Shun Shen

Everywhere you turn these days, along with signs of Christmas, you see Shen Yun. If you don’t know the name, you will realize who they are when I tell you that it’s a Chinese dance company. They are inescapable: posters, car cards, broadcast ads, mailed brochures and people on street corners handing out pamphlets. The money behind the show must be amazing. Shen Yun seems to come through southern Ontario more than once a year. They have thirteen performances scheduled between now and early March in Toronto, Kitchener, Hamilton and Mississauga. They are not from China. In fact, the group (there must be several on...

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Book ’em Danno

Word-of-mouth and published reviews are good ways to find out about new books of interest. Word-of-mouth is probably the best because you can judge the passion and the source then decide if you’ll buy based on what you’ve heard. Increasingly, published book reviews are untrustworthy. Not because some editor chooses the wrong titles, but because reviewers don’t take the assignment seriously. Here’s an example from last Saturday’s Globe and Mail. Zadie Smith’s new novel, Swing Time, was clearly the pick of the week. It takes up a full page with a photo of the author and a four-column review. But the first quarter of...

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Mystical Landscapes

Mystical Landscapes, a special exhibit currently at the Art Gallery of Ontario, opens with a trumpet fanfare. Three paintings by Paul Gauguin, all circa 1890 before he fled for the debauchery of the South Pacific, are displayed like a medieval tryptic. Gauguin painted them to be hung together but this is the first time the artist’s wish has been achieved. They include Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, The Yellow Christ and Christ in the Garden of Olives, usually hanging in Edinburgh, Buffalo and West Palm Beach respectively. The rest of the exhibit of 90 paintings and 20 drawings is equally compelling and includes two...

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Tranquillity base

I don’t like Donald Trump any more than anyone else, but I think we should all follow Barack Obama’s lead and give the president-elect some time and space. Forget about the early White House appointments and what they might signal. And don’t fret about the bond market losing $1 trillion in a matter of a few days. The traders are just sending Trump a signal not to count on spending whatever he wants on infrastructure. An inflationary economy is a bad idea. Nor should we worry overly about rowdy demonstrations and police with assault rifles at the ready. This is nothing compared to 1968...

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Doing the two step

Ontario Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca wrote me a letter recently to say that I’d been chosen at random for a traffic survey. I was delighted to participate. After the weather, traffic is the number one topic of conversation in Toronto. The survey was straightforward. They designated a specific day and asked where I went and how I traveled. In my case, it was simple: a three-point trip by subway downtown to the Toronto-Dominion Centre, on to Yonge and St. Clair, and then home. Hard to imagine what they learned from that. In fact it’s hard to imagine what they’ve...

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Loonie tunes part two

Previously, I chided Stephen Poloz for having exporters too much on his mind as governor of the Bank of Canada. It would seem that he’s driven down the C$ to help exporters yet export sales have not risen to any great extent. In fact, the number of manufacturing firms is dropping all the time. Over the last ten years Canada has lost more than 10,000 manufacturers. Even at a modest 10 employees per plant that’s 100,000 jobs no longer tied to exports. Moreover, most Canadians don’t work in export businesses. About 80 percent of all Canadian jobs are in service roles such as...

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Loonie tunes

David Rosenberg, chief economist with Gluskin Sheff + Associates, parsed the recent pontifications of Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz and noticed repeated use of the word “exports.” Three times in two sentences, in fact. And how Poloz seemed to want an even lower Canadian dollar when measured against the U.S. dollar. So much so that Poloz said the central bank considered lowering interest rates last week but kept them flat. Such an admission by a central banker is very unusual. Rarely do they say what they might have done. Maybe Poloz counted on such talk driving down the C$ even further. If...

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Strike out

Just when you thought Toronto couldn’t look any more foolish, what with a baseball fan throwing a beer can at an outfielder, someone goes to court to stop Cleveland from being called the Indians. Douglas Cardinal, a renowned architect and indigenous Canadian, argued he would be affronted to see the Indians play last night at Rogers Centre. Then Cardinal went to China where he probably couldn’t or didn’t watch the game anyway. I’d like first to declare my bona fides when it comes to such matters. I’ve helped raise money for the Native Canadian Centre so I think I can say, without...

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