Opening Notes

Opening Notes

Taking aim at the right

BARBARA WICKENS April 28 1997
Opening Notes

Opening Notes

Taking aim at the right

BARBARA WICKENS April 28 1997

Opening Notes

Taking aim at the right

BARBARA WICKENS

The Liberal strategy to retain the bulk of Ontario's 103 seats in the upcoming election depends on splitting the right-wing opposition between the Conservatives and the Reform Party. So Liberal strategists have devised a crafty scheme: bragging about their gun-control law, which is anathema to both Reform and the Tories. In late 1995, the Liberal government passed tough legislation to ban some small handguns and to require mandatory registration of firearms. Many rural Liberal MPs feared that this law would hurt them at the polls. But several recent focus groups indicate that the gun-control issue divides the electorate in fascinating ways. Liberal strategists have concluded that most women, including most rural women, support gun

control. Meanwhile, although both the Conservatives and Reform have promised to repeal the law, the most vehement opponents favor Reform. Armed with those findings, strategists have urged Liberal MPs to praise their party’s gun-control stance at every opportunity. That, they reason, will keep Reform supporters in the fold—and continue to splinter the opposition vote.

Nelligan s return

The nearly three-hour play, which opened on April 13 at the Cort Theater in Manhattan, is called An American Daughter. But the actress playing the lead is a Canadian, screen and theatre veteran Kate Nelligan. After an eight-year absence from Broadway, Nelligan, who has been nominated four times for a Tony Award, is portraying Lyssa Dent Hughes, a wife, loving mother, brilliant doctor and Georgetown hostess. The story follows Hughes through a roller-coaster week as she awaits confir-

mation as surgeon general. But she is discovered to have once ignored a summons for jury duty. The ensuing media frenzy is all too familiar to anyone who remembers Zoë Baird, Kimba Wood or Lani Guinier, all former failed nominees of U.S. President Bill Clinton who were tripped up over similar missteps in their background.

Like everything else by playwright Wendy Wasserstein—who won Tony and Pulitzer prizes in 1989 for The Heidi Chronicles—the new play has drawn plenty of attention and speculation, not only because of its author’s profile

but also because of its political subject matter. The reviews, however, have been mixed. Linda Winer of Newsday loved An American Daughter, calling it “daring” and “enormously moving.” But Ben Brantley of The New York Times panned the play’s “sweaty uneasiness" with its weighty material. “The dazzling Ms. Nelligan, an expert in playing conflicted souls,” Brantley added, “is wasted in an idealized, passive role that seems little more than a poster for Ms. Wasserstein 's feelings about a country that continues to thwart its best and brightest women.”

STUNNING SHAPES: Mixing a few common organic chemicals in acidic water, University of Toronto researchers peered through a microscope and were astonished to find tiny objects with bizarre and beautiful shapes. Chemist Geoffrey Ozin said that the discovery—reported in the British journal Nature—might be used in miniaturized medical implants and other super-small objects.

Keeping track of Canadians

Elections Canada’s new permanent electronic registry of voters, due for completion by April 26, means that Canadians will never again find themselves greeting pairs of enumerators on their doorsteps. But the creation of any government list raises the eye brows of those concerned about exactly how the information might be used. The registry, which includes a voter’s sex and date of birth, will be the basis for subsequent voters’ lists for elections at all levels of government. And it will track voters’ changes of address using information from provincial vital statistics offices, which keep track of births and deaths, and drivers’ licences. The registry will be available annually to political parties and elected members, and will be accessible to candidates during an election campaign. That sharing has Privacy commissioner Bruce Phillips, who worked with Elections Canada during the creation of the new rules, concerned. Still, he gives the registry an overall A+: “In the end,” Phillips says, “the formula satisfied me insofar as use of federal databases are concerned.”

A sticky situation

With more than 500 suggestions for commemorative stamps from which to choose each year, Canada Post selects about 20, usually to honor a special person or event in Canadian history. So eyebrows went up when the post office recently issued a 45-cent stamp celebrating the 75th anniversary of Canadian Tire. If the stamp—which includes a depiction of a man giving his son a bicycle in a scene from the chain’s television ad—seems a little commercial, that could be because it is. While Canada Post spokesmen refused to discuss business arrangements, insiders say Canadian Tire contributed about $300,000 to underwrite the stamp’s production costs. Not only has Canadian Tire decorated store windows with matching posters, but its stores are also selling specially designed 12-stamp booklets. That, not surprisingly, does not sit well with Shoppers Drug Mart, Canada Post’s largest franchised agents. Maybe they should remember the old adage: if you can’t lick ’em, join ’em.

Party headliners

Being a journalist has never been a deterrent to entering politics in Britain— Churchill, for instance, was one—and those entering this month’s general election are no exception. BBC war correspondent Martin Bell, who is running as an independent, is the most prominent media candidate. When asked about any unease in the BBC newsroom over a journalist jumping into the partisan fray, Robin Oakley, the network’s chief political correspondent, says there was some initial embarrassment. “But Martin’s war experience makes him a bit of a special case.” Not that special, really. Both Labour and the Tories have several journalists running for Parliament. Such crossovers are rare in North America, where detachment from politics is part of a journalist’s professional code. “You must understand we have a much more partisan press in Britain,” says Guardian media critic Roy Greenslade. “No one here is surprised that a Daily Telegraph writer would run for the Tories, because everybody knows they work for a Tory paper in the first place.”

Passages

DIED: Former soldier, lawyer and Israeli president Chaim Herzog, 78;

of heart failure, in Tel Aviv. Born in Belfast, Herzog immigrated to Palestine with his family in 1935.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, he enlisted in the British army, rising to the rank of major. He later took part in the Jewish underground in Palestine until Israel was established in 1948, when he assumed a number of key military posts. Upon retiring from the service in 1962,

Herzog went into business and practised law until 1983, when he was elected Israel’s sixth president. He is credited with shaping Israel’s image abroad during his 10 years in office.

CONVICTED: Former Brian Mulroney aide Patrick MacAdam, 62; of tax

evasion, in an Ottawa court. In a stinging verdict, Judge Patrick White

said that MacAdam had “resorted to falsehoods and deception” to avoid remitting nearly $300,000 in unpaid taxes that he owes Revenue Canada.

DIED: The first female Speaker of the Senate, Muriel McQueen Fergusson, 97;

at her home in Fredericton.

DIED: Tom Nind, 70, president of Trent University from 1972 to 1979; at his home in Peterborough, Ont.

DIED: Former right-fielder Augustine (Lefty) Dugas, 90, who in the 1930s was one of the first Canadian-born players in the major leagues; in Norwich, Conn., following a stroke.

DIED: Biologist George Wald, 90, who shared the 1967 Nobel Prize in physiology for his research on how the eye sends images to the brain; at his home in Cambridge, Mass.

FILED: A temporary restraining order against actor Billy Bob Thornton, 41,

who won a screenwriting Oscar for his movie Sling Blade-, by his fourth wife, Pietra, 27, after she filed for divorce.

RECUPERATING: Hollywood actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, 49; from surgery to correct a congenital heart valve problem, in Los Angeles.