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The Article

Vegas turns out to be right spot for debate on Canadian politics

LAS VEGAS—This is called quitting when you are ahead.

I had never played the tables or the slots on previous visits.

For me, the appeal had been the big Hollywood-style song and dance production shows, and particularly the 10 p.m. performances when the girls are tastefully topless.

At 8 a.m., I’m sitting in the Luxor casino drinking coffee and waiting for some Alberta Conservative types to meet for breakfast.

Then I spot two Latino girls playing two-cent slot machines!

Yup, just two cents a roll.

I break all my resolve and put in $5.

In the first—and only roll—lights start flashing and I win 400 credits.

So I cash out, getting $12 for my $5 in about 15 seconds.

Friends, that will be my first and last gamble in the desert community originally built by the mob.

I’m actually here to be Master of Ceremonies at the wedding of entrepreneur and political insider Sean McKinsley and Pan-American Games heptathlon champion Adrienne Curtis.

McKinsley, onetime executive assistant to Calgary Northeast MP Art Hanger, now runs Grand Lion Investment Corporation, which is what’s known as a “boutique” conglomerate.

Most people think of conglomerates as being huge international affairs, but there’s a new trend of “boutique” conglomerates that are relatively small but have diverse investments.

Grand Lion is into real estate, oil and gas, restaurants and nightclubs.

It is “vertically integrated” in that Grand Lion buys land and then operates another business on it.

You make “sleeper” money from the land as real estate prices rise—and from the businesses you operate on that land.

Why didn’t I think of that?

One day McKinsley’s going to be a multi-millionaire many times over.

And aside from getting hitched, he’s spending much of his time down here putting together deals in Las Vegas.

Anyway, Calgary West MP Rob Anders is on the invite list, and once again I marvel at Rob’s knowledge of history.

This fellow has virtually memorized the entire 12-volume work of Arnold Toynbee’s monumental A Study of History, which traces the rise and fall of 26 civilizations.

Also here is youthful libertarian lawyer Jonathan Denis, of Chipeur Advocates in Calgary, who takes on cases of individuals fighting big government.

Denis reminds me somewhat of conservative guru William F. Buckley, both physically and intellectually.

He’s articulate and polished and will be a big legal star one day.

Next we had Michael Cooper, once the youngest person on the Reform party national council, and who, as a teenager, staggered the audience when he appeared on CTV’s Mike Bullard Show where no one could beat him when he was quizzed on the most obscure bit of political minutia.

Then there was Matthew Johnston, senior vice-president of Western Standard magazine, whom I like to quip is the greatest impersonator since Lon Chaney, the legendary movie star portrayed by James Cagney in the 1957 celluloid hit Man of a Thousand Faces.

Or, perhaps for more youthful readers, Rich Little.

Johnston, who is involved in a stack of business ventures himself, hit the headlines a few years ago when he did an impersonation of Edmonton-Strathcona MP Rahim Jaffer on a radio talk show.

Coincidentally, when this all exploded in Jaffer’s and Johnston’s faces, there were calls to just about crucify them until then prime minister Jean Chretien, in perhaps the only noble act of his political life, came to their defence, contending anyone can make a mistake, and the public embarrassment they suffered was punishment enough.

One wishes Chretien had shown the same amount of class on other issues and in other endeavours.

Anyway, aside from the wedding, much of our four days in Las Vegas was obviously spent discussing polities, with a mutual conclusion being that while Brian Mulroney claimed he had been the best prime minister since Sir John. A. Macdonald, Stephen Harper may actually be such an individual.

Some of the fellows started placing bets on whether Jim Dinning, Lyle Oberg or Ted Morton would win the Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership race.

But not me.

As I said earlier—always quit when you are ahead!

 

Paul Jackson
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