After the Canadian snowbirds flew north for the summer, the dailies scaled back their Canada coverage. But even when they were publishing dispatches on Canadian hockey and politics, the papers failed to pick up on an intriguing story with an actual connection to South Florida.

It seems that, over the last 30 years, at least a dozen men from the Ontario border town of Cornwall were bringing young boys down to Fort Lauderdale for all-expenses paid weekends of sea and sun and pedophilia.

The enormity of the scandal first became apparent three years ago when a man in the group, who had been first a victim and then a victimizer, came forward. The man, who has since gone into hiding, told police about the activities of many of the most prominent men in Cornwall, among them priests, lawyers, and police officers. A special investigation dubbed Project Truth was launched. The first of the 12 men charged (out of 66 suspects) goes to trial this fall.

The sexual abuse that began in Cornwall is alleged to have continued in rooms rented in rundown motels near the beach in Fort Lauderdale, and many of the names of the men charged allegedly appear on old motel registers. "They were offering these trips to the kids as if they had won a prize," said Garry Guzzo, a member of Parliament from Ontario who has a winter home in Broward. "This certainly wasn't Disneyland."

Although it's not a foolproof method, we think one of the best ways to gauge the tenor of a mayoral campaign is to pay close attention to the kind of party a candidate throws. Last Thursday night both Hollywood candidates, Mayor Mara Giulianti and Commissioner John Coleman, held their kickoff fundraisers at the same time: between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. But the similarities end there.

Giulianti's fundraiser, according to some who attended, was a tad more upscale than Coleman's. Held in a private room at Dave & Buster's, it raised $40,000 to $50,000, thanks to 336 guests. The fare served was chicken wings, crudités, beer, and wine. Dress: Suits and ties. Minimum contribution required: $100. The politically star-studded guest list included State Sen. Howard Forman, State Rep. Eleanor Sobel, former U.S. Congressman Larry Smith, State Rep. Ken Gottlieb, and lobbyist Alan Koslow.

Coleman's fundraiser -- which he dubbed "the zero to $99 party" -- was a decidedly more casual affair, which took place at J.Q. McFarlin's, a watering hole on the Intracoastal. Twenty-five guests pulled together only $375 for the commish, probably because they had to pay for their salads, burgers, and beer. Dress: Jeans, shorts, polo shirts, and khakis. No minimum contribution required. The guest list, while not stellar, displayed some diversity: Vice Mayor Sal Oliveri, activists Shelly and Alan Stieb, and budget advisory committee member Linda Wilson.

The next morning, Coleman said he didn't feel bad that he'd raised tens of thousands of dollars less than Giulianti. His next fundraiser, he says, should score major moola. Location: the Italian American Club. Ticket price for the spaghetti dinner: a whopping $25.

Got a tip? Call 954-233-1581, fax 954-233-1571, or e-mail [email protected].

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Rich Shea