Opening Notes

BARBARA WICKENS September 2 1996

Opening Notes

BARBARA WICKENS September 2 1996

Opening Notes

BARBARA WICKENS

Setting sail with special effects

A Canadian TV production being shot in Cape Town and Toronto is leading the way for the next wave of high-tech, low-cost TV and film production. The Adventures of Sinbad, a new swashbuckling fantasy-adventure TV series being produced by Toronto-based Atlantis Films Ltd., combines live actors and computergenerated imaging to create a world with a variety of monsters, genies, harpies and assorted bizarre creatures unlike any yet seen on the small screen. “This show could not have been made even a year ago,” says Neil Williamson, vice-president of Calibre Digital Design Inc., the Toronto-based company creating Sinbad1 s animation and digital effects. Williamson notes that recent advances in both computing power and communications technology have made it possible—and affordable—to work simultaneously in two locales half a world apart—in effect, in a virtual studio.

Canadian actor George Buza (Sinbad’s older brother, Doubar) and American newcomers Zen Gesner (Sinbad) and Jacqueline Collen (the sorcerer’s apprentice, Maeve)

are filming their roles against South Africa’s stunning geography. Then, using dedicated wideband telephone lines, videoconferencing and the Internet, the sequences from Cape Town and special effects from Toronto are fused into a seamless pseudo-reality. Sinbad will première on the CanWest Global system in Canada on Sept. 7, while All-American Television Inc.—the Los Angeles company that gave the world Baywatch—is syndicating it in the United States. “This is like creating a new world every week,” says production designer Gavin Mitchell. "Jurassic Park meets Indiana Jones in the style of the Victorian romantic view of Arabia.”

Linking ethnicity and earnings

Many Canadians pride themselves on living in a relatively fair and just society. But a recently released study by Simon Fraser University economics professor Krishna Pendakur raises some cause for concern. Co-authored with his brother Ravi Pendakur, a researcher with the federal department of Canadian heritage, The Colour of Money reveals startling differences in earnings among Canada’s ethnic groups. Using data from a three-percent sample of 1991 census respondents, the authors compare earnings of those of the same age and education working in comparable jobs. Canadianborn visible minority men earned, on average, 8.2-per-cent less than their white counterparts. For male visible minority immigrants, meanwhile, the gap is even wider. The report also shows striking differences among those living in Canada’s three major cities. But the economist does not offer a hypothesis about the disparities. “In my view, this work lays facts on the table more than it is able to tell us why,” he asserts. Perhaps that will require some national soul-searching.

Visible minority males (Canadian-born and immigrants) earned less than white Canadian-born males

The politics of power

Before nine provincial premiers boarded the train in Edmonton for a five-hour trip to Jasper, Alta., it looked as though they would be in for a bumpy ride. In dispute even before their annual conference got under

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way last week was a controversial working paper by economist Thomas Courchene of Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., proposing that the provinces take over full control of such areas as health care, welfare and education. The premiers from the poorer provinces, concerned about national standards, declined to discuss the report—

but decentralization is not about to be permanently derailed. Some excerpts from the Courchene paper:

"It seems clear that the provinces would have to take the lead role. They will probably have to commit themselves to a convention embodying an appropriate enforcement and dispute resolution mechanism. But if they can accomplish this, then

the pressure for compliance falls on Ottawa. If the internal socioeconomic union is secured, there is no longer any rationale for federal cash transfers to the provinces as an enforcing mechanism. Given that the status quo is hardly a fall-back position, Ottawa will have difficulty holding out, particularly if citizens embrace the ‘national’ initiatives of the provinces.”

A piping hot band

It is akin to the Russians winning hockey’s Canada Cup—twice in a row. Last week, 30 members of Burnaby’s Simon Fraser University Pipe Band flew home to Vancouver after capturing the annual world pipe band championship in Scotland for the second year running. The best of 199 bands from around the world that gathered on Aug. 17 in Glasgow Green on the banks of the River Clyde, the SFU squad has earned a spot in the history books. Only one other band from outside Great Britain has ever won the elite competition, once dominated almost exclusively by the Scots—Toronto’s 78th Fraser Highlanders, in 1987. But never before has a team from

outside the United Kingdom snagged the coveted title back-to-back.

Dressed in their trademark black jackets and orange, blue and green ancient clan Fraser tartan kilts, the world champions— who boast five CD recordings and play at university functions such as convocations—include 18 bagpipers and 11 drummers. About a third of the members are SFU students, alumni or staff while others come from the local community. “The competition was very stiff,” says SFU pipe major Terry Lee, the band’s 40-year-old leader. “But I think we were a stronger band overall than we were in the previous year.” Like a good single malt whisky, the SFU squad is getting even better with age.

Lofty largesse

Money, art, buildings—those are the usual gifts bestowed by philanthropists. But Keith Baldwin, a 73-year-old retired engineer, has given new meaning to the term largesse by giving away a mountain. He donated Barnston’s Pinnacle, a 700-foot-high mountain overlooking Lyster Lake in Quebec’s Eastern Townships on the U.S. border, to the three-village municipality of Barnston Township. His ancestors had purchased the mountain, and much of the surrounding countryside, in the early 1800s as a timber supply for a massive sawmill operation. But the panoramic view from the top convinced the Baldwins to maintain the mountain as a park. “We don’t want to ever see it developed,” says Baldwin. Barnston Township was happy to comply with that wish when it accepted the mountain, estimated to be worth more than $1 million. The municipality also agreed to pay Baldwin about $30,000 to cover surveying charges and capital gains taxes. “We’re more than happy to pay that amount,” says Serge Riendeau, mayor of Barnston Township. “It’s like being given a luxury car and having only to pay for the licence plate to get it on the road.”