By Blog of Lists - Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - 0 Comments
Canadian political scandals tend to be rather chaste affairs compared to their American or European counterparts, usually involving railways, “robocalls” and tainted tuna. Still, our politicians have had their share of dirty laundry aired in public over the years.
Here are the most salacious misdeeds by Canadian elected officials:
1. 1933: John Edward Brownlee. Alberta’s fifth premier was forced to resign after he was sued for seduction by Vivian MacMillan, an 18-year-old daughter of one of Brownlee’s political allies. There was much speculation that Brownlee had been the victim of a political set-up after he noticed he had been followed on a country drive by one of the girl’s teenaged suitors and a prominent Edmonton lawyer and Liberal party supporter. The case eventually went all the way to the Supreme Court, which sided with MacMillan.
2. 1966: The Munsinger Affair. Gerda Munsinger was a German prostitute and alleged KGB spy who seduced several cabinet ministers in the Diefenbaker govern- ment of the late 1950s. Among them was the associate minister of national defence, Pierre Sevigny, who signed Munsinger’s application for Canadian citizenship. The scandal was a well-kept secret among Ottawa politicians until 1966, when Liberal justice minister Lucien Cardin, fending off an opposition attack in the House of Commons on his handling of security breaches, asked: “What about Munsinger?” By then she had been deported, but reporters tracked her down in Munich, where she openly admitted to her numerous political affairs.
3. 1977: Margaret Trudeau and the Rolling Stones. Margaret Trudeau spent her sixth wedding anniversary without her prime minister husband, instead partying with the Rolling Stones at a Toronto nightclub and later in Mick Jagger’s limousine. The rendezvous sparked rumours that she was having an affair with the band’s front man. She later disappeared to New York. The scandal signalled the end of the couple’s tumultuous marriage, but Margaret Trudeau denied having affairs with any members of the Rolling Stones, later telling a conference on mental health, “I should have slept with every single one of them.”
4. 1978: Francis Fox. The 38-year-old solicitor general was the youngest member of Trudeau’s cabinet and a rising star when he was forced to publicly admit that he had secretly arranged for a former mistress to have an abortion, and had forged her husband’s signature on hospital records granting her permission for the procedure. The relationship didn’t last and neither did Fox’s marriage. His political career, however, survived. Fox resigned as solicitor general, but went on to be re-elected and reappointed to cabinet. He was made a senator in 2005, and stepped down last year.
5. 1983: Graham Harle. Alberta’s solicitor general, Graham Harle, was discovered by police parked outside a seedy Edmonton motel with a prostitute in his government car. The 51-year-old Harle claimed he was conducting an investigation into the province’s prostitution industry and had concluded that the sex trade didn’t “appear to be a problem right at the moment.” He stepped down from cabinet after the public refused to accept the story of his undercover operation.
6. 1986: Bob McClelland. B.C. industry minister and one-time Social Credit leadership contender Bob McClelland admitted he had paid $130 to Top Hat Escort in 1985 to have a prostitute sent to his hotel after having “a fair amount to drink.” His dalliance was uncovered after a police investigation into the escort agency uncovered his credit card details. McClelland resigned in August 1986 after testifying at a trial into Top Hat’s activities.
7. 1993: The Wilson-Tyabji Affair. B.C. Liberal leader Gordon Wilson was fresh off a surprise victory that catapulted his party into official Opposition status when he appointed 27-year-old Judy Tyabji as his house leader. It didn’t take long for rumours to start that the two, both married, shared more than just political leanings, though both Wilson and Tyabji vehemently denied any affair. Wilson resigned as party leader the next year just as Tyabji was dumped as house leader by the party. They both later came clean about the affair, left their spouses, got married and quit the Liberals to form the short-lived Progressive Democratic Alliance.
8. 2008: Maxime Bernier. Maxime Bernier, the star of Stephen Harper’s Quebec caucus, was forced to resign as foreign affairs minister after admitting he had left classified government documents at the home of his then-girlfriend, Julie Couillard, a woman who had previously dated two Hell’s Angels associates. Shortly after they broke up, Couillard gave a tell-all television interview about the relationship, which she followed up with a book.
9. Potential Scandal: John Diefenbaker. In 2010, 42-year-old Toronto legal consultant George Dryden launched a lawsuit against his parents alleging he was the illegitimate love child of former Conservative prime minister John Diefen- baker and that his mother, Mary Lou Dryden, a well-known Conservative socialite, had forged his birth certificate because of “political sensitivities” of the day. He has since gone on a quest to prove his lineage, although DNA tests on samples from personal items provided by the Diefenbaker Canada Centre in Saskatoon came up inconclusive.
Have you ever wondered which cities have the most bars, smokers, absentee workers and people searching for love? What about how Canada compares to the world in terms of the size of its military, the size of our houses and the number of cars we own? The answers to all those questions, and many more, can be found in the first ever Maclean’s Book of Lists.
Buy your copy of the Maclean’s Book of Lists at the newsstand or order online now.
By Jaime Weinman - Friday, July 20, 2012 at 10:37 AM - 0 Comments
A raft of new shows appeals to the broadest audience possible by getting rid of the parties
“What’s going on in the real world of politics is really nutty,” says Greg Berlanti, co-creator of the new show Political Animals. “That allows us in the fictional world to be even nuttier. So we thank the real world for that.” The show, a miniseries that will lead to a full series if it does well enough, stars Sigourney Weaver as a female secretary of state and former first lady who is absolutely nothing like Hillary Clinton. It’s the culmination of a year when TV has been dealing non-stop with politics, a subject that most TV characters never discuss under any circumstances. The dean of cable networks, HBO, has introduced Veep, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as a gaffe-prone female vice-president, and The Newsroom, Aaron Sorkin’s talky tale of a cable news commentator (Jeff Daniels) who decides to fix America by taking on the Tea Party and other political ills. Boss, returning for a second season in August, has Kelsey Grammer as a corrupt mayor, and ABC gave a second-season pickup to Scandal, about a former White House official who devotes her life to helping politicians with dark secrets. If, as people used to say, politics is show business for ugly people, then today’s TV is politics for pretty people.
Even shows with a small political component can find themselves taken over by that story. The Good Wife, starring Julianna Margulies as the wife of a disgraced politician, originally focused on her life as a lawyer and intended to make her husband (Chris Noth) only a minor character; three seasons later, much of the show is about politics, and one of the most popular characters is a political operative (Alan Rickman). The Emmy-nominated Parks and Recreation started out as a story of small-town bureaucracy, and got a lukewarm reception. It soon began incorporating more political stories—including parodies of real-life scandals—and when the show’s fifth season begins in September, the lead character will become an elected official.
By Tamsin McMahon - Friday, July 13, 2012 at 10:15 AM - 0 Comments
Another scandal, another promise to regulate—can banks ever really be trusted?
As long as there have been banks, there have been banking scandals. The treasurers of Athena burned the Acropolis in an attempted cover-up after secretly lending money to speculative bankers. Wall Street’s first banking scandal—a familiar tale of banks lending too heavily to property speculators who lost it all when the real estate bubble burst—happened in 1837. Banking that breaks the rules “in consequence of some flattering speculation of extraordinary gain, is almost always extremely dangerous and frequently fatal to the banking company which attempts it,” economist Adam Smith warned in The Wealth of Nations nearly 250 years ago.
With that history, it’s understandable that economists don’t quite believe promises by U.K. regulators that the latest scandal to rock the global financial industry—revelations that banks were manipulating a key interest rate affecting more than $300 trillion in worldwide investments—will usher in a new era of ethical banking. “It’s guaranteed to be a losing battle,” says Richard Grossman, an economist at Wesleyan University and author of Unsettled Account: The Evolution of Banking in the Industrialized World since 1800. “The incentives in banking are so strong and the money is so big. As soon as you close off one area, someone is going to think of a new way to do things.”
By Jaime Weinman - Monday, June 4, 2012 at 3:56 PM - 0 Comments
As the bubble bursts on daytime soap operas, the tide is turning on the nighttime versions
Daytime soap operas are dying, but they’re also being resurrected—at night. While daytime drama fans have been devastated by a series of high-profile cancellations, prime-time soaps, the ones that run once a week and deal with good-looking rich families exacting revenge on one another, are stronger than they’ve been in decades. On June 13, the U.S. and Canada will see a revival of the most popular prime-time soap of them all, Dallas. The ABC network, which recently cancelled the long-running One Life to Live and All My Children, is full of shows like the aptly named Revenge (in the Hamptons) and has announced a fall schedule that includes new shows Nashville (revenge in the music business) and 666 Park Avenue, described as the story of a posh building full of “wealth, sex, love, power, even revenge.”
People who grew up in the ’80s experienced an era when prime time was almost as soapy as daytime: thanks to Dallas, Dynasty and many spinoffs and imitators, most of the top dramas were soap operas. But the form lost steam when the public got tired of rich-people problems and storylines, like the season of Dallas that turned out to be a dream. Since then, except for shows aimed at teenagers (the revival of Beverly Hills 90210), plus the spoof soap Desperate Housewives, networks have avoided them and gone for shows where the characters try to help people instead of constantly plotting retribution.
Now the tide may be turning. With daytime soaps difficult to sustain for economic reasons—namely, not enough people watching during the day—prime-time storytelling has become a more sensible option. Christine Fix, editor-in-chief for Soaps.com, says viewers feel “nostalgic about prime-time TV in the 1980s and ’90s,” and that they “seem to be begging to see more of that now that we’ve lost so many daytime soap operas.” The continued popularity of telenovelas in Latin America, not to mention Coronation Street in the U.K., may have shown networks that people still watch this kind of programming in the evenings. Last year, La Reina Del Sur, a story of a young Mexican woman who fled to Spain where she becomes a major drug trafficker, was the most popular show in the history of the Spanish-language network Telemundo, and a U.S. studio has the rights to make an English-language adaptation.
By Patricia Treble - Tuesday, March 15, 2011 at 10:28 AM - 2 Comments
Charlene Wittstock, set to marry Prince Albert, is joining a clan with more scandals per kilometre than any other royal family
Wearing a sleek black Speedo suit, her long blond hair tucked into an orange cap, Charlene Wittstock strode out of the water in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa, on Feb. 12, looking more like the competitive swimmer she used to be than the royal bride she is. She’d just completed the Midmar Mile, a massive open-water swim, and helped raise $80,000 for the Special Olympics. In July, the statuesque South African beauty marries Monaco’s reigning prince, Albert II, and becomes his princess consort. Monaco hasn’t had a princess consort in almost 20 years, since Albert’s mother, Princess Grace, died in 1982. Like Grace, an American who gave up an Oscar-winning acting career upon her marriage to Prince Rainier, Wittstock, 33, is an English-speaking outsider to the tiny, ultra-exclusive Mediterranean playground for the rich and famous.
She’s also scandal-free, something that certainly does not apply to her 52-year-old groom or his sisters Caroline and Stephanie. For decades the Grimaldi family has hit the headlines with trashy tales of wildly unsuitable lovers, broken marriages and brawls. Indeed, illegitimacy and shotgun weddings are almost de rigueur: of the three siblings’ nine children, five were born out of wedlock while two others arrived less than nine months after their parents’ nuptials. Their shenanigans make those of Queen Elizabeth II’s four children look positively tame: while three first marriages of the Windsor kids broke down spectacularly, currently Charles and Anne have second spouses and Edward is still with his original wife, while Andrew never remarried. And certainly no illegitimate children have appeared.
In contrast, Albert, a lifelong bachelor, confessed, mere weeks after his father died in 2005 and he’d assumed power, that he’d fathered a boy, Alexandre, then three, with a Togolese flight attendant. The revelation at least put to rest the rumours that he was gay, which had dogged him for years. He hinted on French TV that there were other progeny. “I know there are other people who are in more or less the same situation. We will give them an answer at the appropriate time.” Then, in 2006, he acknowledged his 14-year-old daughter, Jazmin Grace, the result of a vacation fling in 1991 with a married Californian, Tamara Rotolo. Neither illegitimate child can inherit the throne. The revelations only put Albert on par with his headline-grabbing sisters.
By Julia Belluz - Monday, December 13, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 2 Comments
Laptop thefts, surveillance, threats—French journalists are complaining of a new era of media intimidation
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has had, at best, a peculiar relationship with the press. Unlike his remote predecessors, who shut journalists out of their private lives, Sarkozy ferried reporters right into the presidential bedroom. “Me and Carla, it’s really serious,” he gushed at his ﬁrst major press conference in 2008, referring to then-girlfriend Carla Bruni, whom he married that year.
In addition to courting the press, Sarkozy has enjoyed unprecedented power over it. The 23rd president of the French republic is the first to be in charge of nominating the chairman of France’s public television broadcaster, France Télévisions. Close friends, too, run some parts of the media, which has raised questions about dropped stories and the sacking of journalists who present unfavourable depictions of the leader. “Sarkozy plays with the press more than any other president,” says Dominique Moïsi, founder and senior adviser at the French Institute for International Relations, “and he also seems more intent on controlling it.”
By macleans.ca - Friday, December 10, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Skeletons in Princess Victoria’s closet, Dick Cheney meets his match, and LeBron James goes home
Helena Bonham Carter, fashion plate
Her corsets, crinoline and frizzy hair have made her a constant on “worst dressed” lists over the years, so when the British actor, who counts Marie Antoinette as her style icon and claims a “f–k it attitude” to red-carpet dressing, heard she’d made Vanity Fair’s “best dressed” list, even she burst into laughter.
When nature’s in your path . . .
Vancouver’s organic breakfast moguls, Ratana and Arran Stephens, may have cast their professional lot with the environment—their cereal company, Nature’s Path, aspires to “advance the cause of people and planet along the path of sustainability.” But this week they came under fire for razing 25 trees from their lawn in tony Point Grey: a violation of the city’s famously strict tree-protection bylaw, and a major no-no in Lotusland. Their sins made headline news in Vancouver, which bars homeowners from removing trees from their property, prompting the pair to apologize profusely and repeatedly, even writing a letter to Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson insisting that they be heavily fined.
By Nancy Macdonald - Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 4:00 PM - 0 Comments
Hollywood is refusing to forgive Mel Gibson, Woods blamed golf for his problems
He spared nothing in a series of secretly recorded aural assaults aimed at his girlfriend. Women and
African-Americans bore the brunt of his bug-eyed rage. So far, Hollywood is refusing to forgive. Even his cameo in “The Hangover” remake—however pathetic a shot at redemption—was axed after a revolt by the film’s cast.
Goldman Sachs’s paltry $550-million fine to settle civil fraud charges was widely trumpeted as a victory for CEO Blankfein, unapologetic defender of Wall Street’s most repellent practices. His firm has also been accused of betting against clients, and of hiding Athens’s debt problems—“God’s work,” as Blankfein unforgettably once labelled it.
By Anne Kingston - Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 2:00 PM - 4 Comments
Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem, Molson-Coors and Labatt Blue, The NHL and Stan Lee
Vince Vaughn and Kyla Weber
The 39-year-old Wedding Crashers star shed his Hollywood swinger reputation by marrying a 31-year-old former Calgary realtor in Chicago in January. The couple, now expecting their ﬁrst child, met through mutual friends in 2008 and quickly became fixtures at Chicago Black Hawks games before Vaughn sealed the deal with a US$125,000-ring.
The NHL and Stan Lee
The legendary creator of Spider-Man, Iron Man and X-Men, joined forces with the National Hockey League in October to form Guardian Media Entertainment LLC, a platform for 30 “Guardians,” one for each NHL team. The project, to be unveiled in January, isn’t set in the world of hockey but “organically and authentically incorporates various NHL elements.” Climb down Spider-Man, Slapshot-Man is coming.
By Brian Bethune - Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 14 Comments
He didn’t foresee the long-running sex abuse scandal suddenly igniting, but the Pope showed surprising openness in dealing with it
There is always, in the spiritual and political life of the Roman Catholic Church, a fire smouldering somewhere: minority Christians under persecution here, an abortion initiative in a Catholic country there, rebellious laity, scandalous clergy. So Pope Benedict XVI had no particular reason, on New Year’s Day, to foresee that the long-running clerical child sexual abuse scandal would suddenly burn white-hot, and spread far outside the confines of his Church. But as the penitential season of Lent began in February, hundreds more victims surfaced with their harrowing stories, not only in Ireland and the U.S., the epicentres of the scandal, but across Europe, including Benedict’s native Germany.
This time it was more than the original crimes that angered the faithful and outsiders alike. The focus was increasingly on the cover-up—the swearing of victims to secrecy, the shuffling of pedophile priests to fresh starts (and fresh opportunities) in unsuspecting parishes—and the way that cover-up touched the papacy itself. Questions were raised in the media and among Catholics about Benedict’s role, before he became pope, in determining the Vatican’s treatment of predatory clergy, a response widely condemned as ineffectual at best and criminally negligent at worst. Benedict found himself launched on an annus horribilis that would prove as awful as any experienced by a pope in modern times.
By Nadja Drost - Friday, December 3, 2010 at 10:00 AM - 5 Comments
Can a soccer scandal bring down the president who rescued the miners?
The stunning rescue of 33 miners did wonders for Chilean President Sebastián Piñera. After the miners rose from the depths, Piñera’s popularity climbed by 10 points to 63 per cent, according to a poll conducted by Adimark, a government-commissioned polling firm. Now, his approval ratings may hinge on the future success of Chile’s national soccer team.
As he toured Europe shortly following the mine rescue in October, Piñera, who won the presidency last January, was treated as Latin America’s new star, still riding the crest of a wave of popularity. Until, that is, he found himself in the crosshairs of a controversy centred on perhaps the one thing Chileans will rally around more than 33 miners stuck underground: soccer. “Soccer is having an effect on politics, and the direct responsibility for this lies with the president,” said Mauricio Morales, a professor of political science at Diego Portales University in Santiago. “We have never seen this before in Chile. Never.”
By Martin Patriquin - Friday, November 26, 2010 at 10:20 AM - 14 Comments
Allegations of wrongdoing keep piling up in Quebec
La Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ) has never been keen on having eyeballs, governmental or otherwise, peering in on its affairs. Part of the reason is pragmatic: as the largest union federation in the province, it represents the lion’s share of workers in Quebec’s construction industry, a notoriously rough-and-tumble industry in which big egos and strong arms traditionally rule the day.
No longer. Last week, FTQ president Michel Arsenault essentially reversed his federation’s year-long opposition to become part of the growing cry for an inquiry into the construction industry and more. With the FTQ now onside with a growing list of fellow unions, political parties, legal and law enforcement organizations and citizens’ groups, there remains one ever-stubborn holdout: Premier Jean Charest, whose governing Liberals this week are expected to (barely) survive a non-confidence motion from the opposition Parti Québécois. Apparently, Charest’s intransigence is hurting him: nearly two out of three Quebecers believe their elected officials have something to hide, while roughly 75 per cent believe their province is corrupt.
By Scott Feschuk - Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at 4:00 PM - 102 Comments
FESCHUK: In the throes of a serious shortage, the Church tries out some new strategies
Looking for work? Seeking a new challenge? Now may be the perfect time to consider a career in the exciting ﬁeld of demon exorcism.
The U.S. Roman Catholic Church is in dire need of dedicated professionals with the courage and theatrical overacting required to cast out evil spirits from the bodies of the faithful. American bishops even held a conference last weekend in Baltimore to train clergy on the tactical points of coaxing a demon from its human host. That’s one souvenir conference tote bag we’d all like to have: Exorcism 2010—The power of Christ compels you . . . to support our sponsors!
The New York Times summed up the Church’s predicament: “There are only a handful of priests in the country trained as exorcists, but they say they are overwhelmed with requests from people who fear they are possessed by the Devil.”
You can imagine the mishaps that ensue. When a newbie exorcist is pressed into action before he’s ready, it’s easy to panic and grab the wrong magical weapon. Note to rookies: a silver bullet kills a werewolf, garlic wards off vampires and a Big Mac lures Kirstie Alley down from a tree. You want the crucifix, the holy water and, if Hollywood has taught us anything about exorcisms, a few Wet-Naps to clean yourself up afterwards.
By Jaime Weinman - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 12:40 PM - 10 Comments
He trashes hotel rooms, mistreats women, parties wildly—yet Sheen’s network and fans don’t mind
Is there anything Charlie Sheen can do to make himself unpopular? Last Monday, the star of the world’s most-watched sitcom, Two and a Half Men, was removed from the Plaza Hotel in New York after trashing his room because of a missing watch; it led to a stay in the hospital, reports that he was on drugs (his retinue called it “an allergic reaction to medication”), and his abrupt decision to divorce his estranged current wife, Brooke Mueller. That’s just the latest in a long line of unpleasant stories about the 45-year-old actor, many of which revolve around his treatment of women. His ex-wife, Denise Richards, claimed that she underwent “a cycle of abuse.” In 2009, Sheen was arrested for reportedly holding a knife to Mueller’s throat. And at the Plaza, TMZ.com reported that he was with “a 22-year-old porn star” who hid in the bathroom to avoid his rampage after he thought his watch had been stolen. Yet he’s emerging from this new scandal the way he emerged from all the others: looking terrible, but otherwise unscathed.
Sheen was back at work on Two and a Half Men last week (TMZ said he was greeted with “fist pumps and hugs”), and Radaronline.com reported that he was “partying wildly” as soon as he got back to Los Angeles. His network, CBS, stood by him as usual; an anonymous insider told the New York Post that CBS is “quietly thrilled” because the publicity “will open up the show to a whole new segment of young viewers.” Dylan Howard, who talked to Sheen for Radar Online, told Maclean’s that “there are people around Charlie who are under no illusions that he needs to check himself into rehab and get himself clean once and for all.” Even Sheen’s father, Martin Sheen, told the Post that he hoped to separate his son “from the people he’s been around,” but there’s no indication yet that it will happen.
By Nancy Macdonald - Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 1:20 PM - 0 Comments
When municipal politics matter more than ever, why do so many cities end up with bad mayors?
In a sign of the season, in Ottawa this week, incumbent Mayor Larry O’Brien apologized for his first two years in office—a “complete disaster,” the mayor bluntly admitted. “I probably made every single major political mistake that was possible—I even made quite a few mistakes that, quite frankly, were impossible to replicate,” he continued. O’Brien couldn’t say whether he was Ottawa’s worst-ever mayor because, as he explained, he doesn’t know all of them. But the gaffe-prone mayor did want Ottawans to know how “sincerely sorry” he was for the way he’d run city hall.
What was remarkable was that this was not an exit speech, but a campaign speech. A year ago, the pugnacious ex-businessman was unsure voters would ever forgive him his bribery and influence-peddling charges. O’Brien was found not guilty, but the legal sideshow nevertheless garnered embarrassing headlines all over the country. Now, here he was again, having launched a re-election bid last month, complete with a recycled promise not to increase taxes. This notwithstanding the fact that taxes have jumped fully 14 per cent since he took office on a “zero-means-zero” tax increase pledge in 2006.
O’Brien does have competition. A record 20 Ottawans have paid $200 to run for mayor on Oct. 25, including O’Brien’s main contender: ex-MPP Jim Watson. But Watson, a former Ottawa mayor himself, has failed to excite Ottawans; although he’s leading in the polls, the race is such a dog’s breakfast that a disgraced mayor no one thought would show his face now stands a fighting chance come Oct. 25.
By Jean-François Lisée - Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 10:20 AM - 0 Comments
A veteran Quebec sovereignist accuses Maclean’s of ‘constructive xenophobia’
I was more amused than shocked by Maclean’s cover naming Quebec “the most corrupt province in Canada.” It certainly feels that way these days, and Martin Patriquin’s only challenge was to cram in a single story all the strands of allegations and shady shenanigans surrounding Quebec’s current Jean Charest government. All the facts in the story are public knowledge, and for the most part brought to light by an aggressive Quebec media and no less insistent opposition parties.
Granted, the blow—being named most corrupt province—was not as painful for me to take as for most of my brethren, since I am aware of Maclean’s penchant for take-no-prisoners covers. Thanks to the weekly’s headline writers, I have been informed these past few months that Lawyers are Rats, Hitler is Back, Toronto Sucks, New York is a Land of Constant Terror, Hillary Adopted an Alien Baby, and Bush was a new Saddam.
No wait! Maybe one of those titles came from another magazine. No matter. Having been a journalist for a couple of decades, I did try to find in last week’s issue the methodology used to grant Quebec its number one spot on the corruption scale. I was curious to know who was number two, and how wide the margin was—as in Maclean’s yearly university rankings. Did the writers use the number of corruption convictions of elected officials in each province since 2000? The cash amount proven to have changed hands illegally? Or, since no conviction is to be found in Quebec (yet?), the number of police inquiries in play? I was disappointed. Maclean’s has no comparison metrics whatsoever. The whole cover is based on opinion and perception alone. Hopes for a Pulitzer on this one are dim.
So, what is the fuss about? A screaming headline loosely based on facts? They’re a dime a dozen. They sell. And Maclean’s is in the selling business. So all would be forgiven, if it were not for Andrew Coyne’s scoop that Quebecer’s are impervious to “constructive criticism.” Let’s try. Continue…
By the editors - Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 3:30 PM - 0 Comments
PLUS: The House of Commons is profoundly sad at Maclean’s
[Cliquez ici pour lire la version française]
Last week, Maclean’s ran a cover story about politics in Quebec entitled, “The most corrupt province in Canada.” In an accompanying column, Andrew Coyne predicted that our work, like most criticisms of Quebec society coming from outside the province, would be attacked by its political class as “Quebec bashing.”
Quite so. The story was loudly and stridently denounced by every politician within reach of a microphone.
Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe claimed the story was “xenophobic.” The head of the sovereignist organization Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montréal called it “hateful and defamatory.”
Quebec Premier Jean Charest, fresh from his appearances before a corruption inquiry, sent us a letter demanding that we “apologize to Quebecers.” Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff joined the chorus apparently without having read the article.
By Andrew Coyne - Friday, September 24, 2010 at 5:50 PM - 0 Comments
COYNE: The factors behind the province’s penchant for money politics
No, Quebec is not the only province where political scandal sometimes erupts. Governments and business have been corrupting each other across this country since pre-Confederation days. But in no other province does it feel quite so . . . inevitable. British Columbia has thrown up the odd chiselling premier, Atlantic Canada is famously steeped in patronage, but there is no comparison to the kind of octopussal industry-union-mob-party configuration lurking just below the surface of politics in Quebec. Toronto may have been scandalized by the cronyism of the Mel Lastman era, but only in Montreal would a candidate for mayor publicly confess to being afraid for his life. When a senior adviser to Ontario premier David Peterson was forced to resign after it was revealed he had accepted a refrigerator from a party donor with ties to a developer, puzzled Montrealers phoned their friends in Toronto, asking, ‘What was in the fridge?’ ”
The roots of corruption run deep in the province. Scrounging for funds to carry him through the 1872 election, the eminently corruptible Sir John A. Macdonald didn’t have far to look: Montrealer Sir Hugh Allan, said to be the richest man in Canada, was even then angling for the contract to build the CPR. Fifty years later, with Prohibition in force and Montreal a flourishing centre of the cross-border smuggling business, Mackenzie King saw fit to put Jacques Bureau in charge of the customs department, with comically debauched results: the scandal that ultimately led to the King-Byng affair.
By Patricia Treble - Sunday, September 19, 2010 at 11:00 AM - 0 Comments
In a continent full of grey politicians, royals may matter more than ever
Kings are not born: they are made by artificial hallucination, the playwright George Bernard Shaw once said. Well, on the face of it, the illusion is over for Europe’s monarchies, as scandals buffet the continent’s thrones. It’s been a rough patch. Two years ago, Luxembourg’s parliament effectively neutered the powers of its monarch, Grand Duke Henri, by stripping him of his right to block legislation after the deeply Catholic head of state refused to approve a bill that allowed euthanasia and assisted suicide. Then, last October, cash-strapped Belgians were infuriated to discover that their king, Albert II, had avoided paying sales tax on his new luxury yacht, because it is a “military vessel.” And in what the Telegraph called “the row that has turned the monarchy-loving public against the royals,” Crown Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands was raked over the coals by media for his plans to build a luxury villa, part of an exclusive resort, in the desperately poor African nation of Mozambique. He abandoned it only after the prime minister, too, was dragged into the mess. This year’s big contretemps however, came out of what is every monarchist’s dream event: a royal nuptial. On June 19, Crown Princess Victoria wed Daniel Westling in an heir-worthy wedding that culminated in a romantic royal barge ride to the palace in Stockholm, where they were met by a glittering array of royalty from Europe and abroad. The choreographed spectacle, though, was more than matched by the grumbling over the cost of the elaborate event—the government picked up half of the US$2.5-million tab. (The bride’s father, King Carl XVI Gustaf, paid the rest.) Continue…
By macleans.ca - Friday, August 6, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Carla Bruni’s very tough act, Ahmadinejad vs. Paul the Octopus, and an extreme breed of couch surfer
Silvio Berlusconi’s very bad week
Italy’s PM is on thin ice after a party revolt led by long-time ally Gianfranco Fini, and now come fresh allegations of scandal. “In the bed there was me, two girls from Rome, and Berlusconi,” Maria Teresa De Nicolo, an escort, told prosecutors in a corruption inquiry, according to the daily La Repubblica. Could it end with a snap fall election?
The camera doesn’t lie
France’s stunning first lady should be used to the lure of cameras. And yet, during filming for Woody Allen’s new movie, Midnight in Paris, in which Carla Bruni plays a bit part as a museum curator, the former model and pop songstress couldn’t nail the simplest of scenes. Bruni needed a whopping 35 takes to film a dialogue-free scene that required her to walk in and out of a grocery store, clutching a baguette. In fairness, it had probably been a while since she’d done her own groceries.
One moment Gregor Robertson was Vancouver’s clean, green mayor; the next he was a scofflaw on wheels. The avid cyclist—he’s pumping $25 million into new bike infrastructure in Vancouver—was caught blowing a red light on his bike on July 22. He didn’t even slow down to check for traffic, bus driver Michele MacDonald told the Vancouver Province, after nearly flattening him. Only a quick, hard stomp on the brakes saved him, she said. “When he looked up and said he was sorry, I thought ‘Oh my God: it’s Mr. Gregor Robertson.’ ” The near miss was a “good lesson—and a reminder to everyone to use caution and follow the rules when out on the road,” said Robertson, whose poster-boy image took an another drubbing earlier this summer when a mike was accidentally left on at a council meeting, revealing a raunchier, more partisan, F-bomb-dropping mayor.
And he knows from silly
Long after the World Cup, the fallout continues. Argentina’s soccer association has dropped superstar Diego Maradona as coach of the national team, after it was sent packing in the quarter finals in a humiliating 4-0 defeat to Germany. Maradona was greeted by cheering fans on his return from South Africa and President Cristina Fernandez urged him to stay on, but the soccer association concluded his best days were behind him. Meantime, Paul the psychic octopus was roasted by Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The eight-legged sea creature (no risk of a hand ball there) is credited with predicting the outcome of all seven German World Cup matches—a silly bit of decadent Western nonsense and superstition, Ahmadinejad thundered in a recent speech in Tehran. “Those who believe in this type of thing cannot be the leaders of the global nations that aspire, like Iran, to human perfection,” he said.
The Mel Gibson of the left?
It’s one thing to blame Adolf Hitler for the Holocaust, Oliver Stone said in an interview last month, but whom do we blame for Hitler? “German industrialists, the Americans and the British,” the film director told the Sunday Times of London. “He had a lot of support. Hitler did far more damage to the Russians than the Jewish people.” Stone went on to lament “the Jewish domination of the media” and the way Israel has distorted U.S. foreign policy “for years.” He did apologize, calling his comments “glib” and “clumsy,” adding “Jews obviously do not control media or any other industry.”
Now comes the tough part
“From strippers to ministers,” blared the Russian headline that propelled Georgia’s new economy minister, Vera Kobalia, to the heart of an international scandal. Russian media—who love a chance to needle Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, and seldom let the facts get in the way—based the accusation on a racy Facebook photo of Kobalia in what they call a Vancouver strip club, but turned out to be a nightclub. Kobalia grew up in B.C.; she met Saakashvili at the Vancouver Olympics, is all of 28, and has no political experience. It’s not the only challenge she’ll face in her new job: running an economy that shrank a whopping seven per cent last year.
It’s a black thing, and I understand
In a big week for racial politics in America, Essence, the bible of black fashion, caused a sensation for hiring Ellianna Placas, a white woman, as fashion director. “It’s a dark day,” said former editor Michaela Angela Davis, who noted the industry has long been a tough place for black women. Not everyone objected. “Kudos—for having the . . . courage to elevate a qualified and talented white woman, in a time of such racial tension,” said Sophia Nelson, a black lawyer. Andrew Breitbart, ever mindful of reverse racism, could perhaps get behind it too. The conservative activist, who posted a video clip edited to make fired black civil servant Shirley Sherrod look like a racist, will “definitely” be sued, Sherrod declared last week. Breitbart reacted to the news saying, “As difficult as it probably was for her, it’s been difﬁcult for me as well.”
They get around
Utah’s predominantly Mormon Brigham Young University has added a new prohibition to its long list: no motorized couches. Students Nick Homer and Stewart Clyde spent months combining an old couch with a motorized wheelchair as a comfy means of transportation around campus. It was a sensation, until administrators instituted a law banning couch-based transportation systems. When campus police pulled them over, Homer says, they “basically congratulated us on being awesome.” Yes, if awesomeness is a crime, Neil Rideout of New Waterford, N.S., must also plead guilty. He was stopped by cops last week while driving his motorized drink cooler to a convenience store. He was fined $222 for driving on the sidewalk after police said the street was off-limits. The cooler, in addition to being cool, has jacks for an MP3 player, a 5.5 hp motor, a radio and, naturally, cup holders.
Spoken like a Lady
When you’re Lady Gaga, it must be hell deciding what to wear. So, for her cover shoot for September’s Vanity Fair, she threw in the towel, and every other bit of clothing, save for a floral tattoo and a tasteful choker necklace. Art is a cruel taskmaster, she said in an interview; she’s perpetually lonely, even in relationships. Of course that may also have something to do with celibacy. “I have this weird thing that if I sleep with someone they’re going to take my creativity from me through my vagina.” She credits her mom and grandmother with getting her mostly free of drugs, but for the occasional toot of cocaine. If the Lady is overexposed now, wait until the MTV Video Music Awards on Sept. 12. She has a record-breaking 13 nominations. God put her on Earth for three reasons, she says: “To make loud music, gay videos, and cause a damn raucous [sic].”
Careful what you wish for
It’s gotten so one almost feels sorry for Tony Hayward, the ousted CEO of BP—almost. It’s now clear that Hayward, recently replaced by Bob Dudley, failed miserably at containing the public-relations fallout from BP’s massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico—smug and indifferent before Congress, appearing at a yacht race in England and telling reporters he “wanted his life back”—but he may have done as well as could be expected when it came to stopping the leak from the Deepwater Horizon rig. “I understand that people find it easier to vilify an individual more than a company,” the career oilman recently told the Wall Street Journal. Perhaps. But CEOs are paid big bucks to take responsibility during times of crisis and expected to know when they’re in over their heads. Or at least when to hire image consultants.
Spreading the good word
Asked how he’ll protect constituents from the Muslim “threat,” Tennessee gubernatorial hopeful Ron Ramsey questioned whether religious freedoms should even apply to Islam. It’s arguable, he told a Chattanooga crowd, if the world’s second-largest religion is actually a religion—or “a nationality, a way of life, cult.” In nearby Florida, pastor Terry Jones announced plans for “International Burn a Quran Day,” on the anniversary of Sept. 11. His church, the Dove World Outreach Center, will host.
It’s what Uncle Earl would want
A man peddling Ansel Adams photos purchased at a Fresno, Calif., garage sale may in fact be selling pictures taken by 87-year-old Oakland resident Miriam Walton’s Uncle Earl. When Richard Norsigian announced experts had authenticated the negatives he bought for $45 and valued them at US$200 million, Walton recognized a photo of the famous Jeffrey Pine at Yosemite National Park from the news footage. “I keep thinking that perhaps that box of negatives belongs to Uncle Earl,” she told a local TV station. Undeterred, Norsigian is selling copies at a hefty markup: $7,500 for darkroom prints, $1,500 for digital reproductions.
A bit too N-Sync
Rumours dogged punk singer Plastic Bertrand for decades that the voice on his 1977 hit Ça plane pour moi isn’t his, but producer Lou Deprijck’s. Late last month, the singer (real name Roger Jouret) admitted the ruse to a newspaper after a linguistics expert told a Belgian court the vocals are indeed Deprijck’s. Plastic says he was promised a small share of the rights to the song if he agreed to “keep his mouth shut.” According to Deprijck, the reasoning for the Milli Vanilli-esque bait-and-switch was simple marketing. “I was even prepared to shave my moustache,” he told the Guardian, “but the record label preferred this guy with his punk look.”
By Martin Patriquin - Monday, July 26, 2010 at 8:39 AM - 0 Comments
The scandals keep coming, his ratings are abysmal, but he keeps going and going
Jean Charest wants to be Quebec premier for the foreseeable future. As headlines go, it’s about as exciting as “Worthwhile Canadian initiative.” Politicians, even those as terminally unpopular as Charest, always say they’re sticking around, if only to stymie opposition and further confound pundits.
Yet the premier’s frank declaration on CBC Radio’s The House recently that he wants to fight an unprecedented fifth election, which must take place before December 2013, goes against the loud whispers in both Quebec and Ottawa. Charest, goes the speculation, is effectively a spent force in Quebec; the 52-year-old premier is rumoured to be returning to federal politics, where he got his start as an MP in 1984, as early as this fall—for a Senate seat, perhaps, or a plum government appointment.
By Martin Patriquin - Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 9:20 AM - 4 Comments
A radical, unpopular plan for Quebec, now a corruption scandal: can he survive?
If by some chance you arrived at the Quebec Liberal party convention last weekend after having lived under a rock for several weeks, you’d be forgiven for thinking things were peachy for the provincial party. The mere mention of Premier Jean Charest’s name evoked whistles and cheers from the 600 or so partisans. Wearing a perpetual half-smirk, Charest studded both of his boisterous, campaign-style speeches with cheery statistics: roads built, jobs created, money saved, dollars spent. For one weekend, at least, the Hôtel des Seigneurs in St. Hyacinthe, a town better known for the quality of its chocolate than its support of anything remotely federalist, gleamed Quebec Liberal red-and-blue.
Yet it is quite a different story beyond the partisan fold. Less than 18 months after securing a third term, Charest and the Liberals are more unpopular than they’ve ever been. A recent poll suggested 77 per cent of Quebecers are unsatisfied with the government, while a mere 17 per cent believe Charest is fit to lead the province. The poll, which came out shortly after a budget replete with tax, tuition and electricity rate hikes, not to mention the introduction of user fees for health care, represents a dubious honour for Charest: he is even less popular now than he was in 2004, the previous benchmark for unpopularity in modern Quebec politics—and, not coincidentally, the last time Charest attempted major changes to Quebec’s traditional social democratic model. In response to the more recent changes, some 50,000 Quebecers took to the streets (on a Sunday, no less) to protest the tax hikes, christening Quebec’s own version of the Tea Party movement. “It’s unprecedented,” pollster Christian Bourque told Le Devoir recently.
By Nancy Macdonald - Tuesday, March 23, 2010 at 12:00 PM - 13 Comments
Why are Republicans so often caught in gay sex scandals?
For his entire career, California’s Bible belt state Sen. Roy Ashburn was best known for sound bites like this one, dating to 2005. At a rally he organized to drum up support for a ban on same-sex marriage, the powerful Republican from Bakersfield stood beside the founder of the Traditional Values Coalition, Lou Sheldon, proclaiming heterosexual marriage “fundamental to civilization,” as Sheldon made vile claims about the lives of gay men and women—in all, “one of the most disturbing hours of my life,” said one reporter present. Ashburn, said to be “right of Rush Limbaugh,” has opposed every gay rights initiative that’s crossed his Senate desk, including measures aiming at fairness in jobs and housing, and one to protect gay youth.
Fast-forward to March 3 of this year, when a drunk-driving arrest near the Sacramento gay club Faces led him to announce, days later, to Kern County radio listeners: “I am gay.” Even north of the border you could practically hear the collective slap! as Republican hands met foreheads.
The gay Republican outed by scandal is, by now, a familiar event on the American political calendar. As Out magazine describes modern, gay Washington, Democrats live openly on the Hill and in K Street lobbying firms while their Republican counterparts “still cower in the closet until they trip themselves up with off-colour instant messages to teenage pages or conduct unbecoming to a United States senator in an airport bathroom.” Why demonize gay people in the first place? “Beats me,” says Wellesley College political theorist, Laura Grattan. Surely, she adds, there’s self-hatred or overcompensation going on—“they could take a stand against gay rights without being so publicly vitriolic about it.” Whether railing loudly against gay rights is a shield, a political ruse to win votes or an attempt to scare it out of their systems, the result is clear: ritual outings and public embarrassment—though on that score, Ashburn’s glassy-eyed mug shot barely registers.
By Colby Cosh with Chris Sorensen and Aaron Wherry - Friday, March 12, 2010 at 6:00 AM - 114 Comments
Ottawa’s storybook young duo suffers a fall from grace
Wearing a navy pinstripe suit, a blue check shirt, and a vibrant yellow and lime-green striped tie, Rahim Jaffer cut a dapper figure in a courtroom in Orangeville, Ont., a sleepy town of 27,000 northwest of Toronto. The former politician, his hair gelled neatly in place, sat near the back of the gallery on the morning of March 9 while the court dealt with its quotidian diet of scandal: a domestic dispute, a 17-year-old arrested for marijuana possession, a woman caught skimming from her employer. For his part, Jaffer, 38, looked confident. With good reason.
Jaffer would shortly plead guilty to a charge of careless driving, and promise to pay a fine of $500; the court was told he had already made a charitable donation of an equivalent amount. As part of the plea deal, the Crown had agreed to drop two more serious charges against Jaffer—drunk driving and possession of cocaine—but did not offer much in the way of explanation. On the morning of Sept. 11, 2009, Jaffer had been pulled over by police for speeding through the village of Palgrave. The OPP officer detaining him was said to have smelled alcohol on his breath; the ex-politician was reported by the OPP to have failed multiple breathalyzer tests, and when he was arrested and searched, an unspecified quantity of cocaine was allegedly found “on his person.” Nonetheless, there were “significant legal issues” surrounding those charges, Crown attorney Marie Balogh told the court, and she foresaw no reasonable chance of conviction. She refused to answer questions from reporters after the trial. Brendan Crawley, a spokesman for the attorney general of Ontario, stated later that “there were issues related to the evidence that led the Crown to determine that the most appropriate way to proceed was with the plea resolution.”
Justice Douglas Maund wrapped up the proceedings, telling the accused: “I’m sure you can recognize a break when you see one.” Outside the courthouse, Jaffer did not respond to the judge’s remark or to any questions about the dropped charges. “I know that I should have been more careful,” he said. “I once again apologize for that and I take full responsibility for my careless driving. And that’s really all I have to say this morning.”