Friday, September 13, 2019



Even if the Liberals were not led by a devious and obsequious drama queen, I would not vote Grit.
But since Pete Trudeau's family still has one skeletal claw on the party, it's easy to vote for a party led by a Tory who doesn't act as if he has cornered all the morality in the country.
My first brush with the Trudeaus came as a Dodger fan when Jackie Robinson smashed the colour bar in baseball when he was promoted courageously from the Montreal Royals, a team largely owned and controlled by Peter Trudeau's father. That was mentioned in the English press but wasn't a big deal.
My next contact came, although I didn't know it, as I squinted into the blizzard over the Yukon's Lake LaBarge (of Robert Service fame.) We had made two forced landing with wheels on the rotten ice. My story made the front pages of the country because I was covering James Sinclair, a major cabinet minister who years later became the father-in-law to Pete, the pirouetting PM, and the grandfather to our current PM.
I was in charge of the Tely coverage when the politician who always contrived vainly to be really different - like boycotting the honourable war and lying about his age - became leader of the county much to the shock of the people who really knew him.
As the Tely skidded into the mists, I had on my desk one of the sexiest pictures I have ever seen outside the famous Marilyn Monroe calendar picture. It was said by the photographer, who wanted the kingly sum of $600, to be 18 year-old Margaret Sinclair in a bathing suit on the beach in Tahiti where she met a much older man who said diffidently over drinks that he was the prime minister of her country.
I never ran that picture on Page One because such was the relationship between the Telegram and the Liberals that I knew they would sue or humiliate us if it was really some other voluptuous creature. I left the picture on my desk as I put out the final edition and walked out of the silent building that has just been destroyed by the Globe.
I never knew that in my future was a profane encounter between me and Margaret in Caracas when I came to the defense of the PM's private secretary when Margaret was calling him every possible obscenity in front of dozens of tourists in a hotel lobby.
I was irked and tired so I used the F word in every possible construction, matched vowel by vowel by Margaret who was so infuriated by me that she marched into the state dinner and gave a Nazi salute to the Maple Leaf flag.
Then on the plane home,  I coaxed her into singing the silly songs she had made up to serenade the wives of the leaders  of the countries we had toured, and woke the next day to find myself being vilified on TV and radio as Margaret insisted into every mike that I had told her it was all off the record. (She had waited for every last tape recorder to be fired up.)
I could go on, like the time she led an alternative march at a UN conference in Vancouver that was to highlight the pails of drinking water that women in the Third World had to lug home daily. I pointed out that she had an inch of water in her pail, while the cabinet minister assigned by the PM to escort her for the day was loyally carting a full pail. She flounced off on a profane cloud.
She flirted from famous Manhattan night clubs to rooms with suspicious smells in Toronto - often spectacularly without her panties -while her husband confounded friend and foe in Ottawa. I was slightly handicapped in trying to figure out what stunt he would pull next because he generally ignored my questions. We once had a conversation about his SCUBA diving with Fidel Castro which ended abruptly when he remembered he was actually talking to someone from the despised Sun.
On one walkabout at the Kortright Centre, Pete encouraged Sacha to go into the crowd and shake hands with another cute toddler who just happened to be my youngest son, Mark, and film of the kids made the National. The same secretary who I had defended in Venezuela whispered with relish that he was going to be pleased to tell the boss that it was a Downing kid just to watch him scowl because he was a great hater.
By the way, that same Sacha, the PM's youngest brother, is a film-maker who got into trouble with a flesh-eating disease while shooting a documentary in Madagascar and was rescued by a young film director from Toronto, Gordon Weiske. He was carried through the jungle on Gord's back to the medical help which saved his life.
After my friend Gordon related the story to me, I asked whether a friendship had sprung up as a result. "No," Gord said, "he never even thanked me,"
"Sounds like the family, " I said. "After all, you didn't have anything more to offer, like votes, or a private island for a free vacation."

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