Hanging a former prime minister

December 2 2002


Hanging a former prime minister

December 2 2002



Hanging a former prime minister

It was, by most accounts, a fine day for a hanging. About 250 invitees were on hand, including some with Brian Mulroney’s knife marks still evident on their partisan hides. And from the moment the official portrait of the former Conservative prime minister was unveiled on Parliament Hill, it was clear that the old baritone had not lost his knack for the cut and thrust. With an uncomfortable Jean Chrétien looking on—no friends these two, remember the Airbus investigation—a jollying Mulroney went on at length about the care and feeding of his majority caucus, calling their internal debates “the very essence of parliamentary democracy.” It was vintage Mulroney. His first return to Parliament Hill since his resignation in 1993 and he knew how to get right up the snoot of the scattergun Grits.

It was his day, of course. There was no

serious talk of a Mulroney comeback. (Who started that rumour?) And only passing mention of the fact that if you take in the portrait, by Russian-born Montreal artist Igor Babailov, from a certain angle, the tightlipped smile looks suspiciously like a smirk.

Canada’s Mona Lisa? Well, mystery followed in Mulroney’s wake as well. Like, who let in the lone protestor with the small American flag? It was so 1980s. The Liberals only admit to giving directions to someone who said he was there for the unveiling. In a terror-filled world, the parliamentary intruder was the subject of pointed inquiries as the week wore on. But Mulroney was unperturbed. Watching the protestor being hustled away, he turned to his Liberal nemesis and sighed, “Ah, remember the old days, Jean, when we would have bused guys like that in.”

Quote of the week I ‘The part of political life I miss the most is my caucus. I respected their sacrifice and commitment. Their preoccupations became my priorities.’

BRIAN MULRONEY, reflecting on his time in Ottawa during the unveiling of his portrait on Parliament Hill

Blood scandal charges

The RCMP laid 33 charges against four individuals, Armour Pharmaceutical Co. and the Canadian Red Cross Society in connection with the tainted-blood scandal. In the 1980s, thousands of people were infected with HIV and hepatitis C through tainted blood and tainted blood products. Charged after the five-year investigation are two former senior bureaucrats at Health Canada, the former head of Red Cross’s blood program, and a former Armour vice-president (the company manufactured blood products used to treat hemophilia). “The Canadian public needs to have confidence in their public institutions,” said Supt. Rod Knecht, head of the RCMP Blood Task Force. “The Canadian public has the right to to expect the safest blood products possible.”

Killer Karla’s pact revisited

The book is called Karla: A Pact with the Devil. But police are looking into whether Karla Homolka broke her pact with the province of Ontario when she provided the book’s author, Stephen Williams, with information about her life behind bars. Homolka and former husband Paul Bernardo were convicted of the sex slayings of teenagers Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy in St. Catharines, Ont. But in 1993, before Crown officials knew there were videotapes revealing Homolka’s willing participation in the murders, they agreed to a 12-year sentence for Homolka in exchange for testimony about Bernardo, who was convicted in 1995 and received a

life sentence. Under the terms of the deal, Homolka, who is due for release in July 2005, is not allowed to profit from her crime through the sale of books or by giving interviews.

Free labour and casinos

Almost three months after being exonerated by the B.C. Supreme Court over the same issue, former premier Glen Clark was found guilty of violating conflict-of-interest guidelines in his handling of a friend’s casino licence application. The province’s conflict commissioner said Clark, who resigned as premier in August, 1999, as a result of a police probe into the scandal, breached two sections of B.C.’s Conflict of Interest Act when he knowingly accepted free labour on his home from Dimitrios Pilarinos, who was seeking the licence from the former NDP government. The B.C. government wants Clark to pay $53,000 toward the cost of the conflict-ofinterest hearing, but it was unclear whether Clark intends to pay up. “I have been exonerated,” he said last week, in reference to the B.C. Supreme Court decision.

Wacko Jacko

Maybe he just wanted to show off his new baby. But viewers on the street gasped when Michael Jackson held his nine-month-old son, Prince Michael II, in one arm and dangled him over the edge of his fourth-floor, hotel-room balcony in Berlin. The scene, seen around the world in TV broadcasts and newspapers, outraged child welfare advo-

cates. “It’s not something anyone in their right mind would do,” said Karen Sibal of the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies. It’s not the first time Jackson’s dealings with children have been questioned. In 1994 he reached a multi-million-dollar settlement over a sex abuse case involving a teenage boy. Jackson has two other children, son Prince Michael, 5, and daughter Paris, 4, with ex-wife Debbie Rowe. Prince Michael II’s mother’s name has not been released.

What rhymes with money?

All Ruth Lilly ever received for the poems she wrote for Poetry magazine in the 1970s were rejection letters. But Lilly, heir to the Eli Lilly pharmaceutical fortune, clearly never held that against the Chicago-based publication’s editors. Now 87 and ailing, she said last week that she is giving the journal an estimated US$100 million bequest. The gift would turn the little-known magazine into one of the richest publications in the world. Joseph Parisi, editor of the 90year-old magazine, said the money would be put into a foundation and used to promote poetry. As well, the publication intends to expand its staff, currently with four members, and move to better offices.

Iran on the edge

Tensions between Iran’s hard-liners and reformers increased as student rallies and strikes continued in Tehran in support of history lecturer Hashem Aghajari, condemned to be executed for blasphemy. Supreme

Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has ordered a review of Aghajari’s case in an apparent effort to defuse the row. Analysts said Khamenei’s intervention revealed how concerned the religious leadership is about the student protests, which turned violent when demonstrators clashed with Khamenei’s supporters. Reformers allied to President Mohammad Khatami accuse Khamenei of using the clashes as an excuse for further crackdowns on moderates.

Fatal attraction

The women in the Miss World contest are so beautiful, suggests the northern Nigerian newspaper ThisDay, that the prophet Muhammad would have chosen a wife from among the contestants. That article launched bloody riots by Muslims who considered it blasphemous. During the rampages in several cities at least 100 people were killed, Christians attacked and churches torched. Muslim groups have condemned the Miss World pageant, scheduled to be held on Dec. 7 in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, claiming it promotes sexual promiscuity and indecency. Pageant organizers got the message—“after careful consideration of all the issues involved,” they moved the event to London.

Elections and blood

Yasser Arafat had called on Palestinian radicals to stop the latest wave of suicide bombings. Continuing violence would, after all, only aid the Jan. 28 election chances of Israel’s right-wing Likud party. But Arafat failed—

with bloody consequences. Last week, a bomber boarded a bus in Jerusalem and blew himself up, killing 11 people, many of them schoolchildren. The deaths were a blow to Amram Mitzna, the new leader of the Labour party. If elected, Mitzna has said he would pull Israeli soldiers out of some occupied territories, remove many of the Jewish settlers from Arab lands and open negotiations with Arafat. But polls show Mitzna badly trailing hard-liner Ariel Sharon of Likud, who insists on an end to violence and a new Palestinian leadership before talks can resume.

Encouraging results

It has all the signs of a breakthrough on the cancer front. Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle and 15 other universities reported a 100-per-cent success rate with an experimental vaccine designed to make women immune to a sexually transmitted virus that causes 50 per cent of cervical cancers. Working with almost 2,400 sexually active young women, scientists gave the vaccine, developed by Merck & Co. Inc., to half and a placebo to the rest. Not one of the vaccinated women developed infections or precancerous growths during a study period covering 17 to 27 months; 41 of the others were infected and nine had cervical growths. Last year, 1,400 Canadian women were diagnosed with the cancer; 410 died of it. Some years down the road, the researchers expect, a vaccine administered to women before they become sexually active could drastically reduce those numbers.