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Dubya on group's wish list for Toronto speaking gig Add to ...

The people who brought Bill Clinton, Rudy Giuliani, Alan Greenspan and Tony Blair to Toronto are hoping to score another coup by bringing to town for a paid speaking engagement none other than George W. Bush.

Word was circulating that Christian Darbyshire's tinePublic Inc. was testing the waters for a time (mid-2009) and venue (Westin Harbour Castle Hotel) for such an event. It would likely attract 2,200, if past speakers brought in by Mr. Darbyshire are any indication. Mr. Darbyshire told us: "We're definitely lobbying and talking to all the right people. We've made it known we want to do it." He added: "Who knows what he would require. But until Jan. 20, nothing serious will happen. We don't even know if he will be doing anything. It'd be great, though."

Of course, Mr. Bush may not launch a speaking tour à la former president Mr. Clinton. For one thing, he's wealthy and doesn't need the money, Stephen Hess pointed out to us. Mr. Hess is a senior fellow of governance studies at the Brookings Institution, a former White House insider and author of the book, Presidents and the Presidency. He pointed out that departing presidents generally focus on writing their memoirs and establishing a presidential library.

MUNK DEBATE PREVIEW

Yesterday, magnanimous gold magnate Peter Munk hosted a lunch for 100 people at Mark McEwan's pricey and swank One restaurant in Toronto's Yorkville to preview last night's open-to-the-public-with-a-$30-ticket Munk Debate on the merits and pitfalls of humanitarian interventions. The debaters - actress Mia Farrow, former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans, retired Canadian general Rick Hillier and former U.S. ambassador to the UN John Bolton - were all there, along with the good and the great of Toronto's business and public policy elite. Law firm Torys sponsored the lunch of filet mignon, truffle potato perogies and lashings of white and red wine, which outnumbered the Diet Cokes. (What recession?) In the centre of the room, Ms. Farrow's prime table hosted film maker Norman Jewison, investor Robert Foster and his wife, Julia, broadcaster Brian Stewart, economist Sherry Cooper and Melanie Munk. Oh, and one other gentleman, who gave up his seat when former federal politician Barbara McDougall arrived RSVP-less and needed a spot. Two of the debaters gave a little preview of the evening's debate. And Mr. Evans, who argued for intervention, enthused about the very existence of the semi-annual debates and the luncheon's "extraordinarily salubrious surroundings." He said, "This doesn't happen anywhere else in the world, I can tell you." Mr. Bolton blasted away for the "against" side like a U.S. Marine. Later, when asked about the breaking news of Hillary Clinton being named Secretary of State and Susan Rice as UN ambassador, he shot off that it was a "mistake" to make the UN post a cabinet position because it "overstates" the role. Then he added to much laughter that with Ms. Clinton and Ms. Rice at the same table, "I can't wait to see how this plays out."

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