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Doug’s Columns 2003 « Douglas Fisher



Doug’s Columns 2003

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 31, 2003
ID: 12441307
TAG: 200312310497
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 17
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Several aspects about the Quebec MPs in Paul Martin’s first ministry puzzle me. But first, let’s sketch the topic in question.
Nine of Martin’s 39 ministers represent Quebec seats. This is quite a contrast to Ontario’s 17 ministers, but it roughly equates with francophones’ near 25% of the population. Of the nine Quebecers, four are new and five were ministers under Jean Chretien.
The new ministers are: Liza Frulla, Social Development; Helene Scherrer, Heritage; Irving Cotler, Justice; and Jacques Saada, House leader and minister for democratic reform. Of these, Cotler, a most intelligent and painfully honest lawyer and teacher, is a fair bet to become an outstanding Justice minister, perhaps as outstanding as John Turner in 1968-72.
Including the PM, the old Quebec hands are Lucienne Robillard, Industry; Pierre Pettigrew, Health; Denis Coderre, president of the Queen’s Privy Council in Canada; and Denis Paradis, minister of state (financial institutions).
Most observers would rate two of these ministries as very important – Justice and Health. But we also have a third ministry headed by a Quebecer which may be more important than any other – for a time. It means a government leader of the House with a new mission – “democratic reform.” So mark Saada, to whom this has been given, as very important.
Quebec’s three women ministers have strenuous assignments, often much in the limelight.
With eight years on the front bench, Robillard became familiar, but she maintained a low profile, had just minor troubles, turning away wrath with opaque responses in the Ralph Goodale fashion. In contrast, both Frulla and Scherrer are high personality women – brunette and vivacious; blonde and droll – each brimming with confidence. They’ll soon be well known beyond Quebec, particularly Scherrer.
At first glance, the titles given to Coderre and Paradis indicate the latter is clearly “dogsbody” of the minister of finance and slots into the ministry’s lowest rung. Coderre? Well, this young man is as bumptious and self-important as one gets in our Parliament, his gall reminding me of the young Sheila Copps. He’s been tasked with being “Federal interlocutor for Metis and non-status Indians, minister responsible for La Francophonie and minister responsible for the Office of Indian Residential Schools Resolution.”
What a strange diversity for one known as a super-busy Chretienite MP, then as a vociferous minister (sport, then immigration). Coderre is also one of the treasured if not honoured characters of politics – a successful, indefatigable Liberal party organizer.
Regarding the Coderre assignments, there are few Metis and relatively few non-status Indians in Quebec compared to the west, and there have not been the rash of claims in Quebec of abuse of native children at residential schools such as we’ve had in Ontario and the west. Ah, well, he should be a rouser at advancing La Francophonie around the world …
Which brings me to Robillard, switched by the PM from Treasury Board to the Department of Industry, once bossed by such aspiring politicos as John Manley, Brian Tobin and Allan Rock.
Perhaps industry’s new minister is just filling a place until the next election has been held. Then, as she calls in her chips, perhaps in the form of a Senate seat, a star like Frank McKenna will take her place. Otherwise, Robillard is a screwy choice for Industry unless it’s due for de-emphasis or she’s been given a crash task of bilingualizing the department.
Industry is not a department distinguished by its official French, and bilingualism is an enthusiasm Robillard pursued with fervour at Treasury Board, particularly in support of last year’s fresh bilingual “action plan.” It has been assigned $751 million over five years to establish full working in both languages across the well-populated mandarinate. This new plan was an untrumpeted admission bilingualism at the top has been merely a facade over the last two decades.
The most remarkable of all new cabinet choices is Saada as government leader in the House and our democracy’s “reformer.”
During my coverage of the House, there’s never been a francophone MP from Quebec – Grit, Tory or Bloc, except Gilles Gregoire, a rogue Creditiste – who went from open zest for the system to real expertise about it, and who persisted in spending hours of most sitting days in the chamber. Anglo Liberal MPs assure me, however, that Saada has been an exception during his four years on the Hill.
The Hansard index shows Saada has many entries for motions and notices of government business, but he’s made few speeches of substance and length – by my measure five. These do show wit, an alert, thoughtful mind and a man sold on multiculturalism, not just for Canada but for Quebec. One hopes for Saada and the system that Martin backs him fully with both presence in the House and persuasive engagement of the opposition.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 24, 2003
ID: 13058123
TAG: 200312240503
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Paul Martin said last week he plans to be prime minister of Canada for a decade, which is what he allowed Jean Chretien once he had shown the former PM who really controlled the Liberal Party of Canada’s organization.
However, although the writing was on the wall through almost all of 2003 – indeed, since the middle of 2002 – Chretien adroitly continued ruling his roost. Despite the frustrations he evoked, particularly in the press corps, he was hardly a “lame duck” prime minister through so many months of goodbyes. Such a clever, alert, and rugged competitor!
Surely, Aline and Jean Chretien were chuckling as they walked hand in hand away from Rideau Hall and into retirement. What a run they’d had! Not just in his decade as PM but through all the decades since they came to Ottawa in 1963 from Shawinigan. Intent on rising, this antithesis of the slick politician earned prominence and portfolios and kept on scurrying, talking, creating loyalties and outwitting glossier peers for advancement in both posts and public appreciation.
Compare and contrast Chretien with the three other Liberal PMs of the post-Centennial period: Pierre Trudeau, John Turner and now Paul Martin.
Trudeau was a fluently bilingual millionaire with commanding confidence, real physical presence, a splendid education and an impressive record as a scholar and author topped with a flair for the public stage.
Turner was a handsome Rhodes scholar with Olympic-class athletic prowess, a splendid lawyer, adept on his feet in both debate and exposition, his mother a respected senior Ottawa mandarin, his step-father a West Coast millionaire, his wife a mathematical whiz. He was minister of justice in the grim October crisis of 1970, and the last finance minister to have a surplus until Martin in 1995.
Martin is the son of a talented parliamentarian who sat for over 40 years, a man whose repute was in popularizing and doing much to fashion our national social safety net. The father’s associations opened the way for the son’s outstanding business success and substantial wealth. Further, from his parents he built up contact with a country-wide array of the prominent. Even more than with Turner, almost all aspects of Liberal party politics and federal institutions were in Martin’s ken before he turned to electoral politics in 1988 at the age of 50.
Now recall how Chretien’s chances of becoming prime minister were minimal or, better put, not worth considering, for years and years. Indeed, in the mid-1970s after he’d done the unbelievable (as I saw it) by lasting six years as Indian Affairs minister, I wrote a column suggesting the Liberals might consider him as a possible successor to Trudeau. It brought me derision from both colleagues and MPs. Too rough, too crude, too awkward!
Further, recall the Liberal party practice of pre-selecting its leaders by a smallish inner cadre. Lester Pearson was plucked from success in the federal bureaucracy as a diplomat by W.L. Mackenzie King to be external affairs minister and the prospective successor to a rather elderly Louis St. Laurent, whom the same King had plucked from private life in mid-war to be his Quebec lieutenant and successor. King himself asserted, upon entering the first of all Canadian leadership conventions in 1919 after Wilfrid Laurier’s death, that Laurier had envisaged him as a successor when he brought him into his last cabinet.
The time of pre-selecting Trudeau as prime minister in succession to Pearson came late, well after half a dozen ministers or ex-ministers were in the race by the time it was called before Christmas in 1967. But Pearson himself had a key role in it, particularly since, by Grit tradition, it was a Francophone’s turn and the obvious choice from Quebec, Jean Marchand, refused and put the finger on Trudeau. Pearson went along with that, and by March Trudeau was topping the opinion polls.
In the case of Paul Martin Jr., in Chretien he faced a prime minister who wanted no part of him as successor but couldn’t manage to deny it to him it. The pre-selection, among the population, in the party, and in the caucus, was done in the aftermath of surpluses succeeding deficits in and after 1995.
Even so, Martin blinked. After he had forced Chretien to loop a coming leadership review and commit to retirement, Martin allowed Chretien to set his own exit date as late as February, 2004.
How Jean Chretien revelled in the months he took to leave the PMO. He left relaxed and (I think) inwardly grinning and at peace with what he had been and what he had done.
Already the Liberal pre-selection process is informally under way, some thinking of Justin Trudeau, some of Frank McKenna, if he gets into the House next year. Some are figuring the substance Brian Tobin or John Manley may gain or lose outside Parliament.
At the moment, there seems no primitive in sight like Jean Chretien who, by and large, chose himself to be prime minister – and through a long haul made it.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, December 21, 2003
ID: 13057810
TAG: 200312210268
SECTION: Comment
ILLUSTRATION: colour drawing by Andy Donato
ANDY’S CHOICE … When we asked Sun cartoonist Andy Donato which of his many Bob Stanfield illustrations was his favourite, he chose this one, from the cover of his 1976 publication The Best of Donato Political Cartoons.
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


One expects the death of a man once prominent in national politics to bring forth positive references on his character and achievements.
Some skeptics, particularly younger ones ignorant of the politics of three decades ago, may wonder if Robert Stanfield, the former leader of the official Opposition (1967-76) was really so decent, reasonable and thoughtful as each obit and tribute has emphasized since his death at 89 last week.
He was. And few politicians have been so consistently fair. Plus, he was a remarkably witty fellow – sometimes droll, often satirical, almost always good-natured.
It’s regrettable the wonderful humour of Stanfield emerged so rarely during his public performances. Indeed, I had taken him as a serious but amiable politician, able, unlike Pierre Trudeau, to mock himself. Then I shared a long chore with him, drafting a paper on parliamentary reform several years after he left electoral politics, and discovered he was a closet comedian.
Oh, what a wit!
Belatedly, I wondered why he had so rarely unlimbered it to deflate the Liberal balloon on those occasions when it would have provided the edge needed to defeat the Grits. This was particularly so in early 1968 before Trudeaumania exploded.
At Christmas that year, Liberal PM Mike Pearson had called for an April leadership convention. Then, carelessly, he and a handful of aspirant successors were absent when his last budget came up for final passage.
Disaster struck. Pearson’s minority government had been defeated by the combined votes of the Tory, New Democratic and Social Credit parties.
It had been a vote of non-confidence in the government and it should have meant the dissolution of Parliament and an election. But to bring it about, the leader of the official Opposition needed to demand it (as most of his caucus wanted) and refuse to take part in further House proceedings.
Pearson scrambled home from a vacation in the sun. Mitchell Sharp, who’d been left in charge, was apologetic publicly, but also tried to downplay the significance of the defeat.
There was much confusion among journalists and political scientists on how this crisis should be resolved.
Suddenly, the crisis had an added dimension. Pearson discovered a monster monetary crash would result, accompanied by a disastrous fall in the Canadian dollar. For the common good, this crash must not happen. So Pearson put the looming scenario of economic doom for the nation before Stanfield.
Instead of insisting on going to the people, Stanfield was “reasonable and responsible,” as some Grits put it. He went along with a Liberal proposition which in effect (though not in form) looped around the lost, third reading vote on the budget, and asked for the continued confidence of the House in the government.
This time, the drove of Liberal absentees was back in place; further, some of the minority party MPs had thought long on their prospects in an immediate election and either missed the replay or voted in favour.
The Liberals were hugely relieved. Since then, many of them have been open in defining Stanfield as a responsible gentleman, not a mean-spirited self-glorifier like John Diefenbaker.
After the Pearson crew was certified by the House vote, interest swung to the Liberal leadership race, and it picked up speed, bringing to eminence Pierre Trudeau and a rare fervour for a politician across most of Canada. Today, he is the historically revered intellectual genius among our score of past prime ministers.
Three times Trudeau was to defeat Bob Stanfield and his Progressive Conservatives in elections – handily in 1968 while promising a “Just Society and participatory democracy,” then in a 1972 cliff-hanger by a mere two seats, and with a majority win of 18 seats in 1974 as Margaret held hands with him through the campaign, focusing voters’ attention on his strengths as a loving husband and caring dad.
After I spent some time with Stanfield after he resigned the Tory leadership, and began to realize his ready, easy, penetrating wit, I wondered aloud to him why had he so rarely shown his gift at satirical spoofing in that last, losing campaign of 1974?
Instead of the campaign’s critical focus being on his plan to use the federal power implicit in the Constitution’s “peace, order, and good government” clause to set up a system of wage and price controls to halter inflation, it might well have been turned into a rollicking commentary on the collapsed political marriage of Trudeau and David Lewis, leader of the NDP.
While their arrangement lasted, billions in taxation dollars were voted for purposes set by the NDP’s terms, and the sophisticated, cerebral prime minister in the years from 1968-72 became both demonstrably domestic and oh-so-accessible as a “regular guy” as he turned his government to the left to sustain his deal with Lewis for two years.
Stanfield shook his head at my wish that he had used his wit to affably mock Trudeau for his flip-flops, his spending binges and his discovery and cultivation of plain folk, thus putting the PM on the defensive while justifying his own plans for wage and price controls.
Yes, he admitted, there had been lots of material for hustings satire but the contest and its issues were too grave for spoofing and needling. It wasn’t his way.
One hopes some Stanfield biographers are already at work. So many, like Dalton Camp and Finlay Macdonald, who could tell Stanfield anecdotes and cite a lot of his one-liners, are already gone.

Now, a non-sequitur postscript about the decision of Ed Broadbent to stand for the NDP in the riding of Ottawa Centre, against Liberal Richard Mahoney, a lawyer who has been on the side of the new PM since the days he was known as Paul Martin Jr.
It seems to me Broadbent has a fair, rather than a good, or a great , chance of winning. A mediocre new Conservative party candidate would help him, and he should have canvassers by the hundreds, given his “good guy” image and the anger of federal union leaders at the wage and hiring freezes Martin installed last week.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 17, 2003
ID: 13057269
TAG: 200312170294
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


In his first chat as prime minister with U.S. President George Bush, Paul Martin says he spoke to the point that Saddam Hussein should be treated justly, not vengefully.
Revenge is weak, wrong-headed public policy. And yet, by that day’s end, there were, in my view, two domestic samples of vengefulness showing or implicit in the melodramas of our federal politics.
The first such story is of disaffection over those in and those out of the new ministry.
It augurs an ongoing contention, even the possibility, of another “long goodbye” inside the Liberals’ parliamentary caucus, animated both by those discarded as being “Jean Chretien’s people” and those MPs who had been early Martin boosters but were not rewarded with cabinet posts.
The second story is more bald and specific in showing a certain vengefulness toward their past critics among our gays and lesbians.
It pivots on the sudden conversion to the Liberal party last week by Scott Brison, a gay Tory MP from Nova Scotia, and his instant reward by the new PM as his secretary for Canada-U.S. relations.
Brison’s defection was described as “a defining moment” in a Monday piece in the Globe and Mail by William Thorsell.
Now the CEO of the Royal Ontario Museum, for most of the 1990s Thorsell was editor-in-chief of the Globe. During that time he shifted its editorial and feature lines to constant advancing of gay and lesbian rights. In my opinion, it was done very effectively.
At the Globe, Thorsell did for sanctioning homosexuality what Beland Honderich, as boss of the Toronto Star, had done several decades ago in building the popular case for a national pension program and country-wide medicare.
Thorsell began his Monday piece with a surprising “modest proposal.”
For the good of the new Conservative party, he called on Stephen Harper not to run for its leadership but to announce his support for John Tory, a recently failed candidate for mayor of Toronto.
“None of the other names mentioned,” said he, “offers anything like the potential of Mr. Tory for electoral success.”
Why such a leap from Harper to this youngish Torontonian?
“Mr. Harper cannot ditch the debilitating baggage of the Canadian Alliance, because he packed it and carried it everywhere with him,” Thorsell wrote. “And it is clear the Alliance baggage has to go if the Conservatives are to become nationally competitive – a question of public, not partisan interest.”
The defection of Brison, Thorsell argued, “had everything to do with the prospect of Mr. Harper as Conservative leader and stands as a perfectly clear warning that the new party will fail under his banner.”
Why? Because, as Brison put it “quite sensibly,” wrote Thorsell, “only the political parties that understand the pride that Canadians have of our diversity in this country will ever have the capacity to form a government.” It seems to Thorsell that Tory understands such pride.
Whew! The Thorsell argument, to me, radiates an overweening satisfaction, almost a gloating, over politicians and others skewered by wrong-headed fundamentalist views. A pall of political correctness has gassed any success in politics for substantial adherents of views critical of the advancement of homosexual rights and, in particular, of those whose negations stem from religious beliefs (for example, those of many Christians and Muslims).
To deny same-sex marriage is now deemed anti-Canadian. Partisan leadership which denies it is out.
This makes me angry. Democracy is the right each one of us has to hold and express openly his or her views of what is or ought to be in and of Canada.
What an irony that a minority interest group – lesbians and gays – so brave and strenuous in fighting out from their closets to make their public case with much success, now exults so far as to insist that any politician who refuses to stop critical motions of homosexuals’ aims, should not and does not have a hope for power. No civic leadership for them! The newly righteous speak.
Thorsell has passed by the core of democracy which dissent provides in keeping a society free. It is the stuff in Milton’s Areopagetica and John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty. One might have expected such from Svend Robinson, not from the former editor-in-chief of Canada’s would-be daily bible.
To turn to the problem Martin may face of revenge ahead from within, I recommend a close reading of Susan Delacourt’s Juggernaut. I’ve taken another run through it, and come out of it with a firmer conclusion about the petty, often mean, and occasionally vindictive antics of the Martinites and the Chretienites.
It is hard to believe two adult males – cocks of the Liberal walk since 1993 – their acolytes, and the men and women of the press, could and did bicker and feud for so long about relatively little without someone, somewhere – say the party president or the chairman of the parliamentary caucus – forcing the animosity, its attendant antics, and its causes into the open.
In hard-rock mining parlance, “There are holes drilled for more.”
And it isn’t too early for this prime minister to guarantee they won’t be loaded and blown. How?
No revenge. Openness all the way to attaining the Martin “new way politics.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, December 14, 2003
ID: 13056908
TAG: 200312140291
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Prime Minister Paul Martin has given us a ministry much altered in personnel, and along with it comes considerable reorganization of departments and agencies. It will take over a year to give his cabinet a fair appreciation because there are so many initiatives to come.
Is there real improvement in the calibre of ministers? There should be. Simply because there are more able people in Martin’s first ministry than in any of Jean Chretien’s cabinets.
Remember this: from a third to a half of the ministry is temporary. This is considerably a makeshift cabinet. The one which will almost certainly figure in posterity’s reckoning is that which Martin is expected to name in the summer or fall next year after his Liberals score a widely expected federal election victory.
For example, it’s unlikely Lucienne Robillard, just posted to Industry, David Anderson, still in Environment, or Claudette Bradshaw, in Labour, will be a cabinet minister this time next year.
My appraisal of the ministry today is a quick run through most of the names in the list, starting with the really positive appointments and closing with those which make one wonder “Why, oh why?”
My first plus, Ralph Goodale at Finance, is a modest one. John Manley has been a competent, discreet and trustworthy holder of this task. So should Ralph.
The next plus is Andy Mitchell at Indian and Northern Affairs, a devilishly hard portfolio and one due for much action, pushed by an impatient PM. Mitchell replaces Bob Nault, not a cipher in the post, but Mitchell should do better in the legislative game.
It was good to see Jim Peterson back in the ministry and given International Trade. Remember him? He’s the lesser known Peterson, brother David having served two terms as Liberal premier of Ontario.
Stephen Owen from Vancouver at Public Works, so often the patronage department, should reassure those wanting honest government.
Albina Guarneri, associate minister of national defence, brings a sharp, critical mind to work in a fairly unusual harness with new Defence Minister David Pratt. At long last there’s some hope for good change in our military fortunes.
Stan Keyes, responsible for National Revenue and for Sport, could be an inspired choice, given his high gall quotient and positive personality.
Bob Speller, at Agriculture, has some similarities in patience and modesty with the man he replaces, Lyle VanClief, and he knows his field well.
Reg Alcock of Winnipeg, at Treasury Board, is one of the two most significant plus factors in this cabinet. He should be a buzzsaw (as should Joe Volpe, minister for Human Resources and Skills Development). Both have drive, ideas, and common touches; indeed much more so than the two ministers most in the media are hailing as the big appointments in this cabinet (i.e., Goodale and Anne McLellan).
Geoff Regan from Halifax is able, patient, not too partisan, and a quick study who already knows much about his task at Fisheries and Oceans.
Tony Valeri, from the rim of Hamilton, cannot possibly be more ineffective than David Collenette has been at Transport, and he rates close to Alcock and Volpe in strength of personality. Watch him.
David Pratt at defence, it is worth repeating, is an inspired appointment. At last someone in the role who knows the army, the navy and the air force.
Irwin Cotler from Quebec is an inspired choice as Justice minister. He’s one of those rare, ultra-educated, articulate lawyers who has a modest personality and a clear desire to serve, not be served.
Judy Sgro takes up a big chore in Citizenship and Immigration, a hot potato, and I think she’s more than up to it – maybe a bit too daring in the open but she seems to be a tell-it-like-it-is politician.
Helene Chalifour Scherrer from Quebec City has a chance to become the best known woman politician in Canada as Heritage minister. She has pizzazz, charm and a remarkable self-confidence.
Liza Frula from Verdun, Que. should handle well what’s left of Human Resources after its “reorg.” Like Scherrer, she has charm and confidence galore.
Mauril Belanger of Ottawa is deputy House leader, a significant post in the “new way” politics of Paul Martin, and he’s been a splendid backbench MP.
Jacques Saada is probably the most respected Quebec MP among his Anglo colleagues in the Liberal caucus, and from what they say about him he should be a grand improvement over Don Boudria, the former House leader (who was assiduous but very undiplomatic with both his own backbench and the opposition).
Finally, on the plus side, Joe Comuzzi from Thunder Bay is a most winning personality. He represents a new Martin initiative, and that is to deal with two fronts of the U.S. government – with congressmen and senators, and not just with the executive branch. Comuzzi’s role is a formal recognition there is a promising future in MPs dealing on a regular basis with their American counterparts.
Now, after these pluses just let me mention a few of the minuses of this ministry.
Robillard at Industry is a stupid choice, even as a stop-gap. She’ll spend her months making Industry better bilingually, a theme she’s pushed hard at Treasury Board.
Pierre Pettigrew at Health means some relief now that he’s out of the trade portfolio. He’s become almost the perfect caricature of the handsome, impeccably dressed and bilingually glib politician. But where’s the weight? Where’s the achievement?
It’s hard to fathom why Martin continued to keep in cabinet both Denis Coderre and John McCallum. Both seem self-centred and arrogant: McCallum, one surmises, because of his economic learning; Coderre because of his successes as a tough party organizer in Quebec.
Two final knocks. In my opinion, Bill Graham has proved himself too brittle and quite ineffective at exposition and public education, a capability we really need in our foreign affairs ministers. He’s still a professor, not a professional politician.
And as one who early appreciated that Anne McLellan was clever and ambitious enough to do well as a minister, I can see those aspects are still there, but she is not a good communicator. She’s too impatient and snippy, and showed little in dispatch at getting things done in her runs at Health and at Justice.
If she and Goodale are to be the “powerhouses” or Martin’s left and right hands for the long run, I’ll be surprised. Being able doesn’t mean, particularly in politics, that you have to be cold. They are. Watch for Alcock and Volpe, and maybe Pratt, to move on up the cabinet ladder.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 10, 2003
ID: 13056307
TAG: 200312100567
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


In last week’s creation of a new federal party – a capital “C” Conservative Party of Canada – we seem to have what so many, particularly in the media, have wanted: a stronger challenge to the Liberal party’s grip on office.
But these same pundits want the new party to mimic the Liberal party, placing itself in a broad “centrist” position on the spectrum of political ideology.
I take it to mean the new party ought to be somewhat conservative in its economic policies, emphasizing governmental competence and frugal spending, but also liberal in its social policies and in federal infusions of money to the have-not regions, aboriginals and the homeless of our big cities.
And the Conservative party should not be harking to American models, notably to those provided by the Republicans, or advocating closer association with America’s global policies.
In other words, the new Conservatives should be much like Liberals. They should keep the Red Tory stances of the Progressive Conservative party on social behaviour and the welfare net. They should reject the morally judgmental positions taken by the Reform/Alliance party.
These arbiters of a worthwhile Conservative party note that voters in Ontario and Quebec have thoroughly rejected Reform and the Alliance in four straight federal elections.
Historically, of course, there’s nothing new to such duality in partisan conservatism of toughness and softness. Old-time Tories often reach back to Benjamin Disraeli, a “caring” Conservative prime minister in Britain in the 19th century, as forerunner of their brand of conservatism.
Sixty years ago, in mid-war, the federal Conservatives here paid a price to get John Bracken, Progressive party premier of Manitoba, to lead them federally. He got the prefix “Progressive” added to the party name, creating what seemed a contradiction in intentions. The party lost badly in 1945, Bracken’s only general election as leader. And in 1948, after mediocre performances as leader of the official opposition, Bracken withdrew, to be replaced by George Drew, then the high-flying, anti-radical premier of Ontario.
One argument in 1948 favouring Drew has echoes today in sentiment the Conservatives should now get a leader from Ontario. Well, it didn’t work for Drew in two general elections and he retired, to be replaced in 1956 by a relatively lone wolf MP from Saskatchewan, John Diefenbaker. Much mocked by Liberals as a posturing fraud, in less than a year Dief was prime minister in the most stunning electoral upset ever.
Neither politicians nor pundits back then had realized so many people were fed up with the Liberals, so long in power, and seen as arrogant and self-prideful in riding roughshod over opposition in Parliament.
This backward glance is to remind any who will listen that lightning such as struck the Grits in ’57 could hit next June, rebuffing the great Paul Martin, and elevating one of two alternatives, the Conservatives or the NDP, or a temporary combination of both for the purpose of ousting the Liberals from office.
The ingredients for upset seem present as I see it.
Our governing party has shown itself so often recently as incompetent and dishonest, both silly and confusing in its juvenile, lengthy melodrama of rival leadership egos, now capped by a rich prime minister loaded with “best friend” millionaires, and offering vague approval and everlasting discussion to almost every item of political interest imaginable. Not to mention another of those cyclical exercises at progress and reform in the Canadian capital – this time featuring a big reduction of the government backbench by creating a far larger ministerial “B” team.
You think Martin and his Earnscliffe crew can’t blow it by June? Again, consider previous disasters that befell fresh endeavours.
Take Lester Pearson in his ballyhooed “60 Days of Decision,” featuring what The Toronto Star called “the most talented” ministry in Canadian history.
Even better, consider the neat lead Kim Campbell, the new Tory prime minister, had in the opinion polls in mid-summer, 1993. Four months later, she was swept away, the PCs went from 160 some seats to two, and two brand-new parties, the Bloc and Reform, came in with 54 and 52 seats respectively.
Rarely has there been such an anticipated showtime as what lies ahead in the sitting days left in the current Parliament. It will have a speech from the throne, a budget and a bevy of new ministers.
If the Conservatives are astute, their likeliest choice as leader of the new party will be either Stephen Harper or Peter MacKay.
In parliamentary craft and being “au courant” with topical issues, either Harper or MacKay should show well against Martin and his swollen cadre. And even a fresh Liberal gambit like same-sex marriage or decriminalizing marijuana could boomerang on its advocates.
Subsequently, it would not take much of a socially conservative backlash from voters to put a much stronger foundation of Conservative MPs into the next House of Commons.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, December 07, 2003
ID: 13055974
TAG: 200312070260
SECTION: Comment
ILLUSTRATION: photo by Ken Kerr
CRITICIZING THE NEXT PM … Paul Hellyer, an outspoken former Liberal cabinet minister, takes on prime-minister-to-be Paul Martin in a chapter of his new book One Big Party: To Keep Canada Independent .
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


The sharpest, most detailed discounting so far of Paul Martin as a useful prime minister takes up a whole chapter in a book written by Paul Hellyer, his 10th book by my count on the best course for Canada.
One Big Party: To Keep Canada Independent, was published in softcover in Toronto by Chimo Media. The chapter’s heading is “Why Paul Martin won’t do,” followed by the telling Shakespearean line: “What is past is prologue.”
Hellyer, now 80, was a major minister in the Liberal cabinets of Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau and a close colleague of Martin’s father, Paul Sr. He resigned from the Trudeau cabinet when his leader said nay to a Hellyer national housing initiative.
Since then, Hellyer’s partisan journeying has been tortuous: going to the Tories, bidding for their leadership; then exiting and founding a new party; then going back to the Liberals; then trying the new party gambit again. He was able to get such endeavours into several federal elections with some dash and promotion (but no seats), because, like Paul Martin, Jr., he became wealthy after his service in World War II as a developer and a large-scale producer of ginseng.
Hellyer has always emphasized a “pro-Canada” theme, much like that of the late Walter Gordon, arguing an intelligent monetary policy and bold use of “the money supply” could finance our growth and stop the domination of our economy by foreign, largely American, corporations.
Hellyer regrets he has to set out the evidence of Paul Martin’s inadequacy, but his “conscience will not allow me to take the easy way out.” The task is difficult because he knows and likes Martin, as he did his father, but the son is “quite unlike his father … he has been ensnared by the right-wing economic philosophy of Milton Friedman and his colleagues and the globalization agenda of the wealthy elite. This has already resulted in changing Canada’s course from the pursuit of excellence to the path of mediocrity.”
But that’s history, Hellyer argues. Now our concern has to be the future and “Paul Martin is a continentalist who is firmly committed to deeper economic and military integration with the U.S. which is the slippery slope to ultimate annexation.”
Hellyer’s hopes for Martin as finance minister were “devastated” with the 1995 budget which, he says, “became the great divide between the Bay Street boys, who think that money is omnipotent and the rest of us who believe it only a means to an end. In fact, the 1995 budget was a disaster for Canada, and for anyone who understands monetary theory, which obviously Paul Martin does not, a totally unnecessary disaster!”
Hellyer sets out the casualties of Martin’s cutbacks: the health care system, our “social crown jewel … its bedrock philosophy being that all citizens are treated equally;” the educational system, which ballooned the costs to students of higher education. Cuts also reduced environmental programs, rocked the arts, weakened the armed forces and abetted a crumbling infrastructure of roads, bridges, sewers, municipal transit and waterworks from coast to coast.
In the name of ending deficit, the Martin-Chretien team slashed payments to provinces, Hellyer says, and put responsibilities onto municipal governments and citizens as individuals. In effect, “Martin chose to balance the federal books by downloading billions, previously available for health and education.”
Aside from the irreparable harm to our social safety net, “the cutbacks slowed the economy, increased unemployment and resulted in lower tax revenues than would otherwise have been available.”
It would be easier to forgive Martin for the inestimable damage that came from his ’95 budget “if one were convinced that he had learned from his experience and would lead Canada out of the wilderness to new heights of happiness and prosperity.”
Yes, Martin has mastered a rhetoric freighted with visionary phrases but Hellyer insists there is “a jarring discord between his call to challenge the conventional wisdom and his profound attachment to the status quo. Almost everything he believes and proposes can be found in the list of things … detrimental to Canada’s best interests.”
Hellyer cites the free trade agreement, Martin’s commitment to both the IMF and the World Bank, and his firm belief in globalization and that more open markets must be the cornerstone of development.
Three other strikes against Martin are even more to be feared. The first is his promise to repair relations with the U.S. by increasing Canada’s military and “joining Washington’s controversial missile defence program … so making Canada complicit in the installation of weapons of mass destruction in space – a concept alien to every Canadian value.”
The second is that “Big money has made no secret of its preference for Martin as the next Liberal boss. … It is absolutely impossible to raise so much money as he has and not be indebted to the globalizers in the corporate community.” (Certainly, Martin made it clear last week how close his friendship is to some exceptionally wealthy Canadians.)
The third strike is that Martin “still doesn’t understand monetary theory after 10 years in the job where he was responsible for it.”
Hellyer’s book concludes with both his array of tasks for the next government to tackle and something between a hope and a plea that independently minded Canadians, respectful, but not in awe of the U.S., come together in what would be a party embracing the NDP led by Jack Layton, and socially responsible Liberals.
Layton, says Hellyer, “knows in his heart what has to be done.” And he can’t say that about Paul Martin.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 03, 2003
ID: 13055382
TAG: 200312030538
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 17
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Although John Manley, when announcing his retirement from politics, skirted saying it directly, he made it obvious he had been pushed to the decision. He could no longer wait like a supplicant for Paul Martin to tell him if he was wanted (and in what role) in Martin’s first ministry.
Of course, more than a score of Manley’s fellow ministers are in the same predicament … waiting, wondering, phoning around, and scanning the spins about cabinet from Martin’s big “transition team” – in whose group photo neither present ministers nor mere MPs, other than Martin, could be seen.
From the spinners, Manley could appreciate that the lobbyist geniuses of Martin’s team had adjudged that he had been nasty beyond forgiveness regarding their hero’s fundraising during the so-called leadership debates. And so he, as well as two other contenders, Allan Rock and Sheila Copps, was out.
Two other ministers of prominence, however, are sure choices of the new leader: Alberta’s Anne McLellan, minister of health, once the minister responsible for our expensive gun registry; and Saskatchewan’s Ralph Goodale, minister of public works. For eight years Goodale was the most unobtrusive of ministers and then, suddenly, after Herb Gray was dropped, he became Jean Chretien’s ministerial stonewaller on dubious advertising contracts in Quebec.
If one thinks about it for a few minutes, there is somewhat more reason for a clearly capable, assiduous minister, proven at handling tough portfolios, than an aspirant backbencher, however worthy, to want his or her status made clear discreetly and not be left for weeks swinging in the winds of speculation.
When Martin’s minions telegraphed that he had pre-chosen McLellan and Goodale, neither of whom batted at Manley’s level, why should Manley let himself be demeaned further?
Manley has had fascinating work beckoning beyond electoral politics. So let the cabinet-maker and his Earnscliffe cadre know you are out, and get on with your own choosing. After all, a head’s-up departure now doesn’t preclude a handy return in a few years.
Today’s hero is on the cusp of old age and his replacement will become an issue. A bid from outside for the job is old hat among Liberals. It’s what would-be leader Bob Winters did in 1968, what John Turner did in 1984 and what Jean Chretien did in 1990.
A week ago, I put forward the names of six Liberal MPs Martin should be considering as major movers in his cabinet to lead the House into a “new way” of politics centered on ending Parliament’s “democratic deficit” – John Bryden, Reg Alcock, Peter Adams, David Pratt, Dan McTeague and Dennis Mills. Each of these backbenchers has proved himself as a splendid Parliamentarian who spoke well, knew his stuff and won attention and responses in the House and in its committee work.
The column brought considerable e-mail and calls, including some from MPs. Indeed, a Liberal MP whom I would think has a fair chance of promotion called to suggest I push a colleague for elevation.
His pick was another backbencher, rather distinctive because of his warm, open and modest personality and ambassadorial flair. I explained that if Martin by now didn’t know enough about this MP’s talents to take advantage of them, I’d be wasting words. And I figured the man himself would be offended at my doing so.
My caller said he could understand that, because he and a number of caucus comrades had concluded the whole scenario of cabinet choosing had become embarrassing and derogatory – even demeaning – for MPs. It also was deceptive because it confirmed a generalized opinion that a mere MP meant little alongside a cabinet minister.
Yet, in the Chretien regime, almost all ministers but the PM and one other had come to seem unimportant. They, on the whole or in their cabinet committees, were now mostly being used – as one senior mandarin has put it – as “focus groups,” reacting to issues and directions put before them by the Prime Minister’s Office.
This MP, like two others to whom I talked, mentioned his reaction to the photo of Martin’s “transition” mob.
Where did they all come from? Why no elected persons to consort with so many lobbyists and ex-mandarins in carrying out this supremely important definition of both personnel and priorities?
A last corollary to my suggestions for rescuing cabinet: TV commentator Mike Duffy raised his eyebrows at such a list without a woman MP. Look, there are many choices of excellent Liberal women MPs before Martin and his cadre – Carolyn Bennett, Albina Guarnieri, Judy Sgro, Bonnie Brown, Liza Frula, Elaine Bakapanos, Marlene Catterall, Marlene Jennings, even the obstreperous Carolyn Parrish.
But I was stressing those who have shown they could be a force for reforming the House in a Martin regime; something which women on the government side have not done exceptionally well.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 30, 2003
ID: 13055070
TAG: 200311300275
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Today I shift from much pondering over Paul Martin’s looming government to personal anecdotes about two persons high in the news – Mitchell Sharp and Conrad Black.
Last week, at a grand black-tie dinner, our capital honoured Mitchell. Now 92, he’s been a major figure in Ottawa since 1945 when he came from Winnipeg and the grain trade to a high task in the federal bureaucracy. He was a deputy minister when John Diefenbaker became PM and, in what seemed a matter of mutual mistrust, Mitchell left Ottawa for business in Toronto.
There he soon became a Grit candidate, and after one miss he won his way to Parliament in 1963 and a place in Mike Pearson’s first cabinet. He was a minister for 13 years under Pearson and Pierre Trudeau. In those years he became the trusted mentor of a young, ambitious Jean Chretien, a bonding that’s lasted 40 years.
I first met and chatted with Mitchell (and Daisy, his first wife) in 1963 in the parliamentary dining room. I was a third party MP, and much taken with their courtesy and friendliness.
Some years later, Daisy died after a long, wasting illness. Soon after, I spotted Mitchell eating alone and went over to commiserate. He asked me to join him and, naturally, we talked about Daisy. I asked when he’d first met her. He looked into the distance, then swung back to me and said, “It was very odd.” (Long pause.) “I’m not naturally impetuous.” (Pause.) “For me, it was truly love at first sight. I saw her, and she was it.”
Where was this, I asked?
“At the Winnipeg Ampitheatre, back in the 1930s.”
Late one winter afternoon in the middle of the Great Depression he’d left the Grain Exchange with a fellow worker with whom he often walked home. As they passed by the big rink his friend stopped and said he was going in to watch a game. What game? Oh, it was girls’ hockey. Girls’ hockey?’
Mitchell said he’d laughed, but when his friend said the girls were pretty good he decided to have a look. They went in to a chilly cavern. The seats were empty, but a game was on. His friend took him up into a mezzanine front row, literally hanging over the goal at the entrance end of the rink.
Play was crowded into the far end and stayed there for what seemed a long time. Suddenly, out of the far zone there weaved a slim, stickhandling figure, hair flying as she gained speed. She deftly shifted through the retreating defence and froze the goalie with a head fake before tucking the puck in the top corner. Then she threw up her arms and shouted her joy.
She was less than 25 feet from him, Mitchell said, and so beautiful, so radiant. He had to meet her. He had to. And he did as soon as the game was over. (Her team won.) She was taken aback by his eagerness but agreed to a date … one that led in due course to a wedding and 30 years of love and good companionship.
Yes, I know Mitchell Sharp is a Liberal but he’s also a romantic, bless him.
Now, to Conrad Black, a man with a rare talent in reading and remembering. I’ve only encountered anything like it in three other people: Stanley Hartt, a Montreal lawyer who served as finance minister, then as chief of staff to Brian Mulroney as PM; the late Northrop Frye, a literary critic of renown; and the late Harold Wilson, Labour party leader and, for a time, British prime minister.
My only encounter with Black was in the late 1970s. He was only in his mid-30s and largely known as the young, clever CEO of Argus Corp. or as the biographer of longtime Quebec premier Maurice Duplessis. It was at a large banquet in Toronto in aid of St. Francis Xavier University. The host was Brian Mulroney, the main speaker was Premier Bill Davis. I was there as a columnist and, as the meal began, I found myself at a small table for five, sitting next to Roly Michener, recently Governor General, and before that a Speaker of the House of Commons when I’d been an MP.
Before the dinner began, those at the table introduced ourselves. One was Black. Shortly, Roly turned to me and recalled an incident late in the 1962 federal election when I’d asked if he knew he was losing his hold on his riding of Toronto-St. Paul’s. He was shocked, and I gave him my on-site evidence. He didn’t believe it, and his wife was outraged at my gall.
But my warning did get him ready for the impossible. He lost – to a Liberal. It was close but …
One chap at the table, an aide to Allan MacEachen, joined in: “How close?”
Roly wrinkled his forehead and as he began with, “I forget the figures … ” Black interjected: “By 127 votes.” And then he added, “Out of some 26,000.”
An astounded Roly asked: “How’d you know that?”
Black shrugged and said he browsed a lot in the Parliamentary Guides.
So Roly asked him if he knew what “Fisher’s margin” had been in Port Arthur in ’58 when I beat C.D. Howe. After a long moment, Black said, “Just over 1,400 votes.”
Wow! It was 1,415.
After Black correctly fielded a few more queries on particular federal votes we wanted to know if he had to consciously determine to remember such data. He shrugged. He’d always seemed to have a knack for recalling what he’d read.
One had to discard at once any chance there’d been any preparation. Here was a man with a mind-boggling skill. It explains to me why Conrad Black did so well, and so quickly, for so long.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, November 26, 2003
ID: 13054458
TAG: 200311260541
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Until Paul Martin unveils his first cabinet, the main interest on Parliament Hill is more on which incumbent ministers he will keep than on which new ministers he will pick.
This may be because the genuinely expectant Liberal MPs run to 50 or more, most of whom have wanted Chretien out and Martin in for over a year.
This big talent pool and the geographic and gender balances a PM must consider have cooled speculation on who the best new bets will be.
Regular readers know I’ve harped for almost a decade that Jean Chretien, despite resignations and promotions, has maintained a mediocre cabinet. This, despite his having several score MPs with the energies and talents for an all-round ministry.
Who are the really top MPs? As orators? As questioners? As proponents or critics of ideas and of legislation? As authorities on procedure? As respected experts on major subject fields like defence, taxation or pensions? As real enthusiasts in and for Parliament? No one spends much time in analyzing such aspects of politics any more.
Martin has promised to close out Parliament’s “democratic deficit.” Yes, there’s to be a parliamentary renaissance. MPs, on both the government and the opposition side, are to have more input into joint discussion of issues and the preparation of bills. The House is figuratively to come alive, to be a chamber with a respectable attendance most of the time, not just 20 to 30 MPs in the place except during the much choreographed antics of question period.
This Martin gambit is idealistic and admirable, but it will be so hard to bring off.
We have a deep, now traditional distrust across party lines from decades of infantile partisanship. Also, the domination of the government caucus by the prime minister has been matched by the command over each opposition caucus by its leader (see Stephen Harper or Jack Layton).
Senior federal mandarins are fearful a freed House will breach the security in their roles and expose their advice to their ministers.
Given such a worrying parliamentary wilderness, what would be most useful in developing the reformed institution Martin wants, as do so many who occupy seats in the House?
Obviously, there should be forward roles in the ministry and in the House as it functions for the best MPs we now have – “best” in the sense of having done proven, patient, high-quality work in the House and also in using well the research and information resources available to each MP.
We have a fair number of such performers and I offer the names of six backbench MPs whom I consider the highest achievers in the Liberal caucus.
Leading off are two men who match each other in intelligence, purpose, and assiduity. John Bryden, since 1993 the MP for Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Aldershot, is author of several good books and a former newspaper editor. Reg Alcock is a computer and data expert from Winnipeg.
Bryden has gotten results. For example, his research on bogus charities has sparked reform. As much, perhaps more than Alcock, his persistence led to a committee pressing after George Radwanski, the former privacy commissioner.
Both Bryden and Alcock have given a lot of thoughtful speeches in the House and have kept injecting gumption and suggestions in the several House committees on which they’ve served. Each has a splendid measure of how the federal government works and how it could be improved.
My third standout in both House performance and an appreciation of how Parliament might function is Peter Adams, 67, an ex-MPP and a former professor of geography. He represents Peterborough and he’s been a model for clarity as chair of the committee on House affairs and procedure.
My fourth MP who is up to the tasks needed to implement Martin’s “new way” for politics is Dan McTeague (Pickering-Ajax). He’s a gifted but homey talker, and masterful at popularizing heavy stuff.
My fifth suggestion is David Pratt, an Ottawa MP since 1997, and a straight arrow sort. As chairman of the House committee on defence he has been far better informed than either the present minister of defence or his predecessor, and he has ideas on making committees invigorate policy review and development. And success with committees may well be the key to parliamentary reform that lasts.
Finally, it’s regrettable Chretien never made a minister of Dennis Mills, the long-time MP for Toronto Danforth. Mills is a thorough enthusiast for good causes who backs his vim with a gift for organizing people and programs. If Martin’s parliamentary reform needs a sparkplug, a mixer, an arranger and optimist, Dennis is surely available.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 23, 2003
ID: 12829568
TAG: 200311230253
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Paul Martin’s challenge is to build a cabinet from the same group of Liberal MPs that provided the members of Jean Chretien’s ministry.
The incoming prime minister has repeatedly indicated most in his first cabinet will not be incumbent ministers. His “new way” politics demands drive and freshness in its leading people. A big swatch of “honourables” will revert to backbench status in three weeks and their replacements will become measuring rods of Martin’s notions on ability and initiative.
This sounds good, particularly to those who have appreciated that Jean Chretien chose a quite mediocre ministry, one in which all but the minister of finance seemed subsumed to the PMO.
“Freshness” is all very well, but those who are sure Martin’s selections will strike a new standard should remember how complicated cabinet-making has become in our parliamentary system.
The American president can pick his cabinet from the whole population. He can focus on expertise and proven achievement, unlimited by any need to be elected. He can pick most of his cabinet from one region (see Richard Nixon’s penchant for Californians) and irrespective of party labels. And he can hire and fire a cabinet member as he wills, without fretting over either cabinet or caucus or party reaction.
Martin is choosing his roster within a lot of limitations, beginning with geographical representation to this minimum: at least one minister from each province (even P.E.I.,) providing, of course, each has elected at least one Liberal.
At present, Martin hasn’t a lot of choice in Alberta or Saskatchewan with just two Liberal MPs, or B.C. with just six. The four western provinces together have 87 MPs, only 15 of whom are Liberals, with seven of those already ministers.
National unity being a never-ending need, there has to be strong cabinet representation by French-Canadians, especially MPs from Quebec, but also, if possible, one from New Brunswick and one from Northern Ontario. At present there are seven Quebec ministers, none of whom is an anglophone.
Relative to all the provinces but P.E.I., Ontario is over-represented by Liberal MPs and this is reflected in the fact Chretien has 16 Ontario ministers. It is also the province which had the most MPs working hard and openly for Paul Martin. Many of them are thinking cabinet at this moment, particularly the score or so in the Liberals’ “Italian caucus.” At present only one Italo-Canadian is in the ministry, a ridiculous slight given they are the most numerous ethnic witness to multiculturalism in the Liberal caucus.
The growth of gender balancing has been a problem for PMs since Pierre Trudeau moved the female quotient above the single woman in the John Diefenbaker and Lester Pearson cabinets. Chretien has 10 women ministers out of 37, a proportion way above that of the caucus. There seems to be pressure on Martin from more than feminists to up that figure now, even to appointing ministers in relation to women making up more than half the populace.
In particular, two Chretien ministers, Sheila Copps and Ethel Blondin-Andrew, symbolize choices hard for Martin to pass up. Copps is so everlastingly a Liberal loyalist and Blondin-Andrew was the first female aboriginal to become a minister.
Aside from meeting the surge toward a tradition of putting women and ethnic MPs (like Herb Dhaliwal, Maurizio Bevilacqua, and Rey Pagtakhan) into the ministry, the television coverage of Parliament has boosted the advantage of having some visible minorities within the ministry to mirror the Liberal party’s theme of a multicultural Canada. On that point, should Martin pass by Pagtakhan or Jean Augustine or Blondin-Andrew?
A persistent factor in determining why some MPs are elevated to the ministry has been defined since the Brian Mulroney era as “cronyism.” Jean Chretien’s cabinets have had a clutch of pals who had backed him in the Liberal caucus led by John Turner. It may be an advantage for Martin that he has so many of such cronies – at least a dozen more than he can use.
The rewards which stem from cronyism are maddening to those who think the prime requirements in a minister of the Crown should be ability, based on intelligence and common sense, tied to some useful expertise and a capability at clear speech and understandable argument.
Martin himself, far more than the opposition and political journalists, has identified “the democratic deficit” and promised nothing less than a revolution in the role and processes of Parliament, re-engaging the cabinet with the House as a whole.
For this reform to develop there must be an abler, more open ministry than we have had for a long time. Martin has to find such largely from the backbench, not the incumbent ministers. Then he must lead by example until the “new way” is routine. It seems impossible, but who would say it should not be tried?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, November 19, 2003
ID: 12828981
TAG: 200311190521
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


After Jean Chretien retires Dec. 12, we may have a Jekyll-Hyde prime minister.
Let me suggest why such a duality may mean better government.
There have been only seven leaders of the Liberal Party since 1919, the year in which it began the practice in Canada for party members to make their choice at a leadership convention. At this first convention there was a genuine contest. Mackenzie King, successor to Wilfrid Laurier, won over several strong aspirants. Only one other time – in 1968 when Pierre Trudeau beat a raft of serious contenders – was the result in much doubt as the convention opened.
The rest were romps – for Louis St. Laurent in 1948, Lester Pearson in 1958, John Turner in 1984, Jean Chretien in 1990, and of course Paul Martin in 2003.
But in the latter two scenarios, both Chretien and Martin had set up their victories with devious, preparatory moves to destabilize the established leader.
The following paragraphs from Christina McCall’s brilliant book, Grits (1982), on Pearson’s emergence as leader note the penchant of the Liberal party’s elite to pre-choose its leader.
Pearson’s win, McCall writes, “was never really in much doubt. It was a curiosity of the postwar Liberal Party elite, whose members so valued political shrewdness in themselves, that they like to think their leader was beyond politics, too pure for the little arts that engrossed their waking thought and haunted their slumberous hours.”
Pearson’s leadership rival, Paul Martin Sr., “was seen as a ward-heeling pol,” despite his accomplishments, she notes. “He wanted power, curious creature, and he let people see his base desire… It was Martin’s unhappy lot throughout the St. Laurent and Pearson decades to bear the disdain that had been reserved previously for Mackenzie King….
“That King was a brilliantly intuitive leader responsible for the Liberals’ long political reign didn’t really seem to occur to most denizens in the party’s upper reaches, and after his death they determined that his like would never be seen again in the leadership.”
Even partisan rivals who followed most of the blanket coverage of last week’s approval of Paul Martin Jr. would have to admit there seemed to be almost total accord among the delegates in a satisfied admiration for the new leader, and a courteous but very basic appreciation of the departure of Jean Chretien.
As one of Martin’s MP backers stressed to an open mike in his reach: “He’s such a class act!” And he is.
Martin, as we have seen him since he came to the Hill 15 years ago, has been consistently affable, welcoming and positive to almost everyone but Alliance critics. His speeches and the responses he makes to others’ remarks are almost always homey and familiar, this impression helped by his capacious store of cliches and platitudes.
But there is a downside in having such a Nice Nelly as the No. 1 politician in the federation. Among other consequences, a few years of Paul the Nice, playing to almost every sustained demand, would guarantee either just one electoral mandate or another takeover by a would-be successor, say like Brian Tobin – the third usurpation in a row.
On the other hand, this new, bland PM may have – perhaps has to have – another personality; not that of the likeable, good Dr. Jekyll but of mean, nasty Edward Hyde.
I recall Paul Martin Sr. telling me in the ’70s that he’d warned off his son from politics. Instead, he advised, go into business, get the independence wealth gives, then consider the move. He himself had had trouble raising money and he had been around a long, long time.
Reflect on the way Paul Martin Jr. as an assiduous finance minister kept his eye on his route to the top. And how, along the way, he enlisted the Earnscliffe gang, using its know-how in enlisting cabinet, caucus, and constituency support.
Think about the $11-million-plus his bagmen brought in for the leadership. Contrast it with the scant pickings Sheila Copps and John Manley raised. Or ponder the stories his recent biographers have garnered from his crew about his temper outbursts and strident demands.
Remember also that in the many House occasions when Paul Martin has been most vigorous and openly happy, he has been extravagantly ridiculing of opposition positions.
In short, there may be, there seems to be, two Paul Martins. Just the bland and vague one won’t hack it.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 16, 2003
ID: 12828648
TAG: 200311160368
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


A passing judgment of Paul Martin made by Joe Clark during a CBC interview last Wednesday was not so shocking once I had a few minutes to reflect on it.
Several times, the former Tory leader listed Martin as an advantage for a Progressive Conservative party sensible enough to reject a merger with the Alliance. Why? It had the insights and positions to defeat “the worst leader” the Liberals have had in decades. Martin as Grit leader, said Clark, is well below the quality of Lester Pearson, Pierre Trudeau, or Jean Chretien.
This stark appraisal, coming before Martin even has a track record in the PMO, is daringly premature. It is a prediction whose credibility rests on Clark’s three decades of high level politics, notably in performing so well in the House of Commons. In part, that’s why I take Clark’s opinion seriously.
The other part is this: though the opinion is premature, given the huge attraction Martin has to a wide, deep diversity of people in every region of Canada, any close observer of federal politics must also weigh the curse of such big and varied expectations. No PM since World War II takes up the task with such a wide spectrum expecting good deeds.
It exists cross-country, and among premiers, mayors, businessmen both big and small, bankers, farmers, academics, environmentalists, civil rights advocates, anti-Americans, pro-Americans, devotees of the UN, and boosters of bilingualism and multiculturalism. Even among veteran MPs of all parties, fascination and hope are in play as a consequence of a repeated undertaking by Martin to wipe out “the democratic deficit” in our parliamentary system.
How ready and able are he and his team for at least a modicum of achievement from these diverse expectations in the next three or four years?
Clark’s pessimism about Martin’s future as PM surely begins with the hustings opportunities for the opposition in taking the new Liberal leader apart, given his limited talents as a public performer and his heavy reliance on platitudes and cliches. Bland, nice and decent, yes, but lacking in content or vision.
Which of the two Martins is he? The business tycoon, so astoundingly financed by the corporations, or the disciple of his dad, Paul Sr., who in Martin family lore was pretty well the father of our welfare state?
Two new, respectful books about Paul Martin, one by John Gray, the other by Susan Delacourt, plus some long, thorough reprises of his life by major publications, have combed through the new leader’s life, and been thorough on his character, capacities, family, business experience and his personal “Earnscliffe” team. In such biography, one spots several common estimates or conclusions about the man.
First, what surely primed Joe Clark: Martin tends to be a bore as either speaker or conversationalist. Second, he has occasional, but monumental, outbursts of temper. Third, he comes through as fuzzy in thought, but by and large as decent and amiable. Fourth, his rise to high CEO status was meteoric, although some high-flying sponsors like Maurice Strong and Paul Desmarais were surely major factors. Fifth, neither his education nor his pre-politics career has given him a font of ideas or urgent priorities. Sixth, he has never been a serious reader nor studied anything in great depth (as his father did).
As an old age pensioner, as one from an intensely partisan family, as one long in a business brimming with transportation politicking and as a man who openly aimed to be prime minister for a dozen years, it is astonishing that Martin at this stage seems loaded only with pious platitudes and is such a populist advocate of public dialogue. He dotes on questioning sessions with ordinary citizens and with experts about their needs, wants and opinions. On what we read about him, or see him doing, he is not much at shaping a debate or crystallizing his own talk into decisions and priorities. Apparently he is a common, benign “everyman.”
And yet Martin did burrow within the caucus and the party as an organization, building backing and power to dislodge the incumbent. (Clark might recall what triggered his loss of the Tory leadership in 1983: the high vote against him at a convention reviewing his leadership, engineered by Brian Mulroney.)
Martin, like Mulroney, or Chretien, may have genius as an organizer and manager, although he is way behind either of them as a speaker. Such capacities could serve us well because the most basic obvious shortcoming at hand is a federal government that is not frugal, not very able, and with too many departments short of capable ministers.
Martin’s first cabinet roster, almost sure to be sworn in by Christmas, will indicate to me if Clark is on the mark about him being the worst of Liberal prime ministers.
Keeping more than six of the present 30-odd ministers will telegraph an unprepared prime minister, lacking both self-assurance and sound judgment.
If he postulates that the first “real” Martin cabinet will only come after voters see his program and his fresh talent, he is clearly too cautious and too old. He is certainly too old to mark time, bluffing “change” and not executing it, most notably in Parliament itself.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, November 12, 2003
ID: 12828005
TAG: 200311120491
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Recently, there’s been a glut of insight pieces on the political giants of the day: the retiring Jean Chretien and the forthcoming Paul Martin. This is my last hurrah on Chretien, and I excuse it as an explanation of a reference he made to me in his farewell to the House.
The PM said that I (then just into my fourth parliament as an NDP MP) had shown him around an empty Commons chamber a few days after he was first elected in April, 1963. Where would his seat be? I pointed to a back row on the government side. Where would the prime minister (Mike Pearson) be? I walked down the aisle to front-row centre. Then, from the back row, Chretien said he wanted to move “fast” to the front row and its ministerial seats. How was he to do it?
His synopsis of what I told him was a compressed platitude: work very hard and advancement should come. This was unfair, not to my suggestions but to the effective use he made of them to go in four years from an ungainly duck in the last row to the cabinet at age 33.
It was a mighty achievement, a herald of much more. Why? Consider this resume of the Liberal scenario in the mid- and late 1960s.
There were many able, pushy rivals for promotion in the Liberal caucus after the three tight elections of 1962, 1963 and 1965. Check these ministers-to-be with whom Chretien was matched. From Quebec: Maurice Sauve, Jean Luc Pepin, Pierre Trudeau, Gerard Pelletier, Jean Marchand, Leo Cadieu, John Turner and Bryce Mackasey. From elsewhere: Edgar Benson, John Munro, Larry Pennell, Jack Davis, Jean-Eudes Dube, Joe Greene, Donald Macdonald, Herb Gray, Ron Basford and Gene Whelan.
Consider further Jean Chretien’s talk, in French or English, when he got to Ottawa. He massacred English with bad grammar and a minimal vocabulary. The Quebecers in the first Pearson ministry were mostly sophisticated and scholarly men such as Lionel Chevrier, Maurice Lamontagne, Guy Favreau, Lucien Cardin and Rene Tremblay. They mirrored an intellectual snobbery among franco Quebecers to whom the likes of Trudeau, Pelletier and Pepin were impressive and Chretien, a mangler of words from the boondocks, an embarrassment.
I was flattered this new guy from a pulp and paper town like myself had recognized me on Parliament’s front steps and asked for my help, first in “casing” the chamber, then in getting ahead as an MP. On his latter quest, I spent an hour with him in an almost empty reading room, stressing only three points.
First, he had to be a self-starter. No one in caucus or the House would urge him on. He had to make his own mischief. Remember, he was a rival for a prime minister’s grace with 100 or so fellow Liberals.
Second, most new, major party MPs tended to attach themselves to a minister or, in opposition, to a former one or a respected veteran MP; and Quebec MPs were noted for packing behind the reigning “lieutenant” from the province. On the Anglo side, a mob of his pushiest competitors were already devoted to Walter Gordon, and a few were acolytes of Paul Martin Sr. or Paul Hellyer. He, Jean Chretien, would really stand out, particularly to the press gallery, if he was seen to be readily involved with the anglo movers and shakers of the House.
Third, since he was a greenhorn about the Commons and as yet without a veteran sponsor, his basic resort had to be use of the House and its proceedings by putting in his own bills, motions and questions on the order paper, plus making a speech whenever the caucus whip gave him the nod. Put some catchy private member’s public bills into the lineup under his name and pray some would be debated.
Be in the House as much as he could. Get on a House committee which was making news. Talk to the veteran MPs of all parties, from leaders to whips. Get to know hot shots on procedure like Stanley Knowles, Jed Baldwin and Jack Pickersgill. Become an obvious “action” MP, high among the third or so of MPs who earned hefty indexes in Hansard!
From his keen attention and sharp questions that first day I began to realize Chretien was brash, but also mighty serious. Within a few months, it was clear he was either following my suggestions or had had taken similar advice from others. Above all, he was mixing – much of it beyond the Quebec enclave. Within a year, ministers Mitchell Sharp and Jack Pickersgill were telling me how eager and quick young Chretien was. He’d also picked up a bill Judy LaMarsh had filed but never got debated. It would alter Trans-Canada Airline’s name to Air Canada.
He pushed the “Canada” theme further by filing two other public bills, one to call Dominion Day “Canada Day,” the other to alter the CBC name in French. He had the luck in the draw, then achieved the almost impossible in jug time by getting the “Air Canada” change through the House, then the Senate. It was an affront to the mandarins who treasured the customary “talking out” of a private member’s public bill. But it appealed to me and several other MPs, who, pressed by the sponsor of the bill, managed to keep Tory MPs from stalling it.
Royal assent for the Air Canada tag came in March, 1964, a year after Jean Chretien hit the House. He became a noticed MP, marked for, and shortly given, promotion. Soon he was aide to Mitchell Sharp, then minister of finance, and the career-long mentor of Chretien. He was really on his way to the seat he wanted 40 years ago.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 09, 2003
ID: 12827607
TAG: 200311090241
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


It was such a reasonable line that Finance Minister John Manley unwound on Monday in detailing the fiscal state of our economy and its short-range future. In particular, he was remarkably thorough in explaining the government’s economic leadership during the Chretien decade and in cautioning prudence because of uncertainty ahead.
So rosy optimism about federal budgets with massive, annual surpluses and big bites of debt reduction needs to be laced with an appreciation of global troubles and natural disasters at home. Prudence. Restraint! Review spending programs. Keep to the core intention of Liberal fiscal thinking: no deficit budgets.
It was clear, given the running antagonism between Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Paul Martin, his successor, that critics would focus on the financial scenario which Manley hands off to Martin. They did, and some chortle at Chretien’s malice in his slight heritage of available spending money. And yet, Manley’s explanations of how this has come about range over both new spending programs passed by Parliament and costly emergencies like the SARS outbreak and the mad cow disaster in our beef industry.
Obviously, Martin, who was the key creator of surpluses in federal budgets, won’t have much money to work with, at least for several years, as he occupies the PMO. However, much of the reform he has been talking up, such as ending “the democratic deficit” in Canada or improving relations with the U.S. president and Congress, don’t require a lot of spending.
Manley, given his reputation for frankness, was extraordinarily vivid in hammering home what a wonderful decade of fiscal management Canada has had. As one long familiar with self-serving bumpf from federal finance ministers, it seems most such assertions go unheard or unread because of their heavy weight of polysyllabic jargon. Consider Manley’s resume on “the long road Canadians have come.”
At the beginning, “the economy was in crisis … high unemployment, low growth, high deficits and low confidence. A decade ago, it was virtually impossible to imagine how our nation might come so far, so fast.”
There follows nine succinct paragraphs beginning with, “Who honestly believed that within 10 years we could erase an annual budgetary deficit of $38 billion, produce six consecutive surpluses and reduce our net debt by more than $50 billion? Who thought we would have been able to implement a five-year $100-billion tax cut, amounting to the largest cuts in Canada’s history?”
On the “whos” march: “Who believed … who would have conceived … who thought we would see record job growth and economic expansion … who would have forecast … who would have predicted that we could invest an additional $63 billion to strengthen our health care system based on an accord with provinces and territories?”
Finally, this audacious question: “Who dared to think that by now Canada would have seen the largest investment ever – $13 billion – in research and innovation, turning Canadian universities into world leaders in the pursuit of knowledge, new ideas and development of cutting-edge technologies? All that and much more?
“But the bottom line is clear – the Canada that we know today is a very different and much better place in which to live, work and invest. It is a Canada that is rapidly shedding the burden of the past and is poised to take full advantage of the opportunities of the future … There are still major issues we must tackle and pressing needs that must be addressed. Our work is not finished. There remains much to do if we are going to build a more innovative, more intelligent, more inclusive and more international Canada for our children and grandchildren. Still, we can be certain that the fiscal path we are on is the right one. It has taken us far. And it will take us even further as we build an even better Canada for all Canadians.”
Lord, we have so much to thank the Liberals for! And Manley went on, assuring us that despite this “year of trial and tribulation which has tested the resolve of many Canadians from coast to coast, Canada’s fiscal balance remains intact and our economy is poised to benefit from the general global upswing in the months ahead.”
Some may well believe Chretien has set up troubles for Martin by leaving an almost empty treasury. After listening to, and then reading Manley’s statement and its annexes, it seems to me the curse is not so much the lack of money but the enormous difficulty Martin and his own minister of finance will face in raising revenue by raising taxes, plus the unlikelihood they will have the kind of luck he and Chretien had back in 1993.
The Liberals back then inherited a deficit of $38 billion, but they also walked into benefits from Brian Mulroney legacies like soaring “takes” from the GST and the Unemployment Insurance fund, plus the big rise in trade with the U.S. sparked by NAFTA. There were no comparable bonanzas looming large in this last economic appraisal by a Jean Chretien government.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 02, 2003
ID: 12826651
TAG: 200311020290
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Since Paul Martin gained control of the Liberal party’s organization 14 months ago, his surrogates – unelected insiders authorized to speak on Martin’s behalf – have performed open, vital functions.
Witness the warning which one Scott Reid, the prime Martin surrogate, issued to Via Rail.
It was not to spend anything until a Martin government examined the expenditure of $700 million to improve VIA Rail service, which had just been announced by Transport Minister David Collenette.
Neither Collenette, before the announcement, nor Reid before his magisterial warning, had consulted with either the governing caucus or the transport committees of the House and Senate. Obviously, such is no longer necessary – not just in Jean Chretien’s Ottawa, but in the Ottawa of Paul Martin that is coming.
This incident, like many others since Martin raised the notion of a “democratic deficit” in our parliamentary system, should wake us up.
Changes in practices of partisan operations, within both the governing and opposition parties, have minimized the significance and the work of MPs as individuals, whether within caucus or on House committees, as much or more than the many judicial interpretations of the Charter of Rights (such as on same-sex marriage) which keep reminding us that Parliament is no longer the ultimate “court” of the nation.
Years ago in Ottawa, the role of ministerial surrogates got sudden, if short, notice. A backbench Liberal made a public remark about an important minister which created an instant, intense curiosity, which was quickly muffled, probably because of a sexual suggestiveness in the words that went beyond the behavioral mores of Parliament Hill at the time.
The point the backbencher was making was that she, an MP who backed the government, had been unable to speak to a minister because of “the surrogate wives” who guarded his presence and his time. The reference was to a quartet of young women who were “aides” to this minister. Each was very good-looking, assured in manner and dogmatic in opinions. Each mirrored the self-importance of their busy man, who had chosen them to be his interpreters and his gate-minders.
Of course, at the time there was nothing really new in federal Ottawa about ministerial aides who saw themselves as important.
Sometimes they had attained their posts for expertise in a field like economics or social issues, or maybe for skills in organization or in managing press relations.
About a decade before this “surrogate wives” balloon, a clutch of aides to ministers of Lester Pearson’s first cabinet came close to firming up an unofficial sub-cabinet that would co-ordinate the face to be put on cabinet intentions and achievements.
The Company of Young Canadians was one of this group’s enthusiasms. It was inspired by the U.S. Peace Corps, but as it developed in Canada its antics kept embarrassing prime ministers – first Pearson, then Pierre Trudeau.
Midway in the Pearson years, the non-secretarial component in his office was small, barely a dozen, and the Privy Council Office then had fewer than 100 officials. Now the PMO and PCO have well over 1,000 persons, and many of them are engaged in the micro-management of parliamentary affairs, preparing schedules, strategy and speeches. Such synoptic overview and co-ordination of government functions, centred on the PM, has downgraded the authority and vitality of the cabinet, of individual ministers and the government caucus of all its MPs and senators.
As one of the academic authorities on the ascension of the PMO has put it, the federal cabinet has become little more than a high-level “focus group” for appraising governmental legislation and programs. This concentration of management and talent in and around the PM has resulted in micro-management of the caucus by the House leader and whips, co-ordinated by the PMO, including the provision of speeches to be used by MPs in the House and the vetting by the PMO of speeches and press releases by ministers.
Recent books on Jean Chretien by Lawrence Martin and Ed McWhinney, a former Liberal MP, have sketched such thorough control. Such mastery has long had its complement in two sorts of surrogacy: first, the use of particular journalists by the PM’s chief press officer to spin good coverage and float coming intentions; second, to allocate particular party spokespersons for TV and radio panels and talk shows. Remember Pamela Wallin’s trio of Sen. Michael Kirby, Hugh Segal, and Gerry Caplan on CTV? Or the usage on CBC Newsworld panels of non-elected advocates and defenders of particular parties such as Rick Anderson, Patrick Gossage, Richard Mahoney, Norman Spector, etc.
An extreme, though somewhat unique example, of surrogacy was the recent scenario in the NDP’s federal caucus. Its MPs were ordered how to vote on the same-sex marriage motion by party leader Jack Layton – as yet not, and perhaps never to be, an MP.
A precedent for Layton’s edict, to which his MPs kow-towed, occurred when Paul Martin, a mere MP for the past year, directed several votes in the House by his followers which negated Chretien’s intentions. It was as though Martin had a quasi-constitutional status – something like that of a president-elect in the U.S. – rather than someone who needs a vote of confidence from the House to make him our next prime minister.
My argument is that so much in planning, executing and interpreting, either of government policy or of the positions of opposition parties and their leaders, should not be seen to be done or regularly revealed by surrogates, but by elected ministers supported by the anonymous public servants for whom they are responsible. After all, we don’t vote the Scott Reids, Warren Kinsellas and Mike Robinsons into Parliament.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 29, 2003
ID: 12826024
TAG: 200310290636
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Last weekend, I chanced upon an old film. It reminded me of our military and Ottawa. In The Court Martial of Billy Mitchell, Gary Cooper plays the U.S. Army Air Corps colonel who was put on trial in 1925 for publicly accusing his superiors of criminal negligence.
At his trial, Col. Mitchell argued America’s air services (army and navy) were so badly equipped and underfunded that servicemen were dying needlessly, and the nation’s defence was imperilled. Senior officers, out to please penny pinchers in Washington, were failing to protect the safety of their men and the nation. Mitchell was convicted of insubordination, but his trial attracted attention to his cause (it isn’t often a peacetime military tries a colonel/war hero). His accusations, the testimony of others, and lobbying by kindred spirits in Congress eventually brought many of the changes he sought.
Mitchell’s concerns echo in recent headlines about the safety and reliability of bits of kit issued to Canada’s forces. Canadians are now familiar with the deficiencies of the Iltis “jeep,” the standard light vehicle used by our army, after two Canadians on patrol in Afghanistan were killed in one. While views differ regarding whether such a light vehicle should have been used for such patrols, there is a consensus – outside government circles – that the Iltis should have been replaced years ago. Soldiers in Afghanistan share this opinion with anyone who’ll listen.
Their commander has been equally blunt about the machine purchased to replace the Iltis. Maj.-Gen. Andrew Leslie has doubts about the new Wolf, for it was chosen a whole bunch of years ago while the debate about what the light infantry needs was started not too long ago. Leslie intimates another vehicle will eventually have to be acquired.
Those responsible for procuring our navy’s new anti-submarine helicopters have also been forthright about their needs. The replacement for our venerable Sea King must be a long-range, all-weather, multi-engined aircraft possessing the endurance and carrying capacity necessary not only to fulfil its principal mission, but also to allow it accept new equipment (as it becomes available), and permit it to carry out supplementary missions, such as enforcing embargoes. (The 40-year-old Sea Kings do this in the Persian Gulf – when they’re not grounded by maintenance problems or the region’s heat.) But to save prime ministerial face, the government continues to stall the procurement process. If the procurement of a helicopter fleet were to go ahead the winner would almost certainly be the EH 101. Yes, the same machine Jean Chretien cancelled back in 1993, claiming it to be a “Cadillac.”
Then last week came word Canada will finally replace its 1970s-era Leopard I main battle tanks. (In a move so typically Ottawan, Canada bought this tank just as its German maker prepared to debut its successor, the Leopard II. Now, with Germany looking to replace its Leopard IIs, we are finally replacing its predecessor.)
According to leaks, Canada will buy a variant of the Stryker, an eight-wheeled light armoured vehicle developed for the U.S. Army equipped with a light tank gun. Stryker is meant to be part of the U.S. Army’s ongoing transformation into a lighter, more mobile and more easily deployable force. Surely, this means Stryker’s a winner. It’s also a lot cheaper than a main battle tank, and is built in London, Ont. What could be better?
As it happens, a five-year-old Canadian army study looking at the concept of a lightly armoured vehicle armed with a tank gun found that forces equipped with such a vehicle would suffer up to three times the casualties of a similar force of main battle tanks, when attacked by other tanks.
How can America, supposedly so sensitive to casualties, embrace such a weapon system?
The U.S. believes its commanding lead in command, control, communication and information technologies, combined with the precision guided munitions capabilities of its air force and navy, can ensure that light forces equipped with Stryker will never have to fight one-on-one against tanks.
That may be fine for the Americans – if it works. But it hardly describes Canada’s armed forces.
Ah, but a defence spokesman in Ottawa assures us that won’t be a problem. The Americans will always be there to protect our mobile gun systems (as we seem to be calling the Stryker), with their air power, and their tanks. (The U.S. is not planning to get rid of all its tanks.)
Increasingly, it seems that holes in our forces’ capabilities – and the “in vogue” logic of our military plans – are to be filled by Uncle Sam. And if Uncle Sam decides he doesn’t want to get stuck with the bill?
Too bad we don’t have a Billy Mitchell around, to call a spade a spade.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 26, 2003
ID: 12032544
TAG: 200310260329
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


The first volume of Lawrence Martin’s biography of Jean Chretien, The Will to Win (1995) was exciting enough to make a reader impatient for the second, and now we have it, in Iron Man: The Defiant Reign of Jean Chretien (Viking Books, 468 pages).
It covers Chretien’s career from 1990 until this fall, always on or close to him and his operation and personal state rather than a running, synoptic account of the national politics and three parliaments of the Chretien era.
As I see it, the two most remarkable, successful politicians of my lifetime have not been Mackenzie King or Pierre Trudeau but Brian Mulroney and Jean Chretien.
Both emerged to high office from a working-class family in small pulp-and-paper towns. Each was inordinately ambitious and energetic. Each was in too much of a hurry and with too wide a reach to get more than a shallow education. Each oozed public gall, the one distinguished by blarney, the other by combativeness. And each has an exceptionally astute, attractive, and helpful wife.
Of the two, Jean Chretien seems more remarkable to me (as an individual in politics, not in legacy) because he has continued to contradict stock Canadian attitudes on seemly political behaviour. His roughness and toughness persisted even as his powers in office widened without much public objection, whereas Mulroney increasingly developed such gloss that he earned the curse of “too slick.”
In terms of achievement, the gist of the tale in Iron Man comes in a summation by Chretien himself of his run as PM:
“You have to be an iron man to see it through,” he tells the author. “We wanted to restore the economy and we wanted to build back the unity of the country and have a country that is independent … I delivered the goods. Canada is in good shape today. So I’m going home.”
Most of the detail in Iron Man is set out coherently, in particular the lengthy story line of distrust and competition between the prime minister and Paul Martin, his minister of finance, which crystallized first when Chretien succeeded John Turner as Liberal leader in 1990, easily defeating Martin. This rivalry led last year to Chretien taking Martin’s resignation, followed by his notice he would quit office in 18 months time.
Neither the PM nor his unofficial successor comes through in Iron Man as any model of fair play or of placing party and country above person. The author is not given to moral judgments, but this reader takes it that he sees both Chretien and Martin as naturals at ruthlessness in politics.
This past week one story from Iron Man has had the most notice; that is, evidence Chretien and then defence minister David Collenette, shaken by opinion polling which indicated Quebec sovereigntists were likely to win the referendum of 1995, were not going to accept such a verdict abjectly. They readied or were readying constitutional arguments and, if necessary, military force to prevent any immediate declaration of Quebec independence.
What seems much more worthy of large-scale examination by citizens is the author’s clear, patient, and thorough recounting of the sleaze, excessive patronage, and wasteful stupidities of the Chretien government – the cancelled contracts for helicopters and Pearson airport extension or the gun registry fiasco.
There are a score or so of anecdotes that illustrate the vindictive side of Chretien and even more about his key aides.
One story, that of dismissing Herb Gray, the longest-sitting MP in the House from the cabinet, demonstrates how little exemplary loyalty and service to him and the Liberal Party means to Chretien. Another details how crude and vengeful he was in denying a baronetcy in the United Kingdom to Conrad Black as a Canadian citizen.
Does the sum of all this grim stuff about the Chretien period outweigh the positives (e.g., the relative recovery of the economy, the end of big deficits, the quiet on the unity front)?
For me it does. As Iron Man demonstrates, Chretien has not given us a competent, frugal administration, nor has he centred it on either Parliament or in an able, alert cabinet.
And yet he has been true to himself in consistent, plain, sometimes ugly, behaviour, and in simple justifications, not esoteric or abstract ones. Just a guy; somewhat a rogue, as confident in himself as when I met him 40 years ago.
He was as he remains: rackety in French, busting in English, impatient, curious, smart, energetic, and stubborn. Lawrence Martin’s biography has described him well.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 19, 2003
ID: 12030671
TAG: 200310190264
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


There are several reasons why a bystander’s enthusiasm should be restrained at the news from Stephen Harper and Peter MacKay there will be a hurry-up merging of the Canadian Alliance and federal Progressive Conservatives, creating a united right-wing party in time to fight the election Paul Martin is almost sure to call in five or six months, (given Jean Chretien’s persistence about his February exit date).
First, do not believe it is certain to happen until a new leader has been chosen and accepted with genuine acclaim at the convention. And to be worth a hoot, this has to happen with widespread approval by delegates from 300-plus federal constituencies, all pumped and excited by an attendant national interest created by massive media coverage.
To get the latter necessity there will need to be a considerable shift from the coverage Martin has been getting.
In the present media gang which closely covers federal affairs, there seems more entrancement and less skepticism about Martin, or about the integrity and capabilities of the Liberals as governors, than you might expect. This will wear down over time (one prays), but along with this fascination for the Grits goes more derisive belittling of persons, ideas and practices generally tagged as “conservative” or “right-wing” than there has been for years.
One can catch a flavour of this in the surprisingly substantial notice and the greater respect being given the newish NDP leader, Jack Layton, in the past three months. Meanwhile, Harper and Mackay have been derided down to the generalized conclusion that neither would be a positive factor as leader of a new Conservative Party.
Harper, however knowledgeable he may be, is seen as too cold a dude; and MacKay, despite his relative youth, as old-fashioned and a dodger. Neither is seen as a credible alternative to the great Martin.
Time is so short for this “conservative” party. So much has to be done that, even in the most stable of parties, is quite edgy or contentious. Chances abound for a string of new schmozzles arising from the Alliance’s blunt western populism and benign welfare state Toryism.
A string of such collisions – particularly any anti-gay stuff – could foul the process of picking a plausible leader while also readying to fight a general election almost immediately after the choice is made.
This potential for dissension goes well beyond clashes between those who are truly conservative (one might say both economically and culturally speaking) and those who are much broader minded about social behaviour or Employment Insurance.
In at least 200 constituencies there are both Alliance and Tory riding associations, and most have regular members who have planned to stand for election to the House. Redistribution changes being rushed through for the next election have already caused clashes between sitting MPs over constituencies with new boundaries. Add to such jangling, the contesting ambitions there will be of loyal Alliance and PC followers for riding offices and candidacies in the new party.
Nailing down a new organization for each constituency has the doubled need of getting delegates for the leadership convention while preparing to select an electoral candidate from old Tories, former Reformers and brand-new crusaders against perpetual Liberal domination.
One matter sure to bedevil the choice of the Conservative Party leader is official bilingualism. A party leader cannot be taken seriously if he or she cannot speak in both English and French in a public fashion or, if he or she is English-speaking, is at least deeply engaged in mastering French. Harper seems to have a respectable competence when speaking French, well ahead, say, of what Stockwell Day or Kim Campbell demonstrated as leaders, and also ahead of MacKay. As for some of the most heralded leadership prospects, surely no one anticipates public performances in French from Ralph Klein (age 61), Mike Harris (58) or Preston Manning (62) although the latter has studied hard to master the language.
The obvious choice for bilingual quality would have to be New Brunswick Premier Bernard Lord, a touted but reluctant prospect. It’s my hunch Lord has to be the choice, if he’ll run, and, if not, the best choice left has to be Harper.
Common sense suggests a candidate from Ontario, and the only one in sight with a fair record is Harris. But among the broad centre and left he almost rates as much abuse as that heaped on right-wing icons Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.
Of course, the likeliest prospect as a catalyst for rancorous conflict is David Orchard, the aspirant in this year’s Tory leadership race whose backing made MacKay the winner. It’s not impossible that Harper, MacKay and Harris might be joined in the race by Orchard and by Day, bucked up by his stint as Alliance foreign affairs critic.
Such a spectre makes one wish the two men who most deepened the division on our “right” – Brian Mulroney and Preston Manning – would join the leadership race.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 15, 2003
ID: 12029440
TAG: 200310150292
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


One developing consequence of Paul Martin’s long wait to be prime minister is broad appreciation there are more elements in the choice and running of government than we thought.
How quickly we have moved past mere “cabinet” government. And not just to government centred in the Prime Minister’s Office, or accepting the almost absolute directions to government and Parliament that now issue from the Supreme Court as it uses the Charter of Rights to redirect legislation.
Just a week ago, I noted here that Ed McWhinney, political scientist and former Liberal MP, in his new book, Chretien and Canadian Federalism, made the point there was constitutional significance in last year’s takeover of the Liberal party’s organization by Martin and his followers. This led Prime Minister Jean Chretien to announce he would resign in some 18 months.
Few Canadians think of a political party organization – with its constituency associations, its national, regional and riding executives, its general membership and its conventions – as intrinsic in the Canadian Constitution, even though parties frame policies and choose possible prime ministers. But this ousting of an incumbent PM, organized and led by an MP of the same party, was achieved not through any vote expressing a lack of confidence in him, either by the House, his cabinet or the party caucus. Does this mean there should be some standardization or regulation of such a hitherto unused process?
Those with long memories may argue Chretien’s departure has a precedent in what Dalton Camp, as president of the Progressive Conservative party, did to John Diefenbaker in 1967.
Indeed, that was a case where a leadership convention was held in spite of the incumbent leader’s determination to resist it, backed by most of his caucus. Diefenbaker sought re-election, up against seven serious aspirants, and lost – badly. But the Chief was not the prime minister, and one should note that Camp was not within the PC caucus.
The democratic common sense of the Camp-led “belling” of the Chief quickly led to a situation where all the federal parties provided in their constitutions for regular leadership reviews. Indeed, it was to evade the likely ignominy of such a review which led Chretien into his long goodbye and Martin into his long wait, a wait which – if you believe press stories – now much aggravates the impatience of the leading lights in the inner cadre of Martin organizers, planners and spinners so anxious to run the federal government.
What’s surprising, at this stage, is the lack of any critical clamour about the significance within our federalized version of the parliamentary system (as distinct from the presidential/congressional system) of this unusual removal of a prime minister.
Was it done fairly, and in line with democratic practice?
My answer to that would stress that it was not so much unfair to Chretien – yes, it was rather delightfully surreptitious – as to its now obvious consequence in driving away any serious competitors. So it became a coronation, not a victory.
Could another Liberal MP who was neither personally wealthy nor having the huge, state-paid resources and staff of the most powerful department (Finance) have pulled off such a coup?
How will, or how might, the new, federal legislation which generally outlaws major corporate or union donations to parties and their candidates affect such competition within a party for its major offices? The figure keeps being bandied in the media that Martin has raised over $11 million to pay for his campaign. That seems extremely high and, one would hope, unnecessary, given so much of the Martin organization was abetted by people working for many months within the ministry of Finance during his eight years there.
It’s politically correct at this time to idolize “transparency” in government, in particular on expenditures but also in observance of rules on hiring and promotion and, of course, of ready response to requests for information on plans and programs. But how to come up with what has gone on, and will go on for another quarter in this Martin-for-PM operation?
Martin doesn’t seem to see the paradox in his emphasis on “the democratic deficit” while fudging the particulars of who did what, and who gave what, to his long campaign for the Liberal leadership while minister of finance.
Should it be made impossible to stage and run such a long, widespread, intense – and expensive – operation, with not just hundreds of volunteers but so many government employees, plus consultants on contract to a ministry?
These questions should disturb those really liberally minded Liberals, if not about the fairness in the Martin campaign, at least about the mess that has ensued in the party, and in the capital, in the long wait.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 12, 2003
ID: 12028573
TAG: 200310120253
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Surely no high-level rebuff was more deserved than the one the Chretien government recently received regarding the memorial service in Pembroke for our two soldiers killed in Afghanistan.
That was the request from the commander of the Canadian army that there be no formal representation by the defence ministry or the chief of defence staff at the service for the two Canadian NCOs killed by a mine near Kabul.
And so, neither Defence Minister John McCallum, Gen. Ray Henault – nor, for that matter, Prime Minister Jean Chretien – was present for this grieving occasion.
My opinion comes as someone who has been repeatedly angered at the dodgy explanations coming from the prime minister and ministerial secretaries about there being no connection between the human and technical crises and shortfalls within our armed forces, and a government which has inordinately cut military spending.
Especially considering its practice of loading those who serve in our army, navy, and air force with chores abroad, in particular “peacekeeping.”
The legitimate outrage expressed by military advocates over such lunacies as cancelling – a decade ago – a contract for capable, safe helicopters is consistently evaded by this Liberal government. So is the enfeebling shortfall in the forces’ air-lift capabilities and the often decrepit state of the army’s land vehicles.
Liberal hypocrisy comes in our political masters praising the efforts of our military abroad, and committing it to more and more global assignments, while at the same time making it obvious through their actions that properly equipping our well-trained men and women is not their priority.
Behind all this is the Liberals’ tacit but unproclaimed backing for the “soft power” line advocated by Lloyd Axworthy. Better that we had it out in the open: Canada no longer wants a military trained and equipped to fight tough anywhere in the world.
An attendant source of anger has been the Liberal readiness to use the military’s tragedies abroad for mournful, mawkish tributes to “heroes” and “bravery.”
For example, the defence minister response to opposition critics of the vehicles used by our patrols in Afghanistan was that they were dishonouring the noble sacrifices of brave Canadians.
It has been brutally clear through the Chretien decade that he leads a government and party which gives a low priority to both spending and a genuine interest in our military.
At least be open and honest about it.
And yet, when anything grand in national significance comes up, particularly in domestic disasters like floods and forest fires, or in things gone awry in UN or NATO assignments – see Bosnia, Somalia, Afghanistan – suddenly the military is praiseworthy – Liberal style.
McCallum strikes me as even more irritating than previous defence ministers like Art Eggleton and David Collenette in speaking for the forces, in part because he is more glib and believes he has a public wit, which, unfortunately, often comes across as just smart-alecky, rather than informative. And McCallum is only one element of what is overall, a disappointing Chretien ministry.
This PM obviously has two noticeable ministerial groupings: first, his early supporters and long-time cronies – the Sergio Marchis and Collenettes; and, second, the “star” candidates recruited for the House and marked for ministerial destiny.
Common sense suggests the old cronies are not “best buys.” Certainly, many have not been – see Marchi or Lawrence MacAulay or Alfonso Gagliano or Ron Irwin or Dave Dingwall.
Meanwhile, by and large, the starry recruits to the Chretien team have been or are among the most undistinguished of his ministers.
Of course, none of them seems to realize this, as one may see in the House question period in Allan Rock’s superb gloss of confidence as he glibly evades critical analysis while vouching absolute assurance and competence, despite a decade’s run of mistakes in both judgment and execution.
A cynic also has to wonder if such errors and bald arrogance even matter, given the strong oversight and direction of this administration from its power centre in the PMO and the rise under the Charter of Rights of legislative oversight by the higher courts, which now tells Parliament what particular legislation must be.
The spin issuing from the handlers around Paul Martin has been that he, too, will recruit at least a handful of “star” candidates in order to guarantee a cabinet of quality.
From a citizen’s viewpoint, is it preferable that Martin’s strength be in the House, or remain where it has been in the crew of consultants who helped him execute his plan to gain control of the Liberal party as an organization?
To appreciate the Liberals’ star recruit syndrome, let me leave you with a baker’s dozen of Chretien’s “star” selections.
Art Eggleton, ex-mayor of Toronto; Rock, a youngish star of the Upper Canada bar; Hedy Fry, an ethnic “visible” and a prominent medical doctor in Vancouver; Michel Dupuy, a very cultured ambassador (France, and UN); Elinor Caplan, a strident, former high-profile provincial minister; Marcel Masse, a former top mandarin as Clerk of the Privy Council; Jon Gerrard, a young medical scientist of distinction, based in Winnipeg; Maria Minna, an Italo-Torontonian consultant on multicultural matters; Douglas Peters, a Toronto bank economist; McCallum, an economics professor and bank executive from Toronto; Pierre Pettigrew, a bubbling authority on international affairs; Stephane Dion, a constitutional authority and a son of a famous Quebec professor; and Stephen Owen, a prominent conciliator of social issues in B.C.
At least Owen, the most recent recruit, has hardly had much time to stumble, and the question of the contributions by Pettigrew and Dion to the good wrought by Chretien ministries is probably positive, although hard to appraise.
As a caution, let me acknowledge how enthusiastic I was some 45 years ago when prime minister John Diefenbaker reached for a “star” and brought in Sidney Smith, then president of the University of Toronto, to be his minister of external affairs. Despite high expectations across the partisan board in the next few years, he proved to be limited as a ministerial politician.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 08, 2003
ID: 12027419
TAG: 200310080579
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


British Columbia tends to send more oddball members of Parliament to Ottawa than other provinces.
None in recent times, in a positive sense, was further from the ordinary run-of-the-mill MP than Liberal Edward McWhinney. He represented the riding of Vancouver Quadra for two terms, 1993-2000, before choosing not to run again. He was different, not least in his occupation and its reach.
Never before had the House had an MP who was a global authority on constitutions of all sorts, not just the Canadian one, or the British or American.
In his two terms in the House, despite being an assiduous MP, often in the chamber, an intent listener and a constant elaborator of discussion through questioning during debate, in both English and French, McWhinney never won major, or extended, attention in the media coverage of Hill affairs. Was it his advanced years – 69 – when first elected? Was it his polished, precise, rather unCanadian diction in our official languages, the consequence of Australian birth and much higher education in the U.S. and France? Was it his courtesy to all around him, so unlike the Rat Pack behaviour long the brightest thread in Liberal partisanship? Or was he so learned and thorough he made reporters wary?
Well, maybe a bit of each. In any case, he’s back in Ottawa this week promoting a book he’s written: Chretien and Canadian Federalism: Politics and the Constitution, 1993-2003. It’s a 220-page paperback, published by Ronsdale Press, Vancouver.
I think it’s a shrewd dissection and exposition of Jean Chretien’s government through what the author defines as “a transitional period” in our national history when we jumped from a government-led bilingualism-biculturalism to a multicultural Canada and a “a community of communities.”
It’s also a substantial read, aimed at those keen on politics. It’s neither heavy with scholarship nor light with laughs. As one who thought some years watching Chretien had given me all one needed for measuring the man and his times, I’ve found much to ponder about the PM in this book, not least in its study of the unusual mix of energy, simplicity, guile, toughness, and managing skills the man has, so often overlooked by those who see him as a rube and roughneck.
The text has a thoughtful explanation of why the decision forced on Chretien to retire created a new element in the Canadian Constitution. This was an unseating of a prime minister within the governing party’s organization, not as a result of an election loss or a defeat in Parliament in a vote of confidence.
Henceforth, if maintaining control of the party organization is vital to its retention by the leader, then it is imperative the constitutions of political parties have protections in them which can only come from meeting national standards of fairness and scrutiny.
As for Chretien’s “presidential” bent, its origins are traced back to innovations in roles and bureaucratic manning in the Pierre Trudeau and Brian Mulroney regimes. The “bent” was less effective under Chretien than it might have been, simply because the PMO on which the governing was based was less weighty in both knowledge or wisdom than was needed. Further, its handling of backbench Liberals like puppets was demeaning and eventually enervated even the most talented ones, shamed by so many “disasters” on the benches in front of them.
Future, serious measures of Jean Chretien and his place in our history will have to deal with those sketched by McWhinney, in particular with his description of “the Chretien doctrine” on the primacy Canada gives the United Nations through our stance before and since the invasion of Iraq.
Let me give a simple sample of McWhinney’s common sense. It follows sharp references on inadequate Chretien cabinets, changes which came so late, like John Manley’s appointment (“a strong, deliberately non-flamboyant deputy prime minister”), or the burst of legislative endeavors during the long farewell.
“The building of a legacy, for someone charged with running a government, is better begun from the very outset of one’s term in office, and not left as a historical footnote to one’s twilight days, when the rapidly diminishing time capital becomes controlling.”
Prof. McWhinney gives small play to the intense interest now peaking about Paul Martin, who has less than half the index references of Mulroney or Trudeau. It’s emphasized that he was “strong” as a minister of finance in cutting spending, despite a caucus by and large far more intent on spending programs than on debt reduction. He concludes with six “policy signposts for post-Chretien Liberalism” which would make a lively core for Martin’s first throne speech.
Let me close with some McWhinney sense on a Martin matter.
“The concept of a ‘democratic deficit’ matching the ‘financial deficit’ successfully overcome by the prime minister and his finance minister by 1998 is an attractive one. But it needs to be fleshed out, in terms of concrete and detailed secondary principles for operational application, before it can be taken very seriously or considered as something more than a campaign slogan. In fact, in the indicia so far offered, it seems to fall short of the suggestions already made about two decades ago by the Lefebrvre and McGrath committees on reform of the House of Commons and to be in no real sense the sort of revolution against old thoughtways and outmoded institutions and processes that the well-informed and well-educated electorate of today is increasingly demanding.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 05, 2003
ID: 12026698
TAG: 200310050250
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Key Porter Books has just published two hardbacks about politicians: one, Dalton Camp, who is recently deceased; the other, Paul Martin Jr., just coming into his own at 65.
Each book is topical, the one on Camp less so, although anyone caught up in it will readily come to understand why the federal Tories and the Alliance are so unready for a merger. Each is useful if one is a fan of politics.
Both books have been getting positive reviews; indeed, some have been lyrical about Geoffrey Stevens’ The Player: The Life and Times of Dalton Camp and its hero. Others are much taken with the graceful prose in John Gray’s Paul Martin: The Power of Ambition.
Both Stevens and Gray were stalwarts over several decades in the coverage the Globe and Mail gave to federal politics. Stevens, in particular, earned a reputation as a thorough, competent reporter; Gray was considered idealistic, and modishly favourable to left-wing purposes.
Stevens has certainly been thorough without being salacious or judgmental on the complicated family life, loves and personal eccentricities of Dalton Camp, his advertising acumen and his “insider” successes as political organizer before he settled, rather late in life, into stardom at the Star as a Red Tory columnist.
It was my good fortune for several years in the early 1970s to share with Camp a provincial commission which published five reports advocating changes in the facilities, services, and financing of the Ontario legislature. We were too dissimilar in experience and values to be “mates.” My interests were not his. To me Dalton seemed detached from matters north and west of Toronto, and often disinterested in run-of-the-mill MPPs and MPs.
In the commission’s work, he readily let me cover improvements for backbenchers. I did see he was sentimental about his pals in the Maritimes and he was modest when under attention and flattery. I found him unfailingly temperate, assiduous and positive. He split the work fairly, and we shared the satisfaction when some 80% of our recommendations were accepted.
Those good memories fit well with the Camp whose course author Stevens covers intensively from boyhood in California to the widespread mourning last year at his passing.
It fascinated me, as a columnist, that Stevens sets out the gist of a review in 1980 by Camp which savaged a book by Globe columnist Jeffrey Simpson. The review enraged Simpson, and Stevens says for several years he refused to recognize Camp.
Well, in a review last week in the Globe, Simpson had his say.
Stevens, said Simpson, “obviously admires his subject, almost as much as the subject admired himself.”
Simpson describes Camp’s much-admired political thought as “elegant skepticism, except that it was spoiled by twinges of bitterness and sarcasm that played best with his group of close-knit friends whom he defended in his columns.”
I myself could see from my experience with Camp why Simpson formed this opinion of him: “There was always something about Dalton Camp of a man who considered himself more brilliant than others and resented somewhat that others outside his coterie of friends failed to appreciate that brilliance.”
Simpson does emphasize, as political history already does, that Camp established the party practice of making leaders face regular challenges of their leadership. But was his main contribution to our politics “as a backroom boy skilled in the black arts of organizing campaigns,” as Simpson says? I think that’s too narrow and picky. It doesn’t allow for Camp’s contribution on the political stage of Canada over four decades as a strong, controversial person.
Let me close with some pointers in John Gray’s book about Martin, our prime minister-in-waiting. The part of it which I vouch as accurate, or very close to it, is on the close, political relationship between the Pauls, father and son, and with mother Nell and sister Mary Anne close at hand, including the broad recognition by the four of them that Junior should acquire wealth before going for the big prize.
The most interesting, perhaps puzzling, revelation of the book is Paul Jr.’s obsessive, repetitious usage of largely private, group arguments and discussions.
Another aspect which Gray intimates, more as possibility than certainty, is that the smiling, gracious man we’ve seen often has temperamental outbursts – rather like a certain prime minister noted for high-handed arrogance. The author insists his protagonist is “an enigma,” not just to people close or distant, but even to himself.
We hope not.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 01, 2003
ID: 12025446
TAG: 200310010317
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


It’s hard to recall in modern times an Ontario election campaign – or, indeed, any federal election but the one in 1993 – in which for four weeks in a row there were reiterated forecasts based on opinion polling of a smashing defeat of the governing party.
Just over five weeks ago, interpreters (such as I) could speculate a minority Legislature might be coming and not seem foolish, probably because in the past the Liberals’ leads in opinion polls would fade away during a campaign, and they have the same leader, Dalton McGuinty.
He is so unimpressive that yesterday, despite the clear assumption he’s a shoo-in, an academic pundit, Andrew Cohen of Carleton University, had this to say of him:
“Unlike (Ernie) Eves, McGuinty seems to have no nastiness or guile. In fact, he seems to have nothing at all. Is he Mr. McGoo, Mr. Chips or Mr. Rogers?
“McGuinty may be a nice guy, but as a premier he is unconvincing, however big his majority may be this week. That doesn’t make him bad, just the wrong person to bring a younger generation into politics.”
Clearly, if Prof. Cohen speaks for thousands of others who are bemused by Dalton’s jerky Joe Clark-like musculature and the repetitious cliches of partisan phraseology on which he smacks his lips, he begins his term as premier without great expectations.
One has to take his ascension at Queen’s Park as either an indicator the electorate is not deeply engaged this time around or further proof of how lame or damned Eves and Howard Hampton seem to voters.
One supposes each of these leaders is cursed in some large part by the deep burns on electors left by his predecessor: Eves by Mike Harris, who never really explained why he walked away from a second term of something so important to conservatism as the Common Sense Revolution; Hampton, by the five-year debacle (1990-95) presided over by Bob Rae, arguably the most useless premier since George Henry during the Great Depression.
On the day before the vote, two aspects of this Ontario campaign stand out for me. Or, putting it more accurately, do not stand out when they should with a Liberal sweep building – one which could leave the Tories with as few as 15 MPPs, the New Democrats with as few as eight and the Liberals as many as 80.
The first missing aspect has been any excessive public cherishing for the sweeper and coincidental, brutal rejection of he who is being swept back to Bay Street.
The second has been the failure of any one or two issues to catch hold and take fire – say over confusion and clashing objectives in education or some crystallizing of favour or rejection for tax relief or raised taxes. There’s been more obsession in both reporting and commentary over a mindless Tory phrase about the Liberal leader as a menace to kittens than any widespread, popular excitement, positive or negative, about what each leader and his party will do in office.
This seems odd, when one reads as a voter the quite lengthy list of undertakings in so many of the pamphlets or brochures being brought to one’s door, especially by the Liberals and Conservatives.
Each party has some promises which one might have expected to ignite challenge and controversy.
For example, the Tories would ban teachers’ strikes, give seniors (like me) a rebate of the provincial portion of their property taxes and introduce mortgage interest deductibility – an American practice which has been advocated here since the 1950s.
For example, the Liberals will not raise taxes; yet they guarantee balanced budgets. They will phase out coal-burning power plants, require kids to stay in school until 18, cap class size in early grades at 20 pupils, freeze college and university tuition fees, reinforce rent controls to deal with massive rent hikes and fix election dates (believe me, a big change within our parliamentary system).
For example, the New Democrats would introduce public auto insurance in Ontario, make public ownership the norm again in developing and distributing electricity and reverse the privatization that has been developing in the health care system.
With the Liberals under McGuinty certain of victory, we are able to look forward to an extremely busy lot of legislating. And if they get a somewhat larger opposition than the 20-plus figure, it will be a busy, contentious time, in part because their slate of intentions is so long, various and challenging, and in part because theirs is the party which is advocating “free” votes for MPPs, a referendum to let voters consider changing the electoral system and tight limits on both the raising and spending of money for politics.
In this, McGuinty sounds like Paul Martin. In his campaign to replace Jean Chretien as prime minister, Martin describes “the democratic deficit” of the House of Commons and promises to erase it.
The doubts one has at this point are less about the worth of the Liberal undertakings than about the smartness and staying power of McGuinty and, as Andrew Cohen has put it, his lack of “nastiness and guile.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, September 28, 2003
ID: 12024641
TAG: 200309280244
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


How different from 35 years ago. In the 1968 Liberal leadership run, Paul Martin, Sr., the initial favourite, faded in the stretch, withdrawing after having tied for fourth on the first ballot, far behind Pierre Trudeau, the eventual winner.
Martin, Sr. was then 65, the age today of his son, winner of the prize his dad set sights on in the late 1930s and ran for and lost twice, in 1958 and 1968.
The irony of the “age” factor back in 1968 is pointed out in the candid volumes of A Very Public Life, by Martin Sr. He was frustrated at being tagged as too old, too slick and too familiar, ratings which were contrasted with the exploding presence in the race of a wealthy bachelor lawyer, just 49.
As Martin, Sr. wrote: “The point had been used against me so often – that my age had led to a gap between younger Canadians and me … I was trapped in two ways: between my party’s youth and old guard and between its left and right wings … My record as a reformer and as a lifelong proponent of social justice began to count for little in the eyes of the editorial writers; ‘cautious’ became the favourite adjective to pin on me.”
In one chapter, he reviewed his 10-year apprenticeship as a plain MP. He’d had a rugged fight getting nominated in his Windsor riding and more trouble taking it, then holding it twice before W.L. Mackenzie King made him a minister in 1945. Gradually, he become a national symbol of the “complete politician,” the smooth, smiling hand-shaker with lofty or light words for any occasion. He was exasperated by such caricature, in part because he did not enjoy campaigning, and simmered when nicknamed “Senator Phogbound” by a columnist (after a character in the L’il Abner comic strip). He was bookish, and a comparative rarity in electoral politics: a real intellectual with a wide grounding and continuing interest in philosophy, social science and modern history.
I had chats by the hour with Paul, Sr. when we both were opposition MPs (1957-65) and many later when he was a senator (1968-75), then high commissioner in the U.K. (1975-79). He was a closet “spoofer,” with a debunking wit, and was fascinated by fellow politicians. Often, our talk got into his ambition to lead the Liberals and the government, and after his loss (to Lester Pearson) in 1958, he would refer to the advice he was giving his only son:
Forget becoming an MP. Wrap up college and law school, then get into business. Make a lot of money. Get a name outside politics and line up lots of financial backers before tackling politics. Don’t toil away at it for years and get bypassed for a fresh, elite outsider.
Time and again the Liberal Party had chosen a leader who hadn’t had to fight for a nomination or prove his qualities in the House but who’d got a name beyond politics and been lured in as a star candidate.
And so Martin, Jr. joined Power Corp. in Montreal, and shortly moved into merchant marine management and then into ship-owning.
Maurice Strong, a petroleum salesman who became executive VP of Power Corp. in 1960 and president in 1963 was a friend of Martin, Sr. and mentor to Junior. Strong has a fascination with global development, and he was to earn international renown as an authority on climate and food. In large part, because UN doors and world conferences had been opened for him by Martin, Sr. when he was minister for external affairs (1963-68).
Jean Chretien’s long goodbye has been a drag for Martin, Jr., in part because he has worked to become prime minister ever since finally entering the House in 1988 and losing the Liberal leadership (handily) to Chretien in 1990.
At this point, one is entitled to wonder why so few in the media, or in opposition ranks, have pushed the “too old” button on Martin, Jr. And how does one explain that in 1968, nine candidates of substance, eight of whom were federal ministers, entered the Liberal race, and all but one stayed until the convention vote – whereas this time the top party officials are trying to dissuade the only other candidate to drop out of the race so she won’t further muck up a largely anti-climactic convention?
Let me argue that the advice and pragmatic backing in job placement which Martin, Sr. gave his son was shrewd. Of course, Junior might have been wiser to leave business for politics one election before he did – i.e., in 1984. If he had survived the Brian Mulroney sweep he’d have had much more going for him in 1990 in his first try at the leadership.
His victory this time is so much a completing flourish of the family put together by Paul and Nell Martin almost 70 years ago. Nell shares the family stage, not just by what she was as a political wife, but genetically in the endowments of Paul, Jr. As one who knew both, it fascinates me that the son is so much more like the mother than the father – it’s there physically in colouring, profile, eyes and posture; there socially in easy charm and chatty confidence; and there in a priority for people and society over the serious reading and persistent analysis of causes and effects which were so much the bent of the father.
And yet, in the almost total control gained over the Liberal party organization, Junior has shown a political ruthlessness that never seemed nearly as strong in either of his parents.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, September 24, 2003
ID: 11935994
TAG: 200309240527
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


In remarks since his role as the next prime minister was certified last weekend, an earnest Paul Martin has made the point that as yet people do not appreciate “fundamental” changes are coming in the way government and Parliament work.
In this, he seems to be heralding a return to cabinet government rather than prime-ministerial government, back to genuine parliamentary oversight of both bills and estimates, and an end to the domination of federal Canada by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the Privy Council Office (PCO).
Such a forecast from the man soon to head the federal leviathan intrigues those of us closely watching Parliament.
For decades, advocating parliamentary reform has preoccupied me. Let’s give real work to MPs of all parties. Create and maintain a public interest in a lively Parliament. Free MPs from the tag “nobodies” put on them 30 years or so ago by an arrogant prime minister.
Hope springs eternal; unfortunately so does skepticism.
We have so few particulars on these “fundamental” changes.
Perhaps the clearest one intimated by Martin is the adoption of a practice of the British House of Commons. In it, party caucuses grade beforehand the items of business to be voted on by means of a “three-line whip.” This allows backbench MPs more latitude on how they vote on motions than is the case here where so-called free votes are rare; indeed where most House votes are of “confidence” and the government is gone if it loses one.
Such a practice here would be a useful item in a slate of parliamentary reforms, but so much of its worth depends on how the opposition parties in the House exploit what may seem to many a fragmenting government caucus.
Our parliamentary matters are often given three general headings: a) as a forum or national sounding board, as in the daily oral question period; b) legislating bills into law after debate and approval by votes; and c) scrutinizing government spending.
In my judgment, the recent Commons has been: a) poor, and largely farcical as a fail-safe forum with straight questions and honest answers; b) mediocre with bills (legislation); and c) most inadequate in scrutinizing spending.
The farce of question period owes much to being such an easy, cheap filler of TV newscasts.
The leading flaws in dealing with bills is the lack of input into their preparation by plain MPs, particularly government MPs, and so often the hidebound refusal of the government ministers (and their mandarins) to agree to amendments during passage.
As for scrutiny, MPs have almost always shown more interest in spending money, not in saving it or getting value from it. Frugality, by and large, is politically incorrect. Many see an obsession with it as the most cribbing factor of support for the Canadian Alliance.
For perspective on the Martin stuff on fundamental change, early in Lester Pearson’s years (1963-68) there was talk, much, like Martin’s, about a “working” Parliament. It was to be achieved largely by greater use of parliamentary committees, particularly on the “scrutiny” side of Commons affairs and in tackling particular subjects (such as immigration or unemployment insurance). Committees proliferated and are still numerous and active, taking far more of most MPs’ time than the House itself.
But committees draw little notice from either viewers or the media, and the PM and the inner cadre around the leaders of the opposition parties tend to police the party lines and loyalties in committees. Occasionally, but far from often, collegiality comes on strong in a committee, subduing partisanship and developing a practical, consistent, critical line.
Of course, there hasn’t been regular, close examination of government spending programs in the House for several decades. The House proceedings have few attendees, get little in coverage by the press, and draw minute TV ratings. Most of the standing committees are followed by their particular lobbyists or “stakeholders,” etc. and are monitored and guided by the public officials, concerned with guarding their minister’s repute. Senior MPs, from the prime minister to other leaders to ministers, to committee chairs, spend as little time as possible in the House, just listening and occasionally taking part, and there has been remarkably little exposure of ministers and their top mandarins to a close examination by committees.
So to make the “fundamental” changes Paul Martin talks about, which would empower MPs, will require drastic changes in engrained partisan practices within the House and in its committees.
Why my skepticism that Martin will or can institute such change so dangerous to ministerial responsibility and bureaucratic authority and anonymity?
Simple answer! First, he has not been a parliamentary reformer in his 15 years as an MP; rather, he has almost always put raucous, rallying partisanship ahead of courtesy and thorough exposition for the House.
Second, he has hardly been either a democrat or a frugal politician in his blockbuster grab of control over the Liberal party as an organization – see how he used consultants contracted to his Finance ministry in his campaign or ponder why he was so reluctant in disclosing the donors to his multi-million dollar pot.
Third, any major devolution of power and influence to MPs of the Commons most affects the PMO, the PCO, and the deputy ministers of the administration, especially those heading central agencies like the department of Finance and Treasury Board.
In short, his “fundamental changes” will have to either subtract authority from himself and from the federal mandarinate, giving and sharing some power and continuing influence to the MPs and House committees. He cannot make much of the House unless he and his ministers spend much more time in it, performing and listening.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, September 21, 2003
ID: 11935140
TAG: 200309210248
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


This weekend’s choice of delegates to the ruling party’s November convention should confirm that Paul Martin will become prime minister by February – or sooner, if Jean Chretien agrees to an earlier departure.
A rash of happenings in the past fortnight suggests that the sooner Martin gets hold of the Prime Minister’s Office, and shapes a ministry and a platform to go to the people at the end of April, the better the chances for a fourth straight Liberal government.
Martin will gain the leadership without having to do or say much to achieve it. The contest early became farcical and without competitive fire. It’s true Martin and his team have proved themselves strong as fund-raisers, just as they earlier adroitly gained control of the Liberal party as a structure largely by using consultants who’d also been contracted to Martin’s department of finance.
But by cinching such control, and certain victory, Martin has not had to play the heroic prime-minister-in-waiting. Immediate examples are at hand.
Take his uneasy and ambiguous waffling last week on the same-sex marriage issue during several brief, arranged scrums, or the bland banality of the pep talk of junior chamber of commerce quality – heralded as “economic policy” – to an admiring audience in his “home town” of Longueuil. (Martin continues strong against deficits and for prioritizing federal debt reduction. He wants more research, notably in technological fields, and in innovations which raise Canadian productivity and ensure adequate capital for entrepreneurs.)
It’s arguable that with the PMO a sure thing, Martin was wise not to confuse himself with Chretien’s last hurrah of legacy-leaving. Yes, but he could have offered some thoughtful alternatives, for example on mastering Parliament’s “democratic deficit.” Saying one will be “proactive” and advocating more “debate” involving both parliamentarians and citizens by the thousands doesn’t tell us much about what Martin expects from cabinet ministers – a species much reduced by Chretien and Pierre Trudeau.
If cabinets have become, as one shrewd political scientist has put it, just another “focus group,” how will Martin move to denude the supra-powerful PMO he inherits?
And he really should be speaking to the obvious weaknesses and moral turpitude in the federal public service. As Star columnist James Travers put it a week or so ago: “The sins of the past are cascading onto a Liberal government that mistakes the public purse for its own.”
A “confluence of extreme patronage, spineless policy and blatant hypocrisy is rare even in this national capital,” wrote Travers. His conclusion was vivid: “A street-tough prime minister who delighted in priming the partisan parish pump is now up to his knees in the resulting effluence … and it will only get deeper as a leader who should have left long ago struggles through a final fall that was never going to be uplifting, but now seems certain to be ugly. This is.”
And since that was written there’s been much more in the press, on the air and in the House on Liberal patronage stuff, an inefficient public service, more court charges in Quebec and more to come in Ontario over misuse of federal grant programs, more exorbitant expense account spending by ministers and their apparatchiks (see Sheila Copps).
More dangerous than this scenario of a broadly incompetent ministry and PMO to our hero are the further allegations of uncut ties between Martin as minister of finance, as owner of Canada Steamship Lines and as former half-owner of Voyageur Colonial bus lines (whose angry pensioners are getting 30% less than expected).
Whether Martin forms his first ministry and begins to govern in November, at year’s end or in February, he does not start with a clean slate of his own. The Superman label he seemed to have earned can still only be there for those who haven’t been following him.
The worst legacy Chretien is leaving Martin is probably not the government’s sleazy repute but the low quality in the 30-plus ministers, most of whom have declared for him. And they represent one of the main tests of whether he combines ability and moral fibre.
Get ready to join the call in a year or two for a “younger” prime minister if Martin’s first cabinet includes five or more of the following ministers: David Anderson, Jean Augustine, Ethel Blondin-Andrew, Don Boudria, Claudette Bradshaw, Elinor Caplan, Martin Cauchon, Denis Coderre, David Collenette, Sheila Copps, Paul De Villers, Herb Dhaliwal, Steve Mahoney, John McCallum, Lucienne Robillard, Allan Rock, Jane Stewart and Lyle Vanclief.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, September 17, 2003
ID: 11933908
TAG: 200309170510
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


The trigger to the same-sex debate yesterday in the House of Commons was pulled several months ago in a decision by three senior Ontario judges. In their interpretation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, they decided homosexuals should immediately have the right to marry and not have to wait for federal legislation.
The Chretien government chose not to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court but to ask the court to advise it on the legality of a draft proposal regarding same-sex marriage.
Meanwhile, in several provinces since that decision, same-sex marriages have become commonplace, although the matter has not had definitive legislation by Parliament or advice from the Supreme Court on whether same-sex unions should be called marriages or “civil unions.”
It also is not yet clear whether marriage, which has been taken in most faiths to be a religious sacrament that joins a man and a woman together to form a family, should be distinct from a same-sex union. Should a same-sex couple, considering themselves Roman Catholic, be entitled to their marriage ceremony within the Church by a priest? Would a denial of such by the Church be a contradiction of the equal rights which a same-sex couple has, or should have, under the Charter?
What seems clear from the many same-sex unions since the Ontario court spoke, and the Chretien government acquiesced, is the prevalent belief among high court judges that their interpretations of the Charter pre-empt Parliament’s consideration and enactment of laws in the same matters.
It was fascinating that the day before the same-sex debate and vote, one of ablest of Liberal MPs, John Bryden (Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Aldershot) put an argument to the Speaker of the House that there has been “contempt of the House” by a leading light of the Supreme Court, Justice Frank Iacobucci.
In 1998, in a judgment regarding an affront to the Charter rights of a gay teacher fired from the staff of a church-sponsored school in Alberta, Justice Iacobucci made a general statement which Bryden has come upon in two subsequent high court cases, one in Ontario, the other in B.C.
So this plain, clear statement has become the touchstone for further Charter interpretations that touch on Parliament and its roles.
Justice Iacobucci: “In my opinion, groups that have historically been the target of discrimination cannot be expected to wait patiently for the protection of their human dignity and equal rights while governments move toward reform one step at a time. If the infringement of the rights and freedoms of these groups is permitted to persist while governments fail to pursue equality diligently, then the guarantees of the Charter will be reduced to little more than empty words.”
As Bryden put it: “Implicit in these words is the suggestion that a government – that is, Parliament – is not capable of moving with alacrity in bringing reforms to society. It implies that some other authority should be charged with bringing the forms forward that the authority deems appropriate … that absolutely erodes the democratic principles of this House …
“We have to have an eye toward the people who elected us. To suggest that some other authority should take over from Parliament to bring in reforms because Parliament is not acting as fast as that authority thinks appropriate – and that authority in this case is the courts – then I think that is an affront to Parliament … Furthermore, I would ask you, Mr. Speaker, to examine these two sentences very carefully because when the justice made these remarks he also stated: ‘If the infringement of the rights and freedoms of these groups is permitted to persist while governments fail to pursue equality diligently … ‘”
Bryden continued, “The problem is that we might want to bring in reforms and want to make everything equal for all Canadians, but we have to balance the conflicting interests of other Canadians. That is what democracy is all about. To suggest that people in this place or the other place are not pursuing equality diligently is an absolute affront to the House …
“The impact of these words was profound, and that is why I am standing here. Because this obviously reflects a form of judicial activism that sets the courts above Parliament in formulating laws and it did have an immediate impact.”
John Reynolds, the Alliance House leader, and Paul Szabo, a Liberal MP (Mississauga South) spoke in support of Bryden’s argument that Parliament’s privileges were abused by Justice Iacobucci’s trend-setting opinion. Neither the government House leader nor the Liberal whip spoke against it.
Szabo noted that a like opinion was expressed by the recent Ontario Court of Appeal ruling on same-sex marriage in its emphasis “that the change would be effective immediately on a matter which has clearly been so divisive and sensitive in Canada. Three judges changed the laws and changed them immediately, thereby pre-empting Parliament’s rights to continue the work of the justice committee.”
How might Speaker Peter Milliken rule on Bryden’s request that Parliament respond to this judicial override of its authority and responsibility? Probably he will toss it aside, but this matter of judges vs. Parliament won’t go away.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, September 14, 2003
ID: 11933312
TAG: 200309140317
SECTION: Comment
ILLUSTRATION: photo by Jason Ransom, Sun Media
SENATOR HARB … 15-year Ottawa Liberal MP Mac Harb has been appointed to the Senate by PM Jean Chretien.
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


There has been, and will be, no more symbolic act of capital “L” Liberalism than the appointment in mid-week to the Senate of Mac Harb, age 49, for 15 years the Liberal MP for a riding in central Ottawa.
At this news there’s been both immediate outrage and the deeper cynicism so common when a prime minister rewards one of his infantry.
Those of us long on Parliament Hill have been aware of Harb, a proud, ethnic multiculturist (of Lebanese mark) since he began slugging his way aroundCentre-town in his 20s, first to win, then to hold, and eventually to parlay an alderman’s seat into an MP’s seat.
Now he has the ultimate good gift from the prime minister’s treasure chest, a Senate seat.
Of course, this attainment did not come easy, as it sometimes does to party bagmen or to ministers who need a hoist out of harm’s way in the House or to the occasional proverbial outstanding citizen.
The basis for the Senate prize in the Mac Harb case was his unwavering loyalty to leader and to party.
Such has been so evident in diligent, competent attention for any citizen who has problems with City Hall or Queen’s Park or the federal bureaucracies.
This service is known to me because I used it a number of times over two decades, taking some knotty difficulties brought to me by readers who lived in the capital to Harb (who knew I was no fan of his or his great party). He either got some redress or satisfied the complainant. He is a bulldog sort and no fool and he’s had competent staff. He’s also made it known for some years that the summit of his ambition was not a place in the cabinet, not in a relative sinecure on a federal board or commission, but to be a senator. And there, of course, he’ll serve his leader, the party, and the parliamentary caucus as thoroughly as he has in the House. No fear that Senator Harb will ever be missing many votes or be docked for absenteeism.
Health permitting, until his term of service ends in 2030 AD, Harb will be slugging for the party and doing whatever the leader wants done. To get a measure of the smarts of Harb, indeed of most Lebanese-Canadians, take his and their record of avoiding contention with the favour official Ottawa has shown Israel since 1949, a stance monitored effectively by domestic Jewish organizations.
It is through the loyalties and ever-readiness of the Mac Harbs of the Liberal party that it has been, and is, so successful, in creating and keeping support in so many of Canada’s ethnic elements; more than it gains by recruiting “stars” like Art Eggleton, Allan Rock, Elinor Caplan, or an as yet undelivered genius like Frank McKenna.
What is somewhat surprising is that Harb emerged, one might say, from the earth of the capital itself, not through party work in Toronto or Montreal (say, as did Senator Jerry Grafstein or now retired senators such as Leo Kolber and Keith Davey). Nowhere in Canada, not even in Alberta, is there so much cynicism and down-putting of most senatorial picks as there is in the Ottawa media. The taste for senators in Ottawa as the civic-minded federal capital has a high tone. It savours a heroic auditor of exactness in governance like the late senator Eugene Forsey or a child education authority like Landon Pearson or a Christian pacifist like Lois Wilson or a miracle heart transplanter like Wilbert Keon, but not a prodigy of party loyalty and populist minutiae such as Mac Harb.
A review I was making of positions and appointments in the Chretien years coincided with the good news for Mac Harb and Lebanese-Canadians. And it put me back on the trail so familiar to columnists of defining the quality and the merits of the Chretien regime. It has been apparent since the first mandate (1993-97) that the significance in the Liberal government as an executive was in the huge roles taken by the PMO and by the Ministry of Finance under Paul Martin, not in the cabinet as a whole or in any handful of doers and innovators, and absolutely not in the House itself.
The fairest of appraisers would find it hard to rate any ministers but Chretien or Martin as worth an A, let alone an A-plus. Push on. Go over Chretien’s ministers since the 2000 election, and see how hard it is to give an A mark to any but Ralph Goodale – and he as a masterful stonewaller!
All in all, whether one’s retrospect is over decades or only 1993-2003, think about what mostly explains the ethically tawdry, boondoggle-prone Liberal party’s survival in such strength and favour that it is now transiting to a genuine successor as leader and prime minister despite an intrinsically comic run of antics and posturing over the past 14 months.
How could this happen? Why aren’t the Liberals – Chretien people, Martin people – being laughed and jeered into the opposition wasteland, given so much incompetence and crookedness in their decade?
Is it because the nation has been zapped by the “proactive” bilge Martin has been spouting or because there is a continuing appeal in “the little guy” from Shawinigan?
My explanation would push forward Mac Harb. The Liberals catch and keep the Harbs – loyal, durable – and knowing there is fair odds in worthwhile recognition.
Yes, Jean Chretien nurtured and kept his own loyalists. And so has Paul Martin. The beauty of it all for the Liberals is that with them come the change the Mac Harbs carry on, loyal, durable, and expectant.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, September 10, 2003
ID: 11932090
TAG: 200309100766
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


We should be praying that Paul Martin and his closest advisors are crystallizing a firm, clear plan to deal with what Canada must do about the United States.
How can we best help out, and, obviously, so sustain ourselves?
Too many of us are smug at the unfolding evidence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, and Israel, even from the oddball intransigent North Korea, that the ambitions of the Bush administration, and the world’s only military superpower have been checkmated, and even worse, in the largely Islamic world of the Middle East and east Asia.
Too many of us fix on what they see as a likelihood next year that the ultra-conservative, super-patriotic Republicans and their simplifying president will lose power to liberally-minded Democrats. Not enough of us understand the legacy of fear from 9/11 and the national commitment to fight terrorists in their source lands that has affected most Americans, not just “neo-con” Republicans.
Democrats are patriots, too, and as ready as Republicans to be critical of our immigration system, border controls, allegedly unfair trade practices, military unreadiness, etc. and even the halo of moral superiority we wear so often.
In short, whether it’s Bush or a Democrat in 2004, the U.S. is in deep trouble and desperately needing friends, not righteous, anti-American Canadians like Lloyd Axworthy, who is now clamouring the U.S. give primacy in Iraq to the United Nations.
Worst of all the current manifestations is the doomsaying synopsis from cultural historians, who say we are entering a brutal epoch dominated by an ideologically-based conflict: i.e., the religious tenets and conservative mores of Islam against the broad hedonistic liberalism of the West, symbolized supremely by America.
Canadians ought to wonder why so many of us ignore what has been obvious for several generations: how entwined our economic well-being and social stability are with America’s.
Yes, yes, there was, and remains, strong public backing for Jean Chretien’s refusal to put Canada into the U.S./U.K.-led alliance which invaded and took over Iraq so quickly.
But it was late last winter when Canada chose to back the UN’s position, not that of George Bush. Since then, Saddam Hussein’s forces were defeated in a remarkably brief campaign, but now new violence in Iraq mocks the victory. A positive recovery has quickly become illusory, impossible in any short run of a year or even two.
With occupied Iraq a deepening disaster for Bush and Britain’s Tony Blair, last week Secretary of State Colin Powell emerged from the shadows behind Donald Rumsfeld, the garrulous secretary of defence, to seek more security forces for the pacification of Iraq and the establishment of a democratic civil authority. And Iraq suddenly has a parallel bog in Israel. There, Bush’s road map for peace in the Middle East has been ripped up, largely by Yasser Arafat.
So, our closest and most vital neighbor is in a situation not unlike its dilemma some three decades ago in Vietnam. But for the time being, one cannot conceive a U.S. withdrawal of troops from Iraq is possible.
What might Paul Martin choose to do about this crisis for America which will affect us in so many ways?
First, he should persuade Jean Chretien (privately, of course) not to make any bold initiatives on any major issue involving Canada-U.S. relations in the time he has left in office, and press him to leave in November after the Liberal leadership votes are in.
Second, he should float several possible proposals on our alliance aspects with the United States, NORAD, NATO, the UN and the Commonwealth. There should be indications whether a Martin government has plans to strengthen and modernize the Canadian military, notably the army and the transport capabilities of both the airforce and the navy.
Such a course by Paul Martin would signify not only a timely self-respect for our own sovereignty but make clear whether Canada shall complement wherever possible the joint defence of Canada and the U.S. against the likelihood of either terrorism of the 9/11 sort or any random chances of attack from a rogue state with weapons of mass destruction.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, September 07, 2003
ID: 11931442
TAG: 200309070346
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


My first conjecture on the result to come in the Ontario election is for a “minority” legislature as happened in recent memory in 1971, 1975, and 1985.
In ’85, after 42 years of Tories in power, an accord between the Liberals under David Peterson and the NDP under Bob Rae let the Liberals take office and hold it for an agreed period of two years. My hunch as this campaign gets rolling is that neither the three leaders nor their vaunted programs have big followings beyond their devout partisans.
Before the end of this month there will be a re-appraisal here on whether one of the two older parties’ leaders has so captivated or antagonized the electorate he has ensured one of the older party’s numbers will be high enough – say 55 seats – for a normal mandate of four-plus-one years.
Right now the likelihood would seem to be the Liberals under Dalton McGuinty with 45 to 50 seats, the Tories under Ernie Eves with 35 to 40 seats, and the New Democrats under Howard Hampton with 12 to 18 seats.
Both partisans and mere avid bystanders in federal Ottawa do take note of every provincial election’s outcome, but always most particularly in the outcomes in Ontario and Quebec. This stems from both historical and continuing obsessions with that oldest of Canadian issues, “national unity,” and simply because of the sheer weights in electors and tax bases in these keystone provinces.
This time around, as Ontario readies to vote, there seems much less keenness and emotional involvement in the capital for the campaign or its consequence. In part this may be because the Quebec election last April in Quebec put a federalist Liberal party led by Jean Charest into office. This has distanced everybody in and outside Quebec from a sovereignty referendum put by the PQ. This is a blessed lull before another test of Quebecois self-determination is even possible. There’s a dearth of any sustained antagonism within Ontario’s partisanships against the Chretien government now in a slow transition to a government led by Paul Martin. In regard to animosity towards “the feds,” Ernie Eves is not even close to Alberta Premier Ralph Klein, who’s persistently against but not all nasty.
The media’s stress in the campaign will be on the leaders and not much else. Much nastiness between them has been forecast. This may happen but none of the three seems to have phrases of wit or a vivacious presence to knock a rival back or out. None is the sort to move the ordinary man or woman as very likeable or cherishable. Eves is still brusque and brash and looks furtive after 22 years as an MPP; McGuinty has been fashioning himself into a polite but gloomy synthesis of political attributes which better mask his awkwardness than his emptiness; Hampton’s stolid earnestness may mirror integrity but not imaginative ideas.
It seemed to me that Mike Harris won his second mandate (which Eves is rounding out) by not flinching before the brutal bellicosity of union leaders for schoolteachers and provincial employees. Messrs. McGuinty and Hampton should ask such leaders not to present such a gift to the Tories again.
In terms of the federal Liberals, aside from so many having membership or friends with the provincial party, there is no high advantage, particularly with a very popular prime minister at hand in Paul Martin, to having a McGuinty ministry in office at Queen’s Park.
Of course, it’s obvious that the reigning immediacy among Liberals and most of us bystanding on the Hill is not about Ontario politics but in the rewards given before the Chretien exit. And on who is to be in or out in the first Martin ministry, through the election, and then the second Martin ministry.
The Alliance hasn’t much to gain or lose whether McGuinty wins or Eves retains power, but a smashing Eves triumph would suggest more hope and some “muscle” in the province for Peter MacKay and his federal Tories in the coming federal election and less pressure to work for allying with the Alliance. A huge win by McGuinty, however, one which cuts the Tories down to a wee rump in the legislature, should push both Stephen Harper and MacKay towards a working accord, at least for one federal election.
Jack Layton and the federal New Democrats would get a lift if their provincial counterparts do as well as 15 seats, or close to 20% of the Ontario vote. This would spur the tired but faithful followers and bring some return of unions who were so disaffected with Bob Rae and his government’s “social contract” eight years ago. Layton seems to have some momentum now, particularly in greater Toronto. His crucial need is to make the House next year. Either he makes it or he’s gone as NDP leader, and if Hampton’s caucus is down, not up, next month, it bodes ill for Layton.
How am I likely to vote in October? My first Ontario vote came in 1943. For the first time (in 18 Ontario chances) I’m seriously considering voting for a Liberal candidate. The Eves gambit of unveiling the budget outside the legislature has me riled.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, September 03, 2003
ID: 11930088
TAG: 200309030648
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Political junkies of the federal kind have much muddle ahead of them in the next eight to 10 months before an almost certain Liberal victory in a general election puts behind us the messy transition that has been taking so long to complete.
Among such junkies are 90 or so Liberal MPs who have been in the House from four to 15 years without ever being ministers. This column is one of general advice to the half hundred or so of such veterans who seem sure to hold their seats in the election next spring, but who subsequently will not be offered places in Paul Martin’s cabinet. And many of them want to be more than just excellent constituency “hound dogs” and hand-clappers for their leader.
These MPs are likely to be among those most determined to widen opportunities for themselves and their peers in opposition parties within Parliament, as implied in Martin’s promise to erase “the democratic deficit” so apparent in our Parliament’s work.
How this ought to be done has not been spelled out by Martin or by his personal cadre of planners and spinners (although Jean Chretien’s house leader, Don Boudria, thinks he has put forward a slate of such reforms).
But at least 20 Liberal MPs have reform ideas for the House and some – like Derek Lee, Reg Alcock, John Bryden, Peter Adams and Dennis Mills – have either talked up or drafted suggestions which would increase input by plain MPs, by and large unfettered by direct commands from the House leaders and their whips. Some of the proposals would enlarge the powers of House committees and their chairs in the range of subjects addressed and witnesses called.
The dilemma in forging a working schedule on such reform begins with this political reality: neither in the public generally nor in partisan circles is parliamentary reform and making the role of most MPs more meaningful even a modest priority. It will take a hands-on lead by a determined PM and a row of ministers ready for a more testing House, plus unhypocritical backing from the opposition leaders if there is to be a resurrection of both the Commons and the cabinet from the presidential-like domination of the Prime Minister’s Office/Privy Council Office.
Add to this the difficulty in firming up a reform plan, and an agenda for achieving it through the coming months, which will be brimming with much newsier stuff. There’s the determination of the Liberal leadership to finish off a handful of significant bills in the pre-Christmas weeks of Parliament; the exit of Jean Chretien, his close staff and some ministerial faithful, followed by a makeshift pre-election Martin cabinet; then a contentious campaign followed by a post-election cabinet and a rush to have a throne speech of substance to open the new House.
All this will be so distracting it will take some gutsy veteran MPs, mostly but not all Liberals, to keep working toward a program for implementation in the first weeks of the new Parliament. Otherwise “the democratic deficit” of Parliament will only get larger. Surely there are scary intimations of this when one reflects on what we know about Martin’s handlers and arrangers. Their words in the press magnify their leader, not the democratic process.
My advice to the veteran MPs who realize they should be more than desk-thumpers sustaining the PM and the government in the House, is to not let Martin’s promise fade away with nice assurances of more important work to be done in committees. There’s been half a century of fiddling with such talk and occasional feints toward more scope for MPs. John Diefenbaker was pushed into allowing more House committees simply to give most in his mob of 200-plus Tories the semblance of something to do beyond decking the chamber for question period and cheering for the Chief and his ministers.
Every PM since then has made gestures toward more effective work for MPs. At least Pierre Trudeau never pretended to enjoy being a presence or a performer in the House, but John Turner, Brian Mulroney and Chretien have often talked of their love for the House and its “cut and thrust,” although none of them spent much time in it, even when in opposition.
Martin, as minister of finance, rarely even bothered personally to marshal his own bills through the House. He was too busy, except for question period in which he relished rousing the Liberal benches with bellicose scorn for opposition questioners.
My advice to the MPs who want more for the House closes with this caution: there will be zilch in support from the senior mandarinate, in part because a truly pro-active House means more exposure – not just of their ministers, but of themselves.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, August 31, 2003
ID: 11929492
TAG: 200308310319
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Is the media ganging up on the two more conservatively minded federal parties? A caller last week asked this question.
My short answer was “No.” But there does seem a gang-up in the short shrift the media have given the fracture-prone right over the past year. This is not knowingly concerted but more a common mindset, and in part a reaction to unimpressive opposition performances. The elected opposition is read as being weak in ideas and slight in performance.
The caller is an older man whose work in another order of government was outstanding. He acknowledged his moderate bias for Peter MacKay, the new Tory leader, and some positive interest in the Alliance and Stephen Harper. He believes it’s unfair the press has given them no more than random and usually dismissive appraisals.
He cited some recent examples, hitting on the same-sex marriage issue, the repetitious bumph about the Liberals and their two-headed leadership, and the stream of optimistic projections for Jack Layton, the new NDP leader.
My answer was that most in the present press crew were neither capital-L Liberals nor closet New Democrats. I also thought something bolder has been happening that had a somewhat parallel in the working press attitude in the Diefenbaker years, notably from early 1961 to the election of 1963.
I recall the boldness of the “impact” political writer of the 1960s, Peter Newman. At first he’d been delighted with John Diefenbaker’s Tories, then became a growing nemesis to them as he probed inside their government.
A second media pacesetter of the time, reporter Norman Depoe of the fledgling CBC-TV News, tangled openly with Diefenbaker. An anecdote from those days, since well repeated, suggests a common cause within the press gallery:
A gaggle of reporters was lined up, waiting to go on a campaign plane. Reporter Val Sears of the Star urged the others, as the gate opened: “Forward gentlemen, we have a government to defeat.”
The next period when the attitude of reporters turned against the governing party came in the last two or three years of Brian Mulroney’s government, with barrages of accusations of impropriety against the prime minister himself. This onslaught was by a significant group, but it had less than a majority of the press gallery in tow. Its two most persistent attackers were Stevie Cameron and Claire Hoy, whose accusatory sort of stories were often based on “inside sources.”
After Mulroney’s retirement and the near-total rejection by the electorate of his successor, Kim Campbell, the scandalmongers receded. Now their “hard-hitting” journalism is recalled as falling flat after the inquiry into the Airbus case vindicated Mulroney and forced Jean Chretien’s Liberal government to pay him damages.
Today, on the same-sex issue, it does seem apparent most in the media are slanted against the long-held religious beliefs about homosexuality. They share the belief, now popular with younger people, that homosexuals have the same rights as heterosexuals, including legal marriages to each other. And by and large they do not favour the conservative economic ideas of Alliance members (which are also held by many Tories).
In short, few political reporters at this time seem strong for free-market enterprise as preached by the two conservative parties. I believe, however, that most of those under-covering Harper and MacKay are not enamoured with the decade of Chretien Liberalism now closing. Unlike the ’60s, these journalists are not so much out to defeat a government as to expose its shortcomings and accent its program intentions – at which both the Alliance and Tories have done poorly.
Recently, columnist Robert Fulford of the National Post wrote a rather boomeranging recognition of the immense capabilities of Jeffrey Simpson, the Globe and Mail’s Ottawa columnist for two decades. He compared Simpson favourably with the best of the federal deputy ministers, the most able top mandarins of departments and agencies.
Then Fulford went on to notice the grumpy dourness in recent Simpson columns about the ineffectiveness of our political parties, particularly that the Alliance and the Tories have been unable to work together and truly challenge the Liberal hegemony.
Nevertheless, Simpson’s repeated advice to opposition politicians is to mimic the Liberals: get into that crowded central spectrum in Canadian opinion and ideology where the Liberals hold sway.
Simpson is aptly described as a superb journalist, one who understands the value of mandarins to politicians sensible of their worth, knowing they are pragmatists who season their practicalities with some “does it work?” empiricism.
When one party has had so much and has much more in train, a call for other partisans to ape the Liberals is discouraging (as Fulford noted), not least because it implies the government we have is about as good as we can expect.
And it also helps explain why Stephen Harper and Peter MacKay have not been over-noticed.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Tuesday, August 26, 2003
ID: 12885474
TAG: 200308260489
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


A few weeks ago, Howard Wilson, the ethics commissioner who reports to Jean Chretien, ruled that federal appointees to major posts should not attend the coming Liberal convention. This instruction was for former Liberal ministers like David Dingwall (now head of the mint) and Andre Ouellet (the boss at Canada Post).
The presence of such worthies at the convention could suggest to citizens that appointees to these plum jobs are partisan, rather than detached neutrals. Wilson seems to figure TV exposure of such participation is too powerful a plug for the rather gross rewards which go to Liberals of long standing.
There is a comic aspect in Wilson keeping such appointments out of the apogee event for the Liberal party. So many of us who are not Liberals are hypocritical in condemning the engrained, useful use of patronage by politicians for their colleagues. The habit has been most prevalent in the Maritime provinces, at least in terms of a never-ceasing scramble for favour, but there is a less positive fascination for it west of Ontario.
Such patronage has been stock practice in every federal and provincial party that has ever taken office, even in regimes of such sanitary former premiers as Ed Schreyer (Manitoba) and Bob Rae (Ontario). It’s considered more a Liberal trait or vice because such rewards for the faithful get more media attention for a party so often in power federally. Reformers always talk up open competition for posts with choices made on merit, not a partisan standing, but their pleas have not really diminished the practice, even for diplomatic posts where a neutral record might seem advantageous.
Our parties simply cannot seem to do without such rewards. And why should they? Patronage has its roots in human nature. It has been evident in the governance of societies since recorded history developed. It is so human to help your relatives, friends and fellows in a common cause – and the practice isn’t confined to partisan politics.
No one has been making a big deal of it, but a 25-page pamphlet titled Values and Ethic Code for the Public Service is supposed to be in the hands of every federal official, great or small, by Sept. 1.
Repeatedly over the years, acquaintances within the bureaucracy have told me there is far more patronage in filling jobs and awarding promotions in the public service than by the PMO at behest of ministers or MPs. I believe them.
The new code’s operative segment on such matters is titled “Avoidance of Preferential Treatment” and though it doesn’t contain the word “patronage,” it is clear what is meant.
“When participating in any decision-making related to a staffing process, public servants shall ensure that they do not grant preferential treatment or assistance to family or friends. When making decisions that will result in a financial award to an external party, public servants shall not grant preferential treatment or assistance to family and friends.”
Remember that the scale of public service appointments and promotions runs into the tens of thousand a year, whereas the so-called “political posts” monitored by the ethics commissioner only number several thousand.
Of course, neither the Wilson edict nor this code for officials applies to Jean Chretien as he ponders many appointments for his worthy Grits at this time of a changing of the guard. Probably 30 to 40 such faithful soon will get some of the most cherished appointments, including a handful to the Senate. Liberal MPs, bagmen and Chretien cronies salivate at the prospect of a Senate place, where the pace is easy and without electoral risk until the age of 75.
Long ago, I lost my surprise at encountering so many MPs and party apparatchiks on Parliament Hill who dreamed of, and quietly pressed for, a place in the Red Chamber. Most aspirants rank it ahead of all other gifts at a prime minister’s command. Since Confederation, the Senate bonanza has been a prime lure into partisan activity, encouraging continuous party loyalty.
So many for so long, particularly on the Prairies, have condemned senatorial appointments and argued for either abolishment of the Senate or the election of senators. Yet such changes are no closer now than when “reforming the Senate” became a reiterated theme well over a century ago.
On a closing note, this is not a piece advocating either politically partisan or bureaucratic patronage. It is a reminder that, people being people, some will be favoured above others. And we could well do without the Senate, given that the Commons – the “elected” House – continues to recede in vitality and utility.
The real power in federal Ottawa is now wielded by a presidential kind of prime minister and a Supreme Court that, since the Charter’s advent, has superceded Parliament as the highest court in the land.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, August 24, 2003
ID: 12885262
TAG: 200308240240
SECTION: Comment
2. photo of JOHN MUNRO
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Death has recently come to three able Liberal MPs of the Pearson-Trudeau era: John Munro from Hamilton, Martin O’Connell from Toronto and Hal Herbert from Montreal.
Herbert was a busy backbench MP from 1972-84. I came to treasure chats with him. He was astute at reading Pierre Trudeau’s intentions, and his war lore was fascinating. The latter was based on scores of sorties in unarmed Royal Air Force Spitfires, photographing the battle zones of northwest Europe in late 1944 and early ’45.
Hal was tall and well-spoken. As a postwar immigrant in Montreal he’d done well. His rising fears for Anglo futures in Quebec brought him into the House and much dedication to committee work. He’d have made a splendid minister. I much admired him as a good MP even as I balked at his persistent pushing of his private member’s bill to change Dominion Day to Canada Day.
O’Connell was minister of labour late in Trudeau’s first mandate, and again after he got back to the House in ’74 after electoral defeat in ’72. A convincing political economist, he was modest, almost unobtrusive, but he was full of ideas and too smart to be “handled” by bureaucrats. He had worked up to speed in French and became an authority on financing social policy well before he entered the House.
Martin was a consultant to finance minister Walter Gordon before his first budget in 1963. That’s when I spotted him on the Hill, recalling his face from my time on the U of T campus, where he’d taught economics. In finding out what he was up to in Ottawa, I stumbled on a big story.
Gordon had brought in three whizzes from Bay Street to help make his much heralded budget. So the day after the budget speech I, as an opposition MP, asked for an explanation of such outsiders within this sacred, secret process. Gordon fumbled in response, Tory leader John Diefenbaker began to bay, others joined the hue and cry and within hours we had a political crisis – a stunning setback to PM Lester Pearson’s promised “60 Days of Decision” which would lift Canada from its confusion under Diefenbaker.
Martin was not tagged with this setback, but later he was unlucky in not having a safe seat (in Scarborough). Once out of electoral politics he worked for a series of excellent causes, including Indian and immigration programs. Throughout his life he was an archetypal solid citizen. As a leader in ideas he fitted in with the more honoured Liberal trio of Gordon, Tom Kent and Maurice Lamontagne.
Now to John Munro who died last week at 72. Because I’ve had much to do with him for three decades I’ll come back another time to his years as a diligent minister, one who pushed, cajoled and usually progressed while leading three testing departments – Health, Labour and Indian Affairs – over 15 years, ever arguing the Liberal party was for working people.
As recently as last month John reviewed for me his case for parliamentary reform. As he saw it, the Liberal party has given its leader too much power, and this has crimped contributions of ministers, backbench MPs and constituency associations. Liberals are over-obsessed with the leader and are losing their sense of team. He was readying a printed case on this for circulation at the coming Grit convention.
Today, let me only recall John’s role in the 1972 hockey series with the USSR, now a major event in Canadian history. A handful of different candidates have been given or have taken credit as the key person in making the series come to pass. But in my opinion, the Canada-USSR hockey summit would not have happened if Munro as health minister (and so responsible for federal sport policy) had not stopped the CAHA from hosting the annual International Ice Hockey Federation’s “world championship” in Winnipeg two years before the series with the Soviets came about.
Why did he use such a big stick? To emphasize that henceforth only the best Canadian players would be on our national hockey team for both so-called “world” championships and Olympics. Whether or not they were professionals should not matter.
The IIHF – long the tool of its British secretary Bunny Ahearne, in turn a creature of the Soviet sports authorities – had reneged on an agreement Canada could ice a modicum of NHL players for the Winnipeg series. Cancelling the series in Winnipeg was costly, and unpopular in the West. Further unrest about the Munro move emerged as it became clear Canada would not ice a hockey team in the next Olympics.
Munro stood firm, forcing the CAHA, a core member of the IIHF, to go along. And he pushed Hockey Canada and our embassy staff in Moscow to deal directly with the Soviets to open up use of pros on national teams (as in soccer). The leverage to bring all the NHL owners onside came mostly from Alan Eagleson and the owners of the Canadiens and Leafs.
The agreement detailing the series was reached in Prague between USSR spokesmen and the heads of the CAHA and Hockey Canada. Canada could ice a team of the best Canadians in the NHL (whom Eagleson guaranteed to deliver, and did).
There followed a memorable national experience. As happened so often with John, the rather roughneck ministerial doer, his basic order won little praise then and has been forgotten. We have had the best pros engaged in international sports across the board now, something that seemed hopeless in the late 1960s. The ’72 series much advanced the “best against the best” in sport competition, aside from what it did to alter the way the game was played.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, August 20, 2003
ID: 12884666
TAG: 200308200281
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


The way Canadians in general handle crises without exploding is something to marvel about, particularly after the year we have had since Jean Chretien’s goodbye to politics began.
Since then citizens in their multitude have stood sturdily through a string of hard knocks. One hesitates to credit such lack of panic or rage to the skills of the political leaders of the federation and its provinces.
Is there a link between the Liberal split at the federal top and the many political shocks created by the threat of disease in both humans and animals, by heat waves, drought, forest fires, grasshoppers, power outages, and costly rifts with Washington?
Obviously, not much linkage. Who can whack Jean Chretien or Ernie Eves for the SARS or mad cow outbreaks, the blackout or the extremes in weather?
Maybe one could fault the PM for the failure thus far to resolve the maddening saga of U.S. tariff penalties on Canadian softwood imports. It may have been extended because Ottawa chose not to join the Iraq invasion.
Canada’s aboriginals have been testy this year, too. There has been a surge of bitterness among reservation Indians against changes being pressed by the government to the Indian Act. They’ll protest if Parliament resumes passage of the government bill next month, but the populace in general will take little note. The “blame” game in native issues has gone on for so long, the guilt it once raised has almost petered out.
The Chretien scheme to legalize “same-sex” marriages is shaping into rancorous, Canada-wide argument. The passions on view remind me of the cleavage in public opinion over capital punishment and abortion. “Same-sex” is a difficult religious issue for many opponents, and both sides have true believers who will relentlessly “grieve” their beliefs. Chretien’s record of mastering dissent within the Liberal caucus suggests he won’t cave in on this initiative.
Further, and more significantly, one cannot divine a possible parliamentary combination of enough Opposition (mostly Alliance) and unhappy Liberal MPs to tackle and hobble the higher court judges, whose interpretations of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms have put “same-sex” rights at centre stage.
The current chief justice of the Supreme Court likes to use the “living tree” metaphor for the extended interpretations of parliament’s intentions when it passed the Charter in 1982. Yes, there is a constitutional remedy at hand in the”notwithstanding” clause in the constitution, but a dogma about it has taken hold that it should not be used to circumvent judicial decisions based on Charter interpretation – such as the recent ones favouring “same-sex” marriage in Ontario and B.C.
Even Ralph Klein, the premier most critical of the high courts’ use of the Charter and Ottawa’s intrusion in provincial jurisdictions, has only talked of using the clause.
Undoubtedly, many citizens have become impatient or even disgusted with the national leadership in Ottawa since Chretien set out his lengthy exit a year ago, but this has not registered to the federal Liberals’ disadvantage in opinion polls. A much repeated explanation from pundits for this is the fractured opposition.
Two other matters which might explain party fortunes in this dodgy year of troubles is a pleasing quiet on two of the three most trying concerns of prime ministers since Confederation – national unity and unemployment. Surely this explains some of the stolid patience, despite so many other reasons for discontent with those in power.
Of course, the third paramount worry of prime ministers over decades has been about close relations with the U.S., notably since Franklin Roosevelt’s ascendancy from 1932 to 1945. At this time, one has to credit Chretien with some success on the American front. In any case, his decision against joining the U.S. and the U.K. in invading Iraq continues to wear well with Canadians.
The key reason sustaining Liberal support despite the clutch of crises is the expectation Paul Martin will be a superb prime minister. It’s not my view, but one would be stupid to deny that it is out there.
Whether the Martin rule begins next month or next year, the forecast is for much electoral backing for him in 2004. Then within a year or two we will know if he is the reforming leader so many anticipate.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 30, 2003
ID: 12882062
TAG: 200307300508
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Not many Canadians know there is anything as definable as a “sport system” in Canada, so few are aware that “English and French do not enjoy the same status in the Canadian sport system.”
This unfair state was the gist in a recent reiteration of Dyane Adam, the federal government’s commissioner of official languages, reporting on the failure of Sport Canada – i.e., the federal government’s directorate for sport – to “eliminate the barriers to the participation of francophones in high performance sport.”
Three years ago, the commission gave Sport Canada 15 recommendations for clearing these “barriers.” It has achieved only three of them. It has been trying, but too slowly, and ineffectually.
Adam says: “This slowness and the lack of a consistent approach in addressing the issues has a direct impact on our athletes who are forced to adapt to the linguistic shortcomings of the sport system.”
And so the commissioner has issued a stern command. By this time next year, Sport Canada “must publish an independent study on francophone participation in all sports and identify the conditions conducive to equal access to high performance sports for both official language groups. The study should also examine the impact that the location of high performance training centres may have on this participation.”
And Adam warns the commission “will continue to monitor developments in this matter very closely over the coming months.”
So there it is – a wad of demands, based on the official status of French and English and the imperative of fairness for French-speaking athletes, coaches and officials.
Since this ultimatum to the federal sport bureaucracy and its scores of client associations, much dissatisfaction has been aired about the sad state of high performance sport levels in Canada. Much of this is fostered by the Coaching Association of Canada (founded 33 years ago to make coaching a career profession with high standards). Some comes from present or recent coaches of “national” teams.
Often these complainers use irony. Consider the enthusiasm across the land at Vancouver playing host to the Winter Olympic Games in 2010. This will cost taxpayers billions – huge spending in contrast to the chronic skimpiness of funding for our athletes and teams in most of the high-performance international competitions.
Looking backwards, since the award of the Summer Olympics of 1976 to Montreal, the federal government has put up billions to aid cities and provinces in hosting the Olympic, Pan-Am, and Commonwealth Games, whereas athletes and coaches have had a relative dribble of federal funding. By my crude reckoning, Ottawa, Quebec and Montreal have put in over $15 billion to the ’76 Olympics. This is about five times what the three levels of government in Canada have provided in funds and services to the support of high-level coaches and athletes since former Montreal mayor Jean Drapeau grabbed the Olympic torch three decades ago.
French-speaking athletes (unilingual or bilingual) should be able to get coaching, management and services like physiotherapy in their own language – but only so long as this comes at a cost which is reasonable within each sport. All but a few of the 100 or so national sport associations are chronically short of money. Theirs is a shoestring existence, despite a variety of grants, subsidies, etc. which they are given variously by federal, provincial and municipal governments (notably in facilities).
The path from neophyte to skilled athlete, ready for medal-chasing at an Olympics, begins in a neighbourhood and with facilities and organizations there. Across Canada, including Quebec, there is a quirky diversity and uneven distribution of aspirants and ongoing enthusiasm of communities and parents. (In recent years, Quebec has moved to the front of the provincial pack at the Canada Games and in backing sport.)
Those who run hockey, track, swimming, basketball, soccer, skiing, tennis, etc. are far more zealous for their sport than for all sports but are rarely into it for jobs for themselves. And year after year they are short of money, especially for the most costly, i.e., continuous nurture of top athletes and the best coaches.
In Canada today we have at least 90 federated sport associations raising and spending money. Most of them get annual grants from Sport Canada, and their provincial arms almost always get some backing from their provincial government. But few of the associations have money to spare, say for a totally bilingual association, even at the national level.
Adam’s recent statement underlines the standard which the language commission requires. The ratio of French-speaking athletes should match the proportion of French speakers in the country (about 23%).
She said: “High performance athletes whose preferred language is French were already underrepresented in 2000 (18%) in all sport disciplines in proportion to the representation of both official language groups in the country. Data collected this year show that their representation is somewhat lower today (17.3%).”
It seems bureaucratic bullheadedness to force hard-up groups to make such a match of participants and language. Remember that sport leaders (mostly volunteers) are also under pressure by federal agencies to meet quota shares of aboriginal and handicapped athletes. Such are the quid-pro-quos for federal backing, niggardly though it may be.
In short, as coaches and managers find and groom athletes and teams for international competition, they must keep in mind the Charter of Rights. As for our politicians and their officials, they seem sure to continue big spending for hosting grand, costly events at which our athletes take few prizes, in large part because they have been groomed in a cheap, nit-picking system.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 27, 2003
ID: 12617017
TAG: 200307270250
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Does the race for the Liberal Party’s top position never end? The short answer is No!
Surely many will despair, many others just shrug at the idea John Manley dropped on us even as he dropped out of the leadership campaign; i.e., he would be in the race to succeed Paul Martin.
This, months before Martin is installed in the PMO.
But Manley has a long, Liberal precedence for such an intention. Skim over the story since prime minister Mackenzie King, after 29 years as leader, handed off to Louis St. Laurent in 1948. There hasn’t been a parliamentary mandate since then without an unofficial but genuine competition underway of ministers or former ministers or mere, confident MPs readying for a run.
Recall that both John Turner (from 1975 to 1984) and Jean Chretien (from 1986 to 1990) left the House (and opposition) for a base in business from which they could build outside backing in personnel and funds while continuing not-so-hidden links with supporters in the caucus and the party’s apparatus. Go further back.
From St. Laurent’s advent as PM in 1948 to his defeat by Diefenbaker in 1957 the Hill people were aware of rival prospects for his post in the House in Lester Pearson and Paul Martin Sr. Indeed Martin showed leadership preparations back before 1948 when he gave way to King’s choice of St. Laurent as leader. Later he was to contest and lose twice, once to Pearson in 1958 and then to Trudeau in 1968.
From the opening to the close of Pearson’s stint as PM (1958-1968) a host of leadership aspirants strutted their stuff in the House – Martin, Sr., Paul Hellyer, Allan MacEachen, Mitchell Sharp, Joe Greene, Bob Winters, John Turner, Pierre Trudeau – and outside it, Eric Kierans.
What a surfeit of ambitious Liberals on the loose, until Trudeau edged Winters for the prize.
Despite the huge, early acclaim that Trudeau received after his strong victory in the ’68 election and held fairly well in his long run as Liberal leader through four more general elections before he resigned in 1984, there was much restiveness in the party about the top post and many thrusters readying for another opportunity. There were several waves of rumours Trudeau was ready to retire, particularly after he almost lost to Robert Stanfield in 1972, and then when his marriage fell apart in the mid-70s.
John Turner, rated a capable minister of finance, tested the PM in ’75 and then broke away to Toronto to wait after Trudeau gave him no encouragement to stay. A few years later Donald Macdonald, also a minister of finance, copied Turner, but failed to run when the opening as prime minister finally came in 1984, perhaps because Turner was widely taken to be the sure-fire winner. As it turned out he was toughly challenged by Jean Chretien, with five other ministers trailing well back – Don Johnston, Mark MacGuigan, John Roberts, John Munro and Gene Whelan.
Within a few months Turner was ousted from the PMO by Brian Mulroney. The rout was so massive speculation about a new Liberal leader began at once; and it didn’t let up when it became clear Turner was staying for one more swing at Mulroney (thus prompting Chretien to leave the House).
Turner lost again in ’88, and long before the replacement convention in ’90 two newish backbenchers, Sheila Copps and Paul Martin, Jr., had staked out their ambitions for the leader’s job. Although each trailed well behind the winner, Jean Chretien, it was clear in 1993 with the Liberals’ return to power that Martin, Copps, and two other ambitious Liberals, Brian Tobin and Allan Rock, would each be busy shaping an organization and funding for a bid when Chretien departed. (Tobin tried withdrawal from the House, then returned, then bolted again rather than challenge Martin’s machine.)
We have been witness since Martin belled the Chretien cat last summer, getting a foretold departure 18 months down the road, of a cabinet, caucus, and riding associations riven with activity, much of it trying to catch up to the leadership edge Martin had built, using both his achievements and his resources as minister of finance to win fealty through the whole Liberal apparatus and membership.
It is hard to see how Martin as prime minister, given the example he has been given, will be able to mute the succession scramble, particularly if there is any substance in his undertaking to abolish what he calls the Parliament’s “democratic deficit.” This would have to mean more open and less guarded performances by both cabinet ministers and just plain Liberal MPs.
The yeast of leadership is always at work in the federal parties, and has been ever since Mackenzie King left the Hill.
Consider what’s been “up” in the Tories, the Alliance, the NDP, and the BQ.
The Tories have just survived a fizzless melodrama to get their third new leader (one of them an old one) since Jean Chretien became prime minister.
The Alliance (and its antecedent Reform) is on its third leader since it burst into the House in ’93 with 52 MPs; and embarrassment was rife far beyond the party before it dumped Stockwell Day in favour of Stephen Harper.
The NDP has just replaced its second woman leader in a row, Alexa McDonough, with Jack Layton (who’s not yet an MP) – and he becomes the party’s fourth leader in 15 years.
And Gilles Duceppe, the third leader of the BQ since it began as a breakaway group of Tory MPs under Lucien Bouchard in 1990, has been in trouble for several years with many caucus critics of his leadership.
Anyway, the aspirants keep coming, though it gets clearer and clearer that a runner with a chance needs deep pockets or major sponsors who have them. When Liberal MP Dennis Mills said recently, “It’s Paul’s turn this time,” he had in mind the half century through which the Paul Martin family has aimed for the summit post in our politics.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 23, 2003
ID: 12615900
TAG: 200307230473
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Clearly John Manley is not a “Northern tiger” – that symbol of Canada as a global carnivore that he flogged in his first economic statement last fall as he settled into Paul Martin’s place as minister of finance.
Why did he quit the Liberal leadership race at this late date? No solid clues are offered here, although one explanation pushed by Craig Oliver, CTV’s Ottawa wise man, doesn’t seem right to me. It’s that Manley quit because he realized after the membership sale was closed that his followers were so few, he would finish behind Sheila Copps. Such would be a deadly rebuff to his future ambitions, said Oliver.
Yesterday, several reporters were scouting whether Manley had made a deal with Martin’s senior handlers: drop out now and get a major cabinet job, post-coronation. Perhaps, but unlikely given that such a deal would be hard to keep quiet and once known, would devastate Manley’s image as a straight shooter and expose Martin as a total no-risk fellow.
Other questioners in the aftermath of yesterday’s withdrawal underlined Manley’s use of the phrase “at this time” as a suggestion that at age 53 he, like Brian Tobin, 49, and Allan Rock, 56, is young enough to get another shot – one or two electoral mandates ahead. After all, Martin becomes an old-age pensioner next month.
After the 1988 election made Manley an opposition MP, unusual traits for the neophyte Liberal from an Ottawa riding, distinguished him within his first year or two.
He was open, reasoned and candid, rather than just blurting about issues and policies. He was not a motormouth like John Nunziata or Copps, or even Martin, but he did unload some gems, suggesting a sharp, independent mind.
He questioned the utility of such sacred cows as the Senate and the monarchy. As a mere MP, he argued Canada had a surfeit of bureaucracy, exemplified in shared or overlapping jurisdictions and tasks of the federal, provincial and municipal governments.
On parliamentary reform he advocated such blockbusters as (a) a fixed term of four years for each Parliament (depriving a prime minister of a huge advantage); (b) a set total of seats in the Commons, with post-census adjustments coming only within each of four regions – Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario, the West; (c) no more “want of confidence” votes in the House of Commons which force an election.
Not long after Manley replaced Lloyd Axworthy as minister of foreign affairs, as Jean Chretien’s third mandate began in 2000, he shook up some platitudes held by a lot of us.
So many think Canada attained and keeps a high global reputation for enlightened international programs and ethical behavior because it is a model for those who cherish peace and respect peacekeepers. Canada hardly merited such a reputation, said Manley. Our self-image as a “peaceable kingdom” didn’t square with the thousands of Canadians killed in battle and lying in foreign fields.
In those stances of Manley through his five years in opposition and 10 as a minister in major portfolios there seemed a basis for a clear, realistic leadership program.
There were six leadership debates featuring him, Martin, and Copps, responding to questions and, briefly, tilting with each other. Maybe these performances got immense attention from a fast-burgeoning Liberal party membership.
As one who took in the six through TV coverage, Martin’s pleasant blandness and his grace in using prepared notes seemed to me to be an overall winner with many viewers. He was so cheery, so positive about so many good things. He appeared as a leader for everybody, decent and sensible.
Copps played her common Canadian and plain Hamiltonian, using many personal bits of a super-busy minister doing good where most needed, but not for the big banks and corporations. Hers is essentially a social democratic ticket, its liberalism that of fair shares and welfare for those who need it, unawed by unbalanced budgets or debt load.
Manley? My reading of his performances was that he never got untracked after he eased away from his early vigorous pummeling of Martin over his masking of massive fund-raising and politically ruthless use of the party machinery. Why did Manley ease off? Probably because it was seen by too many Liberal veterans as an imprudent exposure of their party and its liege men and women.
Manley seemed to lack the verve and gall to analyze openly Martin’s use of ministerial resources to pre-empt control of the party, not just from Jean Chretien but from any would-be successor, save for himself. In his lame defence yesterday, Manley expressed pride in what he and his team had done in getting a membership campaign going and in putting ideas before Liberals and Canada. (I can only remember one particular emphasis: stepping up interplay with the U.S.)
It strikes me Manley wasn’t true to himself or to the propositions for change he has put in the past, including his bent to be frank. Will he continue on, living to fight another day for the top post? Wait and see what job, if any, Martin may have for him.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 20, 2003
ID: 12615121
TAG: 200307200641
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


The Chretien years have been rough on Ottawa’s civil service elite.
How so, you say? Hasn’t the pay of top mandarins jumped dramatically since 1993? Don’t senior deputy ministers now take home a third of a million a year?
And haven’t the lesser lights in management had more modest increases, after their inevitable bonuses are added, ensuring their total take has gone up much faster than that of the rank and file (who’ve been held to around the inflation rate)? Surely the Paul Martin years of austerity passed this crowd of bosses by.
And what of the perks? George Radwanski, the disgraced former privacy commissioner, may have had to resign for liberal living at public expense (and for being reticent about this at a Commons committee), but he was a patronage appointee – not a real mandarin. The latter don’t lose their jobs, but they do make out quite nicely.
Didn’t the gun registry’s former CEO get $209,000 over two years so he could shuttle between his Edmonton home and Ottawa office?
Didn’t he and the rest of the folks at the registry spend almost $500,000 over six years on “hospitality”? That’s not exactly belt tightening!
And what about the fringe benefits? Didn’t a recent audit find that bureaucrats were steering one in five government summer jobs toward family members or children of friends? Surely this is one of those gifts that keeps on giving: i.e., a kid with such a job on his or her resume has an increased chance of winning a full- time position in the civil service.
What’s so rough in all of this?
Well, it’s the smell.
The reputation of the public service has been taking a beating for years. In the early years of Jean Chretien’s regime it was usually over gross mismanagement. The improperly tracked billion-dollar jobs grants at Human Resources, and the billion-dollar gun registry come to mind.
“Mistakes” in both cases allowed the government to do exactly what it wanted, and with great haste.
This suggests a mandarinate eager to deliver for its political masters whatever the expense in fiscal imprudence or a lack of public accountability. That many senior officials involved in such stuff were subsequently promoted fuels cynicism about ethics and standards.
Another long running mess that raises questions about the bureaucracy’s political neutrality surfaced again last week. Bureaucrats are once again being accused of setting up the competition to replace the Navy’s ancient Sea King helicopters to ensure that the EH-101 – the aircraft Chretien cancelled a decade ago – doesn’t win.
Recent scandals, however, have related more to personal ethics. In addition to the news about summer jobs for family and friends, this month also saw charges brought against a former assistant deputy minister of health for allegedly accepting bribes from natives in return for steering government grants to a native addictions centre.
None of this has seriously harmed Liberal popularity, but in my reading of Grit backbenchers, they are very restless. They complain of disrespect shown them by officials in disingenuous appearances before committees. (The Liberal chair of the committee that hounded Radwanski made this point.)
This, of course, was the second element of the gun registry fiasco – not only was $1 billion wasted, but bureaucrats kept the rising costs hidden from Parliament.
(This week saw the release of documents which appeared to show the Justice department hired accounting firm KPMG to audit the registry in an effort to counter the auditor general’s criticism of it. The A-G had the last laugh, though, as she got to remind Justice lawyers that only her office had legal authority to conduct such audits.)
Those in power seem uncomfortable with the serial embarrassments. Alex Himelfarb, head of the public service, says ethics will be a priority for him. Prime Minister Chretien recently issued new “guidelines” for senior managers.
But don’t hold your breath waiting for real change.
Just as a government becomes more arrogant the longer it is in power, so does the bureaucracy that does its bidding. As long as the Liberal writ holds – and there’s no sign of it ending – the downward trend in public service ethics will likely continue.
But wait, won’t Paul Martin clean house when he becomes the next PM? For the man who would reform our Senate and rebuild Canada’s international reputation, restoring lustre to our mandarinate and moving it into another golden age like that of 1940-57 should be small potatoes.
However, as minister of finance, Martin seemed content with the performance of his bureaucrats, and their sometimes less than frank appearances before committees. He and his officials knew about the gun registry overruns, and kept mum.
And while he may not want to leave the development of policy ideas to them (witness his campaign advisers’ stream of recent policy statements), Martin knows how valuable close relations (and how dangerous poor relations) with top bureaucrats can be.
No, the only mandarins who need fear retribution are those deemed to have been too enthusiastic in their support of Prime Minister Chretien.
But even they know they will be looked after, because that’s the way it works in Ottawa.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 16, 2003
ID: 12614041
TAG: 200307160490
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Into the midsummer political vacuum on Parliament Hill, your columnist unloads three of his pet peeves.
Let me begin with the suggestion readers consider openly rejecting an “identity” gambit being pumped by Denis Coderre, Jean Chretien’s super-pushy minister of citizenship and immigration. He’s out to legislate an identity card system encompassing every Canadian citizen.
This card would not be the wisp of paper with a number and one’s name on it, like the old familiar Social Insurance card introduced during World War II.
This will be a super-card, a “biometric” card. That is, it will contain coded physical and social data (including a replication of the holder’s iris) to be read by scanners placed at airports, border points, police stations, even in police vehicles.
Coderre says such a system would enhance national and individual security and reduce identity fraud in Canada. It would also make us a more attractive fit with measures developing in the U.S. in its titanic response to 9/11. It could, in time, even serve as a short-form passport for travel to countries with scanning systems.
We should be readying our rage and our reasons for standing against such a big step here to the Orwellian vision of the super-state. It’s planning is in the hands of the gang that has screwed up a much slighter task at a high cost – the national firearms registry.
Let’s not trust them again with anything complicated and so foreboding.
In my next grievance, about our ruling party’s extravagances, let me use some words by Cliff Chadderton of the War Amps, a zealous lobbyist in Ottawa for a half century. He’s angry over the “new” Canadian war Museum the Chretien government is building beside the Ottawa River 1,000 metres west of Parliament Hill.
I wrote last year about the higher costs and poorer parking prospects in the shift from the first locale chosen, a capacious site next to the popular Aviation Museum.
Cliff had long been after a less decrepit war museum, one a fair match for the heavy Canadian casualties in action and the sacrifices at home in two world wars. Recently, the press reported major cost overruns in early stages of construction at the building site. These would blow away the budgeted ceiling of $105 million and would also dictate some cheaper “esthetics” (like concrete facing rather than limestone). As Cliff puts it:
“I campaigned against a ‘Taj Mahal’ mentality and obviously lost the battle. Everything seems to be in the hands of the Museum of Civilization which, in all honesty, has messed up the expansion project from Day One, when the idea was to enlarge the existing war museum building but to include a Holocaust gallery.”
Given the track record of those executing the plans for building and programming the new war museum, Chadderton doubts many WW II veterans will be around for the opening (which has been projected as May 8, 2005, the 60th anniversary of VE day). This year the median age of WW II veterans is 84. From 1939-45 some 1.1 million served in the Canadian forces; about 800,000 of them are gone.
My third exasperation is an aspect of a major one which has been agitating generations of reform-minded Canadians since Confederation in 1867 created a bicameral Parliament, with an elected House of Commons and a Senate whose members are appointed by the prime minister.
A Senate appointment is such a glorious sinecure. It is in the largest bag of great gifts a prime minister has. No PM since 1867, not even Pierre Trudeau, the darling of the liberally minded, has made a serious move to create either an elected Senate or to do without one. (Yes, Lester Pearson in the 1960s did set up a mandatory retirement age of 75.)
In December, 1983 Trudeau gave the Senate gift to Montreal millionaire Leo Kolber, for years a successful volunteer bagman for the federal Liberals, and by his mid-50s looking for a change of pace. He asked for and got a seat, one he loses when he hits 75 next January.
He’s chosen to resign in November to let Jean Chretien choose a successor. Following are snippets from a report in the National Post.
Of his becoming a senator Kolber said: “I didn’t know much about the Senate, except it was a marvelous club, and it was very prestigious.”
During the call from Trudeau Kolber asked ” … and this is the truth, how often do I have to show up? He said, ‘Ah, once in a while. It’s no big deal.'”
Kolber said this scenario has changed a bit in his years in the Senate. Attendance is now taken.
On the whole, he thinks his colleagues do good work but some are a bit lazy … For committee work “most people don’t show up, or they show up for a few minutes and they leave. I think we need a refreshment, a renewal of some talented appointments … It is sort of a love-hate relationship we have with the Senate. People take cracks at us, and that’s okay. But everybody wants to become a senator. This maligned institution, everybody wants in.”
Too true. Canadians by the thousands dream of a Senate appointment and a host of loyal Liberals are always scheming for the gift. It’s a wonder for the PM and the ruling party, but an ethical bog for democrats, elected politicians and “rep by pop.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 13, 2003
ID: 12613423
TAG: 200307130251
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


It’s hard not to peck away at the possibilities in the imminent return to Ottawa of two former Manitobans, Maurice Strong, 73, and Lloyd Axworthy, 63. Each has an interest in the government they see coming up led by Paul Martin (almost 65).
Axworthy wants to be a cabinet minister again; Strong wants to do something significant for his protege of long ago.
In political matters, both Axworthy and Strong have a wide, global outlook. Each has shown an ideological tilt toward an aggressive brand of government along social democratic lines and in wanting Canada to emphasize multilateralism and world governance rather than tailing along behind America the mighty.
A new book by Axworthy is heavily into foreign affairs, with a critique of American hegemony as against the “one world” outlook and more independent role Canada sought to pursue since the heydays of Lester Pearson, Walter Gordon and Tom Kent.
Just a month ago, Strong, to the annoyance of the George Bush administration in Washington, was a one-man mission to North Korea at the behest of top United Nations leaders. (As a teenager, Strong obtained a clerical job as the UN got going in New York.) In North Korea, Strong got a reading on the grievances which officials there said was their motivation for making nuclear weapons and the rockets to deliver them.
The ages of the Strong-Axworthy-Martin trio suggest maturity, and their lives confirm a hard pace of activism – in both Martin’s and Strong’s cases in business and risk enterprises, as well as in many volunteer roles of high purpose. Axworthy, a professor when not an elected politician, has been familiar, in and out of Ottawa, since 1968 when he helped Paul Hellyer, then one of Pierre Trudeau’s ministers, do a national task force on housing (a report whose many ideas got no support from the prime minister, causing Hellyer to resign from the cabinet).
As a minister under both Trudeau and Jean Chretien, Axworthy was truly the boss in the several big portfolios he held, and a remarkable provider of grants and projects for his city (Winnipeg) and province.
Biographical stuff on Martin and Strong indicates they first met late in the 1950s. Strong was about 30 and in the petroleum business in Calgary. He gave Martin, eight years younger, and a college student, a summer job.
Before this kindness, Strong had come to know well the former Liberal cabinet minister, Paul Martin Sr., then an MP in opposition, while he was acting as a lawyer for an associate of his. Out of this friendship there eventually developed a joint, private corporation of Martin Sr., a longtime client of his and Strong. The latter moved to Montreal from Calgary in 1962 to be a vice president of Power Corp. This post enabled him to hire Martin Jr., now a lawyer, in 1966 as an executive aide. Junior ascended rapidly in Power Corp. By 1974, at 36, he had become CEO of Canada Steamship Lines, then a Power Corp. subsidiary.
Of course, by 1966 Martin Sr. was PM Lester Pearson’s minister of external affairs, a post he had wanted even as he sought to be Liberal leader himself (in 1958 and again in 1968).
Senior did a quid pro quo for Strong, who had long readied himself as a broker of international contacts, by getting him to leave Power Corp. to become federal director general of Canada’s external aid program. In this role, Strong promoted the creation in 1968 of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), which is still at work. He got involved as a leader for the UN in carrying out the remarkable, first world conference on the environment in Stockholm.
He also sent a new friend, a fresh Liberal MP named Pierre Trudeau, on a visit to African countries colonized by France to see what Canadian aid might do to counterbalance the play France was giving sovereignty for Quebec. As a consequence, Canada – with Quebecers and Quebec companies as the personnel and development resources for the program – got deeply into “francophonie” aid projects overseas.
The Trudeau link gave Strong his own quid pro quo in 1975 when Parliament passed legislation creating Petro Canada. At the launch of the national petroleum company, Strong became its chairman and CEO. He stayed with PetroCan into 1978, then left to pursue a Liberal candidacy in Toronto in the federal election expected that year. (It came in 1979, and Trudeau lost.) Just before the election was called, Strong resigned as a candidate, apparently because of complex developments in several major corporate enterprises he was designing as a conglomerate for global energy enterprises somewhat on the Power Corp. pattern.
Nonetheless, the busy Strong always seems to have kept up his links to the Liberals, whether they were in power or not. He also kept doing UN tasks, like leading the campaign to get food to millions starving in Africa in the mid-1980s. He served as secretary general for the United Nations Earth Summit in Brazil in 1992, and has won high awards in many nations, and honourary doctorates in Canada, at a staggering rate.
So now Maurice Strong has bought a condo in Ottawa. He has grandchildren here, and soon Paul Martin – a friend of his for over four decades – seems sure to be prime minister. The future PM, much like his father, has had a very long interest in the health, environment and economic conditions on all the Earth, rather than centered on Canada and the rest of North America.
Such an interest makes one wonder what tasks Paul Martin Jr. has in mind for Maurice Strong and what ideas Strong has for him.
The relevance of Lloyd Axworthy to the course of the first Martin administration is that he has been, like Strong, a crusader for the UN and global institutions. And, like Strong, he has always been ready to take to task the corporations which, while globalizing everywhere there are natural resources and/or cheap labour, are not doing much about disease, hunger and environmental damage.
If Axworthy and Strong, or even Strong alone, should get major responsibilities from Martin, then expect a government which in its first mandate will really be looking left – more left than is generally expected – and that has an international emphasis which does not include calling “ready, aye ready” to every international intention of the president and Congress of the United States.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 09, 2003
ID: 12612437
TAG: 200307090511
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


There has been no shocked reaction to remarks made a fortnight ago by Bob Nault to a newspaper board in Saskatoon. Apparently, without any sense of guilt, the minister for Indian Affairs told the StarPhoenix the Assembly of First Nations (soon to elect a national chief) was ineffective and irrelevant and that “time has moved on, past it.”
What a blockbuster from a man, supposedly battered by opposition MPs and a swarm of chiefs, led by incumbent national chief Matthew Coon Come, for trying to get a bill into law reforming the Indian Act.
Bill C-7 on aboriginal governance will set standards and procedures for how the 600-odd Indian bands use their share from the nearly $3 billion a year which flows to them from taxpayers.
The bill is an imperative of Jean Chretien. It may be unfortunate for Nault, its sponsor, and the outgoing PM that Paul Martin has said he would not implement C-7. Nonetheless, Nault – a Martin supporter – calmly asserts he expects the bill to pass into law after Parliament returns in mid-September.
As a follower of this portfolio and its procession of ministers, I think Nault’s snarky judgment of the Assembly of First Nations is stronger than any previous criticisms of native groups since Ellen Fairclough was responsible for Indian Affairs from 1958-62.
In the Fairclough regime, the grievances of Indians, including those with “status” and those without it, began to get more parliamentary notices, not least because federal politics was moving into the age of network TV and the natives were quick to exploit the new medium and the massive guilt whites felt about our past dealings with Indians. The roadblocks, sit-ins and marches slowly made the country aware of a large, and growing problem.
Some dozen ministers have come and gone since Fairclough, Jean Chretien (1968-74) lasting the longest, and often rated the best. Nault is just short of four years in the native portfolio, a lengthy stay topped only by the PM and matched by John Munro (1980-84) and Ron Irwin (1993-97).
In 1969, Pierre Trudeau and Chretien unveiled a report that shortly proved too revolutionary for too many Indians. It would have junked the Indian Act, offered complete, without-strings rights as Canadian citizens to all native people, and set up a system for considering and awarding compensation and entitlements.
Later, in the early 1980s, any chance of a simple, single citizenship for all people in Canada was lost through the Charter’s recognition of aboriginal rights. Henceforth it might be described as creating “citizenship, plus.” The “plus” includes ongoing interpretations of aboriginal rights by judicial decisions.
Out of this momentum, under the Brian Mulroney government, came the costliest royal commission ever – “on aboriginal peoples.” The commission labored from 1991-96, producing a report in five volumes, crowned with 98 pages of mostly specific recommendations.
Irwin, a Liberal MP from Sault Ste Marie with much experience with native bands in Lake Superior country, was Indian Affairs minister when the report was released. He was rather guarded in his reaction to the huge slate of recommendations (and their staggering high costs as projected by birthrates into perpetuity).
Whether he was hostile or not, I don’t know. But I knew he was chary, especially about recommendations which seemed to foresee a fourth level of governance. By his failure to act on the commission’s recommendations, Irwin chose to cool off the field. He is known to have been close to Chretien even before the latter set after the party leadership.
My reading is that both men realized tackling the big requirements of the report meant a lengthy row across the land, particularly in the west. It would tie up much House time, and jack up spending yearly at a time Martin and Chretien were fixed on ending budget deficits. So the report was left to go stale and wither.
When Irwin left the House and the ministry, first Jane Stewart (1997-9) then Nault got the portfolio. Neither seemed a hard, articulate leader for a rough task, although Nault wanted Indian Affairs. His riding of Kenora held or serviced almost 30,000 Ojibways and Crees.
It was quickly clear he was being held in check by an Indian-savvy PM. Nault was cautious, hesitant, and by and large inept in the House for over two years. But when he came back last fall from the summer break, amid reports of a big Indian bill on the way, he was almost suddenly as assured and poised as Ralph Goodale and Stephane Dion, the most self-confident of Chretien’s ministers. His dismissal of the AFN as irrelevant reflects immense assurance.
Surely, Nault’s boss decided not to leave without his own sign-off to the responsibility in which he first proved himself in the early ’70s. And his legacy in aboriginal matters could be a treacherous political swamp for Paul Martin if the PM-in-waiting makes good on his vow to junk Bill C-7.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 06, 2003
ID: 12611796
TAG: 200307060250
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Just over 20 years ago not even a genuine quorum of MPs was in the House of Commons when it passed into law a private MP’s bill changing the holiday on July 1 celebrating the anniversary of Canada’s formal creation from “Dominion Day” to “Canada Day.”
It angered me then, and it stirs up my history-keeping each and every July 1. I cherished Dominion Day. I enjoyed the fact my country was “the Dominion of Canada.” I believe many other Canadians felt that way, but most kept quiet because the Liberal line was that most Quebecers didn’t like the word “Dominion.” In French, it signified “domination” or “authority.”
Nevertheless, for a few years I had a dislike for David Smith, the Toronto Liberal MP (now a senator and long a liege man to Jean Chretien). He was the chief perpetrator of the passage which ditched the proud “Dominion.” He’s still not my favourite Grit, but I gave up trumpeting his slyness when a friend pointed out an analogous Commons happening. Could I myself not be accused of abetting “Dominion’s” passing?
Well, it was true that when I was an MP in 1964 I helped a little known, newish Liberal MP, Jean Chretien, slip through a bill of his own at a crucial stage. It changed the name of the Crown corporation Trans-Canada Airlines (TCA) to Air Canada. How was I involved? I had a hand in inveigling out of the chamber two MPs who would have blocked its passage.
Aware of the danger in a pot calling a kettle black, I’ve by and large left Sen. Smith alone, beyond writing he’s not been the strong belt of loyalty around his leader that Sen. Keith Davey was for Mike Pearson and Pierre Trudeau (but not John Turner).
My proprietorial attitude to the Dominion of Canada likely developed in Sunday school through hearing the use of “dominion” in Bible verses such as: “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.” To kids, that conjured up our own expansive geography. “Dominion” meant being in charge within big boundaries.
For several years preceding Smith’s audacity during his single term as MP, probably stimulated by the bilingual sameness in “Air Canada,” there had been a swarm toward using “Canada” as prefix and as suffix to an identity. In short, Chretien may deserve credit or blame for this “Canada” industry.
I recall how I was stupidly astonished in 1972 when Harry Sinden and Allan Eagleson announced the name “Team Canada” for the club made up of Canadians drawn from NHL teams to play against the USSR in an eight-game series for world bragging rights in hockey. I say “stupidly astonished” because I’d been involved in arranging the series as a director of Hockey Canada, a national organization formed in 1969 to improve Canada’s fortunes in world hockey circles, and I had had no idea this was to be the team’s tag.
And yet, just four years later, I too caught the Canada bug in naming a new trophy the “Canada Cup” – actually, a large, heavy, nickel half-maple leaf (donated by Inco). It was for the winner of a quadrennial hockey series, planned and managed by Hockey Canada, between the USSR, Sweden, Finland, Czechoslovakia, the U.S. and Canada.
Somewhat sadly for me – like the “Dominion Day” case – the Canada Cup was discontinued after several grand series. It had come to be seen by the NHL’s president, team owners and managers as too dislocating and costly, and rather at cross-purposes given the rising presence of stars on their rosters from Sweden, Finland, Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Germany, etc.
My indulgent self-regret about “Dominion” has underlined its eclipse by Canada, Canada, Canada. Perhaps the rise was heralded by Chretien’s Air Canada. Certainly it was massively stimulated by the “flag of our own,” sponsored through Parliament by Pearson in 1965, which got a rapid, broad acceptance – one could say from sea to sea and around the world.
The majesty and the complex history symbolized by the Royal Mail and its crest are gone; so are almost all Union Jacks and Red Ensigns (outside Ontario) from our flagpoles; so are phrases significant of world affairs like “Empire” and “Commonwealth,” or the predominance of imperial red on the maps in our school rooms, or God Save the Queen (or King) as our anthem. We seem as puzzled by what the concept of “the Crown” means as American congressmen are with the exploitation for lumber from the forests on our “Crown” lands.
As I maundered on how to close this lament, a somewhat consoling incident popped into my mind. I was sometimes ahead of modernity’s wave.
At university long ago, a senior history professor had given me a failing mark on an essay explaining constitutional developments in the rule of Edward II (1307-1327). The reign of this son of a great warrior king was scarred by baronial frustration at Edward’s reliance and extravagances on male favourites (one of whom, incidentally, was a champion jouster at knightly tournaments). I had dwelt on Edward’s homosexuality as the prime reason for his eventual deposition and horrible death. The rebuke I got was stern and absolute. Whether or not Edward was “unmanly” was irrelevant in the history of the unwritten British constitution.
Times change, eh?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 02, 2003
ID: 12610801
TAG: 200307020417
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Last week in Victoria, Don McGillivray died at the age of 76, far from Parliament Hill where, first as a reporter and later as a columnist, he covered politics for over a quarter century, mostly as an employee of Southam. I notice his passing with much regret, because I never got to the point of telling him how very good he was.
I should have told him how much I used to count on his analyses, usually laced with his intrinsic common sense and gentle humour. I never told him he led off my private “top 10” from the Parliamentary Press Gallery. My selection of this shifting galaxy was on the basis of what I have read or heard by about 1,500 members of the gallery since 1957, when I became a keen witness and dependent on journalistic Ottawa.
(My present top 10 runs to these deceased: Don McGillivray, Brian Kelleher (CBC Radio), Norman Depoe (CBC-TV), Dave McIntosh (CP), Charles Lynch (Southam); and these still alive: George Bain, Peter Newman, Richard Gwyn, Chantal Hebert and Jeffrey Simpson.
In the years since 1962, when McGillivray’s reportage of several wild and woolly House of Commons committee hearings hit me as the most readable, sensible and succinct accounts I had ever read, I became a coffee-cup acquaintance. Don was shy, and it was years before I appreciated he was the best read man I had met since Northrop Frye. He never flaunted his erudition or the resources he gathered through life: grammars, dictionaries, indices, bibliographies, yearbooks, biographies, royal commissions, parliamentary and media commentary, novels, caricatures, etc.
Eventually, we got to occasional mutual spoofing -he about my anti-Liberal bias, I about his teaching of innocents about journalism (as did other exceptional press gallery writers such as Anthony Westell and Bain). And when he began to press for a new association dedicated to “investigative journalism” I argued that for every worthy John Sawatsky encouraged, there’d be someone else distorting “leads” into unjust travesties.
Don was taken with his students’ promise.
He wanted them to associate in a group based on standards and methods, in time creating a mythic round table of equals – all skeptical but fair searchers for the truth. So came the creation now called the Canadian Association of Journalists.
Why, outside the craft, was Don not better known nationally? Well, he was somewhat shy and he hated to use the first person singular. His copy never ran in Toronto, and he was not used much by CBC-TV or Radio, or by CTV and Ottawa’s CJOH-TV, which set the pace with an evolving circle of commentators in the ’70s and ’80s. Also, Don concentrated more on issues, signified by bills, acts, reports and lobby groups, and in sketching the open relations among politicians, federal and provincial. He did not focus much, as so many of his colleagues did, on ministers or mandarins or the “spinners” for the party leaders.
Perhaps because he grew up in the west and worked for Prairie papers, perhaps because of a few years in the UK and in Washington, perhaps because his columns from Ottawa ran in dailies from B.C. to the Maritimes though not in Toronto, the readers in his mind were a cross-section across the Canadian map, not those who nattered in or close to politics or the higher bureaucrats of the federal leviathan.
My clipping file of Ottawa columnists or top reporters was started in 1957. Often in weeding it, or searching out a past situation, I wind up reading some of them. This isn’t disheartening, although most of the situations are long forgotten, So much, however, stands up, as analysis and as prose.
One hindsight from scanning such files reminds me there has always been a common denominator in the gallery – however the whole may be dominated by “pack” journalism – of excellent copy. And none is more readable and stands up better than McGillivray’s pieces.
It is noticeable from the back files how female writers began arriving on the Hill in larger numbers in the Trudeau years. I recall McGillivray telling me in the early ’80s that by 2000 women would dominate the ranks in schools of journalism. He was right, and lately he must have grinned, not grimaced, because the newspaper columnists getting the most national notice are women – Christie Blatchford, Margaret Wente, Hebert. My hunch about Don, posthumously, is that posterity in the whole field of journalism and its personnel will remember him ahead of almost all contemporaries decked with the Order of Canada, through the legacy he created with and for students and neophyte reporters.


The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 29, 2003
ID: 12610159
TAG: 200306290267
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Today, more musings on the possible cabinet and policy directions of a Paul Martin government, but this time limited to a single ministry – Defence! The starting point is to be found in two recent print items.
Retired Maj.-Gen. Lewis MacKenzie of Sarajevo fame recently wrote in the National Post about the appointment of retired Gen. Maurice Baril, a former Chief of Canada’s Defence Staff, to advise UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on how to stop the Congolese civil war. The war has claimed more lives than any conflict since WW II.
MacKenzie begins by observing that Baril was the UN’s chief peacekeeping adviser (on loan from Canada) and Annan was the civilian head of UN peacekeeping, during the UN’s greatest peacekeeping failure: the Rwandan genocide. He notes that Baril possessed little peacekeeping experience when appointed, and wonders how Baril’s performance in that office recommends him for the Congo post.
(During the Rwanda mission the UN’s commander of peacekeeping forces there, Gen. Romeo Dallaire – a Canadian – requested Annan’s permission to raid suspected weapons caches. Dallaire hoped such raids might head off the massacre his intelligence network told him was being planned, or at least blunt its effects. Baril did not pass along Dallaire’s warnings of incipient massacre, explaining later he believed the UN Security Council would have ignored them anyway. The rest, as they say, is history: more than half a million civilians were murdered while an overstretched UN force looked on.)
Mackenzie concludes that Baril’s Congo appointment shows the UN old boys’ network has again chosen the interests of one of its own over the interests of the mission, and of the Congolese people.
We do not know if Canada played a direct role in Baril’s Congo assignment, but his earlier appointment as chief peacekeeping adviser certainly stemmed from Canadian lobbying. Prime Minister Jean Chretien made Baril Canada’s top general following the Rwanda debacle, and following his retirement from the military has used him to fix a number of potentially embarrassing military files.
(Most recently, Baril stickhandled Canada’s end of the investigation into the “friendly fire” deaths of Canadian troops in Afghanistan.)
Baril is a creature of the Chretien government and an unfortunate reminder of how it has handled its military messes, by ignoring them or denying they exist.
MacKenzie offers another blistering conclusion: despite their praise for peacekeeping missions, neither the government nor the media have any real interest in how they are run, or how well-equipped and prepared our forces are for them. This is particularly germane as 1,800 Canadians head to Afghanistan for what promises to be a very hazardous mission.
The second print item that caught my eye is, curiously enough, a recent advertisement in the Hill Times (a serious tabloid for Ottawa insiders).
It is for the EH-101 helicopter, which is vying to replace Canada’s 40-year-old Sea Kings. The ad is extraordinary in that it attacks the government, i.e. the customer, for “dumbing” down the contract’s specs to ensure the EH-101 cannot win. (Interestingly, the ad quotes Paul Martin as saying the best aircraft, i.e. the EH-101, should be chosen.) Why the government would do such a thing is not explained in the ad, but around Ottawa the answer is taken as a given.
Brian Mulroney’s Tory government purchased the EH-101 for search and rescue (SAR) and anti-submarine duties. During the 1993 election, Chretien vowed to cancel it, claiming it was a “Cadillac” purchased to benefit friends of the Tories.
In 1994 he did cancel it – incurring $500 million in penalties. The contract was then split in two, one for SAR, one for shipborne duties. The military then chose the EH-101 for SAR, embarrassing Chretien.
If it were chosen for the shipborne role as well, the PM would be completely humiliated … which explains why no contract for shipborne helicopters has yet been let – 10 years after the original was cancelled.
A common theme unites the MacKenzie article and the ad: Canada’s military has been badly abused by the Chretien government, keeping partisan politics to the fore.
Of course, the most critical problem facing the forces is the huge gap between their obligations and resources, in part the consequence of the cuts of 25% which Martin made in the defence budgets when he was minister of finance. This record, and the reality that the nation’s finances are increasingly shaky once again, mean it’s unlikely a Martin government will provide the huge funding increases necessary to close the gap. The best the forces can hope for is that their roles will be cut back to match their resources.
This, combined with a renewed focus on honest, ethical conduct by senior officers, mandarins and, above all, politicians, would do much to restore the faith our military men and women – and their families – should have in their country.
To achieve this, a strong defence minister – backed by his or her prime minister – is needed. The latest minister, John McCallum, has succeeded the recently dismissed Lawrence MacAulay as the cabinet joke on Parliament Hill.
How about Ralph Goodale? He’s able, he’s a straight-shooter – and he doesn’t seem to mind toiling for little credit. Kind of like our soldiers.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 25, 2003
ID: 12921721
TAG: 200306250504
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Many Parliament Hill watchers are getting ahead of events and into speculation on Paul Martin’s cabinet-to-come. Most seem to ignore the two-stage cabinet factor ahead of him.
First, there is the pre-election Martin cabinet – one of brief span just like John Turner had before the ’84 election. It will almost certainly be a mix, with some of the 28 incumbent ministers, but starched with a handful of new ones drawn from those in the backbench mob who’ve wanted Martin as PM for years.
Second, there’s the slate Martin will have sworn in after the Liberals get their expected electoral sweep in 2004. This sweep likely will give him good new cabinet material from each province, but notably from Quebec, and even from Alberta and Saskatchewan, so often cold to Liberals.
Remember this: on first succeeding Jean Chretien, Martin will inherit cabinet baggage from his predecessor. Some of it will be welcome, like Ralph Goodale and Anne McLellan; most won’t be.
Much of the speculation swirls around the chances, come next February, or sooner, of remaining in the cabinet, particularly of the 18 or so such ministers who have been openly for Martin. Also, there have been widely differing assumptions on whether the slashing at Martin by leadership rivals John Manley and Sheila Copps has ruined their chances to be cabinet ministers, through the election or even beyond it.
In past cabinet-making by a brand new party leader, the choices had two general aspects. The first was to reward the prime, early backers before the leadership race was called rather than going for straight talent (example: Chretien’s pick of long-time crony, David Collenette). The second was to offer a cabinet post to each of the main rivals in the race (sometimes even to their leading backers).
In Turner’s case, of a Liberal PM succeeding a fellow Liberal, he was surprisingly ruthless in taking resignations and preferring backbenchers before he went to the people (and to electoral disaster).
Over years of cabinet watching, one hears some odd explanations for certain picks. My favourite came from Jack Pickersgill when he was Liberal House leader in a Lester Pearson ministry. After a rather modest cabinet shuffle I asked Jack why the PM had elevated one MP, a nice chap but very slow. He was frank: the cabinet clashed from too much ambition and brains; it needed “dumbing down.” (I’m convinced Jean Chretien, as a new PM, had heard about this.)
Until the end of the Mackenzie King era, balance between Roman Catholics and Protestants was a big consideration. The religious factor is minor now, compared say to ethnicity, “visibility,” or gender. Now six or so female ministers are a necessity.
In his autobiography, A Public Purpose (1988), Tom Kent, top aide to prime minister Mike Pearson, thought the first cabinet of his boss showed far too much respect for parliamentary seniority. Kent was asked by Pearson to make suggestions for a cabinet shuffle in 1964, of which he writes:
“It is as complex as any game. Each move opens up several options, which in turn create multiple options. There are soon scores of possible combinations, each one of which makes sense in terms of not only the suitability of people to portfolios, but also of the many balances – provincial, ethnic, ideological, religious.”
Just last week, Chretien’s former foreign affairs minister, Lloyd Axworthy, was reported to be coming back to electoral politics. He had not spoken to Martin, but he did not expect disapproval and he was thinking of being in cabinet again. Obviously, if the election ahead returns him to the House, he would ideologically be one of Martin’s “most liberal” choices – not in only in economic and social affairs, but internationally through his critiques of America’s global hegemony.
In his writing, Kent suggests Parliament’s veterans put too much emphasis on “histrionics,” i.e., on making a fine showing in the House, on platforms and before TV cameras but being without experience or real potential in directing a portfolio’s management. A cabinet quickly gets flabby when too many ministers let the less observed work of a department be handled by their topic bureaucrats.
My reading of Martin’s choices suggests many of the new ministers in his post-election cabinet will be from Ontario. At present, Ontario has 12 in the Chretien cabinet. One can see Martin being dubious about each of those ministers, and he is already a hero to several score pushy backbenchers from the province.
Begin his Ontario chore with Manley and Copps, his rivals; then turn to Jane Stewart (Human Resources) and Susan Whelan (International Co-operation), each backing another for leader.
Don Boudria, the House leader, is devoted to Chretien and unpopular among many in the caucus.
Now think about Allan Rock (Industry), John McCallum (Defence), Elinor Caplan (National Revenue), Dave Collenette (Transport) and Bill Graham (Foreign Affairs). Ministerially, none of the five could be rated better than “fair.”
Mostly they’re ineffective – particularly Rock and McCallum. This leaves Bob Nault (Indian Affairs), now sponsoring a bill which Martin dislikes, and a rather quiet Lyle Vanclief (Agriculture), a veteran who has not done badly but is tired and shows it.
It’s easy enough from this skim over Ontario to say there’s so much room for improvement, but this won’t make the picking any easier for Martin and his handlers.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 22, 2003
ID: 12921403
TAG: 200306220251
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Charles Darwin made “evolution” a noun of great significance. It encapsuled the way species change over generations, and that such change is evolutionary, not revolutionary.
This curious preface is here because Jean Chretien rolled the words “evolution” and “evolutionary” forth during his talk about the government’s decision to let two judgments by provincial courts favorable to same-sex marriage go unchallenged.
Instead, the government will ask the Supreme Court to: 1) reframe the legal definition of marriage (getting it in line with the ruling by the Ontario high court); 2) cite federal jurisdiction on marriage is paramount; 3) make clear that clergy are not required to marry same-sex couples.
With the top court’s prescriptions in hand, Chretien, backed by his entire cabinet, will bring a motion to Parliament for a “free vote” (meaning Liberal backbenchers won’t have to vote for it). If passed, this new motion on same-sex marriages becomes the law of our land from sea to sea.
Of course, it’s most unlikely to be rejected, given its ministerial sponsors, which include John Manley and Sheila Copps. And Paul Martin, so “pro-active” and presently the most important backbencher of all time, is strong now for same-sex marriages. So are all NDP MPs, almost all Bloc MPs, and a handful of Tories.
Anyone looking back on the parliamentary record has to be confused and amused by Chretien’s description of this leap to approve same-sex marriages as an evolution. If it is, it is slap-bang evolution!
It’s true that in 1998 the federal Liberals in their convention at Ottawa approved a motion to put the legalization of same sex marriage into the party program. But this was bypassed by the higher authority of the Liberal government the next year.
On June 8, 1999, the House of Commons had a substantial debate on a motion by a Reform party MP that then went to vote. The motion called on Parliament “to take all the steps necessary to preserve the definition of marriage as … the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.”
Several ministers took part in the debate. Justice minister Anne McLellan spoke for the government. MPs from each of the five parties in the House had their say, more speaking against same-sex marriage than for it.
One reason the justice minister said she had to speak was because of the federal government’s jurisdiction over marriage and divorce. Provincial governments came into the matter because they are responsible for the “solemnization” of marriages. McLellan’s speech was blunt. She insisted the government would take any steps required to preserve the definition of marriage which Canadians want respected. She said:
“Let me state again for the record that the government has no intention of changing the definition of marriage or of legislating same-sex marriages.”
The turnout was splendid for this vote late in the evening in favour of an opposition MP’s motion, and 271 of just under 300 MPs voted. An impressive 216 were for, and 55 against, the motion. The Liberal turnout was heavy, led by Chretien and almost all his cabinet, including Martin and Manley, stood beside him.
A handful of Liberals did vote against the motion in defiance of the stock definition of marriage.
Over three-quarters of the Liberals MPs of that time will be able to take part in the “free vote” later this year which Chretien has promised, once the new definition of marriage is enunciated by the Supreme Court. Indeed, I figure some 180 MPs who voted in 1999 will have the chance to vote again this year.
There has been a swarm of responses to this same-sex issue reported by the media since Chretien said there would not be an appeal of the ruling of three judges, led by Ontario Chief Justice Roy McMurtry.
Not one response, whether for or against this fillip to marriage as we’ve known it, has predicted the free vote will defeat the definition of marriage to be issued by the top court.
No. It’s as good as done. And one has to wonder how in such a brief space of four years the Chretien Liberals could pivot and go the other way. Yes, I know this crew has reversed on short notice, or no notice at all, before this. (See NAFTA; see the GST.) But marriage, as we have known it, has been of a man and a woman, and respected for centuries in the laws of both our founding peoples, as well as a being a sacrament in most Christian churches.
All this is suddenly to be changed to satisfy the demands of, at best, about 5% of the population.
A vital question is: Is this the end of the campaign so astutely shaped by homosexuals such as Svend Robinson? Will the free vote engraining same-sex marriages as a right of homosexuals under the Charter of Rights clear the political deck?
I don’t think so. A huge, negative reaction is unlikely to come, demanding marriage go back to being a union of one man and one woman. No, but however the definition may read, soon other homosexual couples will want more relief under the Charter.
They will cite their equal right to those of heterosexuals in entering marriage through a religious ceremony of their choice, not to be confined to a civil formula.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 18, 2003
ID: 12920817
TAG: 200306180517
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 12
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


There has been a critical chorus over the decision to prosecute Dave Ahenakew for his hate-filled speech last year about Jews and their nemesis, Adolf Hitler.
A Globe and Mail editorial cited his “reprehensible behaviour, particularly coming from a respected elder statesman, a former leader of the Assembly of First Nations and a member of the Order of Canada.” But “using the criminal law to punish people for their views, however offensive these views may be, is the wrong way for society to express its abhorrence.”
Robert Fulford thinks Ahenakew’s outburst has had “a beneficial effect,” helping us “define and reassert a common view of racism.” The National Post columnist also says that to prosecute Ahenakew indicates public opinion and his own organizations have not done the job of marginalizing him and his ideas while “in fact, the job has been done well, for the most part.”
Fulford does regret the Order of Canada didn’t move months ago to rescind its inclusion of Ahenakew in 1978.
My reaction has been against charging Ahenakew for his anti-Semitic rant. It stems from “in camera” encounters with him when he was the grand chief of the First Nations and I presented him and his council with the draft of a 10-year plan to convert many of the young and jobless Indians living across the vast Laurentian shield into its foresters, managing and operating both the silvicultural and production sides of forestry. The grand chief kept interrupting, demanding how much was in it “for us.” Discussion veered wildly with Ahenakew on the prod. He was ignorant about pulp, paper and lumber operations, let alone reforestation. He was impetuous, rude and foolish. In brief, there’s so little of weight in the man it is stupid to take notice of what he says in our courts.
Please understand that Ahenakew has been followed by able grand chiefs, like smart, courteous Phil Fontaine or droll and clever Matthew Coon Come.
How did such a fool get so high in the native community? A Saskatchewan official has told me Ahenakew’s family was well-known in the west, notably through his father, an esteemed clergyman. Ahenakew, shaped by a stint in the army, was aggressive and loud.

George Radwanski , the federal privacy ombudsman in trouble with a House committee, was once a star journalist of renown.
Self-important and assured, he travelled in style.
But he was more of a lone wolf and ambitious for more distinction and authority than mere journalism provides.
Is he in trouble because he blew away the standards of frugality in his spending? Or, is it because he created enemies in the PMO and the Liberal caucus with his extended criticism of the Liberals’ anti-terrorism measures as encroachments on civil liberties?
So much, so “they” decided to smear him, forcing him to resign, or even firing him with a vote by both the House and Senate?
Radwanski’s performance as privacy ombudsman has been forceful, citing the threats to personal privacy in anti-terrorist legislation rushed in after 9/11.
Nevertheless, it seems incredible the Chretien government (with whose chief Radwanski worked closely short years ago) would ruin one of its own in such a messy way. Frankly, Radwanski has long been taken by everyone whom I have heard assessing him, either through the super-regard for Trudeau in his writing or the jobs he has had (like editing The Toronto Star), to be a capital “L” Liberal. .
In scanning Radwanski’s past as a columnist, I found a piece which is ironically germane to this hassle. It was in The Montreal Gazette of July 23, 1971.
He was then 23; he’s now 55. The column was on the enthusiasm here for an officer developed in Scandinavia called an “ombudsman.”
This person was chosen by a government to help bridge the distance to its citizens, guaranteeing responses to the governed by the governors.
The results already in from such offices in Canada had indicated to the young columnist the Scandinavian conception was “a marvelous starting point.”
The busy Quebec ombudsman, however, had been raising and often clearing many individual cases but he seemed chary of going beyond clearing particular files to demands for general remedies.
Therefore, Radwanski felt that unless the ombudsmen developed the authority of their offices by demanding and getting changes in the system where it allowed, even institutionalized, wrongful treatment of a citizen they would be “just a sugar pill for the public, an illusory guarantee that no wrong will remain unrighted.” In short, such an office with such duties needed to be strengthened; perhaps in time they would be by their holders.
Obviously, Radwanski as privacy ombudsman assumed he had such powers of general criticism of legislation rather than mere remedying of an intrusion. I think he had them; so indeed did his two predecessors. But he isn’t in his present box for vigorous criticism. It’s for a more familiar practice, a very Canadian one: just another officer of the people spending high for good company, travel, food and rest.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 15, 2003
ID: 12920481
TAG: 200306150276
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Victory is at hand for those pursuing rights and fair play for homosexuals. Last week, three Ontario judges, citing the Charter of Rights in our Constitution, ruled couples of the same sex must have the civil right to marry. Given that Paul Martin, the next prime minister, supports such a right it is sure to be given parliamentary sanction in the next year or so.
Six years ago, I wagered (in a column) that gay rights would not pass a “free” vote in the Commons.
It will now, with the Liberals secure in office and both NDP and Bloc MPs committed to the cause.
Victory will be sweet for the NDP’s Svend Robinson.
In 1988, he became the first MP to openly stand forth as a homosexual, after which his advocacy for gay rights became more aggressive.
Of course, thousands of others pushed the cause while thousands fought against it.
If Robinson’s coming into the open was a major initiative in the history of homosexuality in Canada, another came in 1989 when the owners of the Globe and Mail, figuratively the paper read by politicians, government mandarins, lawyers and judges, replaced Norman Webster as editor-in-chief with William Thorsell.
In his dozen or so years as boss at the Globe, Thorsell appeared to make the cause of gay rights a priority in the paper, not just on the editorial page but in blanket coverage of the subject, particularly of the work by a burgeoning group of lobbyists who intervened in court cases, exemplified by EGALE (Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere) and sparked by tough-minded lawyers like Shelagh Day.
In my opinion, lesbians were much less demonstrative publicly about their grievances than gay males, but they were very effective on the legal and administrative fronts. For example, they filed court challenges across the land rather than holding marches and demonstrations in the big cities. Some sociologists and statisticians among them produced analyses which gave proof for their themes.
Some day soon we’ll get a history tracing the influence on public opinion and social legislation of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, 1967-70, appointed by Lester Pearson and headed by Florence Bird. The members and staff of the commission, and their recommendations, produced legislation favouring women’s rights and federal funds (still rolling) for feminist organizations.
Not that most in or flowing from the commission had lesbian aspects, but many of the most assiduous and astute women energized by the commission’s activities and its goals were lesbians.
The lower profile of lesbians throughout the past quarter-century was helped because they were not associated with the spread of AIDS, the deadly disease whose advance had such a publicized link to unprotected sexual activity among gay males.
Just to use the word AIDS is a reminder of how long and difficult the struggle has been.
Two other developments affecting Canada and most of the western world in the past four decades have not been an advantage to the cause.
First, the proliferation of scandals about sexual abuse, mostly of boys, by members of the Roman Catholic clergy; second, the emergence of child pornography with young boys, abetted by computer-based communications, as a widely organized activity.
At this stage in Canada, we await whether Jean Chretien’s cabinet decides to let the Supreme Court of Canada rule, say within a year or so, to sustain last week’s Ontario court ruling – as it is almost certain to do. If the PM decides, however, to accept for all of Canada what has been made legal by three judges in Ontario, he will have to work to create protective solace for the many Christians in the Liberal caucus (mostly Roman Catholics).
In short, a brief law is needed to make same-sex marriages a civil matter, not a religious one, so clergymen will not be required to marry on demand two males or two females. Such a federal intervention might be enough to keep Premier Ralph Klein from using the Constitution’s “notwithstanding” clause to block same-sex marriages in Alberta.
Some readers will say: Where’s Pierre Trudeau in your recognition list? Didn’t he as minister of Justice in the Pearson government begin, politically speaking, the freeing of homosexuals from harassment and persecution with his famous phrase on getting government out of the bedrooms of the nation?
Those words not only set the style and tone for the shift to more liberal sexual mores in Canada, the Charter legislation that came in the new Constitution which Trudeau sponsored 15 years later became the “Open Sesame!” to the courts for homosexuals.
Yes, Trudeau, like Lester Pearson, merits commendation by those who welcome where gay rights now stand. In passing, however, I would note there were homosexuals in the Pearson and Trudeau ministries and caucuses,but neither they nor any other MP came out of the closet before Svend Robinson.
The battle for freedom and rights in Canada which homosexuals are about to attain owes little in open leadership to federal ministers, not even two present ones, Allan Rock and Bill Graham, who have been recent advocates. They’re Johnny-come-latelys to the campaign compared to the boldness and persistence of warriors like Robinson, Thorsell and Shelagh Day.
Even though I do not agree with some of what homosexuals want, including same-sex marriage, one has to recognize their achievement in pushing one of the most difficult political lobbies in our history.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 11, 2003
ID: 12919881
TAG: 200306110280
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Once again, the familiar rush to the long, summer break is showing on Parliament Hill.
This annual pell-mell mocks those familiar platitudes of MPs – from the prime minister to the humblest backbencher – on their love for the “cut and thrust of debate” and the insistence one hears in almost every question period about the “urgency” or the “emergency” in this, that, or the other before the sky falls.
This year, more than most, there are reasons for Jean Chretien’s government to pick up the pace to escape from the daily House of Commons sittings.
No Parliament means much less opposition pursuit of scandals brewing – like the bribery of immigration board judges, or the rich expense account living of the privacy commissioner, or the affairs of Canada Steamship Lines and potential conflicts of interest by Paul Martin, its owner, when he was finance minister.
Lately, several more new episodes are emerging in the long-running Alfonso Gagliano scandals of the alleged skimming of government contracts, which come close to Chretien’s own dubious interventions into federal loans to party acquaintances.
Within the governing party, both the PM, with his reduced group of loyalists, and his alternative-in-waiting, who has backing from some 130 MPs, have to fill the days until next February. Each of these clutches of Grits will appreciate the relative political quiet there is with an empty House and few MPs around the Hill.
This reigning duality and the difficulties it spawns are rare and unsettling as it stretches and occasionally bursts caucus loyalties. Take the buffeting minister David Collenette has been taking from the MPs of the transport committee, or, more telling, the reminder John Manley gave to Paul Martin last week that being “Liberal” in Canada means being loyal to leader and to party through high times and low. A Globe reporter even writes of “parallel” governments.
It becomes clear from the rush in the House that the prime memorable law Chretien will have before the long break is Bill C-24, an act to reform funding of parties for electoral and organizational purposes.
This will provide much more from the public purse for electioneering costs and the maintenance of a party’s machinery between elections – both on the Hill and across the land in 301 constituency associations.
The federal cash is largely in lieu of the funds parties have been getting from corporate or union donors. Of course, individual donations to parties will continue much as usual. The “in lieu” for losing large corporate sponsorship will begin at a level of $1.75 for each vote a party’s candidates have received in a general election. As parties stand now, this will mean a delicious boost for the Liberals’ fortunes, both from an election and annually thereafter until the next one.
Chretien is giving us this legislation to save Canada from the extravagant spending of American elections, based on huge donations by big corporations. As he describes it, it is more an act of purification, not his contrition for dubious fundraising by his team – see the Gagliano stuff !
Bill C-24 has been criticized by some Liberals, mostly in fearing the “in lieu” won’t be enough. The absolute opposition comes from the Alliance, whereas the NDP and the Bloc support it. (Both the NDP government of Manitoba, and the PQ in Quebec long ago banned corporate and union gifts to parties.)
Chretien’s bill is complex, but the partisan regimes to develop from the federal funding augur a major bureaucratizing of a system whose prime virtue used to be its basis in citizen volunteers coming together to use their wits, money and ideas to advance or resist causes and taxes.
This guarantee of a sustaining cash flow, for and between elections, means more party functionaries controlled from the centre, or, put another way, controlled by each leader and his or her surrogates.
If you think this overstates the bureaucratic prospect, ponder why and how Chretien is leaving. While he and his PMO crew slept, figuratively speaking, Martin, using some of his own money and brains and political muscle, gained such a grip on the party the PM declined to test his popularity within it at a planned leadership review.
Yes, Chretien is having revenge for that repulse through much in his long goodbye, but not necessarily with this bill on party funding. He loves the irony that he of all partisan warhorses should ready such a righteous garland for posterity.
Not much has been said of what Bill C-24 means to a leader of the Liberal party. Couple what it provides for the leader to use in campaigns and between elections with the powers the party’s constitution has given to name the candidate for any riding or to deny any candidate chosen by a riding.
He really rules the Liberal roost; a safe sovereign. So long as he doesn’t sleep.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 08, 2003
ID: 12919543
TAG: 200306080268
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Any process for ranking quality is almost sure to be subjective and unscientific, and over the years rankings shift. Nevertheless, we bite on the bait of the “best ever” because we have our own opinions.
Best ever heavyweight champ? Joe Louis? Muhammad Ali? Jim Corbett? I like Rocky Marciano.
Best ever hockey player? Howie Morenz? Gordie Howe? Wayne Gretzky? Mario Lemieux? Even Viktor Kharmalov, or Jaromir Jagr? I like Bobby Orr.
Best president? Abe Lincoln? Thomas Jefferson? Woodrow Wilson? Franklin Roosevelt? Ronald Reagan? I like George Washington.
And for political buffs here, who was the best Canadian prime minister? The original, Sir John A. Macdonald? The lengthiest, W.L. Mackenzie King? Robert Borden? Pierre Trudeau? Surely not Lester Pearson, a PM for just five years, undercut because he led two “minority” governments.
Which brings me to the survey last week on the best prime minister in the half-century reign of Queen Elizabeth II.
Many who remember and still savour the style and aims of Pierre Trudeau during his 15 years as PM will be shocked a panel has placed him third, behind both Pearson and Brian Mulroney and not much ahead of Louis St. Laurent (1948-57) and the incumbent, Jean Chretien.
This particular measure of prime ministers fills most of an issue of Policy Options, a magazine put out by an Ottawa think-tank, sustained by and large by federal support. Both the selection process and the supporting essays set me reflecting on Canada’s achievements and failures, progress and stagnation – in short, the states of the nation, past and present.
Prime ministers of brief time like John Turner, Joe Clark and Kim Campbell were not included in the ranking. The result has Pearson first, then Mulroney, Trudeau, St. Laurent, Chretien, and John Diefenbaker.
The ratings are backed up by 10 substantial essays, most by historians or economists, one for each of the six PMs and three more on economic, social and foreign policy developments through the half-century. Most of these essays seem fair, enlightening and quite judgmental. The work was done by a panel of 25 men and three women, the majority of whom are professors, joined by a handful of former high-level federal mandarins and several journalists.
The main analytic frame is divided into four subject fields: 1) Canadian unity and the management of the federation; 2) the economy and the fiscal framework; 3) Canada’s role in the world; 4) social policy.
Three bulky adjectives define the sort of leadership era each PM fitted; i.e., transformational; transitional; or transactional.
So Chretien is rated transactional in his method of operating – rather month to month – whereas Pearson, Mulroney and Trudeau were very transformational, going for big, newish goals. Diefenbaker and St. Laurent earned the transitional tag, indicating “marking time” while the need for strong and open leadership was crystallizing.
Why is Trudeau’s rating by this credible panel so far beneath the going myth of his greatness? Whatever his leadership regarding unity, patriating the Constitution, and creating the Charter, his record in the economic field was dismal, and his international aspirations, however quixotic and sometimes prescient, led nowhere and left little more in legacy than a vein of leftish anti-Americanism.
Why does Pearson rate so high? Because so much moved in his regime. His cabinet energized both Ottawa and the provincial governments. He led in achieving a national flag, a national pension plan and the Auto Pact. Above all, he faced positively the surge of French Canadian nationalism in Quebec. True, in his brief mandates there was partisan turmoil and scandals galore. Much of the uproar rose from what we now realize was the last period when the House of Commons was vital, central and dynamic.
As usual I was bothered, not so much at Diefenbaker’s ranking as the lowest of the six, but at the meanness of the assessment given him by Jack Granatstein, the most prolific author among our historians. He doesn’t even mention the Chief’s initiative in education, which shook up schooling in every province. By Ottawa contributing 75% of the cost of new buildings meant for technical and vocational education, we got new community colleges bridging the practical skills gap between high school and university.
Granatstein does acknowledge that despite the mockery of Diefenbaker in the east, thousands out west never lost their appreciation of what he meant to Prairie folk.
Of course, to merely casual political watchers the surprise in the rankings will be even more for Mulroney’s high ranking than Pearson’s, even though almost every essay mentioned his colossal unpopularity at the close of his term – and since. He took the most risks and went after so many major goals. Despite his failures on the constitutional front, his record in international relations, especially vis-a-vis the U.S., and in both social and economic policy fields was positive.
Of course, his immediate electoral legacy to his party was much like Trudeau’s – a bleak one.
I figure this “rating and ranking” operation sponsored by the Institute for Research in Public Policy might have given more credit to Diefenbaker, Chretien, even Trudeau, for their prowess at electioneering. Diefenbaker was also (surely) the ablest parliamentarian of the six, and for a few years – 1957-60 – probably the most popular prime minister we ever had. He generated a much deeper concern about politics among ordinary people and fathered a far broader media coverage, something that still rolls on despite an attendant growth in cynicism.
Of course, if the institute had extended this exercise back to 1935 and a seventh prime minister, Mackenzie King, I believe he would have been No. 1.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 04, 2003
ID: 12918953
TAG: 200306040538
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Poor Peter MacKay. What new leader of a federal party ever faced (and still faces) such an instant, critical onslaught over the deal he made to ensure victory?
Through the Internet, one can trace the news, editorials and letters to the editor from St. John to Victoria on the matter of MacKay’s deal with David Orchard. Oh, such sourness! Such contempt for the new leader’s judgment and intelligence. And such an inflation of the threat that is NAFTA. As for any co-ordination in the next election of our two “conservative” parties, the Alliance and the PCs – well, that’s shot!
First, to the outrage about the deed of cutting such deals at conventions between those still on the ballot and those just off it. Before and during balloting, such dealing often happens – even at conventions of the saintly NDP. There have been agreements to push the top issue of the candidate whose delegates are sought or the promise of a major portfolio for a caucus critic.
The two conventions I recall as most rife with such wheeling and dealing were the Tory leadership convention in 1967 which ditched John Diefenbaker and chose Bob Stanfield, and the Liberal convention the next year in which Pierre Trudeau just survived a late ballot rise by Bob Winters.
In neither convention did the bartering, haggling, and “coming over” seem to have much effect on the voting totals. After each convention broke up, however, there was scads of stuff on offers and begging.
Over time, the Canadian urge to purify democracy became critical of such antics at leadership conventions. It crystallized in not having delegates and balloting at one central place. Instead, each party member voted electronically. However, such a leadership race is a bore. One cannot turn it into vivid TV.
Such changes were pushed hard by the Reform party and this influenced much tinkering with the constitutions of other parties. The Liberals are into it in a complex way this year. The Tories tried it, but went back this time to the old format. And they got the TV coverage – hours of it! Unfortunately, it climaxed around MacKay and his written but unrevealed agreement of dubious necessity with an adversary who has been a zealous enemy of free trade with the U.S. for 17 years, most of them as an awkward member within the PC party.
In 1988, David Orchard tried to make the point Canadians didn’t favour free trade – after Brian Mulroney had already won an election with free trade as his prime intention. True, a substantial majority of electors had voted for parties opposing such a deal. Statistically, probably emotionally, but not legally, that was significant in 1988. It is no longer. Opinion polling in the past few years, despite anti-American chuffing by the NDP and some pockets of Liberals, shows high appreciation of NAFTA.
NAFTA is now sacred, so sacred that Orchard seems a blasphemy to many in the party which governed when it was put together. Thus, not even an undertaking by MacKay that the party would seriously review NAFTA, its debits and credits, is acceptable in either the party or across the country. So McKay has gained for a time, perhaps permanently, a tag as an unprincipled politician, out to win at any price.
It strikes me this is a remarkably petty judgment of a deed which pales to such switches as Trudeau’s, between 1974 and 1975, from mocking wage and price controls to legislating them, or Mulroney’s shift to legislating the free trade deal after standing against it in his first mandate, or Jean Chretien’s campaign against Mulroney’s GST and NAFTA in 1993 to his acceptance of both when he gained office.
As for the second aspect of the MacKay-Orchard deal regarding a full Tory slate in the next election – and no merger or coalition talks with the Alliance – many conservatively minded Canadians, even as many as 18% of the electorate, want just one genuinely conservative party to vote for, and so to end the Liberals’ run in office.
Certainly, both the Tories with their long history, and the far younger Alliance party, have backers who cherish their allegiance and do not want to give it up for either a takeover, a coalition, or a merger. In Eastern Canada this is a strong factor among Tories, just as it is in Alberta and B.C among Alliance faithful.
But there’s much more dividing the parties than loyalties and traditions.
The Tories, though no longer the pro-British and high-tariff party they were through much of the 20th century, are definitely more supportive of major federal roles in health and welfare and less dedicated to free market economics than the Alliance. Nor, despite Joe Clark’s vision of Canada as a “community of communities,” are Tories as set on provincial rights as the Alliance.
Surely, these competitors for conservative votes under leaders Peter MacKay and Stephen Harper, whatever MacKay’s deal with Orchard, are not close enough yet in either program emphasis or institutional loyalty to co-operate in what we’re all calling as Paul Martin’s election.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 01, 2003
ID: 12918625
TAG: 200306010267
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Surely, last week’s in-flight brag and candour from Jean Chretien, in which he worked up the contrasts between his policies and achievements to those of U.S. President George Bush, was deliberate, not goofing around by a worn-out politician.
One Canadian axiom we should begin to draw from the episode is the remarkable shortening in a prime minister’s useful shelf life (though not necessarily that of his or her party’s).
Whatever the nostalgia at leadership conventions for departing prime ministers, from W.L. Mackenzie King’s time until today, none was widely popular in his later years in office.
(If you think Pierre Trudeau doesn’t fit this, remember how he just hung on to power at his first re-election in 1972 and lost narrowly in 1979, recouping shortly when Joe Clark failed to count heads in the House.)
After a few years, familiarity with a prime minister has bred contempt. By the fifth year or so, boredom has set in, rancor grows and even followers think about change – a new face and a new gang. Especially a new gang.
We see and hear too much of a prime minister.
After FDR got his fourth term late in World War II, our U.S. neighbours put a tight lid on presidents going beyond two four-year terms. So Americans know a presidential dud could be gone after four years and, for sure, after eight. Meanwhile, their fixed congressional elections every second November usually produce a congress contrary to the president. This limits the kind of suffering we have in Canada, with a system that makes it easy for a PM to dominate a servile cabinet and a docile parliamentary caucus.
Such authority for a PM like Chretien is backed by his nearly total control of thousands of patronage plums, his right to set an election date any time within a generous span of five years and his empowerment by the party both to name a candidate in any constituency or to refuse to approve the candidature of an MP seeking re-election.
In Chretien, we have a quick-minded, rough-tough, super-energetic goer who has pushed control and domination of government and Parliament even further than Trudeau did.
Forget any interpretation of slowness or ignorance or a blighted memory created by Chretien’s wrenching pronunciations and odd sentence structures. He is as smart and as crafty as any federal MP and minister I have observed in 46 years on the Hill.
Nevertheless, Chretien is fallible. And for the past three to four years, despite his mastery of cabinet, caucus, House, and Senate, his feats have not brought him glory or even passing recognition as a competent prime minister.
His pushy, would-successor, Paul Martin, elbowed forward too early to replace him and, despite being rebuked, he continued to gain control of the Liberal party and forced Chretien to set his retirement date, however slowly it comes.
And so Chretien has set about justifying a rash of legislation to complete his aims, and also to narrow his rival’s options and – judging by what he said when emplaned and later under reporters’ questioning in Athens – to define the Liberal party’s duty of sustaining Canadian autonomy and the noble, global aims of the United Nations Charter.
Of course, his implication is the dangers of Canada becoming too dependent on the military might and economic enterprise of the U.S., particularly when the White House incumbent is a conservative Republican and out of line with the social and economic values of mainstream Canadian liberals (or Liberals).
Chretien’s “spinners” on the European trip have told reporters that before his candour about Bush, he’d had Martin in mind as a conservatively minded successor who, like Brian Mulroney, may be overly preocuppied with schmoozing presidents. That, and the strong bent of younger Canadians to respond to America as the global titan with a sturdier nationalism of their own. They are far more interested in peacekeeping and peacemaking activity than in Canada having a high-tech, globally mobile military.
Witness the obvious backing the PM had in the country in not joining the U.S.-British alliance against Iraq. And there’s the earned popularity of social programs here that have been rejected in the U.S. as entailing too much government and the attendant inefficiencies for a society devoted to free market values.
It seems to me, however, that Chretien doesn’t realize the depth and breadth of the bored bitterness toward him across Canada. It has reached both ridiculous and treasonable proportions in the Liberal parliamentary caucus.
Surely, the Chretien I’ve watched for so long isn’t the fool one might take from his remarks on the plane, saying he could easily win another election or that it’s unfair the media have never given him credit for the land mine treaty or the aid-to-Africa program or the International Court of Justice or saving the Canada Pension Plan.
On the other hand, if damaging Paul Martin is Chretien’s prime purpose, as seems apparent, he is certainly dimming the aura of savvy and charming progressivism which has been radiating from his worthy rival since his first budget surplus as finance minister.
Unless there’s much more in talent and inspiration in Martin than we have seen, his shelf life in the PMO may be as short as John Turner’s, the alluring Liberal heir we awaited for years. He came and – splat!

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, May 28, 2003
ID: 12918032
TAG: 200305280513
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


We are well into what has become the most untidy political year in living memory.
If you doubt this, think about the threats of three strange diseases or the diversity in leaderships of federal parties or the provincial elections held or on tap.
Begin with some legacy-making by PM Jean Chretien – stuff like his museum of political history, or his bill to dumb down the criminality in small-scale use of marijuana (dovetailed with an advertising blitz against drug use). Or consider his determination, despite protests from his party’s president against ending large corporate donations, to use more from tax revenues to fund political parties, both in and between elections.
Is there a clamour in Ottawa, or even a serious need, for a museum of Canadian political history? No!
How would it present the recurring scandals of patronage, bureaucratic incompetence and regional grievance which have resounded through decades of questions and speeches in Parliament?
Could we do the history comically? Say as in the tradition of the Royal Canadian Air Farce or the sincere insincerities of Rick Mercer? Not likely. Spoofing is a fate feared by both politicians and bureaucratic Ottawa. And remember, a Liberal’s truth on political matters is normally a twist or a lie to a Tory or a New Democrat, etc. – and vice versa.
Consider three matters which had deep roots in our politics as Confederation was shaped in the 1860s:
1) The future within Canada, perhaps outside it, of the francophones in Quebec; 2) the status and rights of the aborigines; and 3) the sharp and often overshadowing effect on us of the American economy, culture and, recently, geopolitics.
Each matter is still very much alive, although francophone sovereignty seems in remission. Each matter has its clutch of contrary interpretations. We already have plenty of federal museums, archives, and libraries in the capital region of Ottawa-Gatineau with much about the Quebecois, the natives (their artifacts dominate the Museum of Civilization) and geopolitics (see the War Museum, even the National Library).
From Confederation until the early 1950s, when the railway system began to decline, it was often said that Canadian politics was “railroads,” and one gets much on rail history in the federal Science and Technology Museum, just as one gets air history in the Aviation Museum.
The curators of the new political museum might set a period limit, say the close of World War II, and present a “straight” story on the theme “From colony to nation” – with much about the Empire, Commonwealth, the Crown, governors general and such. To not be false, the historical presentation continued to the contemporary scene almost demands spoofing. Why so? Because as politics became the dominant and prominent field covered by our electronic media, it was personalized through the national television system. With TV’s rise right after WW II, Canadians got into satirizing and caricaturizing their politicians and away from awe or praise and respect. Many excellent comedians sharpened their wit on our politics, then decamped to success in Hollywood and on the U.S. networks.
Maybe Paul Martin will react to Chretien’s museum of politics the way he has to the PM’s bill now in passage that sets up (so they say) better governance for Indian bands. He will kill it when he takes command.
So let us husband our federal moneys or assign such museum millions toward an abler, better equipped military which Martin (and many others) want, or to those who want to write or produce contemporary or visionary plays and films.
In closing, let me turn from such archetypal Canadian piety (or fatuity?) of my own to the choice of party leader before delegates to the Progressive Conservatives’ federal leadership convention on Saturday.
Whom would I recommend they choose?
Peter MacKay, one of the two MPs in the contest, has the utility of being in the House and of having fashioned a good reputation as questioner and debater. I think he ought to be the winner, though three other contenders have merit.
Peter is matched in House capabilities by Scott Brison, another Nova Scotian, and a rather more flamboyant, edgy and less traditional Tory. The two other rivals of note, David Orchard from Saskatchewan and Jim Prentice from Alberta, seem capable, aggressive, and primed with a core purpose.
Orchard has a huge aim: to get Canada out of the free trade treaty with the U.S. He’s banged away at this since the late 1980s when he first took on Brian Mulroney over it. Prentice is a determined advocate of PC-Alliance co-operation, perhaps an eventual merger. Neither of the westerners augurs an egocentric disaster, as Stockwell Day became for the Alliance two years ago, or as Kim Campbell was for the Tories in 1993. Admittedly, MacKay is the safest choice.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 25, 2003
ID: 12702767
TAG: 200305250267
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Paul Martin’s team thinks far ahead. Although not scheduled to take over the federal government until next February, last week in the Hill Times it revealed the basic formula for the first Martin ministry, and labelled it “the 33% solution.”
This will not come into play when Martin forms a pre-election ministry after Jean Chretien departs. He will tell Canada he needs confirmation from the electorate for his program. With a majority of his own, he will then choose his ministry and go on to implement his promises.
The size of this post-election ministry will be the same or close to the present one of 39 members (of whom 29 are “cabinet” ministers, and 10 are mere ministers of state).
One-third of the new ministry – 13 members – will be chosen from the list of those MPs who have been ministers in the Chretien government. At this writing, 21 of today’s 39 ministers stand forth for Martin. So for this 33% the new PM will have to disappoint many, particularly if he decides to ask leadership rivals John Manley and Sheila Copps.
The second third is to come from MPs who are presently backbenchers in the Liberal caucus. Some 120 of them are for Martin. It’s likely 100 or more will run in 2004 and probably most will win and hope for a ministerial post.
The final third is a fascinating but somewhat dubious project. It will consist of a dozen or so proven citizens of exceptional quality who come into the next House. An example given is Frank McKenna, only 55, now a corporate director, and once Liberal premier of New Brunswick. To get this portion of his formula filled, Martin will have to recruit candidates of national or regional fame. To do this, he will be able to use the powers given the party leader by the Liberal constitution.
The boldness in Martin’s 33% solution lies in his confidence he will win so many seats in each province he won’t be limited ( particularly in Alberta and Saskatchewan) by too few Liberal MPs to fill the slots each province merits.
Here are some of the traditional requirements in a federal ministry: 1) at least one minister from each of the 10 provinces; 2) at least seven, better nine, female ministers; 3) at least eight, better nine, ministers from Quebec; 4) at least two ministers who represent visible minorities (present ministers Herb Dhaliwal, Rey Pagtakhan, Ethel Blondin-Andrew and Jean Augustine are examples).
Two of the three parts in the cabinet formula will likely come easily regarding choices. But it will be an immense job choosing just 13 from the veteran backbench MPs who are waiting, many expecting to be elevated by Martin. In my rating of the present backbench I have some 30 such MPs marked as “very good” and a dozen as “outstanding.”
It bears repeating that a prime cause of the long-simmering, now boiling caucus antagonism to Jean Chretien was the consequence of having to applaud, through years of question periods, ministers who couldn’t even read their briefing notes well.
Martin’s choices of present or recent ministers will be somewhat smaller than deciding on the dozen backbenchers for his ministry, yet large enough to make for some devil’s choices, because Chretien has so many dud ministers.
Consider Elinor Caplan, just 59, now minister of national revenue. A Martin fan and veteran Toronto politician, she’s the only Jew in the present cabinet and was one of Chretien’s star picks. Yet, putting it mildly, she has not shone in the House, whereas Martin has over a dozen female backers who are MPs of high quality. Consider this quartet from the GTA alone: environmentalist Karen Kraft Sloan; health authority Carolyn Bennett; assiduous, tough Albina Guarnieri; and urban expert Judy Sgro.
Also, Montreal offers Martin a marvellous Jewish minister in backbencher Irving Cotler, a top-notch thinker, speaker and writer.
Or consider Martin’s Italo-Liberal dilemma. Almost all MPs of Italian ancestry back him, yet only one is in the present ministry, and was a recent appointment: the excellent Maurizio Bevilacqua. But these Martin boosters are also at hand in addition to Guarnieri: Joe Comuzzi, Joe Fontana, Tony Ianno, Maria Minna, Pacetti Massimo, Joe Peschisolido, Gary Pillitteri, Carmen Provenzano, Anthony Tirabassi, Tony Valeri and Joe Volpe. There is much push and guts in that crew.
It seems to me Martin will expand his choice of a dozen or so current ministers beyond the 21 who are backing him. It’s Liberal tradition to offer a post to a credible leadership candidate. Also there are several ministers, neutral so far for good reason, like Don Boudria, the House leader, Stephane Dion, the federal relations authority, or Allan Rock, ready to run next time, who might be worth another cabinet stint.
In his three mandates, Chretien has not had a distinguished ministry brimming with personality and vigorous grips on portfolios. Paul Martin was certainly one star turn; maybe one could add John Manley and Ann McLellan as two more.
Surely, such mediocrity was deliberate. Guided by tacticians like Eddie Goldenberg and David Smith, now a senator, the PM kept bypassing the ablest in his caucus. Excessive ability would get in the way of the mastery Jean Chretien likes. How else to explain three slowpokes from Toronto in a row as ministers of national defence: David Collenette, Art Eggleton and John McCallum?
It will be hard for Martin to fashion a lamer ministry than any of Chretien’s recent ones. In my opinion, the best materials for cabinet quality will be in the 100 or so Liberal backbenchers who will move on to the next Parliament rather than in the 33% he will find among either present ministers or among new MPs.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, May 21, 2003
ID: 12702118
TAG: 200305210516
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


A dualism has developed in the Liberal party’s parliamentary caucus since last summer, when Jean Chretien announced he wouldn’t seek a fourth mandate from the electorate. He would, however, complete his mandate as head of the federal government until February, 2004 – some 18 months in the future.
This announcement was caused by evidence from the Liberal party’s riding associations that the PM’s leadership would be disapproved at a coming national convention by delegates wanting Paul Martin as party leader, and prime minister.
Shortly thereafter, Martin either quit or was fired from cabinet, and so was freed, as a mere MP, to pursue his destiny in an ever more organized and financed way. In the nine months since he left the cabinet table, his Martinites have beavered away. Lord knows how many dollars they’ve got in the bank, but it may be $10 million.
We do know from press figures last week that 129 Liberal MPs (out of 163) support Martin as leader, including 21 of the 38 ministers. Therefore, in any party crisis that requires a caucus canvass of opinion the Martinites will win handily – if their leader so directs them.
After a long gestation, the Liberal party’s national executive last year unveiled the procedures for what is surely the longest, most complex leadership contest in our partisan political history.
The process began formally last month and will crank along through to July with formal debates by the three approved candidates across the land. Then the delegates from the ridings, chosen in July after weighing the candidates’ worth, are to come to a national convention in November to vote – almost certainly in most cases – for their first choice.
Given that last week the officials in 259 Liberal riding associations (out of 301) were Martin supporters, it’s hard to believe he won’t stake out his victory in July. Further, this is almost sure to be known by all Canadians six months before Chretien has chosen to depart the Prime Minister’s Office.
Yes, the winner will have lots of time to ponder both a cabinet list for the closing days of this Parliament and the platform he would want to stand on in the general election sure to be called within six weeks to two months after Chretien’s exit in February.
Chretien asserts several “rights” empower him to chose next February as his time to depart. He says “his” mandates were given him: a) by the people of Canada at the last federal election in November, 2000; and b) by those Liberals assembled at the party’s last national convention, when there was a vote on approving or disapproving his leadership.
First, let’s dispose of his mandate from the party. Chretien seems to forget he himself agreed that a national convention at which there would be a leadership review would be cancelled. Why? Because he knew he would be embarrassed by the vote. So he bought time. He agreed he would not run again; instead, he would finish some program aims he cherishes and give up the leadership in February.
For reasons only Liberal diehards may understand, the party executive and the more-than-ready successor failed to say “nay” to the self-largesse in this extended farewell and its implicit indifference to our parliamentary system of government.
Mark this: the voters in federal general elections have never voted any “mandate” to Jean Chretien, as happen in the U.S. presidential system. The foundation or source of our prime minister’s mandate comes from which party leader has the largest number of MPs chosen in a general election.
The factor that sustains Jean Chretien as PM is that in the 2000 election his party elected the largest number of MPs. And the mandate to govern this victory created is not for a fixed term (like the president has in the U.S.), it is one that must be confirmed again and again. Where? In the House of Commons in votes of “want of confidence” in the government, which in practice are put repeatedly in each session by opposition MPs and caucuses.
The brute reality is that the day a caucus of Liberal government MPs wants and declares, say, for Paul Martin as prime minister, and makes this known to Jean Chretien and proves it, this renewable mandate is gone.
Although there is no direct precedent for this in Canada, it seems certain the Governor General would invite Paul Martin to form a government once informed by the prime minister that he has lost the confidence of the Liberal caucus and Martin seems to have it.
Something like this could or should happen in November, if not earlier.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 18, 2003
ID: 12701797
TAG: 200305180270
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


It is unfair so many in this country slough off our politics and politicians as boring. To illustrate this, my focus will be on a fascinating, romantic story of over 9,000 words on over three full pages of the May 10 Globe and Mail. Its writers were two staffers based in Ottawa, John Ibbitson and Jane Taber.
Our “national newspaper” thus dramatized the emergence of a prime minister in a high-level saga which began with a trip to Montreal in 1981 by several young Liberals. Would one Paul Martin, a youngish shipping company boss, be open to making a switch to politics and to being backed by them? He was. Of course, the climax (though not the end of the saga) will come when Jean Chretien does the right thing and, as one veteran Grit MP puts it, “gives Paul his turn.”
This is also at its core a love story worth a movie, with a romance developing slowly and within a very close crew seized on making their chosen one our prime minister.
It is also a graphic tale of opportunities and rewards which open for those who enlist early in the Liberal party, not so much as electoral aspirants themselves but as campaign workers and then as hired aides, consultants and continuous party activists.
Enthusiastic backing for Paul Martin as leader that began with a handful of 20-year-olds in 1981 has burgeoned into today’s numbers, which last week included 126 Liberal MPs, 22 of Jean Chretien’s 38 ministers and over 200 presidents of Liberal riding associations.
The story, read closely, may startle citizens who began it with only curiosity about our next prime minister. They may even decide there is more in content and intentions in the minds of those who have been “handling” Paul Martin than in his own.
Another response I would hope for would be some readers set to wondering what government MPs, even cabinet ministers, are doing if so much strategy and its tactical application comes from unelected and shadowy characters (except for the few who serve as leaders’ surrogates to the media).
Thankfully, Ibbitson and Taber have slugged away, and made the Martin gang quite human and archetypically Liberal in the Davey-Coutts-Rae-Goldenberg fashion.
The personalities in the crew obviously worth headlining a “Canadian Love Story” movie are David Herle, 41, once a Saskatchewan farm lad, and Theresa “Terry” O’Leary, 43. She is the slight, twinkling daughter of Irish immigrants, and apparently is fearlessly, even fiercely, outspoken, even with a minister of finance. Indeed, even with a deputy minister of finance.
It seems Herle is big, burly and bumptious, but durable, loyal and an astute partisan. And though he’s been out of Saskatchewan a long time, he continues to believe the federal Liberals have short-changed the West for far too long. On the recreational side, he is an admirer of Elton John and collects his stuff. This avocation matches O’Leary’s dedicated pursuit of the life, times and memorabilia of John F. Kennedy.
The authors tell us off the top that Martin describes Herle and O’Leary as”two people to whom I owe an enormous amount.” They continue with a paragraph which grabbed me:
“Few people outside Ottawa have heard of them and their relationship with Mr. Martin, often as tempestuous as it is intimate, has shaped this nation’s fiscal policy and the former finance minister’s war with Prime Minister Jean Chretien, just as it will shape the priorities of the next government.”
Why did that grab me? Well, who would have thought two unknown, partisan aides, only in their 30s, and without outstanding academic or employment records, were the shapers of Canada’s fiscal policy? (Think about that storied 1995 budget which broke the deficit barrier.) Or that this fall or next spring they will be “shaping the priorities” of the Martin government and “taking command of the ‘polls, propaganda and patronage.'”
Of course, the core of Martinites, some seven or eight in number in 1988 when their hero became an opposition MP, has ballooned, and with it the standing among those “who know” such stuff of the original volunteers for Martin as Liberal leader.
The friendship of the originals deepened and, as one of them put it about Herle and O’Leary: “Somewhere in the course of being each other’s best friend in 1990, it became more than just friends.”
The authors of the article sketch Herle’s key role in the private war that sundered prime minister and minister, and conclude:
“By 2002 the bearded country boy who arrived in Ottawa dressed in polyester from head to Hush Puppies (Herle) had become the dominant force along with the approach to political calculations he’d learned back home.”
The article details some of the propositions which O’Leary and Herle pushed when Martin was finance minister. For example, O’Leary went after and got a more generous program for those families with disabled members. She wanted and got improvements in the program for parents investing for their kids’ higher education. Both she and her “friend” pressed for and helped get higher, wider federal contributions to universities for senior staff and expansion in scientific and economic research.
The piece closes with presumptions that O’Leary will be the official chief of staff to Martin as prime minister, and Herle, though continuing in his Earnscliffe role, will be his party manager and the lead adviser on partisan affairs.
The conclusion, praise be, also suggests difficulties ahead are foreshadowed. A lack of trust and understanding is emerging among the MPs of the caucus regarding these key advisers. One MP told the authors that the advisers “are selfish and self-absorbed. If their aloofness is not rectified, it will create serious issues in the future.”
Gosh, the new deal sounds like the last deal, and like the one before that.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, May 14, 2003
ID: 12701177
TAG: 200305140534
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


What a rare treat! Not a Grit victory in an Ontario riding. Instead, a determined Conservative candidate wins in his third try.
This is a delightful by-election result in Perth-Middlesex for those of us who see the Liberal government in Ottawa as a dud, a thorough blending of arrogance and incompetence. The Liberal defeat is invigorating, even if most of the 70% who voted against the Liberals may not have done so for cause.
Whatever the reasons, many who voted ignored the conventional wisdom radiating in Ottawa that the Liberals are our natural rulers. The turnout in percentage terms – about 45% of eligible voters – was fair for a byelection, though sparser than at recent federal election contests.
With this result, adherents of the Liberals, Alliance, NDP, and Conservatives have more than usual to chew over. It may even have some omens for the familiar trio of provincial parties now expecting Tory Premier Ernie Eves to call an Ontario election.
The recent Iraq war triggered much talk about reporters being “embedded” in American battle units. A useful word – embedded – for the traditional core vote in most parts of Ontario that the Liberal, PC and New Democratic parties, federal and provincial, may count on. Such willy-nilly core shares vary widely region-to-region, but across the province, federally or provincially, the Tories have a certain base of 18-20 %, the Liberals about the same, and the NDP 8-10%.
Unfortunately for the Alliance and Stephen Harper, its third leader in a decade, neither it nor he has been around long enough to have established a reliable core of Alliance voters. The party remains rather alien across the province, maybe too hard-shell and American-influenced to create and hold a base.
Part of the Alliance dilemma may be the rather mean “take” by most persons in the political media that the party and its caucus are a reactionary crew, socially and economically. This isn’t fair, either in general or in terms of particular MPs. Indeed, as a working parliamentary group there is a high proportion of assiduous, informed MPs among Harper’s caucus of 63.
It may also be that the long farce of Stockwell Day’s rise and fall as Alliance leader has not faded away or been overlaid yet by Harper’s carefully articulate but chilly image. He didn’t have to choose Day as foreign affairs critic, during a period in which Canadians are faced with choice between faith in multilateralism and the UN or ever-closer political and economic association with America, the world’s super-state and untrusting of the UN.
In short, it seems to me Gary Schellenberger’s victory in Perth-Middlesex is a positive indicator that the federal Tories will have a fair chance to move near or into the position of official opposition in the 2004 federal election, likely led by Peter Mac-Kay – whereas the Alliance will be hard put to hold its two seats in the Ottawa valley. As for the NDP, the fair showing of its candidate suggests the party won’t be wiped out in the Ontario election by any electoral sweep of provincial Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty.
And so we come to the Liberals, that majority mob now expecting an even greater lead in MPs once the marvelous Paul Martin is in power.
After Perth-Middlesex, such confident Liberals should be thinking about lesser possibilities. Have they, bemused by the hurrahs of a media gang that sees no alternative to them, blown the certainty of mandate after mandate?
In a remark last week the great Martin said that he did not intend to be prime minister for more than two mandates. He is so modest. One supposes he would then hand off to Frank McKenna or Allan Rock, even John Manley (who in 2012 would be 62, two years younger than Martin is now).
That the Liberals should fret over one byelection may be overdoing it, but their failure to hold Perth-Middlesex should warn the Liberals, particularly the horde of Martinite idolators.
Their party may have the largest core vote federally but it is not rock-hard and high enough to guarantee a huge sweep. The chances seem good there will not be a walkover for the Liberals. Even an upset loss in 2004 cannot be ruled out, given the lengthening charade in government ahead with Paul in waiting, Jean in the saddle, and ever more electors realizing what bad governance the Liberals are providing.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 11, 2003
ID: 12700830
TAG: 200305110237
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Should Canada join the Bush administration’s $8 billion ballistic missile defence (BMD) scheme, which will put 20 interceptor missiles into Alaska by September, 2004?
Responses to that question show how difficult living next door to the world’s only superpower is becoming for many Canadians, particularly Liberals.
The Alliance and Tories support joining the scheme, like BMD’s proponents within the Liberal cabinet and caucus. They see it as an extension of the 1958 North American Aerospace Defence (NORAD) agreement, under which Canada and the U.S. share responsibility for continental air defence. They emphasize that a refusal to join BMD won’t stop it, only ensure Canada has no say in how the system operates, or where missiles shot down by it might land.
Further, refusing to take part could end NORAD. The threat of attack by nuclear-armed bombers is way down, while technological advances and the decline of our air force mean Canada’s NORAD participation is of little value to the U.S. The latter could easily go it alone on air and missile defence, leaving Canada out in the cold.
The NDP, the Bloc and the cluttered anti-American wing of the Liberals all bitterly oppose BMD, warning it could start an arms race. Who would “race” the U.S. isn’t clear. The last country to try – the USSR – self-destructed in the effort.
The opposition parties are united on one point, however: consideration of the scheme reverses longstanding government policy. It had previously rejected the very notion of BMD. Alexa McDonough of the NDP sees the flip-flop as a bid to kiss and make up after turning away from the U.S. over Iraq. Many media voices echo her view.
Jean Chretien and his deputy PM, John Manley, counter that the government is merely responding to changed circumstances. The U.S. has withdrawn from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty which banned BMD systems. Canada’s previous opposition to BMD was in part based on the fact it would violate that treaty. But Russia and China have now muted their objections to BMD, with the latter considering working with the U.S. on research and development.
Rather surprisingly, Foreign Minister Bill Graham seems to have made the first open advocacy of dealing with the U.S. proposal to Canada to join in the missile defence program. The assumption is abroad that this may be related to his open support of Paul Martin’s leadership bid. Martin has made it known, without much in the way of specifics, that he wants Canada to join George Bush’s initiative.
Graham insists Bush’s BMD differs from the Reagan administration’s “Star Wars” program, which the Liberals opposed. Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defence Initiative called for a massive system of surface and space-based interceptors (some using nukes and energy beam weapons) to thwart an attack by a major nuclear power like the former USSR. Bush proposes a modest system of land-based and, later, sea-based, non-nuclear interceptors, to protect the U.S. (and Canada, if it participates) from attack by “rogue” states like North Korea. Graham insists Canada still opposes the militarization of space.
The Toronto Star, harbinger of Liberal party emotions, agrees that Canada should consider BMD. It notes NATO is exploring missile defence, as are G-8 members such as Russia and Japan. But its apparent openness to BMD is disingenuous, for the conditions it would attach to Canada’s participation would surely lead to U.S. rejection of Canada as a partner.
The Star would have the U.S. protect Canadian territory, give Canada a say in the system’s operation, and allow Canadians to compete for BMD contracts. In return, Canada would pay nothing toward the system, would not allow interceptor missiles on its territory, and would insist the U.S. guarantee never to put weapons into space.
The latter is the major concern of the Globe’s Jeffrey Simpson. He dismisses the claim that Bush’s plans differ significantly from Reagan’s regarding space-based weapons. BMD requires communications and intelligence satellites. The U.S. will inevitably seek to protect these from any threats by putting weapons alongside them in space. He notes that U.S. research into space-based weapons continues.
All sides seem to agree on one thing: Canada’s views are unlikely to count for much in Washington. To Canadian critics of BMD this reflects the Bush administration’s ideological rigidity. Yet it was the Clinton administration that kept BMD research alive. And while Bush’s National Security Strategy has been criticized by many Americans for advocating pre-emptive wars, there has been strong bipartisan support for its insistence the U.S. do all it can to maintain its military superiority. As seen in the Iraq war, this is in large part due to its space-based capabilities. As these grow, so does the temptation for other countries to interfere with them. In turn, the U.S. will seek to protect them. The militarization of space began almost 60 years ago, when Nazi Germany lobbed the first ballistic missiles into space on their way to London. It isn’t going to stop now, BMD or no BMD.
Canadians bridle at not being able to sway the U.S., but many countries are far more prescribed in their options, courtesy of their neighbours. We have chosen butter over guns for decades. Can we really complain if our neighbours, who made a different choice, choose to use the power that their alternate investment has given them to ignore us?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, May 07, 2003
ID: 12700221
TAG: 200305070537
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


A meeting later today on Parliament Hill will indicate, by attendance and participation of MPs, the chances of reforming Parliament and ending what Paul Martin has called the “democratic deficit” – something he promised to end if he becomes prime minister.
The meeting is to be chaired by Monique Begin, once a Liberal health minister, and a panel of former MPs with much experience is to comment on a “summary” about reform possibilities prepared by the Parliamentary Centre.
Then, it is hoped, a representative cast of MPs will join in, talking on what each would suggest to the pending Liberal leader and the other party leaders in order to end the democratic deficit and develop a balanced system in which each MP will have better opportunities for meaningful work. Such a discussion, plus subsequent circulation of its gist to all MPs in questionnaire form, will provide an editorial refinement of the reform ideas which are in the centre’s summary.
The Parliamentary Centre is a small think-tank whose core purpose over almost four decades has been advising parliamentarians on improving their performances, particularly in the working context of House and Senate committees.
The centre’s summary analyzes, without exaggeration or contentiousness, the elements and practices in the parliamentary system which have thwarted changes which could widen and deepen the roles of both non-ministerial MPs in the governing party’s caucus and MPs of opposition parties.
The “culture” of the Hill has been dominated by partisanship since Confederation: the government proposes and defends what it intends to do or has done; the opposition MPs oppose and criticize what the government will do or has done.
The centre’s paper analyzes the consequences of this emphasis, and the effect in politics of the rapid changes in both communications and research capabilities. It suggests some adaptations for Parliament in a section aptly titled: “Harmonizing party interests with a productive role for private members.”
The centre doesn’t expand much on what the opposition MPs and parties either offer or get in lieu of a calculated easing by the government of the close control of its backbenchers.
Any candid observer of the House senses how hard it will be to ease the iron grip of party on our parliamentarians. Genuine reform requires considerable easing of the grip, plus much readier access and examination of government plans and records, with high federal officials no longer so protected by the mantle over them of their minister’s responsibility. In theory, and mostly in practice, these “mandarins” have been anonymous counsellors and administrators so far as most non-ministerial MPs are concerned.
The centre’s summary stays away from reforms in the way parties operate, although the iron grip on the caucus members of the governing party begins in both the election process for a new leader and the election of party candidates for constituencies, or by the party leader exercising his right to name such candidates. Increasingly, the raising of funds made easier by tax credits for both leadership contests and candidacy status in constituencies has become a major matter in what seem perennial preparations for the next leadership contest or the next election.
Another trend which has suborned the role and status of MPs in all caucuses, and even of ministers, has been the inordinate growth in leaders’ surrogates– spinners, handlers, fixers and disciplinarians. Of course, this has been most noticeable in the present prime minister’s office but his favoured successor already has his surrogate gang on hand. The leaders of the opposition parties have similar close guides and fixers who are not federal public servants.
It’s doubtful any parliamentary reforms in the next year will get into either the contests for positions within parties or the unofficial cadre of surrogates and spinners for the party leaders.
What should we expect from the skyhook Paul Martin has put up? Could Parliament itself be more democratic, responsive? Could it truly engage well with citizens, both in groups and individually, in what the centre calls “public discourse on policy issues”?
Some changes are coming. But the most vital and necessary change is surely not in rules or procedures but in the status quo of partisanship. The House needs a more adult and less secretive partisanship.
Unfortunately, a workable acceptance on less partisanship requires marked alterations in attitudes and emphases of both MPs of all parties and those who report and interpret politics. This will not be forthcoming next year or ever without direct exemplars in those who head the parliamentary parties. So far, only a would-be leader, Paul Martin, is committed … sort of.
If only a dozen MPs or so show at the meeting today sponsored by the Parliamentary Centre, it will signify that trained seal MPs are forever.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 04, 2003
ID: 12699878
TAG: 200305040342
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


One must say this for Jean Chretien’s long goodbye: it has meant never a dull moment.
The multitude of story lines is hard, however, for the people observing and interpreting federal politics. None has enough time or space to cover thoroughly the welter there is in politics this year – matters like the leadership contests underway in the Liberal and Tory parties, a striking new premier and a pro-federalist government in Quebec, the developing denouement of the Tory government in Ontario and, above all, the Canadian response as the huge Mideast ambitions of our presidential neighbour unfold.
Take a few more particular examples that are roiling Parliament Hill. Each merits more explanatory history than it is getting, or is likely to get.
a) The Sheila Copps-Anne McLellan clash over the handling of the federal “file” on SARS with its bitter personal relations and its significance in the conventional wisdom about cabinet unity.
b) The contradictions between Stephen Le Drew, the very news-conscious president of the Liberal party, and the PM over the latter’s “must have before I leave” Bill C-24, which reforms the financing of political parties by banning some donors, in lieu of which comes more funding from the federal purse.
c) Chretien’s determination that major changes to the rather ancient Indian Act shall go through this year, despite massive, escalating criticism of the proposals from First Nation organizations and chiefs.
d) Other bills on contentious issues which the PM wants into law before he goes, including: 1) establishing what he alleges will be “independent” ethics commissioners, one for the House, another for the Senate; 2) the decriminalization of possession and use of marijuana; 3) legal recognition for “same sex” marriages.
Despite all the hubbub in and around the Liberal party since Paul Martin’s excision from cabinet last summer, poll results show the Liberals comfortably ahead. Certainly, little is showing in the polls to hearten either the Alliance caucus (the official Opposition) or the caucuses of the separation-minded BQ and the NDP, despite its new leader. The gains, though not startling, have gone to the Tories, the fifth party in the present House, despite weak attendance and scanty media coverage of their leadership debates.
The opinion polling which I’ve seen continues to confirm that Martin is handily the choice of the majority of both Liberals and the public.
So this is the point where I should make my prediction of the winner to come? I wish I could go against the grain and not pick Martin, but a loss is most unlikely. Yes, John Manley and Sheila Copps have at least four months to create a miracle, but those delegates by the hundreds already aligned for Martin are not a mirage.
Why do I wish Martin wasn’t a sure thing? First, because in my judgment Manley would certainly make a more frank, open prime minister, with a more frugal and less pretentious government than looms with the repetitiously “proactive” Martin. Further, Copps as prime minister would likely provide us with a populist ministry which could erase much of the so-called “democratic deficit’ which Martin floated as one of his leading intentions many months ago.
It has been obvious, of course, that of the trio, Martin has the stuff, indeed an over-run of the political stuff we call blarney, or as Haliburton, over a century and a half ago called it, “soft sawder.” Blarney and soft sawder are style and manner, smiles and platitudes galore, gifts which both reward and mirror either compromise or fudging. It has fascinated me the past few months watching how two of our most political dailies – the National Post, conservatively minded and business-centred, and The Toronto Star, so “liberal” and socially aware – have adjusted editorially, and through several resident columnists, to see positively in Martin what each wants in the next prime minister.
None of the three candidates is stupid, but Manley is the most studious, best educated and most ruminating. His shortfalls are in qualities so often over-respected in our politics (and Martin has them too): an easy smile, always with something nice to stay in keeping with the occasion; be agreeable, positive, sage-like and, almost always, nice.
Oddly, and rather sadly, such was the case with Martin’s father, a most able parliamentarian over 40 some years. Paul Martin Sr. was twice rejected as party leader by the Liberals. Through heavy reading and extraordinary travel and much speaking, he became so adept, so consistent as a cliche-perfect commentator, and so strong with aphorisms and appropriate anecdotes that his very perfection as the smooth, agreeable politician in time fostered his discount.
Martin Sr. became his own caricature. But he had a keen mind and a set of political intentions too forward for the prime ministers and most cabinet colleagues during his days in office. A lot of Canadians divine there is something of the same in the son.
Well, I wish they’d take a closer look at John Manley.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, April 30, 2003
ID: 12699304
TAG: 200304300523
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


We take as a given that Paul Martin knows arithmetic, given his time as finance minister. However, his record leaves us less sure of his moral proportions.
An editorial in last Saturday’s Globe raised the issue in several of 20 questions to the favourite to succeed Jean Chretien as prime minister. The most direct of such questions was No. 3, which read:
“Mr. Martin has attacked the ‘democratic deficit’ in the parliamentary system as it currently operates. How credible is his position when his own supporters worked so hard to make it difficult for other leadership candidates to sign up members of the party?”
Yes, Paul’s “democratic deficit” is a place to start. He unveiled it last year, and it gained more reaction than any other of his ventures into issues. Most response focused on reforms to elevate and widen the roles for plain MPs in making laws and scrutinizing spending. I got into the subject here, again and again.
Not long ago, this brought a protest from a man I’ve known as a big “L” Liberal for years. He was blunt: Stop writing as though the “democratic deficit” is in the parliamentary process. Direct your reforming zeal at what happens before an MP joins in the parliamentary process.
Reform, said my caller, should begin before newly elected MPs get sworn in. For more responsibility and influence for ordinary MPs, and less control of them by the oligarchy of the Liberal party, there have to be several major changes in the party’s rules. Such reform is even more imperative now that Jean Chretien has a bill in process that boosts federal funding of the registered parties through an annual fee based on the number of votes received in the last election.
“Reform, to lead anywhere,” said my caller, “has to begin in the party, notably the Liberal party. But it will have to be done by bringing party matters within our electoral laws.”
The dominance Chretien has wielded over cabinet and caucus began with the authority by custom he inherited, and then he went for more at party conventions in 1992 and 1994. These changes let him appoint candidates, bypassing riding association memberships.
Remember, the party leader who becomes prime minister is not voted in by the Canadian electorate. He or she is just elected in a riding, and the top role comes as leader of the party that gets the most MPs. The leadership itself comes through a party process, almost unrelated to electoral law or the Constitution. The Liberal leader now dominates the candidate selections in a party still extolling the virtues of the Liberal tradition of loyalty to the leader.
The reason Chretien gave to get dominance of the riding associations was that it enabled him to “place” star personalities, very able women or visible minority stalwarts into ridings where the party’s chances were good. Splendid objectives, perhaps, but the means are undemocratic. Indeed, the means mock Section 3 of the Charter of Rights which guarantee “Every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of members to the House of Commons … and to be qualified for membership therein.”
My critic told me that at the convention which gave Chretien, as leader, the power to dictate the choice of candidates, both Paul Martin and Sheila Copps supported the moves.
Subsequently, and ironically, Martin and his team showed in their unflagging leadership drive how well they’d grasped these accretions of power to the centre by developing a mastery of so many Liberal riding associations and Liberal provincial executives. So much so, Chretien backed off challenging their backing in convention, although he took the edge off this by suckering the Martinites with his long goodbye.
Something ought to be done to democratize the rights of constituents intent on electoral participation in Liberal constituency associations. Doing this would diminish the procedural dictates and the choices the party’s leader can exercise in the selection and election of candidates. The leader’s powers are so strong and penetrating and so “top down.” His rights to appoint or promote or bestow patronage on an MP are so effective as controls, and so is his right to disapprove a re-election nomination for any MP who has dared buck the caucus whip.
Would Paul Martin as Liberal leader readily give up these pre-election suasions? As the Globe editorial reminds us: “His own supporters worked so hard to make it difficult for other candidates to sign up new members of the party.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, April 27, 2003
ID: 12698975
TAG: 200304270273
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


The debate over Canada’s decision not to take part in the war against Iraq has focused almost exclusively on the possibilities of American economic retribution. Little has been said on the war’s implications for our armed forces or defence policy. Yet both are likely to be severely challenged by it.
The war was a missed opportunity for our armed forces. It offered them a chance to see and participate in a military operation of unprecedented speed, complexity, precision, and power. Instead our warriors, but for a score or so, found themselves on the outside. This will seem of little import to many, but the United States is Canada’s closest defence ally and the world’s preeminent military force. For Canada’s professionals at arms, not being there hurt.
Their segregation began weeks before the first missiles hit Baghdad when Canadians serving in Centcom’s Florida headquarters were banned from meetings on coalition battle plans. Militaries operate on a “need to know” basis and the Canadians, not going to the war, did not need to know.
Their isolation from such councils will likely continue, but not because of American pique. (U.S. officers sympathize with their Canadian colleagues, and do not hold them responsible for their government’s decision.) No, it’s just that the American way of war is going through a revolution, and Canada’s tiny, bankrupt military is in no position to join it.
Pentagon leaders believe the technologies their military has embraced over the past 20 years have endowed it with a unique capacity for rapid, devastating operations. Information gathered by a myriad of sensors, channeled through space-based communications, provides the U.S. commanders with real-time battlefield intelligence while reliable, precision guided munitions mean they can destroy enemy forces before they can engage U.S. forces. The result comes today in American operations which are potentially orders of magnitude more powerful than other similarly sized forces.
The triumph of relatively light American units over larger, heavier ones in Iraq is proof of this.
Some authorities – notably military historian John Keegan – caution against such judgments. (He argues the war “wasn’t” because the Iraqi army did not prepare proper defensive positions in Baghdad, nor did it ever show a willingness to fight.) But for Canada’s military and those who write our defence policy what counts is that our principal ally believes a new way of war is upon us.
If there’s been a revolution in warfare, surely Canada is not alone in being caught out?
True. But just as Britain’s introduction of the dreadnought battleship in 1906 made the world’s war fleets obsolete, including Britain’s world’s-largest, if the Pentagon is right, then all of America’s allies, not just Canada, have a problem.
Other nations began to acknowledge the technology gap years ago. France tried to rationalize its armament history, hoping the savings would go towards the new technologies, but with little success. Tory and Labour governments in Britain worked hard to close the gap. The U.K. now fields a new generation of precision guided munitions, and is bringing information technology into its forces’ operations.
Canada seems uniquely ill-positioned to respond. Our military is not just behind technologically, it is falling apart. New search-and-rescue helicopters face a serious shortage of spare parts, while 22 of 32 Hercules transport aircraft are grounded because of wing cracks. Sovereignty patrols over the Arctic are rarely flown, to save money. When HMCS Iroquois lost its helicopter, it had to sail to the Gulf without one. None of the other 40-year-old Sea Kings could be readied in time. (One is now being shipped to it, like an overgrown Purolator package.)
But the real challenge here is ignorance. Canadians see no real need for a fighting military, and their politicians prefer to talk of peacekeeping.
Might we see a change, post-Jean Chretien?
Just before the war, Paul Martin’s handlers spun publicly his take on defence. Understand this: Martin knows the problems; the U.S. must be mollified; he will act. But none of this multi-billion nonsense pushed by outdated thinking. No!
Martin wants our military well-equipped, but light enough to be quickly deployed overseas. Canada will get them there, too – no more lift-begging to the Americans. And our forces should have hard-hitting weapons like attack helicopters so they can be effective and protected.
But the bill for getting to there from here would take billions. Replacing most of our aging air transport: $1.2 billion.
Enough attack helicopters to be worthwhile: $1.2 billion.
New transport ships: $100 million each. Replacing the Sea Kings, which Prime Minister Chretien loves: $3 billion plus.
And this leaves out the remotely piloted vehicles, night-vision equipment, satellite uplinks, heavy lift helicopters, and the battlefield computers which made the war in Iraq possible. It also ignores one of the forces’ most desperate needs – more troops. When advisers to a future prime minister speak with such obvious ignorance on defence matters, is anything really likely to change? And why should the U.S., or anyone else, bother to listen?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, April 23, 2003
ID: 12199379
TAG: 200304230300
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Thousands have regretted the passing of Jack Donohue, the basketball coach and one of the busiest, fairest, and most pleasant souls among us. As a coach and story-telling humorist Jack has had no peer here.
Jack became an acquaintance not long after he came to Ottawa from New York. None of us imagined as he came to the task of guiding our “national” basketball effort how grand this immigrant’s contribution would be, not just to our sporting fabric but to our civility and public humour.
My personal regret at no more breakfasts with Jack is the closing of two topics we’ve bandied about for years. Our last chat was some six weeks ago. As we parted he was tentative about our next meeting because of pending medicals. He suspected something was out of whack – and it was.
Those who know little or nothing of why Jack Donohue was so respected and loved by those who worked with him or heard him at dinners or as a TV host may see a bit of his scope in the two matters we kept chewing over.
One was of his choosing. He told me that some day he hoped to have a small book of plain words and clear ideas about leadership.
The other subject was my choice: What was the worth of hockey as our popular sport? I first prodded him about this on my TV program in the ’70s. Jack’s Nationals were doing well and I was then chairman of Hockey Canada, a little-loved but sometimes effective organization. He was deft while unforthcoming on my query.
Jack’s gift of blarney and wit never masked his shrewdness or the gravity he brought to his coaching and public relations work. Aside from joshing I never saw him close to giving either offence or backbiting about anyone. But he wasn’t bland.
Jack didn’t tell me his plans for his text on leadership until a year or so after he’d prodded me about Canadian exemplars – political, corporate, academic, sporting, etc.
One day, after Jack had pushed me for detail on the likes of Jean Chretien, Mike Harris and Bob Rae, he asked me for any good analyses of recent and current political leaders.
I told Jack I knew of no tangible compendium on Canadian leadership. Such stuff was in bites within scores of books and hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles. Then I thought of a unique appendix to the autobiography, The House is not a Home (1989) by Erik Nielsen, a deputy prime minister in Brian Mulroney’s first cabinet.
The appendix was a series of charts which Nielsen had developed for analysing and rating the character, talent, and the aptitudes of MPs who might be considered for cabinet.
To one who knew something of the MPs in the samples, the charts seemed both apt and thorough. Jack took away the book and much later came back with enthusiasm. It was providing a skeleton synopsis for his leadership opus.
At our last chat I insisted he keep it and told him I’d look forward to his book, to which he said, “Sure, God granting me the time.”
As for our long fencing match over his smooth refusal to digress on hockey: Each year I’d have Jack as a guest on TV. After one gig in which he’d again brushed by a hockey question, he asked me not to raise it one more time.
In effect, Jack said that I knew almost anything he said which was worthwhile would offend the zealous in their millions who over a century had made ice rinks the shrines of Canada. I knew the higher dollar and personnel requirements of hockey over basketball or volleyball or soccer, even baseball. Costs that fell on municipalities, provinces, leagues and parents for practices, equipment, and venues were substantial. I also knew the scantiness of Canadian analysis in depth on training, strategy, and tactics for hockey before the shock from the USSR series in 1972 and 1974.
Someday, said Jack with a steely smile, he might unload about hockey, but from first arrival he had appreciated his challenges. He couldn’t do well by either his game, basketball, or sport as a significant, national element if he posed as an authority on what was right or wrong with hockey, the prime national obsession. To repeat, that’s where he stood on hockey in the 1970s; it was where he was in 2000.
He said he and Mary Jane and the kids had had wonderful lives in Canada, for which he praised the Lord and Canadians. I should accept, however, that although he was clueless on who started hockey, or where, he sometimes prayed for James Naismith.
Remember? The chap from up the Ottawa valley who’d invented and launched the great game whose basics were just two hoops, a ball, a whistler, and 10 players.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, April 20, 2003
ID: 12198653
TAG: 200304200277
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


At long last Jean Charest, just short of 45, has won a top post. Surely, leading Quebec is the No. 2 political task in Canada and so much of what we may become as a federation hangs on his new mandate.
I say “at long last” because Charest has had a lengthy apprenticeship. It was 19 years ago, when he came to the House of Commons from Sherbrooke, that I was first tipped to watch out for him.
Those of us who do political commentary as a job tend to mimic hockey scouts, appraising prospects as stars or journeymen or misfits.
And so, just after the federal election of 1984 and before Brian Mulroney, the new prime minister, had announced his ministry I phoned him to offer some advice on choices.
This was not as bumptious as it sounds. I had spotted the new PM as a “sure thing” for electoral politics when he was just 18. From that first encounter, and well before I became a columnist, we got into occasional chats about politics and politicians.
As I recall I wanted to remind him of a misjudgment by John Diefenbaker after he won a sweep in 1958 much like Mulroney’s. Dief chose a cabinet heavy with “old House hands,” ignoring a swath of fresh, bright Tory MPs.
The exuberant Brian said he was looking for a good mix of new and old.
Some able, youngish ex-ministers of the 1979-80 Joe Clark government were at hand – like Michael Wilson, Don Mazankowski, John Crosbie, or Jake Epp. Then he began to chortle about the brand new mob. Was he loaded!
In particular, he urged me to note two young men who wouldn’t be in his first cabinet but who he had in mind for his first big shuffle.
Who were they? Well, the Tory party was really into French Canada. Mulroney divined big careers for two lawyers. One, still in his 20s, had a Quebec riding, the other (in his early 30s) had won in Madawaska, N.B. Each talked or orated well in English and in French.
The younger one, Jean Charest, from Sherbrooke, was handsome, lots of fun, and so deft in idiomatic English. The other, Bernard Valcourt, was more intense, engagingly frank, and entertaining company. Best of all, neither behaved like a big shot.
Both Charest and Valcourt did come on well as MPs. Charest had exceptional gifts for good conversation and in attentiveness. I concluded months before he made cabinet that he was the best young prospect for the highest office that I had watched and listened to in Ottawa since Mulroney himself first appeared there as a ministerial aide in the late 1950s.
Jean Charest was a natural as a debater, occasionally with partisan fire, but mostly with easy assurance and mastery of his line. And one-on-one he was forthcoming but at ease.
He had style and form, was a fast study, and in touch with Canada beyond Quebec. I figured he had had a scenario extension through his seasons as a “strawberry sailor” on the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes.
Later when he was minister for sport, a field I knew well, I came to marvel at the paradox in the man. So quick at analysis and a course of action, but all the while relaxed and persuasive, rather than bossy.
Several times before Mulroney put Charest and Valcourt into his ministry (June 1986) he reminded me of them and his plans to prepare some francophones as future Tory prime ministers.
In one such chat he added another prospect for me to look for soon. This was a lawyer he’d admired since law school.
Mulroney had made him our ambassador to France. One Lucien Bouchard – as brilliant a mind, as magnetic a personality, as he’d ever known.
Today, looking back, and even considering Bouchard’s meteoric rises and falls, in Ottawa and then in Quebec, and recognizing Valcourt’s troubled close as a minister after early vigour, the prime minister really had put me on to a trio of political hot prospects.
Charest in particular, despite the mountain he now must climb, has shown stamina and resilience through electoral disasters and under miserably nasty pressures.
He was left leader of a pitiful remnant from the Tories’ Kim Campbell debacle in 1993. He only modestly inched his caucus total up in the 1997 federal election. Not long after, he was besought by thousands, mostly in English Canada, to leave the House to lead the Quebec Liberal Party against Bouchard and the PQ.
He gave in, and left the federal Tories. After a huge media buildup for him as a saviour of national unity within Quebec itself, the PQ retained the government. Charest had lost despite a slight margin over the PQ in the votes by parties.
The conventional media wisdom on his loss saw him as tainted as a federalist by his 14 years in Ottawa, and he had not shown himself as “au courant” with the variety in Quebecois issues and ambitions.
He may have worn out the taint of federalism by his on-scene burrowing through the province the past five years. Certainly he showed an easy mastery of issues during the TV debate with his competitors Bernard Landry and Mario Dumont, neither of whom is a bumpkin.
May this Charest mandate be a fine one. We need it, not least because the federal short-range prospects in quality candidates are so lacking.
What’s been twigging me on Quebec vis-a-vis the rest of us over the past 40 years is its relative abundance of politicians with high abilities. It has had them provincially and federally.
It first became notable with the Jean Lesage government in 1960 and bold characters like Rene Levesque and Eric Kierans. Federally, consider the likes of Pierre Trudeau, Marc Lalonde, Jean Luc Pepin and Jean Chretien, or anglos like John Turner, Brian Mulroney, and Paul Martin.
Why Quebec, why not Ontario? Or B.C., or Alberta?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, April 13, 2003
ID: 12196619
TAG: 200304130313
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


How has CBC-TV News, a national institution, served us in the first 25 days of the war in Iraq?
The short answer, going by my hours of watching mostly CNN and CBC coverage, is not badly. It has such top-notch reporters on the war as Don Murray, Patrick Brown and Henry Champ. Nonetheless, I think the CBC missed chances to add much to its coverage by deciding not to have any reporters “embedded” with coalition military units (although Radio-Canada, its French-language counterpart, did so).
Prior to the war Tony Burman, head of CBC-TV news, announced a “principled” decision: Canada’s largest media operation would not embed its staff with coalition forces. The reasoning? The high journalistic standards of the CBC could be compromised by such close association with the U.S. military, and this risk was not worth taking. To preserve the independence and objectivity Canadians expect from CBC-TV, it would report on the war from the outside.
Burman insisted this decision should not be construed as criticism of those media organizations that chose to embed. On the TV side, these included: all the American networks, the esteemed BBC, private British channels, various European outlets and independent producers, Arab satellite services and, curiously, the aforementioned French language service of the CBC. Print giants around the globe – The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Time, Newsweek, the major British dailies, Agence France Press and Canada’s National Post (utilizing my son, Matthew) signed on as well.
Many of the embedding organizations have a journalistic reputation that equals that of CBC-TV. One supposes they did the same media arithmetic as the CBC in deciding whether or not to embed: access to the battlefield vs. the risks of being interfered with or influenced by the allied forces. They decided access was essential and the risks manageable.
By and large, the consequences – particularly in memorable scenes of the battlefields, the weaponry and the troops – have been exciting and informative.
At times, those embedded, the American reporters in particular, by their abundant use of the word “we,” identified themselves emotionally with their unit and its cause.
In the end, CBC-TV used reports from embedded journalists of other news outfits to provide its viewers with the panorama and sounds of war.
It also gave a remarkable amount of air time to justifying the rejection of embedding.
Reporter Paul Workman repeatedly showed exasperation at the difficulties he faced as an independent journalist trying to access southern Iraq via Kuwait.
According to him, the coalition’s claim that his access was occasionally denied for safety reasons was disingenuous. After all, journalists with embedded credentials were generally allowed in. To Workman, his mistreatment was rooted in the military’s determination to control media reportage.
But such cause and effect flies in the face of evidence in injuries. Non-embedded reporters were at much greater risk than the embedded ones, as their death and injury tolls attest. This was no military fiction.
Workman’s comments imply – as does the CBC’s decision – that embedded journalists couldn’t properly report on what was happening. This is unfair. Embedded journalists were often critical of the British and Americans, particularly in the days before Baghdad was reached. Many of them highlighted what they saw as coalition misjudgments and difficulties.
Workman’s own reports, when he did get into Iraq, were not materially different from theirs.
Moreover, CBC’s Patrick Brown had no apparent difficulty in doing great reports while covering U.S. special forces operating in northern Iraq, despite being an “independent.”
Toward the end of fighting, Workman offered another reason for not embedding: tight CBC resources and uncertainty over whether any embedded assignments offered would have been worth the dollar costs.
Claims of a lack of funding bedevilling a billion-dollar organization are a bit much. As for getting bum assignments, other outfits took such a risk.
It seems unlikely the CBC would pull poorer assignments than others.
My hunch is that somewhere in the CBC’s choice to turn down embedding was the attitude that it should keep its distance from the power of the U.S. military and not be seen as a party to American jingoism or an inevitable Pentagon gloss over ugly realities.
Whatever the principle or the thinking, the decision meant Canadians had to count more heavily on the U.S. media and the BBC for battlefield reports. By and large, American and British networks and papers seemed untroubled by embedding. Much referred to early on, embedding did not last as a running story for the international press corps.
To me, Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s decision not to join those he calls “our best friends” in the war, parallels the CBC’s decision not to embed. Our government says its decision was based on commitment to the principle that military action to oust a regime must have UN Security Council approval.
This principle, like the CBC’s mind-set against undue American influence on its standards, is belied by the near past: Canada has supported and taken part in numerous actions unsanctioned by the UN, including the air campaigns in Bosnia and Kosovo.
And the CBC is always outdoing the Yanks in touting Canadian talent and teams.
As German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac plot a post-war Iraq free of American domination, Chretien is conspicuously absent from their councils. Few outside Canada know or care that our government and CBC-TV want to be beyond the hawks of America.
Their determined detachment underpins that beloved platitude: Canadians are a peace-loving people!

May I close with criticism of another CBC decision? It surely was petty and undemocratic for the CBC to excise from its Web site items from the Coach’s Corner segment of Hockey Night in Canada on March 22 that embodied an argument between Don Cherry and Ron MacLean. The “Coach” spoke out for Canada joining the U.S. in the Iraq war. The host stood up for Jean Chretien’s decision to abide with the UN, not join the U.S.
It was far from the first time MacLean and Cherry have sheered away from hockey into so-called political matters.
I choke week after week on Cherry’s advocacy of tough-rough hockey. I am a lifelong fan of finesse hockey with stickhandling and passing emphasized – Orr-Gretzky stuff! But Cherry, for sure, and I believe MacLean, too, display in hockey and beyond it very representative and antithetical opinions and values: one, ultra-nationalistic and gritty conservative; the other, multilateralist and smoothly liberal.
Censoring their exchange after the fact, and creating a furor about an archetypal Canadian occasion that stimulated thousands of citizens is stupid.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, April 09, 2003
ID: 12195189
TAG: 200304090635
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
ILLUSTRATION: photo by Chuck Mitchell, CP
RISING STAR … In April, 1967, just four years after his first election to Parliament, Jean Chretien joined the cabinet of then-Prime Minister Lester Pearson with Pierre Trudeau and John Turner.
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Since 1993, Prime Minister Jean Chretien has been lord of the Hill, and he will remain so, he said yesterday, into 2004.
It’s 40 years this week since Chretien, then 29, first came to Ottawa. In that time, almost 1,000 MPs have come and gone. It is hyperbolic but true, as I see it, that he was the most unlikely of all our prime ministers when he first arrived on Parliament Hill.
I first met him four days after the 1963 election (in which I’d been re-elected for the third time). It easily became memorable. Why? Because he told me, a stranger, of his huge ambition and, alerted, I watched him go after it for 30 years with vim, gall and charm, making it and nailing it down again twice.
That April day I was just back in Ottawa from my Thunder Bay riding. The Hill seemed empty as I came to the steps below the Peace Tower. Then, angling down the steps a skinny, pale young man came up. He faced me and began talking in a raspy voice. It took me time to savvy that he knew I was a longtime NDP MP and that he was a lawyer and a brand new Liberal MP (from Shawinigan). Could he talk to me? Had I time to show him the House?
We spent two hours together that April day. He was so frank I had to like him, even as I began to fear for him. We had the silent, darkened chamber to ourselves and, later, a long chat in the cafeteria upstairs.
First, we toured the back lobbies, each galleried with portraits of bygone party leaders. When we moved from government lobby to the chamber through the golden curtains, we were behind the centre of the last row of seats.
I pointed out the seating and the floor places of the clerks and pages. He was full of questions and I soon caught on to his rugged English. His vocabulary was far better than his grammar.
He wanted to know where would Lester Pearson, the new Liberal prime minister, sit? And John Diefenbaker? I pointed this out, and the rows taken by the three opposition parties. This would be a minority House. It would never go full term. Yes, he knew – another election! Where would he sit? I said about the middle of the last row, straight behind the PM.
Jean stared down at the front row. As I recall, he said: “You know the House. I want to go from here to there as quick as I can.” He pointed to the front. “Tell me what I have to do to get down there.” He was earnest. This was not bravado.
He said he had ideas. He would work hard, but he needed to know what to do to make his mark. “Tell me”, he repeated.
My counsel was direct, not deflating, I think because he was so intense. So I began with the obstacles. The House was a place for self-starters. Those ahead of him or alongside had their own aims. None would worry about his, or push him. To the powers of the caucus he was just a vote and another desk-thumper. There were plenty of backbench MPs to speak behind a cabinet full of brand new ministers, and Pearson had a surfeit of talent – young pushers like John Turner and Herb Gray.
So I sketched the opportunities: get motions, and questions, and his own “private member’s public bills” on the order paper; and take part in private members’ hours and in the informal exchanges on estimates. Beg the whip for a place on a busy committee like transport or justice. Measure the members of the cabinet. Most pushy backbenchers took up with a single minister. French-language MPs didn’t mix much with Anglos in the Commons or closely follow House work on non-Quebec matters. They were most respectful of whoever was the PM’s “lieutenant” in Quebec.
Within a few months, I noted Chretien breaking from the Quebec pattern. He became a ready disciple to minister Mitchell Sharp. He raised national issues. Almost unbelievably, he did the impossible, getting a bill of his own into law – a real flagwaver, changing the national carrier’s name from Trans-Canada Airlines to Air Canada.
In retrospect, the ’63 Liberal caucus had more talent and ambition than any before or since. Just recall these characters: Jean Luc Pepin, Maurice Sauve, Joe Greene, Don Macdonald, Judy LaMarsh, John Turner, Herb Gray, Bryce Mackasey, Allan MacEachen and Pauline Jewett. By contrast, Jean Chretien seemed so much a country mouse, and a poor bet for cabinet, let alone for the top task.
Through all the 40 years he’s raced the corridors and bolted up and down steps, while mastering how to run the government and both the Liberal caucus and party.
Since getting the top job, Jean Chretien extended its awesome power in our system. Surely he overdid it, making it hard for a mere MP to ape his robust rise. That was to come from his appointee to the post of finance minister, a millionaire, son of a legendary Liberal, with whom he shared success in ending 20 years of deficits. In the process, his No. 2 gained control of over 200 Liberal riding associations, something Jean Chretien missed was underway.
He has been an astounding success as a politician, even though eventually euchred at his own game by Paul Martin.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, April 06, 2003
ID: 12194442
TAG: 200304060272
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


The poet Alexander Pope’s oft-quoted line goes: “To err is human, to forgive, divine.” Sad to say, in Ottawa one never gets a chance to forgive the prime minister and his cabinet.
They refuse to acknowledge any substantial failure in their judgment, competence, or honesty.
It is true, historically, that Jean Chretien as prime minister and the Liberals as the party in power have not been the only ones who have held to this “no fault” stance. Who can forget Brian Mulroney’s seamless good conscience? But the Liberals have been in power so much more than the only alternative thus far. They have mastered the art of either denying or ignoring major mistakes.
Their pose of unperturbed inviolability is the most galling element in the arrogance of the prime minister, and many of his ministers – see House Leader Don Boudria or Justice Minister Martin Cauchon or Health Minister Anne McLellan or Immigration Minister Denis Coderre or Defence Minister John McCallum.
Surely, not all loyal Liberals, reading the foregoing, will dismiss this as the bootless whine of an anti-Liberal, envious of their party’s success. Some will want to know what mistakes are so serious, given the huge achievements they see in the Chretien years of balanced budgets, high employment, economic growth and cooling of heated separatism. Here are thumb-nails of four of the major, unacknowledged mistakes or failures of the present government.
First, and very topical: the near ruination of Air Canada and an air passenger system which a decade ago functioned fairly efficiently with high technical and service standards, both in the air and at airports.
Read through the bumblings that got to air or into print from Transport Minister David Collenette last week, and you realize he doesn’t even conceive he could bear any blame for the mess. Worse, he doesn’t even accept that on his watch air travel has become too costly for too many individuals and companies.
Second is the gun registry fiasco, more obnoxious than the air transport disaster, although somewhat less expensive at a mere $1 billion or so. A mission of dubious efficacy has become a travesty of sensible planning, able management, frugal spending and forthright explanations from a succession of responsible ministers – Allan Rock, McLellan and Couchon.
Through the long bungle of developing the registry in the past five years, and despite some warning dissent from within the Liberal caucus, the PM and his cabinet have shrugged away the auditor general’s charges of incompetence and both concealed and then downplayed any bureaucratic culprits.
Third, consider the tale of the helicopters, arguably the most stupid of all Liberal screw-ups. Of course, Chretien persists in denying his failure to get adequate replacements for the aging Sea King helicopters used by the navy and for maritime search and rescue was wrong-headed.
It began with his 1993 election promise to cancel the contract for new helicopters placed by the Mulroney government. Too costly. A decade later, the order to replace the cancelled contract has not been made although thousands of bureaucratic “person-hours” have been spent on it and probably as many more on trying to keep the Sea Kings airworthy. Few remember the cancellation cost taxpayers a $500-million penalty.
Fourth comes the macabre and ironic response by Chretien to a major scandal into which his own antics in his constituency fitted. Remember Alfonso Gagliano, now ambassador to Denmark, but once minister of public works and captain of a Liberal fund-raising process in Quebec? Exposure of this latter role brought forth Chretien’s determination to expand election provisions so that parties would need to raise far less money, including from those who win contracts or other favours from the government. How? By jacking up the scale of current rebates to candidates and parties from the federal treasury. Achieve honesty by making dishonesty unnecessary.
One could go on with more disastrous examples: immigration policies which import or perpetuate religious and political divisiveness here; aboriginal policies which guarantee welfare and free education as a blood right forever for people too often tied to locales far from hope for economic opportunities; and a marked reduction in the capability of the armed services which developed in lock-step with the acceptance of far too many taxing overseas assignments and much exalting of peacekeepers over warriors.
We began with the human fate, which includes making mistakes or doing wrong and admitting this, plus the divine wonder there is in forgiveness given for such transgressions.
Is real acknowledgment of disasters impossible? Why, even the archetypal Liberal, W.L. Mackenzie King, once acknowledged he and his government were in “the valley of humiliation” over a bit of bribery in a federal marine deal. Maybe such humble candour lies ahead, perhaps it is an element in that “democratic deficit” which Paul Martin, former shipping tycoon, should be addressing a year from now.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, April 02, 2003
ID: 12193367
TAG: 200304020312
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


To fathom America’s war plans, and the global strategy behind them, it helps to recall Wayne Gretzky as the supreme hockey player.
Vice Adm. Arthur Cebrowski, director of the Pentagon’s Office of Force Transformation (OFT), has said: “U.S. operations increasingly resemble hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky’s ‘speed’ on ice … Gretzky concentrated less on skating to where the puck was and more on skating to where the puck would be.”
In short, for America’s 21st-century military the goal is not “to be everywhere all the time, but to be exactly where you need to be exactly when you need to be there.”
The Great One was born with the ability to anticipate events two or even three moves ahead. That America’s leaders should wish their forces to be similarly capable is understandable. How can the U.S. military – an organization of over one million people – achieve this?
According to the admiral, “network-centric warfare” is the key.
Sensors, satellites and interlinked computer systems now provide America’s warriors, be they generals in the Pentagon or junior officers in the field, with a comprehensive and “transparent” view of the battlefield. For them, the days of stumbling about in the “fog of war” are over.
Network-centric warfare also makes it possible for the four service branches to be merged into “a seamless, joint warfighting force.”
Given their huge edge in precision-guided munitions and logistics, the result is a new and uniquely capable American military that can generate “extraordinary levels of operational efficiency.”
Network-centric warfare won’t just happen. As the Centre for Defence Information noted when the OFT was created in November, 2001: “The military services traditionally have been skeptical of radical transformation, preferring slower evolutionary development.”
The OFT was to push for radical transformation. Before long, the Washington consensus was that Cebrowski and his boss, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, were losing the battle. Then came the World Trade Center attacks.
A year after 9/11 the George Bush administration released its National Security Strategy (NSS). It stated that America would operate alone, if necessary, to deal with nations that harbour terrorists or seek to develop weapons of mass destruction. This assertiveness – bordering on unilateralism – broke with U.S. defence and foreign policy as practiced from the late 1930s on. It also overturned the Powell Doctrine, which held that warfighting coalitions are imperative in order to ensure U.S. military power is not over-extended and American forces should only be unleashed on a massive scale for a clearly identifiable and immediately achievable goal.
It is essential to the NSS that network-centric warfare change the calculus for military operations. If American forces are more powerful than previously thought, due to network-centric efficiencies, then concerns about diluting their power are less critical, and their use, particularly on smaller, dispersed operations can be more readily entertained. And so, as the NSS was released, Rumsfeld began musing on taking down Saddam Hussein with a relatively small and light force, There were anonymous rumblings from the Pentagon about the risks, but these passed.
The war launched two weeks ago shows how completely the transformers won that round. The force dispatched to Iraq is, by historical standards, very small and light in armour for the task. The attempt to kill Saddam at the start, based on the latest intelligence and made possible by real-time programming of guided weapons, was truly a “network-centric” attack.
The battle plan, with the allies driving straight to Baghdad, bypassing Iraqi positions in the south, was obviously premised on the notion that informational superiority (with air superiority) would allow the allies to easily block any Iraqi attacks on either the advance or its logistical train. Finally, the knockout blow was to be delivered before Saddam could even prepare to face it.
The battle for Iraq was meant to prove the validity of the network-centric warfare concept. Victory of the “superempowered” American forces would cow opponents of U.S. policy throughout the region, leaving them to wonder – what comes next? And the NSS would be well on its way to being realized.
But the transformers were impatient. Turkey’s refusal to allow allied troops on its soil meant they lost a whole front – and the 60,000 men and tanks that went with it. Yet they launched the attack anyway, the plan otherwise unchanged. Ironically, the missing force (now making its way to Kuwait by air and sea) is considered the prototype of the “transformed” U.S. military.
Surely, the military problems of the Alliance to date in Iraq have been overblown; nevertheless, the network-centric warfare has not eliminated the fog of war, and the movement of larger forces to Iraq begs a question: is it still even being applied?
Certainly, the present situation ought to make the proponents of network-centric warfare pause, and give their opponents ammunition for the coming debate about U.S. security policy, post-Iraq.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 30, 2003
ID: 11920623
TAG: 200303300260
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Rarely has there been so much to be opinionated about in our politics, So many stupidities. Such bootless nit-picking.
Consider the bone-headed demand by some Liberal MPs that the government send Paul Cellucci, the American ambassador, packing. Why, the man objected to a slighting opinion of U.S. President George Bush’s statesmanship by cabinet minister Herb Dhaliwal and to Jean Chretien’s decision in favour of multilateralism and against joining an alliance to oust the regime of Saddam Hussein.
Surely, in the realm of international relations, the genuine views of the White House about both our neutrality and the rejection of U.S.-U.K. behaviour regarding Iraq are far better out in the open. Surely, it is best that all of us consider and construe the potentials of increased hostility in Washington and among Americans generally toward us – both short-run and long-term.
At the very least, ousting Cellucci would shake a huge, usually beneficent relationship and co-existence out of joint for a long time. (I could hardly believe it a few days ago when a reliable Liberal source told me of two veteran ministers who had wanted the ambassador expelled.)
The prime minister’s insistence on our right to be independent of the the U.S.-U.K. alliance is being elevated among those long partial to the simplicity of “make peace, not war” into “the Chretien Doctrine” (harking back, of course, to 1823 and the famous Monroe Doctrine in the U.S.).
In the cause of global peace, the Chretien Doctrine posits that Canada gives priority above all other choices to decisions collectively taken by the Security Council of the United Nations. The doctrine elevates the cause and worth of “soft power” so well advanced in the 1990s by former Liberal external affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy to its logical, Canadian conclusion.
The doctrine fits well with a widely-held myth based on a heritage of deeds that we have been very much a peaceful, rather than a military-minded, people – and so a model to the world. Putting it bluntly, it seems to me this is wrong-headed idealism, a misreading of human nature, and a precursor of hard times ahead for us.
Another sample in the prevalence of stupidity is so striking I cite it even if though it seems an Ontario issue. This was the decision of the Progressive Conservative government in Ontario led by Premier Ernie Eves to present its budget to a selected audience and for a cablevision channel outside the Legislature in facilities provided by Frank Stronach, the auto parts and horseracing magnate and former federal candidate for the Liberal party.
In sporting parlance, this is a bush league ploy, going nowhere. It is so short of justification and such a rebuff to the parliamentary system. The Legislature is not sitting. A unilateral decision like this ignores a necessary assumption in the system: that there be members in it who do not support the government and who have a right to listen and a right to speak.
The opposition caucuses should have boycotted the show and ignored the budget until it is read in the House (where budgets have been presented since well before Confederation).
Now on nit-picking, it is hard to remember a more aggravating smother of blather than we had through all last week in the Commons and before cameras outside the House by Bloc Quebecois and New Democrat MPs. They’ve been figuratively raising hell over the hypocrisy and the defiance of Parliament’s wishes because 30-some members of our armed forces are attached to elements of the British and American military forces in the Persian Gulf.
Both the leader and former leader of the NDP bleat and bluster about the mortal danger these attaches may be in and, like the Bloc MPs, they insist such duty within these particular foreign forces defies both a House vote last week against our taking part in the Iraq war and the international law which they allege the Americans and British have broken.
What a tiny pimple to squeeze – again, and again and again.
Our forces have been intertwined and collegial with American, British, French, German and other militaries for years. This is natural, given the NATO and NORAD treaties. One should wonder why this Canadian interchange at this time is so minute or at the unlikelihood of risk. Where better for soldiers, airmen, and sailors to study and learn how to make war and administer peace?
Another nit-picker of note on the opposition side is Stockwell Day, assigned the lead critic role in international affairs by Stephen Harper, the leader of the Canadian Alliance. It is hard to imagine a more bull-headed, over-righteous contradiction to common sense in questions than Day has provided, following after, and such a contrast to, the rather adroit and usually canny criticism in Harper’s questions.
After Harper came forth so strongly against Chretien’s decision “not to participate” in the war, several columnists saw this as a most unwise move. It would not be forgotten by voters, especially in Quebec. So many Canadians have rallied to Chretien’s choice. The Harper line of backing George Bush might run well in the Alberta heartland, but nationally – oh, what a dud to be tagged with!
I’m sure this appraisal by the pundits of a dead end facing Harper is too summary. Just think about the relative short memory of so many electors (e.g., on the GST and on NAFTA) or consider the possibility that the Liberal successor – almost certainly Paul Martin – will fudge the Chretien doctrine as soon and as discreetly as possible.
This issue of freedom from, or commitment to, the United States in its global manifestations seems sure to rile and roil our politics for a long time.
In partisan contentions, Harper and his Alliance have a good case. Its elements won’t disappear. But they have a puerile anchor for their pro-American line in Stockwell Day.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, March 26, 2003
ID: 11919382
TAG: 200303260544
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Has our prime minister put Canadians on a new and independent global course, one devoted to “multilateralism”? Some think so, and are glad. Others fear so, and are fretting.
Jean Chretien told Parliament nine days ago Canada would not participate in a war against Iraq alongside the U.S. and the U.K.
The Liberal caucus members were ecstatic. Paul Martin, the prime minister-in-waiting, approved the statement we would not participate. Stephen Harper, head of the official Opposition, was critical, insisting Canada should stand with its friends in the war. BQ and NDP MPs vociferously backed the government position. So too has public opinion, judging by opinion polling and large, lively anti-war rallies across the country.
For those who like clarity in foreign and defence policy, Chretien’s decision to stand up for multilateralism seemed an historical marker, one as significant, say, as attaining the Charter of Rights. But is this really a definitive declaration of open independence from America’s self-centred global policies?
One has to be careful. Consider the lavish lengths reached by Bill Graham, Chretien’s foreign affairs minister, on Monday. He approved openly the extinction of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq by the U.S.-U.K. alliance. By the time the voluble minister finished his day, the big stretch between our multilateralist stand with the majority of the UN’s security council and the Bush-Blair ultimatum to Iraq, had become little more than a disagreement over diplomatic means and timing.
Of course, Graham wished our friends and allies success in the war. We remain America’s partners in the global war on terrorism. See our RCN ships off the Gulf. Note the close collaborations along our long, joint border. And Canada is already poised to help in the rebuilding of a liberated Iraq. Certainly Canada is not allying with France and Germany in any European ploys to constrain or rebuke our neighbour. Such cautionary endeavours as this by Graham, and by other ministers, like John Manley, may deflate the anti-American sentiment which is surging in the Liberal caucus and, except for Alberta, across the country (most notably in Quebec).
Caution comes readily when a Canadian contemplates the economic issues at play with the U.S. Looking backward, one can find so many examples of it, particularly among Liberal prime ministers from W.L. Mackenzie King to Louis St. Laurent, Lester Pearson, Pierre Trudeau and John Turner to Jean Chretien. Certainly, remembering Wilfrid Laurier’s loss of the 1911 federal election after advocating trade “reciprocity” with the U.S., each was canny and remarkably careful in dealing with the colossus. Let us just take one, Trudeau, a prime minister now mythically seen as an extraordinarily bold leader.
He came to the PMO after it was held by our first global hero in international affairs, Lester Pearson. Trudeau was skeptical to a high degree of both American nationalism and its market-based capitalism. An early initiative of his mandates was a six-booklet review of Canadian foreign policy, none of which dealt at length with the core issue of such policy – relations with the U.S.
Trudeau would have liked to ignore the U.S. He wasn’t taken with American affairs, but despite his bold antics he didn’t radiate dislike of Americans or push policies extremely hostile to the U.S., even though President Richard Nixon and right-wing Republicans disliked him. He began the cutbacks in funding and modern equipment for our military, and he pushed multiculturalism and an immigration program which has much altered the demographic face of Canada, linking us with far more of the globe beyond our history and traditions.
Trudeau would have liked to ignore the U.S., but he could not. Yet he never really pushed open animosity. In his last term, he toured the world as a statesman advocating a “One World” idealism and Third World development. He wanted to break the rigidities created by the Cold War and the USSR-U.S. standoff, but he achieved nothing tangible on the global stage before his time ran out. It’s likely that part of his legacy is across the land in the majority tide of younger Canadians now expressing their disrespect for President George Bush and America and a preference for “one world” politics exemplified by the United Nations.
In droll candour, Jean Chretien has often insisted he has never had any particular legacy in mind as prime minister. He simply wants to govern well. I believe him (while doubting his success).
If he did wish a most memorable legacy, it was there in his decision last week not to participate in the Iraq war. No go! He’s not out to build on that. Already, his caution has come into play. So he got to that decision by closely reading public opinion over many months. It doesn’t mean he and the Liberals are taking us outside a close association with the American government and risking economic calamity.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, March 19, 2003
ID: 11917510
TAG: 200303190506
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Two age-old questions have been in my head and conscience since Jean Chretien decided Canada would not stand beside American and British forces against the regime in Iraq.
Who are our friends?
What are friends for?
For me as an individual, and as a citizen, the British and the Americans have been friends for a long time. The former since a childhood as a proud integer in the British Empire and Commonwealth; the latter for sure since mid-winter 1945.
That was when our armoured squadron first worked at linking the boundary in battle between a British brigade and an American infantry regiment as they slugged north in Holland towards the Lower Rhine. The weather was foul, the terrain open, the Germans both clever and deadly in grudging retreat. We were tired and jumpy. We knew the Brits well; the Yanks were a new experience for us, and they brightened grim days.
They were friendly and generous, even as they made us shiver over the high risks in casualties which they accepted and suffered. Anything they had was ours – food, drink, clothes, ammo, information, and, above all, an interested companionship during the pauses and the waiting.
So I recall the GIs of the 104th division readily, in particular our last contact before we were sent elsewhere. It was near the southern end of a bridge over the Neder Rhine. We took a cautious look over the winter dike. A few hours before, an aggressive American officer had led his infantry company over the dike towards the bridge ramp. It became a killing ground for machine-gun fire from over the river. We could see a trail of bodies, and just before we pulled out, we learned several of the chaps we’d fed with were lying over the dike in the open, done for.
This happening looms large in my bias that Americans are my friends. Our friends. Yes, there is far more than that to friendship – like the many interests, values, and common causes we share. It is easy to admire the vigour of their political democracy and both the models and the goofs they have provided, surely more to us than anyone else.
To me, George W. Bush has been the least impressive president. I think it’s because both his world view and his values seem over-simple. Nonetheless, he continues to hold a strong political following at home, and his intentions vis-a-vis Iraq, the Middle East, and countering terrorism have been clearly put, again and again, over many months.
It was obvious several months ago, well before Chretien announced Canada would not stand against Iraq with the Americans, British and Australians, that this was a fast-hardening choice of a majority of Canadians.
In one way this was somewhat surprising, given by and large a common vernacular and the intertwining of our economy, entertainments, and recreations with the U.S. and Americans. Yet Canadian righteousness also made sense, because we have built up a quite global myth of Canada as a “rainbow” example of ethnicities and as a recognized “soft power,” ever ready with our obvious objectivity and superbly-done peacekeeping to contrast Canada to those with “hard” powers.
In matters of defence, even before the Cold War closed, Canada was coasting on the cheap, protected by a military umbrella manned and paid for by Americans. Both the Liberal government in Ottawa and a growing body of Canadian opinion have been turning with confidence towards our prime international role as doing good peaceably through global institutions rather than through alliances.
As our enlightenment has distinguished us more and more from the U.S. and its global exercise of military and economic power, the Canadian critiques of American aims and diplomacy became scathing and often quite patronizing.
A vein of anti-Americanism runs back to Canada’s origins. Though it has been relatively dormant since the free trade debate in the 1980s, it has come back through the Chretien years.
So many Liberals have taken positions critical of the U.S. once put strenuously in federal politics by New Democrats, ideologically moved by American capitalism. Some have even rued the manifold benefits in close and friendly relations with American society and its economy.
The warmth and trust of friendship between Americans and Canadians, Ottawa and Washington, which waxed strongly in and after WWII, counts less with the present PM, his party, and most Canadians, than the grander international touchstone, the Security Council of the United Nations.
My lament is self-centered – a preference for friendship with American and Americans, even one occasionally bruising or ignored or taken too casually.
Now my hope is that they may prove better friends to us than is suggested by our rejection of them over Iraq.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 16, 2003
ID: 11916746
TAG: 200303160259
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Quebec continues as an eternal internal dilemma for us, just as America is our most eternal external dilemma.
Rather abruptly, the lull in Quebec’s national significance since Lucien Bouchard left the premiership has ended. How so?
See Premier Bernard Landry calling an election for next month – one the pollsters say his Parti Quebecois is likely to win. If he gets a fair majority, in short order the referendum drums are almost sure to boom again. It will also mean the House of Commons in the looming Paul Martin era will have Bloc Quebecois MPs continuing their very narrow participation – mostly in matters of Quebecois, not national, interest.
See also a same day announcement by Jean Chretien’s government. It has been spending $570 million a year to sustain and extend official bilingualism. Now, it will pump some $150 million more for each of the next five years, most of it for the provinces willing to firm up more “French immersion” courses for English-speaking kids in schools outside Quebec.
It’s unlikely a Quebec election was in Chretien’s calculations in this topping up of federal programs that reinforce official bilingualism. Give him his due: he’s pumped for it since 1965.
What surely was in his mind, however, was to reinforce again the objective of wider day-to-day usage of the two languages across Canada, effecting the gradual disappearance of what was once tagged as Canada’s “Two Solitudes.” This tag has not been politically correct for years, but it still describes the whole 40 years after the interim report of the Royal Commission on bilingualism and biculturalism in 1965.
Those of us aware of the high significance here of language policies also cannot forget one lingual inequity in Quebec which appeared in the 1970s. First, Robert Bourassa’s Liberal government passed a law which made French the official language. A few years later, Rene Levesque’s PQ government extended this unilingual emphasis by further strictures on English usage, notably in parental choice of schools and in public signage. Such laws remain in place, backed by the three parties in the National Assembly.
The federal Liberals, through the years since Pierre Trudeau, including such high-minded and high-placed ministers as Paul Martin and Stephane Dion (the federal-provincial relations man) have not chosen to challenge the disappearance of English as an official language in all matters in Quebec affairs relating to provincial and municipal responsibilities. Nor were there substantial federal efforts in Brian Mulroney’s years against this debased status for English.
Since Mike Pearson proclaimed the crisis with Quebec pivoted on language issues, there have been constitutional conferences, court decisions and much spending, federally and provincially, on behalf of official bilingualism. But frankly put, not much in notable successes in swelling the numbers of officially bilingual citizens or in commonplace, fluid interchanges in public in both languages.
Look at our largest communications’ outfit, the federal government’s CBC/Radio Canada. Four decades after the bi and bi commission it still reflects the “Two Solitudes” in its programming, even in its news and commentary. Synergies never found!
As a grandfather who in school did no justice to French, it’s been pleasing to me to have two grandchildren whose “immersion” enables them to swing from French to English and back. With home backing, “immersion” at school does work. The rub almost everywhere is the dearth of usage beyond the school.
Official bilingualism doesn’t come readily where one language is dominant.
The remarkable diversification in ethnicities and languages from soaring immigration since 1991 seems to have undercut the primacy and the urgency of the official language policies in the minds of both educators and the general public.
77% SAID ‘NO’
Last Thursday, the Globe and Mail asked its Internet users a leading question. Did they believe Chretien’s $750 million boost to expanding bilingualism would be money well spent? At the 16,000 mark in responses, some 77% had opined that this program’s moneys would not be. That’s an astonishing response from readers of our “national” paper.
The manifold results from the 2001 census have been rolling out the past quarter, but we’ve yet to get the nitty-gritty on trends in language usage. Indications are that the decline in those speaking French in the home has slowed in the past decade – not stopped but slowed. It now is at or just below 24% of the whole.
In Quebec, English usage is still in decline, in the home and at work, and more allophones there are using French at work. Through their children, more French is coming into use in allophones’ homes.
The French language is not deteriorating in Quebec, but elsewhere it is not doing well alongside English, aside from communities in New Brunswick and in the Ottawa-Hull-Gatineau region. Indeed, the impetus for learning French in the National Capital Region is obvious. If you want a high-paying federal job, become competent in both English and French.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, March 12, 2003
ID: 11915373
TAG: 200303120530
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


As a prime minister-in-waiting, the strongest promise Paul Martin has made is to end what he calls our “democratic deficit” – which has to mean self-imposed limits on the enormous prerogatives of a Canadian prime minister. We shall see.
At this stage, global affairs have become prime, raising the very different issues of our national security and defence, and whether there will be changes in such policies by a Martin government.
Last week, coincident with formally entering the Liberal leadership race, Martin told students Saddam Hussein is a nasty man who is probably lying about not having weapons of mass destruction, and who must be dealt with through the UN.
For deeper insights into Martin’s views on defence, we must turn to his faceless advisers. Last week, they indicated he sees three areas needing attention: homeland security; defence of our East and West Coasts; and Arctic sovereignty.
Homeland security, they say, is critical because Canada must show the U.S. it is a loyal partner on continental defence, if the 85% of our trade which goes south is to remain unfettered. Alas, their man’s credibility on domestic security is undermined by John Manley’s recent budget, which saw the airport security tax Martin imposed last year dropped from $24 to $14 per round trip, in recognition that the original levy was not based on any security assessment.
One presumes the threat to our coasts is of merchant ships disgorging drugs, refugees, or terrorists.
Too bad, then, that Martin’s budgets never allowed for new helicopters – our Sea Kings are in no shape to chase phantoms off our shores.
Arctic sovereignty is also problematic for Martin given another of his budget-tightening legacies: reduced sovereignty patrols and indefinite postponement of replacements for the Auroras and CF-18s which fly them.
To complete what seems a muddle in Martin’s strategic thinking, his advisers offer that we need a multi-purpose combat-ready military with helicopter gunships, armoured personnel carriers and the equipment necessary to operate them overseas without relying upon others. This seems odd, given that operating overseas wasn’t cited as one of Martin’s priorities. Such equipment, plus the air and sea lift capability and air-to-air refuelling required to get it overseas, would cost billions of dollars. Yet, they insist, Martin does not envisage spending of such scale.
Confused? Well, just as past is prelude, actions speak louder than words. To know where Martin as prime minister will go, look back to where finance minister Martin went.
Defence loomed very large for Martin in his great run at finance. No department sacrificed more to save our nation’s finances – and to make his reputation.
His budgets required our troops to fulfil the same roles as before (i.e., continental defence and sovereignty; collective defence through NATO; aid to the civil power; and peacekeeping) on 25% to 30% less cash. Never before had a finance minister cut defence so severely, except in the wake of major war.
Today the effects of the defence diet supplied by Martin are clear. The auditor general, the House and Senate defence committees, and numerous private associations all agree: Canada’s forces are incapable of adequately performing their missions and are at risk of collapse. Surely, it is the case that the man who would be prime minister asked too much of them.
Martin defenders, like the Globe’s Jeffrey Simpson, argue that the nation’s finances in 1993 left him no choice but to devastate our military. The turnaround in Canada’s finances and economic performance since then show he was right.
Implicit here is that Martin slashed the rest of government to the bone, leaving the military as the only remaining source for cuts. Really? Could significant savings not have been found elsewhere in subsidies to corporations, government internal operations, or perhaps in advertising contracts?
This argumentative gloss on Martin at finance also assumes that money management during the Martin years was prudent. With the HRDC jobs grant scandal and the gun registry fiasco, this is not credible.
The gun registry and the cancellation penalties for scrapping the Brian Mulroney government’s helicopter order would have paid for new shipborne helicopters for our navy.
Martin defenders also ignore that if cuts to the military were necessary, the finance minister should have pressed for a reduced military workload. Instead, he endorsed the continued dispatch of forces overseas, even as the ability to sustain them eroded.
Martin’s decision to savage the military was largely discretionary: it was easier than cutting elsewhere and having to explain to Canadians the importance of retaining a capable – nay, sustainable – military. He likes to talk of how there is no free lunch. Yet on defence, he indulged in a veritable banquet, leaving our beleaguered military to pick up the cheque.
On defence, as elsewhere, the more you look at Martin and his team, the more familiar everything seems. Paul Martin: a kinder, gentler, and better spoken Jean Chretien, but with the same policy platitudes. These may continue to play well at home, while aggravating our chief ally.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 09, 2003
ID: 11914644
TAG: 200303090254
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


It’s hard to resist posing some questions when one looks ahead at the months before November brings a new prime minister. My presumption is it will be Paul Martin. He will then make a short-run cabinet from a dozen or so Chretien relics and some of his host of backbench backers. It will be a ‘pro tempe’ thing because shortly he will turn to the electorate, by late summer, 2004. Then the real Martin mandate rolls for up to five years.
The first forward question to strike me comes from the most distinct theme Martin has sounded: ending the “democratic deficit.” It is imperative that parliamentarians of all parties be freed from the partisan control so rigidly applied and policed by the prime minister and his office and mimicked by the other party leaders.
How is Martin to achieve reform of this deeply-ingrained dominance of the chief executive over Parliament itself?
He can hardly ignore it, given the bounce Liberal MPs have been showing since so many of them upset Jean Chretien and his ministry on a procedural vote last fall in which Martin joined.
What genius in diplomacy, at listening and consistency, and a likely master of intricate rules is at Martin’s side to carry through the steps to wiping out this democratic deficit of Parliament? He will also need a deft Speaker, ready to sustain new leeway for MPs.
Whoever shoulders this dicey watch and ward over the new House democracy: will surely have to have the prime minister’s absolute backing, including its displays in taking part in both a serious, rather than a farcical, House question period and in some debates of high concern to the opposition.
(My canvass of possibles for the job has one ministerial prospect, i.e., Ralph Goodale, and several backbenchers – say Reg Alcock from Winnipeg or Joe Volpe from Eglinton-Toronto – and possibly the present Speaker, Peter Milliken.)
Let me drag in a warning parallel from President George Bush’s fix on destroying the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq. For months he talked about the evil there but said nothing on what would replace Saddam and create a democracy while repairing the economy. Nothing that Martin will advance when prime minister needs more forethought and sustained persistence to end the democratic deficit he has recognized.
The second question that surely lies ahead should be settled in the first full Martin mandate, and again, he has caused the need to ask it, though as yet he’s not referred to the problem he has deepened regarding its resolution.
What is he going to do about his own successor as prime minister?
He has engineered his succession to the prime minister while a major minister by gaining effective control of the Liberal Party apparatus, thus forcing forward both the departure of the prime minister and a replacement. Surely, as prime minister Martin will be concerned that he be not served as Chretien was by him. He must appreciate that another rich MP could try what he has done, given the evanescent memberships and rather loose processes in the Liberal Party. And citizens generally must look more skeptically at a system in which the head of the federal government is not picked by either electors or by a majority vote of the MPs of a party.
A third question one may ponder with much lighter relish lies in a contest which will probably pit only Sheila Copps and John Manley against Paul Martin. Copps wants a series of face-to-face debates on issues and intentions to be held across the country. This is intriguing, only in part because the minister of heritage is by nature and habit aggressive. Manley could make such shows really major happenings.
Could Manley swing the race away from the man we presume already has it won?
He would be the participant most broadly informed on federal operations. He is the most profoundly analytical. In temperament he is faster on the up-take and sharper in his opinions than either Copps or Martin. In terms of the common touch of the trio he may be the least likable and most chilly, but he also has less tendency to flannel platitudes than Martin or Copps and far more candour.
If the debates happen, and through televising catch on beyond ‘pro forma’ clips, then the contrasts between the three – the bland, the pugnacious, and the knowing – might, just might, turn my presumption into ruin.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, March 05, 2003
ID: 11913356
TAG: 200303050270
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


This is as volatile a year as I can recall in Canadian politics, with three federal leadership contests, the choice of a new prime minister ahead, as many as six provincial elections, a big change-of-pace federal budget and a near critical mass of issues chilling Canada-U.S. relations.
The effects in terms of excitement and keener concerns have been increasingly evident in the House, and even more among those who report and interpret national politics.
As the MPs faded from the Hill last week for March break, their liveliness was not yet so much due to being energized by these big blips or what their caucuses have been doing. Rather, it came from the certain, remarkable changes in personnel and posts in all five caucuses by the end of the next 14 months.
Even the Bloc Quebecois, the most woebegone of the caucuses in this mandate, and the No. 2 crew in opposition, has been dispirited and not very zealous behind leader Gilles Duceppe. Basically, BQ MPs have made less and less impact in English Canada since Lucien Bouchard was their leader because of their refusal to carry their social democratic values beyond a fixation on Quebec’s needs and grievances into matters which affect all Canadians like transport, agriculture, communications, heritage and native affairs. Their core assumption that Quebec “sovereignty” is at hand has gone stale and become parochial.
But now even this rather doleful crew has turned keener, no doubt because recent polling indicates separatist Premier Bernard Landry could win the Quebec election he has on tap.
The Canadian Alliance, as official Opposition under Stephen Harper, is far better managed and thorough in Parliament than it was under Stockwell Day (who serves as a very unconvincing critic on international affairs). Nonetheless, this caucus is less useful opposing and exposing the government in the House than it was under Preston Manning when he was so volubly backed by Deborah Gray, Diane Ablonczy, Val Meredith, Monte Solberg and Chuck Strahl. Harper has this quintet in semi-purgatory for their attitudes during the Day-as-leader fiasco. Those given critic roles in their place have not been duds, but only one, James Moore, a gigantic youth from Port Moody-Coquitlam, serving as Harper’s transport expert, has been a sensation in form, content and wit.
Harper is also profiting from the rough and ready humorist he has in his House leader, John Reynolds. The leader himself is remarkably straight, rarely maundering or waffling; rather, he is analytical, consistent and fair-minded. Somehow, however, he is incomplete, perhaps because he seems detached and sometimes rather funereal. As a persistent logic chopper he reminds me of Otto Lang, a polymath once busy in Pierre Trudeau cabinets.
From the members the Alliance now has in the House, Harper could form a more impressive cabinet than Jean Chretien’s crew. His problem through the excitements ahead is melding a punchy, energetic team from good talent while popularizing themes of tax cuts and frugal government.
As for the NDP, friends of the party should pray that Jack Layton, the new leader – and without a seat – can keep grabbing topical quotes in the media coverage each sitting day without raising scorn for brassiness and calculated hyperbole. His leadership win has galvanized his caucus in the House, notably in veterans Bill Blaikie and Lorne Nystrom, making more forceful use of their skills and House experience.
Even if Layton’s biff-bang style doesn’t boomerang, his Torontocentricity may. For some in the NDP, the gabby Layton’s 10-second jibes and demands seen on TV news are a welcome change after 12 years of pioneering with doleful female leaders. The NDP caucus has few dud MPs intent only on their ridings. It could supplement Layton’s gall with vim through the rest of this Parliament’s span.
The same may happen with the Tories, once their small crew gets a leader, and particularly if it is one of the three MPs in the race – Peter MacKay, Scott Brison or Andre Bachand. Any of the three, but Brison in particular, should be almost as sharp and adept at taking apart Jean Chretien and his cabinet in the House as Joe Clark has been. Again, as with the other three opposition caucuses, the Tories have some very sound MPs.
In the rare years when partisan politics and issue politics, even external affairs’ politics, are boiling in and around Parliament, the House has responded with more pace, tone and entertainment – even at times with nobility and dignity. This year, the possibility is there in the MPs of the four groups across the floor from the Liberals. Do they also have it? Maybe. In a remarkable switch, a lot of Grit backbenchers are in the open.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 02, 2003
ID: 11912653
TAG: 200303020257
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


In my opinion, there has not been an untoward abuse of rules on conflict of interest by Paul Martin, who intends to keep his owner’s stake in Canada Steamship Lines (CSL) – even if he becomes prime minister.
Martin is from a high-level political family and is too shrewd for any antics likely to boomerang. But if, say, he becomes prime minister – and still owns such a major transport operation – it gets awkward and surely is a connection best severed.
I’m not suggesting it’s wrong because, as the ultimate decision-maker in federal responsibilities for shipping and foreign trade, Martin might be tempted to take advantages for CSL. Rather, it’s because of the magnet created by the immense powers of a prime minister in our parliamentary system.
CSL, as Martin’s own, even at the longest arm’s length and with his determined circumspection, will continue to draw speculation from reporters and the public. It would be an unnecessary worry for him as he bears the load of being prime minister.
Martin has family to which he can turn and assign, give or sell CSL: three sons and a wife. In fact, his wife already owns big chunks of the CSL group of companies. Given he will be 65 when he becomes prime minister, and that the election mandate he should win next year will likely stand up until 2009, he will then be 71, hardly the age for returning to running a shipping company after 21 years away.
Keeping ownership of CSL will bring him little but public criticism as an absentee tycoon of an enterprise operating largely under foreign flags.
People generally would understand if he and his wife walked away from CSL, leaving one or more of their sons in charge. Especially if Martin is as determined to have one of his sons in a very profitable enterprise as his father was for him in placing him as a lad under the wing of such rising business powers as Maurice Strong and Paul Desmarais.
Two cases have surfaced, however, in which Paul Martin as finance minister seems to have been into questionable doings. Neither was much pushed by opposition politicians or journalists at the time.
One was the revelation Martin had been sent a $25,000 cheque by an Albertan, then a consultant to the finance department, apparently for use in his campaign to become prime minister. (This became known through a misaddressed letter. Eventually, the ethics counsellor told Martin to return the cheque, which he did.)
The other is simply some personal partisan work done for Martin when he was minister by several employees of Earnscliffe, a private lobbying and consulting operation.
Several in this cadre have continued their work for Martin since Jean Chretien fired him, with Earnscliffe donating their skills in shaping communications tactics and program content for his leadership operation.
Before Martin’s fall from cabinet, Earnscliffe had a succession of contracts awarded by the Ministry of Finance.
There’s a double standard here which I find somewhat wryly amusing, and not easily explainable.
It’s the obvious, benign readiness of the media and the public generally to shrug off the dubious usage of their offices by Liberal ministers, including Martin and the PM himself.
Compare that to the persistent savagery of the press with regard to Brian Mulroney’s minister Sinclair Stevens, in concert with Noreen, his busy-in-business wife.
Oh, there was so much hand-wringing by pious editors! And such outraged scorn from opposition Liberal MPs about husbands and wives having to know what went on in their spouse’s financial interests.
Who could believe Noreen Stevens would not know all about both her husband’s business dealings and use the influence of his ministerial status in pursuing her, or their, goals?
The report by the judge who headed the inquiry into the booted minister’s alleged conflicts found him (and, by association, his wife) culpable of many conflicts of interest which abused ministerial probity.
It needs hindsight and not much reflection to appreciate that in the mid-1980s, Sinclair and Noreen Stevens were small-time violators of proper ministerial behaviour, say, compared to former Chretien ministers Alfonso Gagliano or Lawrence MacAulay.
Yet we haven’t had fierce reporters or relentless opposition caucuses raising Cain over the sinuous ways in which Paul Martin has gained so much control of the Liberal party as an organization, or on the doings of his wife, helpmate and co-owner, with regard to the blind trust for his CSL holdings.
Why is it that arrangements to steer money into Liberal party coffers and good Grits into government jobs never seem to bother many citizens?
Why don’t repetitious cases of gross incompetence and low value for the money in federal programs like the gun registry, advertising contracts, helicopter orders, or even the overruns already in the site costs of a new war museum, affect the continuing popularity of the governing party?
Wonderful for the Liberals, eh?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 26, 2003
ID: 12893224
TAG: 200302260536
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


There are some interesting parallels between last week’s federal budget and those of the Trudeau era. It promises greatly increased social spending in future years, as did the budgets of the late 1960s and the early ’70s. And, like those budgets, this one assumes the economy will continue to perform well enough to sustain such spending.
Finance Minister John Manley is quite aware that the profligacy and rosy assumptions of Pierre Trudeau’s years in power caused the huge debt load which still plagues us. Thus his plans include reserves to prevent a return to deficits should the economy sour. Whether his prudence proves sufficient, only time will tell. It seems clear, however, that Manley’s sense of history has not kept him from repeating budget gaffes of the Trudeau era which starved Canada’s armed forces!
Ah, at this point you may think of the provision in the Manley budget for $800 million in increased base funding for the military for 2003-04 and 2004-05, plus $325 million in “contingency” funding in 2003-04 for operations in Afghanistan and the Gulf, plus another $270 million in immediate emergency funding to pay outstanding bills. Does this not mark – as many media minds assert – a real change in the military’s fortunes?
No. Those who think so either consider military matters unimportant or are ignorant of the state of our forces. The military is still in peril.
One need not be a retired general, a defence lobbyist, or a member of the Commons defence committee to do the basic budget math: government spending goes up 11%, but on defence just 7%. Obviously, the military’s problems are not a priority.
Nevertheless, the military’s boosters have been rather restrained in their disappointment. As retired general Lewis Mackenzie noted, “Any budget that does not require the Canadian Forces to give back dollars has come to be accepted as pretty good news.”
David Pratt, Liberal chairman of the Commons committee on defence and veteran affairs says the budget provided what “was needed to get the military over the hump … I think we have turned a corner.” Yet his committee, like the auditor general, has warned that a $1.5 billion boost in base funding in each of the next three years (for a total increase in annual funding of $4.5 billion) is needed just to stabilize the forces. To provide them with capabilities commensurate with Canada’s size and internationalist aims would cost even more.
To those who would argue the budget was at least a start, and things will continue to improve, some reference back to Trudeau’s time is useful. Then, when the cuts began, our military was large compared to now, and it was well-equipped and shouldered a fair share of the western alliance’s defence burden. Today, our forces are on life support. Their further reduction to ceremonial and civil obedience functions would not shock our allies.
In 1968, when Trudeau came to power, America’s war in Vietnam was fuelling anti-American and anti-military sentiment here, and there was little public sympathy for those advocating maintenance of our defence spending. Today, the political climate is remarkably similar. The muted reaction of the military’s boosters to the budget may reflect their realization that the country generally (but especially in Quebec) and the federal mandarinate, never very friendly to them, have become chillier.
The launching of expensive social programs by the Trudeau government virtually guaranteed that little cash would be available in future budgets for the military. Similarly, the Manley budget has closed the window to significant increases in defence spending.
Prior to the budget, the defence department’s “long term capital expenditures plan” listed systems it couldn’t replace, given the monies then available: tanks and self-propelled artillery (whose firepower is required to protect our infantry), CF-18 fighters (which already suffer from outdated equipment, including 286-generation computer chips), and Hercules transports.
Col. Brian MacDonald, past president of the Atlantic Council, a defence lobby group, notes the plan recognized “we have enough money in the equipment budget to be able to afford an air force or a navy, but not both, plus an army that can’t fight on a modern battlefield.” He has concluded the 2003 budget “doesn’t change that.”
A final reference to the 1960s: Canadian troops will soon return to Afghanistan on a mission many see as an artful dodge designed to allow Canada to safely reject U.S. requests for ground forces for a war in Iraq, on the basis we haven’t anything left to offer. One senior officer had this to say about the mission: “They’ll be doing counter-insurgency. Not peacekeeping … If the situation blows up between the government in Kabul and the warlords in the countryside, guess who’s going to be in the middle? It could be more dangerous than invading Iraq.”
Penny pinching the military is not unpopular among Canadians. The rub from this comes in so many of them being in step with the Chretien cabinet and the Liberal caucus on the roles that are valued much higher: pushing high-minded purposes and programs on the global community.
Surely the paradox in the Canadian fervour for idealism but disdain for armed competence is the global bent to discount those countries with a token military.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 23, 2003
ID: 12892853
TAG: 200302230289
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Yes, last week’s budget from the Liberal government jumped spending for the coming fiscal year, and many more after that. Yet despite such largesse there was much immediate fussing and whining, and not just by partisan politicians. The problem was clear: too little money for so many programs.
Many among the slew of interest groups which were touched by the Liberals’ splurge are unhappy with their sums: big city mayors, Indian chiefs, sport leaders, international aid promoters, child care advocates, retired military officers and military historians, etc.
Some of such widespread criticism may be just an aspect of a quite remarkable year for political partisans, made so by a leadership struggle shaking our usual ruling party and by the many provincial elections ahead. Also, high global tension and a Canadian economy ultra-sensitive to U.S. politics are baring our durable but continuing penchant for dangerous, anti-American impulses. Many of us are uneasy and more cynical than usual about our governors, and are taking it out on the Liberals and Jean Chretien and his minister of finance, the decent, awkward John Manley.
Not long ago, there was intense speculation before each federal budget. What would be in it? Under Manley’s predecessor, Paul Martin, a lot of the prefiguring of the budget shifted from the airy to the concrete through leaks engineered by the PMO and the Finance Department. These posted the main budget themes for everybody and identified much of what would and would not be forthcoming.
So there were few surprises about either the spending choices unveiled last Tuesday or choices rejected like income tax cuts or sizable reductions of the federal debt load. But the profusion and diversity of the spending choices which quickly gave this budget the tag of “spending spree” could not conceal the lightness and the lengthy time span of so much of the funding.
This year, a well-heralded budget theme was strong confidence in the Canadian economy and in national unity; another was leaving behind the belt-tightening years which hit so hard in 1995 with the second Martin budget. Another theme was that the budget would be the last, grand hurrah of the prime minister, advancing many of his keener social and economic aims. The rambling budget address by Manley and Chretien’s open joy throughout it, confirmed the themes and the expensive expansiveness. So much of the money, however, was spread over so many endeavours and set in time frames of two or three, or five, even ten years. While the percentage jump in total federal spending was impressive, taking items one by one, much of the funding was scanty, particularly at its front end.
To older voters not in penury, but either retired or near the end of working days, the budget had nothing in lower income taxes or in restoring reductions in their old age pensions. Nor was there much more than a token provision for reducing the federal debt, which is still above the $500 billion mark; still considerably more than when Brian Mulroney resigned.
This budget will be more memorable than most, but simply as Chretien’s last or as the Liberals’ return to what they believe is core politics – spending! At this point there would be a need for some miraculous interpretations by Manley of the budget’s goodness and effectiveness for it to be a factor in the Liberal leadership race, and so in political history.
To close this budget commentary, may I notice that Jean Chretien, as ever, had much for natives in this budget. Over almost 35 years on the Hill, Chretien has been closer to native affairs than any other matter.
Of all interest groups or associations, the natives have become the most persistent, successful claimants for federal money and services. And through the last quarter century, as official or “status” Indians grew from some 270,000 to almost 700,000, there was never a reduction in spending for them in a federal budget, not even in 1995 or ’96, the ruthless years. It’s been up, up, up, from some $2 billion in 1980 to some $7 billion this year.
The 700,000 “status” Indians are split among some 600 bands, most of which are in some 500 reserve communities dotted mostly throughout the hinterlands. At present, some 300,000 of the 700,000 status Indians do not live on reserves but away from them, notably in bigger cities like Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Vancouver and Toronto. Younger natives are the ones most likely to vote with their feet for city life, particularly those in Ontario.
In the last two or three years Ottawa has been edging more and more program spending into helping urban Indians, many of whom have little education and serious addictions to drugs and alcohol. Some of this spending comes from demands by provincial and city governments that these are federal wards, not theirs. They have demanded help to cover their costs of schooling, policing, health care, child care, housing and job training.
This budget has a dozen new programs for aboriginals and several existing ones are jacked up or extended, which will mostly help natives living in the cities, including moneys for cultural and recreational centres, scholarships, business subsidies and job training.
In four or five years, such aid will help push annual government spending for native programs to the $10 billion mark. If Jean Chretien wants a genuine legacy, the Indian industry is it.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 19, 2003
ID: 12892218
TAG: 200302190543
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Was yesterday’s budget as delivered by John Manley a real springboard for his bid to be the next prime minister?
As one who expected it might, neither the content, with its numerous brags and boasts, nor the folksy but awkward speaking style of the man giving it in the House could raise the occasion or the speaker himself above the mediocre. And this despite a score or so of standing ovations by Liberal MPs.
Manley is rarely seen and heard in the affable and optimistic mode so intrinsic with Paul Martin. He tends to be serious, direct and still remarkably frank after 15 years of being an MP. He tried for sparkle and smiles, but awkwardly, even grimly.
He had a cornucopia of spending items to refer to – most of which had been well leaked in recent weeks. Maybe this killed the excitement of surprise.
There were a dozen or so places in the speech where Manley went from particulars to grandeur on the visions and aims of Canadians. The florid banality of such remarks needed a defter orator, say a Paul Martin.
Several times, Manley flagged Canada’s economy as a “Northern Tiger” and a model to other nations in its highmindedness. Hearing this guff, intersticed between back-slapping at each item announcing more spending, it was hard to believe this was the minister at the time of 9/11 who bluntly pointed out the wide gap between Canadian rhetoric on our global glories and the resources we put into them.
To be fair, Manley did make two separate references suggesting he had ideas on frugality and getting value for money from federal spending. One beef he had heard from citizens’ groups in his travels was a perceived lack of transparency and accountability in federal management of moneys and programs. Therefore, he was instituting a comprehensive review of all federal spending. (This was not loudly cheered.) Later, he underlined that federal programs and spending tied to international affairs, including the military, would be thoroughly reviewed in the public “debate” recently launched by Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham.
One of my treats in following the speech on television was sneaking looks at the prime minister, who was in almost every shot. I’ve never seen him happier – smiling, laughing, clapping, nodding his head and even being the first to rise on a few standing ovations.
This reminded me that last week I heard a Liberal MP say the PM had joked that at least the NDP would love this budget, even if his caucus did not. It also reminded me of a chat he and I had two summers ago. We got to a favourite topic of mine – his mediocre cabinet – and he took my critical rundown rather patiently. Eventually he intervened and said that only a prime minister could be a sound judge of a minister’s merits and worth. Only a PM saw a minister in cabinet, caucus, the House and the party. He mentioned a minister I had been positive about, with a phrase of dismissal that the minister in question “doesn’t know when to shut up.”
And then he singled out John Manley. No minister came to cabinet and committees better prepared or was as astute in contributing to discussion and decisions, Chretien said.
This impressed me, I suppose, because I’d had a high opinion of Manley right from his days in opposition as a quick-reading, shrewd, balanced man with a rare gift at analysis and a readiness to advance it. Plus a distaste for partisan invective!
It’s likely the prime minister decided two or three years ago that the ablest bet as his successor, aside from the obvious Paul Martin, would be Manley. And as the enormity of Martin’s offence in suborning his control of the Liberal party as an organization, rankled Chretien as an insult to his leadership, it brought on the firing (or resignation?) of Martin last summer.
Immediately the PM turned to Manley. He’d already boosted him from Industry to Foreign Affairs. Now he was made deputy prime minister, national security co-ordinator, and minister of Finance.
If Finance was a great recognition of Manley’s worth, it came with a barb – at least if one believes that neither in temperament nor ideology is Manley the spender suggested by this budget’s swatch of moneys thrown at programs here, there and everywhere. Here we have a budget quite unlike those of Paul Martin, but just what you’d expect in the last hurrah of Jean Chretien.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 16, 2003
ID: 12891876
TAG: 200302160285
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


A Carleton professor, Linda Duxbury, has sound advice on the latest, monstrous belch from Ottawa about reforming the bureaucratic elephant, now 250,000 “person years” strong. She advises no one “to hold their breath,” referring to the elephantine Bill C-25, The Public Service Modernization Act. It was brought into the House last week by Lucienne Robillard, Jean Chretien’s minister for the treasury board.
Her cynicism is well founded. Despite much talk and many announced initiatives (by my count some 37 in my 45 years on the Hill), reforming the public service is still elusive.
One reason for repeated failure is the sheer size and breadth of the bureaucracy, spread across 30 major departments and some 84 more obscure bodies.
But this time is different, say some, for the studies and reports that have led to legislation run to millions of words, surely a sign of real intent. At 279 pages, covering two new acts (the Public Service Employment and the Public Service Labor Relations acts) as well as the amendment of two others (the Canadian Centre for Management Development and the Financial Administration acts) Bill C-25 is impressive (and depressing).
What does it offer those outraged at tax dollars being wasted on the firearms registry or in phony contracts which siphon money to advertising firms with Grit links? Or to those fed up with the bureaucracy’s secrecy?
Alas, not much. It is self-preservation, not sensitivity to public disgust at their performance, that has moved senior mandarins to deliver reform changes to their ministerial masters. The bill’s focus is “human resources” – i.e., how to prevent the “rust-out” of the civil service as its aging membership retires. It needs 7,000 people a year to maintain its present numbers, plus who knows how many more to implement the Chretien legacy and whatever programs future budget surpluses engender. The recruitment system is too slow and resource intensive to deal with this. (On this point there is general agreement in Ottawa, across party lines and even across the management-labour divide.)
C-25 proposes that managers, including deputy ministers, be given more authority over human resources. No longer would managers have to waste time determining who is best qualified for a job; they would be free to hire whomever they believe was most suited for it, from a pool of qualified candidates.
Remember that the Public Service Commission’s role since the early 1900s has supposedly been as a bulwark of PS professionalism and guardian of the principle that promotion be based on merit. This role would be much reduced.
Taking the mandarin view that the current system is too centralized, C-25 seems to “let the managers manage.” This notion has a long, sorry history in Ottawa. One previous run at letting managers manage by getting central agencies off their backs involved giving departments and their deputy ministers greater control over financial resources. This led to the late J.J. Macdonnell’s famous 1976 report as auditor general, outlining how badly senior bureaucrats had flubbed their new responsibilities. Recent events at Human Resources and Justice (the firearms registry) show matters have not improved.
But this time they shall, says Robillard, because C-25 “provides the foundation for the transformation of public service management” through improved training via a new Canada School of Public Service. The latter, which would absorb the Canadian Centre for Management Development (CCMD), will prepare the next generation of bureaucrats for the challenges of the 21st century.
Cynics have noted that senior mandarins promoted CCMD to the Mulroney government as a means to modernize the PS for the new millennium. Modelled on the top academic business schools, CCMD was to draw its student body from the best and brightest executives in the public service and the private sector.
The result would be a marvellous cross-fertilization. Predictably, Bay Street’s comers wanted no part of Ottawa’s finishing school, and the centre languished, becoming a dumping ground for those mandarins deemed embarrassing to the government, or surplus to its requirements.
Robillard concedes that changing a beast so unwieldy, self-centred and self-serving as the federal public service will take a decade or so. It will also require constant pressure, not just from the ministerial level, but from Parliament, which is supposed to scrutinize the bureaucracy and hold it accountable. And here is the prime cause of cynicism. Our present legislature lacks the powers, the resources, and perhaps even the will to do this.
For example, it’s rather ingrained that loyal government MPs defend or obfuscate bureaucratic performance. And the mandarinate is openly contemptuous of parliamentarians.
Reg Alcock, a Liberal MP and chair of the government operations and estimates committee, recently noted that relations between the MPs and the mandarins are “awful and getting worse.”
Those who believe their votes and their tax dollars should count will have to wait for Paul Martin as PM to see if the double play of parliamentary and public service reform can be pulled off. But to repeat, don’t hold your breath.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 12, 2003
ID: 12891234
TAG: 200302120655
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Sheila Copps’ formal entry this week into the Liberal leadership contest reminds me that occasionally a callow, rackety, mean politician may undergo a metamorphosis for the better.
In the early 1980s I was much around Queen’s Park, where Copps was the latest rogue MPP in its noisy chamber. When she chose to switch to Ottawa, coming to the Commons in ’84 into John Turner’s smallish official opposition, I regretted her advent and prayed she’d not bring her provincial antics to the House. Instead, she was instantly worse. She was the crassest of the Liberals’ “Rat Pack” which a timid House Speaker (John Bosley) let run wild.
It’s surely arguable that any semblance of fair play in House affairs was wrecked by the Rat Pack, and has never recovered. As a columnist, I blamed Copps for this rather than Turner’s wimpish leadership of his caucus.
One of my printed rants at Copps’ excesses in a House committee brought me criticism from one of her uncles, a newspaperman in Thunder Bay whose judgment I respected. My penchant for decorum, he said, was blinding me to his niece’s strengths in courage, energy and blunt talk which plain people could understand. She would be in electoral politics for life and become a major politician. I told him I’d watch for this but I doubted her capacity for growth or responsibilities.
Well, the uncle was right and I was wrong. I realized this fully just a few months ago when I reacted with pleasure when I found her determined to go for the Liberal leadership again with one prime purpose: to slug it out with Paul Martin over his intentions and their worth – which she sees as neither very Liberal or liberal. So she declares tomorrow, denying Martin a slow, seemly stroll to the PMO.
No other cabinet minister – certainly neither John Manley nor Allan Rock – has more knowledge and awareness of how the ministry and the Liberal party have functioned under Jean Chretien. She can be possessive and righteous in using both the best and the seamiest of all this in the fight ahead with Martin because she has proved her constancy as a partisan who honours the Liberals’ axioms of loyalty to the leader and respect for the rank and file party members – the “real Liberals ” who know their party has to be more than a corporate appendage or a millionaires’ playground.
Sheila Copps is to do the country a favour: exposing the hero before he’s in full charge. He still seems sure to win, but we’ll know better what we’re getting.
Meantime, this is the week the House gets to speeches on another Chretien legacy, bill C-24 (amending the Elections Act and the Income Tax Act). The debate on it should not be long or nasty as first expected. Remember the rage in the Liberal caucus when Chretien told them he would have a bill making party financing more transparent before he goes or Canada would have a snap election?
The transparency is to come through forbidding substantial donations to parties and candidates from corporations and unions.
The Liberal wrath has faded since details of the bill became known. Yes, by and large corporate and union generosity is strongly curbed, but look at the gains.
There’s considerably more government money for candidates and parties in C-24. Unless the Canadian Alliance filibusters the bill, or parts of it, it will be through the House by the June break.
The Alliance sees the bill as further abuse of the taxpayers to the advantage of the present parties, particularly the majority Liberals. The NDP, BQ, and Tories, however, seem to like most of the bill, particularly the curbs on corporate and union giving.
The relative swiftness ahead for Bill C-24 will not surprise old hands around the Hill. It is almost a rule of House behaviour not to talk for days and days on bills which raise MPs’ pay and pensions or bolster their parties’ resources and establishment between elections.
This bill will increase the costs to the treasury of financing the registered parties to around $40 million in non-election years, swelling to about $80 million in an election year. It also brings fundraising and money-spending by leadership aspirants under the aegis of the Chief Electoral Officer and sharply limits the buildup and the uses of funds held by riding associations.
In short, the bill means more central control of parties by a Crown agency and considerably larger bureaucracies in both the parties and under the Chief Electoral Officer.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 09, 2003
ID: 12890885
TAG: 200302090280
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Some of us must rethink our portrayals since last summer of Jean Chretien as a rather pathetic lame duck, moved by spite toward a deserving successor and endangering the Liberals’ fate as the prime choice of Canadian electors.
Why? Consider these five scenarios Chretien has had a hand in in the past fortnight.
1) He has clinched a fairly long-term deal with the premiers on federal money for health care, which assigns the provinces less cash and more responsibilities than they wanted.
2) Despite harsh criticisms from both Liberal party executives and many Liberal MPs, the PM has got a bill (C-24) through his caucus and on to the House agenda which will affect the financing of parties by barring substantial corporate or union donations. In lieu of those, even more money than registered parties now receive will be provided from the federal purse and by bringing the donations gathered by leadership candidates and those seeking riding nominations under the aegis of the Canada Elections Act and the Chief Electoral Officer. Only a fool would expect this bill will now be rejected by many Liberal MPs.
3) Despite wide outrage over the gun registration scandal opened up by the auditor general, and despite the quite irresponsible apologies of sorts for the expensive boondoggle by ministers who have been responsible for the undertaking, not only has the PM stood behind the continuing worth of the costly exercise, so have the Liberal MPs. Last week they gave standing ovations to Justice Minister Martin Cauchon as he bellowed defiance in the House at the Alliance party and insisted the majority of Canadians want the security which the register provides, and that police in using its files, incomplete though they are, have already saved many lives.
4) On the grave, unfolding global issue represented by American determination to oust Saddam Hussein of Iraq in the cause of curbing terrorism and abetting stability in the Middle East, Chretien has not lined Canada up alongside our best customers and most celebrated friends, choosing instead to temporize with the preference of trusting the wisdom of the United Nations over American preferences. To the surprise of many, the PM, in refusing to dovetail absolutely with President George Bush, now seems aligned with both the majority sentiment of his caucus and the strong, current apprehension in Canada over what is taken as the belligerence of the Bush administration.
5) In the last few months Chretien has by and large ignored Paul Martin and the latter has chosen to shift into a rather unobtrusive limbo, unable to be explicit about his future plans as prime minister or to say much of anything which might be construed as explicit criticism of the PM or his closing agenda. In consequence, it seems more and more likely Chretien will indeed hold on to the PMO until a year from now, and it does seem possible that if he is succeeded by Martin next year the latter is almost sure to be a far less respected political hero than he was at the time of his cabinet exit last summer.
The personal aspect in Chretien’s retention and use of command, and the initiatives or lines which he has been taking is the matter-of-fact way he has continued being “the boss” of the federal parliamentary system. He, in himself and as the prime minister, is seemingly impervious to, or unrattled by, the many major scandals of incompetence and unethical behaviour of his government in the past few years. He shrugs such stuff off and crows about the surpluses and the job growth. He charges along so actively, hither and yon, amazingly lithe, attentive, glib and usually in a hurry (like racing up and down stairs) and spinning off salty observations of a very common sort.
Later this month comes the last budget from a Chretien government. To those of us fascinated more by the cast than the content in politics, it will be a happening whose sequels will include a firming of opinions on whether or not Finance Minister John Manley’s prospect is enhanced as an alternative to Martin.
It seems obvious the PM has lowballed the premiers enough on money for medicare to leave considerable for either new or improved programs, or for tax cuts or debt reduction.
My hunch on budget emphases leans toward child care and post-secondary education, rather than on a far more effective military, but it may be that Chretien prefers to go out as more of a surplus guy than a spender. Whatever, his course the last few months is not one that makes you feel sorry for him, or his latest minister of finance, so much as for those in his party who thought they had him in the bag.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 05, 2003
ID: 12890284
TAG: 200302050515
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


A fortnight ago, Lawrence Martin, author and occasional columnist in the Globe and Mail, argued there is a gap between the public and the pundits. He says Canadians today are mostly in “the moderate middle” of politics and disconnected from the political commentators who, by and large, are “to the right of centre.”
The swarm of approval Martin has had for this thesis has reinforced his belief in it. Certainly it has set some columnists thinking. My own interest was strong because this was the antithesis of one I prated about here four or five years ago when Preston Manning and the Reform party were being scorned and hammered by columnists and reporters as populist primitives. I identified the media tilt as to the left and most evident in CBC News (radio and TV) and The Toronto Star.
More recently, any wide reader of our dailies or a close watcher of our networks’ news and commentary has surely found as I have that Southam and the National Post (started under Conrad Black’s lead), along with both Global and CTV news and commentary, have tended to stiffen a moderate right-wing media slant.
But the Star is still centre-left and diligent on behalf of medicare or environmentalism or foreign policy vis-a-vis the U.S. under George Bush. And CBC news and commentary operations are still far stronger than any other Canadian operation in numbers, resources, and placements across Canada and around the world, and far from being “Americanist” or, say, anti-Romanow, anti-Kyoto or anti-federalist.
The slight fade in media bias against the Alliance, especially on the Prairies, may also be a consequence among journalists of the surge in big-time cases of incompetence by the Chretien government and repeated witness of sleazy ethics in the federal Liberal party. This seems a more likely explanation than any definite, concerted change in the mindsets of Canadian writers and commentators from left to right or from anti-American to Americanist.
I sense two other media factors emerging. The first is the developing domination by women of political reporting and columnizing. Surely a general contribution of this strong female influx has been more frank judgments of personalities and their rivalries and less respect for the familiar banalities of Canadian politics.
The second factor is less immediately evident, but it too has its aspect of turnover and change within journalistic ranks. Just as electoral sweeps and split parties have shaken out so many MPs with both a know-ledge and a sense of history, so the aging of journalists and much of the media consolidation have shaken out many veterans.
Few are still writing or hosting who have known firsthand of the long slog, led by so-called left-wingers – notably New Democrats, some Liberals and some Red Tories – in establishing the health and welfare state and the many federal Crown corporations which have been sold or abolished since 1990. The disconnect of the media from what goes on in the House of Commons and its committees (except for the oral question period) has stretched and stretched, but there’s been more and more focus on the prime minister and his PMO operation and, in a smaller but hard way, on the other party leaders.
There has also been less and less attention and journalistic specialization on major cabinet operations or the caucuses, but there is much more now on the so-called “strategists” or spinners like Warren Kinsella, Eddie Goldenberg and Rick Anderson.
I disbelieve there ever was a grand, golden age of federal governance in Ottawa in the 1950s or a golden era of the House of Commons in the 1960s. It may be, however, that we are well along in transition from the major interests of the political past, which split readily into left and right views (even on national unity), to a present emphasis on which it will take a long time for the majority viewpoint to jell. It is on whether Canadians go forward or back away from our evolving cultural and economic attachments to the United States.
If it is forward, it is my bet our majority tilt will be “Democratic” rather than “Republican,” i.e., more centre-left than center-right.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 02, 2003
ID: 12889971
TAG: 200302020287
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


So it is to be war. Doubts on that disappeared with the careful bellicosity last week in the State of the Union speech of U.S. President George Bush. It will take a miracle to stop the U.S. from attacking Iraq some time in the next eight weeks. Loyal Britain, though divided in its public opinion, will be there to help. What of Canada, that other claimant to be “America’s best friend?”
Our Parliament has spoken, splitting along familiar lines, not one must say by voting for or against, but judging by speech content. The Alliance made the case for the minority who would topple Saddam Hussein to end his defiance of UN resolutions.
The Liberal, NDP and Bloc MPs argued for the majority, which the polls say want “peace” to be given more time – even if this means the military option is saddled with the heat of the Iraqi summer.
The opinion which counts is Jean Chretien’s. His deliberate prevarications mean it’s now doubtful the meagre Canadian forces the Americans have requested to join them (i.e., our Coyote recce vehicles, snipers and JTF2 commandos) could do so in time. The U.S. would certainly fly them there in its aircraft, leaving some of its own troops behind. That won’t win us many friends in Republican Washington.
Of course, Canada’s military contribution is irrelevant to victory, but so much international opposition to the war means that our participation – even at this late date and only on paper – retains some value to the U.S. It would have carried far more weight, however, if it had come earlier. Our PM has effectively ensured we get the worst of both worlds: Mocked elsewhere for being an American lackey; yet we gain no real credit from the Bushies, who feel our extemporizing undercuts their efforts to win over recalcitrant Europeans.
The White House insists Saddam’s well-documented pursuit of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) will never end, and that after 9/11, the world cannot risk his teaming with al-Qaida, the terrorists’ team of teams. Germany and France, noting the sorry state of Iraq’s military, the presence of UN weapons inspectors in the country, and the latter’s inability to deliver evidence of a serious WMD threat, insist containment is possible and sufficient. Neither side offers a clear, long-range perspective on the issue that really matters: How should the West counter Islamic terror?
Some admirers of Bush insist a broader strategy underlies the call for war. The replacement of Saddam’s vicious regime with a democratic, pro-Western government, and the inevitable material success and liberty which Iraqis will enjoy as a result, will, they claim, prove a devastating challenge to the autocratic regimes in the Gulf, be it the Iranian theocracy or the Wahhabist Saudi monarchy.
Citizens of these and other Muslim countries will eventually insist their nations be remade in Iraq’s image, thus defeating the anti-western sentiment that fuels al-Qaida.
The darker side of this argument holds that through its control of the new Iraqi regime and its oil, and by having its forces based in Iraq, the U.S. will effectively check the influence of Iran and Saudi Arabia, two of the principal sources of fundamental Islamic cant.
This strategy assumes most Muslims understand and wish to share the West’s secular democracy and capitalism. There is little evidence to support this, and ample evidence to believe that nationalism, tribalism and Islamic chauvinism will prove more appealing to those we would win over, if only because these feelings and their myths are more familiar. The absence of serious debate in the U.S. media or Congress regarding these assumptions, and the ignorance of both Republicans and Democrats regarding Middle Eastern politics – other than Israel’s situation – further weakens one’s faith in this “democracy” gambit.
The U.S. now has forces throughout the Muslim world. Its troops can be found in many former Soviet republics in Asia, much to the chagrin of Russia, which fears not only expanding U.S. influence on its doorstep, but also possible fallout from American efforts to defeat Islamic fundamentalists in these countries. These troops are hostages to fortune, and it is hard to see how their long-term presence is going to result in anything other than increasing resentment and alienation on the part of the locals.
As Bush says, 9/11 was an attack on all of the secular, democratic West. The U.S. has a right to defend itself, and it is the de facto leader of the West.
But the U.S. needs to understand what it does now will rebound on us all. Because of that, it has an obligation to listen to others, as others have an obligation to listen to it.
Unfortunately, in the current debate the two sides are talking past each other.
David Remnick, writing in the latest New Yorker, noted: “The United States has been wrong, politically and morally, about Iraq, more than once in the past. Washington has supported Saddam against Iran and overlooked some of his bloodiest adventures. The price of being wrong yet again could be incalculable.”
That’s why the U.S. could use some real friends these days, ones with ideas, analysis and real military force to contribute to the battle against terror.
Canada, sadly, offers none of these.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 29, 2003
ID: 13107144
TAG: 200301290509
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


So what is handy winner Jack Layton into as the latest hero from Toronto on the Hill? Let me sketch the NDP’s past leadership. It has always been better at ideas put earnestly than in higher electoral totals.
The NDP was a continuity created in 1961 from the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF). Thus the party Jack Layton now tops really originated in 1932 as a non-revolutionary socialist party. It showed up first in the House of Commons when the veteran Labour MP from Winnipeg, J.S. Woodsworth, was designated as the parliamentary leader of the new “movement.”
The bouncy councillor from Toronto is actually the ninth federal leader in the seven decades of formal socialist endeavour. Since 1932 there have been CCF or NDP MPs in the House of Commons, from a low of seven (1935) to a high of 44 (1989) to a low of nine in 1993. Now there are 14 NDP MPs, none from Toronto.
It has been my lot to have watched and listened closely to all nine CCF or NDP leaders: J.S. Woodsworth, clergyman, 1932-40; M.J. Coldwell, teacher, 1940-60; Hazen Argue, grain-grower, 1960-61; Tommy Douglas, clergyman 1961-72; David Lewis, lawyer, 1972-74; Ed Broadbent, academic, 1974-89; Audrey McLaughlin, social worker, 1989-95; Alexa McDonough, social worker, 1995-2003, and now Jack Layton, academic, and municipal councillor, 2003-?.
My immediate reaction in scanning the list is the marked difference between the first five as excellent parliamentarians and superb debaters and the comparative dull mediocrity of the next three – Broadbent, McLaughlin, and McDonough. As yet Layton is far from proven but as I’ve seen him, notably on television, he has more wit, brass, and clarity in argument than his three immediate predecessors. No one expects him to be an entertainer like Douglas or an orator for the ages like Lewis but obviously he seems incapable of the maundering prolixities of PolySci 100 by Broadbent, or McLaughlin’s plain ignorance or McDonough’s simpering and whined banalities.
It seems to me that Layton’s family, education, and political past have laid the basis of a fair to fine career in federal politics, providing he makes it into the House in the next two years. This may be difficult if he sticks to his intention of winning in the Toronto-Danforth riding of Liberal Dennis Mills, who has beaten him before. Nonetheless, tackling a showman like Mills again shows the brio of a real leader.
No one’s made much of it, but I’ve met some blue-overall guys drawn to Layton because he’s struck them as “a working stiff.” He wasn’t born to the purple but rather nearby. His dad was very much private-schooled before becoming a big player in mining engineering and development. The poise he showed as a Quebec minister in Brian Mulroney’s Tory cabinet was very much Westmount – as it was then.
I would wager that the son read a cruel criticism of a speech his dad gave in 1985 in Toronto about a new era in Canadian mining. The performance was described by Claire Hoy, then of The Toronto Sun, as “a Stradivarius of drivel, a literal symphony of sop.”
Why would I wager? Because columnist Hoy mentioned that cabinet minister and mining engineer Layton “is the father of Jack Layton, a radical NDP Toronto alderman.”
Except for Audrey McLaughlin, none of the NDP leaders, even an immigrant like David Lewis, really fits a tag of “working class,” but with Layton following McDonough it means two NDP leaders in a row from affluent families.
Obviously this didn’t do Alexa much good in Ottawa, but it certainly was a factor in her attaining the Nova Scotia legislature, then a seat in the Commons in the 1997 election.
Dennis Mills was recently ironic in a TV snippet to the effect that The Toronto Star seems set on inflating Jack Layton into Canada’s leader for tomorrow, but New Democrats should remember the Star has often been chummy with NDP prospects until the campaigns get rolling. A good point!
And if that remembrance from the Star’s past doesn’t caution Layton from walking on water, he ought to contemplate the bleak careers of many tipped in Toronto as destined for federal glory.
Lauded Torontonians brought into cabinets who’ve flubbed greatness include the late Walter Gordon; Don “Thumper” Macdonald, the finance minister when he left politics at 45; Paul Hellyer, almost a college student minister in 1957, who frittered away in three parties, one of his own making; David Crombie, the wonder mayor who gained nil influence in cabinet or caucus, a preview of sorts of Allan Rock, who talks better but has done as badly as a minister as David Collenette or the recent minister and ex-mayor, Art Eggleton.
If such examples get Layton down, he might find his rebound by coming back to his three predecessors – whiny Alexa, stunned Audrey, and prolix Ed. At least he won’t be such a lengthy bore.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 26, 2003
ID: 13106793
TAG: 200301260298
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


The next few months could be the most exciting in modern times for MPs returning this week to the House of Commons. So why another sermon on that bore of bores, parliamentary reform?
In part, because the present situation speaks to the need for reform, for making what goes on in the House genuine and useful.
Never before have we had a scenario like the one now unfolding. In brief, we have a veteran prime minister turned bold and very determined on several major initiatives, who is using time which he seized and has been holding through bravado and the storied Liberal tradition of loyalty to the party leader.
Through the next quarter or so, some Liberals and many anti-Liberals may keep hoping; however, they shouldn’t really expect his chief usurpers will find the nerve and use their numbers in the government caucus to accelerate Jean Chretien’s departure.
Arguably, the longer Chretien soldiers on as prime minister the more the need for parliamentary reform becomes obvious. This hiatus of sorts before his departure next year is the time “par excellence” for much discussion, particularly on the undertaking months ago by Paul Martin that federal politics must end the “democratic deficit” created by centring so much power in the PM and his office while reducing the power and influence of cabinet, caucuses and ordinary MPs.
Derek Lee, a veteran Liberal MP from Toronto, has long advocated parliamentary reform and is a Martin enthusiast. Not long ago, he wigged me for not giving Martin more credit for appreciating how dysfunctional Parliament has become, and “undertaking as party leader and as prime minister, to both allow reforms to happen and make them happen.” Lee insists Martin “is on the case and committed.”
A few months ago, backbencher Lee contributed his ideas for work of real significance for MPs in a pamphlet which he wrote and distributed widely. Nothing much was made in the media, or even in the House, of his 17 suggestions. Most of these seem possible and sensible to me, particularly for developing and using expert knowledge on both legislative intentions and value for money spent on programs.
Last week, I heralded with surprised pleasure a new book, The Chatter Box, written by former Alliance caucus researcher Roy Rempel. He is critical of the sham and waste of talents in the Commons, in large part due to intense, tightly led partisanship and the PMO’s absolute control of legislating and spending.
He makes his case through documenting “the irrelevance of Parliament in the making of Canadian foreign and defence policy.”
Like Lee, Rempel has suggestions for change. His first is vital, banal though it seems: We must begin with “the culture of Parliament itself.”
MPs are not into serious oversight because it is neither expected of them nor permitted by the system. To change this culture, the daily oral question period must be reformed, even abolished. Rempel lists five options which would reduce or close out “the present fake melodrama of the process.”
Another cultural change must be altering the expectation which all party leaders have that all their MPs sing from the same song sheet. To get this requires both a prime minister (say Martin) and a leader of the official Opposition (say Stephen Harper) who would not just suffer, but encourage, more well-put dissidence in their ranks. One way to secure MPs given to independent initiatives would be the adoption by the parties of a primary system, as in the U.S., to open party candidacies to direct voter input.
Rempel underlines the stress on the Hill that an MP basically represents the views of his constituents, excusing the need for deep expertise on policies. He suggests a European model, where a portion of the candidates nominated by parties are chosen as authorities in a field, not as constituency representatives.
No advocate for reform ever ignores the part House committees must play if Parliament is ever to be worth its salt. Rempel begins by positing that once an MP is on a committee it should be for the life of a given Parliament. Party whips should not be able to remove them, or even name a replacement when a member is unable to be present at meetings. And both the chair and the vice-chair should be chosen by secret ballot.
To end the present lack of oversight in their House work, MPs should be able to scrutinize government appointments in the diplomatic and military fields and to the senior bureaucratic posts of federal departments and agencies.
Rempel suggests these moves to make MPs more responsible to both constituents and all of Canada: 1) regularizing free voting in the House on most issues; 2) trying the option of MP recall; 3) shortening the time between elections, say to three or four years; and 4) using citizen-initiated referenda and/or plebiscites.
In his closing, Rempel says (and I agree):
“Parliament is ignored because it can be ignored. … At the present time Parliament is far from being, as referred to by the prime minister, ‘the most serious place in the land’ … if Canadians are to recover some measure of control over their country’s destiny and if the present decline of Canada internationally is to be reversed, then the reform of Parliament is the essential prerequisite.”
Some day, maybe in the golden tomorrow after Jean Chretien goes back to Shawinigan, we might see Paul Martin (maybe even John Manley) in his first House speech as prime minister begin with:
“Fellow parliamentarians, today let us begin the work of removing the chains which have bound us all.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 22, 2003
ID: 13106209
TAG: 200301220571
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


How do we understand our own country, or any other, without analyzing its demographics?
A few days ago Michael Bliss, a lucid, veteran historian, examined (in the National Post) the profound shifts in Canadians’ views on the world since most of them chose six decades ago to fight alongside Britain against the threat of fascism. Demographic changes here since World War II have been huge. A more liberal immigration policy brought us ethnicities from many sources beyond the familiar ones of the U.K. and Western Europe, and all this was crystallized in the Trudeau era by a national policy of multiculturalism.
Our minds tend to fix our national and regional situations as static, although they are always in flux. But changing demographics means changing political influences. Some ethnicities have raised their influence; others are in decline, including the British.
Recent opinion polling has shown Canadians apprehend the Middle East and its Israeli-Palestinian situation as the most dangerous in the world. Today, I refer to analyses of it and Middle East demographics by a New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman. He was the Times’ bureau chief in Beirut (1982-84) and in Jerusalem (1984-88).
Shortly after 9/11, Friedman examined the genesis of this terrorizing mass murder. Surveying the network of his Muslim contacts in the Middle East – mostly liberals favorably disposed to the West – he found despair. High birth rates and stagnant economies have been generating a big cohort of angry, ill-educated, jobless young men who identify with the powerlessness of the Palestinians. America’s support for Israel, its disinterest in the plight of the Palestinians, and its backing of autocratic regimes in the region has led many of them to see the U.S., and the West generally, as their enemy. They are ripe for Osama bin Laden’ siren song of jihad!
Friedman saw a grim future for Israel should the Palestinian conflict remain unresolved and Muslim youth continue to be left behind by the modern world: eventually suicide bombers will have nukes, and that will be that.
These commentaries helped Friedman win his third Pulitzer Prize. They also attracted flak, for linking the Twin Towers to the Palestinian conflict, and for not offering any solutions other than renewed negotiations with the Palestinians (though not, Friedman hastened to add, with their chosen leader, Yasser Arafat).
Recently, the columnist has begun to argue that the Bush administration’s plans to turn post-Saddam Iraq into the first Arab democracy might, however, be the ticket. To wean young Muslims from fundamentalism we must show them the value of democracy. A prosperous, democratic Iraq would do just that. And by dropping the fixation with “Palestine,” the new Iraq will show the Arab states how to earn the respect of developed nations. Friedman believes all this will lead Muslims elsewhere to press for similar changes, eventually producing Arab governments with which Israel can make peace.
This logic is reminiscent of that put forth before the Camp David accords which saw Egypt and Israel sign a peace treaty. It was then argued that ending hostilities would lead to normalized relations between Egypt and Israel; and the other Arab states, seeing the benefits, would soon follow. They did not.
Can democracy make the difference, leading Arabs and Muslims to see Israel differently?
Well, democracy can be a funny thing. Friedman, in a Jan. 15 column, argued that Israel’s democracy may be set to kill any chance of a two-state solution to the conflict – the only solution he believes will work.
Under PM Ariel Sharon, Friedman says, “Jewish settlers have expanded existing settlements in the West Bank and also set up a score of illegal ones. The settlers want to ensure either the de facto or de jure Israeli annexation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem … with no credible Arab or Palestinian peace initiative to challenge them, and no pressure from the Bush team, and no Israeli party to implement separation, the settlers are winning by default …
“Winning means making separation impossible. But if there is no separation, by 2010 there will be more Palestinians than Jews living in Israel and the occupied territories. Then Israel will have three options: control this whole area by apartheid; control it by expelling the Palestinians; or … grant Palestinians the right to vote.”
If the last, Friedman says “It will mean the end of Israel as a Jewish democracy.”
In a Jan. 19 piece Friedman went on to lament how Israeli’s system of proportional representation gives small parties with nothing useful to say about peace the power to ensure Sharon (whom Friedman believes doesn’t want peace) remains PM.
If democracy in Israel produces a warmonger PM, why should we expect it to produce anything different in an Arab country? (Remember, Arafat was elected.)
So, as here in Canada, demographics and democracy will affect how we see these issues.
More and more Muslims, seeking to escape population pressures at home, are emigrating here. Their numbers, wealth, and political clout are growing. Those who would champion Israel’s cause face a tougher and more acrimonious fight in the days and years ahead for Canadian hearts and minds. That’s demography – and democracy – for you.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 19, 2003
ID: 13105871
TAG: 200301190322
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


The Chatter Box, by Roy Rempel is the frankest, most reasonable book yet about Canadian MPs and the House of Commons. So much so that I myself twinged with embarrassment while reading it although my stints as an MP ended 37 years ago.
The long subtitle of the book is more definitive of its content than the image of aimless babble cast by the word “chatter box.” It goes: “An Insider’s Account of the Irrelevance of Parliament in the Making of Canadian Foreign and Defence Policy.” The author, now 40, has a doctorate in political science, and he worked for three years as a senior researcher for the caucus of the Canadian Alliance, hired because of his particular field of expertise – international relations and global defence issues.
Dr. Rempel’s book, a paperback of 246 pages published by Breakout Educational Network and Dundurn Press, is not loaded with polysyllabic jargon. It is basically populist in its thesis that parliamentarians should play forward roles in legislating and scrutinizing spending, and do not because the system and its culture and traditions abase them to the prime minister and his or her close cadre, or, if in opposition, to the leader of their particular party.
In short, this is an indictment of the sham and emptiness in what its exponents call “the highest court in the land,” and it is really not argumentatively tilted to the right or to the left. Certainly it does not glorify the opposition and its stock House performances.
The case which Rempel establishes seems tailor-made as a convincing justification for the most outstanding point which Paul Martin, our prime minister in waiting, has put forward during the later stages of his clever usurption. Surely you recall him going on about the “democratic deficit” in federal politics.
The short title of the book came from Germany. “During the German Empire (1871-1918) a national parliament was established in that country. This parliament, or Reichstag, was the first to be elected by universal (albeit male) suffrage. While the Reichstag was powerful in theory it soon became known as the Quasselbude or ‘Chatter Box.’ Elected legislators hotly debated national issues, but their power remained largely fictional. Real power was instead concentrated in the hands of the aristocratic national elite.”
Rempel continues: “This book is about my experience in Canada’s ‘Chatter Box’ – our House of Commons. Most Canadians may believe Parliament is the centerpiece of our democracy. Indeed, in theory our Parliament is supreme. If one were to examine the official job description for MPs, one might find references to functions such as debating, passing and amending federal legislation; raising and approving the expenditures of federal tax revenue; and overseeing the activities and conduct of government. The reality, however, is quite different. In truth, MPs do none of these things.
“To the extent that real ‘debating’ occurs in the House of Commons, it almost never influences the outcome of the proposed legislation. Every piece of legislation passed by Parliament originates outside parliament – in the bureaucracy. Furthermore, it is rare for any bill introduced in the House actually to be amended by the House itself. Legislative outcomes in Canada are always predetermined and MPs play no role in the process beyond acting as rubber stamps for whatever the government wants to do. MPs have no role with regard to the raising or spending of public money. The Estimates (or the government’s annual budgetary proposals) are always passed exactly as introduced.”
The author uses the storyline of national defence issues, largely since the Trudeau years, as the backbone for his case, showing how no one ever really succeeded on either side of the House in developing lucid explanations or continuing, constructive criticism – not in the oral question period, not during formal debates, not in the hearings and the reports of House committees on defence and foreign policy.
The two most pathetic processes he exposes are: 1) the oral question period as always a farcical partisan exercise, designed on one side to bellow havoc, on the other to fudge and/or self-extol; 2) the bafflegab speeches prepared within the departments of Defence and Foreign Affairs which government backbenchers dutifully read to fill House time while masquerading an understanding that isn’t in them.
Today’s Liberal backbenchers, aside from Dennis Mills, should read the appendix of speeches on Kosovo written for their use, which they or their caucus comrades delivered. Their parroting is laughable, if one has a mean streak, but appalling for anyone who has thought ours a real democracy.
As for Mills, he and Dr. Rempel are attuned to parliamentary reality and say so – which MP Mills did in a special debate two years ago on the parliamentary system. Rempel quotes a few of his sentences:
“What bothers me is the contempt that the entire machinery of government has toward each and every member of the House of Commons. I don’t care what party it is, it is contempt. Those are strong words, but I stand by them.”
It seems certain Paul Martin – he of the “democratic deficit” – will be PM within 13 months. He, and those of us around the House who want it to be more than a gabfest without listeners on the sidelines of power, need sensible suggestions for invigorating Parliament.
The concluding chapter of The Chatter Box has a swatch under five different headings, beginning with the imperative of debunking the oral question period and the fraud it is as an effective oversight. So next week we shall examine Rempel’s recommendations. None of them will come about without strong, open backing by both a prime minister and a leader of the official Opposition. Paul Martin? Stephen Harper? So far, neither is inspiring.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Thursday, January 16, 2003
ID: 13105423
TAG: 200301160479
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


This may seem cruel, but surely there was some parallel between two exits announced Tuesday: Mel Lastman from mayoral politics in Toronto, and Allan Rock from the leadership race of the federal Liberal party.
Would it be relief all around at the prospect in not having candidacies this fall of such lightweights as the mayor and the minister of industry?
In Rock’s case, he is in the Toronto tradition in Ottawa dating back to W.L. Mackenzie King’s era. As PM, King was noted for either not bothering with a minister from Toronto, or if he did, having him as postmaster.
Just before his defeat in 1957, Louis St. Laurent brought Paul Hellyer into his ministry. After that, on several occasions, highly touted Torontonians came into the House. For example, expectations were great for such former mayors as David Crombie, Phil Givens, Paul Cosgrove and Art Eggleton. All but Givens made the ministry, but had little impact there or in the House. By my count Toronto has had some 35 MPs in cabinet since Hellyer, but only a handful were significant and influential – Walter Gordon, Mitchell Sharp, Mike Wilson, Donald Macdonald and Barbara McDougall. How many can recall Toronto ministers such as Al Lawrence, David Smith, Bob Stanbury, Tony Abbott, Alan Redway, Pauline Browes, Sergio Marchi or Jim Peterson?
The astonishing aspect of Rock’s career as the minister from Toronto who hit the House with the PMO as his goal, and who has led big departments for nine years, is this: he has almost no following in the cabinet or the caucus, despite his self-portrayal as truly a liberal of the left. Remember, Paul Martin hasn’t more than half the caucus locked up.

Before getting into the swamp of scandalous deeds of politicians, let me respond to a moot question: should B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell resign because of his arrest during a personal holiday in the U.S. (Hawaii) for drunk driving?
Surely there is enough forgiveness among British Columbians to let Campbell try to redeem himself through good works on their behalf; and if he fails, either his caucus in the next year, or they themselves at the next general election, may turf him as premier.
One gets the impression that in B.C. much of the critical force now insisting Campbell should depart goes beyond the partisan game in the province, surely the most vicious in Canada. Much of the animus toward him surely comes from those who see hypocrisy: i.e., the contradiction between a late-night drunk driver weaving along a road and a man who radiated righteousness and moral authority while attaining office and in introducing big cuts in spending and in the government’s workforce.
Scandals relating to personal behaviour dot our political history. I argue that a long tradition of not exploiting them by adversaries and the press broke down in the 1960s after the mean revelations by Lester Pearson’s government of tawdry relations between two ministers of the previous John Diefenbaker government and one Gerda Munsinger, a lady of dubious repute and allegedly a security threat. Since then, there has been no return to letting personal misbehaviour go unexploited; indeed, the partisan thrusts increased during the long melodrama of Pierre and Margaret Trudeau and through the long parade of ministers from Brian Mulroney’s cabinet during the 1984-88 mandate.
During the inquiry in 1986 into minister Sinclair Stevens’ misdeeds, I drew up a list of various accusations of misconduct by federal and provincial politicians which I had heard about in recent years. Note the diversity in rascality and wrongdoing there has been – actual or bruited.
My list of scandalous acts, or alleged ones, by politicians I have known: Grave alcoholism, or gross behaviour influenced by booze; sexual behaviour which is illicit or extreme in terms of violence or ages; chronic narcotic use; bullying, notably of female employees, even to sexual harassment; gambling to excess; lying, either about personal data relevant to politics or about political situations of public significance; bribing or being bribed; profiting personally on inside information; swindling, or knowingly letting such take place; importuning judges or corporate executives on behalf of relatives, constituents, or associations; blackmailing or being blackmailed; taking and keeping gifts of value; extreme profligacy with government money and services; borrowing outside the frame of either family or financial institutions; influence peddling.
To me, a proven case of driving while drunk is more forgivable than toll-gating a contractor or importuning a judge.

A clarification: In last Sunday’s column, I did not mean to suggest Norman Spector is an employee of Israel Asper or the National Post. Nor did I intend to suggest his strong views in support of the state of Israel were in any way a reflection of this. In fact, Spector has written only once about the Mideast in the Post, compared to his many columns on the subject in The Globe and Mail since 1995. My reference to Spector’s strong attachment to the Jewish state seeming to be every bit as strong as “his employer’s” was a reference to Brian Mulroney, who appointed Spector as Canada’s ambassador to Israel following Spector’s years of service as secretary to the cabinet for federal-provincial relations and as chief of staff in the prime minister’s office.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 12, 2003
ID: 13104973
TAG: 200301120262
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill

correction A clarification: In last Sunday’s column, I did not mean to suggest Norman Spector is an employee of Israel Asper or the National Post. Nor did I intend to suggest his strong views in support of the state of Israel were in any way a reflection of this. In fact, Spector has written only once about the Mideast in the Post, compared to his many columns on the subject in The Globe and Mail since 1995. My reference to Spector’s strong attachment to the Jewish state seeming to be every bit as strong as “his employer’s” was a reference to Brian Mulroney, who appointed Spector as Canada’s ambassador to Israel following Spector’s years of service as secretary to the cabinet for federal-provincial relations and as chief of staff in the prime minister’s office. (Douglas Fisher, Toronto Sun, January 16, 2003)


The relentless Israeli-Palestinian conflict is such a deep quagmire, and Canadians fear it.
A recent polling of readers by the Globe and Mail named Israel, not Iraq or North Korea, the world’s most dangerous hot spot by a goodly margin. Such an apprehension helps explain Ottawa’s reluctance to discuss it, much less deal with it: Why jump into bottomless antagonism? But the Liberal government, and the other political parties, may be dragged into it if the Asper media empire has its way.
In a recent, frank epistle in his National Post, CanWest Global chairman Israel Asper wrote of his love for his namesake. To him, Israel is a moral beacon to the world. So it is not surprising that since he took control of the Post from Conrad Black, the paper has taken an ever-tougher line against Israel’s enemies and, accordingly, the CBC has become one of them.
The Post now regularly harries the CBC for its “biased” Middle East reporting. Leading the charge is Norman Spector, a former chief of staff to Brian Mulroney who was rewarded for this service with Canada’s ambassadorship to Israel. Spector’s attachment to the Jewish state seems every bit as strong as his employer’s, and if his columns are a guide, the Asper campaign against the Corporation will continue to escalate. Last Wednesday Spector implied the CBC coverage fuelled anti-Semitism of the sort voiced by David Ahenakew, the former First Nations chief.
Asper, Spector, and the Post accuse the CBC of mollycoddling terrorists by refusing to use that word to describe the organizations which back attacks on Israelis. The Post also argues that the CBC unfairly criticizes Israel’s effort to defend itself while ignoring the perfidies of Palestinians, and Arabs and Muslims more generally.
Tony Burman, editor-in-chief of CBC TV News, responded to the charges in a letter to the Post, defending the CBC and its point man, reporter Neil Macdonald. He argued that the CBC’s coverage, taken in its entirety, has been balanced. He also insisted on a journalist’s right to speak his mind. Hovering in the background was the old saw about one man’s freedom fighter being another man’s terrorist.
How might this confrontation become a problem for our government in Ottawa?
Asper has previously called for the Chretien government to rein in the CBC, arguing the PM himself was being treated unfairly by the Mother Corp. The Post has just been in front of a successful campaign to have the government ban Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based radical party that sponsors attacks on Israel. If the CBC does not back down, can a demand for Ottawa to make it do so be far behind?
The CBC won’t back down. Macdonald, while hardly a lovable personality or as above criticism as, say, the CBC veteran Joe Schlesinger, is highly respected within CBC News and throughout the media generally. More important than the personality under fire is the work environment which CBC-types cherish, one which is largely free from editorial interference from politicians, business, and major interest groups. Give in on this issue, goes their reasoning, and you’ll be a puppet forever. Many elsewhere – not least, one thinks, among CanWest journalists – will take a similar view.
How would a showdown in Ottawa play out?
The Alliance would be sympathetic to Asper. Stockwell Day, its foreign affairs critic, is a strong supporter of Israel as are many other Christian fundamentalists who support the party.
Taking a tough line on terrorism may also appeal to other Alliance supporters who have no love of the CBC.
The New Democrats and the Tories will reject any call to rein in the CBC. Neither party has any affection for the Post, and both see the Israel-Palestinian conflict as far more complicated than the Post portrays.
The Liberals? While Asper is a lifelong Liberal, his agitating on this issue is far from welcome. Hezbollah had few friends here, yet the government was reluctant to act. Why?
Because it feared the issue might generate a national concern over the rights and wrongs of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with who knows what consequences for our vaunted multicultural diversity.
Support for Israel in Canada seems to have been slipping in the last few years as its military might, including nukes, and televised images from the Intifada – slingshots versus tanks – have undermined the notion Israel is simply a noble little nation surrounded by relentless, powerful enemies.
Those who accuse the CBC are further undermined by their staunch support for the Bush administration’s plans to topple Saddam Hussein – which Canadians seem to favour less and less. It seems to me the notion that Canada must support Israel because it is the front line of the global war on terror is being more and more rejected in Canada as simplistic, and bullying. Finally, and vitally, the CBC, unlike Hezbollah, has many friends.
The anger voiced and pressed by Asper and Spector is no sham. For them the issue truly is black and white.
In taking on the CBC and insisting theirs is the only legitimate interpretation in line with history and democratic values, they seem to be overreaching.
And it may rebound on them and on Israel.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 08, 2003
ID: 13104401
TAG: 200301080507
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Late this past November, Sheila Copps, responsible for the heavily historical Heritage department, staggered a group tagged as “The Valiant” – headed by Hamilton Southam, a prominent Ottawa elder and sponsor during the Pearson years of the National Arts Centre. Why? Her decision not to give federal backing for a project which would put 16 statues of military heroes near the approaches to the National Cenotaph and the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The project has been well-publicized in Ottawa, drawing support from the local media, municipal politicians, historians, and veterans’ associations. The cost of the statuary and its placement has been projected at some $3 million. The sponsors had undertaken to provide about a fifth of this, with, they hoped, the federal government footing the rest.
But Copps’ refusal went beyond a brief negative, in crisply making three criticisms of the proposal and its worth.
The first is guaranteed to aggravate war veterans, because she notes that Canadians are very peaceable and both proud of their record as peacekeepers and increasingly supportive of our multicultural society and the diverse ethnicities within its whole.
One inference one draws from her view is that the peaceable and the diversity have received less than they have come to deserve in monuments and ceremonies, whereas there has been a surfeit on the deeds of warriors, most of whom represent our two founding peoples. Almost implicit in her thought (I believe) is that the big spending for a spanking new Canadian War Museum should satisfy the declining ranks of WW II veterans who demanded it.
Then Copps did her populist thing, noting that almost all the “valiants” selected were officers. Where were “the other ranks”? Surely there must have been many heroes among them. The minister went on to list some continuing tasks as sensible alternatives for the sponsors. They should help develop more understanding of our history in war and peace, especially among children, youth, and new citizens through lectures, pamphlets, essay competitions, Web sites, etc.
The Valiant lobby has put its case and the Copps response, plus their rebuttal to her views, before a Senate sub-committee on veterans’ affairs. It seems the Senate will seek a ministerial review of the project, and its protagonists will further lobby the caucuses on the Hill for support.
– – –
Barlow prose, spoken or written, is clear in plain exposition and in attack mode, which she is often in. One may quickly weary of her righteousness and ingrained distrust of business and most politicians. I do, and wish she might have a term in office to test her confident wisdom. Nevertheless, there is much of worth in Profit is No Cure as the sawoff for medicare in the next decade nears between Jean Chretien and the premiers.
In particular, citizens who know little of medicare’s history get a useful sketch of it, followed by a list of the villains opposing the system as is. A telling summary on the rise of highly-paid hospital bureaucrats and the decline of trained nurses in numbers, roles and status should make even the staunchest free enterpriser pause, and Barlow’s tips are useful on how anyone can readily engage in defending universal health care.
– – –
There is a mite of partisan craft in Anne McLellan’s suggestion this week that she is considering a bid for the Liberal leadership. She thinks the contest deserves a well-informed voice from the West. Certainly, the West has not been blessed with scads of Grit MPs and there is much ignorance and some antagonism to the West in Ontario. McLellan, the health minister, is arguably as able as any minister in the cabinet from the West, except perhaps Ralph Goodale.
She has no chance of winning the big prize, not even if the Paul Martin juggernaut were to collapse before November, but she wants to continue in politics. She’s only 52, and whatever her shortcoming of shrillness, she comes through as clever and well-informed.
A few months of touting for the West in TV debates and at Liberal gatherings will reinforce her image as a fighter for the region. Electors there may well remember this, rather than her culpability for the gun registry so detested in Alberta. What profit to Martin if she loses her riding in Edmonton?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 05, 2003
ID: 13104079
TAG: 200301050267
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Leadership changes by the Tories and New Democrats mean the partisan faces of national politics will be somewhat shuffled in the year ahead. But the continuing public priority and focus will be on the Liberals, the only party which has the prospect of forming a majority government.
It seems Prime Minister Jean Chretien will carry on until the November leadership convention as if his authority is sturdy and sound and not in doubt through the grip which Paul Martin seems to have on both the parliamentary caucus and the executive posts of so much of the party.
Will Martin choose to challenge the PM directly, insisting his departure date be advanced? That aim could hardly be fulfilled without the convention date being advanced, say to July, and this seems most unlikely. The “long goodbye” is also “the long wait.”
When the convention is over and Martin wins handily, as most of us expect, he’s likely to insist on, and get, a December exit from Chretien rather than having him hang on doing last laps into February, 2004.
The Chretien-Martin rivalry overshadowed most other aspects of notice given to politics most of the time in 2002 – even the Kyoto protocol and the Romanow-Kirby stuff on the medicare crisis – and it seems sure to be the prime obsession of the news and commentary packs in 2003.
If this prediction goes awry it will be because both the public and members of the Liberal party will get so fed up with the rivalry and its gamesmanship they will turn against both, or even somewhat restore Jean Chretien to the wide popularity he had before and turn their backs on Martin as their choice for prime minister.
(The weakness in this latter scenario is comparable to the familiar dilemma we’ve heard again and again since the rise of Reform, now the Alliance, divided the conservatively minded of the country: i.e., there being no real alternative to the Liberals, and no luminous Liberal alternative to Martin in sight.)
The prime minister certainly has some handy chances for leadership deeds to gain him favour, most notably by getting a deal this month with the premiers on refinancing the health care system and nailing down its particulars in the federal budget Finance Minister John Manley is to produce in February.
What other elements might there be for a quick resurrection of the attractions which Chretien several times has had for ordinary citizens outside Quebec, and a parallel diminution in Martin’s?
One has to begin with negatives. No more scandals involving ministers such as the Gagliano and MacAulay affairs. No more mismanaged extravaganzas like the gun registry or the cozy advertising contracts with friendly Liberal outfits in Quebec. Such cleanliness is far from certain, and some time in April more critical reviews of departments and programs are due from Sheila Fraser, the auditor general.
Over to some positive possibilities for the PM. He could divide and diminish antagonisms in his parliamentary caucus by dispensing with five or six ministers: firing several of the feeblest out of hand without rewards, and appointing others to the Senate or agency boards, replacing the exited with backbenchers liked and respected by their colleagues, even elevating several known Martin supporters.
On parliamentary reform, the one program point which Martin has pre-empted so far, the PM could remove Don Boudria, his House leader and now unpopular with the government caucus, and assign responsibility for parliamentary reform to a strong backbencher like Reg Alcock or John Godfrey.
Let the new appointee direct a reform “action” committee with an MP from each of the five parties, chaired for neutrality’s sake by Speaker Peter Milliken. Give the committee two general assignments: 1) improve the consideration and the disposal of private member’s bills and motions; 2) develop a few experimental models (say based on Congressional and U.K. practice) for achieving more acute examination of witnesses and presentations to House committees.
A far longer, but possible, shot at crisp leadership which would grab the nation’s attention in Chretien’s run through 2003 – even more than saving medicare or gingering a dozy ministry or giving real work to plain MPs – would be to grasp openly and boldly the dicey cluster of issues which the PM has obviously been mulling over regarding the Yanks.
Oh, how loaded this matter is with doubts and dangers. Not least is the long-running paradox of Canadians sharing Americans’ culture and keen for their living standards, but chary of both American influence here and its righteous exercise of military power and economic might globally.
The immediate dilemma of Canadians doubting America hangs on the determination of President George Bush to oust the evil Saddam Hussein and set up a truly democratic government in Iraq.
Is this the time for Jean Chretien to stop fudging and stalling on American intentions?
Could he make a firm policy on what has been happening gradually through the underfunding of our military? Why not let the military bottom out; stop pretending about its capabilities, and as a policy abandon any intention to rebuilding the military at a cost of billions more each year?
Jean Chretien’s less-than-enthusiastic view of U.S. domination developed gradually through his four active decades within our ruling party, during which the likes of Lester Pearson, Walter Gordon and Pierre Trudeau tried to shape and follow a truly Canadian line in world affairs while trying to influence American policy. Chretien is cool, not even lukewarm, about President Bush’s militancy against the prime evil-doers of the world.
It seems his doubts and fears are shared by the majority of Canadian Liberals, and probably by a clear majority of adult Canadians. The test, and the chance for Chretien to make this clear, will come at the UN just before Manley’s first budget.
Is Chretien tough-minded enough to let the world know Canada will not take part in a war against Iraq? Is there enough Canadian solidarity on this issue to bear what could be grave economic consequences for such stark independence?
Chretien first won national notice back in 1965 when he told an audience in Quebec that when it came time for a decision Quebecers, knowing where the butter for their bread comes from, would reject separation. It was very brave of him. So would be refusing next month to join Tony Blair behind George Bush, even at the cost of much bread and butter.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 01, 2003
ID: 13103581
TAG: 200301010231
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


A columnist’s modesty and his sense of fairness is up for judgment on this occasion – matching at year’s end what he had forecast would happen in 2002.
Put roughly, my projections a year ago were half right and half wrong: well out of whack on the economic side, but near the mark, though not on the centre, on partisan politics and a roiled Parliament.
Serious difficulties developed for Jean Chretien, as I suggested would happen. His egocentric, hands-on leadership was undercut by a ministry heavy with dodos, a caucus desperate for more to do, and repeated evidence of governmental incompetence and old-style patronage and sleaze.
Most wearing of all on the PM’s authority and stature was the unofficial race for succession he never forbade or forcefully circumscribed. It was obvious from its start that one impatient candidate, Paul Martin, was far ahead of any others with ambitions. He had become the top political personality in the country, and had created an organization within the party which was and still is well-fixed with money and backers.
So my forecast was rather sensible as regards politics in and about the ruling party, with two exceptions. Chretien took resignations from a trio of ministers, not by design, but to circle away from embarrassments each had created – i.e., Alfonso Gagliano, Art Eggleton, Lawrence MacAulay – and then from Paul Martin. Who could have foreseen such topplings?
I had also indicated that by year’s end John Manley would be a genuine competitor with a possible chance to defeat Paul Martin when the leadership test came. Well, Manley may not be a throwaway candidate for the contest this coming November but a lot will have to go wrong with the Martin juggernaut in 2003 for Manley to get close.
In defence of the political side in my forecast, what happened in the ruling party after Martin was fired or quit the cabinet in the summer was unprecedented. No Liberal prime minister with a clear majority in Parliament and three to four years left in the mandate has ever anticipated losing control of his caucus MPs. Never, until it happened to Jean Chretien.
And no Liberal prime minister with such backing has ever been forced by a rival within his caucus to evade a defeat in a vote of confidence at a party convention by announcing his retirement – almost two years hence!
Even now, it’s hard to believe the Martin team was so thoroughly in command of riding associations and the provincial executives of the party that the PM faced such a loss of face. Even more unbelievable is that despite such Martin strength, the PM got away with setting up such a long epilogue to his electoral career.
My main misjudgment – on the economy – is hard to excuse. Our economic woes may have deepened in 2002, but such has not been obvious in joblessness, bankruptcies and skyrocketing government deficits.
There was a remarkable resilience in Canada through the year, particularly in job creation, federal revenues and export trade.
I had put too much weight on four factors: 1) a deepening impact from high-tech layoffs and downsizing or disappearing ventures, so notable in the capital region; 2) the effects on our forest industry of pending penalties facing our softwood lumber trade with the U.S.; 3) the grim decline of the prairie farm economy weakened by low grain prices and several drought years; and most of all, 4) the near recession affecting the U.S., which usually has been our economy’s bellwether.
By year’s end it was still puzzling, at least to me, why these factors hadn’t had more effect on us. The puzzle reminds me of an old conundrum on who merits credit for a vigorous Canadian economy. Take several critical reports from the auditor general in 2002, in particular the last one which highlighted the ballooning boondoggle of the gun registry, or ponder the shabby departures from cabinet for cause or with a lame excuse (Brian Tobin). How does one give credit to the federal governors for good economic news when their course in 2002 was so laced with incompetence, waste, confusion and skulduggery? Any answer soon turns into banalities about the basic strength of Canada and Canadians.
What I find near unpardonable is that I should spend so much time on the noisesome course of the ruling party and its glaring flaws. Despite such evidence it still flourishes – and so does Jean Chretien! – insofar as opinion polling goes.
Despite the tawdriness of the Liberals, so few of us, even members of the media close to the federal scene, give much time or favour to the essence of democratic politics – another party or the other parties. We are too seized with the Liberals’ affairs, as much at the end of 2002 as at its beginning, even though their story last year was a wretched one.
Might it be possible that genuine alternatives to our usual ruling party are shaping up? Say, in the Alliance now led by Stephen Harper? The New Democrats, soon under Jack Layton or Bill Blaikie? Or the Tories under Peter MacKay or Scott Brison? Maybe not in 2003, but some year soon.
The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2003, SunMedia Corp.