Neil and radio

October 9, 2014

Details of the forthcoming book will be released soon. In the meantime, to whet the appetite:

CJAD tribute to Neil

Neil McKenty


He’s got the whole town talking – and no wonder! His EXCHANGE with listeners is always lively and informed. Neil’s nightly editorials are formidable and thought provoking.

Neil was a seasoned academic and author before he became a broadcaster. He brought to CJAD an M.A. in Canadian History from the University of Toronto and an M.A. in Communications Arts from the University of Michigan.

A political writer of stature, he is well known for his book, Mitch Hepbum, which won the University of British Columbia medal for the best political biography published in Canada in 1967.

Neil’s vast knowledge, his sensitivity to the issues and to people, and his sharp wit were deve loped as a teacher of Canadian History and English. He brings it together every day on CJAD.

Off the air, Neil loves to walk, explore Montreal on his bicycle and to talk to people.

His appetite for reading is enormous and he devours information.
You are just as likely to find him at Place des Arts or a rock
concert or dancing in a disco. Neil loves life and people.

Less known is Neil’s charitable work. He was Executive
Director of the Harry E. Foster charitable
foundation specializing in work with retarded children.
The Foundation worked with the NHL to
introduce floor hockey for the mentally-challenged in Canada
and Neil helped to get the Special Olympics organized.

Neil is always one of CJAD’s prime motivators in
Public Service projects. He and his wife Catherine always
find room to do a little bit more.

Neil has been Director of, Public Affairs at CJAD since 1972.

CJAD promotional copy

Reading and writing

October 8, 2014

Details of the forthcoming book will be released soon. In the meantime, to whet the appetite:


Neil took many courses in his retirement. Here he discusses taking a course with family friend Clare Hallward.
Sometimes with the Hallwards — and I do mean all the Hallwards young and older – you get more than you bargained for. Take, Clare, for example. At first glance you wouldn’t think Clare Hallward is an intimidating person. I’ve known Clare Hallward for a quarter of a century and I know, for a fact, that she doesn’t think she’s intimidating. Well, I’d advise you to take a second glance. Because if you don’t you might just find yourself on a banana peel or in the ditch.
Because that’s where I found myself – sliding on a banana peel into the ditch – after I signed up for a course at the Thomas More Institute. I knew Clare was also in the course which was one of the reasons I signed up. I thought she would be fun to be with in a course — you know, provocative and stimulating. And indeed she was. But, you know something. You can overdose on stimulation.
Let me explain what I mean. The course Clare and were taking together involved reading a series of biographies. Perhaps you think this was child’s play. Let me assure you it wasn’t. The biography on Dickens alone was twelve hundred pages long with a hundred pages or so of footnotes. As I told Clare and everybody else in the class when I finished this opus I knew more about Charles Dickens than I knew about my wife.
But do you think this was enough for Clare. Not on your life. I staggered into the weekly session having just finished the required reading of three hundred pages or so only to find Clare at her place with the Dickens biography (several times the size of a telephone directory) on the table in front of her and beside that a pile of other documents relating to Dickens that she had scrounged out, read a now threw into the discussion. She had found an obscure review called the Groundhog Literary Journal published once every four years in Red Deer, Alberta. How do you think the rest of us felt? As though we had brought pork and beans to a pot-luck supper and Clare walked in with champagne and caviar.
This feeling reached its apogee when we came to the biography of the tragic American writer, Sylvia Plath. The moderators assigned us one of the latest Plath biographies to read. I was determined to do a good job. I read the book carefully, made meticulous notes, marshalled my arguments and strode into the seminar room smiling inwardly with a good feeling of being well prepared to contribute to the discussion. This feeling didn’t last long. I was soon enlightened. Shortly after the discussion began I learned six biographies had been written on Plath. Not only that, Clare had rounded them up and read them all. Not only that  I could plainly see all six were laid out neatly in front of her place and she began, with erudition and good humour, to compare the five I hadn’t read to the one I had. How did I feel? Well, as though I had put on my very best suit for a party and just after I arrived at the party my pants fell down.
Would I sign up for another course with Clare? You bet your boots I would. But first I would see my optometrist and get a set of trifocals.

Neil and politics

October 7, 2014

Details of the forthcoming book will be released soon. In the meantime, to whet the appetite:

This page from Toronto Star in 1965 catches Neil at a political rally with Diefenbaker.

Network Scan Data

Neil and television

October 6, 2014

Details of the forthcoming book will be released soon. In the meantime, to whet the appetite:

Neil recounts his time on TV

After returning from Ireland in the summer of 1987, where the John Main biography had been launched at Trinity College, I was astonished to receive a telephone call from a senior program producer at CFCF television, Don McGowan, a well-known Montreal television personality in his own right. Over lunch at the garden café of the Ritz-Carlton, McGowan asked me if I would be interested in doing a live talk show on television, a sort of poor man’s Larry King Live. McGowan would provide a chauffeur-driven limousine to pick me up each morning (impressive for the neighbours) and an extensive new wardrobe (a delight for Catharine who never approved of my doing radio in a scruffy T-shirt).

Of course I jumped at the opportunity, and in September 1987, we went on air with Montreal’s first English live call-in television program, McKenty Live. Television is more cumbersome and complicated than radio, but for the next three years I had a lot of fun – the limousine with a bar, telephone and TV set in the back seat; the warmth and soft hands in the make-up room; a small, friendly staff. During the three years we had some remarkable guests: the famous sexologist, Dr. Ruth, who was so tiny she had to sit on a Montreal telephone directory; Canada’s chief negotiator, Louis Reisman, with whom I had a ferocious argument on free trade two days before the federal election; and René Lévesque, the only guest who not only smoked, but offered a cigarette to everyone in the crew. Only a week later, this man whom I liked very much, died of a heart attack. René Lévesque’s last appearance in public might well have been on McKenty Live.

Although I enjoyed McKenty Live and my associates on the program, Daniel Freedman, Wendy Helfenbaum and Bernie Peissel, at the end of the third season, I decided to leave the program. My reasoning was: I would be repeating programs we had already done; some of my associates were being changed; I wanted to do some more writing, perhaps a book on Catharine’s grandfather, onetime mayor of Toronto; and both Catharine and I were busy with the Benedictine Priory and meditation. So in June 1990, I left CFCF television.

from the Inside Story.


The Laurentians

October 1, 2014


Catharine writes:

     Last Sunday I spend a magical few hours in the Laurentian Mountains north of Montreal.  The changing colour of the leaves in the bright sunlight drew families from far and near to St. Sauveur.  At lunch I sat reading a copy  ”Skiing Legends and the Laurentian Lodge Club”.  Neil and I had to much fun working on that book.  For days our dining room table was piled high with all the information about the Laurentians.

     Neil had an amazing way of boiling down a vast amount of information into a few paragraphs.  He could pluck a metaphor out of thin air the way a magician pull a rabbit out of a hat.  Here is one of what he wrote about the Laurentian Mountains :


More than a billion years ago, a lumbering land mass collided with the Precambrian Shield, squeezing the oceans between.  In this collision, rock buckled and scrunched up like sheets of plasticine crushed at both ends.  Out of this upheaval emerged the mountains we now call the Laurentians, probably as high then as the Rockies are today.

Meanwhile, deep in the belly of the earth, red hot rocks flowed upward under the surface of the continents, splitting them apart and, from this fiery maelstrom, forming a basin for the ancient lapetus Ocean.  About six hundred millions years ago, the waters along its western coast encroached on the subsiding land and the Laurentian stood on the shore of this warm, shallow sea, basking in the tropical temperature.  In these same waters, sediment accumulated that later formed the rock on which Montreal now stands.

After more cycles of collisions and upheavals, about a million years ago, tons of glacial ice formed and flattened the Laurentians.  These ponderously moving glaciers, like great icy balls of steel wool, scraped and gouged the mountains, polishing them down to  the bedrock.

Some 100,000 years ago, these ice caps coalesced to form the Laurentian Ice Sheet, a sea of ice four times as high as Mont-Tremblant. The pressure of this ice weighed on the mountains, smoothing and rounding them into softer bosomy shapes.  Finally, some 12,000 years ago, this sea of ice began to melt and recede.  Slowly out of the steaming mists, the Laurentians emerged, crowned by the majestic Tremblant, much as we see them today.  

As the ice sheets retreated, the climate, warmer than ours is, was able to sustain vegetation, forest of birch and aspen groves, deer, caribou, and small game.  Than after the ages of granite and ice came the first humans to gaze on the rolling purple hills from the top of Tremblant which thy called ”Manitou Ewitchi”, the mountain of the mysterious Manitou, the spirit in all things.

Are you a skier ?

Have you been to the Laurentians ?

Neil with Red Foster

September 19, 2014

Network Scan Data

Ay or Nae?

September 18, 2014

Today is the day the Scots vote on staying or leaving the United Kingdom. From a sluggish start the Yes side has had a late surge in support. Now the polls are neck-in-neck with a very real chance this ancient union will break apart.

Unusually for the British media, Canada has been oft-discussed with much reference to the 1995 Quebec referendum. Michael Ignatieff has been on BBC Radio 4’s flagship news programme Today discussing the tactics used to prevent votes in favour of Quebec separation.

For Canadians, it hits home not only with our own separatist movement but also in our history with the major role that Scots played in the construction of Canada, starting with John A. MacDonald. There are over 4 million Canadians with Scottish ancestry.

Do you think Scotland will separate? Do you think there will be an impact on us here in Canada?

Merger of Tim Horton’s and Burger King

September 5, 2014

What is your honest opinion of the proposed merger of Tim Horton’s and Burger King?

Apparently the combined company will then be the third largest fast-food company in the world.

Frankly I think Neil would have been horrified.

Tim Horton’s CEO vowed to make sure that Timbits remain “as much a symbol of Canada as the Beaver or the Mounties.”

Do you think he has a hope of keeping that promise? If the deal goes through, the combined company will own approx. 18,000 restaurants in more than 100 countries. In a thoroughly researched article, MacLean’s magazine points out that one false step and all the good will Tim Horton’s has built up over the years will dissipate. The title of their article in the September issue is “The Tim Horton’s Takeover: A Half-baked deal. Why that is dangerous move.”

Is bigger always better? Is this kind of corporate takeover good for ordinary Canadians? Will Tim Horton’s be able to maintain its’ high standard of coffee and doughnuts?

Neil’s friend, Jim, used to tease by suggesting ‘let’s stop at one of the competitors’.. Neil would yell ‘Tim Horton’s it is.’ His favourite doughnut was sour cream. What is yours?

The deal is not done yet, what would be your vote?

Neil loves golf

August 31, 2014

Neil loves golf

By Everett Fleming

I think it is fair to say that the annual game of the Madawaska foursome (Everett and Barbara Fleming, Nancy Nichols and Neil) at a course near Kingston, Ont., was the pinnacle of his golf year. Neil always maintained he did not care about the score. This is not quite so, as he was quietly interested in our games, in fact, the very last game he played with us happened to be the best he had ever played, a fact he was very proud of, and could only have known because we kept score.

Who lives? Who dies? Who decides?

August 25, 2014
From 2008 – a classic post:


Suppose there were a medical disaster such as a flu pandemic (which doctors expect sooner or later) where medical services are stretched beyond the limit. In that situation who lives and who dies and who decides?

Now an influential group of U.S. doctors have drafted a specific list of recommendations for which patients would not be treated. They include the very elderly, seriously hurt trauma victims, severely burned patients and those with severe dementia.

These guidelines are an attempt to make sure that scarce resources – including ventilators, medicines, and doctors and nurses — are used in a uniform, objective way.

The U.S. report urges hospitals to designate a triage team with the Godlike task of deciding who willand who won’t get lifesaving care. Those out of luck are the following:

  • People older than 85.
  • Those with severe trauma, which could include critical injuries from car crashes and shootings.
  • Severely burned patients older than 60.
  • Those with severe mental impairments, which could include advanced Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Those with a severe chronic disease, such as advanced heart failure, lung disease or poorly controlled diabetes.
  • Should your 85-year old grandmother get no life saving care?
  • Should your 60-year-old severely burned father get no lifesaving care?
  • Should your husband who has severe emphasyma receive no life saving care?
  • Should there be a national debate on how scarce medical resources are used in a disaster?


  1. 1
    Paul Costopoulos Says:

    This only officialises what has been going on for several years in our chronically short staffed and overcrowded hospitals and clinics. To my knowledge it has been done, although not on such a large scale or spectrum, for over 20 years. Of course the above stated policy would apply in case of a severe pandemic or disaster. In war theaters doctors, paramedics and even civilians have long been faced with those choices.
    When it goes on far away nobody notices, when it hits close to you than you start wondering what if? Don’t you!
    I may sound cynical but these guidelines do not come as a shock to me but they will relieve health professionals of a lot of guilt.

  2. 2
    neilmckentyweblog2 Says:

    Paul: –

    I fear you are right. A group of doctors in Canada say that health costs are rising so rapidly that the authorities should ration them. But by what criteria? I believe we should have a national debate on this issue.

    Thanks for your comment. Always appreciated.

  3. 3
    Cornelius T. Zen Says:

    Good morrow, all!
    It’s called triage. Work on those who are most likely to survive the procedure. Medical resources of all descriptions have always been limited, even scarce, mostly because the vast majority of the current population has no immediate need. It comes as no surprise. As for shock…welcome to reality. Like gravity and entropy, those are the facts of life. But then, I digress…CTzen

  4. 4
    Chimera Says:

    What CTZen said, and more.

    For everyone about to climb, blubbering, on the “save my grampa” bandwagon just because you happen to love him above everyone else, stop with the tug on the emotional heartstrings, already. When you do that, you demand the impossible.

    If doctors really had a “godlike task,” they wouldn’t have to pick and choose whom to save; they could save everyone. What they have is a very human task of awesome proportions, and in the case of a disaster, limited resources and utter chaos in which to work.

    Doctors work with objectivity, and so should we all, in times of disaster. If we can’t do that, we should at least get out of the way of those who can. [And for those who notice things like this, I really hate the onus of the word, "should," but sometimes there is no other way to say it.]

    If you have a hundred injured people and two doctors, does anyone think the doctors are gonna work on patients with the best cheering section or the ones with the best chance to survive, recover, and then pitch in and help in their turn?

    I rarely offer serious advice, but here’s an exception: prepare yourself to be one of the ones either pitching in to help despite your own injuries, or one of the ones being set aside because you are too severely injured to make an effective and useful recovery. Once you’ve made up your mind to do that, the rest will happen as it happens. It will, anyway, but at least you’ll be emotionally and psychologically better prepared.

  5. 5
    Paul Costopoulos Says:

    You are right Chimera. I would hate to be another Golubchuck. And I have seen to it in my last will and testament that includes a “living will”.

  6. 6
    neilmckentyweblog2 Says:

    Cornelius and Chimera,

    The scenario you paint is bleak indeed. I grew up in a society where the philosophers said the hallmark of a great society was the way it treated its most vulnerable and defenseless citizens. In our new society will will cut them loose. Necessary, perhaps, but how hard=boiled, if not evil. Didn’t Hitler try that?

  7. 7
    Paul Costopoulos Says:

    Neil, Hitler did it systematically. What we are talking about here are extreme circumstances when extreme measures are required. Still we must draw the line at therapeutic harrassment in the name of science and research or religion. We must also draw the line when the person has no more quality of life and no hope for a cure barring a miracle. A very good case is the late Mr Golubchuck whose family went to extreme lenghts to keep him alive despite all odds. He died last week looking like a still, all tubes and machines.

  8. 8
    neilmckentyweblog2 Says:

    Paul: —

    “Neil, Hitler did it systematically.” But isn’t that what Corneilius and Chimera are advocating – that we systematically abandon the most vulnerable. And isn’t that what Hitler did – with the Jews, the mentally retarded, gays and gypsies. I expect that’s not the kind of society either your or I want to live in.

  9. 9
    Paul Costopoulos Says:

    Neil, I don’t think either CTZ or Chimera meant to be that extreme. Certainly systematic eradication of the vulnerable is not what I have in mind. As I wrote, in extreme, and I stress extreme, conditions tough decisions have to be made. Other than that humanity must prevail.
    Mind you in the far north, when they could no longer pull their weight and became a danger to the tribe, the elders would walk away and allow themselves to die of cold exposure, but, again, those were extreme circumstances and a matter of survival for the clan. It is no longer done.

  10. 10
    Cate McB Says:

    The issue here is not just who on the list should get life saving care but who should get that care if they get whatever killer flu comes around. In this context, those on the list are those who from an empirical standpoint, are the least likely to benefit from the life saving care for all kinds of reasons including the ways they are already physically compromised. In the ICU where I work, they are already the least likely to survive even a moderately severe pneumonia, not to mention a killer flu in the context of a pandemic.

    I hate to sound pessimistic, but in the case of a pandemic from my vantage point within the health care system in Ontario, I wonder how we will be able to care adequately for those who empirically have the very best chances. We will do our very best and what will be will be. Until that day, I concentrate on what I really want to do in this life. After that, if some pandemic gets me, c’est la vie. I’ve already had TB and Hep. B and know what treatment involved in those situations for me as an otherwise healthy person.

  11. 11
    neilmckentyweblog2 Says:


    It is always good for us to have a comment from a professional in the field.
    Do I hear you saying that medical services will be strained to care for those who have the very best chances, let alone those who are weakened to begin with?

  12. 12
    Barbara Says:

    What I believe is meant is that, in extreme circumstances, one would do one’s best to give aid and comfort to all. However, if there was, say a limited amount of vaccine to administer during a pandemic, decisions have to be made. Do you give the same inadequate amount to all and cross your fingers or do you give the vaccine to those who stand the best chance of surviving? It is not a matter of killing off the weakest (Hitler did not just abandon the Jews, gypsies and gays, he exterminated them like cockroaches), it is attempting to save as many as you can. I believe that was what I was taught in ethics.

  13. 13
    neilmckentyweblog2 Says:


    Are we talking here about the lesser of two evils?

  14. 14
    Cate McB Says:

    Yes, I am saying that medical services will be strained to care for those who have the very best chances, let alone those who are weakened to begin with. That is the case now, without a flu pandemic.

  15. 15
    Barbara Says:

    I am not sure where it fits in technically.

  16. 16
    Cornelius T. Zen Says:

    Good morrow, all! Has it not occurred to anyone that medical resources are already strained? The news is full of horror stories of waiting lines, of vital surgeries delayed or cancelled, because of limited resources. Not enough beds, not enough nurses, not enough blood, not enough…name it, it’s scarce. Medical costs are soaring, more and more of our government budgets are being dedicated to health, and hospitals are still turning people away, or making them wait for hours, days, weeks, months.
    On one hand, Canada advertises for doctors, fully accredited in their own countries, to come to Canada. Then, it tells them, “you can’t be a doctor here, you are not accredited in our medical system.” How brilliant is that, eh? Now, imagine how much worse it is in the United States, where millions have no medical insurance coverage, and cannot afford care at all.
    I am wondering exactly who it is who benefits from this system. It would not be working (I use the term loosely, as you can imagine) this way, unless somebody wanted it to work this way.
    On the other hand, I may be assuming malice, whereas stupidity may be an adequate explanation. But then, I digress…CTZen

  17. 17
    Chimera Says:

    “But isn’t that what Corneilius and Chimera are advocating – that we systematically abandon the most vulnerable.”

    Speaking only for myself, I advocate no such thing. And Neil, you really need to take another look at your original premise before you go off half-cocked and try to compare a natural disaster to Hitler!

    Put yourself in the position of a doctor, rather than that of a victim of this disaster. You have a hundred people who are clamoring for your skills, and they are all sick or injured to some degree, some more than others. Can you honestly say you’d spend all your skills and energy and resources on a couple of people who will die no matter what you do for them? Or will you focus your energies on those who can recover, and maybe make the dying a little more comfortable on their way out.

    Imagine that you have one dose of disinfectant and one roll of bandage. Will you use it for the man who has a bleeding head wound, but can recover? Or will you throw it away on the man with the supurating belly wound, who will die no matter what you do for him? You are the doctor. You have to choose.


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