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January 21, 1999


Minister will review rules after uproar over 'dumb blondes'

Copps vows to pull plug on grants for joke books

by Joel-Denis Bellavance

Ottawa - Sheila Copps, the Heritage Minister, says she will tighten the rules of a federal publishing aid program to ensure taxpayers will never again subsidize the publication of questionable books such as a recently-published collection of jokes on dumb blondes.

Last year a Montreal publisher, Edimag Inc., received a $98,090 grant from Heritage Canada and subsequently published a book on the best 500 jokes on dumb blondes.

Edimag received the grant under the Book Publishing Industry Development program, which hands out $31.3-million a year.

"This was a very dumb, dumb grant," said Ms. Copps before entering a two-day caucus meeting in Ottawa at which Liberals are discussing their next budget,

Women's groups reacted angrily last week after learning that federal money helped a publisher produce such a book.

Joan Grant-Cummings, head of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, called it a "slap in the face" because her group is facing an uncertain future as a result of cuts to its federal grant.

Women's groups are begging for $6,000 here and $30,000 there, and this is from a government that is Liberal and is supposed to advance social equality," she said.

Ms. Copps said she asked her department for a review of the policy a few months before the book hits the shelves.

"I have asked a number months ago for a review of the policy, to make sure that assistance is targeted to Canadian literature and not dumb blonde jokes," she said.

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