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Sex, love and money

Editorial by Bruce Wark


The Coast Valentine’s Day issue lets us celebrate love and sex. But it also gives us a chance to honour power and money. After all, power is the great aphrodisiac and money is the universal lubricant. If love and sex are kissing cousins, money and power are their fraternal twins. Me, cynical? No way. All I’m saying is that Valentine’s is as much a time for publicly applauding the grandees we pant after for their sexy power and lovely money, as it is for handing out flowers and chocolates to our dowdier dear ones. And that’s not cynicism, my friend. It’s capitalist realism—the theme of all great editorials.

This year, I’m sending my first Power & Money Valentine to Brian Mulroney, a powerful former PM whose skill at making big money fast makes him even sexier to me than his son Ben, the glitzy TV star. Poppa Brian was in the news recently after federal officials decided not to try to take back the $2.1 million the government paid him in 1997. The money was to settle a lawsuit Big Bri launched after the media reported that the RCMP were investigating him. The Mounties had been looking into the possibility that when he was PM, BM took bribes for persuading Air Canada to buy a fleet of European Airbus aircraft. Bri sued to clear his name. The Chretien government apologized and cut him a cheque to cover legal expenses.

And here’s where that Big Money comes in. In 2003, word started leaking that shortly after leaving office, Brian received envelopes stuffed with $300,000 in cash from Karlheinz Schreiber, the German-Canadian businessman who had been peddling Airbus planes. Brian said through a spokesman that he helped Schreiber launch a pasta business. But Schreiber himself told CBC that all Mulroney did was send him a business brochure. “Maybe it’s a pretty expensive brochure,” Schreiber added. Expensive indeed. And that’s exactly why I’m sending a Valentine to Brian Mulroney. He has never disputed Schreiber’s tale about the brochure. What he has said is that he did nothing wrong and I believe him. Canadians do not elect the kind of people who take bribes. But thankfully, we do elect shrewd deal-makers. You know what? If I sweated my balls off penning Coast editorials every week for the next 58 years, I’d barely earn $300,000. Yet our savvy, powerful, former PM earned the whole bundle in five minutes flat. Sexy, sexy, sexy! Dearest Bri, please be my Valentine!

My second Power and Money Hallmark Heart goes to Conrad Black, the one-time newspaper tycoon facing trial in the US for allegedly stealing tens of millions from his company’s shareholders. Lord Tubs, as he’s affectionately known, was the subject of a Coast editorial three years ago in which I wrote about a 500 page financial report accusing him of operating a “corporate kleptocracy” along with his second-in-command, David “Rattlesnake” Radler. “Black and Radler made it their business to line their pockets at the expense of Hollinger almost every day, in almost every way,” the internal company report said poetically.

It also accused Lord Tubs of milking Hollinger to finance a lavish lifestyle for himself and wife Babs. It listed many items, including a private jet ($3 to $4 million per year), handbags ($2,463), opera tickets ($2,785), “Summer Drinks” ($24,950), a “Happy Birthday, Barbara” dinner party at a posh New York restaurant ($42,870) and $90,000 to refurbish a Rolls Royce. Last week, Lord Tubs called on American prosecutors to keep evidence of Babs’s spending habits out of his forthcoming trial. “Black wants wife left out of it,” the headlines blared. How touching, I thought. Here’s a guy facing a possible gazillion years in jail, and all he cares about is his sweetie’s good name. That may not qualify as capitalist realism, but it sure as hell is love, sex, power and money all rolled into one. Happy Valentine’s Day, Tubby!

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