Opening Notes

Opening Notes

BARBARA WICKENS December 23 1996
Opening Notes

Opening Notes

BARBARA WICKENS December 23 1996

Opening Notes


A Trudeau legacy

The birth of Justin Trudeau 25 years ago— on Christmas Day, no less—was one of Canada’s most anticipated events. Photos of mother Margaret, the beautiful 23-year-old wife of then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, with her little bundle graced the front pages of every newspaper in the country. The arrival of Alexandre two years later—again on a Dec. 25—drew similar attention. The couple’s third son, Michel, made his appearance on Oct. 2,1975. But despite their high-profile beginnings, the three, by all accounts, are now not much different from most of their twentysomething contemporaries.

Justin, tall and lanky, is working on a master’s degree at McGill University in Montreal. He sports longish hair and stylish clothes and has garnered his father’s “cool” reputation. Alexandre—known as Sacha— enlisted earlier this year in the army reserve. Given his father’s much-publicized ef-

forts to avoid overseas service during the Second World War, Sacha’s hard work during training at CFB Gagetown, N.B., turned a few heads. Family friends say Michel, now attending Dalhousie University in Halifax, is the most like his father in his pursuit of academic excellence, and the most likely to follow in his political footsteps. “All three are just super kids and it is clear that Pierre is very proud of them,” a former cabinet minister told Maclean’s. “But like him since he left politics, they really don’t want to get into the public eye.” With their surname, the scrutiny may be difficult to shrug off.

Risqué Russians

Catherine the Great, in a garter belt? The Russian empress was known for her lusty appetites, but there are no state portraits of her cavorting semi-nude. Now, Artem Troitsky, editor of Playboy magazine’s Russian-language edition, has rectified that omission. Catherine is featured in

a series of illustrations of some of the most famous women in Russian history—in the buff. ButTroitsky’s attempt to bare Russia’s history has attracted the attention of critics—and lawyers. The Russian Academy of Sciences and the St. Petersburg-based Centre for Gender Issues are suing the magazine for causing “harm to the dignity and professional reputation of these women.”

Leonid Petrenko, a lawyer for the academy, dismisses one obvious legal difficulty: the historical pin-ups are all dead. ‘We demand compensation for the moral damage done.” Troitsky seems unperturbed: “There are no serious legal grounds warranting a law suit.” Still, plans to publish risqué drawings of the wife and the mistress of Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin are on hold.

'Strangers care'

He is dressed in red and he hands out presents to children at Christmas time. No, he is not Saint Nick. He is Const. Tom Lowden, a Winnipeg-based Mountie who originated the force’s annual Gifts for Kids program. He got the idea on Christmas Eve four years ago, when he and his wife, Nancy, found themselves surrounded by gifts for their three children. ‘We realized how blessed we were compared to others,” he says, and the thought led him to start a gift drive for less-fortunate children. Lowden and his co-workers distributed 650 presents in Manitoba in 1993. The program has exploded across the country, with corporations and big banks climbing aboard. This year, hundreds of Mounties are handing out gifts to more than 21,000 children. But the best part, for Lowden, is something money can-

not buy: “There is a positive and lasting impact on these kids when they see that people, strangers, do care.” For the RCMP’s 125th anniversary in 1998, Lowden has set a goal for his pet project enough gifts for 125,000 children.

How books go missing

Booksellers who are out of stock of favorite authors this holiday season say they are not to blame. Two years ago, Toronto publishers McClelland & Stewart and Penguin Books Canada Ltd. launched Canbook, a national distribution company. A meltdown in Canbook’s computers in July, however, has wreaked chaos on the retail book industry. Shipments went missing, the wrong titles arrived and some orders were just never filled. Most galling, says Mark Lewis, manager of the Printed Passage bookstore in Kingston, Ont., is the fact that customers he has had to turn away have often found the book they wanted at another store. Penguin president Brad Martin says the company has been desperately trying to shake the bugs out of the system, and it is performing better. But like many booksellers, Lewis is worried that the customers he lost earlier this fall are not returning for Christmas—when the vast majority of books are purchased in Canada. That is one story booksellers simply do not want to read.

Low-content labels

In the United States, tough legislation in place since 1990 requires manufacturers to show nutritional details on nearly all packaged foods. That is not true in Canada. ‘TVe have sort of a mishmash of regulations,” admits Margaret Cheney, chief of nutritional évaluation at Health Canada. Canada’s rules require some information when a product makes a nutritional claim. But generally, companies do not have to give details about fat, cholesterol or sugar content, or anything else that might deter health-conscious shoppers. “It’s outrageous,” says John Morrill, a spokesman for the Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest, which carried its campaign for better-labelled food packaging to Canada last week. A comparison of the information on U.S. and Canadian versions of some popular items:

• The U.S. label on a 55-mg can of Hormel’s luncheon meat, Spam, notes that a serving contains 16 g of fat, including six grams of saturated fat. The Spam label in Canada carries no nutritional information.

• The U.S. label on Campbell’s V-8 vegetable juice shows that a 240-mL bottle contains 620 mg of sodium (salt). The Canadian label just says, “with salt.”

• On Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise, the U.S. label shows that each tablespoon contains 100 calories and 11 g of fat. The Canadian label has no nutritional information.

Cheney says a review of Canada’s outmoded regulations will get under way early in the new year. But it could be years before legislation requires Canadian food firms to tell the sometimes unpalatable truth about their products.

The Vancouver flotilla

As they do in so many endeavors, Vancouverites have their own distinct way of celebrating Christmas. In the Carol Ships Parade of Lights, a 34-year tradition, brightly lit and decorated ships—ranging from 20foot sailboats to 150-foot charter boats, and including even some commercial fishing boats—ply the waters of the Lower Mainland. This year from Dec. 6 to 17, carollers aboard any of the 40 ships on weeknights and up to 70 on weekends could sing in uni-

son because the carol ship society, which organizes the event, transmits the music on an FM band. But what has really raised a chorus of hallelujahs is the newest ship in the flotilla, Vancouver tycoon Jimmy Pattison’s Nova Spirit. The 110-foot vessel, a replacement for last year’s 80-foot model, features impressive bands of neon lights that slowly and subtly change color. Among Pattison’s many business holdings: Neon Products Ltd.