An Anecdotal Memoir
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The voice of the station manager at WGR/Buffalo was tinny on the intercom. Okay, we're ready to go. On my cue, please. He raised his hand, jabbed a forefinger in my direction and I began to read: a news bulletin, a weather report and a commercial for a bank.
"Okay," he said. "Now, I want you to look out of the studio window and extemporize for three minutes on what you see. My mouth dry with fear, I described the people on the street, the traffic, the flags in the wind and the skyscraper. All the while, flashing quick glances at the sweep hand on the studio clock and wondering what I would do when I ran out of things to say. I made it, but barely. Afterwards, the station manager and I chatted for a few minutes while he gave me his version of "Don't call us, we'll call you.
I have occasionally wondered what would have followed had I become an announcer on an American radio station. I was twenty. It was during that hiatus early in my ministry when I briefly lost my faith and returned to Toronto. To earn some money, I sold four political cartoons to the Toronto Telegram and decided to try to get into radio. No Toronto station would give me an audition, so I tried Buffalo. Fortunately, I wasn't hired.
During the Avenue Road Church and Youth for Christ years, I did hundreds of radio broadcasts, mostly on CHUM. Monty Hall, host of the television show Let's Make a deal, and Larry Mann - who these days berates his staff in television commercials for not using the telephone to do business - were staff announcers. Robert Saunders, whose Mayor's Report to the people preceded my broadcast on Sunday afternoons, would frequently go past his allotted half hour. When he realized that he was about to run over, he would say something like, I need another minute or two to finish. I know my good friend Charles Templeton won't mind if I take a little of his time. Incidentally, go hear him preach. It'll do your heart good.
In 1958, shortly after I returned to Canada from the United State, All-Canada Radio, a syndicate serving stations across the country, asked me to produce ten one-minute news commentaries five days a week. Over the next six months, I ended each day wearily hammering out ten pages of editorial copy and taping them for transmission to stations subscribing to the syndicate.
Pierre Berton was providing a similar service and we often crossed paths. One late night after we had recorded our commentaries, I said to him, Pierre, this is crazy. The two of us should simply sit before a mike and extemporize a dialogue on the news. He nodded agreement, but before anything could be done about it, we both left All-Canada.
In the spring of 1966 I received a telephone call from Jack Dawson, station manager at CFRB Radio. I hear through the grapevine that you're considering doing a newscast for CFTR. If you're prepared to do a newscast, why not do it for the biggest and best?"
I was in fact weighing an offer from Ted Rogers, who owned CFTR, and I had mentioned it to my brother, who was a neighbor of Dawson's. Three days later, I met with Dawson in the office of W. C. Thornton Cran (friends called him Winkie), President of CFRB. Also present was Don Hartford, then the treasurer and now president. Although nothing specific was said about it, it was evident that they were concerned about Gordon Sinclair's health and were thinking about an eventual replacement. (Seventeen years later Sinc is still going strong.) They wanted me to begin with a noon newscast and see how the cards fell.
I pointed out that a newscast would take hours of preparation and that I didn't have that much time available. As we talked, my mind flashed to the night when I suggested to Breton that we combine our editorial efforts. On an impulse, I said, Double the money and I'll get Berton. We'll discuss the news in an opinionated way and you can call the program Dialogue.
After some discussion, Cran and Hartford withdrew for a few minutes. When they returned, Hartford said, Get Berton and you've got a deal,"
I reached across and picked up a phone. Pierre," I Said, Im at CFRB. They'd like to do Dialogue.
"Fine. he said. Whats the money?"
It was the beginning of an association on radio that has continued for almost eighteen years. Pierre and I have discussed the news five days a week on almost four thousand broadcasts - for four years on CFRB and thirteen years on CKEY, syndicating the program across Canada, first on Standard Radio and later on Maclean-Hunter's Newsradio. In that time, Dialogue has been nominated three times and, in 1978, it won the ACTRA award for Best Radio Program.
Within weeks of beginning the program I ran into trouble. Berton and I have always spoken bluntly on Dialogue, never hesitating to criticize or praise any organization or individual from the prime minister down. On this occasion, I had been outraged by a small rump of Conservative backbenchers in the Ontario legislature. They had badgered in an exceptionally crude and cruel manner a member of the opposition while he was trying to make a valid point - a point made, coincidentally, on the previous day's Dialogue. I described the noisy backbenchers as "ignorant boors who were often asleep or drunk in their seats.
There was an immediate uproar. I was attacked in the legislature and received word via the grapevine that I was going to be summoned before the bar of the legislature and charged with contempt. It was a serious matter. The legislature is in effect a court and, even though the charges I had made were factual, they would be difficult to prove under formal questioning
I let it be known through friends in the chamber that, if I were hauled before the bar, I would defend my statement that some backbenchers were drunk in their seats, by raising questions about what was known as the biggest blind pig in Ontario" - the Members' lounge at Queen's Park. Though unlicensed, it served liquor. There was also a custom, now ended, that when the premier was scheduled to visit the lounge, a banquet license would be obtained so that he would not be compromised. It was an innocent bit of official hypocrisy but a political buzz-bomb.
The issue died.
The question most asked about Dialogue was "Do you and Berton decide in advance of a discussion which side you'll take?" The answer is no, but with one exception.
During the first week the show was on the air, we were at a loss for a subject - a not uncommon problem. Henry Moore's magnificent sculpture known as "The Archer" was about to be installed before Toronto's City Hall, and there was controversy over its appropriateness. Pierre and I held the view at the time that each of our discussions should be controversial, so I volunteered to speak in opposition to the Moore. On the air, Berton demolished me. I was arguing a case I didn't believe in and was ineffective and unconvincing. We resolved that day never to take a position we didn't hold and have never deviated from that decision. That we so often differ stems from the fact that our basic philosophies are so different.
My life has touched so often on Berton's and his on mine that it seems appropriate to say something about the association. Through a series of choices and coincidences we have worked together for more than a quarter of a century. For eighteen of those years we have met most weekdays to discuss the news. Before that, we performed on CBC radio and television. We were at the Star together, although I seldom saw him there as he wrote his column at home. As well, we have been thrown together in many other ventures.
Over the years we have become friends, although not intimate friends, for we see little of each other socially. Listeners who hear us assault each other on Dialogue, where occasionally the sparring degenerates to a verbal slugging match, say, "Surely, at times, you guys must hate each other. There are times when anger flashes. We many even descend to name-calling, some of the milder epithets being, "naive Philistine" (directed at me) and "knee-jerk socialist" (at him). Sometimes at the end of the pro- gram there is tension in the air and a bristling between us, but invariably one or the other will say something like, "That was a hairy one," the other will grin and that is the end of it. It would not have been possible to sustain the program over eighteen years had we not each developed a profound mutual respect, a respect tempered in the daily jousting. My wife Madeleine's view is that we have endured because we are both "blessed with a imperturbable egotism.
The fact is that we agree on many issues, but we differ as frequently as we do because we are very different individuals. We are unlike in our political philosophies, our attitudes to work and play and in our reactions to public notoriety. Both of us would resist being labeled, but Pierre is by disposition if not affiliation a socialist. I am a liberal. We both work hard but very differently. After the research has been completed, he writes his books over a few months in a sustained burst of concentration. Working seven days a week, I may take as long as a year and a half. He plays as hard as he works, taking frequent breaks to distant places. I seldom go out of the country, and withdraw each weekend to my home on Georgian Bay, where I spend each morning at the typewriter. This baffles and exasperates him. Many times he has fumed at me. "For God's sake, Chuck, take a break! Go out and get drunk. Fly to Paris or Jamaica or somewhere and do absolutely nothing. I pay no attention.
Pierre is gregarious. He enjoys parties and public functions. He doesn't seek attention but gets lots of it and relishes celebrity. I am no misanthrope but I am bored at parties, ill at ease in public, self-conscious when recognized and slightly resentful when approached. He seems never to worry about his health (he has a high pain threshold and actually finished one of our Dialogues while passing a kidney stone); I am given to occasional hypochondria. Pierre pretends not to be concerned about the reception given to his books by the press, but is. I fume and fret unduly, and before publication day suffer greatly from the Dreads. At Christmas I give him a bottle of champagne: he gives me a bushel of birdseed.
We are not entirely unalike. We're both birdwatchers, both fascinated by politics, both love cats (I introduced him to the Himalayan breed) and wouldn't be without at least one. We are both cartoonists (although Pierre is a comic-strip fan and I am not), both love books and couldn't exist without newspapers. A fundamental similarity is that we both love life, live with zest and are interested in everything.
Berton is not thoughtful but he is generous and loyal to his friends. Years ago, he urged me to buy the house next to his in Kleinburg (Jack McClelland now owns it) and often proposes that Madeleine and I join him and Janet on a vacation. We have not yet been able to. Before I married Madeleine and was, for a few years, alone at Christmas. Pierre insisted that I join the Berton family for their celebration. On those occasions when I have been very much in need of the good counsel of a trusted friend, I have turned to Pierre.
Twice, Breton and I just missed carrying our working relationship to the ownership of a newspaper.
In February 1965, after having resigned from the Star and been defeated in my bid for the leadership of the Ontario Liberal party, I was for a brief period president of Technamation Canada, a small company manufacturing polarized advertising displays. One morning, I received a telephone call from George Monteith of the Montreal law firm Monteith, Hamilton, Holbein Ltd. He informed me that, while the Globe and Mail was not on the market, R. Howard Webster, the chairman and publisher, would consider an offer to purchase it.
A month earlier, Phillip Givens, then mayor of Toronto, had gotten in touch to inform me that the Globe might be available for purchase and wanted on know if I would be interested. I told him I would. Givens passed on the information but did not disclose my name. Now the opportunity was moving closer.
I got in touch immediately with Martin Goodman and we met for lunch. I had met Goodman when I first joined the Star. Beland Honderich had gathered a small group to bid him farewell as he left for Harvard University on a Neiman Fellowship. After his sabbatical, he was posted to Washington and then to Ottawa as bureau chief. Now he was back in Toronto on the path that would not long after wards make him publisher. At lunch, Goodman and I formed an informal partnership and divided our responsibilities: I would do the negotiating and prepare the presentation; he would raise the money. The asking price, according to Monteith, was $15. 5 million.
It developed that, because of my association with the Liberal party, there was concern that I might move the paper in that direction. I had already decided that, if we acquired the paper, I would eschew partisanship and follow an independent editorial policy. In response to a request, I wrote a six-page letter outlining my view of the directions the Globe should take and the specific objectives I would set. I put together a board of directors that included Donald Fleming, the former finance minister in the Diefenbaker government, Dr. Davidson Dunton, president of Carleton University and the former president of the CBC, Andr'e Laurendeau, vice-chairman of the Royal Commission on Biculturalism and Bilingualism and the former editor of Le Devoir, Walter Harris, chairman of the board of Victoria and Grey Trust and former finance minister in the St. Laurent government, Pierre Berton and others. I also specified that the asking price of $15. 5 million would be met through the raising of $3 million in equity, with the balance in bank loans and privately placed debentures.
Over a period of a few weeks, the negotiations placed to cool. It became obvious that there were concerns over my political views. Overnight, conversations ended, and not long afterwards I learned that the Globe had been sold to F. P Publications.
In my final conversation with Monteith I had been asked in an offhand way, "Would you be interested instead in buying a Toronto radio station?"
"Thank you, no," I said.
There was another opportunity to buy a newspaper. In 1971, John Bassett decided to cut his losses and sell the Toronto Telegram. I was in his office on another matter and asked him if the rumours were true. Yes, he said. The paper was losing money, there seemed no likelihood of reversing its fortunes and he had decided to fold it while it still had assets.
In the midst of our conversation he said suddenly, "By God, Charles! You and Berton should buy it. The two of you have the experience, the moxie and the drive to make it work. If anybody can save it, you guys can.
I broached it to Pierre. He was immediately interested. We agreed that, first, we should learn the magnitude of the Telegram's financial woes. I called Bassett. He said he would arrange for us to see the books. He added a warning. "Look," he said, youre both friends of mine and I wouldn't want you to get hurt; the picture is forbidding. But, if you guys can make it go, nobody will be happier than I.
After meeting with Bassett the following day, Pierre and I returned to my car and drove slowly east on Front Street, talking. I pulled to the curb in front of Union Station and for perhaps twenty minutes we each put forward our views about what needed to be done. We agreed that we should convert the paper into a tabloid, radically change its style and find a new name. Pierre was disposed toward an emphasis that was politically left, making the target audience working people and members of craft and labour unions. I believed we should avoid any political colouration, convinced that that era of journalism was passing. We jousted lightly about our respective titles and our particular responsibilities.
Then, almost as though on cue, we turned in the seat to face each other. "Pierre," I said, "while we've been talking I've been thinking about the next three to five years. We both know that, if we're going to make it succeed, it's going to take twelve- to fourteen-hour days, seven days a week. Are we prepared to put aside the other things we're doing and devote ourselves to this?"
"Chuck," he said," that's exactly the question I was going to put to you. I don't think I am.
Nor am I," I said. And that was that.
Pierre and I had been at CFRB almost four years when I received a telephone call from Doug Trowell, president of CKEY radio, asking if he could come by and see me. I had met Trowell when I was at Maclean's -CKEY is owned by Maclean-Hunter - and had found him personable but oddly wary in social intercourse. Wanting to avoid a time-wasting discussion, I said, Doug, if it's to discuss our moving to CKEY, let me simply say that we love it at 'RB and it would be pointless to talk about a move. None the less," he said, he would like to chat.
I had broadcast over CKEY in the early 1940s. Having founded the Avenue Road Church, I was anxious to extend its outreach. I walked into the studios (they were then on University Avenue) without an appointment and asked to speak to Jack Kent Cooke, the president. His secretary was getting rid of me when Cooke passed by. He knew me from my days as sports cartoonist at the Globe, crooked a finger and said, Come with me.
In his office he came right to the point. "Why do you want to be on radio?"
"For the same reason Imperial Oil and Pepsodent toothpaste and Bovril want to. It's the best way to be in direct touch with the people.
"If I put you on the air, will you pay your bills?"
"Of course," I said.
He grinned at me. "I've had that promise from men of the cloth before.
Now, some thirty years later, I sat in my tiny cubicle talking with Doug Trowell, the present head of the station. After a few minutes, I said. "What's on your mind?"
He said, "I have two propositions to put before you. First, that you and Berton move Dialogue to CKEY. Second, that you also do our 8:00 a. m. newscast.
I said, "Doug, as I told you on the telephone, we're happy at CFRB. It has the largest audience in the country, maybe in North America. It's professionally and competently run. In the years we've been there has been no attempt to control what we say. More than that: getting up before dawn to do newscast doesn't appeal to me at all.
He said, "May I ask you a question in confidence?"
"That depends, of course.
What does 'RB pay you and Berton?"
I said, "I can't tell you that.
"Trust me," he said, "I have a very specific reason for asking. I give you my absolute assurance that the information will go no further than his room.
"We're pretty expensive," I said evasively, not wanting to answer his question.
I finally told him the figure. He put his head dawn and said nothing for perhaps thirty seconds. I filled the silence by saying, "I told you we were expensive.
"I'll double it," he said. "As well, I'II pay you (naming a figure) to do the newscast.
Now he had given me pause. I considered it a moment and said, "Have you discussed this with the management at Maclean-Hunter? I'm not their favorite employee.
"Yes," he said. They understand what happened at the magazine.
"I'll pass your offer on to Berton.
"Why don't you do it right now?"
"He's in Japan.
"I'll pay for the call.
I tracked him down in ten minutes. While we were waiting, I argued about doing the newscast. For five years on the Star I'd risen before down and hadn't liked it. An 8:00 a. m. newscast would require me to be up before five. The prospect didn't please. Trowell argued persuasively. He saw the newscast as more important to the station than Dialogue. There is a maxim in radio:
"Whoever owns 8:00 a. m. owns the day.
"Try it," he said. "You'll like it.
On the long-distance line my conversation with Berton was guarded. He was interested. We agreed that before we could decide we were bound to give CFRB the opportunity to match the offer. Dawson responded with one increase, and then a second, but would not duplicate Trowell's offer.
On my third day at CKEY, James Cross, the British trade commissioner, was kidnapped by the Front de la Liberation de Quebec. Eleven hectic days later, the Trudeau government proclaimed the War Measures Act. The following day, Quebec Labor Minister Pierre Laporte's murdered body was found in the trunk of his car. As the news broke, I volunteered to do double duty and went on the air every half hour updating the story.
On the day Prime Minister Trudeau proclaimed the War Measures Act, Berton had been in a fury during our Dialogue. I had opposed his rush to judgment, arguing that we should wait until the prime minister addressed the nation. "We've got to trust him, I insisted. "He's privy to information that we don't have. The crisis must pose a genuine threat to the nation or he wouldn't call out the troops.
That night, I watched Mr. Trudeau on television, awaiting the promised explanation. He came on the air, steely, sombre, serious in a dark blue suit, the only visual relief the splash of colour on his lapel. It was an impressive performance, a bit of theatre. But he presented no concrete reasons for his unprecedented action, no adequate accounting for the army in the streets, for the hundreds of arrests in the night, for the suspension of civil rights.
I telephoned Berton. "I feel betrayed," I said - a bit theatrical myself.
The following day and through the week we hammered the government, disregarding warnings that our broadcasts were subject to the strictures of the Act and despite the fact that most Canadians approved the draconian steps the government had taken. So far as I know, no one else in the electronic media raised a voice those first few days. There was much adverse mail, but one heartening note - CKEY's management stood solidly behind us.
In the summer of 1971 the United States government announced that it would conduct underground nuclear tests at Amchitka, a tiny island in the Aleutian chain off the tip of Alaska. As the date approached, warnings and protests began to be heard from scientists, environmentalists and private citizens. When his chief environmental officer warned President Richard Nixon that there was the possibility of unforeseen consequences, he intervened and postponed the tests.
Across North America the protests mounted. There was a vast uneasiness among Canadians and some irresponsible speculation from both the qualified and the kooks: "The blast will trigger an earthquake. "A tidal wave will sweep onto the British Columbia coast. "Thousands of seal and millions of fish will be killed by the concussion. There were noisy protests before the United States embassies in Ottawa and Toronto. Then, after weeks of indecision, the president announced that the experiment would proceed, arguing that national security took precedence over other considerations.
Harvey Clarke, the public-relations head at CKEY, had been troubled by the issue and had been wondering if there was "some civilized way to protest. He suggested that I mention in my newscast that I planned to send a telegram to the White House registering my objection to the detonation of the bomb, and that anyone who wished to add his or her name should send it to me. The response was immediate and overwhelming. Before I had concluded the newscast, cars were pulling up at the door of the station, motors left running while drivers dashed inside to leave their names.
Berton and I expanded the theme on Dialogue, stipulating that anyone wishing to add his or her name to the telegram must include ten cents, the cost of appending the signature.
Within one week, 179,886 people sent in their names. The telegram we dispatched was the longest ever transmitted by Western Union and measured almost a mile in length. Using up to three circuits, it took eighty hours to transmit. The cost was $9,449. 32. Berton and I flew to Washington to present it at the White House. When the wire was delivered to us at the gate to the Executive Office Building, it was in the form of eleven huge rolls of paper. The only thing we could find to carry it in was a supermarket shopping cart.
Berton and I had not intended to take the wire to Washington; we had hoped to have it presented to President Nixon or his designate through the Canadian Embassy. But they refused to have any part in it. Nor would External Affairs in Ottawa help. Almost 200,000 Canadians, speaking with one voice and paying for the privilege, wanted to lodge a reasoned protest but External wasn't interested. If anything, their reaction was negative.
In Washington, surrounded by American reporters, Berton and I tried to find some official in the American government to receive the telegram. But we would not be turned away, and when finally we trundled our creaking, overburdened shopping cart through the halls of the OEB to the furthermost end of the building, it was to meet with John Dean, special counsel to the president.
Dean, a small, neat but unimpressive man, came from his office to greet us. He seemed a timid fellow, soft-spoken and unprepossessing. I explained our mission and sought an assurance from him that the telegram would be brought to the attention of the president. He was non-committal at first, but when I persisted, murmured something to the effect that, yes, Mr. Nixon would be informed.
Finally, Berton, who stands six-foot-three, leaned over and tapped a finger on the shoulder of five-foot, eight-inch Dean. "Look, Mr. Dean," he said, punctuating the words with the finger, "180,000 Canadians paid to put their signatures on this wire. We've come all the way from Toronto as their representatives to bring this thing to Mr. Nixon's attention. We want to be able to report to the Canadian people that he will see it. Do we or don't we have your personal guarantee that he will?"
Dean bobbed his head and said, "Yes sir. Yes sir.
Two days later, on Saturday, November 6, 1971, the bomb was detonated. The sky didn't fall.
In November, 1977, I received a telephone call from a man who gave his name as Jim Lilly and represented himself as a private detective. He informed me that he had access to tax files at the Department of National Revenue and that he would reveal to me how the leaks worked if I would meet with him.
It is not uncommon in the news business to be contacted by informants who promise to divulge inside information on some important matter or to alert you to corrupt behavior by some-one important in public life. Most such callers are kooks, and you soon learn to recognize them as such. But the man on the telephone sounded legitimate, and I invited him to my apartment. He brought with him a man he introduced as his partner.
Lilly was a fast-talking, extroverted man with overtones of flim-flam. His partner, Charles Meredith, was taciturn and seemed trigger- tense; as Lilly spoke, he occasionally interrupted to tone down or correct extravagant statements. They told me that they operated a two-man private-detective agency in Toronto, but had been informed that their licence was about to be lifted by the attorney general's office of the Ontario government.
Lilly was candid. He admitted that, in the pursuit of their work, they had sometimes bent the law, as, he insisted, did most people in the business. He insisted, however, that none of the offences were serious and suggested that I check the AG's office. He had come to me, he said, seeking a trade-off: if I would make "no more than one phone call," asking that his case be reviewed, he would demonstrate to me how private tax information could be obtained at will. Seeking to establish credibility, he said, "You have an unlisted telephone number, right? I can find out what it is in tow minutes.
He picked up the telephone, dialed a number and spoke briefly into it, cupping a hand so that so that I couldn't hear. After a moment, he said, "Thank you," made a note and passed it to me. Incidentally, he said, you have four demerit points against your driving license.
I was intrigued. If he could demonstrate with equal facility that personal income-tax information was not sacrosanct, the implications were enormous. "I'll enquire at Queen's Park why your license isn't being renewed. If it isn't because of a serious infraction, I will ask if the decision can be reviewed. But I will make no advocacy; you understand that?" The two men nodded. Now, I said, "how is security breached at National Revenue?"
"Rather than tell you," Lilly said, "I'll bring you the details of your tax return last year.
We met the following morning. I reported on my call to Queen's park. There were some unspecified irregularities in the pursuit of their work as private investigators, but nothing of a criminal nature. They had been told to desist but hadn't. Consequently, their license was going to be suspended. However, I was given an assurance, with no promise given or implied, that the case would be reviewed.
"Now," I said, "what did I earn last year?"
Reading from a pocket notebook, Lilly reeled off my tax-file number, social security number, gross income, taxable income and the amount of tax paid.
"Incredible," I said.
"And," he added, obviously relishing the impression he was making, "here is the name of your accountant, his address and telephone number. He passed me a slip of paper.
I had discussed the situation with Berton overnight and we had agreed on a plan. If there were leaks in the Department of National Revenue, we would have to establish that they were widespread. We would need evidence that secrecy could be invalidated across the country.
"Are you prepared for one more test?" I asked. Lilly nodded. "Then get me the tax returns for two people: Geoffrey Woodward, who lives in White Rock, British Columbia and a Woman who lives in Montreal. (Woodward is Berton's brother-in-law. He had readily given Pierre permission to proceed. The woman was the Montreal representative for McClelland and Stewart, Berton's and my publisher. She too had agreed to let us use her in the test on the condition that her name not be made public. )
The following morning, I put Lilly in touch with Berton by telephone. He reported that Woodward's tax return had been filed on a short T-4 form at the Pender Street office of Revenue Canada in Vancouver. He provided all the basic details, including the fact that the tax had been paid by personal cheque and that Woodward had been reassessed, naming the amount. He provided the same kind of information on the Montreal woman. Berton checked his sources. All the data were accurate.
I now asked Lilly to meet an extraordinary test. "Get me the tax information on Joe Clark, the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons.
"I'm not sure I can do that, he said. "It may be flagged-the returns of many important people are - but I'II give it a try.
"One condition," I said. "I don't want to see the data. Put it in a sealed envelope.
He was back the following day with an envelope. I telephoned Mr. Clark's office and spoke to his executive assistant, Bill Neville, telling him exactly what had happened. He called me back to say that an accountant from Clarkson, Gordon in Toronto would come to my apartment to check the authenticity of the data.
That afternoon, a formal and very precise gentleman arrived from Clarkson, Gordon. He insisted on identifying himself with documents and insisted that I remain in the room while he opened the sealed envelope. When he had perused the contents and made notes, he placed them in an envelope, sealed it and asked me to initial it. An hour later, Neville called to say that Clark had confirmed the accuracy of the information.
Now to break the story. Berton and I were aware of the seriousness of what we were doing. The Income Tax Act guarantees by law the secrecy of the information in tax returns. The only persons permitted to have access to tax records are the head of Statistics Canada-under controlled conditions - and the minister of Health and Welfare who may ask for tax records under the Old Age Security Act and the Canada Pension Plan. Even with these exceptions, specific permission must be granted by the minister of revenue. We were aware that we had broken the law and had conspired to do so, but had convinced ourselves that the actions we had taken were in the public interest. We were prepared to face the consequences.
We were determined also that our revelations not be used for partisan political ends. So, at 8:05 a. m. November 17, on the morning of the first of two broadcasts we did on the subject, we notified all three political parties. I called the prime minister's office and spoke to Dick O'Hagan, Mr. Trudeau's press-liaison chief. He put me in touch with Jean Carpentier, the PM's executive assistant, to whom I related the entire story. Berton gave the same information to Ed Broadbent, the leader of the NDP. Mr. Clark had already been informed.
We made a further decision: we would not permit the revelations to become a media circus. We each pledged that, subsequent to the broadcast, we would not speak to any journalist, would not be interviewed on radio or television (including on our own station) and would make no statements except to such government officials as might contact us.
The broadcasts created a sensation. The story was headlined on page one in newspapers across the country. There was an immediate uproar in the House of Commons. Through some ineptitude, the prime minister's office had failed to notify Joe Guay, the Minister of Revenue, and he was taken of guard by questions from the opposition and the press. Guay, who was Liberal patronage boss for Manitoba, and who was shortly thereafter appointed to the Senate, seemed more confused than usually. Pierre Trudeau, on the other hand, asked by the press for his reaction, snapped, "Put 'em in jail.
As expected, I heard from the RCMP. An inspector Brockbank came by appointment to my apartment to interview Berton and me. I asked a lawyer friend, Julian Porter, to join us. Brockband was courteous and soft spoken. He asked a few questions and then asked for the names of my informants, prefacing the request by saying, "I presume you're not prepared to give the names. I told him that Berton didn't know the names and that I had pledge not to reveal them. He smiled, nodded and left.
Our informants proved to be eager beavers. I had instructed them not to be in touch by telephone because of the possibility that my line might be tapped. Nevertheless, later that day, a manilla envelope was slipped beneath my door. Within it was another sealed envelope bearing the information that it contained the tax return of the Speaker of the House of Commons. I tore it up unscrutinized. There was enough fat in the fire.
Clare Wescott, an old friend telephoned. Wescott is executive assistant to William Davis, the premier of Ontario. It was he whom I had called to check into my informants' problems with the Attorney General's office. Westcott told me that he had just concluded a conversation with the officer who headed the OPP security force at Queen's Park.
"He's an experienced man," Clare said, "and pretty level-headed. He thinks that you may need police protection.
"Protection?" I said. "From whom?"
"Your informants are so-called private investigators," he said. "Sometimes they skate pretty close to the edge of illegality. Even more important, they have some, shall we say, unsavory associations. They know things about some of the really rough operators in this town, enough to blow the whistle on them. These people could be worried that this information may have been passed to you for future broadcasts and they might want to keep you quiet. He paused, ill at ease. "I know, Charles, this all sounds cloak-and- dagger, but my OPP friend is convinced that you may be at some risk.
"Clare, you're kidding?"
"There probably isn't any danger," he said, "but we'd both feel better if you let him arrange to keep you under surveillance for the next few days.
It is my custom to travel each weekend to my cottage on Georgian Bay near Penetanguishene. I arrived at dusk on the Friday. Within a few minutes there was a knock on my door. When I opened it, there were two heavy-set men on the threshold, veteran OPP officers in civvies, one a senior officer from Toronto headquarters who had driven up from the city, and the other the divisional head at Barrie. I invited them in, gave them a drink and we talked for an hour.
That entire weekend, an OPP cruiser parked out of sight on an old logging road back of the cottage. When it grew dark, I walked up the road to take the officer a cup of coffee. He thanked me and asked me to leave the outside lights burning through the night. "I'll be doing a walkabout every hour or so," he said.
As I drove to Toronto early Monday morning, I spotted in my rear-view mirror an unmarked police car hanging two or three cars back on highway 400. He followed me, showing great skill in the city's heavy traffic, until I turned in at the underground garage at my apartment building.
Barton and I did two follow-up broadcasts. Another private investigator contacted me. "What you discovered is a common-place," he said. "Accountants in recognized firms regularly call the tax department. Just by giving their names, they are given confidential information. Moreover, although you didn't ask for it, corporation tax files are also available. As well, it's a simple matter to learn the details of anyone's bank account, or if you wish, the specifics on long-distance phone calls, including the numbers called, the number called from and the duration of the calls.
We checked and reported these and other facts on the program. The opposition kept the heat on in the Commons, abetted by outraged editorials in newspapers across the country. The Minister of Revenue ordered all departments and all branches to tighten their security procedures and to clamp down on any leaks.
There is a sequel.
I fully expected, after the passage of time, to hear from the Department of National Revenue. I hadn't been audited for five years. Some senior official, smarting from the adverse publicity I had engendered, would surely order an examination of my returns. But nothing happened.
One night, abed, in the twilight before sleep, I was jolted awake by the sudden memory of a conversation five years old. I had once been a partner in a small advertising agency. When I resigned, a sizeable sum had been paid to me - salary I'd postponed taking in order to help get the company on its feet. The conversation that now thrust me bolt upright in bed had been between me and my accountant and had to do with where the income should be reported: in my personal return or though the private company I owned, each filed months apart. I remembered now that we had left the decision up in the air. Had the income fallen between two stools and been overlooked?
In the morning, I contacted my accountant. He called back in an hour, chagrined. The payment hadn't been reported.
"Declare it," I said.
He urged caution. Five years had passed, he pointed out. To declare the income now - especially after my revelations about the tax department - might lead to serious problems. Moreover, he reminded me, there would be the basic tax to be paid, plus the penalty for late filing, plus the accumulated interest over five years. And any number of other complications.
"Declare it," I said.
He argued with me. "Aren't you acting precipitately? The company that paid you the money went belly-up years ago. Its final audit has been done. At this late date there is no possible way the payment can be traced. The decision is yours, of course; I'm merely fulfilling my responsibility to point out what you're get- ting into.
He proposed that he call an acquaintance at the revenue department and put the case to him hypothetically. He reported that his friend had said, "If I were your client, I'd forget it. The returns from five years back are baled and stored in a warehouse. It's a dead issue. All it would be here is a headache.
I tried to dismiss it from my mind but couldnt. I owed the money. I believe people should pay their taxes. Beyond that, what if the facts were discovered? Wouldn't the department be justified in throwing the book at me? What would be more natural after the criticism I'd leveled, after the public embarrassment, after the wrangling in the Commons? Beyond that, I'd built a reputation for veracity over a lifetime; was I prepared to destroy that?
I called my accountant, "Declare it.
"Okay," he said, "if that's your decision that's your decision. But before you make up your mind let me add one more fact: after four years there is a form of limited liability; you can't be audited after four years have passed".
"Declare it," I said.
He called the following day to say that he had filed the supplementary return, explaining the circumstances. The man to whom he spoke at the tax office said, "Templeton, eh? And he claims he overlooked that much money. This looks like something for Special Investigation.
In a few days a letter came from the tax department asking me to sign a waiver, thus authorizing the department to examine my returns for the previous seven years. I signed thinking, "I'm cooked. They're going on a fishing expedition. They're going to throw the book at me. They're going to demand that I cross every t and dot every i for the past seven years. They're going to grill me on every deduction, demand every receipt.
Weeks passed with no word. Then my accountant called to tell me that an auditor had moved into one of his offices, had asked for all my records over a three-year period and had ensconced himself behind a closed door, emerging only to send out for cigarettes or coffee. A week or so later, I was asked to attend a meeting at my accountant's office. With him were three officials from the tax department. I was asked a few questions to clarify some small details. There was an extended silence while one of the men reworked some figures with a pencil. The condemned man watched silently. He handed me a sheet of paper. I scrutinized it for a moment, beginning, of course, at the bottom line.
"Is this everything?" I asked. "Are you finished?"
There was a nod of assent.
"Then I have something to say.
My accountant raised despairing hands, shaking his head vigorously. "No, Charles. No! Forget it. Leave it be.
I disregarded his protest. "In the light of the recent brouhaha in the House of Commons, "I said, "I had expected you to throw the book at me.
One of the men said, "It didn't take much of an examination to establish that you weren't a tax cheat.
"You didn't let me get away with anything," I said ruefully, "but neither did you nail me to the wall. I have no beef. You've been scrupulously fair. I intend to say publicly. I subsequently recounted the experience of Dialogue.
Five years passed at CKEY and things had gone well. There had been no problems of consequence; indeed, there had been frequent commendation by Trowell. Nor had there been a word of criticism or even a suggestion of a change in the content or style of the newscast. There had been sharp differences with the head of the newsroom over facilities and back-up services but they had passed. When I requested the privilege of doing the newscast from a studio in my home, there had been immediate acquiescence. When I changed residences, I paid to move the equipment. I reciprocated their consideration by serving without remuneration as principal commentator at the Conservative and NDP leadership conventions (in which Bill Davis and Michael Cassidy were elected), during the FLQ crisis and on other occasions.
The eight o'clock newscast was achieving what had been hoped for. When I took it over in September 1970, the spring Broadcast Bureau Management ratings had shown an audience of 69,000. By November, the numbers had increased to 89,000. By the spring of 1976, they had climbed to 158,000, more than double the 1970 figure. During the Amchitka protest, CKEY logged the largest audience in its fifty-eight year history. More important, the station was much stronger at every period of the day than it had been.
I would not be so presumptuous as to claim the credit for the increase. Joe Morgan's new cast at 7:00 a. m. had a larger audience than mine but, as Trowell had emphasized when he hired me, the 8:00 a. m. spot conditions the entire broadcast day. The station was prospering.
On the Friday afternoon of the 1976 Dominion Day weekend, I received an urgent call from Stuart Brandy, the station manager. "I want to talk to you about the eight o'clock new cast," he said. "Can we meet first thing tomorrow morning?" I was leaving the city for the weekend later that evening and suggested that, if it was urgent, we meet at my home. Brandy arrived an hour later; I poured him a glass of wine.
Suddenly, without preamble, he said, "Now Charles, about the eight o'clock newscast - we've just had a meeting and have made a firm and final decision: we want to drop you from the newscast. We've made different arrangements.
I stared at him for a moment, blinking, confused. There had been no discussion, no hint of a change of plans, no intimation that everything wasn't gung-ho for the fall season.
"What do you mean, you've made different arrangements?"
"Pete McGarvey. I've just notified him that he'll be taking over and I wanted you to know first. (McGarvey, a long-time friend of Brandy's had come to CKEY from Chatham, Ontario, three years earlier.) "We will, of course, pay you to the end of your contract.
"Well, yes, "I said, "we do have a contract.
"We'd like the new arrangement to begin Tuesday morning.
I said, "Whoa! Hold it just a minute. I'm confused. Are you saying that I'm off the program as of now?"
"That you don't want me to say goodbye to my audience or even to commend McGarvey to them?
I was at a loss. "What happens if I come in as usual Tuesday morning?"
"I won't permit you to go on the air.
"Are you saying that you will bar me from broadcasting?"
"How would you do that?"
"I would have somebody do it. He paused. "The newscast I mean.
"Stu, I said, "I don't believe what I'm hearing. Are you saying that I'm such a poor broadcaster you can't put up with even one more day of my said services?"
"We've decided to make a change and it will be made on Tuesday," he said flatly.
"And what do I say when I'm asked why I'm not doing the newscast - when I'm queried by the press, or by the staff at the station?"
"You could say something like: the newscast has become an increasing chore over the years and you've decided to make a change. Something like that.
"C"mon, Stu, who will believe that? If I was going to drop the newscast it wouldn't be after my vacation, two weeks into the new season. And why in heavens name did you have me start the new season when, within two weeks, you were going to make a change? It's crazy.
It suddenly broke on me what was happening. Jack Dennett, CFRB's enormously popular eight o'clock newscaster, had died during the summer. Brandy and Trowell, disregarding all the established facts about listener loyalty, had leaped to the conclusion that Dennett's audience could be wooed away from CFRB. My style and approach to the news was very different from Dennett's but McGarvey's was somewhat similar. Eureka! A chance for a big breakthrough! In Maclean-Hunter fashion, once a decision had been taken, the change would be made with complete indifference to the employee involved.
But I had problem. I was still working for the station and would be there each weekday - I had a separate contract to do Dialogue. Moreover, the Dialogue contract had an exclusivity clause that prohibited me from working for any other station in the Toronto area. Very well, I thought, if we're playing hardball, I can play that game too.
I said, "And with the newscast finished, you're proposing nothing else?"
"Well, we're going to make a change at eight o'clock but we still like Charles Templeton as a broadcaster.
"What do you have in mind? Or have you so much as thought about it?"
He looked at me in surprise. "Would you be willing to work for CKEY?"
"You're forgetting something, "I said. "I already do. Dialogue - remember? But in response to your question, yes. If the program and the terms are satisfactory.
It was left that I would come up with a proposal over the weekend. I did - a three-minute daily commentary on the news, Charles Templeton's Journal. I did it for the next year or two. Then, at my convenience, I gave three month's notice and terminated it.
In late 1978, after eight years with CKEY, Berton and I signed a contract to provide our program, Dialogue, for an additional five years. There were handshakes all around, a glowing press release and stories in the newspapers. Not eight months later, Trowell called me to say that he had decided to drop the program.
He, Berton and I met for lunch. Trowell explained his decision by saying that the station had suffered two successive declines in the BBM ratings. His research had told him that the audience wanted more music and less "talk. Therefore he was going to "cut back on the talk" and drop Dialogue.
I attempted to summarize what was being said. "As I understand it, you have decided to drop Dialogue from the schedule, but you recognize you have a contractual obligation to us. The purpose of this discussion is to see if some mutually satisfactory accommodation can be worked out?"
"Right. I certainly wouldn't be happy with you fellows taping the programs and us throwing them in the can.
"So we're not here to discuss the possibility of continuing the show?"
Berton said, "You must have something in mind, Doug. What's your proposal?"
He proposed that the program conclude five weeks later, at the end of June when we went on vacation; CKEY would pay us to the end of the year.
"Doug, we just signed a new contract. It has more than four. years to run. You're proposing to pay us for year one but to forget the other four. That's hardly reasonable.
He said he would discuss it with his associates and get back to me the first of the week.
I heard nothing for twelve days, until I received a telephone call from the Edmonton airport, where Trowell was between planes. He had decided not to drop the program after all, but suggested that we accept a pay cut of one-third. Our response was that, inasmuch as the program was going forward as planned, and inasmuch as we had only recently mutually agreed to a new contract, we would prefer simply to fulfill our responsibilities under the agreement.
Over the next few years the station changed its pattern and its on-air performers with bewildering frequency. There was little feeling of continuity. Despite the stated intention to cut back on "talk," no talk was cut, but the style of music was changed. Then, a year or two later, there was a pendulum swing to what was called "Talk Radio," a mixture of phone-in shows and occasional music. Another six months and the talk shows were dumped.
At the conclusion of our contract in June 1983, after almost eighteen years - thirteen on CKEY - Dialogue ended without so much as a farewell drink or a handshake. I'm not a fan of Maclean- Hunter management.
Thoughts on Radio
Of the media, radio suffers most from arrested development. It has never realized its potential, nor is it likely that it will with the many options now being offered by its electronic and print competitors. By and large, commercial radio has become background entertainment, white noise asking no commitment of the mind, only breaking the pattern from time to time to offer such services as news, weather, time-checks and traffic reports. Its singular function is the popularizing and playing of the music of the masses - sometimes seeming to be little more than the promotion arm of the record companies.
Having begun with great promise, radio flourished in the first half of the century, changing our perception of the world. The world became a neighborhood if not a brotherhood, and we found ourselves as caught up in events halfway around the globe as we were with happenings on our doorstep. Then television broke on the scene and radio, losing its uniqueness, began to beat a muffled drum.
Those who have grown up in the television era cannot imagine the excitement that accompanied the advent of radio. It came to flower, an evident miracle, in the 1920s, in an age still marveling at the tinny voice of the phonograph, the frenetic eccentricities of silent motion pictures and the new freedoms granted by the automobile. It was a heady time: the war was a fading memory, the "Spanish influenza" had run its course, airplanes were becoming a commonplace, Victorian morality was dying and, almost overnight, our homes were filled with the music and voices of the world.
I have lived through the entire radio era, and two of the most vivid memories of my childhood have to do with it:
I was sitting at home in Regina, a pair of heavy earphones on my head, delicately turning a dial while searching among the beeps and howls and banshee squeals for an intelligible sound. Then, as it grew dark outside, a distant spectral voice faintly singing, the volume fading and then swelling. . .
Oh, if I had the wings of an angel,
Over these prison bars I would fly.
I would fly to the arms of my darling
And there I would peacefully die. . . .
And then, as the song ended, a sudden increase in the volume and a voice dinning in the ears, shouting, "You are listening to KDKA, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the United States of America. The thrill of it!
By 1927, we had a speaker-horn atop the new battery less radio. The entire family sat in a tense circle listening to a blow-by- blow description of the second Dempsey-Tunney fight. I saw it more vividly than I have seen any sports event since.
At its zenith, radio was more pervasive than television is today. As did every boy, I built my own "crystal set" and listened to it long after I was supposed to be asleep. I can recall walking down Beaty Avenue in Toronto on a muggy spring evening in the late 1920s and not missing a phrase of Bing Crosby's song as the sound emerged from the open windows of every house I passed. Foster Hewitt's high-pitched and unmistakable voice dominated our Saturday nights as television's Hockey Night in Canada never has.
Not long after the advent of television, Fred Allen, the radio comedian, lamented that radio had forever missed its potential. In radio drama, for instance, there was no need to construct an expensive set or to create elaborate make-up and costumes; the imagination of the listener did that free of charge, and did it better. Let an announcer describe a human fly scaling a soaring building, add some sound effects, and listeners will construct an Empire State Building in their minds, mobilize a tension-ridden crowd to stand at the base, and climb handhold by handhold with the man as he claws his way to the top.
Fred Allen was right, of course - at least in part. Listening to radio, you saw Amos and Andy and the Kingfish in their scruffy taxi office. You saw Jack Benny and Mary Livingstone and Rochester in Jack Benny's home. So real were these people that, when finally you did see them on television, they had about them an air of the imposter. ("Does he really look like that?") The sense of reality went far beyond the tacky settings and monochromatic images of early television.
Television did not, as was predicted, "kill" radio, but it did stunt its growth and limit its options. Whether radio would have continued to grow is a lively question. It is argued by its advocates that radio has prospered since television began, and it is true, but commercial radio has become in fact a poor relation. With barely a struggle, it has accepted a subsidiary role and seems content to make do with the leftovers.
It is certainly true that commercial radio has abandoned programming. There are no comedy shows or dramatic presentations. There are few outlets for artists who don't have a record contract. The broadcast day is filled with "block-programming. A block of time - usually two hours or more - is allocated to what used to be called a disc-jockey but is now known as a "host" or "radio personality. He or she fills the time mostly by playing records, inserting into the interstices bland chatter, syndicated ad-libs, "commercial messages," time checks, traffic reports, weather forecasts and sports results. On the hour or half hour he or she may break for a "news package. In the evenings, when the fickle listener has been seduced by television's blandishments, half-hearted attempts may be made to justify the station's license by altering the pattern, but the effort is usually cautious, unimaginative and cheaply produced.
There are exceptions, of course. A few stations work hard and spend money to cover the news and to present features of special relevance. We have seen the advent of the all-news station. Western Canada makes much of open-line shows, and some of them do enlighten and do serve the community's interests. But most are interested in controversy and depend on a relatively small claque of garrulous regulars to keep things lively. FM stations provide a higher ratio of music to chatter, but many are indistinguishable from their AM competitors. Increasingly, individual stations specialize, playing an identifiable kind of music - rock, country and western, jazz, "semi classical" or classical.
The news on commercial radio varies little from station to station. Some depend on "rip and read," namely, the tearing of a piece of copy from the teleprinter, modifying it with a few strokes of a pencil and parroting it on the air. Few on the news staff are journalists with any experience as reporters; most of their skills have been picked up on the job. Investigative reporting is almost unknown. Nor do the owners of most radio stations care about the quality of the newscast; they want news-readers who, regardless of their knowledge or experience, sound "authoritative" or are distinctive enough to build an audience.
It must be added that there are private stations that do a commendable job of reporting and providing background to the news. Unfortunately, they are fewer than a dozen across the country.
Public radio - the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation - is, of course, an entirely different beast. It has a greater commitment at the upper-management levels and a relatively larger budget, and it is able to program without the interruption of commercials. It has access to the resources of other stations along the network and to the pooling of reports by correspondents in the field. The CBC's Six O'Clock Report may be the best newscast on radio or television in North America.
In other programming, public radio offers classical and popular music, comedy, drama, sports, variety, informed opinion and intelligent discussion, although sometimes its presentation has a self-conscious seriousness. Some of its local programs seem to exist to ventilate the opinions of minority groups of every stripe, and tend periodically to rehash the perennial civil-liberties causes. None the less, they provide a service not generally available elsewhere and are a legitimate part of the Fourth Estate.
I have always had a particular liking for radio. It is a relatively uncomplicated medium and it is certainly the most immediate of the news media. If a story breaks, there is no need to set it in type, clamp it on the presses and deliver it to its destination. Nor need you manipulate the cumbersome "one-ton pencil" that is television. All that is needed is a microphone, an engineer to throw a switch and you can tell the world your story. Unfortunately, because most radio does not take its mandate seriously (nor is it required to by the Canadian Radio-television and Communications Commission), it seldom breaks news, and thus its intrinsic advantage is nullified.