The Seventh Lean Year in the Land

Canadians face austerity with a mixture of resignation and resistance

CARL MOLUNS December 30 1996

The Seventh Lean Year in the Land

Canadians face austerity with a mixture of resignation and resistance

CARL MOLUNS December 30 1996

The Seventh Lean Year in the Land


Canadians face austerity with a mixture of resignation and resistance

FIghting Back

A part from the added leap-year day, 1996 produced no extras for millions of

Canadians out of work, or otherwise in severe circumstances. A stubbornly slack economy, made meaner by toughened governmental austerity and more corporate cutbacks, enlarged the toll of the unemployed by 10 per cent to more than 1.5 million people. More than 500,000 others are dropouts from the job hunt or never managed to join the shrinking labor force. Part-time jobs ac count for most of a recent marginal net increase in employment. Bankrupt cies ballooned at a rate that pushed the 1996

Fighting Back

gone-broke totals towards 15,000 businesses and 80,000 individuals (up by 20 per cent for the second year running). The year-end Maclean’s/CBC News poll found most respondents resigned to the prospect of a future without enough jobs to go around or sufficient support for the jobless, the sick, the poor and the old. But that expectation also aroused public anger and resistance among most, as did the relendess cross-country drive to downsize. In the seventh lean year since the start of the slump in 1990—and for the first time in significant numbers—people took to the streets in protest.

Thousands registered their resistance through strikes, marches and demonstrations. Efforts to gain job security—vainly for some, only temporarily for others— provoked major strikes in central Canada: by 55,000 Ontario government employees early in the year and 26,000 autoworkers in the fall. Rallies against province-byprovince reductions in health care ranged from British Columbia to New Brunswick. On a crusade against cuts in social services, thousands of women marched from St. John’s and Vancouver to join a mid-June demonstration in Ottawa. Opponents of provincial policies staged mass protests in Ontario and Quebec. For many, the actions recalled the anti-bomb and anti-war demos of the 1960s and 1970s. Others caught an echo of a march on Ottawa and other protests during the Great Depression of the 1930s, which gave rise to social benefits—welfare, unemployment insurance, pensions and, ultimately, medicare—now decimated or endangered by budgetcutting federal and provincial governments.

Not everything in 1996 was anxiety and anger. In direct counterpoint to job losses, investors and the financial industry enjoyed a bonanza year. Pumped-up business on the Toronto Stock Exchange set records. Bank profits, and multimillion-dollar salaries to top bankers, did likewise. Corporations changed hands for billions of dollars. Canadian Airlines escaped bankruptcy with bailouts from Ottawa, Alberta, British Columbia—and from its employees via another pay cut. Thousands managed to pay upwards of $100 a seat for diversions in the basketball arena or musical theatre. Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays hired Roger Clemens away from the Boston Red Sox with a promise to pay him more than $31 million for three years’ work. And the federal government reported progress in its campaign against its annual budget deficit—most notably, a $5-billion surplus in the Unemployment Insurance fund following a squeeze on payouts.

And some market seers forecast better times ahead— but only, they advised, if consumers get over their insecurities, take advantage of tumbled interest rates and start spending borrowed money to buck up the economy. There were similar predictions at the outset of 1996, although not by the Conference Board of Canada, which correctly foresaw a slack year and looked further ahead for more of the same in 1997. And Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, declaring that it is up to the business community to stimulate employment, was far from upbeat about the outlook. “Jobs are not satisfactory,” he conceded in a Calgary speech on May 22. “Probably they never will be.”


As Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard convened a Montreal summit of business and labor leaders on Oct. 29, demonstrators against layoffs and budget rollbacks burned a Bouchard effigy outside. During a Flag Day ceremony on Feb. 15 in Hull, Que., Prime Minister Jean Chrétien got physical with one of a group of protesters against federal reductions in unemployment benefits. And during a persistent protest against the logging of old-growth pine near Temagami, Ont., police carried away one of a group blocking a road into the forest.

Echoes of the protest movements during the Great Depression

Strife and starvation lay waste to lives in ancient lands

The plague of war and its aftermath infested many regions of the world in 1996—from civil conflict in central Asia to hunger and disease in vast encampments of war refugees in central Africa.

Across the Muslim world, from Algeria to Afghanistan, Islamic factions bombed and fought each other, their perennial Jewish enemy in Israel and innocent bystanders. In separate killings on the same day, April 18, militant Muslim gunmen slew 18 Greek tourists at a hotel near the pyramids

of Egypt, and Israeli artillery, retaliating against rocket attacks from southern Lebanon, shelled a UN base near Tyre in a barrage that killed more than 100 Lebanese refugees. The victims later were buried in a mass funeral (right). Again on a single day, Sept. 26, as an outbreak of combat fractured an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord and caused dozens of deaths, Afghanistan’s Taliban rebels, warring against fellow Muslims, overran the Afghani capital of Kabul.

In late October, Canada led the way toward what

was planned as a multinational effort to rescue from the threat of starvation Rwandan Hutu refugees—fugitives from a 1994 civil war—from beleaguered camps located in Zaire, itself torn by civil strife. But just as a vanguard of Canadian troops began arriving in the region in mid-November, hundreds of thousands of Hutus suddenly abandoned the Zairean camps and trekked home to neighboring Rwanda (above). A month later, more thousands of Rwandans, camped in nearby Tanzania, also headed home—as did about 350 Canadian soldiers after the United Nations called off the mission to central Africa.


Nature's cruelty, bombing terror and a plague of airline crashes wrought a heavy human toll

July was the crudest month in a year of natural and manmade disasters. After a two-day July storm poured a month’s worth of rain into Quebec’s Saguenay River system, the waterways became a lethal juggernaut that killed 10 people and forced about 12,000 from their homes in crushed communities of the Chicoutimi region (left). Canadians contributed at a rate that worked out to almost a dollar apiece—

$27 million in all—to an emergency relief fund. On July 24, during the evening rush hour outside Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, a bomb tore apart two cars of a commuter train while stopped at a station, killing 78 people and injuring about 450. That was part of a civil war between Tamil and Sinhalese citizens that has savaged the Indian Ocean island nation for 13 years. It is also part of a worldwide pattern of bombing innocents in furtherance of

one or another ethnic, religious, political or even personal cause. The Irish Republican Army, after a 17-month ceasefire in its war against the English, resumed using the bomb on Feb. 9—a truckload of explosives that killed two men and injured about 100 people and shattered buildings in London’s Docklands neighborhood (below).

The night of July 17 brought death to all 230 people aboard Trans World Airlines Flight 800. The Boeing 747 jumbo jetliner exploded as it climbed out of New York towards Paris, leaving wreckage (above), corpses—and an abiding mystery on the tragedy’s cause—in the Atlantic off Long Island. That was one of eight major airline accidents that took almost 1,500 lives throughout the year. The deadliest: the 349 people killed in a midair collision southwest of New Delhi on Nov. 12 between a Saudi Arabian jetliner and a cargo plane from Kazakhstan.

Comings and Goings


Political stars waxed, waned or discovered a

way into new orbits

t times during the year, the field of politics took 1 on the bustle of an arrivals and departures | lounge. In January, barely three months after ï Quebecers narrowly rejected the separatist op

Ltion in a referendum, Lucien Bouchard left the | leadership of the Bloc Québécois to take over the Parti Québécois—and the premiership of Quebec—from Jacques Parizeau.

Those two were soon sparring publicly. For a time at the height of the spat in the fall, it seemed that Parizeau might bid for Bouchard’s former job, but he abandoned that option a week before Christmas in favor of serving as a watchdog guarding the purity of the separatist cause.

In the span of less than three spring weeks in Ottawa, restiveness stirred up both the governing Liberals and the Reform party. Liberal unrest arose from the disparity between the government’s performance and the great expectations aroused by the party’s 1993 election campaign—abolition of the GST, for one, economic growth and jobs, for another. The mini-drama’s main players, Ontario MPs John Nunziata and Sheila Copps, had been public disturbers as members of the parliamentary rat pack when the Liberals were in opposition. The caucus ex§ pelled Nunziata because he voted against the government’s austere S program-cutting national budget. Copps, the deputy prime minister, ° quit the Commons because the government had welshed on the GST promise, but regained her seat in a June byelection. The Reform caucus, meanwhile, suspended MPs David Chatters and Bob Ringma, the party whip, for making affronting re« marks about gays and blacks. The same punish5 ment was meted out to moderate Reform member §

Jan Brown (who then quit the party) because, as S party leader Preston Manning put it, she had “un§ fairly portrayed the Reform party as being rife with £ extremism.” In October, their reputations tar^ nished by a federal inquiry into Canadian military misbehavior in Somalia, Defence Minister David Collenette and Gen. Jean Boyle, chief of defence staff, resigned.

In the United States, Republican Party Leader Bob Dole’s tumble off an election campaign stage symbolized his status as a loser to Democrat Bill Clinton. After his reelection on Nov. 5, Clinton used the U.S. veto to make sure that UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali would not also get a second term. The Egyptian UN leader, often the butt of American ridicule, had offended Washington by not always bowing to U.S. wishes.

I II ichaels often made the news during 1 J the year—from basketball’s Jordan, 1 È sprinter Johnson, boxer Tyson and W entertainment’s Jackson, all AmeriV cans, to Canadian politicians Harris, Harcourt and, in a French variant, Michel Gauthier. Cast appropriately in combative roles (as namesakes of the biblical warriorarchangel), the Michaels of ’96 wound up in or out of public favor, sometimes with a bit of both.

Michaels In and Out w

A gang of Mikes, winners and losers, struck sparks or flamed out


Superstar Jordan, who not only led his Chicago Bulls to pro basketball dominance but made a hit movie debut, sharing the screen in Space Jam with Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.

Olympic double gold-medallist Johnson, who won the 200-m and 400-m sprints at the Atlanta Summer Games. His 200-m triumph set up a dispute: whether title to the world’s fastest man belongs to him or to 100-m winner Dono-

van Bailey. The issue is to be settled in a 1997 showdown—over 150 m.

Harris, who marked his first anniversary as Ontario’s premier in June and held on to high poll ratings, despite growing opposition to his downsizing of services, staff and the legislature itself.


The bearded Harcourt, who quit as B.C. premier in February after scandals that tarnished his NDP government—and him, for mishandling the mess.

Songster-dancer Jackson, who divorced Elvis’s daughter, remarried, but drew smaller-than-usual audiences on an international tour.

Heavyweight Tyson, knocked down and TKOed by the more lightly regarded Evander Holyfield.

IN and OUT :

Gauthier, who in February succeeded Lucien Bouchard as leader of the Bloc Québécois, and in December—still largely unknown—said that he was quitting.

Goes On

On stage, screen and playing field, celebrities and celebrations lightened a severe year

The bright lights of showbiz and spectacle sport may wither a budding career, but, for some, the big gleam is simply sustenance. Such seems the case with Madonna, who thrives in the twin beams of entertainment and controversy. Wanting a child, she arranged it with her physical trainer and mothered Lourdes Maria in October. Seeking new stardom, she won the role as Eva Perón in the movie musical Evita. Long before the film hit the screens at Christmas, the big stores were hawking “Evitawear.” Canadian singer Alanis Morissette may not yet have acquired Madonna’s key to longevity in the lights, but she did all right in 1996: a Grammy and five Juno Awards.

Baseball’s Roberto Alomar, whose acrobatic play at second base and accomplishments at bat won him hero status in Baltimore after stardom in Toronto, found that horking on an umpire was not a skill that gained widespread acclaim. It is something the highly talented Aomar must try to live down. The mighty-again New York Yankees managed to live down a drubbing in the first two games of the 1996 World Series, and go on to beat the Atlanta Braves four straight to clinch their 23rd Series title, the club’s first since 1978.

The Show Goes On

The joy of winning has many faces, but few more expressive of jubilation than Donovan Bailey’s as he finished the 100-m sprint first at the Atlanta Olympics. He made his joyful noise as his eye caught the timer showing his speed: 9.84 seconds, a world record.

For Toronto Argonauts Paul Masotti and Doug Flutie (No. 2), beating the Edmonton Eskimos to the Canadian Football League title meant hoisting the Grey Cup heavenward—shouting in the snow that last November Sunday in Hamilton.

A kiss sealed the success of Oscar winners Susan Sarandon and Nicolas Cage. And Sarah Ferguson, her marriage to Prince Andrew broken and her bank account badly bent, smiled through her troubles at the Toronto launch of her book all about them, My Story.

A Great Hair Year

Anarchy on top: coiffed, colored or gone

Dennis Rodman is out there all on his own, his rainbow borrowings from punk dos adapted to the close-cropped Afro of the 1990s. The defensive specialist with the Chicago Bulls of the National Basketball Association, whose hair wears a different hue with almost every match, has lately augmented his aggressive coiffure with a transvestic couture that favors frilly wedding gowns. But, so far at least, only off the court.

Even in an end-of-millennium decade where anything goes, and fads and fashions shift with the speed of computer chips, there were some noteworthy hair remakes. Reform party Leader Preston Manning, in an apparent effort to knock off a few of his 54 years, at least gained a lot more brow out of his new upper cut. Emmy winner Elaine of the Seinfeld TV show Qulia Louis-Drey| fus) sacrificed her long locks to a S bob job for reasons disputed by the pro-

gram’s fans. But her haircut may have provided a counterpoint to the main male topic in the episode where Elaine had jü her hair cut: the vasectomy. ¡

The punk do in one of its myriad forms received 1 a tousled testimonial from British rocker Johnny | Rotten during a North American tour of his Sex g Pistols group. And for once, the upstanding S frightstyle of boxing promoter Don King * seemed appropriate to the ring rout of his heavyweight fighter, Mike Tyson.

In other fields of competition, getting an edge by looking different gets short shrift. Instead, sameness seems to make more sense, the hairdo becoming a badge of belonging. As on Canadian TV news programs, where the ubiquitous bangs of network anchorwomen have rendered them all but indistinguishable to the channel surfer.

But for those who would be as instantly distinctive as a Rodman, there is always the ultimate resort of film star Demi Moore, who offers new hope to the hairless. She gleamingly demonstrated that bald can be truly beautiful.


The year closed out the lives of leaders and entertainers

Cancer claimed three former provincial premiers: on Feb. 19, Ernest Manning, 87, the father of Reform party Leader Preston Manning who served as the leader of Alberta and its Social Credit Party from 1943 to 1968; on Oct. 2, Quebec’s Robert Bourassa, 63 (premier 19701976 and 1985-1994), and on Nov. 9, Joe Ghiz of Prince Edward Island (1986-1992) at 51. The same disease killed François Mitterrand, president of France from 1981 to 1995, at 79 on Jan. 8. As potent as any professional politician in many eyes, Timothy Leary, the defrocked Harvard professor who preached the psychedelic drugs gospel in the 1960s, died at 75 on May 31—

in his sleep, of prostate cancer. Famous 20th-century entertainers who died during the year include jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald, 78, on June 15; Italian screen star Marcello Mastroianni, 72, on Dec. 19, and comedian George Burns, a child of the previous century who was born Nathan Birnbaum on Jan. 20,1896, in New York City and died on March 9, 1996, in Beverley Hills, Calif.