OPENING NOTES

Bob Dylan charms the French, William McKnight hitches a ride, and Oakland Ross makes an easy decision

February 12 1990

OPENING NOTES

Bob Dylan charms the French, William McKnight hitches a ride, and Oakland Ross makes an easy decision

February 12 1990

OPENING NOTES

Bob Dylan charms the French, William McKnight hitches a ride, and Oakland Ross makes an easy decision

JET-SET TRAVEL COSTS

William McKnight encountered a travel problem while visiting his southwest Saskatchewan riding on Jan. 28: there was no sign of an Air Canada flight to Ottawa, where a cabinet meeting awaited the defence minister the following day. But department of national defence officials found a solution: a Canadian Forces F-18 jet fighter in Winnipeg that was scheduled to make a regular training flight to Ottawa that day.

Accordingly, the pilot of that two-seater aircraft detoured 440 miles west to Saskatoon and picked up the stranded defence minister. Aside from a 50-minute refuelling stop—back in Winnipeg again—McKnight spent two hours and 50 minutes flying in the cramped cockpit before the plane touched down in Ottawa at 9 p.m. DND officials say that flying an F-18 costs $5,389 per hour. As a result, the detour to Saskatoon added 100 minutes and almost 1,000 miles to the trip and nearly doubled its cost to $19,723. But McKnight's staff insist that the cost was justified—and he was on time for the meeting.

Calls from a cabinet minister

Jean Charest resigned his post as federal sports minister on Jan. 24, one day after Quebec Superior Court Judge Yvan Maceróla disclosed that the 31-year-old cabinet minister had telephoned him to discuss evidence in a case before Maceróla’s court. But a month earlier, Charest intervened in another case before the courts—and openly talked about that action. Last December, Charest called a district attorney in New Hampshire on behalf of Richard Bilodeau, a Quebec truck driver who faces charges of negligent homicide arising from the Nov. 29 highway deaths of two state troopers and a prisoner they were escorting. The result: U.S. authorities reduced Bilodeau’s bail to $120,000 from $600,000 after Charest offered

Ottawa’s guarantee that Bilodeau would return from Quebec to stand trial. Said Charest: “I put my word and reputation on the line.”

DRESSING UP THE OFFICE

Some reporters and editors at Canadian Press’s 50member bureau in Ottawa are grumbling about a management memo that ends a custom at that office: the option of wearing blue jeans to work on Fridays. According to the memo, staff members who meet the public must now “wear the kind of clothes that they would wear for an interview with a cabinet minister. ” For her part, newly appointed bureau chief Wendy Eckersley, 33, said only, “This is internal CP business. ” Next: spot checks for clean fingernails and freshly scrubbed faces?

Oh say can you see, eh?

Closer economic ties between the two countries have prompted some U.S. political scientists to update a hoary prediction: Canada will join the United States by the year 2000. Indeed, in an article that ran in several U.S. newspapers, San Francisco-based Walter Anderson, a former lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, claimed that among (unnamed) leading Canadian politicians and businessmen, “the discussion takes the form of a regretful foreboding that Canada will ñnd itself with no practical alternative to giving up on separate nationhood.” By means of a constitutional conference, no doubt.

FRANCE HONORS A CULTURAL HERO

Bob Dylan received French officialdom’s stamp of approval last week: he joined other U.S. artists including comedian Jerry Lewis and film star Elizabeth Taylor as a commander of the Order of Arts and Letters. The onetime protest singer, who was in France to perform a series of concerts, received the order’s gold cross from French Culture Minister Jack Lang at a brief ceremony in Paris’s ornate Palais Royal. Denis Feignier, Lang’s chief of staff, told Maclean ’s that he and other key government officials who

like Dylan’s music had lobbied for that honor. Feignier recalled that, as a university student, he had even written an essay examining Dylan’s lyrics for signs of political radicalism. Added Feignier: “Dylan’s constants are indignation and generosity, and mistrust towards leaders and gurus.” Armed with that knowledge, Feignier said that discreet inquiries had been made to ensure that Dylan would not spurn the award as “too bourgeois.” Sometimes you do need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

BEDEVILLED FRIED CHICKEN

The television ads, featuring an actor dressed in a red satin costume, urged viewers to pick up a "devilishly good" meal at 78 Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets in Atlantic Canada. But soon after the 30-second spots began appearing, hundreds of viewers telephoned franchise outlets and, citing unconfirmed reports about satanic cults, said that the ads would stimulate devil worship. In response, the eight regional franchise holders cancelled the spots last month, only 17 days after launching a planned two-month ad campaign. Said Charles Cahill, a marketing director for Halifax-based Edwards Fine Food, which owns 14 of the outlets: "These reports, combined with a small-town mentality, have created a real circus." That, at least, was not the devil's handiwork.

Fuelling concern

Stunning allegations that several incidents of sexual abuse occurred at the Mount Cashel orphanage in St. John’s, Nfld., in the mid-1970s have also drawn attention to the provincial agency responsible for child welfare. And Newfoundland Premier Clyde Wells recently fuelled concern about the department of social services’ effectiveness when he named a former Liberal MPP without any formal qualifications in social work to be an assistant deputy minister at the ministry. Beaton Tulk, a 10-year legislative veteran, lost the northeastern coastal riding of Fogo to the Tories last April. Wells said that Tulk’s experience as a school principal had helped him qualify for a post paying a salary of up to $72,000 yearly, but opposition leader Thomas Rideout argued that the appointment was nothing less than “political patronage of the highest order.”

Goodbye to all that

Reporter Oakland Ross left The Globe and Mail last month—almost a year after publisher Roy Megarry

launched key staff changes and increased the newspaper's coverage of business news. But Ross, 37, who had returned from the Globe's now-closed African bureau in Harare, Zimbabwe, said that he was leaving to write a novel rather than to protest changes at the Globe. Still, he added, the editorial changes had “made it easier to make the decision. "