Toronto Star

Saturday, August 7, 1999

Pity, Mr. Black

The Toronto Star

Our sympathies go out to our cross-town rivals at the National Post.

It must be embarrassing to work for a man whose quest for a British title has escalated from mild comedy to high farce.

It must feel odd to devote two-and-a-half full news pages to Conrad Black's decision to sue the Prime Minister for blocking his appointment to the British House of Lords. The story, though amusing, is of little importance.

It must be hard to convince readers that you work for a serious publication when your boss is making a laughingstock of himself on both sides of the Atlantic.

It must be awkward to quote the hoots of derision coming from the Prime Minister's Office.

It must require extreme tact to refrain from asking why Black, who claims he suffered ``considerable embarrassment and inconvenience'' when his appointment was blocked, would subject himself to the further embarrassment of suing the Prime Minister over such a trivial matter.

Why an intelligent, accomplished man would put his wounded pride on public display is beyond us.

Why Black would suggest that The National Post's convoluted allegations of a funding scandal in Chrétien's riding caused the Prime Minister to block his peerage is an even greater mystery. The stories were almost impossible to follow.

Furthermore, newspapers annoy the Prime Minister all the time. He has better things to do than plot revenge against their owners.

Had Black resisted the urge to fight the Prime Minister in court, it is quite possible that federal officials would have found a way to work around the 80-year-old Nickle Resolution, which requests British monarchs not to confer titles upon Canadian citizens.

They could have taken into account that Black is also a citizen of Britain. They could have used the precedents set by other Canadians who have been honoured by foreign governments.

Now, Chrétien and his legal advisers are likely to dig in their heels, using every device at their disposal to defend the authority of the Prime Minister Office.

We can offer one small piece of solace to our colleagues at The National Post.

You have the inside track on one of the most outlandish stories of the summer.

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