OPENING NOTES

Brian Mulroney speaks out on sexual harassment, Irving Layton’s poetry appreciates, and the Queen gets a new title

November 4 1991

OPENING NOTES

Brian Mulroney speaks out on sexual harassment, Irving Layton’s poetry appreciates, and the Queen gets a new title

November 4 1991

OPENING NOTES

Brian Mulroney speaks out on sexual harassment, Irving Layton’s poetry appreciates, and the Queen gets a new title

OUT BUT NOT DOWN

Two weeks ago, Quebec's Equality party expelled Montreal lawyer Richard Holden from its ranks after he publicly criticized the party for being "anti-Quebec" and filled with "rednecks." Holden says that he will continue to sit in the National Assembly as an independent member for the riding of Westmount, and he told Maclean's that he will also continue "to fight to show Quebecers that nationalists are not all that bad." Holden, who admits to spending most of his afternoons holding court with other Montreal movers and shakers at Grumpy's, a downtown bar, has a reputation in Quebec political circles as a gadfly. Indeed, even his friend and fellow Grumpy's denizen Mordecai Richler recently told a television interviewer that nothing Holden says after 2 o'clock in the afternoon should be taken seriously. Holden's response: "If I can't be understood in the afternoon, neither can he." He added: "If somebody wants to criticize us, I say come to Grumpy's and have a few drinks. That's where decisions are made."

A poetic licence to print money

When Canadian television magnate Mo-

ses Znaimer was a Grade 7 student in

Montreal in the 1950s, one of his teachers

was a relatively obscure poet, Irving Layton. According to Znaimer, Layton used to sell his poetry books to his students at bargain rates. “Nothing ever cost more than 50 cents,” Znaimer said. Altogether, he collected 32 of Layton’s books. Recently, he said that a rare-book dealer appraised his Layton collection at $4,260.

Said Znaimer: “I certainly have had good luck in TV, but nothing comes close to the 1,000-times appreciation I’ve had on Irving’s advice.” Speaking to a crowd last week in Toronto to pay tribute to the 79-year-old poet, Znaimer added: “I say Irving Layton for minis-

ter of finance. I say Irving Layton for minister

of love. Hell, I say Irving Layton for prime

minister—there may soon be an opening.”

SUPPLIES BUT NO DEMAND

For Halloween this year, many American retailers stocked up on Gulf War-related costumes. But they are just not as popular as the perennial favorites, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Retailers say that despite high expectations, there is almost no interest in either Norman Schwarzkopf or Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein masks—and demand for mock gas masks is equally low. Said Patricia Edgecomb, assistant manager of Costumes Unlimited in Indianapolis: “We can't believe it—we haven't rented one. ” A case of trick but no treat.

A never-ending city rivalry

A series of ads that Calgary tourism officials are running in Edmonton newspapers exploits the long-standing rivalry between the two cities. “Dear Edmonton, was it something we said?” asks one ad in the campaign, which is designed to lure Edmontonians to Calgary. It adds: “Look, we've probably both said things in the heat of the moment we didn't mean— but isn't it time to make up?” But the one-upmanship continues. Ronald Symic, chairman of Edmonton Tourism, says that his city was the first to extend an olive branch. Declared Symic: “We did it first earlier this year with our *Fun City ' campaign in Calgary. ”

FIGHTING FIRES WITH CANADIAN INGENUITY

The devastating brushfire raging through northern California has led state officials to reconsider their long-standing reluctance to buy Canadian-made water bombers. The worst fire in California history has killed at least 24 people and ravaged 1,500 acres. As a result, there is heightened interest now in Canadair's $ 18-million CL-215T aircraft. Said Cynthia Coulter, a Los Angeles spokesman for Canadair, which is a subsidiary of Montreal-based Bombardier Inc.: "As sad as it is, we've been getting our fair share of attention from officials these days." But she also cautioned that a deal is not yet in sight. Added William Tele, deputy director of the state's Fire Protection Branch: "Now, our issue is not whether it's a good aircraft. Our issue is cost."

A FOREBODING FALL FORECAST

The Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill controversy led Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to speculate that similar allegations of sexual harassment may surface on Parliament Hill by the end of the year. Mulroney recently told insiders: “I bet a dollar to a doughnut that we end up with the same kind of accusation against someone in the House of Commons before Christmas.” During the 11-day Senate hearings that eventually confirmed Thomas’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, Hill’s sensational testimony riveted TV viewers across

North America. But

since then, many

commentators have

criticized the hear-

ings for failing to deal adequately with Hill’s charges against Thomas. Mulroney, for one, says that he was “appalled” by the spectacle and thought that the furor was demeaning to both sides, But he put much of the blame on lurid TV commentary, which he said led to “a loss of decorum.” Declared Mulroney: “There is none of the respect for institutions that there used to be, only a desire for a quick hit on the evening news.” He added: “Sexual harassment is an extremely serious thing. That is why it is all the more problematic when it is tossed out there so casually against someone.”

The spoils of war

The Pentagon has announced that 4,000 civilians will receive decorations for their contribution to the Gulf War. That is in addition to the 47,000 combat medals already awarded. (About 540,000 American troops were involved.) But the current round of heavy metal is relatively restrained compared with the decorating sprees that followed other conflicts. About 25,000 U.S. troops were involved in Panama in 1989, but only 2,500 saw combat. The Pentagon later ordered 44,000 medals. (The figure includes duplicate decorations.) Now, such entertainers as Steve Martin and Bob Hope are candidates. According to Pentagon officials, the new medals will “salute civilians who endured some of the same hazards and conditions faced by the military.” Even Pentagon spokesman Pete Williams, who spent most of the war battling reporters in Washington, is on the list.

Out of Africa

Among the former British colonies that make up the multilingual Commonwealth, English is the lingua franca. So it

was at the recent Commonwealth conference in Zimbabwe, where most of the population speaks the local Shona language. And at times, confusion over English usage came through on local television coverage. At one point, Queen Elizabeth II was introduced as “Queen Elizabeth Eleven.” And her husband, Prince Philip, became “the Duck of Edinburgh. ”