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Doug’s Columns 2002 « Douglas Fisher



Doug’s Columns 2002

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, December 22, 2002
ID: 12181699
TAG: 200212220255
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Do you feel 2002 has been a bad year, politically speaking?
Next year, it may get worse.
Prime Minister Jean Chretien heads into 2003 saying he has 13 months left as prime minister, even if some think his authority is fading. In year-end interviews the toil-worn fox shrugged away suggestions that Liberal party infighting could force him to leave earlier. No, no, no. He’s No. 1 into 2004.
As Liberal MPs turned for home 10 days ago after their divisive fall session, Chretien’s could-be, should-be successor, Paul Martin, offered that he had no problem with this long goodbye or legacy hunt. Some laughed about it, but Martin may have meant it. His followers’ recent attempts to embarrass Chretien into submission has a nasty side effect: they prompted the media sharks to ask Martin what he’d do in Chretien’s place. As Martin’s leadership bid is premised on being all things to all Liberals, the demand for specificity was unwelcome and was fudged.
Over the holidays, Martin faces three difficult, interrelated questions.
1) How much more damage will maintaining pressure on Chretien do to his kindly golden boy repute, and to the precious party?
2) Are these risks greater than those of waiting Chretien out?
3) With caucus discipline well fractured (thanks to his successful plotting) would Martin’s troops respond to being reined in, given that recent attacks on Chretien were as much about individual MPs’ agendas as his own ambitions?
Time is short, even if the Chretien goodbye is not. John Manley’s first budget, likely due in February, will set out spending for Chretien’s legacy – bequests which could tie Ottawa’s hands for years to come. It will also bring inevitable, awkward questions for Martin: do you support this or that initiative and, if not, would you cancel it after becoming PM? In each instance there will be votes of Liberal leadership delegates to be lost, depending on the answer. Should he choose to support the budget in toto, the question becomes: why change the Chretien-Manley team?
The budget poses another problem to both Martin and Manley as leadership rivals. Talk about the Chretien legacy plus the exhaustion felt by many in the party (and the country) over spending restraints since 1993 have fueled an appetite for significantly increased social spending.
Having presided over the turnaround of the nation’s finances as much or more than the PM, Martin, like Manley, knows the dirty little secret behind this “success.” The GST and other taxes imposed by the Brian Mulroney government, plus the dramatic increase in Canada-U.S. trade since the free trade agreements have hugely increased the taxes and other revenues Ottawa receives. These monies are responsible for much of the surpluses amassed in recent years. (It has been estimated that the $42 billion surplus in the Employment Insurance fund alone is responsible for 60% of the surplus.)
Martin as principal author of this approach, and spokesman for it the past nine years, has never put much effort into troubling Canadians with the less-happy detail that an economic downturn would dramatically curb this lengthy revenue surge and threaten the government’s financial position. Assuming no significant new spending, a year of bad economic news would be manageable, two would be tough and three would require major retrenchment.
At the moment, Canada’s finances look good. Another substantial surplus is likely for the 2002-03 fiscal year. But with the U.S. economy sputtering, much of the rest of the world in sorry shape – Japan’s economy is shrinking, Latin America is in free-fall – and a worrisome global security situation, Ottawa’s revenues could be vulnerable in coming years.
Nevertheless, the government proposes to fix our health care system, embark on a major infrastructure initiative, and deal with “urban issues” (whatever these are) in the next few budgets. Health care alone could be a budget buster – the Romanow report calls for an extra $6.5 billion a year. If only to avoid being mocked, Ottawa must bring serious money – from $3 to $4 billion a year – to the premiers. Infrastructure? Another billion. The military, at the least, needs an extra billion just to cover its expenses. See! The math is scary.
Are Messrs. Manley and Martin willing to bet their leadership hopes and the country’s future on the economy continuing to roar along indefinitely? The former’s efforts to dampen expectations about the coming budget imply he isn’t. Martin has merely repeated his mantra that the government must protect its financial position – whatever that means.
Both men today are trapped by years of Martin’s insistence that Canada was doing very well indeed. This paid obvious short term political dividends at the price of feeding expectations that an end of restraint was drawing ever closer. How can they now tell Canada, and the many kinder, caring, sharing Liberals readying to pick a new leader, that this has been as good as it gets for years to come?
John Manley’s immediate problem is standing up to the prime minister’s determination for a legacy. If he fails to keep spending in line, it will then fall to Paul Martin to say whether he’ll reduce the legacy – and take the fallout that comes with that.
As each man ponders these unpleasant likelihoods, he must also be aware that he is backed by a party that now has badly broken internal discipline but lots of members with “great ideas” just looking for money.
So 2003 could be the Liberals’ annus horribilis.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 18, 2002
ID: 12180569
TAG: 200212180319
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Joe Comuzzi is 59, a Liberal MP for the large, hinterland riding of Thunder Bay-Superior North abutting much of the great lake.
A tall, handsome man, Joe used to be a businessman and lawyer at the Lakehead. In Ottawa as an MP since 1988, he has never gained much notice.
In opposition during his first stint, Joe’s lack of impact in the House had something to do with his genial personality – a tame contrast to the raging Grit Rat Pack cued by Sheila Copps. Later, he has been in the doghouse for much of Jean Chretien’s nine years as PM. Why? Because he had refused to lie publicly when told to do so by Eddie Goldenberg, the PM’s aide.
This encounter developed out of an observation Joe had made in a report to his riding association. He was finding the Liberal party’s bilingual policies unpopular in northwestern Ontario, so he intended to ask for a review of them. After a newswire note of this intention hit The Montreal Gazette, the PM’s fixer summoned Joe to Ottawa. There he was handed a statement for the press he was to sign and release. It denied the accuracy of the item about bilingual policies. Joe refused to sign: it would have been dishonest.
Oh, how quickly he was ignored by the chain of control. Shortly, all the caucus knew him as a pariah. His isolation went on for two parliaments. None of the smaller prizes for backbenchers were for him, even anything to do with transport, which was his field of expertise.
All the modes – rail, road, marine and air – are vital in his region. This familiarity was interwoven with American policies because of common cause with Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan’s upper peninsula in lake shipping, the iron ore trade, the Seaway, pulpwood and logging and tourism. There are few MPs in the House, including ministers, who’ve come to know state and congressional politicians in the U.S. as Joe has in pursuing his region’s interests. In doing so, he’s found that Ottawa mandarins (and so their ministers) are leery of close relations between MPs and the Americans.
It was not until a fortnight ago that Comuzzi hit the front end of network news with something telling to say. Some such notice came after he became chair of the House transport committee. Even more came when he openly sounded the refrain “never again” in linking a concern over the gathering and use of the airport “security tax” imposed by Paul Martin with the fiasco of incompetence in the gun registry.
Joe said the auditor general was on the mark in laying some of the blame for this disaster on MPs who hadn’t done their job in scrutiny of spending programs.
I’m not totally objective in taking Joe’s measure as a politician because I’ve known him and his family for 50 years. I’ve told him he has been too kindly and condoning when dealing with the Hill’s spinners and ministerial surrogates. Of course, I know he has had much company on the Liberal backbench in other able, personable MPs who are not much recognized and relatively unused where it could count. That’s been the way in the caucus of the Chretien era, and some of the reason why the PM has had such mediocre ministries.
When word got to me that the first meeting this session of the House transport committee had Joe Comuzzi as its chair, I thought that at last he’d be doing what he can do well. So I crossed his path to ask if it was the secret ballot that had done it.
(This referred to the recent loss of a House vote by the PM and his cabinet against chairs of committees being chosen by a secret ballot of a committee’s MPs.)
“No,” said Joe. “No need for a secret ballot. I was nominated by an opposition MP and became the chairman without a contest.”
Had he come to the first meeting approved by House leader Don Boudria and his whip, Marlene Catterall?
“It turned out that I did, but I didn’t know it beforehand.”
He explained why he, the worm so long, had turned. Whatever others did, he was going for the chair and had lined up votes of each opposition party and from a few caucus colleagues. Before the committee gathered for the vote, he and other Grits on the committee were called to a meeting by the bosses. Their word was that another Ontario MP, Ovid Jackson (Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound) was to be the chair. Each MP at this gathering was asked to confirm he would so vote.
Joe said he stood up and said he could not stay. He was going for the chair himself and would be nominated. There was some chivvying, but he left. Shortly, at the committee, he expected to win the vote, secret or open, but as it was convened he learned he was now the choice of the bosses. If they couldn’t beat him, they’d join him.
As Joe put it, he cared little why he was so approved. He had the task he wanted and there was a lot for the committee to tackle: the burden of airport taxes; twinning the Trans-Canada highway; low water and high pilotage costs on the St. Lawrence Seaway; sensible competition for Air Canada.
On the broader challenges of Parliament, Joe figures it may be years before a prime minister again has a dutifully supine backbench.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, December 15, 2002
ID: 12179837
TAG: 200212150299
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Over the past decade, what federal department has had the most chapters of analysis and criticism in the reports of our auditors general?
Answer: The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
Why haven’t these criticisms had more play among politicians and journalists?
Probably guilt, the guilt which so many Canadians feel for the hard times and deprivation so many native Canadians continue to bear, is the best explanation why it has been so politically incorrect to raise hell at skyrocketing costs to taxpayers for native programs.
That cost is now some $10 billion a year – $7 billion from the federal purse, $3 billion from the provinces.
It has been little noticed lately in all the excitements in the Liberal dynasty that a new, unique national program was launched earlier this year to closely examine and promote reform of Indian Affairs programs.
Its scope is grand, its method is muscular, its first recommendations sweeping. They come in a tough-minded booklet which landed on Ottawa desks a few weeks ago. So far, it has had scant notice in the media.
Despite this, I’d wager we now have in play a project on aboriginal affairs that will lose the stink of political incorrectness and become pivotal in radically changing aboriginal policy.
What follows is a list drawn from the booklet, titled The Lost Century. The subtitle is “Moving Aboriginal Policy from the 19th to the 20th Century.” The publisher has a long handle: The Centre for Aboriginal Policy Change, Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) 1207 Douglas St., Victoria, B.C. V8W 2E7.
The CTF originated a few years ago in Western Canada and now has offices across Canada. Its three-fold mission is be a watchdog on government spending, a sponsor of sensible fiscal reform and an advocate for taxpayers having a common interest, which needs to be mobilized if democracy is to be responsible.
Since government spending on natives has reached colossal proportions and continues to predicate ever more money, the CTF has chosen a permanent arm in this Centre for Aboriginal Policy Change.
The centre’s mandate is:
1) To demand accountability for money spent which is not now in effect.
2) To thoroughly examine proposed new treaties.
3) To support the equality of all citizens in Canada and put an end to a special order of citizens distinguished by a perpetual right by blood.
4) To follow closely developments in the courts and in governmental policies.
5) To provide strong, positive alternatives.
This paragraph in the booklet’s introduction emphasizes why the centre and its mandate are important. “Aboriginal issues are a growing area of public policy. Billions of tax dollars are spent each year, of which little seems to be properly accounted for, or finds its way to the people it is intended to help. The implication of treaties, in particular, will change the landscape of Canada for all time. The centre is dedicated solely to examine current aboriginal policy and court decisions from the perspectives of those – native and non-native – who will pay the bill, the taxpayers.”
The booklet argues (as I believe) that all the increased spending has not improved the health and other social indicators for native Canadians, or remedied the inequalities created by federal laws and programs. Therefore, what most needs to be done is to give individual party rights to natives, in particular those living on land reserved for their bands.
So, the centre emphasizes that “the key to generating wealth and prosperity is easily identifiable individual property rights.”
For this it will be readily tagged as a conservative or right-wing lobby, one which is antagonistic to the social democratic and liberally minded themes which have had the run in Indian affairs for a long generation.
The centre underlines the need to promote the individual as against the communal, and to promote the idea of being equal with all other Canadians, rather than having Canadian citizenship plus a unique status passed on by blood. The latter isolates natives from the rest of Canadians, socially and economically, and their asserted privilege not to pay taxes is divisive and harms their motivation and pride.
The centre notes that 80% of federal funding for natives is transferred to Indian band councils to manage and distribute in funds or services and supplies.
Given the 600-plus bands on over 2,000 reserves across our huge landscape, there is a plethora of native politicians – last year one for every 177 people. Some chiefs exercise power like feudal lords, often with a heavy lean toward relatives and friends and on tripping to conferences.
Scores of bands have accounts that are in chaos.
The centre notes that “many natives live in virtual isolation in reserve communities which have no real economic base and, in a number of instances, a disintegrating social fabric. This is because all the land and resources that comprise the Indian reserve are held communally and operated by the chief and council – when a native decides to leave the reserve they often leave almost literally with only the shirt on their back.”
Although most native programs are supposed to reach over the negative gap between native and non-native living standards, this hasn’t been happening.
More and more natives, rather than fewer, are dependent on government handouts and they have had few successes in either access to, or continuing in, the regional economies in their locales.
In columns to come, I hope to set out the main recommendations of the centre on these points.
At the least, its advent means we have a force at work which shrugs off white guilt and comes at native affairs with a mission of promoting an end to our deepening division into two nations, not French and English, but so-called “First Nations” and the rest of us.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 11, 2002
ID: 12178549
TAG: 200212110526
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Although none of the federal auditors general since the 1950s has been timid or equivocal in exposing bad management and waste in governmental activities, Sheila Fraser, the auditor for the past year, has been the most direct in suggesting where responsibilities lie.
In remarks after unveiling last week’s report so critical of the gun registry program, she said: “If the members of Parliament don’t take on that responsibility and don’t do it, I mean, no one else is going to. The review of estimates and the approval of funding and of spending is one of the basic duties of Parliament and it’s important that Parliament review these reports.”
She went on to sketch the pressure on officials against releasing “negative information” about their programs, including their fear of uninformed attacks by opposition MPs and reporters that distort situations. This reinforces negative, defensive postures by ministers and government MPs, such as holding back information and impugning questioners’ motives.
It seems to me that Fraser, like so many who respect the significance of the backing of voters which an MP symbolizes, accords them more responsibility for close scrutiny of spending and its fruits than they have ever been willing to assume.
Why haven’t they taken it?
The short answer: because of the intrinsic, pervasive partisanship in the parliamentary system. Long before hockey got its rough-tough “policemen,” the whip of the reigning party had them. The whip and his House leader saw that each House committee had “responsible” MPs at meetings to ensure protection for a minister, his advisers and the spending estimates or public accounts of his portfolio. When the opposition attacks in the oral question period of the House, the claque of government MPs huzzahs the ministerial replies and scorns the questioners. All rather adolescent.
Decades ago, Jack Pickersgill, a long-gone master of House partisanship, took me aside. I was an opposition MP, unhappy at obtuse, demeaning replies from one particular minister and Jack said: “Haven’t you realized parliamentary politics is war? And in a war, nice fellows lose.”
There is a reason why the point I’m circling here has more importance than usual. We seem on the brink of getting Paul Martin as prime minister. He has declared himself a parliamentary reformer, determined that MPs ought to play more important roles in the development of policy and legislation. and in fair, thorough examination of program costs and effectiveness.
Voters should know more about the major obstacle in the way of such expanded scope for MPs in legislating and scrutinizing. It is the prevalence in Canada of politics as war, an incessant, partisan war.
And the rider which goes with this has not been visited by either auditors like Fraser nor reformers like Martin. It is the bureaucracy or, more specifically, the mandarins. These mostly anonymous men and women cluster as deputy ministers, associate d/ms, etc. around their elected minister. They know the locus of their authority, and their future lies with the PMO and not their minister.
Supposedly, a cabinet minister is responsible for his whole portfolio, not the top mandarins who serve him nor their appointer, the prime minister.
It is rather rare that a close guarding of party lines by government breaks down in either the House or in its committees. When a committee is at work a few “police” MPs are there to protect minister, mandarins and the government line.
Mandarins hate exposure that brings harsh criticism on them in either House exchanges or in committees. They think it grossly unfair if a government MP dares to be openly critical of a program. It is often a marvel to see the marshalling by the mandarins of the lobby groups interested in their portfolio’s aspects. The okay name for these folk now is “stakeholders.”
Don’t worry about critics, goes the refrain. The stakeholders are with us. They give us a thorough watch and ward.
If Paul Martin really means to institute reform, he will have to bring into line ministers and their mandarins, neither of whom will welcome a continuing examination and exposure of their policy, planning and programs to MPs of all parties.
It seems obvious Martin hasn’t realized that giving bigger roles to MPs means turning the stock parliamentary game topsy-turvy. “Ministerial responsibility” and “public service anonymity” will have to be redefined.
Neither ministers nor mandarins in Liberal Ottawa are given to resigning for cause. Most people don’t realize what a rare bird Francoise Ducros turned out to be. The former press aide to the PM resigned on her own. Of course, if the mandarins who did the gun registry or the “unity” advertising contracts had resigned because of shame, the ancient platitude about the best public service in the world would crack up. Since 1993, Jean Chretien has bounced at least 10 ministers for inadequacies (the likes of Michel Dupuy, Diane Marleau and Art Eggleton). But deputy ministers? Associate d/ms?
Chretien’s adviser, Mitchell Sharp, preaches that deputy ministers should manage departments and agencies, while ministers should speak for the departments. It will be anathema to ministers, and even more poisonous to mandarins, if MPs, even government MPs, are loosed into policy development for departments and into close scrutiny of their spending programs.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, December 08, 2002
ID: 12177864
TAG: 200212080273
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


For the Liberal government led by Jean Chretien, the past fortnight has been as wretched as any in modern memory.
It’s grim enough that the strains and cross-purposes in the Liberal party, created by the rather submarine success of Paul Martin in gaining control of it, have become so apparent. Even worse have been the stark, mounting examples of bad governance, rife with ministerial incompetence, wastefulness, extravagance and sleazy ethics (which first reached the grand folly scale three years ago with Jane Stewart and the Human Resource schmozzle).
The bent toward serious fractures in a traditionally well-disciplined government caucus became clear last summer when Martin was fired from cabinet and his position as minister of finance. Since then, little has gone well for Jean Chretien.
Week by week, it became more obvious that Martin had a machine-type organization which controlled a sizable block of the caucus MPs and most of the Liberal party’s apparatus, including most of its provincial executives. He first flaunted this by backing the proposition that House committees should choose their chairpersons by secret ballot, not by taking up the MP chosen by the Liberal House leader. This led to a vote in the House such as I’d never seen before, in which a prime minister backed by all but one of his ministers was defeated by the votes of the opposition, plus dissident MPs from his own back benches.
While this incident showed where the Liberal caucus stood, vis-a-vis the PM and Martin, an even more sweeping witness of Martin’s strength came in the Vancouver riding held by minister Herb Dhaliwal two weeks ago, when a Martin slate took over the executive of the local Liberal association. Dhaliwal had been intimating for weeks that he was likely to run for the party leadership. Since the coup in his home riding he’s been openly fuming, but not getting much sympathy from colleagues.
Earlier this year, Art Eggleton, the veteran defence minister, was cut by the PM over the embarrassment he created by assigning a contract to a former girlfriend. His replacement at the Defence Department, John McCallum, is a newish MP, touted as a future finance minister. His start was most inauspicious despite a bold bearing. Clearly, he had never learned much about our military history. Then, just over a week ago, came a possible explanation.
After McCallum was blocked by an airline clerk from boarding a flight for being “under the influence,” he reviewed his prospects and made a public pledge to henceforth abstain from the booze.
Then there was the still memorable drama, dragged out over the weeks of autumn, of Lawrence MacAulay’s generous and droll view of a minister’s prerogatives in getting juicy contracts for his bailiwick (P.E.I.) before he and the PM caved in and we got a new solicitor general from the backbench and the tip that MacAulay would soon be in the Senate.
Then came a mess much more serious, nationally and internationally, when Chretien’s communications director, in a conversation with a reporter at an overseas NATO conference, slurred the intelligence of U.S. President George Bush. After this became public knowledge there was a bone-headed delay in firing the aide, which guaranteed her “moron” remark became internationally known, before the PM accepted Francie Ducros’ resignation.
But the most telling of the messes has been triggered by tough remarks from auditor general Sheila Fraser last week about the deceit practised by the government in covering huge cost overruns in establishing a national firearms registry over the last five years.
That the registry was a mess was fairly well known on the Hill, thanks to the very able but so far unsung opposition MP from Yorkton, Garry Breitkreuz of the Alliance. His damning information on slow development, soaring costs and a botched “haywire” system was consistent. (I assume his best sources were in the RCMP.) Whoever kept him clued in, his analysis has now been confirmed by the auditor general. But all the way, from the registry’s first minister and sponsor, Allan Rock, through Anne McLellan, his successor at Justice (1997-2001) and in the past year Martin Cauchon, there has been bluff, brag and a dearth of accurate information on costs and problems.
McLellan would wax so shrilly and passionately as she cleverly denied or sidetracked Breitkreuz’s queries. She would pike at his purpose or its consequences, i.e., abetting the acquisition and use of guns for deeds like the infamous slaughter of women at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique. Oh, how we needed such a register! And, of course, recent opinion polling always showed the registry was among the most popular of the Chretien government’s programs.
In her long stint as justice minister, McLellan refused to concede the program was in a mess and with skyrocketing costs whenever she was braced in the House, often by the persistent Breitkreuz.
Last week, the auditor general’s critique of the registry as an unforgivable deception of Parliament became a good description of so much of the sham and stupidity in the Chretien government’s history. And it was ironically capped as such last Thursday when Liberal caucus rebels forced the government to put off a vote assigning another $70 million or so to the registry.
The predicted dollar cost of the registry to the government skied in five years from Rock’s opening forecast of $2 million to more than $800 million. It is now lurching toward $1 billion.
We even learned by indirection what some of us critical of the registry had thought possible: the zeal of those who had sought such a registry, mostly feminists, had like-minded surrogates within the Department of Justice setting up the system and its requirements. They hugely emphasized taking detailed information from the gun owners, making the whole file more than just a list kept up to date of who had a licence for what gun or guns. It suggested a system that was the first stage on the way to the eventual banning of private ownership of firearms.
In short, we have had more than mere faceless officials on the job listing guns and owners. We’ve had zealous idealists who believe owning and using a gun is un-Canadian. God forbid that Canada should retain any semblance of any inalienable right to own and bear arms, a right which has been so murderous in the United States!
Satisfying us caring, sharing, peaceable Canadians is very costly.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 04, 2002
ID: 12176620
TAG: 200212040534
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Barney Danson’s memoir, Not Bad for a Sergeant, set this reader thinking of the blessing it is when someone bright, curious, sunny and friendly bounces into a contentious gathering like the House of Commons. The result in Barney’s case was that rather rare being: a politician liked and appreciated by all the rest, whatever their party.
Danson was thrice elected MP for York North (1968, 1972 and 1974). His third mandate was washed away in 1979, an election in which a rather brief but strong anti-Trudeau tide ran through Ontario. In his stint of 11 years, Danson had the good fortune, earned by a forward pleasantness, of two years as parliamentary secretary to the prime minister, Pierre Trudeau, then two years as minister of a short-lived, experimental portfolio (Urban Affairs) and finally, three years as minister of National Defence (at which he was excelling when he lost his seat).
Now just past 80, Danson has much to recall that is interesting both before and after his time close up to Trudeau in his first three mandates. Few readers will dislike the man who is revealed with chatty authorial candor.
Long before Barney gained York North he had come out of a Toronto school to get a minion’s foothold in the movie booking trade. He had also joined and trained with a Toronto militia regiment which was to serve overseas in World War II. He volunteered for war, and was married in England before going briefly into battle in Normandy. In action, he suffered a severe head wound and was invalided back to Canada.
Back home, he successfully developed a company in the plastic business and began to take part in Liberal party groups centred around Paul Hellyer and Keith Davey. This led him into constituency work and eventually a search for a seat. He got the Liberal nomination in York North in 1968.
Post-politics, Barney spent two years as our consul in Boston, and when his term was not renewed by the Brian Mulroney government he came back with grace, not grievances, to Toronto, where he was soon working at creating a commuter airline and getting more and more involved in veterans’ interests. In the past six of seven years, he was a very active leader and fund-raiser on behalf of a film series and book, No Price too High, which set out to counter the CBC-NFB film series, The Valour and the Horror, which so denigrated and enraged Canadian soldiers and airmen.
Several years ago, in concert with historian Jack Granatstein, Danson helped block an official plan to insert a Holocaust museum within the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. After this success, the pair of them went on to get federal backing for a new Canadian War Museum on a site on the banks of the Ottawa River about 1,000 metres west of the Peace Tower.
In Danson’s years in the Trudeau government, his most interesting stuff to me is on how competently and fairly the highly intellectual PM conducted cabinet.
Whatever Trudeau was or wasn’t he didn’t stifle participation in discussion by ministers, showing patience in ensuring chances for debate on agenda items before moving past them.
There are half a dozen books at hand now by men who served in Trudeau cabinets and another one (by Allan MacEachan) which should be out within the next year. Four of the books have been rather like Danson’s in demonstrating Trudeau’s method and style in cabinet and with individual ministers. I refer to those by Mitchell Sharp, the late Gerard Pelletier, the late Mark MacGuigan and Eric Kierans.
It seems to me that Barney Danson was as close or closer to the PM as any other Anglo in the caucus. While his hero worship is clear in his awe at the wide reach and cool command of the prime minister, he was also increasingly aware well before the surprising victory Joe Clark won in 1979 that Trudeau was generating much antagonism. More and more, he was taken to be a most arrogant man who didn’t give a damn about social and economic matters.
Danson doesn’t over-indulge in the worthiness of the particular interests which he pursued as backbencher or as minister, and he deserves to be proud for one opinion he mentions but doesn’t hammer home. In the relatively brief run he had at Defence his energy, keen interest, and personal warmth won much approval in the ranks. Here was a minister who both cared for the military and its roles and did something about it. The long slide to the present poor condition of the services began when Trudeau came back to power in 1980 and Danson was in Boston.
The program (to my surprise) which Danson helped establish and seems most proud about was Katimavik, a youth service and training corps. Although this later became identified with the man who eventually became its best-known sponsor, Sen. Jacques Hebert, Danson was its sparkplug. Hebert, a close friend of Trudeau, gave Katimavik a strenuous goodbye, through a long sit-in in the Senate’s foyer to protest the decision of the Mulroney government to cancel it.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, December 01, 2002
ID: 12175925
TAG: 200212010251
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Suddenly (or so it seems) our politics, seemingly so pragmatic, is being challenged by ideology. We are polarizing on the right and on the left. We can see this in our responses to the Kyoto accord, to the global role of the Bush regime next door, and to our troubled health system.
The recent shaping of discussion over the national system of medicare may remind some of us the long time it took in Canada to attain a universal, publicly funded health system. Although the Liberals first put it in their platform in 1919, they didn’t complete its main provisions until a half-century later. Today, we have in hand the report of the Romanow Commission, set up to review the health system and to recommend remedies for its difficulties.
While it’s not a surprise that the commission stands firmly behind a universal, public system, it is also not surprising there are so many who would turn the system toward a private enterprise future, responsive to market forces and having the efficiency of private enterprise over public enterprise. This is the stance of the Canadian Alliance party, the official opposition in Ottawa, and close to that of the premiers of Alberta, B.C. and Ontario, who roughly want more federal money for health and not much else. Quebec, though not like-minded about the advantages of private enterprise, just wants more federal money without any federal role in setting and minding priorities and standards in a constitutional field so clearly provincial.
On health, the split across the country is between those of us who believe in a universal public health service and those of us who are sure a better, more progressive or responsive health service is readily possible through a privatized health system based on fees-for-service.
On Kyoto, as with health, the ideological split is most apparent in Alberta and B.C., provinces which have much in those natural resources whose conversion creates air pollution. It’s clear that business, in particular large-scale corporate business in B.C., Alberta and Ontario, are very chary about the federal government installing a regime of watch, ward and controls which reduce industrial pollution but handicap the industries with higher costs, particularly in relation to competitors in countries like the U.S., which reject Kyoto.
As with health care, we have an incomplete but substantial federal-provincial split over which way to deal with a very major issue which globally, continentally and domestically is destined for a long life.
It seems to me Kyoto is a clear example of the federal Liberals behaving as left-wingers, supported by the two openly left-wing groups in the House, the Bloc Quebecois and the NDP.
At first look, the challenge to Canadians from the global mission against evil that President George Bush is leading the U.S., and other nations within its suasion, hardly seems an ideological one of left or centre or right, but I think it is. Let me pick one slight reading of this in the poll results from a question posed its readers last Wednesday by the Globe and Mail about the tagging of the president as a “moron”by Jean Chretien’s press chief.
The question was: should Francoise Ducros have lost her job for calling the U.S. president a moron?
The response just before the question disappeared from the paper’s Web site was unusually large:
Yes – 11,188, or 54%.
No – 9,723, or 46%.
How to figure that result? Not only was “moron” a brutal tag for a most active president who has some knotty Canadian issues before him, the explanations in excusing the tag from Ducros and Chretien were pathetic. Nonetheless, close to half who answered were really forgiving them both and barbing the president.
Perhaps this was mere kindliness, but I read it as evidence of the substantial antagonism among Canadians, which I believe is rooted in an ideology which rejects the aims and values of Bush and/or the United States. This seems to me more than mere moral superiority or a patriotic response to American chauvinism. It fits with the broad theme one often hears from those critical of America: they extol a very different society, a kinder, more caring one than that of our neighbours, the witness to which can be found in our health, welfare and pension services, our expanding profusion of parks, the abandonment of capital punishment, the availability of abortion, and so on.
It would seem that in the very short run – i.e., to the day Jean Chretien is succeeded by Paul Martin – we are in a heyday period for the left-leaners, the so-called “real” Liberals, for Jean Chretien. Few of us have thought about the ideological factors in the major achievements of his long goodbye, i.e., of the Kyoto accord and the Romanow report (which will so dominate the coming federal budget).
It seems to me Chretien has a wide and deep political attitude across Canada supporting him in these two aims. He also has the good fortune that the prime opposition to him on Kyoto and Romanow is Stephen Harper and the Alliance, emphasizing private enterprise, less federal government and more power to the provinces but very limited in national influence through being so regionally confined in the West.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, November 27, 2002
ID: 12174551
TAG: 200211270336
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


It has been my argument since the mid-’90s that in cabinet-making Jean Chretien didn’t give much thought to picking the ablest in his caucus.
This has been revealed in mediocre to poor cabinet performances, so often an embarrassment to the many talented backbenchers having to sit and listen to doltish ministers such as David Collenette and Elinor Caplan.
It has become the worst of times for the PM. The quiet and safety of his retirement is still a year away. Given that the ministerial sun shall set within 12-14 months for many in this cabinet cast, it’s a good time to note who’s gone, who’s still there and who might serve the next prime minister.
Following a third election mandate just two years ago, Jean Chretien named his third ministry. It was large, at 38 members. Since then 11 ministers have gone, and nine new ones have been appointed.
Of the Chretien cast late in 2000, 10 of the 38 were mere ministers, not members of the cabinet. Rather, they were called “secretaries of state.” The other 28 were full members of cabinet.
Of the 11 ministers who have gone, eight were members of cabinet – Herb Gray, Brian Tobin, Paul Martin, Maria Minna, Alfonso Gagliano, Ron Duhamel, Art Eggleton and Lawrence MacAulay – and three were mere ministers – Hedy Fry, Jim Peterson and Gilbert Normand.
There have been eight cabinet add-ons since November, 2000: Robert Thibault, a Nova Scotian, as minister of Fisheries; Rey Pagtakhan, a Winnipegger, as Veterans Affairs minister (in place of Ron Duhamel who died); Bill Graham, Foreign Affairs, in place of John Manley; Susan Whelan, a Windsor MP who took over from Minna (fired as minister for international co-operation); Gerry Byrne, who replaced Tobin as Newfoundland’s man in the cabinet and has been put in charge of the Atlantic Canada economic file; John McCallum, who replaced Eggleton, fired at National Defence; and Wayne Easter, who has taken the place of MacAulay, a fellow “Islander,” as solicitor general. Dennis Coderre, a non-cabinet minister (in charge of sport) was elevated to cabinet rank on taking over Citizenship and Immigration from Caplan, who was shifted to National Revenue.
The sensible way to rate ministers is to note the most significant of the portfolios. Some are far more vital than others. Finance has always come first (now with Manley); then Justice (now with Martin Cauchon), then Health (Anne McLellan) and Foreign Affairs.
The House Leader (Don Boudria) is always important, particularly for a healthy, loyal caucus. Ministers for both Heritage and Human Resources (Sheila Copps and Jane Stewart respectively) are much seen and heard, and at this time because of the embarrassing legacy of the departed Alfonso Gagliano at Public Works, his successor, Ralph Goodale, needs to be (and is) a rock. The Ministry for International Trade (Pierre Pettigrew) is in an unusually difficult period (vis-a-vis U.S. trade) and Indian Affairs (Robert Nault), though never seen as ultra-important, has truly become the most difficult trial of all.
In my estimate of the 10 above-mentioned incumbents, seven of them have the wit, self-confidence and the track record to be assets to the next prime minister, provided none figuratively slashes his/her throat in the leadership contest ahead. The seven are the cream of cabinet – Manley, McLellan, Copps, Goodale, Pettigrew, Graham and Cauchon. The three who do not so figure (in my view) are: Boudria, who has been extreme in his loyalty to Chretien and most reluctant on House reform; Stewart, a minister who has only survived through the PM willing it; and Nault, whose modest initiatives in Indian Affairs have raised the ire of the scores of chiefs whose grievances dominate this portfolio.
Of the other cabinet ministers, two are clearly capable enough – Stephane Dion (Intergovernmental Affairs) and Herb Dhaliwal (Natural Resources) – but seem too identified with Chretien and too critical of Martin for him to welcome if he should win.
The new minister of defence, John McCallum, has quickly established himself as confident far beyond his capacity to inform himself and explain his role. It’s hard to believe he was once touted for Finance.
Denis Coderre (think Immigration) has proven bumptious and most strident for his “boss.” So far, Thibault, newish at Fisheries, seems just another in the familiar, rough-tough partisanship of the Maritimes. Byrne, the Newfoundland minister, is too green to rate.
This sketch of those ministers most likely to be without limousines after Chretien departs ends with those who’ve been in the cabinet for a long time without exciting anyone who is looking for proven quality and an earned repute, beginning with the most over-trumpeted minister, Allan Rock (Industry). The reality is that Rock, despite both glibness and a proud bearing, has been just as much a dud as two other ministers from Toronto, Collenette and Caplan. Then there are the very tired: David Anderson (Environment), Lyle Vanclief (Agriculture), and Claudette Bradshaw (Labor).

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 24, 2002
ID: 12640416
TAG: 200211240267
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Who has bumbled the Kyoto treaty the most? Jean Chretien and the feds? The premiers, particularly Ralph Klein? Paul Martin? The opposition parties, perhaps? Canadian environmentalists?
Conventional wisdom holds that Jean Chretien’s surprise decision to ratify the Kyoto treaty by Christmas, after years of prevarication, was ill-considered, if only because it caught his own government off guard.
At the time Ottawa had no plan to meet the treaty requirement that Canada reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 6% from those of 1997, nor any credible assessment of what the economic impact of this would be. More worrisome, the decision also blindsided the provinces and big business, which had not been effectively consulted in advance of the announcement.
Today we are seeing the opening shots of what promises to be a long, nasty, classic fight between our two senior levels of government. As in previous federal/provincial dustups, the initial volley from both sides was of polls, meant to show support for their positions.
Ottawa and its supporters say their polls show most Canadians believe global warming is a fact and want the treaty ratified. These same polls – and those done for Alberta – also show most Canadians are generally ignorant of the treaty’s specifics and its likely economic impact. This has led some to conclude that public opinion on the matter has not likely jelled.
Alberta quickly moved to phase two of its assault on Kyoto when it ran ads meant to instill fear over its possible economic effects. The province is now preparing a third front in the courts, where it will challenge Ottawa’s authority to impose treaty requirements.
Ottawa may have the early edge in public opinion, but chaos within the Chretien ranks (see repeated postponement of a meeting between the federal environment minister and his counterparts in the provinces) leaves it vulnerable, as does the ongoing Liberal leadership race.
Last Thursday Ottawa delivered a revised implementation plan which it hopes will mollify some of the provinces, isolate Alberta and ease business concerns. But it still looks like it is making things up as it goes along.
Recent musings on Kyoto by Paul Martin and some of his operatives haven’t made things clearer. His “insiders” hinted he might not honour a Chretien treaty commitment, or might unilaterally vary the emissions reduction targets. The outcry these comments produced forced a “clarification” from Martin: he’ll support ratification – but he would have waited longer to ratify, to allow for further consultation with the provinces.
The opposition parties haven’t distinguished themselves in the Kyoto war either. The Alliance, playing to its base in Alberta (whose energy industry is likely to be the major economic casualty of the treaty), opposes Kyoto, questioning the science behind it, Ottawa’s implementation plans, and estimates of its economic impact.
The Bloc, believing Quebec’s huge emissions-free hydro-electric resources give it an edge over rival Ontario, whose industries will have tough times living up to Kyoto, supports ratification. The NDP, playing to its backers in the environmental movement, also endorses Kyoto.
None of the opposition parties has offered much in the way of analysis that responds to key questions: What will the treaty cost Canada in terms of lost and foregone jobs and in reduced competitiveness relative to the U.S.?
Our environmentalists, chief boosters of the treaty, haven’t helped on this score either. In fact, their penchant for denouncing opponents as being only interested in “corporate profits” runs the risk of creating the impression that they’d be happy if the treaty did cripple Canadian industry.
Some of them, likening the debate to that over free trade 14 years ago, lampoon their business critics for being unwilling “to take a chance” on Kyoto as Canada did on free trade in 1988. They’d do well to recall that that battle was won (via an election, no less) following a lengthy public debate. To carry the day on Kyoto, its backers need to show ordinary Canadians that they won’t lose their jobs to the treaty. That’s a tall order for a group not noted for their economic analyses.
The issue just ahead of us is not ratifying Kyoto. The fix on that is in! Rather, it is whether Canada will live up to its requirements. If Canadians don’t understand its costs or how these will be dealt with, or come to believe that these are too high, the treaty will fail, ratification or no. To date none of the participants in the debate have done much to help their fellow citizens sort these issues out.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, November 20, 2002
ID: 12638974
TAG: 200211200519
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


It is a fretful time for all the partisan sides on the Hill. Unless something sensible happens very soon, it will be so until the early spring of 2004. Then the new Liberal prime minister is almost certain to be going to the people for a full, majority mandate.
The present House of Commons has recently become much like minority ones of the past – i.e., in ’57-’58, ’62-’63, ’63-’65, ’65-’68, ’72-’74 and ’79-’80. In those Houses, most MPs were more or less on edge over when the crash would come.
Of course, the new situation which has wiped away the equilibrium of the large clutch of Liberal MPs and startled the opposition MPs came on suddenly once the differences between Jean Chretien and Paul Martin broke into the open last summer. The minister of finance resigned, and ever since we’ve been finding out how thoroughly he had control of the party organization and its membership, and what seems at least half of the government caucus.
The revelation of Martin’s massive grip on the party has taken some months to sink in all round, and for outsiders to raise a question that now seems he himself acted on months ago. Given the mass of money and Grit apparatchiks he commands, why did he settle for Chretien’s long goodbye, and in particular that his successor would gain the leader’s title in November 2003, but not the PMO until February 2004? This is a stupidity for all concerned, including the departing star, and it is an abomination for the opposition parties in the House, trying to fulfill its role while facing ministers, most of whom are very unsure how long they’ll have limousines. (See the case of Herb Dhaliwal, a Chretien loyalist whose riding association is now dominated by Martinites.)
Already, with 14 months to go, one can see the strain on both Chretien and Martin. Some of us sense murmurs of sympathy growing out there across this great land, firstly for the dictatorial one who has really been deposed, and not for the dauphin – and secondly for the poor simps who have posed as leadership contenders but are starting way, way back in funding and membership votes.
As for the chief Liberal in all but name, Martin faces months more of posturing and waffling as he does so – just recall him the other day about Kyoto. Oh, yes, he’s for ratification, but not until there is a consensus. What bilge!
It doesn’t take anyone who cares for a busy parliament with some good legislation and serious scrutiny of spending to suggest that the maestros of our usual ruling party, including the regional chairs of the parliamentary caucus, should get together immediately.
First, they should try to move the leadership vote ahead to September. Second, they must persuade Chretien to do the gracious thing – walk out of the PMO, head high, a week after the winner is known. And if they fail on both these changes, then at least convince the PM to walk after a result in November. He’s no fool. Surely he’s aware that marking time from November to February ends his years at the top in a farce.
Now, to come back to the reasons why this third mandate of Jean Chretien has been a weird one.
It began with the civil war which raged in the Canadian Alliance, as so many of its MPs and almost everybody else on the Hill realized the enormity of the party’s mischoice in Stockwell Day.
The Alliance show was a haywire rampage for the media pack, with changing seats, defections, and near-defections as a moderately effective caucus in the House plummeted through imbecile tactics. It seemed an act of God, almost, when the ultimate replacement came for the empty-headed Day in the form of Stephen Harper, the studious icicle.
The Alliance has been rallying but its progress is slow, and some of its ablest MPs (who led the swing to liaise with the Tories) are in a kind of caucus Coventry. Harper may see the Chretien-Martin tussle as a wonderful fiasco for him to exploit. This may be a gross misjudgment if the public just turns further off all the federal gangs until this nonsensical parliament is over.
Of course, the Tories suffered from the failure of the Clark semi-coalition with doubters of Day, and they have their own leadership convention as a daunting challenge to get through with attention gained and merit shown. And the same challenge faces the New Democrats.
So at least four of the five present parties of the House should be glad to reduce the length of this Parliament and get to expose their new-to-newish leaders directly to the voters.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 17, 2002
ID: 12638192
TAG: 200211170378
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


When Pierre Trudeau put Jean Chretien into his first ministry in 1968 he was certainly not seen as advancing a protege or acolyte. And though Trudeau made much use of the populist “petit gars,” he barely cloaked his disdain for the latter’s intellect. As other ministers like Paul Hellyer and Eric Kierans fled the ministry to escape the PM’s arrogance, Chretien endured the indignities, moved up the cabinet table – and kept a discriminating eye on his benefactor.
Prime Minister Chretien learned from his former boss’ mistakes; witness his fix on balancing the government’s books. He also took a different tack on federal relations: he hasn’t sought unnecessary fights with the provinces. This, however, may be changing as the Chretien era comes to its close.
Storm clouds loom on two fronts: health care and ratification of the Kyoto treaty. Neither bodes well for the country, or for the fortunes of Chretien’s successor.
The relative peace between Ottawa and the provinces since 1993 has been remarkable given that the principal Chretien achievement – balancing the budget – was achieved largely on the backs of the provinces. Aside from crippling cuts to defence, Ottawa did little to rein in its own spending, instead realizing most of its budget savings through cuts to transfers provided to the provinces for health care. Only now are the latter banding to attack the feds, via television and print ad campaigns.
Has Chretien been smart – or lucky – in his relations with the provinces? Both!
Consider this: Chretien is as ardent a foe of Quebec separatism as Trudeau ever was, pushing a hard line even when it cost him support amongst the nation’s intelligentsia. Caught off guard by sovereignty’s strong showing in the last referendum, Chretien reacted in typical bare-knuckle style.
Unfazed by accusations his troops might have let a few million dollars go astray in the fight, he continued to pump billions into the province to put the lie to the argument that Quebec doesn’t benefit from confederation. But unlike Trudeau, he limited the fight to Quebec. He saw no need to outline a vision for the country that would offend the other provinces. That was smart.
But he’s also been lucky. The arrival of the Mike Harris government in Ontario was a godsend. The national media immediately blamed the Harris tax cuts for the health care crisis in the keystone province. The facts were largely ignored: That Ontario’s health care spending continued to rise; that all provinces regardless of their ideological stripe faced similar problems; that cuts to federal transfers had a huge impact (and were key to the feds’ financial turnaround). The provinces were too preoccupied with restructuring their health care systems to mount a co-ordinated response.
Today, the premiers are gearing up to deal with Ottawa’s response to Roy Romanow’s report on the health care system. Choosing Romanow to head the inquiry guaranteed conflict with Ontario and Alberta, which had already indicated a desire to increase the private sector’s role in health care (B.C.’s newish Liberal government has similar views).
While the looming fight over health care may be the inevitable, if delayed, reaction to Ottawa’s deficit-eliminating cuts to health transfers, Romanow’s report will almost certainly make it worse.
Kyoto is different. Since the prime minister’s surprise announcement that Canada would ratify the treaty and do it before Christmas, it has become clear that outside of the environment department, no one in Ottawa believed we would embrace Kyoto – and so no one bothered to develop a plan to meet its targets or assess what this would mean in jobs lost, etc. Ironically, the only province wholly onside is Quebec, which sees its hydroelectric capacity as giving it a significant advantage over Ontario as both seek post-Kyoto investment.
Some will argue that greater friction between Ottawa and the provinces is neither new nor worrisome. Those who feel Ottawa knows best (I’m not one of them) will no doubt welcome a more activist national government. To these folks, a caution: Ottawa is ill-equipped to deal with such conflict.
The reasons are obvious. The PM is a lame duck. His key ministers are either preoccupied with leadership bids or with their chances of making a Paul Martin cabinet. And Martin? It appears he intends to play it safe.
Finally, the Kyoto debacle has shown that in the absence of direction from the federal politicians, their bureaucracy is incapable of preparing options for the coming fights. This certainly is not the way to go into battle with the provinces.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, November 13, 2002
ID: 12636872
TAG: 200211130519
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


A week ago Lucienne Robillard, MP and watchdog of the cabinet as head of Treasury Board, announced a renewed drive to ensure the government’s several thousand senior mandarins are fluent in both French and English and work in both.
In making her pitch, the minister made a statement which deserves more examination, especially by present and would-be politicians.
Robillard has made few waves in seven years in cabinet but when she speaks she seems both well-briefed and careful. Here are her remarks indicating there is or ought to be a new postulate in federal, partisan politics.
“It is impossible to imagine a prime minister of Canada not being bilingual.”
She went on: “How can we imagine a deputy minister or a manager who is bilingual supervising employees who speak one of the other languages? The time has come for all of us to lead by actions and not by words.”
Of course, a lot of us recall prime ministers who have been unilingual (English!) and who left some real legacies. One thinks of Mackenzie King (who counted much on his Quebec lieutenants, Ernest Lapointe and Louis St. Laurent) or Lester Pearson.
Of course, if it becomes a rule of politics that a prime minister must be capably bilingual, a corollary is plain – any leader of an opposition party which merits electors’ consideration should also meet the rule. And this would have cancelled the like of Preston Manning or Ed Broadbent or even Robert Stanfield, the man Dalton Camp said was “the best prime minister we never had.”
This year Liberals, Tories, and New Democrats are choosing new political leaders. Has Dennis Mills fluency in French? Not really, but has John Manley, or even Paul Martin? Just two years ago Martin told me his French was very shaky. Martin, Manley and Allan Rock make bold occasionally in French but clearly Sheila Copps is the gifted bilingual in the Liberal cast of aspiration. As for the Tories, their best choices are like to be the MPs Peter MacKay and Scott Brison, and neither is fluent in French, but Heward Grafftey, their septuagenarian rival, certainly is. The NDP has two able veteran MPs in its race, Bill Blaikie and Lorne Nystrom. Lorne has French, Bill doesn’t. Reporters keep insisting another contender, Jack Layton, is “fluently bilingual” so the rule would KO Bill but sanction Lorne and Jack.
Robillard’s remarks may be taken by some as a wish rather than a rule of our politics. The problem is that a growing number of political writers and academics have been saying the same thing.
Political columnists who prescribe bilingual proficiency as an imperative for would-be prime ministers, include Chantal Hebert, Graham Fraser, and Jim Travers of TorStar, Jeffry Simpson and William Johnson of the Globe and Mail, and Paul Wells of the National Post. (I believe each of them rates a fully-bilingual billing).
There are three general factors which should argue much hesitation before politicians, parties, and journalists fully embrace the bilingual doctrine for leaders. One is the very limited progress made in developing a growing proportion of citizens who are bilingual in English and French despite more than three decades of high subsidies and much proselytizing.
Second, because of the very low birth rate in Quebec and a comparatively smaller intake in francophone immigrants, the proportion of those who speak French in the home has been sliding.
Third, in recent decades there has been a marked westward shift from west of Ottawa to B.C. in the economy’s strength, the intake of immigrants, and the population as a whole without any companion shift in the presence of francophones.
Next month the data on language from the 2001 census will be out. The percentage of those whose basic language is French will likely show a slide of a point or a point and a half from just below the 24% it nudged to a decade ago.
The plain fact is the proportion of franco to anglo in Canada is nearing one in five. Further, the “one” is overwhelmingly in one province, Quebec, and its governments have tended to promote the franco and downplay or sequester the anglo, defending such distinctions as vital in surviving under the huge global pressures of anglicization.
This is not a plea for a unilingual anglophone as a federal party leader but a suggestion we examine closely the limitations there will be on attracting and choosing the ablest persons if having a truly bilingual leader becomes the observed rule. Good though it would be to have one, surely a bilingual PM is not a “sine qua non.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 10, 2002
ID: 12636148
TAG: 200211100273
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


The word this remembrance season is of an extraordinary demand for poppies, the symbol of respect shown those who served Canada in its wars.
The news is pleasing to me, as someone who was in the army in World War II and who is a columnist for the magazine of the Royal Canadian Legion. Of course, the Legion is sponsor, sales force and benefactor of the annual poppy drive.
Long before writing for Legion magazine, I knew – who could miss it? – about the ignorance or disinterest of so many Canadians, including some veterans, in the deeds of Canadians in WW II.
To put forth some perspective, a population of just over 11 million in 1939 had reached around 12 million in 1945. In that period, some 1.25 million Canadians served in the army, navy, or air force.
Today, we have a population of just over 30 million, and I understand only about three million are alive of the wartime 12 million. Of the 1.25 million who served in uniform only some 380,000 are still alive – and their numbers are sliding fast.
The membership of the Royal Canadian Legion is down around the 400,000 mark, of whom more than half are sons, daughters, etc., of war veterans or men and women who’ve been in the services since WW II.
Arguably, the Legion has been as worthwhile a volunteer organization of citizens as any in our history. The Legion and its blazered members are much in evidence in the papers and on TV for a week or so, each year, cresting on Nov. 11. But continuously the branch buildings have activities on the go.
The organization, as I see it, has had three interwoven functions since long before WW II:
1) To openly foster remembrance, with such programs as poppies and august public ceremonies.
2) To be responsible for a continuous exchange with the federal government on the needs of veterans and good advice for the administration as it fulfills the purposes assigned by Parliament to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
3) To have the branches as locales and sponsors of ongoing social, recreational, and sporting programs for both veterans and people of the community, and as the action centres for both remembrance and the counselling of veterans with needs.
Legion branches have been having their difficulties with an aging and now rapidly disappearing membership, especially the many branches in the small towns of rural Canada and the bush hinterlands where population growth is stagnant or declining.
Whether the Legion, with its active roots in communities from Labrador to the Yukon and a national, federated command structure, is still a communal and national entity with roles and abilities 20 or 30 years from now is possible but far from certain. So much depends on the new members the branches are able to secure. Recruiting goes better when there’s a broad awareness of what Canadian units have done in wars and in sustaining peace in parts of the world. If we are into a period of something like patriotic support and respect for our military and their work, all to the good. Remembrance becomes real, not mere gesture.
My now habitual rite of remembrance comes each spring and fall when Legion magazine runs an appendix listing the death notices sent in by the branches. This November’s runs to 40 pages and over 4,000 names. Each time, I find several dozens whom I’ve known. To illustrate, here are four listings: a regimental comrade of mine; a most controversial journalist and super-escapee; a fascinating native Canadian; and a former politician.
Zroback, Capt. Kasimir (Ki) – H77375; 313423815; 12th Manitoba Dragoons; RCAF, WW II, July 4, age 83. Life member, Qualicum Beach Br., B.C. (Oh, was he a sharp, able soldier.)
Collins, Sgt. Douglas – 849575, Army, WW II, Sept.29, 2001, age 81, West Vancouver Br. (A journalist much maligned for downplaying the Holocaust but a wonder at escapes during five years as a PoW.)
Barnes, Cpl. Joseph – 1365728, U.S. Marines, U.S. Navy, Cdn Army, Korean war, Regular Force, Vietnam, Apr. 17, 2002, age 65, Life Member, Mohawk Br., Kahnawake, Que. (Somehow the age is wrong, but what tales Joseph must have had for the Mohawk warriors.)
Whicher, Ross M. – A47031, 4th A/T Regt., WW II, Apr. 19, age 85. Life member, past pres., Wiarton Br., Ont. (Ross was a vigorous, crotchety Liberal MPP at Queen’s Park, then an MP for Bruce riding during Pierre Trudeau’s first term.)
Although wading through 4,000 odd entries like this may seem a burdensome rite of remembrance, it gives me a better understanding of Canada’s make-up. How widely distributed across the land were the volunteers. How various their ethnicities – so long before official multiculturalism. How active in the work of the Legion female veterans have been.
An obvious aspect in the list is the wondrous variety in each of the armed forces of medical, technical, supply and administrative functions. The totals of such support personnel rival the numbers who served at war’s sharp end – the infantrymen, tankers and gunners of the army or those who manned the bombers and the corvettes.
For me, each Legion death list mirrors the greatest collective effort Canadians have made. We did great things together and carried over into peace a common imperative to get ahead. The successes in action ended in 1945, but more was to come. Even if few of the veterans made much of their deeds publicly, most came back, enjoying civilian life and doing well in a very good country. This most veterans know. May the generations to come learn to know it too.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, November 06, 2002
ID: 12634925
TAG: 200211060509
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


The drama yesterday afternoon in the House of Commons over the vote on how committee chairs would be chosen had a churlish prelude because of Jean Chretien’s stubborn refusal to acknowledge any real concession was involved.
The PM even went on to brag that those committees which had already picked their chairs by ballot had gone for Liberals and rejected Alliance MPs as vice-chairs. In short, Chretien wasn’t conceding there was anything to the passage of the Alliance motion about secret balloting.
And he could be right. After the triumph of the Alliance motion there seemed to be a powerful determination by almost the whole Liberal caucus to radiate solidarity in the second vote of the afternoon in which all Grits rejected the Tory motion about the government’s inadequate backing of the Canadian military.
Loyalty and solidarity have been the articles of Liberal faith for so long. The comfort showed on the Liberal MPs’ faces as they all voted together, almost as though they regretted so many of them had taken Paul Martin’s cue and approved secret balloting in choosing House committee chairs, against the PM’s wishes.
It seems to me Martin earned praise from any would-be advocate of parliamentary reform in what he said after the votes. He repeated his credo that there ought to be much more freedom in House votes for MPs. Each one should be able to vote in line with his constituents’ clear wishes or with his own conscience on ethical or moral issues. It seemed implicit this would be the situation if, as is widely assumed, Martin becomes prime minister when Chretien’s lengthy farewell is over.
There are two points about the freedom-for-MPs issue: one about the obligations of such freedom on opposition MPs; the other about what such freedom should encourage in terms of more collegiality and far less petty, partisan nit-picking in committee activities.
Years ago, I remember the satirical ridicule of political reporters by columnist George Bain of the Globe and Mail. How they jeered at MPs as “trained seals” or sheep, easily herded by the party whips when it came to votes in the House. But on the rare occasions one or a few MPs chose to break partisan solidarity, reporters at once become Chicken Littles, crying crisis in the party ranks and a falling sky. Bain said if such choices were taken as normal, even as respectable, we could see seals disappear from the House.
My second point is to emphasize how great it can be for those MPs on House committees when they know they’re doing good work and offering the Commons and the government sound analysis and recommendations.
This literally wonderful possibility in committee work has often foundered on the fears of those leading the parties in the House. They fear the slippage or even the loss of the adversarial or partisan core in our parliamentary system, and this may come if we have a package of procedural reforms beginning with the use of secret balloting in picking committee chairpersons.
The danger is that a collegial co-operation among the members of the different parties often takes shape through many hearings and through several sessions, particularly if a committee is chaired by a strong, able personality. The very confidence in being the honest choice adds to the chair’s status and the idea that the committee is its members’ institution with a common purpose for the public good, rather than a totally partisan “pro forme” operation at the end of the PMO’s super-long arm.
In previous Parliaments, it sometimes has happened: a committee strongly led becomes united and seized with purpose, rather than a group constantly split by the primacy of one party within it and the rather hollow diversity of four or five partisan postures. When collegiality begins to shape up, both the relevant ministers and their deputy-ministers, whose legislation or departmental spending is before such a committee, become uneasy.
It only takes a session or two in a much altered House – say as after the ’93 election sweep – before opinions firm up among MPs on both sides about the competence, integrity and diligence of their backbench colleagues in all parties.
The MPs know and appreciate an able, fair chairman, just as most MPs in the present House know the many doughheads in the Chretien ministry – a prime explanation as to why Martin could recruit such backing in the Liberal caucus.
MPs of all parties also know the government whip often assigns an upwardly-mobile cipher to chair a committee because he or she will do as told by the whip or ministerial aides. On some occasions, the government whip will assign hard, highly partisan MPs to a particular committee because the party frets about its own “loose fish” Liberals on a committee or some clever, dangerous opposition characters. And so the response is to send in the dependables, rather like the “enforcers” an NHL coach has at hand.
To conclude, on yesterday’s House vote think of the old saying, “One swallow doesn’t make a summer.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 30, 2002
ID: 12909773
TAG: 200210300303
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Matthew: chapter 10, verse 29 comes to mind when the political media fixes so much on leaders and ministers.
“Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.”
This verse inspired the Sunday school song favourite, “He sees the little sparrows fall … He loves me too, He loves me too.”
Well, my colleagues and I give so much of our time or space to the eagles – the PM and his ministers and, often, the leaders of opposition parties – and give scant notice to the sparrows of the House, its backbenchers.
Several recent items indicate what we miss or do not report. The first two shook me because they seemed so far-fetched.
One was in a column in Elm Street magazine by the left-wing radical Judy Rebick. In it she made a stoutly reasoned pitch for Libby Davies, an MP from Vancouver, as a new leader for the New Democrats and a prospective prime minister.
The other was in a lucid column last week in The Toronto Star by Jim Travers on the likelihood that David Collenette would become prime minister (a “caretaker prime minister”) if, as is certainly possible, Jean Chretien left early because of further cabinet crises or his own common sense.
Travers recognizes Collenette as a crony of the PM and the long, high-level participation of he and his wife in the Liberal party, but he is also frank about his very modest substance as a minister since 1993 (first at defence, then at transport). Even so, it is numbing, even preposterous, to think David Collenette might be a prime minister of Canada.
But when one puts such speculation alongside Rebick’s hymn on the suitability of Libby Davies for leading the NDP, and Canada, the latter is less shocking. No MP of any party in this Parliament has acutely shown more passionate understanding of the conditions and the needs of the weak and homeless of our cities than Davies.
The odds are good you’ve not heard or read much about her, or about two veteran Liberal backbenchers, Carolyn Parrish and John Bryden, who got brief mention in some papers last week by bucking Chretien’s House leader and caucus whips.
Parrish, an aggressive, sometimes cranky MP who represents Mississauga Centre, announced boldly she would persist in voting in an important House committee for the use of a secret ballot in choosing its chairperson, rather than docilely raising her hand for whatever Grit MP is selected for the role by the PMO.
As for Bryden, MP for Wentworth-Burlington, he deserves much public appreciation. So do his fellow Liberal backbenchers Dennis Mills (Broadview Greenwood), Carolyn Bennett (St. Paul’s) and Reg Alcock (Winnipeg South). All of them, week after week, push vigorously for more participation in legislating or a more open, accountable public service.
Last week, Dr. Bennett was hammering at her central theme of bettering medicare, and in the doing, showing more understanding and optimism than Anne McLellan, the minister of health (who is well above average in a weak cabinet).
Last week, Mills, surely the Liberal MP with the best record for both fresh political propositions and organizing major events, was challenging Paul Martin to debate him in the open on the so-called “democratic deficit.” He set out arguments that Martin’s initial reform proposals were floss and gloss, and suggested a blockbuster reform: a caucus vote every second year on the performance of the Liberal leader.
Last week, Alcock was defending Martin’s six provisions for reform. In doing so, he showed more understanding of the backbenchers’ dilemmas and needs than has the recent minister of finance.
Bryden is a House sparrow to be cherished and recognized; a rarity among MPs of a governing party. He not only wants better government, he works for it. He is after an accessible government with open records and a close accounting by mandarins called by MPs in committee.
Better than any other MP, Bryden spends much time in the House, taking part whenever possible. His mission does not include trolling for a scrum. He is always questioning, always analyzing.
So last week, speaking for a volunteer group of MPs from all parties intent on good government, he was repeating their demand for “access” to senior federal officials. This was denied by the government House leader, but Bryden will keep pressing.
So it is regrettable that the relatively few eagles of the House get so much coverage and so many worthy among the sparrows get so little.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 27, 2002
ID: 12909382
TAG: 200210270261
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Four topical stories in the federal capital share a common sub-text, one which all Canadians, especially MPs, ought to ponder. The link between them? The poor performance and accountability of the federal bureaucracy.
The stories are: 1) the release of a paper offering top mandarins’ opinions on the public service; 2) reports the government is considering new accountability guidelines for senior bureaucrats; 3) the release of the government’s long-awaited ethics package; and 4) Paul Martin’s plans to counter Canada’s “democratic deficit.”
According to the aforementioned paper, 33 deputy ministers, associate and assistant deputy ministers indicated in interviews they believe the public service does a good job managing existing programs. This may surprise Canadians, who wondered and puzzled in the wake of the HRDC bookkeeping scandal a few years ago, or the recent news there are five million more SIN cards in circulation than there should be, if Ottawa has any management smarts when it comes to their dollars. The rosy view of the mandarins does, however, help explain why the auditor general found it necessary to note in her most recent report that the problems she’d identified in previous years have not been addressed.
The interviewees do admit to problems within the system: “There is full agreement that everything is not working well in the overall policy research, analysis, development and implementation system … There are still too many policies that simply ‘don’t work.'”
But don’t mistake this for self-criticism. The blame lies, they say, with their political masters and the Privy Council Office for failing to insist on quality research and for approving initiatives lacking solid analysis and data.
Of course, the interviewees approved all of those notes and memoranda to cabinet. Aren’t they accountable for the quality of their departments’ analyses? Aren’t they responsible for the hiring, training, and disciplining of those who wrote them? Haven’t we been told for years by the likes of Mitchell Sharp and Arthur Kroeger (both former senior deputy ministers) that such matters fall entirely within the purview of the bureaucracy and are off-limits to the ministers?
The astonishing abdication of responsibility revealed in this report by the best and brightest of the bureaucracy (almost all of whom receive yearly bonuses for “superior” work) ought to set ministers thinking hard about the need to reassert some notion of bureaucratic responsibility. Perhaps this has happened.
Last Monday, it was reported the government is considering “guidelines” to make senior bureaucrats more accountable.
These would move Canada closer to current British practice in which private secretaries (deputy ministers) and other senior officials are accountable to Parliament for their actions and those of their subordinates. If policies or guidelines are ignored – as was the case when HRDC did not properly maintain records for hundreds of millions of dollars disbursed for job creation – the senior bureaucrat responsible can be questioned, and is at risk of losing his or her job.
Such a change was bandied about in Ottawa in 1979 when it was a recommendation of the Lambert Commission. It was dismissed then by the bureaucracy, and has been resisted ever since, on the grounds it would undermine ministerial responsibility.
Curiously, it is the Brits who have maintained the tradition of ministers resigning for gross failures of their departments. Here? In the HRDC cock-up, recall that the minister, Jane Stewart, refused to accept responsibility. She’s still there! And her deputy minister, Mel Cappe, was promoted, first becoming Canada’s top bureaucrat as Clerk of the Privy Council, and recently getting the plum post of high commissioner to the U.K. Surely, only in Canada.
This brings me to the ethics package introduced by the government, and Martin’s proposed parliamentary reforms. Neither will be of any real benefit without serious reform of the public service.
On the ethics front, consider: if Lawrence MacAulay, the recently departed solicitor general, had been dealing with bureaucrats facing the real possibility of being held to account by Parliament – that is, being fired for going along with rule-breaking – is it not likely they would have offered greater, and earlier resistance to his efforts?
Is it not possible they would have warned him, and his boss, Jean Chretien, in writing of the hazards in what he was doing or seeking to do? Might the minister not have been saved from himself and the folklore politicking of his island, or at least been shuffled off before any real harm had been done to the government and to governance?
Of course, moving to the British model changes things as much for the politicians as it does for mandarins. It limits the former’s weasel room and increases the risks in unethical behavior. But surely that’s what the ethics package is all about.
As for Martin’s proposed reforms, they are unlikely to impress voters unless improved accountability results from them. As Ned Franks, professor emeritus of Queen’s University has noted: “Canada, of all the major parliamentary democracies … is the most patronage ridden, the slowest to adapt to modern management reforms and has the weakest system of accountability to Parliament.”
Accountability must be visible in Parliament, and extended down into the bureaucracy. Otherwise, it’s a sham.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 23, 2002
ID: 12908736
TAG: 200210230336
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


In federal politics, there seems to be both good patronage and bad patronage. In some locales, such as around Summerside or Charlottetown in P.E.I., or Shawinigan in Quebec, the successful practitioners of patronage are heroes, not sleazy politicians. But in many other locales, especially in the west, the moralists are many and they see patronage as bad.
Among federal politicians, many think too much obvious patronage demeans them and their party. But almost as many of them, in private, candidly see patronage as a realistic and inevitable exercise, displaying their capability and support in Ottawa for local needs.
Historically, when a party moves from opposition into office its zeal for wiping out patronage wavers and eventually flickers out, even though it may legislate some reforms.
Despite such recent reforms, addressed in large part to patronage as a problem, such as “conflict of interest” rules for ministers, the registration of lobbyists, the access-to-information system, tighter limits on partisan fund-raising and wider, deeper reports on administrative competence and “value for money” by the auditor general, patronage is still intrinsic in the federal parliamentary system. Particularly patronage justified as responding to what constituents need, want and expect.
Today in Ottawa, we are into the most feverish argument over the sinfulness or sacredness of patronage since the late 1980s when thrusters for truth and frugality such as Stevie Cameron, Don Boudria, John Nunziata and Claire Hoy were exposing their take on Brian Mulroney’s patronage penchants.
Today, the charges and the counter-justifications swing around what one might call the MacAulay-Chretien files. The PM and his adoring minister for “the island” shared the view that nothing is nobler and more an elected person’s duty than scoring federal funds or services for their constituents.
Why? Let me offer two guesses based on a long fascination with patronage.
First, in as many as two-thirds of the 301 constituencies across the country there still flourishes a majority opinion among electors that an able MP really proves it by bringing home some federal goodie for them. Usually, the goodie has a dollar and/or a job figure: perhaps a contract for some local employer, or a grant for some manufacturer’s expansion, even a fresh penitentiary, or a national cheque dispensary, or a wharf or drydock or airport extension, or Ottawa’s backing for some worthy sporting, entertainment or ethnic venue.
My second guess? As many as three-quarters of MPs, some openly, others tacitly, believe or accept there is a useful place in our politics for what some would call good, or useful, or necessary patronage.
What could be good or necessary patronage? Probably most important would be the free choice by the party in power of appointees to such roles as senators, or commissioners and directors of federal agencies and boards, even having the last word on judicial appointments. A government needs to know the people in its high places are not inimical to its purposes. Open every post to the requirements of a high-level public service commission and we move holus-bolus from political patronage to bureaucratic patronage.
Of course, bureaucratic patronage has been a continuing feature in Ottawa. In my opinion, and even among naive MPs I know, deputy ministers and assistant deputy ministers are likely to be as interested in empire-building and favour-trading as cabinet ministers and their high-level counsellors.
Lawrence MacAulay kept emphasizing “the good, sound, wise counsel” he has had from a former deputy minister whom he engaged through some odd contracts. Even Paul Martin has revealed the priority he gives sound counsel. Among contributions to his leadership drive are items on free help provided him by communication experts from Earnscliffe, the very firm of consultants with so many contracts for counselling him when he was minister of finance.
Usually, prime ministers and their handlers have been given to pumping patronage rewards into their constituencies; even the careful W.L. Mackenzie King and Lester Pearson, the foreign policy giant, did it. And certainly Brian Mulroney and Jean Chretien have been comparably zealous in patronizing constituents. But often PMs have been overmatched by their ministers.
Few ministers have came close to matching what Lloyd Axworthy piled up over the years for Winnipeg and Manitoba, but many came close: Allan MacEachen for Nova Scotia; Romeo Leblanc for New Brunswick; Alfonso Gagliano for Quebec.
MacAulay has been superb in pursuing patronage, for both P.E.I. as a whole and his quarter of the island in particular. Remember, this small province has four Liberal MPs, complimented by four senators, all trying to pry from the federal purse what MacAulay calls P.E.I.’s “fair share” as a “have-not” province. Now his resignation, accepted by a most reluctant prime minister, makes him a martyr in the Maritimes and perhaps elsewhere.
MacAulay was a prodigious patron for his home folks but he has been shaky and dodgy in his departmental responsibilities. His successor as P.E.I. minister, Wayne Easter, is a high quality parliamentarian.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 20, 2002
ID: 12908374
TAG: 200210200247
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Good relations with the United States are THE sine qua non for Canada.
For starters they are the basis for our economic livelihood. As the most trade-dependent of all developed countries, 85% of our trade is with the U.S. No other developed country is so dependent on the markets of another.
We are similarly beholden regarding security. The second largest country in the world, we have but a small, steadily shrinking military to defend our territory. It is the Americans’ Monroe Doctrine, spelled out in 1823 (which holds that Washington will not allow any overseas power to meddle in the American continents) that effectively shields us.
The corollary here is that Canada is at the mercy of the most powerful nation on Earth. Were the U.S. to take umbrage to our existence, no one could save us. This is reality. Perhaps it’s why Canadians like to talk up our importance in the world: the myth is preferable to the obvious, that Canada exists at the sufferance of the U.S.
Last Sunday, I noted how bringing our military’s capabilities up to a level commensurate with Canada’s size and declared international ambitions would entail costs of a sort Canadians would never entertain. Given this, I suggested the disbanding of our forces be put on the table when the promised defence policy review gets under way.
With a sabre-rattling Republican in the White House and an angry America “at war” with international terrorism (and, soon, Iraq) is this really the time to put forward such a radical change?
Well, ask yourself this: are the Americans happy with the current state of affairs?
Jack Granatstein, history professor of renown and a Canadian Forces supporter, thinks not. According to him, the “cold fury” expressed at a recent conference by senior U.S. officials toward Canada “for the war we have not responded to since Sept. 11 was scary to see.”
A former U.S. state department official sees it a bit differently: “Americans don’t expect anything in military terms from Canada any more,” and disbanding the forces probably wouldn’t make much difference given their minimal capabilities.
Of the two reactions, I suspect the latter – disdain! – is more common within the foreign policy and military establishments of our neighbour. Yet both could be ameliorated if Canada were to channel resources now wasted on its over-tasked Armed Forces into more useful security arrangements.
Consider: Americans don’t care that Canada is no longer able to deploy or sustain modern peacekeeping or fighting forces overseas. Their interest is focused closer to home, on the famous, long undefended border. Aside from toppling Saddam Hussein (and Canada doesn’t figure in those plans except as a verbal or token ally) the big security issue in America today is homeland defence. That is why the time is right for Canada to suggest its security commitments be brought into line with its willingness and ability to pay. Doing so would increase the security of both countries.
Washington should welcome efforts to upgrade Canada’s border and coastal surveillance, as this would bolster America’s security. So would negotiation of long-term agreements for improved offshore patrol and surveillance of our northern air space. This would eventually involve contracting out these services to the U.S. Navy and Air Force, as our military retired its warships and fighters. (Contracting out would take advantage of the economies of scale the U.S. military enjoys.) We would pay with cash and by granting the U.S. access to military facilities in Canada. Such arrangements would offer both parties stability and confidence, which is more than is to be had from CF-18s running short of critical maintenance and pilots, and warships rusting out in port for lack of crews.
Such a debate would fill the policy vacuum here, where the government prevaricates and the opposition and the defence lobby press for spending they know will never come.
But we need to move quickly. Canada missed a chance to engage Washington when the latter announced its new Northern Command. The implications of this regional command, which effectively encompasses all of North America and began operating last week, have been ignored by the government, opposition parties and the media. Yet its creation without our participation shows the U.S. isn’t going to wait for us.
Finally, those who believe the Canadian Forces can still be saved should ponder this from Paul Martin, our next prime minister:
“There’s no doubt that the United States thinks Canada doesn’t spend enough on the military … and it probably has the same opinion of Britain and France.” Noting that military spending by the U.S. is to go up 15% this year, Martin added: “We’re not able or in a position to meet that sort of spending.”
Canada spends 1.15% of its GDP on defence, Britain 2.32%, France 2.57%. It’s presumptuous to put us in the same league as either. As for “meeting” the U.S. increase of 15%, Canada would have to increase its spending 200% just to meet the NATO average.
You’d think our former finance minister would have a better handle on the figures. After all, he was the man who cut our military by 25% over nine years.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 16, 2002
ID: 12907768
TAG: 200210160219
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


The House of Commons is tender, the Parliament Hill community as a whole is fragile.
Such near cracking condition is reminiscent of shaky minority governments we’ve had, say of 1962-63 or 1979-80 – yet this is a “majority” mandate.
The prime cause (among several) is plain: more and more, Jean Chretien’s long goodbye is looking awkward and stupid. And it already seems to be smearing the gloss off the mighty Martin and his crew.
But the other caucuses and their parties have uneasy situations of their own. Some, like the Tory and NDP leadership races under way, are increasingly distracting to MPs of the two parties and to the active faithful of each across the land.
If the Tories inveigle Premier Bernard Lord out of New Brunswick and into a contest which he would be very short odds to win, then he becomes a threat in the next election to cut substantially into the seats east of Ontario now being conceded to Martin.
Lord, as the greatest Tory revivalist since John Diefenbaker, will become even likelier if Stephen Harper, the official Opposition’s leader, doesn’t improve his own persona with more warmth, spirit and humour in the next six months. And the Alliance leader should rearrange his dullish cast of shadow critics by resurrecting some proven MPs now in his doghouse (e.g., Diane Ablonczy, Deborah Grey, Val Meredith, Monte Solberg and Chuck Strahl).
Analytically, Harper shows a first-rate intelligence and a commendable set against fudging the basic role of the marketplace in the political economics of the Alliance. But he is so dour, so unjoyous and so relatively little seen that one wonders already about his stamina. As yet, he is too young and too cold to win the kind of respect which came rather quickly to Preston Manning for his self-deprecatory wit and historical recall.
In sum, the Alliance seems boxed, its leader without much flame, and the caucus, consequent to the ousting of Stockwell Day, still dozy and uncertain.
As for party No. 3, the Bloc under Gilles Duceppe hews in House performances to Quebec causes and reflects its close relations with Premier Bernard Landry and his PQ government. What this does – and most of us in the rest of Canada hardly notice – is take two themes into so many communities and households in Quebec: 1) the stories of unethical and corrupt practices of the federal Liberals, notably in patronage and in contract awards; 2) the BQ critique as protagonists of social democracy of Liberal mishandling of social, health, and welfare issues.
The NDP leadership race seems sure to get less media attention than the Tory race, and both much less than whatever develops around those Liberals deep-pocketed enough to take on the “unbeatable” Martin.
The NDP race could have some sharp debates, featuring Bill Blaikie, veteran MP and really the only genuine orator left in the House, and Toronto councillor Jack Layton. The problem will be getting anyone other than party members to cotton to the slate in action. If Blaikie or one of the other MPs wins, then the caucus on the Hill will continue slugging along, much as it has. If Layton wins – and he seems the media’s pick – then comes the nervous wait for him to make it at the next general election. Often, they don’t.
But all the distracting factors for the four opposition parties and caucuses seem minor to those roiling and riling our traditional masters. Already, after just a fortnight of this new session, it is clear that ethical matters or the governmental abuse of ethics and sound management are going to be more prime and continuing than Kyoto and reinforcing medicare.
What is still clear, and a dismissal of that artless dodger, Lawrence Mac-Aulay, won’t subtract that much, is the long apparent swatch of ministers with slight abilities in the Chretien cabinet. The Caplans, Collenettes, Rocks, and Stewarts are still there, well-proven as liabilities in the cabinet. But there they are, a galling rebuke to the squadrons of superb MPs loyal to Martin and impatient for their time at ministerial heights.
Finally, in this grim run-through of where we are in the first parliamentary days of “the long goodbye” let me add that two of the newish Chretien ministers whom many of us expected to do well have been busts: Bill Graham at Foreign Affairs; John McCallum at National Defence. Bill’s too sharp, smart, and voluble with his world views – and guaranteed to rankle the Yanks as much as Lloyd Axworthy did; and John already rivals MacAulay for prideful ignorance, as he waits for the portfolio he was recruited for: finance!

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 13, 2002
ID: 12907447
TAG: 200210130271
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


The only argument in favor of increased defence spending which seems to resonate with Canadians these days is one based on pity.
You’ve heard it: our servicemen and women are worn out from too many peacekeeping rotations overseas. They are tired of making do with antiquated gear, and are put at increased risk because they lack equipment critical to the modern battlefield. They try hard, do a good job and deserve better.
Sympathy, however, hasn’t led to any groundswell of support for more defence spending, or to a serious backlash against a government that can find $100 million for executive jets for the PM in a matter of days yet cannot replace 40-year-old military helicopters after nine years in office.
Why? Because Canadians prefer to spend money on themselves rather than on “toys for the boys.” Perhaps this is just as well. Pity is a rotten reason to spend billions on military hardware.
The good reasons for such spending – so our forces can defend our territory and interests, and support allies in collective defence and in shoring up global security – don’t cut it with Canadians. Sure, we feign enthusiasm for peacekeeping (many mistakenly think it’s the raison d’etre of our military) but this is belied by our obvious disinterest in the realities of the job.
Peacekeeping (which is often peacemaking) requires forces that are trained and equipped to fight. They must also be capable of rapidly deploying abroad and, once there, must be able to supply themselves and replace weary troops with fresh ones. Finally, should things turn nasty, they must have real firepower available to them (e.g., air support) so they can protect themselves and their mission. Our military cannot do these things, which explains why we now rank 34th in the list of nations supporting UN peacekeeping efforts.
The absence of public support seems to have sunk in with those who would champion our forces. As I noted last column, most of these folks now pump for spending increases which fall far short of what is required. One supposes their reduced ambitions are the result of trying to be “realistic” in the face of the public mood about defence spending. Yet such piddling increases would amount to throwing good money after bad, for they would not make our military truly credible.
No, genuine compassion for the long-suffering Canadian military would relieve them of their burden. Canada has been dismantling its military piecemeal since 1968, and we have spent hundreds of billions in the process. Why not get it over with? End our overseas commitments and disband the military!
The world is not going to miss the 275 soldiers we now have on UN duty. We brought our troops, tanks, and planes home from western Europe years ago, and no one there thinks they’re likely to return. We can remain a member of NATO with political observers in Brussels, like Luxembourg and Iceland (which don’t have militaries). We can offer NATO members bases here for training and maritime operations. (Many already train here but we charge them for it.)
Here in North America, we can refocus resources toward continental security. By strengthening our coast guard, fisheries and environmental patrols, customs inspection, police and intelligence services, we can show the Americans we are not going to permit our territory to become a base for terrorists or criminal organizations seeking to operate in the U.S. The RCMP can be expanded to take on anti-terror functions, or a new, purely domestic force could be created to handle these missions.
We should investigate with the Americans the possibility of contracting air defence and long-range maritime surveillance out to them, and offer them access to our military facilities on a full-time basis. The end result can be a stronger and more secure North American perimeter.
Much of the $11.5 billion spent on defence annually would go toward these measures, but there would be savings. Repatriating the hundreds of military and foreign service personnel attached to NATO HQ and other military institutions in Europe and around the world would save many millions, and not having to maintain or replace clapped-out equipment would save billions.
Some of this could go toward increasing our foreign aid budget. We could also offer a significant contribution towards a permanent UN peacekeeping force, paying the salaries of ex-forces personnel who choose to serve in such a force (bringing with them their hard-earned expertise).
In its latest speech from the throne, the Jean Chretien government argued that a comprehensive defence policy review must be completed before any new spending can be considered. The option of dismantling the forces should be on the table. After all, we’ve been working toward it for 35 years.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 09, 2002
ID: 12906804
TAG: 200210090389
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Jack Granatstein is a retired history professor who continues to write notable books on military subjects. He is also an affable, urbane champion of Canada’s military and a familiar sight in Ottawa’s corridors of power.
He has advised many governments, and he is not prone to outbursts or hyperbole.
Yet last month he chose to make incendiary remarks about the government’s defence policy, touching off the most heated debate in years on the state and fate of our armed forces.
Granatstein warned our military is at the breaking point, as was seen in the dispatch of troops to Afghanistan. “We had to beg a ride to get our people there; we didn’t have the right uniforms. We had to borrow vehicles when we got there. We couldn’t reinforce 800 men.”
It will get worse, he said:
“If there isn’t real money in the coming budget (and there won’t be); the baling twine and wire holding the military together is going to snap; the people that really make things run, who can get good jobs on the outside, will go in a flood.”
The Conference of Defence Associations has just previewed its latest report, “A Nation at Risk,” noting that Canada is unable to effectively patrol its airspace or coastal waters, or deploy troops overseas in time of crisis.
Deciding it could no longer remain silent, the U.S. government, in the form of its ambassador to Canada Paul Cellucci, politely observed that Canada was not pulling its weight, and risked being left out of senior allied councils. (He tactfully avoided noting that this has already happened.)
His comments, perhaps as a reiteration of what many Canadians have already said, did not provoke the backlash they would have in years past, though Paul Martin, a noted military strategist, couldn’t resist the stock Canadian atavism: “As far as I’m concerned, this is a Canadian issue.”
Official government comment wasn’t helpful either. Defence Minister John McCallum, instead of keeping his head down, chose to muse on how Canada could provide a “sizable” contribution towards an attack on Iraq.
Lewis MacKenzie, former commander of UN forces in Bosnia, responded: “That would be a brigade group, somewhere in the neighbourhood of 5,000 folks. We can’t do that. How can anybody talk with a straight face about a large ‘sizable’ contribution … This organization is going bankrupt and it’s going to self-destruct in five years.”
The critics’ solution? Spend money. Lots of it! The Canadian Alliance would increase spending by $9.5 billion to $13 billion over the next 10 years. The Commons defence committee seeks an increase to 1.5 to 1.6% of GDP per year; Granatstein an extra $1.5 billion annually, at a minimum. Trudeau acolyte Tom Axworthy astounded a recent conference with a call for $20 billion a year spending, or roughly the NATO average.
Canada now spends $11.5 billion or about 1.2% of its GDP annually on defence. Within NATO only Iceland and Luxembourg spend less, and they do not have militaries.
Since 1993, Canada has cut 25% in real terms and we were not a powerhouse then. The results: two-thirds of our fighters are mothballed and we are short of pilots. New frigates costing a quarter billion apiece are tied up. No crews! Then there are those 40-year-old helicopters.
On average, NATO allies spend 2.2% of GDP on defence, and this average is pulled down by poorer members like Greece, Turkey, and Spain. On a per capita basis, the Brits spend twice what we do, the U.S. triple.
The proposed increases bring to mind Granatstein’s comment on how Canadians suffer from Peter Pan syndrome: “We live in Never Never Land and we never grow up. We seem to think it’s a benign world.”
Most disturbing of all, the critics also deny reality. Most of their proposals would only shore things up a bit. Only Axworthy, who has been living in the U.S., sees the scale of the problem. It would take $20 billion a year over a decade to bring Canada’s military performance into line with that of wealthier NATO members – the treasury could not afford it.
British historian Michael Howard noted in The Franco-Prussian War that “the military system of a nation is not an independent section of the social system, but an aspect of it in its totality.”
This is certainly true of Canada’s military. For years we have been pinching our defence budget to make ends meet, and to avoid facing the reality that we are not productive enough to pay for the scale of government to which we have become addicted.
The result is stark, and before us – a defence hole too deep to ever fill. Last week’s Throne Speech had just one, lame, double-speak sentence on defence.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 06, 2002
ID: 12906458
TAG: 200210060171
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Last week my clippings file grew fatter, this time with three obits: Liberal senator Ron Duhamel; former independent senator Hartland Molson; and historian George Stanley.
In filing these clips, it struck me I’ve been keeping more obituaries and death notices lately. My age has something to do with this. Death is biting deeply now into those of my generation, who were in their 20s in World War II. Veterans Affairs records indicate just under 400,000 of the 1.1 million who were in the Canadian military in WW II are still alive, and the median age of the living is 83.
Anyone who has skimmed dailies from across Canada will have noticed the growth in space devoted to death notices.
Ron Duhamel (1938-2002) was 50 in 1988 when he joined the Liberal opposition after wresting St. Boniface riding in Manitoba from a Tory. One might say he was officially bilingual by nature and nurture. He had spent 32 years, first as a teacher and then as a senior education official, in two provincial governments. He was courtly, well-spoken and informed – an MP without bombast or partisan blah. I formed such an opinion after he came to see me soon after he got to Ottawa.
He said he had two links with me. The first federal election in which he had a vote came in 1957. He was teaching at a school in the bush village of Beardmore, deep in the northwestern Ontario riding of Port Arthur. I was running on the CCF ticket. He had heard my pitch at a village meeting and decided to vote for me. He stressed “for you, not your party.” Later, he learned I had played a part in the start of Lakehead College, where he had worked on a BA.
After establishing such common ground, I naturally followed Ron’s work in the House closely, and came to regret that such a potentially useful minister was stacked up among Manitoba MPs behind Lloyd Axworthy and, for a time, Jon Gerrard. Then, when Ron did make the ministry two years ago, it only seemed a few months before he was diagnosed with cancer and then, after a brief interlude in the Senate, he was gone. He always did well by his riding, region and caucus, but he was one of those MPs who could have done a lot to deepen a quite shallow cabinet.
Hartland Molson (1907-2002) retired from the Senate in 1993 after 38 years as a genuine independent who was strong in both attendance and participation. Some of my curiosity about Molson was because of his time as a RCAF fighter pilot and squadron leader in the Battle of Britain, but also because of his unusual first name.
During earlier research into the origins in Canada of organized curling, track and field, lacrosse, rugby football and ice hockey, I spent much time reading old Montreal newspapers from the 1840s to the 1880s. I often came upon the name Molson as either participant or sponsor.
Influencing the astounding development of sports and competitions in Anglo Montreal through the 1840-50 period were officers from British regiments still stationed in Quebec. For years the dailies noted the feats of one officer, a superb athlete and a model of manly excellence. When Britain called the regiments home, no news was more hurrahed in the Montreal press than the assurance this hero, one Lt. Hartland MacDougall, had chosen to resign his commission and stay in Canada. Many fine jobs were offered him, and he stayed, married, and did well.
When I first met the senator I asked him if his first name went back to the sports star of long ago; he shrugged, and said he thought it did.
In 1993, in his 86th year, Molson resigned his Senate seat. I wrote him a note of regret and appreciation. He thanked me for the appreciation but not the regret, saying, “It is time.”
George Stanley (1907-2002) has been widely named as the core designer of the Canadian flag which Parliament adopted in 1965, but I wish he was better known for the quality of his books and his frank speech and brisk personality. In particular, I enjoyed his story of the conquest of French Canada and his biography of Louis Riel.
In 1952, I literally bumped into him deep in the book stacks of the library of Queen’s University. As a librarian, I was there to reduce duplication in the book stock. As a historian at nearby Royal Military College, he had the use of the Queen’s collection.
He asked me what I was doing. As soon as I explained, he said there was some duplication but also a lot of outdated and irrelevant stuff. He showed this judgmentalism in a slow progress with me around the stacks. On leaving, he spoke briefly in French. At my bafflement he said: “You are not fluent in French?” No – obviously. He looked me in the eye and said, “In this line of work you should be.”
Once you met him you were unlikely to forget George Stanley.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 02, 2002
ID: 12905870
TAG: 200210020237
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Even as one who cherishes Parliament and dislikes its fading significance, I admit that in recent years many petty or slack performances have been cause for despair, not hope. So optimism should not erase good judgment just because of two days on the Hill laced with excitement over portents and possibilities.
Nonetheless, real tensions affecting all parties are in play, with a wide expectation of a lively, contentious session.
The first day centered on the many program intentions in this last throne speech concoction from Jean Chretien. The second day gave us speeches by the five party leaders in order: Stephen Harper fair; Chretien good; Gilles Duceppe fair; Alexa McDonough fair; and Joe Clark fine.
Generally speaking, the leadership situations in each of the caucuses encourages thrusting behaviour by really ambitious MPs, many but not all of them Liberals, whose expectations have been long delayed. The majority – probably a big majority – will not be in these places in a year and a few months, perhaps sooner if the succession of Paul Martin to Jean Chretien is as certain as a mob of us say.
Why use a teasy phrase like “perhaps sooner”? Because there is so much potential for more explosions which will threaten, even burst, the solidarity of the Liberal caucus, not unlike the one which blew open in August revealing two warring titans and their respective backers within the governing party, its ministry, and its caucus. This forced Chretien to use the remnants of the historic Liberal loyalty to the leader to grant himself a long goodbye. He did this as he tacitly conceded he had lost the confidence of both the caucus and the party’s membership across the country in assuring them and the country he would be gone by late winter, 2004.
Reading the Liberal scenario as Parliament reopens indicates the caucus and the party still want Martin as their leader, sooner rather than later.
So many of the governmental intentions set out in the throne speech will be fought hard in the House, and some of these are not fully favoured by all Liberal MPs.
Take two big issues. First, the push coming to ratify the Kyoto accord. Think of the hesitations already expressed by Anne McLellan, the senior minister from Alberta. Second, consider how almost immediately the “review” of our foreign and defence policies may test caucus bonds.
American leadership intentions in the Middle East under President Bush are both immediate and pugnacious, and many – though not all Liberal MPs – want Canada’s policy to be more distinct, less combative, and not as Martin has said, to be set in the White House.
Think of the splits long present in the Liberal caucus on decriminalizing marijuana, on the expediting of approval for pharmaceuticals, on disclosure of party fund-raising and ending donations from corporations and unions, and over independence for the so-called ethics commissioner and his or her office.
The contribution to the throne debate by Gilles Duceppe, the Bloc leader, was a reminder that Quebec governments, particularly but not only of the PQ kind, do not like what they call invasion of their constitutional jurisdiction, and many of the Chretien intentions either do this, or, to be effective, require provincial co-operation.
For examples, see the major 10-year program ahead on infrastructure improvements in big cities through substantial co-ordination of federal planning and funds with provincial-municipal needs and funding; or the fresh, lengthy program to be launched in schools to markedly increase the number of young Canadians who can work in both official languages; or the creation of many more federal parks and marine conservancies; or the extension of parental or filial leave to those having to care for a disabled relative.
Almost all the initiatives in the throne speech require legislation to go through Parliament, and with this the usual concomitant of a bill which leads to spending money, i.e., an item and usually forecast sums, in both the budget, due in February, and in the annual estimates of spending.
For Martin, the PM-in-waiting and his highly-organized crew of would-be ministers and PMO handlers and spinners, the months ahead with Chretien still in control will be very uneasy, not just because of the critical fire from the opposition caucuses, much of which will taunt their hero, but because of the division and the scale of spending allotted to so many new programs or extended old ones in the first John Manley budget.
Last week’s big blip in the news about a “sweetheart” arrangement to dispense with a leadership race and acclaim Martin as PM collapsed very quickly, but the floating of it shows how impatient the winners are to taste their victory and its spoils. Can they sit, waiting and waiting, in caucus, some even in cabinet, while Chretien and Manley both blow the surplus, now unlikely to be very large, in assigning so much to so many programs for so long, and reconfigure dangerously the federal-provincial relationships? Perhaps, but who would bet on it.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, September 29, 2002
ID: 12970121
TAG: 200209290357
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Tomorrow, in a centuries old ceremony, the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod knocks on the doors of the Commons chambers and invites the MPs to follow him to the “other place.” There they will join senators and Supreme Court justices in hearing the Governor General deliver the Speech from the Throne, outlining the government’s priorities for the coming session. All this ritual pomp is intended to convey eternal traditions but Parliament in this new session is most unusual, and well may become unique.
For the first time since Confederation we have a majority government led – for up to 17 months – by a “lame duck” prime minister who firms his legacies to the nation while his presumptive heir (and usurper) awaits his departure while observing in a seat outside cabinet.
Alliance and Tory leaders say they will direct much of their fire at the man-who-will-be-PM. After all, it is Paul Martin their parties are almost sure to face at the polls. Such a focus on the new Liberal strongman will divert Grit attention from building the legacy of Jean Chretien.
As one of many former MPs given to extolling House reform, or in Martin’s pretty phrase, its democratic deficit, I suggest to all MPs to spare some thought for the institution in which they sit. Almost all have served the House poorly.
Low voter turnouts in Canada and polls show deepening cynicism of federal politics and politicians. Parliament is seen as an irrelevant sham masking the governing of the country.
One goofy reason for this scunner surely comes from glimpses of Question Period – with government and opposition playing an embarrassing pantomime, an arranged farce each sitting day.
Talk about House reform has been in and out of vogue on Parliament Hill for at least six decades, most of it on how to improve the status and raise the worth of what MPs may do.
Provisions for more human, technical, and travel help for MPs in Ottawa and in their ridings and the push to have more work directed to parliamentary committees were seen as a better venue for scrutinizing and overseeing government operations, for soliciting and sifting public and expert opinion, even for initiating and drafting legislation, rather than the full House with its greater partisanship and concern over the government losing a confidence vote. Alas, the results have been disappointing. An ever-tightening net of party discipline – even in the opposition – has stifled MPs.
So paradoxically, despite all the costly parliamentary change, today’s MPs, especially in government, have less latitude than MPs had a half century ago. The same may be said of ministers. In the opinion of one academic authority on recent cabinets, by and large cabinet now is merely a final “focus group” used by the prime minister’s office.
The PMO and government Whip keep government backbenchers on a very short leash, even in committees. One consequence is that their oversight role has devolved largely to officers of Parliament: the auditor general watches spending, the commissioner of information tries to police bureaucratic secrecy, the privacy commissioner tries to protect the citizen from an increasingly intrusive state. Conducting consultations and initiating legislation have largely been absorbed into the ever-expanding writ of the public service, whose senior mandarins, though faceless in the best 19th century British tradition, wield more power than all but a few ministers.
Disgruntled Grit backbenchers, though they bridle at their treatment by the PMO, have failed to demand a public commitment from Martin for a comprehensive package of parliamentary reform for their support. They have settled for platitudes and bromides, even though many must know it was one of Martin’s unelected operators, not the hero himself, who recently called to rebuke a veteran Toronto MP, partial to Martin, for his comments on the stupidity of there being such a “long goodbye.”
But, it may not be dreaming to think it is not too late.
Two factors are propitious for pressing remedies to our ailing democracy. First, the ministry is uniquely vulnerable to pressure from within its own caucus, thanks to the PM’s tenuous position. Second, the PM’s would-be successor has offered as a mark of difference from Chretien his own determination to reverse Parliament’s decline. So, as the incumbent searches for a legacy, and ways to poison the chalice he will hand his heir apparent, and as the latter sweats out the next 17 months, government MPs should press both men for immediate changes that end the imperial PMO.
Let there be free votes in committees. Regardless of party, let committee chairmanships go to those with seniority or the backing of a majority of committee members.
Make it a requirement that senior appointees to federal posts be vetted by the relevant committee(s) so that if nothing else, the folks who govern us the most will no longer be faceless and unaccountable. As for the opposition, they should seize every chance to challenge Grit MPs to live up to past rhetoric on what’s wrong with Ottawa by standing up for Parliament and the people it supposedly represents.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, September 25, 2002
ID: 12969529
TAG: 200209250325
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Although diverse, four of the recent books at my hand cover many persons and aspects of 20th century politics in Canada.
Fights of our Lives, Elections, Leadership and the Making of Canada (HarperCollins), is “destined to become a classic” says columnist Andrew Coyne. Its author, John Duffy, 38, is described as “one of the country’s cleverest campaign strategists” by the National Post. The jacket states he is “a key advisor to numerous Liberal politicians and campaigns.” The highly graphic product is dotted with excellent photos, cartoons, and diagrams.
The author’s writing is very modern and vivid, his attitude that of a fully-in-charge inside guy, brimming with the expertise of an historian, a pollster, a sociologist, and a political scientist – in short, a polymath.
The analytical discovery author Duffy trumpets is that most prime ministers have built their electoral bids on pragmatic handling of regional interests, rather than rolling to power and keeping it through fascinating electorates with a national vision. The exceptions who have had such a vision – Laurier, Diefenbaker, Trudeau, and Mulroney – have much invigorated our democracy, and seem the main reason why Duffy concludes so positively with solemn praise for “the wisdom of the foot-soldiers, the ordinary people” in the five great elections chronicled in this book.
The second book I thumbnail is a journalist’s memoir which is both candid and judgmental, not least of himself. The Inside Story; A Life in Journalism (Dundurn Press), is by Anthony Westell.
My sojourn in Ottawa, first as politician, then as columnist, began in 1957, a year after Westell came with a young family from England to work for the Globe & Mail. He had served in WWII with the Royal Navy, following which he had proved himself as a senior reporter on London dailies. He had been a backer of the Labour Party but he was fair and objective enough in his reportage not to let his own line intrude. I first this and his reportorial competence well before the Globe made him chief of its parliamentary bureau. He’d be on my short-list of the five ablest reporters in the press gallery in the last 40 years. My respect as a reader for his reporting was so high – notably his measure of Pierre Trudeau – that I still regret he turned to punditry (column in the Star) and then to the academe (Carleton School of Journalism). He acknowledges in this book that columnizing wasn’t his forte.
What Westell did whenever and wherever possible, was analysis of trends and potentials, here and worldwide. He was on to the impetus to globalization and its advantages and possible minuses for Canada well ahead of most politicians and journalists.
The last two books are particularly worthwhile if you wonder why academicians up on history and politics rate Mackenzie King (1921-1930; 1935-48) ahead of our other prime ministers – quirky, self-obsessed, unlovable, but so able and successful.
The first is about the most important fellow Liberal in King’s life. It’s by historian Lita-Rose Betcherman, and titled Ernest Lapointe: Mackenzie King’s Great Quebec Lieutenant (University of Toronto Press). Lapointe, born in 1876, became an MP in 1904 and died as one in 1941. It is less vivid than the Lapointe story but a telling account of the decline in King’s concern for the West after it was laid so low by drought and the Great Depression.
Mackenzie King and the Prairie West (University of Toronto Press), was written by a Manitoba historian, Robert A. Wardhaugh. Time and again in reading why and how King backed away from his early love of the West, parallels kept hitting me with the recent scenario wherein a tidy majority of Ontario electors choke on the seeming radical cant of both Alliance and NDP voices from the West. They stick with the omnibus Grits.
A few sentences from the Lapointe biography are also telling, not just about the Liberal party as it was and is, but what one might call a long-prevailing political wind.
Both King and Lapointe, says Betcherman, were “true disciples of Laurier, believing that the only way to govern Canada was through compromise and conciliation” – and an excess of caution. “Holding the sane and safe middle course” was the way Lapointe expressed it.
Starting off as a populist committed to civil rights, after 1935 he continued to be regarded by the public as a civil libertarian because he talked like one. The elder Paul Martin’s comment that Lapointe was a Liberal but not a liberal was very apt. Interestingly, King followed the same trajectory from liberal democrat to small “c” conservative, conceding to his diary in 1940 that even as a young man he knew this would happen.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, September 22, 2002
ID: 12969182
TAG: 200209220168
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Last Monday, CBC-TV reported on “the democratic deficit” – which Paul Martin has undertaken to erase after he becomes prime minister. The phrase is a neat tag for reform of the parliamentary system to give more influence and participation in it to plain MPs and cut back on the authority and domination of the prime minister and his office (the PMO).
The report gave us several bites of Martin talking about “the democratic deficit.” One was from a stand-up speech to a crowd somewhere; the other an intimate, close-up response to what he thought of “free votes.” In both there was a passionate tribute to Parliament as it should be.
The speech was bellowed, rather than spoken. It was a rant about too much executive power and secrecy and the neglect of those whom the people had elected who really are the basic nexus of democracy.
As I realized what a condemnation this was of Jean Chretien and his PMO, I wondered why one who so cherished Parliament had never bridled openly at Chretien’s tight control of cabinet and caucus during nine years as his No. 2.
Even more wondrous is why Martin’s love for the House of Commons never issued in more time there himself. Yes, Martin relished the oral question period once he developed a noisy formula for ridiculing the opposition questioners and their parties, but he rarely stayed when QP was over.
It is a regret for one who often heard and savoured the ironic wit and the oratorical ranges of Martin’s father in the House that the son’s main reliance was on bellicosity, his shouting almost as unnerving as Lloyd Axworthy’s deep mumbling. Even when his own legislation was before the House, Paul Jr. was rarely there.
In my observation of the House, Martin spent even less time in it and in its back lobbies than Chretien. Where was the former minister of finance? One can only guess.
In the CBC’s scrum cut of Martin he spoke passionately of his father, an outstanding parliamentarian for 40 years. This family experience forged his positive interest and concern about the lot of an MP, long before he left a top CEO job in the private sector to take a House seat. In the House, he has realized and increasingly disliked the trend to executive domination. So much in ideas, vitality and enthusiasm is frustrated and ignored. (There was supportive witness of this in the comments of impressive backbench MPs such as Reg Alcock and Carolyn Bennett.)
Martin said he was for many more “free votes” in the House, particularly but not exclusively for those on the government side. He also mentioned more resources and initiatives for House committees, including more status and sure tenure for committee chairmen, proposals long advocated by NDP and Alliance MPs.
Since John Diefenbaker’s mob hit the House in 1958, there have been six distinct waves of debate, studies and reports on reforming Parliament.
None of the “reforms” adopted made significant alterations to the functions of an MP, although the most criticized of the changes certainly did not raise public esteem for the institution and MPs – i.e., the raising of MPs’ pay, the increase in their staffs and perquisites, etc. Nor did the creation of a regular annual schedule for Parliament, the abandonment of night sittings, the acquisition of a cadre of experts at hand in the Library of Parliament, and the switch from scrutinizing government spending in the House itself to committees.
Genuine attendance in the House, aside from question period, has continued to slip. At almost any clash of disagreement in most committees the government whip prevails. Media interest in most committee operations is still spotty and minimal or missing most of the time.
The past moves to reform the House are discouraging for those who believe a lively, engaged Commons is vital to a progressive nation. The reforms made thus far have restored little vitality to the House and its debates or lifted question period above noisy farce. As yet, Martin has said nothing of fresh substance while telling the country rather bravely of a dominant PMO and its consequence in discontented or unengaged tribunes of the people.
One is right to be skeptical, as was the tone of the CBC report, on Martin’s “democratic deficit.” So far he has said nothing about the institutional barriers against reversal of the executive override. Consider the traditional Ottawa dogma of “ministerial responsibility” and its attendant bureaucratic anonymity. Think of the ingrained subservience to the party leader that has prevailed in each parliamentary caucus.
Most of all, reflect on the excess of partisanship, so often juvenile and repetitious in our parliamentary performances, of which Martin himself is an exemplar. It is true he did close out a quarter-century of annual federal deficits, but this is a much more difficult deficit to erase. It would mean beginning by forfeiting much of the power exercised by his predecessor.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, September 18, 2002
ID: 12968591
TAG: 200209180248
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


To give Jean Chretien his due, he has not often been catalogued as anti-American, unlike some Liberals of note such as Lloyd Axworthy or the late Walter Gordon and Pierre Trudeau.
On the other hand, even in the Clinton years, the PM was not often defined as markedly pro-American, say as Brian Mulroney, Stockwell Day, or even the late Rene Levesque have been. He did make plain in his winning electoral bid in 1993 there would be nothing intimate and either obsequious or sycophantic in his necessary relations with the incumbent in the White House. By and large, he never vibrated in exhibitionistic harmony with Bill Clinton as Brian Mulroney had with Ronald Reagan and George Bush, Sr.
At this time, as for many decades, we have not had any associations clamouring for Canada to join the U.S. Rather, what we have had – it seems to me ever since the mid-1960s and the Canada-U.S. Auto Pact – is a continuing, keen interest among a substantial minority of Canadians, always tinged with concerns about the strength of the American economy and any threats within it to our export sales. A dozen years ago, NAFTA deepened the interest and made worries over it even keener – e.g., softwood lumber tariffs – particularly among the companies and their employees engaged in making and selling such products, largely in the U.S.
Of course, the penetration of corporate American ownership of so much of our industry and commerce, and the multitudinous American elements, from ideas to performers to owners, which have become so large in our entertainment, reading, tourism, recreation, and sport have long been a challenge to our politics. One sees in the CBC, the CRTC, the National Film Board, the Canada Council, etc. governmental checkmates to such overwhelming pressure from Americans.
Is too much being made, within Canada, of Chretien’s recent, homespun remarks that the terrorism threatening the West and originating in Third World countries comes from the contrast between our high living standards and their low ones? Yes! This seems quite a reasonable statement. Its use by the PM fits in as a sound reason for widespread backing beyond charity and humanity for the much needed international program to bring western billions into Africa, a program he pushed hard in his year for chairing the big Earth Summit (and which he continued to plug at the UN on Monday).
Most of us in political journalism are given to defining where someone becoming prominent in federal politics stands on emotional issues like high unemployment, capital punishment, protecting the environment, private health care, the scale and funding for social welfare, government support for the arts, and getting along well with the U.S. while retaining our independence.
Anyone with much inkling of our history knows the issues wrapped up within “Canada-U.S. relations” were a prime reason our Confederation was in 1867, and have been a factor in almost all parliamentary mandates since Canada ceased being a British colony in the 1920s.
Most of us, I believe, have thought about where we as individuals stand toward the United States. In doing so, a lot of us reach the conclusion it isn’t easy, and it hasn’t really been made any easier since World War II and development of such as NATO, NORAD, the Auto Pact, NAFTA – and now the consequences from 9/11 along our joint border.
Oh, it’s easy enough to say (as I do) that one is more “pro” than “con” about America, or that one generally likes America and what it signifies. Nonetheless, I (and a lot of others) do not want to be an American citizen. Being Canadian is too worthwhile – and in so many ways.
So too is retention of as many as possible of our own political and cultural options. I do not want them decided in U.S. politics or engineered by agencies here which are controlled or heavily influenced by Americans. And I feel just as strongly about surrendering the sovereign right of Canadians to make their own decisions about joining or remaining in internationally sanctioned programs (like Kyoto). I think Jean Chretien feels the same way.
I abandoned what anti-American antagonism the largely British history taught in Ontario schools had given me after a few weeks along the lower Rhine with a Yank infantry division during WW II – a hardly typical but not uncommon experience. These were real comrades.
My sense is that Chretien never has had a smidgen of the indoctrination I got in school of anti-American attitudes, nor has he had much to do for long with Americans, but he did acquire something hardly typical of a French-speaking Quebecer: the view that he belonged with all of Canada, and all of it belonged to him, and his kin. He could not turn away and give it up, as so many Quebecers did, and continue to do.
I have always wanted to honour Jean Chretien for this, ever since he first proclaimed his absolute federalism in 1966 when he was parliamentary secretary to minister Mitchell Sharp. He did it by insisting in a speech in Quebec that Quebecers had too much common sense to give up on Canada.
He now may be in a long retreat, even deserving of the replacement ahead, but it should not be for anti-Americanism. That is only there in what he’s recently said if you twist and twist it.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, September 15, 2002
ID: 12968210
TAG: 200209150265
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Whither the prime minister, and for how long?
Even short-range predicting of the partisan course of politics on Parliament Hill this fall and winter is a big gamble, largely because of several wild cards in the game. The obvious ones are the active and deadly earnest leadership struggles underway, which affect some 200 of our 300 MPs.
Leadership races tend to shove the content and contentions of the legislative proposals down in partisan priorities. They drag through months, they engender membership drives, a multitude of fund-raising activities and public exposure for the hopefuls. Simply put, they are most diverting, far more for cabinet and backbench MPs than the legislating of Kyoto or major amendments to save medicare.
But the far more puzzling wild card in the game is the newest one: the literally shocking, unprecedented ousting of a prime minister – not electorally, not by a lost vote of confidence in the House, but through a unique, wobbly two-sided gambit inside the governing party.
Yes, the possibility of such an ousting has always been there, but it was never taken before. Yes, federal party leaders in opposition have been forced out by the combination of caucus and membership insistence on a fresh choice – see John Diefenbaker, John Turner, or Stockwell Day – but not an incumbent PM, a Liberal PM.
Suddenly, the prideful Liberal dogma of absolute loyalty of caucus and party to the prime minister – initiated and imprinted thoroughly by W.L. Mackenzie King as leader from 1919-48 – was blown away last month. Yes, at first blush this grim humbling may seem eased, even assuaged, by the revenge there seemed to be in Jean Chretien’s very long farewell.
It seems to me the proud talk of late August about completing the Chretien agenda, of rounding off his legacy for posterity during the months to February, 2004, is already shifting, though not yet much spoken about openly by the parliamentary Liberals. The factors of realism seem threefold.
First, given the poll-proven public boredom with Jean Chretien, and little, if any, prospect of re-establishing the wide popularity he enjoyed for years, why would he choose to exasperate the electorate with another 18 months of commendations, genuflections, and phony appreciations? And Liberals who aim at exercising power and patronage detest being hung up and waiting, particularly when Paul Martin, their alternative to Chretien, is so popular, certain, handy and both literally and figuratively promising.
Second, how can a ministry of well over 30 men and women, sided by a score of parliamentary secretaries, almost all of whom gave total fealty to Chretien just days before he caved in, function well side-by-side in caucus with a bevy of impatient would-be ministers? What chance of a long stay in cabinet is there for Chretien devotees such as David Collenette, Don Boudria, Allan Rock, Jane Stewart, Elinor Caplan, Lawrence MacAulay, Stephane Dion, Denis Coderre, Lucienne Robillard, Herb Dhaliwal, Lyle Vanclief and Robert Nault, perhaps even Sheila Copps?
Third, the pressures are certain to be strong in a search for more certainty by such inveterate lobbies of Ottawa as the premiers and the big shooters of the corporate sector. Each group, and the leaders within it, is most intent on the split of federal spending and funding to come in John Manley’s budget. (Or is it to be budgets?) Naturally, so is Martin and his closet cabinet crew. Pray for Manley, but do so remembering he too has ambitions.
At this point, one needs to emphasize how exposed Martin has become. Although now outside cabinet, he is still in the Liberal caucus, and with near certainty he will command the PMO in 2004 without facing the electorate. I shiver for him, and myself as an observer, at the prospect of another year or more of fatuous waffling from him on democratic deficits and sunbeam platitudes about the grand but very hazy vision leading him as he leads us.
In brief, the impatience on the Hill this coming session of those in waiting will be high and go higher. Surely the savouring of this as revenge by the man ousted – inherently a blunt, practical man – is a plummeting value for him, notably as embarrassment grows over a leader who has been handily beaten but lingers, prating about a legacy for posterity.
I predict the prime minister will choose to pack up and leave the PMO long before February, 2004. And if he does not, it’s certain the stock gentility of the opposition toward other parties’ leaders after their departure is announced will not prevail.
Few in the opposition caucuses will be able to resist satirical mocking of the famous “loyalty” and “unity” of our governing party. They cannot forfeit demanding the “real” leader of the Liberals say where he stands on what Chretien’s offering on Kyoto, on national health care, freeing the First Nations, or paying down the debt. The MPs of the Alliance, the Bloc, the Tories and the NDP have so much wondrous lancing and spoofing ahead for this Liberal coup, whose completion is being so stupidly extended.
In short, the magic of the power taken and expanded by Jean Chretien is shot.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, September 11, 2002
ID: 12967630
TAG: 200209110292
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 17
COLUMN: Parliament Hill
MEMO: Several off-ice crises before the exciting ’72 hockey summit with the Soviets threatened that landmark series when the USSR finally played Canada’s best. Sun columnist Doug Fisher was there, 30 years ago, as a key participant. He remembers it well …



As the team gathered in Toronto, Charlie Hay, head of Hockey Canada, the government-backed sponsor of the series, fell ill. As chairman of HC’s steering committee, I took on some of his duties, and so had a part in three of the series’ off-ice dilemmas:
1) Announcing that Bobby Hull would not play for Team Canada;
2) Avoiding a diplomatic crisis in Stockholm over Swedish protests that Alan Eagleson had insulted the Canadian ambassador to their country;
3) In an early morning screw-up after the victory, Russian officials told me as I was leaving for the airport that the plane taking Team Canada to Prague would not leave Moscow until bills were paid for the victors’ post-game party. When I said I had no cash handy I was asked where my American Express card was – bingo! – and shortly the team left the ground on a flight made memorable by a Canadian barrage of chicken legs and green apples (their lunches) at a corner of the cabin seating the series’ referees.
I think the three cases indicate how “catch as catch can” the series was.
The first crisis reached national levels within hours of word that Hull, chosen for the roster by coach Harry Sinden, would neither practice nor play. His ineligibility was obvious. He’d taken a big bonus to jump the National Hockey League’s Chicago Black Hawks to join the Winnipeg team in the new World Hockey Association. His choice delighted Manitobans and WHA owners, but infuriated NHL owners and Hockey Canada.
Why did coach Sinden choose Hull – and Eagleson concur – when the agreements for our team in the series specified NHL players, even the split of profits to NHL pension funds? I still don’t know.
News of Hull’s choice brought me outraged calls from Clarence Campbell, president of the NHL, and Bill Wirtz, president of the Black Hawks. Both said that if Hull suited up, the American NHL owners would withdraw their players. Their stance was no surprise, given the rugged road we travelled to get those owners to accept the series and release their stars to play in it.
Within hours of a statement I made that Hull could not play for Canada, the nation’s outrage began to build. Why would we play the Russians without one of our best? Hull was eager. Wasn’t the point of the series to play the best Canadians?
Over several days, the furor grew. After a stormy talk in Toronto with a totally negative Campbell and Wirtz, a phone call summoned me to Ottawa. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau wanted a briefing about our refusal to add Hull to the roster.
Next morning, the corridor to the PM’s office was jammed with vocal reporters (sounding like Hull fans). The session inside was strained – we were not mutual admirers. The PM gestured to stacks of messages. Most demanded he insist Hull play. If Hull could not, some wanted him to block the Soviets from coming.
The PM thought we should go ahead and play Hull. Surely the NHLers, noting national outrage and government support for Hull, would back off. I insisted they would not. We had no series if Hull dressed. The Americans were not Canadian patriots. Their war with the WHA for “stealing” players was mean, and getting meaner.
The PM needled me about my cautious Canadianism, but I think the lawyer in him made him agree neither of us had authority to breach Hockey Canada’s deal with the NHL management and players. So I went forth, to tell irate reporters that playing Hull meant no team of substance, so no Hull.
Much of the angry public reaction largely saw me as a serf quavering before American power, and throughout the series many in the media mob around it went out of their way to scorn me for giving in. (Two years later, Hull played well in the copycat series the WHA stars had with the USSR, a series also set up by Hockey Canada.)
The crisis in Stockholm arose at an exhibition game over a verbal clash between Eagleson and Blanche Margaret Meagher, our ambassador to Sweden who was present in the VIP box with the Swedish foreign minister.
The play was very chippy with many Canadian penalties, climaxing with a cut Swedish face from what seemed a deliberate slash. Why, said the ambassador, to the head of the NHL players, do Canadians play “so dirty?” Couldn’t Eagleson do something about it?
Shortly after this happened, Eagleson dropped to a seat beside me and told me of her question and his reply that if she was really a Canadian “she’d be with us.”
“She’s so damned typical of government people who behave as though they are ashamed to be Canadians,” he said.
Of course, Eagleson’s vocabulary had been more vivid than that, as I shortly found out when drawn into a hallway by an embassy secretary, sided by a Swedish official.
They were so serious. Would I have Eagleson apologize to Meagher before she and her guests left the arena? She was not the one wanting the apology. The foreign minister was outraged at what he had heard. Even an apology fell far short for such intemperate, slurring language.
I was unable to arrange such an apology, and I fear mine as a substitute was ill-taken by the Swedes. The blessing, I told myself then, and as I look back now, is that the angry clash did not become the core incident in the very harsh, critical measure of Team Canada taken by the Swedish media nor did it become a circus centre of the Canadian media coverage of this Scandinavian interlude.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, September 08, 2002
ID: 12967273
TAG: 200209080481
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


May hockey fans too young for the Canada-USSR eight game series 30 years ago share the pleasure of their elders as they follow the televising of each game on its anniversary day. What exciting hockey it was, and still is.
The packaging of this replay is good, in particular the game-by-game comments at intervals of players’ recall. Most of these are homey and frank, notably those from Paul Henderson, Phil Esposito, Yvan Cournoyer, Peter Mahovlich, Vladislav Tretiak and Alexander Yakushev.
Let me explain my keen interest. Hockey Canada, a federally-sponsored corporation, was set up in 1969 specifically to gain acceptance from the IIHF (the international hockey authority) that Canada could use Canadian NHL players in international play. As the federal nominee on Hockey Canada’s board, I was at each game and so I hadn’t seen or heard the games before as Foster Hewitt “called” them. In retrospect, the differences in team strategies and tactics seem sharper than ever in these tapes and the shortcomings of Team Canada less obvious than they seemed then, at least before the redoubtable comeback in the last minutes of the last game.
Too many in Canada, including most NHL players, had expected an easy romp. When this was put in doubt by Game 1 an extraordinary hoot of criticism erupted across Canada and never faded much until the last great goal by Paul Henderson doused it – for a year or two.
I’ve been asked who was most responsible for getting the Russians to face a team loaded with NHL pros and all which has followed from this. As I saw it – Alan Eagleson, then executive leader of the NHL Players Association.
Without Alan it is unlikely we would have had the pick of players and certainly not the scale of success in attendance, viewers, revenue, profits, and our fans in Moscow.
As one who was sometimes trampled by Alan’s boisterous input from the time the series began to take shape after the deal was made in April, 1972, with the USSR by a joint CAHA-Hockey Canada mission, the Eagle became both the symbolic leader and the largest continuing influence on the team’s esprit and grit in the series we now are memorializing. Nonetheless, before he took and made this role there had been much real politicking by Canadian politicians and their aides to get a run at the Soviets.
Pierre Trudeau had promised some Westerners in the ’68 election campaign he’d do something about our lamentable record in sport, in particular in hockey. Post-election, he gave the job to John Munro, his health minister. Munro was always a driver, not a talker. He bulldozed into the sport chores, drawing in help from many federal officials like Robert Ford, “our” man in Moscow, and Lou Lefaive, the federal sport director. He named Charles Rea, an oil company executive (and Carl Brewer’s father-in-law) to head the Trudeau task force on sport. Rea urged the creation of Hockey Canada, a most unusual Crown corporation, to work at brightening our dimming hockey scene. Immediately, minister Munro launched Hockey Canada and shortly, Charlie Hay, another oil company head, became its volunteer chairman.
For years officials of the CAHA, Canada’s voice at the IIHF, were anchored by its astute secretary, Gordon Juckes. Repeatedly, Juckes and the CAHA had been balked from use of pro players on Canada’s team by the anti-Canadian bias of Bunny Ahearne, an Englishman who had long been the IIHF’s mastermind, backed by the USSR and its satellites.
In 1970, Stafford Smythe (then sharing control of the Maple Leafs with Harold Ballard), the NHL and its president, Clarence Campbell, began thinking more about international hockey and the speculation that Russians, perhaps the Swedes and Czechs, had become a match for Canadian and American pro players.
In particular, Stafford warmed the Wirtzes, owners of the Blackhawks, and the Norrises, owners of the Red Wings, to the vision to come of an American team in a regular world hockey series, like soccer’s World Cup. He also got the owners of the Canadiens and the Vancouver Canucks on side, then made public an undertaking that if the USSR would play a Canadian team of NHL players the Canadian clubs would guarantee their best.
The new initiative stirred by Hockey Canada’s emergence (with board members from the CAHA, the NHL, and the NHL Players’ Association) soon created a crisis within the IIHF. At first Ahearne and friends agreed Canada could use nine pro players for its team to host the IIHF world championship in Winnipeg in 1970, then reneged on the deal at Russia’s behest. In response, the decision was taken, pushed by minister Munro, to cancel the IIHF series, the government picking up both the cost losses and the breakup expenses of the permanent team-in-being which Father David Bauer had conceived and gathered in the mid-1960s. The message to the IIHF and the Russians was blunt: Canada was out of international hockey series until it could play its best, i.e., NHL players. Such was the Canadian confidence!
And so Hockey Canada and, perforce, the CAHA, waited. They passed on the IIHF title games in ’71 and the Olympics in ’72 but kept pressing on the Europeans. Once the ’72 winter Olympics were over the Russians decided on an experimental series, not for any reason more vital than the Canadian reason – to prove themselves the best! The answer they got, and which we witness this month on our TV screens, is almost, but not quite, the best.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, August 25, 2002
ID: 12543951
TAG: 200208250365
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


What may seem a benign or benevolent scam involving millions of taxpayers’ dollars is underway, but no one is raising Cain about it. Why? Probably because the payout seems recompense for one of our major guilt complexes, well-guided by political correctness.
This spending exercise does make a mockery of the Veterans Charter, the planned web of federal laws and regulations that became the basis for not repeating the rehabilitation disasters with the troops after World War I. The Charter was the guide and the rules for the return to civil life of one million Canadian volunteers for military service in World War II.
This “good” scam that needs questioning was announced June 22 by Rey Pagtakhan, Minister of Veterans Affairs. He had won cabinet approval for a payout of $39 million to “an estimated 1,800 First Nations veterans of WW II or their surviving spouses,” as compensation for veterans’ benefits which they had failed to get when discharged from the forces or were refused after returning to civvy street.
Since the minister spoke, there has been little public debate in the media about this payout.
Some First Nations chiefs have jeered at the tiny scale of the recompense – roughly $20,000 for each Indian veteran still alive, or for the dependents of those dead. Actuaries for some chiefs had projected individual entitlements as high as $400,000. A few who spoke for both veterans’ groups and native associations tagged the offer as inadequate, and some Metis in prairie country were angry that the payoff plan seemed destined just for “status” Indian veterans, i.e., those registered by Indian Affairs on band or reservation rosters. There seemed no cash redress for Metis volunteers or those men of native blood who were not on band registers.
Through WW II – 1939-45 – some 1.1 million out of just under 12 million Canadians were in our armed forces – a ratio of close to one in every 10 people. The forces kept no record of whether an enlistee was Indian or Metis. Years after the war, Indian Affairs clerks, by checking band documents, reckoned only 3,060 status Indians had served. There was no accurate way to identify Metis or other mixed bloods although some unofficial guesstimates have run the aboriginal total as high as 12,000.
Since there were some 150,000 status Indians in the mid-1940s the ratio of their military service was just one out of every 50. Almost all of such volunteers were in the army. (The Royal Canadian Navy resisted enlisting non-whites, and few Indians could meet Royal Canadian Air Force education standards.)
Why so relatively few Indian enlistments? Bad health meant a large majority of Indian volunteers failed military medicals. Further, many bands frowned on enlistments, often fearing military service meant being enfranchised (i.e., able to vote and so likely to lose “status” and the rights and benefits it confers).
A few years ago, the royal commission on aboriginal affairs acknowledged what I saw myself in our regiment through a score or so Indian and Metis comrades. They fitted in well, liked the army and had few complaints about racism or harassment. In our outfit, they were able soldiers and several were outstandingly brave in battle.
It was some time after the war before veterans with status began to complain, not about the Department of Veterans Affairs or the Veterans Charter but how band rules, enforced by Indian Affairs agents, blocked them from some benefits, in particular in attaining a house or a farm (private landholding within a reservation was a no-no).
Simply put, the Veterans Charter provided a basic package at discharge for every veteran, its scale in value hinging on two factors: months of service and locale of service (i.e., in Canada, overseas, or in a theatre of war). Everybody got a month’s pay, plus a clothing allowance of $100, plus a cash “gratuity” based at $7.50 a month for service in Canada, $15 a month for service abroad. Then the Charter set out the choices for further benefits – e.g., for education or training or farming. If one chose to bypass such a benefit (which also was geared to months of service) then a veteran after discharge received the equivalent of his gratuity as a rehabilitation grant.
So every dischargee faced choices. A huge effort was marshalled at discharge depots to inform veterans about the provisions of the Charter.
As an example, I plumped for a try at university, and eventually my 50 months of service put me through six university years and two degrees.
By 1952, the rough figures on the use of the Veterans Charter by an approximate one million returnees indicated some 700,000 chose no particular benefits beyond the basic package, but almost 300,000 opted for farming (80,000), technical training (80,000), a university degree (45,000) or a housing grant or a business loan.
Despite forecasts of postwar depression and joblessness, the Canadian economy did well for more than a decade and Ottawa earned and deserved credit because the Charter had set up such a smooth absorption of the veteran host.
The chief argument in favor of this belated bonus of some $20,000 for some 3,000 status Indians or their dependent survivors is that most of them were blocked because of their Indian status from both the farming and the housing benefit.
A first criticism of the payout has to be that even the lucky 3,000 got the basic benefits of the Charter (just as some 700,000 other veterans). A second criticism comes from it being unbelievable that almost all of 3,000 Indian veterans wanted to farm, given that hundreds of them came from the bush, lake, and rock country of the Laurentian shield. As for the housing benefit, almost every reserve has had house-building programs under Indian Affairs for some 40 years – in effect, free housing!
A third criticism is that if the redress is justified for aboriginal people who failed to get fair treatment from Indian Affairs, why isn’t there some provision for either Metis or non-status Indian veterans? Further, one needs to ask why there isn’t any appeal process for those still alive among the 700,000 or so who at discharge took away just their own basic package. Surely, some hundreds among them failed to get approval for benefits such as loans for land or for training or higher education.
In this affair the Department of Veterans Affairs is obviously being tagged for what may have been done unfairly by the Department of Indian Affairs. Why even make this a veterans’ matter, and a belated indictment of a wonderful program, the Veterans Charter?
Among the million or so volunteers perhaps there were as many as 12,000 men of aboriginal stock, most of whom seemed to have appreciated the experience and its comradeship. Certainly most were good soldiers.
What more is there to say?
If from 3,000 to 12,000 among a million were denied access to post-discharge benefits because of band rules and actions by Indian agents, this is not an issue for DVA but for Indian Affairs. And it is precisely the status Indians, now numbering over 650,000 (in over 600 “nations”), who now act vigorously, often talking stridently, abetted by some $5 billion a year from the Indian Affairs budget.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, August 18, 2002
ID: 12542171
TAG: 200208180267
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Are we a nation of ostriches? Well, arguably we are, going by the links I make between several recent media items that augur a dismal immediate future for Canada.
First, consider the sober observations of one David Ljunggren, Reuters’ political correspondent here, writing in The Ottawa Citizen. He finds “much wishful thinking going on” regarding the economy, given the grim news emanating from the U.S. “There are people who seem to think that Canadian trade with the United States consists of mysterious goods exports … that would somehow be immune from an American slowdown. There is not a hope of this coming true. If the U.S. economy strikes a rock and sinks, Canada’s heavy reliance on exports means it has not an earthly chance of escaping serious damage.”
According to Ljunggren, our wishful thinking is abetted by ignorance: “I see little evidence here of sustained public interest in what is happening in the United States … The Canadian media give a respectful amount of coverage to news from down south, but there is little of the in-depth analysis of U.S. economic trends you find in European newspapers.”
Ouch! But his observation stands up.
The day after Ljunggren portrayed us as a nation of ostriches, another news report carried in most papers was on our attitudes toward the economy. It tied in with his judgment.
The report, commissioned by Industry Canada, finds Canadians do not like to be told they should strive to meet American standards for productivity and innovation, even though these are the benchmarks for the world. Nor do we like to be reminded of how dependent we are on the U.S. economy. We see ourselves as being “different from Americans due to (our) own set of values and quality of life.”
Doesn’t that ring a bell with you?
On the same day as this self-judgment of our distinctiveness ran, the major political story was another item from the Liberal party’s civil war, built from a one-on-one interview sought and given by Mitchell Sharp with well-known columnist Susan Delacourt.
Sharp, now 91, came to Ottawa over 60 years ago to become a federal official, and was a deputy minister before he became a Liberal MP and cabinet minister in 1963. In 1966, as minister of finance, he took on young Jean Chretien as his parliamentary secretary and ever since has been his sponsor and mentor. Even now, Sharp has an office in the PMO.
The highlight of the interview was his opinion that Chretien does not want a fourth term, and only wishes Paul Martin to back off so he can retire gracefully. More fascinating, and truer for me, was Sharp’s observation that Martin and Chretien do not really differ on policy issues – their clash is one of personalities.
What has this to do with Ljunggren’s divination of disinterest in close, continual attention to the American economy or our attitudes as revealed in the Industry Canada report?
Think about the clash of the Grit titans to this point. Surely each one has avoided – and not by chance – any discussion or even any visionary projection of Canada’s economic relationship with the U.S. One has to surmise this is due to there being no real differences between them on the subject, and because both share the view outlined in the Industry Canada report.
Simply put, this is not a subject Canadians like to think about.
If headlines are to be believed, Canadians would rather muse on where to spend money to promote “the set of values and quality of life” that set us apart from our American neighbours. And so all the policy ideas being ballooned by the federal bureaucracy such as high-speed rail lines, twinning the Trans-Canada highway, etc., presume the nation’s finances are sound, and will remain so. None figures on the grim likelihood our economic circumstances may change for the worse in the near future. None is directly tied to improving our productivity (although their advocates try to make an economic case for them).
As it happens, one federal politician has consistently sought to make our productivity and competitiveness vis-a-vis the U.S. part of our national debates. During a long stint at Industry Canada, John Manley repeatedly drew attention to our dismal record in productivity and the likely consequences were it not addressed: a growing brain drain to the south, and increasing difficulty in paying for our beloved social services. Each time, he was quickly shot down by the PMO, with the aid of data and alternate analysis by StatsCan. And all the while Martin, as finance minister, chose to stand on the sidelines of that debate.
On coming to power, Chretien and Martin adopted the basic economic policies of the Mulroney government but never truly embraced them (thus the pantomime over “scrapping the GST” and “renegotiating NAFTA”). Both men feared the backlash from head-in-the-sand voters, and even more from the Liberals’ own left-wingers. Better to avoid talking about the Canada-U.S. relationship.
This dereliction on the grand, national discussion we should have had is what is maddening and damaging about the ongoing non-leadership, leadership race. In a real race, Manley would at least have a chance to raise the awkward but vital question: Where do we go from here?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, August 14, 2002
ID: 12540921
TAG: 200208140523
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


The federal ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs is not much in terms of bodies and budget, but it has many influences in our highly federated nation.
And Stephane Dion, 47, a former political science professor, who has been Jean Chretien’s minister for governmental affairs since early 1996, is a remarkable man in a quite dull cabinet. He has the gift and curse of open frankness through which he often says directly how he sees a political dilemma – say bilingualism, or federal-municipal relations.
You may recall that in his first week as minister Dion caused a sensation in Quebec when he declared that not only was Canada divisible, so was Quebec. The only other Liberal minister who has offered as much candour has been John Manley, but he seems less given to calling a spade a spade since he took over Paul Martin’s post at Finance.
In contrast, Dion has recently been very frank about nation-wide bilingualism as a prime asset of the federalist cause in Quebec, so much so many of his caucus colleagues are wondering why he never leaves sleeping dogs lie.
Despite Dion’s candour, not much journalistic or partisan notice has been given him in 6 1/2 years as the Liberals’ official stalking horse of separatism. He has won little acclaim out of Lucien Bouchard’s retirement or the passage of the “clarity” bill on constitutional change, both taken as indicators federalism is safe enough, now and for some time, in Quebec.
My contacts with Liberal MPs are too few for me to be definitive, but it seems clear Dion has their respect, mostly for sticking at his task. But he is not seen as a great minister or anything like a national saviour. Their adjectives for Dion are “idealistic” or “ideological” or “honest” or “impractical.” And this brings me back to the argument he recently made that no deed would more favour the federalist cause among Quebecers than to see other provinces join New Brunswick in adopting official bilingualism.
Dion’s gambit brought a host of letters to editors across anglo Canada and calls galore to open-line radio shows, most protesting more bilingualism. Many pointed to the short shrift and inferior position given to English in Quebec.
Most of the objectors seemed unaware that Dion himself has openly chivvied Quebecers about the subordination of English in the province.
In short, Dion is not himself a hypocrite on language. And no Chretien minister has given more long, clear, explanatory addresses on his ideas and responsibilities and circulated them so broadly, not even windier fellows like former ministers Martin and Lloyd Axworthy.
An excellent example of the Dion method and means is a lengthy paper he gave in Yellowknife, June 22, to the federation of francophone and Acadian communities, titled “Strengthening Linguistic Duality to Benefit all Canadians.” It covers what he and the federal government have been doing in response to a direction last year from the PM “to make the promotion of Canada’s linguistic duality one of the priorities of his mandate.”
After a year of consultation, Dion has an action plan ready and he outlined its main features. One goal over a decade is to double the number of citizens who are able to work in both English and French.
One doesn’t need to be a Solomon to realize such a marked acceleration of federally promoted bilingualism, with its attendant pressure on provincial and municipal administrations, is unlikely to come until after the Liberals settle what Dion calls Martin’s attempted “coup.” Events loom, however, that might make bilingualism very topical and thornier than ever.
I refer to the publication dates of two major Statistics Canada reports from its 2001 census.
On Dec. 10, StatsCan will publish “Language, mobility and migration” and six weeks later “Citizenship, immigration, birthplace and birthplace of parents, ethnic origin, visible minorities and aboriginal peoples.”
Nothing frets franco-Canadians more than any diminution of French. Since I came to Ottawa, the percentage of Canadians using French in the home has slid, from just under 30% to just under 25%. If, as is likely, the 2001 census shows the slide has reached 23%, even 22%, there will be cries of crisis. And next month brings the figures on the march of multiculturalism, a Liberal program never favoured by Quebecois. I look forward to the interpretation “Candide” Dion gives these soundings on bilingualism on the slide toward ever more ethnic proliferation.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, August 07, 2002
ID: 12539264
TAG: 200208070489
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Last week, at a social occasion, a young economist who is on the federal “fast track” in Ottawa put a twist on the Jean Chretien-Paul Martin feud which seems both expensive and drastically unconsidered.
To a question of “What’s up?” within the governing apparatus he replied: “Legacy! Legacy! And more legacy! The prime minister wants ‘legacy.’ So we’ve been drafting possibilities across the entire federal field.”
When asked for some specifics, he said the focus was on a project or projects which would be national in reach and definable or in sight, not intangible. He said one had been floated yesterday in the press as a possibility, and another that day. The first was packaged as up to $15 billion for rejuvenating the Trans-Canada highway, perhaps by four-laning most of its 7,800 kilometres. The second, at a tag of $3 billion or more, was to upgrade Canada’s freight and passenger railways.
Almost every kite flown in Ottawa in the past decade had been resurrected for examination as to costs and memorable prospects. Almost every department was pushing its bid or bids in the legacy stakes.
For several reasons, including the well-established popularity of air travel, the highway’s widely varying quality and its splitting into two routes across much of Northern Ontario and west of Winnipeg, the Trans-Canada has not become a beloved route; not one which parents by the tens of thousands want their kids to experience and cherish.
The facts are that for hundreds of its miles, particularly in the Laurentian shield country, the long-distance traffic from west to east by private cars is never heavy and there hasn’t been a huge growth in long-haul trucking, in part because of increasing container freight on CN and CP trains. Nothing in grand construction seems more unneeded than four-laning the highway from Ottawa and Toronto to Nipigon, or from Nipigon to Thunder Bay and Winnipeg. Of course, much of the highway merits improvement, particularly in passing lanes, but such a concept as a Chretien legacy hardly deserves more than a derisive snort.
The legacy aspect of the railroad undertaking might have some pragmatic aspects if were to be fixed on “bread and butter” improvements like major tunnels and bridges, which expedite heavy freight traffic and border crossings. But it strikes me as a legacy as fugitive as moonbeams if the several billion goes to improving Via Rail passenger service in order to get people out of cars and thus cut atmospheric pollution.
Another aspect of a railway project which a frugal citizen wants explained is whether the responsibility for such improvements should rest on those twin continental goliaths, CN and CP Rail, both flourishing despite the current bear market.
Surely, neither of these legacies is worth a hoot to Jean Chretien if he is desperate for identity tags which might loom before Canadians in his name, long after he is gone.
Just as this moderate rant against the road and rail legacies was being framed there came news of a more traditional political gambit. Chretien has put an invitation to all Liberal MPs, previous to a caucus gathering later this month, seeking their ideas for his government’s legislative and spending programs.
The letter indicates eight subjects merit priority among Liberal nation-builders: 1) improving our cities; 2) firming up national health services; 3) countering the effects of child poverty; 4) adapting and observing the Kyoto environmental accord; 5) a national emphasis on skills and learning; 6) a more expansive immigration program; 7) completing a workable relationship with the aboriginal nations; 8) enhancing the official languages program.
Well, well … most of these are grand matters. And one could grant that four or five of the most useful of them would be an enduring legacy for a proud prime minister.
Of course, Chretien will need a whole mandate in time (or even more) to get something grand in place and functioning – say a solid deal with the first nations, or a determination backed with guaranteed federal funding for a universal, national health plan, or a multiculturally balanced immigration plan for the next decade.
For myself, I wish he’d forget this legacy stuff, realizing Canadians are nothing like as historically minded as Americans, Britishers, and the French. The small minority who are will note the end, during his years in office, of almost a quarter century of annual deficits.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, August 04, 2002
ID: 12538670
TAG: 200208040257
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Recently, CBC reporter Adrienne Arsenault offered Newsworld viewers her impressions of America, post 9/11. She described a frightened, mean-spirited republic all too ready to abandon its traditions of individual freedom in its search for security. Although some CBC journalists seem contemptuous of America as the land of the free, Arsenault is not; as a straight, sober reporter her observations sadly ring true.
The most dispiriting aspect of what is happening down south is the absence of protest in the face of gross violations of the rights of people caught up in the widening security net. The silence is particularly odd given the racial overtones to some of the abuses. Normally, these attract liberal wrath.
John Walker Lindh, the “American Taliban” captured in Afghanistan, pleaded guilty to various charges, including taking up arms against his country, rather than face trial, even though many legal commentators argued the government’s case was weak because it relied almost entirely on the testimony secured from him before he had been read his rights, and while he was high on morphine.
Normally, evidence gathered in such dubious circumstances would not make it to court, much less carry a jury. In the present political climate, however, Lindh and his lawyers were not willing to bet his life on the argument the state had violated his rights.
At least Lindh’s treatment had the trappings of American justice; that of two other Americans being held on suspicion of plotting against their country does not.
One is a Puerto Rican convert to Islam whom U.S. authorities say became involved with terrorists, the other was born in the U.S., to Saudi parents. Each is entitled to the legal protections afforded all Americans under their constitution, yet both are being held without charge by the military at a prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They have no access to lawyers, and may be tried by secret military tribunal. Is the difference in their treatment due to the fact they are not white-bread, middle-class kids like Lindh?
Thousands of non-U.S. citizens are being held for immigration violations such as overstaying visas and working without permits. Normally, such matters are considered minor – thousands of Canadians in the U.S. break the same laws, but are not imprisoned for it.
The detainees owe their incarceration not to hot tips from America’s intelligence agencies (which have performed dismally) but to the fact they fit the “profile”: they are Muslim or look “Arab.” (Some are East Indian Hindus – but hey, they look suspicious.) Others who fit the profile but have not transgressed the immigration rules are “invited” to come forward and speak to the authorities. These folks would normally be accorded the same basic rights as U.S. citizens – but these are not normal times.
A few dissenting voices might make a difference. Lindh’s family pushed the media on his behalf, successfully arguing he should face a civil, rather than a military trial. Robert Reid, a British citizen charged with attempting to bomb an airliner with explosives in his shoes, also faces civil proceedings, thanks to his government’s interventions. Britain is pressing Washington about other British subjects being held at Guantanamo Bay.
Yet most American liberals, including the entire Democratic party establishment, are silent on whether these actions of the Bush administration are either legal or moral. (Nor have they raised their very dubious effectiveness.) Without doubt, some Americans find it distasteful, but in the present mood of anger, fear, frustration and desire for revenge, none is willing to speak out.
Lest Canadians feel superior, recall our own sorry response to domestic terrorism.
In October, 1970, terrorists seeking an independent Quebec kidnapped a provincial minister and a British trade official, leading then-PM Pierre Trudeau to invoke the War Measures Act, revoking the civil liberties of all Canadians.
Trudeau’s ministers from English Canada originally demurred at giving the government such powers, believing it too extreme given the size of the threat, so Trudeau lied to them, and subsequently to the country. He insisted that an apprehended insurrection (a coup) was under way, the evidence of which could not be revealed for security reasons. This never happened because no such evidence existed.
At Trudeau’s last news conference (on the occasion of his personal papers going to the archives) I asked him to fulfill his promise and provide evidence of the coup. He heard the question, and ignored it.
Why does this issue matter? In Canada, some 468 people were arrested under the War Measures Act – mostly academics, journalists, labour leaders and university students – and 406 of them were never charged. Of those who were, few were tried and none was subsequently judged to be a terrorist. By and large, they were political opponents of the provincial and federal Liberals. Few outside Quebec were bothered by this at the time, and since then the silence of English Canada has been thorough.
So let us remember: extremism in the defence of liberty is not just an American problem.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 28, 2002
ID: 12817633
TAG: 200207280349
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


What does it take to lead a federal political party today? No, this is not another Martin-Chretien piece but about the leadership of the other old-time parties, the Progressive Conservatives and the New Democrats.
The Tories’ Joe Clark, is 63. Shortly his leadership is to be “reviewed” at convention, and largely for want of a grabby alternative he should pass it. Clark, first elected to the Commons 40 years ago, still has some strengths. He handles question period with confidence, switching well from graceful needling to outrage. He is not easily trapped by reporters.
One divines from public responses to Clark that he’s a homey fixture for most of us despite the ever-awkward looks and body movements. Familiarity has not bred contempt even if it has not helped the party much. Indicative of the party’s state is the half-hearted clamour for his resignation and the lack of eager rivals for his job.
Clark’s most striking trait is his unwavering self-confidence, seen in his willingness over the years to take beatings and come back for more. This isn’t necessarily bad in a man still aspiring to be PM – Jean Chretien also has such unquenched enthusiasm and has often taken his lumps. But where Chretien managed enough incremental progress over time to reach 24 Sussex Dr., Joe got there early – blew it – and has been stuck in neutral ever since. From his decision in 1979 to govern as if he had a majority to his fumbled Charlottetown Accord negotiations in the early ’90s (was there an interest group he did not offer something to?) his political judgment has been execrable.
If Chretien is yesterday’s man, Joe is last week’s.
Ironically, Chretien, who could lead his party to another majority tomorrow, is attacked for staying too long while Clark, whom few believe can improve his party’s fortunes, much less become PM again, still enjoys widespread respect. Canadians love their losers.
The man most mentioned as next Tory leader is MP Peter MacKay, 37, son of Elmer MacKay, a minister in Brian Mulroney’s cabinets. He is attractive, personable, and quick; a smart lawyer who does well in the House, in media scrums and who has shown remarkably good judgment to date. Although not short of ambition, he does lack Clark’s annoying bent of pomposity.
I interpret MacKay’s hesitation to go outright for the leadership, insisting instead he supports Joe, as a common sense acceptance of how suicidal the timing is for a takeover, there being insufficient time to fashion a platform, build up a national bankroll and imprint a strong personal image on the public before the next election.
MacKay’s leadership credentials are not perfect. His French is a question mark, and Clark’s relative skill with it has always been a plus. Both MacKay’s Red Tory roots and a Maritime power base make him an unlikely man for uniting the right, undercutting his fundraising potential – a critical issue for a party deep in debt. Many former PC backers are sitting on their purses, awaiting a merger with the Alliance or already backing that party. Nonetheless, MacKay would be an able exponent of old Tory values.
New Democrats now have two solid candidates to replace the ineffectual Alexa McDonough. The first is Bill Blaikie, 52, a Manitoban who, before becoming an MP in 1979, was a United Church clergyman.
Blaikie was as able as any in the older guard of MPs back in Ed Broadbent’s days as leader, standing out for both assiduity in the House and subject range. He is the best orator in a House short of them, and the most knowledgeable opposition MP on its processes. Unfortunately, oratory counts for little in the days of the 15-second news clip. A politician who can speak extemporaneously at length, and do it smoothly, is often taken as arrogant and boring.
Blaikie’s natural moderation and consistent modesty has crimped his garnering much national notice. He seems almost a relic from the late CCF-early NDP period before the various interest groups – feminists, environmentalists, gays, refugee/immigrant advocates, and anti-globalization protesters – embraced the party and diversified its emphasis from economic and social progress based on planning and frugal government.
Blaikie does represent the NDP’s prairie heartland, but this advantage may be offset by coolness towards him by unionists, particularly in Ontario, as too rural and old-school idealistic as a socialist. As yet he has not offered a solution to the basic NDP problem – its perceived irrelevance. The left’s mantra seems passe in the 21st century. European socialist parties have moved to the centre with much success, but here the centre is blanketed by the Liberals.
The second NDP aspirant of note is Jack Layton, a Toronto councillor. To those outside 416/905 he is the fresh face and likely to be the most interesting of the candidates. He is articulate, hip and confident, and has a fair command of French. He comes promoting urban issues of expanding importance which much interest the media – and he is very aware of the media.
Given time, he could make the NDP a threat to the Grits in the big cities, and he might also bring in new cash for the party because many of his issues interest business, especially small business.
Layton’s liabilities? First, getting a seat in the House through a byelection will be a slight hope, meaning he’d be a leader who would wander the land until a general election. Second, Canadians don’t want to hear how Toronto is the model for vital problems and issues. He is also an awkward fit with the NDP’s western base. Organized labour will certainly warm to him, given his defence of public sector unions during recent public sector strikes in Toronto.
In closing, I note that none of the quartet – Clark, MacKay, Blaikie, or Layton – has an eager band of acolytes and disciples ready within their respective caucuses and capable of governing Canada. Raising such a band will be an imperative for both success at conventions and the next general election.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 24, 2002
ID: 12817090
TAG: 200207240366
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


It is hard to accept what becomes more obvious every week: Jean Chretien has not only lost majority favour with the Canadian public, but even more shocking, he seems to have lost it with capital “L” Liberals.
It should not be a shock that a prime minister in time becomes unpopular. It’s happened to most of them, even the likes of W.L. Mackenzie King and Pierre Trudeau, PMs who retained office for many years.
It is barely 20 months, however, since Chretien gained a third, and improved, mandate from the people. Our economy is not in bleak shape. Separatism is rather quiescent. The PM’s health is good, and until Paul Martin bolted (or was fired) his tight grip on both cabinet and caucus seemed unshakable.
No previous PM, even Trudeau, had ever made his rule and his office so dominant over cabinet, the administration, and Parliament. Yet it becomes clear that at best Chretien can only hope to survive into next year, and any hope of a fourth mandate is gone.
This is a jolting surprise, a consequence I would have said impossible just half a year ago as the Alliance struggled to ditch Stockwell Day. Now, remarkably, we suddenly have realized how little there has been in substantive ideas and measured purpose. It is as though ending high annual deficits and piecing out most of the resultant surpluses in spending here and there was all there was. Both the citizens in general and most Liberals want far more.
Two stories in last Sunday’s Ottawa Citizen illustrate the pathos of an unready government and the destructive potential of the civil war within the Liberal party between Chretien loyalists and Martin’s legions.
The first front page story was headed: “Liberals order new ideas, vision; bureaucrats given August deadline to re-energize government.” The gist of it was that the federal bureaucracy, spurred by its top mandarin, the new clerk of the PCO, Alex Himelfarb, has organized for a “a policy blitz” through six high level committees led by deputy ministers. The results, ready by late August, will give the PM and his cabinet “a fresh agenda” and “ammunition against his leadership rival, Paul Martin, who is criss-crossing the country giving campaign-style speeches and subtly criticizing government policies.”
The titles of the six committees sound like headings of a first year political science course: innovation, ethics, cities, environment, health care, etc. The story says Himelfarb is a man “known as a thinker and an ‘ideas guy’ and the first clerk since Michael Pitfield to have a social policy rather than an economic background.”
The other Citizen front-page story was headlined “Martin gets tough with PM loyalists” and reveals “the hardball” which Martinites have been playing with Chretien backers, notably in Alberta. Consider this descriptive quote: “They will not sleep until every ounce of dissent is wiped out.” Phrases like “arrogance at its best” and “guerrilla warfare” limn a relentless Martin campaign to oust the prime minister.
This story closes with references to revelations gained from the PM’s staff of truth-twisting by Martin and his spokesmen about his fund-raising.
Substantially, these two stories can be tagged as anti-Martin items, but there is a boomerang wallop in them for the Chretien team.
Lord help us all that Chretien, in his third mandate and ninth year as PM, is without a firm, serious legislative agenda and has to get it in a rush from his mandarins and not primarily from his 36 ministers and 130 odd backbenchers.
And Lord help the Grits under Chretien’s command, given that his prated partisan savvy was so lame or limp it failed to note and react as his heralded, would-be successor acquired over many months the control of so many of the party’s riding associations, including all but one in Alberta.
The most recent news from the PMO is of a belated coming-together once again of the geniuses who masterminded previous Chretien triumphs: big David Collenette from Don Valley; Power Corp.’s John Rae, the shy and quieter brother of the blessed Bob Rae; Peter Donolo, the friendliest of media handlers; Sen. David Smith, successor to Keith Davey as the Ontario fixer; and Eddie Goldenberg, a fixture with Chretien for most of his political career.
After being so wrong in underestimating the fatal danger Martin has become to the PM’s continuance, a prediction is unwise; nonetheless I figure the hardest chore this genius crew will have is convincing Chretien there will be no fourth mandate, and that even a gracious exit will not be easy.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 21, 2002
ID: 12816779
TAG: 200207210278
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


The following, recent news items may tell us a lot about Canada’s most important relationship.
1) A wish list from our defence department and reports that our military is still robbing Peter to pay Paul; 2) accusations of American bullying at the G8 summit; and 3) Canada’s condemnation of the U.S. for refusing to put its troops under the authority of a new international war crimes tribunal.
The military’s wish list was, in part, a response to a Commons committee’s call for hugely increased defence spending. Our generals, less sanguine than our MPs about the government’s willingness to spend on defence, called for more limited – though still substantial – equipment purchases, principally to help Canada quickly deploy forces overseas. (To get our troops to Afghanistan we had to beg to participate, then wait for U.S. transport.) The wish list was soon replaced by others detailing how the forces continue to cut equipment programs to pay for the operations.
Word of the Battle of Kananaskis came when anonymous insiders told media friends of the bullying Americans’ effort to steal the summit from us. The credibility of such an interpretation was undermined by a lack of evidence that other summit attendees cared for Jean Chretien’s agenda (Africa and AIDS) any more than the Americans did.
Unfortunately, no media confidant saw fit to ask what was so outrageous about the most powerful nation on Earth wanting its No. 1 concern – the protection of its citizens at home and abroad – to be addressed by the summit, particularly given Ottawa’s words of support following Sept. 11. Given that the American interest was not unexpected, it seems odd nothing was negotiated beforehand to mollify them – that is how such things are usually handled.
Then came the attack on the U.S. for refusing to allow the International Criminal Court to have jurisdiction over Americans pulling United Nations peacekeeping duty. Canada’s UN ambassador, Paul Heinbecker, repeatedly chastised the Americans for undermining this great leap forward in internationalism. Did he and Chretien really believe Canada could browbeat the U.S. into changing its decision? If so they are dangerously out of touch with what is going on south of our border.
The stories above recall the 1960s and the Lester Pearson-Lyndon Johnson years when Canada-U.S. relations soured over the Vietnam war. Then, as now, Canadians were disturbed by what they saw as undue bellicosity in Washington. Then, as now, the U.S. administration was disinclined to listen to preaching by a country that counted for little, but which benefited greatly from its economic relationship with America. There are, however, significant differences between then and now which makes today’s dissonance much more worrisome.
In the ’60s, Americans themselves were divided – by the war, by race, by generation. Today, a shared sense of outrage and desire for security and revenge unite them. Support for the president’s unilateralism is deep and bipartisan. The lack of any real challenge to talk of toppling Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, and the inability of Colin Powell and the state department to influence decisions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, show just how dry is the ground in which Canada is trying to plant seeds of doubt.
During Vietnam, the U.S. had to keep an eye on the broader Cold War struggle. Canada’s significant military capability (prior to Pierre Trudeau’s defence cuts) made us a useful ally in this context. That we had recently shown a willingness to share the burden of defending the “free world” (in World War II and Korea) also tempered American reaction to our criticism. Today, Canada is more important only in a negative sense: if we fail to control who enters our territory America is at risk, and then it can respond by unilaterally closing the border – with devastating economic consequences for us.
Speaking of money, the ’60s were boom times for both countries. Today, economic insecurity following 9/11 has exacerbated pre-existing tensions (e.g., softwood lumber, agricultural subsidies) and retaliatory action against Canada, the “weak security sister,” can be portrayed as patriotic as well as economically rewarding.
Today, few Americans sympathize with our take on the world, as the Chretien government and a lot of Canadians see it. Is this the time to chastise the U.S. and preen about what superior internationalists we are?
We deliberately focused on America’s objections to the International Criminal Court, even though other countries, including UN Security Council members China and Russia, also sought to avoid the court’s writ. In doing so, we confirmed the suspicions of those Americans who believed the real purpose of the dispute was to embarrass them, and that the court would inevitably become a tool for U.S.-bashing.
At least with Chretien we know how Canada will handle such matters – badly!
What if Paul Martin becomes PM? His credentials in international financial circles count for little when it comes to global defence and security matters. His unwillingness to challenge his own government’s more atavistic responses doesn’t help, nor does his last budget, which clearly showed he views defence spending as a waste. Most damaging is his record on terrorism.
Martin once attended a fund-raising event despite being warned by our security officials that some of those involved had raised funds for the Tamil Tigers, one of the world’s most vicious terror groups. When challenged in the House about this, he accused his critics of being racists.
Is that likely to win Canada friends in Fortress America?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 17, 2002
ID: 12816201
TAG: 200207170381
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


At least in its political phases, the end seems in sight for the open push by one smallish Canadian minority. For some 25 years many homosexuals have sought an end to their discrimination, particularly that created by laws. Their campaign moved with greater assurance after the Charter of Rights went into our reformed Constitution in 1982.
This column on emancipating gays assumes the recent Ontario court decision on same sex marriages, soon to be set in law, will close out the last major, political grievance of homosexual Canadians.
Three judges, headed by Madame Heather Smith, associate chief justice of the Ontario Superior Court, decided the right of same sex partners to a legal, civil marriage should not be denied. They put a stay of two years on the effect from their decision to enable Parliament or the Supreme Court or even the Ontario Legislature, to make the necessary changes in law.
The subject in almost all its manifestations has always been difficult for both politicians, and became more so with its emergence in the Trudeau years as an urgent dilemma requiring political responses.
My generation and its predecessor, both reaching adulthood by World War II, shared a broad tradition of knowing little and saying less about homosexuality and the criminal offences then connected to it.
I was 23 when I met my first, open lesbian. This shock came just after a night at a London musical show.
In an interval, I told my companion how much I liked the star. She wrinkled her nose and said, “Oh, he is a poof!” And at my open mouth, she explained: “A queer, a pansy, a homosexual!” She shocked me, and embarrassed me further, by listing a string of “queers” then starring on the British stage. She kindly suggested several novels that would end my obvious ignorance.
And so through books almost 60 years ago I learned of homosexual love. In doing so – and ever since – I have not understood why a man would want to love another man and not a woman.
This bafflement hasn’t translated into an animus toward homosexuals. Early in my enlightenment, college meant studying with homosexuals whose talents I admired and whose friendship I cherished. I never wanted to see them persecuted by police or bullies or ostracized and denied entry or recognition to honours and high places. As an MP, I tried to stop the ferreting of homosexuals in Ottawa done by RCMP security. Their dismissals were crude and cruel and didn’t close until “intelligence” duties were taken away from the RCMP after a major inquiry well into the Trudeau years.
All this seems so long ago – long before militant homosexuals became effective lobbyists, well before the first gay MP, Svend Robinson, “outed” himself, even before the revelations about sexual abuse of Indian children at residential schools run by churches and the rise of the AIDS scourge in the early 1980s.
Increasingly, courts and human rights commissions were applying the Charter, weighing charges of discrimination and abuse, and making rulings and awards which bit by bit sanctioned what organized gays and lesbians pressed as their rights and needs.
Surely, now, with this Ontario ruling approving same sex marriages as a right, we have seen the finale of completing full, fair citizenship, as they see it, to homosexuals. Once this ruling is a right, not a lot is left to do.
Over the years since the Charter, I have urged elected politicians not to wait for justices to interpret issues of family law, sexual behaviour and discrimination, but to crystallize the issues around homosexuality and discuss them thoroughly in both legislative chambers and their committees.
They would come to appreciate what Canadians want or do not want in laws on sexual status and behaviour. Such could be defined in parliamentary motions for use by judges and attorneys in cases to do with homosexuality and germane to the swatch of laws and regulations in question – from pensions to wills to marriage to divorce to employment equity to military service, etc.
It was heartening to learn Madame Justice Smith of the Ontario Superior Court has insisted Parliament, not a court, is best suited to redefine marriage, assessing the competing values and interests of all involved and the consequences which may flow when the state recognizes same sex unions.
For me, Justice Smith has an extra cachet. In Ottawa, one often hears that after the PM the most powerful Canadians are his tiny aide, Eddie Goldenberg, and his top Ontario advisor, David Smith, former MP, recent Senate appointee and the husband of Justice Smith.
David Smith is an old hand at fast-tracking legislation. Surely, his redoubtable influence will speed his wife’s direction to the House of Commons into law.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 14, 2002
ID: 12815902
TAG: 200207140280
SECTION: Comment
FIFTY YEARS before the Winnipeg Falcons won the first Olympic gold medal in hockey, the rules of the game were being solidified at Montreal’s indoor Victoria Skating Rink.
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


“Rules of Hockey No. 3: No player shall raise his stick above his shoulder. Charging from behind, tripping, collaring, kicking or shinning shall not be allowed.”
— Montreal Gazette, Feb. 27, 1877
So the Society of International Hockey Research has declared a decade after its launch that ice hockey was not founded in Kingston, Ont. or Windsor, N.S. (as claimed in those places). The society’s research team says evidence from 19th century records suggests Montreal and Halifax have sounder claims.
The printed rules (see excerpt above) came on the eve of a well-publicized match at the Victoria Skating Rink between the Metropolitan and the St. James clubs. The captain of the Mets was one J.G.A. Creighton, a Haligonian studying law at McGill, and the man who got organized hockey going at the new rink in its initial stage. From Montreal it was to spread west to Ottawa, Kingston and Toronto.
Later, Creighton became Clerk of the Senate in Ottawa. In the early 1890s he got the sons of the Governor General, Baron Stanley, into hockey, leading the father to donate the famous trophy now won and lost each June.
Creighton was probably the pivotal person in hockey’s flowering in Canada, although my research has not uncovered any credit for launching organized hockey that he either took or was given.
One must stress the word “organized.” Most of the world’s major team sports had long and diverse antecedents in informal play, often with mass participation and many watchers before they were crystallized by accepted, common rules of play and regular competition.
Fifty years ago, as a reference librarian at Queen’s University, I had come on a New York Times story on how the reference chief of the N.Y. public library had blown holes through a declaration made by pro baseball – one which sportswriters swallowed whole – that the game had been invented by one Abner Doubleday at Cooperstown, N.Y. (thus, the site of baseball’s Hall of Fame).
The librarian proved that a game called baseball, recognizably the nucleus of modern baseball, improving on the English villagers’ game of rounders, was defined and sponsored by several excellent players in Boston, from whence it spread quickly through New England and New York state before the Civil War.
In 1951 at Queen’s, I had read a report published in 1942 by a committee of the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, headed by a veteran official of the OHA, Billie Hewitt, titled “Origin of Hockey in Canada.” Only 1,400 words long, it noted “the game in various forms was first played in Europe and Asia and first played in Canada in Halifax and Kingston … the first hockey was played by the Royal Canadian Rifles, an Imperial unit, stationed in Halifax and Kingston in 1855.”
The report recognized Montreal had records of hockey games beginning in 1874 but stated “they were superceded by games in Kingston and Halifax.”
What the report failed to say is that the records in Montreal newspapers (like the Gazette) from 1874 to 1877 were factually informative and their opinions credible. In them one learns how the game was defined through its launch at the new Victoria Skating Rink, the first large, enclosed and unobstructed ice surface in North America. Nothing nearly so specific in a public record has sustained the Halifax or Kingston claims.
When I learned how organized baseball’s credited beginnings had been doused by a librarian’s search through old press files, I began to wonder about the Hewitt report. The Queen’s library had a big collection of old newspapers, notably Montreal, Toronto, and Kingston dailies through long stretches of the 1800s. So for several years my spare time went to files of the Gazette, the Globe, etc.
My zest in scanning the old files owed much to thinking I was a pioneer, unearthing the history of hockey and coming to understand the human zest for competitive play in a huge diversity of circumstances. After several years work and much note taking came the big shock.
Although I’d covered the Gazette rather well through its 19th century files, I hadn’t got to files from the 1940s. So it shook me up to learn in the late 1950s that the Gazette in 1943 had run several stories in which the Hewitt findings on hockey were ridiculed. They were based on a study of hockey’s roots in Montreal, unveiled by Prof. E.M. Orlick. He and several others at McGill had also found the Gazette coverage of hockey in the 1870s and talked to one survivor of the first well-reported game (1875) in the Victoria Rink – ice surface 200×85 feet; room for 3,000 spectators.
An organized game such as hockey required four basics:
1) Some standards for both locale (rinks) and equipment (puck, sticks);
2) Accepted rules of play, with some means to ensure they are followed;
3) Regular competition in which there is a winner and a loser or losers;
4) Enough games or matches in repetition over years with a standard format and at set places and times.
Separating organized hockey from somewhat similar but less narrowly framed play such as shinny, shinty, hoquet, and bandy lets Canadians assume the role in hockey that the English had in soccer and the Americans in baseball. But whenever I puff up such assumption I recall two points – one on origins, the other on changes in game equipment – in the lead paragraph of a Gazette piece of March 4, 1877:
“At the rink last night a very large audience gathered to witness a novel contest on ice. The game of hockey, though much in vogue on the ice in New England and other parts of the United States, is not much known here, and in consequence the game last evening was looked forward to with great interest. Hockey is played usually with a ball, but last night in order that no accident should happen, a flat block of wood was used, so that it should slide along the ice without rising and going among the spectators to their discomfiture.”
The slapshot was a long way ahead – developed by Canadian players in mid-20th century, about the time the hockey played by teams of the USSR was emerging as different, perhaps even superior to ours.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 10, 2002
ID: 12815378
TAG: 200207100531
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


The politicians have decamped. Ottawa is into the dog days of summer and talk of weather and holiday plans has replaced much of the chatter about the Paul Martin-Jean Chretien leadership crisis.
But evening newscasts and front page photos remind us that at pancake breakfasts and afternoon barbecues across the land the relentless struggle for the hearts and votes of the Grit faithful goes on.
To those attending such events – and to the Liberal MPs hosting Martin and Chretien – a suggestion: ask each man how he would revitalize our moribund democracy, especially its central forum, the House of Commons. Much of the hostility imperiling Chretien’s leadership is said to arise from a sense of impotence among Grit backbench MPs. A majority of them support Paul Martin, apparently assuming their lot will improve under his kinder, less domineering leadership. This assumption seems overly generous, and very naive.
Too generous because there’s no reason to believe Martin’s behaviour as minister of finance would guide his treatment of them as prime minister. As finance minister, Martin was happy to help them raise money, to share the stage (and his prestige) with them, to listen to their pitches for pet projects and to seek their advice. That he did it at all with grace is to his credit, but it was self-interested behaviour: to become PM he needs their support.
Beginning in the second Chretien mandate, Martin began an occasional mention of the love he has for the House and the wisdom and the sound ideas at hand among the plain MPs of the Liberal caucus. Several times in the past six months he has touched on parliamentary reform – not with particulars or a platform – but as something becoming increasingly urgent. Both Liberal and opposition backbenchers should be contributing more to new legislation and scrutiny of spending.
Yet Martin has not detailed a single specific reform or change he has in mind. It may be a canny omission, because surely he knows that giving either cabinet or caucus – or both – more initiatives and scope means a downsizing of the Prime Minister’s Office and less power exercised by, or in the name of, the PM.
In currying backbench favour, Martin has raised such expectations. According to his caucus fans, he’s a natural fiscal conservative who also dreams of leading an activist government which will once again use the federal purse to force social change and address society’s inequalities. He’s also the man to correct the under-representation of women in the cabinet and in Ontario and to ensure the voices of the regions and of multicultural Canada are also heard at the cabinet table.
Yes, most citizens know that candidates for office often feel compelled to tell folks what they want to hear, and given what happened to past Liberal promises to scrap both NAFTA and the GST, even Martin’s fans in the caucus should be skeptical. Why? There is no escaping the discipline of power, and when the time comes to for go expectations, Martin will reach for the same levers of power to maintain his position that his predecessors did, particularly such a hands-on leader as Jean Chretien.
Parliament’s slide into irrelevance predates the Chretien tenure in the PMO. Pierre Trudeau quipped that MPs were nobodies away from the Hill. Chretien’s sin is that he made it obvious they enjoyed the same low status within the Hill precincts. Brian Mulroney had a talent for keeping his caucus quiescent, but who would claim ordinary MPs in his day enjoyed real power and influence?
No! Institutionally power really rests with the PMO – and has for decades. The PMO controls the bureaucracy, the patronage system and, through the whip, the caucus. Every year the noose around Parliament tightens. Why would a Martin PMO be more inclined to give up power than those of Chretien, Mulroney, and Trudeau? Because Paul is such a nice fellow?
Some certainly seem to believe the moral rectitude of the officeholder can put all this right. They delude themselves, ignoring the grand old axiom that “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The failures which come from an imperial, unaccountable prime ministership are so obvious today. Departments lose track of billions – the government shrugs. Millions in dubious contracts are let – ministers are shuffled. The PM cancels a helicopter contract, putting airmen at risk – their commanders set up to insist that everything is fine.
Parliamentary government emerged in Britain to check such abuses. Sadly, our Parliament no longer comes close to exercising such restraint. Once into the PMO no incumbent is likely to reduce his roles and reach by changing things.
And so it would be helpful if some of the folks now getting acquainted with Paul Martin in his travels – and, one assumes, soon with Jean Chretien – will put these questions: How, specifically, would you restore to Parliament the power to hold you truly accountable? Can you detail briefly what you mean about restoring democracy?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 07, 2002
ID: 12815060
TAG: 200207070272
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Last week in the Ottawa Citizen, reporter Joan Bryden – who has the real stuff from on high – sketched the plans of “insiders” and “top strategists” in Jean Chretien’s leadership team as they rally to fight off the threat from super-organized followers of Paul Martin. It was a tacit recognition that the prime minister is unpopular in the party and must reverse this if he is to carry on.
Also in the Citizen in mid-May, columnist Susan Delacourt did a piece titled: “The man of the people has lost touch,” arguing this loss came from Chretien’s recent lapses of judgment in “people management.” She argued Brian Mulroney was a previous parallel, a leader also wanting so much to be “liked,” but who wound up “the most wildly disliked prime minister in Canadian history.”
It’s very subjective, rating Mulroney as the most wildly disliked prime minister ever, given so many of them when in office have not been popularly esteemed for long. Prime ministers recognized today as really effective were also unpopular and/or feared for much of their time by their ministers, their caucuses, and citizens – see men of many mandates like Mackenzie King and Pierre Trudeau.
On balance, of the 11 prime ministers I’ve watched since the Dirty Thirties and the election of 1935, seven of them earned harsh contemporary assessments fairly soon and which lasted. Of the four who escaped a lot of hostility, three were just not in office very long: Joe Clark, John Turner and Kim Campbell. The fourth, Louis St. Laurent, Liberal PM from 1948-57, was distinguished by gentility and courtesy, never really riling the public as several of his ministers did.
Of the other seven PMs in my watch, my ranking of their public unpopularity in their closing term of office would be:
1. R.B. Bennett, Tory, 1930-35
2. Mackenzie King, Liberal, 1935-1948
3. Brian Mulroney, Tory, 1984-1993
4. Pierre Trudeau, Liberal, 1968-79, 1980-84
5. John Diefenbaker, Tory, 1957-63
6. Lester Pearson, Liberal, 1963-68
7. Jean Chretien, Liberal, 1993-
One must make some distinctions. In my memory none of the seven sparked as much rage and hatred among common people as Bennett. The image graven was of a rich, pompous man, surrounded by pygmies. As the Depression deepened and Bennett turned toward difficult, rather socialist counters for its havoc, a hatred souring to contempt grew.
Two of the substantially unpopular PMs, Diefenbaker and Trudeau, both gained and kept an admiring, loyal, even doting, swatch of Canadians. The Chief’s were mostly Westerners and rural Ontario people who saw him as their champion; PET had a strong following in Ontario and in anglo Quebec of those who saw him saving Canada and keeping Quebec in its place. At the same time, many other Canadians saw the Chief as a posturing, partisan fraud and Trudeau as aloof, elitist, domineering, and patronizing.
King, in retrospect such a canny PM, is a very particular case. He wasn’t likable, let alone lovable, but the alternatives to him were very light and he had many excellent ministers.
The Canadian war effort went well enough for King to win a narrow re-election at its close, despite a massive antagonism to him among those who fought in WW II. My imagination cannot conceive of King remaining PM for so long if there had been television, exposing triteness, odd private interests, and incredible caution (e.g., about the health plan he first advocated in 1919).
Pearson seemed the least happy of the lot at being prime minister, despite the burst of positive legislative initiatives in his five years of office. He was soured by consecutive minority mandates, a flock of messy in-ministry scandals, a detested enemy across the floor in Diefenbaker, and his distaste for partisan campaigning and “pressing the flesh.” He never gained solid appreciation among common folk; nonetheless, their disfavour never seemed virulent or close to hatred.
Of the eight prime ministers with whom I’ve talked, Pearson was the easiest and most relaxed; however, we were fellow baseball and hockey buffs.
Pearson retained through months and months of desperate days in the House the loyalty of his cabinet and caucus, in contrast to what had happened to Diefenbaker in 1962 and 1963, and what seems to have happened to Chretien.
It seems to me Chretien has generated a considerable disrespect and frustration within his party (which is somewhat mirrored in the country) rather than the pervasive dislike, ranging from hostility to hatred, that afflicted Mulroney, Bennett, Trudeau and King.
None in this latter quartet, so despised by many in their heyday, was deeply challenged by usurpers when in office.
The immediacy of the process which is enabling usurpation by Paul Martin demands a prodigious buildup through the summer and fall of a pro-Chretien membership many thousands strong.
At this stage, recruiting seems more vital to survival than worrying about being disliked or tagged as “yesterday’s man.” On the other hand, common sense says the PM needs several fresh, credible propositions for both Grits and the country – and some other image than the underrated, scrappy guy from the Shawinigan boondocks who, like King, St. Laurent, Pearson, and Trudeau, saved Canada.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 03, 2002
ID: 12814479
TAG: 200207030500
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Despite it being a so-called “patronage appointment,” there has been remarkably little sniping by anti-Liberal partisans since Jean Chretien picked Pamela Wallin to be the Canadian consul general in New York.
This is a remarkable tribute to the favour she has earned with a wide swath of Canadians as a cherished and respected interviewer, host, and commentator over more than two decades of television exposure.
Wallin is the second former CTV bureau chief in Ottawa to be plucked by a prime minister for a big role in the U.S.
In the mid-1980s, Brian Mulroney made Bruce Phillips, Wallin’s predecessor in the CTV post, the press secretary at our embassy in Washington (and later brought him back to Ottawa as a high-level adviser in the PMO).
It is common stuff for a political journalist, through reading or viewing other journalists, to reach an opinion of their partisan antipathies or sympathies – and, occasionally, their complete neutrality.
For me, Phillips was definitely a conservatively minded commentator, therefore somewhat of a fit with his patron and his party. Also for me, Wallin as journalist, particularly in the partisan hullabaloo across the country over the free trade agreement with the U.S., showed as a liberally minded feminist and a Walter Gordon-Mel Hurtig sort of nationalist, critical of Mulroney and his big play for a North American free trade zone. Coincidentally, this put her in line with the Liberal party’s posture, including Jean Chretien, who later weaved his views against NAFTA into the winning Liberal program for the 1993 election.
In my time in Ottawa, only the matter of particular status for Quebec generated more heat across Canada than over NAFTA in 1988. Ah, the vehemence against American economic domination and Ronald Reagan’s world views.
Irony is my humour, mirroring a skeptical bent. I recall the American issue and the antagonism I saw in Wallin at the time against its sponsor and the American way, because now it is ironic. Now she is our flag-bearer, interlocutor, and advocate in the Big Apple, the business centre of America.
It seems apparent that, like Jean Chretien, she has shifted on NAFTA and the menace of America.

One of my teachers at university, the late Northrop Frye, professor of English, was recognized by varsity students in the late 1940s as a genius, and proof of his range and brilliance is to be found in the 10 volumes of his collected works so far published by the University of Toronto Press. The latest is Northrop Frye on Literature and Society, 1936-1989.
Even at this belated date, Frydolators like me and anyone with a long history of watching and analyzing Canadian television, should relish the insights in one chapter titled “Reviews of television programs for the Canadian Radio-Television Commission.”
Frye was a member of the CRTC from 1968-77, and these are 20 pithy, frank reviews he prepared for his colleagues and commission staff on some TV programs or series shown largely on the CBC, in the early ’70s, from Sesame Street to the Miss Canada pageant to the Carol Burnett Show to NFB documentaries on governance and politics.
He begins his notes on the comic Hart and Lorne Terrific Hour with: “The highlight of this program was the secession of Baffin Island – this in the tradition of poker-faced parody which seems to be very central to Canadian humour: its tradition goes back through Rawhide to Stephen Leacock.”
His appreciation of the beauty pageant is memorable, and I end this plug for the book with its closing:
“Some unpleasant people, when faced with an immobile guard at Buckingham Palace, can’t resist trying to tease him to make him move. The Miss Canada Show was a teasing operation of this kind, especially toward the end when the girls were being tested for ‘sincerity’ – at least I think that was what was said. An hour and a half is one hell of a long time to watch a tease with so little strip.”

Another new book by a high-profile professor has much of both personal participation in our TV as an expert economist and a harsh critic of the CBC, our chief provider of news and commentary. Rebel Without a Pause; Memoirs of a Canadian Maverick, is by onetime Sun columnist John Crispo (with Marion E. Raycheba).
For me, the descriptive adjectives for the memoir came easily: racy; immodest; exhibitionist; absolutist; entertaining; and not profound.
Crispo, like Frye, and Wallin and Phillips, was chosen by a prime minister (Trudeau!) for a role of possible prominence as a member of the CBC’s board of directors (1991-94).
Oh, how John openly challenged the other directors and the management for the left-wing bias of its news and public affairs and hurtful and untrue depictions of our past like The Valour and the Horror. The professor has organized and includes sidebars and footnotes of judgments on him by colleagues and opponents, many of them severe, a lot witty.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 30, 2002
ID: 12814162
TAG: 200206300452
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


What went wrong for Jean Chretien? How did the situation come about which is forcing him to face – and win – a review of his leadership over the next seven months?
Look at what have seemed positive factors for a prime minister not yet halfway in a majority mandate, and who has sailed victoriously through three general elections.
The Liberals continue to ride much higher in opinion poll ratings than their four rival parties, and none of the latter is outreaching the others by much.
The four prime concerns of a federal government are the economy, the separatist strength in Quebec, the state of federal-provincial relations and the state of relations with our mighty neighbour.
Well, none of these concerns is in or near a crisis. The economy has been going well and we continue to have surpluses, not deficits. Unemployment is comparatively low. Quebec has not seemed so safely federalist since several years before the 1995 referendum, and since the retirement of Mike Harris in Ontario, federal-provincial matters have not been critical, not even on health care issues.
And while Chretien and George Bush may not be tight, their relationship is not perilous nor do Canadians seem gearing towards anti-American outbursts.
Chretien, now 68, is remarkably fit and quick, still with a sense of immediacy and of being in charge, and both informed and full of certainty.
Now let me sketch some of the factors and behaviour which may explain Chretien’s dilemma.
To begin, one notes the unusual length of time the PM has been before the public. Remember how high he rode in public favour after his autobiography, Straight from the Heart, became a best-seller in the mid-1980s? We welcomed his simple, open patriotism and quick but awkard plain talk. But familiarity becomes boring and boring becomes tiresome. Excitement disappears. Chretien’s familiarity has been increasingly tinged with bragging and open egocentricity – so much “I” and “my” – so little “we” and “our.”
It has become clearer in the past few years that Chretien still practices almost every form of patronage for the party’s followers, friends and donors. The scale of such activity in terms of persons, companies and federal money has become a shocker, with Chretien himself being involved.
The prime minister, backed by a huge office staff, is very “hands on” in every aspect of cabinet and caucus, but he has gone for pals and loyalists rather than brilliance and talent when appointing ministers. There have been few magnetic personalities in his ministries and a lot of dull, slow and uninspiring people, a festering sore point with his large number of able, serious backbenchers, many of whom have been embarrassed by the deadhead performers to their front.
Perhaps the biggest factor in lowering esteem for Chretien has been his often arrogant or petty, even mean, behaviour in the House, in scrums and, believe it or not, in the supposed privacy of the weekly caucus.
No event raised more antipathy to the PM than his chewing out in caucus last winter of Dr. Carolyn Bennett, an idealistic and busy Toronto MP, and somewhat of a fan of Paul Martin. So many Liberal MPs were shocked and angered, the press pack got on to it.
The Bennett incident seems to have been the catalyst of a most grave aspect in the Chretien saga. He now is facing daily so many reporters and media commentators who think he should go. (They strike me as being more anti-Chretien than pro-Martin.)
Despite Chretien’s dedication to immediacy and, as he says, solving problems as they appear, his regime has seemed cautious – certainly not bold or imaginative – since Lucien Bouchard was mastered and budget surpluses and debt reduction became regular. The government- and indeed the opposition – has not provided a heartening or stimulating show for the public in the daily question period farce. Aside from QP buzz, the House is flat and scantily peopled.
Good individual symbols of the sense of caution and an unadventurous leader and cabinet are the House leader, Don Boudria, or the solicitor-general, maundering Lawrence MacAulay, and repetitious Ralph Goodale, now sponging up the Alfonso Gagliano affair. One has to believe the judgment is out there of a boring, defensive, evasive leader and team.
The press has become rougher and more deeply inquisitive about internal chicanery ever since the huge irregularities were revealed in spending at Human Resources. These cases have been followed by revelations of alleged skulduggery credited to Gagliano, our new ambassador to Denmark.
Another drain on public appreciation of the regime, and one that has sharpened reporters’ edges, has been its management of our defence forces, especially their use abroad beyond capacities and equipment. No fiasco of high cost to the taxpayer has been more stupid than the cancelled helicopter contracts, unless it is the $750 million frittered away on a chaotic gun-control system.
All this debit stuff in the Chretien regime is old hat in Ottawa. Governments rarely age well, This one hasn’t, even though its leader is high in stamina. But excitement and enthusiasm for him has faded. So many capital “L” Liberals in the constituencies as well as the caucus have turned toward the standout alternative.
Indeed, Chretien devotees might stop and ponder where the regime would be without Paul Martin. Its astounding achievement did not come by fulfilling its electoral aim of withdrawing the GST or killing NAFTA. No! It was getting rid of deficits and lowering the debt load.
The cocky, indefatigable leader still has energy and his wits about him, and substantial backing in MPs and party officials, earned in part by promotions and rewards given, but also stemming from the axiomatic pledge for a true Liberal: This above all – unity in the party and loyalty to its leader.
True, this is not always the scenario. Ah, how the Chretien disciples undercut former leader John Turner from the mid-1980s to his resignation in 1990.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 26, 2002
ID: 12056387
TAG: 200206260513
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
ILLUSTRATION: photo by Chuck Mitchell, CP
PET AND IZZY … Canada’s media have shifted to the left of most citizens, says columnist Fisher, ever since the days of Pierre Trudeau – shown with Izzy Asper, now chairman of CanWest Global, in January, 1973.
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Do recent actions of CanWest’s management truly threaten freedom of the press? Are your fundamental democratic rights and mine threatened by them? My answers get into the matter of how diverse media viewpoints really are in Canada and where the models for diversity are to be found.
Longtime readers will know I believe the Canadian media, in their coverage of politics, shifted their mind-set to the left of most Canadians during the early Trudeau years, notably on issues like abortion, capital punishment, immigration, official bilingualism, and homosexual rights. The lack of contesting outlooks had an obvious corollary, a strong “pack” mentality among political reporters and commentators.
My own career in journalism has been remarkably free of`pressure or guidelines from publishers and editors. I was an NDP MP 40 years ago when John Bassett, lifelong Tory and publisher of the Toronto Telegram, asked me to write a political column. He knew our opinions rarely matched but he wanted a range of views in the Tely. The only time a column of mine was killed was not Bassett’s doing but an editor’s, a man who “thought” Bassett wouldn’t like it.
After I left politics, it didn’t bother Bassett that my writing also went to magazines, a TV interview show, and in advice to governments on matters ranging from international hockey and labour arbitration to educational TV. When the Tely folded, I joined those founding the Toronto Sun where similar freedom was provided by Doug Creighton and Peter Worthington. I’ve been blessed with freedom regarding my written views, any limits coming from self-censorship.
Given such a long run without fretting about the hierarchy in the paper, you would expect me to join in condemning the Aspers for imposing “national editorials” on all Southam papers and for dismissing Russell Mills, longtime Ottawa Citizen publisher – in part, I still believe, despite the Aspers’ denials, for the sin of demanding Jean Chretien’s resignation.
Not so. I am not ready to assume what’s been great for me should be the model for the media. Why not? One reason is that the non-interference I’ve enjoyed has not been the norm in Canadian journalism – a reality which many ignore in attacking the Aspers.
Consider the Toronto Star. If the Aspers’ actions are beyond the pale, as the Globe’s Jeffrey Simpson and others argue, how then to describe the rule of the Honderichs at the Star? A reign of terror, perhaps? As Lorne Gunter of the Edmonton Journal noted “The Star turns its front page into a pamphlet for the Liberal party each day during a federal election.” It is not a media secret that those who write for the Star are subject to editorial scrutiny and excisions or rejections, as giants of journalism like Peter Newman and George Bain found when working under Beland Honderich.
Yet Simpson and others appear to accept such limitations on freedom at the largest daily in Canada. Is this because the frame of ideas in the Honderichs’ range is generally “liberal” and politically palatable to the media pack?
Contrast the long, relative silence about the Star with the media angst that accompanied the launching of the National Post by Conrad Black. Oh, the bleatings on the dangers in allowing someone with such strong, right-wing views to found and direct a new national newspaper, while also controlling the Southam chain. Yet one of Black’s arguments for making the Post openly a right of center paper was to bring needed diversity and balance to Canadian journalism and counterbalance the bias of the Star and CBC/Radio Canada news.
David Asper, manager of his father’s media empire, hinted at this double standard when he noted that the Citizen had been a strongly pro-Liberal paper (though not to the Star’s extremes) long before the Aspers bought it. I’d go farther, describing it as a regular promoter of left-wing causes.
Recently the paper took on a semblance of balance when some of the leftish commentators and feature writers were let go to make way for a few right-wingers, so that today, Citizen editorial page stuff ranges from a trendy lefty like Susan Riley to a neo-con such as John Robson. It was not the beloved Mills but rather the villainous press baron Black who we can thank for the Citizen’s diversity of political opinion.
Media diversity can be achieved within an individual newspaper or any other media outlet, or through competition among operations that impose a consistent line but dispute with each other. Editorial control doesn’t necessarily lead to a loss of diversity. A mix of editorial approaches across the media, including a willingness to pay for the pipers – offers the best hope for diversity.
The biggest threat to open political debate remains the media’s pack mentality, its desire to set the standard for what is considered legitimate or correct political opinion – see as example Jeffrey Simpson’s constant dismissal of the Alliance as anathema to Canadians, even though millions of voters, including Ontarians, have voted for the party. The reigning group mind-set explains both the angst over the Aspers and the acceptance of the Star. Now this mind-set has crystallized an attitude that Chretien should go in favour of Paul Martin – and the Aspers are in the way.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 23, 2002
ID: 12055586
TAG: 200206230537
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


The media spate on the Chretien-Martin war has largely ignored both a parallel between Jean Chretien and Paul Martin’s once famous father and what the father did for the son.
In most of his interviews last week the prime minister got rolling on his lengthy career, from the bitter battle to reach parliament in 1963 to his present war to keep Paul Martin from his job through a smashing majority in the leadership review vote next February.
To a Torstar reporter the PM emphasized: “I have always personally been underestimated. I was always in that position; and it is the best position to be in.”
Few know better than I how true this has been. A few days after his first election in 1963 I walked a skinny, intense Jean Chretien around an empty House chamber explaining its layout. He asked where the prime minister sat. First he appraised it, then told me without bravado or a smile that that was where he intended to sit some day. As I recall I shrugged and rolled my eyes.
Later, in the mid-1970s there was a flurry of scuttlebutt that Trudeau was retiring and I wrote about successors, suggesting Chretien should be a candidate, given his good work as a minister, first at Indian Affairs, now at Treasury Board. This promo brought me many jeers from MPs and press colleagues. Their collective wisdom was: Never for such a brute with the English language.
After reflecting on the catalogue of relentless Chretien efforts over four decades, for much of it against the gist of insider opinion, I wondered where I had heard such self-analysis before … then it came to me. I rustled to Far From Home, vol. 1 of an autobiography by Paul Martin, Sr., a man from Windsor who was just 32 years old when he came to the House in 1935. He first made cabinet in 1945, and when he left Parliament in 1975 he had been a minister for 24 years, during which time he twice ran for the Liberal leadership (1958 and 1968).
Listen to Martin, Sr.: “Throughout my life, it has intrigued me to compare my introduction to public life with that of others with whom I shared the task of government. In 1941, before Louis St. Laurent had become a member of the House of Commons – at 59 – Mackenzie King invited him to join his government as minister of justice. The 51-year-old Mike Pearson entered cabinet the same way at the behest of King and St. Laurent in 1948. Pierre Trudeau came into the House in 1965 when he was 46 and entered the cabinet 18 months later, at Pearson’s request. The candidate who enters politics in this way is generally presented with an uncontested nomination and often with a fairly safe seat. Those who enter the cabinet from outside politics in some respects take advantage of the hard work of others and cash in on that work to obtain the victory which generally ensues. Those who seek political office after they have made a reputation either in public service or in business are as politically ambitious as any others.
“My circumstances were by far the more common one … when I was 32 I had to fight for and earn the nomination. The means that I and most others used to enter politics helped to build a strong political party. Most members of Parliament set about their career the way I did and are a little resentful of those who do not. After all, we are the ones who worked for years to build the party and who have painstakingly learned about government the hard way.”
As one who knew Martin, Sr. rather well I was aware how much thought he had given to the early ambitions of his son for the post he himself had sought twice, only to be defeated by favoured latecomers to House and cabinet. In 1963 as Jean Chretien was slugging his way into the House and Martin, Sr. was beginning a five-year-stint as external affairs minister, Paul Martin, Jr., was taking his place as an executive assistant in the office of Maurice Strong, then president of Power Corp, eventually getting ownership control of Canada Steamship Lines. By the time father died in 1992, his son, then 54, had been an MP for four years, in the middle of which he (and Sheila Copps and John Nunziata) had run to succeed John Turner as party leader, losing to Jean Chretien.
It is clear Chretien felt – and still feels – about the challenge of Martin, Jr. as a late-coming, easy party rider, the same way that Senior felt about Messrs. St. Laurent, Pearson, and Trudeau. Most ironic!
Of course, there is more than mere irony in the scenario. Since he became an MP in 1988 Martin, Jr. has been working as assiduously in the party across the land and within its parliamentary caucus as his father did – and to far more effect. Father never had scores of backbenchers and a swatch of ministers ready to support him at his leadership run.
If such backers stay patient, and loyal, and the Martin resolution does not waver … what happens? Neither should underestimate the other. There could be mutual destruction.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 19, 2002
ID: 12054427
TAG: 200206190423
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


The top Indian chiefs have been protesting for months about a heralded, legislative reform by the Chretien government of the Indian Act.
They argue that the process itself impinges on the natives’ right to self-government and has not considered them.
Now the bill is before Parliament and it is a good wager the chiefs will keep repudiating it through a long summer and fall of examination. Despite such antagonism led by Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come, the bill, put forward by Bob Nault, the Indian Affairs minister, seems a straightforward, sensible outline for making the 625 odd bands with their 2,000 reserves, more democratic, accountable, and effective.
The prime minister wants this reformed Indian Act but not one ramrodded into law without an open, amending process.
One of the rubs of the bill for the native leaders has been the minister defining it as a measure for an “interim” which could run for several decades. Why so long? Because it may take that long before the constitutional right of natives to self-government is given practical form and set up in all the provinces and the territories. In the meantime, the interim measure should be contributing to better lives and governing on the reserves many of which are rife with alcoholism, joblessness and waste.
Ever since 1969, when natives rejected Trudeau’s plan to abolish the Indian Act and release all natives into nothing less or more than Canadian citizenship, the more militant chiefs have been arguing that aboriginals have a distinctive culture and unique forms of governance and land use.
They say that to recover all this after centuries of alienation by whites, requires more land and payments in lieu of land.
In the remaking of the Canadian constitution in the early 1980s, an aboriginal right to self-government was enshrined, but subsequent conferences involving the prime minister, the premiers, and aboriginal spokespersons failed to agree on the substance of such self-government. Ottawa then set out to make arrangements by band or “nation” or “nations” for land settlements and new or redrawn treaties.
Progress on this front has been slow. For three decades, Ottawa has been stepping up spending on aboriginal needs, particularly for those Indians who have official status through being on some band rolls.
While the grand chief talks about 1.4 million aboriginal people, the nations represented in his organization number about 700,000 status Indians, and not unregistered natives or Metis or Inuit. Federal spending on native affairs (mostly for “status” or “band” Indians) went from some $2 billion annually in the early 1980s to over $7 billion last year. In that period the number of Indians with “status” doubled, from just over 300,000 to just under 700,000 last year.
In 1980, roughly 200,000 band members lived on reservations and 100,000 off reserve, mostly in towns and cities. Today some 360,000 live on reserves, 275,000 elsewhere. The average band registry is about 1,100, and only some 20 of the band registries run to more than 4,500 people.
The majority of the reserves are in our hinterlands, notably in the boreal forest regions, far from the activities which create most jobs and economic growth. In part, the steady swelling in band numbers explains why so many are riven with problems.
The institution of codes and procedures, powers and accountabilities through Nault’s revisions should do much to improve and invigorate community governments. Such improvements and the competence gained seems sound preparation for complete self-government for native communities and their membership , even though so much more needs to be worked out by the federal government, the provinces and the native governance as to whether the path is towards a fourth level of government across Canada.
How would band governments, say, in northern Manitoba, serve registrants who live in Winnipeg? Where in such governance is the place for unregistered Indians and Metis?
Some critics see Nault as too stolid, stubborn, and unpersuasive a personality to marshal this Indian Act revision.
His advantage is that his riding has more natives in it than any of the 300 others, grouped in 51 different “nations.”
In its center is the prosperous town of Sioux Lookout, now known as “the Ojibway capital” of Canada, a service centre for over 25,000 natives.
So Nault is unlikely to be intimidated by the “blame” campaign, heavy in accusations and woe, which is characteristic of some native leaders. His main challenge is not to lose patience, to stick with the intent and substance of the bill. It may be “interim” but it is needed.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 16, 2002
ID: 12053734
TAG: 200206160626
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Jean Chretien is excellent at the immediate, or the short-range. As Paul Martin’s spin-masters say, he is an “incrementalist.”
This aspect of the PM was clear last week in his tabled package of eight ethical items and undertakings, and in his adroit candour at a subsequent conference. Oh, he was superb at this performance, boxing Martin into either revealing his donors or looking shady. And he jauntily underscored his own doubts about several of these nods to ethics by reiterating his well-used axiom that an MP, including a prime minister, should respond to needs in his or her constituency.
Media reaction was widespread and uneven, ranging from thanks for small mercies to skeptical critiques asking for more substance, to outright cynicism. As one veteran reporter put it: “He just doesn’t get it.”
Surely, that is too wry a judgment. Jean Chretien gets it! He just has no intention of diluting his authority and reach as prime minister and party leader by going for full transparency and continuous, open accountability.
Chretien has been handier than any of his modern predecessors in closely managing the federal parliamentary system and extending the range of his office. He controls more than figuratively all appointments of note in the federal department and agencies. He chooses ministers, deputy ministers, senators, chairs of parliamentary committees, justices of the Supreme Court and the Federal Court, and the dates of general elections and byelections. And he answers for all this largely as he chooses.
So it’s far-fetched to think he was unaware of the patterns of behaviour in the federal system which have bolstered and glossed the partisan strength and capabilities of the Liberal party. Let me give four examples of such behaviour:
First, take the buildup of a system of contracts with private firms for services provided to the government through the Department of Public Works, under the aegis of former minister Alfonso Gagliano (now ambassador to Denmark), aspects of which are now under investigation by the RCMP. Political donations from such contractors went into the coffers of the Liberal party and, as Gagliano has insisted, the PM knew what he was doing and did not complain.
One cannot imagine a federal department or Crown corporation which is without needs that must be filled by outside contractors. I believe the PM himself recently used a figure of some 55,000 contracts a year. What a huge honey-pot for well-organized (read discreet) tolling.
Second, take the very modern model which was introduced in the department of Finance under Paul Martin. There have been a series of sizable contracts – in a remarkable continuity – for expertise and strategic planning on behalf of the minister by the Earns-cliffe consulting company.
Most ministries have favoured private firms for consulting, advising, and speechwriting. This puts a remarkably broad band of skills outside the regular bureaucracy at hand for a minister to use. This practice has created a large cadre in Ottawa whose members depend for their revenues on ministerial favour and pay this back by giving their time and resources to assure the partisan success of their engagor.
There is nothing criminal in such association, but in a democratic sense it gives a huge advantage in partisan preparation to the incumbent party.
Third, close to the oldest of all patronage practices by the party in power is the assignment of federal cases or tasks of inquiry to lawyers in private practice whose engagement hinges on them having been appraised and approved by both the cabinet and Liberal party officials. One hesitates to call what the party gets in return a kickback, but one can be reasonably sure those lawyers on the approved short list are canvassed for help in money or labour, even supplies.
Insofar as the political system as a whole is concerned, this engagement by affiliation and support of members of the legal profession brings a sanction of sorts to it and the party which practices it.
Fourth, in recent years a pet phrase of a minister in describing his “challenges” and his “responses” is that he has been dealing with “the stakeholders.” This is a euphemism which dresses up the righteousness of the interest groups that try to suggest or influence legislation and administrative decisions in their particular bailiwick. There are hundreds of such groups, probably a thousand, which impinge regularly in federal affairs. Most are national in scope, permanent in nature, and many are supported in large part by federal grants, particularly those associations in the fields of health, welfare, veterans’ affairs, justice, the arts and sport.
Beyond federal funding grants (and often these are regular), these associations tend to have status as tax-deductible charities. But the more a stakeholder organization is successful, the closer it gets to identifying with the governors, although there is nothing criminal in either form of financing for stakeholders.
There is nothing flatly wrong in an ethical sense with this patron-client sort of relationship and the mutuality of views which comes to dominate discussion and which either absorbs or limits individual opinions of citizens. But one consequence is that parliamentary committee proceedings are taken up with the regulars, so many of whom have become fellow travellers of the partisans in power. And so we get inertia and brag, and for fun and games occasional internecine feuds in the federal parties over leadership. And there has been a widening reach between real input to politics and the people – yes, even the 200 or so government backbenchers.
What we sorely need is both less rant about corruption in government and its equivalent response in evasions and denials. Accountability in the parliamentary system is not just for the auditor general. It must be exercised continually by both opposition and government MPs through close scrutiny and open books. Such should be encouraged by a PM who sees himself as first among equals and not the Godfather of the system.
The devil in Jean Chretien that is sapping democratic responsibility is his belief he is absolute master of the system, in five-year mandates, which follow from a victorious election campaign which was planned and financed by the tribute he draws in both talent, money and mind-set from the system itself.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 12, 2002
ID: 12052352
TAG: 200206120506
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Some vital issues will be lost in a political theatre dominated by the Jean Chretien-Paul Martin contest and scandals at Public Works. One of them is the imperative of a sounder defence policy, especially since the Department of National Defence has a new minister, John McCallum, who is also a newish MP.
It’s safe to say Art Eggleton’s replacement was as surprised as anyone in being assigned the Defence portfolio. He has been an economics professor and a bank vice president. Among the new MPs from the last election he was immediately noticeable as bumptiously self-confident. Here was a man who radiated the signal: Here’s cabinet material! Nevertheless, he hardly seemed a natural choice for our troubled military. McCallum underlined this by talking of his slender military ties – as an air cadet, and through a father decorated by the Dutch for service in Holland in World War II.
Following his brief moments on the stage, the new minister fended off media inquiries by stressing he was just settling into the part. Well, the Martin-Chretien furor has bought him more time, but it cannot be for long. Defence has been in a permanent crisis for several years and McCallum must establish that he’s in charge; that he’s the director as well as star, if he is to survive, much less realize his considerable ambitions. Were he to reflect on the dismal performance of his predecessor, he would realize that, more than anything else, addressing two priorities would help him earn national notice and respect.
The first? Press the PM to end political interference in the infamous helicopter contract and immediately order the machines the military believes are the best for the job. Yes, I mean the same EH-101s Chretien cancelled back in 1993. Doing so would signal the government’s resolve to act on the military’s problems, as called for in last week’s report by the Commons defence committee (which advocated $18 billion in new spending). This fillip for our demoralized military (and our demoralized MPs?) would also show the PM as hardly the inflexible brute some make him out to be.
Second? Get the promised defence policy review underway quickly, and with input from a wide range of informed opinions drawn from outside the bureaucracy. In doing so, clearly establish that Defence has a role in shaping foreign policy, just as Foreign Affairs does in defence policy.
Moving forward on a major policy initiative would undercut those who claim the government is sclerotic, and would offer a challenge to Martin: Does the heir apparent agree that combat capabilities are a prerequisite for our Armed Forces, or is he a Lloyd Axworthy disciple?
By showing Canada intends to take security matters seriously, the helicopter purchase and policy review might also get the attention of the Bush administration and the U.S. Congress, strengthening Canada’s weak positions on continental defence and trade matters (e.g., softwood lumber and farm subsidies).
There are other actions the new defence minister could take to raise military morale and his own profile – ones less likely to involve crossing swords with the PMO or Foreign Affairs. Pending the policy review, why not make it clear how many troops Canada can realistically offer for overseas duty, and stick to this? (Thus offering our service men and women – and their families – a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel.)
Clear criteria to help define whether or not Canada should participate in such missions would also be welcome.
In the spirit of transparency and openness which the government talks about, but rarely lives up to, McCallum could review DND’s huge number of consulting contracts, with a view to limiting those which waste scarce defence dollars. (A hint: former ministerial girlfriends are not the only ones who benefit from close relationships in the handing out of such contracts.)
Working with the forces’ ombudsman to resolve the concerns of the rank and file, making it clear that officers who fail to put the welfare of their troops first will not be welcome at National Defence Headquarters, would also do wonders for morale.
Finally, for a truly credible performance, cabinet’s newest prospective star must prove he really does believe in our military’s performance by fighting for it at cabinet and caucus, by telling Canadians we still need combat arms and by ending the puerile and politically stupid practice of viewing everything at Defence through the “communications” prism.
Running scared, and insisting everything be “cleared” through the defence minister’s office, has done much damage to the military and made it hard for those who would be its advocates to do so.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 09, 2002
ID: 12051604
TAG: 200206090307
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


A diverse swatch of contentions, mostly relating to leadership, have much of the electorate hot or bothered. Let me use the mode of question and answer to put some personal judgments on affairs in the capital,
Q: Who will be the winner of the Paul Martin – Jean Chretien tussle?
A: In the short term, that is, into and through the long parliamentary lull for the summer, the advantages lie with the prime minister, not least because of the counters he is very likely to launch in program initiatives while Martin, as a plain MP, tracks the land, portraying this wondrous “opportunity for Canada” he has divined and wants to lead.
Q: What about the challenge the PM must face in the leadership review vote at the Liberals’ national convention next February?
A: There is a likelihood – I’d say better than 50-50 – that the PM before this occasion will blunt the review’s purpose by revealing he and his family have put behind them any intention of a fourth mandate.
Q: So you think eventually Martin wins?
A: Possibly he may win the next leadership convention (likely to come by late next spring) but he may not even be the betting favourite at choosing time, particularly if his “vision” stays misty and has banal content.
Q: Recent opinion polling shows Martin far ahead of other would-be leaders such as Allan Rock, Sheila Copps and John Manley. Who’s to match him?
A: Obviously Manley, minister of finance and deputy PM. He’s clearly an able, smart, positive politician with some facility in French.
Q: Let’s go back a bit. Suppose Chretien doesn’t signal there will not be a fourth mandate.
A: That’s possible. Against it is his craftiness – always reading and adjusting to the public and partisan moods. He knows he has a Herculean task in regaining even a neutral press, let alone one that liked him for so long. None of Chretien’s predecessors in the Prime Minister’s Office since W.L. Mackenzie King’s departure in 1948 – not even “Uncle” Louis St. Laurent – had at least eight years in English Canada as a liked or loved patriot. By and large, the reporters, columnists and commentators of Canada turned against Chretien in the past year, not against the Liberal party. He will realize how reckless any try for “four more years” will be for his high standing in posterity.
Q: But surely the media crew is changeable, even flighty, in its likes and hates?
A: Not in my experience with federal party leaders. Pierre Trudeau may seem an exception, given his comeback to power after electoral defeat in 1979 and his tendered resignation as party leader. The Liberals then had lost power but gained the advantage of facing a slow, ungainly prime minister in Joe Clark, who chose to function as though he had a majority, bypassing a ready backing from a reduced, small rump of Creditiste MPs.
As one who was needled by Jean Chretien’s acuity on his first day on Parliament Hill (in 1963), I’m certain he knows the current against him in public opinion and those who shape it will not drop their obsession with his departure. So the task for his shrewdness now is managing an exit that is honourable and leaves an undivided Liberal party to choose his successor. He has six to seven months to engineer this.
Q: Will the leadership scenarios of the other four federal parties factor into the short-term prospects you see for Chretien, Martin and Manley?
A: It seems most unlikely that Gilles Duceppe as leader of the Bloc Quebecois and its parliamentary caucus will have much effect on the Liberal succession, unless Premier Bernard Landry, the Parti Quebecois leader, calls an election this summer or fall. This would open what might be a dramatic three-party horse race and threaten the electoral edge over the sovereignists of Quebec which Chretien and his government seem to have attained. If the Liberal leader in Quebec, Jean Charest, breezes into power without having qualified his federalism with an insistence on constitutional change, it would make for a more prideful exit by Chretien.
Q: The BQ, even the PQ government, is surely less relevant to the federal Liberals’ situation than the leadership factors challenging the Canadian Alliance, the New Democrats, and the Tories. Right?
A: Just a moment. It is too flip to deny the priority of Quebec as a solidly federalist province to Jean Chretien. My point is simply that a magical switch in the next year or so in Quebec, away from federalism to sovereignty, is most unlikely. The issue of division, with us since before Confederation, may have eased since the 1995 referendum, but federal politicians cannot forget it, particularly Liberals, for whom it has been bread and butter.
Now, as to other leaders. Young Stephen Harper of the Alliance is no fool, but his earning of higher and higher ratings in the opinion polls is almost sure to come slowly. He has potential as an electoral threat in, say, two or three years, but not as an instant, major intruder in the tussle between Chretien and Martin, even if he wanted to be (which he doesn’t). Far likelier it will be Joe Clark (should he survive the PC convention late in the summer) or even Bill Blaikie, the likely winner of the succession to the NDP’s Alexa McDonough, who catch the public’s attention and responses through sardonic, partisan commentary on both comic and sordid aspects of the Liberals’ squabbles.
Q: Do enough Canadians care what Clark and Blaikie say, the one arguably around too long like Chretien, the other really unknown off Parliament Hill?
A: Each is excellent as a parliamentarian and very lucid and biting when on his feet, in the House or out of it. Blaikie is a genuine, formidable orator and a match for both Chretien and Clark in dredging chapter and verse from political history. Both will illuminate Chretien as a King Lear imitation, Martin as a Hamlet.
Of course, the currency of a running political dialogue about the leadership prospects of the Tories and New Democrats will ease some of the urgency for a Liberal resolution and less of a total fixation by the media on the governing party.
Q: Do you believe it is time Clark let go the Tory leadership?
A: Yes, although I would hope he’d continue as an MP. He’s a fine one. Also, several other Tory incumbents should be as ready, even readier, than Stephen Harper, for party leadership, notably Peter MacKay.
Q: You seem unexcited, even jaded, about both Jean Chretien and Paul Martin.
A: True, and it doesn’t make me proud. It comes not from too much liberalism but too many long Liberal party runs in power.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 05, 2002
ID: 12050421
TAG: 200206051325
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


However much Paul Martin may presently rate ahead of Jean Chretien in editorial circles and with plain citizens, most of the short- to medium-term advantages in the rivalry lie with the prime minister.
The explanation for this begins but does not end with the revered tradition of loyalty so deeply imprinted in the members of the Liberal caucus.
The issue of loyalty for Liberals crystallized in the early 1920s. The leader back then, W.L. Mackenzie King, managed a laborious recovery of the party from schisms in it wrought by the conscription issue during the Great War.
The primacy and the imperative of loyalty to the leader and to caucus was repetitiously hymned, praised and practised. Its continuance in strength and effect has had many proofs -i.e., in the first Chretien mandate when the PM turfed from caucus and party one John Nunziata, a Toronto MP given to open, independent sallies on issues. This ousting was only the most severe of checks and penalties for “loose” antics by MPs which the Chretien PMO has used on flouters of caucus discipline.
Even those who quickly sided with Martin in this affair must realize his immediate post-firing behaviour was a shaky, dozy start to any open pursuit of the Liberal leadership. He and his reportedly large caucus contingent will have to do much better if he is to usurp the cagey Chretien’s role.
One readily turns to the deer-in-the-headlight simile. Martin seemed startled and then befuddled in his initial appearance before the press on Sunday. This was unexpected from someone intent on a second leadership bid (he lost to Chretien at the 1990 leadership convention).
Given that a showdown with the prime minister was always a possibility if not a near certainty, could Martin not have readied, even scripted, a better response? One with some vivid indicators of his cause, or some essences for pursuing the great Canadian future he says he sees?
The questioning at the press theatre failed to elicit what seemed to be at issue between the two men other than their personal ambitions. Martin muttered about increasing policy differences, but given the scant record of this, a sensible citizen has to have doubts.
One wonders why Martin didn’t mark time for another quarter or so, bringing the leadership review closer and making the shock of his ouster more immediate to the voting delegates. The PM has nine months to make Canadians forget Martin, and so many in his ministry – particularly those with leadership ambitions like John Manley, Allan Rock and Sheila Copps – have every reason to help him in this.
It’s apparent Chretien has sized up his leading successor as a fair-haired fellow who is neither tough nor wily enough for the job. The PM is almost sure to think a pleasant, wealthy man with much public sympathy is not good enough.
It’s also apparent that Chretien has fully put behind him the favour he was showing a year ago to Brian Tobin as a would-be Liberal leader, and now sees a fine prospect in John Manley.
But to be fair, let me turn from Martin’s unreadiness to several of the PM’s penchants which may foul his chances for a splendid exit at a time of his choosing.
The two most worrisome of these are the exercising of spite coupled with meanness on the disloyal and his indulgence in open self-praise, which often magnifies the power and range of his office (and so his achievements) while ignoring the boundaries on his powers within the parliamentary system. In his recent book, Globe columnist Jeffrey Simpson tagged it as “the friendly dictatorship.” And that’s how Jean Chretien plays the role, exalting himself above cabinet and caucus and Parliament itself.
If he continues this penchant – as in indicating the leadership review he faces is mindless or anachronistic – his poll ratings will continue to slide. He has to stop stressing that less than two years ago Canadian voters gave HIM a mandate for five years. He is not like U.S. President George Bush, voted in directly by electors for a fixed term. He is in office because he led the party which gained a working majority of the seats in the House of Commons.
Bush will have proposition after proposition rejected by Congress; this doesn’t cut short his term of four years. Chretien remains prime minister only if he, his cabinet and caucus continue to retain the confidence of the Commons as expressed in votes on the floor of the House.
In essence, a prime minister’s hold on office is tenuous in that it depends on repeatedly facing and defeating formal opposition critics in the House of Commons.
And if there should be a negative vote (or anything close to it) on his leadership at the Liberal convention next February, it would certainly mean Chretien would be replaced as prime minister by an interim leader, one approved by the party’s national council and the caucus, until a full leadership convention could be held.
Those hoping for honest, frugal government in Canada might pay close attention in the next nine months to John Manley as well as to Jean Chretien and Paul Martin. Of course, chances are they’ll be unable to avoid doing so, which likely is why Manley has taken up what he was offered.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 02, 2002
ID: 12049692
TAG: 200206021328
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Last week in the Commons, Jean Chretien was chivvied on why he had fired Art Eggleton but kept Don Boudria in his cabinet. He replied: “I change my ministers according to the present need.”
This sounded neatly pragmatic, and it dodged the paradox of punishing only one of two sinners. Is there much truth in it?
Can we take it the Chretien cabinet roster mirrors imperatives at the time each member was appointed?
There are many more factors than obvious talents in cabinet choices. There is geographical balance and availability (see scant seats in some provinces). There is gender and “visibility” (see pressures for females and/or non-whites). There is cronyism (see longtime backers of the PM) and there is a big city profile (see Allan Rock, Elinor Caplan and Art Eggleton).
One running interest of a political columnist is measuring and rating the qualities ministers demonstrate. There are two ways of doing this. One is from their open performances, say in the House or as able sponsors of major legislation or as national interpreters, or as spokesmen for their subject fields and regions. Another is by appreciation of them in the governing party, say as crowd-raisers or as plain journeymen politicians or as mediocrities, even ciphers. Usually, for most new ministers, one has their parliamentary record as an aid and, if not, some data on their educational and occupational record.
Through nine years of Chretien cabinets it has been a repetitious theme of mine that his ministerial roll is an unusually ordinary one – that is, he has had and still has more talent and ideas on his backbenches than in the front rows. And Jean Chretien has gone for big ministries (though not quite as large as Brian Mulroney’s). His present ministry has 37 MPs and one senator, although 10 of the ministers are juniors as “secretaries of state,” and do not have cabinet status (see the new “visible” minister, Jean Augustine, as secretary of state for multiculturalism and women, or Ethel Blondin-Andrew, now a veteran secretary of state for children and youth).
In looking back on my first ratings of new or newish ministers, I note some flagrant misjudgments.
Some listed as ordinary or dubious have proved substantial (i.e., Ann McLellan, now heading Health). Others heralded as certain luminaries have fizzed (i.e., Allan Rock now at Industry after glib but forgettable years at Justice and Health). Occasionally through lengthy, rugged experience a neophyte judged flaky or empty has grown into a major figure – as in Sheila Copps’ case.
Until last January, Chretien did not go for sweeping ministerial changes. Then came a score of additions, subtractions, and shifts, to which he added another half-dozen last Sunday while dropping Eggleton, switching Boudria and Ralph Goodale, and promoting John McCallum to Defence from a secretaryship for international finance.
Here is my current cabinet assessment, broken down into categories of: very strong; good/fair; mediocre; and weak.
Jean Chretien, PM: Still has extraordinary stamina, energy and quickness of mind.
Paul Martin, Finance: So much the PM-in-waiting though still mysterious in terms of vision and aims. Especially after this weekend’s startling developments!
John Manley, Deputy PM: Has a better education and intelligence than Chretien or Martin, but his innate candour may ruin him.
Sheila Copps, Heritage: Now a canny bread-and-butter politician.
Ann McLellan, Health: Cocky, lots of gall, and knows her files.
Stephane Dion, Intergovernmental Affairs: Tough as a relentless hounder of Quebec sovereignists.
Herb Dhaliwal, Natural Resources: A steadily growing assurance.
Ralph Goodale, Public Works: A “wheelhorse” and a Herb Gray clone.
Pierre Pettigrew, Trade: Too voluble, but so enthusiastic.
Rey Pagtakhan, Veterans Affairs: Modest, succinct and energetic.
Bill Graham, Foreign Affairs: His mien is brittle, his style academic, but his views have purpose and edge.
Lucienne Robillard, Treasury Board: A careful and unobtrusive minister who knows her beat.
Don Boudria, House Leader: Chastened and back at managing the House, which he does well.
David Anderson, Environment: At times he seems over-worn but a believer in the cause.
Martin Cauchon, Justice: A confident, busy man whose lack may be his slight understanding of Canada beyond Quebec.
Susan Whelan, International Co-operation: Hardly challenged yet, but she seems ready for more responsibility.
John McCallum, National Defence: The newest cabinet member is very talkative and sure of himself.
Ray Thibault, Fisheries and Oceans: Newish to the House and ministry, he’s rough and ready in the Maritimes’ fashion.
Allan Rock, Industry: Speaks with grace, but little conviction or content.
Jane Stewart, Human Resources: One consequence of the PM’s cronyism.
Lyle Vanclief, Agriculture: An onerous department and recurring sectors in crisis have withered him.
Robert Nault, Indian Affairs: Either his portfolio is too grim or he is stuck on the PMO’s caution with aboriginal belligerence.
Denis Coderre, Immigration: Seems snuffed after too bumptious a start five months ago.
Elinor Caplan, National Revenue: Simply embarrassing.
Claudette Bradshaw: A kind heart and good intentions are not enough.
Lawrence MacAulay, Solicitor General: His caucus friends say his necessary caution compensates for his slowness.
There! For what it’s worth, and if Chretien responded to me about it, I’m sure he’d say I was an elitist snob, and his cabinet was truly representative of Canadians as they are.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, May 29, 2002
ID: 12424240
TAG: 200205290384
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Jean Chretien’s abrupt cabinet changes on Sunday were neither nobly done nor sure to cancel the problem now staining his last year or so in office.
The problem? At last he’s lost favour. Too many in and around politics want him gone, in particular those who report from Parliament Hill.
Yes, the firing of Art Eggleton, the shifting of Don Boudria, and the stonewalling task of obfuscation dumped on Ralph Goodale make sense, but this came years after it was clear Eggleton was a frivolous fellow for mainline responsibilities and Boudria had much potential as an embarrassment because of his vast earnestness over integrity and his unforgotten role as a relentless accuser of the Mulroney government for dishonesty.
The advantages in power and control there were for the prime minister in persisting with a very mediocre ministry have faded away. He is so much the lightening rod for criticism, whereas Paul Martin, the only minister who has sustained a positive national reputation, is not.
Increasingly, the blessing Chretien gave last year to open activity by ministers with leadership aspirations has been divisive within the party and confusing for citizens who hear of the millions solicited for the campaigns of Martin, Alan Rock, Sheila Copps and John Manley.
More subtly, there’s been a diminution in the aspirants’ statures as politicians and their efficacy as ministers because of their somewhat furtive striving across the land for money and prospective delegates, even as their master has kept up the game of “will he or won’t he?”
Seemingly, this gamesmanship had the petty purpose of weakening the fix which Martin has had on running the country. It may have achieved this – certainly made it anti-climactic – but at a cost to Chretien. How? Because something close to a national determination has firmed up that he ought to go. More and more it’s the sooner the better. Let’s have Martin! Who cares that the opposition is so weak through division? The national need in politics has become clear. Somehow, and soon, the Liberals must turf Chretien.
The prime minister, in flaunting so proudly and often the integrity of his government, has made a fool of his so-called ethics counsellor. He has increasingly irritated reporters, editors, producers with his prideful defence of his own deeds for his constituents and the still unexplained banishment of Alfonso Gagliano, his lead minister in Quebec, to Denmark.
Years ago, Chretien should have realized that eventually whistles would blow when he chose on assuming power to continue “pork-barrel” politics, the set of long-used practices in financing the governing party from those who profit from business with the government.
My take is that last Saturday, when the prime minister saw the front-page photo of his defence minister with the doll to whom he had given a consultant’s contract, he reacted instantly. Oh, what a satirizing romp for the enemies! What a ridiculous, demeaning footnote to nine years’ mastery over cabinet, caucus and party. The scenario, if he stuck with Eggleton, would be tawdry with innuendo and jocularity.
The most ominous aspect of this dicey development that I foresee haunting Chretien’s last months in office has been shaping slowly since the last election. This spring it has jelled in a common denominator view of the prime minister that is very negative. In particular, I see and hear this from the words of political reporters. Their hostility is in impatience and disgust with Chretien, rather than hatred of him.
He is seen now as both too highhanded and yet too aimless a leader. His government has become a bore – marking time, uninspired, continually “spinning” and dodging, with an inordinate emphasis on a leader who though continually on the move, is no longer engaging. He is taken seriously because he is so dominant, not for any national purposes of note. The animus isn’t connected to pro-Alliance or pro-Tory opinions.
The long summer break of parliament is only a few weeks away. Then opposition screams and news stories of Liberal skullduggery will get little attention. Except by ministerial choice, there will be no scrums in the recess and the media pack will be relatively dispersed. Nonetheless it is doubtful if the recess will bring Chretien much comfort. He knows now, as does his wife, that he has fiddled too long about his exit.
Those who know how few hypocrisies are beyond the leader of our ruling party may expect that in the recess, Chretien will explain in detail the gist and wisdom of the higher ethical standards he sketched to a rather skeptical House just a few days before the Eggleton affair burst.
What an ironical legacy from such a long career.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 31, 2002
ID: 12998029
TAG: 200203310247
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Thanks to a Sun benefit begun in Doug Creighton’s years at the helm, this is my last piece before my third eight-week sabbatical, a reward that comes after 10 years of work. Fitting then, that my topic today is on the perils of youthful zeal within a political party.
My topical inspiration is the silly but hurtful scenario whereby Ezra Levant, 29, made the new leader of the Alliance look foolish through five or six days. In doing so he made much of his blessing by the “grassroots” as he repulsed the rebukes of the many who thought he should give up his approved candidacy for a byelection in Calgary Southwest to Stephen Harper.
Since much of what follows might seem twisting by an aged fellow, let me underline there have been successes for political ambition which surged at an early age. Four future prime ministers – John Diefenbaker, Joe Clark, Brian Mulroney and Jean Chretien – were all thinking of the top job by their early 20s, and though I can’t vouch for it, I’d wager so too was John Turner.
Often the obvious sign of early intentions is colloquially known as “the gift of gab.”
Last year I was fascinated by Levant’s noisy whirling through and around scrums and briefings while press aide to a beleaguered Stockwell Day. What a relentless motormouth! He reminded me of … whom? A trio of names quickly popped into mind. I’d heard and seen the likes of Ezra before in Stephen Lewis, Hugh Segal and Brian Tobin.
Each became a candidate for election early – Lewis and Tobin at 26, Segal at 22. From the start, each was superbly confident in the role and came brashly into partisan activity with well-honed pungencies for rivals and rolling erudition on a host of policy points.
One should note that Messrs Segal, Lewis and Tobin, now solidly into middle age, have had fascinating, diversified careers. Many in their chosen parties would measure them positively. Indeed, for years post-electoral politics, Segal and Lewis functioned as surrogate interpreters on radio and television for the strategies and tactics of their respective parties.
Nevertheless, for young men so early noticed as gifted and who either won or were awarded superb opportunities, each has bounced around a lot. My hunch is each should have had a longer preparation despite his recognized, exceptional gifts.
To this stage, once past his high noise quotient, Levant is a long stretch from any imitation of Lewis, Segal, and Tobin as precocious, would-be politicos. Yes, he matches them in egotism and catchy partisan vulgarities, but not in their political cunning and their now proven record at holding the admiration first roused by oral performances.
Levant as a byelection candidate almost certain to reach the House presented a sudden, serious dilemma to Harper and his Alliance parliamentary caucus. Why? Well, on the face of his televised activities his self-obsessiveness is almost out of control.
Much like his former boss, Stockwell Day, Levant is absolutely certain he has so much of worth to convey to Canada. On analysis, what this turns out to be is a stringing of cliches and Albertan platitudes, delivered, one concedes, with authority and at high speed.
Anyone following recent House sessions will have noticed that Reform/Alliance caucuses have not had remarkably useful, consistent contributions from three young, bright MPs from Alberta who were still in their 20s when they hit the House in 1997. I refer to Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast), recently Day’s most vociferous backer in the caucus; Rob Anders (Calgary West), the MP who balked at honoring Nelson Mandela; and Rahim Jaffer (Edmonton North), who had an aide fake his voice on a radio show.
At least potentially this trio, say supplemented with the witty Monte Solberg, might have comprised an effective equivalent for their party in the House of the notorious Liberal Rat Pack of the mid-’80s.
Remember Copps, Boudria, Tobin, and Nunziata running wild in the Commons in the mid-1980s, slandering minister after minister as derelict or crooked and the Tory prime minister as super-extravagant, not least with the truth?
In my opinion, only a small clutch of young MPs could have begun so crassly and sustained an offensive of ridicule and gross assertions for so long. Sheila Copps and Don Boudria were new MPs in 1984, but former MPPs of the fractious Ontario assembly. John Nunziata, 29 in ’84, was a former municipal politician in Toronto. Brian Tobin, at the time not yet 30, had been a quite pushy Trudeau backbencher for four years. Boudria, then 35, was the oldest in this quartet.
The Rat Pack had the advantage of an incompetent, very hesitant Speaker, a hesitant Tory House leader, and their own leader, who looked the other way as their antics, month after month, burnt deeply on public minds a caricature of a dishonest prime minister and a weak government.
The Pack represents a memorable low point for civility and reason in the Canadian Parliament, but it was an epic success in the history of partisan competition, and represents the most telling performance in parliamentary history by young MPs, each with great gall and a fixed purpose in a common cause.
No, no, this has not been a promotion for an Alliance Rat Pack. Heaven forbid. (And so would Speaker Peter Milliken.)
No, I would suggest Harper marshals his pushy youth for joint, aggressive activity in the House. And he should not forget the dangers to Alliance fortunes of Ezra Levant. The many scrums and poking reporters on Parliament Hill galvanize Levant – and will until he hobbles his bluster. Harper shouldn’t reward him for his resignation with an apparatchik role on Parliament Hill. Surely, he loses far more votes than are gained for the Alliance each time a microphone or a camera catches him. And, believe me, those who bear them revel at that prospect.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, March 27, 2002
ID: 12997470
TAG: 200203270520
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Dalton Camp had a positive impact on a lot of Canadians. More so, it might be said, than if in 1965 or 1968 he had won a seat in Parliament, the first big step towards the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.
Evidence of his impact has been the flood of obituaries and the throng at the funeral service in Fredericton last Saturday. Most of the warm tributes from editors and columnists have extolled his worth as author, political analyst and top-notch Canadian. Newspapers, particularly in central Canada and the Maritimes, have run many letters to the editor which focus on Dalton’s qualities and themes.
In my column about Dalton (March 20), I covered the pleasant, constructive association he and I had through a long Ontario legislative commission in the ’70s. In response, I got several calls and a few e-mails, all but one of which had some critical texture.
One caller asked me for a general perspective. Hasn’t there been far more open mourning in detail than there used to be for people whose “name” has had prominence for some years in the media of English Canada?
The caller cited the recent, long and lavish tributes and assessments for Peter Gzowski and Mordecai Richler and the continuous recycling of Trudeau family matters since the former prime minister’s death less than two years ago. Now comes this memorial flood about Dalton Camp.
My response began with a woolly opinion that neither Camp nor Gzowski got more emotional tributes and obituary notice than had Barbara Frum back in the mid-’90s. What had all three in common? Much exposure on CBC, the men mostly on a long-running, popular radio program, Frum as prime host and interviewer of CBC- TV’s flagship program. As my memory assesses it, each got far more attention from the media after death than such former stars of political journalism as Charles Lynch, Ann Francis, Bruce Hutchison and Blair Fraser, but this probably has to do more with the latter having made a name before TV was such a factor in popularizing politics, and before the recent surge of more channels and a general turn of TV towards more personalized news.
It may be that a readiness to honour our media lions has crystallized, but I doubt that. Charles Templeton, a more diverse and controversial talent (on radio, TV, and in print) than either Gzowski or Camp got much less obituary attention – but he was never much on CBC. I suggested my caller wait to see how much attention explodes when the likes of Pierre Berton, Robert Fulford and Lloyd Robertson leave the mortal coil.
Another caller (from the west) made a point that may be obvious, but few Camp obituaries took it up. He said he had read that Camp had felt it unfair he was ostracized in Western Canada (and for a long time in the Tory caucuses in Ottawa) for his part in dumping John Diefenbaker as Tory leader in the mid-’60s.
There’s witness again this very week, the caller argued, of the indelible element in Camp’s rise to fame. A western conservative party has just picked its third leader in a decade in Stephen Harper. Off the bat, what is he being pushed to do by the media’s wise ones? Get together with Joe Clark. Unite the right to beat the Liberals!
Why is this so hard to do, my caller asked? Because the differences are hard and real between western conservatism with its populist emphasis and the more sentimental and centrist conservatism evoked by Camp and Clark. They were engrained when Camp engineered the ditching of the Chief as party leader. This, the westerner said, still figures in the mistrust we have of eastern conservatives.
A veteran print reporter called, telling me first that he hadn’t known Camp personally nor had he worked up any dislike for him, but he felt Camp always had the same things to say. Like Peter Gzowski, he always seemed to have perfectible Canadians in mind. The pair of them fitted The Toronto Star mind-set on the social and economic roles which governments should play, and in rejecting so much of America.
An American journalist with much recent and current knowledge on Canadian affairs wrote regarding mine and other columns about Dalton Camp: “All of you certainly saw and have seen something I missed. … I was unimpressed.”
My colleague said he would read Camp because he seemed to illustrate a left wing or “Red” Tory point of view. He had never really noticed the grace, wit, elegance, etc. described in the obituaries. He said: “Obviously, I have missed something. What particularly irritated me were his fulminations against anything in the U.S. to the right of his memory of the New Deal.”
It was not so much Dalton’s opinions which bothered my acquaintance, but his being “persistently wrong on his facts” about American politics. He cited a pair of lulus to me. He felt the responses he got to his corrections indicated that “Camp appeared to believe that if he wrote it, he was right.”
Although the critical aspects in these four points of view do not ring hollow to me, as one who enjoyed and profited from Dalton’s columns I am missing them, even if so many were partisan tracts.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 24, 2002
ID: 12997097
TAG: 200203240525
SECTION: Comment
ILLUSTRATION: drawing by Tim Dolighan
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


The post-convention analyses in the press indicate a general judgment that Canadaian Alliance leader Stephen Harper has won a crown thick with thorns, scant on buds.
Before touching on the crown’s thorns, let me suggest a few buds I think are there.
First of all, Harper won handily enough to remove the likelihood of Stockwell Day continuing a crippling legacy to him.
Second, the new leader seems to have a fair chance, at least for a year or so, of a coherent, even an obedient, parliamentary caucus.
Third, he is both smart and well-informed about our political process and its issues – far more on both counts than his predecessor.
Fourth, he had a record as a Reform MP in the 1993-97 Parliament that showed far more zip in cutting repartee during question period than in his many weighty speeches, usually dealing with major issues.
Fifth, and speculatively, he should have little trouble finding a riding in Alberta or B.C. where he can win a byelection and get into the House of Commons before the fall.
Sixth, in proving his readiness for leading Canada, Harper has before him a PM whose own caucus prays he will retire soon, who heads a sprawling ministry of mediocrity which has been arrogant with the opposition and unshamed by rising evidence of its incompetence, waste and contract-tolling.
There! Despite the thorns, at least six buds. Not all is negative for the prospect of Harper rebuilding a party nearly wrecked by a hapless leader, rampant disloyalty among its MPs, and wispy, failed overtures in pursuit of engineering a single party for all conservatively minded Canadians.
Nonetheless, he must control and keep busy and united some 60 MPs, most of them ambitious for prominence. He has to remuster the party east of Manitoba and restore both simplicity and solidity to the Alliance program. And he must do all this while aware of what many see as a central Canadian media unrelentingly hostile to any leader and party originating in the West. Certainly, there is no doubt that most in the political media share the view that no party has a winning future in Ontario and Quebec which strays very far from the centre of the political spectrum – either right or left.
Robert Fulford has noted the most obvious thorn that will pierce Harper: “There remains the inescapable fact that his best friends would never call him either a persuasive speaker or an engaging personality … There are times, listening to him or reading one of his bloodless speeches,when one wonders whether he should be in politics at all.”
Craig Oliver of CTV put Harper’s personality in one word: “Cold.”
It’s true that in his previous stint on the Hill, first as a Tory researcher, then as a Reform MP, Harper’s nature was so evident one heard about him in Hill gossip as being very smart but unsociable.
As one reporter said last week, Harper “displays no enthusiasm or skill for back-slapping and political schmoozing.”
Again and again he has been tagged as a “policy wonk” and a “libertarian.” The latter indicates he is not a “social conservative” (a euphemism for Christian fundamentalist).
This stereotype of Harper as an aloof, self-contained, and charmless man developed long before the leadership race, explaining why the first advice he was given by two commentators Wednesday night was to work on becoming “warm and fuzzy.”
The conventional wisdom undoubtedly would be that if Stephen Harper were just the deputy to an Alliance leader, or his chief of staff, his cold personality might have a positive side. But as a party leader he must be a mixer and a greeter, warm and likeable, socially open and entertaining. One might argue he should be more like Stockwell Day or NDP Leader Alexa McDonough, both nice, warm, and fuzzy.
Let me recall some advice from the shrewdest politician I have met, the late Jack Pickersgill, an historian who joined the prime minister’s staff in the mid-1930s and helped mastermind the Liberal party and its governments from then until 1968 and Pierre Trudeau.
He told me that “Parliament may have a civil guise but parliamentary politics is war – a war that never ceases.”
Governments do not lose elections in campaigns or over grand issues, he said, they lose them through the partisan wear and tear on their leaders in grinding sessions of the House of Commons. The reputation of the government for competence and honesty wears away.
This is why he would never let a chance pass to rebut the criticism of partisan rivals and attack their weaknesses. This practice of relentlessly pursuing political rivals as enemies continues with the Liberals of Jean Chretien. The new Alliance leader should anticipate it and gear for war each chamber day. Neither he nor his caucus can come out of this war successfully at the end of this Parliament by concentrating on Alliance policies and intentions.
To campaign next election with a fighting chance, say in 2004, Harper and company must wear down the prime minister and Finance Minister Paul Martin, repetitiously citing Liberal incompetence, waste and dishonesty.
Being “warm and fuzzy” won’t do it for Harper.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, March 20, 2002
ID: 12996505
TAG: 200203200511
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


I first heard about the late Dalton Camp in 1952, but didn’t meet him until the mid-1960s when he was national president of the federal Conservatives and I was a recent transfer from a CCF seat in the House of Commons to its press gallery as a columnist for The Toronto Telegram.
My source on Dalton back then was a library aide of mine at at Queen’s University. She’d been a classmate of his at the University of New Brunswick and a fellow winner in 1949 of one of the first Beaverbrook scholarships for post-graduate study in the U.K.
In London, she and Dalton had to report to Lord Beaverbrook. She was awkward and shy. His lordship found her wanting in everything and was brutally rude and dismissive. After she told me of this disaster, I asked her if he was rough on the other scholarship holder. Oh, no! Beaverbrook was most taken with Camp. I asked: Why him, and not you?
She gave me a glowing report on Camp, by far the best-known undergraduate on the campus at UNB. She spoke of his sophistication, his extra-curricular triumphs, his high standing with professors, his American know-how. Her hero, Prof. Desmond Pacey, had told her Camp wrote the best prose of any student he’d ever had. She liked Dalton.
(As an aside, years later, my friend evened the score by parodying Beaverbrook in a published narrative poem. This angered him enough to get her barred from any work at UNB.)
At the time she told me of Dalton’s brilliance and magnetic personality, he was masterminding the successful bid by Tory Hugh John Flemming to be premier of New Brunswick. This was his first big step in proving himself among Canadian Conservatives as both strategist and tactician.
After helping alter the party’s bleak prospects in both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Dalton worked with the team masterminding the party’s federal organization in the Maritimes for the election in 1957. It brought a huge surprise: a minority Tory government lead by John Diefenbaker. This brought Dalton out of the Maritimes and eventually into intertwined roles as an entrepreneur in advertising’s big leagues, as a political columnist and as an “inside” adviser to Tory governments in Ontario – notably for Bill Davis (1971-85).
I was a columnist in Ottawa when Dalton, as national president of the Tories, forced forward a leadership review provision, thus opening a process for replacing Diefenbaker after his successive electoral losses in 1963 and ’65. It was so ironic that a populist politician who owed so little to elites of any kind, particularly those in central Canada, should fall in the pursuit of democracy by the party’s chief apparatchik, backed largely by Ontario Tories.
One easily appreciated the frustrations with the Chief which drove Dalton to “democratize” an old institution. Dief was very much a democratic politician, one who refused to leave his theatre, the House of Commons. There he kept stoking the hatred of Camp, notably among Western and Maritime Tories. Such enmity, and his own bad losses embittered Dalton for a time. (He failed badly in trying to get elected in Toronto ridings, first in 1965, then in 1968.) After Pierre Trudeau romped past Bob Stanfield (his choice as Dief’s successor) Dalton turned more to Ontario politics, because caucus hostility meant he couldn’t work openly for Stanfield as leader of the official Opposition.
And so it was Dalton Camp as a backroom wizard at Queen’s Park whom I came to know fairly well between 1972 and 1975. He chaired the so-called Camp Commission, created to report to the Davis government on ways to modernize the role of the Ontario Legislature and the lot of its members.
Along with Camp, I was one of the three commissioners; the other, Farquahr Oliver, had been a Liberal MPP for four decades. We produced five separate reports and had a small but able staff. Dalton and I split the writing. Our reports were well received at the Legislature, some 80 recommendations being taken up. Just as flattering, these were mimicked in most of the provinces; some were even adopted in Ottawa.
Years after, I found Dalton to be very proud of the Camp Commission, even more than his work with a previous Ontario inquiry on Canadian book publishing he had shared with Marsh Jeanneret and Ron Rohmer. I felt he chalked up both inquiries as worthy, useful deeds of a good citizen.
I appreciated that he’d have preferred being an elected politician – perhaps a cabinet minister, even the prime minister – but he never moped about this with me, or in his columns.
Although we never were comfortable companions, I soon admired Dalton for his industriousness, shrewdness, decency and courtesy. He was more reflective, patient and self-confident than I could be. Our chore drove us into political analysis and our differing values and aims would emerge. Mostly, we found compromise. I was more mindful of the general run of people – an opposition mind! He was more intent on the usage of those with learning or with power or influence – a governing mind!
Dalton’s childhood and youth in the U.S. had stamped him as a Rooseveltan New Dealer. In Canada, this translated him into a Red Tory within the Conservative party, once his first choice, the Liberal party, proved too crooked for him.
For posterity, I hope Dalton’s family will have his unfinished memoirs published, perhaps in a grand “Dalton Camp Reader.” This might include the two of his books that were largely autobiographical and illuminated so well the politics of the 1950-1980 era. We need – the future needs – a classic of such kind.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 17, 2002
ID: 12996156
TAG: 200203170613
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


What is our Jurassic relic of a prime minister to do?
Although President George Bush continues to draw raves down south for his performance since Sept. 11, his reviews here and elsewhere are back to what they were before the fateful day – dreadful.
This past week, a series of stories rekindled old fears that Bush and Co. are little more than reckless cowboys, and lack the sophistication necessary to lead the world’s last superpower.
Take the leaked Pentagon study which suggested the U.S. create a new generation of tactical nuclear weapons for possible use against rogue states armed with weapons of mass destruction. The story resonated on with Vice President Dick Cheney’s hasty tour of London and Middle Eastern capitals seeking support for a major attack on Iraq.
Why target Saddam Hussein again? Bluntly put, because of his long-standing – and presumably continuing – efforts to develop chemical, biological and nuclear arms.
If this weren’t enough to fuel the paranoia of those who think Americans now fear there’s a terrorist under every bed, there were daily reports of U.S. military “advisers” moving into places like Yemen, Georgia and the Philippines to help their governments combat insurgents.
What does this portend for America’s allies, especially Canada?
If Bush is a cowboy, he’s backed by one hell of a posse. Media coverage of the sixth-month anniversary of 9/11 was replete with Americans noting that while they had had many reservations about him, they believe he’s become a great “wartime” president. Many of those interviewed were blacks, young adults and members of women’s groups who had voted overwhelmingly for Democrat Al Gore just 16 months or so ago.
This highlights the major dilemma in dealing with the U.S., post-9/11. From the president down, for Americans it’s war! They lost over 3,000 people to a sneak attack that evokes memories of “the Day of Infamy” at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. And their new enemy is not only willing to die for his cause, he actually embraces martyrdom, which only adds to comparisons with World War II.
On the other hand, Canadian and European expressions of solidarity with Americans were just that – expressions.
We aren’t at war. Daily military briefings may be fine for America’s president, or Britain’s prime minister, even Australia’s, but for our “wartime” leader it’s “wake me when it’s over.”
Jean Chretien’s casual dismissal of Alliance MP Monte Solberg’s call for a memorial to the 24 Canadians killed in the attack on the World Trade Center’s twin towers in New York (yes, it was a tragedy but there are lots of tragedies), Chretien said sends the same message.
Contrast this with his government’s annual memorialization of the 1989 murders of 14 women at Montreal’s L’Ecole Polytechnique, through speeches, vigils attended by MPs, and constant references to the gun registration system. Our PM clearly thinks the deaths in Montreal resonate with Canadians while those in New York do not.
A report on Canadian reactions to 9/11 released earlier in the week supports him: “The level of perceived threat to Canada … is seen to be low.”
One person interviewed put it thus: “I don’t think they (the terrorists) are going to come after Canada … it’s the Americans they want … because the Americans don’t care for that part of the world. They only care for themselves.”
Leaving aside the fact that our policies regarding Israel, the Palestinians and security in the Persian Gulf differ little from those of the “uncaring” Americans, (except that we back ours with minimal military force) this nicely sums up where we now stand – aside!
Overseas, we know of Tony Blair’s travails with a British cabinet badly split over taking the war to Iraq. It isn’t that his dissidents doubt Iraq intends to create weapons of mass destruction, and that it will eventually succeed and Saddam will use them. Their fear is that the British public doesn’t care enough about these things to support a war and will punish the government if it backs one.
European views on America’s longer-term plans are even more jaundiced.
In Berlin last week, debate was on whether tanks and artillery should have accompanied the German troops assigned to the stabilization force in Afghanistan, given recent attacks upon it. Nor was there much angst in Germany or Denmark over news their elite forces had joined in Operation Anaconda.
Fighting terrorists in Afghanistan is one thing, but the prospect of another Gulf war and the leaked Pentagon report about nuclear weapons led these and other European countries to voice serious reservations about America’s course.
Canada faces a problem these nations don’t. Should Americans decide we are fair-weather friends in the war on terrorism overseas, it’s unlikely they’ll accept our claims to be doing everything possible to protect the mutual border here. If they don’t – and are feeling aggrieved about their allies in general – how are they likely to treat us?
What if America’s paranoia, rather than her critics’, proves justified? Following another disaster, how will she treat the doubters? And what could they offer in defence?
A last bit of cheery news. The Bush family and the Bush White House crew have a penchant for nicknames, and their tag for Jean Chretien, picked up by a Canadian reporter, is “Dino” – as in dinosaur – a recognition based on the opinion he’s not kept up with events in a changing world.
Not very reassuring, and not much of a laugh; certainly not for the millions of Canadians who treasure him as their prime minister.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, March 13, 2002
ID: 12995601
TAG: 200203130231
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


My take from a Monday story by the Sun’s David Gamble is that MPs are spoiling themselves and raiding the public purse.
Gamble had interviewed Marlene Catterall, chief whip for Jean Chretien, about new changes in the use of air tickets by MPs, their families and staff. The changes are rather minor, but the reasons for them are startling. Gamble learned that:
“Cementing family ties and preventing divorce in the the face of MPs’ ‘horrible jobs’ is behind a decision to give politicians more say on how they spend millions on travel each year.
“The changes … stem from the high divorce rate among MPs resulting from long hours away from home, said Marlene Catterall.
“She said the changes … will allow family members and staff to use airline tickets once reserved for MPs only.
“Last year, taxpayers paid $90.2 million for travel by MPs, telephone calls and office expenses.
“Catterall … said marriage and relationships are often one of the first casualties after an MP is elected for the first time.”
Horrible jobs? Preventing divorces?
What bull!
Admittedly, my derision comes from someone with something like a conflict of interest – and a guilty conscience. Let me explain.
In the early 1960s, I was a CCF MP who found within two years of the 1958 election that I couldn’t keep away from overdrafts and loans on my $10,000 income. At that time there were no free air trips, no free telephone lines or long distance charges, and no subsidized constituency office. A new MP shared an office and one secretary with another MP.
One well-used privilege was free rail travel for an MP and his or her immediate family. This was day coach travel; if you wanted a berth, you paid for it.
Believe it or not, back then there were more sitting days in a year of Parliament than now, even evening sessions three nights a week. Today, MPs have a calendared year of recesses and breaks which give at least a week in every month free from the House.
Before the mid-1960s, a lot of Western and Atlantic MPs stayed in Ottawa for months. I myself had to spend 44 hours on the train for a trip home and back, consuming a weekend.
On the pay angle for MPs, I made myself accursed across the land by standing up in the House and asking for more pay. There were long rolls of applause from the backbenches, and after months of below-the-surface dickering, a raise for MPs was agree to by a most reluctant PM, John Diefenbaker.
Not long after that, the Tory MP for Grey-Bruce, Eric Winkler, suggested to me that my daring had not gone far enough. We had rail passes of a basic sort. Why not air passes? For at least one-third of the MPs, the rail journey home and back took many days and drained energy.
And so I framed a petition for MPs to sign, for presentation to the minister of transport, George Hees. It asked for several return passes on Air Canada a year for each MP between Ottawa and his or her riding. Hees was enthusiastic about the proposition; so was Roland Michener, the Speaker of the House. Bill Benedickson, a Liberal MP, got Lester Pearson, leader of the Opposition, to go for it. Most Tory backbenchers signed; so did the handful of CCF MPs.
Diefenbaker was also against the air passes, but persistent caucus pressure brought him around. Almost coincident with the air passes came further aids to MPs pushed strongly by the Speaker: the House would pay MPs’ long distance charges, develop a print shop for MPs’ newsletters and assign every MP a full-time secretary.
So the spending items on MPs’ air travel, which I helped originate, now, in a more generous form, cost the federal operation over $90 million a year. It’s enough to make a cost-conscious citizen cringe, particularly at news the bill is to creep higher so as to save MPs from divorces and make their work less “horrible.”
Of course, many citizens will have read about this latest, rather small grab for the sake of family togetherness and noted a contradiction.
On the one hand, we have a nationally recognized dilemma which posits that MPs, including most ministers, are ciphers in an institution so dominated by the prime minister they have little of significance to do.
On the other hand, there is caterwauling which asserts that MPs have horrible jobs and severe tensions on their family ties. What malarkey!

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 10, 2002
ID: 12995254
TAG: 200203100332
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


The now notorious slowness of the minister of defence in “clicking” to a significant briefing has triggered speculation among political buffs on who is or isn’t none too bright in Jean Chretien’s ministry.
It’s sad, in a pathetic way, that Art Eggleton, nine years a minister and a former mayor of our biggest city, is now tagged as “stupid.”
Surely, the reality is that he is very much an average guy. In straight intelligence, I think he’d come at least midway from the bottom of today’s ministry. His central problem seems to be a rather dilatory, almost flippant, interest in his portfolio, compounded by a busy social life. At least for me, Eggleton has far more sagacity, particularly in self-protectiveness, than his Toronto cabinet colleagues David Collenette (transport) and Elinor Caplan (national revenue) or likeable but very fuzzy Lawrence MacAulay (solicitor general).
It is remarkable how little has been written, either in general, or in particular examinations of cabinets or a cabinet, by academics, journalists, or politicians. And despite the public exposure of ministers in the ballyhooed “cut and thrust” of the House question period, most of what a minister does (or doesn’t do) is hidden and known well only to his or her immediate mandarins. A minister may be a lion or a blanketing fog in the House, but a floater in his department.
Yes, there are always leaks running on the Hill about ministerial performances in the secrecy of cabinet and caucus, and over time the recreations and the personal circle of a minister get known, particularly if he or she is among the top few who cluster closely below the dominant male, the prime minister – e.g., Paul Martin, John Manley and Sheila Copps.
Donald Savoie, a political scientist who’s been in high Ottawa places, has produced a rough grid for analyzing ministers. He cites five sorts of minister: mere process participants; status-seekers; missionaries for a cause; policy wonks; and one or two “stars.”
Savoie sees process participants as the largest category: “ministers who leave little or no trace of their accomplishments,” for whom policy and ideology mean little. Their goal is to stay out of trouble, get re-elected and keep focus on the boss.
By far the least numerous category is for political stars. For example, Paul Martin under Chretien, Don Mazankowski under Brian Mulroney.
Status-seekers often get the most publicity but it’s for themselves, not policies – e.g., Sergio Marchi and Allan Rock. Policy wonks are rare, and seldom make much of a mark (e.g., Marcel Masse under Chretien or Don Johnston under Pierre Trudeau).
There are not many dedicated “mission” ministers. Recent examples are Lloyd Axworthy (peace!), Monique Begin (health care!) and Charles Caccia (environment).
Reflecting the reality of power in Ottawa, Prof. Savoie doesn’t gild the ministerial lilies. He baldly indicates that vis- a-vis the PM, most ministers will be deferential, even grovelling.
In Ottawa there is much less curiosity about the cabinet and its operation than 30 years ago, and far more fixing on the PM and his office. In the middle 1960s it was still said that the prime minister was the first among equals. Such an import has faded out since Trudeau’s constitutional changes.
Back in 1965, Jack Pickersgill, the cleverest all-rounder among Liberal ministers I’ve known, gave me a sharp lesson on choosing ministers, one with which I am sure both Chretien and Mitchell Sharp, his close counsellor, would agree.
In 1965, Lester Pearson as PM had a backbench teeming with ambitious, able MPs and a handful of them were elevated to cabinet that year. Also promoted, however, was a Quebecer who was likeable but as slow as I had ever met on the Hill. The Grit backbenchers were shocked, I believe the present PM among them. Why this empty vessel, I asked Jack?
The Grit mastermind was succinct. The choice had been very deliberate: nice chap; very quiet; big family. The deputy minister would take care of him. The cabinet had too many young, ambitious, bright ministers. It needed thinning.
Now to close with references to a rating system for might-be ministers to be found at the back of Erik Nielsen’s 1989 book, The House is Not a Home. It was devised when Nielsen, a Tory MP from 1957-87, was leader of the official Opposition. I still refer to it when trying to appraise a politician’s worth.
Nielsen had five rankings of ministerial prospects: exceptional; superior; fully satisfactory; not fully satisfactory; unsatisfactory.
What was rated?
First, “knowledge” – the basic!
Second, eight different “abilities” – to create, analyze, plan, organize, control, direct, write and articulate.
Third, “effectiveness” in 11 different qualities, such as industriousness, dependability, judgment, maturity, initiative, decisiveness, adaptability and performance under pressure.
Fourth, “leadership,” as evident in tactfulness, working with superiors, colleagues and subordinates, and as a representative.
Lastly, “loyalty:” to party, leader and colleagues.
How would Art Eggleton do if appraised using the Nielsen format? Not well, at least if one goes by the many poor marks given Tories who were made ministers by Brian Mulroney – MPs like John Crosbie, Pat Carney, David Crombie and Sinclair Stevens.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, March 06, 2002
ID: 12994707
TAG: 200203060509
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


This is an anecdote about two contrary types, each of whom thought much about his legacy.
We begin topically – next Monday no less – then vault back over 50 years to Victoria College, Toronto. That’s where I first met the two characters of this tale: Keith Davey, then a student, now a retired Liberal senator (since 1996), and Prof. Northrop Frye, the late literary critic whose renown continues to reverberate globally.
On Monday afternoon at Victoria College, the sixth annual Keith Davey Lecture will be given by the Hon. Lloyd Axworthy, a retired MP, and not so long ago, Jean Chretien’s minister of foreign affairs.
You may recall that ideologically Axworthy fitted in the Liberal party context like the late Walter Gordon and his long-time sponsor, The Toronto Star.
Their Liberal strand is pan-Canadianism, always skeptical and often hostile toward the United States. (The title of Axworthy’s speech at Victoria College is “Liberals at the border: We stand on guard for whom?”)
Now back to 1949. Frye, English professor par excellence, is faculty adviser to the college magazine, Acta Victoriana (of which I am the editor).
Keith Davey is president of the student organization, the Victoria College Union (VCU). Even then – only 20 – Keith is busy in both student politics and the Liberal party.
One of his gambits to liven up life in Victoria is a daring move, passed suddenly at a meeting of the student union, to cut drastically the funding for the magazine. Why? Too high-brow; out of touch with students’ concerns.
Naturally, we fight back, gain an emergency session of the student union and draw a huge crowd because of Prof. Frye.
The funding cut is vetoed after succinct remarks by Prof. Frye on the magazine’s purposes. He is in top form, as his fans knew he would be.
Those of us who asked him to slay the dragon knew he seethed about the Davey gambit. A few years later, I learned that this episode, linked with another threat to Acta, had actually brought Frye close to accepting a chair at an Ivy League university. (The second threat was one of censorship by the college executive, roused by the publishing of a parody on the Virgin Birth which was the choice in a poetry prize contest by a judge, one Marshall McLuhan.)
Late last year, the University of Toronto Press published The Diaries of Northrop Frye, 1942-1955, the eighth volume of his collected works (with more to come). Naturally, I turned to the diary entries for any reference to the Acta matters.
For February, 1949, there is a longish note about Acta and “Keith Davey, the VCU president, who I think means well. “Both he and his associate … are complete chucks, and make one wonder about student government.
“Fisher seemed very browned off about it. The whole fallacy of university life is that it isn’t regarded as a community of learners, but as a dichotomy, one of school teachers and students, and the false analogies from democracy that build up student government and separate – driving teachers into graduate school where they feel they can find their community.
“Davey … is a great plugger for ‘activities’ which have multiplied around the place so fast, their minds have not time to do anything. He has diligently spread around the college the notion that if you are applying for a job downtown, your employer will be mainly interested in your extra-curricular activities. If you give promise of joining the firm’s bowling league and light opera society and can be counted upon to take up collections for everything around the office and attend dances every Saturday night, they’ll take you on. They won’t say ‘What was your job and what sort of job did you make of it?'”
A brief sentence in Frye’s diary for Jan. 23, 1952, showed how deep Keith Davey as a type bothered the professor.
“I’m more worried about the types who get on the VCU executive next year. It may be (here he names a certain individual), which would be Keith Davey all over again.”
Here we are, 50 years later, and this March, as for five already, Keith Davey will be a presence at Victoria as the patron of a lecture by a major notable. Meantime, the teacher of his youth, who regretted what he signified in college standards, is long gone. He has, however, his own global heritage in books, articles and annual conferences about his insights.
What moral to draw, if any, about this “dichotomy” as Frye phrased it? Beats me, although Keith might have named the lecture series “in honour of Walter Gordon.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 03, 2002
ID: 12994383
TAG: 200203030462
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Last week, two parliamentary committees showed how these once useful means for holding governments accountable are largely irrelevant.
My references are to the inquiry into Art Eggleton’s misstatements about prisoners taken in Afghanistan and to a review of the proposed air security tax that will raise a proposed $2.2 billion.
First, the investigation of the defence minister.
Jean Chretien’s ministers have fibbed before – and for it they’ve usually faced opposition barracking in question period. On those occasions when public pressure has forced the government to send such matters to a committee, the Prime Minister’s Office has routinely directed Liberal committee members to use their majority to quash the investigation as quickly as they can. And they have. This time, that didn’t happen immediately. Progress? That surely depends on why Eggleton’s grilling was allowed to go ahead, and whether it marks a change of heart on the part of ordinary Liberal MPs.
Why is artless Art in purgatory?
His sin was not that he misled the House but that he misled the caucus. Many backbenchers objected to Canadian troops turning prisoners over to the Americans, and wanted to debate the issue. Debate was scuppered by the unwillingness of both Chretien and Eggleton, and the pace of events in Afghanistan. By misinforming them, Eggleton made himself the lightning rod for the ensuing discontent – acting really as a surrogate for the PM. This is why the PM didn’t order Liberal MPs to spare his defence minister.
The turmoil in the party’s ranks carries a message from many MPs to the PM – make way soon for Finance Minister Paul Martin. My reading is that these backbenchers are, by and large, resentful of Chretien’s contemptuous attitude towards them. The last thing the PM wants now is to be seen as insensitive to the prerogatives of MPs who’ve been obedient and patient for so long. And that’s what Eggleton is accused of – being contemptuous of MPs’ prerogatives by not telling them the truth.
There has been another advantage to letting Eggleton twist in the wind for so long. As long as it goes on, the question is “Why did the minister mislead the House?” Not “Why doesn’t the PM get daily briefings on the war – like Tony Blair and George Bush?”
The Eggleton grilling marks no real change in the attitude of either the PM or Liberal MPs toward the role of committees as able guardians of democracy. Even though witness from high military officials confirmed what most outsiders know – that Eggleton is an unbelievably slow learner – the inquiry was really over when the PM expressed his confidence and that of his cabinet and caucus in the defence minister last Wednesday. A few hours later, Joe Jordan, the PM’s parliamentary secretary, forcefully summed up the majority view of what was before the committee: really much ado about nothing.
Now, turning to the “review” of the proposed air security fees.
Initially, even Liberal MPs seemed shocked at the lack of thought that went into the multi-billion-dollar program. When asked what analysis had been done to assess the levy’s likely impact on the airline industry and tourism, Serge Dupont, general director of tax policy for Paul Martin, acknowledged, “Those studies have not been done … There might be a few pages, but don’t expect 20-40 page studies.”
Similarly, Transport Canada’s William Elliot, assistant deputy minister (for security and safety) admitted the $24 round trip “security” fee was the simple result of taking the estimated cost of the security measures and dividing it by the estimated number of round trips to be taken over the program’s five years.
As longtime NDP MP Lorne Nystrom cracked: “It’s absolutely amazing that the government is bringing in a $2.5 [sic] billion tax without any studies.” True enough.
Equally amazing, however, is the opposition’s failure to challenge officials for violating long-standing government policies. For example, federal regulatory policy requires a cost-benefit analysis be done on all regulatory initiatives (the security measures will certainly include regulations); similarly, the cost recovery policy requires effective consultations with affected industries before fees are imposed.
Moreover, the bureaucratic failure here extends beyond these two departments to the central agencies responsible for these policies. They haven’t bothered to police and enforce them. The key agencies here are Treasury Board and Finance, headed by St. Paul.
Opposition MPs ought to be aware of such requirements inset within administration practices and hold officials accountable for them, given that these are what the government supposedly uses to police its own behaviour and ensure fiscal discipline, fairness and accountability. Why does the opposition so rarely invoke them? They’re derelict as so-called “shadow” critics.
Grit MP Shawn Murphy, apparently appalled by what he’d heard, initially agreed to support an Alliance proposal to cut the proposed fee in half. After a recess – and one guesses some advice from the whip – Murphy changed his mind and vote, defeating the amendment. Then the Liberal MPs voted down a motion to have whatever studies of the levy that do exist tabled before the committee.
And that’s how bureaucrats who haven’t even followed their own particular “rules of engagement” are protected by their political masters.
My sad conclusion, made too often, is this: despite their griping, Liberal MPs don’t want to shed their subservient role in committees, or elsewhere.
Despite the opportunities afforded by the PM’s difficulties and the ambitions of Paul Martin and Allan Rock, the Grit backbenchers aren’t about to demand parliamentary reform and more freedom for themselves. They don’t want to be masters of their own fate. At most they just want a new master. Right?
A year or so after they get one, will diligence and close scrutiny of government reign in the House and its committees? Dream on!

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 27, 2002
ID: 12496519
TAG: 200202270511
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 17
Ahead of his time
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Hockey is our common denominator. The long-awaited Olympic victories renew our collective spirit. Great!
Yet notwithstanding this joy all around, mine is incomplete. Why? It goes back 50 years.
In 1951, I was a hockey fan, an ex-rink rat and a regular “snowbanker” at the nearest ice when I fell upon The Hockey Handbook. Its author was Lloyd Percival, then 38, a Torontonian, a superb cricketer, a renowned track and field coach and a national figure among kids since the early 1940s as the creator and host of Sport College, a CBC radio program for youth on fitness and skills for sports. Lloyd and his “how to” pamphlets were must reading from coast to coast. The Hockey Handbook came out because hockey was the top interest of his listeners.
Percival tended to the clinical and jesuitical, rather than to “homespun” wisdom as a coach. He wrote clearly and was big on charts and diagrams. He revelled in “blue- skying” about the potentials in strategy and tactics in team games like hockey and soccer.
To illustrate his hockey analysis, he had exemplar actions in the six-team NHL of the time and – heresy of heresies – his critique cast doubts on some aspects in Maple Leaf play he thought aimless and useless.
A few years after reading his book, I was working up a magazine article on Conn Smythe, creator of the Leaf franchise, and I found both Conn and Hap Day, then the Leaf coach, scornful about the hockey vision in the handbook. Indeed, only Jack Adams of the NHL (then manager of the Red Wings) took any interest in the book.
It didn’t really catch on in either the National Hockey League or the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association. But the book found a fan and sponsor far away in the USSR in Anatoli Tarasov, then emerging as a coach of a newish endeavour for Russians – the widespread playing of hockey.
Coach Tarasov developed what was later called the Russian hockey system based on such Percival emphases as puck control marrying passing and skating dexterity. Who had the puck was more important than where the puck was on the ice. Developing control of it had to be founded on continual passing on the move.
Not for Percival or Tarasov the firing of the puck into the enemy zone and piling in for goalmouth scrambles and screened shots. There was no stress on rough stuff: the rubbing out along the boards, grabbing, hooking, slashing and punching.
The Percival hockey line touted better conditioning through weights and dry-land training for each player, and drills on passing, shooting, kicking the puck and using all the ice space. Training hours should never be wasted on practice games and scrimmaging.
Percival’s aim was for players and teams with more speed and finesse and less violence than the norm in North America. To me, the book was a revelation of what hockey might be.
In a few years, I learned the Russians were into Lloyd’s handbook; so were the Czech phys-ed professors at the university in Prague; so were several university coaches in the U.S. But the years went by and nothing much changed in coaching and play in the NHL or in the expanding Canadian “Junior A” hockey leagues in Canada (which so quickly became the basic farm supply for NHL franchises).
By the time I got a chance to stick my stick into the game of hockey in 1969 as a director of Hockey Canada, Canadians en masse were seething because the USSR was consistently both world and Olympic hockey champions. We couldn’t match them using amateurs and retired pros.
The plan of Father David Bauer to create a winner for Canada from well-trained “amateurs” was failing. His teams were excellent as such, but short of the Russians in both system and basic talents. As a federally appointed director of Hockey Canada, along with six or seven other men, I got into negotiating a new deal. We set out to entice both the USSR to take part in, and the NHL owners to permit, a Canada-USSR series in which Canada could use the best Canadians in the NHL. It took just over two years to line up the eight-game, home-and-home series of 1972.
Simply put, the crucial impetus of both sides was to prove their superiority. The vital catalyst for the deal was the backing of the NHL Players’ Association.
I kept it to myself, but I was probably the only Canadian negotiator who thought the USSR an even or better bet to win. It almost was so.
As sport pages since 1972 keep stating: “The ’72 series changed hockey forever.” It certainly put hockey on the world map. It brought much emphasis on player fitness and strength. It even encouraged analysis of the Percival sort wherever the game was played.
So what’s my point? Why the shortfall in my joy from the victory last Sunday?
Because we ought to be better. We’ve a superior base in facilities and the numbers playing the game, plus the huge national and local commitment to it. We waste or snuff out early so many prospects. The violent are still prevalent and honoured. There are fewer players like Lemieux, Lafleur and Sakic than there should be. We still ignore the hockey bible Lloyd Percival wrote so long ago. He died rather young in 1974.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 24, 2002
ID: 12495760
TAG: 200202240612
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Brian Pallister, the Alliance foreign affairs critic, provided the perfect metaphor to describe the government’s response to the war on terrorism.
Responding to worried mutterings from our PM, deputy PM and new Foreign Affairs minister over warlike talk coming out of Washington, Pallister opined: “The least we can do is make sure we don’t go and hide in the sand or let our wobbly knees get in the way.”
Alas, in Canada, the wobbly knees rule.
Consider the odd communications strategy chosen by Defence Minister Art Eggleton for the operations of Canada’s super-secret JTF2 commandos in Afghanistan. Eggleton, a master of the “fog” approach (cloud critics under layers of bafflegab), abandoned this in favour of the “deaf, dumb and blind” strategy employed by colleague Jane (the missing billion) Stewart.
When informed of JTF2’s first major success – the capture of Taliban/al-Qaida members – Eggleton declined to share this with the country – or, apparently, the PM – passing up the opportunity to bray about how this proved his oft repeated claim that our troops are combat ready. When photos of JTF2 bringing in prisoners surfaced, he remained silent. When the story finally broke, he did talk – and got the dates wrong. Then he claimed the photo had thrown him off.
All this might not have mattered much except some Liberal MPs had publicly opposed our troops handing prisoners over to the the U.S. (due to the Americans’ refusal to recognize them as PoWs), and the PM had dismissed this as a hypothetical matter, because we hadn’t caught anyone.
Why did braggart Eggleton keep mum, then get his dates wrong? Last week, a Commons committee investigating whether he misled the House wanted to know. Pallister led the charge, providing his own answers: the minister remained silent to avoid fueling dissension in Liberal ranks, and then offered the wrong date to try to justify the PM’s “hypothetical” comment. Whatever the particulars regarding Eggleton’s actions, underlying them was the government’s discomfort with, and uncertainty over, Canada’s relationship with the U.S., especially the latter’s war on terrorism. Many Liberal MPs were heartsick over the coarse treatment the Americans seemed to be giving the prisoners in their cages in Cuba.
The PM’s wobbly knees were evident during his travels in Russia and Germany. When asked about President Bush and his “axis of evil” and the open musings in Washington about military action against Iraq and Iran, he again used his “hypothetical” dodge: “I would not like to be drawn into any kind of theoretical consideration or debate whatsoever.” In other words, Canada will wait and see, then decide on a position after the fact.
Vacillation was the order of the day back home, too. Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham insisted “the UN must take the lead” in dealing with Iraq, implying Canada would not support unilateral U.S. action. But what really counted was his observation that Canada would consider supporting action against Iraq “if it is shown that they are amassing weapons of mass destruction.” Given Saddam Hussein’s concerted, clandestine efforts to do precisely that (derailed and exposed by the Gulf war), and his subsequent efforts to foil UN efforts to prevent him from continuing (he threw out its inspectors), there is no reason to believe Iraq isn’t building such weapons – as our own intelligence analysts have no doubt told the government.
There is unlikely to be “absolute” proof of this, however, unless inspectors return to Iraq – and this won’t occur unless Iraq is forced to acquiesce through threatened or actual military action. So despite the fudging, if the U.S. attacks, Canada will almost certainly support it, if only with words. The PM pretty much conceded this: “If the Americans want to do something alone, there is nothing I can do …”
The wobbly knees arise not from a moral conviction the U.S. is wrong, but from a fear of the repercussions its actions might have here.
Many in the restive Liberal caucus already possess a visceral dislike for both America and the presidency of George Bush. Unfortunately for Chretien, Canada must continue to engage her great neighbour on issues such as softwood lumber and border access, and remain on friendly terms. If this is done in concert with Canada distancing itself from a firm stand beside the U.S. against the “axis of evil,” the consequences on both sides of the border could be grim. Accentuating a position outside the Bush administration’s intentions appeals to the nationalism of many Liberals, and to those left-wingers in our media, but it won’t go unnoticed and without penalty in Washington.
Managing the world’s biggest trading relationship is going to be a handful. With America feeling its oats, led by a popular president who likes to talk tough, things could get poisonous.
A final observation: the PM is not the only one who could be tagged with “being soft” on the Americans. To date Paul Martin’s take on Canada-U.S. relations has not differed from that of his boss – he too knows which side our bread is buttered on – and as finance minister he is perhaps even more constrained than Chretien as a critic of America.
There is one major minister, however, who might lead the nationalist crew in the Liberal caucus – Allan Rock! And he might be desperate enough, after the harsh rebuffs last week to his leadership hopes.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 20, 2002
ID: 12494428
TAG: 200202200593
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 17
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Oh, what anxieties in Canadian-American relations there are going to be if Jean Chretien stands by the line he expressed in Russia and Germany against any violent American intervention in Iraq without clear evidence of Saddam Hussein’s involvement with the terrorists of Sept. 11.
The stakes are high that such a stand, if sustained, would put Canada and its ongoing difficulties with the U.S. – such as softwood lumber and border delays – into disfavour with both the White House and Congress. My reading of the Liberal caucus is that it will stand firm behind the PM on this – probably more so than Canadians as a whole.

More pressure regarding a major international issue was put on Chretien during the European trade mission. The anglo premiers, led by Ralph Klein, banded together against the Liberal plan to legislate the gist of the Kyoto accord on global warming. Again, my hunch is that the PM has his caucus behind him on this; nevertheless the opposition of so many provinces has to be taken seriously.
A central weakness in the federal undertakings on environmental protection has been the lack of a magnetic, missionary minister to whip up a widespread popular commitment for urgency in the reduction of greenhouse gases.
Environment Minister David Anderson is not dumb and he talks “the file” well, but not with the convincing passion which sweeps a nation along. And this is a country in which fears of job losses from higher emission standards is very high.

In belatedly coming to Allan Rock’s aid in the Liberal fracas over limits on the flogging of party memberships, David Collenette began with a piety which makes one wonder how he climbed so high. He said, “I have always believed in an open and democratic party.”
Well, hurrah for David. But who would think any Liberal (or Tory or New Democrat or Alliance or PQ member) would believe in a closed and undemocratic party?
Transport Minister Collenette also went on to distinguish – as have John Manley and Sheila Copps – that this party issue should not have become a public matter but remained a private one. The issue has nothing to do – they say – with governmental responsibilities.
How convenient for Liberals to forget all the mockery they have poured publicly on the Alliance party’s conundrums over splits and fracases, hinging on leadership and the recruiting of party members – in particular from single-interest groups (such as anti-abortionists) by some Alliance aspirants.
Ponder this line from Collenette: “To say to people – landed immigrants, citizens, people who have a right to be in this country – that you can’t take part in the democratic process in helping to select MPs or electing riding executives, I think it’s a retrograde step.”
As I have read the proposal by Paul Martin’s followers, it does nothing of the kind. What it seeks to do is prevent the group purchase of memberships by a sponsoring and fee-paying faction on such a scale there is no individual contact between a party member and a new recruit. In short, a try to have common sense prevail over a largely token, bought membership.

Unfortunately, large numbers of citizens are not yet fired up over the determined, and so far successful, attempts, centred in the Prime Minister’s Office and Treasury Board to block the release of more cabinet papers than ever under the Access to Information Act. The ploy has developed out of a court decision relating to the Privacy Act and its provisions.
Recently, the Treasury Board has declared again and again through its minister, Lucienne Robillard, that its legal advisers and the privacy commissioner, George Radwanski – though not the information commissioner, John Reid – interpret the Privacy Act as overriding the Access to Information Act in some circumstances. Therefore, the government cannot release many cabinet documents, notably relating to the activities and agendas of ministers and their aides. To do so impinges on the privacy of so many who take part in the preparation or presentation of such records who are not permanent officials.
But an oddity has developed. Reporters asked ministers if they would personally approve the release of such records under their aegis. Among the few who said yes was Bob Nault, the minister of Indian affairs. He’d be openly, fully accountable, as would the spending of his staff. Nault deals with scores of chiefs and First Nations who’ve been much agitated at information-access revelations of their extravagances. Nault knows he can’t keep his spending private if the chiefs have theirs revealed.
But this would be just a minute glitch in the privacy curtain. Until the courts rule otherwise, in this cabinet’s practice the privacy card aces the access card.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 17, 2002
ID: 12493463
TAG: 200202170564
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Back to the spat between cabinet colleagues Paul Martin and Allan Rock, with a thesis that it will get nastier.
Last column, I noted the possibility of Jean Chretien’s fingerprints on the weapon Rock used on Martin – i.e., the accusation that Martin’s efforts to block potential rivals from signing up instant Liberals to support their leadership bids (or the PM in next year’s mandatory leadership review) threatens to create an exclusivist Liberal party.
The charge seems to fit with Rock’s oft-purported leftist leanings and his earnest striving to be a friend to ethnic Liberals, especially fellow Torontonians. It also echoes in my memory the Chretien portrayal of John Turner, his rival for the Liberal leadership in 1984, as an icon of the Establishment. The tagging didn’t work then, so why would Chretien (probably through his tough-minded disciple, Warren Kinsella) dust it off and hand it to Rock?
Never underestimate how personal politics is for our PM. If anything raises his hackles more than the hyperbolic praise heaped on Finance Minister Martin for leading Canada from deficits to surpluses – which was impossible without his absolute backing – it is that Martin (like Turner) has had all the breaks.
Take his political lineage through Paul Sr., a long-time, high profile Liberal minister and twice a leadership contender. Take his wealth, secured so openly with the aid of friends high-placed in politics and industry. Take his natural poise, courtesy of his parents and growing up in the “right” company. Add to this Chretien’s conviction that his own “petit gars” image, as much as anything else, has won him the hearts of ordinary Canadians, and you have a rationale for last week’s misstep.
The question now is whether those who count in the Liberal party smell prime ministerial blood … smell it in Chretien’s failure to back Rock, in the lack of support for Rock from elsewhere in the party, and in the failure of prominent Liberals to denounce as outrageous the notion that Martinites might not back the PM in next year’s review.
The heat in Martin’s reply and the inability of his rivals to counter his domination of the party indicate a showdown at next year’s convention might happen if Martin’s followers prove to be more loyal to him than to Jean Chretien. Fantasy? Maybe, but we are now being spun with word of a developing rapprochement between Martin and Brian Tobin.
Martin’s backers include most Liberal MPs, many of the major corporate contributors to the party and interest groups within its membership (from feminists to fiscal conservatives). A lot of these backers have waited a long time for their payoff, and it figures some are fretting it may never come.
If the prime minister chooses to stay on, survives the review and runs again, Martin could not become PM until at least 2004-05, a year, perhaps two years, after joining Chretien as a senior citizen and thus a good bet as a one-term wonder. For those who want a leader with a shelf life, this isn’t good enough so an inclination to look elsewhere is likely.
The dynamics that have allowed Chretien to two-step Martin are changing, raising the heat on both aging warriors.
Martin’s ferocity with Rock reflects more than just anger at the accusation, suspicion regarding its origins and frustration at being kept waiting. Surely it also reveals the pressure he’s feeling. His instincts tell him to play it safe, to wait – but it may no longer be safe to wait.
Some in Martin’s camp are already musing on how Chretien might be pushed out, and are leaning on him. (Can it be done from within cabinet, or does Martin need to pull a Chretien – resign from cabinet and leave the House on a matter of principle, even to develop a new vision for Canada while doing to the PM what he did to Turner or what Brian Mulroney did to Joe Clark?)
Others fear – as will many not backing Martin – what this could do to the party. They will be leaning on him to be very careful.
So it promises to be a long, tense year for our finance minister and his boss, no matter what happens with the economy.
– – –
Now a comment on what the Supreme Court did last week in refusing to hear the CBC’s last-chance appeal against a lower appeal court’s ruling that the fifth estate, the network’s flagship investigative program, had libelled two doctors. The case will cost the CBC about $4 million, most of that in legal fees.
The network could have settled the case years ago, for an apology and a few thousand dollars, but it insisted – and continues to do so – that vital principles essential to freedom of the press were and are at stake, and thus needed to be heard by the highest court.
If our most influential media organization (and by far the largest) believes so much in defending these principles, it can hardly drop the issue now. It owes it to Canadians, and to journalism, to issue and push proposals to amend Canada’s libel laws so these sacred principles can be properly protected. Anything less will leave us with an impression that all this was just a vainglorious attempt to outspend its victims into submission while putting its own reputation ahead of its obligations to be fair and honest.
We await an exposition on this crucial libel issue from Charles Dalfen, the new CEO of the CBC.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 13, 2002
ID: 12491989
TAG: 200202130565
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15


Ah, if only Allan Rock had been so courageous and Paul Martin so blunt a week before … what a circus we’d be having this week on the Hill.
But the House is up and away this week. Both opposition and media have been denied the joy of exploiting the fracas over party memberships between two of our Liberal governors. Be sure of this, however: all will be smoothed back behind a proclaimed amity and total loyalty by the time the MPs are back in the House and the prime minister has returned from Russia.
It’s unlikely we will learn soon what promptings Rock had from Jean Chretien or his handlers in the PMO before he baldly accused Martin of being that unLiberal thing, an exclusivist. Even a country club exclusivist.
Experience warns me not to overrate the cleverness of politicians in competition with each other, but I do suspect (with no proof) there was some plot within the Chretien-Rock orbit.
First, Rock’s outcry was so bold it had to have had some encouragement from a higher level. Second, the first stories about the industry minister’s outrage were broken by reporters often on the inside track with the spin-doctors in the PMO.
Third, coincident with Rock’s outrage was the unmuzzling of Warren Kinsella. His talent at venomous vituperation has been used in the past by Chretien’s team, and he has been backing Rock’s leadership bid.
Why would the PM or his spinners encourage such an outburst against the most popular Liberal in the caucus, the party and the country?
Do you really think it stems from a high-minded concern that Martin, in his campaign to be the next prime minister, is making a narrower party, one indifferent to or suspicious of ethnics, notably “visible” ones?
No, or almost certainly no. Surely what’s most in play here is an animosity, perhaps tied to personality, between the two men who led us out of gargantuan federal deficits to surpluses and economic growth. An animosity, likely festering on one side because so much public acclaim from all levels of society and all parts of the country has credited our resurrection mostly to the minister of finance.
And such a reading of the public’s favour has not been made more palatable to the proud Jean Chretien by repeated witness of Paul Martin’s organizational readiness to claim the PMO as soon as he leaves.
There’s been a sometimes devilish, sometimes puckish, often brash air in the way Chretien has played with his succession matter for years, but particularly since his party won its third straight mandate. Yes, yes, he’ll retire. Some day! Perhaps, likely, probably, in this third mandate. Maybe after his 40th anniversary on the Hill (late winter, 2003). Maybe not. Why not a fourth mandate? He’s healthy. He likes the job, knows the job. Party conventions confirm the Liberals treasure him. He wins elections. Quebec’s saved. He shows well in the polls. So does the party. Why not go again in 2004?
Obviously such talk irritates, even maddens, Martin and his army of admirers. Further, it’s the best explanation one can find for the clear encouragement which Chretien has given would-be successors to come forth and organize. It was most obvious with Brian Tobin, less so but clear enough in the recent elevation in roles assigned John Manley. And the PM has never gone out of his way to niggle in the slightest over the open aspirations and planning of Rock and Sheila Copps.
If, as I suggest, the PM would thwart the Martin ambition, why has he not used the most brutal way to block it? Turf him from the cabinet; or offer him a much less significant ministry. Even suggest a Senate seat, as Pierre Trudeau once did to John Turner, his finance minister.
Chretien is too shrewd for such ploys. He is not so egocentric as to be unaware that the popular Martin is regarded by many as both the saviour of the economy and the pole star of both the caucus and the party.
Remember how patient Jean Chretien has been. He slugged hard for two decades before he was even considered a possible leader. Bet that he read the reactions in party and country to the Rock-Kinsella assault almost before Martin responded so strongly and directly. He cannot back Rock on the labels he chose to slap on Martin. And now he and his spinners have to get this split repaired quickly, even by asking party officials to declare a moratorium on leadership activity, including membership-selling, fund-raising and the use of ministerial staffs and services by the aspirants.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 06, 2002
ID: 12489964
TAG: 200202060487
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


We need fresh adjectives for some of the changes in the refurbished Chretien ministry. So far, few in or around the House regret the changes. However, this is not to say they now seem either daring or grand.
Take John Manley, the new No. 2 in the government and cabinet. Before elevation from mere minister to deputy prime minister he was cautious and slow to speak. He remains determined to be clear, fair, patient, informative and – as many would say – dull. One could not describe Manley, either now or before, as unpartisan, but he continues to be considerably less so than were Herb Gray and Sheila Copps, previous deputies to Jean Chretien.
In the kerfuffle over the taking of prisoners in Afghanistan, Manley has made a useful contrast between the “blah” explanations of our dapper defence minister, Art Eggleton, and the edgy, and almost impatient explanations of Bill Graham, the minister for foreign affairs.
Graham was a much respected backbencher, not least for his courtesy. As minister, he has been abrupt on several open occasions in the House and in corridor scrums with vapid questioners (including some reporters). His reflexes are swift and hint of explosions to come. We may have our most forceful voice ever on international issues – even more than peace-loving, American-baiting Lloyd Axworthy.
An even more certain firecracker is Denis Coderre, the new man “for,” not “of” immigration. The apt adjectives thus far for him are “cocky” and “bumptious.” In the House, in committee and in the scrums he gives his listeners lots of I, I, I. His attitude is clear: Don’t jibe at me. I’m a big-time guy in a big league portfolio.
The closest minister in sheer brass to this confident, former host on open-line radio was also a former radio performer, Brian Tobin. And, like Tobin, Coderre bridles at any sharp criticism from the opposition.
Ralph Goodale, the veteran Saskatchewan minister, is now House leader, following the officious and efficient Don Boudria. This is a resurrection from what seemed deliberate obscurity. Those of us who follow the House on television have seen more of Ralph in the last fortnight than in his previous eight years as a minister. This is wryly amusing. In the Grit caucus Ralph was usually referred to as the most laid-back and deliberately unobtrusive minister Chretien had. Suddenly, he’s busy, busy and much seen. He has a restive, increasingly ornery mob of backbenchers to keep in line, including some like John Bryden and Roger Galloway who are disturbingly wilful.
Then there’s Stephen Owen, the new golden boy from B.C. In appearance, voice and style he reminds me of both Allan Rock and David Crombie. Owen is only a minister without portfolio, but he’s been assigned to aid Bob Nault, the minister of Indian Affairs, in bringing the first nation chiefs to the table to accept major change, even abolition, of the Indian Act.
Of course, B.C. is shaping as the flashpoint for ructions over native land settlements and Owen has a big public reputation there as a fixer worthy of King Solomon.
Years ago, Pierre Trudeau let two ministers loose in Indian Affairs – Jean Chretien, the official minister, and Bob Andras, a minister without portfolio. They were to develop a new policy report for Indian, Metis and Eskimo affairs. Guess what? Chretien and Andras collided, and PET had to call Andras off.
Let us also commiserate with Allan Rock, now minister of industry. Thus far he’s drawing little attention on or off the Hill. In part this is because the big industrial issues these months are softwood lumber exports to the U.S. and federal subsidies to aircraft manufacturers (notably Bombardier). Pierre Pettigrew, the energetic and very loud minister for international trade has been running with these issues for months and Rock hasn’t the manner or the voice to elbow him out of the way.
Of Alfonso Gagliano and Herb Gray, the major departures from cabinet, the one will be quickly forgotten as ambassador to Denmark, the other will be co-chair of the occasionally newsworthy International Joint Commission. Unless some insider leaks details of the Gagliano system of awarding contracts let by Public Works, he’s gone as a public figure.
Gray was honoured in the House a week ago by Joe Clark, with praise for his 40 years as an MP. This reminded me that Clark, as PM in 1979, also honoured Paul Martin, Sr. with a grand banquet on the Hill, rich in reminiscence for Martin’s 44 years of political service.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 03, 2002
ID: 12489314
TAG: 200202030396
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


This is a commentary about the current criticism of our prime minister for too little advancement for women in his caucus. Two of these women, Carolyn Bennett and Carolyn Parrish, think too few of them have been promoted and at least three female columnists have agreed.
One columnist, Chantal Hebert of the Toronto Star summed it this way:
“… it is ultimately the dead-end trail that Chretien has traced for women within his own government that demeans his self-promoted legacy of putting gender equality on the fast track. During his tenure, women have been a diminishing force within the political upper layers of the government.”
A quick scan of the data on female ministers suggests this is unfair to Jean Chretien – see below!
There have been 35 female ministers, from the first, Ellen Fairclough, appointed in 1957 and the 35th, Susan Whelan, appointed last month. In the 45 years since Fairclough’s selection, some 250 males have been appointed to the federal ministry. (It’s been my luck to have watched them all, male and female, since 1957.)
Here’s the female headcount, broken down by prime minister:
John Diefenbaker: 1 appointment, Ellen Fairclough, in seven years.
Lester Pearson: 1 appointment, Judy LaMarsh, in five years.
Pierre Trudeau: 5 appointed in 14 years: Jeanne Sauve, Monique Begin, Iona Campagnolo, Judy Erola, and Celine Hervieux-Payette.
Joe Clark: 1 appointment in 1 year: Flora MacDonald
Brian Mulroney: 11 appointed in nine years: Flora MacDonald (again), Pat Carney, Suzanne Blais-Grenier, Andree Champagne, Barbara McDougall, Monique Vezina, Shirley Martin, Monique Landry, Mary Collins, Kim Campbell, and Pauline Browes.
Kim Campbell: 1 appointed in 4 months: Barbara Sparrow.
Jean Chretien: 15 appointed in eight years: Sheila Copps, Joyce Fairbairn, Diane Marleau, Ethel Blondin-Andrew, Anne McLellan, Sheila Finestone, Christine Stewart, Lucienne Robillard, Jane Stewart, Hedy Fry, Elinor Caplan, Claudette Bradshaw, Sharon Carstairs, Maria Minna, and Susan Whelan.
So … on numbers, Jean Chretien seems to cherish women in his ministry, even more than Brian Mulroney and much more than Pierre Trudeau, probably more idolized by the female citizens of his time than any other prime minister.
Several matters need to be factored into any comparative judgments of prime ministers. There weren’t many women MPs during the regimes of Diefenbaker and Pearson, and none, or very few, Liberal women MPs in Trudeau’s early mandates. After the royal commission on the status of women (1967-70) reported, the clamour grew for more women MPs and yet only ten were elected for the mandate from 1974 to 1979. The response by a prime minister to a growing public pressure for more women in the cabinet came with the Mulroney sweep of 1984 which brought 27 women into the House.
In my judgment I see this paradox: The female ministers, when women MPs were very few, were seen in their times as more influential in cabinet and their departments than the more recent, more numerous female ministers have been. Examples of this would be Ellen Fairclough, Judy LaMarsh, Jeanne Sauve, Monique Begin, Iona Campagnolo, and Flora MacDonald. Really, only Pat Carney, Barbara McDougall, and Kim Campbell among Tory ministers – and for the Liberals, Sheila Copps, Anne McLellan and Lucienne Robillard were, or have been, taken as above the mediocrity of most ministers.
It is this latter point that columnist Hebert has emphasized. That is, so many poor choices.
Jean Chretien has felt it necessary to turf five of his 15 choices – Maria Minna, Christine Stewart, Diane Marleau, Hedy Fry, and Sheila Finestone – and to downgrade one, Elinor Caplan. Such winnowing indicates thoughtless choices, and this despite an array behind the PM of interesting prospects like the aforementioned Carolyns, Bennett and Parrish, Albina Guarnieri, Marlene Catterall, Karen Redman, Eleni Bakopanos, Karen Kraft Sloan, Bonnie Brown, or Sarmite Bulte.
The prime minister has done little to make use of his engaging, talented Indian minister, Ethel Blondin-Andrew, an MP for 14 years and a minister for five. It’s also my impression Chretien’s close-in staff under the ubiquitous Eddie Goldenberg keeps a check-reining watch on all the female ministers except Copps, McLellan and Robillard.
The PM has always gone out of his way to brag about the many women senators he’s appointed. It is so – more than any previous PM – and most of them have become diligent, able parliamentarians. But the far more significant roles are in the ministry, notably in major portfolios, and not in either the senate or the government backbench.
The current House of Commons has more than a score of females among the four opposition parties – even a party leader. These MPs do their share of questioning and speaking in the House and taking part in its committees.
Of course, it is unfair to the run of male MPs to say the female MPs consistently edge the males but I am still where I was after an upbringing in a bush town where the women in it had made the community a good one. This was followed by a stint of teaching where I found no notable distinctions between male and female students in character, intelligence and capability. I see it as a fifty-fifty matter, just like the split in gender numbers.
When one considers that the tide now running in education and occupations means females will soon be the majority gender in most professions and in many managerial roles of businesses and services, it is apparent this tide has not yet registered enough to get the electors of Canada to give female candidates more consideration. And, regarding the present parliament, it has not yet made Chretien or his handlers like Goldenberg and David Smith excited enough to choose the ablest MPs at hand for the ministry … which should mean more women ministers.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 27, 2002
ID: 12124794
TAG: 200201270364
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s decisions to dispatch troops to Afghanistan, appoint Bill Graham foreign affairs minister and retain Art Eggleton as defence minister make one wonder where he is taking Canada’s foreign policy – or whether he even knows.
The full story behind the embarrassing effort to dispatch the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry to Afghanistan may never be known. Initially, Canada sought a boy scout mission: safeguarding aid delivery efforts. When the war’s progress obviated the need for this, Canada “offered” to join the British-led force helping Afghanistan’s new government establish control over its territory. The expected reply, “Of course, thanks, Canada!” never came.
Downing Street apparently had weightier factors to consider than our self-regard and desire to serve. Perhaps Tony Blair’s government wanted a primarily European force, as some allege (its final makeup lends credence to this). Perhaps Blair was influenced by the appraisal of certain influential Brits (e.g. a former defence minister and senior general) of Canada’s combat capabilities as deficient. Or perhaps the embarrassment Chretien caused Blair over Conrad Black’s peerage played a role. Whatever the reason, Canada got stiffed.
Then, as the Patricias stood down for the holidays and Defence Minister Eggleton explained away the snub, came the surprise: the PPCLI would be going to help Americans hunt down al-Qaida members. From boy scouts to killers in just a few weeks – why?
Since Sept. 11 the government has faced charges our forces are incapable of fighting. Polls show many Canadians worry about this, and the Brits’ cold shoulder gave credence to it. Eggleton and his generals (the latter stung by criticism from retired ex-colleagues) no doubt made the case to Chretien that a combat role for Canada would save face, and silence critics like Gen. Lewis MacKenzie (hero of Sarajevo), who happened to be getting under the PM’s skin. MacKenzie, a former PPCLI commander, certainly wouldn’t challenge his own regiment’s combat readiness.
They’d also have shown the PM polls indicating that Canadians want to make a contribution to the war on terrorism, and accept the risks. With the fighting winding down, and America’s overwhelming superiority, surely these wouldn’t be that high anyway. Canadian troops might not even see much combat. Finally, as then foreign minister John Manley no doubt noted, given the reluctance of other allies to join combat, we’d score extra points with the Americans, who’d welcome us – if only as a political fig leaf.
So we got our role. But the machinations it took prove Canada is not a player at the councils that matter, and has little influence over those who are – the U.S., Britain, Russia and perhaps France.
Now that Canadian troops are in theatre (a few, in the wrong camouflage, with no ready means of getting the remainder out there, or of supplying them), what next? Does Graham’s appointment give us a signal?
Graham’s first major interview last week was confusing. He claimed “the United States has a totally different perspective than we do on the world … (they) feel that they can have their will.”
But we’ve just joined them in that ultimate expression of a nation-state’s will: war. Isn’t Canada as determined as the U.S. is to have its “will,” at least as far as the war on terrorism is concerned?
Graham also saluted the policies of Manley’s predecessor in foreign affairs, Lloyd Axworthy: “To some extent (his) human security agenda was about preventing things like Sept. 11.”
Really? Axworthy’s agenda downplayed military force (and combat) in our foreign policy; rather, our military should focus on providing assistance in war-torn countries, especially to women and children. It’s hard to see how this might have prevented al-Qaida suicide attacks.
If one accepts Osama bin Laden and company at their word, the last thing they want is Canadian troops intervening in the Islamic nations, bringing along our notions of “peace,” “democracy” and “women’s rights” with the food aid. Moreover, isn’t it the government’s position that by killing al-Qaida members in Afghanistan, Canada is helping prevent “things like Sept. 11”?
One hopes these are early missteps, and Graham will get with the program. If hostile forces in Afghanistan are preparing to engage western troops, as has been reported, he may soon have to explain why Canadians are killing and dying there, and why this is necessary before schools can be built and wells dug.
As for doing the latter, Graham should learn from Axworthy’s failure to address the resource implications of the human security agenda. The giant transports needed to bring in water treatment plants and make massive food drops are the same ones needed to deliver our troops and their gear to Afghanistan quickly and efficiently. Will he support funding for them?
As for Chretien’s decision to retain Eggleton at defence, it undercuts the notion that the promised defence white paper might bring meaningful change to our military. However, if Graham changes his tune, and Manley weighs in … who knows?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 23, 2002
ID: 12123606
TAG: 200201230521
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


The choice of Toronto backbench MP Bill Graham as new foreign minister seemed sound to me, in part because I think no other Liberal MP stood out more for talent and industry.
It’s true Joe Clark has sniffed at the promotion “from the backbench.” He thinks such a significant post requires someone with cabinet experience. Maybe Clark would have preferred experienced ministers like Lawrence MacAulay, the solicitor general, and Art Eggleton, the defence minister, men whom Graham eclipses in brains, education, and familiarity with international affairs.
Two critics of Graham’s appointment (who don’t know each other) did reach me after my puff for him as a superb choice. They had the same worry about his anti-American bias. (Such a bias has been fairly strong within the Liberal party since the heydays of the Walter Gordon-Toronto Star axis in the 1960s.)
During the short term we had John Manley as foreign minister, he showed no signs of the anti-Yank virus. In fact, he was aggressively positive about the U.S. and the increasing interweaving of our economies. Now, as one of the critics of the Graham choice, an American, put it: “The U.S. government will be facing an Axworthy with a stiletto, rather than a broadsword.” (Lloyd Axworthy was foreign minister from 1990-2000.)
Perhaps Graham shares much of the genuine animus which Axworthy has to America as global titan. I doubt that, no matter how hard the Star flogs it. And if he does, he will present it cogently and rationally, not with the churlish, moral superiority which Axworthy radiates.
If you slowly run through the latest Jean Chretien ministry, you may notice a pronounced tilt toward international matters.
Chretien, like most prime ministers, keeps close to foreign affairs, the field to which he has formally assigned Bill Graham. But there are six other ministers whose responsibilities are directly international.
Take the vital one that has Pierre Pettigrew as minister for international trade. Then we have Susan Whelan, minister for international co-operation, John McCallum, minister for international financial institutions, David Kilgour, minister for Asia-Pacific, Denis Paradis, minister for Latin America and Africa, and Gar Knutson, minister for Central and Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
Add those six ministers to Chretien and Graham, plus four others whose responsibilities demand they function internationally, and the total is 12 – some 30% of the ministry.
That added quartet consists of Paul Martin, finance, David Anderson, environment, Art Eggleton, defence, and Denis Coderre, the new minister responsible for immigration and refugee policies and programs.
– – –
Yesterday Herb Gray phoned to note my error in dating his 40th anniversary as an MP in 2003. My goof was most embarrassing because I vividly recall sitting in the Commons in 1962 hearing Gray talk of auto production dilemmas in Windsor.
I asked him why he couldn’t have been given the five months longer in the ministry to achieve the 40th. After all, Jean Chretien has been openly aiming for his 40th anniversary (in 2003).
Gray was not bitter about this. First, he’d been looking ahead to the co-chairmanship of the International Joint Commission. Second, the surprising resignation of Brian Tobin had forced the PM into big changes he’d had in mind for June. May Gray enjoy the IJC for years. He’s just 70 and feels very well.
– – –
Robert Nault, minister for Indian affairs, survived the cabinet changes despite many rumours he would not. In the last campaign, the PM began talking big moves in Indian affairs legislation and he’s kept repeating it, as recently as last month. So 2002 may be the year he takes the lead, working in tandem with Nault on major changes in legislation.
Until last fall, the PMO kept Nault on a short leash. Then he suddenly became aggressive about replacing the much maligned Indian Act. This brought hostile reactions from most first nation chiefs.
It will certainly take a fully engaged prime minister to open up a new, positive era for Indians and Inuit in Canada. New legislation won’t hit immovable barriers in Parliament because most MPs know the billions spent yearly by both Ottawa and the provinces have been bringing meagre results in higher living standards and gainful work for either the natives who live on reserves (55%) or those living in cities and towns (45%).

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 20, 2002
ID: 12122882
TAG: 200201200517
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


To turn a famous line around, today I come to praise Caesar, not to bury him.
So often over the years a citizen could despair of Jean Chretien. He nearly lost the country in THE referendum. He’s done far less than he could with the enormous power he’s accumulated, and Canada’s international reputation and economic competitiveness have continued to decline. He keeps dud ministers (the shuffle didn’t get them all).
He starves the military but sends its troops into harm’s way. He runs a sleazy, smarmily arrogant government.
Most seriously, he’s taken so much power into his own hands, Canada has become a pantomime democracy. Yet Chretien is arguably a better party leader – even prime minister – than either Pierre Trudeau or Brian Mulroney in one important respect: political succession.
Trudeau drove contenders for his job out of cabinet. John Turner, the heir apparent, couldn’t stomach him. Neither could the more talented, if less photogenic, Donald Macdonald (who became a leading free trade proponent). Only Chretien stayed the course, enduring Trudeau’s ill-disguised disdain for him – which helped lose him the leadership in 1984.
Brian Mulroney treated ministers better, but only focussed on his succession when it seemed Kim Campbell would win by acclamation. He talked Jean Charest into challenging her, thus creating just enough political buzz to delude the Tories into believing they had a chance.
Chretien, by contrast, enjoys nurturing his party’s leadership hopefuls – even as he plays them off against each other to maintain his own supremacy. He’s retained the services of his heir apparent, Paul Martin and, at least publicly, kept cordial with him, despite the attempted Martinite putsch.
And he’s encouraged others to seek the throne.
Consider Brian Tobin. Chretien got him to abandon the premiership of Newfoundland – no small sacrifice – and return to federal politics by offering him the Industry portfolio as a platform from which to challenge Martin.
But Industry was also a test. Chretien knew that the Tobinator’s reputation for pork and bluster could cripple his leadership chances. Industry offered Tobin a chance to fashion a new reputation – one for sagacity in national economic matters and statesman-like conduct. Chretien also appreciated that Tobin, a politician from the hinterland who’d not held an economic ministry, lacked the close relationship with the national business community a contender needs.
Tobin failed the test. Despite the government’s efforts to stop subsidizing to non-viable industries, he immediately sought to reinstate subsidies for maritime shipyards. His leadership vision proved to be a grandiose, billion-dollar scheme to bring high-speed Internet access to every community, however small or isolated. He failed to offer a sound economic rationale for it, merely insisting that it would create tremendous opportunities for such communities. When many in the business community called it an expensive boondoggle, he attacked them.
He continued to seek funding for it before the budget, despite the poor reviews, the downturn in the economy and government finances and the meltdown in the technology sector. Having failed to secure money for it (a victory for Martin), he chose to quit, probably triggered by word that John Manley was getting the leg up to deputize for the boss.
By the big shuffle, Chretien sets tests for Martin’s two forefront competitors: John Manley and Allan Rock.
Chretien says Manley’s writ as Deputy Prime Minister will be similar to Don Mazankowski’s, who as DPM acted as Mulroney’s chief operating officer. Coordinating the government’s agenda, chairing cabinet committees and standing in for the PM will be challenging (assuming that Chretien actually lets Manley run things). But the true test, from Chretien’s viewpoint, is likely Manley’s assignment as minister for Crown corporations and infrastructure. Can Manley master the use of patronage and pork implicit in the job to keep happy his fellow ministers, MPs, organizers, contributors and the party faithful, plus maintain his Mr. Clean image?
Chretien believes in patronage. Should Manley seek to protect his image by saying “no” a lot, his standing with the PM – and party – will plummet. The hard line would show Quebec and Maritime Liberals that he lacks the national vision required to be leader of the natural governing party.
Allan Rock, in Industry, must show he realizes being prime minister means more than pontificating on social ills and bashing premiers. He must demonstrate he can network with business and make Canada more competitive and attractive to investors. Rock, who at Health almost sank the government’s patent policy with the Cipro drug fiasco, may well start in Industry by explaining to Canadians why patent protection encourages innovation and investment.
In setting his tests, Jean Chretien has shown once more he has a sense of fun. One wonders if Manley and Rock appreciate it. (Brian Tobin probably didn’t.)

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 16, 2002
ID: 12121691
TAG: 200201160511
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Jean Chretien’s cabinet shuffle was not quite an earthquake, even though 10 new ministers came in and eight old ones went out. For a political earthquake there had to be more cutting out of the slow learners, and Art Eggleton, David Collenette, Lawrence MacAulay and Elinor Caplan are still there.
Do the changes prefigure an abler ministry and a more effective, responsive government? They should, given the talents most of the new arrivals bring. For example, it’s hard to recall a mid-term shuffle with such a a swatch of excellent MPs coming in such as Bill Graham, the new Foreign Affairs minister; Maurice Bevilacqua (science, research, and development); Susan Whelan (international co-operation); John McCallum (international financial institutions); and Stephen Owen, (western economic development).
The cabinet change that will draw the most speculation is that making John Manley the deputy prime minister (in place of Herb Gray) and giving him several freshly-minted roles responsible for several Crown corporations and long- range infrastructure plans. The Manley role is reminiscent of that filled under Brian Mulroney by Don Mazankowski. As second in command, Mazankowski somehow ran most of the Tory work on the Hill (aside from its Quebec aspects), freeing the PM of policing and disciplining his ranks.
The Hill bystanders were immediately scouting what advantages this role will give Manley in the contest to succeed Jean Chretien. He may make much out of it, but it could be his undoing. The workload will be huge, much of it dealing with grievances among ministers and backbenchers. If Canada doesn’t become mired in recession and Manley bears his load well, he should firm up as a co-favourite with Paul Martin.
With the Industry portfolio, Allan Rock, another leadership aspirant, has a field unfamiliar to him. His earned image after stints in Justice and Health is of a glib, sophisticated lawyer with modern cultural interests. He will need to broaden rather quickly. He takes over a department set back hard by the decision not to unfold its grand plans for an innovative Canada. (On this point, ponder why Brian Tobin would desert a post he drooled over 15 months ago.)
Chretien’s riskiest switch could be that of Anne McLellan from Justice to Health. She has substantial gifts in legal affairs and argumentation and is cocky and sharp-tongued enough to hold her own in nasty hassles. But if the medicare dilemma is as complex and fractious as it seems, the lead federal minister will need the gift of skill at open diplomacy, and diplomacy hasn’t been her forte.
Another switch may come a cropper. At first Don Boudria seems a shrewd choice as successor to Alfonso Gagliano at Public Works. Boudria is a remarkably thorough partisan and a politician who revels in detail and knowing his mandate. But the PM may regret turning over the House leadership that Boudria exercised so thoroughly and effectively to Ralph Goodale. The veteran minister from Saskatchewan has not had difficulties in the House, but that was because he performed there so rarely. He will need to be more industrious or there’ll be ructions in the chamber.
One new cabinet member to keep an eye on is Denis Coderre, moving from the narrow responsibility of amateur sport to the diverse, contentious grab-bag of Immigration, a task in which Caplan was foundering.
Coderre is a busy, bold, terrier type like Tobin, perhaps a bit quicker. And Coderre has his match in drive and gall in Martin Cauchon, newly sprung to the big ministry of Justice from the small one of National Revenue. Nobody’s much noticed, but Chretien now has a quartet of francophone ministers from Quebec ridings, each of whom is smart, ambitious, and hard-driving: Coderre and Cauchon, plus Pierre Pettigrew (international trade) and Stephane Dion (intergovernmental affairs). If Chretien chooses to stay until late 2003, count on Martin and Manley having to face a candidacy from at least one of this quartet.
Let me close with two ministers who’ve deserved promotion. In the past three parliaments few MPs have been more assiduous, astute, and positive than the doctor in the House from Winnipeg, Ray Pagtakhan, the new minister for Veterans Affairs. He’ll do it well. And the most courteous man in the cabinet has been the affable Herb Dhaliwal, now moved from Fisheries to Natural Resources. He has an empirical vein of common sense, rather like John Manley.
Lastly, it may be time – as they say – for Herb Gray to depart. Would that he could have stayed for another 16 months, thus ending a run of 40 years as a busy MP.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 13, 2002
ID: 12121006
TAG: 200201130366
SECTION: Comment
ILLUSTRATION: drawing by Sue Dewar
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


When the Liberal leadership change opens officially, those who would challenge the frontrunner, Paul Martin, must tackle more than his organizational lead. They have to get at the formidable reputation he has within the party, the media pack, the business community, and the general public.
This is a hard challenge to take up. Although there’s much material for deflating Martin, it will be hard for a fellow Liberal to use, particularly his cabinet colleagues in the race. But a daring contender from the backbench who has good money backing would suffer less from a boomerang effect, and make the race lively and himself or herself a major figure by showing how the would-be emperor is really rather short of clothes.
In particular, what do Martin’s rivals face?
Well, he is given the lion’s share of credit for the government’s perceived progress in turning runaway deficits into fulsome surpluses.
It’s hard to see anyone beating the finance minister without challenging this, unless of course the economy itself does, by failing to come out of its current doldrums.
It’s now steep conventional wisdom that Paul Martin’s cutting, caution and due diligence saved Canada’s financial stability – such a contrast to the dismal failures of his predecessors, the Tory ministers, Michael Wilson and Don Mazankowski. But does the Martin “achievement” stand up under real scrutiny?
Firstly, think about his $30-billion raid on the public service pension fund and the ramping up of the employment insurance (EI) surplus, which is used to counter the government obligations elsewhere. Together these moves account for so much of the “turnaround” in the federal economic management. Remove them, and not much is left.
The reality about the triumphs over deficits and debt is that it was growing revenues that have cut them, not reduced expenditures.
A multitude of largely middle-income taxpayers did the heavy lifting, not the finance minister. And where have those revenues pouring in come from?
From income tax increases imposed before he arrived, and from a switch from the Manufacturers’ Sales Tax to the GST. (The GST stopped the erosion of federal tax base that was occurring as the economy switched over from manufacturing to services.)
Add to that the tremendous economic growth, which owed so much to a strong U.S. economy and the Free Trade Agreement, which helped triple our exports to the world’s strongest economy.
Was Martin responsible for these changes? Of course not. He, like his boss, opposed the GST and the FTA.
The cuts made by Martin and Co. were in areas where most of official Ottawa would not suffer: health care and defence. Coincidentally these are the two areas where the public now seems to feel Canada is not doing enough.
Lastly, Martin has been helped tremendously by declining interest rates. It was skyrocketing rates which helped sink his predecessors. Heaven help us when they go up again, given that we still have a half-trillion dollars in debt. And that figure indicates how little our debt has been reduced by the magician.
What about the embedded notion of Martin’s caution and care in spending? Look at the annual rush in Ottawa late each winter before the financial year ends. They spend and spend to evade the law that such surpluses in departments have to be used against the debt. Not surprisingly, such spending led to poorly thought out and monitored spending such as that by the costly human resources regime (remember Jane Stewart!)
Martin has overshot his spending estimates consistently, but this is rarely made much of by critics, other than the honourable exception, the auditor general of Canada. Why not? Because he’s had the good fortune of revenues outstripping spending.
If Martin was really not so frugal, what about the theme that he has been duly diligent?
Consider this. Having boasted early on about the need to be businesslike in budgeting, with much about regular cycles and carefully done pre-budget solicitations and consultations across the nation, Martin left the country without a budget for almost two years. Of course, Grits know he merits a partisan slap on the back for getting out a mini-budget for the last election campaign.
Somewhat similarly, Martin stopped the practice of offering multi-year forecasts, arguing they were of little value. Thus he avoided the sort of embarrassments that such projections caused his predecessors. With the decision for an election he suddenly found the courage to offer us multi-year projections. And, surprise, surprise, these have turned out to have been far too rosy.
Martin likes to stress how government debt has declined as a percentage of the GDP. Does this not show that his “plan” is the same as Wilson’s was: hold the line and let the economy’s growth reduce the debt load to manageable proportions?
Look at Martin’s fight with Ontario Premier Mike Harris over tax cuts. Martin and PM Jean Chretien have acknowledged recently that we cannot turn our economy around by ourselves. We must wait for the U.S. economy to do so. Both men enjoy ridiculing the tax-cutting ways of Harris, refusing to acknowledge that any of the growth of the latter 1990s might be attributable to his cuts (though their own more recent and modest cuts are of course a different matter).
Both the PM and his finance minister have responded to calls for deeper federal cuts to help get us out of the current recession with derision, although they admit they are relying on the U.S. administration to lead the U.S. economy out of recession, and so save us. But what’s key in U.S. President George Bush’s strategy for this? Tax cuts!
If our two stalwarts of Ottawa really believe tax cuts are ineffective, and that government spending is the better way to stimulate an economy – and that it is only what the U.S. does that will really have any impact here – then shouldn’t they be making the case against tax cuts to the Bush administration?
Or could it be that they actually believe that tax cuts will work, economically speaking, but won’t work politically here in Canada, so they’ll let Bush do the dirty work for them?
Let me close on the dubious reality of Paul Martin as super minister and the certain magnet of Liberal and nationwide public backing to be our next prime minister. The ambitious rival who pushes the reasons for doubt should scan the Martin voice record for innovative ideas.
A few months ago a capital-L Liberal columnist wrote that Martin’s “vision of Canada’s future” may be found in his major speeches. Try that. My picture of the Martin vision for Canada portrayed in his speech texts is cluttered with nothing but platitudes and hazy intimations of change. For example, he’s for parliamentary reform … without particulars! Nothing bold; nothing exciting.
This is really important, and to more than Liberals.
Would Martin be fresh and dynamic enough for Canada as he passes into the senior citizen stage of life? That’s what his competitors need to get into.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 09, 2002
ID: 12120023
TAG: 200201090468
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


An instant opinion that Stockwell Day did not perform badly on Monday in Montreal is hardly praise. The launch of his campaign to regain the leadership of the Canadian Alliance was not a triumph, but it had been well thought out and as an event it went off fairly well.
The happening in a hotel assembly room was designed around a long, carefully wrought speech; one that had a printed text. A reader of it finds a coherent narrative focused on laying a useful foundation of arguments and talking points, many of which are bold and contentious. In short, this was not designed to be a bland or ambiguous takeoff.
There is a rather brash assurance in its explanation of the disasters and defections which befell Day in the first year and a half of his mandate. Most of these negatives came after what the speech argues was a rather good election for the new party in late November, 2000. After all, he and the party won five times the seats and racked up twice the votes that went to Joe Clark and the Progressive Conservatives; and so why “go crawling” like a beggar to seek coalition or unification with Joe Clark?
Day is speaking to two different audiences. Firstly, but not primarily, he speaks to the people of Canada. In particular this comes later in a longish wrap-up of Alliance policy points and Liberal inadequacies. Most of the time the audience in mind is of sturdy yeomen members of the party – plain folk; the tried and true; the loyalists who have urged Day not to quit, to fight on. He assents. He above all knows that he and they were victims of both treasonable characters within the Alliance and of the ceaseless, persistent prejudice of the elitist nobs of the traditional Canadian power groups, including reporters and pundits. These are people who have never been able to abide those like John Diefenbaker, Wacky Bennett or Mike Harris, who have espoused the principles of people’s conservatism.
“Once again, the elites are saying that this campaign cannot succeed. But we have proved them wrong before and will prove them wrong again,” says Day. Then he cites as inspiration the recovery from initial electoral disaster by Harris, Preston Manning, and B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell. He could have used two even better examples.
Consider Robert Bourassa: a disgraced premier in 1976, he craftily went into exile abroad, and a few years later came back, re-won his party’s leadership, and then the province in 1985. Or Lester Pearson, a newly chosen leader, instantly smashed down in the 1958 election but who recovered, in large part by total unity of the party behind him, and reached the PMO in 1963. Those were astounding recoveries, but in contrast to Day, Pearson held the esteem of his party’s MPs and major personalities through several bleak years.
As for Bourassa, after the Parti Quebecois’ first referendum loss, Quebec Liberals recalled him, appreciating he was an articulate economist and no supine creature of federal power.
It seems to me, trying to be fair, that Stockwell Day hasn’t the obvious acumen in finance and governing experience which were Bourassa’s assets in recovery. Further, Day has far fewer MPs behind him this time than he had when he won the first Alliance contest. Many of the 50 or so MPs who could back him are not fools, and their constituents know this. If Stockwell Day today has just a half-dozen MPs with him, this is a grim shortfall.
Advice for Mr. Day? Look again at your talk of “elites.” Pursue the theme cogently in this campaign and you could win a widespread, public reappraisal of your worth.
Most people don’t care for elites, once they are identified and explained. Believe me, if you go after press elites, pundit elites, and CBC elites, you’ll get attention. Take on these handmaidens to the party perennially in power.
Also, rip into the single, and general, interest “stakeholders” which cluster to the Ottawa cow. Exorcise the knee-jerk liberalism of academics, feminists, and such. Emphasize the partisan preferences of the Aspers, Desmarais and Stronachs of Canada. Do this thoroughly, analytically. You will win more ink and bytes than Stephen Harper.
As Trudeau found, and exploited, the people love neither big shots nor the press.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 06, 2002
ID: 12119430
TAG: 200201060288
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


It is rarely difficult, among those engaged in political activity and those who report on it, to find critical opinion on the political media and media politics.
Still, there is never much discussion among either group about the shortfalls in fairness, scope and emphasis in what is available to citizens who want to know what has been happening in our politics and government. (For instance, has the the work of the media been a major factor in the currently accepted mantra of the domination within our parliamentary system of the prime minister?)
After years of participation in the political media, I have become somewhat like a substantial minority of citizens – that is, becoming indignant rather often, but rarely staying roused long enough to shape and popularize legislation to protect diversity and integrity in our coverage of news and commentary.
In the past five years, we have had two bumps of opinionated concern over this subject. The earlier one had its focus on a voluble, open person controlling many properties in the news business: Conrad Black, now Lord Black. The present focus is swinging around the media moguls who bought out Black, the Aspers of CanWest.
Older citizens may recall there were previous bumps of concern – even two substantial inquiries, one headed by Liberal Keith Davey, the next by Liberal Tom Kent – to examine the state of media ownership and recommend how to preserve the ownership in Canada of our media enterprises. And how to ensure the cultural and economic needs of the public are not suborned by the “bottom line” obsessions of the Thomsons, Southams, Siftons, Irvings, et al.
Even in the earliest of such kerfuffling over concentration and the conservative biases of publishers there were concerns and then regulations to keep the press proprietors from becoming dominant owners of many radio and/or television licenses, and to keep ownership of press and telecommunication companies Canadian.
As radio in the U.S. boomed in the 1920s, with Canadians listening to much of it, Ottawa took the first big step to ensure our own system of broadcasting, in our two official languages, right across the spectrum of news, information, music, sport, children’s programs, etc. Essentially, this enterprise was the product of a Conservative government.
Today the CBC, the institutional relic of such responses, still rolls along as a major federal Crown corporation, funded largely by tax revenues. Fairly recent expansion by the CBC into cable channels dedicated to news and political coverage has made it a larger employer of reporters, editors, producers and technicians than even the newest giant, CanWest Global.
Whatever the CBC’s often alleged faults of leftish bias in selection of news and the emphasis of its producers’ viewpoints (e.g., the critical values of social democracy so evident in the CBC’s The Fifth Estate), and despite rather unimpressive viewer ratings for its news and public affairs, the Mother Corp in both its English and French guises has been Canada’s prime reporter of news and interpeter of events.
In terms of providing a distinctive choice and the carriage of a lot of information within the political realm, the CBC is a vital compensation for those in legislatures and press galleries who appreciate its reach and diversity, and its exposure of them – far more than what CanWest or Bell GlobeMedia (the melded Globe and Mail and CTV under Bell Canada’s ownership) deliver. Few illustrations of CBC’s distinctiveness are more cogent than its coverage’s contrast to CTV’s and Global TV’s lame, cheap coverage of the war in Afghanistan.
Anyone with an Ottawa window on news and analysis of the federal legislatures and the government, knows another force – a quasi-CBC – has been emerging that covers a lot of politics, in particular, politicians themselves or their most important surrogates. I refer to CPAC, which, aside from telecasting the sittings of the House, runs hours a day of almost any serious happening that relates to politics. This has become important to anyone avid for political grist. While some of CPAC’s features come close to duplicating material on CBC Newsworld, the channel is a remarkable add-on for the proverbial concerned citizen.
I emphasize politicians and media persons as users because both groups are hungry for topicality, information and exposure that gets around issues of bias. Not many Canadians yet appreciate that CPAC is the very forward offering of cable channel proprietors, undertaken to demonstrate to the CRTC, the federal licenser and watchdog of radio and television, their support of “public interest” broadcasting.
The global competition for mass favour, shaping most obviously in North America between proprietors of cable channels, TV networks, satellite systems and the Internet, has yet to be won. The winners in Canada will probably be determined by federal politicians, using the CRTC.
We may see some obvious consequences already from the recent, plentiful awards by the CRTC of digital specialty channels. The increase in choices spells a declining viewer and revenue base for the familiar on-air channels and networks.
What should the federal politicians do at this stage about further licensing and the restrictions still in place on foreign ownership, which hobble the passage of almost every significant newspaper, television, and radio operation into fewer and fewer larger cartels or conglomerates?
Throw it all wide open, even including foreign ownership?
Let it all stew, graphically speaking, and let technological advances and big-pocket banks winnow the possibilities toward the most efficient and cheapest system?
Or should we have an inquiry of sharp immediacy on how few and gigantic we want our main operations to be in the realm of news and public affairs, including the CBC and CPAC?
Let me suggest a trio for the task, each proven by independence and honesty through known performance: Charles Dalfen, new head of the CRTC; John Reid, the information commissioner; and George Radwanski, the privacy commissioner.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 02, 2002
ID: 12118526
TAG: 200201020405
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Here are several little-noticed shifts in federal politics during 2001 as seen around Parliament Hill.
First, the Hill itself has become a stiffer place for entry and circulation. Scrutiny begins now at the old gates to the main grounds, carried on all day each day by a much augmented force of Mounties and Hill security police. Most vehicles are turned back.
Even on a quiet night, with no Parliament in session, a citizen can no longer drive onto and around the Hill. For those who walk to the doors of the Hill’s buildings there is more waiting and bother than there used to be over entry. All those who work there must always have their identity cards displayed. Others must have a purpose that is checked – even if only for a look at books of remembrance in the Peace Tower.
It was while Jeanne Sauve was Speaker of the House of Commons (1980-84) that a modern concern over Hill security led to closer examination of those who entered the buildings in the precinct where MPs and senators worked. Of course, the magnet was, and remains, the Centre Block, defined externally by the Peace Tower and internally by its two legislative chambers.
In what used to be welcoming sites, radiating a homey unpretentiousness, the access gates or entrance doorways have become impersonal and as segmented into waiting points, checkpoints and “No entry” as a big city airport.
As far as I know, the only formal protest that’s been made to Speakers of the House and Senate over this clumsy and costly apparatus has been from the Canadian Association of Former Parliamentarians. Its position, as chairman Barry Turner puts it, is:
“Each time the perimeter of protection is extended, not only is public access curtailed, but it reflects the illness that has permeated our society regarding increased violence … The access that Canadians and non-Canadians have had to this public place, and public persons who serve in it, is a civilized, refreshing and distinguishing feature between ourselves and fortress America.”
Second, in 2001, without even much fanfare of self-praise, at least a majority of the 100 or so senators worked hard enough through committee hearings and reports to match – and often overmatch – comparable investigative examination and scrutinizing duties by members in the House. One explanation for this is simply the tight control of MPs through party discipline, most notably that which boxes in Liberal MPs.
By and large, senators, including the Liberal ones, are freer from caucus whips, and the still substantial Tory group of senators is both brighter in thought and more cogently led than are the opposition party caucuses in the Commons.
I believe, however, that the expansion in intentions and effort in the Senate has been inspired and led by its women members. Their often superior diligence and zeal for particular interests is evident in the work of purposeful, strong-willed senators such as Marjory LeBreton, Landon Pearson, Joyce Fairbairn, Lois Wilson, Mira Spivak, Anne Cools, Lucie Pepin, Pat Carney, Sharon Carstairs and Joan Fraser. Yes, quite a few male senators are busy with big aims – see Colin Kenny on curbing tobacco usage or Jerry Grafstein on clean water or John Lynch-Staunton on reforming Parliament, but the female zealots have made the difference in a sometimes interesting, but often irrelevant, institution and one that now often probes deeply and advocates well.
Third, in 2001 there has been a definite shift in Indian policy, surely decided by the prime minister himself. It is a shift away from continually acquiescing to white guilt for the native dilemmas, and away from cosseting the growing “aboriginal” establishment with its brigade of briefcase chiefs, hired lawyers and contract sociologists.
For the first time in 30 years it is not incorrect, politically speaking, to emphasize how meagre the results have been from decades of spending billions each year on Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
Neither $50 billion over two decades nor a huge panoply of programs has brought extensive betterment to natives or created employment opportunities near to where they live. Further, the reserves and the “nations” are still taking up most of the funds, even though almost half the “status” Indians are now living in cities.
In conversations with MPs in 2001, I even heard for the first time in three decades the idea of abolishing reserves. And some MPs wonder why we cannot achieve a much closer integration of natives with the social and political institutions which serve all Canadians.
Fourth, rather suddenly in 2001, we had federal undertakings to toughen supervision and entry requirements for both immigrants and refugees. This, like the Indian issue, is a most distinct shift in federal purpose, in particular as that purpose was promoted so thoroughly and relentlessly in the concept of multiculturalism which the Liberals pioneered when Lester Pearson was prime minister.
It is common opinion among politicians that the suddenness of this shift on immigration and the sharp change this means for the pieties of multiculturalism stems from the imperative to meet American requirements of tighter controls on our choice of immigrants and refugees if Canada is to keep its rights to access and trade with the U.S. Certainly, it wasn’t something originated by the rather chuck-headed minister of immigration and her mandarins. Early in the year, she was still talking up expanding immigration and extolling Canada as the “rainbow country” that had become a global model to mankind.
The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2002, SunMedia Corp.