Bidding wars

Among the first stories I wrote for Maclean’s after joining the newsmagazine in 1978 was a behind-the-scenes account of how governments helped Windsor, Ont., beat out Lima, Ohio, for a $500 million engine plant Ford was planning to build. I was able to reveal all the negotiations that took place among Ontario Premier Bill Davis, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, and Ford President Roy Bennett during the Calgary Stampede of all places. When I next saw the premier, he said the story read as if I’d been in the room, just the sort of comment a young magazine writer wants to hear. Looking back, that public support...

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Fun on Fogo

When you ask the locals living on Fogo Island, Newfoundland, about the weather, they don’t begin with sun, cloud or temperature. They talk first about the wind. A south-westerly is best and can signal several fine days to come. We had just such luck during our recent time at the Fogo Island Inn. The inn, which opened four years ago, dominates Joe Batt’s Arm, a community that’s a 10-minute walk away. The most wonderful aspect of a vacation on Fogo is that you encounter folks in ways you don’t usually while on holiday. One man called John that we happened to meet on a dock held...

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Hidden figures

When the most recent Statscan census declared that the Anglophone population in Quebec had increased by 57,325 during the last five years, Quebec politicians were apoplectic. There was talk about the need for a quick legislative response because this news somehow indicated that the French language would soon disappear from daily life. English-speakers were making a comeback, even outside Montreal. Mon dieu! When experts checked the numbers, they found that the Anglophone population had not ballooned to 8.1 percent of the population. It was a more reasonable 7.5 percent, a drop of 0.2 percent over the five-year period. The number of Anglophones in Quebec City was not 6,400...

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Just wait and see

This morning, in a neighbour’s garden, there was a flurry of Monarch butterflies. I tried to count them, was it four, or five? Hard to tell, they were having so much fun flitting among the flowers – roses, zinnias, coneflower, snapdragons and a tall purple item I couldn’t identify. Not so long ago, Monarchs had all but vanished. If there are this many nearby, they must be making a comeback. So, too, with birds. Earlier in this decade, West Nile virus meant there were neither crows nor blue jays in Toronto. Robins, chickadees and others songsters were also reduced in number. For...

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No winners here

The fact that the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) is about to privatize some of its operations does not sit well with me. First of all, look how well Ontario’s previous privatization effort worked with Hydro. In the case of the OLG, the negative impact on individuals could be even more serious. Let me explain. The first tortured reason OLG casinos came into existence was to attract tourists. That may have worked for a while in Niagara Falls and Windsor, but the nearby states – New York and Michigan – now have their own fleecing houses. As for the...

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The last round-up

According to my morning newspaper, BlackBerry is no longer the only smartphone secure enough for federal government employees. Samsung has now met all necessary standards. The article also said that it was easy to figure out who in Ottawa was a government bureaucrat. They’re the only ones in parks, stadiums or streets using a BlackBerry. That somehow seems unlikely. First of all, I thought I was the last person in North America still using a BlackBerry. Second, I would wager that a lot of bureaucrats long ago bought iPhones or some other smartphone, even if it didn’t meet security standards. That’s how...

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Enough is too much

For a while, Donald Trump was a firebrand, the outsider who rattled cages. Then he was the louche lothario who demeaned women. Next he floated through various guises from narcissist to boyish, from arrogant to brutish. He made his cabinet ministers fawn for the cameras. He stretched the truth and twisted the past to suit his future. Loyalty mattered, but only as it was lavished on him. As the first senator to support Trump the candidate, attorney-general Jeff Sessions got little loyalty in return. Along with a lot of other people I endured all that, including his admiration for strong men like Vladimir Putin of...

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Time travel

I once spent an evening listening to The Ink Spots. Of course, they weren’t the real thing. It was the 1970s and the vocal group, formed in the 1930s, had broken up in 1954. Dozens of groups were touring using their name. The closest the group I saw came to the original quartet was maybe one of them had an uncle who might have seen them perform. Such film-flammery was not an issue with The Doobie Brothers and Chicago, two groups who did their best work in the 1970s, and appeared last night on the Budweiser Stage (formerly the Molson Amphitheatre). Both...

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