By Paul Wells - Saturday, February 23, 2013 - 0 Comments
Quebec higher-education minister Pierre Duchesne will spend Monday and Tuesday presiding over a summit on Quebec universities. Duchesne, a former senior correspondent for Radio-Canada, is one of the nicest guys I met in journalism; his three-volume (!) biography of Jacques Parizeau is definitive. It’s worth putting that on the record because next week’s summit looks like a five-alarm gong show, it couldn’t happen to a nicer government, and I sometimes have trouble holding back the snark.
The Gazette‘s Karen Seidman has a good overview of the issues and the way the Marois government has managed to position this summit as one whose outcome will please nobody. But I’m struck by a recurring theme in French-language commentary, which is the feats of ingenuity being expended to justify giving McGill University less public money. Continue…
By Martin Patriquin - Monday, September 17, 2012 at 5:51 PM - 0 Comments
Charbonneau commission, fall session: All eyes on Laval’s Gilles Vaillancourt and Montreal’s Gérald Tremblay
In the end, Donnie Brasco didn’t show up.
For days now, Montreal media has been salivating at the prospect that one of the FBI’s most famous agents would be testifying at the opening day of the commission investigating corruption in Quebec’s construction industry. For good reason: under the moniker Donnie Brasco, Joe Pistone infiltrated New York’s Bonanno clan, and for six years gathered intelligence that would drive a stake through the heart of one of America’s biggest crime families. Also, Johnny Depp played him in a movie. You decide which is more impressive.
Pistone might well still show up at the so-called Charbonneau Commission, whose 18-month mandate includes the examination of the industry’s ties with organized crime. When I asked if Brasco was showing up, as Radio-Canada reported last week, commissioner spokesperson Richard Bourbon smiled. “We never said he was coming in the first place,” he said, winking.
Instead, the first day of the commission’s fall proceedings—Maclean’s wrote about the spring/summer session here—with Judge France Charbonneau essentially pleading with journalists to behave themselves. “The imperative is on the security of the witness, we can’t have them put in danger,” Charbonneau said in her opening remarks. “We are asking the media, with respect, to not publish the names of witnesses before they appear.”
By Paul Wells - Thursday, July 5, 2012 at 11:07 PM - 0 Comments
From one exceedingly narrow perspective, the history of Quebec politics in the last 20 years has been the story of Jean-François Lisée seeking his true nature. The wunderkind reporter for L’actualité started as an observer and has become a combatant. He entered the arena as a counsellor and is, it’s said, about to become a candidate. He has strong beliefs and a healthy and honestly-earned ego; he decided in 1994 that he wanted to influence events instead of writing about them, and he seems now to have decided that the best way to ensure politicians take his advice is to be one.
That Pauline Marois, who was barely clinging to the PQ leadership a year ago, has now (it’s said) recruited Lisée is one thing. That she has also lured Pierre Duchesne, a veteran Radio-Canada television newsman who was still covering Marois and Jean Charest only several weeks ago, is another. She seems to be working to constitute a slate of star candidates, the sort of thing one does when one is preparing (or at least hoping) to take power back. The model here, a bit debased because every opposition leader in Quebec has tried to recreate it at every election for a half-century, is the “Équipe de Tonnerre” Jean Lesage built in 1960 around, among others, a Radio-Canada journalist named René Lévesque.
But there’s something else Lisée and Duchesne have in common: they’re both linked extraordinarily closely to Jacques Parizeau. Continue…
By macleans.ca - Friday, February 12, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
It takes a village to raise an idiot
Jacques Rogge and the rest of the executive board of the International Olympic Committee have relented and will allow the Australian International Olympic Committee to fly its iconic “boxing kangaroo” flag from a balcony of the Vancouver Olympic Village. The flag was ordered removed because the IOC bans unauthorized commercial symbols, and the cartoon ’roo is trademarked, albeit only to the Australian Olympic Committee. The dispute ﬁred up Aussies everywhere. Deputy PM Julia Gillard called it a “scandal.” Vancouver radio phone-in callers raged at the IOC’s bully tactics. IOC spokesman Mark Adams called the issue “a storm in a teacup.” Meantime, athletes are streaming to the Oz sector of the village for a photo with the giant ’roo.
He did it for the kids
It was death in the afternoon for any bull that Jairo Miguel Sànchez Alonso faced Saturday at an arena in southwest Spain. The 16-year-old killed six bulls without mussing his sparkly white suit of lights. He returned to Spain after several years apprenticing in Mexico, where there is no minimum age for fighters. He almost died there in 2007 when a bull gored him. Alonso holds no grudges. “I feel quite bad when the bull has been good and you see the expression on his face, the innocence,” he says. “He has given you his bravery.” The event, while bloody, had a softer side. It was a fundraiser for children with autism.
Bad times for burkas
French Prime Minister François Fillon announced this week he’ll deny citizenship to a Moroccan national who forces his French-born wife to wear a burka. “If this man does not want to change his attitude, he has no place in our country,” he said. Meantime, President Nicolas Sarkozy’s call for a law banning full burkas is gaining steam. He has declared the full veil and body covering “not welcome” in France, and inconsistent with the country’s values. It’s certainly not welcome in Paris post offices. Two burka-clad robbers walked into a post office in the Paris suburb of Athis Mons, an area with a large immigrant Muslim population. They pulled out handguns and stole the equivalent of $6,000.
Blades of glory
Germany’s Katarina Witt and Canada’s Elizabeth Manley met on the ice in Vancouver Sunday, 22 years after the Teutonic bombshell and Canada’s sweetheart squared off in Calgary during the 1988 Olympics. Witt won gold but Manley, under enormous home-country pressure, pulled off the skate of her life to finish second. Both women are doing television colour commentary in Vancouver, but they took a turn on the Robson Square ice rink with young members of the Coquitlam Skating Club. “We’re not here for a rematch,” joked Manley, 44. “Not at our age, I’m 20—plus tax.” Replied a razor-sharp Witt: “Oh, my God! How much are taxes here?”
Tea time in Tennessee
Cranky country singer and musical comedian Ray Stevens’s flagging career was ready for a death panel. Then the 71-year-old singer of such novelty hits as Ahab the A-rab and Gitarzan wrote We the People, a lighthearted attack on President Barack Obama’s health care initiative. The video, which shows Stevens strumming a bathroom plunger and singing, “You vote Obamacare, we’re gonna vote you outta there,” is a YouTube hit and an unofficial anthem of the ultra-conservative Tea Party movement. Stevens sang at the group’s convention in Nashville on the weekend, where Sarah Palin raised eyebrows with her $100,000 fee for giving the keynote speech. “That’s a lot of damned tea,” grumbled one delegate.
Do as I say, not as I…ahh-choo!
As deputy health minister for the Czech Republic, Michael Vit has the job of deciding whether to impose mandatory swine flu vaccinations on “all people indispensable for the functioning of the country.” The day after receiving the assignment, Vit came down with H1N1 himself. “I have muscle problems, a headache, simply all symptoms of the flu,” he said. The deputy health minister admitted he had yet to receive the vaccination. “As you see, I’m a living example.”
‘Funeral’ for friends, and strangers
Canadian orchestral rockers Arcade Fire made it to the Super Bowl last weekend, when the group’s stirring anthem Wake Up, from their hit CD Funeral, was used in a series of NFL promo ads. While the group is protective of licensing its music, they had their reasons in this case. They turned over the fat licensing fee to Partners in Health, an agency with deep roots in Haiti. Band member Régine Chassagne’s family came from the island. She expressed her grief in an article in Britain’s Guardian newspaper: “I am mourning people I know. People I don’t know. People who are still trapped under rubble and won’t be rescued in time.”
Broom versus stick
Icy, obsessed with winning and not above the occasional cheap shot. Yes, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and hockey are a match made in heaven. Hockey is “deeply reflective of the character of the nation,” he explained in a pre-Olympic interview with Sports Illustrated. Harper, who has studied the origins of the sport, said it contributes to “a uniquely Canadian sense of belonging in a community across the country.” Opposition Leader Michael Ignatieff waxes poetic about a different sport: curling. Naturally, he identifies with the skip. “It’s the leadership and the precision, and the quiet,” he told the Globe and Mail. Apparently he’s not the sort of skip who shouts unseemly commands like, “Hurry, hurry hard.”
Very, very teed off
A Kelowna, B.C., entrepreneur is cashing in on Tiger Woods’s extramarital mayhem. Mike Caldwell has produced the Mistress Collection, a boxed set of 12 golf balls, each bearing a portrait of one of Woods’s mistresses. “He likes to play a round with them…and now you can, too!” notes his website, tailofthetiger.com. Caldwell says he sold 1,500 sets at US$54.90 in the first six days. Less than impressed is Joslyn James, an adult film star and alleged Woods mistress. She called a news conference to denounce the balls as hurtful and in bad taste. “It bothered me to think that someone would be standing with a dangerous club in their hands hitting a ball with my photo on it,” she said. She then showed her sensitive side by releasing 100 tawdry text messages she said she received from Woods.
You don’t want a visit by Oscar
Oscar the cat has a near infallible ability to detect which of the patients in the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, R.I., is next to die, says Dr. David Dosa, a geriatrician. When Oscar curls up with a patient, staff know to phone the next of kin. “It’s like he’s on a vigil,” says Dosa. Such insight would come as no surprise to cat owners, who are themselves terribly smart. Certainly smarter than dog owners, according to a study by Dr. Jane Murray at the University of Bristol. Winston Churchill was a cat lover. Paris Hilton loves dogs. Want more proof? Cat owners (if anyone really owns a cat) are 1.36 times more likely than dog owners to hold a university degree. They’re also 100 per cent less likely to have to follow behind their pet and scoop droppings off the sidewalk.
Gay but not cheerful
The headline in the Seattle Weekly says it all: “Gay, mentally challenged biracial male cheerleader claims discrimination.” All that high school student Benjamin Grundy wants is to shake his pom-poms like the girls on the squad at Garfield-Palouse High School in tiny Palouse, Wash. Instead, the cheer coach suggested he’d make a great mascot. He was eventually given a cheerleader’s top but denied the rest of the uniform, pom-poms, and the right to join the dance routine. “I was reduced to standing there and moving my arms,” he says. The school board denies discrimination, but Benjamin’s mother, Suzanne Grundy, is pressing the case with the ACLU and her congressman. “The combination of a biracial, mentally challenged gay male may be too much for them,” she told the local TV station.
L’état c’est moi
Quebec’s Lieutenant-Governor Pierre Duchesne has revived a tradition that ended 44 years ago—awarding medals, in gold, silver and bronze, and bearing his coat of arms, to those making contributions to their communities. The practice of awarding such medals ended in 1966 after Quebec nationalists condemned the symbolic tie with the monarchy. Duchesne has no such qualms: he also invoked royal privilege to avoid testifying before a national assembly committee on how he spends some $1 million annually in taxpayer money. His refusal to testify was condemned by all sides of the legislature.
Disharmony in the house of Wang
It was Hong Kong feng shui master Tony Chan’s skills in arranging buildings to create a positive life force that drew Chan to the eccentric, pigtailed property magnate Nina Wang. He began a 15-year affair with Wang, 23 years his senior. Now, he’s accused of arranging her $4-billion fortune in a manner auspicious to himself. When she died at 69 in 2007, he claimed to be her sole heir. Her family contested the will, and he’s charged with forgery.
She also has a Ph.D. in thankless tasks
Leila Ghannam, a former Palestinian intelligence officer, is the first woman governor of Ramallah, the unofficial capital of the West Bank. Her challenge is to quash a resurgence by hard-liners in Hamas. “My intelligence experience, like my degree in psychology, helps me carry out my job,” she says.