OPENING NOTES

August 2 1993

OPENING NOTES

August 2 1993

OPENING NOTES

OTTAWA POWER PLAY

After months of high-powered competition, the Canadian arm of Dallas-based EDS Ltd. emerged last week as the winner of a $150-million contract to revamp the federal government’s welfare payment system. Curiously, Maclean’s received a plain brown envelope on the next day containing a thick sheaf of newspaper clippings. The subject: an ongoing controversy in Florida over an EDS computer system purchased by the state government in 1989. According to Florida state officials, the $ 133-million system has issued 200,000 medical insurance cards to ineligible people and wrongly distributed more than $90 million in food stamps. Anne Schroder, a Supply and Services Canada official, said that her department was aware of EDS’s U.S. difficulties. “We discussed it with EDS,” she said, “and they provided all kinds of information showing that the problems in Florida will not have an impact here.” Clearly, however, someone is trying to sully EDS’s Canadian subsidiary, “ft sure as hell wasn’t from us, I can tell you that,” said Jean-Pierre Soublière, chairman of SHL Systemhouse Canada Ltd., EDS’s main rival for the Canadian contract. “We don’t want to burn any bridges, so we are being very careful.” Still, he suggested that the clippings could have come from a disgruntled employee of one of the many companies involved in the Systemhouse bid. Bitter bytes?

WORD FOR WORD

IN, BUT NOT OUT

President Bill Clinton last week announced what he called “an honorable compromise” in the long-running battle over allowing homosexuals to serve in the U.S. military. Under the. new policy, recruits will no longer be asked about their sexual orientation. But if gay and lesbian soldiers choose to disclose their sexual preferences, they will have to prove that they have remained celibate while in the service. Some activists accused Clinton of betraying his campaign pledge to lift the ban on homosexuals. The shift from promise to compromise, as shown in Clinton’s statements:

“If elected, I would reverse the ban on gays and lesbians serving in the armed

forces People should be free to pursue

their personal lives without government interference.”

—Feb. 11,1992, while campaigning for the Democratic nomination

“My position is that we need everybody in America that has got a contribution to make, that’s willing to obey the law and work hard and play by the rules. That’s the way I feel.”

—Nov. 11,1992, eight days after winning the election

“These are not issues that are free of difficulty.”

—Jan. 28,1993, a day before announcing a six-month delay in a new policy so that the Joint Chiefs of Staff could study alternatives

‘We are trying to work this out so that our country does not... appear to be endorsing a gay lifestyle. But we accept people as people.”

—May 27,1993, during a televised discussion with tourists at the White House

“It will not necessarily require them to stay in the closet. The policy as written gives people a limited right, obviously, to express their sexual orientation. But if they do so, they are at risk of having to demonstrate in some credible way that they are observing the rules of conduct applied in the military service. That’s much more than they had before.” —July 19,1993

BESTSELLERS

FICTION

1. The Bridges of Madison County, Robert Waller (1)

2. The Night Manager, John le Carré (2)

3. Gai-Jin, James Clavell (5)

4. The Client, John Grisham (6)

5. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth

6. Honor Among Thieves, Jeffrey Archer (3)

7. Pleading Guilty, Scott Turow (4)

8. Like Water for Chocolate, Laura Esquivel ( 10)

9. Violent Ward, Len Deighton (7)

10. The Dixon Cornbelt League, W. P. Kinsella(9)

( ) Position last week Compiled by Brian Bethune

NONFICTION

1. Women Who Run with the Wolves,

Clarissa Pinkola Estés (1)

2. Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, Deepak Chopra (2)

3. The Great Reckoning, James Dale Davidson and Lord Rees-Mogg (4)

4. Kim Campbell: The Making of a Politician,

Robert Fife

5. Shifting Gears, Nuala Beck

6. Beating the Street, Peter Lynch (9)

7. A Woman's Worth, Marianne Williamson

8. Culture of Complaint, Robert Hughes (3)

9. Love & Friendship, Allan Bloom (5)

10. The Fifties, David Halberstam (7)

Making gains

Although women still earn far less on average than men, figures released last week by Statistics Canada show that the gap is narrowing. Women’s median income (the level at which, of all women, half earn more and half less) increased to $14,800 in 1991 from $11,200 in 1986—a 32-per-cent jump. The median income for men rose by only 18.2per cent, to $25,300 in 1991 from $21,400 in 1986. At that rate of increase, women will eventually earn as much as men around the year 2012.

CROSS-TOWN SHUFFLE

The corporate lawyer and Parti Québécois loyalist created a stir earlier this month when he abruptly quit the prestigious Stikeman, Elliott law firm to accept a post across town with archrival Martineau, Walker. According to his former colleagues, Yvon Martineau, 46, quit as a result of a feud with Stikeman’s Montreal managing partner, James Grant. Martineau (no relation to Jean Martineau, who gave his name to the firm in 1919), is going to be missed, and not simply because he was a senior partner. There are persistent reports of a French-English split within the firm. Company spokesmen deny the charge, noting that over half the Montreal staff is francophone. Perhaps more significantly, Martineau was responsible for much of the work on the Sibillion merger between the Mouvement Desjardins group of companies and the Laurentian Group Corp. “That was Martineau’s baby,” one Stikeman lawyer said, “and it was worth megabucks.”

Playing catch

Angus the eager beagle passed away at age 9 on July 12, eight years after he pointed the way towards a “passive,” even playful, method of detecting foodstuffs imported illegally from overseas' by airline passengers. Unlike RCMP Alsatians and Canada Customs Labradors, trained to scratch excitedly on containers suspected of hiding dope or firearms, Angus’s method was to romp around a baggage carousel, stop, sit down and place a paw on a bag that smelled of meat, milk products or foreign plants. Angus’s service for Agriculture Canada is now carried on by a trio of beagles, Freddie, Digger and Charlie, who operate respectively at Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver international airports. On the day Angus died, and in Vancouver airport, where he had labored, Reefer the discreet retriever went to work for Canada Customs,

pioneering a passive way to nab travellers bearing illicit drugs.

Reefer, a golden retriever trained by U.S. customs and named for the marijuana cigarette, sniffs among travellers while they await their baggage, which at that moment may be undergoing inspection behind the scenes by one of Canada Customs’ 25 Labradors. If Reefer suspects a passenger, “he will alert his handler by discreetly sitting next to that person,” explained Revenue Minister Garth Turner in an announcement introducing Reefer and the “Passive Dog Program” (two Labs will soon join the program in Toronto and Montreal).

Canada Customs credits its retrievers for detecting drugs with a street value of almost $240 million, as well as 28 firearms, in the past 18 months. The beagles also boast

a high rate of efficiency. When Montreal’s Freddie puts a paw on a bag, says handler Barbara Beattie, he is right four in five times. People caught with banned goods often say that they cannot understand how it got into their luggage, claims Beattie, adding: “My dog knows what he is doing; I can’t say the same for all the passengers.”