Donald J. Matthews 1926-2018

If ever there were a man in love with life and country, it was Don Matthews: entrepreneur, president of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, and one of the very few who took on Ottawa and won. If he were in a room down the hall you could always hear his “har-har-har” laugh. If you were in that room, trying to avoid some contentious issue – and there were a few such issues in the PC Party – Matthews would declare: “Let’s put the codfish on the table and see how it smells.” Matthews signed up for the Air Force at...

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The fourth estate as third world

After spending five years in politics, I wanted to get back into journalism, but no one would have me. I was seen as potentially too partisan. I might taint my stories with party propaganda. So I joined the Bank of Nova Scotia as director of public affairs. After two years, I was dry-cleaned and became business editor at Maclean’s just as the newsmagazine was going weekly in 1978. Ottawa had passed Bill C-58 which meant that the cost of advertising in the Canadian edition of Time was no longer tax deductible. Suddenly, that ad revenue became available for Canadian publications, thereby making possible more journalism jobs in Canada and...

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When right is wrong

After two years in office, what do we know about Donald Trump? We know he cheats on his wife. We know he cheats at golf. We know he tells lies at a prodigious rate. We know he’s a bully, a narcissist, and a demagogue. We know he supports and prefers other demagogues in Russia, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia, all of whom think nothing of killing their own people. We know Trump’s impossible to work for as cabinet members and White House staffers get dumped almost daily. To date there has been no retribution for any of this. Yes, Trump lost the...

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War and peace

On this one hundredth anniversary of the end of the First World War, the signs are everywhere that while the people might remember the horrors and heroics of the past, some leaders seem to be forgetting. How else to explain the actions of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who is fighting the Kurds, Russian President Vladimir Putin who overran Crimea and portions of Ukraine, and U.S. President Donald Trump who is at war with everyone. In Paris this weekend, only French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel showed any sign of good grace. Their meeting – in the same rail car used...

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Johnny we hardly knew ye

For decades, Sir John A. Macdonald, our founding prime minister, was revered. He’d cobbled together a national government of diverse interests and peoples, built a transcontinental railway and had an uproarious character that involved a tad too much to drink. Today he is vilified, his own words flung back in his face. What happened? Why, the politically correct found him wanting. In 1883, he said in the House of Commons that native children should be taken from their savage parents and taught white ways. At the time, few held different beliefs. Looking back, it’s easy to point a finger and preen. Yet the...

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The Hon. Donald S. Macdonald 1932-2018

To understand Donald Stovel Macdonald, who died yesterday, you have to know that he was born and raised in Ottawa amidst great players on the national and international stage. In December 1941, at the age of nine, he walked by himself to Parliament Hill, just to get a glimpse of Winston Churchill being bundled into Centre Block to deliver his “some chicken, some neck” speech. Among the congregation at the church his family attended were two cabinet ministers in the Mackenzie King government, James Lorimer Ilsley and James Layton Ralston. His Sunday School teacher was John Read who later became the only...

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Exit stage left

When Justin Trudeau first announced the legalization of cannibis, I thought it was a good idea. Now that the day has almost arrived, I am not so sure. In particular, I have my doubts that legit pot will in any measurable way impinge upon black market sales. Such transactions will still occur after the legit stores are closed. Backstreet dealers might even offer credit for a day or two, another factor that differs from the official pot places. But that’s not my only problem with Trudeau. The USMC has been a bit of a snow job. Trudeau made much of retaining...

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Gender-bending Shakespeare

Faithful readers may remember my praise for Martha Henry’s performance this season at Stratford as Prospero in “The Tempest.” Imagine my pleasure to see her interviewed Monday night at McMaster University along with Seana McKenna. The two actors appeared as part of The Socrates Project, a series of cultural events running until next summer, sponsored by L. R. “Red” Wilson, a businessman and former McMaster chancellor. The two women were interviewed by CBC’s Eleanor Wachtel. McKenna talked the most, but Henry was the best. In response to a question about how she got into acting, Henry told of owning a dress that made...

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