COLUMN

Rising to a challenge

Allan Fotheringham March 11 1991
COLUMN

Rising to a challenge

Allan Fotheringham March 11 1991

Rising to a challenge

COLUMN

ALLAN FOTHERINGHAM

Ordinarily, it is good policy not to reply publicly to letters to the editor complaining about the contents of the back page. Supplicants calling the proprietor a jerk, idiot or cretin for alleged sins should be allowed their brief hour in the sun and their own say. We are nothing if not democratic, as God in Her wisdom knows well.

However, there are occasionally exceptions to this commonsense rule. Such, for example, with one Senator Trevor Eyton, arguably the most powerful businessman in Canada, who is unhappy with the recent presentation here of his role as boss man of Brascan in loading the Royal York ballroom for a luncheon featuring the at-the-moment Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, who only lately has discovered that the country is falling apart.

The neophyte senator is a swift man with the Xerox machine. I have received letters addressed to Maclean ’s, to The Financial Post, with fax copies to both places and everywhere except the bus stop. Most interesting, the injured senator sends copies (in order of his listing) to Ronald W. Osborne and Kevin Doyle.

Kevin Doyle happens to be my editor, and such carbon-copying is usual. But Ronald W. Osborne happens to be the president and chief executive officer of Maclean Hunter Ltd., which happens to own this saintly magazine. Are we talking intimidation here? Does the good senator actually think Ron Osborne edits this column? Or has any desire to? It is a puzzlement.

Since the baby senator feels moved to paper the town with a letter that begins “Dear Allan,” it seems only appropriate that the reply be shared with the nation. Aside from the fact that the senator cannot seem to be able to spell Maclean ’s or the name of the gentleman of the cloth who chaired the lunch gathering, he concludes with: “I do hope your future columns are more accurate. In the mean time [sic] would you kindly make the necessary corrections.”

Only more than glad to, sir. Your plea of innocence in the murky waters of shifting from Bay Street to pristine politics would draw tears

from a stone. Most hilarious is his claim that he is not one of the “instant senators appointed last fall by Mulroney to get the GST through the upper chamber.”

Is the man daft? The at-the-moment Prime Minister announced to anyone who would listen last year that he planned to pack the Senate to reverse the Liberal majority there that had vowed to block the GST. On Aug. 30, he appointed five new loyal Tories to the Senate. On Sept. 7, he appointed three more, repeating into any microphone available his clear intentions to find every warm Conservative body in the land capable of being carried into the Red Chamber, by paramedics if necessary.

On Sept. 23, he appointed three of the country’s most prominent businessmen, followed shortly after by eight others anointed courtesy of a foreign Queen who lives in another country across an ocean. One of those three corporate tycoons, of course, was our newly innocent boy

Trevor. Did he actually think he was chosen because of his deep interest in day care or the Fresh Water Fish Marketing Board? The mind boggles at his newfound mental virginity.

Boy Trevor is a clever lawyer. He writes, “Brascan did not buy six tables for the luncheon but shared one with an affiliate company.” Parse that sentence. It might indicate at first glance that Brascan purchased only onehalf a table. Another lawyer might say it slyly suggests Brascan in fact purchased only 5 V2 tables—not six. Strangely enough, the official list shows Brascan purchasing tables 11, 21, 22,23,26 and 30, for a total of 60 loyal Tories.

Consider the sentence “While Brascan does banking with CffiC, it and its affiliates carry on substantial banking relationships with all of the major Canadian banks and a great many banks outside of Canada.” Clever legalese, trying to camouflage that everyone on Bay Street knows that the CIBC is Brascan’s bank—why else would it top every other bank and everyone else with seven tables and 70 doublebreasted bottoms?

He has only one complaint bordering on accuracy. He points out that he was present for 42 out of 61 days. He knows as well as I do that the Senate measures its attendance in “sittings”—sessions—rather than calendar days, since in those kazoo-playing filibuster days of last fall some “sittings” extended over several days. The Senate count has Eyton showing up, however briefly, for 22 of the 31 sittings last fall— the worst attendance record was 19 sittings.

ord was 19 sittings. Most giggle-making of his claims is that he is “not resigning from corporate boards to try to avoid potential or real conflicts of interest.” Here is a man million in shares in

who is judged to own $24 million in shares in the Bronfman-controlled empire that has been under intensive scrutiny by every major Canadian newspaper recently for the paper-juggling that disturbs its shareholders.

Does the new innocent, who sat on 24 corporate boards that included General Motors, Labatt’s, London Life, MacMillan Bloedel, Noranda, Royal Trustco, Standard Broadcasting, Trizec and on and on, actually think he might not be running into legislation affecting any or all of them? Come on, boy senator, wise up.

Strangely, he did not mention one item in the complained-about column. His absence from the abortion vote, having been seen on the Senate floor earlier that day, and the day after, in fact absenting himself to attend a big Toronto party at vote time. So the loyal GST warrior couldn’t be caught on either side of the contentious abortion argument? Just asking.