Barbarians at the gate

I first met Peggy (as she was called in those days) Wente thirty years ago when she was editor of Canadian Business. To be young, female and a magazine editor, particularly one that covered business, was unusual to say the least. Wente was an excellent editor who had been spotted by the legendary Sandy Ross after he’d turned the former official publication of the Chamber of Commerce into an exciting product. I had just left Maclean’s, was freelancing, and Canadian Business became one of my main outlets. I’d do four or five 5,000-word pieces annually for them. Those were the days of long-form journalism and...

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Uneasy lies the head

If I were the Attorney General of Ontario, I would personally be investigating the qualifications of all Crown Attorneys under my jurisdiction. Crown Attorneys are responsible for prosecuting most of the criminal offences in the province, and if recent high-profile cases are are any example, they are doing a poor job of it. Time and again in his 308-page decision on the 31 charges against Senator Mike Duffy, Justice Charles Vaillancourt repeated the phrase, “I am not satisfied that the Crown has proven the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt.” Duffy’s vindication will most likely mean the end of any...

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The Duke of Kent

Darcy McKeough, Treasurer in the Bill Davis government, both praised and poked fun at politicians last night. During a brief speech to a crowd of more than 150 at the official launch of his memoirs, McKeough referred to his fellow “statesmen” from the Ontario Legislature while calling his federal counterparts mere “politicians.” Attendees at the reception held at the Albany Club represented all parties and included Liberals such as Prime Minister John Turner, NDP leader Stephen Lewis and Progressive Conservatives from Queen’s Park: Premier Ernie Eves, Roy McMurtry and Gordon Carton. Federal PCs on hand were Michael Wilson and Barbara McDougall. Among the business leaders were...

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Bird is the word

I’m a birder. There, I’ve finally confessed publicly what I’ve been doing privately. I make this admission because birding has officially been declared “creepy” in an academic study by Francis T. McAndrew and Sara S. Koehnke of the Department of Psychology at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. Never heard of it? Me neither. Apparently, there had not previously been an empirical study of creepiness. So they did an international survey of 1,341 people and found more creepy men than creepy women. No surprise there. They also discovered that the creepiest vocation of all was clown. Does this result sound valid to you? Me neither. I’ve been a...

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The crack of dawn

I don’t get much sleep. Four or five hours a night is tops for me. This all started in the early 1980s when I began writing my first book. I had a day job so I got up at 4 a.m. to reach my daily target of 500 words before leaving the house. Eighteen books later, even though I no longer have a day job, my circadian rhythm remains the same. Everything I read says you need eight hours sleep a night. If I slept that long I’d be in a coma. I’ve tried many devices that people claim will help – no screens for the...

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Action Jackson

The recent death of Syd Jackson, who headed Manulife from 1972-87, reminds me how he advanced women in that organization. In an era when senior female executives were a rarity, Jackson appointed Jalynn Bennett as investment vice-president for Canadian equities. Bennett’s resulting high profile meant that she was among the first women to join the Society of Financial Analysts and, in the early 1990s, the first woman to join the Toronto Club. During Jackson’s era, 12 percent of senior officers at Manulife were women, an impressive number at the time. Indeed, it remains an admirable number today. A recent survey of 91 countries...

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Under the influence

My neighbourhood Starbucks sold beer and wine for the first time today and the earth did not open up and swallow the sinners within. One of whom was me, drinking a Muskoka Winter Weiss, with a free bowl of spicy pumpkin seeds. The Bloor Street West outlet is one of three to be licenced in Toronto and the first such speakeasies in Canada. In the U.S. alcohol is already being sold at 300 Starbucks locations. The sun has been known to rise over the yardarm as early as 11 a.m., but “Starbucks evenings” start at 2 p.m. In addition to craft...

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Southern lights

Try as I might, I’ve never been able to figure out the purpose of the Canadian Journalism Foundation (CJF). Founded in 1996 with the stated purpose of building bridges for journalists with public and private organizations, the only reason for the connection seems to be funding for awards and dinner at the annual bunfeed. While Canadian journalists will be feted at this year’s event on June 16, they’re not the headline used to promote the program. The prime online attention is focussed on a special citation to be presented to the Pulitzer-prize-winning Spotlight team from the Boston Globe that exposed the child abuse scandal and cover-up by the Catholic Church. A...

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