camaraderie, there may be good in it.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 19, 2001
ID: 12948889
TAG: 200112190288
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16


It’s almost a duty of a political columnist to express firm opinions on controversies with a media angle, so here are mine on four of them:
1) The consort of our Governor General writing harsh critiques on politicians;
2) The quaint bank job recently created and given to the “chief political correspondent” of the CBC;
3) The refusal of Heather Reisman to have Hitler’s Mein Kampf on her bookstores’ shelves;
4) The merit of the dictum ordered by the newish masters of the Southam newspaper chain that its dailies print some common editorials that purvey the owners’ stances on national matters.
First to John Ralston Saul, once an army brat, son of a peripatetic military attache, then a writer in both French and English whose novels sold well, then the author of popular interpretations of philosophy and cultures through history. Personally, I am not at all bothered by what he’s been saying or writing since he joined Adrienne Clarkson at Rideau Hall.
Surely, anyone watching Saul at his wife’s side sees how stoically but naturally he does his chores at the Order of Canada presentations – unfolding as he rises, a brief smile, a nod as he shakes hands, squeezes a wrist, or mouths briefly with each recipient, then sitting down, shortly to rise and do it again, ad nauseam! Really, his grace matches that of Prince Philip; his patience surpasses him.
Post columnist Diane Francis, always a tiger for economic responsibility, thinks both John Ralston and Adrienne should be booted out for monetary gain on publications which are really selling because of his high status, not their intrinsic worth. His writing is surely a better anodyne than Ed Schreyer found to fill the dreary hours at Rideau Hall, plowing through volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica, one entry after another.
I’m puzzled by the switch in federal agencies by Jason Moscovitz, chief political reporter for CBC-TV News since David Halton moved to Washington. Jason is by mien and temperament a dour man, deadly serious, searching fruitlessly for the profound. I always felt he was a voice and personality for radio; for TV he had too little lightness of being. His new federal agency job is as a vice president for communications and public relations with the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDBC) in Montreal.
The BDBC is the agency at the centre of still uncleared insinuations of unethical behaviour by Jean Chretien in pushing loans by the bank to his constituencies. Obviously, Moscovitz’ new job is of the hot potato sort and he doesn’t suit it, even if his main strength as a journalist was having a fair handle on Quebec affairs. Long ago, I guessed Jason, like most non-French Montrealers, was a capital “L” Liberal in his heart, certainly not a Tory, but I cannot understand why he’d want to fill such a partisan function or be very useful at it after so many years under the banner of the Mother Corp’s self-touted independence.
It was probably my years as a librarian which made me give a “who cares?” shrug at the news Heather Reisman, the head of Chapters and Indigo bookstores, would not stock Hitler’s famous (but very boring testament). Any public library that does not have it will borrow a copy for anyone who wants to read it.
There’s no duty imposed on those who run bookstores to stock any particular book, however vapid such a refusal may seem in doing business.
There is a like matter of owner’s rights in the controversy raging over the Asper family regularly putting their views in each of their many daily papers through editorials.
One of my reactions to this was to pity the poor devil in the Aspers’ Winnipeg HQ who has to write or arrange these puffers, given what’s become obvious in the past few years: the Aspers haven’t much cogent or precious to say to Canadians, their grand success is in making money. Of course, I also cannot help remembering that the previous big boss, Conrad Black, was a romp to read on almost any subject, and he was detested, even feared far more by the reporters and editorial folk in most Southam newspapers than are the Aspers.
Yes, the Aspers can call this shot. There are neither unions in strength nor any legislation in place which provides processes for taking them on over their dictum. But surely common sense should tell the Aspers it is a stupid move, one which will dampen enthusiasm in hundreds of employees as long as it lasts. Further, the editorials will keep affirming the banal views of the proprietors. It’s true they escaped with hardly a word of political criticism for firing Lawrence Martin, columnist with their Ottawa Citizen. Why did they do it? The Aspers are Chretien fans and Martin was digging (and still is) into the PM’s constituency affairs.
I wonder how a shrewd fellow like Jean Chretien figures anything positive for him as a politician comes from his links with the Aspers.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, December 16, 2001
ID: 12948524
TAG: 200112160342
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


The leadership competition now under way in the Canadian Alliance party may well prove lacklustre, but it already has two interesting aspirants in Stephen Harper and Diane Ablonczy. Each is smart, energetic, studious, confident and self-contained.
Most of us in political journalism function like scouts in hockey and baseball – rating, comparing and contrasting the participants by potential, abilities and shortcomings. The Alliance race is unlikely to produce a superb, all-purpose leader but at least three of the four near-certain candidates (Ablonczy, 52, a lawyer and former teacher; Harper, 42, an economist and MP from 1993-97; and Grant Hill, 58, and an MD) have their positive points. Of course, the record of the fourth, Stockwell Day, 51, speaks for itself.
It surprised me when Day became the Alliance leader, easily beating Preston Manning, the pathfinder for both the Reform party and the Alliance.
My first appraisal of Day’s prospects as leader was positive. It stayed that way until he won his way into the House, where it soon became clear he had lamentable shortcomings in judgment and knowledge and an inability to improvise.
After last year’s election, in which Day came through poorly, it seemed to me and many others that his time as leader of the official Opposition would be brief unless there were marked improvements in Alliance work in Parliament, not just in his own performances. He needed to show shrewdness in directing the still plentiful talent in the caucus. Instead, something like a civil war over his leadership ensued in the early months of the new Parliament, splitting both caucus and party and forcing a leadership contest.
Day did survive the strife and the departures of some MPs from caucus until he had to resign a few days ago to make the coming contest fair. His departing words were of personal satisfaction over his success, backed by loyalist MPs, in holding the Liberals to account. Oh, what a dreamer. He and his team have hardly dented the mediocrity of Jean Chretien’s cabinet or the slipshod quality of the Liberals’ administrative performance.
It’s almost unbelievable that Day has not yet realized he lacks the right stuff to lead an effective opposition party, let alone the nation. So he will fight to regain the leadership, and in doing so may even do fairly well. One would like to think of some advantages in his candidacy but none seem obvious. Perhaps it might clarify the Alliance for skeptics who view the party as too influenced by Christian fundamentalists. This seems the association from which Day continues to draw his core backing.
Before giving my scouting report on the trio of Ablonczy, Harper and Hill, let me mention two other people in the present Alliance caucus who’ve shown enough ability in the House to be in the race too: Monte Solberg, 43, a former radio executive from Medicine Hat, and Brian Pallister, 47, a former teacher and businessman from from Portage la Prairie.
In the House, Solberg has been the wittiest of all Reform/Alliance MPs, and remarkably fast at mastering and using a subject file. He has lots of gall and persistence, and he’s very likable. Pallister, briefly a Tory minister in the Manitoba Legislature, has become one of the brashest and most authoritative MPs in the House. Physically he’s a giant, with a voice to match, plus blunt determination to be heard come hell or high water. Solberg has flair; Pallister has toughness.
In my opinion, Ablonczy has been the ablest all- round parliamentarian of the Reform/Alliance caucuses since she came to the House in 1993, despite a slight presence and a rather small voice without much modulation. Her capacity to interpret a file and make consistent, intelligent use of it as a critic reminds me of the late Stanley Knowles. She also has a shrewd common sense about partisan issues, and refuses to be rattled or howled down. She’s a prodigious student, maintains a sense of personal dignity which people respect, and clearly believes in her party’s principles.
MPs with an academic or scholarly bent like Harper are not rare – one thinks of Allan MacEachen or Otto Lang – but in the one term he had in the House he showed he could marshall an analysis of knowledge which had depth and turn it into debating material with pith and substance. He has lots of poise and confidence and, like Preston Manning, he has an excellent grasp of our political history and the economic aspects in it. The knock against him by both colleagues and partisan rivals has been the coldness of his logic-driven analyses. This is widely taken to mirror a detached personality without much emotion.
It’s possible that in the campaign to come Harper will shake this image of a very cold customer and make witness of his humanity and humour. If he does, he could roll.
Hill has so much of what Harper hasn’t demonstrated. He’s a model for the treasured family “Doc.” Instantly one warms to him when exposed to his kindly manner and the friendly way he has with people. One can attribute this to years of doctoring, fathering seven kids, and cherishing very fast automobiles. Such a past and pastimes explains why he’s been the caucus interlocutor across the splits and antagonism within the Alliance in the past year. He’s trusted as a square shooter and cherished for his character and manners. As yet, Hill has not been notable through his own ideas and purposes.
In the leadership race, if Ablonczy needs to demonstrate a more riveting presence than she has thus far, and if Harper needs to show a more human side, Grant Hill has to firm up by showing he can lead as well as bind.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 12, 2001
ID: 12947961
TAG: 200112120560
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
Paul Martin Sr. gives his son a kiss after Martin Jr. announced he was running for the Liberal party leadership in 1990.
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


It’s fair to say, after his calmly done budget recitation on Monday, there is not much mystery and excitement left for us as we think about Paul Martin as our next prime minister.
Even as Jean Chretien announced his cabinet in 1993, his finance minister was seen as the likely successor. And he still is, which speaks well of him as a capable politician. Indeed, who can recall any other postwar minister of finance whose budget strategies, aims, and achievements were more consistently appreciated for so long by the people?
Another note on Martin’s next career deserves mention. His ultimate ambition has a bond with that of his beloved father. Paul Martin Sr. was a cabinet minister for almost 25 years under four prime ministers, and twice a prominent contender at two Liberal leadership conventions (1958 and 1968) won by Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau.
Neither in appearance nor mannerisms is the son much like the father. Indeed, he resembles his mother. What he has from both, at 63, is the high vitality and strong purpose which they carried into their 80s.
Martin’s father was very able at almost every aspect of politics – from both impromptu and long-planned oratory, to working a crowded room, to dissecting an opponent with droll wit; so much so that he became in his prime THE caricature of the Canadian politician.
Martin, Sr. gave the funniest speech I ever heard in the House. It was a spoofing bid to get the same subsidies for farm-stored soybeans (grown in his own riding) which John Diefenbaker’s Tory government was legislating for farm-stored grains. A well-filled chamber was split into the many who grew more and more hilarious as Paul built the parallels and a band of irate Prairie MPs shouted “shame” and “fool.”
The son is hardly the politician for seemingly earnest leg-pulling of rival MPs, but by and large he’s amiable and jocular as a performer or companion. He may have his hours as a stuffed shirt, but not much of this has been evident in public. In short, his bloodlines and what we’ve seen of him since 1993 suggest he should have a long, healthy life. He has a basic, pleasant disposition, plus considerable confidence and pride that seem to come without illusions of either grandeur or infallibility.
It’s been evident for several years that Junior has a considerable edge on his late father when it comes to getting and keeping disciples within both the parliamentary caucus and the sprawling organization of the party (not unlike the margin Jean Chretien had over him in the 1990 leadership contest). Any explanation of his father’s relative shortfall in effective organizing for the leadership turns up a wry irony.
What undercut Martin, Sr., so seriously in his own party in 1958, and even unto the bid he made in 1968 to take over Lester Pearson’s mantle, was his reputation as a “lefty” – too liberal even for the Liberals. This judgment reflected the long, hard road it was for those Liberals within the cabinet and in the caucus who pushed for almost five decades what had been a party plank since 1919 – i.e., an over-arching, national system of hospital and medical care.
Paul Martin, Sr., as a potential prime minister, was too far to the left of the political spectrum for the comfort of W.L. Mackenzie King and Louis St. Laurent as prime ministers, or for C.D. Howe, “the minister of everything.” So in 1958, the most influential Liberal ministers and party officials preferred the ex-bureaucrat Pearson to Martin, known as the leading advocate in the party of “the social net.”
As finance minister, the son has often alluded to his father’s aims as his own. He underlines that he bears a like-minded sense of social justice. Although I don’t think this a considered sham, the irony is that so very much of his own achievement (such as ending a quarter century of budget deficits) has earned him favour in the party, the corporate world and the country as a whole as frugal and not a big spender. Even now, few Canadians take Paul Martin as a major force within the Chretien cabinet for an intrusive government determined to tax and subsidize to reduce economic disparities between citizens and regions.
When Chretien does announce his retirement and the contest for his post opens, it’s hard to imagine that the favourite is going to come into the competition as anything more radical than a middle-of-the-road Liberal – a competent, mature, proven leader.
But one of the strongest lines of criticism of the budget which Paul Martin presented this week is that it sets out some new programs and substantially increases federal spending, much of it projected for many years, and it deliberately delays any transfer of surplus moneys to reduce the federal debt.
If one anticipates the coming Liberal race will have spenders and the socially conscious located toward the left pole of politics, and business-oriented money-minders toward the right pole, this budget might be Paul Martin’s witness that he really is his father’s son.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, December 09, 2001
ID: 12947605
TAG: 200112090354
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Ah, another biting report last week by the auditor general. What schmozzles it revealed, yet how rapidly these were sketched, then faded from public notice. Out of the way – let’s have the budget, then Christmas.
My piece today is not really a lament. Rather, as a fan, I’ve watched five auditors general come and four of them go – Max Henderson (1960), J.J. Macdonnell (1973), Kenneth Dye (1981), Denis Desautels (1991), and the latest one, Sheila Fraser.
Fraser promises to be as estimable, thorough and brave as her four predecessors were in presenting cogent stories of waste, mismanagement and loony spending. Nonetheless, it’s a good bet that when her term ends in 2010 she will draw banal words of appreciation from the prime minister of the day but there will be no direct recognition of any achievements which improved the relationship between Parliament and administration.
Ottawa is still very much a company town, and in it the key network of power – i.e., the incumbent executive group in the Prime Minister’s Office and a score or so of deputy ministers and mandarins – suffers the AGs and their prowling accountants but refuses to make their work more credible with the media and the public by open, ready responses to auditors’ criticisms.
How does Jean Chretien handle the AG’s litany of slipshod government and wasted dollars? None of his gamesmanship is bolder or more effective politicking than his jocular abandon in the House of Commons as he swats away opposition use of quite severe critiques of federal mismanagement in the latest published report by the auditor general.
The PM’s relaxation vis-a-vis the AG helps explain why these reports are one-day wonders in the media, as has been the case with the first one presented last Monday by Fraser. Chretien, at least on the face of it, does not take such reports seriously, nor do his ministers. They do not reject them so much as they ignore the particulars and extol the dedication of the public service, the benefits to humanity – and an ultimate banality that to err is human.
For examples, check how blithely last week Defence Minister Art Eggleton rolled over and around the detailed, savage assessment of a neglected and now inadequate military; or how Jim Peterson fluffed off the demonstrated stupidity and waste of the billion-dollar bonanza distributed just before the last election to help poorer Canadians pay their heating costs.
Chretien gave most of his question period time on the AG’s bundle of chapters to mocking Stockwell Day, Alexa McDonough, etc., for their in-party dilemmas. He largely ignored any references to their excerpts from the AG’s chapters. Instead, he used one of his familiar songs of self-praise for rescuing Canada from deficits and economic hardship. He never made any serious mention, let alone analysis of some most ponderable assertions by the AG. Everyone knows, the PM says, that his has been a good, competent government, not one guilty of poor planning, bad management and inadequately scrutinized by Parliament.
The regrettable match to the PM’s shrugging evasions of these critiques by the AG has been the pathetic inadequacy of MPs, particularly of the opposition caucuses, at scrutinizing governmental performance. Their scrutiny is sporadic and inconsistent. It’s as though most of the MPs tacitly agree with Chretien that the public doesn’t expect either frugality or sterling competence from its politicians.
There was a time, as recently as the late 1970s, when the public seemed taken with an imperative for good, sound government. In 1977, there were high hopes across the land when Parliament created an act respecting the office of the auditor general of Canada. The bill had been very much the product of the incumbent AG, J.J. Macdonnell.
He was the most politically adroit and publicly known of all the modern auditors general, in large part because he popularized a shift in the AG’s role from what he called “mere bean-counting” to auditing with the principle of “value for money” to the fore.
That is, an audit should go beyond ensuring public moneys had been legally raised, apportioned and spent to determining whether value was achieved from the spending. This was a principle the mandarinate and a few of Pierre Trudeau’s veteran ministers almost choked on. It meant a judgmental jeopardy could come after a spending item had been audited.
However, “Sunny Jim” Macdonnell had cleverly sold value-for-money to a lot of Canadians, particularly those in the business and commerce community, and so the government of the day swallowed it. And, one must hastily add, it and subsequent governments, not least those during Brian Mulroney’s two mandates, went out of their way to dodge or ignore or soft-pedal the consequences of more critical examination of value achieved from a spending program.
Macdonnell did not live out his term, and his successor, Kenneth Dye, was if anything even more aggressive as AG but not nearly so jolly and droll. By the time Dye returned to B.C. in 1981, replaced by the Paul Martin lookalike, Denis Desautels, there was much antipathy to the auditor general’s operations smouldering below the surface of the PMO-Privy Council Office and the higher mandarinate.
Desautels was certainly less bumptious in both his public comments and in his audit statements than Dye had been, but I thought he gradually sharpened the edge of his reports’ critiques, especially after the Chretien government came in, welcomed by both the senior mandarinate and the public service community of the capital.
For the first few years of the Chretien mandate, politics was dominated by the issues of reducing the deficit and facing the referendum challenge in Quebec. The downsizing and reshaping of the bureaucracy was popularly taken as a search for efficiency and better value through reducing spending programs and discontinuing Crown corporations.
The attainment of a federal surplus and the joys from a relatively booming national economy were most satisfying and, not unnaturally, they were seen to be to the great credit of Messrs. Chretien and Martin, not to the heritage Mulroney left them in the North American Free Trade Agreement and the GST. Neither the PM nor his finance minister were loathe to take the credit and to equate surpluses with good, sound government. The booming economy and the federal surpluses seem to have diverted the business community from the cause of those who monitor government for waste and boondoggles.
When a flood of criticism came about loose dealings and incompetence in the Human Resources department in late 1999, revealed by a critical audit by the AG’s office, Jean Chretien immediately took the line that the opposition was exaggerating, that the grants and contracts criticized had done a lot of good, etc. And once it had been agreed that Human Resources would earnestly bend itself to meet principles for remedying its faults as set out by the auditor general himself, Chretien kept repeating this, but otherwise he has never really responded in depth to anything of substance in the reports by Desautels (and now the first by Fraser).
Perhaps the most positive apologia for the Human Resources botch-ups came from Arthur Kroeger, a federal mandarin revered in governing circles. In a speech, he asserted that opposition MPs and the media have much to answer for in the long controversy over Human Resources. He believes, “A seriously distorted picture is now firmly established in the public’s mind. Auditors are important people … I admire Mr. Desautels … but auditors should not have the last word in all circumstances, because audits tell only a part of the story.”
One can read the reception and treatment of last week’s auditor general’s report as evidence that the prime minister and his ministers do have the last word on criticism in the report – and it’s of dismissal.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 05, 2001
ID: 12947014
TAG: 200112050532
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Question: How has the House been doing to date this fall?
Answer: Better in its debating hours than in the daily question period.
The terrorism crisis pushed many MPs into concern over fundamental antitheses of security and freedom, multiculturalism and unity. Thus, there were a lot of honest, thoughtful speeches by MPs of each party before the government used the guillotine on Bill C-36, and some of such unease remains for the other items in the anti-terrorism package.
Aside from Justice Minister Anne McLellan, hardly any MP earned much ink or many video bytes with their speeches. None of the few days spent on Bill C-36 was of epic stature. This House hasn’t the superb orators whose performances draw a listening crowd, performers like David Lewis, Don Jamieson, and the Chief. Bill Blaikie of the NDP comes closest to such achievers; nevertheless, this House has lots of common sense talkers (though not many are on cabinet row).
Q: What is it fair to say at this time about the leader of the official Opposition, Stockwell Day?
A: Foremost that he’s been trying hard. He’s reduced his exposure to the media outside Parliament, and on the Hill he continues to look fit and confident.
One might say that since his agonies last winter and spring Day’s become at least a match for some of the PM’s stunned ministers, like Lawrence MacAulay and David Collenette. He’s taken drill before each question period and his first questions are more aimed, succinct and tougher than last spring.
Sadly, in the follow-ups he hasn’t gained in resilience, dexterity, or punchiness. He lacks quickness at both thinking on his feet and improvising retorts which josh or sting. He never radiates much connection with political history and his vocabulary is small, his cliches repetitious. To draw contrasts, Day is well short of the parliamentary acuity both leadership foes Stephen Harper and Diane Ablonczy have demonstrated in the House.
Q: What about the other leaders: Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc Quebecois; Alexa McDonough of the NDP; and Joe Clark of the Tories?
A: The Tory leader bothers the Liberals, including the PM, much more than the other three opposition leaders. This has been most notable when he’s on to Jean Chretien’s integrity as displayed in his complicated antics while doing good for constituents in and around Shawinigan. Clark has no root and branch opposition to the anti-terrorism proposals, and in the House Peter MacKay competently handled the steady chores for the Tories.
As usual, Duceppe largely confined his analysis and opinion to that which would most concern Quebecers. And much like Bernard Landry, the Quebec premier, he was not out to ride any separatist horse on this American tragedy.
McDonough and her small band have the strongest doubts about the anti-terrorism legislation, and in expressing them they have radiated the stock NDP antagonism to the U.S. as the globalization monster and the Liberals as American ancillaries. Not a very forthcoming stance, at least thus far, although it may resonate better in Canada in a year or so.
Q: What are the issues engaging most MPs at this time?
A: There’s a fairly large bag of them. The finishing up of the anti-terrorism package is in it, but with nothing like the opinions or speculations there are about next week’s budget.
Will this document show what grip Paul Martin has on federal spending – for example, on aid for strapped grain growers on the Prairies and out-of-work loggers and sawmill workers in half a hundred ridings who’ve been scunnered by American policies? Will the taxation and spending measures deal with a serious recession or will the Liberals bet recent spending moves by the federal government next door rescues both the U.S. economy and our own?
The Liberal leadership race continues to interest far more Hill folk than the contests ahead for the Alliance and, later, for the NDP. So does the race in Ontario to succeed Mike Harris.
Most sensible politicians (and reporters) won’t take the Alliance race seriously if Stockwell Day is in it. Of course, the haunting question continues: “When’s the PM going to go?” It engages everyone in the game, not just Grits. The recent fluster about cabinet changes spun out from the inner sanctums remains topical, with some doubting it will come for many years.
A clutch of pundits and academics has been reshaping a long-running theme in Canada’s politics into what should be or ought to be the emergent policy issue for the decade and the next federal election; that is Canada-U.S relations with its interlocking economic, cultural, environmental and military aspects.
Such prompting has had consequences. These days, a casual conversation with an MP about what’s ahead usually has him or her saying the prime Canadian question is how we face up to the USA.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, December 02, 2001
ID: 12946644
TAG: 200112020319
SECTION: Comment
ILLUSTRATION: drawing by Tim Dolighan
COLUMN: Backgrounder


Tens of thousands of Canadians are in a selection-rejection process this month, figuring what are the best possible choices for our Olympic hockey team.
One wishes even a small fraction of such citizens were as keen on selecting, rejecting and thinning the 27 MPs of the federal cabinet. We are so much more willing to be opinionated about the talent which should represent us at Salt Lake City than about the talent available for the top political team of the nation.
In explanation, this crude contrast comes to mind because of new rumours flaring on the Hill. Perhaps they were seeded by the close handlers of the boss in the PMO. The sketchy stuff that’s got into print foretells a big cabinet shakeup before Christmas. The speculation suggests several older ministers will quit, probably going to senatorial or ambassadorial havens; a handful of stupid ministers are to be derricked; and another handful will be shifted to either more or less exposed duties.
One has to go back to W.L. Mackenzie King (1948) for a PM so reluctant to drastically alter his cabinet as Jean Chretien. Two years ago he told me how thoroughly distasteful the experience was in the jettisoning of ministers Diane Marleau (Public Works) and Michel Dupuy (Heritage) even though each had been so ordinary – to say the least.
I put my opinion that he had dozens of backbenchers who were clearly abler and more personable than most in his cabinet. In part Chretien demurred, insisting he believed in giving ministers lots of rein and most had come through for him. He emphasized that only a PM could be aware of what a minister provided. He saw what each one offered at the cabinet table and knew which ones had well-functioning departments.
My opinion has not altered since we spoke. The hassle last year over the schmozzle in Human Resources and the terrorist crisis since mid-September have shown ever more clearly what a pathetic cabinet we have in Ottawa.
There are obviously slight ministers, some of them not even the match of poor Stockwell Day, the embattled Alliance leader. Each, in particular, is feeble or fatuous in the House. I refer to ministers such as: Jane Stewart (Human Resources), Lawrence MacAulay (Solicitor General), Claudette Bradshaw (Labour), Robert Nault (Indian Affairs) and four Torontonians, David Collenette (Transport), Art Eggleton (Defence), Maria Minna (International Co-operation), and Elinor Caplan (Citizenship and Immigration).
Then there are those who range from once very good to fair to middling and who can still stonewall well. They seem tired, however, or bored by their routines. I think of David Anderson (Environment), Lyle Vanclief (Agriculture), Ron Duhamel (Veterans Affairs), Alfonso Gagliano (Public Works), and Deputy PM Herb Gray, “the dean of the House.”
So, if at last Chretien is ready for a real shakeup, he has behind him lots of MPs with the abilities to do far better than at least a dozen cabinet incumbents who are fumblers, or tired.
Last week, after hearing the shakeup talk, I verified my low opinion of this cabinet by reviewing it one by one. And one question kept recurring: why has the Grit caucus been so passive about the wretched weaknesses in the Chretien “team”?
I looked up a veteran Liberal backbencher and asked why so many of his colleagues with high skills and ambitions never put together a caucus coup, driven by the anger and exasperation at sitting behind so many ministers of low quality over the past 5-6 years.
The MP said he’d often thought about this. In part, he thought the quietude of the caucus came because the PM was so immediate and determined in his personal contacts with backbench MPs. Just “one of the guys” with them.
Then there has been the PMO staff’s practice of closely watching for caucus dissent or too avid preoccupation by an MP with touchy subjects – using withdrawal of assignments as discipline. Further, even the slowest MPs know Chretien has a handful of crony advisers across the country on ratings of MPs for promotions and awards – e.g., David Smith in Toronto for Ontario caucus matters.
The MP also referred to the substantial advice to the PM given by Mitchell Sharp. It stressed much dependence on senior officials. Let them run departments. Let ministers provide overview, linkage at the cabinet table, and a department’s public face.
The Sharp mantra enhanced the mandarins’ influence generally, but in doing so it accelerated co-ordinating and setting priorities within the bureaucracy, all directed by the PMO. The staff there, and the deputy ministers of the major departments, have developed the course ahead well before most mere ministers and the caucus get into the act.
My MP source concluded with the scenario which he saw shaping early in Chretien’s second mandate. Finance Minister Paul Martin began to organize, readying to win the leadership when the opening came. He was so successful that for several years at least 60% of Liberal MPs have been on his team, including most of the ablest backbenchers. One consequence of such a strong, numerous cabinet-in-waiting has been a constraint drummed into them to be patient, to wait. Their day would come!
Clearly, the PM couldn’t afford to fire Martin or make too much of his supporting host, beyond rebuking a clutch of Martinites who had gathered in private to talk strategy. There came a flood of platitudes on “loyalty” as the prime Liberal attribute.
Chretien made it clear he was years from leaving, but he chose, tacitly, not to deny Martin or Allan Rock or other ministers from prepping for the race. He also bargained Brian Tobin away from Newfoundland and back into the cabinet in an important economic portfolio, but also as a check on Martin on the leadership issue.
If one goes so far as to accept the big shakeup is coming soon, then you have to wonder why – and why now.
There’s no doubt that if the rumoured switches brought in eight or nine new cabinet ministers and shuffled five or six present ones into new portfolios (in particular, the leadership aspirants) it would mean an explosion of fresh energy in the government for a time, and a bonanza of stories about new aims, farther horizons and a dumbing down of the competition for leadership money and votes.
What a break it would be from Chretien’s practice. Yet hardly any other move, in policy or restructuring, would make such a big stir, keeping the prime focus in Ottawa on the leader of such a bold, freshened government.
Now, let’s see how bold and fresh Wayne Gretzky will be in choosing the other vital team.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, November 28, 2001
ID: 12729422
TAG: 200111280554
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


What counts vis-a-vis the Liberal budget and our military is thought. Cash is nice, but thought is vital.
Conventional wisdom says there’s been a remarkable change of attitude in Ottawa and across the nation about security matters since Sept. 11, and Paul Martin’s coming budget will acknowledge this by providing a significant cash infusion to Canada’s Armed Forces. Will Dec. 10 be remembered as the day Canada faced up to her military responsibilities?
Evidence to date is mixed. Since the terrorist attacks, parliamentary debate has focused on security-related initiatives the government has introduced to increase police powers, tighten our immigration and refugee regimes and to improve airport security.
How much more our forces need – and where it should go – has attracted little question period time, and the government has offered little regarding its intentions. The useful debate has been going on elsewhere.
Members of all parties on the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs provided some useful comments to a special “defence briefing” in the Hill Times (Nov. 5). Three defence lobby groups recently offered their thoughts on the subject: the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies (To Secure a Nation: Canadian Defence and Security in the 21st Century); the Conference of Canadian Defence Associations (Caught in the Middle: An Assessment of the Operational Readiness of the Canadian Forces); and the Royal Canadian Military Institute (A Wakeup Call for Canada).
The MPs and these lobby groups all agree that Canada needs to:
1) Review its now antiquated defence policy;
2) Increase its defence expenditures significantly over the next decade to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
The strongest case for a policy review comes in To Secure a Nation. It challenges a central tenet of our foreign and defence policies since the last defence review in 1994: that in the post-Cold War age, Canada’s military needs to focus more on UN peacekeeping than on NATO or NORAD. Hear this:
“No one [then] envisaged how powerless the international community would be to control … ethnic violence in Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor and now Macedonia. No one foresaw the profoundly negative impact these crises would have on the credibility of the United Nations and other international institutions … the extent and nature of Canada’s involvement in overseas conflicts, the enormous demands these commitments would place on Canadian troops and resources, the devastating effects of a 30% real decline in the defence budget, the impact that decline would have on Canada’s credibility with its allies, or the emergence of a recruitment and retention crisis in the Canadian Forces.”
This cogent report calls for a new policy that emphasizes fighting capability and closer relations with the U.S. and NATO.
Defence Minister Art Eggleton, not given to much thoughtfulness, dismissed the report. Why? Because the ongoing war on terrorism requires all of his department’s attention. When it’s won – which he admits could take many years – the government might consider a review. This from a man who says he would like to be remembered “For having modernized the forces; having helped to develop a quality product.”
So what will it take to ensure that Canada no longer has to sneak off to the washroom when the security bill arrives at the western alliance table, as Foreign Minister John Manley recently put it?
Jack Granatstein, former York University professor, co-chair of the Council for Canadian Security in the 21st Century and historian of the “Golden Age” of the Liberal party, is blunt: “It’s going to cost us billions over years to get us back to where we should be … We need another 25,000 men.”
Others’ estimates? The Conference of Defence Associations: $1 billion a year increase, 22,000 men. The auditor general: $4.5 billion over the next five years (and that was before Sept. 11).
Expensive stuff – but our NATO allies spend an average of $568 per person on defence, Canada less than half that.
Given the rather sudden sagging of the economy and the Chretien government’s pacific tendencies, defence is unlikely to get anything like these sorts of increases, nor a review of the policy – unless Canadians make it clear they want the military fixed. Do they?
In 1994, then-defence minister David Collenette (now transport minister), noting “There is an urgent need for … shipborne helicopters,” called for the Sea Kings to be replaced “by the end of the decade.” This week we learned the 1960s-vintage Sea Kings may have to serve until 2015. Is anyone marching in the streets in protest?
I close with NDP MP Peter Stoffer on the budget coming a week from Monday: “Let us hope for all Canadians that the needs of the military are addressed and sufficient funds are at their disposal.”
Amen to that. But please understand, we need thorough thought on the military before the cash comes.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 25, 2001
ID: 12729077
TAG: 200111250347
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


What a sobering self-discovery! To be without either enthusiasm or venom about the gathering of federal New Democrats at a national convention in Winnipeg this weekend.
Of course, my own lack of reaction signifies nothing. But as I read the press and chat with those usually intent on politics, not many Canadians care one way or another how the convention goes on the two most heralded questions before it:
1) Should there be a replacement as soon as possible for party leader Alexa McDonough?
2) Should the delegates help create a brand new “party of the left”?
The latter proposition has been flogged by such celebrated leftists as Svend Robinson, MP, Judy Rebick, feminist author, and Buzz Hargrove, blunt boss of the Canadian Auto Workers union.
It seems to me there are more differences than similarities to the issue of founding a new party of the left than was the case some four decades ago.
First, the key figures in the abandonment of the CCF party in 1961 for what became the NDP were David Lewis and Stanley Knowles. Each had earned a huge respect and loyalty from CCFers through decades of dedicated organizing and promotion of “the movement.” It’s no disrespect to Robinson-Rebick-Hargrove, et al., to assert they come well short of such a revered status within the NDP.
Second, those architects of the NDP and their followers had pre-selected the leader for the new party. It was to be Tommy Douglas, then premier of Saskatchewan, a superb speaker and proven administrator. No prospective leader has yet fashioned the public presence and skills of Douglas, Lewis, or Knowles.
Third, the scenario for what became the NDP’s founding emerged in a burst, right after John Diefenbaker’s Tories swept 208 seats in the 1958 election. This knocked down the Liberals, our rulers from 1935-57, to a small rump group. A stock quip of the era which always bugged CCFers was that they were simply “Liberals in a hurry.” But now the Grits seemed broken, vulnerable and likely due for total eclipse. So surely reform-minded Liberals would turn to the new “liberally minded party of the left.”
As it developed, the Liberals revived strongly between 1958 and 1962 (and did again after a similar debacle in the Mulroney Tories’ sweep of 1984). Of course, today the Liberal party continues, and has a third straight mandate. Worse still for the NDP, and/or the new party to come, the Grit cabinet and caucus includes MPs to the left of centre on environmentalism, homosexual rights, aboriginal land settlements, and even those who would emphasize the UN as the prime global entity for the future, not the U.S.
A fourth difference is apparent regarding the basic question of unions as direct, partisan allies of a party. In the 1950s, there had been a fusion of two national trade union structures into the new Canadian Labour Congress. Many unions in the new CLC had favoured the CCF as their political party. Both Lewis and Knowles advocated the U.K. model, which affiliated union members and their resources with Labour. Therefore, the new Canadian party would have close ties with the organized labour movement. Now, after four decades of affiliation to the NDP by roughly half the unions outside Quebec, there is a considerable split among New Democrats on whether such ties are any longer a positive boon.
Whatever the fallout from Winnipeg this weekend, it has long been plain from election results that the affiliation with the NDP has not registered strongly at the polls. Many in the NDP even think the union tag is more curse than blessing.
In 1961, as the NDP began to roll, it continued the policy aims of the CCF for a “welfare state” which would have a thorough “safety net” of social and health services. The net was far from complete. This gave the new party a positive challenge for voters.
Today, and for at least a dozen years, that safety net, largely completed by 1984, has been under attack and often been reduced. This has forced the NDP in Parliament into defending what was, rather than advancing new or better services and support for low income families.
The vision, by and large, which McDonough and the dozen NDP MPs have presented in the Commons has been of a fading golden age, with medicare, its prime glory, under assault by reactionary governments and parties and its worth much undermined by a regrettable, popular faith in market forces, lower taxes, less government and no more Crown corporations. It’s a rearguard vision by a depleted force in retreat.
For years, the NDP prided itself, as did its predecessor, on the effective leverage for good legislation which its MPs exerted in Parliament. Such persistent role-playing for the good of the many on the Hill now gets little notice across the land.
Oh, its MPs still speak. Some, like McDonough, quite well, but not with many echoes beyond the nearly empty Commons chamber. The executive in politics is so ultra-important now, above all the prime minister. And to a much lesser degree, leaders of opposition parties can gain some attention when they’re belligerent. But it’s outside Parliament that most confrontations, negotiations and lobbying develop over economic, social and cultural issues affecting the nation and the globe.
Reflect on this. Isn’t it true that rarely does an opposition MP get as much notice as such prominent, unelected radicals as Maude Barlow, Judy Rebick, Elizabeth May and Linda McQuaig?
So why not a new kind of left-wing party, one which gives priority to growth through putting its ideas and emotions at barricades and demonstrations, or through vivid performances on panels of the CBC, CPAC, etc. ahead of winning election in a riding and representing it at a forum sliding into redundancy?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, November 21, 2001
ID: 12728462
TAG: 200111210543
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


It’s a fair opinion that Canadians en masse do not oppose the Chretien government’s Bill C36 (the Anti-Terrorism Act). It’s unlikely such opposition will emerge before the bill is law, given some amendments offered Parliament yesterday by Justice Minister Anne McLellan, the sponsor of the bill.
The minister did her chore before the House committee studying the bill. She was clear, fairly concise and unruffled by the immediate, critical reaction of BQ, NDP and Tory MPs. They insisted the government had not given serious attention to the range and substance of critics; the amendments promised do not go very far.
The bill has been before both House and Senate committees for almost a month. There have been trenchant, often learned and quite specific attacks on many of the bill’s clauses. Such protesting has not gone unreported, but there isn’t any indication a national opposition has been shaping up against the bill as going too far.
The effect of Sept. 11 created mass support in Canada for installing a hard, entrenched system for protection and response to terrorism, including joining with allied countries in intelligence sharing and in supporting recent UN resolutions on international standards for coping with terrorists.
The so-called “war” against the perpetrators of 9/11 is still rolling, far from settled and still quite dominant in our news. And this explains some of the meagre attention and limited exposure for the critics of the bill, in particular for the learned critics whose expositions have forests of footnotes.
Could there be a ruckus raised against the bill in Parliament before it becomes law? Not unless a sizable rump of Liberal MPs and senators insists openly on more amendments, plus the Canadian Alliance linking with the three other opposition caucuses.
The past record of dissident Liberals is that they rarely express it on the final testing – their vote in the House. As for the Alliance, its MPs have decided the bill is not draconian enough. They would make it even tougher, and so joint resistance to the bill by the whole opposition is out.
So those who have scanned C36 and fret over its significance for group rights and individual freedom, should not have hopes this bill, largely as it is, will not become law. It should be well used in the next five years before it (now seems destined) to come up for parliamentary review.
There is one major difference I can see between what may happen in the years ahead to the Anti-Terrorism Act and what didn’t happen to the Emergency Powers Act (EPA) Pierre Trudeau’s government brought in after the October Crisis of 1970.
Recall what a huge scare that crisis was to most of us? People wanted extreme steps – including mass arrests without charges – to defend us against the FLQ terrorists and their kidnappings. Trudeau invoked the nutcracker powers of the War Measures Act, and shortly ameliorated this by creating the EPA. He promised that shortly there would be less empowering legislation. The years went by, however, and no great clamour developed for change. Trudeau shrugged off questions about it for more than a decade. As the crisis receded into history, so did the urgency to repeal or replace.
It may be different with Bill C36 as law. A rather different lot of people object to it than in 1970. So many of today’s objectors are active in law – as law professors and as recognized authorities on human rights, the Charter of Rights and on immigration and refugee law. Some are spokespersons for trade unions and associations assiduous in public protesting – e.g., gays and lesbians, environmentalists, anti-vivisectionists, etc.
A most unusual new book is a prophetic witness to the near certain durability of close, continual criticism for the anti-terrorist legislation.
On Nov. 9 and 10 the faculty of law at the University of Toronto held a conference titled “The Security of Freedom,” attended by 350 people, some 25 of whom gave formal papers with either overviews of Bill 36 or close exegesis of one or more of its important clauses. Most are by very learned people. More significant, the resulting well-edited 499-page book contains 25 separate essays presented to the conference, each on some aspect of Bill 36. Each essay has some criticism of the bill; most have substantial criticism; a few reject it as destructive of privacy and of open government.
This new book was in my mail on Nov. 16, and I gather copies also went to MPs and senators. A remarkably speedy printing! The essays in it will influence some of the content in the rest of the parliamentary debate. They are the first of scores more articles and books to come after the act is in use.
For those who fear big government, no matter how Liberal or liberal, this book becomes a bible for those following the diverse proceedings enabled by the act.
It seems to me the editors and authors of The Security of Freedom form too large and occupationally secure a nucleus of scrutinizers to let the act drift along without continuous, close criticism. The authors and numerous colleagues of like mind have repeated opportunities of access to public forums and prints.
At the least, their vigilance means the act will be well monitored; at the most, it could eventually work up national support for its sunset. Freedom is the best security!

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 18, 2001
ID: 12728109
TAG: 200111180442
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


This column does reach its purpose – to wonder if there are ever going to be women among the very top leaders of our politics. First, however, indulge me in a longish preliminary.
This train of thought began last week as I weighed the first program of Disclosure, the CBC’s new, much boomed journalistic series featuring Diana Swail and Wendy Mesley.
The twain are bright, quick, saucy, and … well, very personable. While muddling in my mind on the significance of such traits for compelling journalism, an aberrant thought came to me. (Don’t jump to sour conclusions.) Either one of these poised sophisticates – Mesley or Swail – may be a future governor general of Canada. Yes, I thought. They’re in the proving ground for greater roles. Their CBC predecessor, Adrienne Clarkson, is in place now, and doing wonderfully well, as I read public favour. And Her Excellency had confirmed her worthiness for the loftiest, unelected post in the land through her consistency as a regular presenter for arts and letters programs on the Mother Corp.
From Gov. Gen. Clarkson, my mind flicked to other women who became admired and nationally known personalities through television journalism, most of it on the CBC, like the late Barbara Frum or Betty Kennedy or Pamela Wallin.
Ah, Pamela, what a whirligig of cross-media enterprise she has become – and she’s still more than just coping. I recalled two decades ago when she came to the parliamentary press gallery for the Toronto Star: what an electric shock ran through the gathering at a Pierre Trudeau press conference when she had her first say.
From reflecting on the multi-purpose roles of Pamela Wallin, my mind strayed to other women in the media. And as I ran through names like Christie Blatchford, Rosie Di Manno, Anne Dawson, Julie Van Dusen, Margaret Wente and Chantal Hebert, it struck me hard: journalism today has a big – and growing – crop of superb female analysts.
As an old school teacher, I tend to grade those I read regularly; so my casual cast over the talent crystallized what’s obvious. Male domination of media quality has faded; male domination in numbers is sliding.
Among current political commentators I give the highest grade to Chantal Hebert (of the Star). She links vivid, sagacious topicality to a huge capacity for recalling political history, and she never hesitates to assess the worth or dross of politicians, usually with reasoning which makes me say, “She’s got him (or her).”
For “you are there” journalism, often seasoned with frank dashes of her own reactions and values, Christie Blatchford of the Post splendidly delineates and illuminates anglo-Canadian ways.
At blending synoptic reportage and her own assay of personalities or scenarios under appraisal, Margaret Wente is superbly incisive. She hasn’t taken long in becoming the Globe and Mail columnist one must read for politics, even ahead of the august Jeffrey Simpson or the prodigiously productive Edward Greenspon.
While reflecting on this cornucopia of good commentary by women, I turned to the Web sites of the four dailies contesting on Toronto streets. What’s the ratio of female to male columnists? Roughly it’s 1:3 with the Sun, Post and Star, and 1:4 with the Globe. (The Star is well in the lead, listing 89 “columnists,” 31 of them women.) I think we must anticipate the ratios will keep trending toward equality, given that the majority of students in journalism schools (as in law and medicine) are now female.
Let me be more specific. Our journalism, notably political journalism, is into a period where many of the women working at it deserve the recognition for quality parallel to that now accorded generously to story-tellers like Alice Munro, Carol Shields and Margaret Atwood.
Now I’ve reached the pity and regret point. If women can be so good at reporting and analyzing politics, why are those women in partisan politics not matching them?
Why has there been such scant appreciation of the performances and abilities – let us say – of the 11 women in Jean Chretien’s team of 36 ministers or of such often heard opposition MPs, as the NDP’s Alexa McDonough and Libby Davies or Diane Ablonczy of the Alliance or Francine Lalonde and Pauline Venne of the Bloc Quebecois or the Conservatives’ Elsie Wayne?
In this Parliament, women MPs hold just under a fifth of the 301 seats so the 11 female ministers of the government give them an even bigger share in executive power than their ratio of numbers within the House or in the Liberal caucus.
Further to the matter of opportunity or opportunities taken by women MPs, anyone who follows the House and scans the print record of its committees notices the good attendance and ready participation of most women members. On balance, the assiduity and competence shown is no less than that of male MPs.
So again the question: where are comparable stars in parliamentary politics to the Chantal Heberts and the Alice Munros? So far, only a few have won such recognition.
In the opposition, perhaps Deborah Grey – and she’s probably gone soon. Diane Ablonczy is on the edge of political stardom, if she gets a fair shake in the Alliance leadership race. Three of Chretien’s 11 women ministers – Sheila Copps, Lucienne Robillard and Anne McLellan – have gained substance and considerable grudging respect. Each is a confident and wary protector of her portfolio, and Copps is scratching toward stateswoman status.
Generally, however, Jean Chretien has been less than discerning or bold in picking the women for his ministry. He’s bypassed a goodly number of able, female backbenchers. Of course, many of them will be in the next Parliament, joined, one expects, by at least a score or so fresh ones.
I think the next House, given a new, more innovative prime minister, will give us the female cadre for enough quality performances to make us take that with the same casualness as now with most occupations.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, November 14, 2001
ID: 12727492
TAG: 200111140531
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


What’s it to me if a columnist (Robert Fulford, the Post) ridicules another columnist (Allan Fotheringham, Maclean’s)?
The answer lies in the cause of the ridicule: another columnist, Doug Collins, best-known and most controversial in the lively, lower mainland of B.C., now dead at 81. He was not a friend of mine, just a working acquaintance three decades or so ago when he covered Parliament Hill for the CBC.
Fulford attacked Fotheringham for a piece in Maclean’s (Oct. 15) titled “Death of a True Radical,” which focused on the courage and persistence of Collins as a journalist in the face of a B.C. human rights tribunal and libel and defamation suits.
Fulford declares this eulogy of a ‘radical’: “ridiculous and thoughtless.”
The Post sage emphasized that Collins’ “approach to the Holocaust was skeptical to the point of derision. He believed the Jews had falsely inflated Holocaust deaths to six million; the real number, he insisted, was much lower.”
Fulford resurrected quotations from some Collins’ columns which expressed absolute opinions about Jews – for example: “The biggest single threat to free speech in Canada,” and the tagging of the movie Schindler’s List as “Swindler’s List.”
Fulford closed his dressing down of Fotheringham with this scorn for the work of Collins:
“Over the years I read scores of his articles and never found one that was of any value. That’s why I was astonished when he commanded so much sympathetic attention in Maclean’s. Standing up for the legal rights of a journalist like Collins is useful, but praising him seems eccentric, at best.”
In Canada, Robert Fulford seems to rank as dean of Canadian literary and journalistic criticism, particularly though not wholly in Toronto.
Sometime soon, Fotheringham will surely have an apt, sardonic reply to Fulford’s rebuke.
What I wished to explain is the respect I have had for Doug Collins, despite some views he held on dicey topics like immigration and the Holocaust which didn’t square with mine. The bedrock for my respect was his soldiering. He was a junior British NCO in the infantry when in June, 1940, just coming 20, he was captured by the Germans near the beaches of Dunkirk.
As a PoW, the Germans sent Doug, a physical powerhouse, to labor in mines in Silesia. There, over the next five years, he engineered 10 escapes, most of them alone, toward the Russian lines. Each failed, although the last one took him into Romania and recapture there just before the war ended. After repatriation, he stayed for some time in western Europe, working with the British Control Commission “de-Nazifying” Germany.
I had heard in Vancouver of Collins as a multiple escapee through anecdotes from the likes of Jack Webster. So I was eager to know more of his war when our paths crossed on Parliament Hill in the late ’60s. He lent me a copy of his book about the war. From my own wartime experience, I knew a bit about his place of capture.
In later years, although I came to disagree with what Collins expressed on specifics like the toll of the Holocaust or the most sensible scale and choice of immigrants for Canada, I felt he had the right as a journalist to make them. I knew it took courage I rarely had.
Early, as a columnist for the Tely in the mid-’60s, I had found that any analysis which argued specific, ethnic limits on immigration or questioned Canada’s foreign policy in the Middle East or belittled multiculturalism brought charges of racism and anti-Semitism.
I wasn’t brave enough to keep banging away on these themes, given it meant public accusations of bigotry and anti-Semitism. Collins had the bravery; many would say too much, and very wrong-headed.
In a letter to me in 1979 about immigration, Collins made this point: “Not a single politician that I know of has ever chosen to campaign against immigration. That has meant there has been no focal point of resistance, with the result that although the mass of the population is “anti” they have not been able to express their feelings in an effective way.”
I agreed with that then, and, by and large, it’s still the case.
As a journalist, but not just for its purposes, Collins was blunt, caustic, stubborn, and usually absolute. Those he affronted condemned him. It’s regrettable a decorated arbiter like Fulford wasted time reading scores of his pieces – and none of any worth! I guess it’s a generational thing, but I’ve long felt that by his conduct in war, Collins earned the right to sound off. I feel I owe it to him to say that he often deserved responses of more substance than he got.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 11, 2001
ID: 12727142
TAG: 200111110292
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Despite “the war,” a deepening recession, and a long-delayed budget coming soon, the purpose of many in the government corridors of Parliament Hill is not firmly on those factors. It continues to be on who would, or should, succeed Jean Chretien, when, or if, he resigns (rather than runs again).
By and large, the public and the media have tended to ignore this wide preoccupation of the Liberal cabinet, caucus and party with the below-the-surface antics of ministers like Paul Martin, Brian Tobin, Allan Rock and Sheila Copps. They and their backers keep building campaign teams and raising money.
Most political reporters are not intent on this preparation within the Liberal ranks. Of course, neither are they much interested in the leadership choices now pending for both the Alliance and the NDP, perhaps because these coming contests still seem bootless and too embarrassing to matter much.
Despite the efforts of industrious MPs of all parties and by many senators to scale down and set limits on the anti-terrorism legislation sponsored by the minister of justice, it has not generated a sharp, nation-wide protest that concerns Chretien.
There has been, however, an oft-spoken question running through the caucus circuits in Ottawa: why has the PM not put a stop to the preparations of those aspirants to succeed him?
After all, a vital body to him – the federal Liberal party – still has a debt of over $5 million a year after a handy re-election.
Not only does this unofficial race make the party’s debt harder to erase, the debt is a contrast to the deficit-free pridefulness of the Grits as governors. The debt mimics the most jeered partisan faction of our times (jeered, that is, by Liberals and frugal citizens) – the Alliance, heavily in debt and still headed by a leader so inept few any longer want to hear about him.
Even more serious, as ethically dubious, are the scenarios in which the ministers and their staffs, preoccupied with recruiting and collecting, have much of their House and departmental facilities and services busily engaged in leadership advancement.
It’s my hunch the PM is not unaware of this busy stuff. His close-in staff certainly is. But despite a few barks from the boss to cabinet and caucus, he’s been letting it go. Why? It may be to give the man he brought back to cabinet from a premiership a chance to catch up to the frontrunner for the succession.
So far, neither the opposition nor the national interest groups who usually keep a critical eye on partisan skulduggery have raised hell over a leadership competition which, aside from dollars collected for the run, finds taxpayers funding it through the intense use of people and services meant just for ministries and Parliament, not for the retooling of the Liberal party.
Certainly, Paul Martin has taken a huge lead through years of using such resources.
At least, with his huge lead, one has to think Martin has been having more freedom than his rallying rivals to bend to his responsibilities. But is minding the finance role his main obsession?
Any normal, skeptical Canadian with a long memory of national economic ups and downs became edgy last winter as the great boom of technology marvels like Nortel crashed, with layoffs coming by the thousands. What did all this collapse bring from Martin?
Reassurances! Again and again he said how well- placed Canada was to ride out the tremors in the economy next door and those overseas.
Even in late August, the minister and his old sidekick in Finance, David Dodge, the new head of the Bank of Canada, were blandly rejecting any suggestion of recession. It seemed almost treasonable to point to the sliding loonie, the layoffs, the mounting despair of the prairie farmers, the threat crystallizing in the U.S. against Canadian lumber. No sweat.
And no sketches of fresh, economic plans being readied; no budget until mid-winter.
Yes, there was some promise rising on rumours of substance from cabinet and mandarinate. It was, however, in the empire of the young ex-premier and Chretien himself, not under the genius of Finance.
A grand program was at the polishing stage. It would push Canada even more to the fore of First World countries by making communications based on computers and high-speed access to the Internet an available, national obsession. In particular, children and youth, the poor and the jobless would have access to the Web sites of the world. The teaching and the facilities would not be confined to metropolitan nodes but be funded for places all across the land, even in the towns, villages, and reserves of the hinterlands and boondocks. Yup!
Well … the innovative express is still there, for another quarter or two or three. Meantime, through a terrible diversion, Chretien and Martin have had a break from accusations they had not been anticipating a recession. It came with the massacre of Sept. 11 and its economic fallout.
The way the Chretien team has coped with the terrorist threat has shown it a motley crew. The likes of David Collenette (transport), Art Eggleton (defence), Lawrence MacAulay (security), and Anne McLellan (justice) have not been heartening. And, somehow, Paul Martin is not quite the counterweight one expected.
I think there’s a growing company of those pondering the greatest cabinet minister since C.D.Howe’s heyday in the 1940s and early 1950s. Is Paul Martin played out after seven hard years of deficit-reducing and waiting to be prime minister? Could it be that Jean Chretien figures this, and so he’s giving alternatives such scope to collect and to enlist?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, November 07, 2001
ID: 12726554
TAG: 200111070632
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Each of us has guises aside from work or place in community – say, as a Leaf fan or a doting grandparent. One of mine is as a veteran of World War II.
Each fall, as winter nears, my veteran’s remembrance takes a sombre emphasis, laced with thoughts of so many short lives. This fall, some writing by two old acquaintances has shaken up my thoughts as a vet.
One shake came in an unpublished narrative of his army days by a former gunner in an armoured car. I was his loader. He has a wry anecdote on what might have been disastrous. Though I was central in it, I couldn’t remember it … at first!
The other shake came from the witness to one veteran’s 40 years of pushing bureaucracies on behalf of down-and-out comrades. The author, Peter Hennessy, is the younger brother of the relentless pusher (a private who survived severe wounding in Holland to come home in 1945 classed as a paraplegic).
The book is a paperback, Brother Bill & the Vets, published by Hennessy Books, Elginberg, ON, K0H 1M0.
Most of vets I’ve known have generally coped well. Most usually agreed with me that Canada had treated its veterans fairly. After reading Brother Bill, I realize this was too generous.
It’s true DVA and the Medical Corps got Bill Hennessy back on his feet and able to cope as a counsellor to veterans, most of them “down and outs” frequenting the rough east side of Vancouver. Bill shared some of their problems with illness and drink, but he never gave up the fight for pensions, allowances, and health care for the afflicted.
Although frail and with just a Grade 9 education, Bill became an authority on welfare law and regulations, often working closely with the late, famous MP, Stanley Knowles.
Most of the synopses of his case files in the book are harrowing. Before his life closed out a few years ago he had helped get underway the now national anti-poverty movement. His life is a reminder that advancing the common good for many who returned had to be fought for, often case by case.
Now to my gunner’s tale. Today, he is eminent as scholar and businessman. In war, he was a fast, sure shot, certainly not a fantasizer. So I had to accept his account of his first day shooting. Suddenly, that morning, the front was fluid, and for some miles our tiny group rolled along a French road behind enemy lines and parallel to the coast.
Of our five-man crew, linked by intercom and radio, three were in the turret: the commander, a major; below him the gunner seated at a 37-mm cannon; and even with the major, on the gunner’s left, was the loader-operator.
As the gunner described it, the major suddenly tapped his shoulder and over the intercom, told him to swing right. There was a target, a German vehicle some 1,000 yards away running parallel to us on another road. “Give it a shot!”
The gunner swung the turret, spotted the enemy, a self- propelled (SP) gun, slapped my leg as direction to load, and fixed the Germans in his cross-hairs and waited … and waited … and waited. Where was the shell?
To him, seconds seemed minutes. Why didn’t Fisher slam home a shell? What was wrong with him? At last a shell clanked into the breach. Just as he fired he saw smoke from the SP, firing at us. It missed. Almost certainly we missed, too. He couldn’t be sure because suddenly our view was blocked by an intervening stretch of trees. End of a very scary incident.
I’ve a good memory. But I could not recall the incident. Slowly, in bits and pieces over several weeks it came back to me. My bust as a gun-loader!
I’d been seated when the order came, an open tin of Ogden’s fine cut tobacco between my knees, carefully rolling some fags. It took some seconds to find a place to stick the tin and the papers. Then came the shell choice.
The order hadn’t said high explosive or armour piercing. Simple enough, but I’d more a/p handy, and I figured it had to be h/e. There was a second to be sure of what I’d grabbed. So there was the explanation why our sure-shot never had a kill. I had behaved as though on an exercise, not playing for keeps.
It was embarrassing to have this recalled so many years later; more puzzling is why I’d forgotten it. One slight excuse was the day as a whole – full of fast travelling and unexpected situations.
An American military historian has said that “Retired warriors don’t fabricate so much as imagine.” Well, some imagining has helped me recall my unpreparedness and appreciate 57 years after it, how lucky I was.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 04, 2001
ID: 12726213
TAG: 200111040438
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Pre-Sept. 11, the wonder through the first nine months of a new Parliament under a prime minister cautious about change was not about his legislative program or administrative competence. No, the leading fixation was on whether or when Jean Chretien would retire: in this mandate, or later?
The next fixation was whether an inept Stockwell Day could survive as leader of the official Opposition. This question swirled round and round with an allied imperative that “the right” must get together if the Liberals are ever to be ousted.
Both fixations are still with us, but each seems rather irrelevant since the terrorists struck America and Canada slithered into recession in less than a quarter. (Remember how confident David Dodge, the newish head of the Bank of Canada, was in August?)
So, economically speaking, we face the bleakest winter in eight years. Compounding such difficulty for the government are the awkward complexities to this war. A clear, certain victory will be difficult, expensive, and increasingly unpopular because of onerous security measures at home and the doubt so many Canadians have about America as our global leader.
An assumption has hardened that the PM will not be running again; that there will be a Liberal leadership convention by 2003 but probably sooner. This reading has been encouraged by the tacit approval which Chretien has given for competitive organizing by not snuffing it out. It is remarkably open, and not just by the perennial aspirants to succeed him – Paul Martin, Brian Tobin, Allan Rock and Sheila Copps. Almost as likely, ministers John Manley, Herb Dhaliwal and (Lord save the Grits!) Maria Minna, are in the race.
So far, Martin has smothered a rising, but as yet, tentative querulousness about recession, in large part by undertaking a pre-Christmas budget.
On the terrorism side of the government’s endeavours, the opposition has not had a field day but it has done far better in the House with content and balance than before the long summer break. Day seems less a twit, whereas Joe Clark has stuck with his forte, criticizing process rather than promoting ideas. Most of the propositions the Alliance leader has offered, including a budget this fall, have later appeared on the government’s slate, most notably in the scope and force of its security propositions.
The New Democrats have found a promising line of attack in their fervour for the United Nations and the supremacy of international law. It also fits with their own anti-Americanism, and that of a lot of other Canadians who do not vote NDP.
The most satisfying aspect in what’s happening around the government’s proposals regarding security – border protection, air safety and military assignments – has been the rather sudden emergence of critics, both individuals and interest groups, concerned about protecting privacy, open access to information and not sanctioning witch hunts against specific ethnicities and religions.
Two of our federal watchdogs – of privacy and of information (both former Grits) – have been strongly against impingements on rights in their fields by the security legislation which Justice Minister Anne McLellan is pushing. And both MPs and senators have at last been openly criticizing the most stupid and costly Charter of Rights decision ever – the 1985 ruling by then justice Bertha Wilson that made mockery of a fair refugee program by giving priority and advantage through formal hearings and legal counsel to anyone who got on our soil to claim he or she was a refugee.
Two other “watchdogs” with exceptional standing as former deputy ministers for our immigration department, Tom Kent and John Manion, have told parliamentary committees how our immigration and refugee practices have become so costly and so unfair to those who would like to come and join us. Kent was the main brainstormer of Mike Pearson as prime minister. He developed the biggest shift ever in our immigration policy in the 1960s with the “points system” that opened immigration from any nation and turned away from favouring white and European migrants.
Anyone who thinks the crisis is real – as I do – would like to say the ministers most closely affected by terrorist threats have shown competence and clarity. Not so.
On the brighter side, John Manley has done well, although one wonders what mastermind in the PMO figured he could contribute much to any cause by visiting the nations of the Middle East last week. He continues to be a very straight arrow.
McLellan has lowered her voice an octave or two in her House and committee stints (which have been many) and incessantly she says she wants to accommodate criticism raised by the legislation she sponsors. She knows her file. It’s too soon to say her arrogance is gone for good.
Tobin has not really played an open, parliamentary part in the war or in notice of the recession. He’s no incipient “minister of everything,” like C.D. Howe in a previous war. Maybe an astute caution on his part.
Almost everyone agrees, though most no longer care, that Allan Rock, the health minister, is orally smooth and neat of person. But again he’s proven his shortage of political instincts.
The marvels of the cabinet at the moment are a tribute to Jean Chretien’s gall and patience. I refer to three ministers known long before this crisis as thick, or slow, or naive.
David Collenette (transport), Lawrence MacAulay (solicitor general) and Elinor Caplan (immigration) have each in his/her own muddled way been more out of place and sync than ever as their ministries adjust to the war against terrorism.
Their positions and performances are encouraging, however, to anyone, no matter his intelligence or experience, who wants to be a politician.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 31, 2001
ID: 12264064
TAG: 200110310328
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Many here are like me in finding the government’s official version of events in the Bayer-Apotex affair hard to accept.
As it is, Allan Rock insists he’s proud of what he and his health department officials did. If one accepts the minister’s own version of events about Bayer’s responses to his department’s inquiries, he and his people acted within the law, met the needs of the situation, and reassured the public their leaders knew what they were doing.
To illuminate why so many are skeptical about this official version, let me offer a different take on what might have happened, a more sensible one, which looks quite unlike what we witnessed. It would have gone as follows:
Rock appears at the famous news conference to announce the government’s plan to deal with a possible anthrax attack. Beside him are Solicitor General Lawrence MacAulay and Industry Minister Brian Tobin. Rock would have said:
“Canada’s intelligence agencies and Health Canada experts have established a worst-case scenario against which our health care system must be prepared to respond. A number of very effective treatments exist to deal with anthrax, including the well-established, off-patent drugs penicillin and doxycyclin, and patent-protected Cipro. In consultation with experts, my officials have determined the number of doses of each drug that need to be stockpiled to meet this threat, based on their efficacy against anthrax and other factors.
“Health Canada has issued purchase orders for each drug which take into account current supplies. A question regarding Cipro’s availability from its patent holder, Bayer Corp., arose. I requested that my Deputy Minister fax a letter to Bayer’s Canadian headquarters outlining our requirements. It noted that if Bayer did not respond by a certain time, or indicated it could not meet our requirements, the government would invoke its powers under the Patent Act to seek those doses Bayer could not provide from another supplier.
“Bayer responded – in writing – that it could not meet the full order, so I notified the Commissioner of Patents of the need to obtain generic Cipro, for national security reasons.”
At this point, Tobin would describe the relevant provisions of the Patent Act. As minister responsible, he would stress the action under the Patent Act was taken solely to establish the emergency stockpile with an offer of compensation made to Bayer, as suggested in the law.
So! No laws are broken. No confusion arises. No low-level officials are blamed. The patent policy is upheld, and old wounds between Ontario (the generic drug industry’s home) and Quebec (base for the patent drug industry) are not re-opened.
There are no unwelcome headlines about Canada turning its back on intellectual property rights. The government looks like it knows what it is doing. The public is reassured. There’s no question as to whether Bayer was given proper notification and the opportunity to respond. The opposition and media have no grounds to attack the health minister.
What sets this possible, sensible sketch of a well-executed process apart from what transpired?
Effective consultation and cooperation among departments and agencies that should have been involved (Health Canada, Industry Canada, Justice, and the Privy Council Office).
So what went wrong? First, is it credible that Rock and his senior officials were not informed – on a daily basis – about the escalating purchases of Cipro and the concerns regarding Bayer’s ability to meet demand, when the situation was suddenly so perilous that the minister felt he personally had to announce the stockpile’s creation?
Rock argues the whole world knew Bayer had a supply problem, so surely the issue of sidestepping patent rights was ever-present. Yet this former justice minister, who in private practice litigated patent cases, also says he never raised this issue in any of his briefings about the stockpile.
Even more bizarre, his officials apparently never saw any of this coming, despite years of briefing ministers on the potential legal, interdepartmental, federal-provincial and international ramifications of departmental activities.
Given Parliament’s impotence and the deficiencies of the Information Act, we are unlikely to ever know what really happened – and that makes future cock-ups all the more likely. Be thankful Allan Rock is not a surgeon.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 28, 2001
ID: 12263340
TAG: 200110280368
SECTION: Comment
NO COMMENT … Then-PM Pierre Trudeau leaves his Parliament Hill office after an emergency cabinet meeting in the early stages of the October crisis, 1970.
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Since the tragedies of Sept. 11 a notion has been repeated so often in North America it is already being taken as a permanent myth.
This notion is very handy for politicians and journalists, but it doesn’t make a fair fit with the past, even of Canada as “the peaceable kingdom.”
What is this fresh myth?
That on Sept. 11 humankind was suddenly wrenched into a world forever changed by the deeds of that day. Nothing will ever be the same. Predictability is gone. Henceforth, the lives of all people shall be shaped by apprehension of organized terrorism and response to it through imperative practices of systematic security.
Surely, those over 50 who follow public affairs have to be skeptical about such a sweeping postulate. It has made me recall a parallel of sorts in 1970, one that was intrinsically Canadian. Remember the October Crisis? It arose out of two kidnappings in Quebec by zealots of Quebec independence.
In response to FLQ hostage-taking, especially of a provincial minister, there was a huge hullabaloo. It was feverish among the leaders of Montreal and Quebec. They demanded aid for “the civil power” from the federal government, as the Constitution provides. Pierre Trudeau responded by invoking the draconian War Measures Act. Suddenly, there were lines of soldiers around politicians and their workplaces; over 400 arrests were made; there were dastardly rumours. Parliament sat through most of the crisis, and both front and back benches of all parties exchanged calls to stand firm. The speeches spread scary anecdotes about the scale, skills and resources of those terrorizing Quebec and Canada (almost all of which later proved wrong).
Some weeks after the crisis eased with the finding of the body of the kidnapped minister and the arrest of several of the conspirators, the federal government responded to appeals of those concerned with civil liberties and introduced a new Emergency Powers Act, narrower in range than the War Measures Act.
At the time both the minister of Justice (John Turner) and Trudeau assured the country that in time the emergency statute would be reviewed and ultimately withdrawn as affairs showed it was not needed. Oh, it took a long time. Several times a year for a dozen years I asked Trudeau when the act would be withdrawn and we would get “the facts” that induced the government to invoke the War Measures Act and then the Emergency Powers Act. He always brushed this aside as facetiousness, once with a form of his famous “fuddle-duddle.”
In late 1970, the notion ran strong that because of the crisis, “Canada would never be the same.” Yes, the crisis conditioned politics for a time, until the next crisis in the same field – the first independence referendum in 1980. But few politicians of any party wanted to dwell on the crisis as something that changed Canada forever.
Now, let me note a happening that was widely taken (and still is by some) as the most crucial and imperative augury for history – the development and use in 1945 of the atom bomb to destroy two Japanese cities. Fears grew that use of nuclear weapons by two giant and hostile powers, the U.S. and the USSR, would literally poison the Earth and annihilate millions.
Of course, the derivates of the bombs unveiled in 1945 are still with us, and now the fears are extended. The capacity and determination to have a nuclear arsenal has spread. Rather unstable neighbour states that hate each other – Pakistan and India – have fitted their military with nuclear arsenals.
No doubt the events of Sept. 11 and its unpredictable consequences are hugely significant. But I’d wager that by 2010 it will not be referred to as the date of a permanent change in the human condition – no more, and probably less than 1945, 1815, 1776 or 1492.
Another typically Canadian strand in the thesis of Sept. 11 as the watershed of human history has been the emphasis on how fearsome such terrorism is because it is strange to the Canadian experience.
Anyone scanning the several great historical atlases of Canada will find that through the first six decades of the 20th century the military was often called in by government to control the threat of violence in major strikes. And it’s sobering how often in those years we deported people as threats to the social fabric.
Above all, through most of the 20th century there was the running concern of those who governed, especially from Ottawa, about the menace to our peace, order, and good government from advocates of nihilism, anarchism, communism – and even socialism. Think of the national fluster over the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike, or over the march on Ottawa in 1935 which culminated in the Regina Riots.
Despite the brutal extent of the Sept. 11 slaughter by Islamic terrorists, it doesn’t seem to me it portends a higher degree of fear than we heard for decades from Canadian pulpits, platforms and podiums about “the Red Menace.” And when charges were publicly raised of police abuse through harassment and breaching of privacy, particularly by the RCMP functioning as security and intelligence agents, there was remarkably little public outcry.
Earlier this month, Christie Blatchford in the Post detailed the destructive behaviour and abusive antics of so many taking part in a Toronto parade organized by the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. She noted one lad’s jacket proclaimed, “We’re activists, not terrorists.” One of the marching mob’s chants was “This is what democracy looks like.” For the reporter and many of her readers, it is a travesty if this was democracy, and the fair word for the destruction is terrorism. These were not foreigners and, regrettably, not unusual.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 24, 2001
ID: 12262103
TAG: 200110240325
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


The botched purchase of anti-anthrax antibiotics recalls U.S. Secretary of State Alexander Haig’s gaffe minutes after the shooting of President Ronald Reagan in 1981. Haig charged into the White House briefing room to announce that Americans need not fear: he was in charge.
The patrician ex-general immediately had to eat his words, as reporters noted how the U.S. constitution – not personal ego – determines the order of presidential succession, and as secretary of state he was down the list. Not only was Haig not in charge, after this farce he never would be. (Some Republicans had seen him as a latter-day Eisenhower.)
Allan Rock’s latest bout of hubris should kill the notion he’s a credible man for the top job, given the harm he’s done to his leader, party and country, plus the fact that unlike Haig’s denouement, his folly is just the latest in a series of expensive foul-ups.
John Manley, foreign minister, and a Rock rival for third place in the Liberal leadership race, has won glowing reviews for straight talk on the terrorist crisis. One imagines that the health minister, more suave and handsome than Manley, felt he could top him. Alas, the PM neglected to put Rock on the new cabinet security committee chaired by Manley (a fate shared by another leadership hopeful, Industry Minister Brian Tobin). However, the health minister has his own powers and prerogatives, and the high anxieties over bio-terrorism offered a chance to show his mettle.
Last week, Rock got leading play in newscasts with the story he’d safeguarded the nation by ordering a million doses of ciprofloxacin, the favoured (though not the only) drug to combat anthrax, from Apotex, Canada’s wealthiest generic drug manufacturer. Cipro, as it is tagged, is covered by patent, meaning only its inventor, Bayer Corp. of Germany, can legally sell it here. Rock, lawyer and former justice minister, wasn’t having the law get in the way of protecting Canadians. (Tobin didn’t let it stop him from seizing Spanish trawlers on the high seas, did he?) According to Rock, Bayer couldn’t meet the order, so Apotex got it. End of story.
It was the Mulroney government which extended patent protection for new drugs, allowing companies that invent them more time to sell them without competition from generic knock-offs. The intent was to encourage investment and research in Canada, especially Montreal, where most patent drug companies were located. (It also brought our patent laws into line with those of other developed countries.) As long as the investments flowed, protection would be maintained. The trade-off? Generic manufacturers, most Toronto-based, would see slower growth, and Canadians would pay more for drugs during the patent period. The quid pro quo on investment appears to be working; certainly the Liberals have continued the policy, despite lobbying by generic producers and health care advocates.
Was the Apotex purchase by Rock a deliberate attempt to undermine the policy? (It certainly threatened to re-open it.) If so, it would give him a double-play: acting bravely to protect us at a critical time, and remedying a wrong (i.e., increased patent protection for drugs). In his first brag the minister showed little sympathy for any idea that patent-holder Bayer was being treated unfairly. Apotex president Jack Kay used the order to remind Canadians of the cost savings his company could offer – if patents were ignored.
As well, a leadership bid needs money and support, and the generic industry, based in Rock’s home, Toronto, would be most thankful to anyone who overturned the policy, as would the health care lobby.
Now consider another complication. Leadership rival Tobin is minister responsible for the patent law. Was Rock seeking a triple-play by forcing this rival into either defending expensive, foreign-manufactured drugs at a time of crisis, or supporting the health minister’s actions even though they violated the patent law? (There is a legal process available to void a patent in an emergency, but it was not followed.) If so, Tobin refused to play, avoiding comment until yesterday, when with a deal with Bayer in sight he came out to insist Rock would never break the law.
The Apotex purchase did violate the law, wasted a couple of million dollars (we’re lucky it didn’t cost more) and may have opened old sores between Ontario and Quebec over the policy. It also played around the world, as those who would challenge patent protection for drugs.
Rock’s defence is that he was duped – by his department, and perhaps by Bayer. He should have been checking the facts and the laws before his announcement. The reality is that, like Al Haig, he acted precipitately, looking for advantage. He has a propensity for doing so. Remember how this turned against him in both the Airbus affair and on gun control.
Jean Chretien could do us a favour by relieving him of the health portfolio.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 21, 2001
ID: 12261441
TAG: 200110210294
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


A winter of economic slide is shaping up for Canada and its keystone province, and this recession will surely be worsened by the uncertainty of current global disarray. All this seems of magnitude to dwarf the news Mike Harris will be with us as Ontario’s premier only until next March.
I haven’t shared the joy and relief of so many commentators since his announcement last week. Harris has seemed one of the better premiers in my lifetime, although even a fan must concede that he to so many is a mean-minded, semi-literate boor, particularly to those within the federal apparatus, in political journalism, and in education. He is as detested and reviled there as Brian Mulroney – a very different personality – was a decade ago.
Let me admit some partiality. It is that of one who, like Harris, is also from Northern Ontario. My firsthand knowledge of him is slight, but I’ve always admired the blunt talk and impatience with euphemisms and sophistry which flourishes where he and I grew up. So I cherish the Harris refusal to fudge about his intentions, politically unastute though this often is. If his predecessor, Bob Rae, as bootless a political executive as I have seen, had been as direct and unhesitant in his years of office, they might not have been so disastrous.
It’s early to say this about Harris, but of the 12 premiers of Ontario since I began to watch politicians in the mid-1930s (when Mitch Hepburn, a flashy, entertaining Liberal was running for premier), Harris has been the most bold in going for, and achieving, really major changes in governance and administrative structures. And he has also been more substantively critical of the federal government than Hepburn and his eventual successor, George Drew, both of whom detested Mackenzie King, the PM of their times.
Harris assumed from his first rise to office that Ontario itself is of economic scale and administrative reach to do much to determine its overall economic course, without waiting for “the feds” to lead.
Some critics think Harris merely mimicked Ralph Klein of Alberta with his plain policies of cutting taxes and public services. Klein may have been the model, but Harris has a far more difficult constituency than Klein for both the “common sense” message of free enterprise and his refusal to respect federal hegemony.
My favourite Ontario premier has been Leslie Frost (1949-61). He was concerned with the whole province and always determined that Toronto and its affairs should not dominate his government. John Robarts (1961-71) was careful and able, and he followed Frost as strongly in support of Ottawa’s leadership of national unity. Bill Davis (1971-85) continued this readiness to stand firmly with Ottawa in the face of separatism in Quebec, and proved himself remarkably adroit by carrying on a positive, successful government for almost a full term without a majority in the legislature.
This Tory trio stand out as able premiers, particularly in contrast to David Peterson and Bob Rae, the two other premiers in the 11 since Hepburn who had more than a few months in office (the others being Gordon Conant, Harry Nixon, Tom Kennedy and Frank Miller).
Remember that Mike Harris inherited a mess from 10 years of Peterson and Rae. The Peterson government was literally spendthrift, throwing money at too many programs and ratcheting up debt and interest burdens; then Rae and the NDP followed on and spent even more prodigally at first, then tried desperately to gain control of costs. Rae not only failed at this, he lost the backing of his most fulsome backers, the unions, and probably ruined forever any chance of settling public sector wages through reasoned procedures.
When Peterson and Rae left politics, each may have been seen generally as ineffective and even lightweight, but somehow they were reckoned then by many as politicians with “class,” and still are. Neither left the premiership as widely detested and reviled by the chattering classes as seems the scenario for Harris. And why not? Because of the Harris bluntness, and because he is so relatively uncouth.
Of course, these attributes of Harris emphasize the wonder he was ever elected as premier. Certainly, as one who has listened to every Ontario premier from George Henry (1930-34) to Mike Harris, none is so little gifted at speech and grammar as he is. Despite this, I believe that what those who took to him in surprising numbers in both 1995 and 1999 were recognizing was a strength of purpose, a mighty willpower, and a determination to cut the size of government and assure the economy’s recovery with the stimulus of tax cuts.
One has to underline that another politician even more successful than Mike Harris has long had criticism that has ranged into belittling and scoffing about his pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary; and there has been much emphasis on the iron hand he keeps on his cabinet, caucus, and party.
No, Jean Chretien and Mike Harris are far from identical. One is almost always brutally frank; the other only occasionally. One wonders whatever would he do if he left politics. The other just knows he’s achieved much of what he aimed to do, and he wants more than politicking will allow him in the rest of his life.
What has Harris achieved? He’s shaken up every major interest group in the province. He’s stimulated more hard thinking about our schools, hospitals, and municipal government than we’ve had in decades. He’s roused a wide concern (which will take a long time to fade) that the private sector of the economy is as basic as, but even more in need of priority than the public sector.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 17, 2001
ID: 12260268
TAG: 200110170462
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Headlines that state Canada is “at war” seem silly to those whose childhood was under the shadow of “the war to end all wars” and who took part in the more terrible conflict which followed. They mirror an ignorance of what wars – even today’s high-tech ones – are really about.
Wars are about killing, and sacrifice; and about taking risks and living with the uncertainty that follows. They are about knowing no guarantees on the outcome, that victory will be different from what you expect, and – almost always – bittersweet. Ultimately, wars are about guilt, and, for the warrior, knowing not only that you killed but that you survived while others better than you did not.
I think my generation understood these things, from parents who endured WWI and from living through the horrors of WWII ourselves (42,000 Canadians killed). Immediately after WWII we thought to protect our country, not by disarming or by preaching about some mythical brotherhood of man, but by preparing to defend the values we believed would keep like-minded nations from ever making war on one another. We helped found NATO, binding western Europe to North America with a vow: that an attack on one was an attack on all.
For many years Canada provided the backbone of Europe’s air defences, while in the Atlantic we fielded the finest anti- submarine force in the world, ready to keep the sea lanes open. Here in North America we joined the Americans in NORAD, recognizing that as we share this marvelous continent, we ought to share its defence. We fulfilled our obligations, did more than our share, earning a seat at the table and respect from our allies. Yes, we supported the UN and efforts to promote peace and democracy around the world, but this was not seen to conflict with the notion of preparing for war, of being willing to kill in self-defence.
Some were uneasy with this. Our foreign service included many who saw large conventional forces as misguided – surely nuclear weapons negated their value. Our security, their argument ran, was threatened by third-world poverty, not armies and guns. The keys to peace were aiding development and learning to live with the Marxist and quasi-Marxist regimes then coming to power. The Vietnam War surely proved this thesis. By acting on the truths they identified, Canada could both lead the world and assert her independence from an America so fixated on its role as superpower it hadn’t grasped that weapons and war no longer counted.
From the Pearson government on, we let our forces run down, in numbers and equipment. Those who approved this ignored the principal lesson of WWII – that just because you don’t want a war doesn’t mean you won’t get one. The Pearsonians isolated those believing in preparedness. Their unification of the armed forces became the last straw for some: many senior military resigned in protest. The nation yawned, so it seemed the politicians and Foreign Affairs experts knew best. Soon other go-ahead nations would unify their forces. (None has!)
And so Canada began cashing her peace dividend before the Cold War even ended, reducing her defence spending per capita to rival Luxembourg. Under Jean Chretien, defence has suffered the largest cuts of any department, losing a third of its budget, even as overseas commitments were increased.
Our penny-pinching has often been criminally stupid. Almost half our expensive fighters are grounded. Those still operational lack jet tankers necessary to deploy them rapidly overseas. Only a dozen or so are equipped to carry the smart weapons required to destroy point targets and limit civilian casualties.
During the 1980s Canada acquired a fleet of extremely expensive anti-submarine frigates (building them here inflated their cost). Today half are tied up dockside, without cash to operate them or sailors to man them. Those going to the Arabian Sea will operate at half their potential because of Chretien’s 1991 decision to cancel the Mulroney government’s contract for EH-101s. The 40-year-old Sea King helicopters they carry are obsolete, unreliable, and cannot operate in high temperatures.
Today our military is hemorrhaging. The exodus from its ranks is taking its strength below 50,000. With a “war” underway and so much public anxiety over their security and “at war” headlines, surely editorialists and opposition critics should be demanding a defence review, but they are not. Perhaps because no one even knows where to start.
Canada at war? To wage war, you must have the will and the means to do so. Canada has neither.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 14, 2001
ID: 12259579
TAG: 200110140271
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


This is over-simplification, but before Sept. 11, the government of Jean Chretien had only two personalities well to the fore through eight years of office: the PM himself and the minister of finance. Since then the duo has become a trio.
Add the minister of foreign affairs! John Manley succeeded Lloyd Axworthy as our international spokesman after seven somewhat unobtrusive years as minister of industry and now, suddenly he is politically significant, a possible prime minister. Why? How? It stems from something plain but rare. He met urgent ministerial obligations openly. Call it “candour” about our unpreparedness, about our mythic renown as peacekeepers and a multicultural model to the globe.
The emergent hero is unpolished. He’s not slick. He tends to be laconic and succinct. He’s not been an ambitious thruster, say, like colleagues Brian Tobin and Pierre Pettigrew, and he seems to court no disciples.
A veteran Liberal MP told me a year ago: “Manley’s studious and smart but without interpersonal skills.” And Chretien said to me in a chat last year about his cabinet: “The public doesn’t see this but I do. In cabinet Manley is best-briefed and very responsible.”
John Manley has not been the only minister, even the chief one, who’s had to respond openly to the terrorist-inspired crisis. Another six of them are being nationally appraised because their ministries involve security and infrastructures at home or the military and immigrants: Elinor Caplan, immigration; Anne McLellan, justice; David Collenette, transport; Lawrence MacAulay, solicitor general; Maurice Cauchon, customs; and Art Eggleton, defence.
None of these has matched Manley’s admirable mettle. He’s getting the public blessing, perhaps made stronger by apparent muddling by Jean Chretien and the evasion and fudging of roles and plans by the highlighted ministers.
Chretien has never had an all-star cabinet. He’s admitted he hates firing ministers, and that’s been obvious. Only 28 of his ministry of 37 are actual cabinet members. Of these perhaps a dozen have a fair to good grasp of their assignment and are at least modestly lucid in explaining it. I think of ministers like Herb Gray, Sheila Copps, Allan Rock, Lucienne Robillard, Stephane Dion, Pierre Pettigrew, Herb Dhaliwal, Brian Tobin, Ralph Goodale, and David Anderson.
One can make a second list of cabinet members who’ve either scraped out of trouble without much grace or repute and deserve scant approval. My examples would be Lyle Vanclief, agriculture; Jane Stewart, human resources; Claudette Bradshaw, labour; Ron Duhamel, veterans affairs; Alfonso Gagliano, public works; Bob Nault, Indian affairs; Maria Minna, international cooperation; even Don Boudria, the facetiously unctuous leader of the House.
Now back to my case that six ministers have not risen to the terrorist occasion as Mr. Manley has. They should have vital legislative and administrative roles in Canada’s response to the crisis. So far none of them has shown to real advantage. A political trait or style each of the six seem to share is a penchant for obfuscation. They are evasive, uninformative, and needlessly counter-attack queries.
There is a problem in defining a shortcoming of two of the six – David Collenette and Lawrence MacAulay. These are “likeable guys” as everybody knows. One hesitates to underline the simplicity of their outlook or what seems a vagueness about their portfolios. These are nice men playing several leagues too high. They parrot similar mantras. Yes, they’ve undertaken full reviews; their plans are developing, but certain matters must be kept secret. Above all, the dangers looming are being mastered by this government, guided of course by competent officials.
The performances of Collenette and MacAulay leave me praying their supporting casts have more acuity and less fuzziness than they do.
An even deeper apprehension rises while listening to the run-around of immigration and refugee factors by Elinor Caplan. You disbelieve she’s as obtuse as she seems. Maybe this is because she’s so patently mean-minded. Dave and Larry are decent persons. Elinor rarely fails to be nasty or not use the slur of racism. She parrots Simple Simon explanations of a ramshackle immigration system. Her government’s devotion to the nationally beloved policy of multiculturalism is what matters, not refugee screw-ups and fiddles.
Maybe this is too unkind to Caplan. I’d concede my canvass of reactions to her has not been broad; nonetheless I’ve yet to find an enthusiast for her as our immigration boss in this crisis, even among Liberals.
Two of the six ministers who leave me doubting and worried are smart and certainly assiduous: Anne McLellan, justice, and Martin Cauchon, national revenue. The normal McLellan is pompous and learnedly arrogant. She dots her remarks with phrases like “In fact …” and “And as I have said before …” Always she’s the know-it-all, above straightforward explanations. What an opaque and sterile symbol for the rule of law in Canada. It edges on tragedy that such a wretched communicator has such a vital portfolio.
Cauchon has a lesser portfolio, and he may go far further in politics. One has to be impressed by his speed of speech in French and English, ready colloquial English. Bing, bang, he races through references regarding boundaries, perimeters, and borders. Oh, how well his minions will screen subversives and expedite trade and travel to and from the U.S. What he radiates, like ministers McLellan and Caplan, is the assured conceit of the archetypal Liberal. Who else is capable of running Canada?
Finally we come to the minister who shares with Caplan the least defensible of portfolio regimes, Art Eggleton, minister of defence. One begins by conceding he has had a most difficult task. The failure to replace the Sea King helicopters is symbolic of the disinterest of the PM, Paul Martin, indeed most of the Liberal caucus, in military preparedness. The PM has chosen as defence ministers two amiable Torontonians, David Collenette and then Art Eggleton, with, in between and briefly, a tough minister, Doug Young.
Eggleton is more glib and coherent about the military and their roles than Collenette was in four years as minister; thus even less of the rain of criticism about defence policy and programs over the last few years has disturbed the government’s indifference.
Put another way, neither man as defence minister tried to stand forth as an enthusiast for a strong, balanced military, in line with our achievements in war and our economy and population. John Manley recently put vividly in one statement what a fraud we’ve been getting away with in NATO and NORAD. Shortly, the PM accepted an American request for a Canadian contribution and once again slick waffle about its make-up came from Eggleton: the usual guff about excellent equipment, splendid training and high morale.
May I repeat an old refrain. A truly sad feature of so much such inadequacy in the ministry is the plenty the PM has in talented, able, backbench MPs.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 10, 2001
ID: 12258440
TAG: 200110100440
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Once U.S. President George Bush made clear the determination of America to find and punish the terrorists responsible for the slaughter on Sept. 11, a lot of voices were raised in Canada and elsewhere in the Western world, saying vengeance might satisfy the Americans but it would only deepen hatred of the U.S. and its Western allies.
For example, the West should realize Israel and its long, client closeness with the U.S. is a festering obsession of Islamists by the millions in the Middle East and western Asia.
We’ve had here a spate of criticism of the U.S. and Canada’s all too ready association with her. The critics insist we look beyond terrorist deeds to the abysmal record of the U.S. (and Canada too) of racist attitudes, violence, and relative indifference to global poverty.
Three examplars of such views have been: 1) the relatively soft-spoken but determined Alexa McDonough, leader of the NDP, who wants us to put our faith in UN leadership and world courts and our defence forces in peacekeeping, not making war; 2) the more pungent, hyperbolic Sunera Thobani, a feminist professor in B.C. who brands the international course of America as bloodstained and oppressive; 3) and an emigrant from the U.S., Judy Rebick, a CBC commentator and a consistent popular critic of free-market economics and corporate influence.
Clearly, many of us too much discounted the influence of such criticism in Canada and its effect on the leadership of our ruling party. The Liberals were unusually hesitant or ambiguous since the World Trade Center towers went down until Prime Minister Jean Chretien told us last weekend he was sending a largely naval contingent of some 2,000 persons to join the forces encircling the evil bin Laden and company.
Oh, did I ever underestimate the number and scope of views in Canada after Sept. 11 that were hostile or cynical about our big neighbour as a force for good in the world and either dubious of, or against, any substantial role by our military in rubbing out the terrorists.
It’s suddenly popular to urge examination of the “root causes” of so much anti-Americanism in the world and notably in Canada.
It is true, of course, that colonial Canada and federal Canada emerged because of fears of America. Our politics has never been without stern critics of the U.S. Long ago its themes were steeped with British loyalties; more recently the radical left in our politics has seen American corporate giganticism and rampant individualism as ruinous to social responsibility in Canada.
Despite the long tale of anti-Americanism here, I think the trend which McDonough, Thobani, etc. signify is rather recent, beginning to shape in the 1960s with the Pearson government’s determination to examine the unity question. Thus began the popularization of multiculturalism as a policy. Then came the turning away of Pierre Trudeau and Chretien in 1969 from their own radical plan to shift Indian affairs from a basis in reservations to open, equal citizenship for Indians everywhere. Instead they chose a policy described as “citizens plus.”
Then in the ’80s, Parliament enshrined these rights of aboriginals, and those of women, homosexuals, visible minorities and the disabled in the Charter of Rights, bringing them under the provenance of judicial decisions. Along with the judicial writ to interpret aboriginalism, ethnicity, racism, and discrimination, there also developed a practice by federal, provincial, and city governments of regular financial support for a host of organizations.
So there emerged a lot of so-called “non-governmental organizations.” These became “stakeholders” with a voice which got hearing over almost every matter of legislative intention and report.
In short, since the mid-1960s a host of continuing political lobbies has emerged, financed in part or wholly by governments and given recognized standing at conferences, inquiries, and in preparation of legislation. Vis-a-vis these lobbyists, the roles of both political parties and of most members of Parliament and legislatures became less significant in policy development and scrutiny of spending. Governments, notably in their senior mandarinates and their elected leaders, have become more attuned to the NGOs. Of course, they also follow opinion polling on significant issues and decisions.
Those of us in middle years or older readily recognize the most vociferous among such activist lobbies of recent years have been the feminists, the gays and lesbians, the conservationists, and the aboriginals. And all four – but most notably, the feminists – have done much to popularize and expose us to the views about the U.S. put boldly and so widely approved by the aggressive Thobani, McDonough, and Rebick.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 07, 2001
ID: 12257756
TAG: 200110070452
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Terrorists and war may loom about us; the making of books goes on. Here are notes on four new, political books: two very serious, one purposefully light, and the fourth … well, it is very capital “L” Liberal.
First, is Closely Guarded: A Life in Canadian Security and Intelligence, the autobiography of John Starnes, 83, published by U of T Press.
Second, is Religion and Public Life in Canada, also a U of T publication, a swatch of 16 academics’ essays, edited by Marguerite Van Die.
Third, is a gossipy book using a dictionary arrangement for notes as brief as a few words to as many as 1,200. Its author is Globe and Mail columnist Allan Fotheringham, its publisher Key Porter. The title is Fotheringham’s Fictionary of Facts & Follies. (There seem more follies than facts.)
Fourth, is Kicking Ass in Canadian Politics (Random House), by Warren Kinsella, 40, a lawyer, and from his text a top-level “political strategist” whose forte is fashioning attacks on foes of the Liberal party and Jean Chretien.
John Starnes, author of Closely Guarded, was a soldier for much of WW II; then he went into external affairs and stayed through its “Golden Age.” He was not widely known, despite some ambassadorial stints and high administration tasks in Ottawa, before 1970 when Pierre Trudeau made him the first civilian director of RCMP security and intelligence operations. Wow! That startled Ottawa and the Mounties. Trudeau would not leave security and intelligence work fully with the RCMP. It was to take 14 years and several long public inquiries before Parliament created the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) in 1984. Starnes welcomed CSIS, and much of his memoir traces the intricacies of the intelligence issue before it was formed.
In his epilogue, Starnes cautions of the hazards ahead for Canadians as a consequence of their “commitment to a multicultural and multi-racial society. The legal and constitutional framework that gives substance to this concept, maximizes the political and personal rights and entitlements of the individual.”
This vision of Canada, says Starnes, “creates a threshold for individual freedom that has few if any equals elsewhere in the world.” It is open to both ethnic friction and racial abuse. Although he does not think “there is a ‘root source’ for subversion in Canada, the multicultural and multiracial, ‘mosaic’ approach to nation-building creates the potential for tensions (domestic as well as foreign), which require modern arrangements for internal security.”
Indeed! Starnes is satisfied, however, with CSIS. It has its tasks in hand, and has been doing them well.
Now, let me list the authors and titles of those essays in Religion and Public Life which will enhance your understanding of Alexa McDonough’s persistent piety, Stockwell Day’s religious sources, and the bonanza which lawyers anticipate from their legal suits over abuse of Indian children.
In my opinion, J.R. Miller, a Saskatchewan professor, is the fairest historian we have of aboriginal affairs. His essay is titled “The State, the Church, and Indian Residential Schools in Canada.” His text makes understandable his last sentence, that: “The history of church-state co-operation in native residential schools is more complex and subtle than is generally realized.” A reader may also discern all the main elements which make Indian affairs such a grievous, political mess.
Donald Marshall, a Calgary historian, is researching a history of religion in Alberta. His superb essay is titled: “Premier E.C. Manning, Back to the Bible Hour, and Fundamentalism in Canada.” It gives the reader an understanding of the Albertan phenomenon as found in the House of Commons.
The contribution of Eleanor Stebner, a Winnipeg professor of theology, is an entertaining (but serious) biographical sketch of the early career of Stanley Knowles, the most diligent of MPs I’ve known. It’s titled “Young Man Knowles: Christianity, Politics, and the ‘Making of a Better World’.”
The Fictionary is the sixth published collection of Fotheringham’s chatty, spoofing, cynical quips, metaphors, and personal judgments of politicians, royalty, athletes, media people (and their bosses) along with a smattering of analysis and opinion on issues, most of which suggest he is well to the left of the political spectrum but not by acknowledging it. I have chuckled and snorted more over this book than its predecessors, in part because of racy profiles of such as Bill Clinton, Pierre Berton, Bill Davis, and Marjory Nichols or sketches of Ontario, journalism and Liberals.
I would hope thousands of Liberals would read Kicking Ass by Warren Kinsella and realize how much of their party’s electoral content and tactics come from open surrogates for their MPs and ministers. Of course, such surrogates have loomed large in other parties. Think of Hugh Segal (Tories) Gerald Caplan (NDP) or Rick Anderson (Reform).
More than most of such warriors, Kinsella boasts and revels in nastiness and negativism. His publishers describe his work as “a sometimes meaningful, sometimes mean-spirited, but always fascinating circus that ensues every time we go to the polls.”
I got few fascinating points from this strut of a book, and one of them was personal. In Kinsella’s ratings of those who cover politics I was placed very low (though not as low as Fotheringham). A line from Kinsella’s depreciation will pop into my mind until after my column-writing days are over. It was: “Each column [by Fisher] gives a whole, new rationale for forced mandatory retirement.”
This century promises tough sledding for the aged, at least in journalism.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 03, 2001
ID: 12256697
TAG: 200110030473
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Since Sept. 11 many have talked of how things will never be the same. Their traumatic hurts have left many Americans reflecting deeply on their unique position in the world, and the price to be paid for it. Some in Canada think recent polls indicate Canadians have also been markedly moved. Maybe!
Both executive and congressional leaders in the U.S. and a host of talking heads in the media assure us America is committed to seeing the “war on terrorism” through, and that it will employ a multifaceted approach. Thus, we’re going to see America much re-engaged in international affairs, not only hunting terrorists, but also pushing for peace in the Middle East and providing aid to wavering Muslim allies.
Analyzing Sept. 11 is paramount. It’s still an intelligence war, seeking to know how the operation was planned and carried out, who was involved (individuals, organizations, nations), and what were their roles. Acting on this knowledge, the U.S. will bring to justice the individuals responsible. This will likely involve military action (limited air strikes, special forces operations) by the U.S. and Britain in the near future, followed by covert actions (assassinations).
It’s hard to see a role for Canada (and others) in this, beyond proferring logistical and intelligence support. Our military capabilities are limited and unneeded. America’s leaders probably prefer the freedom afforded by operating on their own.
(The Brits are an exception. Americans trust them because they’re ready to get their hands dirty, and have bristling assets to offer. Tony Blair’s approach to U.K.-U.S. relations is the same as Margaret Thatcher’s: get close to the only global superpower and stay there.)
Beyond meting out punishment to Osama bin Laden’s people and Afghanistan’s Taliban regime lies the broader fight against terrorism, also to be waged on the intelligence, diplomatic and military fronts. The goals will be to identify and destroy “global” terrorist organizations by attacking their members, financial support and infrastructure, while “persuading” those states that support them to refrain from doing so in future. Canada will have a modest role here: helping to stop the flow of terrorist money, blacklisting sponsoring states, and providing a bit of aid to Afghanistan’s starving millions.
But Canada’s war plans will focus on the home front. We don’t want attacks here, and cannot allow terrorists to launch attacks on America from our territory. Recent polls show Canadians have a very sober view of their principal interest in all this: maintaining unfettered access to U.S. markets. If America is going to fortify its borders, we want to be inside them. (Remember that the perimeter approach to security has been applied to North American air defence for over half a century.)
Our strong support for joint controls over North America’s borders shows economic self-interest trumps concern for sovereignty. Given the 1988 election and our backing for NAFTA since then, this is no surprise.
Canada needs to be proactive about keeping terrorists out. We must close the holes in our immigration and refugee laws which allow the ineligible to remain here.
A number of years ago the government established a panel to review these laws. Unfortunately, it hadn’t the stomach to act on its recommendations, going so far as to label opposition MPs who supported them as racist. Are the Liberals now ready to fight the lobbies that blocked previous reform attempts – lobbies which help fund the party? Are they ready for a showdown with our Supreme Court? The prime minister’s tough talk to yet another Liberal fundraiser on Monday implies yes. We will see.
Assuming these matters are dealt with, and continued access to the U.S. is guaranteed, is there a larger international security role for Canada? Polls say Canadians are now willing to consider not only common border control procedures (including immigration and refugee rules) for North America, but also increased funding for both military and security services, even if this means higher taxes.
My bet? More security service cash but only so long as the terrorist threat seems imminent. But to rebuild our military into line with the NATO median will take decades and tens of billions of dollars. Also, playing a broader international role requires we get our hands dirty on occasion. Once we are safely tucked behind Uncle Sam’s de facto border, why would we bother?
No, America may be set to become more engaged in the world, but the events of Sept. 11 are likely to lead Canada to become even more focused on North America.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, September 30, 2001
ID: 12141901
TAG: 200109300312
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


“Canadians support a war on terrorism until they have to fight one. When you talk about what it takes to wage a war, the numbers just crash”
— Darrell Bricker, Ipsos-Reid pollster
This topical assessment of Canadian attitudes toward the war on terrorism makes one wonder whether most Canadians understand what wars are. It makes stark the dichotomy between Canada’s professed internationalism and her actual standing on the world stage.
Our governments would have the world believe Canada is a strong internationalist, determined to play a major role in various international organizations, be they financial, developmental or defence-related. A check of the main federal estimates since the mid-1960s, however, shows our governments have devoted more and more of their resources to domestic interests, at the expense of this international role.
This is most obvious in defence spending, where, as many have recently noted, cuts have created a paper tiger–though still a fairly costly one. Foreign aid budgets reveal a similar story. Canada has never achieved the 1% of GDP spending which was called for in the Trudeau era, and much of our aid has been designed to help Canadian companies more than bringing maximum benefit to aid recipients. Then there is our foreign service, whose members are today jumping ship to escape low pay and the sense their efforts are unappreciated.
Why the decline? Social spending at home, transfer of resources to have-not regions, support for declining industries, support for the rising industry of Indianism, and subsidies for successful businesses (so politicians can claim a part in their success) have all had priority over maintaining Canada’s international presence.
But more than mere selfishness has fueled this decline. There’s globalization!
In many international forums Canada’s positions and interests do not markedly differ from those of our closest allies and business partners; and where our interests do diverge from theirs it often seems unlikely we will be able to sway things. And so, why not leave the heavy lifting to others? Oh, we maintain the pretense of participating, if only to maintain posts overseas for the elite in the military, bureaucracy and patronage pool. But the evidence of our increasing international irrelevance has been obvious for many years, making the fuss over U.S. President George W. Bush’s supposed snub seem silly.
During the various wars in the former Yugoslavia, Canada repeatedly found itself shut out of key decision-making committees set up by those contributing real forces to the allied peacemaking efforts. Canada protested – and was ignored. When a former British commander of allied forces there commented that Canada lacked real military capability, our protests did not bring him a quick rebuke from Whitehall – perhaps because no one there disagreed with him.
Some of us who recall Canada’s exemplary role in the greatest international crisis of the 20th century, knowing that in World War II Canada fielded the world’s fifth largest army, fourth most powerful air force and the third most powerful navy, have found this drift to irrelevance humiliating and mystifying. Humiliating because, given her performance in World War I (when historians and the public alike felt Canada came of age as a nation) and World War II (from which Canada emerged as a military and industrial leader), we know Canada is capable of doing much more. Mystifying, because how does one fathom why a nation which boasts of its internationalism walk away from its responsibilities?
Some attribute this loss, not only of direction but also seemingly of memory, to the politics surrounding the use of conscription in both wars. Canada avoids discussion of our wartime achievements – her triumphs of industrialization and arms – because this would exacerbate anglophone-francophone tensions. Instead, we look to the launch of the welfare state here at home during World War II, and the creation of the United Nations in its wake, as things all compassionate Canadians could embrace. This take on our martial past also offers English-Canadians a welcome sense of difference from (superiority to?) the Americans, who remained fixated on outdated, immoral notions of a nation’s importance being at least in part based on the military power she wields.
My take on Canada and the globe? Living next to the pre-eminent power of our age, being so similar – and insecure about the similarity – has led us to avoid real engagement in international affairs because we are aware of just how difficult, how morally compromising, it has been for the Americans. Better to bleat platitudes from the sidelines, and contribute just enough to buy admission to the clubs of value to us. We maintain our sense of moral superiority while distancing ourselves from actions that might force us to address how terrible is man, and how complex and vicious is much of the world.
How else is one to explain why, for all of our supposed do-gooder, peacekeeping nature, we have not yet had any real discussion of our recent military misadventures? The Gulf war, in which we were an ally that provided little assistance, took virtually no risks with our own troops, and made damned sure we couldn’t be accused of killing any civilians. Or Rwanda, where we insisted on being given command of the UN force there, in recognition of our leadership role in peacekeeping. Over half a million civilians were killed on our watch, yet not only have we not had an inquiry into those terrible events, we have stymied the inquiries of other nations.
Canada’s international record since the early 1960s reminds one of an adolescent. You know the type: the one who knows the grown-ups are making a mess out of things but who is too superior, and too lazy, to help out.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, September 26, 2001
ID: 12140743
TAG: 200109260475
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Many Canadians think we are in crisis now – a crisis caused by the terrorist massacres in New York and Washington, and defined by the Bush government in the U.S. as a declaration of war.
It’s my hunch that a more terrible crisis for Canada, perhaps even for the U.S., has been sliding forward, heralded by the startling deflation of high-tech hyperbole this year. An economic recession is here. It may become a global depression.
Of the crises which we have had, most Canadians would probably rate most seriously those which threatened national unity. Within three decades of Confederation in 1867 we had two considerable crises about our unity as a federated state. One was created mostly by provincial premiers standing up to federal leadership with both electoral criticism and successful court challenges led by Premier Oliver Mowat of Ontario. The second developed after the hanging of rebel Louis Riel in 1885. A year later, this brought forth Honore Mercier, the first “nationalist” premier of Quebec.
Since the late 1880s, the unity issue has never wholly disappeared. It bedevilled the federal governments through both World Wars (the so-called “conscription” crises). English Canadians felt French Canadians weren’t pulling their weight as fighting manpower slipped through heavy casualties. Bitterness deepened on both sides.
The unity issue took its modern form and deeper dangers in the mid-1960s with an overtly separatist Parti Quebecois emerging in Quebec. Under Rene Levesque it attained power in 1976, but subsequently lost its referendum to federalists led by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in 1981. The PQ led by Jacques Parizeau, but inspired by Lucien Bouchard, tried again in 1995 and lost by the slenderest of margins to federalists led by Jean Chretien.
Only a fool would consider the separatist condition in Quebec as spent for all time, but the medical phrase “in remission” seems a fair judgment now.
In both of the great wars to which we contributed so much, there was patriotic fervour which insisted evil powers threatened our freedoms with their anti-democratic and racist principles. Hindsight has supported this reading of our stance in World War II against fascism much more than it has about World War I and the menace of Hohenzollern imperialism.
Out of the experience of both wars came international agencies like the League of Nations, and then the UN, and since the late 1940s our participation in the NATO and NORAD military alliances.
Canada is contributing far less to the defence-against-aggressors aspect of NATO than what we did with our Allies through to victory in WW II, but we continue within it, protected considerably by our juxtaposition to NATO’s most powerful member. On the other hand, with regard to the UN, Canada has backed it wholeheartedly, both financially and in accepting tasks such as peacekeeping.
What is suggested by this sketch of our situation vis-a-vis global issues and our neighbour, the United States, is that Canadians have reached a stage of accepting there is not much we can either do, or want to do, about the prospect of battle beyond our borders, beyond continuing to take part in the UN, NATO and NORAD. Clearly, since the Korean war, Canada has shifted away from maintaining a strong, permanent military to identifying itself as a “dove.” Now Canada’s stress is on the peaceful negotiation of crises.
The Liberal government of Jean Chretien has had office for eight years and has surmounted two serious crises. One was the narrow rejection of Quebec separatism in 1995. The other was an escape, led by Paul Martin, from deficits and the debt load caused by huge federal borrowing from 1975-93.
There may be much that’s unimpressive, even discouraging, about Chretien and a cabinet lurching from its many dullards, but in fairness we should concede he and his government have twice taken us through and out of crises. Now comes the third crisis of his regime. It seems to me it is not centred on Afghanistan or on our porous border. It’s coming from layoffs by the thousands, plummeting trade, skidding travel, shaken consumer confidence, car sales dropping, lumber and paper trade down and oil and gas prices falling.
This is shaping up to be the most awesome economic crisis in Canada since the Depression.
– – –
A week ago I gave the wrong number for the U.S. Army Timberwolf division we fought beside. It was the 104th, not the 204th.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, September 23, 2001
ID: 12140127
TAG: 200109230547
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Crises force leaders forward, and in a television era we all measure them, more or less. Certainly we do with those topping our world now, starting with President George W. Bush.
Bush began as a weak president. Many Democrats viewed the winner of America’s most controversial presidential election as illegitimate; his first nine months in office did little to cow them, or impress the electorate.
On Sept. 11, instead of being an on-the-scene, if besieged, commander-in-chief in the White House, he found himself hopscotching across America, while his security team debated returning him to the capital. When he finally addressed the nation, he was stonefaced and tentative, such a contrast with the ever-eloquent and empathetic Bill Clinton.
But in an American crisis, everyone rallies to the president. By the time Bush addressed New York City rescue workers, he seemed a true American archetype: the straight-talkin’ guy who’ll fix the bad guys.
He’s since said the right things: America’s response will be carefully considered; she and her allies will prevail, though the struggle will be long; this is not a fight against Islam. His ratings are up and his legitimacy is assured.
So far the Bush cabinet has produced two stars: Secretary of State Colin Powell and Attorney General John Ashcroft. Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Gulf war, remains a firm, well-briefed, articulate professional, neither arrogant nor elitist. One trusts him, and his judgment. He understands both coalition building and Middle Eastern and South Asian politics.
Ashcroft, less known internationally, has had years as a senator, and it shows. His daily briefings on the investigation are models of clarity and concision. Like Powell, he is someone Americans can admire and trust.
Turkeys? National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice has been rarely seen. Can you imagine Henry Kissinger being so invisible? Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a likable but maddening mumbler, always is sidetracking himself.
Clearly the biggest star in the U.S. so far has been the mayor of New York City, Rudolph Giuliani. Even old enemies like the New York Times and former mayor Ed Koch concede that Rudy the Rock has captured perfectly the spirit of the beleaguered city. Tough-minded, conversational, shrewd, warm, and on the go.
Canadians are handy voyeurs of performances from next door through their access to so many U.S. channels as well as our own three networks, plus CPAC. More of my viewing time has been with CNN, PBS, and ABC (notably Peter Jennings) than with all the other sources. I did see and hear enough of CBC news and commentary programs, however, to appreciate our Crown corporation carries through this crisis its penchant for being skeptical of American power and the judgment of those who wield it.
What about our counterparts to messrs Bush, Powell, Ashcroft, Rumsfeld and so on: that is, Chretien, Manley, McLellan, Eggleton, Collenette, etc.?
Here, most of us have been instantly judgmental of these worthies in the crisis because we have watched them for so long; in my own case, 38 years of familiarity with the public and the private Jean Chretien. And he has been true to his long-set form: busy, alert, hands-on, but with excuses ever ready; essentially cautious and, metaphorically speaking, with a wetted finger up testing the wind direction of public opinion.
Certainly Chretien hasn’t given me a sense he is not in full charge. Thus far, Paul Martin has been publicly inconsequential but this is because the deepening recession is still being taken as peripheral by the public.
Only one minister has stood out in the way Colin Powell has in Washington: John Manley, foreign affairs minister. Manley has been clear, concise, and frank in statements, interviews, and House remarks.
Would that Manley had more company, but only Chretien has ever openly asserted that he had a cabinet of many talents. I find it grating to endure the flannel and arble-garble coming from David Collenette, the transport minister, and from Art Eggleton, the defence minister. At the sight of either my memory prompts: where are the helicopters!
Well beyond grating, Lawrence MacAulay, the solicitor general (RCMP and CSIS) has been even more sunnily obscure than ever.
And there is no joy in noting what failures as communicators of facts or plans Anne McLellan (Justice) and Elinor Caplan (Citizenship and Immigration) have been.
Caplan blathers in circles, asserting a thoroughly competent immigration system has been in place while blaming the opposition because a safe system hasn’t been legislated. McLellan, more confident and oh so learned, veers from petulance at the temerity of any doubters to wild assertions about the protective legislation in place or on its way or being made ready. Ministers like these are an insult to us all, but particularly to dozens of Liberal backbench MPs.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, September 19, 2001
ID: 12139007
TAG: 200109190309
PAGE: 37
COLUMN: Parliament Hill
MEMO: War Against Terrorism


One can draw some firm opinions about Canadian reaction a week after the terrible scale of suffering wrought by terrorists on our neighbours.
The firmest of such impressions has been a most sobering surprise for me: The breadth and depth of skepticism and doubt among Canadians about both the leadership of the United States and the international postulates of Americans.
This impression hardened for me over the past weekend and was reiterated Monday, when MPs from all parties spoke in the House of Commons, to the attack on the U.S.
In their texts, a majority of MPs made pleas for caution, many of them well-argued. Those speaking to restraint and for “wisdom” were not just New Democrats, our chronic anti-Americans. Many were Liberals and Bloc Quebecois.
From the MPs there was an abundance of commiseration for the victims and a recognition that the terrorist acts had been diabolical. But there was also a remarkable absence of either expressed confidence in the judgment and plans of President Bush or particular suggestions on what Canada should do to help snuff out such terrorism, beyond reiterations of our normal superiority in noble, national intentions. You know the phrases: Peace-loving, peace-keeping people; an open society that cherishes differences in ethnicity, culture, relation, and race.
My problem with such appraisals goes back to my youth. As the dread of the Great Depression spread, I, like millions of other Canadians, was buoyed by the confident radio voice of Franklin Roosevelt in the heartening months of his first presidency (1932-33). My posture of both admiring American ways and forgiving their excessive, often simplistic, patriotism became even stauncher in late 1944. Our squadron put in four grim days, made bearable by the comradeship in battle with the infantry “grunts” of the 104th Timberwolf division of the U.S. Army, pushing towards the Lower Rhine. We loved them — their generosity, esprit, and gut humour — even as we came close to fright at their confidence.
Canadian leeriness of American aims and beliefs goes back to Loyalist migration here after the Revolution of 1776. It has always had its spokesmen here. Once their positions and vocabularly were very British, imperalist, and superior on the merits of parliamentary government and the concept of the Crown over the constitutional explicitness of America, with its division of powers between the executive, legislative, and judicial arms of government.
I had thought that a lot of such distinctions would be closed out with our recent copy-catting of America with our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the free trade agreement the Mulroney government negotiated and implemented after winning an election over it in 1984.
I had come to assume that our Americanization by the Charter and the continuing increase of our trade with the U.S. meant a closer, stronger identity with American values and methods.
Now, a week after the most shocking disaster of destruction right next door to us, I have had to realize that a goodly proportion of adult Canadians, probably a majority, have been revealing how chary they are of American values and what American leaders will do around the globe in rooting out terrorists.
This widespread, almost polite, and quite cautiously phrased determination that would have Canada wait — talking up negotiation, international law, and the immorality of vengeance while fretting over the fate of innocents — means that Canada is not giving a blanket “Ready, aye ready!” to the U.S.
There will be nothing close to an enthusiastic participation by Canadians in the explosive military operations foreshadowed by the blunt “Dead or alive!” of President Bush.
It strikes me that our prime minister has either read this well-ingrained attitude of doubt and fear among Canadians, or that he is the mirror of it. This doesn’t surprise me. He really has been canny as Mackenzie King in reading Canadians.
My shock has been great because I was so prepared through decades to trust Americans rather than fear them, and to admire their candour and directness in debating, then advancing, America’s global role. I noted but discounted the running critiques of “free market” America in Canada, symbolized recently by the likes of Lloyd Axworthy, Svend Robinson, Maude Barlow and Judy Rebick.
Their influence has been far greater than I thought, particularly on the Liberal Party.


The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, September 16, 2001
ID: 12138281
TAG: 200109160257
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Let me pursue three lines of interpretation on Tuesday’s horrors caused by deliberate plane crashes. First, on their characterization as a modern Pearl Harbor; second, on where the “war on terrorism” may lead; and, finally, on how Canada-U.S. relations may change.
Many Americans – commentators and plain folks alike – referred to Japan’s 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor in describing how they felt about this week’s attacks, even though most were too young to remember what FDR immediately described as a “day of infamy.”
This resonance of Pearl Harbor in those who can neither recall it nor know much of its details, tells us how deep that tragedy has been impressed on the American psyche. As one who does recall that terrible December day, I also found the comparison apt, but not in ways likely to occur to most modern Americans.
The Pearl Harbor allusion was meant to convey the extent of the shock generated by the mere fact of Tuesday’s attacks, and the level of devastation they wrought. But neither this week’s attacks nor those of 60 years ago should have been so surprising.
In 1941, America sought to thwart Japan’s determined – and brutal – empire-building efforts. (Japan was already fighting China, then a principal American ally.) That a war with Japan might ensue was foreseen by the U.S. State Department and military, but surely at some future date, somewhere else. The American politicians and military fatally underestimated the ambition and reach of Japan, and U.S. intelligence didn’t challenge these assumptions – at least openly.
Meanwhile, average Americans, worried about their country’s security, were focused on the war in Europe, where Nazi forces were at the gates of Moscow and the British remained shaken by their ousting from Western Europe. Few Americans considered Japan as a credible threat.
Yet Japan’s determination to achieve her foreign policy goals matched America’s. Convinced the latter was a decadent nation lacking martial spirit, Japan decided a devastating attack (i.e., the destruction of the U.S. Pacific fleet) would shatter America’s confidence, making its position in the western Pacific so perilous it would have to withdraw. The design of the Pearl Harbor attack was in part inspired by a Royal Navy attack the previous year on the Italian fleet at Taranto. The U.S. simply couldn’t credit Japan with the ability to emulate the British strike, much less surpass it. Hence, mutual underestimation, stemming from deep cultural differences and a contempt for each other, played a key role in paving the way to Pearl Harbor.
Last week’s terrorist attack also involved conflicting goals. American objectives in the Middle East are: protect Israel, stabilize the region and thus protect the free export of oil, through support for moderate (and secular) Arab countries, especially Saudi Arabia.
Regional interference
Like the Japanese, those who attacked New York and Washington oppose what they see as U.S. interference in their region, and in the internal affairs of their countries. They too believe Americans are soft, lacking the will to fight a long, bloody struggle, whereas they are willing to commit all to the cause.
They have exploited America’s underestimation of their capabilities and the failure of American intelligence services to deliver a stunning blow, which they believe, when combined with other outrages, will force America’s withdrawal from the region. And like the Japanese attack, theirs was also presaged – in a Tom Clancy novel and a previous (though failed) terrorist attack.
In 2001, as in 1941, most Americans were complacent about the fact their policies made them a player in a bitter conflict overseas, one which threatened Israel, an aspiring nation which former president Harry Truman turned into a close ally and client. Also, some Americans, both pro and con, have recently been preoccupied with what seemed a more vital security issue – ballistic missile defence.
Today the questions are the same as in 1941: does America have the necessary tools (especially intelligence) – and a steady, firm resolution to see things through to the bitter end?
And what is the end, when your opponents are assorted groupings of terrorists and the disaffected masses, notably in the Middle East, who provide them recruits and support?
This brings us to the war on terrorism which we, America and her allies, have now embarked upon. In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, America’s friends genuinely want to help find and punish the perpetrators of these crimes.
Social problems
But what do Americans (and Israelis?) mean by a war on terrorism? Does this include assessing and addressing the political and social problems which foster terrorist cliques? Who is to have a say in such matters? Are political organizations which support terrorist organizations to be targeted? (For example, does this include Sinn Fein?)
If the postwar era has taught us anything, it’s how incredibly murky the terrorist world is. In the 1980s, the U.S. supported the likes of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban as a counter to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan – and didn’t object to them blowing up buildings then. Years ago, Israel even dabbled with Hamas, seeing it as a counter to Yasser Arafat’s Fatah.
Are we ready to do what it takes to strip terrorist organizations of their financial support (i.e., force other countries to open their financial records)?
Is Canada willing to ban organizations that others insist are fronts for terrorism? (Reflect on fund-raising done here on behalf of Irish and Sri Lankan terrorist groups, among others.)
Will Americans stick with the war, even when it results in unsightly collateral damage, or gets in the way of their other policy objectives? Will we?
Finally, the Canada-U.S. relationship: last week senior American officials voiced their impatience at what they see as Canada’s lack of commitment to protecting the shared border (our ineffectual immigration/refugee policies and lax border controls). Line-ups at border crossings hint at the chaos and terrible economic damage which would follow from an American decision to fortify their side of the border. What are we going to do to prevent that from happening?
Believe it. Last week the most complex relationship Canada has with another nation got much more complicated.


The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, September 12, 2001
ID: 12137018
TAG: 200109120518
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill
MEMO: America Under Attack


Sept. 11, 2001, becomes a truly prime date in the history of human infamy.
Yesterday will be an epic experience in the lives of the millions who watched it unfold on television. For decades, there will be rolling effects from this day throughout the world.
As the Manhattan scene was unfolding before me on television, it struck me that its impact reminded me of a radio broadcast on Dec. 7, 1941. It beamed into our army camp the shocking news of the devastation of the U.S. Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, just wrought by Japanese planes. Since 1939, Canada had stood with Britain against Hitler and his “super race.” Suddenly, the entire grim scenario had changed. Now the tide would turn!
The next spectres in my head, as the TV images from New York and Washington continued, were of two happenings I witnessed in World War II.
First, there was such similarity between the CNN shots of lower Manhattan and the huge, rising, clouds of dust which thousands of us in the Canadian Army in Normandy saw on the morning of July 18, 1944, as a parade of RAF bombers dropped 7,000 tons of explosive on German positions south of Caen. We were in awe as we peered at the cauldron of violence and imagined the wounding and killing underway below those darkening clouds. What awful destruction from the air.
Second, my memory flicked to the morning of Aug. 7, 1945, on a troopship picking its way toward Quebec through icebergs in the Straits of Belle Isle. A lot of us on board were volunteers, heading for the war in the Pacific. Our major pushed into our deck space. He carried a short sheet of paper, a dispatch torn from the ship’s teletype. Its text announced the dropping the day before – to deadly effect – of a new bomb, an atom bomb, on Hiroshima, Japan.
I said to our major: “But this means … ” and I paused.
He said: “Yes, it means we’re going home, not going on.”
And so it was. We were to profit, one might say, from what is arguably man’s most terrible invention. The use of “the bomb” opened a global era which is still unfolding. That is, it may have helped make organized terrorism on an international scale the most effective way for weaker groups to take down the strongest.
Of course, modern terrorism already has a long catalogue of killing and wounding the innocent, indicating what a ready alternative it is for the vengeful and the desperate in a world dominated by a single power with immense military and economic resources. A power which they despise.
Because of yesterday, three global story lines will be running for a long time. Two will last for a few years, depending a lot on success or failure. The third will be interminable.
The first will be a ruthless, pressed search for the perpetrators of this mass slaughter of American civilians. It will be carried on by agencies of the U.S. and her close allies, assuredly with Canada prominent. Why? Because Canada has obviously been more of a sieve for the coming and going of international renegades than most countries of the western world.
This search will be paralleled, and sometimes intertwined, with a second story line: that of new or extended security, identification and scrutiny measures at airports, bridges, tunnels, significant public buildings, perhaps even events drawing huge crowds. These will be more thorough than we have ever known in North America.
I believe the third story line may become so dangerous it could trigger even more global strife, with horrible casualties and unforgiving hatreds.
It is possible, even probable, that the search, the intelligence arising from it and the security measures, will point with increasing certainty to the Middle East and to Arab people as those who have nurtured and backed the transgressors. So many Arabs see Israel as their menace and its erasure from the region as their duty. They see the U.S. as Israel’s sponsor, and their most dedicated zealots see the possibility of wrecking that sponsorship by making it too costly to the Americans in both the number of deaths and a mounting dread of insecurity.
Whenever my mind runs over the seemingly insoluble distrust in the Middle East, I recall travels there there in 1970 – in the months of much hijacking of airliners. Such a relative wasteland: hundreds of square miles of parched sand: water scarce; birth rates high; guns and uniforms everywhere; and the whole shot through with hate. And it set me thinking then – as I still do – about how much arable land and good water we in Canada have.


The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, September 09, 2001
ID: 12136352
TAG: 200109090495
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Two and a half years ago, Finance Minister Paul Martin told me that to be successful his leadership bid needed a “vision for Canadians,” and he and his troops were working on it.
I suggested his record as Finance minister had already established a “vision” – that of a country which mixed carefulness with its money with its compassion, seeking to create the conditions in which citizens can realize their aspirations without a lot of costly, often intrusive, government programs.
No, Martin insisted, not enough. There has to be something more than common sense and competence.
This belief that government needs to think big has again caught on in Ottawa. There’s been a search for big ideas since the last election. For the past half-year the policy wonks of the press gallery have been dissecting a lot of leaked policy options, and formal announcements regarding all the bureaucratic and ministerial brainstorming are expected within a fortnight.
The first big idea to make headlines earlier this year was a multi-billion-dollar proposal to provide high-speed Internet access to all Canadians. Its champion was Industry Minister Brian Tobin, also a leadership aspirant and a recent returnee from Newfoundland after a brief sabbatical as premier. Tobin’s bid is undermined by the common perception he’s an intellectual lightweight and a devotee of porkbarrel politics.
The Internet project seemed to offer a nice counter to such critiques. It’s modern and sexy: Tobin and the government would lead the next high-tech wave. Socially sensitive subsidies would open the way for those now too poor or dispersed to afford high-speed access to share in the Internet’s myriad benefits. Finally, for a would-be PM from the hinterland who needs campaign contributions, there are prospects of dealing with some of our most prominent business leaders, in deals that mean bringing huge infusions of public cash to big corporations. Surely the quid pro quo would be campaign backing for such a visionary.
Alas, many executive types questioned the rationale for the scheme’s scale. The private sector is already building the infrastructure to provide most Canadians with high-speed access. Further, the Nortel meltdown has tempered everyone’s enthusiasm for high-tech boosterism.
Some pointed to the political perils in trying to pick which technologies and companies to support. What if the government chose the Internet equivalent of Betamax? Most fatally for Tobin’s hopes, neither his cabinet nor caucus colleagues really rallied to the idea.
Brian Tobin’s no quitter. He and his department have been working on another paper. Leaks imply this is to produce a strategic list of projects to help Canadian industry improve its ability to innovate, and so close the productivity gap that’s been widening in recent years between Canada and the U.S.
Curiously, Perrin Beatty, a former Brian Mulroney minister and head of the Alliance of Manufacturers and Exporters of Canada, recently released a paper on behalf of AMEC calling for just this sort of government leadership. Unfortunately for Beatty (and Tobin) the reaction of many business commentators – and some AMEC members – was negative. As one put it, the last thing Canadian business needs is for government to tell it how to innovate. The catalogue of Industry’s innovative ideas will get rough handling.
(Further undercutting Tobin’s leadership hopes based on the catalogue is that much of what is likely to be in it – e.g., training schemes – falls under Human Resources Development Canada. Such schemes might redeem HRDC’s battered minister, Jane Stewart, but not do Tobin any good.)
Allan Rock, the other principal leadership candidate, has been developing his vision, too. He focuses on Canada’s cities. With a keen eye on the caucus members and convention delegates in Canada’s major urban centres, he has spoken of the need for Ottawa to work with mayors and city councils to address the problems affecting urban areas: homelessness, drug addiction, youth disaffection, pollution.
Rock claims his approach would allow Ottawa to address these social ills without having to deal with – i.e., get bogged down by – the provinces. Of course, he’s ignoring that these problems fall within responsibilities delegated to cities by their provincial governments. Would premiers be to one side, approving or indifferent, as Rock colludes for Ottawa with the big city mayors?
Nevertheless, there’s method in Rock’s metropolitanism. It will allow the Liberal party, especially its rather frustrated left wing, to tap into the last stronghold of left-wing representation in Canada: our city councils. While these councils have increasingly been incubators for federal Liberal talent, the party itself must often compete with well-established NDP organizations for positions on them. With the federal NDP flatlined at 9% – despite the muddle on the right, urban angst over globalization, and the centrist, fiscally conservative stance of the federal Liberals – here may be the Liberals’ chance to push the NDP right out of the cities and tighten their own hold on the urban vote at all levels: municipal, provincial and federal.
I began with Martin, who hasn’t said much recently about his vision for Canada. Perhaps this is because, as Finance minister, his attempts to think big have been brought down some by very prosaic considerations. Just as they have south of the border, predictions here of massive budget surpluses running on for years are shaping as chimeras. Once Martin’s updated the nation on its finances, will there be any cash left with which to build a fresh dream? And if there isn’t, can we really afford a federal government that is as big – and growing rapidly again – as the one we have now?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, September 05, 2001
ID: 12135198
TAG: 200109050487
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Blame! Always blame! It is the lot of “white” Canadians, and I refuse to bear any more of it.
None of our major politicians had the courage to tell us – and the world – how wrong, how untruthful, Matthew Coon Come was on the “racist” Canada he described last week to the UN Conference on Racism in South Africa.
This dedicated assembly of anti-racists heard the grand chief of the Assembly of First Nations state Canadians are continuing their racist intolerance of aboriginal people into the 21st century.
The accepted wisdom of the Indian elders is that for centuries they had lived in harmony with each other and with nature. Then came contact with Europeans and they were ruthlessly deprived of sovereignty, cultural heritages and decent lives. These wise elders now insist that a niggardly, bigoted Canadian citizenry be embarrassed domestically and before the world, to free their Indian nations from squalor, disease, suicide, unemployment and systemic discrimination.
Do you ever wonder when you hear the litany of oppression and suffering from chiefs like Coon Come and his close counsellor, Ovide Mercredi, why so few of our “white” politicians ever respond with frank analysis of the Indian industry? The short answer is our widespread acceptance of blame and a burden of a guilt now entrenched as wisdom in our political commentary.
So, in atonement for what we and our predecessors have done or failed to do, we must restore as generously as we can what aborigines used to enjoy – not just as individuals in tune with the natural world, but as sovereign nations with traditions of governance and territories.
To begin to counter this, it is far from fair to blame, in effect, 97.5% of today’s Canadians for the situation of 2.5%. That huge majority has neither balked at the steady, huge increases in spending by their governments on the 2.5% nor raged over the recent evidence of skulduggery, waste and dictatorial antics by some chiefs and elders.
Remember, in the past three decades the Indian industry has became very large, its ranks bolstered by the expertise of lawyers, sociologists, anthropologists, etc. who counsel either the several thousand “briefcase Indians” from the treaty groups and bands or the thousands of officials in all levels of government with a role in Indian affairs.
Federal, provincial and municipal spending for services and capital costs relating to some 700,000 people of aboriginal stock who have “status” is now close to $8 billion a year.
Recent population estimates of aborigines have ranged as high as 1.4 million. This is a deceiving, because it goes far beyond those status Indians and Inuit who get most of the governmental spending. It includes over half a million non-status Indians, many of whom don’t want status, and thousands of Metis.
Of course, those aborigines with status who benefit most from the $8 billion also have entitlement to the benefits open to all Canadians. The First Nations’ chiefs represent status Indians, and they and their people get the majority of governmental spending – at least half of it going directly to most of the 600-odd bands in Canada.
Only recently have a few politicians – usually Alliance MPs, or provincial Liberals in B.C. – raised open questions regarding:
1) The sheer enormity of aboriginal spending by governments, and why it has produced such modest gains in living standards and economic independence;
2) The staggering costs to taxpayers to come from large land settlements (like the Nisga’a one in B.C) or judicial rulings (like the entitlement of natives to particular shares in the fisheries of the Atlantic coast);
3) The inability of bands to open up individual ownership of property on a reserve;
4) Setting a closure date – say 2050 – on the extension of aboriginal status to newborn offspring of parents with status;
5) Given the distance of most reserves from economic activity, whether band members should be encouraged to leave to find it;
6) Since some 275,000 of today’s 700,000 aborigines with status have chosen to live off-reserve, should this steadily rising figure be encouraged or deliberately countered?
I believe Canadians today discriminate much less in ethnic and racist terms or deeds than they did before World War II. I cannot prove that, but I am sure of it regarding Indians, going by my old home town, which now calls itself proudly, “The Ojibwa Capital of Canada.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, September 02, 2001
ID: 12134643
TAG: 200109020266
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


The lengthy, summer hibernation of legislators and of our democracy comes to an end this weekend.
The Canadian political year really begins on Labour Day, not on Jan. 1 or April 1 (the start of the federal fiscal year). The political pulse throbs again. September brings fresh hope for a full agenda, fresh issues and, for journalists, clashes between and within the parties. For most of 400 some members in the Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery, there’s relief at having politicians at hand in abundance.
Did you realize there were so many reporters, columnists, editors, camera operators and producers serving your needs as a politically minded citizen? It’s almost the same number as MPs and senators combined!
Let’s be more speculative. Did you ever wonder why the daily question period (QP) in the House of Commons is touted as proof democracy is alive and well in Canada, yet most years we do without it from early June to mid- or late September?
The political media get desperate for material during the summer – especially for confrontation. In large part, without QP there’s no ready agenda, no certain barbs, charges, excuses and bluster; no swarming of scrums and trolling ministers and MPs. So thankfulness comes with Labour Day and the buildup on the Hill of MPs and their staffs and of talk of what’s ahead.
For example, what’s pending on two matters which Jean Chretien has promised to give priority: the newest Ottawa fad of a master plan for Canadian innovation and “real” moves on the aboriginal front to bring value for money from the huge spending and genuine improvement in the lives of native children, particularly on reserves?
But such heavy stuff is not the bulk in the grist of parliamentary politics as covered by the media. Bet that off the top this month it will be found in Stockwell Day still leading the Canadian Alliance in the House in its fall sittings. His antics, so ripe for satire and comedy, give the other parties – and the Liberals in particular – their major emphasis until he must resign so as to run in the Alliance’s coming leadership race.
My projections of what’s ahead may strike many readers as frivolous stuff, especially in a period when we’re looking at deepening symptoms of global, continental and national recession.
You may wager with some assurance that the Paul Martin you’ll be seeing in the House will not be giving long, serious accounts of the recession settling in or his judicious delay of the budget. Rather, it will be Paul, the rollicking mocker of Alliance vapidity, obvious in both Day and in the ideological and Albertan separatism of his likely successor, Stephen Harper.
Should Canadians be bothered by the prevalence of such lightness in our political discourse? It has long been obvious that only sports coverage comes close to partisan politics as the prime subject for the media. And this has prompted me to do some crude figuring on who does it and what the emphases are.
Consider the press gallery on the Hill, some 400 strong. Let us strike a fair median wage for the mob – say $60,000 per member. Total wage bill for gallery members would approximate $24 million a year. Just for pay! And that ignores office, equipment, communication lines and travel costs, which would be very high, particularly for the CBC and CTV.
According to the August membership list of the gallery, the CBC had 112 members. Yes, this Crown corporation, which gets its money mostly from its creator and owner, the federal government, has over a quarter of the gallery membership. Private enterprise media and single-body freelancers trail far back.
CTV had 24 members; Global just nine. The Canadian Press, once over 30 members in strength, was down to 18; CPAC, cable’s public affairs channel, had 14; Southam had 11; so had the Globe and Mail; and TorStar had 10. There seem to be about a score of freelancers, but since so many of those listed are up in years and once worked for large outfits, their production is probably occasional. It’s hard to be sure which members consistently work in French, which in English, but by and large the Gallery remains “two solitudes” and the francophone share is considerably less than the ratio in Canada as a whole: one in four.
Taking a synoptic view of the press gallery based on four decades of familiarity, what are the more surprising aspects of the media 400? The answers need some prelude data.
When I first hit the Hill in 1957 as an MP, there were a mere 80 gallery members, all working in print. The numbers rocketed to over 100 with John Diefenbaker’s huge popularity in 1958. Shortly, gallery membership was extended to radio and TV reporters and producers, jolting it upwards. Given the Chief’s messy troubles, the racy years of Pearsonian scandals, then the wave of national enthusiasm for Pierre Trudeau in 1968, the gallery list swelled to well over the 200 mark, and from there moved rather steadily toward and past 300 and on to 400.
The rise in numbers would suggest a strengthening of the quality of the coverage but this misses: a) the remarkably high turnover of gallery members; and b) the scarcity of subject specialists amongst them.
Over the decades, there have been as many gallery members coming and going as there have been members of Parliament. So for better or worse, the press gallery as a collectivity is not a host of long, institutional memories.
The dearth of journalistic specialists in Ottawa is truly surprising. Washington may have its White House corps of reporters, but Ottawa hasn’t any PMO group. Rather, one might tag most of the many day-to-day reporters on the gallery list as the Question Period Corps. The bulk of the coverage of politics emanating from the press gallery’s members continues to be by generalists, and most of the larger operations within the press gallery membership focus most on party leaders. Generally, they chase the same story lines: this new season these will be Stockwell Day’s vacuity; Jean Chretien’s retirement intentions; Paul Martin’s patience; how far Joe Clark’s parliamentary gravitas may take him; Brian Tobin’s bilingual progress; how to unite the right to oust the Liberals; even how to resurrect the NDP.
There seem to be no more reporters in the press gallery today who are specialists on, say, finance and taxation, or the Constitution and federal-provincial relations, or the cabinet and its role, or bureaucratic excellence, or on the fields of health, labour, transport, environment, culture and electoral law, than there were 30 years ago. Even so, the reporters we do have in Ottawa, most of them generalists, are glad the new political year is at hand, along with both a cast and slants which are familiar.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, August 29, 2001
ID: 12773584
TAG: 200108290390
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Repeatedly, since the Olympic Games resumed after World War II, Canadians have been embarrassed by the rare victories of our teams and athletes. Such chagrin usually shifts to why we don’t win medals in line with our wealth and population. Almost always, this brings demands for more leadership and funding by government, notably the federal government.
Recently, Jean Chretien gave us a minister responsible for the federal role in sport. Denis Coderre was a youthful, but veteran, apparatchik in the Liberal party. Without doubt, he has more backing by the PMO and the caucus for raising our sporting record internationally than any minister since the Tories’ Otto Jelinek, back in 1984-88.
Coderre should get the money from Paul Martin. He may get promises from the sports’ executives. He’s unlikely to get much in results, even if he bumps annual federal spending on sport over the $100 million mark.
To answer the question “Why not?” would take pages, with analyses of: our climate factor; population scatter; linguistic “two solitudes;” deep-set sporting diversity; cumbersome, tri-level sports bureaucracies which mimic our federalism; the slight involvement of our schools in sports (unlike the U.S.); a weak tradition of permanent “clubs” (which sustain so much European sport); an obsession with one sport – hockey; a dearth of interest in our youth in track and field and swimming; and a complementing disinterest of our media with their devotion to the big leagues of hockey, baseball, basketball, etc.
As usual, our ablest athletes have been asking for better co- ordination of sporting elements in developing top-flight athletes and winning teams. And they keep reminding us how often the zealous amateur athlete has a pauper’s life.
It may be good or bad that Canadians have such short memories regarding sports, aside from hockey. Most are unaware that the roles of federal agencies in sport only began in 1961 when Parliament passed the National Fitness and Amateur Sport Act. The roles were slowly extended, with most provinces following suit in backing organized amateur sport. Despite such support, the consequences have been modest, at least in medals. Canadian athletes today do top the standards set by predecessors in the 1960s, but athletes of other countries have improved as well, and usually more so.
The real boon from government began to flow after 1969 as the Trudeau government took up the recommendations of its “task force report on sport.” Although largely sparked by a parade of Russian victories over our national hockey teams, its proposals were many and generous. Federal and provincial spending soared. The Canada Games began, both summer and winter. By 1975, Ottawa was spending $25 million on sport. Then, as the Montreal Olympics came and went (with miserable Canadian showings), annual spending on sport by Ottawa climbed toward $75 million. Results in medals had not markedly improved when recent federal budget cuts deflated the federal contribution and role in sport.
Despite all the government, spending, despite the often generous backing of specific sports projects by private companies, despite our hosting many international competitions, including a Winter and a Summer Olympics, several Pan-American and Commonwealth Games, even Francophone Games, despite some eight major studies since the 1969 task force report on the needs of Canadian sport, despite the creation of staffs, programs and facilities for a coaching association, a sports research centre, sports medicine, even university and community college programs for sports administrators, our results in global competitions have continued to be meagre.
Most exasperating of all, countries in our range, or lesser ones like those of Australia, Sweden, Finland, even Cuba, get better returns in medals.
There are a few sunbeams in our dreary sporting state. Since 1970, we’ve built myriad facilities – arenas, tracks, pools, gyms, courts, slopes, jumps, etc. – from coast to coast. Most came from creating first-class venues for Canada Games, held every two years in some mid-sized Canadian city.
London, Ont. has just hosted the latest such Games, very much an “in-Canada” success – a sweet contrast to the recent World Track and Field Championships hosted by Edmonton, which had no medals for Canadians but much scorn for the host city and country from European journalists. No kudos – even when we pick up the tab.
Can Denis Coderre change this dour record? He’ll try. I think to little effect.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, August 26, 2001
ID: 12773271
TAG: 200108260397
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Consider: a former senior aide to the U.S. president is mooted for a senior post at a government bank. He lacks banking experience, and he’s tapped as a presidential hatchet man for his part in the manhandling of anti-globalization protesters by the FBI, as well as White House moves to defuse a scandal involving the president and the same federal bank. The ex-aide’s new duties would include defending the bank – and the president – against the scandal, which is still simmering.
Under the U.S. Constitution, the president can nominate his former aide – or anyone else – to fill any of some 7,000 government posts in organizations ranging from the cabinet and the Supreme Court to the bank in question. Two centuries ago, those who drafted the U.S. Constitution recognized such sweeping powers could be dangerous, so they checked them. They charged the Senate with approving – or vetoing – the nominees. Senate committees may require nominees to testify as to their credentials, possible conflicts of interest and how they see those duties.
What would happen to our nominee?
Aware of the president’s intentions, because nominees are generally known prior to official appointment, party elders would advise him on the nominee’s lack of relevant experience and the apparent conflict of interest which appointing him to the bank would create, given his prior ties to the ongoing scandal. They’d caution that his nominee would likely be rejected by the Senate’s banking committee, a blow to him and their party. If he insisted on the nomination, they’d note the senators of his own party who’d likely join rival senators in attacking his nominee, protecting their own reputations and chances of re-election.
In Canada, patronage is less exposed. Individual pieces of legislation rather than the Constitution authorize the prime minister or the governor-in-council (i.e. the cabinet, but effectively the PM) to make most appointments to senior posts.
Our PM appoints the Supreme Court, the deputy ministers who head government departments, heads of Crown corporations and other government agencies, as well as many of the executives who run them. While other senior mandarins are appointed by the Clerk of the Privy Council, the Clerk is himself appointed by the PM, so if the PM had a view on these appointments, it would be taken into account.
Our prime minister’s writ is arguably as large as that of America’s president, but lacks any substantial checks to it.
The scenario which I outlined above actually existed here. Jean Carle, Jean Chretien’s former director of operations, became a vice-president of the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) despite his part in: a) the RCMP’s pepper-spraying of APEC protesters in B.C.; and b) his involvement in the Grand-Mere affair, in which the PM lobbied the president of the BDC to approve a loan to a businessman (and former felon) who owned a property adjacent to one owned (in part) by the PM.
The opposition and media blustered over this appointment for Jean Carle, but it went ahead. Recent revelations show Carle’s BDC contract included costly provisions – $55,000 for moving expenses; $150,000 in severance, even if he left the bank of his own accord. This is another tempest in the media teapot.
Differences in Canadian and U.S. patronage go beyond the lack of structured checks on the powers of the PM. Americans enjoy an effective two-party system, which is understood to be a necessity by the broad public and ruling elites. We don’t.
The Mulroney era saw greater resistance to our unchecked patronage system. Why? The system hasn’t changed, but the people being appointed have.
With Liberals governing for over 70 of the past 100 years, it isn’t surprising many Canadians – and much of the media – are used to Grit operatives throughout the federal government. Liberal appointees often possess extensive experience, which for some justifies their appointment – and the system.
In the U.S. it is seen as legitimate, indeed necessary, for a new president to appoint his own people to top positions. How can real change be effected if those who previously ran government remain? And the Senate is always there to guard against abuses.
Here, such turnover is widely seen as illegitimate. It threatens the hundreds who expect such jobs for being loyal Liberals. That they also happen to be well connected to the media, academia, and various lobby groups, helps them not only in serving the Liberal party, but also in resisting attempts to displace them on those (rare) occasions when the party is out of power.
For these folks – and their friends – losing such jobs when power supposedly changes hands isn’t a natural, healthy, democratic phenomenon. It’s unfair and “political!” So too are notions that they ought to explain themselves to elected representatives. The PM trusts them. Isn’t that enough?
Those who would replace the Grits should address the patronage system as a major hurdle to their aspirations. To date this has not drawn serious attention.
Brian Mulroney thought that having the system’s controls in his hands meant it would work for him. Wrong. Only by reforming the system, or dismantling it, will a non-Liberal government be safe from the revenge of those who see governing as their own right.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, August 22, 2001
ID: 12772730
TAG: 200108220556
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


So far there has not been much open response to the concerns raised in the weekly Hill Times by David Jones, an American writer, about journalistic tenure for covering our federal politics.
Jones is a former U.S. state department official who served in Canada. Now, as a freelancer, he often writes about our politics. His concerns stem from the recent dismissal by Southam papers of columnist Lawrence Martin, a former American. This cut of a much-read columnist and well-regarded biographer of Jean Chretien has not created the stir here that anything comparable would have in the U.S.
In part, this neglect may be tied to Martin’s lack of outrage over an action which reporters’ gossip reads as ordered by one of the Asper family – admirers of Chretien, who control Southam (and Global TV).
Jones has suggested in the Hill Times that those of us who write will be less caustic, worried about our own tenure if we hit too hard on a person or issue important to our owners or publishers. He has written:
“Such action must have the proverbial ‘chilling effect’ on journalists throughout Canada. If the best among them don’t have the leeway to write critical analysis (and their editors can’t protect them), what about the second and third string writers? I know darned well, I would keep my head down under similar circumstances … ”
In an e-mail to me, Jones also mentioned “the parallel case” of another perceptive columnist, Chantal Hebert, now with the Toronto Star. A few years ago, she was dismissed by La Presse, says Jones, “after she quoted the PM about the Constitution not being a general store where Quebec could pick and choose what it wanted. This report apparently angered the PMO and La Presse owners.”
Jones argues the Hebert and Martin incidents, “largely ignored in the Canadian media … appear to me to be tone setters for the manner in which the Canadian public discusses issues and the parameters that are regarded as acceptable for discussion. This is not something an outsider can really write about from the casual experience I have (and knowing Hebert and Martin personally)… But as a former political counsellor, I would consider it as a reporting telegram that I would have written for Washington, commenting on the two firings as illustrative of the manner in which the Canadian political spectrum operates.”
His letter ends with the question: “Have I missed something obvious from not being on the scene?”
It would be nice to reply that he has, but all I can do is retell some familiar bromides.
First, on the Martin case, no one I know takes seriously the explanation by a Southam editor that the dismissal was necessary to cut both costs and column space. I believe the cause had to be in Martin’s hard, detailed columns this year on the PM procuring federal funds for projects in his own constituency; that is, these essays would be seen by Chretien and his counsellors as aspersions of unethical behaviour, and their gripes could have prompted the Aspers, loyal Liberals, to cut Martin.
Second, so far as I know, neither Martin nor Hebert chose to raise his/her dismissal as reason for public concern. Again, so far as I know, journalists for other media did not follow up either dismissal in detail or shout alarm over them. So far as I know, no party politician has ever risen to condemn the Chretien crew for allegedly orchestrating the dismissal of trenchant press critics, nor have any spokespersons for media unions or journalistic associations.
I do remember that in my first year (1962) as a Telegram columnist, its editors hammered home to me the conventional press wisdom that one should not make extensive references to what goes on in other papers or to those who write for them.
As Jones has said, both Martin and Hebert have too much quality as journalists to go long without a platform. Nonetheless, to political reporters the Martin dismissal is a warning bell, not least because in one media regime after another jobs are disappearing. You know … synergies!

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, August 05, 2001
ID: 12770784
TAG: 200108050308
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


The Liberal caucus has some restless souls. Perhaps it’s from not having a concerted opposition around. Or maybe their own leadership “race” is too glacially slow to draw their input.
The restless Grits, at least in my opinion, tend to have real talent and they also know cabinet posts for them are unlikely. Aware that idle hands can be the devil’s playground, the omniscient one, Jean Chretien, is letting some of those worthies take on his own government.
Where? How? They do so primarily via parliamentary and caucus committees. The former, composed of Liberal and opposition MPs, are theoretically accountable only to themselves and to Parliament. They set most of their own rules, agendas, schedules and witness lists, write their own reports and, most importantly, pick their own chairs. The reality, however, is not as bold and useful as it seems.
With a majority on each committee, the Liberals effectively choose the chair, and thanks to discipline exercised through the party whip, supervised by the Liberal House leader, and overseen by a careful PM, each chair is vetted by Chretien. In action, the chair is usually counselled by the cabinet minister whose department is involved with the themes or programs set for examination. (The Finance committee is the exception; its chair must be an opposition MP.)
Given Chretien’s quite noticeable sensitivity to criticism in his domain, the chairs of committees are rarely “loose cannons” or gadflies. So much prudence produces insipid proceedings and dull reports. Some Liberal MPs have asked, and some have received, permission to form caucus (i.e., all-Liberal) committees to explore issues. Chretien likes investigative efforts in which criticism of the government is non-partisan by definition. Caucus committees can also be controlled more subtly than parliamentary ones, where consistent rebuffing of opposition members causes an angry fuss. These caucus initiatives are usually financed by funds channelled out of a ministerial, rather than the parliamentary, purse.
One has to concede that not all parliamentary committees have been emasculated. Last month saw an extraordinary exchange between the co-chairs of the joint House-Senate committee which reviewed the Divorce Act in 1998. Sen. Anne Cools and MP Roger Gallaway were pitted against the Justice Department bureaucracy and its minister, Anne McLellan.
Cools, an immigrant and a radical of the 1960s, and Gallaway, a talkative, open critic of the Justice Department, wrote a series of letters to the National Post expressing outrage at the contempt shown their committee, its report, and parliamentary democracy itself by the “haughty” McLellan and her mandarins.
It all began back in 1999 when the minister decided not to act on the committee’s recommendations, which called for “shared parenting” (i.e., joint custody) as the best way to meet the emotional and financial needs of children, or respond to concerns regarding access issues. She asked her department to do more studies and consultations.
To the senator and the MP, the delay and the “consultations” were part of an effort to generate different “evidence” on what Canadians want the law to be, so that more feminist-friendly proposals can be brought forward by the Justice Department. Fuelling their suspicions is the fact the department’s consultations were effectively closed to the public. If any participant objected to the media attending, the latter were banned. This is in contrast to the joint committee’s hearings, which were open.
(As an aside, for over a decade any talk among regulars on the Hill which I’ve heard about the competence and shrewdness of advice tendered ministers within federal departments almost always ends with an unflattering focus on Justice. The explanation? Justice is too mission-driven by feminist lawyers.)
When a Justice Department official responded to the co-chairs’ criticisms with a letter to the editor defending both the minister and the process she launched, Cools and Gallaway replied that her letter proved their point – it was essentially political, and showed civil servants are creating public policy, which is properly the job of politicians.
This attack smoked out the minister, who wrote her own letter to the editor insisting that she was in charge of the process, and that the department’s recommendations would be brought before Parliament in due course for debate, possible amendment and approval. Hence there was no breakdown in democracy at all.
Oh, how McLellan revels in the phrase “in due course.”
Cools and Gallaway flayed the minister for replying to their concerns in a newspaper. She should explain herself to her caucus colleagues and fellow MPs face to face. More-over, her implication that the delay in bringing forward legislation was due to the need to discuss the matter with the provinces was dishonest – the committee’s proposals pertained to the Divorce Act, a federal responsibility.
Why would Jean Chretien allow such a scene? Well, note that neither Cools nor Gallaway attacked him, even though he appointed McLellan. Such testing of a minister (whose reputation has been descending as her condescension has been rising) is not a threat to the government at this time. It may even prompt McLellan to get on the ball. Certainly, the media have enjoyed the diversion of the mighty being bitten by the lowly.
Another apparent challenge to the government comes from the review of the Access to Information Act headed by Liberal MP John Bryden. It is not being done by a constituted House committee but by interested MPs who are pooling resources to review it.
Bryden, an assiduous, quirky, self-starting MP, has often deplored government secrecy. He fears that a panel of bureaucrats (most from the central agencies which he and the information commissioner believe are the chief perpetuators of secrecy within government) now reviewing the act for the PM is likely to seek to tighten rather than loosen controls.
Should Chretien worry about Bryden and company? No. By letting them go forward, the PM appears statesmanlike. In the end he can pick the odd idea from their report to add to the recommendations of his bureaucrats, and claim he’s been as fair as possible. As with Cools and Gallaway, don’t expect Bryden to openly finger the PM. (Recently it was disclosed that Chretien played a role in the torpedoing of a private member’s bill brought in last year by Bryden to amend the Access to Information Act. When Bryden learned of this intervention by the PM he was remarkably nonchalant. He knows the rules of Liberal conduct.)
Far from being a true challenge to the prime minister – or to the way government is run – these efforts are simply more witness to his dominance. Not content with his own job, he can do Stockwell Day’s too.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, August 01, 2001
ID: 12770266
TAG: 200108010503
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Any appreciation of the recent ferment about new political parties needs to know something of the past. Today we sketch the case on the left – the NDP and its Depression-born antecedent, the CCF. This helps understanding of the “New Politics Initiative” floated a few weeks ago by those bold public persons, Judy Rebick and Svend Robinson.
We must start with the 1958 federal election, swept by John Diefenbaker’s Tories. In it, the CCF fell back roughly to where the NDP is today in vote share (8%) and House seats (eight then; 13 now).
By 1958, the CCF was a moderate socialist party, no longer preaching nationalization of major industries. Staggered as CCFers were by dropping from 25 MPs to eight, they had stunned company. The Tory sweep had battered the Liberals, our governors from 1935-57, down to 48 seats.
This huge rejection of the Liberals cushioned the CCFers. Here was the chance of the century. Rejig the CCF. Make it more inclusive. Attain formal ties with unions. Engage the “liberally minded” academics. Embrace them in a new party with three basic elements: farmers; labour unions; and the liberally minded. Replace the Liberals as one of the two major parties. Yeah!
So the CCF nucleus, in concert with the Canadian Labor Congress (newly formed) and at least one farmers’ organization, spent two years planning a new “left” party. They riveted it together in 1961 at a grand convention, as the New Democratic Party, setting up affiliated membership for unions and choosing Tommy Douglas, Saskatchewan’s CCF premier, as leader.
Unfortunately, in the next election (1962) the Liberals picked up 50 more seats and a strong minority position, Douglas was defeated and the NDP won only 10 more seats than the CCF had had. (All the CCF MPs ran as New Democrats.)
Then, in 1963, the NDP took just 17 seats, and the Liberals slipped back into power for a run of 21 years (interrupted for a year in 1979 by Joe Clark’s Tories). In the next eight elections the NDP only took 21, 22, 31, 16, 26, 32 and 30 seats, and never near 20% of the vote.
Such results meant much soul-searching. Why did so few unionized workers vote NDP? Why did the “liberally minded” go so much for the Grits?
Somewhat like today, only more so, young people were restless in the late ’60s, early ’70s. A noisy, bellicose radicalism boomed in North America, much it centred in universities. Students were inspired by freedom marchers in the American South and against the war in Vietnam. Thousands of young Americans veered north to evade the draft and were not turned back. And so, rather spontaneously, a movement crystallized here in 1969, pulled together by several professors. With irony, they called it “the Waffle.”
Wafflers held that the NDP as “the” Canadian left, put too much stress on parliamentary agendas and electoral success, and not enough on direct action which would engage thousands of believers.
No doubt the Wafflers gingered the NDP for a time, both from within the party and in parallel to it, but their anarchical strain antagonized the organized NDP regulars. And most union leaders wanted no part of the Waffle as an entity within their party, so by the 1974 election the NDP had turfed the Waffle.
Anyone my age checking the New Politics Initiative (NPI) announced by Rebick, Robinson, and a small squadron of like-minded, has to see similarities to the Waffle. There’s the antagonism to America’s military “imperialism” and to market-dominated economies. There are familiar pleas for equality in incomes and access to education. And, as the Wafflers did, the NPI boosters are backing off starting their own distinct party.
At first, the NPIers proposed a self-dissolution by the NDP and the launch of a new, more leftish party. But within weeks they’ve shifted to a tentative reworking of the NDP. Through two years of discussion pressed by the NPIers, the NDP regulars will be invigorated by environmentalists, anti-globalization zealots, and trenchant gays and lesbians. This may convince all taking part a new party should be formed. If not, at least the NDP would be freshened by direct action politics as it carried on the familiar parliamentary and electoral games.
Now, a brief prediction on this proposed resurrection of the left in our party politics. The direct action gambit of demonstration won’t help the NDP a whit. Rather the reverse. But cutting its union ties would bump up the NDP and would focus on getting less, not more entwined in American culture.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 29, 2001
ID: 12769975
TAG: 200107290412
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Plowing, in one sitting, through the pile of newspapers for the past month put me on to some patterns, prejudices and preoccupations which my daily reading had not fastened on. So I offer them as observations, and a conclusion which flies in the face of current political wisdom.
First, the conclusion. The relative quiet enjoyed by the Chretien Liberals will soon end, regardless of the Alliance’s self-immolation under Stockwell Day, the Tories’ irrelevance under Joe Clark and the NDP’s invisibility under Alexa McDonough. None of the opposition pygmies is in any position to challenge the Grits, and even several leadership changes won’t alter this in the immediate future. Nevertheless, Liberals’ angst will climb – from changing economic fortunes and their own incipient leadership contest.
Now, the observations which lead me to draw this conclusion.
The first is how completely the Day soap opera has dominated recent political coverage – little else has garnered consistent ink. The second is how steady – indeed, steadily accelerating – has been the deterioration in the world economic situation.
Business sections were full of bad news, the most spectacular for Canadians being Nortel’s enormous losses and layoffs. These economic storm warnings – arguably of far more import to us than Day’s travails – got relatively scant attention from politicians or pundits. Few in either camp are yet focused on how our principal political problem of one-party rule – even one-man rule – and the surging of economic difficulties will interplay.
A month’s worth of business headlines showed that oft-cited signs of economic recovery were inevitably countered within a day or two by more bad news. This litany has now spread well beyond the tech sector, into retail sales. North America doesn’t look good; elsewhere it’s worse.
Japan’s economic house of cards threatens to bring Asia’s struggling economies down with it. (No commentator offered much hope that Japan’s new reform-minded prime minister could halt further decline there.) Fears that Argentina might default on its debt led to a flight to U.S. greenbacks, and another plunge for our dollar. As one Morgan Stanley analyst put it, the world economy is in recession – wake up and accept it. (The losses posted by some of the world’s biggest corporations are of a scale not seen since the last recession a decade ago.)
Most telling or more serious were the comments of Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank. Greenspan, the person with the most influence over our economy (given it is essentially a branch of our neighbour’s), was repeatedly challenged to “reassure” the world as to when the U.S. economy would recover. He doesn’t see this happening for another 12 to 18 months – in other words, he seems no turnaround in sight.
What does this portend for our politics? In May, Paul Martin, the finance minister and prime ministerial heir apparent, cautioned that the massive surplus previously predicted for this fiscal year is likely to be more modest. Subsequent low-key comments from his departmental officials indicate government revenues are shrinking faster than predicted. This situation is likely to worsen.
Consider the Nortel meltdown. Nortel may only be one corporate citizen, but it’s a big one, and in recent years its good fortune was also Paul Martin’s. Nortel isn’t going to be paying any corporate taxes to Ottawa this year, or for a number of years following its return to profitability (whenever that may be), because it will be able to write off today’s huge losses against those profits. (Many other high-tech firms won’t be contributing to the federal kitty over the next few years either.)
Nortel’s problems also affect personal income tax revenues. The thousands laid off who have found new employment at lower salaries will pay less income tax. Others not immediately able to find work will not only pay less tax, they will also begin to draw down the Employment Insurance surplus which Martin has been using to help balance his books. Millions of Canadian Nortel investors who have suffered losses will be using these to reduce their taxes. The ripples will keep spreading.
What about the old economy industries (e.g., oil and gas, forest products) which have done so well to date? The continuing U.S. downturn makes it likely they too will soon be hit. And when they are, so will our treasury. Tax revenues could be depressed for years.
The government insists that a recovery is around the corner, just as it has pretended economic slow-downs elsewhere, including the U.S., were most unlikely to have severe consequences here.
Surely this is wishful and dangerous thinking. Dangerous because the upturn in our nation’s finances from deficits to surpluses resulted from increased revenues, not dramatically reduced spending. The government has actually overspent its estimates every year since 1993. This didn’t seem to matter when revenues were rising; now we will be lucky to have a surplus next year, and probably red ink the year after.
Given this, surely the government should be taking the lead in cautioning Canadians and battening down its own hatches. This is where the Liberal leadership race comes in.
It seemed so cunning when Jean Chretien decided to allow Martin’s rivals for his own job to openly declare their intentions. This made it impossible for the Martin camp to ready another putsch as they did for a party gathering two years ago. Now there are procedures for would-be candidates to follow. And this means Canada has a swatch of federal ministers competing for the attention of potential delegates, each using his or her ministry as stages and government-financed programs as props. Not at all helpful if we need to tighten our belts.
Moreover, a leadership race being played out before a backdrop of economic decline, and a return to deficits, could segue into a partisan disaster, with finger-pointing all round. As the finance minister, Paul Martin would surely be the fall guy. Even so, it’s hard to see that such a scenario would benefit the Liberal party or any other aspirant to its crown.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 25, 2001
ID: 12392536
TAG: 200107250443
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


This column recently sketched 10 possible candidates to succeed Jean Chretien. The attendant odds I gave each one were long to very long, except for Paul Martin. Shortly a punchy letter came from a Mr. Baldwin of Ottawa:
“None of your longshots will be the next Liberal leader. It will be Justin Trudeau,” he wrote.
Why so? Because Liberals have liked men relatively new to politics as leaders. See Pierre Trudeau over Bob Winters; Mike Pearson over Paul Martin Sr.; Louis St. Laurent over Jimmy Gardiner; W.L. Mackenzie King over William Fielding.
Does Justin want the job? Baldwin thinks so.
“Has he not taken a year’s leave of absence to go on a cross-country speaking tour? He’ll be great at photo-ops and the florists will love him.”
My first reaction was peevish. Justin Trudeau is so lacking in experience. As a nation we are witness to the repetitious embarrassments of a current party leader, ruined through inexperience and ignorance of history and regional particularities. A neat appearance and nice talk could not hide shortcomings for long.
Would the Liberals, in particular the Liberals of the parliamentary wing of the party, rush to Justin?
Consider this: they’re on a third majority mandate, won under a leader who began with more parliamentary time and ministries under his belt than any other prime minister.
Perhaps they might. Certainly Justin, as son of the Liberal icon of these times, caught the attention and imagination of the populace with his funeral oration. His subsequent exposure through televised speeches and interviews has underlined a winning presence, however callow or fuzzy his spoken themes may have been for critics.
So it’s likely Justin, as a candidate, would quickly draw a following, not perhaps from long-seasoned Liberals but from younger Canadians in general and many older ones to whom his late father is the greatest of our prime ministers.
Ironically, neither in appearance nor content does he recall his father. Rather, he is very much like his mother’s father, the late Jimmy Sinclair, a Liberal minister in the last St. Laurent cabinets. Jimmy was tall, dark, handsome, well-spoken, and gregarious, given to arm-waving gestures (as is Justin).
Over the months since Justin burst into national awareness there have been two parallels of sorts, each also linked to television: Avram or “Avi”Lewis, and Benedict Mulroney.
Avi is the son of Stephen Lewis, a former NDP leader in Ontario, and Michelle Landsberg, a fierce feminist and veteran columnist of the Toronto Star. Avi’s wife is the well- known journalist, Naomi Klein. He is also the grandson of the late David Lewis, an oratorical genius who once led the federal NDP. As host of a regular discussion show weeknights on CBC-TV, Avi comes through as superbly articulate, well informed and confident – even brazen. Like his father, he revels in polysyllabics and dramatic homilies, but he has the added gift of lacing his earnest social democracy with public fun.
Several of my acquaintances whose politics began in the CCF, the NDP’s antecedent party, have called me to rejoice in Avi Lewis. One of them rates his gifts as high as those of his paternal grandfather. That’s praise! Another said it was simple: “Avi’s got it.” And he thinks the NDP must push him to be leader, preferably nationally, but if not there, in Ontario.
Ben Mulroney, a son of Brian Mulroney, former leader of the federal Progressive Conservatives, has had much less notice than Avi or Justin, but his contract for considerable TV work may change that. My hunch was that the politicking child of Brian and Mila would be their second son, Mark, but Ben’s presence is winning and his manners impeccable. Indeed, he matches those qualities which have made Catherine Clark, child of Joe and Maureen, a magnet to the political media.
With more showing, Ben Mulroney may firm up as a prospect to Tories hungry for a fresh and charming personality as their leader. At present, the obvious replacement for Joe Clark is another “son of” – MP Peter Mac-Kay, 36, the son of former Tory minister Elmer MacKay, once a big booster of Brian Mulroney. In four years in the House, Peter has become one of the most poised, able MPs on the opposition side.
What seems a popular readiness to welcome the offspring of former leaders does indicate there is a public memory of past politics and it isn’t always negative. As a phenomenon, it may herald a turning of public mood from longevity in politics to freshness and youth.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 22, 2001
ID: 12391897
TAG: 200107220519
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


This mandate of parliament seems doomed to endless stuff on party leadership rather than economic and constitutional issues. Leaders are hanging on, although four of five should be planning departures.
Antics to push out party leaders and to elevate prospects range from random and farcical to cruel and poignant.
Last week, action within the Alliance party’s melodrama opened up a journalist’s chance to canvass who should be a candidate to succeed Stockwell Day, and probably to defeat him. (He seems too thick to know he’s undone.)
It’s mildly surprising, given what opinion polls reveal about the withered condition of the Alliance in the nation, that there are so many mentioned as candidates to take up the task Day has bungled badly. Below are thumbnail opinions on oft-mentioned prospects, including two of the dissidents who’ve rejected a return to the caucus fold and instead will seek group recognition from the Speaker of the House. (It will have him pondering.)
These thumbnail sketches of the most talked about prospects do not include such impossibles as premiers Mike Harris and Ralph Klein, nor are they in any order of assessed abilities. It is not a collection of hopeless possibilities. Stephen Harper is the only one who is not a sitting member of the House of Commons.
– Stephen Harper, 42, an Albertan, an economist and a one-term Reform MP, now leads the veteran right-wing lobby association, the National Citizens’ Coalition. Oh, what a cool, serious, cerebral missionary he is for frugal, moral government and private enterprise self-regulated by competition. Neither a magnetic personality nor a social misfit, under examination Harper impresses more than he warms or excites. If he runs he is likely to be one of the top two. He was capable, though not sensational, when in the House.
– Deborah Grey 49, an Albertan, a teacher, and the first Reform MP, was really Preston Manning’s No. 2 in Reform and likely the first in the hearts of Reform party card-carriers. An indomitable quality runs through her confidence and jocularity. She has a very modest view of herself, however, not glorying in the following which she attracts. If she does run, it would only be if Manning backs her up.
– Monte Solberg, 43, is an Albertan, a radio station manager and arguably the most deft interrogator in the House of Commons through the last eight years. A very quick-minded, witty man, he held his own better than anyone else in the opposition (even PC Leader Joe Clark) in tilting with Finance Minister Paul Martin, the most effective Liberal in the House. Solberg is both a “quick study” and a neat simplifier of complex matters. His flair with paradox, somewhat akin to Woody Allen’s, may not be big in the caucus and party but would make him the star turn at candidates’ meetings.
– Chuck Strahl, 44, a British Columbian, and the House leader of the Alliance before his recent resignation from caucus, is a straight arrow – kindly, industrious, responsible, handsome and not very complicated. Often he has seemed just too nice for scenarios full of Liberal cutthroats. He’s a natural leader, nonetheless, but neither machiavellian nor charismatic. Should he manage the so-called “Democratic Representive Caucus” well in the House this fall, he just might have a far wider leadership prospect later.
– John Reynolds, 59, a British Columbian and long ago a Tory MP, has been provincial minister and also the Speaker of the B.C. Legislature. Since he returned to the House this year, he’s been the strongest, most forceful personality behind Day and facing the caucus dissenters. Through three decades of rough-and-tumble public affairs in B.C., he’s been contentious and controversial. Despite his stress on the primacy of loyalty to leader and colleagues, he seems too experienced not to know Day is done as a political messiah for present generations. And so the Alliance may need him to lead it to recovery through tightly managed assaults on Liberal incompetence.
– Diane Ablonczy, 52, an Albertan, and a lawyer, has been to the fore in two terms as a well prepared and measured critic of the government. She would make my list of the top 20 opposition MPs in the past five Parliaments. She studies well, and gets to the grist. Though unafraid of oral combat, she is not as vivaciously pugnacious as Grey, and her humour is droll and subtle.
– Victor Toews, somewhere in his 50s, is a Manitoban, a law professor and a former Progressive Conservative minister of Justice for Manitoba, who’s only been in the House this year. It was clear at once that here is a “learned counsel,” one who can hold an audience in the Commons and reach the higher levels of partisan one-upmanship. He’s no fool, and a bit dour, but clear in expositions which show mastery of federal-provincial relations. As leader, he would guarantee parliamentary competence that might over a few sessions win back electors with industry and common sense.
– Brian Pallister, 47, an insurance broker, a former Tory legislator in Manitoba, is very tall, dark, handsome and confident. Like Toews, he’s both new to the House and the caucus, and symbolizes the moderate right (which might make co-operation with the Tories easier). What indicators of superior leadership qualities has Pallister shown? Hard to say, but be sure of this: he’s not one to turn the other cheek.
– Preston Manning, 61, an Albertan, is the key founder and subsequent leader of the Reform party and the sponsor of the Alliance gambit which led to Stockwell Day emerging as a leader. It seems unlikely he will run again, even if he has much to offer in thoughtful analysis and major themes. Why not? Because he knows he’s responsible for the folly which has flowed from his launch of the Alliance option and Day’s leap to leadership. If he did, and I had a vote, it would be for him.
– Stockwell Day, 51, was an Albertan by and large before he gained and then held a House seat last year representing a B.C. interior riding. He might even retain or regain the leadership, even if such would blot out Alliance prospects in eastern Canada. A drubbed, much scorned politician rarely recovers lost status. Once Robert Bourassa did it in Quebec, but after an exile of seven years. Can you imagine Stockwell dropping out for such an interlude? (Don’t answer!)
In my opinion the Alliance list holds comparable talent to that which either the Tories, or even the Liberals, are likely to muster for their leadership races.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 18, 2001
ID: 12390735
TAG: 200107180448
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


This week, for the second time this month, a dozen pilgrims from all parties on Parliament Hill are on Capitol Hill in Washington. They’re meeting with senators and congressmen who have a keen interest in trade and in the ongoing problem of our softwood lumber exports to the U.S.
It is an unusual foray in its informality, an absence of ministerial direction.
A fortnight ago, these MPs and senators met and talked with 11 U.S. senators and 17 congressmen, and the talks under way aim at meeting 40 more.
A prime thruster for these trips to Washington is Joe Comuzzi, a veteran Liberal MP from Thunder Bay-Superior North. He is one of some 40 MPs with what one might call “sawmill ridings.” For several years Comuzzi has been the chairman of a little-known, rather informal joint committee of the House and the Senate, created to carry on regular meetings with a parallel committee from Congress.
Recently, Comuzzi and Sen. Jerry Grafstein (Toronto) have shared leadership on the Canadian side of this association. Although a contrast in appearance and personality, both men are impressive talkers.
Comuzzi and Joe Volpe, a Toronto Liberal MP, have told me how hard it was to get approval and resources from the House leadership and the administration for these unusual, unballyhooed shots at convincing our partner in NAFTA that common sense, fair play, and the interlocking needs of both nations should prevail in contentious trade issues.
MPs whose ridings are hurt by congressional umbrage believe there must be a better remedy than one-sided negotiations which ensue after interest groups in the U.S. raise the roof over specific Canadian exports. Such crises are usually triggered on the American side by members of Congress crying foul. In the lumber case, their justification is in alleged economic and silvicultural offences under the rules of NAFTA.
On the Canadian side, the pattern has been for the minister of Trade (often in concert of sorts with ministers for Foreign Affairs and Industry) to handle the file by dealing almost wholly with the U.S. executive branch (president and cabinet). Our senior bureaucrats are more comfortable with administrative persons than elected ones.
Sawmill ridings are held by MPs of all five parties in the Commons. The crisis has brought them to believe they have to go head to head with their elected counterparts in the U.S. Pleas for support and resources for a pilgrimage were rebuffed, but their intent reached Jean Chretien and he seized their cause, touting it to the Liberal caucus as vital. Presto! Suddenly there was practical backing in manpower, research and travel money, and the initiative went ahead despite the uneasiness of ministers and mandarins.
Occasionally in the last 40 years, the idea has surged, then faded away, that Canada’s influence in Washington is limited because it’s fixed so much on the executive branch (the White House) and so little on the Senate and even less on the House of Representatives. This approach is flawed because the administration in Washington is always more open with its plans and data to the purposes of congressmen than Canadian ministries have been with MPs and senators, even those who sustain the government.
Comuzzi tells me the mission of his group is plain sense: to convince influential American legislators that our exported softwood lumber has not been subsidized by governments; and to make sure there is no negotiated settlement this time. Above all to insist that NAFTA really must mean “free trade.”
Over the past decade, Comuzzi has spent much time with congressmen. Most, he says, are ready listeners, and very perceptive. “We get along well.”
What hits him the most is how “local” they are.
Although it has been harder to connect with senators than congressmen, it is not impossible. For example, Dianne Feinstein, the busy Californian, and Trent Lott, the Republican Senate leader, have heard and responded to the Canadian pitch.
Comuzzi finds it stimulating that partisanship in Congress is less sustained by iron discipline than it is in our system. He senses that his American counterpart prefers dealing with fellow politicians more than with embassy aides or interest groups, and so he argues we should go further in sustaining collegiality with American legislators on mutual concerns. This is unlikely, but … if good consequences come from what’s under way, who knows? Jean Chretien did sanction and back it.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 15, 2001
ID: 12390119
TAG: 200107150378
SECTION: Comment
ILLUSTRATION: drawing by Tim Dolighan
COLUMN: Backgrounder


Last week I wrote of the problems plaguing our military. Today I suggest the underlying causes – i.e., officer corps careerism and the self-delusions of Canadians – also apply to the public service where they pose even greater dangers. And in examining these, the underlying flaws of our politics – and ourselves – also show up.
Last month, outgoing Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Maurice Baril told the Commons defence committee that Canada’s forces are more combat capable than a decade ago; this despite 25% fewer troops, half as many combat aircraft and new, high-tech navy frigates tied up dockside due to manpower shortages. Baril’s defence of the status quo – and of government policy – was consistent with remarks of previous defence chiefs going back to the 1960s.
Retired general Lewis MacKenzie, UN commander in Bosnia nine years ago, disputed Baril’s claims. I have yet to find one senior officer, retired, who believes what Baril said. Romeo Dallaire, commander of UN forces in Rwanda during the genocide and a Baril friend, also contradicted the former CDS: we have limited capability of sustaining our war fighting capability. Charles Belzile, another retired general, said Baril knew better but was still being loyal to the cause. Which cause? Safeguarding the nation? Or the government?
Gen. MacKenzie believes it is the latter, and offers two reasons why Baril and his ilk behave this way.
Following unification of the forces in the 1960s, defence headquarters was integrated, with desk-bound officers sharing decision-making with public servants. They learned to behave like public servants, how to please and protect the minister ahead of the welfare of the country and the troops. The rewards were considerable: choice assignments, or opportunities outside government. (Consulting contracts, anyone?)
MacKenzie also notes that outgoing defence chiefs, eligible for senior government appointments, have done well, becoming ambassadors and deputy ministers. With such carrots possible, is it surprising they toe the line?
Now, consider our public service.
The biggest scandal of the Chretien regime thus far was the failure of Human Resources Development Canada to document properly the big sums provided to many job creation and training schemes. Some projects were approved before applications for funding had been received. Clearly, public servants pushed money out the door without due process, satisfying their political masters. The PM’s own ethics counsellor reported a scheme existed for Liberal party officials in Quebec to give “advice” to HRDC officials on requests for funding. Senior officials said the affair was overblown: the problems came from temporary oversights and zeal to get things done.
Not surprisingly, the government concurred. Mel Cappe, deputy minister of HRDC, was promoted to No. 1 mandarin. All HRDC managers got performance bonuses. Why? Because it would have been unfair to withhold them from those not in the web of the scandal, and unfair to deny them to many of those involved who had done well in other duties. It sounds much like Defence Department newspeak.
Then there is rank inflation. Scott Taylor, publisher of Esprit de Corps magazine, ex-infantryman and Defence Department gadfly, has noted that while the military has been (justifiably) attacked for the high proportion of officers in its ranks (22%), similar condemnation has not been aimed at the public service side of national defence headquarters, where rank inflation seems even worse.
Once upon a time in Ottawa there was a thing called an assistant deputy minister (ADM). He or she was expected to help deputy ministers of large departments manage their unwieldy charges. The job and its responsibilities were reasonably clear. Then, as with so much in Ottawa, things grew.
Soon there were many ADMs under a single deputy, so the position of associate deputy minister (a super ADM) was created. Today there are some 250 ADMs/Associate DMs. However, you won’t find anything like that number in the federal directory. Other titles have been devised to describe “ADM equivalents” who enjoy the same pay and perks as ADMs. Some shoulder similar duties, many do not; a lot do not manage anything, seemingly filling advisory roles. Some of their careers seem to be in a holding pattern, waiting for slots to open or pension requirements to be fulfilled.
Recently, the Strong committee recommended significant pay increases for senior mandarins, arguing more pay will attract those private sector managers the public service needs to move into the 21st century. Like the Royal Canadian Military Institute report on military reform, Strong and company doubt those now running the public service can change it.
The Fryer report, which examined public service labour-management relations, also questioned how real change could be effected, given current management attitudes. And in his last report, the information commissioner queried the readiness of the public service to hold itself accountable through the Access to Information Act. The parliamentary committee looking into that Act has expressed concern the government’s own advisory committee (packed with mandarins) is unlikely to advocate more openness.
All of this points to paralysis and lack of accountability in the military and the public service. The military situation is now so alarming that some who had remained silent, who presided during the decline, are speaking out.
Not so with the public service. Aside from Gordon Robertson, former clerk of the Privy Council, few from the federal leviathan acknowledge the need for change. Despite a low dollar, productivity 30% behind our principal competitors (the Americans), a declining share of foreign investment in North America and a steady decline in the relative wealth of Canada’s middle classes vis-a-vis their U.S. counterparts, our senior mandarins are unperturbed. And one has to concede they mirror Canadians’ views and those of the government.
Canada still embraces the politics of compromise which have served all her elites well for decades. Political conflict over ideology, or a major change of course, is too dicey for a country still vulnerable to regional and linguistic tensions. In this push for the safe centre, those who dominate it are largely unaccountable – and unmoveable.
Blaming Prime Minister Jean Chretien misses the point. Have we heard anything from Paul Martin, or any others in waiting for the top post, on how to effect real change in this country, or even about the need for real change? John Manley would ditch the Queen and this would mean opening up the Constitution. Does anyone think this a useful contribution?
The 1988 election over free trade briefly opened a prospect of genuine debate and disagreement in our politics. The Tories took up an issue long discussed by our elites but rejected by them as too dangerous. It had burned previous proponents – see the Liberals in 1911. In 1988, the Tories won with it. Although a majority of voters backed parties opposed to it, the election’s verdict was accepted. But the stress put on the body politic by the Free Trade Agreement, the GST, and Brian Mulroney’s personality led to the Tory meltdown and a return to the obvious Canadian preference: a federation dominated by one party.
What other conclusion is there to a record of Liberals in power for 70 of the past 100 years? Other parties exist and provide window dressing. Some generate ideas which, once embraced elsewhere in the world, can be implemented by the party Canadians trust.
How far do our productivity numbers, our dollar, and our emigration figures have to go before those who’ve presided over the decline and have quietly enjoyed the benefits of going with the “natural flow” of things – i.e., our mandarins and their Liberal heroes – begin to see the light? If they do, are they the right ones to lead a discussion on real change, and then deliver it? Could Canadians handle either?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 11, 2001
ID: 12388818
TAG: 200107110469
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


There has never been a political topic I have so wanted to evade as the careening career of Stockwell Day. His ineptness as a leader has been sad, soiling a system already short in public esteem. Nevertheless, it’s back to Stockwell today. He slogs on, instead of quitting.
Some people forget that other parties have had long, purgatorial stints. The traditional ones, Grit and Tory, have more durable elasticity than the Alliance from generations of backers.
The Alliance has little ballast in past participation and memories. It was conceived just two years ago as a successor to a party just a decade old by its impatient leader, Preston Manning. He and his guru, Rick Anderson, decided to loop the key institution of politics – Parliament – in a quick change of party so as to “unite the right” and win big in Ontario in the next election.
Let me recall two long melodramas, one Tory, one Grit, of parties and caucuses riven over leadership. This gives comparisons and contrasts with the Alliance misfortunes.
The long play of dumping the leader of the Progressive Conservatives in the mid-1960s began in earnest after John Diefenbaker lost power in the 1963 election. It took over three years to complete and it was not a total victory.
Diefenbaker was a superb House performer and magnetic on the campaign trail. He was also egocentric, suspicious and untrusting. His concerted critics got him turfed after immense bickering by using new procedures in the party’s constitution.
A new leader was chosen from many aspirants in 1967. Then a situation emerged which the Alliance scenario may mimic. The epic tussle with the Chief echoed on and on because he kept his seat in the House, where he and some loyalists made it awkward for his successors, Bob Stanfield and Joe Clark.
Now turn to John Turner’s agony-loaded years from 1984-90 as head of the Liberals. After the sweep into office of Brian Mulroney’s Tories in 1984 there were persistent moves in the Liberal party by the likes of Jean Chretien to bounce Turner as a bust. Even Sen. Keith Davey, the veteran organizer, and Marc Lalonde, Pierre Trudeau’s toughest minister, argued for Turner’s departure.
A series of crisis rumours preceded a crucial convention review in 1986. Turner was given a second chance, yet midway in the 1988 election campaign there was a coup against him that failed – a more desperate move than the walkout by Alliance MPs fed up with Day’s leadership.
Last weekend, Day offered to take a “leave of absence” from the leadership until the party’s convention next April. But the dissidents also had to accept Day’s deputy leader, Grant Hill, as interim leader. At the convention, Day would resign. When this offer was refused he withdrew it and intends to soldier on in the name of thousands of grassroots folk who voted him in as leader.
Why such an odd proposal? It reflects little understanding of the work of the House year in, year out.
Parliamentary performance may well determine the fate of a party in the next election but campaigning is not prime for MPs between election years, nor is any imperative to unite the right or the left. What’s prime for all, including the prime minister and leader of the Official Opposition, is to organize and process bills, estimates and debate emergencies. The tasks are commonplace, ensuring we get fair, frugal, responsive government and good laws. The system and roles have been going for many decades.
The role of the opposition parties, especially the “official” one, is vital and not simple. A lot of so-called grassroots people do not appreciate this. Certainly, Day didn’t. His preferences were for showboat stunts and banal moralizing, rather than for assiduous study and critiques of the government by himself, his MPs and his staff.
There must be more to parliamentary politics than the charade of the House question period, though you’d not gather this from Day’s approach.
Where would Day have been during his “leave of absence”?
Did he intend to resign his seat? If he did this he’d miss the substantial pay and travel perks of an MP. If he remained an MP, how could he function as such while in leadership limbo?
If Day did what seems rational by resigning from his seat, to what would he turn? Possibly to grassroots loyalists, having them sustain him as he roamed Canada for nine months in a bid to win the leadership a second time. Preposterous? Not at all, given his juvenility thus far. And he goes on and on.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 08, 2001
ID: 12388122
TAG: 200107080248
SECTION: Comment
photo of RAY HENAULT
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


As a veteran and concerned citizen, I believe Canada should maintain military forces commensurate with its wealth and aspirations as a middle power.
The decline in our military and the near total disinterest shown by the public and senior elected officials with our military shortcomings had led me to avoid the subject. But three recent developments have shaken me enough to again raise the subject of our defence muddle, even though they have not lightened my pessimism.
The first was a survey of over 800 Canadian Forces officers released last month. Its findings support those who argue that our leaders (military and political) have lost touch with – and the confidence of – those they command.
More than 30% of interviewees said they would automatically put the safety of their troops ahead of accomplishing their assigned mission, because they could not identify “any important interest to be upheld which reasonably justified putting their troops in harm’s way.” So it’s clear some of those charged with leading our troops don’t share the politicians’ or the public’s affection for peacekeeping.
Former foreign minister Lloyd “Patton” Axworthy, architect of the human security agenda, lashed out at the miscreants. “They should be taken out to the woodshed … our interest as a country is in serving a human interest, because if we don’t … the kind of instability, insecurity, disruption and turbulence that’s going on will come to our shores. It’s not the national interest that counts. It’s the human interest.”
A Department of National Defence spokesman, Gen. Charles Lemieux, was more temperate: “Sometimes it is very difficult to try to understand what is your place in the overall framework.”
How good a job have the likes of Lloyd and Gen. Lemieux done if a third of our officers don’t understand or accept our foreign policy goals? And if officers don’t get them, how can we expect the other ranks to do so?
There’s more. Almost half those surveyed indicated they felt their superiors at headquarters fell short in “moral courage, accountability, loyalty to subordinates and knowledge/skill levels.”
Gen. Lemieux saw this as the disdain front line troops often express toward their headquarters. But these are officers passing judgment on their superiors, not men in the ranks. Surely this speaks to a badly fractured officer corps, and a headquarters staff with a big credibility gap.
The second development, and in theory a positive one, was the release of “A Wake-Up Call for Canada: The Need for a New Military,” prepared by the Royal Canadian Military Institute (founded in 1890, today with 2,000 members, including former officers and others sharing an interest in military affairs). This document highlights what the institute sees as a crisis in Canada’s military. Its starting point is that “military forces must be able to fight and win.” (Digging wells, building schools and providing other forms of aid are secondary.) Canada’s military is in no shape to fight and so to win.
The report came out the day before a new chief of defence staff was installed; thus most media attention focused on the report’s critique of the leadership of the forces: “Evidence given to the committee indicates a disastrous loss of confidence in top leadership … officers who oversaw the degradation of the CF are distrusted by many of the serving personnel … [and] these same officers have lost contact with Parliament and the general public … How can we expect a change in morale or an innovative environment unless these officers are replaced?”
And how might they be replaced?
“If the experience of private business is any guide, change must be imposed. As the Federation of Military and United Services Institutes of Canada has suggested, an independent, all-party parliamentary review committee may well be necessary to initiate and oversee changes at the top levels.”
Other recommendations include cutting the officer corps (now 22% of the military) in half, trimming the human resources and personnel branches (7,700 people out of the forces’ total of 57,000), and turning recruitment over to an agency. Headquarters could then focus on strategy, doctrine, training and operational planning; savings could be used to increase front line strength.
Despite its talk of eliminating inter-service rivalry, the institute report reflects its membership’s strong army bias. In calling for the creation of joint commands (combining all three services) the focus of a reformed force would be the creation of amphibious/air portable expeditionary units (AAEUs) which could be transported overseas quickly. Getting them there would require four new amphibious ships and 24 new Hercules transport aircraft (to replace our present weary fleet). Fighter jets would be sold off to fund attack helicopters for the army. Replacing search and rescue and maritime patrol planes with more Hercules aircraft (which could also provide the aerial refuelling that is now contracted out) would save more money. Our new, very expensive anti-submarine frigates (often docked for lack of crews) would be retained – for now! The new subs, however, would likely go.
By focusing on the army and what Canada’s military structure ought to be, the report needlessly raises the ire of those affiliated with the other services. It undercuts the engagement of former members of all three services – and those who share an interest in our military – in a discussion on how to generate real public debate on these issues.
The suggestion that a parliamentary committee (of all things!) preside over the rebuilding of the senior ranks of the military is naive. This is now the prerogative of Defence Minister Art Eggleton and Prime Minister Jean Chretien, and it’s pie in the sky to imagine this pair could be persuaded or embarrassed into calling on the MPs.
And the third development? Our new chief of defence staff – air force General Ray Henault. Described by a colleague as “one of the most cautious people I know,” the new leader of our military believes Canada’s military “is very capable, proud and, on the world stage, a very credible and effective force.”
Acknowledging that he has no particular vision of the military, Gen. Henault said, “There aren’t any dramatic changes that I think need to be done.”
Plus ca change …


The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 04, 2001
ID: 12387039
TAG: 200107040488
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


I will miss Mordecai Richler. Variously, he entertained, inspired and cowed me over four decades with his novels and journalism.
Mordecai also raised for me the need a reader has to separate the art of a writer from his public personality. In short, the wit and satirical romping in his novels should not be debited by a public personality that was imperious, cranky and sometimes cruel to those around him. Of course, in public he was often brave – socially and politically.
He was also a rebuke to those of us who opted for political correctness, hesitating from frank diagnosis of the bullying racism in the views and deeds of some Quebecois nationalists. He was just as brave in fiction, where he relentlessly mocked his fellow Jews of Montreal.
Two incidents centred on Mordecai the Arrogant, which I witnessed, are unforgettable.
The first was on television many years ago in a reunion of former students at Baron Byng High School in Montreal. The strolling interviewer was Hanna Gartner, fresh and cheery, and doing very well in an artless fashion until she broached Mordecai and began to gush about his career. He stopped her, ordering her away from him … and left her gaping. It was cruel.
So was what I heard him say years later in Ottawa to a veteran publisher’s guide. I had known her as courteous and efficient. She’d arranged lunch for me with Mordecai at a fine hotel restaurant. He got there early and when she came to his table, set for three, he was seething at the delay of the whiskey he’d ordered. I gathered this as I shook hands and sat down. Then, as the guide went to take a chair at the table Mordecai barked: “What are you doing? I don’t want you here? Get out. Go somewhere else.”
He was fierce. She froze, then rushed from the room. He calmly turned to me and graciously asked what I wanted to drink, and what was new.
Oh, he could be nasty, but could he write – fearlessly. May his novels be read for a century or more.
– – –
Now to what is an unusual advocacy by a columnist, one Pat Connolly, in the Halifax Daily News (June 23) in a piece headlined “Duffster needs us to rally – Newsnet, Newsworld squabble could end Duffy’s career.”
The cause raised is Mike Duffy, the popular political analyst now working for CTV, notably on its cable channel, Newsnet, licensed by the CRTC as a “headline news” operation.
TV’s regulator, the CRTC, has had protests from CBC, affronted at Newsnet’s unexpected, or at least unlicensed, competition for CBC Newsworld.
The CRTC has told CTV that except on rare occasions its license limits it to headline news repeated every quarter hour, along with synopsized data on weather, markets and scores.
Pat Connolly says if the CRTC sticks to its reprimand of CTV Newsnet it will have to do without the interviews and commentary which Duffy has been presenting there for over a year.
Connolly believes “If Duffy’s daily political show on Newsnet is killed, it will leave Don Newman, host of a rival Newsworld show, without competition, a setback for the industry.” Also it will leave Duffy without a job, so he asks those who believe in both competition and compassion to get after the CRTC to relent. Keep Mike at work and Newsnet interesting!
I approve of this appeal even though blood relatives working for CTV may make this opinion seem in aid of a personal interest. No way! As a steady viewer of almost everything political, I want both the erudite, quasi-official Newman, 60, and the more insinuating and daring Duffy, 55, at my switching hand.
Each time I view the ubiquitous Newman, solemn and ordered through his daily hour or so on the tube I notice his lapel pin, the Order of Canada, a grand recognition of worthy accomplishment from a jury of renowned Canadians.
Not only is Duffy not in the Order, word on the Hill is he’ll never get in because of publicity over his litigation against Frank magazine for libel. In a statement filed at court, Mike said he’d learned from the PM himself how he’d been blackballed by the Order’s jury because of notoriety Frank had given him about his size, sources, and integrity. Thrice he’d been sponsored, thrice rejected. Many I know laughed at Duffy’s acknowledging such a blight on his hopes. Since then I’ve admired how Mike has rebounded from that hurtful episode.
Newsworld and Newman need and deserve such an alternative.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 01, 2001
ID: 12386453
TAG: 200107010196
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


As we celebrate our country’s founding, reflect on the latest episode in Canada’s never-ending battle to assert its sovereignty – our prime minister’s brave war of words with British PM Tony Blair over the latter’s shameful behaviour in the Knights Affair. Sadly, standing up for Canada just doesn’t win the plaudits it used to.
Jean Chretien’s letter to Tony Blair, objecting to the latter’s decision to confer knighthoods on dual Canada-U.K. citizens Terry Matthews (high-tech mogul) and George Bain (academic and mediator), garnered Chretien some of the worst reviews of his long and storied career. A cursory survey of op-ed pieces on the subject from across the country reveals that virtually none accepted Chretien’s assertion that his opposition was principled, and had nothing to do with his long running feud with media baron and press lord wannabe, Conrad Black.
The PM insisted his objection to the knighthoods was based on the Nickle resolution of 1918, which urged King George V to desist from conferring titles or honours on those of his subjects domiciled in Canada. According to family legend, William Nickle, the Tory MP from Kingston, was so upset at having failed to secure a knighthood for his father-in-law that he introduced the motion to ensure that no other British subject resident in Canada – as Canadians were then known – could ever again receive such honours. Chretien insists this resolution is the rule of the land – yet Blair’s British government chose to ignore it.
The letter – which the PM chose to make public – led many to check out Hansard (Parliament’s official record) and Who’s Who to assess whether the resolution had legal weight when passed, or could have become custom due to its continuing application since 1918. Their investigations revealed a rather different story than that offered by the PM and his spokespersons.
Parliament routinely passes resolutions, usually supporting good causes or honouring people. They have no legal standing, and in the case of the Nickle resolution, this was obviously so: it wasn’t submitted to the Senate for approval, nor did it receive royal assent, which all legislation must have. It merely expressed the opinion of the lower chamber of that particular Parliament.
A basic tenet of the parliamentary system is that one Parliament cannot bind another. Subsequent Parliaments are free to do as they please with regard to passing laws, or, as in this case, with providing advice to the monarch on the awarding of titles and honours. In the 1930s, the R.B. Bennett government made precisely this point when it resumed the practice of recommending Canadians for honours: the Nickle resolution and subsequent Report of the Special Committee on Honours and Titles (1919) were not binding upon His Majesty or His Majesty’s government in Canada or the 17th Parliament of Canada .
The customary argument that the resolution has been consistently followed since 1918, and thus is de facto law, doesn’t bear close scrutiny. During the 1930s, Bennett created 18 Canadian knights, including Sir Ernest MacMillan (conductor), Sir Frederick Banting (co-discoverer of insulin), Sir Lyman Duff (Supreme Court chief justice) and Sir Charles G. D. Roberts (poet). (As a youth, I crossed paths with two of those knights – MacMillan and Banting – and still recall that I thought each of them so friendly and democratic.)
Although W.L. Mackenzie King as Liberal prime minister ended the practice of nominating Canadians for titles, he didn’t oppose the peerage given to former PM Bennett in 1941. In 1962, former Hamiltonian Edwin Leather (who served as a British MP and governor of Bermuda) was knighted by the British government. During the Brian Mulroney era so were Bryan Irvine and Graham Day (a Halifax native and shipbuilding executive). More recently – and absurdly – Neil Shaw (a Montreal born sugar executive, U.K. resident for nearly 40 years) and Conrad Swann (a Vancouver Island native, adviser to the U.K. government on heraldry, and consultant to the Canadian government on the design of the Canadian Maple Leaf) were knighted in 1994 – during Jean Chretien’s watch.
So has it been Canadian government custom to insist that Canadians – even dual citizens – not receive British honours? No! At least not until Conrad Black.
Critics have smelled hypocrisy, not democracy, in the argument offered by Chretien and his foreign minister, John Manley, that Canadians deeply oppose the granting of titles because they are inherently elitist and anti-democratic. If so, why no objections to the French government’s knighthoods (chevaliers) to Ben Weider (bodybuilder and businessman), Lise Bissonnette (journalist), Robert Gagnon, William Graham (Liberal MP!) and, perhaps most famously, Rene Levesque? Or how about papal knighthoods granted to Canadians, such as Sen. Wilbert Keon (heart surgeon)? Or gold medals like that awarded by the Czech nation to long-time Sun columnist Lubor Zink?
Our PM and foreign minister seem untroubled by these relics of Europe’s elitist, class-ridden past.
As for the British honours, many noted how similar the two countries’ honours’ lists are these days: sports stars, entertainers, artists, business people, academics and those involved in charitable works get the nod in both countries. The Order of Canada itself was styled on the British orders (which include knightly orders), and is headed by the Queen’s representative, the Governor General. As for being democratic, in the U.K. the Opposition leader gets to recommend persons for honours – which is how Conrad Black’s name came up for a peerage. Blair has no more reason to love Black’s U.K. papers than Chretien does the National Post, but he managed to put partisanship aside and was set to send Black’s name to the Queen – until Chretien intervened.
The Nickle resolution was born out of spite. Sadly, the same human frailty has given it new life. The positive reaction shown by so many Canadians to the honours conferred on Messrs Matthews and Bain (let the Brits honour whomever they choose – and if it’s a Canadian, dual citizen or not, good for them!) may indicate we are growing out of our old insecurity regarding our supposed mother country. Now, if only our politicians could behave like adults …

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 27, 2001
ID: 12385393
TAG: 200106270301
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


The first critical phone call about my Sunday column on Liberal leadership prospects was not about the error it contained. It was a different challenge: why waste print, space, and time on such a swatch of indifferent, unremarkable politicians?
A good question, given that so few in the dozen might-be or would-be prime ministers whom I thumbnailed have exciting records of achievement or captivating personalities.
In defence of my topic, I told the caller that in all the history of our “traditional” rulers they have had but six leadership conventions: choosing W.L. Mackenzie King, then Louis St. Laurent, Lester Pearson, Pierre Trudeau, John Turner and Jean Chretien. So the seventh occasion is very major. It should not be a yawn.
If, as the National Post keeps hammering, we have a one-party state, shouldn’t the Liberals get more, or at least as much, media analysis as Stockwell Day? It is notable there has been little speculation on who may be or could be the one who unites the right when Day and Joe Clark fade into limbo. Surely this underlines that the Liberal succession is the significant event ahead in this federal mandate.
This defence of my previous topic should not obscure my shamed face at a stupid goof in the way I set up my assessment of each likely Liberal aspirant’s chances. This made nonsense of all the ratings, done in my order of their probable showing in the first vote at the convention – Paul Martin first, then Brian Tobin, Frank McKenna, John Manley, Sheila Copps, Allan Rock, Dennis Mills, Pierre Pettigrew, Anne McLellan, Herb Dhaliwal, Maria Minna and Jane Stewart.
I used a number scale (1 to 10) to rate each of the above, firstly for overall, demonstrated capabilities, secondly, for chances of winning. My goof began when I said the scale was 1 to 10 when I should have said from 0 to 10.
To explain my ratings, I took Martin as example, giving him 8 out of 10 on capabilities, 7 out of 10 on chances.
Martin has been and remains the overwhelming favourite. He was followed well back in my rating by Brian Tobin as a 2 to 10 shot.
A huge favourite in a big field of runners means most of them should be at very long odds. But this was not the case in the list my readers saw.
For the next two candidates, Frank McKenna and John Manley, I had them as 1 to 10 shots. Fine! Thus far.
Then the choice rating numbers went awry. Sheila Copps was listed at 5 (out of 10); Allan Rock at 3; then Dennis Mills at 1. Each of the remaining six was given zero chance – 0 out of 10 – of winning.
So what was haywire with the odds on Copps, Rock, and Mills?
I meant there to be a decimal point in front of the “chances” number of these three. Thus .5 for Copps, meaning her chances were one in 20; Rock’s were 3 in 100; and Mills’ 1 in 100. Very, very long shots.
Apologies for creating such confusion are awkward but needed; this has been mine.
Returning to the seventh Liberal leadership, it seems to me a lot of citizens who are not engrained Liberals would welcome, and may even be dreaming about a magical outsider rising out of the Grit pack, a Saint Joan or a Pied Piper or a Trudeau.
It is not to demean those who will toe the starting line to say there isn’t any one so wondrously symbolic among the dozen named nor is there one anywhere at hand in the caucus or the party or out there in the land waiting to join the race or to be lured into it.
Certainly, the talent in the list of prospects falls short of that at the most exciting of Liberal conventions in 1968 when there were eight credible candidates in Trudeau, Turner, Bob Winters, Paul Hellyer, Paul Martin, Sr., Joe Greene, Allan MacEachen and Eric Kierans. One might also remember that an aspirant considered an outsider by the press has never come out of a Liberal field to carry the convention. (Joe Clark did at the Tory leadership convention in 1976).
At this early stage, it is apparent that most of the contest will be over how far to the right or left of the centre-line of politics the next leader should be. And this part of it could get very exciting, in particular if the economy has slipped toward a recession.
Martin, in particular, but also Chretien, has had much recognition for an end to deficits and a booming economy. As a result of the frugality they imposed we have had for several years believers among Liberals on both the right and the left, each knowing the best steps to economic recovery: on the one hand more job creation and projects opened through more, and larger, government spending programs; on the other hand, by lowering taxes and interest rates and tightening government spending.
Another factor of interest in four of the six Liberal leadership races we’ve had is whether the incumbent got the successor he wanted. King wanted and got St. Laurent; St. Laurent wanted and got Pearson; Pearson wanted and got Trudeau; Trudeau wanted … who knows, but likely not Turner. And Turner almost certainly wanted Martin, not Chretien. It’s obvious Chretien much prefers Tobin or Copps, maybe even Manley, to Martin. This preference should spark public interest in the race all the way to the convention hall.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 24, 2001
ID: 13030296
TAG: 200106240255
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


These days, Jean Chretien must be chuckling privately at the possible prospect of the largest field ever to contest the leadership for either the Grits or the Tories.
And we don’t even know the date of this contest. It may be two years ahead. However, it’s unofficially under way, more rather than less with the prime minister’s blessing.
Though it would be foolish if it does happen, this may become a grander extravaganza of spending and partisan guff than we had in either 1967 or 1976 when the Tories had 11 leadership candidates, or in 1968 and 1984 when the Liberals had nine, and then seven, candidates.
In both parties’ contests since 1919, a goodly majority of candidates have been ministers or former ministers. There have been occasional bids by premiers or former premiers (especially in Tory races) and sometimes a wild card or nuisance candidate. Remarkably few experienced backbench MPs have been candidates for either party. Today, there are a few indicators that several backbench Liberals may seek the leadership, and one, Dennis Mills (Toronto-Danforth) has said he will if he can raise some money.
Another man, not now in the House, has been much mentioned as a prospect – Frank McKenna, the popular Liberal premier of New Brunswick from 1987-98.
As a prelude to rating the candidates already mentioned in media reports, may I note that the three ministries of Jean Chretien have had a dearth of top-notch ministers and a surfeit of mediocre to dangerously inept ones. This is worse than ironic, given that his three caucuses have had so many excellent MPs Chretien passed by as ministers. To name just 10 such MPs: Reg Alcock, Peter Adams, Maurizio Bevilacqua, Betty Brown, John Bryden, Wayne Easter, John Godfrey, Bill Graham, Dennis Mills and Geoff Regan.
Some 12 persons have either indicated probable candidacies or have been noted as considering one; 10 are cabinet ministers, one a former premier, one a backbench MP. After each one I have two numbers, each from a scale of 1-10. The first number rates overall capability; the second rates that candidate’s chances.
For example, consider the obvious, far-in-front leader at this stage. In capability Paul Martin rates 8 out of 10, and his chances of winning rate as 7 out of 10.
PAUL MARTIN (8; 7): The overwhelming favourite for so long, he’s become stale stuff to many voters. Born in 1938, he’s just four years younger than Chretien. Clearly he will not be the successor the PM wants – too much to the right of centre! Both of Martin’s parents lived energetically and long, and no one else who runs will match his understanding of the federal system and our economy.
BRIAN TOBIN (5; 2): So much talent, plus so many outdated partisan mannerisms and a bellowing crassness overwhelms his sincerity. Though only 46, the Industry minister has had a longer apprenticeship in electoral politics than Martin, but he has far scantier French.
FRANK McKENNA (6; 1): If the former New Brunswick premier, at 53, and with several years in corporate business after a dozen as a progressive, provincial leader, really wants to lead Canada he has the talent in speech and poise to make a strong run. My hunch is there will be no entry.
JOHN MANLEY (6; 1): A likely candidate, the Foreign Affairs minister needs to demonstrate he is less aloof and warmer in personal relations than he seems, and that he has a fresh purpose or two of his own. He is capable, studious and not afraid to make clear decisions.
SHEILA COPPS (5; 5): She may well be the candidate most cherished by the delegates for exemplary loyalty and muscular partisanship, but gender makes her more a debit than a draw with the “power” party, and her colourful history, most recently as Heritage minister, is remindful of her inconsistencies.
ALLAN ROCK (4; 3): Like Martin, the Health minister has been an acknowledged candidate-in-waiting since first entering the House – in his case in 1993. He speaks well, poses nicely, is forward in a courteous way, and is said to be an outstanding lawyer. Yet, after eight years in two major departments, he has not jelled as either a formidable politician or as a learned policy wonk. Strange! Reminds me of David Crombie, a Toronto firecracker, an Ottawa dud.
DENNIS MILLS (6; 1): He would rate with or ahead of Copps and Tobin as a genuine, left-wing Liberal. As a candidate he would, as the PM says, “Offer so many ideas – maybe too many.” A businessman, then an aide in Pierre Trudeau’s PMO, Mills has been a busy MP for 13 years. In the past he’s lined up wealthy backers and is a superb organizer of projects and happenings.
PIERRE PETTIGREW (4; 0): There isn’t a chance for a francophone this turn. However, in his five years in cabinet, Pettigrew, 50, has shown more open zest for politics than any other minister, plus a wide interest in Canada beyond Quebec – in some ways much like Chretien has had.
ANNE McLELLAN (3; 0): It’s stumped most of political Ottawa how McLellan decided she should consider a leadership run. She is academically smart and perennially cocky within her legalese, but she’s often pompous, an archetypal mandarin, not a journeywoman politician. Of the Chretien ministers, only Elinor Caplan is more arrogant.
HERB DHALIWAL (4; 0): An earned millionaire before politics, he is more clever and astute than the ministerial average, but he’s not done well since becoming Fisheries minister: too mild on the public stage, too desirous of compromise. Nonetheless, he’s the most personable of the cabinet from west of Ontario.
MARIA MINNA (2; 0): If there’s much of genius or worthwhile expertise in this recently appointed minister, it hasn’t shown in House performance or its printed record.
JANE STEWART (2; 0): Surely she hasn’t been hooked by her elevation to Grit martyrdom and even as a good leadership bet by the spinners of the PMO. Although nice like Allan Rock, she too is an Ottawa dud, though not quite as helpless/hopeless as she seemed in the furor over her muddled Human Resources department.
At most, only four or five of the above should be seriously considering a candidacy. But the longer the succession is delayed, the more candidates there likely will be.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 20, 2001
ID: 13029731
TAG: 200106200514
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


It’s not slight praise to say Peter Milliken is much more masterful in handling the House of Commons than his predecessor, Gilbert Parent. This is evident in both quicker control of rowdiness in the daily question period and in more speed and clarity in ruling on protests and grievances known as points of order or of privilege. However, it’s also clear this is unlikely to be a reforming speakership.
Neither Milliken, nor his able deputy, Bob Kilger, has shown any bent to rule interpretations which would give more play to backbench MPs of all parties. Of course, such a conclusion may rest more on the feeblest official Opposition in modern memory than on indifference in the chair.
Two days before the House recessed until Sept. 17th, the Speaker made a long, well-knit ruling which cut off further progress of a bill sponsored by Sen. Colin Kenny (Bill S-15: to enable and assist the Canadian tobacco industry in attaining its objective of preventing the use of tobacco products by young people in Canada).
This well-heralded bill, widely backed by thousands of doctors, nurses, and other health professionals, was designed to levy a charge on tobacco sales. The proceeds would sustain a continuing, grand campaign to ward against smoking by teenagers. In my judgment, no bill ever drafted and launched in the Senate has had such personal and group lobbying behind it through ads, visits and letters to politicians and journalists.
Milliken ruled that however worthy the aims of the bill, it was at its core a tax measure, and thus an initiative out of bounds to senators (or to individual MPs). His “duty” as Speaker was to defend “the primacy of the House in respect to taxation as well as the financial initiative of the Crown in the House.” He noted the wide backing for the bill but it failed because it was contrary to the fundamental of the parliamentary system that only the Crown in Parliament – i.e., the governing party in the House of Commons – may sponsor a tax measure.
Not all is lost with the Milliken decision. The scale of backing Sen. Kenny nurtured may have shamed the government and its health minister, the nice but dithering Allan Rock, toward a thorough, well-funded drive to reduce early addiction to tobacco.
Immediately after this negative ruling, Milliken was faced with a 40-minute debate on a point of order alleging the government’s abuse of the rules for House business to the detriment of the opposition’s right to speak to and oppose particular items in a huge swatch of spending programs.
This point of order came from Peter MacKay, an ever-busy Tory MP. His grievance was ridiculed (naturally) by Don Boudria,the Liberal House leader, but backed by several MPs of other parties.
MacKay asked the Speaker to review the use Boudria had made earlier in the day of a rule of procedure, standing order 56(1), known as “the 25-member standing rule.”
With one short statement of a motion, followed by a quick count which found fewer than 25 MPs in the chamber was against it, minister Boudria secured the passage of all items on the government’s supply list, once it had gained the first vote or division on an item on the list. Whoosh! Some $167 billion was okayed. A miracle of parliamentary progress; a total eclipse of opposition criticism.
But was this fair? Was this the intent when the 25-member rule was adopted? Wasn’t it brought in by the Mulroney government and approved by the House only to ensure continued refusals of consent by a single MP could no longer force the government to delay attaining a motion it wanted?
Such refusals of consent, used as a stalling tactic, let a lone MP, or a small group of them, tie up or slow the purposes of the majority. So the new rule required that at least 25 MPs stand to oppose a government motion before it was blocked. But was the rule meant to go past obstruction to telescoping criticism and votes against spending programs before the House into one vote, and that without a prefacing debate of substance?
Milliken listened to the arguments, pro and con. He promised to express his views on their worth when the House resumes in September. His ruling then may indicate how much he believes there is a need for some protective adjustments to rein back an undemocratic domination of the House of Commons by the executive.
Last week, Boudria’s timing was shrewd. There was a broad hope among House members of getting away for the summer, away from their big deed of the session – hoisting their own pay. The official Opposition had been scrambled, even distraught, and anxious to get its shaky leader away from the House and its attendant scrumming. To a lesser degree, most BQ and NDP members also wanted recess. In consequence there was inattention. The opposition was unready for the timing and the pithy brevity of Boudria’s motion to override dissent and package all “supply” matters in one vote. Until September, we won’t know if Milliken will narrow one of the ways in which the opposition is dominated. It doesn’t seem a good bet.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 17, 2001
ID: 13029406
TAG: 200106170618
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Last month’s nasty exchange between Privacy Commissioner George Radwanski and Information Commissioner John Reid over whether the latter should see Jean Chretien’s agendas highlighted two disparate attitudes to secrecy in government.
Since then, the launch of an unofficial, informal, multi-party committee of MPs to look into where the line of secrecy within government should be drawn, plus the release of Reid’s latest annual report, have stimulated widespread debate, even raising hopes of really opening up cloistered, cosy Ottawa.
Liberal John Bryden’s brave decision to set up his committee largely stemmed from “the PM’s agenda” dispute.
See his statement: “I absolutely reject the idea that the government has any right to privacy … when you become a public figure, you surrender your privacy.”
Bryden, 58, was first elected in 1993 in a riding circling much of Hamilton. Any rating of backbench MPs would have him in the top five for initiative and industry. His interest in secrecy – and its opposite, openness, in government – is of long standing. As a former journalist (Toronto Star and Hamilton Spectator) and historian (e.g., his 1993 book: Best Kept Secret: Canadian Secret Intelligence in the Second World War) this man has known frustrations over the cone of silence around so much of government and its records. Last year, his private member’s bill to remove secrecy (the Open Government Act) was rejected by the government in the House.
What gives hope to those who seek change isn’t just Bryden’s personal commitment, but the fact his committee is a private venture – not a formal parliamentary committee. It should or could escape enforced party discipline which often hobbles MPs on a mission. Funded out of Bryden’s own office budget, it will be supported by the parliamentary resources that its members bring to it (e.g. library researchers, translators). Joining Bryden’s crusade are fellow Liberals Carol Marie Allard (another former journalist) and Reg Allard (a privacy buff, whose views may differ from Bryden’s), Alliance member (and former Manitoba justice minister) Vic Toews, Tory Scott Brison and BQ member Claude Bachaund.
Can this odd committee succeed?
The government has its own official panel, tasked with recommending changes to the 18-year-old Access to Information Act. It is stacked with mandarins from the same central agencies cited by Reid and others as obstructing attempts to gain information. And last week Alliance demands that the review process be opened up to the public were dismissed by the justice minister, who insisted Canadians already have the opportunity to make their views known – to the panel she appointed. This does not bode well for the Bryden committee’s efforts, nor does his committee’s lack of subpoena power. Unlike a real committee, it must count wholly on its own moral weight to get testimony from government witnesses such as federal officials, ministers and their staffs. Bryden and company hope moral worth will deserve and get cooperation.
To grasp the challenge before the committee, one must ask: who benefits from the current regime of secrecy?
The answer: virtually all of the Ottawa players – politicians, bureaucrats, patronage appointees, even journalists.
Secrecy’s benefits to ministers and the mandarinate are obvious: by hiding or obscuring responsibility, secrecy protects both from real accountability. Consider the HRDC scandal. We still don’t know how funding for some projects was approved before the requests for it had even been received, or who ordered public servants to contact various Liberal party figures in Quebec for information about certain projects.
On the rare occasions when the veil of secrecy has been raised, say by a commission of inquiry, it was quickly reimposed when revelations became too embarrassing (the Somalia inquiry).
But the most significant benefit of secrecy to both ministers and mandarins is that it allows them to concentrate power in their hands. No checks and balances here. Those who might hold the system accountable (Parliament, the media) are pretty much blind, and either guessing or being spun.
Secrecy also serves the elites of our country like the established business interests and lobby groups. Hidden from view, they as self-anointed representatives of this or that faction or stakeholder can jockey privately for influence and government support and subsidies. Do these folks want you to know whenever they meet with ministers or the PM, and about what? No!
That’s why John Reid’s having such trouble seeing the PM’s agendas.
How about our academics? The lives of those experts with the ear of government and more often than not with consulting contracts, are made easier by keeping such roles private or confidential or undetailed.
Even the media can have a vested interest in secrecy. As Jeffrey Simpson has noted, most press coverage has little to do with real decision-making.
Why? Because the media lack a real window into where decisions are made. Instead, in particular if they are by and large respectful, they are spoon-fed the spin of the day. Yet such a practice of complaisant acceptance of information pre-designed for effectiveness and government safety has rarely caused the consternation or serious reflection which one might expect. Perhaps a far more open system would undermine a key advantage enjoyed by the press gallery’s leading lights: access to those in the know, sometimes to ministers, often to their recognized surrogates or “spin” handlers. A very open system would be a real leveller of journalists, leaving brains and analysis, rather than access, as coins of the media realm.
The cult of secrecy extends beyond an unwillingness to share documents with the public. Simply look how senior mandarins and most patronage appointees get their jobs, courtesy of the prime minister, without any sort of public review or challenge. South of the border those nominated for important posts must show before congressional committees to explain and defend their qualifications for the jobs and the views which they bring to issues related to their duties. Adversarial this may be, but most nominees are appointed, and the American public gains an insight into their personalities and likely agendas. Here, most of such people are faceless, and wish to remain so.
There is no conspiracy here.
The system has evolved over the decades, as the players in it maneuvered to secure their interests, abetted by the parliamentary system’s insistence – now very hypocritical – that ministerial responsibility blankets almost all appointees of high rank with anonymity.
In the absence of real public (and media) outrage over endemic secrecy, one has to doubt the effectiveness of either the information commissioner or the Bryden committee. Still, Canadians with democratic inclinations should cheer them on.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 13, 2001
ID: 13028789
TAG: 200106130226
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


So members of Parliament are leaving the Hill, taking a break of three months without sitting.
How does Canada go on without question period, scrums, charges and rebuttals?
In non-recessionary times the country seems to relish such a vacation. And this makes one wonder what urgency there really was in all the words which made the newscasts and the papers during the last sitting.
Most MPs treasure this extended stretch away from the discipline of caucus, votes and a record of presence in House proceedings.
Those toilers on the Hill who least savour the empty House can be found in the media gang. It’s far handier having politicians largely in one place than scattered from sea to sea.
The competition for political news became tougher a few years ago, in part from expanded TV coverage, notably by news channels, in part from the intense rivalry for stories and “edge” sparked by the birth of the National Post and extending well beyond the Globe and Mail. (Adding to media chores, an imperative has emerged that political news be immediately posted as it happens on media Web sites.)
It seems to me this competition, when several score reporters chase the same politicians and topics, has led to a trivializing of the most handy topics. These pivot more on partisan matters, mostly symbolized by individuals and their stances, rather than on legislative or administrative issues.
So far in this first session of Jean Chretien’s third mandate, no legislated act has caught and held the interest or the understanding of a goodly percentage of citizens as much as the bill so suddenly passed to raise the pay of ministers and plain MPs.
An obvious case of how microscopic and repetitious coverage stales political news is in the obsession with the decline and imminent fall of Stockwell Day.
Yes, the perils of Mr. Day will continue through the break. And through it his situation will be complemented by the coverage of antics of the Liberals, the New Democrats and the Progressive Conservatives. In the past few weeks, the PM has seemingly sanctioned a swatch of Liberal ministers and opened the way for backbenchers to fashion organizations and raise funds to prepare for the announcement he’s leaving.
The NDP and its leader, Alexa McDonough, face a brand new movement, led in part by renowned left-wing activists like Buzz Hargrove and Judy Rebick, gearing to replace the NDP with a more radical and vigorous model.
The Tories, in particular Joe Clark, their aggressive “old hand” leader, will be actively pushing their resurrection while trying to recruit Alliance members who would abandon Day.
The first session after a prime minister and his party have won re-election with a strong majority ought to be rather quiet and uneventful, legislatively speaking. This one has been that, in part because of no budget, usually the high point of a session. And this session has been marked by the exit from politics of that dreaded enemy of federalism, Lucien Bouchard.
At this time, the Chretien cabinet is not offering a truly majestic piece of legislation nor is any fresh, big intervention projected for either the economy, the Constitution, or the federal roles in health and/or welfare. But this doesn’t mean we can’t predict those matters on which the media will pursue the Liberals until the House resumes in September: the leadership and leadership prospects; further indicators of a national recession; and rumours of cabinet changes.
Through the summer, items on Liberal candidacies will proliferate unless the boss enforces an absolute halt. This seems unlikely given his readiness to encourage a succession with as many or more serious bidders as sought to follow Lester Pearson in 1968.
Already five ministers have plans for the starting gate (Paul Martin, Jr., Brian Tobin, Sheila Copps, Allan Rock, and John Manley) and one or two of Jane Stewart, Maria Minna, Ann McLellan and Pierre Pettigrew may join the contest. So may one former premier, Frank McKenna, and perhaps several backbenchers. (Dennis Mills? John Godfrey?)
By Labour Day, political junkies may be as bored with would-be Liberal leaders as they have become with the worth and probable exit of Stockwell Day.
Let me close with a reminder to handicappers who insist there won’t be a horse race because Paul Martin is too far in front.
Look back to 1968. What did the polls say for many weeks after Pearson said he was leaving and set the convention date? They showed Paul Martin, Sr. far in front, followed by Paul Hellyer.
Pierre Trudeau wasn’t on the radar.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 10, 2001
ID: 13028452
TAG: 200106100282
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


This is a digest of parts of a conversation – not an interview – between Prime Minister Jean Chretien and me at lunch at 24 Sussex Dr., on June 6.
Our chat began with the PM’s rumoured intentions: what’s he doing or soon to do to establish the recognition he would like to have for posterity?
Examples? Big projects to create a monumental capital of Ottawa; a bold move to develop a continental policy interlacing energy and water; a huge emphasis on communications, research and technology.
The PM claims no such grand designs. He has canvassed the possibility of creating a grand parade and vista south from the centre gate of Parliament Hill by moving some buildings and eliminating others. The legal and jurisdictional difficulties are large, making impractical anything magnificent. He’s also been bothered for several decades by the barrenness of LeBreton Flats, the big, rolling acreage to the west along the Ottawa River past the National Library and the Park of the Provinces. He decided recently to divert the new war museum there.
I bumped the PM into recall of the pride he has long taken in the superlative achievements and many sacrifices of Canadians in World War II. He recalled as a kid how he became aware of his father’s strong federalist views and the participation of older relatives in the services. He digressed to sketching one of his favorite cronies, “a colourful character” who fought as a tanker in the Three Rivers Regiment and who’s been prominent in Shawinigan, notorious for bucking separatists. Then he spoke of his affection and respect for Barney Danson, a veteran and former cabinet colleague.
The PM said he’d like to be remembered as the prime minister whose government did much for children. He’s proud of some programs introduced or expanded since 1993 but progress has been piecemeal, in large part because of the compromises in a federal state with its separate, shared or overlapping responsibilities for health, welfare and education.
The PM shrugged, then baldly added: “It is not my nature, nor my style, to want goals of grandeur.” It is to get at what’s on his desk or right in front of him.
“Pragmatic!” He stressed the word. “That’s me.”
The PM likes to think he functions as the CEO of the federal government, much like his favorite U.S. president, Harry Truman. Like Truman, his focus, aside from work, is his wife and family, hometown and people he’s known for a long time, including cronies.
We reminisced about the Lester Pearson period, noting first how more was achieved in five years of government (without a majority) than other prime ministers accomplished in longer mandates, and, second, the Liberal penchant for choosing as leader men like Pearson, Louis St. Laurent and Pierre Trudeau, who had come late into electoral politics with fine reputations, but without any slugging apprenticeship in the House of Commons.
The PM struck me as thinking about the particulars implicit in not running for a fourth mandate rather than in going for it. His wife is not a fan of a fourth term, and they won’t be using Harrington Lake much now because they’re so happy in Shawinigan. He’s not deceiving himself into thinking he could win the next election despite the opposition split and encouragement he’s had from caucus and his party. It pleases him, but doesn’t undermine his sense of proportion.
The PM said “it’s no accident” he’s been heading a “very wide government” – one with some on the left like Lloyd Axworthy and Sheila Copps, some on the right like Paul Martin and John Manley and many in the centre. He’s delighted that at least five of his ministers are thinking of running for his post when it opens: Copps, Martin, Manley, Brian Tobin and Allan Rock. There could also be an ambitious backbencher or two, even (he hears) Frank McKenna, 53, and also a distinguished outsider.
In reminiscence about Paul Martin, Sr., an earlier cabinet colleague, it was mentioned that he was known in the 1940s and ’50s as a Liberal of the left, whereas his son seems better fitted on the right of today’s party.
Chretien got on to the awesome power a prime minister has in our parliamentary system, something he had come to appreciate in his years as a minister. He didn’t explain or defend the oft-alleged consequences of such power. He hadn’t fully grasped how much power he had before making use of it. You cannot act, or be stupid enough to act, against the grain when a cabinet is badly split over a decision, he said.
Yes, he determines each decision of substance before cabinet. There’s no vote. But he will pull back when he senses he has neither the cabinet nor the caucus with him. He depends a lot more on the caucus and his Wednesday meetings with them than most of them seem to know. He’s always felt his MPs’ reading of the ridings is worth more than opinion polling. And he thinks there still are ways a diligent MP may have input in policy and closely monitor the bureaucracy.
The PM knew I remembered from previous chats how much he disliked ongoing critiques of his ministers or continual consideration of changes to the cabinet. Maybe he should have made more cabinet changes or shifts but the media have overlooked how many there have been. He dislikes dropping people, yet he knows he will soon have to let go of a lot of ministers, probably in the fall or early next year.
He sketched his awareness of the potential and ambitions of some. He ran over prospects, noting their locale, seniority, ethnicity, religion, education, expertise, the neighbouring competition, their public “persona” and stature within the caucus. There’s always been reasoning in his promotions; they’re not accidental or random.
The PM told anecdotes I cannot use relating to family, Rene Levesque, Lucien Bouchard, Brian Mulroney and Jean Charest. Quebec as a worry is not prime with him now. While he points to the advantages from what’s happening within the Alliance, he’s nowhere near gloating about Stockwell Day’s troubles.
I told him at parting that he looks as peppy and even healthier than he seemed at 29, when we first met in 1963.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 06, 2001
ID: 13027843
TAG: 200106060539
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Regular readers know I view the debate over MPs’ compensation with skepticism. Periodically, the pay, pensions and perks of MPs do raise the ire of their constituents, but I’ve yet to encounter an MP who believed such anger would mean his or her defeat at the polls.
The latest fuss, focusing on a proposed 20% increase in MPs’ pay (to $131,000) should soon blow over. Media reaction to it, however, particularly that of National Post columnist Andrew Coyne (who wrote two columns in three days on the subject) has been intriguing. Coyne savaged not only MPs (for considering the increase), but also “their sympathizers in the Ottawa press corps” (for supporting it), and his second column left little doubt who the media fellow travellers are -the Globe and Mail’s editorial writers and Hugh Winsor, one of the Globe’s Ottawa columnists.
Political commentary in Canada has long been a polite affair. Those who do it rarely snipe at each other, except perhaps anonymously via the pages of Frank magazine.
While the Post and the Globe have been in a fierce circulation battle since the former’s launch, with their respective corporate mouthpieces slagging each other’s claims to the “national newspaper” mantle, they have rarely directly targeted each other’s editorials or columns. Coyne’s attack stands out.
The Globe editorial to which Coyne took exception argued that MPs “toil on valuable committees,” master “difficult, complex subjects,” pass “laws that affect every Canadian’s life” – and a mere 300 of them do this for 30 million Canadians. It urged Canadians to “do the math.” (The Globe’s math would have 300 million Americans represented by 3,000 congressmen – a figure at which even the strongest proponents of a bigger Congress would gag.)
Winsor offered more statistics to back the increase: MPs made do with an increase of 6% between 1991 and 2000, while inflation went up 21.6% and private sector wages 22.4%. (Interestingly, the public service was held to the same 6% during this time, and no one is suggesting it get a 20% raise.)
Winsor also proffers the argument given by the compensation review panel, that the 20% increase would make politics more attractive to those “with leadership and managerial qualities. With better pay should come more competition and more quality, with the result that we should elect more people who want to do meaningful things. That, in turn, should increase pressure to reform the cabinet-centred system of governance to give MPs more roles outside of cabinet.”
He characterized criticism of the increase as a “knee-jerk reaction from people who hate government.”
Coyne lampooned the notion that MPs have special skills and do important work – they bray in support of the party leader in question period and vote like trained seals. Such “skills” are hardly in great demand in the economy, so no increase is justified. (The recommended 42% increase in the prime minister’s salary could be justified, on the grounds he and his staff run virtually everything in Ottawa.)
The Post columnist challenged the notion the increased pay would lead to better MPs, noting it would still be much less than what successful business people and professionals can make. Moreover, 40 years ago MPs such as Tommy Douglas and Lester Pearson were paid less, yet were of a calibre we can only dream of today. No, “If the current roster of Parliamentarians is largely undistinguished, it is because those more talented than they are less willing to live the life of a legislative eunuch.”
Having sat in the House during those halcyon days, I’d note it had its share of duds, just as today’s Parliament has its talents – however ill-used they may be. I do, however, share Coyne’s skepticism about increased pay attracting better candidates and also his belief that to attract the best means giving MPs something useful to do. The question remains: how?
The Reform party was born out of a belief in Western Canada that Ottawa had become (or always was) dysfunctional. At the time, this view was mocked by Ottawa’s insiders, including virtually all the media, as being parochial. It is a sad irony that as more and more Canadians (including some in the press gallery) have come to appreciate the validity of this view, those former Reformers who came to Ottawa intent on reforming the place have instead become preoccupied with the day-to- day charade that passes for politics today.
If the Reformers under Preston Manning had exuded less moral superiority and kept their focus much more on learning how Ottawa operates than on the next election, they could have stimulated a lot of debate on how to change it, for example, by building bridges to their equally frustrated counterparts on the backbenches of the other parties.
They might not have bumped and blundered into their present mess, and more Canadians might be accepting that their MP is worth an extra 20%, and MPs hesitant or opposed to the raise would not be facing the devilish choice of opting into the raise or not getting it.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 03, 2001
ID: 13027494
TAG: 200106030428
SECTION: Comment
ILLUSTRATION: drawing by Sue Dewar
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Why is Jean Chretien bolder than ever before?
Since rolling to his third majority mandate, the PM has seemed peppier and brasher than ever. This is odd. No, he’s never been a reticent or quiet politician since he first won a seat as an MP in 1963, but despite the peripatetic roving and brokering since then, he was a careful – some would say cautious – cabinet minister (1967-84) and prime minister (1993-2000).
Punditry divines a web of explanations for the recent super-PM behaviour: his huge majority and the fractured, often inane, parliamentary opposition; the opportunity opened to him for controlling both the time of his own succession and slate of candidates for it; the choices which surpluses have given him for new spending programs; the retirement of Quebec premier Lucien Bouchard, the apparent eclipse of separatism, and Constitution-changing in abeyance.
So it’s commonplace to say Jean Chretien is at the stage where he’s setting up or defining his niche in the pantheon of national leaders, say as Brian Mulroney did with the GST and NAFTA, Pierre Trudeau with the Charter, and Lester Pearson with medicare and the Canada Pension Plan.
Some see Chretien’s choice in fresh undertakings for a monumental Ottawa: a capital decked with excellent museums and grander avenues with vistas that enhance the Peace Tower and Parliament Hill. Others see it coming in even more federal scholarships and university chairs than those established last year and the year before. Others see it in more creation or extension of national parks and recreational areas, something the PM fostered as a minister during Trudeau’s first two mandates. Others see it based on recommendations coming soon from the Department of Industry on how Canada attains and maintains scientific and technical research and applications which are innovative and globally at the leading edge.
As one who accepts that Chretien as prime minister is now in a bolder, less cautious phase in which he crystallizes and pushes his legacy for history, I’ve wondered what it’s going to be.
My tip on this begins with one word: water. In one sentence, it would be a Chretien initiative to lead in the creation of a rational, long-range continental policy for water and energy.
Surely the boldest move the PM has made recently is not the big boost of parliamentary pay. (And his own!) It’s his determination there will be a thorough examination and report on all issues relating to water in Canada. This work is not to be done by either the traditional, and usually long-running, royal commission or under the aegis of any one of the eight or nine ministers who have responsibilities for water under one or more of 30 federal statutes.
Instead, this mighty overview of water resources and water management which Chretien is setting up, despite hesitation by some ministers and senior mandarins, is to go to a special parliamentary committee. It is to be approved tomorrow night, and will begin deliberations in September under the chairmanship of Dennis Mills, 56, MP for Toronto Danforth since 1988, and a Liberal backbencher with few peers in vigorous enthusiasm.
The reality about water is that in Ottawa it’s classed as a touchy, dangerous topic. Why? Because of a myth that our huge quantity of water is coveted by our American neighbours to meet increasing needs as populations burgeon, water tables drop and climate warming threatens.
Neither the ministry of Foreign Affairs nor Environment is enthusiastic about this initiative. In a partisan way, water in Canada has become a sea dotted with explosive, floating mines. Just last week the House approved a bill amending the International Boundary Waters treaty, which will prohibit bulk removal of water. Of course, water in Canada for the federal government is a matter of shared jurisdictions and overlapping responsibilities with the provinces and, in some particulars, with the United States, with whom Canada has shared an international joint commission on boundary waters since 1909.
Despite our seeming abundance of water (9% of the world’s fresh water), recent failed initiatives by entrepreneurs to export water in bulk and tragedies of death and illness in municipalities like Walkerton and North Battleford, Sask. have sharpened awareness that freshwater must be well-managed – locally, regionally, nationally and continentally for reasons of health, ecology and secure supply in perpetuity. Intelligent use of water challenges us as a people committed politically to a growing population and higher living standards and, frankly, we don’t know much in a public sense about what we have in water and what courses and choices are open to us in its management. It’s estimated that 45% of our fresh water is presently too far away for economic availability and use by larger centres of population and industry.
How many of us would come close to defining the present scale of water usage in Canada? Well … 63% is used for thermoelectricity, 16% for manufacturing, 9% for agriculture; 1% for mining, and 11% by municipal waterworks.
We hear some dire projections, for example, that receding water levels in the St. Lawrence will kill Montreal as a viable port before mid-century and diminishing levels in the Great Lakes will cause horrendous damage to property, transport and recreation and investment possibilities.
Much may be done to conserve water as a resource, both as we use it, and by managing it in such obvious segments as watersheds so as to enhance retention in rivers, lakes and to sustain levels of groundwater basic to farming use.
The Canada Water Act (1970) was designed to cover the comprehensive management of water both as a resource and in terms of its quality. As Dennis Mills pointed out to me: the present Act enables the federal government to introduce spending programs for conserving and using water not only on federal lands and properties but anywhere within the boundaries of Canada by invoking the “peace, order, and good government” clause of the Constitution. Of course, this would have to be detailed and approved as a matter of national dimension so significant as to justify the feds legislating in areas of provincial jurisdiction.
What Mills foresees is an operation in which those with opinions on water use, management and conservacy, have every chance to state their views and proposals. He assumes, as I do, that Chretien has pushed forward an inquiry on this complex and contentious subject because he wants to have in hand a prospectus of where we are in water resources, what we must do or might do in best managing it for the good health of people, their social and economic benefit and a wholesome environment.
Why does the PM want such a canvass and its suggestion of choices? It seems to me he’s interested on several levels and locales, from the personally regional (St. Lawrence) to the national (the huge watersheds of the Great Lakes and Hudson Bay) to a leadership share in continental management and control of water, energy and pollution. In short, Jean Chretien will blue-sky a North American vision as potent as NAFTA and probably even more gainful for Canada.
If this committee was merely an excuse to give work to backbenchers, he would hardly have picked a pusher and publicizer like Dennis Mills.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, May 30, 2001
ID: 13026879
TAG: 200105300315
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


A prime minister with a majority who wants a piece of legislation gets it; and so a majority of MPs will soon vote themselves a raise in pay and, almost as certain, richer pension provisions.
The skyhook for this raise is a report presented yesterday by a panel fronted mostly by Ed Lumley, a former Liberal minister and now a business executive. It recommends elimination of the present generous, tax-free expense payment in favour of a much higher basic salary. (This would force an MP to keep a full record of allowable expenses for claiming tax deductability.)
It’s doubtful all MPs will vote for the raise, but past experience indicates neither the official opposition (Alliance) nor the other caucuses (BQ, NDP and PC) will oppose it as a partisan issue. It’s likelier a dozen or so opposition MPs will back their contrary vote with a promise not to take the raise.
The prime argument the report advances for the big boost is the imperative of getting candidates of higher quality with proven expertise and high-status achievements. Secondary arguments speak of rising living costs, the long interval since the last raise, and the marked increase in federal mandarins in salary brackets higher than ministers, let alone MPs.
In my judgment, a clear majority of MPs are beavers for work and are not living high off the hog. Most MPs in their work do match or surpass the norms of most occupations. My contacts among MPs indicate most of those with children in school and with costly ridings are running overdrafts. On the other hand, a minority of older MPs without many dependents tend to be in good financial shape.
My skepticism borders on cynicism over Lumley’s insistence higher pay is the key if electors are to have the choice of high quality candidates. From years of vetting the parade of MPs as they come and go I believe those in recent parliaments compare well with those of the Diefenbaker-Pearson-Trudeau period.
The central dilemma of our parliamentary system is surely not the quality of its MPs but the deepening failure to provide most MPs genuine roles in either the development of legislation or in effective scrutiny of the billions spent annually by federal programs.
Even dunderheads of Parliament Hill have wondered for five or six years why the PM has more talented MPs on his backbenches than one discerns in his ministry.
The public outrage over this move for a raise will be in vogue on talk shows and in letters to the editor for a few weeks. Many MPs, particularly in the Alliance and the NDP, will quail at the hostility they expect to meet in their ridings if they vote for this raise. My counsel to them based on experience is to respond to critics evenly and as succinctly as possible but not to back away from their vote or fudge the reasons for it.
Forty years ago, as a CCF MP with just a few years experience, I rose in the House and boldly asked for more than the $10,000 a year an MP then got.
Later, old-timers of the press gallery told me this was the first time they had heard such a bare-faced plea.
My demand to a rather full House was triggered by my sky-rocketing debts. Through my argument, Tory and Liberal backbenchers thumped in approval, despite negating waves from giants of the day like John Diefenbaker, Paul Martin, Sr. and Jack Pickersgill.
Next day, and for many more, I was damned and scorned far and wide. Some demanded I resign from the House. CCF elders like Stanley Knowles and David Lewis disowned my request. Snarky letters poured in.
And then my disarray came to a close after news of uproar in both the government and the Liberal caucus. The Chief was shaken so many of his mob wanted more – and as soon as possible. Lester Pearson, the Liberal leader, was kind. He confided that a spirited debate in caucus had moved him to reject the negativism of some ex-ministers.
By the next election my debt miseries were over, ended by money earned in writing a column in a Toronto daily. Of more significance to MPs today, my demand wasn’t an issue in the 1962 campaign and my winning margin stayed the same. Since 1962 MPs have bumped their pay five times, and I cannot recall any of the raises being keen election issues.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 27, 2001
ID: 13026526
TAG: 200105270310
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


It seems as though Jean Chretien wants to suggest and to advance other prospects to succeed him than Paul Martin, his most heavy-duty minister and obvious heir-apparent for at least the past six years.
Last week, the ploy of promoting a candidacy came in a Globe and Mail story that Sheila Copps, minister of Canadian Heritage, “has launched a longshot bid to succeed Prime Minister Jean Chretien when he retires, Liberal sources say.”
The story told us Copps wouldn’t comment on her bid but she’s talked it over with her boss and he’s encouraged her. She would add to the competition and offer a widely known female candidate.
She is not the first female minister who’s been touted by the PMO (prime minister’s office). Several times in recent years stories planted by the PMO with Southam have forecast Jane Stewart, minister of Human Resources, as a potential leader, this even as she seemed bogged in controversy.
Remember that regarding male prospects, Chretien was joyfully boffo over the return of Brian Tobin to his cabinet after a stint as a premier – and not just for the Newfoundlander’s verve and partisan smarts. The PM believes Tobin is entitled by talent and deeds to think of succeeding him.
In a more subdued but more respectful way, the PM has several times made it clear that John Manley (to whom he recently gave the plum of Foreign Affairs) has made a strong, distinctive contribution to his cabinet and its decisions.
Neither the PM nor his leak-handlers have been as generous with Allan Rock, although it has been accepted that Rock, now the minister of Health, aspires to the leadership and has been as open as Martin in readying for the contest ever since he came as a high-profile Toronto lawyer to the House and the Chretien cabinet in 1993. Unlike the Finance minister, Rock has not gathered a strong band of disciples in the caucus, surprising to some extent given that he is more articulate than Martin and as adroit in debate. Somehow, as yet, he has not come through, either in the House or across the land, as a genuine political heavyweight.
Despite the grievous problem Sheila Copps created for herself and the party with her personal campaign promise in 1993 to resign if the Liberals in power didn’t abolish the GST, she weathered this through, impressively retaining her base in Hamilton East in a 1996 byelection opened by her resignation. Given this recovery, and remembering both her alacrity in 1982 to contend the Ontario Liberal leadership at only 30 years of age and just two years after becoming an opposition MPP, and then her bid for the federal leadership in 1990 after six years as an opposition MP, one would expect Copps is readying for another run.
After her pitch in 1990 – and a finish well behind Martin, who was well behind Chretien – she was pressed on why she’d tried, given the certainty she would lose. She asserted there were reasons beyond winning for entering the race for the top. It established her more strongly as a public personality and consolidated within the party her status.
A few weeks ago a journalist who follows federal politics from a distance reminded me that ever since Copps led the so-called Rat Pack in the first Brian Mulroney mandate I had scourged her as a destructive partisan who would go to juvenile extremes to discredit the character and views of those in politics who were not capital “L” Liberals.
He himself now measures Copps as a politician in transition. Indeed, he sees her as almost through a transition from hell-raiser and self-promoter to the den mother of the caucus and even of the party. She’s the synonym for both Liberal loyalty and a government unafraid to address the social and economic problems of plain citizens.
The visitor was sure I must have noticed that Copps is rarely raucous as of old, that she defends and accentuates the positives of “liberalism” and Chretien with a matronly gravitas that’s as day is to night with the flibbertigibbet ranter whom I so often denigrated.
The truth is I’ve been smiling the past year or so at Sheila the positive, at Sheila, the often generous, even occasionally gracious minister, and wondering when she’d revert to type. I’ve learned from chats with Liberal backbenchers that many of them see her as the most approachable member in the cabinet.
As one told me: “She’ll listen. She’ll take your points into the cabinet, even buck the heavies in the PMO.”
So it would seem that I and others should stop scoffing at Sheila Copps and consider that a changed, more mature politician is now before us as she goes for the big job for a second time against a nearly certain winner (as was the scenario in 1990). It’s possible, even probable, that once the count comes, she could well finish ahead of all other competitors but Martin; that is, ahead of others whom Chretien and company call for the race, including Rock (so far without coattails), Tobin (oozing slick from every pore), Manley (so straight and impersonal), and Stewart (perhaps the fifth ablest woman in the cabinet after Anne McLellan, Copps, Lucienne Robillard and Maria Minna).
Copps as a politician is folksy kin to Chretien and parallels him in fixations on the leader and on loyalty to the leader as symbol and the basic reality of the party. And she believes even more than Chretien does in the primacy to be given to programs focused on the needs of people. Like him, she would bulwark a government more by patronage and partisan esprit than by planning and erudition.
No one in prospect beats her in proven loyalty to leader, party, and colleagues. She also would be or should be the candidate most ready to underline how unproven and ill-evanescent are the commitments of the overwhelming favourite to what she calls “real liberalism.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, May 23, 2001
ID: 12793390
TAG: 200105230491
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Can the drift toward imperial premiership be reversed? A parliamentary challenge to Jean Chretien and his courtiers seems unlikely, given opposition disarray and the Liberals’ iron discipline. And media carping over the PM’s dictatorial ways only strengthens his public standing.
A belated hope for real accountability in government – and so for democracy – may rest with John Reid, a former Liberal MP (1965-84). As information commissioner, Reid is trying to hold accountable the PM and his staff and his ministers and their staffs through the Access to Information Act.
Under the Act, Reid must investigate complaints from those whose requests for information have been denied, and then rule if such refusals are justified. (Any order Reid issues for information to be released can be challenged by the government in court.)
It seems that someone (his identity is secret) requested copies of the PM’s agenda for a certain period, and was refused. Reid asked the Privy Council Office for the documents, and sought to interview the man responsible for the agenda, to determine whether the refusal to release them was warranted. The government rejected both requests and asked the Federal Court to block Reid from pursuing the matter. It insists it has the right to do so because: the agendas were created and are held by the PMO, which is not part of the government (and thus is beyond the purview of the Commissioner and the Act); their contents are personal; and their release could do irreparable harm to the prime minister. It also claims the PMO official (like all ministerial aides) is not subject to the act because he isn’t a public servant.
A Federal Court judge sided with the government, but the Federal Court of Appeal subsequently determined Reid should have access to the agendas, and the PMO official. It did not, however, indicate whether the PMO falls within the purview of the Act, nor did it prohibit the government from mounting other court challenges to requests by the information commissioner for documents. The government and the information commissioner are seeking a Supreme Court hearing on these issues.
Reid does not fear controversy. Last year he accused bureaucrats of stonewalling his officials, claiming some tried to intimidate his staff by telling them that pushing inquiries too hard could endanger their careers.
Privacy commissioner George Radwanski, a former journalist with fine Liberal connections, waded into the issue on the Chretien side, calling the notion of opening the PM’s agendas to public review “informational rape.” Radwanski indicated he will seek intervenor status in any Supreme Court hearing to argue that agendas are, by definition, personal, and that the PM’s right to privacy trumps any administrative value their release might have.
The Radwanski intervention was savaged. Tory MP Peter MacKay accused him of doing the PM’s dirty work. Joe Clark wondered what in the agendas so frightened the government.
Advocates of more open government, including former privacy commissioner John Grace, claimed Radwanski did not understand Reid’s mandate. Others ridiculed the idea that the PMO and those in it are not part of government, pointing to Prof. Donald Savoie’s conclusion that cabinet government is effectively dead – power is so concentrated in the PMO that most important government decisions are effectively made there. If the PMO isn’t subject to the Access to Information Act, why bother?
Australians are more enlightened. They can learn the agendas of cabinet meetings shortly after they are held. Here? Twenty years, or more.
However, in the U.S. presidential agendas are no big deal in Washington and the Secret Service lives with it. It was the White House that informed us that Chretien’s “first” meeting with Bill Clinton wasn’t – the two had previously met several times. Our government’s explanation of the oversight? Previous meetings were private. The public didn’t need to know about them. Sound familiar?
So let’s hear it for John Reid, and pray those creative masterminds of the bench see fit to rule that the PM and his courtiers are, in fact, servants of the public, subject to the same laws as the rest of those who govern us.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 20, 2001
ID: 12793061
TAG: 200105200214
SECTION: Comment
ILLUSTRATION: drawing by Susan Dewar
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Is Stockwell Day as good as gone as the Canadian Alliance leader?
And has the party itself a grim future as a dwindling parliamentary rump?
At least four of the media’s political pundits I’ve heard or read have opined affirmatively on these questions, and it’s hard to argue against them, particularly on a short span for Day as leader of the official Opposition in the House of Commons.
The second assurance of oblivion for the Alliance is surely less certain, particularly if the departure of Day from his post is done with dispatch, say either with his resignation as leader some time during the long summer recess of Parliament or through an Alliance convention late in the summer (which is possible if a quarter of the riding associations demand it).
Remember, the House now has less than three weeks of sittings before a break of from 12-15 weeks with no question period circus and the Hill bare of opposition MPs (and government backbenchers). The handy news focus provided for the media on the Hill by the Alliance melodrama will fracture, diverted into several hundred distant constituency locales.
It seems reasonable, given Day’s insistence on staying the course till next April and a prescribed review at the prescribed convention, that it may take more major screw-ups on his part or the bolting of many more MPs before he accepts he is undone as leader and ought to leave for his own good, not just for the good of the party.
Conservatively minded populists are unlikely to countenance, let along organize, a remunerative, departing handshake for Day and his family, and it became cruelly clear from his personal sacrifices to meet some of his libel case expenses that he’s far from well-to-do.
There have been some astonishing comebacks by Canadian politicians from electoral disasters or as laughing-stock boobs. Let me recall a few.
– Lester Pearson, new Liberal leader of the official Opposition, challenged John Diefenbaker, new PM heading a minority government, to call an election. He got his wish and was smashed from 105 to 48 seats after an inept campaign in 1958. Two elections later, in 1963, Pearson squeaked into office and held it for five legislatively fruitful years.
– Pierre Trudeau made two recoveries from unpopular initiatives and poor campaigning: first in 1974 after losing his big majority in 1972 after four years rich in heady talk but few achievements; second in early 1980, regaining office after losing it less than a year before in a feeble, misdirected campaign.
– Joe Clark became a national joke in short months as prime minister after needlessly losing a House vote and then blowing an election, all prelude to his later ousting from heading the official Opposition by Brian Mulroney. He slowly trudged and slugged his way back to general respect as a diligent minister of foreign affairs and, subsequently, to where he is today.
– Robert Bourassa was perhaps the most scorned party leader and premier in Canadian history after his defeat by Rene Levesque and the Parti Quebecois in 1976. Then, at 46, he went into exile in Europe before returning and being resurrected as Liberal leader in 1983, regaining power in 1985 and holding it for eight years.
Plainly, the common factor in the resurgence of Pearson, Trudeau, Clark and Bourassa which Day does not have is a party as an institution with a very long history and deeply rooted loyalists, long experienced with the political pendulum’s swings. Lord knows, these old parties have had, and are still having, machinations underway within them about leadership. But they are without the deliberately designed instability of a populist, so-called grassroots movement intrinsic in the Alliance’s tenets of judgmental “recalls” of its elected members and directions for them on policy by referendums.
The Alliance, by its prescriptions, is more volatile and open in behaviour and less patient than the old parties. So far it also has been a party of high, active, constituency membership with big expectations of the leader. Think of the huge margin the members gave Day over Preston Manning as leader, even though the latter not only founded the party but led it in less than a decade from no seats in Parliament to 60 – an astounding feat for a third party.
The majority of the Alliance membership may not be ready to turf Stockwell Day before next April, but the inherent tentativeness on leadership suggests little likelihood of a durable patience and more chances for him. Surely it’s notable that in the past month there has not been a ripple of demands from the grassroots for recalling Manning to the leadership, even as a stop-gap replacement for a seemingly hapless Day.
It’s certainly possible that predictions by columnists such as Richard Gwyn and Jeffrey Simpson will come about: that the Alliance will not survive Stockwell Day for long in strength and, scorned by the electorate east of the Prairies as a national party, will fade away over several federal elections.
So far, Day has been a pitiful, pitiable party leader. Despite a nice appearance and a surfeit of energy, gall and glibness, he continues to show few signs he has the intellect and knowledge for the task, or the ability to take and follow good advice. Put roughly, he has engraved several negative attributes on the public mind. Vacuous! Disorganized! Self-centred!
I cannot recall a leader of the Opposition so widely ridiculed as inept by political journalists or deemed so empty by MPs of all parties.
So it seems almost impossible that Day could develop a countering, positive persona before the next election, say in 2004. And the longer he stays and the more fuss there is about him in the news before he goes, the more the already dulled Alliance prospects will worsen.
The tragedy of all this, as I survey the political scene, is that of the Reform party, notably as it was early last year before morphing into a new party designed to unite conservatively minded Canadians. It was so clearly an organization built through the enthusiasm of thousands of volunteers who wanted less government and better government.
Through two Parliaments the federal candidates whom these vigorous volunteers chose and helped send to Ottawa shook and certainly broadened the political correctness in place in Ottawa. Reform MPs did rather well as constructive critics and sponsors of fresh propositions. Now the contribution of the host of volunteers and their many MPs is being eclipsed by the reigning obsession with leadership.
A determination to have a leader divined as charismatic enough to captivate the federal voters in Ontario has wrought a disaster. That leader – Stockwell Day – is ruined as a political force, at least for a long time. Even sadder, his party will have to get a new, adequate leader in a hurry. If not, the Alliance, particularly as a vehicle to meld conservative Canadians, will be reduced to a blip before gradually fading away.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, May 16, 2001
ID: 12792425
TAG: 200105160551
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


It’s hard to recall a prior rage against an individual MP as great as that now rolling over Tom Wappel, since 1988 a Liberal member for Scarborough Southwest. As one headline put it: “Tom Wappel must go.”
In letters to editors and on phone-in shows, hundreds are demanding his dismissal. They want Jean Chretien to expel Wappel from the Liberal caucus or turf him from the House because of a brutally blunt letter he sent to Jim Baxter, an elderly constituent, berating him for seeking his aid on a veteran’s problem because he hadn’t voted for him last November.
This is not a defence of Tom Wappel, although I must say that much as I disagreed with his championing of the right-to-life movement, I have sized up his overall performance in the House and its committees since 1988 as excellent. I know most of his caucus peers from Toronto consider him a thorough, intelligent, well-informed colleague. He’s among the most assiduous and capable MPs of the past decade. So much so, I first disbelieved he’d written such a wrong-headed letter to a constituent – any constituent – let alone a blind war veteran.
But he did. He wasn’t the victim of a letter “planted” to show him as both high-handed and obsessed with his own status.
As the rage at Wappel has rolled on, I’ve reflected on my own experience as an MP, and recalled some nasty responses of my own to constituents who badgered me with hurtful accusations: such as being a secret Communist, even an agent of the USSR; of drinking to excess; of never bothering with riding or regional issues; of being anti-Christian, or anti-business, even anti-CBC; and, most maddening of all, of ignoring a letter and a call.
As a generality, very few of the personal letters or calls MPs receive are hostile or vicious. Certainly, most of the so-called “case” mail from constituents or others to MPs fits into familiar bureaucratic niches such as passports, citizenship, employment insurance, veterans’ pensions, tax misunderstandings, job applications, etc. Handling such representations is rather routine and, ironically in view of the Wappel dust-up, Veterans Affairs has been one of the quickest bureaucracies to respond since the late George Hees gingered the department in the middle 1980s.
To present or to track a case at DVA is not difficult for an MP’s staffer, even an unusual case such as the one at the centre of the Wappel fracas. As I understand it, the nub of this case is not mysterious – an amended regulation to the eligibility standards for the recently provided cash award to merchant seamen who sailed in danger during World War II.
After the war, largely because Ottawa wanted to keep a large merchant marine, such seamen were not given the same benefits as those provided for service in the military. This was most unfair, especially given the exposure to danger and high casualties of our merchant mariners. News stories have indicated that during the war Jim Baxter was a merchant seaman for a time and also an enlisted man in the armed services for a time. Apparently, the regulations attendant to the award for seamen are being read as not available to anyone who served in the military and thus has had the post-discharge benefits.
A frugal official handling claims could well interpret Baxter as trying to profit twice from his war service, although this is wrong-headed given the clear intent of the MPs when they supported the belated compensation. It was for those who served on Canadian merchant vessels in dangerous waters.
In Wappel’s statements of apology tendered to the Baxters he doesn’t indicate the gist of the case or the difficulties facing any intervention by him. He had, however, explained that Baxter was in his office records as a constituent whom canvassing showed had once voted for him but chose a candidate from another party in the last election.
It beats me why this choice of another candidate bothered Wappel enough to elicit his brusque rebuff. I disbelieve it is explainable as “typical Liberal arrogance” or that it signifies an attitude among MPs that they are owed backing for services rendered a citizen. Some critics think it an illegal breach of privacy for an MP to know and say how any constituent has voted or to keep a record of such. This is silly. Even though the ballot is secret, those who mark it often are not.
In most ridings good party organizations canvass to identify particular voter intentions in order to place signs, get voters to polls and monitor campaign issues and trends. In an unsuccessful run I once made in a Toronto riding, we did two thorough canvasses, finding 15,000 positives the first go, some 14,000 the next. Our actual vote was just over 14,000, underlining canvassing’s accuracy and the candour of voters on their choice.
Tom Wappel has won four times, the last three with such handsome majorities it is hard to imagine him losing the fifth time from his brush-off of Jim Baxter unless another Grit, say a pro-abortion woman, nips the nomination or the Liberals are massacred in Ontario ridings.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 13, 2001
ID: 12792054
TAG: 200105130320
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


A new, informative book of 13 serious essays edited by Ed Broadbent is at hand. Despite its professorial erudition, this may become a forceful tool in the revival of the Canadian left, largely because it establishes that a gap has widened this past decade between the few who take so much and the many who get so little from our economic and social systems.
Each contributor to Democratic Equality – What Went Wrong (U of T Press) analyzes an economic or social aspect of affairs in the Western democracies. Several bluntly address the dithering of social democratic parties through the successes of the new conservatism and neo-liberalism symbolized by Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Brian Mulroney.
Of course, for Canada, the most buffeted political activists have been the New Democrats. At the moment in low ebb in Ottawa, their party is shifting to review its cause and its reasons for being. Some leading lights of the party, like MP Svend Robinson and the belligerent union leader Buzz Hargrove, even suggest closure and a new start, not unlike four decades ago when the Co-operative Commonwealth Party (CCF) dissolved at the launch of a “new” party appealing to “liberally-minded Canadians” and organized labour.
Of the essayists, editor Broadbent states:
“What unites virtually all of the authors in this book … is a rejection of the outcomes of economic liberalism, even of the strong kind. They make the almost self-evident point that the view of life as a race in the market place, with its unequal incomes and right to acquire property, inevitably results in unequal outcomes and bestows on children and other individuals at the top of the income and wealth scale a range of clearly identifiable choices that are unavailable on the same terms to the vast majority of allegedly equal citizens.”
Three of the essays make convincing arguments of a largely unappreciated surge in economic inequality in Canada that has been accelerating, not receding, in the seven-to-eight-year boom now in jeopardy.
In The Economic Consequences of Financial Inequality, Jim Stanford, a Canadian Auto Workers economist, blows away as myth the belief that close to a majority of working adults invest in the stock market or have a meaningful margin left after living costs to invest in it.
Jane Jenson, a political scientist at the University of Montreal, and Armine Yalnizyan, a Toronto-based analyst working with community organizations, present convincing material on governments through almost a decade reducing or excising spending that was far from adequate in its provisions for health, welfare, housing, and education for lower income families – i.e., most families!
Several essayists range over the ballyhooed consequences of surging neo-conservatism and receding social democracy in the U.K., France, and Germany, and get into the dour consequences setting in for most people from “globalization.”
A Simon Fraser professor, John Hackett, tackles the media’s part in popularizing and sustaining neo-conservatism and neo-liberalism. He makes the case that “the media system … inhibits egalitarian, democratic public debate” and he calls for the creation of “coalitions for media democratization,” a wish surely without a hope in sight.
The analysis which gets closest to the dilemma of the irrelevance plaguing the NDP (or the democratic left) in Canada comes in the essay, “The Party’s Over: What Now?”
Its author, John Richards, was once an NDP MLA in Saskatchewan. Now he teaches at Simon Fraser.
Another academic, G.A. Cohen of Oxford University, using witness from several Western democracies, canvasses what went wrong with the surge of socialistic advances in democracies during and after WW II.
The problem for the NDP or the party which may replace it, says Richards, is how “to reinvigorate the welfare state in a time of fiscal restraint and increased domestic exposure to international markets … problems more powerfully present in Canada than in most industrial countries.”
He suggests the NDP model should be the “third way” of the U.K.’s “New Labour” led by Tony Blair. He recommends a less ideological line of thought than would the book’s editor, the leader of the federal NDP from 1975 to 1989.
Broadbent’s essay outlines 10 propositions “about democracy, equality, and the welfare state.” These are no rejection of such NDP planks as substantially higher taxes for the rich and the corporations in order to fund real economic and social equality in Canada, nor do they fit well with Richards’ sweeping opinion that “most of the world has concluded that the Utopian ideals of early socialists were at best naive, at worst conducive to tyranny.” He counsels “lowering expectations and viewing the world more stoically, as has New Labour, while conceding that does not come easily.”
All in all, some stimulating stuff on the socialist situation, loaded with arguable data and much familiar righteousness.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, May 09, 2001
ID: 12791350
TAG: 200105090608
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


The descriptive words which jump forward for John Manley, 51, minister of foreign affairs the past six months, are brusque, direct, and succinct. (It is true some would say flat and cautious.)
Although Manley has been a minister for eight years and is rated a star contributor in cabinet by the prime minister, he has never been high on the speculated list of successors headed by Paul Martin, followed by Allan Rock, Brian Tobin – even Jane Stewart, Lord help us.
My intuition is a willing Manley would or should be on the list, tucked behind Martin and the only rival with a chance to nip him for the big job. Let me explain the reasoning.
Almost all the time in one federal party or another there are currents – open or running deep – of talk and estimations of leaders and alternatives. Call it scheming or theorizing gossip if you want, but it hardly ever stops. Most people forget how much there was about Pierre Trudeau’s succession right into the second year of his third mandate when John Turner pulled out of cabinet and headed for Bay Street.
Rarely has there been such a diverse float of leadership likelihoods around the Hill, and about all the parties but the BQ. In all this the name of Manley is not much heard or seen.
To my knowledge he has not engaged himself in any of this, either in secret or even by serious considering or planning a run or even sounding for backers in caucus or through the party’s activists. What has happened or been happening to make him something like a real possibility?
Once in a long while an appreciation of sterling worth in a politician and a positive attitude among his peers about his future roles take a long time to crystallize. Then, rather suddenly, the relatively unheralded prospect gets currency in the media and a sensing expands that here is someone whose words get through to people across the country. It is usually coincident with a realization that at hand is one who slowly earned respect and has understandable values and views.
Something like this happened with Jean Chretien. He hit the Hill in 1963 as an opposition MP; became a parliamentary secretary in 1965; entered the Pearson ministry in 1967; next year became Indian Affairs minister and held this hard post until 1974; then he became head of Treasury Board.
Believe me, however ambitious Chretien was for the top when he arrived in Ottawa, he was neither mentioned nor touted by others as a possible prime minister until he had been an MP for a decade and a minister for six years.
In the current milieu, the trio openly ready to succeed the PM – Martin, Rock, and Tobin – have been forward for four years or more, and there has been occasional mention of Frank McKenna, the former premier, and ministers Jane Stewart and John Manley. The latter two have been tipped as possibles by sources in the Chretien PMO; however, neither has been doing much to build on such promotion.
It seems to me the time has arrived for Liberals and others to recognize that in any sensible speculation of the alternatives to Chretien, Manley has become a real contender if he should so will it. This has become obvious through the attention he has been earning by plain, clear remarks on global affairs, and notably in pushing away the caveats regarding the U.S. left by an untrusting Lloyd Axworthy.
To reprise John Manley, he had seven years as minister of industry, a post at which he was publicly adequate and filled without breast-beating. If one believes Chretien and senior bureaucrats, Manley at Industry was a top-notch performer internally in cabinet, and a minister who really knew and directed his department.
Manley was born in Ottawa, where he was educated and practised law before winning a seat in the capital in 1988. As a performer on the public stage, he has never been as obviously partisan or given to patriotic rant as Tobin, and he is not as smoothly modern, glib, and self-assured as Allan Rock.
Manley is 51, Paul Martin is approaching 63. Manley’s French is rougher than Martin’s but useful. He dislikes show-boating and partisan hyperbole whereas Martin revels in it. Manley seems to distrust superlatives in either praise or condemnation and he is earnest about the imperative of honest, open, and frugal government. More than most politicians, certainly more than the other leaders-in-waiting, he “levels” with his listeners or readers about issues and situations, without ambiguities and fudging.
Manley seems the alternative to Martin at hand for those Liberals (and many in the electorate) who want a government headed by a modest, direct, shrewd, and serious man with a good record. He has a good grasp of constitutional history. As a politician he represents ideologically what has been called “the vital centre” of the political spectrum.
Further, he would come into the contest without a slew of followers who have been expecting posts for years.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 06, 2001
ID: 12790907
TAG: 200105060567
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


The comic farce about the Alliance leadership has meant much less notice for fresh Liberal initiatives launched recently by two younger members of the Chretien ministry, Robert Nault, Minister of Indian Affairs (DIAND), and Denis Coderre, Secretary of State for Amateur Sport.
It may seem an aberration to lump these initiatives together in a column, given that some $6 billion a year goes into DIAND and only $75 to $80 million to amateur sport.
The parallels are that both Nault and Coderre are ambitious, aggressive men and their respective constituencies are chronically fractious and critical of federal ministers and their bureaucrats. In both, gratitude is rare, bitching chronic, as is insistence on funding without strings.
With enthusiasm and hyper-energy, Coderre has set out to raise speedily Canadian success in sport, notably in Olympic medals. He points to Australia’s far larger take of such honours. Though less populous and no richer than Canada, Australia chose to assign far more money than Canada to high-performance athletes.
Coderre insists we can mount a binding, co-operative and successful effort despite the multitude of sports involved, their jealousies, and the fact sports activity originates and develops in the provincial domain, not Ottawa.
Despite anti-government bias, sports people do concentrate on specific goals and venues, particularly the Olympic, Commonwealth, and Pan-American games ahead and do accept Ottawa has a role in this.
If Coderre fixes most on unifying and spending on excellence, rather than improving the nation’s health through sport or sponsoring more programs for aboriginals, the handicapped, and children, there might be a surge of medal-winners. Sports people prefer to raise their own money and changes in deductions would make this easier.
Of course “peanuts” is the word for the $10 million more a year from Ottawa, when set beside the billions it antes up under the long-established Indian Act for the health, education, welfare, and economic opportunities of some 660,000 “status” Indians who are spread across the country in just over 600 bands (which have some 2,500 “reserves” of land with a population of 380,000).
Nault will need all the savvy he gained in the last 13 years as MP for a bush riding in northwest Ontario which has thousands of Indians. His initiative is for broad, thorough consultation with “status” natives, whether on reserves or not, on dispensing with the Indian Act and having them running their bands and communities on their own.
Notable discussions on what to do about the constraints and responsibilities imposed by the Indian Act began in earnest in Parliament in the 1950s and have recurred again and again. Their apogee in terms of money spent ($50 million) and canvassing, research, and strong recommendations came through the mid-1990s and the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Most of the chiefs and councillors speaking on Indian Affairs since then have demanded the Chretien government implement the commission’s recommendations – in effect: no more consulting and delay, get on with it!
One is tempted to see Nault’s initiative as a time-filling stall, either to give the cabinet time to draft and publicly back new legislation for the relations of government and aboriginals, or to give time to see what dangerous consequences may come from the rising antagonism in B.C. to the example-setting Nisga’a land settlement. Also, many Alliance MPs, whose ridings have reservations, have drawn notice to dissent within many bands, often raised by women, against autocratic, self-rewarding behaviour by chiefs and band councillors.
Polling reveals a waning in “white” guilt and rising scepticism about both the crazy-quilt intrinsic in fuller self-government for “the nations” and a wider awareness of misuse of funds in many bands.
Not only are Nault’s auguries for a successful consultation rather grim, he has been publicly subdued since dissent exploded last year in the Maritimes over native access to the lobster fishery. Almost overnight he stopped being bumptious and very partisan. He has almost forsaken the public stage. Obviously the Prime Minister’s Office slapped a short rein on him.
If the Indian Affairs minister gets a lusty, positive discussion going and is able to synthesize this into reasonable propositions as it unfolds, it would be very useful for all of us.
If one was wagering on the two new initiatives, however, Coderre has the better chance with the one he leads.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, May 02, 2001
ID: 12790174
TAG: 200105020397
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Most journalists, explaining Stockwell Day’s crash as a political messiah, draw a profile of him as an empty fellow. Certainly as one who has done so, I concluded, subjectively, that he was a glib, badly educated man who could neither explain well nor effect the proposals he brings to public attention.
There have been some critiques which do not contradict this profile, but more kindly explain his shortcomings with references to the province of his political career. He suffers from debits of the provincial, political domain in this analysis – symbolizing intangible factors such as a relative excess in both religiosity and anti-government prejudice, plus the Alberta penchant of voting preponderantly for one party.
So Alberta’s political, cultural and social attitudes may have shaped the Stockwell Day we’ve seen so far. But have they ruined him forever? This intrigues me because many of the distinctive themes of the Alliance and its Reform party predecessor have been around Alberta since shortly after its birth in 1905. For example, the belief in direct initiatives by electors using referendums and the right to recall elected representatives. This was made popular between 1910 and 1921 in Alberta but never caught on very strongly elsewhere.
The intimation is that what has happened with Alberta voters has had little appeal elsewhere; indeed, that it’s a curse.
Therefore, even if Stockwell was a genius as a leader – as some now think Preston Manning may have been – the ideas he flogs will never get a majority of takers in eastern Canada.
One aspect of this Alberta curse is the lack of partisan competition. Since Alberta gained provincial status in 1905, its electors have tended to vote overwhelmingly in both federal and provincial elections for one party. In 17 of 23 federal elections over 88 years, the consensus party of the day provincially – first Liberal, then United Farmers (UFA), then Social Credit, then Progressive-Conservative — has elected by far the most MPs. This bent continued in the ’93, ’97, and 2000 federal elections, since the Ralph Klein Tories favored Reform, and then Alliance, not the federal Tories.
The census of 1921 showed that 27% of the farmers in Alberta were American. It was farmers’ grievances against the high bank and railways rates and Ottawa’s indifference to their grain marketing problem which sparked the rise of the United Farmers, much like the long-militant Grange in the Western states. During WW I, the UFA slowly converted into a political party. In 1921, it swept the province. It held it until 1935, when it was ousted by Social Credit.
It’s been said Alberta was America’s last farm frontier. Certainly the relations of Alberta to America have been closer than in other provinces. Albertans have the Americans’ deep suspicions of big, distant government. They exalt their democratic freedoms like the Americans do, and insist these are linked to a free market economy and private enterprise.
A second jump of American influence emerged shortly after the UFA government was dumped by Albertans in 1935, a defeat attributable to the Great Depression and sexual scandals. The winners were an almost impromptu party, Social Credit, based on a “soft money” doctrine and led by strong believers in Christianity. Soon after, the bonanza from oil and gas discoveries began to turn Alberta from a have-not province into the have province of Canada. Royalties made the allegedly funny-money ideas of Social Credit unnecessary. American influences gained new momentum because so much of the burgeoning resource industries’ equipment, supplies, personnel and capital were all drawn from the U.S. With this came an American-like devotion to free market economics and more antagonism to socialistic government programs.
Some media and academics explain Day’s simplistic presentations of Alliance policies, sing-song recitation of Liberal shortcomings, limp defence and weak counter-punches in the bruising theatre of parliamentary politics as the downside of 14 years spent in the Alberta legislature as part of a government with a big majority. The dearth of vigorous, partisan debate meant Day never had to be tough, quick, precise.
Before I accepted this, I reflected on three politicians from Alberta I’ve known and respected: the late Ged Baldwin, PC MP for Peace River, 1958-1980; Don Mazankowski, PC MP for Vegreville, 1968-1993; and Joe Clark. None of these Tories spent time in the Alberta legislature. Baldwin and Mazankowski built their high repute by steady, persistent work in the House and committees. Each became influential in Ottawa. Clark shot to national recognition faster than Ged or Maz after he got to the House in 1972, but he came with a decade’s experience as an aide to Tory ministers and MPs of note.
Whether the intrinsic Day has such brains and leadership qualities as this trio demonstrated is very doubtful and now, even more so, his chances of getting the time to apply them.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, April 29, 2001
ID: 11995102
TAG: 200104290344
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Veteran readers may recall I’ve often written of the October crisis of 1970 over the past 30 years.
It’s engaged me again with the recent release of federal cabinet records from the crisis period.
The crisis developed as police in Quebec failed to apprehend kidnappers of a British diplomat, and then of a Quebec cabinet minister. The crimes were avowedly political, not done for money, and were claimed by unknown radicals of the FLQ – the Front for the Liberation of Quebec.
My interest in the crisis has much to do with a brief personal encounter with John Turner, then Minister of Justice, near midnight on Oct. 15, 1970 beside his car in a Parliament Hill parking lot. I have kept recalling it because he told me his views on the matter differed from those of the prime minister, Pierre Trudeau.
As I recollect, Turner said: “Our philosopher-king’s dialectic takes him beyond common sense. But he is the prime minister.”
Fair enough, but this hardly squared well with what Turner had to say in the House of Commons the next day, a few hours after Trudeau invoked the mighty War Measures Act. He told the MPs why the government decided to invoke the powers of this long-dormant but available law.
It “apprehended an insurrection in Quebec” and the act empowered it to assign troops and allow immediate arrest of hundreds of suspects (only one of whom was ever convicted).
Turner’s assurances to MPs have intrigued many journalists, particularly as we asked Trudeau over the years about them and he kept denying that anything of significance had gone untold.
“It is my hope,” Turner told the House, “that someday the full intelligence upon which the government acted can be made public, because until that day comes the people of Canada will not be able to fully appraise the course of action which has been taken by the government. The element of surprise was essential, and members of the House will have to rely upon the judgment of the government.” (Hansard, Oct. 16, 1970.)
The latest revelations of discussion and decisions of the federal cabinet indicate it was desperately short of “full intelligence” about the threat, but full of rumours of violence to come and even of a revolutionary plot to unseat Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa.
In particular, two ministers from Quebec, Jean Marchand and Bryce Mackasey, had been purveying the horror tales to colleagues (and also to a handful of journalists, of whom I was one). These tales also emphasized how fearful and shaky Bourassa and Mayor Jean Drapeau of Montreal were becoming.
Of course, a few months after the crisis ended, hindsight was aware that the numbers, resources and skills of the revolutionaries had been hugely overblown. Civil libertarians wondered why Canadians had been so ready and enthusiastic to accept a wholesale surrender of their liberties at the time, and subsequently were not much concerned about the unreadiness of the federal government and its police and intelligence services.
It is fair to say the “crisis” electrified and engaged the close attention of more Canadians than any other happening in our nation’s history. And yet, after the threat had been revealed as relatively minute in scale and with muddled intentions, widespread public interest in it disappeared, notably in the rest of Canada and relatively so even in Quebec.
Minutes of the cabinet meetings during the crisis confirm there was some panic in its ranks, and not confined just to Quebec ministers. It seems obvious from the minutes that this fearfulness concerned both Trudeau and Turner, his justice minister. But as I interpret the situation from the record, and also from what I heard then from Turner as well as from Mackasey and Marchand, neither the prime minister nor Turner was initially convinced the threat to the Quebec government and national unity was well-organized and calamitous.
Through days of cabinet deliberations, though, anxieties grew. Pressure from Bourassa and Drapeau for help grew; so did the realization that none of the three police forces had useful information about the perpetrators or the scope of their organization.
The documents indicate Turner was the pole star for moderate responses without invoking wartime powers.
But the angst in the public drama kept mounting as the kidnappers threatened to kill the kidnapped men, Richard Cross, a British diplomat, and Pierre Laporte, a minister in the Bourassa government. The kidnappers were addressing their demands to Bourassa, not to Trudeau in Ottawa.
Eventually, it seems clear, Trudeau, who had been restrained in his public reactions for several weeks, decided the panic in the Bourassa and Drapeau circles was spreading to the rest of the country and had to be stopped by bold, even excessive, measures.
Turner disliked the abandonment of civil rights but clearly did not have the backing of most of the ministers.
Trudeau hung much of the responsibility for invoking the War Measures Act on the fact the elected leaders of Quebec and the city of Montreal “apprehended an insurrection,” and he demanded and got letters of request from Bourassa and Drapeau.
It is also clear the prime minister’s decision to act vigorously and thoroughly did coincide with rumours bruited by ministers Mackasey and Marchand of a scheme to replace the Bourassa government with a provisional government of nationalistic Quebecers. These heralds of pending doom found many ready to believe that Montreal was dotted with radio-controlled bombs and rife with cells of FLQ activists trained in guerrilla warfare. Lives and governments had to be saved, a frightened populace calmed.
In large part, the fears of Bourassa and Drapeau related to their own leadership dilemmas in the fall of 1970. The mayor was in a bitter battle for re-election with a radical political action group, and the popularity of the Bourassa government, re-elected just six months before, was being battered by a collapse in medical services and rising unemployment.
Just as worrisome to Bourassa and Drapeau, and chilling to the Ottawa federalists, was the 23% of the vote won in the provincial election by the new Parti Quebecois, led by Rene Levesque, that put seven PQ candidates into the National Assembly.
The new evidence confirms to me that Turner did argue the case strenuously in cabinet against using the War Measures Act, but even so, why would he immediately thereafter stress that someday we’d understand why the government had to do it? Remember that years later Turner stil insisted there was unrevealed but “real intelligence” which prompted the use of the act.
Also remember that Trudeau later insisted the reasons for the move had never been concealed. Simply put, his government received urgent letters of request from the heads of the two governments most germane to the crisis created by the FLQ and acted on them.
Does it matter whether or not there was “full intelligence” behind the use of the War Measures Act? Only in terms of settling which of these leaders, Trudeau or Turner, was truthful with us about the crisis.
As one whose experiences bend him towards Turner as the truthful one, I realize I may have to live four or five more years – until his own documents are released – to learn what he knew was “full intelligence” in the cabinet on Oct. 16, 1970.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, April 25, 2001
ID: 11993612
TAG: 200104250600
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15


What’s with the turmoil in the Canadian Alliance parliamentary caucus?
More specifically, what does 44 years working around caucuses on Parliament Hill suggest to me about the short-range future of the Alliance?
Up front, let me postulate what I wrote several months ago. Stockwell Day is the most inadequate leader in Parliament of any substantial opposition or government caucus I have studied. To use cliches: he’s an empty vessel, a real dud, poorly educated and without any bent to openly-reasoned analysis or persuasive argument.
The best gift Day could give the Alliance is his immediate, quiet resignation from both the leadership and the House. Of course, he won’t. He hasn’t grasped either his own inadequacies or what he has already done to harm his own reputation.
Not only is Day an irredeemable dud, almost as unfortunate for the party, there is no really splendid replacement at hand, in the caucus or out of it. To those who suggest Preston Manning, ask the question with the obvious answer: who almost singlehandedly threw in the towel on Reform, his sponsored creation? All this just to try the Alliance as a solution to Reform’s weak appeal to conservatively minded voters in Ontario. In brief, Manning opened the way to Day and to his own rejection as leader, hardly recommendations for a comeback now.
A quick review of past caucus troubles which I’ve watched indicates this is the most tortuous and critical situation of them all. It will cripple the Alliance through and beyond the next federal election unless Day resigns within a few weeks and accepts openly that his own shortcomings as a top level politician have led to this.
Let me recall two past, roiled caucuses – the Tories under John Diefenbaker, Bob Stanfield and Joe Clark, and the Liberals under John Turner.
In 1963, splits had opened in the Tory caucus over the leadership of Diefenbaker, then prime minister. Such bitter divisions continued after he lost power that year to Lester Pearson, and they continued even after the convention in ’67 which rejected the Chief and chose Stanfield as leader. The caucus bitterness merely switched heroes, with Stanfield rarely getting total loyalty from the Diefenbaker cadre.
After Stanfield failed in his third general election in 1974, he resigned, setting up the 1976 convention which, surprisingly, chose Joe Clark from a large slate. The dissent over leadership receded in the Clark caucuses but didn’t disappear. It sparked again after Clark blew office to Pierre Trudeau’s comeback in 1980. Then the backing from some Tory MPs which Brian Mulroney had retained after losing to Clark became an opposition within the official opposition until Clark put his leadership on the line in 1983, and lost it.
The Liberals saved the post-Clark scenario of the Tories from disaster through their own unpopularity. After Turner succeeded Trudeau by beating back a convention challenge from Jean Chretien, he went to the people in 1984 bearing the burden of a nation-wide antagonism to Trudeau and his party. Turner was badly defeated by Mulroney, and in the next two Parliaments he was done in by Chretien and his backers in the caucus much as Clark had been done by Mulroney’s in the 1980-84 Parliament.
The differences in the situations between the riven Alliance caucus and those just sketched are several, beginning with the brief pre-history of Alliance – less than a year old, and in succession to the Reform party, itself in existence a mere dozen years.
The Liberals and the Tories, in government or in opposition, have been at the parliamentary game for 14 decades. This has given them strong institutional memories and loyalties which often run through generations of families, helping explain, firstly, how they could carry on though transparently rancorous caucuses while in government and in opposition, and, secondly, such astounding upswings as Diefenbaker and Mulroney had in winning over 200 seats in 1958 and 1984, and, of course, the scrambles to rather quick recoveries by the Liberals after such near eclipses in those elections.
The long life of the Liberal party has built up a respect ahead of all other principles of loyalty to the leader, and this keeps them effectively together in caucus as they are now, even though so many of them would prefer Paul Martin to Chretien as leader.
To anyone already worried by the poor performances in the House of Commons – marked by an inattentive ministry and low attendance – one certain consequence induced by Day’s inadequacies as a leader will be even less effective work within Parliament by an Alliance caucus which has a fair proportion of assiduous MPs with much to offer in both knowledge and critical ideas.
If Day gains enough support in caucus and from the riding associations to carry on as leader into another federal election, the Alliance will fade into oblivion in another two or three elections. It will also mean the Progressive Conservative party and its caucus will have almost no incentive to co-ordinate parliamentary work or anti-government tactics with the Alliance. And if the Tories choose a successor to Clark with proven qualities as a parliamentary performer, they should at least be back as official Opposition after the next election.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, April 22, 2001
ID: 11992750
TAG: 200104220739
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: The Hill


At least the Summit of the Americas has diverted us from the federal stage in Ottawa where current offerings – Shawinigate, gormless Stockwell, and the autocracy of the Prime Minister’s Office – are all too familiar and depressing. The gathering in Quebec of the heads of government amid the protests of the self-appointed People’s Summit has provided choice bit performances as politicians, protesters, and the media worked together to create a celebration of the absurd.
Staging is key to good theatre and photogenic Quebec City is a grand set. In picking “the capital of the Quebecois nation” (as Premier Bernard Landry insisted it was to all who would listen) the federal Liberal troupe chose to perform before a potentially hostile local audience. Courageous? Not really. Jean Chretien may not be popular in his home province (he’s maintained a low profile there in recent years for good reasons), but free trade is popular in Quebec. Moreover, as host of the international event, Chretien was not only able to cast himself in the lead role and show the red “rag” (sorry – flag) in Quebec, he was able to keep the hometown favourite, Landry, out of the cast. (“Sorry, heads of national governments only!”)
Don’t feel bad for Landry. He obviously relished the media attention the summit circus has engendered, and old ham that he is, he managed to steal more than a few scenes from its supposed star. How this will play in the sovereignty debate remains to be seen, but polls already show a majority of Quebecers believe their provincial government should be at the trade negotiating table with the feds.
The protesters, in contrast, haven’t made as much of the historic city as backdrop as they might have. Given its history of sieges and captures they could have drawn parallels between their efforts to break through the fortress erected by the summit’s security forces and those of Wolfe’s men, who used sweat and guile to surmount the cliffs guarding the citadel. Or they could have noted how, just as Montcalm’s troops resisted the tide of British mercantilism and the threat of cultural subjugation it posed, they are fighting to defend the sovereignty and cultures of nations from globalization’s corporatist agenda and its Wall Street values.
Given the tenderness still attached to the Plains of Abraham and the fractiousness of the protester clan, a consensus on which line to take likely could not be reached.
The People’s Summit organizers, however, did know a good prop when they saw one, and took full advantage of the 4-kilometre security fence which surrounded the summit site. Dubbing it “the wall of shame,” it was the key to their self-portrait as “underdogs.” A replica of it was even constructed so that actress Sarah Polley (Road to Avonlea) and other Canadian celebrities could play prisoners of conscience from behind it, denouncing Canada for joining the ranks of police states which suppress free speech.
That Polley delivered her lines with a straight face – no sense of irony or shame at assuming the mantle of those who’ve genuinely suffered for their beliefs – is a tribute to either her theatrical training or her abiding ignorance. That the gathered media horde failed to challenge her and the event organizers for the absurdity of the scene (addressing the international press corps to claim that you are being denied the right to be heard!) was harder to fathom – or excuse.
Having the right script and remembering your lines are vital to the success of any production. On this score all the main players showed they were pros. With the documents for the summit drafted beforehand, the politicos went over their lines with their handlers prior to facing the cameras. And while the protesters attacked the politicians for their artificiality, they too came to town with their act pre-packaged, providing their troops with the lines to use with the media, and with the police, if arrested. And for those who favour more “direct action,” there was advice on how to break things – and the law – without being caught.
As often happens with big spectaculars, the bit players got lost in the shuffle. The police fell into this category. If anyone deserves sympathy, it’s the police – they get to be the bad guys. Back in the 1960-’70 heyday of demonstrators, the late Northrop Frye noted that they usually “run up against the police, but police don’t represent real authority: they represent only the automatic counteraction that’s built into every society.”
The real authority at the summit would seem to be in the elected leaders of the developing countries. Unfortunately, for them, in contrast to the police – they passed largely unnoticed. These elected leaders, so little known globally, get short shrift, as media attention focuses far more on the protesters from their nations. If democracy is so great, and the needs of their countries so important, why did so few bother to listen to them?
If the summit show leaves you with heartburn, take comfort in the fact it’s a road show – next time someone else will be hosting it. Now, back in Ottawa, the Chretien show goes on, including a few of our own eminences from the People’s Summit like Maude Barlow, Alexa McDonough, and Svend Robinson. Follow it daily on the parliamentary cable channel.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, April 15, 2001
ID: 11990547
TAG: 200104150495
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: The Hill


There’s truth in a topical weighing by Peter Newman of Jean Chretien as one who “doesn’t know how to back down. He can admit no weaknesses, mistakes or omissions.”
This helps explain a parliamentary scenario just 20 weeks after a third straight majority victory that is nasty and very confused in its purposes, and comes despite a fractured opposition whose most numerous caucus is headed by an empty vessel.
Newman has long been judging the luminous of Ottawa. He opened modern journalism’s bent to an obsession with leadership in the capital’s “corridors of power” with his 1963 bestseller, Renegade in Power: The Diefenbaker Years. The advent of national television in the early 1950s had been making politics more immediate and populist, TV battening on personalities more than issues. The marriage of intensely personal media assessments of politicians – as symbolized by Peter Newman and demonstrated by John Diefenbaker – and the advantage television has in focusing on leaders have literally altered the state and scope of the prime minister, the cabinet, and to some degree, the roles of mere MPs. The much altered stage of public performance and the graphic, more immediate communication ballooned party leaders, the prime minister in particular. It also narrowed the significance of cabinet ministers and both the legislating and scrutinizing roles of plain MPs on both sides of the House of Commons.
I hesitate over Peter Newman’s vigorous conclusion: “By pretending to be perfect, Jean Chretien has grown less invincible and much more vulnerable. His days are numbered.”
Without quibbling over numbers, it seems to me there may be a lot of days, given the aggressiveness and self-confidence of Jean Chretien.
Yes, in the last 20 weeks Chretien has been marring a superb prospect for success in his third mandate. He has been arrogant and petty beyond understanding (e.g., in repeating that Joe Clark failed law school twice four decades ago).
The week after the election Chretien had budget surpluses on hand and more to come. Now the bear stock markets and a dampening U.S. economy signal troubles for Canada and federal surpluses and debt reduction. Certainly this has been shifting the political and business communities of Canada away from optimism and into apprehension.
In the new Parliament the opposition seemed fractured and flimsy in both its sum and each of its parts, and this remains so although now it has its own unifying factor in deepening bitterness over the highhandedness in Parliament of the government.
Chretien’s own tough insistence on party loyalty, plus his expressed determination to serve out the mandate, has doused the very limited bravery of his most obvious successor. If the number of his days as prime minister are to be short, say another 140 days or 20 weeks, some person or persons has to convince him it is time to give way or to set in motion a well-planned withdrawal and succession. Where could they be?
Disloyalty to the leader is not unknown in the federal Liberals’ history but in my observation of it (which fits with Newman’s time at the same game) it is rarely open and continually trumpeted. Even a mere taint of disloyalty has been ruinous to careers in the party.
Loyalty is the quality most preached and practised by Liberals. As I measure the current leader, his cabinet, his caucus, and his party, he may have shaken some loyalties thus far but not nearly enough to create hard pressure on him to leave for the good of the party. And stupid as much of his recent stubbornness has seemed to me, I still consider him an acute, full-bore politician.
One need not go far to find Liberal MPs and Liberal party members who soldier in the constituencies who are unhappy with the Chretien leadership, and yet those standing ovations his MPs give him in the House and still, occasionally, in the caucus gatherings, are not fake.
It seems platitudinous but worth stating that the aspect of the Liberals which has made their party the ruling one of record has been pragmatism and its corollary, patience. I’ve seen it at play in every caucus since 1957, even in those led by John Turner in which disciples of Jean Chretien were preparing his way.
Take the current caucus. It has much more talent on its backbenches than in the cabinet, and this has been so for eight years. Frustrated? Restive? Yes, but still patient.
As one of the still ambitious told me last week: “I’d say about 60 of us are marking time and minding our Ps and Qs. Why? We anticipate major cabinet departures and shifts in the next three months.”
I asked if most of his 170 colleagues are happy with their leader. He chuckled: “Far from it, but big personnel shifts are at hand which might promote them. Also, the leader’s been on the media grill for months over his work on behalf of enterprises in his riding. It’s not the time to sound off against a leader who brought us to office … three times.”
Wasn’t the caucus somewhat riven with factions clustering around candidates to replace Chretien?
Again, chuckles: “Surprisingly little. The Martinites are so determined to be loyal. Tobin disciples, if there are any, are unseen, unheard, and both Rock and Manley are too nice to be pushy.”
I asked what has happened to murmurs of criticism heard for five or six years from Liberal MPs about the dominating discipline exercised by the PM through his duo of aides, Jean Pelletier and Eddie Goldenberg. My source was frank: “They’re there; they’re not beloved; they’re generally feared, but we don’t expect them to go until the boss does.”
To sum up my interpretation of the Chretien condition: he has been botching it lately but he seems good for another year or two, even three, unless the economy crumbles. The plain reason: his Gibraltar is Liberal loyalty.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, April 11, 2001
ID: 11989245
TAG: 200104110624
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: The Hill


It is a stretch to contrast Stockwell Day with Sir Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister as WW II opened.
The prime minister was asked his government’s reaction to Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland, and he replied, “I have not had time to confirm the press reports.” A wretched, prevaricating answer, fitting the image of Chamberlain as an unsure politician. It was so inadequate for the occasion.
Now to Canada today, and to the matter of Alliance MPs considering the use of an undercover agent to dig dirt on the Liberals. Day did not wait to confirm the press reports of this story in the Globe and Mail. He accepted it as truth, and that he himself had met with such an agent. Shortly, he or some aide clued into the risk of damage in this story. He reversed.
He denied he’d met the agent, and his convoluted explanation ended by placing the blame for his own confusion on inaccuracies in the Globe story.
Four times in a wandering statement Day was to use the legal term “due diligence.” He charged the Globe with a lack of due diligence in its report. In effect, he sought a retraction from the Globe. Why? Because he had taken its first press report as gospel – that he’d had such a meeting, considered such a contract. Then, he found he hadn’t done so, that is, so far as he and his staff knew … he did meet so many people.
What a hoot!
Not, of course, to earnest members of the Canadian Alliance party, in particular, not to three-score Alliance MPs facing at the worst three or four more years of Stockwell Day as their leader in and out of Parliament. Preston Manning should be writhing in self-abasement over the consequences of his insistence the Reform party broaden into a less tangibly conservative party and choose a new leader. In doing this the membership widely preferred Day to Manning.
It’s not that Manning was a leader without skills. Obviously he was not a gifted charmer, and although we became used to him, he was not a continuing pleasure to hear and watch. Nevertheless he was and is serious, thoughtful, knowledgeable, capable of sustained, sequential argument and well-founded in our political history. These are useful attributes in a parliamentary party leader. Fatefully, none of them is apparent in the Stockwell Day whom the nation has had so much of before it in the past year. How may the Alliance get rid of a such a dud leader? What a gloomy question for Canadians generally, not just Alliance members.
Day seems unimprovable and emptier, slower, and more clueless than previous dud leaders whom the House has known like John Bracken, Robert Stanfield, Joe Clark (in 1979), Kim Campbell of the Tories (in 1993), John Turner of the Liberals (1984-90) Bob Thompson of Social Credit (1961-67), Audrey McLaughlin of the NDP (1989-97), and Michel Gauthier of the Bloc (1996-7). Is Day likely to leave the leadership quietly, say, with a resignation in early summer? Perhaps keeping his seat? Perhaps withdrawing to return to his previous callings as preacher or auctioneer? The odds seem against an easy, self-taken exit, or so one assumes. Why?
Consider: (a) Day is still far from realizing how bereft he is of content and persuasiveness;
(b) The scale of his inadequacies has emerged so quickly and thoroughly to his followers that many, including some veteran MPs of the party, haven’t appreciated what lies ahead with a laughing-stock leader for even one more year;
(c) Manning can hardly take the lead in either persuading Day to leave or to energize the leadership review provided by the Alliance constitution;
(d) Manning has announced his coming retirement from Parliament and at this point there seems to be no other obvious leader in the caucus, even though it has at least a score of very solid MPs, several of whom (including two women) would make capable leaders of the official opposition.
On the other hand, what might be called the Tory factor ought to spur Alliance MPs and the party executive to do everything possible for a Day exit by Labour Day because his continuance chills either any co-ordinated House work or significant progress towards a merger of Alliance with Clark’s Progressive Conservative Party.
Broadly put – and I believe opinion polling will be showing it – the mass realization that Alliance members chose a dud, a nice man but with little there politically, augurs enough increase in Tory support among voters to resurrect the Tories as the leading national opposition to the Liberal government through and into the next election. It is such a sad turn for Reformers, to do so well in such a short time and to have it foundering on an abysmal choice as their leader.
(By the way, it took Chamberlain eight months and several German victories before he accepted that Britain had to have a new leader.)

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, April 04, 2001
ID: 11987297
TAG: 200104040551
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16


As usual, a fortnight in the United States set me thinking about the contrasts and the parallels between our respective politics.
Each country had a national election last November and roughly four months later we have an implausible contradiction between the immediate status with their respective constituents of President George W. Bush, winner by such a shaky margin, and Prime Minister Jean Chretien, winner in an easy trot.
High percentages of Americans seem to be trying very hard to admire or like George Bush and to hope much good will come in his four-year mandate, working in concert with a House and Senate in which his Republican party has a small edge in party representation. The president has been helping public estimates of himself through self-spoofing modesty reminiscent of Ronald Reagan, and through almost courtly barnstorming across the country, explaining his budget’s aims and content and that America now has a team running its executive branch, not a glib super-president or a husband-wife set of polymaths.
Late last year Canadians seemed to have given huge approval to Jean Chretien and the cabinet he would choose for his third majority mandate. He looked to have a less fractious run ahead of him than John Diefenbaker faced after his 1958 landslide or Pierre Trudeau or Brian Mulroney faced after their landslides of 1968 and 1984.
For years, the prime minister has been far more appreciated in English Canada than any other party leader. And now the Liberals’ parliamentary rivals are split in four groups with little joint coherence and each with failed leaders. Add to this the flexibility for the government after years of paring and frugality in prospect from the much-touted surpluses.
Then there have been the benedictions from the wise men of the department of Finance and the Bank of Canada. Again and again they’ve said our economy is too robust and soundly based to be seriously affected by a recession, even if that’s what the emergence of a bear market portends for the U.S.
Given such blessings, how could Chretien miss in this third mandate he sought deliberately and very early?
Maybe he hasn’t missed. Perhaps we as a community will shortly be doing great things together under Chretien’s leadership or, more modestly, continuing with high living standards and a modicum of federal-provincial unity. It may happen, but it gets hard to believe.
At this time, four months after the federal election, what’s most worrisome to one hopeful for Canada is the decrepit state of Parliament. There’s inadequacy in the democratic sense about the federal array of institutions, from its core base – the prime minister’s office (PMO), its adjunct, the Privy Council (PCO) and the cabinet with its 34 or so ministers.
As for Parliament, it demonstrates in the oral question period of the Commons how literally silly and deserving of ridicule and contempt it is.
The long emphasis on Chretien’s financial deals around home is quite similar to the months of brouhaha last year over the pathetic chaos within much of the Human Resources Department. To a degree, the inanities of question period mask the general irrelevance of most parliamentary activity. The exemplars of behaviour come in the words and mean behaviour of the party leaders themselves, in particular from Chretien.
He has no respect for the House, nor do his ministers, although most are wary of question period. Relentlessly over his time as PM, Chretien, strongly backed by Paul Martin, has been vicious with the opposition in the Liberal tradition forged by the Rat Pack in the mid-1980s. Attack, conflict, vituperation, attributing guilt and dishonesty – this is the stock stuff of partisanship on Parliament Hill.
One must note that those covering Canadian federal politics seem to prefer dealing with the clash of personalities and rumours of internal disagreements in the caucuses and the parties than with either scrutiny of spending or the presenting or refining of legislation.
I suppose I’ve been the archetypal Canadian in preferring the parliamentary system to the congressional system with its separation of the executive and legislative branches. Yet for all the criticisms which even most Americans have of their elected politicians, those who are roughly equivalent of our MPs and senators really do deal with legislation, closely and often at length, while much attended by intense analysis of interest groups and open journalism.
Such real stuff of politics is impossible in Chretien’s Ottawa, and relief is not in sight.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, March 21, 2001
ID: 12154863
TAG: 200103210558
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: The Hill


It was not the sort of news to shake the nation when Lucienne Robillard, head of Treasury Board, last week declared the government’s intention to revamp the public service (PS) over the next 18 months. She said:
“I think it’s time to try and remove the rigidities and barriers … which are frustrating for everyone.”
With remarkable sang froid, Robillard – not a bright light in a dim cabinet – acknowledged that producing a “completed overall strategy, plus legislative changes” in such a tight time frame would be a challenge. Indeed!
There have been two previous attempts at a systemic overhaul of the public service since 1984: “PS 2000,” a Mulroney-era initiative, and “La Releve,” launched by the first Chretien government. Each was to modernize the public service to respond to changes in the work environment (e.g., globalization, the rise of information technology) so as to better serve Canadians. As retiring Auditor General Denis Desautels generously put it: “Neither … completely met expectations.” This despite investment of much money and much cheerleading by top mandarins.
Two other major initiatives were launched in the past decade to address specific problems identified by outside watchdogs.
Almost 10 years ago the official languages commissioner found few managers in the “bilingual” PS were capable of operating in both languages. He gave them a decade to pass muster – or lose their jobs. Years later, it was revealed that little progress had been made, so orders were reissued and the past two years have seen hordes of managers away from their offices on intensive language training, as they rushed to beat the deadline.
In the other case of externally driven reform, the government has missed its deadline – with consequences yet to be determined. Fourteen years ago the Public Service Alliance of Canada took the government to court over pay equity, arguing that those working at jobs predominantly held by women were being underpaid relative to those working at traditionally male jobs. In addition to having to pay $3.6 billion in redress (settled last year), the government was ordered to make its pay schemes “gender neutral” within a decade.
“Equal pay for work of equal value” has been a nightmare for the public service. It has 72 classifications, 850 pay rates and 150,000 employees. Work on this problem didn’t get going in earnest until almost eight years after the order was issued. The proposed solution, the Universal Classification System, which required every job be assessed against a points scheme, has consumed an enormous number of man-hours, and was to have been in place by now. Robillard’s announcement of a “new” public service made no mention of it; so it is stillborn. PSAC and the Canadian Human Rights Commission continue to insist the government must put a gender-neutral scheme in place.
Given this woeful record, how should we proceed, and what is the likelihood of success?
In his final report to Parliament, the auditor general recommended that an independent review consider what legislative changes might be required. (Robillard’s time frame does not allow for another review, and she argues that enough reports have been written.) As for specific changes, the AG opined that “human resource management is the heart of every government service and program” and “the current system is costly, cumbersome and constraining.”
He advocates a decentralized system giving managers more control over hiring and firing. Desautels also noted how risk averse and unaccountable the PS has become: “Providing performance information that is balanced and candid is seen as carrying too many risks … we have a government culture where mediocre reporting is safe reporting.” He recommends improved auditing within departments, a closer link between performance pay and actual outcomes and strengthened Parliamentary oversight.
The AG’s report drew attention to another player in the public service morass – the Public Service Commission (PSC).
While Treasury Board is the employer, negotiating collective agreements with a host of PS bargaining units, it is the PSC, an independent body reporting to Parliament, that is responsible for hiring. The two don’t exactly work hand in glove, and the AG criticized the PSC’s current effort at recruiting university graduates as being too slow (students wait months to learn if they’ve been hired) and too Ottawa-focused even though two-thirds of PS jobs lie outside the capital.
Prospects for change?
According to the AG, previous reform attempts failed because “they were impeded by too many players trying to manage the public service and the lack of interest in internal problems at the political level.”
Robillard insists that this time there is the political will to see things through.
Really? Surely if the prime minister was determined to reform the public service he should have assigned the task to a super-minister like Paul Martin, one with weight and gravity from deeds done. As it seems now, this is an endeavour certain to repeat the previous failures.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 18, 2001
ID: 12154111
TAG: 200103180406
SECTION: Comment
ILLUSTRATION: drawing by Sue Dewar
COLUMN: The Hill


Political gossip on Parliament Hill ebbs and flows but rarely stops. More of it pivots on persons than issues or programs; naturally much is “inside” Ottawa or bureaucratic stuff and to do with the higher mandarins.
A current example of such administration chatter is familiar jocularity, heard each March as the deadline nears for the close of the annual appropriations at the first of April, start of a new fiscal year.
A public servant challenged me to range around loading platforms and the hallways of any of several federal departments. There I would see lots of cartons used for packing computers. Some would be empty, others filled with used computers on the way out. These cartons herald the neatest way to use unspent remnants of a department’s annual allotments.
Another less obvious way to shed these surpluses (which cannot be carried over) is through trips. March is the prime month of the Ottawa year for travel, on departmental business, of course, both within Canada and beyond.
The most unique item in current gossip is about the prime minister. It’s not surprising, and it seems to be circulating among political friends, not political enemies. It may be summarized in one short sentence: “He’s lost it!”
Oddly enough, I have heard this phrase before in Hill gossip, for example, about Louis St. Laurent early in 1957, John Diefenbaker through ’63 and Pierre Trudeau early in ’79.
What is the grist from the Liberals who tell each other “He’s lost it”?
Usually they insist Jean Chretien was ready to go, that he had not been encouraged to stay by handlers like Eddie Goldenberg and Jean Pelletier. It was and is the determination of Aline Chretien which has kept him prime minister.
It is said she believes her husband has not yet had the quality and scope of recognition he deserves and which would distinguish the Chretien era for posterity. His long and exceptional service for Canada has been overshadowed by excesses in credit given to others. She is determined there be a Chretien era in our history books, not merely a Chretien interlude between the Mulroney era and that of his successor. This is why he carries on.
Considering the Liberals’ recent, grand electoral victory, there does seem an unusual, pervading feeling of lull, dither and inertia enveloping Ottawa. It permeates an over-familiar and undistinguished cabinet loaded with yesterday’s people. It agitates a most restive caucus.
The line “He’s lost it” has come to me from Liberal MPs, senators, and some Liberal apparatchiks on the Hill, and these have not been notable backers of Paul Martin as successor.
The chapter and verse on what has been “lost” stress examples of caution and dithering over program choices, the inadequacies as defenders and explainers of so many of Chretien’s ministers, the zaniness of anointing Brian Tobin as House interlocutor in defence of the PM, and the clearly reluctant drift to some parliamentary reforms while leaving responsibility with a House leader, Don Boudria, who is monumentally unfitted for it. (Not through a lack of brains or push, it must be said, but because of an intrinsic, partisan meanness in the man that often touches viciousness with both opposition and Liberal MPs.)
As one who has watched Jean Chretien closely since 1963, I have my own reading on whether he is losing it or has already lost it.
In terms of energy and purposefulness over a very lengthy period he has been the most remarkable federal politician I have observed. What saddens me the most about this latter- day Chretien is how he seems to be functioning now by rote. Though still a formidable politician day-to-day at the usual public and partisan chores, he no longer seems to represent a better, and exciting, future.
Even sadder than this, at least to me, is how his unique, almost automatic high drive no longer seems to be going anywhere in particular.
As for posterity, or a ranking among the prime ministers we have had, that’s a mug’s game. Madame Chretien might reflect on what the highest rating of all by historians signifies. It is now generally accorded to William Lyon Mackenzie King, a miserable, self-deluding human.
– – –
Now to bureaucratic buzz again, and much gossip over a sudden switch of decision by the government. It will build the new war museum on a long-empty stretch of property beside the south bank of the Ottawa River a half-mile from the National Library, not on a location on Ottawa’s eastern border by Rockcliffe Airport, near the river and next door to the aviation museum.
Just a few months ago, the popular ex-minister Barney Danson and the polymath historian Jack Granatstein relinquished leadership of the new war museum concept, cheered widely for their success in attaining the government’s commitment to the eastern locale.
Friends of the museum, in particular branches of the Royal Canadian Legion, have been hard at work raising money for operating purposes when the new building is opened in three years.
Suddenly, from out of the bureaucratic blue, comes news the government is ready to spend as much as $100 million more to prepare the grounds and many millions more to put a splendid face on a structure at the western site. There it will be a key part of a major, largely private development of business and residential buildings.
Clearly the capacious eastern site next to the aviation museum is much more flexible than the western one, the proposed structure cheaper to build, and the tie-ins with the aviation collection most advantageous.
Why the change? We’ve had no reasonable explanation. I did get one, however, not long before it happened. I was with middle mandarins just after Danson and Granatstein joyously announced their breakthrough.
I was told there is a heritage-culture network of great strength and much influence within the bureaucracy. Its leaders were outraged that a country-wide reaction sparked by war veterans – I was one of them – had stopped the scheme of turning the present war museum building toward a Holocaust memorial and the celebration of peace, and then had levered the politicians into approving the eastern site.
“They won’t let you get away with this,” I was told.
Do I think there’s anything in such gossip? Yes, I do. This is a brilliantly executed counter-coup. Executed inside the whale. Also, the new development has been characterized publicly as a monument of the Chretien era.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, March 14, 2001
ID: 12152986
TAG: 200103140289
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: The Hill


Hear ye! Another Ottawa “reorg.” Lucienne Robillard, head of the Treasury Board, has announced a “comprehensive restructuring” of the “entire framework of the federal public service.” It is to be done within 18 months.
The urgency suggests crisis. Is it a crisp reaction to the inefficiencies in the public service which the auditor general has detailed? Not so, says Robillard.
Crisis or not, improving the public service kindles little fire on Parliament Hill. This may owe something to ballyhooed launches of public service reform by both the Mulroney and Chretien governments, each of which faded away. The reaction of MPs and political reporters this week has been to stick with vital matters like Joe Clark’s resurrection, Paul Martin’s age and Stockwell Day’s vapidity.
“Reorgs” in Ottawa are roughly of two sorts: structural or of personnel.
The first kind split or merge departments, and are explained usually as gearing for new challenges. Such reorgs may boost more top people into a salary range from $110,000 to $200,000 a year but are far more institutional switches than of employees’ situations.
Robillard’s “reorg” is the second sort and it should affect several hundred thousand employees below the mandarins. It aims to meet or circumvent problems like a preponderance of older employees, the recruiting and retaining of skilled persons and, in a jargon phrase, matching the demands of the new economy.
A fair appraisal of our public service’s inadequacies must recall that since the advent of official bilingualism in the mid-1960s forced changes have shaken and often demoralized many civil servants, through the application of bilingualism, gender equality, and mandatory hiring of visible minorities, aboriginals, and the physically handicapped. Add to that all the staff downsizing as Paul Martin drove to end deficits.
Robillard has not attributed this fresh, urgent move on personnel to the grim farewell messages to Parliament from Denis Desautels, its retiring auditor general. But his “reflections” on the malaise of Parliament and public distrust of politicians and officials ought to energize thousands to seek and get genuine “reorgs.”
After a decade of accounting for federal spending programs and evaluating the worth of services provided, this AG has found much in both poor performance and lack of value from money spent. He homes in on why the federal system works so unevenly, why reformation is so hit and miss and, in particular, why secrecy, cover-up and evasion are pervasive.
I have chosen these quotes from Desautels about what he calls the “big problem.” It is “… the lack of true accountability for the management of government programs.”
The AG noted that despite good intentions “We have not really moved very far ahead … Part of the problem is the nature of Canadian politics.”
“There is a reluctance to let Parliament and the public know how government programs are working, because if things are going badly you may be giving opponents the stick to beat you with. And even when a minister is not personally concerned about this, senior public officials assume this fear on the minister’s behalf. The people who write government performance reports seem to try to say as little as possible that would expose their departments to criticism.”
Desautels turned to the particular Canadian dilemma that warps understanding and suborns fair criticism of the federal government, its services, and employees. These next sentences express the nub of what is wrong with Ottawa.
“While auditors are not experts in constitutional law, it seems to me that the problem goes deeper than individuals and appears to be cemented in the Canadian version of the doctrine of ministerial accountability.”
“In every Westminster-style government, ministers are responsible to Parliament for the state of their departments. Unlike other countries, however, Canada has never modernized its doctrine to distinguish between the minister’s area of public responsibility and that of his senior public servants. To me, there is a certain lack of realism in holding ministers ultimately accountable for everything. Overall, our system makes it difficult to be candid and therefore Parliament has a hard time in discussing certain issues with officials.”
“I think that if ministers and senior public servants reflected more deeply on this problem, they would see their true interest lies in greater openness and clearer assignment of accountability.
“The problem of failing to disclose bad news is being compounded by the poor quality of records kept in departments. Part of this can be attributed to a certain paranoia over Access to Information rules and the traditional reluctance of senior public servants to keep records of directions from ministers or discussion why decisions were made.”
This critique suggests the PM initiate an immediate regime of candour, honesty and full disclosure to dovetail with this renewed rush to overhaul the public service. Otherwise, we will never really know what is being done.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 11, 2001
ID: 12152211
TAG: 200103110599
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: The Hill


Roy Faibish, 72, a Canadian working in the U.K., died a week ago of a heart attack.
Roy had been a friend since the late 1950s. He came from near Shaunovan, Sask., the son of European Jews who took up farming there in 1927. Roy was small, dark, handsome, quick of mind and body. He was articulate, persuasive, erudite, charming – and more fearless than most of us.
Roy sent me hundreds of memos and letters through four decades. I have just read again the many I kept, an exercise which reminded me how much his intellect, grace and charity have meant to me and many others.
Roy read more and had a larger personal library than anyone I’ve known. His range of expertise was staggering: from Northrop Frye on the Book of Job, to Charles Taylor on Hegel and Quebec, to the 18th century philosophers, to Confucius, to the Torah, to baseball, to hydrography and energy, to the Canadians’ role in Normandy in 1944 (where a brother, a sergeant, was killed in action).
Let me sketch the Faibish career, then give a sample of the advice he gave a prime minister he knew well.
Roy came from graduate studies in economics and history into federal Ottawa as what he called “a bird dog” for John Diefenbaker and Alvin Hamilton. (Alvin was minister of Northern Affairs, then of Agriculture, in the Diefenbaker cabinets, 1957-1963.) Examples of Roy’s push were his masterminding of the Resources for Tomorrow Conference held in Montreal in 1961, and the first big wheat deal with China ,which Hamilton and he crystallized, establishing the trade ties with Beijing still in place. One of Roy’s early chores for the Chief was choosing between two student Tories, Joe Clark and Brian Mulroney, for a summer job in the PMO. (He chose Mulroney – “a better prospect as politician.”)
With the advent in 1963 of Lester Pearson’s Liberal minority government, Roy turned to TV as a senior researcher for the CBC’s controversial program, Seven Days. After its forced demise, he took an executive post at CJOH-TV, the dominant station in the capital region. In the early ’70s Pierre Trudeau appointed him to the CRTC where he concentrated on its telecommunications aspects rather than broadcasting policy.
He and Trudeau shared a keen interest in China, and in 1968 he had helped Trudeau’s leap to power by setting up and distributing a televised chat between Trudeau and Patrick Watson that captivated a lot of delegates in a tight leadership contest.
After his term on the CRTC, Roy chose to work in and from the U.K. for cable enterprises, promoting and developing cable systems in western Europe and Asia. His last e-mail to me 10 days ago said he had cable business in Thailand that would keep him from the 40th birthday bash of CJOH on March 12.
Before and immediately after he became prime minister in 1984, Brian Mulroney wanted Roy to come home to be his chief of staff – a tempting offer, refused because of personal and business obligations in London. He promised he would keep in touch with the new PM with ideas, and he did.
What follows is a brief part of a long fax he sent the PM in 1986. In it Roy posits that Trudeau had opted for the strong central government conception of Sir John A. Macdonald, whereas Mulroney was moving toward a Laurier-like conception of a federalism more mindful of the provinces. All well and good, but as he told the PM, “You must be thinking of a national development program.” To spur his imagination Roy set out 15 queries:
“1) Should the Trans-Canada highway be twinned from Toronto to the Lakehead?
“2) Should there be a national water use study?
“3) Should there be a new northern airport and transportation policy?
“4) Should there be a national power grid?
“5) Should a model city be organically started up somewhere on the St. Lawrence?
“6) Should there be a fresh research blitz on new uses for wood fibre other than pulp and paper and lumber?
“7) Should there be a study on robots and the new information society, computer software and the implications of emerging broad band technology?
“8) Should there be a new look at the inland fisheries industry?
“9) Should there be a Pacific Rim export conference co-hosted in Vancouver by Canada and China?
“10) Should there be a new look at the petro-chemical industry in Alberta, combined with the need for diversification incentives in Saskatchewan?
“11) Should there be a new tourist program set to bring five million American visitors in the year 2000?
“12) Should there be a new deal for the Metis and Indians?
“13) Should a Western enterprise thrust be inextricably linked to a Maritime redevelopment thrust from a tactical and PR point of view so they are always spoken of in conjunction?
“14) Should power development begin on Taku in the Yukon (it has more potential than the Columbia or Hamilton Falls)?
“15) Should there not be a new splurge of research in new uses for high protein gluten?”
This Faibish missive, like most of them, stimulated me as citizen and journalist, whatever it did for Mulroney – and there I believe it was useful.
After a friend of his, Fernand Cadieux, died in 1976, Roy wrote what I wish for him:
“I pray that in your union with the love of God, comfort and eternal equipoise will come to inhabit your soul.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, March 07, 2001
ID: 12150931
TAG: 200103070533
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: The Hill


It’s hard to be hard on Stockwell Day; so quickly up to the political heights, and just as quickly down. Far down.
Day catapulted into national notice last summer, defeating Preston Manning for leadership of the Canadian Alliance, Manning’s brainstorm for uniting the right.
Last fall Day won a “safe seat” byelection and came into the Commons. There he made a fair impression in a few sitting weeks before Jean Chretien called an election. Day seemed promising, largely because of the easy confidence he radiated rather than from outstanding House speeches or clever badinage in question period.
Since the election call so much has gone poorly for Day, beginning with the over-artfulness of his campaign launch. Remember? Skidding with a sweeping turn to shore by jet ski, musculature showing.
That byte on the beach was less than five months ago, but it seems further away because of Day’s failures of ignorance or misjudgment.
Those of us at first enthused by the Alliance leader’s simplicity and wholesomeness soon realized such qualities were poor shields in partisan battle with long-time wizards at negating and ruining raw rivals. Day proved to have little talent for either witty repartee or for straight addresses with weighty arguments for thoughtful people.
On Monday, Day went to painful lengths to stop his slide from public expectations that gathered speed from his campaign antics and then accelerated at evidence of stupid behaviour in his hometown when he was a minister in the Klein government. He made a major gesture of contrition, announcing he and his family were mortgaging their home to pay the fraction labelled “damages to plaintiff” of the much larger total payment by an Alberta provincial fund to cover the costs of a settlement with a lawyer whom Day had libelled while a provincial cabinet minister and member for Red Deer-North. Day also apologized to the lawyer concerned.
Even the payment from the mortgage and the belated apology may not close out this factor in the Day tumble from grace. It continues as a legal matter for him and the Alberta government, given actions under way in Alberta courts. Further, the apology may have registered publicly as too long delayed to ring up much credit for the apologist. Certainly, so long as Day has a place to rise from in the House of Commons, the Liberal partisans will be ridiculing Day with reminders of it.
The grim factor in such incessant negativism ahead for Stockwell Day in this House of Commons is what it portends for the next election. How can he ever come back in strength and popular favour from his tragedies in the last quarter? The man seems defenceless in ugly, jocular politics.
Further, whether or not it is true as Alberta columnists like Ted Byfield and Michael Jenkinson say, that disloyalty to Day is rampant in the Alliance caucus, initiated and pushed by disciples of Preston Manning, there is too much common sense in that caucus for most of its veteran members not to realize Day is a very poor bet to ever become prime minister.
My guess is that at least 40 Alliance MPs realize they must choose a new leader before the next election, and they also know few grand prospects are at hand and getting one will be complicated by the elephantine dance with Tory MPs about parliamentary co-operation, etc.
A much younger colleague on the Sun has reminded me since the election about the good chances I gave Day in the first days of the campaign (even up to 100 seats). I did. I had seen and heard enough to believe his confident, lithe presence and pleasant line of political patter would attract a lot of Ontario voters, notably in small cities and towns and the rural and bush hinterlands. I had swallowed Stockwell Day as bilingual and as somewhat of a boy wonder in economics – tax and budget stuff. I should have read Claire Hoy’s election-eve paperback, Stockwell Day, much more closely.
I wanted Day to do well because the nation would benefit from a period of minority government. Hoy wanted the Alliance to oust the Liberals and felt Day could do that and provide a conservatively minded government. He reported on Stockwell’s family, childhood, adolescence, youthful interests, diverse jobs, marriage and choosing to be an active Christian.
Stockwell lived and worked in a lot of Canada. He had developed poise for public performances in grade school, and in subsequent jobs, notably in pastoral and teaching duties at a Christian school. He revelled in community activity, for which he had a sincere mien, platform glibness and very earnest arguments.
Not a bad prelude to political activity. Certainly, his advance out of Red Deer was meteoric. One surmises that neither before the rise nor during it was Day ever much tested. Clearly, he never dug far or wide into the history and issues of our country, explaining his dearth of political content and sound judgment. I believe it is too late for him to redress his shortfalls and demonstrate so in this Parliament.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 04, 2001
ID: 12769745
TAG: 200103040509
SECTION: Comment


In politics, what goes around comes around. Here are three topical items with a long past for me:
1) Being able to identify oneself simply as “Canadian” on the 2001 census;
2) A statement of ethics for cabinet ministers and their aides, tabled by Lester Pearson 37 years ago;
3) The reading habits of a former prime minister and his son.
First, the census question.
Last week, Statistics Canada revealed that the forms for this year’s decennial census had included “Canadian” as an acceptable answer for a question on a respondent’s ethnicity.
In 1960, George Hees, then the minister responsible for Statistics Canada, made a similar announcement, following up John Diefenbaker’s promise in the 1958 campaign of no more “hyphenated Canadians.”
“Canadian” would be the first of 27 listed ethnicities in the 1961 census, Hees said.
Wow! Quebec politicians, both federal and provincial, objected strenuously. Premier Jean Lesage roared: “There is no such thing as Canadian ethnic origin.”
So the Tories backed down, destroying millions of census forms and printing new ones without the category “Canadian.”
I was an MP then and was one of several who raised a rumpus about the retreat in the House. Subsequently, I demanded the right to define myself as a Canadian at every census time since 1971, arguing from the facts that all my grandparents and great grandparents were born in North America.
By the 1986 census, many more Canadians were objecting about the lack of a slot for a “Canadian,” and before both that census and the next in 1991, the Sun papers, sparked by then-editor John Downing in Toronto, led a campaign which urged citizens to write “Canadian” on the questionnaire. Many citizens chose to do this.
Now, 40 years after the Chief backed off on throwing out the hyphens, there is to be recognition in this wondrous, multicultural Canada for those of us who are merely “Canadian.”
– – –
Next, a question of ethics.
In the first year or so of the Liberal government elected in 1963, there were many allegations of wrongful behaviour by ministers. So much so that late in 1964 a much buffeted Prime Minister Lester Pearson circulated a letter of some 800 words on standards of conduct for ministers and their staffs.
Last week I learned that two opposition MPs, in laying a base for questioning Jean Chretien on his support for a now famous inn and golf course in Shawinigan, had factored in some phrases from a statement made by Pearson and represented since then as the beginning of written codes of ethics for federal ministers.
I asked a party researcher who referred to this statement for details. He thought I would know all about it. After all, was I not the MP in 1964 who had pushed Pearson in the House to explain why he had circulated “a so-called code of ethics”? Hadn’t I asked him to table it so it would be part of the permanent records of the House, and he had agreed? This was on Dec. 18, 1964.
The statement closed with a “caution” as worthwhile today as it was then, perhaps more so, given today’s much larger ministerial staffs. It said: “There is frequently a temptation by persons close to the prime minister or a minister or to anyone in authority – to appear to speak for him or in his name in order to get quicker or surer results.”
It was only seven months after this statement that Pearson appointed Jean Chretien, then 31, as his parliamentary secretary. As the old truism goes: The more things change the more they stay the same.
– – –
Finally, the reading habits of the Trudeaus, father and son.
Justin Trudeau has been getting his lumps from columnists and in letters to editors over his candid assertion early last month that despite being “passionate” about politics and about life, “this is not my direction.”
“I don’t read newspapers,” he said. “I don’t watch the news. … so much of news, so much of politics is posturing and playing for the crowd, playing for the cameras. It’s not something I feel any interest in.”
As soon as I read those words from Justin, into my memory popped a brief social encounter I had with Margaret and Pierre Trudeau in 1976. For it to make sense I recall for readers that early in his months as prime minister, Pierre had made it clear that his opinion of the quality of political journalists in Canada was such that he never took the time to read their stuff. Not for him the daily run through the papers.
In the fall of 1976, Team Canada had won the Canada Cup series over the Czechs, Russians, Swedes, Finns and Americans. The Trudeau government chose to honour the victors with a grand banquet in the big ballroom on Parliament Hill. There was a great turnout of the team, including wives of players. The rest of the places were in huge demand from ministers and MPs.
For reasons too involved to explain here, Pierre Trudeau surprised everybody as the banquet crowd gathered by choosing to be the master of ceremonies for the affair. After his welcoming remarks and praise for the splendid play of the team, he side-slipped into the origin of the Canada Cup series. He said he understood – although it did seem strange – that the prime mover in putting forward the idea of such a world series of hockey had been Doug Fisher, chairman of Hockey Canada.
As he said this I was sitting three or four persons away from him at the head table. The PM paused and many eyes swung on to me. Then he said succinctly something to this effect: “Which is a reminder that in a lifetime even the lamest of brains may have a good idea.”
The wisecrack convulsed the diners. As I remember, the prime minister went on to introduce the team’s captain, Serge Savard. My neighbour at the table, Ray Perrault, the government leader in the Senate, commiserated with me. What a knife thrust!
Trudeau went on as major domo of the very convivial occasion, eventually adjourning it with a flourish. It had been a memorable honour for the players and their companions. Immediately there was a throng around the head table of people wanting to thank the prime minister. So it was many minutes before I could make my way past where he was standing with his wife.
Margaret saw me, smiled, and said: “I thought that crack about you was mean.”
I replied that “Senator Perrault thinks I should have had equal time for rebuttal.”
Immediately, the prime minister scoffed. “As a columnist you can write rebuttals several times a week.”
I replied that such a means wasn’t worth a hoot if the rebuttal was to a man who didn’t read newspapers.
Before the PM could reply, Margaret came winging in to say that I surely hadn’t swallowed the stuff about Pierre not reading the papers. He reads a stack of clippings daily, she said, adding “He reads your columns all the time.”
Before the repartee could go further it was stopped by a fresh horde of Trudolators pressing in to touch the great man.
Did Margaret tell the truth? I think she did. I think her husband’s proclaimed disregard of daily political commentary was a pose – a pose supportive of a politician above preoccupation with petty critics.
Was Justin not telling the truth, but striking a pose as his father did in his heyday? I believe he is truthful about not following political affairs day to day, but I would also add my impression that he is a ready public performer, like both his parents. He seems more a person in whom rationality takes second place to feelings – very much Margaret Trudeau’s child.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 28, 2001
ID: 12769160
TAG: 200102280516
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: The Hill


After long careers most politicians who write about their activities have defensive traits which douse acidulous judgments and a lot of candour.
This observation came to me after reading the recent autobiographies by two politicians now in their 80s – a Tory, Duff Roblin, who is restrained, and a Grit, Lloyd Francis, who is not.
By and large the memoir by Roblin, the former premier of Manitoba (1958-1967), fits the majority category of positive blandness. It is titled Speaking for Myself – Politics and Other Pursuits (Great Plains Publications, 1999). The prose is polished and its set throughout emphasizes good deeds done or tried.
All in all, Roblin’s measured control contrasts with the blunt and pungent frankness about doings on Parliament Hill, which Francis provides almost routinely in Ottawa Boy (General Store Publishing, 2000). This is a tightly-told, often intimate recalling of family, childhood, and schooling in Ottawa, lengthy WWII service in the RCAF, first as a radar mechanic, then as a navigator, then university teaching, health research in the federal government, followed by municipal and federal candidacies with lots of wins and losses.
The pivotal years on the Hill for Francis were as deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, 1980-83, followed by a crucial stretch in 1984 as Speaker, from which he went on to several years as our ambassador to Portugal. Many of the insights into political antics in Ottawa come through the litany of irritations and sidetracking which plagued the ambitions of this sharp, thin-skinned man.
Duff Roblin is the grandson of Sir Rodmond Roblin, premier of Manitoba from 1900 to 1914. It seems that even through his five years in the wartime RCAF as a technical supply officer, the grandson was thinking of following his grandfather’s course. And so he won his way into the legislature in 1949 and was re-elected five times. In 1958 he became premier and did a lot to bring Manitoba up to scratch, educationally, medically, and economically, in the next nine years. He resigned as premier late in 1967, a short time after he ran second to Robert Stanfield, then premier of Nova Scotia, for the leadership of the federal Progressive Conservative Party in succession to John Diefenbaker. He left Winnipeg for Montreal, serving as a senior executive with the CPR.
In 1978, eleven years after giving up electoral politics, Roblin was appointed as a Tory to the Senate by Pierre Trudeau, as suggested by Joe Clark. Later, Roblin was Brian Mulroney’s cabinet minister in the Senate. He retired to Manitoba after he reached Senate retirement age in 1992.
The Roblin memoir never lingers long over the mistakes and rough patches of his political career. For example, he says the reason for his costly lateness in joining the long list of Tory candidates in 1967 was simple. He misjudged Stanfield, not believing he would go for the leadership of the federal Tories after winning a provincial election in which he’d promised Nova Scotians he wouldn’t do so.
One rarely finds bitter or severe criticisms of party colleagues or partisan rivals in Speaking for Myself. Rather, there are many generous references, even about political writers. One of his last chapters is titled: “Give politics back its good name” and argues for parliamentary reform. There is now much talk and paperwork about reforming Parliament. These sentences from the Roblin book are cogent about the system as it is:
“Over the years the Canadian system has marginalized the ordinary member of Parliament to no good purpose. Enormous power has been concentrated in the hands of the central executive headed by the prime minister. The eclipse of ordinary MPs devalues them in the eyes of the public. The prime minister’s sway is complete. This need not be so. When every government bill becomes a matter of confidence, woe betide a government dissenter. Government members are muzzled. It is a convenience for the government no doubt, but destructive of the representative character of Parliament, and the public takes notice. Party discipline is far too strict in the Canadian Parliament.”
Many of the short bursts of fuming and grieving by Lloyd Francis in Ottawa Boy illustrate the above-mentioned “eclipse of ordinary MPs” and the “muzzling” of government members. Yes, his time in the House was 6-30 years ago and the general scenario has worsened, but the Francis account still gives good value to a citizen hungry for a fuller, honest account and understanding of how Parliament works. Sometimes a curmudgeon is the best sort to take apart an institution, and tell apt anecdotes as he does so.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 25, 2001
ID: 12768844
TAG: 200102250341
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Backgrounder


Less than a month into sittings of the new Parliament, the House of Commons has been spirited, at least in the daily question period and corridor scrums.
Much of the roil and testiness comes from unconnected stupid deeds of both Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Canadian Alliance Leader Stockwell Day.
What Day now represents for his career and, more significantly, for his party, is pathetic … just pathetic. So short a time a leader; so soon defenceless and empty.
Across the floor, the situation is less grim for the top man and his party, and rather imponderable as to consequences, other than they are not going to be positive.
How could such an alert, foxy, hands-on veteran misplay his enormous power on his home ground for petty and personal purposes, justifying his interventions with the motherhood virtue of helping constituents?
In his mind, if not in style and phrasing, Jean Chretien has moved far from the colloquial folksiness in a humble mien that gained him the Liberal crown and then the Prime Minister’s Office.
Only arrogance explains why he’s been dodgy about the petty scenario of federal largesse for a business enterprise in his home riding of Shawinigan, Que. in which he’d once had an interest.
Only arrogance explains why this “straight from the heart” fellow elevated himself from the tawdry melee in the Commons, leaving Herb Gray, an obfuscator with few peers, and Brian Tobin, the fastest tar brush in his cabinet, to rebuff opposition questions directed to him.
Past prime ministers have certainly used their authority to please their own constituents through major federal projects or institutions in their ridings.
One recalls the forestry research facilities and staff which Lester Pearson nurtured at Sault Ste. Marie and the penal institution which befell Brian Mulroney’s riding in Baie Comeau, Que.
Yes, such rewards drew partisan fire at the time, much of it cynical. But generally in the political realm such blessings were understood. A leader’s base has to be nurtured, and a leader, especially a prime minister, is unable to give his or her riding much personal time and attention.
Often a cabinet minister has flaunted the executive reach even more than his or her prime minister. For example, Lloyd Axworthy favoured his home folks in Winnipeg with a profusion of projects and funding over some years. It won him much honour in Manitoba and surprising slack from partisan enemies.
And so it might have been if there had been openness and candour about Chretien’s efforts on behalf of Shawinigan and region.
Some of the prime minister’s particular difficulty began from the scale and diversity of his largesse for his home base. Part stems from the palpable ingenuousness of his explanation that he does no more or no less than any good MP would do, completely ignoring his unique clout. Most of all, it comes because he and his staff intervened in private market transactions involving an inn and a golf course in which Chretien had once had a substantial personal interest.
Further, it is still not clear how absolutely this interest had been closed when the PM met or communicated with the current owners of the inn and with officers of the Crown corporation, the Business Development Bank of Canada, about aid for the inn.
Uproars, nasty words and open, inflated charges of unethical behaviour on the one side and dishonourable partisanship on the other, are not uncommon in the House of Commons, and are rarely good for more than a fortnight of excitement. And so, even if the PM never provides a clear, credible account of his or his staff’s interventions in the inn affair, the ethical doubts over them may linger – but hardly for a whole session, let alone in partisan perpetuity.
It’s been increasingly evident Jean Chretien wants to cast himself in history as a great prime minister – not just as a crackerjack at elections, but as one who managed well our paramount concerns for national unity, a strong economy, and contributing to international harmony.
Unfortunately, aside from the inn fiasco, two other dark omens have emerged since the November election which threaten to mar what two months ago seemed a glorious Liberal run through this mandate, happily distributing the bounty from budget surpluses to a grateful nation.
First, there is the external whammy from the sudden downturn in the huge U.S. economy to which ours is so tightly hinged. There will be many uneasy months before we know if Nortel’s woes are an augury for a recession in Canada.
Second, there has been the rather extraordinary surfacing once again of dissension within the ruling party over the timing of the succession to the prime minister. This was symbolized by the recent humbling in cabinet of Finance Minister Paul Martin, the top alternative to Chretien. This happening and its details, including quotes, did not make front pages by accident or through vigilant journalism. There’s a whiff of uncivil civil war to it.
Divisiveness in the reigning party which Martin and his acolytes personify to the leader and his loyalists was somewhat evident before the election. Of course, such contesting is not a new phenomenon on Parliament Hill, but usually it emerges within the official Opposition.
Who can forget the undermining of Joe Clark between 1980 and 1983 by Tory MPs close to Brian Mulroney, or the situation John Turner faced from 1986-90 from a clutch of Liberal MPs strong for Jean Chretien? Such orchestrations to bounce or nudge a leader out come rarely in a governing ministry and caucus.
A prime minister has so much to award and take away, and loyalty to the PM has been a Liberal mantra since W.L. Mackenzie King succeeded Wilfrid Laurier in 1919. However, not even John Diefenbaker in his bedevilled third mandate as prime minister (1962-63) had such an obvious and restless alternative in a seat beside him as Jean Chretien has in Paul Martin.
Back to the situation in this new Parliament, with Chretien at least much embarrassed and his victory souring, while across the floor his top-rank opponent’s stature is slipping more through the continued unmasking of his inadequacies than by the scale of his party’s electoral setback. Pride, personal pride, is almost sure to determine what each man does.
Surely this means the PM cannot resign for at least two years, however much he seems a lame duck. As for Stockwell Day, he may not depart without the prompting of a Canadian Alliance party convention, but saving a miracle on his part that’s exactly what he will be facing.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 21, 2001
ID: 12768239
TAG: 200102210373
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: The Hill


Why doesn’t Jean Chretien fire Paul Martin from his cabinet? Or shift him to a less pivotal ministry such as international trade?
These particular questions pop into one’s mind because of front-page stories last Sunday and Monday in the Ottawa Citizen, the first headed, “Finance minister’s star loses some lustre;” the second, “PM blasted Martin over infighting.”
Each story contains withering comments about Martin and the antics of his followers. Most, though not all, such strictures are described as coming from “insiders.”
The first story features critical judgments of the Martin crew by one Prim Vinning, described as a “key Liberal organizer” and apparently a former backer of the Finance minister, by Ray Heard, an aide to John Turner when he was Liberal leader, and by Jean Lapierre, an open- line radio host in Quebec who in 1984 was briefly a Liberal minister and shortly after that became an MP in the original Bloc Quebecois caucus.
Vinning is fed up with the disharmony in the party and the demeaning of the prime minister created by Martin’s team. He is quoted: “If he can’t control it, why the hell does he want to be prime minister?” And he answers this with the statement: “If you can’t control your people today, you’ll never control them when you’re PM … What message is that sending to the general public?”
Lapierre scoffs at the Martin “brain trust” as “really brainless” and offensive to Liberals’ “sense of loyalty and fair play.”
Heard, long a Martin fan, is described as an authority on “Bay Street” and there he finds much doubt on the wisdom of Martin’s disciples persistently pressuring Chretien to get out.
In Monday’s Citizen, the straightening out of the Martin crew had become even stronger. It was bannered on the front page and took readers right into the privacy of a full cabinet session on opening day of the new Parliament.
It seems that loyal Chretien ministers Jane Stewart, Stephane Dion and John Manley had had enough. They went after Martin, and eventually Chretien joined in.
The story said that “Insiders say Mr. Manley denounced the Martin camp as ‘divisive and unacceptable.’ ”
These interventions by the ministers gave the PM his opening and again “insiders say he directly confronted Mr. Martin.”
“He laid down the law … ‘I’m running this ship and I’ll leave when I’m ready. Nobody’s going to push me.’ ”
The story goes on: “Insiders say Mr. Chretien also issued a veiled reminder to Mr. Martin that his cabinet position depends on the prime minister’s pleasure.”
This sally by the PM had effect. “According to insiders, Mr. Martin appeared red-faced and abashed through the tongue lashing. And he agreed the divisive squabbling had to stop and the government needs to present a united front … ”
Clearly, the “insiders” who leaked this chastening of Paul Martin to the Citizen either had to be cabinet ministers or persons on the staff of the Prime Minister’s Office/Privy Council Office. Whoever they were, this double whack at Paul Martin’s aspirations for succession so early in the fresh mandate was almost certainly formed and piped out by the PMO for the benefit of cabinet and – above all – for the Liberal caucus. It was set out in the one printed forum most certain to register on the Hill and with all partisan activists.
Some people may think this disciplinary gambit was overdue. Even so, surely some must wonder: why not drop the man from the ministry or put him in a less vital post?
What about the questions in all this for Martin? Has he no pride? How can he suffer such a juvenile bushwhacking and embarrassing exposure before his peers? He could resign from both cabinet and House. On the backbench he could wait for his future, or he could leave the House for several years on Bay Street. Chretien did this in early 1986, ending a stretch going back to 1953. He seems to have made a fortune there in four years, waiting for John Turner to quit and let him cakewalk into the succession.
Chretien is canny and a shrewd judge of partisan factors. Something is telling him neither to fire Martin as a minister, even though he has an obvious replacement behind him in banker John McCallum, nor shift him to a lesser post where he’d languish and be less valued.
Perhaps the PM is calculating with the startling U.S. economic downturn in mind. Maybe handling it will be better done by Martin. And a harsh recession here would set up Martin’s disposal for cause – see predictions gone awry.
My hunch is that the Chretien crew set up the chastening in the Citizen as a sharp warning, not the destruction of Martin. Oh, Jean Chretien knows all about Liberals’ loyalty and their sense of fair play. He also knows the party has “insiders” who could cite how he is now far from beloved or that Martin is still too appreciated in and beyond the party to fall out of sight if dismissed.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 18, 2001
ID: 12767896
TAG: 200102180325
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: The Hill


Is it wise in a democracy for a prime minister, or those close to him, to bare his enormous power? Might it set up a fall from grace with mere citizens if they begin to ask why he is the only elected official who is his own judge in matters of possible or alleged conflicts of interest?
The questions come with our prime minister in China. Here, in the daily House question period, and in the news, charges have continued of unethical interventions by Jean Chretien in transactions in his riding regarding an inn and golf course in which he once had a monetary interest.
Conservative Leader Joe Clark has set a harsh tone of high dudgeon for the verbal scrimmages in the House. He has the force, confidence and oral deftness to infuse the issue with gravity. He may be the only MP known and respected enough as an honest and fair critic to make a lot of Canadians look closer at Chretien.
Clark has mocked approval of Chretien’s behaviour in this deal so often reiterated by Howard Wilson, the ethics counsellor appointed by the PM after he created the office. Wilson reports to the prime minister, not to Parliament (as the original Liberal Red Book promised).
Wilson is clearly an aide or officer beholden to Chretien and reporting to him. Last week, Wilson let everybody know through media interviews that he is sure this is the way it should be. Why? Because the ministers, parliamentary secretaries and deputy ministers are the prime minister’s responsibility. He is the one who keeps or promotes or demotes or fires them, not Parliament. He bears the burden of blame when they go wrong.
Wilson believes an ethical system should pivot on the highest authority in the country because it has the advantage of letting him privately counsel ministers, etc. who have doubts on their exposure to conflicts of interest that injure their integrity and the worth of their decisions.
In the House, the defence for Chretien’s behaviour in Shawinigan has been handled largely by Herb Gray, the deputy prime minister, Brian Tobin, the minister of Industry, and Don Boudria, the government House leader. As a generalization their defence of the continuous working nexus between Chretien and his ethics counsellor goes like this (in the words of Boudria):
“As members of the government we are accountable to a prime minister who is personally accountable to the House and to Canadians generally.”
In short, all rests on and pivots around the prime minister.
But what if there are doubts raised about the PM’s own ethics or judgment on decisions he has taken or into which he has pushed his interest and concern? Further, what if doubts are pressed on the independence and worth of judgments by an ethics counsellor who is not at arm’s length from the prime minister and the PMO?
Boudria, Gray and Tobin seem to be saying:
1) Take Chretien’s word that he would not act where he has a conflict of interest (such as by moves which might enhance the value of his shares in a golf course);
2) The commendation he has just received for the third time from the voters of Canada is proof the people trust him, including the Shawinigan case because it was raised before and during the election campaign;
3) The assurances of Howard Wilson regarding the prime minister’s conduct do not stand alone because they stem from the personal responsibility the PM has for both the ethics counsellor and the standards of conduct which Chretien has set.
Slowly, but increasingly since the regime of Pierre Trudeau, there have been more opinions of substance from experts, even from a recent clerk of the Privy Council, that both public attention and power have been shifting away from both cabinet and the House of Commons to the prime minister.
One mandarin-cum-professor said a few months ago that now the prime function of the cabinet is as a “focus group” for the prime minister and his unelected advisers. The cabinet is no longer the responsible executive arm of government; now it is the Prime Minister’s Office.
The present opposition groups in Parliament are not yet onto the situations in the federal administration where the continuing direction of a number of departments and programs of the Chretien government comes from the PMO and its adjunct, the Privy Council Office, not from the respective ministers.
Reflect on what has happened in the past year with the departments of Indian Affairs, Fisheries, Agriculture, Labour, and National Defence and programs under ministers like “International Development” or “Children and Youth.” Are the respective ministers really in charge? In my opinion they are puppets whose strings are pulled in the PMO-PCO.
It is no longer an imagined apparition that the government of Canada is dominated by one man with colossal authority. The prime minister has become the scrutinizer, judge, and executive responsible for all.
If one believes the deputy prime minister, the PM is really answerable at general elections rather than continuously in Parliament. His authority is shaped and buttressed by his firm, personal control, not just of the parliamentary caucus through rewards and penalties, not only of the executive and apparatus of the governing party, but of every department and almost every federal agency.
It is possible a majority of Canadians at this time approves the commanding ways of Jean Chretien, prime minister, and cares little about what he has or has not done in acting on his constituency’s interests. At the least, however, the Shawinigan inn case and the projection it has brought from his ministers of the prime minister’s reach, emphasizes Canada has moved well along from the delineation of its system of government in the old political science standard, The Government of Canada, by R.M. Dawson.
Dawson hammered home the distinctions between “parliamentary government” and “presidential government,” notably the constant presence of the Canadian cabinet within, and answerable to, the House of Commons. This examinable and answerable presence was more flexible and immediate in resolution of matters than the American presidential system with its checks and balances to executive actions from a bicameral Congress and a supreme court.
Now the “presence” in Parliament has shifted from being the cabinet in the House to the prime minister in or even out of the House. He has become the be-all and end-all of the whole, great, federal apparatus of Parliament, departments and agencies.
Is such commanding authority wise? At the least, to recognize it exists should reinforce the need to watch each prime minister closely and critically.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 14, 2001
ID: 12767285
TAG: 200102140382
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: The Hill


Perhaps it’s too early to be uplifted just because the new House seems more interesting than the last two. In fact, the auguries for a dull, grim House are many. Consider the following.
– There is a third and larger mandate for a tough, often tyrannical PM, heading a well-worn ministry.
– Again we have a “pizza Parliament” with four recognized opposition caucuses.
– The official opposition has a battered leader who seems stripped now of public esteem and is widely seen as beyond his depth.
– The BQ forms the third largest caucus but is back with fewer MPs and less backing from Quebecois wanting separatism.
– The fourth-place NDP and the fifth-place Tories face much in inside and outside critiques about leadership and direction – even mergers.
– Some 250 MPs in this House were in the last one that earned wide disrespect from the public and harsh opinions from those who regularly monitor Parliament.
Those factors explain the small hopes I hold for this new House. We won’t know for several months whether the early, promising indications fill in or fade away.
The obvious betterment stems from the new Speaker, Peter Milliken, plus good signs of decisiveness and fairness from his deputy, Bob Kilger (former Liberal Whip). I doubt Milliken will ever lose control of the House or be slow in rulings or stop curbing the time and excess verbiage of House stars like the PM, even Herb Gray, and the opposition leaders.
To go with an intelligent Speaker, strong on procedure and quick on his feet, we suddenly seem to have a Hill milieu more rife with analyzing and improving the House than in any session since 1984-85 when a committee led by Jim McGrath brought forward many changes to the conduct of the House and its committees.
This time reform of the institution has become a leading item in the political media, in part fired up by the National Post. Media competition has many reporters pursuing the shams and artifices of House management and why participation by many MPs – even Liberal “trained seals” – is so slight in developing legislation. More and more the theme is sounded that we have excessive direction from the PMO, the government whip, even from the leaders and whips of other parties.
Such media interest may evaporate, particularly if the government continues to domineer about the pace and openness in the work of the House. As yet, we haven’t seen the reform spirit bursting into the open from the Liberal caucus although we know some able Grit MPs have been pushing inside. They may have caused the undertaking this week from the government House leader, Don Boudria, of an organized examination of a major package of House reform.
No sooner was this made than Boudria seemed to go the other way by applying the guillotine of closure to curb opposition debate on a big employment insurance debate. His move did bring a concerted, spirited reaction from the opposition parties, led by their ablest MPs, arguing a breach of their privileges. This may not bring a favourable Speaker’s ruling, but the arguments showed a far more concerted opposition quartet in this House.
Forsaking parliamentary reform, the surest factor for an interesting House lies in the evident box which Jean Chretien is in. He sought to escape from it by calling the election early, but victory has failed to erase the menace of Paul Martin as the prime minister Canadians want. Leadership continues to obsess the Chretien caucus and party, and it hasn’t been turned by the return of Brian Tobin. The high profile for Tobin, preliminary to the succession, has not abetted Chretien’s status because the Newfoundlander is too slick, too clever and too twisty, whether ranting or oozing syrup.
A PM dogged by issues around his departure is a fascination, and Jean Chretien is without the huge edge which the election seemed to give him by exposing Stockwell Day as a dud. The Alliance caucus as we see it in the House is coping with Day’s shallowness. It has had a score of good parliamentarians, and has added three or four more, particularly in the ex-ministers from Manitoba, Brian Pallister and Victor Toews. This is an opposition caucus strong enough to carry a lame duck leader until he transcends such a state or resigns.
The BQ group under Gilles Duceppe has pitched assiduously into proceedings of the new session, and so have the New Democrats, pushed by three veteran MPs, and the Tories sparked by Joe Clark and Peter MacKay. Even the Liberals have some fresh MPs who catch one’s eyes and ears, notably Stephen Owen from B.C. and two ex-ministers from Quebec, George Farrah and Serge Marcil. It also seems clear that most ministers, and a lot of ambitious MPs, are more lively at this time because there are major cabinet changes ahead, and this too has helped brighten a gloomy House prospect.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 11, 2001
ID: 12766929
TAG: 200102110302
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: The Hill


What good does the auditor general do?
Another flare last week of his critiques, this time the last of many in the 10-year term of Denis Desautels, the natty chap who looks like a young Paul Martin.
Desautels’ flares have been lighting up Ottawa several times a year. For his aggressive predecessors in my time here – Max Henderson (1960-73); J.J. Macdonnell (1973- 81); and Ken Dye (1981-90) – it was just one big flare a year.
Whether once, twice, or thrice a year, each flare has exposed a clutch of bureaucratic operations within the federal leviathan as inefficient or wasteful, sometimes doing illegal things, and often providing goods or services at inordinate cost or of little value or quality.
For a day, the raciest of the revelations get play on front pages and at the top of newscasts. The PM will shrug when opposition MPs parade the criticisms; so do ministers for the highlighted operations. Often, they say the problems are already in hand. Occasionally, they reject the critique. Any exposed foul-up rarely brings the firing or demotion of a minister or mandarin. So rarely, in fact, I cannot recall one example where screwing up has meant a publicized dismissal.
Even a citizen concerned about federal spending could be cynical about the worth of revelations by the AG or about the lack of apparent response to them. Why so?
Think of the assurances we have year after year that Canada has one of the finest, if not the finest, public service in the world. Who says so? Our prime ministers! Cabinet ministers like Mike Wilson and Paul Martin! The Clerk of the Privy Council (the top mandarin)! Leaders of public service unions!
But if this is so, why, for example, have repetitious accounts of waste, confusion and chicanery within a federal agency been cited in so many reports over four decades? In particular, consider Indian Affairs. In 40 years, spending on Indian Affairs has risen from some $60 million a year to some $6 billion.
The general indifference of the governing party to the reports from the AG may hang as much on the electorate as on the opposition, the media and the major groups which monitor their particular interests in government to demand and get reform and remedies.
People may be recognizing that diverse, permanently installed and continuously funded operations on a large scale predicate bungling, favouritism, graft and failures of planning.
Of course, each report of the auditor general triggers a parliamentary process. After release it goes for close examination and hearings by the public accounts committee of the House. This is chaired by an MP from the official opposition, although the majority of membership comes from the ruling party.
The AG and his staff are at hand to counsel and provide research. The chairman may call ministers or their deputies and aides to explain the criticized programs or expenditures. It is rare, however, that such hearings catch and sustain anything close to the attention the critiques initially received.
The committees’ reports to the House, rarely highlighted by the media, often list assurances from departments and agencies of reform. Sometimes, such reports note proofs given of rectification or improvement. Nevertheless, many issues just seem to fade, though often recurring a few years later.
Sessions and parliaments come and go. So do chairmen and the MPs on the committee. It’s a fair judgment that no MP on the public accounts committee – in opposition or government – has advanced to wide renown for work on it. In sum, there seems little in the way of public demand for close scrutiny of public moneys after they are spent.
Does this signify that having such a counsel and servant to Parliament as the auditor general is a disposable luxury, or a mean irritant to officialdom doing its best? Certainly the history of the office since the 1950s and the responses to it tell us that the worth of the AG’s office won’t be found in the alacrity, extent, and persistence in the responses of the ministries, Liberal or Tory, to the critiques.
Despite decades of operation, the work of the auditor general and the public accounts committee receives remarkably little attention from those who direct the federal government. Further, the results of the last two elections indicate that Jean Chretien and mediocre ministers like Jane Stewart and David Collenette lost little or nothing electorally from the severe criticisms in AG reports of programs under their command.
If the electors are unwilling to punish those shown to have misspent billions from their taxes while providing low standards of services, why bother with an auditor general, backed by scores of investigating accountants?
At best, my answer is quite cynical. My hunch – without any real proof – is that the waste and the inefficiencies in federal spending would be far worse without the cautions created by the AG. My hope – slender but real – is that someday some able MPs, particularly some who back the government, will hunt fiercely through the bureaucratic leviathan with the auditor general. Then, some distant day ahead, we might be able to nod at the Ottawa platitude: “The finest public service in the world.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 07, 2001
ID: 12766385
TAG: 200102070567
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: The Hill


Foreign Affairs Minister John Manley has led a charmed political life. As industry minister (1993-2000) he received little criticism – and a fair measure of praise – for promoting Canada’s high-tech industry and handing out subsidies to Bombardier and other aerospace/defence companies.
Bookish, bright, but hardly a “live wire,” Manley replaced Lloyd Axworthy at Foreign Affairs shortly before the election call. Alas, seven years at Industry were not enough to prepare him for the organization he must ride herd on. Consider the department’s shenanigans following the Jan. 27 incident in which a seemingly inebriated Russian, Andrei Knyazev, ran down two women in the capital, killing one, Catherine MacLean, and then claimed diplomatic immunity from prosecution.
Responding to the mood of his home town, where people were sickened by the notion of a killer going free on a technicality, Manley immediately asked Russia to waive immunity, noting that the 1961 Vienna Convention was intended to protect diplomats in the course of their work – not to shield them for crimes unrelated to their duties. As he was saying this his officials opined that the Russians were unlikely to accede to the request, and were perhaps right to apply diplomatic immunity: after all, we wouldn’t want our diplomats in similar circumstances to be subject to, say, Russian justice, would we? As it happens, the minister was asked the very same question. His response: “I can tell you, I wouldn’t feel a lot of sympathy for them in that case.”
That the department and the minister were not singing from the same song sheet should have set off alarm bells, and led to some tough questions to the deputy minister about just what the department’s take was on drunken diplomats driving cars. Had there been previous incidents? If so, what was the department’s role in them? The minister might also have clarified what he and the Canadian public expected of the department: full disclosure and a tough stand on criminal diplomats.
We don’t know what questions Manley put to his officials, but we do know that the answers he received were wrong, self-serving from the department’s perspective, and left the minister looking like a fool.
Four days after the tragedy Manley denied opposition accusations that his department had not only been aware of Knyazev’s drinking and driving, but had given the Russian diplomat a letter apologizing on behalf of Canada for his treatment at the hands of the Ontario Provincial Police (who had handcuffed him – a violation of the Vienna Convention) during a previous incident, and had returned his driver’s licence, which police had suspended.
Unfortunately, the minister’s critics were better informed than he was, and while departmental officials subsequently disputed some of the details offered by the police, these protests were undercut by the fact the cops seemed to have documents the department could not find.
By the end of the week a humiliated Manley acknowledged: “I am not satisfied yet that I have all the relevant information … which is why I’m really seeking from my deputy minister a complete report … so that we can be satisfied as to whether or not departmental officials acted adequately … to protect the safety of Canadians.”
One hopes the report will answer the following: who was originally responsible for the files regarding Knyazev and the police; how did these disappear; why were those involved in the Knyazev incidents not immediately contacted once it became apparent the files were not available; who gave the minister false information in the absence of the files; and, finally, who was responsible for allowing Knyazev to stay here when it was clear he was a risk to public safety?
The most worrisome aspect of all this is that had the police not retained their files and spoken up, we might still be unaware of how casually Foreign Affairs treats its responsibility to protect Canadians from dangerous diplomats, and of how it puts its own interests (i.e. those of its personnel serving overseas) ahead of the public’s security. Yes, our diplomats deserve the protection of their government – but so do the rest of us.
The Tories have never trusted the mandarinate. In contrast, the Liberals have maintained a close relationship with the bureaucrats – witness the eight senior public servants who’ve been chosen to serve in Liberal cabinets – and have generally benefitted from the association. But such familiarity can also breed contempt – not only for each other, but for public accountability. Catherine MacLean paid the price for this. So, in a different way, has Manley.
One can only hope he sticks to his guns, gets a full accounting, and disciplines those involved, not because they embarrassed him but because their actions were stupid, self-serving, and in the wake of an innocent woman’s death, look suspiciously like deliberate deception.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 04, 2001
ID: 12766064
TAG: 200102040302
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: The Hill


Why not speculate on the leaders of the federalist parties? Wednesday’s first leaders’ day in the Commons let an observer compare and weigh the five of them. Afterward, Greg Weston, a new Sun colleague on Parliament Hill, judged the new House harshly, and underlined “the bizarre spectacle of all four federalist parties itching to ditch their leaders.”
Overdrawn? No, not in the sense there is either strong yearning or tacit acceptance among the MPs and supporters of the Liberal, Alliance, New Democratic and the Progressive Conservative parties for new leaders. Of course, each party has its own particulars or complications in such a scenario. For example, on the matter of alternatives: where are the worthy replacements?
It seems obvious that many Liberals would prefer Paul Martin, the most trusted minister of finance in my memory. If he should be recession-stricken in the next year or two, Brian Tobin, the Newfoundland slicker, is awaiting; so is Allan Rock, for eight years a minister of major departments.
Whether Martin stays in the House or leaves for Bay Street, as Jean Chretien did from 1986-90, his known wish to be prime minister and his high standing with so many Canadians means continued unease for Chretien because so many of those he leads prefer another chief.
Chretien’s three mandates running prove he’s no dud – rather, he has become too familiar and is typecast now as an old-style, partisan, pragmatic leader without either mystery or new vistas. He knows the high standing of Martin in the country, including Quebec, in the party and in its caucus. That’s why I think it’s at least an even-money bet, saving a bad recession, that the PM will announce he’s going in his 69th year – at or just before the 10th anniversary of his ascent to power.
Stockwell Day is also in a bind, but a more crippling one. The portents for Day seem cursed, even ruined, by his humbling in the recent campaign. What a recovery he needs if he is to fight again! If he doesn’t become an outstanding, effective parliamentarian, the Alliance may have no choice but to turf him.
A transformation won’t be easy. Aside from glibness, cliche-chat, and neat appearance there seems so little there. Last week he did show, however, that he was at least competent at reading aloud. He raced with few fluffs through a long and “safe” speech on leaders’ day. His arguments were familiar rather than cogent and persuasive.
Although Day’s trying hard, he still seems more a prospective college valedictorian than one election away from the PMO. Contrast him with MPs like Brian Pallister and Monte Solberg, even Preston Manning and Deborah Grey, and the Alliance seems to have better options for its leadership.
Any serious wagering on whether Day may survive to lead the Alliance in an election four years down the road must factor in the dilemma which the party shares with the Tories: how to remedy or close the split of conservatively minded electors between two parties of the right so apparent in 1993, 1997 and 2000? Each is too rooted to fade away soon.
The prospects in the next four years of a fairly harmonious merger are poor despite the likelihood it would mean many more seats the next run. But consider the Tories, marking time under an excellent parliamentarian in Joe Clark, a leader who accepts that he is a filler, not a keeper, and one who has at least two talented leadership possibilities beside him in Peter MacKay and Scott Brison. (It is droll that Clark, ready to retire as leader, is 51/2 years younger than Chretien.)
How do you think a million or more core Tories across the land react to unifying their party with one led by such a seeming dud as Day? Right, thumbs down! It might be possible, however, that Day’s resignation as leader, if presented as a sacrifice for a better response to continued Liberal domination, could open a long-shot chance of a merger in this parliamentary mandate through a joint leadership convention.
Despite considering it an even shot that Chretien won’t call the next election and a sure shot that Clark won’t lead the Tories into it, the more rational prospect of a considered decision by Day to retire before then is unlikely. Too much personal pride and Albertan bridling at eastern rejection. If Day is to go, the caucus and the party have to do it – and that will be hard. I’d want 4-1 odds to bet he’ll quit on his own and 8-1 that the party will call a leadership convention during this Parliament.
There’s at least a better than even chance the NDP will work up a leadership convention by late 2003 to replace Alexa McDonough. It’s most unlikely, however, that the BQ will lose Gilles Duceppe as leader by either resignation or convention.
Though crackerjack and ready aspirants are hard to divine in the NDP caucus, beyond it the party may have charismatic prospects in Avram Lewis, son and grandson of past spellbinders, Stephen and David Lewis; in Buzz Hargrove; a top union leader, ever ready with his political savvy; or in Gerald Caplan, long the NDP’s prime surrogate in the media game. If McDonough is too mild and repetitiously banal for the NDP at this low stage in its fortunes, a Lewis, a Hargrove, a Caplan, even a Svend Robinson, would be a colourful change.
Yes, as Weston puts it, in this House there is an itch to ditch. It may not lead to much change but it should last for at least three years.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 31, 2001
ID: 13014067
TAG: 200101310518
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: The Hill


We have a new Parliament but hardly a new House of Commons. This has importance in the prospects for both Peter Milliken, the newly-chosen Speaker, and the much talked-about but still fuzzy holy grail of plain MPs – parliamentary reform.
Just over 250 of the current MPs were in the last Parliament (1997-2000) and some 150 of them were in the Parliament (1993-97) of the first Chretien mandate. It means a lot of MPs have had Gilbert Parent as Speaker (1993-2001). He was the chair they knew well, notably in their daily highlight of question period (QP). He was adjudicator of most questions of privilege and of order. He was the presence so often ignored as he stood, pausing, then pleading, for an end to bedlam.
Splendid House Speakers have been rare. To put it mildly, Parent was not a great Speaker, nor were his two predecessors, John Fraser (1986-93) and John Bosley (1984-86). Indeed, Bosley, an appointee of Brian Mulroney, was so ineffective in the chair he was ousted, and in the deal Mulroney gave up the right of appointing the Speaker, accepting that MPs should elect their own choice by secret ballot.
Parent had a dignity of sorts, a sense of fairness, and no lack of confidence in himself, but he was not quick of mind nor adroit with words and he could rarely master a hitch or glitch in proceedings without consulting his clerks or postponing his decisions. He was over-concerned with the oral question period and never worked up much interest or authority on problems and possibilities for better handling legislation or scrutinizing spending and the bureaucracy.
He never seemed bothered that question period was such stage-managed partisanship and predictable, or that the so-called “cut and thrust of debate” which he postulated as the glory of Parliament, was a time-filling process which few MPs bothered to attend and the press largely ignored.
It was fleeting, but there was something encouraging in the contest for House Speaker this time. In my opinion at least eight of the 10 serious candidates would have made abler Speakers than Parent or Fraser: the winner, Peter Milliken; the two runners-up, Liberal whip Bob Kilger and Alliance MP Randy White; Clifford Lincoln, a wise, multilingual senior citizen; Dan McTeague, a young, aggressive Ontario Liberal; two independently-minded veteran MPs, Roger Gallaway and Tom Wappel; and Eleni Bakopanos, a sharp, tri-lingual Montrealer.
It would surprise me if the remarks each of these MPs made in their bids to the Liberal caucus on Sunday did not have a cumulative effect on one listener, Jean Chretien – reminding him how much unease there is among MPs of all parties about their low esteem and that of Parliament with the public.
Despite the grand third mandate he won less than 10 weeks ago, Chretien is already aware that considerable unrest continues in his own caucus and party over the issue of leadership. It’s the Paul Martin dilemma, again! This is a prime minister with acute antennae, not a walled-in introvert. He is pragmatic. He can reverse himself. See NAFTA, or the GST!
So, it is a good bet the PM will become the leader of moves to make the House a centre of far more opportunities for participation by its members, particularly in committees, and in opening up more authority, resources, and reach for both permanent and specially-struck committees.
Yes, a CBC report on Tuesday contradicted such a prognosis. “Political observers see Milliken’s victory as a victory for the prime minister who opposes any changes that could reduce his power while giving MPs more,” it said.
The PM would not have much against Milliken and his proven dexterity when in the chair, but surely it was obvious that Bob Kilger, the Grit Whip, was the PMO’s candidate.
Jean Chretien has registered a message from his ranks. Kilger, although popular in the caucus despite his position, finished well back of Milliken on the last ballot. (Don’t worry, he’ll get a sweet reward).
Peter Milliken is the smartest, quickest, best educated, and politically-experienced Speaker the House has had since Lucien Lamoureux (1966-1974). He has stated the obvious: he cannot direct or introduce parliamentary reforms. He does say, however, that he has some ideas for improving parliamentary affairs he’d like to exchange with the House leaders and the House committee on procedure and House affairs.
Milliken is very much a Queen’s University person. He has been close to political scientists, historians, and law professors at Queen’s. Several of these people have been open, thorough, and often scornful critics of the House for years – about the charade or farce that is Question Period, on the emptiness of House debates, the ineffectiveness of committee hearings, and the overswing of power to the PMO.
Lord knows Peter Milliken’s no revolutionary, but he’s the best bet for an able Speaker in a quarter-century. He cherishes the House and he knows its level in public esteem.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 28, 2001
ID: 13013728
TAG: 200101280472
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: The Hill


A week ago, this column was critical of both the alleged crisis facing the federal public service with 70% of its managers due to retire by 2006 and one of the recommended solutions being a big pay boost! Today, I look more broadly at what ails our national government as a bureaucracy, leaning on the worthwhile analysis provided by four men of distinction.
They are: Gordon Robertson, a former Clerk of the Privy Council who worked closely with four prime ministers and is often spoken of by former mandarins as the best of the best; Daniel Savoie, a University of Moncton professor and author of Governing from the Centre: The Concentration of Power in Canadian Politics; John Reid, former Liberal cabinet minister and now information commissioner; and Denis Desautels, our auditor-general.
Although there is some diversity in their views, taken together, they indicate what a deep malaise afflicts the public service and our political decision-making process.
In a career spanning 38 years (1941-79), Robertson helped oversee the creation of the modern civil service and the welfare state it serves. Today he’s “pretty gloomy” about what he and his colleagues have wrought. Robertson believes that parliamentary democracy and the independent civil service are being seriously undermined by the “very considerable shift in power and influence within the federal government from ministers and departments to the prime minister, the Prime Minister’s Office, and the Privy Council Office.” His blunt assessment: “It’s not the way the government was intended to work.”
(Robertson’s successors in the public service upper echelons don’t seem to share his concerns. Glen Shortliffe, Jean Chretien’s first Clerk of the Privy Council, believes the cabinet system “does work” because “it is a check” on the PM. )
Prof. Savoie has worked within the federal bureaucracy and for a provincial government, and he has written numerous books and articles on Ottawa’s internal workings. He, too, is critical of the concentration of power around the prime minister. In an interview with the National Post he noted his studies have led him to conclude that only “a handful of people run Ottawa: the prime minister’s chief of staff, the Clerk of the Privy Council, the minister and deputy minister of finance.” All are appointed by the PM.
Information Commissioner Reid not only believes an elite few run Ottawa, he thinks they routinely abuse their powers to avoid being held accountable. Reid, appointed by Chretien and reporting to Parliament, is charged with advocating openness in government and with assisting citizens who seek information which the government is obliged to provide under the Access to Information Act. In a report released just prior to the last election he accused the government of mounting “a full counterattack … against the office of the information commissioner. When the commissioner’s subpoenas, searches and questions come too insistently or too close to the top, the mandarins circle the wagons.” He also alleged that those working for him had been told, “in not so subtle terms” that pushing inquiries too vigorously endangered their civil service careers.
The day after the information commissioner made his accusations of top level skulduggery, Auditor General Desautels released his latest report to Parliament on how the government is handling the $150 billion it spends annually. His seven-year term ends shortly so he brings the fruits of much familiarity to his critique of the ethics and values of those in charge.
He noted that “in many cases, contracts were sole sourced with the full knowledge that, in the circumstances, it was contrary to government regulations.” Yet the managers who’d ignored the rules were not disciplined. He believes such behaviour “can only have a morally corrosive effect on the work ethics of all those involved.”
Both Reid and Desautels are officers of Parliament, so perhaps it isn’t that surprising they would challenge the ethics of those running the system. By law they are required to follow up on MPs’ concerns, and the latter have long claimed the system is unresponsive, unaccountable and biased in favour of the governing party. It is astonishing, however, to hear Gordon Robertson, whom many mandarins still cite as a model and mentor, say “I just don’t trust the government.”
But Robertson has gone further, offering up a heresy to all those in positions of power in Ottawa: that Canadians consider moving toward an American-style system. In the U.S., federal powers are divided among the executive (president), legislative (Senate and House of Representatives) and the judicial (Supreme Court) branches of government, and top civil service posts are filled with political appointees (nominated by the president and vetted by the Senate) who lose their jobs on the election of a new president.
The American system was designed to protect against the sort of concentration of power which now plagues Ottawa, and for two centuries it has effectively done so. By maintaining more than one centre of power, the U.S. system also provides more opportunity for both accountability and real debate over policy. Compare the hearings of U.S. congressional and Senate committees to what we get out of our own House and Senate. The former are able to shape policy, challenge the bureaucracy, expose incompetence and force the removal of those who have failed in their duties or betrayed the public trust. Can you recall any of these things happening in Ottawa recently?
Robertson was probably being deliberately provocative with his suggestion, but it has merit, if only because it focuses attention on the need to debate these problems, and to acknowledge that the failings of the public service and Parliament are intertwined. Their reform should be considered together.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 24, 2001
ID: 13013139
TAG: 200101240452
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: The Hill


Our Governor General has gone among the Innu of northern Labrador. And she has a message for us.
Adrienne Clarkson says, “Canadians should be deeply, deeply concerned about the way in which children particularly are growing up without hope and without some of the same opportunities, like sports activities, community centres – all the sort of things we take for granted our children can have.
“This is not just the Labrador peninsula,” said Clarkson. “This is a problem for a lot of our aboriginal peoples, coming from isolation, coming from poverty we usually associate with the Third World.”
Clarkson is doing what other celebrities like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Rev. Jesse Jackson and several of the Kennedys have done: she’s tweaking our consciences.
Those tracking the rise of the Indian industry over the past 40 years know its prime justification is guilt. The guilt all those not of aboriginal blood ought to feel about the grim lives of so many natives, on or off their reserves.
Since the early 1960s, federal spending on native people has grown from about $60 million a year to over $6 billion.
This is now complemented by some $1.5 billion spent yearly by provincial governments, mostly to cover health, education and custodial costs. Through this period there has been a surge in “registered” natives eligible for federal programs, from just over 200,000 to more than 700,000, an increase much higher than that of other citizens.
Registration entitles one to a “certificate of Indian Status” which gives access to many health, welfare, occupational training and cultural programs, as well as freedom from paying sales taxes. Such cards are so prized, a federal study says, their black market value is as high as $1,000 each.
Clarkson may not be aware that the array of problems natives faced and still face have been challenged by generous, continued, rising expenditures of taxpayers’ money.
Divide 700,000 status natives into a combined, annual expenditure by governments of $7.5 billion and what have you got? Just over $10,700 each.
That doesn’t sound like so much, but this is merely the dollar rate a year for spending per native, not cash to each status Indian. Further rises in the sum of such spending are guaranteed because both Ottawa and the provinces have been accepting costly land settlement obligations.
As for the northern territories, Ottawa is underwriting the emergence and operation of what are largely native states akin to provinces. Clarkson might also remember that our highest courts have sustained a broad interpretation of the constitutional right of aborigines to self-government in perpetuity and a unique citizenship for themselves and their succeeding generations.
Further, in the past decade there has been a perceptible rise in the proportion of federal spending which flows in cash to the councils and administrators of the many reserves.
This factor explains in part a reduction in the flow of natives from reserves to the cities. The number “living off the res” peaked five years ago at 42% of all status Indians.
Much of the $7.5 billion being spent by the two higher levels of government goes to native needs in health, education, housing, policing and on the governance of the more than 600 reserves or “first nations” across the country. (This total does not include payments to status Indians for old age and disability pensions.)
It is unfair to judge Clarkson’s complete analysis from a wire report, but it seems that after she toured two Innu settlements “the elders” pressed her to support building modern recreation complexes to combat the boredom which drives youth to addictions and suicide.
A mythical aura has been created around philosophic and spiritual beliefs of North American aborigines and “the wisdom of the elders.”
Clarkson’s husband, John Ralston Saul, is an authority on the philosopher Rousseau who counselled man to return to his natural state. Canadians would pay attention if he and his wife widely canvassed “the elders” of the first nations on what these wise ones think should be done.
Does living in hundreds of scattered common-property enclaves, far from the national mainstream, make sense?
Why do they think greater governmental spending on native affairs is going neither well nor fairly nor quickly? Should there be more leadership by example?
And has relentless whining about the guilt of others become an abiding excuse for failure?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 21, 2001
ID: 13012814
TAG: 200101210544
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: The Hill


Ten days ago Jean Chretien’s Treasury Board Minister, Lucienne Robillard, announced an immediate 8.7% pay increase for all public service executives (retroactive to last April) and the creation of a new super deputy minister category for those running major departments (to be paid up to $307,875).
Robillard said she was responding to a crisis in human capital within the public service and acting on the recommendation of a panel of private sector senior executives appointed to review the compensation of approximately 4,000 public service managers.
The minister said panel members were sounding an alarm over the fact 70% of the public service managers will be eligible to retire by 2005. Replacing them is complicated by the fact most of those in the ranks who’d normally be expected to succeed them are of the same age, and will also retire shortly. An overhaul of executive pay is imperative if the government is to compete for the management talent it needs, particularly for experts in the information technologies which must deliver services to the public online.
Much of the limited media attention which this alleged crisis garnered focused on the fairness issue. Since 1997, pay for senior deputy ministers has been increased by up to 40%, whereas pay of unionized employees has been boosted less than 10% (and this after years of frozen wages).
Reporters also eagerly went after this “spin” on the big bumps: these increases are needed to stop senior managers from being lured away by the high pay in the high-tech sector. This is a variation on the old Ottawa saw, oft-repeated by media friends of the bureaucracy, that private sector poaching of public service managers endangers the services on which Canadians count.
This more specialized spin was remarkably successful. Most of the print media, CBC-TV news, and Ottawa’s CTV outlet ran with it. Yet it should have been plain to media based here in “Silicon Valley North” that there has been no more of a hemorrhage of public service management to high-tech companies in Kanata than there has been a flight of Washington bureaucrats to Seattle or San Francisco.
Also not pursued – but more intriguing – were contradictions between the spins and the statements of panel members themselves. The panel’s chair, Lawrence Strong, former head of Unilever Canada, noted the absence of managers in the public service familiar with information technology and the need to recruit the same. If these folks don’t exist, how can the Nortels and Alcatels be hiring them away?
But what was implied by the panel’s report – and its chairman’s comments – is even most interesting. Strong argued that the pending changeover in public service management provides a unique opportunity to modernize its thinking and methods: Tomorrow’s leaders will have to be very different from the past. The scale and time frame of the problem mean new managers will have to be recruited from outside, and this should help in moving public service management away from the old command-and-control approach to that of coaches and mentors in the Internet age.
In this backhanded way, Strong acknowledged that our hidebound public service does not actively recruit managers from the private sector. So yes, there is an opportunity for change, but will it be seized? What sort of people are the current generation of managers likely to hire?
Consider how often current and former federal mandarins have expressed the view that bringing in outsiders simply doesn’t work because the specialized knowledge necessary to run federal departments and agencies is simply not taught at management schools, and isn’t to be picked up in the private sector, either. Then consider PS 2000 and La Releve.
Never heard of them? These were quite recent ballyhooed attempts by the federal service at self-reform which flamed out with little fanfare. So you have to ask: how will topping up the salaries and pensions of today’s generation of managers who failed to bring the change necessary to take the public service forward, make that change happen?
Would it not be better to phase in any increases, tying them to performance requirements along lines suggested by Strong and company – i.e., increased pay for managers who recruit and retain talented managers from outside and who get rid of those under them who aren’t performing or up to date? This would encourage real change, and give confidence to those in the private sector considering a jump to the public service that change is indeed at hand. It would also save a great deal of money. (Treasury Board estimates the cost of increased executive compensation at approximately $200 million over the next five years. But the increases apply to executives’ pensions too, so the real cost will eventually be many times this amount.)
It seems to me the most unfortunate aspect of the panel’s work was its limited mandate. The changes it’s calling for lead one to conclude it believes today’s public service management is incapable of dealing with the challenges ahead, and is unable to reform itself. But surely increasing executive pay is a pitifully limited tool to try to leverage such change.
Would that we had heard the panel’s views on other issues: on the current bonus system for managers (each manager negotiates a performance agreement with his or her superior); on public service management reporting and accountability; and on federal hiring and firing practices.
If public service executives want their pay compared to that of private sector executives, is it unfair to ask that they perform in a similar manner? Is this not what Strong meant by calling for a massive cultural change?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 17, 2001
ID: 13012272
TAG: 200101170498
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: The Hill


An Ontario federalist of Anglo stock has to feel relief at Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard’s departure from political life. He has been a most exciting and commanding presence, and to my mind as gifted for leadership as either Rene Levesque or Pierre Trudeau.
For a few days the hubbub over Bouchard’s exit was Canada-wide, but it quickly quieted. The mood of the sovereignists has swung from regret to replacement. Whatever their choice, it seems guaranteed that Bouchard will be gone from public life by late spring. His significance in the long history of Canadian unity needs the hindsight of a decade or two. It’s fortunate for federalism that the men most instrumental in creating the circumstances that brought about his decision – Jean Chretien and Yves Michaud – are neither Anglos nor “allos.”
My regard for Bouchard as a politician of immense talent is high, even though I was rarely close to him. Twice in the late 1980s I had one-on-one chats with him for television, but these just confirmed that he knew his files, was far quicker of mind than I am and most courteous (much like Louis St. Laurent).
Both Levesque and Trudeau were natural, often colloquial speakers, and rarely stilted in English. Trudeau, in particular, was very fast with verbal ripostes. Yet Bouchard, who came to command English much later in life, was more literary, oratorical and graphic when using English than either Levesque or Trudeau.
Through his seven years in the House of Commons, first as a minister, then as leader of a new opposition party, Bouchard radiated presence and grace. His gifts as a leader showed in the diligent part his caucus took in House affairs. This was most evident after the 1993 federal election. Bouchard came back to a very hostile House as the leader of Her Majesty’s official Opposition. Jean Chretien, although the new prime minister, had just been bested in his home province by Bouchard’s Bloc Quebecois, and a surprising surge of Reform party MPs from the West under Preston Manning seethed at their third party status behind “separatist” Bouchard and his Bloc.
But Bouchard and his followers did not demean the House; rather, they made it a useful forum for their cause, through to the Parti Quebecois’ victory in the Quebec election of 1994 and on to the referendum campaign in which the sovereignists almost triumphed in 1995.
Bouchard ranks with the ablest speakers in English I ever heard in the House – with Tommy Douglas, Allan MacEachen, John Diefenbaker, Don Jamieson and David Lewis. Many Canadians turn from politics to hockey for telling similes. For me, Lucien Bouchard conjures two players, widely different in style and behaviour: Maurice Richard and Mario Lemieux. The Rocket for passion; Mario for majestic skills and a dislike of the crude and ugly.

It’s with a sadness laced in pleasant memories that I refer to the death of Jim Coleman, gone at 89 after almost seven decades as the most entertaining sports journalist we have had.
As a youthful fan, I was captivated by a clutch of good sportswriters flowering in Winnipeg in the 1930s and 1940s – Coleman, Ralph Allan, Jack Matheson, Vince Leah and Scott Young. I never expected a close acquaintance with any of them, but three decades later it came with Jim Coleman through having a role in negotiating the hockey series against the USSR in 1972 and 1974 and, later, the Canada Cup series.
Jim was as passionate as any Canadian I ever met in wanting the issue cleared away of an alleged Russian superiority in world hockey. In short, he was a “homer” with the Canadian teams at international championships – from the glory days of the Trail Smokeaters through years of losses by the teams assembled by Father David Bauer in the 1960s.
But Jim’s hockey chauvinism was never so unthinking as to blind him to the skills of the Russians. He was impressed by several principles which Anatoly Tarasov, the Russian coach, had found in the analysis of hockey developed by Lloyd Percival, “coach” of CBC Radio’s Sports College. One idea was that possession of the puck (by circling and adroit passing) is more important than where the puck is on the ice. Another took this to the far greater value in a single, unchecked shot from in front of the net to a dozen from a distance or at sharp angles.
During and after the 1972 series, capped with its famous, eighth-game victory in Moscow, Jim was more quizzical and regretful than any other sportswriter to whom I talked about the vicious, ankle slash by Bobby Clarke which had put the nifty Valeri Kharlamov out of the series.
Most Augusts since I first read Jim’s great story on racing, A Hoofprint on my Heart, I go to Saratoga on the Hudson to see the running of the Travers Stakes. Always, after soaking in the colour, noise and the grand old track circled by majestic trees, I think of Jim. Just imagine, in the 1920s his dad (a CPR executive) could put his young sons on a siding within the track grounds for the meeting, sleeping and eating in father’s private rail car. A huge example of unique privilege!
But it never spoiled Jim’s modesty nor his wit nor his sense of wonder.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 14, 2001
ID: 13011924
TAG: 200101140452
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: The Hill


Stockwell Day’s position as leader of the Official Opposition and the Canadian Alliance goes from bad to worse.
Almost all his comments since the election have seemed like bravado or trivializing. Imagine a Churchillian challenge that the election campaign is underway within a fortnight of the last one’s end. And what gain is there now in pious criticisms of Jean Chretien after Day had such poor results with them in the recent election?
Even stalwart members of the Alliance or those who are not hostile to the party and its aims, have to wonder whether Day can function adequately in the House of Commons, particularly if he brazens along with an electoral challenge so far away.
During the campaign, the Liberals brought forth samples of Day’s high-handed work as a minister in the Klein government. In Edmonton, he gave short shrift to opposition criticism, ignoring it or curtailing it – conduct at odds with his zeal as a Western saviour of parliamentary freedom in Ottawa, squelched by an over-dominant Liberal executive. This stuff was a powerful reminder that the Alliance leader’s governmental experience came in Alberta, which has been more a one-party state than any other legislative jurisdiction in Canada – even Ottawa under Pierre Trudeau, Brian Mulroney, or Chretien.
Since the election, much more to Day’s disadvantage has emerged about a resolution through an out-of-court settlement of a libel action taken against him when he was an Alberta minister. He wrote a critical letter to a lawyer for taking on a client charged with pornography offences. The letter seems to reveal a shocking lack of knowledge of law as a profession. Did Day go through his 30s and 40s without learning every citizen has a right to counsel when arrested and charged?
Most hullabaloo over the case has focused on the payment from a provincial fund on behalf of Day to the lawyer he libelled. But the real shock is the apparent ignorance or misunderstanding of rights by the letter’s author.
Defenders of Day are numerous, at least in Western Canada. There, they “know” as usual that eastern Canadians, sparked by their journalists and politicians of the older parties, are unable to be fair to Day and rarely miss a chance to depict him as a moralizing Simple Simon. This is the sort of personal tag he now bears to go along with the broadly accepted thesis that he is committed to socially conservative aims, in particular against a woman’s entitlement to choose to have an abortion, against extension of full family rights to gays and lesbians, and against pornography as an aspect of an individual’s right to freedom of expression.
Day’s fundamentalist religiosity seems to mock – and be mocked by – a society and economy which owe so much to scientific method and technological change.
There is some foundation to the idea that political history suggests there has been, and remains, a basic antagonism in eastern Canadians, notably in Ontario and Quebec, against Western party leaders and Western political ideas. Certainly the prime ministers from the West – Arthur Meighen, R.B. Bennett, John Diefenbaker and Joe Clark – have had hard runs and short ones, compared to those of William Lyon Mackenzie King, Louis St. Laurent, Trudeau, Chretien, even Mulroney.
Historically on the matter of political ideology, since its boom in the Great War, the West has made two very distinct impressions on the substance of federal Canada’s partisan politics. The first one might call Albertan or “free enterprise” above all, and it seems the economic core of the Alliance party doctrine. The other might be named for Saskatchewan, “the caring state.” One can locate its origins, for example, in a tenet much used by the founder of the CCF, the Reverend J.S. Woodsworth: “From each according to ability, to each according to need.” It was a primary seed in the growth of the “safety net” emphasis in Canada which Liberals, Red Tories, as well as the CCFers’ heirs, the New Democrats, now revere.
My hunch is that Day does not have the attributes to readily or handily turn around the low standing he has already earned as a national party leader. Whenever he comes before a camera I feel we get glib reiterations of the common-place or the irrelevant. Believe me, neither the Liberals nor the other opposition caucuses nor the press will stop emphasizing such an image of Stockwell Day. A few days ago Don Boudria, Chretien’s House leader and a Rat Pack original, jeered at the Alliance proposals for parliamentary reform as no more than a diversion to draw attention away from the party’s failed leader.
Being youngish, healthy, vigorous, photogenic, and supremely confident for show-boating does not stand up for long if what you say is light in content, slight in reasoning, and expressed smugly as somewhat of a line of patter.
Preston Manning is a man deserving of respect as a thoughtful person and a genuine student of our history, but even more as a founder of a federal party who took it in eight years to official opposition status. The CCF-NDP never came close to that over 66 years. But Manning must be gloomy over what his own determination wrought. The Alliance, or his Reform recast, is really no nearer to being the catch-all for conservatively-minded voters east of Manitoba. Now it has a new leader already much damaged by brief but high exposure.
One tries to get glimpses of potential resurrection for Day in his present mien and from his previous experience, and they are hard to see. Even worse, good, obvious alternatives are not at hand, and another leadership convention in the short run would be comic.
The many able MPs in the Alliance caucus will have to carry Day while hoping he has the wit to give them rein, to listen a lot, and study well.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 10, 2001
ID: 13011397
TAG: 200101100209
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: The Hill


Proposals for reform of the House of Commons are once again fashionable. This happens every decade or so. Beyond minor cosmetics, the chances of much change are low.
Monday, the Alliance, through its House leader, Chuck Strahl, presented a package of reform proposals which obviously had not been considered for very long. He offered them after pious, condescending jabs about the tight controls Jean Chretien keeps on both ministers and backbenchers.
This initiative of the Alliance came without thorough scouting of support for House reform in the four other caucuses on the Hill. It almost deserved the jeering reactions it drew from Don Boudria, the government House leader.
Of course, Jean Chretien sees small need for House reform. He insists genuine participation in House affairs is as open now as it has been through his three decades-plus as a member. Further, through two parliaments and entering a third majority mandate, his basic strategy continues, and that is to attack the Reform-cum-Alliance party with contempt or scorn that never wavers.
My zeal for House reform began soon after I became an MP in 1957. Since then as a columnist and committee witness, I pushed the four main surges to change the House: first in the Pearson years (’64); then in the Trudeau period, notably during minority government (’72-’74), then with ideas mooted in 1982 by a committee chaired by Tom Lefebvre, a Liberal MP; and then the so-called McGrath reforms, early in the Mulroney years (1984-85).
Despite many changes in House procedures and really huge increases in services for MPs, notably for constituency tasks, the significance of MPs per se has kept on sliding.
The House has become such an empty shell it’s time to consider the ultimate reforms: a) to shut down sittings, keeping a “fail safe” provision for a national crisis; b) abandoning the farce of oral question period for a formal “scrum” each weekday featuring ministers and opposition leaders.
It is time to cut out the daily farce of the question/answer time which does neither. End the provisions for so-called House “debates” on second and third reading of bills, and instead, let small teams from each caucus present, discuss, and examine bills generally and then clause by cause.
Most reform propositions touch on one or more of the following: (a) more power, scope, and research resources to parliamentary committees; (b) let committees choose their own chairman; (c) more votes in House and in committees “free” of the whips; (d) open, timely responses by government to committee recommendations; (e) approval or rejection of government nominees to high posts, after their examination by a House committee.
Some propositions are worth a long trial period, but parliamentary reform is dogged by two brutal realities.
Brutal reality #1 may be put softly: The days of politicians, leisurely speaking and listening to each other are gone. Not only do MPs, including leaders and ministers, not listen to each other in House “debates”; they do not follow the debates later, either through video record or printed Hansard, and neither do those hired by the media to report on them. For more than 75% of House sitting hours, no one is really listening. Far better to have brisk examination and full passage of bills by a House committee in a much smaller space.
The current “debating” is a waste of time. Most MPs of the few you glimpse in the House during “debate” were drummed there by their whips.
Speechifying in the House, noisily partisan or not, is tacitly taken by MPs themselves as both dull and inconsequential.
Moderns cannot seem to interest themselves in formal sessions of speech. House speeches are usually platitudinous and juvenilely partisan.
Reality #2 is the mindless partisanship of federal politics. Sensible exchanges about legislative items or spending programs are almost impossible. Governing ministers rarely concede anything worthwhile has been contributed by opposition MPs or the House as a whole. And so in the new House, as in the last one, for almost every motion and vote there’ll be five truths.
Such ingrained biases are a mockery because each party caucus tries so hard to cover as much of the centre of the political spectrum as possible.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 07, 2001
ID: 13011082
TAG: 200101070291
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: The Hill


In 2001, Jean Chretien is unlikely to shift or add or drop many ministers. In a prelude piece on Wednesday, I sketched the main cabinet factors in the PM’s mind, such as geography, provinces, gender, ethnicity, language, expertise, loyalty, record, etc.
The last Chretien ministry had 36 members, 27 cabinet ministers and nine “secretaries of state.”
What follows is a list of the present ministry, arranged by seniority in the House. Each posting is matched with my choice of a good (sometimes better) minister taken from today’s backbench roster.
(Alberta, with 26 seats, rates two ministers but has only two Liberal MPs, Ann McLellan and David Kilgour. So we leave them where they have been.)
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Herb Gray, 69, from Windsor, an MP since ’62, deputy prime minister since ’97. Replace with Clifford Lincoln, 72, an MP since ’93, including service as secretary to the deputy PM and before that as a minister in the Quebec government; an environmental authority.
FOREIGN AFFAIRS: John Manley, 50, a sensible, plain MP for Ottawa East since ’88, and considered a “top” minister by Chretien. Replace with Bill Graham, once a Toronto law professor and a splendid MP since 1993. One of the best.
TRANSPORT: David Collenette, 54, first elected in ’68, this is his fourth portfolio, and follows a clouded stint at Defence. Replace with Joe Fontana, 50, an MP from London, Ont. since ’88. A busy, likable, shrewd MP.
ENVIRONMENT: David Anderson, 63, first elected in ’68, from Victoria, and neither a bust nor a star at either Environment or Fisheries. Replace with Karen Kraft Sloan, 48, (York North) who knows the environment file fore and aft, or Stephen Owen, 52, a new MP and former B.C. commissioner for the environment.
NATURAL RESOURCES: Ralph Goodale, 51, first an MP in ’74, and the only Saskatchewan minister in Chretien cabinets. Unobtrusive, smooth and safe. Replace with Reg Alcock, 52, from Winnipeg, an MP since ’88. He would be in most “top 10” picks among all MPs.
CANADIAN HERITAGE: Sheila Copps, 48, MP from Hamilton East since ’84, now rather staid and edging matriarchal status. Replace with neighbour Bonnie Brown, 59, MP for Oakville since ’93, and as competent as you find.
INDUSTRY: Brian Tobin, 46, first elected from Newfoundland in ’80, and as cocky now as he was at 26. Replace with Dennis Mills, 54, MP from the Toronto Danforth since ’88 – an energetic, creative organizer.
FINANCE: Paul Martin, 62, MP since ’88 and a very successful finance minister since ’93. Replace with Maurice Bevilacqua, 40, first elected in from the 905 belt in ’88, and as diligent a disciple as a finance minister could ever have.
NATIONAL DEFENCe: Art Eggleton, 57, MP since ’93, ex-mayor of Toronto, rather anonymous in House and around Ottawa. Replace with John Richardson, 68, MP from Stratford since ’93. An ex-brigadier general and militia chief, he is a quiet man of substance.
HEALTH: Allan Rock, 53, MP from Etobicoke since ’93, superbly glib as minister of justice and of health, but somehow not a star. Replace with Carolyn Bennett, MP from Toronto since ’97, an MD for 26 years, and recent author of Kill or Cure? How Canadians Can Remake their Health Care System.
SOLICITOR GENERAL: Lawrence MacAulay, 54, an MP from P.E.I. since ’88, and cherished by caucus for a lovable wooliness on questions in the House. Replace with Geoff Regan, 41, a lawyer, and a returning MP from Halifax.
TREASURY BOARD: Lucienne Robillard, 55, a former Quebec MNA, came to the House in ’95 and into cabinet; professional and an evader of controversy. Replace with Eleni Bakopnos, 45, born in Greece, and an MP from Montreal since ’93. Is aggressive, lucid and has a high IQ.
PUBLIC WORKS: Alfonso Gagliano, 58, an MP from Montreal riding since ’84, and seen, perhaps unfairly, as the patronage pivot for the Chretien regime. Replace with Nick Discepola, 51, a computer specialist who has held a Montreal seat since ’93.
NATIONAL REVENUE: Martin Cauchon, 38, a Montreal MP since ’93, a very assured lawyer and heralded as a “comer.” Replace with Carole-Marie Allard, a new MP from Laval, trained as a lawyer, and who has worked as journalist and press agent.
HUMAN RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT: Jane Stewart, 45, MP from Brantford since ’93, touched by dubious fame as a muddled minister. Replace with Allan Tonks, 57, a new MP from Toronto who for many years has unabashedly defined himself in Who’s Who as a “politician.” Let us see!
INTERGOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS: Stephane Dion, 45, a prize in the unity game drafted by the PM in ’96. Replace with Serge Marcil, 56, a new MP from Valleyfield and a former Quebec MNA and cabinet minister.
INTERNATIONAL TRADE: Pierre Pettigrew, 49, a talker and a traveller, came in draft with Dion in ’96. Hard to figure his impact within cabinet; fair in House. Replace with Irving Cotler, newish MP from Montreal with a huge reputation as a scholar-activist in international affairs.
HOUSE LEADER: Don Boudria, 51, a “detail” man all the way, and very partisan. Replace with Bob Kilger, 46, MP for Cornwall since ’88, and an unusually well-liked and competent chief whip of the last House.
AGRICULTURE: Lyle Vanclief, 53, a straightforward Ontario farmer who has not caught hold in a demanding, diverse portfolio. Replace with Wayne Easter, 51, a P.E.I farmer and a top farm lobbyist, who came to the House in ’93 and is more than ready for this task.
FISHERIES: Herb Dhaliwal, 48, a Vancouver businessman and MP since ’93, he’s surviving well in a mean portfolio. Replace with Charles Hubbard, 60, an MP since ’93 from Miramichi, N.B. Well-spoken and shrewd.
LABOUR: Claudette Bradshaw, a newish minister for N.B., and so far well-taken for being frank and earthy. Replace with Rey Pagtakhan, 65, born in Manila, a Winnipeg MP since ’88, and as industrious and fair as MPs come.
VETERANS AFFAIRS: Ron Duhamel, St. Boniface MP since ’88, and a serious, educated educator. Replace with George Baker, 58, the best entertainer on his feet in the House, and recently bounced from DVA out of cabinet to make room for Brian Tobin.
INDIAN AFFAIRS: Robert Nault, 45, who has held Kenora, very much an Indian riding, since ’88, and found the ministry an unforgiving one. Replace with Rick Laliberte, MP for Saskatchewan’s Churchill River, and a recent transfer from the NDP. He’s young and has aboriginal roots and connections.
INTERNATIONAL CO-OPERATION: Maria Minna, 52, MP for Toronto Beaches since ’93, and just over a rather innocuous year with this portfolio. Replace with Sarmite Bulte, 47, a lawyer, and another Toronto woman and ethnic (Latvian).
CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION: Elinor Caplan, 56, another over-hyped recent draft from Toronto, her forte is to deny, deny, and accuse, accuse. Replace with John Bryden, MP for Burlington since ’93; very active, innovative and critical of bureaucracy.
And there is my alternative cabinet. A group with somewhat more energy, common sense, and purpose than the present one. As for the non-cabinet minister posts, here are seven MPs of distinction for such roles:
– John Godfrey, 58, Toronto MP with a most cosmopolitan experience and a good presenter;
– Joe Comuzzi, 67, Lakehead lawyer, transport authority and a true hinterland representative;
– Mauril Belanger, 45, the ablest franco-Ontarian MP in sight on the Hill;
– Guy St. Julien, 60, off and on an MP since ’84 for a huge hinterland riding that hasn’t cribbed him;
– Albina Guarnieri, 47, a Mississauga MP since ’88; stubborn, pushy and principled;
– Peter Milliken, 54, MP for Kingston since ’88 and the most thorough parliamentarian since the late Stanley Knowles;
– Peter Adams, 64, MP for Peterborough since ’93 after two terms at Queen’s Park; a geographer and a masterful committee chair.
Jean Chretien’s cabinet problems are not for lack of good choices.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 03, 2001
ID: 13010569
TAG: 200101030400
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: The Hill


The prime minister quickly chilled talk about a much-altered cabinet for the first session of his third mandate. Nonetheless, as a topic the cabinet is too interesting to leave alone.
The election left Jean Chretien with merely two cabinet vacancies, neither of mighty import. Even partisan rivals would grant there is no dearth of quality talent fueled by ambition along the government’s backbenches. The prospectus there, I think, is of abilities enough to stock two cabinets which could outmatch the one we have.
In a post-election chat, the PM told me how he dislikes taking resignations from ministers and how satisfied he has been with his “team.” He made it clear that outside observers (journalists!) make too much of the impressions ministers make in the stagey House question period and its subsequent TV scrums but they know little of the contributions which a minister makes or fails to make in cabinet sessions or in mastering a portfolio and shaping his or her department. He outlined the factors he must consider when making even one cabinet change – region, religion, gender, ethnicity, age, expertise, speaking skills and loyalty to leader and party.
First comes the obvious geographical/provincial factor. If possible, each province should have at least one minister and, if possible, there should be ministers for several distinct regions in the three biggest provinces (e.g., Northern Ontario or east of Quebec City or beyond the lower mainland in B.C.)
In this new House the PM has such choices, although he is not over-endowed with MPs from Alberta (two out of 26), B.C. (five out of 34), and Saskatchewan (two out of 15).
The gender factor in cabinet-keeping is far stronger now than it was in the first three decades after 1957 when the new Tory PM, John Diefenbaker, made Ellen Fairclough a minister. Today, as Chretien seems to read matters, he has had to have a proportion of female ministers a bit higher than that of female MPs to male MPs in his caucus.
I got the impression Chretien has been mildly disappointed with the work of his female ministers. My unsupported impression had confirmation of sorts in a speculative piece about the cabinet in another daily. It was clearly based on opinions flown by high-level “spinners” in the PMO. They marked seven ministers as “deserving of the boot.” Four of the seven were women. Two were hardly a shock: Hedy Fry and Ethel Blondin-Andrew. Neither has had much positive notice after four and seven years respectively as a secretary of state. But the other two have been widely considered as cabinet work-horses: Anne McLellan, minister of Justice, and Lucienne Robillard, president of the Treasury Board. Neither is much of a show horse, but more than adequate in jumping over opposition hurdles.
(The three males touted for the boot were Gilbert Normand, a secretary of state for Science from downriver Quebec, Pierre Pettigrew, a Montreal dandy, and wondrously glib in the House as Trade minister, and Bob Nault, the Indian Affairs minister from Kenora.)
Now consider the multicultural or ethnic factor. It has the importance today that was given 50 years ago to religion. A PM like W.L. Mackenzie King would try to ensure that the bigger Protestant denominations – United, Anglican, Presbyterian, Baptist – had a minister and that the Roman Catholic ministers didn’t outnumber those of other Christian denominations.
Of course, for Jean Chretien, ethnicity may double, even triple up, with a minister satisfying two or three factors – ethnicity, gender and “visibility.” See female ministers Hedy Fry (black), Ethel Blondin-Andrew (aboriginal), Elinor Caplan (Jewish) and Maria Minna (Italian).
Timing is another factor affecting cabinet exits and arrivals. At the moment, the Liberals’ strong electoral showing has meant just two open slots.
For example, if the PM is unhappy with Anne McLellan, might he take her resignation, and then appoint her to a high court position? This would be stupid, opening a byelection in a riding won so narrowly, and in one of only two Liberal ridings in Alberta. No, one may imagine the canny Chretien shifting McLellan to a lower profile department than Justice but not ditching her.
Chretien made the point to me how hard it is for him to drop a minister to being a mere MP, and what a terrible blow this is to the former minister’s pride and his or her standing at home. (See cases of Diane Marleau and Christine Stewart.) Now, at a mandate’s start, he could hardly derrick more than one minister right out of the House and into a well-paid honorific, like high commissioner to the U.K. or a slot in the Senate, without rousing cries of high-cost patronage.
So this column sets out why grand cabinet moves are so unlikely. Nonetheless, on Sunday, read here about a possible, new and better cabinet the PM could mount, even doing without his sine qua non thus far, Finance Minister Paul Martin.
The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2001, SunMedia Corp.