Though his prison sentence is over, Lord Black's legal troubles continue. His lawyers are fighting a $70-million bill from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service for allegedly failing to pay taxes.
Thoughts on Black’s homecoming
Brian Mulroney, former prime minister. “Conrad is a Canadian, and I’m delighted that he’s back in Canada. I’m sure he’s going to rebuild a very productive and a good life for himself and his family and his country. … The one constant of Conrad’s difficult period, including incarceration, was that he never lost his sense of history and he never lost his sense of humour. And if you can retain those two important elements of life, chances are you’re going to be okay.”
David Frum, author and journalist. “I think it’s wonderful to have him at liberty. It’s great that he’s able to return to Canada. There’s been a question mark over that. This is where he was born, where he grew up. Where he belongs. … It’s a big Internet out there; a lot of people will say a lot of different things. I find it hard to imagine there are many people who would seriously say that someone who was born in Canada, who grew up in Canada, who operated a business in Canada, created one of Canada’s great national newspapers, that person should not be allowed to find refuge in Canada.”
Peter C. Newman, author and journalist. “I don’t think it’s good for Canada, I don’t think it’s bad for Canada; I think he’s kind of an inevitable force, like gravity. … You don’t praise it or damn it. I don’t think he’s going to do anything for the country – that has never been his goal. But he’s a good writer. And I think we can expect some more good books from him. I think it’s a good thing he’s back. But I would like, at some point, just to get a thimble-full of remorse.”
Anna Porter, publisher and novelist. “I am delighted he is coming home, at last. In spite of his spat with [former prime minister Jean]Chrétien, this remains, and has always been, Conrad’s home.”
Doug Pepper, Conrad Black’s publisher. “As his friends, we’re just happy to see him free."
A range of Black naysayers
From paper workers to pensioners, the former press baron evokes strong emotions.
Former Calgary Herald employees. Dave Coles won’t be on Conrad Black’s welcoming committee, and it has nothing to do with the convicted Lord’s white-collar misdeeds.
In Mr. Coles’s mind, Lord Black is the media baron at the centre of an acrimonious, months-long strike at the Calgary Herald in 1999 and 2000. Lord Black called the strike a “left-wing coup d’état.” Striking newspaper staff accused him of trying to crush unions.
Mr. Coles, now president of Canada’s Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, was a key organizer behind the strike.
“This guy is a bit of a blight on Canada. He denounces Canada, he denounces Canadian workers and he gets a golden parachute,” Mr. Coles said. “If it were some poor working stiff who’d been convicted, he wouldn’t get in.”
Jean Chrétien. Just your run-of-the-mill legal dispute, really. The Queen was to appoint Conrad Black a peer in the United Kingdom; he got his British citizenship and everything seemed fine until then-prime-minister Jean Chrétien intervened, citing a 1919 resolution barring such honours from being conferred on Canadians.
Lord Black sued Mr. Chrétien, alleging abuse of power and arguing the prime minister’s conduct “was wholly without legal basis.” The suit sought $25,000 in damages. Lord Black lost and ended up renouncing his Canadian citizenship in order to join the House of Lords.
Pensioners from Massey-Ferguson and Dominion stores. Conrad Black had little patience for those calling into question his business practices. When a Toronto Sun column criticized his decision to leave floundering Massey-Ferguson to its creditors, he dismissed “asinine” commentary – “not that the Sun is a newspaper of record to anyone who does not suffer from severe lip-strain after half-a-minute of silent reading.”
When he withdrew $30-million in surplus funds from Dominion store employees’ pension, he responded to cries of foul by noting, “We are not running a welfare agency for corrupt union leaders and a slovenly work force.”
Bob Hepburn. The columnist and Conrad Black have engaged in a public war of rhetorical polemic in two of Canada’s largest newspapers. Several months ago, Mr. Hepburn argued in the Toronto Star that Lord Black should be stripped of his Order of Canada. Lord Black shot back the next day in a National Post column, slamming Mr. Hepburn’s “false assertions” about the convicted Lord’s friends in supposedly high places.
Mr. Hepburn tangled with Lord Black again this week, criticizing what he sees as an unduly fast-tracked approval for the erstwhile Canadian’s temporary residency.
WIth a report from Kim Mackrael in Toronto