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The man who drew Canadian politics – Maclean's



“Lots of people knew Duncan Macpherson, so what qualifies me to write a book about him, other than the fact that I admired him and am still standing?” asks Terry Mosher, in his new biography of the artist. “Well, no one else seems to be doing it.”  Macpherson, who was arguably Canada’s most important political cartoonist, was also a mentor to Mosher (the well-known political cartoonist who goes by Aislin). “I consider this work to be a bit of payback for the great professional advice he gave me back in the 1970s when we became friends,” he says. In this excerpt from ‘Professional Heckler: The Life and Art of Duncan Macpherson’, Mosher looks at Macpherson’s years at Maclean’s in the 1950s, where he worked before joining the Toronto Star.

By the mid-1950s, Duncan Macpherson had started doing a lot of work for Maclean’s magazine, illustrating fiction pieces, and painting the occasional cover, as he did for the 1957 Christmas issue. The magazine had wanted to feature a star-filled view of Montreal from the vantage point of the cross atop Mount Royal, with the glowing city lying below in the background.

In a world before Google, illustrators had to do a lot of actual legwork to research their subjects. Macpherson rarely worked from photographs, preferring to prepare rough sketches on site for use as source material back in the studio. For this Maclean’s job, Macpherson took the train from Toronto to Montreal. He then walked up Mount Royal with the idea that this would give him the best bird’s-eye view of the city. Spotting the CBC/Radio-Canada transmission tower, Montreal’s highest structure, he thought he might as well climb it. He had got a very little distance in his climb before acknowledging it was a dangerous idea, so he abandoned the attempt. Macpherson then walked back down Mount Royal to reconnoiter, and soon decided the top of the new Montreal General Hospital would suit. He was fortunate to find an access point to the roof, and a convenient spot among the vents to sketch a series of cityscapes. During the overnight train ride back to Toronto, he assembled those sketches into a rough layout, and the next morning, returned to his studio to paint the final illustration. When he arrived at Maclean’s with the canvas, the paint was still wet.

As always, Macpherson had delivered: on brief and on time.

A Macpherson covers for Maclean’s in 1957

A Macpherson cover for Maclean’s in 1957

In his journal, he explained that, “… the Montreal Standard had paid very well in comparison to Maclean’s. However, Maclean’s was coming on like gangbusters with a first rate lineup of authors: Robert Thomas Allen, W.O. Mitchell, McKenzie Porter, Blair Fraser, Sid Katz, June Callwood and others. Another early and regular feature was “Jasper”, a panel cartoon by Simpkins. If ever there was an all-Canadian panel cartoon, that was it.”

Macpherson had actually preferred working for the Standard, because he had more freedom there, and the atmosphere felt a loss less buttoned-up than in Toronto. Still, working for Maclean’s suited him very well. At the corner of Dundas Street and University Avenue, it was close to home—not a train-ride away in Montreal—and the magazine had two great art directors in Gene Aliman and his assistant, Des English.

Christina McCall was a great Canadian journalist, who, with her husband Stephen Clarkson, wrote a much-lauded biography of Pierre Trudeau (Trudeau and Our Times). In an introduction to Macpherson’s 1978 collection of cartoons, she recalled an enlightening conversation with Duncan when she was a 22-year-old researcher at Maclean’s. “I was just out of university—earnest, ambitious and in awe of managing editor, Pierre Berton.”

“Berton wanted to write a feature on cartooning, and asked me to do some background research for the piece. I spent hours in the library, analyzing the great caricaturists of the past, and then persuaded Duncan Macpherson, a contributor to Maclean’s at the time, to talk to me about his work. I spun out torturous theories about the social import of Daumier and Hogarth, David Low and Herblock. Seriously uncomfortable with all this, Duncan would answer my ponderous questions with a “yep”, a “nope” or a “maybe.” Then he looked into my serious, eager young face and said: “What the hell, kid, what you’ve got to understand is that cartooning is a living.”

“We both started to laugh uproariously.”

Maclean’s superb editor in those days was former war correspondent Ralph Allen, originally from Oxbow, Sask. One of his most successful initiatives was a new feature at the magazine: writer Robert Thomas Allen’s funny short stories about life with his wife and two daughters.

Although he is almost forgotten now, Allen (1911-1990) was as popular a humorist in the 1950s, 60s and 70s as Stephen Leacock had been in his day. Allen played an important role in the evolution of Duncan Macpherson’s career.

Allen was born and raised “on the Danforth” in Toronto, so close to the Don River that he and his pals spent the hot summer days swimming there. Later, Duncan Macpherson was to produce a magical vision of those boys—not a swimsuit among them—horsing about in the water, choking on illicit cigarettes, or leaping off an overhanging willow branch into the river. It became the popular cover for Allen’s 1977 book, published by Doug Gibson, “My Childhood And Yours: Happy Memories Of Growing Up”.

After finishing school, young Bob Allen was glad to get work in the consumer catalogue business, where Macpherson also put in some time. These mail order catalogues were essential reading in Canadian homes across the country, and later, in the nation’s paper-starved out-houses. With no further education—because money was always tight—Allen tried his hand at writing, and began to submit humorous articles about everyday life to various magazines and newspapers. They were published, and actually brought in money. His popularity made him a sought-after contributor to major popular magazines like Reader’s Digest, The Imperial Oil Review, The Canadian–and, of course, Maclean’s.

Bob Allen was a short, shyly smiling man, who was always dressed in a suit and tie, with glasses perched on his nose –a strikingly old-fashioned figure. Yet his way of working would resonate with today’s millennial sitting and working at their laptop in a Starbucks. Allen would spend his days wandering around downtown, pausing to do his day’s work in a cheap café, scribbling on a napkin or a scrap of paper. When asked why he worked this way, Allen just mumbled something about liking to be around ordinary people. The result, however, was far from ordinary. It won him the affection of millions of readers, and the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour in 1956 (The Grass Is Never Greener) and again in 1970 (Children, Wives, And Other Wildlife).

Maclean’s editor Ralph Allen hired Duncan Macpherson to be Bob Allen’s illustrator. It was a match made in heaven. As for Duncan, he was delighted to illustrate these articles, as he considered Allen to be one of the best humour writers in North America.

Allen’s stories most often centred on life at home with his wife and two daughters. Macpherson enjoyed the tales, and provided affectionate cartoons of the four family members. However, the caricature of Allen morphed over time into a separate new character, a rumpled, bespectacled “John Q. Public”, who was later regularly featured in Macpherson’s work for the Toronto Star. American writer and critic Edmund Wilson, writing in The New Yorker, expressed his appreciation for Macpherson’s undersized common man, someone he said was “…gopher-nosed and chinless — surrounded by predatory monsters who bewildered him, bullied him and left him in tatters.”

Allen wasn’t thrilled about being identified with these ‘little guy’ portrayals, particularly when he and Duncan both ended up at the Toronto Star. Despite these minor frictions, Macpherson was always grateful for the association. “Thinking back, illustrating Robert Thomas Allen’s stories was the highlight of my association with Maclean’s.”

Macpherson also enjoyed his role in another of Ralph Allen’s projects for Maclean’s, which was to reacquaint Canadians with their history. Allen started by commissioning articles covering different eras. Macpherson recalls: “The period I covered mostly was early Montreal and Quebec. I found that I enjoyed the process of meticulously researching the time period before beginning the drawings.”

Maclean’s was starting to devote more space to news events, so Ralph Allen created a new feature called Up Front: two yellow pages at the front of the magazine to highlight breaking news. These were the last pages printed, so the work had to be done quickly. Within a couple of hours, Macpherson would spot-illustrate the section with thumbnail sketches. “The section grew, and two other illustrators came on board: Lew Parker and Bert Grassick. The three of us specialized in fast art, all being brush men.”

Duncan Macpherson was an excellent illustrator, of course, but there were many who were better known. It was his cartooning—not his illustrations or paintings–that was about to put him into the ‘genius’ category.

The charmed period for artists like Macpherson was about to end. Hand-rendered illustration was becoming passé. According to Duncan, “Quite simply, photography was faster, cheaper and not as much of a headache in terms of color separation.”

During World War II, Maclean’s covers generally alternated between photographs of war scenes and photos of pretty girls. After the war, the magazine turned to illustrators to provide cover art. Much as The Saturday Evening Post was showcasing American art and artists, Maclean’s featured paintings of interesting Canadian scenes. Taken as a collection, these images provide an invaluable reflection of Canada during the 1940s and 1950s.

In those days, photographs were rarely used as cover art. Maclean’s first issue of 1961 was a turning point. From that edition on, the magazine’s covers were almost exclusively photographs and montages. During the next dozen years, cartoons were featured only twice. In 1963, Duncan Macpherson drew a futuristic cover and foldout relating to the upcoming World’s Fair in Montreal (later called Expo67). Almost a decade later, during the Canada-Russia hockey series, Maclean’s put my cartoon of Phil Esposito on the front cover.

The 1950s really were a magic age for magazine illustrators. Maybe the sun always seems brightest just before it sets.

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Campaigniacs podcast- Episode 2: Women in Sask. politics – Regina Leader-Post



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Saskatchewan voters will go to the polls on Oct. 26 to choose a provincial government. Join the Campaigniacs — a team of journalists from the Regina Leader-Post and the Saskatoon StarPhoenix — in a podcast series that will follow along with the election campaign.

This week, the team is joined by CBC Saskatchewan’s Morning Edition host Stefani Langenegger to discuss the role federal politics are playing in the provincial election. Also in this episode, Lindsay Brumwell from Equal Voice and retiring NDP MLA Danielle Chartier on how to get more women involved in provincial politics. Listen to Campaigniacs on the Leader-Post and StarPhoenix websites or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify,Google Podcasts and Stitcher.

The Campaigniacs (left-to-right): Arthur White-Crummey: Legislature reporter, Regina Leader-Post. Murray Mandryk: Political columnist, Leader-Post, Saskatoon StarPhoenix. Phil Tank: Provincial affairs reporter, StarPhoenix.

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Hahn pledges no politics in COVID vaccine decisions – Regulatory Focus



Posted 23 September 2020 | By Michael Mezher 

Testifying before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Wednesday, US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Stephen Hahn said that politics will not play a part in the decision to approve or authorize a vaccine for coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Hahn stressed that he supports science and has “100% confidence” in his staff, and said that, “FDA will not authorize or approve any COVID-19 vaccine before it has met the agency’s rigorous expectations for safety and effectiveness.”
“There won’t be politics that play any part in that decision,” Hahn added.
Hahn’s reassurances come amid reports from the Washington Post, Financial Times and New York Times that the agency is preparing to issue guidance on its expectations for a COVID-19 vaccine EUA that will ask for a median two months of monitoring after Phase 3 trial participants receive their last dose, making an EUA for a vaccine before the election unlikely.
Hahn and Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER) Director Peter Marks have both previously said that such guidance is coming but have not expressly disclosed what it would entail. (RELATED: Marks, Hahn confirm COVID vaccine EUA guidance coming, Regulatory Focus 11 September 2020).
The news of more stringent EUA guidance for vaccines follows criticism of the agency’s handling of previous EUAs for COVID-19 therapeutics, including the recent one issued for convalescent plasma and the now-revoked authorization for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine. (RELATED: Lawmakers, experts raise questions after convalescent plasma EUA, Regulatory Focus 25 August 2020; FDA revokes EUA for hydroxychloroquine, chloroquine, Regulatory Focus 15 June 2020).
During the hearing, Hahn said that vaccine makers will be the ones to decide when to submit data to FDA and whether to seek full approval or an EUA for their vaccine. “This will be based upon the trial meeting prespecified success criteria that were established by that sponsor … they should also be consistent with FDA recommendations regarding those criteria,” he said.
While Hahn did not touch on any specifics raised in the recent news reports, he said that companies will have to demonstrate that they have met the statutory standards for an EUA.
“We expect that this would be demonstrated based on adequate manufacturing data to ensure a vaccine’s quality and consistency and data from at least one well-designed Phase 3 clinical trial that demonstrates its safety and efficacy in a clear and compelling manner,” Hahn said, adding that the agency will expect EUA requests to include a plan for long-term safety monitoring for individuals who receive the vaccine.

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Essential Politics: The domino effect of Ginsburg's death – Los Angeles Times



Good morning and welcome to our newest edition of the Essential Politics newsletter. I’m Laura Blasey, an editor on the newsletters team, and I’m writing to you from The Times’ Washington bureau.

Each Wednesday, we’ll bring you the best work from The Times’ state, national politics and election teams, stories that will take you beyond breaking news. Don’t worry — we’ll continue to send you smart analyses from our Sacramento and Washington bureau chiefs on Mondays and Fridays. This new edition will offer another angle, so you won’t miss a thing on the road to November and beyond.

This week’s big story: The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday has opened a new front in an already contentious presidential election and a new conflict between congressional Republicans and Democrats. President Trump and Joe Biden aren’t the only ones vying for a win in November. Nor is the only question which man should be the one to name her replacement. Times reporters Janet Hook and Jennifer Haberkorn write that, like a chain of dominoes, the showdown over the vacancy could have ramifications that ripple and reshape Senate races as partisan lines harden among voters. Let’s get started.


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A court vacancy’s fallout

By November, voters will choose a president and which party controls the Senate. Republicans now hold 53 seats, while Democrats have 45, plus two seats held by independents who caucus with them. With 35 seats up for grabs, most of them held by Republicans, the majority is very much at stake.

The outcome remains unpredictable and tied to Trump’s fate: Many Republicans will prevail or fall with him. In politically polarized times, fewer voters than ever are inclined to pick a president from one party and a senator from another. And few issues could be more polarizing than a debate over replacing a Supreme Court justice, especially when early voting for the next president has begun.

“It’s another wild card,” Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, a member of the Senate Republican leadership, told The Times. “It certainly is something that our candidates — and the candidates on both sides, for that matter — are going to have to manage, because both sides are going to be heavily invested in the outcome of this decision.”

Hook and Haberkorn write about how the Republicans’ at-risk senators are maneuvering in the wake of Ginsburg’s passing. Susan Collins of Maine and Cory Gardner of Colorado must woo centrist and independent voters in states that lean to the left, a delicate task that had them focusing on less divisive local issues until this week. Meanwhile, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Joni Ernst of Iowa, among others, are locked in tight races in states where Trump remains popular; they need to energize their states’ voters on the right. There’s also Doug Jones, the lone Democrat up for reelection in a conservative state, Alabama, now more endangered than before.


Another issue is at play in the court battle: healthcare, a core part of the Democratic platform, especially amid the pandemic. The court is due to take up a case pivotal to the future of the Affordable Care Act just a week after the election.

Still, even among those in tough reelection fights, Republicans see far more to be gained by sticking with the president and supporting his bid to fill the court seat as soon as possible. If they back away from him, they fear, they will lose conservative voters without picking up many liberal ones, Hook and Haberkorn wrote. Collins is the only Republican up for reelection who has said Trump should not pick a nominee before the election; the second party defector, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, is not on the ballot.

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The view from the Supreme Court

— President Trump said Monday he is likely to name a replacement for Ginsburg on Saturday. Senate Republicans appear increasingly likely to have the votes needed to confirm his choice, barring some revelation, Haberkorn writes. On Tuesday, Trump critic Mitt Romney joined his party colleagues in saying he is willing to consider Trump’s nominee, regardless of the looming election.


— In 2016, nine full months before that year’s presidential election, Republicans argued that a vote on Obama’s Supreme Court nominee would deprive Americans of the chance to have a say in who should fill the seat. Arit John compared their statements then and now and found that when it comes to being consistent, several Senate Republicans are not.

— Biden, having served in the Senate for decades, knows the thorny politics of Supreme Court nominations perhaps better than anyone, writes Melanie Mason. He not only helped shepherd Ginsburg’s nomination in 1993, he was involved in at least 14 others.

— ICYMI: Del Quentin Wilber took a look at Trump’s likely finalists, Amy Coney Barrett and Barbara Lagoa. Both would push the court further to the right.

From The Times archives

The front page of the Los Angeles Times on June 15, 1993.

(Los Angeles Times)


The battle to replace Ginsburg stands in stark contrast to her nomination and confirmation. In June 1993, the political climate surrounding the court was less charged, and Ginsburg’s reputation was as a centrist judge, not the liberal icon she became. The Times announced her nomination with the headline “Clinton Picks Moderate Judge Ruth Ginsburg for High Court.” The Times’ David Savage wrote in his analysis that Ginsburg was considered “an articulate moderate jurist.” She came with support from Justice Antonin Scalia, who reportedly quipped that if he had to spend the rest of his life on a desert island with a liberal, he’d choose her.

Weeks later, on Aug. 4, The Times reported she’d been approved “swiftly and with remarkably little dissension” by a Senate vote of 96-3 — “the most agreeable Supreme Court confirmation process in recent history.” Three Republicans voted against her over her pro-abortion-rights stance.

The latest from the campaign trail

— Unlike most states, Maine and Nebraska can split their electoral votes, awarding a vote to the winner in each House district. That has made one rural congressional district in Maine into a tiny battleground for the Biden and Trump campaigns, Janet Hook writes.

— From 2020 reporters Evan Halper and Seema Mehta: With the help of lots of cash from Californians, including past Republican donors, Joe Biden is eclipsing President Trump in fundraising as they head into the final stretch.


Cindy McCain has endorsed Biden for president. It’s a stunning rebuke of President Trump by the widow of the Republican Party’s 2008 nominee.

— The first debate is Tuesday. White House reporters Eli Stokols and Noah Bierman report that Trump and Biden are taking very different approaches to preparing.

The view from California

— Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday defended his efforts to fix an outdated state unemployment benefits system that has delayed payments to tens of thousands of Californians who have lost their jobs since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

— L.A. County’s Project Roomkey, a $100-million-plus program to repurpose hotels and motels emptied by the coronavirus as safe havens for homeless people, is ending after months of mixed performance. An official said the program is being squeezed by uncertain funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which pays about 75% of its cost.


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