As it happens, here’s how As It Happens really happened

December 13 1976

As it happens, here’s how As It Happens really happened

December 13 1976

As it happens, here’s how As It Happens really happened


Doug Fetherling’s review of Barbara Frum’s As It Happened (November 15) compounds the book’s shortcomings as a record of what really happened. The idea of As It Happens was not, as they both suggest, borrowed from a West German radio show. It was based on a program proposal I submitted to CBC management in March, 1966, which derived from the notion that the successful phone-in format could be reversed for the live coverage of current affairs. Oddly enough, I discussed this notion with Barbara Frum who, at the time, was radio columnist with The Toronto Star. It took more than two years of lobbying and several pilot programs to overcome the timidity of CBC brass. But in any event, the program I launched in November, 1968, was still in advance of similar German programs that had begun meanwhile.

Fetherling panders to Frum’s conceit that virtually nothing happened until she arrived on the scene. In fact, the original As It Happens, co-hosted by Phil Forsyth and Harry Brown, quadrupled the audience of its once-weekly off-peak slot within nine months. Subsequently, under William Ronald and Harry Brown, it maintained that popularity until, as a measure both of its success and that of its Friday offshoot, it was allocated its present peak-audience slot on a daily basis. Both Forsyth and Ronald brought off coups altogether comparable to those claimed by Frum and they did so under the exacting conditions of live radio.

I find myself disturbed by Frum’s evasion in her book of the plain fact that almost all her interviews have been prerecorded and polished by tape editing. She states that “the show is done live.” Yet the

only listeners who hear it live are those in the Maritimes, and even they hear only the continuity between interviews live; the rest of Canada hears a taped and homogenized package. To my mind there is something ethically sleazy about the CBC’S continued promotion of As It Happens as a live program. Surely Barbara Frum’s considerable talents are real enough to survive the truth.


Not exactly a case of suffer-in-silence

In The Wrong Man To Kill (November 15) there is a suggestion that Canadians have not complained about land swindles. The inference, through the Consul General in Los Angeles, is that we either have been non-victims or that Canadians “prefer to lick their wounds in silence.” Neither is correct. At Action Line we have handled dozens of problems involving land schemes on behalf of British Columbians who have purchased land sight unseen. The State Real Estate Department in Phoenix is, in fact, aware of the problems we referred to them. The article does not mention if your writer contacted the department so I have no way of knowing whether or not the fact was covered up.


Allusions to the cinematic Woodward and Bernstein in The Wrong Man To Kill do a disservice to a great movie. It seemed to me one of the points of the film \A ll The President’s Men] was that investigative reporting is mostly nuts and bolts. One recalls Robert Redford thumbing through every phone book in America (until he gets to the Ms), looking for one name. And Dustin

Hoffman, nervously sipping coffee in the home of a not-so-Elizabeth-Ray-ish Washington secretary as he scrambles after a story, hardly comes across as glamorous. The presence of the bicycle wheel leaning against Bernstein’s desk throughout the movie is inescapable. His rounds of interviews were often made on a 10-speed, a vehicle hard to arm with a bomb.


There’s less to this than meets the eye

Peter Brimelow’s What’s Good For Ottawa . . . (November 15) concerning the indexing of federal public service pensions ignores certain important aspects of this question.

Brimelow does not mention that federal public servants pay for their pensions at the rate of 1% of their gross annual salaries. The government, as is the practice of most good employers, matches this contribution. Assuming, for the sake of simplicity, a level annual salary of $17,000 over a 25year period and a modest savings interest of 5% compounded annually over the same period, the total accumulated value of the pension would be about $120,000, which, at current interest rates, would yield an annual income of almost $12,000 and the capital would remain intact. In actual practice, a public service pensioner with 25 years service and a best six-year average salary of $20,000 would receive a pension of$ 10,000 a year. If the pensioner lived for five years after retirement, at the age of 65, he would receive something less than his total contributions to the pension fund, even if his pension was indexed to the cost of living at the rate of 8% a year.


Subscribers’ Moving Notice How to read your Expiry Date Name □ I’m moving. My moving date isMy old address label is attached. My new address is on this coupon. (Allow 6 weeks for processing) New Address □ I would like to subscribe to Maclean’s. Send me 23 issues for $8 ($12 outside Canada) 1. Circle the last five digits in City □Please bill me □! encloses-the top code line of the address label on the cover. 2. The first 2 digits Indicate Prov. Postal Code the i.e. 76 year means of expiry. 1976. Send to: Maclean’s ATTACH 3. The the issue next of 2 expiry. digits indicate Subscription Department, OLD ADDRESS LABEL i.e. 05 is the fifth issue. Box 9100, Postal Station A, (The fifth digit is not used) Toronto, Ontario, M5W 1V5 HERE! Thus, this sample subscription expires with the fifth issue of 1976

We’ve got to stop meeting like this

A Terminal Failure To Communicate (November 1) pointed out some of the poor attitudes some Canadians have toward bilingualism. One comment, about France trying to make Canada a French colony, showed how reactionary some Canadians are and how little they know about the formation of this country.

Hostilities harbored by westerners (not all of them, mind you) seem to stem from the West’s any-language-but-French background—or so they would have us believe. It’s true the west was opened up by German, Ukrainian and Loyalist settlers, but it’s often forgotten that Manitoba, during the late 1800s, had a sizable Frenchspeaking population. Eastern hostilities are similar to those of the West, but because the eastern provinces border on, or are close to, Quebec, it seems there is added antagonism based on economics and petty politics. All told, those from either region share the common feeling that French is being “shoved down their throats.” Ottawa’s recent battle over the use of French in the air and its apparent overzealousness to push its bilingualism program too far too quickly have done little to ease the resentment harbored by some Canadians.

But aside from all the controversy of having two official languages and ensuring that French is taught in schools to schoolchildren, most Canadians just don’t know, or perhaps don’t care, that Canada was formed in 1867 with the proviso that both French and English be accepted as the official languages. The British North America Act saw to it that both English and French Canadians were guaranteed government services in their own languages. The federal government recently has been trying to see to it that the same right is extended across the country, and this has been met with opposition in the guise of being a waste of money.

Bilingualism in Canada is a reality. It won’t go away and hide. Whatever the inequities of Ottawa’s present policy on the subject, the fact still remains that Canada is a two-language country, and for this country to remain a country—from Atlantic to Pacific—Canadians from all regions must accept bilingualism as a fact of Canadian life.


Here we go again with our continuing national “crisis.” Bilingualism is a point of national headlines, front pages and Maclean’s November 1 cover. In Quebec it was an election issue. Eleven years ago, the report of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism expressed the unanimous concern of 10 commissioners that Canada was “passing through the greatest crisis of its history” over the language issue.

As an “issue,” bilingualism is fast becoming a mark of Canada’s adolescence— our prolonged growing pains. Make no mistake, I think the royal bi-bi exercise

and its follow-through have been doing constructive wonders for Canada. Of course there are some who can’t take it, who want to continue their “best of all possible worlds” in a national childhood. They are those who can’t face up to the challenges of living with another; can’t see that “other” point of view; don’t want to learn that “other” language; don’t want to share the same national bed; bury their heads in their bankbooks, ignore the conjugal realities and miss much of the fun of being Canadian. Fortunately, an increasing number are actively involved in a larger, fuller context—working on school boards to get French (or English) intro-

duced in the earliest grades, hiring private teachers for extracurricular language classes, setting up special schools, organizing student social and cultural exchanges, providing company funds for language courses. They are traveling, reading, listening to, learning, involving themselves with and enjoying the heritage and the challenges we have in living with two of the greatest linguistic and cultural contributions of Western civilization. That evidence is there too. It needs more seeking out for headlines and front covers.

Sure we Canadians rub up against one another on occasion. There is friction, heat and occasional sparks. There is passion.

But surely this is exciting. Our country is alive and breathing. These are signs of vigor, of growth and of creation.


What is really bothering English-speaking Canada today is a guilty conscience. And many English-speaking Canadians haven’t owned up to it. In almost every province outside of Quebec, Frenchspeaking people have been discriminated against. In the armed forces this has been true, too. In business and industry, too many of us have acted as though this was an English-speaking country, pure and simple. And while Quebec was a predominantly agricultural and inward-looking society, we could get away with it.

Those days are past. French-Canadians have moved into the 20th century in overwhelming numbers and they are just not willing to be treated as second-class citizens. Three cheers! I rejoice that at least one government—our federal government—has made an honest attempt to right the wrongs. I wish the same could be said of the provinces.

I was in Ottawa 30 years ago. Civil servants didn’t even try to hide their hostility toward French-speaking people. Ottawa was an English-speaking capital, make no mistake about it. I was in Ottawa again this past summer. What a change! I overheard people being served in French without any fuss. I heard buses being called in both languages. It was a different city and a much more likable one. I am not saying that there are no problems to solve. Far from it. But if we begin by admitting that we are not a little England or a little United States, we will have gone a long way toward solutions. If we square our shoulders and say as Popeye does “I am what I am,” then there’s no problem big enough to stop us.


It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature

I picture Adele Freedman as one of those sophisticated Toronto critics who tear to pieces anything that shows quiet life in the country as a good thing. She may be so used to tall rubbery plants which make up the indoor “scenery” of office buildings that she would find the fresh air in Gabrielle Roy’s Enchanted Summer (September 20) inferior to air conditioning. And as for Jeannot, the crow, swinging in the wind in a wild cherry tree, and Long Skinny Minny, the cat who lived a distracted life looking for places to hide her kittens— well, all this and more would be just so much sentimental naive stuff for Adele.

But the more technological and hard our society becomes, the more we need writers like Gabrielle Roy to remind us of our humanity and of the harmony that could exist between man and nature. Western man’s undoing will be his destructiveness of all that Gabrielle Roy writes about with such love and understanding in Enchanted Summer. She is of that great company of writers—Rachel Carson, Albert Schweit-

zer, Jimenez,de Saint-Exupéry and many others who show the power of the heart and imagination and love for this earth.

Critics with more analytical minds than creative writers often show, alas, in their smart reviews what Susan Sontag calls “the revenge of the intellect upon art.” Such was Adele Freedman’s review—a city critic stuck in Emile’s swampy pasture with Rouquette the cow thoughtfully chewing her cud while Adele takes notes.


Three cheers for the skipper

Thanks to Maclean’s for extending long overdue recognition to Allan MacEachen

(November 1), the intrepid Cape Bretoner who so successfully and calmly captained the federal Liberal ship through so many political storms while more heralded colleagues, such as John Turner, assumed a sophisticated and media-attracting stance near the lifeboats.


Tito’s Ark

I found Après Tito, Le Déluge? (November 1) on Yugoslavia disappointing in that, like all other such articles preoccupied with the possible post-Tito era, little or no parallel has been seen with the French Fifth Republic under De Gaulle. One can

recall most vividly the political pundits writing that the Fifth Republic had been tailored for De Gaulle and would not last his passing. It is perhaps noteworthy that one hears little of such literature these days about the Fifth Republic. Similarly, it is my contention that analysts do a great disservice to the Yugoslav people and political system by suggesting repeatedly that without Tito the Yugoslav social system is inherently unstable. Tito, granted a great statesman and politician, has not singlehandedly guided Yugoslavia’s worker selfmanaged society. The resilience of the Y ugoslavs was seen both in World War II and during the Cominform ouster of 1948 and should not be underestimated in the years to come.



Up against the wall, interviewee!

Walter Stewart’s Interview with C. Jackson Grayson Jr. (November 1) regarding controls was journalism at its best. By the end of the interview Grayson was reduced to replying, “Well, that’s true, but . . .” Stewart was far better prepared for the interview than was Grayson.


Sticking on the labels

If Joe Clark is a “continentalist” as you say in The Welcome Wagon (November 1 ), surely republicanizer Pierre Trudeau is a socialist in the “better-Red-than-dead” tradition.


The fact that the Liberal cabinet turned down White Consolidated Industries’ proposed take-over of Westinghouse Canada Limited under “extraordinary public pressure” seems to indicate that nationalism is hardly a dead issue. This is something that “continentalists such as Conservative leader Joe Clark” should consider very carefully. It is obvious that the federal government, and most of the provincial governments as well, have refused to deal with the very real problem of extensive foreign control in any meaningful way. For the sake of our future as a nation, let us ensure that any such governments realize that they are committing political suicide!


More widespread than first believed

Another Machine Takes Over (Preview. October 18) discusses a Transponder being used in Edmonton to read meters for hydro, gas and water utilities. Bell Canada has, for the past year, been running similar tests in North York on a number of homes, but according to your item no one else is doing this outside of Edmonton.


Gophers have feelings too

It was with great pleasure that I read in the Day Of The Go/?/2cr(November 1) that one

of my favorite books was to be filmed. However, I shall not be seeing it. I saw enough of gopher hunting when I grew up and taught school in Saskatchewan. As a young child, like most other children on the prairie at that time, lured by the dream of three cents a tail multiplied by a very large figure, I set out on my own gopher hunt with a trap, a stick and a pail of water. One gopher was enough—too much. I did finally learn that one must come to terms with the idea that animals must be killed for one reason or another, but let the killing be as fast and painless as possible. Not all children who caught and killed gophers tortured them intentionally, but some did.

The gopher episode was supposed to teach the sanctity of life but ironically Mitchell’s account of this lesson has resulted in the reenactment of the cruelty he condemned.


Day Of The Gopher prompted me to write to express my disgust at the inhumane treatment inflicted upon a number of gophers in order to make a 90-second scene for the film Who Has Seen The Wind. The screenplay called for “a gopher to be flooded out of his burrow, whereupon Jappy (a dog) would seize it, one of Brian’s buddies would retrieve it, then snap its tail off by whirling it around and then flinging

it—tailless but still alive—out there somewhere on the windswept prairie.” Eighteen gophers were snared for use in filming the scene. One gopher strangled itself trying to get out of its cage. In order to record a shot of Jappy yelping and salivating, a gopher was held just out of reach of the dog, who eventually succeeded in killing it. Another gopher barely escaped the same fate. Yet another was drowned in its tunnel. Others refused to run from the dog—they were so terrified they froze in their tracks. How incredible that we have no law in Canada to prevent such senseless cruelty!

A bill was recently defeated by a onevote five-to-six margin in the California Legislature (the bill had already passed the Senate) that would have made possible action by the California Attorney General to prohibit the showing in California of any movie made anywhere in the world in which there was clear, hard evidence of cruelty to animals in the shooting of such a film. It is certainly feasible that such legislation will be passed in the near future, and other states are sure to follow California’s lead. Should this happen, it will be disastrous financially for Who Has Seen The Wind.


A situation obviously out of control

On the cover of your October 18 issue it says Controls One Year Later. By controls in Canada you mean Quebec, Ontario, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. We have not noticed any controls in the north, but then we don’t count as there are so few people here. Last year our gas was 82 cents a gallon. This year it is $1.14. Maxwell House coffee was $2.50 for a 10-ounce jar, but this year it is $4.30. Salmon was $2.25 a pound, now it’s $3.89 a pound. Our wiremen are now getting $72 for four hours work and an apprentice gets $64 for four hours work. With all the strikes we have in Canada it’s stupid to say wage and price controls. The only people on wage control are the ones on pension or welfare.