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Doug’s Columns 2004 « Douglas Fisher



Doug’s Columns 2004

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Monday, December 27, 2004
ID: 12116830
TAG: 200412270218
SECTION: Comment


BEFORE THE CBC project “The Greatest Canadian” recedes from memory to be forgiven and forgotten, let me suggest something:
Next time let it be done in categories. Seek “the greatest” in, say, the arts, sport, science, politics, the economy.
On first vetting the top 100 nominations, I kept gasping at the domination television must have wrought over history.
Either little to no history is taught in our schools, or students in droves remember little of it. Almost 60% of the top 100 were still alive or very recently deceased (e.g., Peter Gzowski, Pierre Berton, John Candy, Sandra Schmirler).
The listed names challenged political correctness. In the top 100, the nominators only chose 13 franco-Canadians and just a score of women (none of the latter made the top 10). And six of the women are popular singers.
Show business, particularly through work in the U.S., provided more nominations than our writers of fiction got. Amazingly (to me) neither novelist Carol Shields nor the short story writer Alice Munro made the big list, nor did Margaret Laurence.
And our two outstanding academics in terms of their “big think” and world recognition — Northrop Frye, the literary critic, and Harold Innes, the authority on communications whose insights set Marshall Mcluhan (ranked No. 62) on his global village course — didn’t make the 100. Nor did C.D. Howe, the leader in building Canada’s infrastructures for transport and manufacturing. He modernized our economic possibilities during his run from 1935 to 1957 as a top economics minister.
Despite the price in lives Canadians have paid in our wars, fewer military men made the list than hockey stars. Indeed, only six warriors are on it, including the Unknown Soldier (21), “Intrepid” William Stephenson (54), and Dr. John McCrae (76), author of In Flanders Fields — as against 11 hockey figures.
In politics, a nation-builder like Sir Wilfrid Laurier and our prime nation-saver, Mackenzie King, ranked 43rd and 49th — far behind the two latter-day PMs in the top 10: Pierre Trudeau and Lester Pearson. There’s a double wrench to reasoning.
So much of the ideas and push for vital Canadian developments came from outstanding federal mandarins like O.D. Skelton, Clifford Clark, Tom Kent, Simon Riesman, Gordon Robertson, and Bob Bryce. None of them made the 100. Nor did the hard-pushing 19th century educator, Egerton Ryerson or the great medical leader, Sir William Osler.
When I heard the Greatest Canadian result — Tommy Douglas edging Terry Fox and Pierre Trudeau — my disappointment wasn’t softened much, even though Douglas was the most likeable and good person with whom I’ve been close. Two prime ministers deserved higher notice. The work of Sir John A. Macdonald and Mackenzie King had more good and wider consequences than Douglas’ role in launching medicare.
The CBC should have emphasized “consequential.” What deeds spread out and keep impressing, say, as does the heart-wrenching hindsight we have of Terry Fox?
My first choice would have been between men who dealt in both philosophy and practicalities: Sir William Logan (61) the geologist who left us an awesome, timely legacy from finding, mapping, and opening up the mineral and water resources of Canada through the mid-1800s; Sir Sanford Fleming (42), the genius who gave humanity time zones and Canada much needed engineering; and finally, Northrop Frye, the most brilliant man I’ve known.
Frye had much to say about “greatness.” He offers a score or so of choices for “the greatest” in the recent book, Northrop Frye Unbuttoned. The greatest book in the bible: Genesis. The greatest novel: War and Peace. The greatest form of prose: The Utopia. The greatest mind of modern times: Shakespeare.
I leave you with this dissection of “greatness” by Frye: “There is no such thing as a great man; it’s only that some men can do jobs well that we think important, and greatness always relates to the job and never to the man … Everyone agrees to call Beethoven a genius, but he was only a man with a knack for writing music.” So there!

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, December 19, 2004
ID: 12114700
TAG: 200412190356
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: 36


MOST MPS of our minority Parliament are gone from the Hill until the close of January. So Paul Martin’s crew have a long pause without daily harassment by the opposition.
Many reviews of Martin’s first year as PM have been cruel. Several times last week in TV interviews he conceded he’d been unfocused. Now he’s past that.
He and his ministers have been beavering away. Their priorities and their costs will be put before Parliament in the budget due in February or early March. He continues to be “very, very excited” about the future, repeating his theme that Canada has so much to give the world.
Martin has also undertaken not to call an election on his own initiative until the Gomery inquiry into AdScam has reported — something not expected before late fall next year.
Of course, he could be forced to call an election if he lost the confidence of the House on something major like the coming budget. In short, he is promising he will not put undertakings in the budget that the opposition would have to reject — as Pierre Trudeau did in 1974.
But this general forecast that Parliament should lurch through 2005 does not mean it will be a drab year. In the early weeks, there’ll be both the same-sex marriage debate and the appearance before Justice Gomery of Jean Chretien and Paul Martin.
At this point, given what’s been uncovered so far in the inquiry, the evidence tilts for me to thinking both Chretien as prime minister and Martin as his finance minister had to have known a considerable amount about the skullduggery within the so-called “unity file.” We’ve had nothing so potentially scandalous before involving back-to-back prime ministers.
As for the same-sex measure, Martin plans for early passage. A gay victory seems sure. There’s enough opposition MPs for it to make a clear majority with the cabinet ministers and most of the backbench Liberal MPs. Further, most of those who write for the national press and television are on the gay side, and their attitude seems almost proprietorial since the Supreme Court made its rather equivocal commentary a week or so ago.
This quasi-decision and the tilt of the journalists may explain the curious softening in opposition to same-sex marriage by Stephen Harper and the Conservative party caucus.
What might surprise most of us, however, is an unexpected surge of resistance rising from thousands of families. It’s my hunch there is no majority opinion “out there” favouring such an alteration in what signifies a marriage.
It might be astute for Martin to keep his glib, almost happy-go-lucky minister of justice, Irwin Cotler, from too much TV exposure until the deed is legislated. He’s coming through as patronizing to those who object to this progress in human rights.
As a political community, Quebec is a big factor in both the same-sex case and the AdScam scandal. And forces within Quebec — political, economic, and social — have recently been putting more pressure on the Martin government to come through with big money, e.g., to keep Bombardier in plane-making and to save textile manufacturers in deep trouble.
Just a fortnight ago in Montreal, Finance Minister Ralph Goodale mentioned his generosity to Quebec in forgiving close to $1 billion it owed Ottawa and in deferring the repayment of another $2.4 billion of Quebec debt. He has also spelled out a multi-million-dollar aid package for the textile mills and Bombardier is surely going to get a substantial package shortly.
Already the theme of a favoured Quebec is not playing well for the Martin crew west of Sudbury, and the more federal funds go to Quebec, the more the BQ touts its effectiveness in Ottawa.
In short, the unity of Canada continues to be expensive, often the spending dividing even as it binds. It is most unlikely Martin’s time as PM is ever going to be smooth and triumphant.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, December 12, 2004
ID: 12488668
TAG: 200412120355
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: 42
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


PAUL MARTIN has been prime minister for a year, and his second ministry, five months old, has sat in the House of Commons just 43 days.
Time for a general “take” on the PM, the other party leaders and the new MPs from last June’s election.
The new MPs have not been getting much media coverage but it is hard not to be cheered by their obvious eagerness, determination, and by-and-large preparedness, particularly in the Bloc Quebecois and Conservative caucuses.
But all four parties have some impressive recruits, including the governing Liberals: for example, in four new ministers never before in parliament — Irwin Cotler (Justice), David Emerson (Industry), Ken Dryden (Social Development) and Ujjal Dosangh (Health). Perhaps they are so appealing because the three truly pillar personalities from the previous Martin ministry, i.e., Anne McLellan (Deputy PM), Reg Alcock (Treasury Board), and Ralph Goodale (Finance), continue on, bumptious and hard-shell confident, respected but unalluring to those Liberals wanting a solid, straightforward leader.
Which leads me to the failure by the prime minister to improve either his self-marred reputation or the stock of his party.
It’s hard at this stage to envisage a majority Liberal victory in the next election. There seems almost no regard among the Liberal contingent on the Hill for the Martin team. His handlers’ strategy of reducing the PM’s showings in the House but flying the circuit of continents playing high-minded “goody two-shoes” is supposed to raise Martin’s stature at home; meantime, the senior federal bureaucracy is in confusion and many domestic and international issues demand attention.
In particular, the glaring weakness of the 21 Liberal MPs from Quebec, when contrasted with the numbers and confidence of the 54 BQ MPs, underlines the Martin weaknesses.
Most anglo journalists on the Hill give scant attention to how well organized and capable the Bloc as a parliamentary force seems to be, compared, say, to the Conservatives or the New Democrats. It seems clear that Gilles Duceppe, the Bloc leader, has become an important personality in Quebec politics.
Anyone reading beyond the daily cynical circus of the oral question period will notice how much more bounce and variety in ideas there has been from the MPs of the Opposition caucuses, a lot of it by freshman MPs. In particular, the new ones seem to be expectant for what so many Liberals and a lot of ordinary voters thought was Paul Martin’s prime undertaking — i.e., snuffing out “the democratic deficit.”
But one cannot close a fair review of Martin’s deficiencies and not take notice of what are also remarkable failures by Stephen Harper and Jack Layton to make sharper impressions as leaders.
Harper, the Conservative leader, does not come through effectively as a prime minister in-waiting. Rather, he’s a carping moralist, bent on outing Liberal ministers who should resign or be fired. On the one hand he’s obsessed with Liberal immorality and extravagance; on the other, he’s waiting for the Liberals to unveil their intentions before setting out, for example, the military establishment his party would institute.
As for the NDP, it includes two veterans of the House, Bill Blaikie and Ed Broadbent. They may not radiate the showbiz smarts of their leader, Layton; however, they do cast an aura of leadership without trying. Their presence and contributions in the House underline how much hyperbole and self-importance there is in what Layton insists the Canadian people believe.
Once again it looks like another Toronto municipal giant is to flop on the Hill — see the careers there of Phil Givens, David Crombie, Art Eggleton, Paul Cosgrove, John Nunziata, etc.
My summary: Five months since the voters chose this minority House, three of the four parties have inadequate leaders.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, December 05, 2004
ID: 12486319
TAG: 200412050358
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: 48


U.S. PRESIDENT George Bush has called us to a rendez-vous with the reality of American might he wields for the next four years. Surely, he has us by the short hairs!
Either Canada continues as a partner with the U.S. in NORAD, as it is extended into a ballistic missile defence system (BMD) against nuclear attacks by rogue states, or we can count on little favourable to our massive trade with the U.S., a trade so much more vital to us than to them.
Such a hi-tech defence system has been widely construed among Canadians as inevitably bound to take future wars into space and those on planet Earth to the ultimate Armageddon.
Canadians seem overwhelmingly against participating in such a system. Certainly a strong majority of the MPs in the current minority House seem against it — including Prime Minister Paul Martin, most of his caucus, all of the Bloc Quebecois and NDP, and a fair minority of the Conservatives.
Imagine the parliamentary hullabaloo ahead if Martin reverses himself and accepts Bush’s invitation to join BMD.
Yes, it may be possible that with such a majority of both MPs and citizens against BMD, Canada could forthrightly declare its refusal to partake in it — and enter the bleakest, chilliest stage in continental relations ever.
But have we — politicians and citizens — the courage to face and live with the economic fallout and an inevitable slide in our standards of living? My reading would be that we do not.
The decision facing the PM cannot be stalled much more. Further, it seems inconceivable that Martin would seek an election over this issue.
This opinion may be most unfair to the prime minister. He’s already often told us of his high global and domestic aspirations for Canada. Thus a stand against the continuing bellicosity of the Bush government might appeal to Martin. Electorally, it could become the greatest challenge and responsibility ever put before Canadian voters: An election based on a muscular refusal to dovetail Canada with American plans for space war, even at a high cost.
This has been building for years. Especially since Brian Mulroney, the American-lover, left office 11 years ago, hordes of Canadians have become gravely concerned about America’s international rambunctiousness. Many apparently believe Canada is better, morally and in behaviour, than the U.S.
Such perceived superiority is a Canadian aspect that goes way back past the CBC to the United Empire Loyalists — but not even in the heydays of the British Empire has there been such a high proportion of Canadians who’d assert that theirs was a more caring, sharing community than our neighbours’.
Northrop Frye defined hypocrisy as “believing one thing and professing another.” Politicians often find hypocrisy useful. But ultimately the practice debases reality.
On the one hand, we have so many of our politicians, like Martin, uttering bromides on “undefended borders” and “friends forever”; on the other, more and more of them, at times including Martin, have become truthsayers. And these have harshly criticized America’s behaviour as a world power and as our military defender and unfair trade partner.
America has struck back. Bush — here, not there — has told Martin and the rest of us what he wants. He seems to have offered no quid pro quos.
Does Martin knuckle under, and then try to survive in parliament? Does he drop hypocrisy on this issue and stand firm — even fighting back, using access to such coveted assets as oil, gas, and water?
Or, does he duck, dodge, delay, and hope for a break — perhaps another election-triggering issue?
My best odds are on the latter of these three.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 28, 2004
ID: 12484078
TAG: 200411280220
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: 34


MY LAST column memorialized the political abilities of the late Ellen Fairclough, the first woman cabinet minister (1957-63) and several of her successors. Today I want to focus on two other female notables, arguably more important to most Canadians than mere cabinet ministers.
Last week Sheila Fraser issued her main auditor-general’s report for 2004, while Supreme Court chief justice Beverley McLachlin wrote an important decision on natural resources and native land claims which indicated she has taken seriously some of the crticisms recently levelled at her court.
Both the auditor and the judge have been in their roles for close to five years and drawn much media coverage, most of it popular and approving, not for their gender but for what they’ve made of their respective leaderships.
Fraser is now renowned for clear, sharp appraisals of the integrity and efficiency of federal spending.
Many of her male predecessors issued severe critiques in their day which won appreciation across the land, if not in the Ottawa of cabinet and federal mandarins.
The Fraser reports have tended to be in punchier prose and pithier judgmentalism for waste and poor work.
This time, Fraser went out of her way to state that Canadians are well served by a capable, industrious federal public service.
And in a press conference, in acknowledging that her forceful critiques might have tarnished the reputation of public servants as a whole, she used a softer tone and less pungent language.
Almost immediately some commentators were regretting this turn, and I am one of them. In my long experience with the federal government, the present public service situation is the worst ever.
There well may be a majority of hard-working and duly achieving federal officials.
Further, much of the present chaos and low morale may have stemmed largely from the incredibly “long goodbye” of Jean Chretien, followed by the astounding unreadiness of Paul Martin in acquiring an effective ministry.
Further, Martin’s preparation for, and campaigning during the recent election, seemed to mirror both unsound counsel from the mandarins and his own messy swatch of vague propositions.
Surely this is not the time to laud the basic worth and work of the federal public service, but to get underway a major operation to restore the federal government’s integrity.
Of course, along with this we need an effective House of Commons and some genuine bursts of true ministerial responsibility.
But neither last year nor in the years before were Fraser’s reports excessively critical.
Fraser’s turn to a softer tone may be regrettable, but McLachlin’s turn to tightening up the penchant of our highest court to direct the elected governments is wonderful, if true — and that’s very iffy, given the feminist and social democratic postures of Paul Martin’s two recent picks for the top court, Rosalie Abella and Louise Charron.
McLachlin had appealed publicly for Martin to take “care and deliberation” in their choices.
If that was intended as a plea for balance (the two were replacing two other left-leaning judges), it makes sense of the lead McLachlin has taken in recent decisions: Firstly, in denying B.C. natives a full veto on land development; secondly, in ruling against autistic children being entitled to fully subsidized medical care.
If the Chief Justice is trying to curb the reach of Charter decisions, there should be cheers across the land by those who want major decisions affecting the populace made by parliament, not the courts.
McLachlin has been brave in this, given the new appointments to her bench.
Before she retires she may even reverse the usurpation of parliament, particularly by defining reasonable limits on rights and liberties which have led to horrendously expensive consequences for taxpayers.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 21, 2004
ID: 12994319
TAG: 200411210336
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: 35
Common sense
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


SINCE OUR House of Commons began 137 years and 37 parliaments ago, there have been 3,948 MPs — and only 175 of them have been women.
Those of us who can recall Ellen Fairclough, a Tory from Hamilton, and the first woman to be made a federal cabinet minister (1957-63) had to be grateful last week for so many media tributes that portrayed her as able, industrious, responsible, and courteous — which she was.
Fairclough, who died last week at 99, radiated straightforward common sense, without showboating or overblown partisanship. She kept a strong, public presence as a minister even though her elevator, PM John Diefenbaker, believed her disloyal to him.
In my rough, personal categorizing of Fairclough and the 40-odd women ministers since her, she rates as a straight A — as do half a dozen others. At her first election to the House in 1950, she was only the sixth female MP, the first being Agnes McPhail, a Progressive MP in 1921.
Both Diefenbaker and Lester Pearson only appointed one woman minister each; in the latter’s case it was Judy LaMarsh (Health and welfare, 1963-70).
The first nasty debate in the House between female MPs came in 1961 when LaMarsh took the free-wheeling opportunity of Fairclough’s estimates (for Indian Affairs) being examined on the floor of the House to cudgel her. She declared Fairclough’s failure as a minister was evident in all the sad and bad news emanating from so many Indian bands and reservations. This was most unfair, but LaMarsh wasn’t trying to be constructive, she was laying a partisan “hurt” on Fairclough.
After the uproar, in which Ellen had not replied in kind, I as a bystander criticized Judy severely for crude, partisan grandstanding. She reminded me that party politics was a form of warfare, not a game. It’s been my observation since that wrangle that if anything, female MPs are sharper-tongued with their rival counterparts than with the men.
By and large, as many women MPs are as rank partisan as male MPs. Check Conservative Diane Ablonczy lancing Liberal Immigration Minister Judy Sgro the other day. Or see the stock jeering rebuttals of high-level ministers like Anne McLellan (or Sheila Copps, her predecessor as deputy PM), in question period.
Of course, there was much more to Judy LaMarsh than rabid attacking. I would grade her as another “A” minister, largely because she was assiduous and franker than most. And she was the boss of her responsibilities. It’s hard to imagine any other minister would have hosted the VIPS of the world through the 1967 Centennial and illuminated Expo with more pizzazz.
The third female cabinet minister was Monique Begin (health, 1976-84), the first and best of only five chosen by Pierre Trudeau through his 15 years and four mandates as PM. I’d rate them as follows: Begin, A+; Jeanne Sauve, A-; Iona Campagnolo, B+; Celine Hervieux-Payette, D; Judy Erola, B-.
Joe Clark as PM had only one female minister, Flora Macdonald (External Affairs) — worth an A. A bigger swatch of 11 Tory women ministers were to come in after 1984 with Brian Mulroney as PM, but my reckoning is that one of the best, Barbara McDougall, was an A-, and Kim Campbell was a B+.
Perhaps the most self-confident of all women ministers, Pat Carney, was a relative failure, her crankiness cancelling her high level of information. None of the others was outstanding.
Jean Chretien was just as generous as Mulroney in elevating women MPs, but their successes were not as high. Sheila Copps was arguably at least an A-, as I’d also rate McLellan, but the likes of Diane Marleau, Hedy Fry, Jane Stewart, Christine Stewart and Ethel Blondin-Andrew were undistinguished Cs.
Most of the 36 or so female ministers in our history were named post-1984. It’s been 41 years since Fairclough was in the House — all the more reason to be pleased her passing has had such notice.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 14, 2004
ID: 12993029
TAG: 200411140301
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: 36
New book


THREE NEW highly personal memoirs by a trio of Canadians should fascinate those who enjoy following cultural trends, in this case as seen by Peter Newman, Patrick Watson, and Norman Jewison.
The confluence of the three struck me as unusual, because I had early news about each man at the University of Toronto half a century ago.
I’d come to the U of T in 1946 from the army, like thousands of other ex-military. We shared classes and residences with the “kids,” most of whom had been a few years too young to fight in the war. Newman, Watson, and Jewison were among them.
Of this trio, Newman has come the farthest. He came here as a boy refugee from Nazi tyranny. The backbone routines of his work — writing and interviewing — he has done largely on his own for five decades. His key sources have been descriptive reportage from personal observation and one-on-one interviews with hundreds of VIPs. No other political journalist in my experience has worked harder, longer, and produced more readable and entertaining books and columns.
Newman saved Maclean’s while making it a successful news magazine. He made skeptical, up-close criticism of politicians a vogue which continues in our political coverage.
The consequence of high awards and lucrative popular favour is the immense self-assurance in his book, Here Be Dragons. Readers will find it a lengthy book, closely detailed in its stock, colourful Newman reportage. It might better have been issued under three, even four covers.
The telling parts in the memoir, for me, involve Pierre Trudeau, whom Newman knew well before he came to Ottawa in 1965. One shocking revelation is of the tough leverage Trudeau as prime minister and his chief of staff, Marc Lalonde, exerted on Newman during the October crisis of 1970.
Newman was then editor-in-chief of the Toronto Star. Trudeau, he writes, lied to him that a plot had been discovered to create a provisional government led by separatists (plus Claude Ryan, editor of Le Devoir) to take over from that led by Robert Bourassa, Quebec’s then very rattled premier.
Trudeau wanted to get this revealed in the press, helping justify invoking the War Measures Act and the arrest of hundreds of Quebecers.
Newman wrote the story. It ran front page without his by-line. Within 10 days Trudeau publicly mocked the idea there had been any such “apprehended insurrection.”
But the Newman retrospect on Trudeau becomes specious. On one hand there is nastiness, like dubbing him “an emotional cripple with a slice of ice in his heart”; on the other, there’s lauding of his “shimmering intellect” and how “he broadened our universe by making the world his stage.”
Most readers will notice the long Newman discursions about his own duality. There is the early, sincere, genuine good chap, Peter Newman; and the synthetic, contrived, Machiavellan sort, Peter C. Newman — developed to cope with bestseller fame, and marked by such props as the perennial pipe and sailor’s cap.
These were his instruments in the deviousness of radiating respect while he pumped the big shots of Canada. In short, his revelations on the Canadian “Establishment” were not to admire or sustain it but to nurture knowing criticism of corporate Canada.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 07, 2004
ID: 12991741
TAG: 200411070333
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: 42


CANADIANS NEED to spend much sober thought on the possibilities for us in the victory U.S. President George Bush won last week. Bush has a four-year run ahead, and a largely supportive Congress at least for the next two years.
This political scenario next door has become more serious for our well-being than at any time since the decade of the 1860s, back when Canada was forged.
Canadians’ apparent priority for, and faith, in the United Nations, for example, is an ill fit with the values and intentions of the U.S. at this time. But if we aggressively rebuke America’s course, we are threatening our daily “bread and butter.”
The majoritarian contempt among Canadians for Bush — for what we take as his strident patriotism, his often ignorant unawareness or thoughtless discounting of other democracies’ views and qualities — is tangible and widespread.
Awareness of this contempt seems to be increasing among Americans, particularly the politicians in Washington. Such recognition was not what led to the problems with our softwood lumber and beef exports to the U.S., but surely it’s been a factor.
Over time, we cannot escape paying a high forfeit of lower, less remunerative trade, including tourism, when we openly radiate a national hostility, largely founded on a Canadian morality we take as superior to that intrinsic in American mores.
This superiority centres on our distaste for the character, style, religiosity, and governance of the American president. Our attitude has become cumulative as he and his views loom larger and larger in international affairs.
Well, what Bush symbolizes is real and he has it for the next four years. We, however, have a government that faces problems of survival, given its minority status in the House of Commons.
John Kerry’s defeat means Prime Minister Paul Martin has been denied the interlude in which the executive team changes in Washington. Regrettably, although the Martin preference for Kerry was tacit rather than headlined, there’s been considerable scorn for the president and his administration from both elected and senatorial members of the Liberal party. Indeed, the Liberals have tended to be as vociferous as the NDP in condemning Bush.
If the current Canada-U.S. scenario seems dangerous to our massive trade with the U.S. what is possible to ease the situation? Are we capable of stopping the self-congratulations for our own real and asserted achievements in foreign relations since WW II? (You know, Canada as the model for peacekeeping, the “good” people country, the caring and sharing country, so righteously devoted to the UN and its wondrous Charter — drafted by a Canadian — which unfortunately gives equal footing to both dictatorships and democracies.)
What Canada might do more of is encouraging small, group endeavours on the global stage, particularly in concert with genuinely democratic countries. Tackle particular problems that may centre on disasters like famines, floods, epidemic AIDS, and border intrusions by refugees. Stop behaving as though we are the singular good shepherd of the UN flock.
And, we could undertake urgent steps to invigorate and extend our military and its capabilities, giving us more to bring, say, to NATO actions, or to the security of North America. For such initiatives Canada will have to spend considerably more on our military and on foreign aid.
Above all, Canadians need to encourage their federal government to tackle the Bush crew early and openly about “evening out” our over-reliance on both our export trade to the U.S. and its cultural imports to us. We must establish a closer, more thorough economic relationship with the U.S., or prepare for leaner times for a long time.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 31, 2004
ID: 12990482
TAG: 200410310231
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: 36


SINCE THE new House began sitting, Paul Martin’s rival leaders have not outdone him in the race for public favour; nevertheless, he has had few positive gambits.
Take the two grand exercises with the premiers on the health system and equalization. He starred in neither one, but by and large he kept his cool and survived both experiences. Indeed, he seems to have a fair chance of a bumpy but workable session through the winter without triggering an election.
And, if Martin manages to get well along towards passage of a fairly popular budget by mid-March, he should be able to go to the people on his own with a good chance of a majority win.
So far the only possible alternative to him as prime minister, Conservative leader Stephen Harper, has hardly been stellar, either as an attacker of the government or as head of a government-in-waiting. This, despite the backing of what seems a relatively competent, co-ordinated caucus.
But now that I have raised the spectre of a majority Martin government by mid-2005, righteousness requires me to touch on how this could never come to pass.
One must begin with what still surprises me as a long-term voyeur of Canadian Liberalism. Liberal unity has fractured. Disunity in the Martin cabinet and/or caucus is a possibility, especially given the growing appreciation that there is a relatively attractive prospect ready to be the Liberal leader. That is John Manley, former minister of finance, foreign affairs, industry, etc., and a thorough contrast to Martin in incisiveness and clarity.
Manley has become highly recognizable in the capital as he does public stuff while serving as a senior lawyer in a big firm. He has much more going for him than other possibilities, such as Brian Tobin or Maurice Bevilacqua. He has been respected, by and large, as a square-shooter. And there seem to be a lot of Liberals who feel Martin unfairly “submarined” Jean Chretien, then besmirched his achievements by distancing himself from them during the last campaign.
The other main threat to the Martin hegemony is the rather intangible web of public reaction, particularly in Quebec, to the entrancing revelations of the Gomery inquiry.
Judge Gomery is emerging as substantial — as able a measurer of governmental performance and integrity as Sheila Fraser, the auditor general, whose report first opened up the AdScam doings. It seems a certainty that his findings will be clear and sharp and not fudged or yawningly complex.
What has this to do with Martin’s electoral prospects?
It is generally agreed that the Liberals lost a score of seats in Quebec and a few elsewhere because of what had been revealed of the scandal through the AG’s reports. Certainly, the revelations as Judge Gomery presides will be even more shocking.
Unfortunately for Martin, long months ago he distanced himself from AdScam, leaving most of us with an impression that he had known little about the advertising operation’s particulars; that as minister of Finance and a prominent Quebec minister and MP, he had been outside the loop created and run by Chretien and Alfonso Gagliano, his minister of Public Works.
Now, the Gomery hearings have exposed correspondence from Martin or his staff with federal staff running the file and, more damaging, with an executive whose advertising firm had some links to the program. Martin himself will be called to testify.
Some Liberal MPs have the opinion that long before the budget, the press and the public will be thoroughly tired of the scandal. Certainly, when I review past minority governments it reminds me that in all but two cases — John Diefenbaker in 1957 and Joe Clark in 1979 — the public grew tired of month after month of alarms in a minority House and began to yearn for the stability of a four- or five-year parliament. Time will tell.
Meanwhile, Martin blunders along.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 24, 2004
ID: 13074438
TAG: 200410240330
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: 26
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


THERE WAS some welcome humour in politics last week.
Some of it came from the surfeit of laughable choices revealed by the CBC’s search for “the greatest Canadian.”
And then there was Stephen Harper, leader of the official opposition, with his suggestion to a Quebec audience that Canada might well study Belgium, a small but officially bilingual, multicultural nation. The Conservative leader believes Belgium has some useful institutions and procedures for a better, happier bilingual and multicultural Canada.
The loudest chortlers over this Harper gambit are the politicians and staffers of rival parties, particularly the Liberals. Whether he knows much or little about Belgium’s management of bilingualism and multiculturalism, Harper should have realized it would be hard to find a country in Western Europe less well-known to Canadians.
There are some 12 million Belgians crammed into some 1,800 square miles of country. Belgium became a nation — indeed a kingdom — in 1830, out of what was the southern Netherlands. The Walloons, once the majority language group in Belgium, speak French; the Flemings, now the majority by a small edge, speak Flemish. A small minority speaks German, and to meet a recent demographic shift, there’s now public signage in Turkish.
To me, as one who’s often visited friends in Belgium since 1945, the country seems to work surprisingly well, even though there seems an abiding hostility and a long arm’s-length relationship between the Flemish, mostly in the west and north, and the Walloons, largely in southeast Belgium.
It is possible some working arrangements there might be useful here, but Belgium is so unknown to us, and so different in scale, resources, and historical heritage.
Further, as we are reminded by the heavy component of fatuous or satirical choices in the “Greatest Canadian” contest, we’re so obsessed with pop culture and so little given to historical recall, we’re a hopeless prospect for studying, let alone savouring and using the ways of such a small, intense, complex nation as Belgium.
Harper now leads a considerable caucus, well-laced with ambition and ability. The worst embarrassment in his Belgian gambit is that it may be his own misjudgment, but it’s most hurtful to his MPs and party members.
It is early in the Harper run as Conservative leader, but his MPs should be shaping him for the long run. Consider this: He mocks Paul Martin about the democratic deficit. He wants more participation by MPs, a return to genuine “cabinet government.” But he’s arguably the most egocentric federal leader since Stockwell Day or, if you will, Pierre Trudeau.
Not for Harper the word “we.” No, it’s I, I, I! Note his use of “I” in both speeches and responses. He does not sound like one who could, as prime minister, regenerate the cabinet and energize the caucus and the House as a whole.
If Harper had floated Belgium before a caucus group, they’d have balked, and perhaps suggested he consider Texas and how it is coping with its burgeoning Hispanic minority.
Also this week, national press gallery member Don Martin raised a provocative prospect in his National Post column, chastising several of his peers who have gone on to government jobs — some immediately after covering the Liberals on the campaign trail.
Martin advocates a “cooling-off” period of one year before a political reporter in Ottawa could take up big government posts, thereby minimizing the perception that the post was earned through coverage kind to a particular minister or the prime minister.
Such biased journalism, he says, is most to be feared in pre-writ and campaign months.
He’s right, I think. But there is this matter of fact or near fact: many of our readers already think that, by and large, those covering national affairs are “tainted” and lean toward a particular party or cause. Nevertheless, the year’s interval would be a salutary reminder of how we should behave and it would lead to intense on-going analysis of election-time copy and commentary. Martin may not be aware that switching from the press to government in Ottawa has been constant and heavy for decades. Scores and scores of journalists have become bureaucrats or their “consultants.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 17, 2004
ID: 13073204
TAG: 200410170239
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: 34


IN THE past week, hypocritically speaking, it was hard to beat the MPs of Parliament Hill. From strutting bravery laced with confident bellicosity to mutual vows of co-operation; from being reluctant but unafraid to go to the people to prating about how “The Canadian people expect us to work together on their behalf.”
And so it will be, for a time, maybe for a long time. In the meantime there is sure to be some genuine parliamentary work in committees on estimates and topics like electoral reform. And there will be the government’s legislative proposals, such as a milder regime for marijuana users and tighter laws on child pornography and cruelty to animals, certainly contentious matters but not necessarily issues of “confidence” on which to defeat a government.
Of course, the four parties and their masters on the Hill are already into poll-watching. Ipsos-Reid had Liberal support at 40%, the Conservatives at 25%, the NDP 17%, the Greens at 6%, and the Bloc at 36% in Quebec.
Those scores are very close to those revealed in early May when Paul Martin chose to go for an election. The Liberals would seem to need a cushion of 20-22 points before calling an election.
They would surely want a considerably bigger lead than the slight one they now have over the Bloc in Quebec. Such a turnaround may take longer to emerge than in the rest of Canada.
The Gomery inquiry has many months of activity ahead and Quebecers are more caught up with its baring of Liberal skullduggery than citizens elsewhere. Liberals would need to reduce the Bloc’s present 54 seats to the low 40s to return with a clear majority.
If a co-operative, “busy beaver” session develops between now and the budget (likely in February) it may redound with the public as more to the credit of Martin and the Liberals than to Stephen Harper, Jack Layton or Gilles Duceppe. Especially if the deals and payoffs for the provinces on health care and equalization payments jell well enough to be taken as “done.”
It is already apparent that rookie Liberal minister Ken Dryden, given the task of developing a national child care program, is intelligent, industrious and almost blissfully serious and non-partisan. His search for a plan backed by all parties in the House and at least eight of the provinces will be high-minded and though very difficult — perhaps doomed to failure — he may well set before the country a grand goal which the Liberals could use as their prime undertaking in the next election.
At this point there are no obvious alternatives to the current leaders of the Liberals, Conservatives or the NDP. For the Liberals, one hears mention, without much zest, of a few ex-MPs like John Manley, Martin Cauchon, and Brian Tobin. As for MPs, one hears names mentioned — Maurice Bevilacqua, David Emerson, Anne McLellan, even Stephane Dion — but none has any disciples of note or apparent resources.
For the Conservatives, some mention Bernard Lord, the premier of New Brunswick, as a federal leader who’d make a better case for the party in Quebec and in the Maritimes. But the premier has troubles at home of a frail majority. Those who regard him highly also realize Harper’s backing by MPs from the West guarantees he’ll lead the party into the next election.
So, barring catastrophe, it seems obvious the next election will feature the same leaders as last June.
Two developments might change that. If this session goes past one year and well into two, Duceppe may have a good shot at becoming leader of the provincial Parti Quebecois. It also could be that if Martin continues vapidly — enthusing, dithering, faltering, and confusing — the Liberals will poll lower and lower.
Then, an internal crew might shape within the caucus to ease him out. At this point an abler choice is not obvious.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 10, 2004
ID: 13071971
TAG: 200410100042
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: 21


HOW LONG will Paul Martin’s government run? At least a year? As much as two? Or will it face the electorate before Christmas?
My solid (but doubtful) hope would be for at least two years. Why?
Firstly, my measure of this new House is that it has had a remarkable intake of new, interesting, able MPs. Each of the four caucuses has been invigorated, at least with fresh outlooks; at best with constructive, positive, and less routinely partisan MPs.
After the negativism which soured the House as a whole during the last three years of the Chretien regime, we need a vital interval in which Parliament deals with major legislation and gets into thorough scrutiny of administrative incompetence and bureaucratic skullduggery.
Second, the electorate is not exceptionally restive, and despite several tough economic issues (see beef and softwood exports!) the national economy has been enjoying a remarkable run.
The voters need a full exhibition of their politicians’ talent and ideas, which a long, solid parliamentary session would provide.
Think of the value in electors following the parties through the legislating of big national matters such as a national daycare system, recognition of “same sex” marriages, or the regular infusion of federal money to bigger municipalities.
As for political talent, it seems obvious we need to view very closely Paul Martin, Stephen Harper, and Jack Layton. None of the three is yet a whiz of a leader; none has a remarkable presence nor unveiled a durable charm. And yet, none is a forgettable dud. Now is the time for us to get a fairer measure of them before we are at the ballot box again.
The most remarkable result in the June election, though, was the immense strength of the Bloc Quebecois under Gilles Duceppe.
Quebec journalists say the big BQ vote means Quebecers have finally taken to Duceppe; so much so he’s become the top choice to succeed Bernard Landry as leader of the Parti Quebecois, the official opposition in the provincial government. Duceppe has worked up an able parliamentary team and developed a thorough, fairly complex critique of current federalism as it affects Quebec.
In “the long goodbye” before the election, the three fully anglo caucuses (the NDP, Alliance, and Progressive Conservatives), had by and large taken the Bloc as an aggravating barnacle on the parliamentary ship. As for the Liberal caucus, its Quebec ministers seemed sure the Bloc was wearing away to a final eclipse, in particular because Paul Martin — a Quebec MP, a proven top-flight minister at finance, and more a hero in the province than elsewhere — would finish off this threat to unity.
Well, such an impression is still a temptation. Most of the anglo MPs from outside Quebec still seem to be hoping the Bloc is doomed to fade; that at 54 seats it’s gone as high as it can and surely, however slowly, voters in the province must turn more and more to federalism.
Now Justice John Gomery’s “AdScam” inquiry is underway into federal chicanery in Quebec in the cause of national unity. Its revelations already are serving as counterpoint and stimulant to the House, and they should be appraised there more fully and rationally than ever before in their effects on the obviously reinvigorated nationalism of so many Quebecois.
There has even been the glimmer since the first ministers’ big deal on health care funding last month that the Martin administration may be turning to “asymmetrical federalism.” The phrase was briefly popular in the Pearson years, before the arrival in the House in 1965 of Pierre Trudeau, Jean Marchand, and Gerard Pelletier — federalist Quebecers who insisted that constitutionally speaking, Quebec was just a province like the others.
Can this last continue to be the bedrock position for federal parties? Above all, we should learn more about the unity scenario from the current session before we vote again.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 03, 2004
ID: 12430271
TAG: 200410030337
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 32
COLUMN: Halls of Power


MY ADVICE to the new MPs in the House of Commons tomorrow is only this: Count on nothing more certain in this parliament than uncertainty, and keep your election team campaign-ready.
Take it from a former opposition MP who was on tenterhooks while surviving three minority parliaments — 1957-58; 1962-63 and 1963-65. Since 1965, I’ve been close to three more minority Houses — 1965-68; 1972-74 and 1979-80.
In 1979, Joe Clark’s Tory government was four votes short of a majority, but he said he’d lead as though he had one. Late that year the House readied for an evening vote on an amendment from the NDP’s small caucus, censuring the tough budget finance minister John Crosbie had presented. That afternoon I asked Walter Baker, the Tory House leader and Jim Gillies, a close advisor to the PM, if they’d nailed down support from the six Social Credit MPs. A Liberal aide had suggested I’d “be surprised” by the outcome of the vote.
Walter and Jim agreed there were rumours the Liberals were talking a full turnout. They felt many MPs didn’t want an election so soon, and in mid-winter. I asked why not postpone the vote and ensure the Creditistes’ backing. Walter assured me he wasn’t worried.
An hour or so later, the vote was lost and Joe Clark was telling the country there’d be an election early in 1980. Thus the opposition got the election it wanted on the back of a third party’s budget amendment.
The election called in June 1974 by Pierre Trudeau came after his minority government (since ’72) engineered its own defeat by having finance minister John Turner present a budget sure to anger the NDP caucus of 30-odd MPs who had sustained Trudeau in office.
A few days before budget day, David Lewis, leader of the NDP, asked me in to talk over strategies. He’d heard the budget would have several items his party would have to oppose. I’d also picked up talk from Grit MPs, restive under the minority condition and unimpressed with Bob Stanfield, the Tory leader.
What, said David, would I suggest the NDP do? I said he and his caucus should bite the bullet — criticize what they didn’t like but don’t vote to defeat the budget. Why trigger the election for the Liberals?
I forecast Trudeau would win handily and the NDP would lose more seats than the Tories would. David bristled, saying the NDP/CCF had never had such favourable media attention and it would reap the benefits, perhaps even winning official opposition status.
Lewis would lose his seat, in part because he went after Stanfield much more than Trudeau, who won big, starring as a loving husband and father.
I had heard such grand confidence before in the spring election of 1963 from Bob Thompson, leader of the Social Credit. He told a TV panel he’d disagreed with the minority Diefenbaker government’s defence policy. The Liberal opposition had led a long verbal assault on anti-American Tories. Thompson was encouraged to “pull the pin,” given evidence of his own huge popularity.
He saw big gains in the coming election. Instead, he and the Tories lost enough seats to give the Liberals a minority government. Another third-party chief with illusions about his appeal. (Think of Jack Layton today.)
In 1965, the Liberals went to the people again. I’d decided not to run, so from the sidelines I watched the Chief outhustle Pearson and turn a sure thing into yet another Liberal minority. It prompts a question: As a campaigner, is Paul Martin more like a Pearson or more like a Trudeau? Well, Stephen Harper’s no Trudeau, but neither is Martin.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, September 26, 2004
ID: 12428063
TAG: 200409260349
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: 30


IT’S UNFORTUNATE that most of us haven’t the hours for much viewing of CPAC’s televised proceedings of Justice John Gomery’s inquiry into the “AdScam” scandal, which is underway in Ottawa and likely to run well into next year.
The hearings as I’ve followed them on TV over the past three weeks seem to radiate fairness and well-managed intentions. Gomery is shrewd and very attentive; his chief counsel, Neil Finklestein, sharp and courteous. Thus far the lawyers for the principals in the scandal have been neither obnoxious nor given to windy diversions. As for the clutch of senior federal officials, as witnesses most of them have looked uncomfortable, usually responding very carefully but rarely free-wheeling with opinions.
It seems certain that former PM Jean Chretien will either ask or be asked to be a witness at the Gomery inquiry, and it is already apparent that the hearings will examine the major partisan and bureaucratic players in the advertising program mess, such as Jean Pelletier (former chief of staff to Chretien), Alfonso Gagliano (ex-minister of public works) and Andre Ouellet (until recently top man at Canada Post).
It’s anyone’s guess what effect this episodic, raw exposure of such prominent Quebec Liberals under duress will have on the public attitudes towards the current prime minister and his administration. Obviously Paul Martin got a very capable man to carry out the inquiry. Further, Martin never ducked the auditor-general’s interpretation that here was a grave abuse, however slow he may have been as both minister of finance and member for a Montreal riding in catching on to what was going on in his domain.
The most vital reaction for the Liberals, who are in office but without a majority, has to be that of Quebecers. Their earlier reactions were very negative — see the big boost which the June election gave the Bloc Quebecois.
The most unscouted issue for the inquiry is surely less about the scam and those who managed it and more about an apparent lack of courage and principle at the highest level of our federalism as a system — deputy ministers. A deputy minister stands behind every political minister as the ongoing, responsible chief executive of each department or major agency.
To put the bureaucratic issue in racier form: If, for the good name of the Chretien government, the minister Alfonso Gagliano had to be shipped off to Denmark and later canned ignominiously, what should have happened to his deputy and assistant deputies?
Did any of the top mandarins offer a resignation when it became known several years ago that a rule-busting operation had been humming along, guided by Chuck Guite?
Now, back to the adventures of Paul Martin. Last week these quickened and multiplied within a week of the agreement over health care funding. The fierce criticism of the deal was notably against its Quebec aspect. Not all Liberals take such joy as Paul Martin in “asymmetrical federalism.”
Four Liberal ex-ministers — John Manley, Maurice Bevilacqua, Serge Joyal, and Martin Cauchon, certainly politicians of fair to good repute among Liberals — sounded off against the deal as an encouragement of separatism, a reaction much like that which began within a fortnight of the 1987 Meech Lake accord on the constitution. That attempt to remove Quebec’s official rejection of the constitution which Pierre Trudeau had “brought home” in 1982 and installed therein a charter of rights gradually developed and was killed by provincial opposition.
Don’t wager on such a rejection developing over the health care deal. Nonetheless, the criticism is harmful to the image of both Paul Martin and his supposedly loyal Liberal caucus.
Imagine: 10 months after becoming prime minister, Martin is being challenged within his party by a long-running, devoutly-held federalist view of Quebec as a province like the others. Also daunting is the pervasive scuttlebutt that three of the four ex-ministers — Manley, Cauchon, and Bevilacqua — may be preparing to contest the next Liberal leadership chance.
Such arranging going on within a party creates a grim context for a newish leader with lots of other problems and a jelling reputation as a ditherer.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, September 19, 2004
ID: 12425718
TAG: 200409190352
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: 25
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


THE IMMEDIATE, immense benefit of last week’s health care “deal for a decade” to Prime Minister Paul Martin is undeniable — a lifesaver for the PM and his star-crossed ministry.
One may chortle sardonically at this event-in-progress becoming a Martin bonanza. Prior to the deal’s announcement after midnight on Day 3, his behaviour as chairman through the two televised days had been awkward and confusing. Many of the premiers — notably Gary Doer of Manitoba, Bernard Lord of New Brunswick, Gordon Campbell of B.C., and Dalton McGuinty of Ontario — were more lucid and informative than the PM.
Martin makes a pleasant, even benign, chairman, but he was absolutely useless as a focus-shaper of the proceedings.
Collectively, we must accept that with Martin there is no iceberg bottom in substance or acuity. What you see and hear is what he is — a very, very agreeable man, so “interested” in almost everything he’s just heard or seen. To see and better measure this limpid blandness, just recall how collegial Lester Pearson or the interpretive Pierre Trudeau or the blarney-prone Brian Mulroney or (yes!) the succinct Jean Chretien handled a table of premiers. Each was a fine interlocutor and “sum-it-upper.”
If Martin almost undeservingly waxes from this deal as its unifying catalyst, he also gains something in Quebec as a prime minister who accepts Quebec’s distinctiveness. Premier Jean Charest both needed and worked the conference to get the results he sought.
Martin came out of the week with a deal, but one achieved in a way he’d scorned — in private. This must have resulted from a realization by the PM and his crew that he hadn’t the persuasive control to elicit a deal in the open.
The deal has not roused bitter public antagonism. It seems unlikely to drive the federal books into the red in the next six years or so. It includes an annual escalator clause. It sets the stage for a nationwide monitoring and reporting system whose data will be the basis for judging such issues as waiting times or the changing imperatives in trained personnel and “big ticket” equipment.
One achievement of the PM was his ungrudging acceptance of Charest’s insistence that on health care matters Quebec not be taken as a province like the others, and by adding to this “soft” federalism a readiness to accept that each province, not just Quebec, may have some distinctive elements when it comes to health care.
The late Jean-Luc Pepin, a Liberal minister, would call this “co-operative federalism,” even “asymmetrical federalism” — slogans which were squelched when Pierre Trudeau became PM.
So Martin has his first really good break since he took office last December. It was one he needed, given the minority House in which he must function for at least a few months, before he goes back to the voters for a majority. Health care is hardly dead as a major issue, but it shouldn’t be pivotal in the coming session.
Meanwhile, Martin can expect relentless opposition attacks in the coming weeks over what he knew of two scandals:
The first sore point has been opened by revelations at Justice Gomery’s inquiry into the AdScam affair, of how bureaucrat Chuck Guite came to get and use then-PM Chretien’s authority while running the “unity” advertising campaign launched in Quebec after the scary referendum result in 1995. Martin has said that although he was both finance minister and a senior minister in Quebec, he knew nothing of the particulars of the program.
The second matter involves an agency Martin set up as finance minister to handle the marketing and sales aspects of Canada Saving bonds. Several evaluations of this agency, Canada Investment and Savings Group (CISG), have been critical of its lack of transparency and high sales commissions.
Such criticism has come to light through access-to-information requests, and one record revealed that Martin’s favourite firm of consultants, Earnscliffe, reportedly played a role at a good price in interpreting data gathered by Ekos Research for CISG. This information may lead to opposition demands for a specific inquiry of CISG by the auditor general, or an inclusion of the CISG’s record of performance in the terms of reference of the Gomery inquiry.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, September 12, 2004
ID: 12071543
TAG: 200409120160
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: 21


IN LATE August, one main-line news item shook me up as I was holidaying in the bush far from home and unable to find out more about it.
This was Paul Martin’s appointment of two lower court judges, Rosalie Abella and Louise Charron, to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Previously, as reported on Aug. 16, Martin had “vowed to keep politics off the Supreme Court, saying he won’t consider the political views of candidates for the country’s highest court.”
He was responding, said the story, to Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin’s recent demand that the choices be “based solely on merit, independently of any and all political or ideological considerations.”
Martin’s assurance pleased me because in the media’s list of possible choices were several I thought public dangers, including Rosalie Abella.
Well! To put it mildly, the two women whom the PM shortly appointed have past court records which indicate the influence on them of “political or ideological considerations,” particularly Judge Abella.
In my view, she is as radical and as costly as the much noted, previous “lefty” on the Supreme Court, the now-retired Bertha Wilson.
In lawyers’ chit-chat, I’ve heard Wilson referred to as “Billionaire Bertha” — a tag earned by the high-cost consequences to taxpayers of her decisions, particularly her ground-busting one that any refugee claimant who reached Canadian soil was covered by the rights in the new constitution’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. From this decision issued the expensive, over-loaded refugee review board, such a bonanza to immigration lawyers and its cast of capital “L” liberally-minded members of the board.
As a devotee of frugal government, I was bowled over by the news that Abella had been elevated into our top court.
She’s already cost taxpayers for the three levels of government — municipal, provincial, and federal — huge amounts of money, stemming from both her court decisions on human rights cases and the recommendations followed which she had made as a solo commissioner on the issue of employment equity, so dear to feminists and so expensive to governments.
Further, Abella, who’s lobbied for the highest court for at least a decade, has been franker than any other judge in Canada on the law-making opened for the court through use of the powers the Charter has given it to resolve dicey social and welfare issues which politicians as legislators so often won’t tackle or have stalled while doing so.
In years around politics one comes to know a lot of lawyers and a much smaller swatch of judges.
It’s always intrigued me that the topic of judicial appointments takes up a lot of their chit-chat about work, the courts, cases and laws.
As example, many (though never for attribution) spoke and argued, sometimes with derision, about Wilson, the first female justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.
Some dismissed her as ignorant of both criminal and corporate law. Some tagged her as an oddity judge from the start, this Scottish socialist who’d come to the court from a Toronto law firm where she’d been its researcher, jumping to renown and not just because she was the first woman on the court.
She made a bundle of rather radical decisions, some of which I believe were most ill-considered, given their costly consequences.
When I raised the prospects this year of Abella’s push for the Supreme Court with my lawyer acquaintances, I was told to forget Rosalie, neither Paul Martin nor Irwin Cotler were fools.
They’d know she’d give away Revenue Canada.
How wrong they were! And that brings me to one corollary which baffles me. Why is our legal profession so loathe to carry on public discussion or debate about the qualities of both past and present judges, and prospective ones?
So much private talk and gossip, but so little public, topical talk by lawyers and ex-judges about appointments made or coming up.
Witness what I encountered when I got home from the bush and did a short, phone canvas of several lawyers whom I know well enough to ask: Why was Abella, an ideological zealot of the romantic, spendthrift left, chosen by the PM and his justice minister, Irwin Cotler?
The answers were, firstly to liberalize the court, for example on gay and lesbian rights — see same-sex marriages.
Martin, I was told, sees himself as modern, even a visionary, so he was excited to set in place a judge for the highest court who’s been a jewel in the roster of the Ontario Court of Appeal since 1992.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, September 05, 2004
ID: 12069025
TAG: 200409050264
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: 28
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


MOST YEARS the pace and tensions of national politics quicken at Labour Day. This year, given the minority parliament left us by the June 28 election, the summer has been unsettling.
It’s hard to recall a Labour Day, beyond that in 1993 and Kim Campbell’s brief months as prime minister, when there was on hand a prime minister as confused as Paul Martin, with so many bent and broken connections between him, his minders and the federal mandarinate. Frankly, in official Ottawa there seems to be chaos in both program intentions and in just managing the programs there are.
How do I know all this? Well, listening, talking around, making comparisons based on the past. Believe me, there is a mess in the reigning party’s highest elected persons and their wiseacres, and frustration (plus consequent inertia) in many of the senior bureaucrats. Clearly Paul Martin is an indecisive, rather capricious muddler. He’s a melodramatic contrast to the genius status so many of us were giving him before he exited the ministry of finance.
So far there’s small evidence of major ministers assuming the load, although I hear there are great hopes held for David Emerson, the B.C. wonderman now heading the department of Industry.
The Liberal Party as I’ve known it through six decades of observation surely has to have some veteran members getting together to consider their dilemma of a ditherer in power. Surely some must be considering how to replace Martin.
Then there’s the Stephen Harper dilemma! Does it outweigh the Liberals’ dilemma with Martin, in water well over his head?
What to do with a reluctant politician, a man too brainy, cool and sensitive for continuous, open addressing of the public.
I wrote on Aug. 1 about Harper’s strange bailout from the hustings in Ontario for home in the last few days of the election campaign. Recently several observers have noticed the reluctant leader who prizes loneliness, and such sturdy Conservative loyalists as John Reynolds and Monte Solberg have been excusing him.
Recall the phrase: “Waiting for the wave!” It came out in a book by Tom Flanagan, once an aide to Preston Manning, now to Harper. After the birth and early success in the West of the Reform Party came its failure to gain seats in Ontario. For two elections Manning was patient because he was “waiting for the wave” to come which would flush the governing party from office and push in the number two party.
Harper may be waiting for the wave of opposition criticism in the House next month to founder Paul Martin and his outnumbered caucus. If so, he is misunderstanding the general estimate in the public about his own attraction as a potential PM.
In a practical sense, the base location of the leader of the official opposition and, indeed of the party’s senior critics, ought to be in Ottawa. This is an age in which television, the internet, e-mails, and faxes condition politics and make for moving, shifting, disappearing and reappearing topics in politics. The House of Commons is a fair forum for this only some of the time.
I’ve just come back from a long drive to the Prairies, during which I kept finding two general measures of Harper.
First, he’s seen, as one pickerel fisherman put it, as “smart, but a cold fish.” Secondly, he’s taken to be far more reactionary on social and cultural issues than he is.
Harper has much to do in persistently knocking down this widespread placing of him on the far right. This is a different chore than developing his public personality to make his braininess admirable and human, even humorous. Has he the energy and stamina for this? One doubts, because he’s been so consistent in cherishing privacy and distance and a minimum of public encounters.
In an age which demands intimacy from public figures, Harper seems a throwback to Mackenzie King, “the unknown Canadian.” Of course, King did have far shorter stretches as leader of the official opposition than he had as PM, but that was before the instancy of TV and computers.
If one appraised the long-term prospects of both Martin and Harper as leaders and where they stand in the public’s expectations for a minority parliament, neither seems likely to be around two years from now.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, August 29, 2004
ID: 12066568
TAG: 200408290556
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: 33


OTTAWA MAY be a bad joke to many Canadians, but it does occasionally amuse. Events this week had this longtime observer chuckling.
I refer to the delightfully ironic juxtaposition of Liberal MPs complaining about the power being exercised by the unelected cabal that surrounds the Prime Minister, and the latter’s “nomination” (de facto appointment) of Justices Louise Charron and Rosalie Abella to the Supreme Court.
The Grit grumbling leaked out of this week’s Liberal caucus meeting. Some of Paul Martin’s backers against Jean Chretien now intimate — anonymously — that their boy’s talk of addressing the “democratic deficit” was just that — talk. As with Chretien, they find themselves denied contact with Martin, and must deal with his unelected staffers instead. One MP even suggested boycotting the Prime Minister’s Office.
This backbench whining amuses on a number of levels. First, there’s the assumption that Paul Martin’s willingness to meet with them when he was seeking to topple Chretien would continue after the deed was done. Then there is the fanciful notion that a democratic remedy could come from the top.
Today’s secretive, autocratic and insular PMO is not the malignant creation of one overbearing PM. It has evolved over decades. It selects the senior executives of the public service and shields them from the parliamentary oversight they despise. It rewards thousands of faithful supplicants with patronage posts, and doles out billions in federal cash to lobbyists, both corporate and social.
Why would any of these well-connected groups want to give up the one-stop-shop that serves them so well?
The caucus rumblings also amuse because they follow closely on those from two other groups who fear becoming irrelevant to the Martin regime: the mandarins and sympathetic media types.
What is behind the angst?
Ottawa is an autocracy. Many of those now complaining didn’t find this so offensive when they were on the inside. But the circle of those “who count” in Ottawa is shrinking under Martin — and the folks now on the outside looking in don’t like it.
Welcome to the club!
For years, mandarins happily united with their political masters to frustrate the efforts of parliamentary committees trying to hold them accountable for dereliction of duty (e.g., HRDC’s untracked billion), egregious abuses of the public purse (the gun registry), and outright corruption (Adscam). They also welcomed into their ranks many former Liberal ministerial aides and other friends of the party.
In return, they received protection (how often are senior executives fired?), and were allowed to feather their own nests, by hiring friends and relatives into the public service, and by providing lucrative consulting contracts to retired former colleagues. (These widespread practices are the overlooked side of patronage.)
The news media have their own quid pro quo. Often a mouthpiece for the high-mighty-and-anonymous mandarins, the media usually deferred to them, even though much of what ails Ottawa results from the mandarins’ own incompetence, or unwillingness to resist politicians’ more foolish directives.
In return, the media got access, a few patronage jobs, and the satisfaction of knowing that Canada was being governed as it should — that as the “real” opposition to the government, they were helping move Canada in the right (sorry, left) direction.
The media’s refusal to acknowledge their bias in favour of the Liberal establishment and status quo has also undercut democracy. The Globe’s silly headline this week claiming the two new Supreme Court nominees would be scrutinized by MPs, when the opposite was the case (the government refused to let elected representatives question the appointees) is a recent example.
Those now complaining of being shut out — Liberal MPs, mandarins and the media — have no one to blame but themselves. They all helped make Canada an autocracy. Now that those at the apex of power want to make the ruling circle even smaller, they are becoming nobodies — just like the rest of us.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, August 22, 2004
ID: 12821180
TAG: 200408220376
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: 31
ILLUSTRATION: photo by Fred Chartrand, CP
FORMER PM John Diefenbaker poses in the House of Commons in March, 1973. He was there frequently, unlike today’s PM.
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


LAST WEEK The Hill Times, an Ottawa weekly devoted to federal politicians, had a feature titled “Remembering Dief the Chief” by Kady O’Malley. The occasion for the story was the 25th anniversary of John Diefenbaker’s death — at 84, and just shy of 40 years as an MP — on Aug. 16, 1979.
Many of the luminaries who recalled “the Chief” connected him to today’s politics. Former prime minister Joe Clark, for instance — who still calls himself a Progressive Conservative and is not a member of the new Conservative Party led by Stephen Harper, said the new party would never have won a foothold in Parliament if Dief had been there.
Lowell Murray, a Clark appointee to the Senate and also still a PC, says the Chief “would have wiped the floor with (the new Conservatives).” Diefenbaker was “an authentic Western leader, and would not have time for the ideological bent of the Reform Party or the Alliance.”
Contrarily, Brian Mulroney, another former PC PM, said he thinks Diefenbaker would have approved of the merger.
“He knew that you only win elections by building alliances. Clearly, Stephen Harper is moving in that same direction.”
Mulroney went on to say sensibly that the Chief “has been underestimated in history so far,” followed by the shakier assumption that “His impact has not been properly assessed — that will take a little time.” No way, I’d say.
After half a century of watching MPs, I’d not deny the Chief was the most grandiloquent MP in that stretch. But grandiloquence meant something in the ’50s; it’s not worth much now. (Certainly Paul Martin and Jean Chretien haven’t had it.)
The Chief boomed to the top in a land whose press, academe and by and large its electorate were more drawn to capital-L Liberals and somewhat leery of Progressive Conservatives from the West. And after 18 months or so, their distaste for this tribune of the people was chipping him down.
What happened? Easy: basic Liberal loyalty and zeal, plus much indecisiveness by Diefenbaker — and frankly, his over-exposure. (You might note the parallel excesses of Paul Martin in his mere eight months as prime minister.)
Martin’s office provided a statement to the Times calling Dief “a lion among parliamentarians.” It added: “Twenty-five years after his death, his memory and his influence have begun to weave themselves into the popular and political history of our nation.”
Oh so kind, but it isn’t so. The Chief was a parliamentary lion but the image means little anymore. Today political history starts with the great Pierre Trudeau, and despite many talents, he was no star in the House. As for the Chief, neither in his later years in the House nor since then have historians and journalists seen him as a nation-builder or a nation-saver.
The emphasis in most of the comments in the Times piece is on Dief the great performer. He rode in as such in part through TV’s emergence country-wide for the election of 1957. Suddenly partisan politics was a melodramatic prime-time staple of news. (Consider these numbers: a decade after he broke 22 years of Liberals in ’57, membership in the parliamentary press gallery soared from 80 to some 270; later, with Trudeau, it rose above 400.)
In his sunset days, the Chief planned his own funeral and an epic train of honour with his body and a wake of friends and reporters. A grand crowd and thousands of viewers saw the ceremonies in Ottawa, and people swarmed to the stations where the train stopped. The wake on the long ride was so memorable some of its spats and songs were reprised on the Hill 10 years ago.
Clearly when he died in 1979, Diefenbaker was still a vivid and valued person for many older Canadians, despite an abiding rancour roused against him by many critics (including droves of Liberals and mandarins). These critics had created a dominant opinion of the Chief as a bumbling, confused prime minister.
After the funeral, however, not even NDP critics made much of the half-million cost to the government of the lengthy goodbye. As early as 1963, Peter Newman turned his view of the Chief as a misfunctioning prime minister into a racy, unprecedented best-seller, Renegade in Power. That interpretation’s set in concrete now for those who rate our leaders.
There is irony in Paul Martin extolling the Chief as a parliamentary lion. Through his career in the House, Diefenbaker spent hours in the chamber, day by day. So did Lester Pearson, his head-to-head rival from 1958 to 1967. But aside from question period, it is unlikely Paul Martin has spent more than a sum of two hours in the chamber over the past year. However, he’s often said, as the Chief used to say of the House: “I love its cut and thrust!”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, August 15, 2004
ID: 12819785
TAG: 200408150243
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: 30


SPORTS IN Canada, especially regarding the Olympics, has political aspects. However, hockey dominates the political issues in Canadian sport, and there is no hockey at the summer Games.
Some 45 years ago the federal government first became involved in regular funding of most “amateur” sport. The cause of this did not emerge from the spectrum of sports across Canada or the sports of the summer Olympics but from hockey, hockey, hockey!
In Canada, what developed in government vis-a-vis sports beyond hockey was mainly a corollary of equal entitlement to what hockey had forced forward.
Believe it or not, it was national suffering over Canadian failures in international hockey in the late 1950s which brought the federal government into sponsoring sport under the aegis of an act of parliament, the Fitness and Amateur Sport Act of 1958.
I was involved as an MP. I came to the House in 1957 wanting to push for a federal role in sport — matching that which had emerged in aid of arts and culture.
The PM of the day, John Diefenbaker, was worried that frugal citizens would consider sport sponsorship by Ottawa frivolous. This explains why “fitness” was the lead-off word in the sports act. “Fitness” sounded so moral and desirable.
The PM also set an annual limit of $5 million in spending for “fitness and sport,” a ceiling which wasn’t broken until the mid-1970s. (It’s now just over $100 million.)
Early in the ’70s, a brave bid led by the late Father David Bauer to create a successful, continuing national hockey team using non-professionals came close but failed.
By 1969, I was out of electoral politics but as a volunteer I was lobbying for more federal money for sport, and for major government help to open up international hockey so Canada could ice its NHL players against the USSR teams (whose top players were professionals, not amateurs).
I became the federal nominee on the board of a new institution, Hockey Canada.
This semi-Crown agency was designed to ice a winning international team and raise the standards of hockey coaching and organization.
As for other sports and their future, I was in touch as a founding director of the Coaching Association of Canada and the Sports Information Research Centre.
Within a few years of the ’69 report, the HQs of most national sports associations were housed under federal auspices in Ottawa, but not the Canadian Olympic Association (COA).
It remained in Montreal, where its roots ran all the way back to a local “Olympic Club” formed in the late 1840s. In the early 1970s the COA opposed the federal intervention into sport policy — not the funding but the government direction of sport policy.
In its first few years, Hockey Canada, supported by Pierre Trudeau, quickly accepted the obvious: we would have to play rough to get the international hockey federation to open the rules so Canada could use its best. Among other moves, this meant cancelling the world hockey championship Canada was to host in Winnipeg in 1970, and threatening not to ice a team for the 1972 Olympics.
Playing it aggressively in sport diplomacy, backed by foreign affairs’ resources, paid off in getting the now famous “Summit Series” of 1972, which Canada won against the USSR.
By the early 1980s, the NHLers were in. But before that — growing out of the 1976 Canada Cup hockey series — a sensible test of a world championship for hockey nations was put in place.
There’ll be huge interest in this year’s world tournament in Canada next month — whereas, the Athens Olympics?
Canadians will watch for our athletes and teams, and relish each medal winner, but we’ve long had small expectations from the summer Olympics, and take our joys modestly over our scanty haul.
There are many explanations why Canadians do poorly in the summer Olympics. Most begin at the greater spending and keener backing in other countries.
Mine begin with our obsession with hockey, and what this does to siphon promising athletes away from other sports, not least track and field.
We are so emotionally and financially caught up in hockey and its current best and future best in players and coaches.
There’ll be little suffering across the land if our rowing eight misses the Olympic gold, but there will be lots of it if the Yanks or the Swedes take the September hockey tournament.
It bothers us little that less populous Australia and Cuba win more gold at the summer Games than Canada.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, August 08, 2004
ID: 12818448
TAG: 200408080238
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: 34


IT’S BEEN 40 years since I first met Andre Ouellet. Now 65 and CEO of Canada Post, he first became a presence on Parliament Hill in 1964 as an aide to the Liberal government’s House leader of the time, Guy Favreau. His ambition and energies were impressive.
Subsequently, in a 1967 by-election, Andre became an MP for a Montreal riding, a seat to which he was re-elected in eight subsequent general elections before retiring in 1996.
For 15 of Ouellet’s 29 years in the House, he was a cabinet minister in half-a-dozen portfolios. For almost as long he was in charge of the federal Liberal party as an organization in French Canada.
He never sought a continually high public profile. To the contrary, his image was of a resolute, partisan “beaver.” In short, he has real credit among Liberals, if not with journalists or plain citizens, for long, high-level, and competent service to the party. Naturally, in Liberal terms he was deserving of a major reward after electoral politics.
Of the various Crown corporation heads dismissed by Prime Minister Paul Martin or in difficulty as a result of Adscam (e.g., Jean Pelletier at Via Rail, Michel Vennat of the Business Development Bank) Ouellet has been by far the most outstanding as an assiduous servant of the party.
But ethically-spurred citizens, like the Toronto Star’s editorial board, are naive if they believe Martin will or could end the patronage rewards system. Not even the saintly NDP has done that where it has held power.
The PM himself has been a beneficiary of that partisan system of rewards. His father, Paul Sr., while external affairs minister in 1966, put Maurice Strong, then founder and a main owner of Power Corp., in as head of the Canadian International Development Corporation. And it was at Power Corp. that Paul Jr. began his amazing rise to head, and then to own Canada Steamship Lines.
In both the Liberal party family and that of the other federal party that has held power, relationships count in filling posts; so does using official resources and services for one’s personal aims within the system.
Holding an appointment goes hand-in-hand with using its resources, as Ouellet seems to have done at Canada Post, both in travelling and in finding jobs and contracts for relatives and political friends.
Indeed, Paul Martin, as finance minister, had a broad appreciation and usage of his own entitlements. The Finance department contracted for services of Earnscliffe consultants; the same firm helped Martin win control of enough Liberal riding associations to ultimately guarantee Jean Chretien’s retirement. Other cabinet ministers — e.g. Sheila Copps and Allan Rock — also used their cabinet positions and public money to raise their profiles as leadership contenders.
Beyond that, public monies in amounts many times those of 20 years ago are now being spent by parliamentarians and their personal and caucus staffs. This expensive expansion has been justified as a means of keeping politicians free from dependence on corporate and union donors. Perhaps, but the evidence is that far more time and dollars made available through federal funding now go into partisan activities.
The current four parties making up today’s House have more apparatchiks and so more prospects for higher appointments. The work of the auditor general on tighter spending controls, together with initiatives to better vet appointees to Crown corporation posts, may make for more frugal operations and higher standards, but nothing will eliminate Ottawa’s so-called “partisan trough.”
Why not? Why not end appointments like Andre Ouellet to Canada Post or David Dingwall to the Mint, or Allan Rock as UN ambassador?
Why not? Those partisans engaged in our parliamentary system have functioned within a pattern of rewards for service to party, and it outranks by far such noble principles as open competition and fairness.
The Liberals, bad as they may seem, do mirror Canadians better than most of our institutions. They seem to believe the costly trips of Andre Ouellet et al. will not be long remembered.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, August 01, 2004
ID: 12877273
TAG: 200408010227
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: 30


“SMART AND serious; does have ideas.”
This was a recent “thumbnail” sketch of Stephen Harper by Thomas Walkom. It is one most people in or around politics accept, even those who find, as the Star columnist has, that Harper is too radical and conservatively-minded for them.
The recent decision by PM Paul Martin on a specific helicopter to replace the antique one still in use by the military (not the machine our forces wanted, after 11 years of government dithering) raised questions for me about Harper’s strategy and staying power.
As an example of Liberal incompetence and dearth of diligence, the ‘copter mess dwarfs the federal ad scam in Quebec and the gun registry fiasco. Yet there was no scathing enlightenment on the helicopter saga from the Conservative leader.
Why did Harper pass by this tawdry helicopter serial?
It reminds me of his curious campaign windup. He forsook Ontario several days before the end to bus around his Alberta heartland. Meantime his rivals, especially the PM, zeroed in on him in Ontario.
Oh, what a threat Harper and his rednecks signified for our caring, safety-netted Canada!
It seemed that Harper had fled to home ground after dealing in the east with the harsh crudeness of Liberal TV attacks on him. Was he so shaken by the exaggeration of him as an arch-conservative bigot that he needed the haven of Alberta as a campaign climax?
Remember how shortly after the election and his joy at the jump in Conservative MPs in Ontario, Harper announced he would review whether he should stay on as leader.
The cry from party stalwarts was “stay” and after a few days he said he would.
The gambit seemed facetious, perhaps a ploy to snuff out analysis by the party or the media of a campaign which 10 days before its end had him on track to the PMO.
Harper has had several withdrawals from Ottawa since he first appeared there in the late 1980s as an expert researcher for a prominent Tory MP from Alberta.
Gossip on the Hill said he became disillusioned with Brian Mulroney’s conservatism and went home to Alberta where he did research for the nascent Reform Party under Preston Manning.
Later, Harper left his seat as a Calgary Reform MP to head the right-wing lobby group, the National Citizens’ Coalition — in hindsight a lucky move, as it gave Harper an opinionated bystander’s role as the Reform Party fractured itself.
As a welcome antithesis in cerebral and behavioral terms to Manning’s corny successor Stockwell Day, Harper was able to win the Alliance leadership, from which he pursued and then executed with Peter MacKay the merger of Alliance and Progressive Conservative parties.
The new Conservative party is a witness to Harper’s braininess and persuasiveness; however, it has had some trouble on both sides of its array.
On one hand there are the alleged dinosaurs of the right. On the other there are the alleged Red Tories, mostly ex-Progressive Conservatives, obsessed with the centre of the road and keen on protecting their former party’s rather social democratic legacies.
One suspects that Harper, who doesn’t suffer fools gladly, copes with this by withdrawals of sorts, including limits to his public exposure and performances.
He may be missing that a party leader worth anything has a teaching function.
He should bind his disparate crew by putting over a coherent, attractive set of goals to the public at large, rather than in his caucus or in his party’s constituencies.
And the backroom shouldn’t be his preferred sanctum.
Stephen Harper has a nation to sway away from its widespread reading of him and his party as a threat to the common good. (So has Jack Layton.)
The leader of the opposition needs to address the public almost daily with interpretations of what is going on in federal politics and how matters might be bettered or scrapped.
To do this he needs a media strategy: one which accepts without whine or wince the swarm of critical, feminist journalists and then abjures flannelling, sulking, and rudeness in his responses, even to show he’s readier to laugh at himself than at them.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 25, 2004
ID: 12876015
TAG: 200407250547
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: 26


THERE IS one thought that most political buffs have after appraising a prime minister’s fresh ministry, i.e., scanning the ranks for the possible, or the likely, successor to the prime minister?
My appraisal of the 38 ministers has spotted a couple of prospects, but nothing like a favourite, say like former contender, John Manley, would be if he were in the House and not on the sidelines.
Of course, on Liberal leadership one has to wonder if their myth shall go on that after an anglo leader there comes a franco leader.
That would mark Martin Cauchon, recent Chretien justice minister, now a retired MP who’s biding his time, and the verbose dandy, Pierre Pettigrew, now at foreign affairs. If the myth persists, they would be the odds-on choices to follow Martin.
Several Liberal backbenchers have suggested to me that Anne McLellan, now deputy PM, has caught the “top job” virus.
Well, she’s a mighty hard person to cherish and on her mean days, easy to dislike, so is Reg Alcock, still at Treasury Board despite the mass discomfort he has caused the mandarins. Alcock is the only prospect beyond McLellan in this cabinet with a record of toughness, self-confidence and political willpower.
Here, however, a caveat of sorts. David Emerson, the brand-new wonder from B.C., has been given the department of Industry. He has self-esteem, wit, and a lot of drive. Despite a scratchy voice he could sky-rocket into leadership considerations if he focuses Industry on the economy and out of its fixation on bilingualism. Then again, one has to remember that most of us Parliament Hill know-it-alls went overboard for half-a-dozen years about a previous corporate CEO, Paul Martin, only to learn in his first six months as prime minister how light, diffused, and cliched his interests are, and how closely-guided he needs to be.
Someone last week, in recalling Liberal antics in past parliaments mentioned the unique success in the mid-1980s of “the Rat Pack.” Remember the four young Liberals: Sheila Copps, then 33, Brian Tobin, 31, John Nunziata, 30, and Don Boudria, 36?
Oh, how the Pack roused a small caucus led by a somewhat dazed John Turner, facing a crew of some 200 Mulroney Tories.
Loud and crude, the four daily and noisily bellowed charges at the prime minister and his government of lying, graft, patronage.
Three of these party-saving Rat Packers — Copps, Nunziata, and Tobin — later pushed forward on their own leadership campaigns, with few glimmers of success, despite continuing to earn scads of attention on air and in print. Although today the Pack crew is only in their 50s, the quartet seems spent, discounted or plumb forgotten as lifesavers of the Liberal party. Boudria, the only one still an MP, is just that, Martin passing him by as House leader, despite his bilingual skills and expertise in parliamentary rules.
This past week Tom Kent, the maestro of the big ideas behind Lester Pearson issued a call from his minaret near Kingston that Canada needs a much smaller cabinet — that a cabinet is dysfunctional when it has more than 15 ministers who have “real” portfolios around the table.
Martin, at 38, would need to prune hard, and despite such a huge accrual of persons with rank, the PM is also continuing to rely on his Earnscliffe gang. To see the overlap and maze of hands in the ministerial pot, look at this trio of groupings for Martin ministers.
For international matters, there is the PM, plus: Pierre Pettigrew, Foreign Affairs; Jim Peterson, International Trade; Bill Graham, Defence; Anne McLellan, Emergency Preparedness; Aileen Carroll, International Cooperation; Stephane Dion, Environment; Judy Sgro, Immigration; and David Emerson, Industry.
For social matters this gaggle of ministers: Ujjal Dosanjh, Health; Irwin Cotler, Justice; Andy Scott, Indian Affairs; Albina Guarnieri, Veteran Affairs; Joe Volpe, Human Resources; Ken Dryden, Social Development; Joe Fontana, Labour and Housing; Raymond Chan, Multiculturalism; Claudette Bradshaw, Human Resource Development; Carolyn Bennett, Public Health; and Tony Ianno, Families and Caregivers.
For economic matters, Ralph Goodale, Finance; David Emerson, Industry; Jim Peterson, International Trade; John McCallum, National Revenue; Stephen Owen, Western Diversification; Jacques Saada, Economic Development of Quebec; Joe Comuzzi, Economic Development of Northern Ontario; Joseph McGuire, Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency; John Efford, Natural Resources; and Andrew Mitchell, Agric-food.
Not only are there too many ministers for almost every matter of import and/or substance, the dollar cost in salaries, aides, trips, hospitality, and consultants is a satire on frugality.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 21, 2004
ID: 12875320
TAG: 200407210536
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 19


ANY FIRST impressions about the new Paul Martin ministry?
Easy! It’s a modest modicum more promising than its predecessor, largely because of the hopes one puts in several brand-new MPs (particularly David Emerson and Ken Dryden).
But the choices for two of the most serious dilemmas seem to defy common sense: i.e., Tony Valeri, not known as either a sterling House performer or given to listening to debates, receives the toughest job of this minority parliament, government house leader.
And peace-loving, UN-proud Bill Graham, with his leeriness of our southern neighbours, is bounced from foreign affairs into the problems overloading our defence department.
Generally speaking, two figures within this new Martin ministry of 39 persons show how far it is from newness and daring.
Fourteen members are in the same jobs they held in the first Martin ministry and 14 others were in that ministry but with responsibilities different from what they were given yesterday.
In short, 28 of the 39 were in the cabinet which fought the election. By and large, then, the same, old gang.
The most emphasized point in the early commentary yesterday was the five ministers B.C. has been given but this masks the reality that three have very small writs: Jack Austin as senate leader; Raymond Chan as multicultural minister, and Stephen Owen as minister for sport and western diversification.
Ujjal Dosanjh, the ex-premier, does walk into a big task in taking over health from the motor-mouthed Pierre Pettigrew, and how the current premiers will take him is iffy. But it shows Martin is trying to be daring. As for David Emerson, a new MP going into the industry ministry, it badly needs a new broom, and his “bona fides” as an achiever in a major forestry operation are excellent.
The scarcity of Grit seats across the Prairies and the skinny share of them won in Quebec explain why the Prairies only get three ministers, Quebec seven, while Ontario stays high at 16 . This particular mix is less important than it seems, and particularly so in a parliament destined for doom, perhaps before Christmas.
Other mixes which various interests look for in a cabinet are: women, ethnics, visible minorities, homosexuals, etc.
The female ministers are down to nine from 11. Some of the multiculturalists will think the PM has overdone the Italo-Canadian theme, with seven of them as ministers, and in giving Jewish-Canadians three of the posts, whereas neither Ukrainian nor Polish-Canadians received anything. There’s just one visible minority in this ministry, but it does have three homosexuals.
Up to the end of the King era in 1948, the most searching examination of a cabinet roster was for religious adherence.
That’s long gone and it is surely arguable that the emphasis of official multiculturalism has turned us towards something equally valueless in counting ethnicities and shaping our outlook on its representation in the House, in ministries, and shadow cabinets.
In the case of this new ministry, the general caliber of its membership owes more to their individual talents and career experiences than in their ethnic roots or religion or skin colour.
Is this a cabinet lying more to the left or right of the road, or one spread across the centre of it? Well, it seems more leftish, given Graham at defence, but a bit more to the right with Ralph “Stonewall” Goodale staying at finance and a private sector CEO like Emerson at industry. The realistic factor regarding the left-right spectrum is the minority scenario. The best hope of survival for Martin’s government is greased by spending on “good works,” which will earn the needed votes to avoid a dissolution. Two opposition parties — the big BQ and the smaller NDP — are spenders.
And such “quid pro quos” are the game in winning enough votes to continue the life of a minority legislature. It’s a game of bargain and deal, of propose and withdraw, of wooing, of avoiding traps and ultimatums. Remember, none of the three opposition caucuses came out of the last election feeling badly whipped.
Martin’s betting on Valeri, a man without French or a background in House rules, procedure, and customs. It is baffling the PM chose him over such an eager, ready, veteran of House affairs as Don Boudria. (It was his own caucus, not the opposition, which was fed up with Boudria as House leader.)
Maybe the PM has made a deal to bring back Allan MacEachen, a master in managing House affairs, including two minority periods, and now writing his memoirs. Jean Chretien had his Mitchell Sharp; Paul Martin needs a MacEachen.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 18, 2004
ID: 12874845
TAG: 200407180392
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: 30
ILLUSTRATION: photo by Fred Chartrand, CP
WHY SO HAPPY? … Prime Minister Paul Martin celebrates the start of his caucus meeting (with caucus chairman Andy Savoy and Senator Isobel Finnerty) last Wednesday.
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


PAUL MARTIN’S first regime as prime minister was only seven months long, but even so, it was remarkably short in major legislative doings and long on picaresque Paul wandering Canada enthusiastically.
Three weeks into his new mandate, it seems that lackadaisical pace continues. Martin has set the opening of the new Parliament three full months after the election, and taken three weeks to appoint new ministers and dismiss those he now rejects in the gang he chose seven months ago. (Note that the PM’s Earnscliffe advisors are still with him and as yet no worthies in the senior mandarinate have departed.)
Further, this past week Martin again emphasized two priorities: a long-term health deal and a national child care program.
Constitutionally, these matters are the primary responsibility of the provinces. The recent, strong criticisms by the premiers of Alberta and Quebec of both federal sharing of health costs and of Ottawa’s right to determine standards of medical and hospital operations indicate a very slow resolution of the health financing deal. As for a national system of child care, surely that’s more than a parliament away, if ever.
So, how to figure such dawdling by the prime minister with his brash undertaking to the defeated MPs at last Wednesday’s caucus meeting to be ready for a return to the team in the next election?
It’s normal for most people to shrug off or not even notice such bull but Martin himself seems to mean it and believe it. He extended his arms like Billy Graham, beaming and chortling how excited he was, how exciting Canada is and will be. This chest-thumping fits ill with his need to have some opposition help in the coming session. It hardly accords with a prime minister and party really chastened by the loss of seats and a near disaster.
What’s more, there is the prospect of more scandals in the session ahead, involving ministers and top officials.
The judicial inquiry into the AdScam scandal has yet to unfold. A half a dozen carcasses of other scandals of incompetence and bureaucratic malfeasance during the Chretien-Martin years are sure to get some close examination by opposition MPs, who will likely determine the chairs and agendas of the committees in this minority House.
As well, as several of Ottawa’s most respected columnists have recently noted, Martin faces an emerging problem with the senior public service. As the Globe and Mail’s John Ibbitson put it last week, attitudes of officials towards Martin and his government at “the highest levels of the public service have become so frustrated that some of them are prepared to quit.”
“Morale in the public service has tumbled,” wrote Graham Fraser in the Toronto Star last week, in the most scathing assessment of an incompetent prime minister since the Diefenbaker days. One veteran mandarin described the move of Martin’s team into the PMO as “the worst transition ever” that he’d witnessed. Deputy ministers were aghast at the demeaning of their competence by Reg Alcock as head of Treasury Board as he staked out his aims in reviewing the public service.
The Globe’s Jeffrey Simpson, too, has been increasingly severe with Martin for blunderbuss aims and inadequate relations with the bureaucracy that serves him.
It has been hard, at least for me, to be sympathetic to the mandarins, given the welter of evidence of federal incompetence and poorly delivered programs and services in the past decade. Federal mandarins never seem to resign for such breakdowns, and rarely have been fired for them.
Surely one should take the cue from the multitude of goofs (like the gun control fiasco or refugee board chicanery) that quality of officialdom runs from low to ordinary. Nonetheless, this apparent contempt of the permanent officials for the aims, ethics and diligence of Martin & Co. is a warning.
A confused and confusing prime minister, cabinet, and caucus, are likelier to blunder into another election within a few months of Parliament convening than to govern clearly and solidly for several years.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 11, 2004
ID: 11944056
TAG: 200407110310
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: 28
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


THE COUNTRY awaits Paul Martin’s new ministry and the legislative intentions he will unveil to the new minority House in September.
On the subjects of cabinet and minority Houses, a lot of history is being recalled, particularly of two such Houses, hallowed by Liberals as huge in legislative deeds — i.e., those led by Lester Pearson in 1963-65 and in 1965-68.
In both those minority mandates Pearson only needed half a dozen opposition votes to survive a confidence vote; for Martin the need is greater — i.e., for 21 or 22 opposition MPs. Nevertheless, there are real parallels between them.
First, two new prime ministers, aged 65; each much honoured for specific accomplishments of grandeur: Pearson as a global diplomat; Martin as a deficit-busting minister of finance.
Second, both represent newish PMs short of time with an activist urge in social and federal-provincial affairs. In Pearson’s case, he came to office thinking of some grand aims like the Canada Pension Plan and medicare, pushed by a strong minister, Walter Gordon, and an aide, Tom Kent, a free-wheeling man of ideas. Paul Martin is excited by a host of big ideas, and while he has no Gordon, in lieu of Kent he has his private cadre of strategists, the Earnscliffe gang.
Third, there was in Pearson’s case in both minorities, and in Martin’s now, the certainty that for at least nine months (and even likelier for a year and a bit) the three opposition parties would have a common interest in sustaining Parliament and NOT bluffing their way into lost want-of-confidence votes.
The function of Liberal House leader in the Pearson mandates really fell on Jack Pickersgill, although another minister, Guy Favreau, had the name for a time. Pickersgill was a calming presence through the storms in the minority House over the flag issue and a run of ministerial scandals.
In particular, Jack catered to plain MPs, most notably to the Social Credit from Quebec who represented the added votes the Liberals needed. He also knew well House rules and procedures, something rare in every House.
An articulate and consistent Speaker of the House is almost as vital to a workable minority House as a shrewd government leader of the House. The two Pearson mandates had different Speakers, first Allan Macnaughton and then Lucien Lamoureux. Each was self-confident and handily bilingual — and Lamoureux was superb as a fair arbiter.
Pearson also had a welcoming, electrified senior mandarinate of deputy ministers in major departments. In 1963 he recognized this group publicly by centering a group photo with them as he became PM, a photo whose memory is still cherished in the federal bureaucracy as a watershed after a dearth of appreciation in the Diefenbaker years.
Alas, it is my opinion that the quality of today’s mandarinate is below that of the mid-1960s, in both ethics attitudes and competence. Further, in the seven months the mandarins have already had of Paul Martin as prime minister, he turned many off with his excess in enthusiasms and slowness on decisions.
It would be sensible, even smart, if the PM did his best to help Peter Milliken, the present Speaker, get re-elected. Or, he could be daring and support a candidacy by Bill Blaikie of the NDP, a parliamentarian of distinction, or take a flyer on Eleni Bakopanos, a Quebec Liberal with considerable experience as a deputy to Milliken.
Three Toronto MPs who also have the weight and brains for the speakership would be Joe Volpe, Albina Guarnieri or Derek Lee.
As for the government’s House leader, the key to a safe run and a productive House, the two obvious choices have their minuses. Ralph Goodale, now finance minister, is a stonewaller, able at oiling rough passages — but he’s without working French. Given the Bloc’s numbers, that’s unsound.
The other prospect of note was a House leader under Jean Chretien — Don Boudria. He is quick in both languages, knows the game and a lot of the players; however, he had become unpopular in all parts of the recent House as arrogant and ungenerous.
My wager at this stage is Goodale as House leader and Milliken as Speaker.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 04, 2004
ID: 11941563
TAG: 200407040239
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: 28
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


FOR THOSE of us who predicted a Conservative minority government, the excuse has emerged that such a result was blown away by a surge of fear and loathing in Ontario which flared up in the last four or five days of the campaign against Stephen Harper and his party. This turned Ontario voters from their anger at Liberal sleaze to confronting the Harper “menace.”
It’s argued that the means for this late-in-the-day rescue of Paul Martin were: 1) his own harsh attacks on Harper’s “vision” of Canada; 2) rough-tough Liberal TV ads; 3) editorial advice to the voters from two dominant Ontario dailies, the Star and the Globe; 4) and too many revelations during the campaign of “redneck” social conservatism by Harper’s people in the west and the eastern Ontario boondocks.
It’s tempting when one’s forecast has gone awry to embrace such excuses, but they offend common sense. Scan the big margins rung up in most of the 40 ridings taken by the Liberal candidates in the 45-odd seats in the greater Toronto Area.
When unimpressive incumbents like Jim Karygiannis in Scarborough-Agincourt, John McCallum in Markham-Unionville, and Bill Graham in Toronto Centre, run up margins of over 15,000 votes, a last-moment surge is poppycock.
The Liberal “brand” is deeply ingrained in the GTA; so much so it may take an election that comes in concert with a deepening recession and high unemployment in the big city to blow away the magnetism and trust that persists, even for a bland and rather blathering leader like Martin.
Now to the results: the damage as I see it. Some 42 incumbent MPs, most of them Liberal, were knocked off in last Monday’s election. Another 65 MPs had either retired of their own volition (like former Liberal ministers Jane Stewart, Allan Rock, Martin Cauchon and John Manley) or were unable to win renomination (like Liberals Sheila Copps and John Bryden).
The total injection of fresh talent to this new House will run to just under 110 of the 308 MPs. Despite campaign palaver about “star” candidates, none has been heralded as sure to be a parliamentary crackerjack. Indeed, the one famed across the land, Ken Dryden, ex-NHL goalie, has a high plus and a high minus rating as a very intelligent person, always thinking hard and deep, but a sleep-inducing bore as a speaker.
Of the fresh Liberal intake, Jean Lapierre, a former Liberal and Bloc Quebecois MP, now back in the Commons as Martin’s Quebec lieutenant, used to perform in the House with panache and wit. Jack Layton, the NDP leader now an MP, has both the vitality and the gall to liven both question period and the speechifying. Further, just the tensions in a minority scenario will hype far more hours in the House than we have had since 1979. There’ll be fewer empty seats and much less absenteeism among ministers once question period (QP) is over.
There will be more Commons time taken by talk in French, in part because of the jump in BQ MPs (who studiously avoid using English in the House most of the time). The much smaller band of Liberal MPs from Quebec will be determined to respond to the BQ input, with backing from francophone colleagues from Eastern Ontario and both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
Further, the BQ caucus of the last House had a busy core of debaters and committee hounds — it showed, for example, in its leader’s range of knowledge and argument in the campaign’s TV debates. Remember this: we’re now into the next battle in the long war for Quebec sovereignty; the lull credited as top feature in Jean Chretien’s legacy is over.
It’s probable Martin’s handlers have appreciated that the huge ministry he first chose, backed by a dozen now “honorable” parliamentary secretaries, made for clumsiness in the House: too many targets for the opposition in QP and in the speechifying hours.
And remember this. From Day One some 100 new MPs and a lot of others who won narrowly will want to get on the record, to show constituents they are more than mere applauders.
Martin’s fresh caucus has a fair share of MPs who are competent in terms of able House performance and his thinkers need to ferret forth a dozen or so of them for elevation because at least half of the 30 or so ministers who survived the election are distinguished in little or nothing.
The Liberal leader and, even more, Jean Chretien before him, got much mileage through many days of traps and trips in the House from such positive negators as Ralph Goodale, in finance, Anne McLellan, deputy PM, and Pierre Pettigrew, in health. He needs more of this sort to replace three credible ministers lost in the election: Stan Weekes, national revenue; Bob Speller, agriculture; and Helene Scherrer, heritage.
The one piece of advice Martin most needs to take is to run this Parliament, figuratively, from his place and performance in the House and that of his cabinet, backed by an attentive but patient backbench, not from a PMO managed by his Earnscliffe advisers.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 30, 2004
ID: 11940276
TAG: 200406300442
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 19


MUCH WILL be different when the new House of Commons assembles, probably in mid-September.
It will be far livelier, and perpetually on edge from leaks, rumours and endless gossip.
Early on, say for three or four months, there will be much mutual apprehension that something foolish or dastardly could trigger either a lost confidence vote in the House or a sudden visit to the Governor General by Prime Minister Paul Martin to get dissolution and another election.
Of course, attendance, and vigilant management of it by caucus whips, will be high — a contrast to what it has been in the past three Parliaments.
The prime minister is all too familiar, though more as able finance minister than as the proven leader of a take-charge cabinet. Much of his ministry is likely to be familiar; so too are most of his backbenchers. But the Conservatives, the Bloc and the NDP also have many veterans. So rookie mistakes should be few.
There is in this new Parliament, nonetheless, sensitivity from recent House strife and the viciousness in the campaign. Deep mistrust exists between the four partisan brands. Handling such grist for discord will get very difficult when caution from fear of an early breakdown weakens in a long stretch of House sittings.
The undertaking by the four leaders to make this Parliament work for the people is unlikely to be in vogue on the Hill for long, perhaps a year at best. No leader, and none of his MPs, wants his party damned as tricky or precipitate in the clashes over bills and spending programs, most of which are so readily triggered during the proceedings of House committees. But when opinion polling suggests, for example, that Conservative and/or NDP stock is tumbling, constructive harmony will flit the House and its offshoots.
Because the governing party will not have a majority, it will no longer assign committee chairs or have the members on committees to set their agendas and control the proceedings. In short, the likelihood of committees becoming flashpoints for troubles which lead to a breakdown of House relations — and a return to the electors — will become likelier as the committees proceed.
As an example, consider the finance committee which works with the auditor general. It already has an opposition chair; now opposition MPs will be a majority of its membership.
Not to contradict this theme of the new House as a tinderbox, but one has to note the almost desperate need of Stephen Harper for a solid run as a lucid, sensible and trustworthy leader of the Official Opposition. To do this he needs some months, at least a year.
And surely Martin needs a stretch of solid, blather-free performances as prime minister, at least to and through a new budget in early 2005. Of course, he’ll be excused generally by the public if he loses the confidence of the House through hostile behaviour or filibustering by the opposition, in particular by the Bloc.
My strongest hunch about the new House is this: the opposition caucuses, taken group by group or by the number of capable parliamentarians in each, have a marked edge over the Liberals in both debating talent and thoroughness at analyzing and criticizing legislation and programs — whatever subtractions and additions Martin makes to his first, unwieldy ministry (39 in number at its end).
Martin badly needs a new, competent, and nationally informed House leader. His last one, Jacques Saada, an allophone from Montreal, wasn’t hacking it — and never will. A good bet would be Vancouverite Stephen Owen, who showed adroitness in the House as minister of public works.
The PM also has to hope Peter Milliken, the Liberal MP from Kingston, and Speaker of the House, is willing to run for the office again and that the opposition won’t gang up against him. A positive, lively minority House needs a confident, experienced Speaker. There was a minority House for a year in the 1960s with an over-sensitive and irresolute Speaker, which was a disaster for all parties.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 27, 2004
ID: 11939233
TAG: 200406270214
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 25


DESPITE LITTLE assurance from recent opinion polling, my hunch is a Conservative margin of a dozen or so seats over the Liberals tomorrow.
Further, if there is to be a majority government it’s likelier to be Conservative than Liberal. For this to happen, the Liberals will lose seats overall in the West and win only about half of Ontario’s.
My reasoning is that Stephen Harper’s party is riding a wave of anger across the land over the party of Paul Martin/Jean Chretien. This anger outweighs the avid loyalty of so many politically correct interest groups that dread a Conservative victory.
There are numerous, often overlapping, interests. Think of those focused on multiculturalism or the UN or peacekeeping or sovereign governments for First Nations or feminist causes. Consider the many worried about the dangers of global warming or who distrust the U.S. or who support public broadcasting or who belong to, or back, what might be called the gay-lesbian entente.
So my projection, influenced by anger at the Grits, in Commons seats is:
– Conservatives 128
– Liberals 116
– Bloc Quebecois 43
– NDP 20
– Green 1
Opinion polling indicates my prediction is most out of the general line in suggesting the Bloc will win a mere 43 of Quebec’s 75 seats, not 50 or more.
In the campaign itself, the four leaders — Martin, Harper, followed by Gilles Duceppe and Jack Layton, have had too much notice. It’s hard to think of any other figures of note, once past Dennis Mills, as a rival facing the bouncy NDP leader, or Anne McLellan, again fighting for survival in Alberta, or Ken Dryden, most Canadians’ choice as our most thoughtful hockey player.
Martin, in terms of what he showed in the campaign, was not all at sea as a performer, but unfortunately for him his shortfalls in elocution, vocabulary and tight but rational lingo are now so apparent. He’s a poor contrast in energy and good humour to Layton, and an even worse contrast to both Harper and Duceppe in terms of knowledge or intelligence.
Harper’s had a splendid education, has been an adept MP and a continuing student of both domestic and global affairs. Duceppe is a hard, intelligent slugger, and in the two TV debates his knowledgeable argument was an embarrassment to the sketchily informed Liberal leader.
In short, Martin is as good as his handlers and what mastery he works up on what they prepare for him. In content, they’ve proved banal and, as they showed in dealing with Chretien’s loyalists, arrogant and mean.
They chose to have him stick with two main themes: a) bringing up to speed an enduring, single tier, national medicare system open to all; and b) contrasting Liberal support and generosity for all that’s fine and good in Canada with the dark menace of Harper in power, a right-wing ideologue with a cabinet and caucus out to turn our social, cultural and economic calendars back half a century.
Martin hasn’t bothered to fill in anything sensible on mastering the “democratic deficit” he discerned two years ago in the bad Chretien days, not even on how he would rejuvenate the federal bureaucracy and its mandarins, revealed so often since 1993 as incompetent, irresponsible, and sometimes crooked.
Too many of us, inspired by his successful mastering of annual deficits and hopes for reforming Parliament, blew Martin up as a wondrous politician: masterful, but also a nice, warm person and a devoted son of a father who pioneered plans for national health care.
It turns out after 200 or so days as PM that there was much less in Junior than was thought.
Such intimations of Paul Martin’s shortfalls shouldn’t be taken as a major factor in turning to Harper as a super prime minister at hand. For weeks, both friends and chance acquaintances have been asking me about the “real” Harper.
Has he common sense? Yes!
Is he smart? Very!
Is he well seized with our history and politics? Yes!
Is he a loner or a team leader? He’s not given to cronies and is a loner in much of his preparation. But he brought a lot of diverse characters together in gaining the Conservative leadership.
How pro-American is he? Considerably, but it’s more on minding the inevitable, irrevocable interplay of our economies and mutual defence needs than on imitating the U.S. presidential system or being a satrap of an imperial American president.
Does Harper scare me at all? No.
At this point he reminds me of what I anticipated in April, 1968, when Pierre Trudeau was on the lip of the Prime Minister’s Office. Trudeau, I felt in ’68, would test us and shake up politicians and parties far more than the likes of Bob Winters, John Turner or Robert Stanfield and add some new dimensions to citizens’ concerns and participation. Harper will do that, too.
As with Trudeau, much of what transpires with Harper as PM may not please me and many others, but it should command more participation and responsibility from plain citizens than we’ve had for a long time.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 20, 2004
ID: 12913615
TAG: 200406200347
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 30
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


WITH A week to go in the campaign, a conundrum bemuses a lot of us. Why did the certainty of a fourth straight Liberal romp break down? How could Paul Martin go from the surest bet in decades to win a majority mandate to a likely loser? Was this brewing disaster his own doing or bad luck?
Go back to Martin’s ascension to the PMO before last Christmas. Oh, how highly he was rated at that moment — just before the storm broke over the AdScam revelations in Quebec. Among opinion-mongers like me, there were no open hints the usual ruling party was about to bumble into a desperate electoral experience.
The certainty of uninterrupted Liberal rule had taken shape several years ago, in part because the conservatively minded were split into two hostile factions. Martin, hailed as master of deficits, a super finance minister, was preparing to ensure he followed Jean Chretien at the top.
It became clear in 2001 that Martin, both directing and being managed by Earnscliffe consultants, was winning control of riding and provincial executives of the Liberal party, plus the support of most of its MPs and many Chretien ministers. This had a shocking confirmation two summers ago when Chretien first dismissed Martin from his cabinet, then agreed he himself would depart within 18 months.
Such an understanding did bother many in a party famously given to unity and loyalty to the leader, particularly as open friction opened a fault line through the cabinet, the caucus and the party. Nonetheless, the agreement seemed to guarantee Martin would win what soon became a one-sided leadership tussle. Several able prospects backed off, sure they had no chance against him.
The “long goodbye” he’d set up left the shrewd Chretien ample time to flaunt his grip and set up his “legacy.”
Through the next 17 months, freed from finance, Martin, pleasant and open to all, roamed Canada exposing his charm, superb organization and a noble (but vague) plan to erase Parliament’s “democratic deficit.” At times he seemed a throwback to the heyday of Pierre Trudeau as a philosopher in politics. The son of a famous politician, he was heralded as a shoo-in for the grand prize, likely to run up, said some pundits, as many as 220 seats in his first mandate as PM.
And then Chretien’s resignation came, several months earlier than first heralded. It proved useful for Chretien, untimely for Martin. Coming as it did just before Christmas made an instant election call impractical — the way Trudeau had acted in 1968. Worse, the resignation was shortly followed by the long-awaited release of the auditor general’s report on the sponsorship scandal.
Martin, who’d known for weeks what was in it, chose to react boldly, agreeing the scandal must be examined at once by a House committee, a judicial inquiry, plus a separate search for moneys lost. Further, he wouldn’t go to the people until details were known of those in government, both politicians and mandarins, who’d been in on the skulduggery.
Hindsight now suggests most everyone missed a growing, public impatience with the Liberal melodrama as it festered and swelled well before AdScam broke, and its critical path leading not just to Chretien but to his illustrious former minister of finance.
No one in either the Martin or Chretien ministries, or among public service mandarins, had ever taken responsibility or suffered for such costly travesties as the gun registry, rejected by most of the provinces. No one but a head of one Crown corporation, fired for questioning a loan to a constituent of Chretien’s, suffered for the patronage scandal of Shawinigate. No heads had ever rolled after a year or so of dodgy grants in the HRDC ministry headed by Jane Stewart.
It seems the final straw of public patience broke over Martin’s first dilemma as PM — the antics of advertising agencies misusing the sponsorship programs to promote federalism in Quebec. How could a minister so high in rank and busy engaging support in Quebec for his leadership drive not know about such a scam there?
Somewhere in the conundrum of Martin’s drastic fall from public grace, there must have been a moment when the same decision was reached by thousands. It likely began to firm up some time last year. Here, decided a multitude, is a political cipher, a guy without real content or astute priorities or much interesting to say, and far lighter than first impressions had indicated.
Well … there are my suppositions for Martin’s free fall. Perhaps some credit might go to Stephen Harper, the man leading the new Conservative party. Perhaps more blame might simply be put on the accretion of arrogance and loss of public confidence in an institution a decade in office.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 13, 2004
ID: 12912262
TAG: 200406130254
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: 35
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


THIS WEEK’S televised match-ups of the four party leaders are the most significant, critical occasions left in the election campaign.
They give Paul Martin his last good chance to reverse the slow national trend toward Stephen Harper.
The largely unexpected rise of the Conservative leader led me to forecast a Conservative minority government four weeks ago.
Today, my expectation is for a majority government led by Harper — unless Martin gives two masterful performances before millions in the French- and English-language debates.
Such may not be possible. The Tory is articulate and relaxed; the NDP’s Jack Layton bouncy and bright; the BQ’s Gilles Duceppe serious and blunt. Meanwhile, the prime minister wanders without his cue cards and seems so careworn and old.
Martin became an official senior citizen last year. It is ironic — some would say unfair — that he seems to be facing a dilemma just like the one that undermined his dad’s chances to succeed Lester Pearson as Liberal prime minister in 1968.
The Liberal leadership convention that year was set for early April. From the first opinion surveys the previous Christmas right into mid-February, Paul Martin Sr. was the choice over a swatch of fellow ministers — Paul Hellyer, Mitchell Sharp, Allan MacEachen, John Turner, Joe Greene and a latecomer, Pierre Trudeau. All but one of the others (Sharp, then 57) were younger than Martin by 10 years or more.
A cruel blip in the contest’s first month developed after someone publicly pointed out how deeply black and well-trimmed Martin’s hair had become. This reverberated and become an embellished joke, particularly after the controversial, well-heeled, jaunty and youthful-seeming Trudeau, just 48, was “persuaded” to become a candidate — in fact, the candidate from Quebec.
By late February, expectancy was surging about the dancing bachelor. Sadly, but almost unnoticed, the industrious Martin, the front-running “senior” with the obvious dye job, fell back, ignored as a relic.
Youth became a trumpeted theme in ’68, and not just about Trudeau but also related to Turner (38), Hellyer (45), Mac-Eachen (46) and Greene (48).
Now, Paul Martin Jr.’s self-heralded decade of “proactive” progress for Canada is in great doubt, probably impossible. The blathering banality in so much of what he bubbled about has been further shallowed by his weariness, the sagging waistline and the curse of aging when viewed alongside freshness and “youth.”
Along with such hurtful factors, Martin has floundered through almost every political challenge since he lost the safety fence which surrounds the minister who holds the finance portfolio. There has been a slow but now recognizable realization, even among power-mesmerized reporters, that there is less knowledge and decisiveness in this leader than they thought. In one sense, his Earns-cliffe spinners did magnificently for a long time, but now are failures.

On the subject of the leaders and the media, at this stage the relationship seems more interesting than in any election since the doozie in 1988 over NAFTA. Then, there was a sharp partisan split in the media mob, most of whom were anti-NAFTA and anti-Brian Mulroney.
When this campaign began, many in the media gang expected gains for the Martin Liberals. Ah, how that’s changed! Nowhere is it more evident than among the vigorous, sharp women who are coming to dominate political reporting, like Julie Van Dusen, Jane Taber, Tonda McCharles, Lisa Laflamme, Susan Delacourt and Anne Dawson. Such inquisitors stalk for killing quotes, notably by Harperites or about them. If Martin is to be saved, this feminine cadre will be the rescuers.
Lots of voters, however, dislike “moral” issues being the core themes of the election.

Compliments to fellow columnist Hugh Winsor (Globe) for his June 8 exposure of the “desperate” effort by Martin, his deputy PM, and the minister of justice in portraying Harper as “a threat to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
His readers know Hugh is rarely taken for a conservative, yet he showed how our media colleagues became “a partner in the Liberal strategy by the way they covered the story.” His own paper “transmogrified” a fair observation about abortion by a Conservative MP into an assault by Harper on same-sex marriage and the Charter. The moral: watch for Liberals lying.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 06, 2004
ID: 12910867
TAG: 200406060308
PAGE: 51
ILLUSTRATION: photo by Andy Clark, Reuters
CANADIAN war veteran William Joseph, of Kitchener, places a flag at the grave of J.F. Kyle, a relative who died in the invasion, at the War Cemetery in Beny sur-Mer.


AS THE lovely English spring of 1944 turned into June, most of us Canadian soldiers, sailors and flyers knew we were likely to be first-day participants in the invasion of France — a critical step in the war against Nazi Germany which had been pending for well over a year.
In our outfit, an armoured car regiment, we knew we’d cross the English Channel later — several weeks after D-Day, as it turned out — even though our vehicles had been waterproofed to run from shipboard to the beaches. Our lightly armoured and gunned cars were for mobile warfare, not slugging it out with dug-in Germans. In our mindset at the time this was some relief. We knew of the high losses on the shore at Dieppe and on the Salerno and Anzio beaches in Italy.
Anyone in England then will recall that in homes, pubs, camps and workplaces the talk all spring was of the “when” and “where” of the invasion. Risky although it would be, it had to be done and must not fail. When the general order came in May that leave to London, even for a day, was forbidden, our impatience grew for the biggest event in our war.
It happened that we were sleeping around the rim of a big village field near Tunbridge Wells, ready to move toward a Channel port on a few hours notice when, before dawn on June 6, we were roused by unusually heavy air traffic — not just by the bombers but by fighters and tow-craft.
This had to be it! And just after first light we heard via radio the terse message from Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, the commander-in-chief, that the invasion was on and thousands of soldiers, including paratroops, were ashore in Normandy.
We’d known our 2nd, 3rd and 4th Divisions, supported by a tank brigade, would be the core of a Canadian army in France. When all were ashore, there’d be over 100,000 forward troops. They would be led (in time) by Harry Crerar, a Canadian general unknown to most of us. But we had a hero in “Monty” — the top general for the invasion force, the Brits’ Bernard Montgomery, victor over Edwin Rommel in the North African desert.
Well before D-Day, Monty had been face to face with almost every Canadian fighting unit. His was a pep talk, but one short on patriotic lingo. His plain words matched the repute he’d earned in Africa as a leader who cared about the lives and needs of ordinary soldiers.
On June 6, we had a loudspeaker plugged into my radio’s receiver to get bulletins on the BBC or the American forces’ stations. By late evening, we knew our guys, mostly infantry of the 3rd Division, had got well beyond their beach (Juno). U.S. divisions attacking at Omaha beach, two west of Juno, had had a brutal time but eventually gained a strong perimeter. In short, it was good — but far from a cakewalk, and not a sure thing yet!
We didn’t know till months later that for almost 48 hours there’d been a gap of unmanned land running inland a mile wide between Juno and the British-gained Sword beach to the east. Poor German intelligence and much British and Canadian courage stemmed the Nazi armour from driving through this gap and rolling up our rear and the supply route across the beaches. That would have meant horrendous Allied losses on top of D-Day’s heavy casualties.
Ever since June 6, 1944, what happened immediately before and during D-Day has fascinated many people, particularly those like me who later rolled off at Juno without fear of harm until well inland and close to the front, at which we were to help, gnawing and grinding ahead through July to mid-August until German resistance broke. Then we rolled on to the Seine in less than a week, taking hundreds of prisoners before we met an encircling Texas tank division upriver from Rouen.
Few Canadians in June 1944, would not have known a D-Day veteran personally. It was well after the war before I learned that two hometown fellows with whom I once fished were killed on D-Day. One, by then a veteran Spitfire pilot, was shot down while patrolling over Juno by “friendly fire” from an American P-47 Thunderbolt. The other, a corporal in the Winnipeg Rifles, never made it through the machinegun fire raking the beach.
However much one honours this caveat about D-Day and Normandy, what we as Canadians did that day, and during the rest of the war, was an achievement we ought to remember. Those Canadians of the World War II era can surely tell their grandchildren to look at D-Day as an example and symbol of Canadians doing great things together.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Saturday, June 05, 2004
ID: 12910640
TAG: 200406050149
PAGE: 20
National hero
2. photo of PIERRE TRUDEAU
Carried on for two years
3. photo of JOE CLARK
Ruled like he had majority


DOES THE prospect of a minority government merit all the analysis it has been getting this election campaign?
Opinion polling indicates the Liberals have slipped enough to lose 40 or so seats, losing the comfortable edge they won in the elections of 1993, 1997 and 2000.
Of course, there’s no way an elector may vote directly for a minority government — also often called a minority House — although voting for a third party might help.
When we do get a minority House it means enough seats have been won by third and fourth parties to keep the two “old” parties — Grit and Tory — from gaining at least half the Commons seats, plus one.
We had four minority governments out of five elections from 1957 through 1965, and there has been much speculation about it happening again in 2004. Such fascination is rarely strong on historical substance, perhaps because we’re hardly devotees of the parliamentary past, and a minority House is iffy. This is so even though we’ve had nine of them, the first coming in 1921, after wartime crises had busted up the two-party pattern in Parliament in effect since Confederation. Out of the fractures came several new parties, the most successful being the Progressives, the United Farmers and so-called Labour.
The first three minority governments were finessed along by wily Liberal leader W.L. Mackenzie King after the elections of 1921, 1925 and 1926. He was abetted throughout some nine years of power in the ’20s by the Progressives’ bias against taking part in “want of confidence” votes in the House.
The next minority government after King’s came in 1957, ending 22 years of Liberal rule under King and Louis St. Laurent. The Tories under John Diefenbaker moved boldly into office, and suddenly he was a national hero. After the first, awkward exposure of Mike Pearson as the new Liberal leader, the Chief seized the moment, dissolved the House, and went for and got a mighty sweep less than a year after his minority win. In short, it took two elections to be rid of what had been a governing Liberal juggernaut.
Today, some electoral buffs think it will take two elections to get the Chretien-Martin Liberals out.
The next election after his big sweep put Diefenbaker back with another minority, but this time with a cabinet and caucus split deeply over defence policy.
He was unable to hold for long the tacit backing by Bob Thompson and his third-party Social Credit caucus. A clear defeat in a House vote forced the 1963 election, in which Pearson and the Liberals won power but missed a majority by a handful of seats. Two years later, Pearson tried again for a majority and missed, again by a few seats.
The next minority government came in 1972 when Pierre Trudeau’s run of four years with a big margin disappeared. However, he carried on in office for two years because the NDP, led by David Lewis, promised no opposing votes if the Liberals brought in “progressive” legislation.
Then a budget calculated to enrage the socialists led to the defeat in the House that Trudeau wanted, and in the ’74 election he won back majority status. This became a long, dreary mandate vexed with inflation and constitutional bickering, and it closed with the election in 1979, in which Joe Clark’s Tories won the most seats but fell half a dozen short of a majority.
The young Clark declared he would rule as though he had a majority (as the Chief had chosen to do in 1957). This stance failed when his first budget, a tough one, was rejected by a small margin in a House vote early in the session. He sought and got a dissolution despite the near certainty he could have saved his government and seen the retirement of Trudeau by making a deal with a few Creditiste MPs (who dreaded another election so soon). Then he could have returned to vote again on the budget, using the Pearson precedent of 1967 which circumvented the defeat of the Liberal budget at its third reading.
You will be hearing how exciting and invigorating a minority House would be, and how it would give significance to the role backbenchers play. I can vouch, as a third-party MP in three minority Parliaments, that each was exhilarating and testing. Both of Pearson’s minority mandates were chaotic and rife with scandal but also, arguably, the most fruitful and dramatic years in our politics because they produced so much important legislation — social, economic, cultural and constitutional.
Past experience also suggests that if a fresh party — say Stephen Harper and his Conservatives — should form a minority government there’s the prospect its legislative intentions might founder in a Senate controlled by a sizeable Grit majority.
Nevertheless, if June 28 brings a Liberal minority it would count on trade-offs through its social policies from the NDP, much as Lewis got from Trudeau in 1972 and David Peterson, as a minority Liberal premier of Ontario, arranged with Bob Rae and the NDP in 1985.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 30, 2004
ID: 12654676
TAG: 200405300344
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: 33


A CAMPAIGN question is emerging, slowly but surely: Will it take one or two elections coming not far apart — as in 1957 and ’58 — to replace the federal Liberals as the governing party?
The more an elector has voted the more he or she tends to look at the current campaign with past elections in mind.
My first participation (as a poll scrutineer) came in 1935 when W.L. Mackenzie King and the Liberals swept out the Depression-whomped prime minister, R.B. Bennett, and his Conservative ministry. Of the 19 federal elections since then, I was involved in all but one — in 1945, when I was overseas — as either a partisan worker (three times), a candidate (five times), or as a journalist (11).
What are the useful indicators today from such experiences?
First, it is not to forget that six of the elections from 1957 forward led to minority governments — in ’57, ’62, ’63, ’65, ’72 and ’79. We haven’t had one since 1979-80. They are memorable for excitement in the parties and a wide and diverse public interest.
There are two notable aspects in these hair-raisers: 1) each time two of the minor parties — the CCF/NDP on the left; the Social Credit/Creditistes on the right — came through a few points stronger than usual, tending in many ridings to narrow the usual backing for both Liberal and Tory candidates; 2) twice, prime ministers and their parties with big sweeps (in ’58 and ’68) barely limped back to office next time. How quickly we tired of larger-than-life characters like John Diefenbaker and Pierre Trudeau.
One has to draw from recent opinion polling that the minor parties — in this case the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois — are presently upbeat and flourishing and even the Greens are likely to ring up 3% to 5% of the total vote.
In Ontario and the four western provinces, such diversity means many three-way splits. In Ontario, this portends at least 30 of the 108 seats will not return Liberals, and probably there will be considerably more.
As for Quebec, it seems impossible that Gilles Duceppe, the earnest slugger who leads the Bloc, will fritter away all the BQ’s lead and return with less than 45 of the province’s 75 seats. (While it is rarely remarked by the English language media, the BQ caucus, by and large, has had MPs who’ve been assiduous in House and committee work.)
So! Between Ontario and Quebec, at the very least, the opposition parties should keep 75 or so seats out of Liberal hands; and unless Paul Martin and his so-far clumsy handlers can arrest the slide and lure back some five to six points nationally, it could be much more.
Now to touch on the four elections in the past where there were truly sweeping victories: Dief and the Tories in ’58; Trudeau and the Liberals in ’68; Brian Mulroney and the Tories in ’84; and Jean Chretien and the Liberals in ’93, verified in a slightly smaller way in ’97 and 2000.
One can differentiate these sweeps. Two of them, Diefenbaker’s and Trudeau’s, were popular explosions of excitement and captivation with a striking and luminous personality; the other two were getting rid of the rascals.
Dief came to his sweep in two electoral stages after a short parliamentary session convinced voters they didn’t need or want the Liberals back. In Trudeau’s case, he inherited dreary debits of contentiousness from Lester Pearson’s two minority Liberal governments in a row, then roared to a huge personal triumph — one of both intellect and what seemed a fresh vision for Canada — almost everywhere but the far west.
Note that in ’68 Trudeau didn’t pay at all for Pearsonian scandals as Martin seems to be paying for those of the three Chretien mandates.
As for Mulroney’s sweep in ’84 and Chretien’s in ’93, these were really not personal triumphs so much as massive determinations by voters to boot out of office any vestiges, respectively, of the Trudeau and Mulroney regimes. In Chretien’s second and third quite handy majorities of ’97 and 2000, the PM seemed moderately and modestly acceptable as a guy everybody could read and in English Canada he was the scrappy, vigilant enemy of Quebec separatism. At the same time, the conservatively minded politicians were fractured and the NDP left had put its faith in globally minded, peace-loving women.
Unfortunately for Martin, as both the successor to Chretien and as a long embedded Trojan horse within Chretien ministries and caucuses, he is suffering from an inescapable bond with the stout record of incompetence, waste, sleaze, and cynicism of the previous Liberal government, much as John Turner suffered in ’84, and Kim Campbell in ’93 from the disrepute of Mulroney.
Will the Conservatives take enough seats to form a minority government? It now seems as likely as a Liberal minority government.
More and more as the past elections are set alongside the current campaign, this one reminds me of two previous ones. It is not of Dief in ’58 or of Trudeau in ’68, but of Mulroney in ’84 and Chretien in ’93. That is, this seems a surge toward ending the present stench in Ottawa rather than the elevation of an heroic leader. It might even become as decisive for Stephen Harper and the Conservatives as it was for Mulroney in ’84.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 23, 2004
ID: 12653242
TAG: 200405230243
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: 39


WILL THIS federal election campaign be dominated by nasty stuff on the party leaders — in particular with Paul Martin’s Earnscliffe gang demonizing Stephen Harper, and the Tories retaliating against the prime minister?
Last March, after winning the Conservative party leadership, Harper said: “The tired, old and corrupt Liberal party is right now cornered like an angry rat. They are going to attack us like we have never been attacked.”
And last week the Liberals built their first TV ad blitz on five or six punchy remarks uttered by Harper in the last four years, but before he won the Conservative prize.
Contentious though each of these statements may be, each one is an analysis. Each, if really read or heard, sets one thinking, not taking instant umbrage at the thoughts as stupid or unacceptable. Indeed, a serious viewer is likely to conclude Harper may be a triple-header: a thoughtful, candid, articulate politician. Not words to apply in defining Paul Martin.
Surely, the Liberal nastiness thrown at Harper will be curbed by a realization of how exposed their hero is on the quotation front. Consider fatuous remarks like “This election is the most important in Canadian history,” or his gargantuan estimate at the time of the sovereignty referendum that a PQ triumph meant Quebec would lose up to a million and a half jobs.
Martin, as a campaigner, has assets: a nice appearance; a grand, easy smile and a voice that is pleasant except when he falls back on his favourite performance — an escalating partisan rant!
Far more than is the case with Harper or NDP Leader Jack Layton, Martin needs to be well programmed and closely handled whenever under close public scrutiny. His six months of exposure as prime minister has burnt off the mantle of deficit-destroying superman and exposed a ditherer who is concerned about so much but exact about so little.
Surely, Liberals will realize how apt the old adage is about people in glass houses …

Now to touch on Ken Dryden as a “star” candidate. He may not have noted that almost every one of the “stars” there have been since 1957 have had ordinary to abysmal records as cabinet ministers.
I first got to know the high intelligence and keen citizenship of Dryden in 1969, two years before he became a Montreal Canadien. As a sometime historian of hockey, I rate Ken as the ablest writer about hockey — and us! — since the report of the first organized game in Montreal 129 years ago.
So it’s with respect that I caution the Liberal star for York Centre to be ready for disappointment even worse than the Leafs failing to bring the Stanley Cup to Toronto on his watch.
I was thinking of failed political stars last week, before Dryden entered the race, while pondering three recent obituaries, each of a former federal minister: Pierre Sevigny, 1958-63, a John Diefenbaker appointment; Eric Kierans, 1968-71, and Jim Richardson, 1968-78, both Pierre Trudeau appointments.
Each came to the House from the hustings heralded as a high achiever and a sure bet to be a prominent minister.
Sevigny, a heroic and badly wounded army officer in World War II, son of a former House Speaker, was a majestic figure on his feet but he never gained Diefenbaker’s trust and was defeated in the ’63 election. He couldn’t make it back once he’d been exposed by the Liberals as the Tory minister who’d had an affair with an alleged communist spy, Gerda Munsinger.
Kierans, in almost anyone’s retrospect, gets marked as one of the most brilliant MPs and ministers of modern times. Over nine decades he had careers in private business, education, provincial affairs, a stock exchange, and at the last as political commentator. He only stuck for three years as a federal minister, frustrated with his boss, Trudeau, a slow-poke cabinet and over-cautious mandarins.
As postmaster general, his impulsiveness and certitude bent labour relations badly at Canada Post, and despite some visionary proposals he didn’t advance communications policy very far.
Richardson, a friendly Manitoban without pretense, and a busy member of a wealthy family much honoured for good works in the West, was earnest — and honest to a fault. He’d been an outstanding coastal command pilot in WW II, and as minister was keen, at both Supply and at National Defence. He became increasingly irked by official bilingualism and his inability to sway Trudeau on its application. So after 10 often frustrating years he resigned and went back to the Richardson enterprises and much regional public service.
There are many more examples of those trumpeted as star candidates by their parties who’ve been disappointments or failures. Just think of who isn’t running so Dryden may: Art Eggleton, ex-mayor of Toronto, and not really a success as a minister for Jean Chretien.
Also note some other “stars” from Toronto who didn’t prove up well as Chretien ministers: Maria Minna, Elinor Caplan, Allan Rock and John McCallum.
To close this litany of failed or very ordinary stars, it’s fair to turn to the Tories. The most disastrous wooing and winning of a star in modern times was wrought by Brian Mulroney. His star of stars was Lucien Bouchard.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 16, 2004
ID: 12650985
TAG: 200405160220
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: 24


HERE ON Parliament Hill we can say “This House is over!” — although it won’t be official for another week or so.
Its closing weeks have been largely inglorious, strenuous with belligerency about electoral readiness from all four of its parties, a lot of it pro or con on the blizzard of announcements of governmental largesse.
How to summarize the 37th Parliament? It first met 40 months ago, its mandate the third gained by Jean Chretien. He held it for 34 months — 15 of which came after he announced his coming departure.
One might tag the 37th as the Parliament of “civil war in its governing party,” or, remembering the last year’s antics, as “the auditor general’s Parliament.”
It was an assembly more torn and argumentative over failed or ineffective intentions (like a national gun registry or acquiring some safe, useful helicopters) than over a paramount legislated program like the GST or free trade or official bilingualism. And so the so-called Chretien legacy is found in a small raft of legislation of modest import, unless his refusal to have Canada join the war in Iraq becomes an engrained Canadian detachment from U.S. leadership to a priority of serving the United Nations.
The six most remarkable aspects to me of this exceptionally contentious, often fascinating parliamentary mandate have been:
a) A relative lack of the usual high tension and criticism in the sittings of this House over a sinking or bad economy and high nation-wide unemployment figures — an indicator of a modicum of job growth and decent incomes since the last election;
b) The high-verve activities within the caucuses of four of the five original parties in the 37th Parliament, was mostly but not always tied to leadership contests. (One of the five, the Progressive Conservative party, is gone, maybe forever.)
c) The early emergence as a major talking point by disenchanted MPs of more influence and responsibility for both opposition and government backbenchers was crystallized into unprecedented significance with the undertaking by Paul Martin, as would-be prime minister, to lead in wiping out the “democratic deficit,” even unto giving up some prerogatives that have been assumed by the prime minister and the PMO.
d) But to contradict such reform talk there has been, right to the end of this Parliament, the tough grip all the party leaders hold — their example being Jean Chretien — over their MPs in what they say or do. This was most evident in the assignments Paul Martin as PM took away from many in his caucus who had failed to back his bid.
e) By and large, a seemingly widespread, negative public reaction by Canadians to the Bush administration’s aggressive international policies emerged and continued through the 37th Parliament, even to some degree in new Conservative party. Now Canada seems more independently minded about U.S. leadership in global affairs than since before 1930s. This is being firmed up, paradoxically, by a “soft” Canadian defence policy — one no longer talking of strong, well-equipped, fighting armed forces.
f) More as a sum of incompetency and misgovernance over three successive mandates for the Liberal party than just the last one shared by Chretien and Martin, the MPs of the 37th Parliament have seemed to be the most sensitive or bothered, of a dozen Houses I have watched, over their low public repute as politicians, at least as reported and analyzed by journalists of TV, radio and the press.
There is unlikely to be regret in recalling this Parliament in the years ahead. The kindest epitaph I would give it, as a parliamentary buff, is a yearning one: i.e., as individuals, its MPs’ abilities were far above the performances of their caucuses, most obvious on the government side of the House.
Probably in September, maybe a tad sooner if the predicted election six weeks from now creates a minority government, the 38th Parliament’s MPs will gather. May it be genuinely memorable by the time its bell tolls.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 09, 2004
ID: 12189377
TAG: 200405090230
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: 26
COLUMN: Halls of Power


IT’S ALREADY time to rejig my prediction early last month of a Liberal re-election with a very small majority. Now, a week or so before a dissolution of this Parliament, my forecast is for a cliff-hanger: the Grits should eke back with a minority. In seats, that should be something like Liberals 135; Conservatives 105; Bloc Quebecois 45; NDP 25 — meaning a PM who is 20 seats or so short of a majority.
Why expect such a slippage of Liberal support?
Not much of it can be credited to the opposition. But the Liberals have been performing as though they are the “democratic deficit” Martin has been promising to erase.
One glaring example of this has been the operation, featuring minister Reg Alcock and Liberal MPs Dennis Mills and Marlene Jennings, designed to puncture the public’s regard for Sheila Fraser, the auditor general. Aside from the gall in such intimations, this is unsound, partisan politicking.
Another example deficit came last week when the majority of the public accounts committee on Adscam — i.e., its Liberal MPs — voted to wrap it up with an immediate report before the looming election, the gist of which will be written and approved by the Liberals on the committee and in the PMO.
It was such a short time ago that many in the nation, with Jean Chretien gone at last, anticipated a graceful, substantive government led by Paul Martin. Now, five months later, many of the hopeful millions are realizing they have been had; their numbers are inching up, not unsimilar to what’s happening next door regarding U.S. President George Bush.
This rather snarky judgment has been jarred out of me by the fatuous assertion by Martin to his caucus herd last week that the election he is soon to call is “the most important” in Canadian history.
What poppycock! He’s one of most unhistorical of the 21 prime ministers we have had. How does this fool so distort his own significance?
Week by week since mid-December it has become plainer: Martin’s mindset is light, very light, although this is hidden a bit by his blah-blah, so often dotted with his big phrase: “Let there be no doubt … ”
Martin has burdened the costs and complexity of governance with an unmatched sprawl of a ministry; nonetheless, he is scant on ministers who are lucid and radiate integrity.
Even more disturbing, we now know something of Martin’s long-run, self-heralded, unelected sidekicks like David Herle, Mike Robinson, Scott Reid, and Elly Alboim. They seem to be the prime minister’s chief handlers, spinners, and “idea” men. Gauging them from their recent exposures in the media and by the Sociology 101 platitudes they have had Martin mouthing in his expositions about his many priorities, they set one to recalling the heydays of Jean Chretien’s fixers, Eddie Goldenberg and Jean Pelletier.
The greatness of the achievement credited to these Earnscliffe Martinites by many journalists for the rousting of Chretien from the PMO, has been much shattered in a mere five months. Their actions have soured more Liberal MPs than Goldenberg and Pelletier managed to do through two electoral mandates.
Perhaps the high-water mark of the Earnscliffers’ arrogance has been the well-spun emergence of their best idea on how to sweep the electorate: to blacken Stephen Harper as dangerous and evil, using past bits of comment by the Conservative leader.
Using Bush-like dirty attacks on an opposing politician is so stupid to emphasize before an electorate generally believing (wrongly!) that our politics are morally superior to the Americans’. It overlooks what could come flying back in Martin’s own vapid quotations.
Martin and his heroes have much divided a party famed for its solidarity. They have wasted three or four months’ legislative time in their unreadiness to legislate. The federal bureaucracy from top to bottom ranges from bewildered to despairing. Across the land, contempt for politicians is as widespread as I can remember.
The convergence of all this is causing (I believe) a jelling in the body politic of this thought: the Liberals have been in too long. It could firm into a landslide rejection, much as in 1958 and 1993.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 02, 2004
ID: 12186814
TAG: 200405020257
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: 32
ILLUSTRATION: photo by Jonathan Hayward, CP
HONEYMOON’S OVER … After five months in power, new PM Paul Martin (shown here at a meeting at the Centre for Global Development in Washington, D.C., last week), has not had an easy transition to leading the government.
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


A QUESTION I frequently get, as one who’s been around Parliament a long time, goes like this: Has any other new government been as inept or fuzzy in its first months as Paul Martin’s?
The answer is: Yes. Several!
Recall 1963 when Mike Pearson’s promise of “Days of Decision” was wrecked by an early, badly bungled budget soon eclipsed by a run of ministerial cock-ups so ripe they gave columnist Richard Gwyn the grist for his classic, The Shape of Scandal.
At the time, the Liberals were without a majority but the smaller parties’ caucuses feared another election. Pearson did try in ’65 for a majority, just missed it, and so he and a loyal caucus bungled along till his resignation in 1968, producing some some remarkable legislation (the Canada Pension Plan, medicare, the flag) in part goaded by the smaller parties.
Here, let me sidetrack into the matter of the “honeymoon” a new government gets with the public and media. Both Pierre Trudeau in ’68 and Brian Mulroney in ’84 had longish ones, perhaps not surprising given their big majorities and strong personalities. Trudeau’s lasted about a year and a half, Mulroney’s about a year. By 1972, Trudeau was very unpopular and barely survived with a minority government for two years.
Recall 1979 when Joe Clark became prime minister without a majority and decided (publicly) to: a) govern as though he did have one; and b) take his time and a long summer before meeting Parliament, letting ministers learn their lines and readying a well-crafted legislation. It was sweet dream, blown away in seven months when the Liberals convinced Trudeau not to retire and then read well both the opinion polls showing a rapid fall in respect for Clark and the renewed courage among NDP and Social Credit MPs once John Crosbie unveiled a tough, taxing budget.
So the Tories lost the confidence of the House, triggering the winter election of 1980 — one Clark wrongly assumed he’d win.
Anyone vetting the first months of new prime ministers has to distinguish between those who come in after defeating the PM of a rival party — like Pearson in ’63, Trudeau in ’80, Mulroney in ’84 and Jean Chretien in ’93 — and those who came to the PMO by taking over from a PM of the same party — that is, Trudeau in ’68, John Turner in ’84, Kim Campbell in ’93 and Martin in 2003.
Turner had hardly a single month of favouring limelight after he won the Liberal leadership. He was saddled with Trudeau’s unpopularity, made worse when he made a swatch of lucrative appointments at the former PM’s insistence. Turner also went for an early election and proved wooden and jerky in the campaign. The Liberals got 107 fewer seats than Trudeau had won in ’80.
In ’93, Campbell took a few months longer to go to the people than Turner did, and it really wasn’t until the campaign opened late in September that both her bold inexperience and the vibrating antagonism against her predecessor and seeming sponsor became obvious and deadly. Only the explosion in BQ MPs in Quebec and Reform MPs in the west kept Chretien from well over 200 seats. We can fairly say Campbell had not a ghost of a chance, nor would her near alternative, Jean Charest, have got more than a dozen seats better.
Why did Trudeau’s succession of Pearson go so well, whereas Martin’s has had five dozy, rather vapid months since he succeeded Chretien?
Trudeau made an extraordinary personal impact, especially in English Canada. Plus, he seemed to presage a new Canada and a government of cool expertise with nobler aims and methods to revitalize federal Ottawa from top to bottom.
Remember, unlike Martin, Trudeau, then minister of justice, had emerged late and suddenly as a dark-horse aspirant just three months before the ’68 convention. Six fellow ministers were already in the race, several of them well regarded. Trudeau blew by all of them. In contrast, Martin was the dominant aspirant for Chretien’s job since 1995, and this was no secret.
By 2000, despite talk of Brian Tobin, Allan Rock and John Manley, Martin was the PM-in-waiting. By then, shaped and handled by his Earnscliffe crew, he’d won near control of the Liberal apparatus, even as he earned more public kudos than his boss as our rescuer from monster annual deficits.
In contrast to Trudeau and closer to Turner, Martin as the new top man was already shopworn. Certainly, he’s affable, but he’s been maundering, banally talking problems and issues while stressing his “decade” of government — yes, decade! — will be superior in ethics, competence and deeds to Chretien’s 10 years. His assumptions already raise laughs.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, April 25, 2004
ID: 12183943
TAG: 200404250237
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: 36


LAST WEEK, an Ottawa paper carried a think piece by Andrew Cohen, a university academic, columnist and author of the recent bestseller, While Canada Slept. The professor drew doleful parallels between Paul Martin as prime minister and the late Sir Anthony Eden, once Britain’s PM.
Eden (1897-1977) was a Tory MP, foreign secretary for 15 years and prime minister for two. He followed the great Winston Churchill after a long wait. Even longer than Paul Martin has stood in Canadians’ minds as an able successor to Jean Chretien, Eden had been tapped for the top post by the late 1940s and early 1950s.
At the start of his ministry, expectations were high for Eden. Within months, however, he was under fire for his indecisiveness and priorities, and within two years he was gone, replaced by Labour’s Harold Macmillan.
The parallel drawn by Cohen is interesting, notable for the quick discovery by politicos and journalists in both the Eden and Martin cases that there were less, and rather different talents and skills in the men as prime ministers than they’d shown as No. 2s.
But we need not go to the U.K. for a parallel in political disappointments over a long-awaited, new PM. Consider John Turner!
He persisted in the minds of the public and a majority of Liberals as the best successor to Pierre Trudeau, even after he quit after good work as minister of finance, and went to Bay Street. Then he bounded back in 1984 when Trudeau retired and he beat out Chretien for the post of Liberal leader and prime minister.
Most of us in 1984 who thought ourselves clued in had thought Turner the best choice. Aside from being handsome and having surfeits of both charm and physical energy, Turner had won favour from the public generally and business in particular as finance minister and, before that, as a reforming justice minister. He was adequate bilingually; had roots in both Montreal and in Vancouver, and through his mother, a career federal bureaucrat, he was familiar with the so-called Golden Age of the Ottawa Mandarins.
In short, Turner seemed a cinch to impress as prime minister, and a good contrast to Trudeau, who, after 15 years and four electoral mandates was unpopular, even with Liberals.
What happened to this magnificent prospect as PM? Why did he fail to even make it through his first big test, losing to Brian Mulroney and the Tories in the ’84 election, then doing the same in 1988 after four checkered years as leader of the Official Opposition?
I’ve been over and over those questions about the Turner we thought was there, and was not.
I’ve canvassed colleagues of Turner like the late Jean Luc Pepin, who admired and liked him, and the late John Munro, who did not.
All I can say is, he seemed to have it all, but it was gone by the time he came back from Bay Street.
The clearest parallel of Martin and Turner is that both followed prime ministers who had worn down their public welcome and caucus loyalties. But Turner chose to go to the people in a hurry — and this proved stupid.
He was awkward and unconvincing as a campaigner, and a reluctant warrior in the House.
Martin has chosen to stay a few months before going to the people, apparently to show his marked differences in ethics and pro-active intentions to Chretien.
This has been going badly. Indeed, he seems at times to be imitating the likes of Stockwell Day and Kim Campbell.
He smiles well, and socially he’s ingratiating, but in what he parrots officially he’s platitudinous and boring. He’s interested in almost everything and convincing on little. Without a script, he’s a cliche-monger, unable to think up cogent stuff on his feet or in scrums.
Although he grew up the son of as industrious and engaged a politician as we’ve had, he shows little knowledge of political history.
Clearly, he would be lost without his Earnscliffe handlers, who seem both conceited and adolescent, a mix indicating a brief prime ministerial run for their puppet.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, April 18, 2004
ID: 12714868
TAG: 200404180374
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: 32


LATER THIS year, national elections may well snuff out the roles being played by U.S. President George Bush and Prime Minister Paul Martin. Nonetheless, their meeting at month’s end is vital to Canadians, and for more than the serious trade problems we have with our beef and softwood lumber exports.
This significance shouldn’t be a mystery. It stems from the dangerous, relative isolation of the U.S. as it grimly battles in conquered but widely-insurgent Iraq and stands resolutely behind the state of Israel against a seething Muslim antipathy to it.
How should or may Canada help the U.S. in this dire matter? At the least the PM should give some priority to raising the Iraq situation with Bush and offer him what Canada might bring forward on it, say at the UN or in NATO or with the Commonwealth.
Clearly, our neighbours and their government are in a terrible predicament that poses global dangers for mankind far beyond the Iraqi and Israeli dilemmas.
It seems apparent it will take at least several years, and a huge expenditure in deaths, wounds and dollars to wind down the shooting and terrorizing in Iraq and restore a functioning economic infrastructure, managed and run by freedom-loving, democratic Iraqis. It might be done better and quicker under other than American auspices.
Another possibility, this election year in the U.S., has been advanced by American democrats like Ted Kennedy: i.e., an American withdrawal, somewhat like that from Somalia or Vietnam. Such will probably have to hinge on the creation of a viable Iraq, run by Iraqis, under the aegis of a nation-resurrecting agency created, staffed and funded by the UN.
Canada, despite its modest aid in securing Kabul, Afghanistan, with a light military force, has not been a substantial help to the U.S. after Jean Chretien decided Canadian troops should not fight alongside Americans in Iraq. Canada, he declared, needed what wasn’t available — UN sponsorship for the invasion. Otherwise, we would not join it.
Chretien’s decision was popular with Canadians in early 2003; it now seems even more so. Of course, if the decision had been for the invasion we had little in useful military assets to contribute.
One aspect of the no-fight decision has been a dearth of open criticism by Americans or overt grudge-settling of it by American politicians or officials.
In Canada, we’ve had little open discussion of the problems the decision created for our trade to the U.S., except for an occasional comment by gored exporters that the decision hurt the cause of our big lumber and beef export businesses.
Martin does advocate lots of “open discussion” by citizens and politicians, but he’s said little about the Chretien decision except to compliment it. As yet, he’s unveiled little but earnest generalities on what line his leadership will take in either bilateral discussion of trade and security relations with the U.S. or in what a UN-centred solution to the Iraq morass might be.
Few Canadians have talked or written much about two dicey but possible responses to Washington’s criticism of Canada on Iraq and any corollary this has on sanctions on our trade.
The first would be to retaliate by either severely reducing or by taxing our energy exports to the U.S.
The second would be positive: offering some quid pro quos of substance. Say a long-term, joint, continental water-use agreement or Canada’s readiness to fund, establish and maintain a permanent land and sea force for joint operations with the Americans in maintaining security of the continent.
At the least, when Martin goes to the White House he should offer Bush an outline of Canada’s present intentions at the UN, and within both NATO and the Commonwealth. He should give his short- and long-term thinking on stopping the gulf widening between Islamic nations and the West over the imposition in the Middle East of American values and military power.
Martin surely knows that despite our multicultural jazz, Canada is on the West, or American side, of the gulf.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, April 11, 2004
ID: 12713413
TAG: 200404110281
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 36
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Across the country, through television, we’ve been witnesses to a running show of the “democratic deficit,” whose erasure is Paul Martin’s prime aim.
Doing this, he insists, will change our “political culture.” We will never be the same, he promises.
Obviously, the transformation is not yet under way in Martin’s Job No. 1. From recent calls to talk shows and letters to the newspapers we know many Canadians have been appalled by what they’ve seen of the prime minister’s first clear move on this “deficit” — the inquiry into the costly Adscam sponsorship scandal.
Journalists have joined this chorus of criticism, most of them mocking the petty antics of MPs on the suddenly infamous public accounts committee of the House of Commons.
(The committee has nine Liberal MPs, and eight opposition MPs — five Conservative, two Bloc Quebecois, one NDP — and is chaired by a Conservative, John Williams. Clearly, the Liberal majority will edit the report of the committee.)
As yet, Martin has not reacted as though he realizes the committee’s hearings have continued to reveal the democratic deficit he would erase.
MPs of the committee’s four partisan persuasions have been bickering and petty through most of their examination of politicians and officials about federal contracts issued for advertising and opinion polling in Quebec in the cause of national unity.
The chairman of this committee is stuck with a practice which sustains blather and interrupts prospects of a sustained line of questioning.
Why? Because the time for statements and examination of witnesses has to be circulated in partisan rounds, each MP in early assays getting eight minutes and, later, four-minute whacks.
In this particular committee the chairman is rather loose as a goose and, sad to say, he hasn’t even one consistently able, deft inquisitor, although Jason Kenney, a Conservative, could be if he was less bumptious in his own cleverness. So could Shawn Murphy, if he could somehow forget the call of his Liberal loyalties.
The first question this committee’s conduct raises to a citizen at a distance, and also to veteran reporters, is about the intense partisanship exhibited. One hears, “They’re too political” or, “They’re so partisan.”
Yes! There’s the rub and the nub of it all. Partisanship … intense, rarely put aside, durable as Krazy Glue, and most intense in the governing party’s caucus! But it’s policed almost as strongly in opposition caucuses. Canadian politics is more hidebound by partisanship than the politics of any other western democracy.
To those unaware of partisan pervasiveness on the Hill, it may have seemed daring, even noble, that Martin would expose the recent governance by the Liberal party to close examination by the only House committee with an opposition chairman. His aim of exposing the skulduggery that shocked the auditor general, and then the electorate, should fit with rubbing out the democratic deficit. Unhappily, the committee process itself is in deep deficit.
The MPs whose partisanship seems to bother the most callers to CPAC’s roundup after its telecasts of the committee’s proceedings, are two Liberals — Dennis Mills of Toronto Danforth and Marlene Jennings, MP for Notre Dame de Grace.
Why? Well, their clear and persistent purpose is to slowly obfuscate the proceedings — and they have. Mills has a clever patter, insisting bad figures have been bandied about of money wasted but without evaluating the sponsorships’ role in saving Canada. He’s actually in praise of pork-barrel politics.
The punctilious Jennings eats up the clock with points of order and housekeeping platitudes, responsibly and oh so fairly.
As of last week, the Liberal team on the committee had laid the comforter of nation-saving over the scandal, and largely insulated Liberal ministers from culpability. The buzz in Ottawa is more on the manifestly incompetent committee than on who set up and ran the scam.
Of course, the piety of opposition MPs with pejoratively partisan preambles rolls on and on, and there’s less mention of the democratic deficit.
The Liberals are too expert in using it to ever wipe it out.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, April 04, 2004
ID: 12712128
TAG: 200404040268
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


So often in parliamentary politics it is Wednesday – caucus day on Parliament Hill when the House is in session – that we see core partisanship at its peak. Rarely, is it noble stuff.
What a change last Wednesday as question period began. Wham! A different Paul Martin. Out of nowhere, it seemed, bellicose. The change was triggered by a skeptical prelude to a snarky question from Stephen Harper, the leader of the official opposition. Suddenly, the PM shocked us with his raucous outrage. What about?
Well, that too was a shocker. He was in high dudgeon over the partisan, obstructive leadership of John Williams, the relatively unknown Conservative MP. The Scottish-born member from St. Albert, Alberta, a somewhat milquetoast character, has for several years chaired a House committee now examining the Public Works sponsorship scandal. Handily, the Liberals have more votes in this investigation than the Conservatives, New Democrats, and Bloc put together.
The “proactive” visionary Martin, he of a lofty moral tone and warm, gracious smile, was not there. Nor the idealist who dared to open the doors on governmental wrongdoing during his predecessor’s regime; nor the high-minded zealot committed to wiping out the corrosive “democratic deficit” in the Canadian political system by altering forever the way we “do” politics in Canada.
No, here was a crass politician, impatient, hot to trot. Why the switch?
Without doubt, the unexpectedly hostile and lingering reaction by the public and so many in the media has taken too long to fade away. Opinion polling shows the normal majority margins for the reigning party slow in returning. Scores of Liberal MPs who took their re-elections for granted short months ago now have genuine fears, figuring more waiting for the election call means more revelations of incompetence and extravagance. The rival parties are rising and stiffening from their usual, fractured disarray.
The long-expected romp into a decade of Martinopia is being held up by the slow unfolding of the sponsorship scandal, the squalid vindictiveness of the opposition jackals, and other federal maladministration – e.g., one Senate committee report, one auditor general report, both about the inadequacy of national security provisions, despite recent huge federal spending.
In this switch from noble sunniness to storming, condemning vigour, those of us familiar with the Wednesday syndrome noted the enthused spontaneity of Martin’s followers. From his first jeering searing of the wicked “Alliance Conservatives” the Grit MPs played clapping, hollering jumping Jacks. Here was a confident, almost arrogant, organized team: eager followers, election-ready, and rollicking in their chortles and shouts as the Prime Minister crocodiled tears over the sad fate of poor Joe Clark.
There he was, brokenhearted veteran Tory warrior, off in a corner of the chamber, his sunset days in the House darkened by the conniving of Harper and Peter MacKay.
It is clear that we are unlikely to see much of either the belligerent or the far-seeing Martin again in this Parliament. He is campaigning. Liberal TV commercials are boosting the nice, earnest, positive Martin. And given no further revelations of federal incompetence, Martin will likely call the election mid- to late April for a late May or early June date. What should be reasonable odds?
My present reckoning has it 50-50 there will be a Liberal win with at least 155 seats for a bare “majority” government, and 3 to 2 the Conservatives will be in a strong minority position, but unable to scrounge up a workable control of the House and the government through support by Bloc Quebecois and/or NDP MPs.
Will the combination develop in which former voters for the PCs join with those previously for the Alliance, to give the Conservatives a breakthrough of a score or more seats in Ontario?
Yes, moderately so, but this could be blown away by unexpected strong opinions of Conservative candidates on issues like abortion, same-sex marriage, and tighter immigration policies.
What about timing? Surely by the campaign’s close the anger of Quebecers will have faded over the exposed Liberal chicanery of sponsorship and unity programs in the province. For a workable majority the Liberals need 40 to 50 seats in Quebec, simply because they are going to come out of western Canada with less than a dozen.
How will the New Democrats, led by a seatless Jack Layton, fare? My hunch is a score or so seats. My rough overall forecast at this stage is: Liberals, 155; Conservatives, 95; Bloc, 40; NDP, 20. Of course, a sober gambler has his or her “caveats.” Mine? In the campaign it is likelier Harper and the Conservatives will come on strongly than that the Martinites will. So – a squeaky Conservative majority is unlikely, but not impossible.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 28, 2004
ID: 12897378
TAG: 200403280245
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


It’s not surprising, considering his present situation, that Paul Martin, 65, looks like a very senior citizen – in particular when he’s not wearing his pleasant smile.
Already, the odds are at least middling that some Liberals, particularly those not known to be on the Martin team, are already considering who would make a good successor.
It’s apparent the challenges and the strains of Jean Chretien’s “long goodbye” were quite wearing on Martin, and his first three months as prime minister have been rough. The Globe’s Jeffrey Simpson summed it up this way last week:
“As finance minister, Paul Martin often underpromised and overdelivered; as prime minister, he has often overpromised and underdelivered. The result has contributed to Liberal party decline. It has disillusioned the civil service, which is more negative today about its political masters than at any time in recent decades. It has contributed to the Martin government getting off to a worse start than any since Joe Clark’s in 1979.”
No journalist in my long stint around Ottawa has had a sounder take and more familiarity with our federal mandarins than Simpson. What he says about a disillusioned civil service is significant. It fits with what I’ve been getting from my own contacts in the mandarinate.
The gist from my sources is that the Martinites, cued or exemplified by their fuzzy, pep-talking leader, have simply been unready to proceed with much more than the oldest gambit in Ottawa by a crew which is still more fixed on the prize it has gained than what’s to be done with it. What I gather from inside the Leviathan is a leader and ministry without clear, prioritized intentions.
Thus their grandest endeavor is a stock gambit of tired Ottawa administrations: “review and reorg.”
This task is being stoutly fronted by Reg Alcock, the testy management expert now in charge of the Treasury Board.
The first budget from Finance Minister Ralph Goodale – rather daring in its lack of daring – complements the reviews and the reorganizing, but it is far from being a pacesetter for Martin’s ballyhooed “new way” of governance and an end to the “democratic deficit” in our parliamentary system.
Other political columnists have given their appreciations that Martin, now our top politician, has less substance and persuasiveness than had seemed to be there when so many Canadians, both inside and beyond politics, impatiently waited for his predecessor, whom he had undercut so thoroughly, to leave.
For example, Andrew Coyne in the National Post has scouted that the PM had anything much to say in his heralded “major” speech in Quebec not long ago. Coyne played with Martin phrases already cliched, like “make no mistake … let’s be frank … let’s be clear.” Then he asked the question: “Trust the PM?” And answered it: “How I wish that I could. But for every one of his praiseworthy reforms there is a troubling question.”
The Ottawa Citizen last Thursday headlined a piece by columnist Adam Radwanski: “Time to admit we’ve all been fooled by Paul Martin.” The column illustrated how Martin had been sold as “an ideas guy … bursting with fresh, innovative ideas he was dying to put into action.” Many have taken him to have “a tight, lean, focused agenda that would restore a sense of purpose to government, if only given half a chance.” But Martin hasn’t come through. He was a “good finance minister,” says Radwanski, “but he’s no more a visionary than Jean Chretien.”
It may turn out that in the general election expected this year Martin will sweep to a splendid majority victory, then sail on to a decade of governance dedicated to democratizing parliamentary government and a new Canadian way of doing politics. However, this now seems a relative long shot. And if Martin returns from the hustings with a narrow margin of seats or with a minority government, he won’t be the Liberal party leader for very long.
In short, the likes of Brian Tobin, Allan Rock and John Manley are already likely to be figuring the winds of change and their prospects of high places. So may several of the 24 new Martin ministers who have shown astuteness through testy, scandal-ridden weeks.
For examples of prime prospects, there will be Liberals intrigued by Stephen Owen, 55, fairly fresh from a high-level legal career in B.C., and a rather droll man. As minister of public works, dealing with the sponsorship scandal, he’s been the most adroit of all ministers at fending off the opposition blusterers.
Some Liberal backbenchers are already captivated by the brawny, assured Reg Alcock, also 55, and the most aggressive and pointed of all the cabinet in pushing initiatives and rebutting enemies during these hard weeks for the PM and his crew.
If one follows Alcock’s public statements and conversations, one finds his belligerence has rational roots. Further, he’s not uncomfortable in distinguishing between the Chretien and Martin regimes.
There does not seem to be a bright female prospect as next Liberal leader in either the present ministry or on the Liberal backbenches, nor is there much in the way of a Quebec prospect at hand, given that Martin Cauchon, recently minister of justice, will not run in the next election.
To mention Cauchon, a Chretien loyalist who chose to back John Manley, brings one to the factor that journalists have not been stressing lately, and that is the scale and the shelf life within the Liberal party of bitterness over Martin’s determination to distance himself from his predecessor.
To squelch such a cause of vengeance, the prime minister not only needs to be convincingly master of his government, but more lucid and believable than the leaders of the opposition parties or the gone, but not forgotten, Jean Chretien.
Has he? As yet, surely not.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 21, 2004
ID: 12896313
TAG: 200403210252
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Which is worse in a person with huge public responsibilities: ignorance of them, or lying about them?
It’s a conundrum voters may soon face in considering whether to elect another Liberal government.
The question is significant because of the difficulties in believing it possible that two men of such federal rank as Paul Martin, now prime minister but for years minister of finance, and Alfonso Gagliano, ex-minister of public works, were unknowing of anything ethically wrong in a program that overlapped their ministerial orbits.
The parallel between the two became apparent last Thursday when Gagliano revealed to the House committee inquiring into the sponsorship scandal that he knew nothing about any skulduggery favouring Liberals in Quebec within Public Works, even though he was for five years Jean Chretien’s “political minister” in the province.
To Gagliano’s knowledge there was no political (i.e., partisan) direction of the program. As Chretien’s partisan lieutenant in Quebec it would seem Gagliano had to know about the scamming. If he didn’t, then “rogue” elements in the program’s operations had a hidden hand directing it – probably a bureaucratic hand, not one of a Liberal partisan.
As for Martin, while in Finance he was not only the most powerful minister of all, aside from Jean Chretien, but represented a Montreal riding and was far more popular in Quebec than his PM. By the summer of 2000, as a leadership aspirant, Martin had won dominion over the federal party’s organization there through backing by the executives of most Liberal riding associations. Given such stature, status and personal backing, it has been hard – especially for this veteran political columnist – to swallow Martin’s reiterated assurances he knew nothing of substance about any milking of money from the sponsorship program by favoured firms and consultants.
While there has been no evidence presented to date that either man has been less than truthful, both of their stories are difficult to accept. Gagliano has matched the new PM. He too says he knew nothing of the doings in the sponsorship program in the name of national unity.
Martin was so shocked and disturbed on learning a few months ago from Auditor General Sheila Fraser’s report of the big, complex scam that he has been Herculean in condemning it and responding in many ways. In a speech last Wednesday in Quebec City, he even guaranteed a new age, a new way of governing, legislating and scrutinizing the federal government, especially through Parliament.
He said early on, “Let there be no doubt we shall uncover the wrongdoing and punish the wrongdoers.” Last week, he literally swore there would be no turning back. Goodbye to the old system. Goodbye to the way the Liberal party worked pre-Martin.
To support his determination, he now recites this litany: see the strong Quebec judge appointed to head a formal inquiry; see the House public accounts committee burrowing away the past few weeks; see the counsel hired to track and retrieve lost moneys; see the fired high-level executives of several Crown corporations; see the announced end to partisan patronage for judges of immigration and refugee cases; see the strong proposed “whistleblower” bill.
More evidence of Martin as a new broom sweeping Canada – if one has faith in him – may be seen in reforms and reviews and various “reorgs” already underway in federal Ottawa, including Parliament.
The most notable ministers delegated to make the federal Parliament and government clean and open are Reg Alcock, head of Treasury Board, Stephen Owen, minister of government services, and Jacques Saada, government House leader.
Last week, the PM capped his zealous determination to end past decades of Liberal cronyism, nepotism and rewards to party adherents by swearing the Martin era is underway, and a return to past invidious values and practices will not be possible. It means, it would seem, no more secret but official lists of “Liberal” lawyers with priority for government contracts, an end to advertising work going to so-called Liberal agencies, an end to plumping ex-ministers or MPs, even their spouses, into sweet posts from Senate seats to heading Crown corporations, etc.
How could anyone who’s spent years touting reform of Parliament and an end to partisan patronage not be favourably impressed with Martin’s determination to change so thoroughly and confidently the way our political system works?
For me, the answer lies firstly in a deep skepticism of any considerable success in changing the system, and the values and practices held within it by politicians, federal bureaucrats and even the majority of Canadians.
The PM’s top guru, Elly Alboim – he of Earnscliffe fame who’s been advising Martin almost full-time for six or seven years – has said 70% of Canadians are never interested for any length of time in what’s going on around them, politically speaking. There’s something in that, and it means not enough Canadians will give a hoot for long enough to sustain the Martin course to a markedly changed system and processes.
It’s also hard not to be uneasy about the ignorance about the sponsorship files to which both Martin and Gagliano have admitted.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 29, 2004
ID: 11896058
TAG: 200402290270
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Let us shift from the noisiness of scandal in Ottawa to much different perspectives three worthy books give a reader on our past and present politics.
Firstly, a warming biography, The Life and Times of Tommy Douglas, by the prolific author and social democrat Walter Stewart; then an autobiography, From Prison to Parliament by Frank Howard, which is handily the most vivid, frank account there is by any former MP of both pre-parliamentary years and those spent in hammering governments as an opposition MP (from 1957 to 1974). And thirdly, a superbly clear and readable history, Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World, by a Toronto professor, Margaret MacMillan.
I’d nominate Tommy Douglas as one of the three greatest politicians we have had, and more lovable than the other two, Mackenzie King and Sir John A. Macdonald. Douglas was the jump-starter of national medicare, surely more our most treasured common denominator than hockey.
My favour for Douglas was shaped by close association in the House of Commons in the mid-1960s. He was inspiring as a leader but he neither wanted nor needed a court of worship and approbation. He was very clever but also fair and just without pious moralizing. He always wanted clarity in policy and fair play without gossip in personnel issues. Always he was a courteous and often very witty gentleman. Walter Stewart has limned him very well.
Frank Howard’s often shocking, intensely personal tale splits into a harrowing recall of a grossly trying, mean childhood and youth, capped – or rather, bottomed – by a term in the B.C. penitentiary for armed robbery.
From the pen, Howard’s life segued along for several years before suddenly and luckily becoming a deeply-engaged career as a militant politician, first in the B.C. legislature, then for 17 years as a CCF MP in the House of Commons.
His stint in the pen when only 18 and 19 was salutary. Frank came out “willing” that he never steal again. He had several years bouncing through construction, forestry, and mining jobs in which he became a union zealot, and this brought him by his mid-20s into partisan politics, first in Victoria, then in Ottawa as a member of the CCF (later NDP).
As an orphan baby being raised for a decade in a household in the mining town of Kimberley, Frank learned early from “the mom and dad” that he’d been left with them by his blood mother (a prostitute) and his father (a pimp), who’d worked in a bordello at the rim of the town. Where were they? Who were they? It took him decades to find out very little.
For years he took it he was genetically a criminal. He recounts the excitement and rewards of stealing even though he was often caught. An arrest at age 10 saw him transferred to the custody of Children’s Aid. Then came foster homes, running away, school truancies, and more stealing, all of which climaxed with a two-year sentence when he was 18.
In Frank’s early time in the House of Commons (1957-58), I shared an office with him. We were neither buddy-buddy nor antagonistic. I quickly realized he was smarter than I was despite much less formal education.
Later, as a journalist, I watched Frank become the opposition MP who most bothered the ministers and plain MPs of the Diefenbaker, Pearson and Trudeau governments. (And in this book, he is also shrewdly scornful of the often stupid directions of the CCF-NDP by Torontonians like David Lewis and Andrew Brewin.) He could be harshly direct in forcing forward his causes, for example, in getting natives the vote; in popularizing the abolition of the Indian Act; in exposing the horrors of St. Vincent de Paul penitentiary so graphically the government closed it down.
After such an abominable prelude, Frank Howard did find a positive and loving family life. What had been so grim, so disturbing, became most worthwhile.
Finally, to reduce Paris 1919 to the understanding which its 600-odd pages can provide, a reader grasps how and why the Great War came about; why its subsequent peace settlement was so complex and hypocritical, and so much the cause of World War II; and how the consequences from both global wars rumble along, e.g., in the venomous Balkans, the seething Middle East, the scary Islamic revival, and the inhumanities through most of Africa.
Canadian roles, largely secondary, are sketched but not prominent in the book. MacMillan is nicely detached, radiating sometimes droll and often skeptical understanding of both British and American statesmen rather than admiring their peacemaking, notably in tracing the rise and collapse of President Woodrow Wilson’s altruistic confidence in the new League of Nations.
A fan of this book, a maker of documentaries, wrote me that MacMillan “should be a national hero – although I know Canadians are not supposed to have any – for educating Canadians and Americans about ‘historical context.'”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 25, 2004
ID: 11894682
TAG: 200402250520
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


A fortnight into the grand scandal over shady deals in federal sponsorships in Quebec, Paul Martin is still heading for a general election in early May.
Why does the quick run into an election seem sure? From what I gather from contacts in middle-to-high reaches of the federal bureaucracy, the PM and his ministers are not ready for any more legislation than Jean Chretien left incomplete, including the imperative one of giving the West and Ontario more seats for a May election.
Put another way, despite 10 years in pursuit of the leadership and at least five years of high organization to oust Jean Chretien, Martin and his close company – few of whom have been elected politicians – came into power determined on a quick drive to an election.
They hadn’t and haven’t a legislative schedule ready of big-ticket items for this parliament, which is only some three years and a few months old.
One federal bureaucrat told me he was staggered at the confusion across the ministry. One dismaying factor to deputy ministers and their assistants has been Martin’s amiable largeness of mind throughout his travels from Bonavista to the Queen Charlottes.
He has beamed interest and enthusiasm on almost every considerable interest group in the country, literally from reeves of hamlets to Indian chiefs to big bankers to premiers, without anything made clear on order of urgencies and priorities (except for those titanics, health and education, which could mean many more billions or more repetitious first ministers’ conferences).
I gather that two of the three main central agencies – the PMO and the Privy Council Office – are scrambling, and without the control and tight focus Jean Chretien exercised.
The Treasury Board, the third power and command centre, has been taken over by new minister Reg Alcock. He reeks confidence and assurance, and may well be what his colleagues define as a very modern, variegated authority on communications and managerial organization. He is already deep into scouring out the scandal details while also performing in the House as the Liberals’ most positive belligerent, counter-attacking the opposition blasphemers.
Despite the many bystanders on the Hill like myself who wonder about the wisdom in Martin’s apparent plan to call the election in April, the PM continues to make some very bold moves – getting more attention than the Conservative contestants, Stephen Harper, Belinda Stronach and Tony Clement.
Frankly, I never thought a truly “capital-L” Liberal prime minister would ever embarrass and shame such major, influential party bigshots as Michel Vennat and Andre Ouellet, whom Martin temporarily suspended yesterday.
These “wonder” lads go back to the Pearson government in the mid-’60s. Vennat, a Rhodes scholar no less, came to Ottawa as a young intellectual whiz. He advised prime ministers and finance ministers on taxation, the constitution, even energy policy. During a score of years as a partner in the mighty law firm Stikeman Elliott, Vennat kept doing high-level work for the party right through most of the Trudeau and Chretien regimes, including his last, curious stint at the Business Development bank.
As for Andre Ouellet, he came to Ottawa in late 1964 as a junior aide to the late Guy Favreau, Pearson’s House leader and Quebec lieutenant. He charmed me at that time; indeed, he won favour all round through his combination of friendliness and diligence. In 1967 he got into the House through a by-election and subsequently won re-election eight times. He held six different portfolios, closing out as Chretien’s foreign minister before taking over Canada Post in 1996.
Particularly in Liberal party parliamentary and organizational work, Ouellet has had a career comparable in length and involvements with Paul Martin’s father, Paul Sr. For the prime minister to suspend and consider firing Ouellet may well be as shocking to Quebecers as firing someone like Mitchell Sharp would seem to those of us in Ontario.
Yesterday’s news that Alfonso Gagliano – the former Chretien minister of Public Works, recently fired by Martin as ambassador to Denmark – has been asked to appear before the public accounts committee tomorrow is another indication of a speeding to the hustings in May.
So much in taking such a pell-mell course has to rest on the confidence the Martin gang have in their man’s image as a pleasant, forthright, honest guy – one to make voters ignore the shames in three straight Liberal mandates.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 22, 2004
ID: 11893976
TAG: 200402220261
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Maybe it’s Liberal good luck that we have learned in Paul Martin’s first 60 days in office that he is not much of a Superman in politics.
Rather, he is one with a friendly mien – a nice guy – but short-changed in skills vital to a prime minister such as cleverness, and cogency in argument underpinned by widespread knowledge.
If one harks back – as many academic revisionists have – to the five years of governance under Lester Pearson, all without a clear House majority, one learns of a handful of major advances made – from the symbolic Canadian flag to the Canada Pension Plan to truly official bilingualism and to almost but not quite total national medicare.
In the ’63 campaign which squeaked him into office, Pearson, talking up intentions hallooed by Walter Gordon, his first minister of finance, and Tom Kent, his closest adviser, promised “Days of Decision” in which the Liberals would set Canada surging after years of John Diefenbaker’s indecision and confusion.
At its unfolding, the Pearson ministry was hailed by some pundits as the most brilliant and talented since Canada began.
The 60-day surge was to be given purposes and a structure of spending and priorities with Gordon’s first budget. Instead of wrapping up the “Days of Decision” in glory, this rushed budget became as instant a disaster for the Liberals then as has Sheila Fraser’s recent audit of the sponsorship program in Quebec.
In 1963, Gordon’s budget sent the business community into a fury. The uproar on the Hill and across the country was as noisy and bitter as that which Martin has been enduring the past fortnight. The budget was much altered, and the “Days of Decision’ slogan became a mockery. Gordon did not resign, but his mystique as an administrative and economic genius was smashed.
Fortunately for Pearson, he had some ministers who were exceptionally able as parliamentarians. They and some sage mandarins got going a handful of issues. This helped toward survival and legislative achievements because the two minor parties’ caucuses did not want to defeat the Grits in the House and immediately face an election.
Today, the official Opposition also does not want an early election because of its leadership race. As for Martin and those of his followers shaken by their startling slide in the polls, they are sweating over the election they had planned for early May.
The matter could be put as brutally as: “Should we dare what might become an electoral disaster, or get going in Parliament with some major undertakings and demonstrate good, honest governance and the stamina for a full mandate?
“That is, go to the people now – or soon – for what well could be a minority Parliament or use the 20 months left in this mandate to demonstrate that we Liberals led by Paul Martin are honest, competent legislators and prepared to carry on positively as the two inquiries launched by our leader get at and expose the truths of the scandal in the sponsorship operation in Quebec?”
What a devilish choice to make! So many uncertainties on going to the people – now or later. If the choice is later, one immediately wonders:
a) How to harness the leader so his strengths stand forth – nice man, likeable and a fair talker at the common folk level – while making his shortcomings less noticeable – his small, tedious vocabulary and his bent toward banal boosterism which reflects a lack of in-depth knowledge about the particulars for his grand intentions?
b) What shifts to eminence or to obscurity should there be for the ablest and the weakest in crucial cabinet posts? Do you let an arrogant screech-owl like Anne McLellan fade into disuse as top security czar and deputy PM? Dare one drop or de-emphasize Pierre Pettigrew, the voluble flibbertigibbet now commanding the vital health portfolio? Why not turn to giving much more exposure to fresh ministers like Reg Alcock, Stephen Owen, David Pratt, Stan Keyes, Joe Volpe and Irwin Cotler, or to that proven great dodger, Ralph Goodale? In short, the present ministry has a nucleus of energy and savvy. Better force forward such talent than count on fascinating the electorate this April with “star” candidates like Frank McKenna, once a premier, or Jean Lapierre, once a prime initiator of the Bloc Quebecois.
c) What can be done, either to let go or reduce the roles of the big and still cocky crew which helped to engineer the Martin takeover – such as Scott Reid, David Herlie, and the several consultants who’ve continued in Martin’s service since he won the leadership? Better, he might discharge the lot, depending wholly on his elected MPs.
In short, despite the success Martin has had in his 10-year pursuit of the PMO, he, his personal team, and his huge swatch of supporters among Liberal MPs have not looked really ready to govern and legislate.
In the Pearsonian precedent both the first two years, and the three after the election in 1965 failed to give the Liberals a majority, were rocky and perilous, but with results most hindsight commends. The Pearson years as a testy, dicey interlude without parliamentary stability closed with a gripping leadership race in 1968. There were many dynamic aspirants, and a fascinating winner in Pierre Trudeau who knit a united cabinet and caucus, mixing losers and his backers, that became the core of some 16 years in power.
Could … should … might … the Pearson achievement be an exemplar to Paul Martin? One he might try to imitate?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 18, 2004
ID: 11892709
TAG: 200402180527
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


There was a quirky aspect for me, as a proponent for House reform, in the two MPs whose acts yesterday dominated the crisis plaguing the Liberal government.
I refer to Winnipegger Reg Alcock, recently named president of Treasury Board, and John Bryden, a backbench Liberal who has held a riding adjoining Hamilton since 1993.
Alcock, a dour though far from shy giant, weighed into a House debate on the current crisis, matching his poundage with a reasoned assault on the scurrilous slanging by opposition MPs, in and out of the House, of the character, actions, and words of his leader and of the Liberal party.
He did this several hours before a staggeringly contrary surprise on the Hill from a press conference.
That was Bryden, announcing and explaining why he was crossing the floor to sit as an independent, one who might later become a candidate for the Conservative party.
Bryden denied – and I believe him – that he was leaving the Grit caucus because he was facing failure at re-nomination in his riding of Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Aldershot. He was challenged there by a Martin enthusiast and he’d known for months the Paul Martin “organization” didn’t want him in the next caucus. But he was sure he could win the nomination.
What he couldn’t stomach any longer was the high cynicism, the dearth of idealism, and the over-emphasis on the leader, and with him his crew of non-elected advisors and consultants, which had seized so many in the caucus since the 2000 election.
One reflection of the lack of public interest and media coverage of the House as a legislature and expenditures examiner, is that so few Canadians know Bryden and Alcock, who have both shown themselves to be outstanding MPs since first being elected in 1993. A few months ago, I rated both among the five best Liberal backbenchers.
To a large degree, Bryden engineered tax reform of charities, fresh insights into judicial impingement on parliamentary rights, access to information and the full emergence of the George Radwanski scandal. In manner he is often prickly or cranky, but no other MP (including party leaders and ministers) has been readier or more persuasive in argument.
As for Alcock, he fixed more on committee work than on the House. His leverage came from expertise on electronic communication systems and their revolutionary consequences for public administration, cost controls and even for elucidating rather than burying politics in complexity.
Alcock found in Martin a politician on the rise who was delighted by technological savvy and a vision of modernizing Canadian politics and the relations of the executive with the electors and their representatives in Parliament.
Now as Treasury Board chief and given huge, sprawling responsibilities, Alcock is impatient to get on with them. As I read him, with his familiarity with the mandarinate gained as a nosy MP, he accepts that his chief knows little about the particulars of the scandalous graft of the sponsorship program ostensibly designed to save Quebec for Canada.
Further, Alcock realizes the goals of a new democracy centred on Parliament are in jeopardy if the present crisis enrages more and more furor. And so he lectured the opposition rather thoroughly yesterday – though likely without much effect – for damning the Liberal party as corrupt and corrupting and its leader as either a liar or a simpleton.
It’s conceivable that forcefulness like Alcock’s, combined with repetition by Martin of his commitment to pursue the truth and the offenders, will slow and eventually reverse the ongoing toboggan slide of Liberal electoral stock.
But then along comes John Bryden, at 60, a most reasoning man, not given to rabble-rousing, forsaking his party and probably a future seat, after an unusually successful run in the House for a backbencher, to put the finger on Martin for generating the cynicism which now dominates the Liberal caucus. Bryden thinks that cynicism should earn a turfing of the Liberals and an end to their leadership by Martin.
Not long ago, I had a phone conversation with the prime minister on what might be done to the “democratic deficit” and to de-centralize the House and its operators of much of the immense authority now centered on the prime minister.
My main advice was to put one imperative above others: spend more time and argument on gaining respect and support for any experimental reforms from the Opposition leaders and their MPs, than on satisfying his own MPs.
Then I touted strongly two of his MPs who had shown themselves as self-starters and splendid prospects for spreading readiness around the House to attempt reforms founded on common sense and less petty partisanship.
Yes, Bryden was one of those MPs. Alcock was the other. My line was that either or both would be more effective sponsors within the House than anyone else he had behind him.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 15, 2004
ID: 11892017
TAG: 200402150265
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


There is a substantial difference between the rage over chicanery in the Chretien/Martin government and a similar public furor about misdeeds by Brian Mulroney’s bunch in 1985.
Remember the sprouting of scandals back then – over tainted tuna, over a defence minister’s late-night antics in Germany and a minister of industry and his wife who mixed personal and public enerprise? At their climax there were several weeks of parliamentary uproar as unbridled as anything we had in the House last week.
But in 1985, the Tory government was only heading into its second year, whereas this Liberal government, as Paul Martin has said, has been openly aiming for an election as early as May, well over a year before the end of the mandate it received in 2000.
Further, most of the mistakes by Tory ministers were punished or expiated by their resignations, whereas this scandal has yet to pinpoint any present minister as being directly involved in the shady deals which seem to have directed millions of tax dollars to persons who either had ties to, or were active in the federal Liberal party, or high within the Chretien/Martin administration.
At its height in 1985, the rage on the Hill and across the country made many of us predict that when Mulroney did go to the people he would be swept out of office. We were wrong. He kept a substantial majority for a second mandate.
Last Wednsday and Thursday, in the House and outside it, Prime Minister Martin went a considerable distance in defining those whom he sees as responsible for these gross malfeasances (which he has described as “intolerable” and “rotten”).
First, there were what he called “the mechanics” – the dozen or so Public Works Dept. bureaucrats administering the sponsorship program in Quebec. Heaven forbid he was saying these were guilty persons; they were almost surely breaking rules and procedures, but this would have been done under the direction of persons with authority, including some in the office of the minister of public works. Later, he expanded the likely “directors” of the funds were managerial people in some Crown corporations – Canada Post, VIA Rail, the RCMP and the Business Development Bank.
For several years, since Alfonso Gagliano, former minister of public works, left to serve Jean Chretien as ambassador to Denmark, Hill gossip has tagged him as being involved in the sponsorship mess.
But Martin went further than merely setting us thinking about Gagliano. He also had us wondering about the role, if any, of such close intimates of Chretien as former cabinet minister Andre Ouellet, now head of Canada Post, and Jean Pelletier, now head of VIA Rail and Chretien’s former chief of staff.
He explained he didn’t know much about the sponsorship schmozzle even though he was chief financial officer of the government and a prominent minister from Quebec, because he was not really in “the federal Liberal loop in Quebec.”
Why wasn’t he? Well, he and Chretien had long held differing views on how to deal with the separatist menace, particularly after the scary ’95 referendum result. That explained why Martin was not duplicitous in insisting he knew almost nothing about the scandalous ripoff before he saw the auditor general’s report three months ago – this despite acknowledging questions about the integrity of the program were raised in the weekly Liberal caucus as far back as 1999.
Martin was simply and honestly NOT one of the Quebec ministers or MPs who were privy to the scheme and involved in its operation or its fruits. He made it clear he did not see eye-to-eye with important functionaries in the PMO under Jean Chretien.
So Martin has given obvious prompting on who should be examined by the several inquiries into the scandal, beyond the presently lonely and jobless Alfonso Gagliano. And several questioning reporters noted what they seemed to think a paradox.
Martin had gone out of his way to express his absolute confidence in the integrity of his predecessor, and yet his very pointing toward Chretien and his PMO raised questions.
Here we come to the federal situation so salient to the whole matter. One has to wonder why in the name of justice and fairness Martin, so proud of the instant measures he has taken to get to the bottom of this loathsome debauch at public expense, is still determined to plunge into a federal election.
To make any fair judgment of Liberal integrity and competence, voters need to know almost everything there is to know about this monster ripoff of the federal treasury. This will take some months, even if the judge commissioner is a wizard, but there’s time left in the Grits’ mandate.
And what Liberal candidates will want to campaign facing a challenge much like Kim Campbell, as a new Tory PM, faced in 1993? She couldn’t push up the electoral hill the huge rock of public dislike and distrust of her predecessor.
This scandal may not turn out well, even for the prime minister who shucked responsibility for it so neatly onto his predecessor.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 11, 2004
ID: 11890766
TAG: 200402110551
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Have we a real scandal within the Chretien/Martin Liberal government?
Insofar as Paul Martin and his supportive caucus is concerned, the answer is no. What happened over several years to a big share of money spent on a federal sponsorship program in Quebec was “intolerable” and “unacceptable” and “most regrettable”, they say.
Normal rules and procedures were broken or not followed, and this government, dedicated to transparency and integrity, is going to get to the roots of the matter and see it never happens again!
Even though Martin was the chief financial officer for the Liberal government during most of this program, he says he had no inkling of anything untoward while it was going on, although the auditor general’s report on it (revealed publicly yesterday) was shown to the government last November.
Further, his former ministerial colleague responsible for the program, Alfonso Gagliano, had been dispatched to represent Canada in Denmark by Jean Chretien under a cloud of criticism almost two years ago.
Apparently, Martin wasn’t even told of the problems in 2002 after an internal audit in the Department of Public Works first uncovered evidence of wrongly assigned funds and ignored rules.
Yesterday, many opposition MPs simply couldn’t accept that the PM, when minister of finance, had not known of any misuse of the sponsorship program designed to strengthen federalism in Quebec after their slender victory over the separatists in 1995’s referendum. Opposition MPs were roused to raging in question period when Martin and his Treasury Board minister, Reg Alcock, blandly asked them to “co-operate” in “getting to the bottom” of this “intolerable situation.”
I must say, I’m with the opposition skeptics. It’s hard to believe Martin knew nothing about the clever switching of tens of millions in federal money to members and friends of the Liberal party in Quebec.
Remember, for several years, our new PM worked up almost total support for his leadership bid in the party’s Quebec wing.
I am doubly skeptical because early in 1998, some months after Gagliano was made minister of Public Works and responsible “politically” for the party’s state in Quebec, I was chatting off the record with a knowing, veteran Liberal MP from Ontario.
Aside from sourness he was not in the ministry, he was morbid over the low priority his pet issues had on the government’s “to do” list.
I commiserated, but said at least he should be happy the Chretien government had not been battered by allegations of toll-gating and contract-jobbing which had irregularly stained both past Liberal and Tory governments since the swatch of scandals which afflicted the Lester Pearson government in the mid-1960s.
The MP was explosively blunt: “Wait for it. Wait for it. That’s coming!”
Where? How?
After a long pause, he said, “Just keep this under your hat but remember it.” He advised me to keep an ear out for the way the new minister of public works was carrying out his role as political minister in Quebec under – as he emphasized – the direction of the Prime Minister’s Office.
It wasn’t until the 2000 election campaign was almost over that I heard some talk about the reported system and money flow, first in a few accusations from rival parties about federal spending on projects touted as campaign benefits from the Liberal party.
I don’t envy the judge who is going to run the royal commission inquiry in the next year or two. If you would bet on the inquiry’s consequences, wager that none of those who are, or have been, top Liberal politicians will go to jail. Oh, there might be some judicial taps on the wrist, but the inquiry isn’t going to lead to the prime minister’s resignation or criminal charges against his predecessor.
Remember that several years ago, as evidence of odd and seemingly bootless spending by a clutch of advertising agencies across Quebec in cities, towns, and villages, Chretien openly countenanced what might be seen as an excessive rush and a breaking of normal rules. There was such an immediacy and urgency to the fundamental issue of rescuing federalism in Canada from the Bloc Quebecois and the likes of Lucien Bouchard, Jacques Parizeau and Bernard Landry.
It is rare for a federal scandal, or even a clutch of them, to climax with the nation as a whole demanding “heads” and the resignation of a prime minister or someone as august as a minister of finance.
One reason for this lack of public anger is that so many of the scandals regarding federal money and services have developed in Quebec.
It is most incorrect politically, even for MPs in opposition parties, to wax extravagantly on graft, nepotism, conflicts of interest, and alleged toll-gating farmed out to friends and even apparatchiks of the ruling party in Quebec.
Better mark this scandal down as a flawed stroke of genius by Chretien. At least he has stood behind Gagliano (whom Martin deposed yesterday) in this costly endeavour to save Canada.
As for Quebec as the country’s key political locale, Martin has taken a big step to assure its adherence to Confederation by picking a new Quebec lieutenant in Jean Lapierre, a convert back to federalism from the separatist Bloc Quebecois.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 08, 2004
ID: 11890105
TAG: 200402080275
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Surely, we have never had a new prime minister who has such a profusion of intentions but a minimum of specifics.
Anyone who sat through Paul Martin’s first House speech as prime minister, or watched him charm most of the citizen questioners on a CBC town hall, has to wonder why he has so many priorities – and, more disturbing, why so many of them are as yet unappraised.
Here we have a man who has worked hard and spent a fortune on staff to back him in becoming what he is. Now, with palpable optimism, he is still sketching good intentions.
He has assumed leadership of four vital cabinet committees, his government is going to go further into provincial and municipal fields than any other since World War II, and to cover so much in interests he has assigned lead roles to parliamentary secretaries and even to a clutch of his backbench MPs.
Despite the decade of preparation, despite the guidance from the gurus of Earnscliffe consultants, the last few weeks have shown us a leader and administration largely unprepared to execute on many intentions.
Oh, Martin waxes positive here, there, and everywhere. Believe me, we may well have with us a more naive prime minister than we had in Kim Campbell or John Diefenbaker. Paul the Unready!
Let me note a few stark examples of the government’s unreadiness for action on matters Martin had said were important.
Take the military. Martin has been so vague that one’s suspicions grow that his outlook on the military is similar to that championed by Lloyd Axworthy – i.e., a soft military, designed for social and police work abroad for the UN, not for combat.
Repeating a promise repeated by the Chretien government each year for a decade, the Martin government is going to go ahead sometime soon with an order of helicopters needed by both our land and sea forces. Meantime, we await more reviews and a determination of a Canadian foreign/defence policy that stretches over obligations to the UN and our relationship and dependences on the United States.
Next, we have the much-heralded reforms to the role of Parliament and erasing our “democratic deficit” – the core of Martin’s “new way” of doing politics. Yes, this led to a speech and the presentation of a paper last Wednesday by the minister responsible for Parliament, Jacques Saada, about the government’s plans, followed by responses from spokesmen for the opposition parties.
But what a lamentable “debate” this was! Some good intentions were well and modestly put by the polite Saada. After him, the sad denouement, revealed by the scorn, distrust, and negativism from the opposition attackers. Obviously, Martin and Saada had not consulted and jointly developed the program and its stages for reform without the full backing of an indispensable part of any reform, the opposition MPs.
If the reforms are to begin within the House of Commons, the willingness of the prime minister, his officers in the PMO, and the senior mandarins to give up much of the power and authority they have had over the governing party’s caucus has to be matched by the co-operation of opposition leaders and MPs. Otherwise the reforms are too risky and unworkable.
Clearly, the preparation for opening of a positive debate had not taken place, or it had been a total failure. The trust was not there. And the discussion hared off into demands for reform or abolition of the Senate, changes in the electoral system – in short, putting constitutional reforms ahead of plain, co-operative steps that would enlarge the role of MPs and curb the excess of farcical partisanship in the House .
Other examples of an unready prime minister were:
a) His long dangling of an undertaking to cut big cities in on continuing revenues from gas taxes – which last week became a rather dubious “maybe” pending negotiations with the provinces and municipalities;
b) The announcement of a Canada Corps to send volunteer Canadian youths abroad to help the needy and hungry in the Third World, followed by the word that there were no specific plans ready, and not even any awareness that twice before (the Company of Young Canadians, Katimavik) such altruistic sponsorships were not successes;
c) For the umpeenth time in my memory, a prime minister says he is going to wrestle away the national shame, i.e., the condition of aboriginals in Canada. Martin is setting up “a new partnership” to escalate the quality of life and opportunities of native people, notably in ending jurisdictional wrangling and passing the buck of responsibility for off-reserve natives. All this with no explanation of whether this means more money than the billions spent on this cause for decades (now above $8 billion a year).
The conviction grows in this quarter that Martin has too many interests and not enough savvy, in himself or as yet in a well-managed cadre of aides, ministers, secretaries, and favoured backbenchers, to take us very far. We may be wishing before long for a short-focused yet dominating PM – say, like Jean Chretien.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 04, 2004
ID: 11888957
TAG: 200402040578
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


For those cynical about the democratic condition of federal politics, there was at least a beam of hope in Paul Martin’s first two parliamentary days as prime minister.
The ray of hope was not to be glimpsed in the drearily long, platitudinous, self-satisfied address given to the Governor General to read.
And it was not in the prime minister’s first speech yesterday, which followed the opening critique of the throne speech in the House by Grant Hill, acting leader for the Conservative party official Opposition. Dr. Hill’s was a moderate run through the low points of Liberal years, not all destructive.
Martin’s response was familiar in style and content because so much of it was heralded weeks ago. The PM, looking fresh and at ease, was modestly positive in tone, although he did wax proudly and confidently enough to bring his MPs to their feet half a dozen times. He was almost convincing that he unveiled his intentions on a clean slate and their purposes neither followed nor fulfilled initiatives of Jean Chretien’s mandates.
But the beam of hope came after Martin’s speech in his spoken responses – on his feet several times to questions raised in the throne speech debate by Bill Blaikie, House leader of the NDP. And the beam flashed again an hour or so later in the way the PM and his own House leader, Jacques Saada, responded to sharp, persistent questions from Conservative MPs about past federal funds that had flowed in the 1990s to Canada Steamship Lines (CSL) when Martin was the corporation’s owner.
These episodes are indicative of both the promise and the difficulties there will be in achieving anything meaningful from Martin’s now-famous determination to end the “democratic deficit” in this country by restoring Parliament itself as the central place of national discussion, legislative consideration, and scrutiny of spending.
Martin stayed in the House after he spoke in response to the leader of the official Opposition, and he listened to the speeches of the Bloc leader, and took up and gave rather clear answers to some points put to him by the NDP House leader. This was heartening to any reformer of Parliament.
And while what followed in question period involving CSL was encouraging in that it happened, it was also a remarkable example of what is the main enemy of reforming House affairs in a continuing, effective way – that is, the tradition and practice of extremely biased partisanship that triggers anger, rage and a regression to a most unconstructive viciousness in allegations and denials.
For the era of democratic common sense to develop, open leadership day after week after month by Martin is imperative. Not since Lester Pearson have we had a PM who remained in the House, except during question period or during a speech.
Such presence and participation as Martin displayed yesterday needs to be complemented by more attendance and participation in the Commons by opposition leaders. For example, Preston Manning, a good performer in the House, always preferred getting away and going out on the road. Stephen Harper hasn’t been much better. If the PM spends real time in the House, so will a lot of his backbenchers and more ministers than those few designated as sitters for the day.
Neither in response to Blaikie nor to the sharp darts of the Opposition in question period did Martin stonewall his answers. He didn’t choose to ridicule or slough off the opposition’s points, as was Chretien’s custom.
And yet, as Conservative Monte Solberg grew cantankerous in his recitation of the new PM’s asserted ignorance of the loans and grants to his firms, the Liberal backbenches began muttering, then growling, then exploding in a roar after House leader Saada accused the Opposition of vindictiveness and not wanting the matter dealt with by asking the auditor general to examine CSL files for the House. And the Opposition’s noise quotient also rose and sounded ominous after a Bloc MP charged in with a so-called question alleging a number of sleazy antics by Martin as minister and ship owner.
Back in the mid-1970s, I sent a personal letter to the prime minister, advocating a number of moves Pierre Trudeau could make to reform Parliament to make it a more effective legislator and examiner of spending. He replied at length, and positively to most suggestions, but said something like this could only be brought about by a new prime minister bringing in his proposals to a newly elected House of Commons. At that time, the House was over a year old and already rife with partisan antagonisms that suborned trust and protracted co-operation by parties in parliamentary affairs.
Well, Paul Martin is new as prime minister. But for another few months this Parliament will be one deeply stained by partisan dyes. Martin has a spring election victory in mind, from which he would have the new House and the fresh slate Trudeau thought essential for any real House reform.
One could see, however, in the rage and counter-rage over the CSL scenario how the existing “democratic deficit” may become untreatable for several years, given the combustible mix of this House – a mix it is likely to hand on to the next one.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 01, 2004
ID: 12360856
TAG: 200402010271
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Even a jaundiced cynic finds it hard not to be hopeful amid the hype and excitement which bubbles on the Hill when a new prime minister puts his aims to Parliament in a throne speech and gets rousing applause from his caucus.
At least for a few hours – sometimes for days, even weeks – such optimism resonates.
This time, however – after tomorrow’s throne speech – that seems unlikely, maybe because Paul Martin’s ascension took so long coming. It really won’t be finalized until he gets his own mandate through a majority electoral victory. And that’s at least four more months ahead.
And as Parliament meets, after just eight weeks of succession to the Chretien regime, Martin has been lacklustre, rather like Belinda Stronach, with his reliance on phrases like “Let me say this” … “I am very, very committed” and “Let me be very clear.” It’s grand stuff for obscuring, fudging, or reneging, but discouraging for the many who wanted Jean Chretien out and replaced by his deficit-killing finance minister.
Many in Martin’s huge cast of ministers, secretaries, etc. who’ve been given particular chores seem as scrambled and unsure as he’s been.
Reg Alcock at Treasury Board opened with a lion-like roar about savings and public service reform, then dwindled away to assurances all round that the frightened deputy ministers and officials of the public service unions needn’t fret.
David Pratt came bouncing into National Defence, heralded as the most informed supporter of the military since Brooke Claxton in the 1950s. Subsequently, he has downplayed or pointed far ahead on almost every aspect of military affairs.
No new minister came to office with such a general appreciation of his excellence in intellect and character as Irwin Cotler in the Justice Department.
Then, last Wednesday, he boomeranged himself with his own bafflegab explaining how and why he had prepared a supplement to the requests made by the Chretien government regarding the constitutionality of same-sex marriage.
What a shock to hear the justice minister, who leads the way in finding appointees to the Supreme Court of Canada (SCOC), explaining to millions of heterosexual Canadian couples why that court should decide whether or not their marriages are unconstitutional.
Cotler has shown himself as generous of heart but uncommonly naive for a justice minister with a recent assurance he will urge the government to appoint a judge of aboriginal origin to the SCOC.
Does he know about the bewildering diversity in history and attitudes, even in languages, of Indians and Inuit, scattered from sea to sea and from the 49th parallel into the Arctic islands in a score of tribes and more than 600 “bands,” all in differing categories developed by bureaucrats – such as treaty and non-treaty Indians, registered and unregistered Indians, Metis and Inuit?
Is he familiar with the traditions in some aboriginal communities and families which result in unfairness to women and girls?
What’s worrisome about Cotler on aboriginals is that he may be encouraged by a prime minister who insists improving aboriginal conditions and self-government are two of his leading priorities.
Of course, the less-than-profound words and antics of Martin and these ministers are somewhat balanced by the presence in cabinet of Ralph Goodale as finance minister. Remember what he told a Toronto audience two months ago about his measure of the government, gained from cleaning up the situation in Public Works left behind by Alfonso Gagliano?
Goodale said: “I don’t think we have placed a sharp enough spotlight and a high enough premium on ethical conduct.” He spoke of “unacceptably low standards of behaviour.” He said he had faith the new administration led by Paul Martin would govern its behaviour much better.
So Goodale symbolizes some hope. The ministry has one person in a key position who recognizes unethical governance when he sees it. He also believes in stopping it.
Two revelations in the past week indicate how much still is happening within government that needs clearing up, which is now Martin’s responsibility.
First, I refer to the gross particulars which emerged in Winnipeg of financial chicanery with millions of federal dollars at the Virginia Fontaine Addiction Centre, which served the biggest Indian band in Manitoba at a reserve adjacent to Pine Falls.
Second, there was the news of a bad answer given last year to an Alliance MP on what federal funds had gone to Canada Steamship Lines or its subsidiaries. It was not a mere $136,000, but some $161 million.
The PM, the recent owner of CSL, was shocked by this latter discrepancy, so one hopes such a huge error, not caught for so long, will be openly explained. Otherwise, Paul Martin’s attack on the “democratic deficit” becomes a joke.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 28, 2004
ID: 12359749
TAG: 200401280538
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


In my opinion, the more meaningful media story of the past week – in terms of consequences to come in national politics – is not the RCMP raid on the home of an Ottawa Citizen reporter over a story she wrote about Maher Arar, but the resignation of Toronto Star publisher John Honderich.
The Citizen reporter, Juliet O’Neill, wrote a story last fall indicating Canadian and U.S. authorities had material that contradicted Arar’s claims he had no link to al-Qaida terrorists.
An unstated but obvious corollary to the story was that it somewhat justified the rough treatment Arar had had in Syria. As a reader I kept waiting for a ministerial explanation, perhaps an absolute denial.
Reporters of several papers pressed American and Canadian officials for the whole story. Since then, Arar himself has spoken out about his experience, and his demands for an inquiry into why he, as a Canadian citizen, was sent by the Americans into the hands of the Syrians have made sense to a lot of us.
Since the raid on O’Neill’s home, editors, reporters, and opinion leaders from sea to sea have wrathfully criticized it as a threat to the practices and responsibilities of a free press.
How to clear away this case, giving fairness to Arar, a rebuke to those in charge of security, and real assurance to the press?
Why not toss the case into the reform Paul Martin is to unveil next week?
You know – his grand aim to end our “democratic deficit.” Give MPs, long shortchanged of responsibility, this key case to examine.
Do I rate the press outrage at the raid as over-reaction? Not quite. But it should have fixed less on the RCMP as a threat to a democratic press and more on the collection of ministers – e.g., Wayne Easter, Bill Graham, John Manley, and Anne McLellan – who’ve flannelled us on this case over the past six months.
Now, why is the resignation of John Honderich as publisher of the Star more significant, in the long run, than the fuss over a raid of a reporter’s home by the cops? Because it could mark the beginning of the end of left-wing liberal advocacy in the Star.
Honderich, rather cryptically, has said his resignation from editorial control of the Star after 10 years on the job (and 28 years in all with the Star) came from a “corporate desire for change,” personalized in Robert Prichard, president and CEO of TorStar Corp.
Prichard first gained renown among our elites as the best fund-raising head the University of Toronto ever had. In short, he came to the Star to improve the bottom line, to get bigger dividends and higher share prices for those who’ve invested in TorStar. He brought with him uncommon familiarity with the big-money people of Canada – tycoons like Gerry Schwartz of Onex or the Desmarais family of Power Corp.
Honderich and the paper’s large, well-paid cast of writers, columnists, etc., are mostly like-minded.
By and large, the attitudes and themes they express in the paper flow out of the long advocacy of social reforms begun by Joseph Atkinson as publisher a century or so ago, and modernized and strongly directed by Beland Honderich, John’s father, in his long post-World War II run as Star publisher.
Simply put, the Star has been Canada’s most thoroughly, consistently and openly left-of-centre newspaper, with definite political opinions and causes.
One might describe it as a closely-directed populist organ with a determined bent to modern liberalism, universal programs of health and welfare, a strong nationalism laced with anti-Americanism, lots of immigration, and scant time for wealthy corporations.
No other newspaper has put so much into policy and program imperatives at the federal, provincial, and city levels, or been such a base and educator for the Liberal parties of Canada and Ontario.
As I see it, the departure of John Honderich looks like the beginning of the end for the Star as a paper whose advocacies influence more politicians and legislation than any other.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 25, 2004
ID: 12359223
TAG: 200401250243
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Let’s jump from the particular to the general about two cases last week at the top of the political news.
There was Sheila Copps, 51, the most experienced, high-level woman in our national politics, scrapping over rights within the Liberal party to a Hamilton constituency. And there was Belinda Stronach, 37, a political neophyte, who began at the top by bidding to lead the official Opposition and be, perhaps, the prime minister later this year.
The particulars in each case are quite sad.
First, there’s Copps. The most fiercely loyal of Liberals over 25 years finds herself unprotected by her new leader, Paul Martin, and unwanted in his first ministry. And such rebuffs have come after she ran against him and got less than 10% of the votes for the Liberal leadership.
Second, after two days as an open leadership aspirant Stronach – pleasant and willing, but wobbling – had revealed little in either a warm or captivating personality or in widely grounded knowledge. To those of us over-steeped in politics, it brought to mind the agonizing performances of such would-be prime ministers as Kim Campbell, leading the Tories to near electoral oblivion in 1993, and Stockwell Day, booting away so much of the respect which the Reform/Alliance party had earned in 2000.
Both Campbell and Day were more vivid and at home in the limelight, and far more assured on platforms and in scrums than is Stronach.
One wishes Stronach could back out now, before her unreadiness makes ridiculous the serious arguments of her rivals, Stephen Harper and Tony Clement. They are demeaned as earnest, capable bidders for the Conservative leadership by her presence in the campaign.
Surely those political veterans who apparently back Stronach – former Ontario premiers Mike Harris and Bill Davis, and former prime minister Brian Mulroney – should be pondering the hurt they have helped do to this young woman’s sense of herself as a citizen.
Let me generalize that the situations of Copps and Stronach, and that of Campbell, plus the indifference voters showed through three federal elections to the two women leaders of the NDP, Audrey McLaughlin (1989-95) and Alexa McDonough (1995-2003), tell us the electorate as a whole is still not ready for female party leaders.
This unreadiness bothers me as one who was sure, decades ago, that women were a match for men as politicians and would be coming on strong, as seemed evident in the slow but steady increase in the number of female MPs.
Out of this slow growth stock of female MPs came an even slower rise in female ministers, from the single ones appointed by John Diefenbaker (Ellen Fairclough, 1957-63) and Lester Pearson (Judy LaMarsh, 1963-68) to the five women Pierre Trudeau elevated: Jeanne Sauve, Monique Begin, Iona Campagnolo, Judy Erola, and Celine Hervieux-Payette.
Joe Clark, in his short run, appointed one female minister, Flora MacDonald. John Turner appointed none in his even briefer stint as PM.
Brian Mulroney, in his two Parliaments, appointed 10 female ministers: Pat Carney, Suzanne Blais-Grenier, Andree Champagne, Barbara McDougall, Monique Vezina, Monique Landry, Shirley Martin, Mary Collins, Campbell and Pauline Browes.
Campbell, in her five months as PM, elevated one female MP, Barbara Sparrow.
Jean Chretien appointed some 15 female ministers: Joyce Fairbairn, Sheila Copps, Diane Marleau, Anne McLellan, Sheila Finestone, Christine Stewart, Lucienne Robillard, Jane Stewart, Hedy Fry, Maria Minna, Elinor Caplan, Ethel Blondin-Andrew, Claudette Bradshaw, Susan Whelan and Jean Augustine.
Now Paul Martin has 11 females in his cabinet, six of whom are brand-new ministers – Judy Sgro, Helene Scherrer, Liza Frulla, Albina Guarnieri, Carolyn Bennett and Aileen Carroll – while five were in Chretien’s last ministry – McLellan, Robillard, Bradshaw, Augustine and Blondin-Andrew.
I’ve listed all these female ministers to show that, just like the men, there have been some women in cabinet who’ve been very able, some modestly so, some just getting by, and some not worth a hoot.
A few of the best among ministers, and certainly some of the worst, can be found in that list of females. Overall, it is not the case that female ministers have been worse than male ministers. The total, however, is of only 40-some women ministers over 46 years. The total of male ministers in that stretch runs to about 400! It doesn’t seem fair.
Of course, Mulroney first, then Chretien, actually put a slightly greater proportion of women into their ministries than warranted by the proportion of female MPs within their respective caucuses. Female MPs of all parties have clamoured for more, especially since the days of Judy LaMarsh. Almost all women’s interest groups have insisted since that time that each party should help female aspirants gain riding nominations and then back them in elections with funds and workers.
Such great expectations have not so much petered out as been stalled by electoral disinclination.
More female MPs on the winning party’s side after future elections should mean more ministers and then, in time, some excellent prospects as party leaders should emerge. But right now, across the land, many Canadians, almost certainly a majority of them women, will not vote for a party with a female leader.
And surely this fate would befall either the most tested woman in politics, Sheila Copps or the cruelly exposed, entry-level rookie, Belinda Stronach.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 18, 2004
ID: 12357403
TAG: 200401180260
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


When one looks at the recent circus acts in our federal politics, and notes their flux and diversity in concerns and personalities, what’s striking is the underlying reality that not one domestic crisis looms which shakes the nation and demands urgent measures.
Our economy, our social welfare system, even “national unity” – our lengthiest core concern – may be flawed and in need of reform or adjustment, but few of us see domestic calamities threatening. For example, few Canadians seem roused, either pro or con, about Prime Minister Paul Martin’s most mooted undertaking – that of “democratic reform” of our parliamentary government.
And no one is sounding the alarm that normal governance and a predictable Parliament, knocked awry by Jean Chretien’s long goodbye, is still at least half a year away, during which there will be a federal budget, a new leader for a new opposition party, a federal election and a fresh ministry, likely a Liberal one led by Martin.
Although federal affairs are myriad and, one by one, are engaging, they are not as paramount as would be, say, a loss of faith in fair treatment of our trade by the U.S. or a serious revival of a Quebecois movement bent on autonomy.
One long-time issue, particularly within individual parties, will be much played upon, perhaps played out for a decade or so in 2004. Call it “social conservatism” vs. “economic conservatism” within the bosom of each of the four federal parties. Yes, it affects the Bloc Quebecois – inherently a social democratic party – just as it does the NDP.
Social democrats or moderate socialists often favour federally sponsored market enterprises (like low-cost housing projects, railways, airlines and broadcasting networks).
The divisiveness created by a social conservatism which is antagonistic to a national social net, when it becomes tied into an economic conservatism which puts a lot of faith in free enterprise and private endeavours, has bothered both the Progressive Conservative party and the Liberal party since World War II.
During and since John Diefenbaker’s years in power (1957-63), there have been “Red Tory” advocates of better social programs. Today, a small but able group of Tory dissidents such as Joe Clark and Senators Lowell Murray and Norm Atkins are refusing to join the new Conservative party because they foresee it as unfriendly to a continuing, national social net.
Meantime, look at Liberal Sheila Copps, a former deputy prime minister, who kept her recent rocky leadership campaign going in order to contest the influence of social conservatism on her party. Obviously, Copps read and still reads Paul Martin as being a corporation guy, at best a right-of-centre Liberal, and so this fiercest of Liberal loyalists has responded in friendly fashion to a phone call from NDP Leader Jack Layton.
He commiserated over Copps’ predicament – facing a contentious constituency nomination for the next election, in which she has to defeat Tony Valeri, the new transport minister. PM Martin has refused to intervene and use his constitutional powers as party leader to ensure Copps is the candidate.
Whatever this Copps-Layton conversation may lead to – I much doubt she’ll become a New Democrat – her response to Layton may well confirm to voters far beyond this particular riding who are intent on better social programs what Layton has been preaching: that Paul Martin is a man of and for big business, and both a fiscal and social conservative. Therefore, the NDP is their best bet.
Of course, when it comes to social conservatism, the PM himself has two recent converts to his Liberal party to flaunt: Scott Brison of the PCs and Keith Martin of the Alliance. Each has put to the fore the irresistible pull on them of the Liberals’ commitment to a good social net and their broadminded views on highly personal issues like homosexual rights and abortion.
Rather suddenly, considering their successful wins in federal elections and the respective high regard as able MPs Brison and Martin have earned in their parties, their loyalties swung to the Liberals as stronger and more modern on social matters than the parties they have left, and which now are in the process of melding into one.
This current and relatively high interest in antagonism to social conservatism, with an emphasis on it pushed by both left-of-centre politicians and so many reporters and commentators, has been deadly in undermining an extended, country-wide enthusiasm for both the Alliance and the new guise Conservative party, particularly when – and if – it is to be led by Stephen Harper.
The whole Conservative leadership will feature where the apparent aspirants – Harper; Tony Clement and Belinda Stronach – stand on social issues like same-sex marriage, the long gun registry and non-governmental health services.
Stronach has the hardest row to hoe in this competition. Each of her rivals has much legislative and debating experience and she has had little, although she is even more impressive than Martin as a millionaire CEO sort and may be a natural, fighting politician like Hillary Clinton.
Harper is formidably well-informed on issues and their history. He has shown in the House for a year he’s capable of organizing a tough “official” opposition. But in a moderate but sure way, he is such a social conservative.
Clement, as Ontario’s health minister, struck me as capable, thorough, thoughtful and very much at the centre.
If the “Stop Harper” campaign crystallizes – likely along the line dear to the politically correct that he is too reactionary for Ontario and Quebec voters – Clement might benefit and even win. (But such a win is a very long shot, indeed.)

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 14, 2004
ID: 12356229
TAG: 200401140523
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


I share the opinion of many others covering politics: our new PM already has had too much TV exposure for his own reputation. There was the repetitious blather of “Let me make myself clear” through his year-end exposures, plus too many scrums since then in which he’s waffled on many issues – stumbling and repeating himself, clearly up the creek without a script and unable to improvise under questioning.
This satire on a maundering politician cannot go on. If it does, Paul Martin as party leader quickly will be as dead a duck as Stockwell Day. You don’t derrick a prime minister, but if he has any smarts around him – and he has – we will be seeing less and less of Martin on his own trying to “blue sky” us. Already, his wiseacres should be figuring how to devise protections for him in debates with the likes of Jack Layton or Stephen Harper in the election this May or early June.
If what we’ve been seeing is all there is to Paul Martin, it becomes apparent that if his government is to survive and return later this year with a strong, new mandate, at least a handful of his cabinet ministers must emerge quickly as political powers with firm, reasonable lines of thought and exposition.
Of course, one such buttress to a Martin cathedral has to be Finance Minister Ralph Goodale, a man who seems serious, fair, cautious, frugal and not without some candour, though never a charmer.
Another buttress, perhaps the most likely for the short run, could or should be Reg Alcock, the Treasury Board head who is fashioning something tagged as “electronic governance.” Here’s a man out to get better work from a demoralized bureaucracy that’s long on thinkers, short on doers.
Perhaps the major minister most at risk will be the gabby, confidence-oozing Pierre Pettigrew as the federal saviour of country-wide medicare. If the health minister proves more a flexing reed than a buttress – just recall his several years rich in self-lauding optimism on an imminent softwood lumber deal – there goes trustworthy relations between Ottawa and the premiers.
Two other ministers who need to come forth quickly and strongly are David Pratt (Defence) and Irwin Cottler (Justice). Already there are indicators many in the caucus are not for major modernization and enlargement of the military, as Pratt advocates, and Cottler needs to be surefooted and honest on where this government is going on same-sex marriages, decriminalizing marijuana, and either killing the gun registry or running it frugally and well.
Thus far, remarkably few ministers have sounded off about their responsibilities and intentions. In particular, the three given the lead in installing the PM’s “democratic reform” – House Leader Jacques Saada, his deputy, Mauril Belanger, and his parliamentary secretary, Roger Gallaway – have been unspecific in a number of statements they’ve made on the way ahead. They have a daunting task, as I was reminded in scanning past efforts along the same line pushed by previous prime ministers.
– Pierre Trudeau, in 1968, came to the highest office talking up “participatory democracy.” He would engage both the Liberal party and Parliament as a whole in a cross-Canada discussion on more open, free argument within the readying of legislation and in the weighing of value for money from spending programs. Oh, there was so much talk, but inexorably the focus of politics swung to and stayed far more on the prime minister and the PMO than on Parliament.
– Brian Mulroney in the mid-’80s launched a huge review of the mandates and performances of every department and agency. This produced several shelves of (mostly unread) reports.
Let me close this bit of “been there, done that” with a conclusion I’m reaching: It will be a political miracle if Paul Martin is prime minister as long as Jean Chretien.
– – –
Belinda Stronach can bankroll her own campaign for the Conservative party leadership. She has a handsome appearance, a modestly engaging public presence and her participation would add a quizzical touch to what should be a romp for Stephen Harper.
But what would bring such a neophyte to politics into a race where she’s worse than a 100-1 longshot?
Consider what the federal parliamentary system demands in terms of knowledge and complex practices. And consider the oft-demonstrated lack of success by women party leaders – Kim Campbell, Lyn McLeod, Audrey McLaughlin and Alexa McDonough.
The pathetic irony of such a rookie pushing into the Conservative race is apparent if you appreciate that the ablest female MP since Judy LaMarsh’s time in the 1960s is not even running for re-election this year, let alone contesting the leadership for which she’s shown she has more of the “goods” than either Harper or Tony Clement.
I refer to Deborah Grey. At 51, she is 14 years younger, wittier and more vigorous than Paul Martin. And after 14 years in the forefront of the opposition she has the rare gift of the common touch.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 11, 2004
ID: 12355545
TAG: 200401110330
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


Today, instead of sizing up current politicking in the capital, my remarks focus on the late Doug Creighton, the charmer who let me analyze at the nation’s capital from the Sun’s beginnings late in 1971. This was the second in lucky breaks that took me into a career as a columnist and out of one in party politics.
The first break came in 1962 from the late John Bassett, then publisher of the Toronto Telegram. As an MP representing a huge hinterland riding, I’d built up a scary overdraft at the bank. What to do about it?
It wasn’t feasible to work at my sidelines as teacher and librarian. I thought I might try my hand as an MP writing about the House. Some sample pieces sent to several dailies brought some interest, expressed in letters, but John Bassett (whom I didn’t know) phoned and immediately offered a word-of-mouth deal for one or two pieces a week. And for what I thought a fair retainer.
I agreed, and he was to keep his promises to neither refuse nor alter any of my pieces, nor to pressure me to write on lines he wanted.
I came to cherish John Bassett for his enthusiasm and frankness, and sometime in the late 1960s at a lunch with my particular Tely editor at the old Walker House I met what I felt was a younger, happier-go-lucky model of John Bassett – one Douglas Creighton. He much amused me with his good nature, frisky intelligence, and a shrewd take on sports writing, a hobby of mine.
Several years into this Tely set-up I chose not to run again, and moved from the House to the press gallery as a freelancer, with most of my income coming from regular work for the Bassett press and TV operations. Interest across the land in federal affairs was zooming, as were the numbers in the press gallery, particularly after Pierre Trudeau landed as PM in ’68.
And so the rather sudden news in 1971 that the Star was buying the Tely out of the Toronto market was a shocker. Suddenly, what alternatives did I have? As I hesitated over several offers which paid well but augured much less freedom, I heard that a trio from the folding Tely staff – Doug Creighton/Don Hunt/Peter Worthington – was going to launch a tabloid in Toronto – the Sun.
I phoned Doug and he said at once I was a “go” as far as he was concerned, say with two or three pieces a week, but I could go over that with Peter. As for money he said I’d get what they could afford but it would rise as the paper prospered. His pitch was a bit like boosters I’ve met who set up credit unions and co-op stores. As a workplace and an institution the Sun would be very democratic. Also, he’d do his best to keep it droll and short on self-importance.
At the time I didn’t know Don Hunt or even much about Peter Worthington, beyond his reputation for daring, vivid reportage. Of course it helped that I revered Peter’s father, the great “Worthy,” creator of our first WW II armoured division.
I phoned John Bassett for advice. He said I’d better go for an opening in a going concern. Much as he wished otherwise, he feared the Creighton Sun would go belly-up in a month or so – not enough backing. I phoned Lubor Zink, another Tely columnist looking for a publisher. He told me he was betting on the Sun and, blunt as usual, said it was unlikely any major chain or daily would want his persistent analysis of communism or my social democratic pap.
So I too chose the Sun and became a “Day Oner” here, although I never became a Sun employee nor signed a written freelance contract. Doug Creighton did try again and again to get me to be an employee for the insurance, pension, and health benefits it would give me.
He and I never spent enough time together to become bosom pals, but I knew, as so many others at the Sun seemed to know, that Doug had a running awareness of who I was – indeed who we all were and what we did. He was so capacious a man, decent, thoughtful of others, utterly, genuinely modest, and comfortable with a very diverse crowd around him in terms of talent, ideas and aims. Quickly, and rather in his image, the first Sun gang forged a wonderful, collective “esprit de corps.”
Of course, in 1992 when Doug Creighton was abruptly chopped as CEO at Sun papers by their board of directors, I tried to render my strong personal view of his great worth to him. Couldn’t this be reversed? The firing seemed shameful – unwarranted, unfair, without obvious cause. He was very bitter about it, but hurt and somewhat dumbfounded, rather than enraged or vengeful. Fifteen years later, I’ve yet to read or hear an explanatory story of that ouster which I believe; in particular, one that has a reasonable cause and effect.
The spirit which Doug so largely initiated and made real, palpable, and shared by so many across the occupations at Sun papers is (as I read it) far from what it was in the ’70s and ’80s. But the remnants are there – in the papers and particularly among their retirees. Yes, the remembrance of the Creighton creation is an ephemeral matter, particularly to those never a part of it, but it is tangible and still fascinating to those who shared in the success and relished its components.
Some 33 three years ago, a young man had an idea for an inclusive tabloid in Toronto. It would and did offer a daily variety of opinions, many of them not in line with its editorials’ populist conservative line. He also had in sight what today we might call the “culture” of that tabloid – its symbols and humour emerging in a homey, often rackety family atmosphere, with smashing parties, good benefits, and easy access to equity prospects. How lucky we were to work with and for Doug Creighton.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 07, 2004
ID: 12354518
TAG: 200401070655
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


About once every dozen years the hopes of the federal New Democratic Party surge, not so much through electoral results as by public opinion polling.
For a while, their electoral prospects become talking points among the political buffs, and speculation blossoms that a rising NDP may signify a minority government ahead or the need for some real levering towards the left by the Liberals, our natural governing party.
Surely you’ve begun to notice signs of reactions to this particular NDP blip. For example: the Liberals have come up with a particular Web page that will follow and expose the misinformation and “lies” about them and their new leader which they say are being bandied about by the newish, fiery, little leader of the NDP, Jack Layton.
Another example is Layton’s recruitment of good old Ed Broadbent to be his candidate in the very home riding of Parliament Hill itself.
Some readers may have appraised the astounding figures in a Globe and Mail poll last week. It still has my head swirling over both its big response and the shocking percentages that had been registered by those who had phoned in an answer to the question: What federal party will you vote for in an election in 2004?
At my last look at the numbers, just over 30,000 readers had responded. The results – get this – were: Bloc Quebecois 2%; Conservative 32%; Liberal 27%; NDP 28%; Other 11%
Yes, yes, such a poll is laughably unscientific, but the choices were made by citizens serious enough to respond in numbers more strongly than normal to a daily feature which was developed for the Internet replica of the paper.
Unless there was a monster “stuffing” of the choices through either anti-Liberal or pro-Conservative and pro-NDP design, this poll indicates, particularly regarding Ontario (from where so many of the votes had to come) that both the Conservatives and New Democrats have at least fair hopes for a showing beyond the expectations those of us who write or comment about politics have been giving them. And the NDP could well be the greater beneficiary if the abysmally low support for our ruling party in this poll has any substance.
If you’ve been reading or viewing the purveyors and interpreters of national political news, you know that most reporters and columnists have been less taken with the probable leaders of the new Conservative Party than with Layton. Notably, the very cool Stephen Harper has had little of the sharp, personal attacks on rivals or the flair of the fiery Layton.
Layton was a high-profile councillor in Toronto, and had been the NDP candidate in 1997 for the federal seat of Broadview-Greenwood, losing to incumbent Liberal Dennis Mills, who still has the riding but tells me he is not running again. If so, it makes a grand start for Layton in getting into the House.
Since Layton succeeded Alexa McDonough as NDP leader last spring, he has made more evening newscasts, despite not having a voice in the House, than she did in any of her eight years as leader.
His recruitment of Broadbent, 67, and just two years older than Paul Martin, gives him something he himself is short of, i.e., some real depth in federal affairs.
Before the Mulroney sweep in 1988 – free trade and all that – opinion polls had Oshawa’s Broadbent, for 13 years NDP leader, well ahead of Brian Mulroney and John Turner as the public’s most favoured leader.
When the NDP’s array of MPs grew to 30 after the 1984 election, Broadbent seemed to bulk up, both as a parliamentarian and as a national leader. Rather rapidly, much sage commentary began appearing, forecasting the breakthrough at last for the NDP, perhaps even into power.
The ’88 vote was not an NDP disaster. It got the most MPs ever, 43. But this was seen as a rebuff. Broadbent had blown his chance at far more by not grasping, as Turner did, that the huge issue was the trade deal with the U.S. The Liberals as official opposition had 40 more MPs than he had, and Mulroney had a workable majority.
A year later Broadbent retired and his party chose Audrey McLaughlin, an MP from the Yukon with less than three years’ House experience. In Jean Chretien’s first win in ’93, the NDP seats fell to nine; party status was lost for a parliament. McDonough got it back in ’97, backed by a score of MPs, then she saw it drop to a dozen in 2000.
Layton has such a long way to go, and yet, if he and his campaign ignore the Conservatives and stick to their own aims and to taking apart Paul Martin, he might match Broadbent’s best.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 04, 2004
ID: 12354013
TAG: 200401040324
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Parliament Hill


A Canadian voter intent on politics is entitled to confusion as he or she reflects on what the year ahead may bring. Oddly enough, 2004 might be the year in which something I have long wished for comes true: a new prime minister who insists on new ways to revive Parliament.
Even if such “democracy” takes off in 2004 it is unlikely our politics will come close to matching 2003 in melodrama and pure corniness.
After all, 2003 was the year which Jean Chretien filled so largely in not taking us into the invasion of Iraq and keeping so many fuming over his departure date while Paul Martin waited and talked homilies and all that “pro-active” stuff about the coming excitements in Canada.
There was so much that was unexpected – both internationally and domestically in 2003 – and almost all of it sobering. Think of the grim scenarios in which the Bush administration is mired in Iraq and Afghanistan. This means a presidential election reeking of patriotism. On the other hand, years with such a climax in November have usually meant good times for the North American economies.
At home in 2003, we had the downers of SARS, mad cow disease, forest fires, hurricanes, floods and the continuing sad saga of our once massive softwood exports to the U.S. And more of the same is likely this year.
What seems obvious enough about Canada vis-a-vis the international scene is that we have an edgy majority attitude among the populace that is more critical than usual of the American president. Witness the satisfaction because Chretien would not have us join the coalition forces in Iraq.
Regrettably, more of us should be cringing instead of taking satisfaction that Iraqi intransigence is proving so dangerous and hateful to those who would liberate the country and give it a chance at democracy. Yet along with this rather petty mind-set, and particularly in our big business ranks, there has developed a wide apprehension that Canada is out of favour in Washington. This makes us very vulnerable, particularly to various barriers to our trade.
Such fears have fostered a great expectation that Paul Martin must do something, and already he’s responded by establishing a super-committee of cabinet to deal with Canada-U.S. matters more directly (e.g., in closer, continuing interchange of our MPs with both congressmen and senators). On the other hand, the new PM has indicated there will be no rush toward heavy spending for a larger, abler, better-equipped military, so we can pull our weight as an American partner.
It’s never wise to assume the year ahead will not be fractious in terms of the twinned and rarely somnolent problems of our federation: Quebec’s pressure for more autonomy and the running dissatisfaction of most provincial governments most of the time that they deserve a bigger share of federal revenues.
This year will see fewer provincial elections than 2003. A genuine federalist is premier of Quebec. The new PM is making a big play for western favour and could get his reward this year in a swatch of seats, even in Alberta. Of course, such a response will depend a lot on whether the new leader of the new Conservative party is an Albertan.
What may complicate the somewhat likely serenity within this core phase of politics is Martin’s dalliance with grand talk of major federal programs to raise infrastructure quality in our big cities. My hunch is such a federal enterprise will be committed to and reviewed, reported on and discussed, but will prove too complicated and touchy a matter of jurisdiction and taxation for substantial progress in the first year of a new mandate after an early summer election.
There! You will have noticed in that last sentence an assumption we will have a certain federal election in 2004, in which the Liberals will handily win a majority government. Martin is already planning a decade in power – to 2014 – before he, at 76, will step down from leading a wondrous nation.
I recall a Star columnist in September, 1979, during Joe Clark’s short run as prime minister, predicting a decade in the wilderness of opposition for the Liberals. Joe barely made it into 1980 as PM. See how quickly sure things in federal elections can disappear?
So the Grits, who now look so all encompassing under Martin, and are ripe for a romp through the hustings in May or June, may have harsh, early problems of dissidence in their ranks, even in their caucus, as byproducts of the Chretien-Martin melodrama. There might be much sour economic news by June. And the new PM may quickly face consequences for arousing so many hopes in so many groups for changes to social and economic policies and for major institutional reform.
Last week in the National Post, a columnist and academic, William Watson, analyzed the many end-of-year TV performances of Paul Martin and concluded he is not at ease or well-spoken once he gets off his oft-repeated bromides about grand ideas, new ways, and exciting times. In short, the magnetism read into Martin by many does not promise either lasting or quickening. He may well not wear well if he blathers on in his public exposures.
Add to that the dubious ethics apparent in the expensive machine he built inside the Liberal party while taking command of it, or the unease caused by his family’s foreign-based CSL shipping enterprise, or the animosities simmering within the Liberal caucus over his ministerial selections and rejections. It is most unlikely, but still not impossible that we might be comparing him to Kim Campbell (in 1993) well before the end of 2004.
In the media, the most popular grounds for green-lighting an election win – or two – to Martin have been the pathetic failings of the alternative parties: the not-quite-rejigged Conservatives, probably to be led by the cold-eyed, well-informed Stephen Harper; the New Democrats, led by a “showboat” politician, Jack Layton, not a saintly heir to the Woodsworth-Douglas tradition; and the Bloc Quebecois, led by a rather frenetic Gilles Duceppe, which has fallen on harder times since its provincial sister party, the Parti Quebecois, lost office.
It seems obvious none of these alternatives is likely to catch fire and roar into exciting contention (revealed by opinion polling) as the election campaign unfolds.
So the best hope – and it isn’t much – for those sated with a decade of poor, often slipshod and rarely frugal Liberal governance is that Martin and a few of those in big cabinet posts like Anne McLellan or Bill Graham will goof and boot a certain election triumph into one in which a majority of electors won’t want to vote for Martin and 10 years more of Liberal rule, and so produce a minority government. For that to develop there would surely need to be an ominous (and most unlikely) major downturn in the economy.
To be frank, despite my deep skepticism that Martin could ever institute a different, better government and governing party, it would make 2004 a wonderful year if he gets real progress going on just two of his undertakings: resurrecting real roles for MPs and their House, and shutting down the sleaze of Liberal patronage.
A prediction? On something finite like the next federal election? The Liberals should win with at least 175 seats, perhaps as many as 190.
The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 2004, SunMedia Corp.