Opening NOTES

TANYA DAVIES February 8 1999

Opening NOTES

TANYA DAVIES February 8 1999

Opening NOTES

TANYA DAVIES

What's in a name?

When it comes to letter-writing protocol, the 10 provincial premiers and two territorial leaders seem uncertain about how much formality is required. A Jan. 22 letter to Jean Chrétien begins with a straightforward “Dear Prime Minister.” But when it comes to their signatures, some use their full names, while others are more familiar, sign| ing only their first names.

Alberta’s Ralph Klein, who is | friends with the Prime Minister, is § just plain “Ralph.” Manitoba’s Gary S Filmon, who is not a close friend of I Chretien’s, also signed only his first name. But Newfoundland’s Brian Tobin, a onetime member of Chretien’s cabinet, signed his full name. Maybe it has to do with the old adage that the smaller the jurisdiction, the more seriously the leader takes himself. But Prince Edward Island’s Pat Binns is simply “Pat,” ruling that theory out.

Perhaps the most revealing signature is that of Saskatchewan’s Roy Romanow. A longtime Chrétien friend and ally, he is also the current chairman of the premiers. Romanow splits the difference with a regal “Roy R.” Auditioning for governor general maybe?

CAPITAL CONFIDENTIAL

No one had to tell Brian Tobin that calling a provincial election just three years into a mandate could be risky business. Newfoundland’s Liberal premier came within a whisker of a trip to the polls last fall—at the 2% year mark—then changed his mind. But waiting a few months—the vote is on Feb. 9—has not blunted criticism that he is an opportunist who wants an election simply because his party enjoys a huge lead in the polls—and because he has larger ambitions to run for the federal leadership when Jean Chrétien steps down. Tobin is gambling that those negative sentiments will not translate into lost votes for his Grits, who sat at 60 per cent of decided support when he called the election on Jan. 18.

Still, Tobin would not be the first political leader to find that voters had another timetable— and another candidate—in mind after rushing into a premature election. The most stunning mis-

calculation in recent history was David Peterson’s 1990 decision, with a 20-point lead in the Ontario polls, to call an election after only three years in office. Touchy about being taken for granted, voters turned to Bob Rae’s New Democrats. Fourteen years earlier, Quebec premier Robert Bourassa made a faux pas, ushering in the Parti Québécois era when he, too, tried his luck after three years.

Of course, going early sometimes pays off. Newfoundland’s Brian Peckford was successful in 1979. And in 1982, Alberta’s Peter Lougheed, who was way ahead in the polls, also called and won a snap election. Tobin himself called a quick vote in 1996 after taking over from Clyde Wells. But it is common for newly selected leaders of a governing body to ask for a vote of confidence from the people. It worked for Pierre Trudeau in 1968, although not for John Turner in 1984 or Kim Campbell in 1993.

EMPORIUM

Officials in Finland recently announced that the country now has more mobile phones than fixed-line telephones. The top 10 cellular countries by number of mobile subscribers per 100 people, and Canada’s rank:

1. Finland..........50.4

2. Norway......... 46.5

3. Sweden.........45.8

4. Hong Kong......43.2

5. Guam...........43

6. Israel...........37.4

7. Japan...........36.7

8. Singapore.......34.6

9. Italy............34.4

10. Australia........32.8

22. Canada.........19.2

SOURCE: THE STRATEGIS GROUP

GOLDFARB POLL

When 1,400 Canadians were asked whether they approved of a married couple taking separate vacations, the majority answered no. Surprisingly, respondents from Quebec, which in a recent Maclean’s poll proved to be the most liberal province in regard to sex and relationships, were among the least likely to approve.

By percentage of adults:

Total B.C. Prairies Ontario Quebec Atlantic Approve of a husband and wife taking 38 43 39 40 33 31 separate holidays DATA COLLECTED IN FEBRUARY, 1998 Goldfarb Consultants Limited