Yearly Archive: 2009

Good luck or good management?

Welcome to my refreshed site, featuring my new book on Manulife. Yesterday’s excellent cover story in the ROB Magazine on Julie Dickson, head of the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) poked fun at Ms. Dickson’s role versus her profile. The story, Nobody’s Saviour, also featured some detail on what writer Tara Perkins called the “lifeline” Dickson threw to Manulife last fall. Indeed, OSFI did relax the capital rules a bit, thereby giving Manulife a $2.3 billion boost, but the response was nowhere near what Manulife CEO Dominic D’Alessandro sought. Nor was the relief anything like Dickson could...

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The fantasy continues

While we were in Florence I also canvassed book stores to see if they would be interested in selling Fantasy in Florence. I took with me a small number of sample copies and contacted three bookstores. After several meetings in each instance, I found that all three stores (BM Bookshop, Anglo-American and Edison) were keen to carry the book. The first two are English-language stores, the third is an Italian language store in Piazza della Repubblica with a large English-language section. If I’d had 75-100 books with me, I could have distributed all of them immediately because each store was...

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Celebrating serendipity

We’ve just returned from ten days in Florence where each day was better than the last. We visited all of our favourite haunts: Donatello’s David at the Bargello, Mary Magdalene at the Museo dell Opera, Gozzoli’s frescoes, the Central Market, Gilli for prosecco and cappuccino, the list goes on and on. We went for lunch at Il Cavaliere, a fourteenth-century castle thirty minutes south of Florence near Mercatale. The castle has been converted into a grand hotel with views of vineyards, olive groves and newly awakening wisteria vines tumbling over stone walls. We watched the Easter Sunday exploding cart ceremony...

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Watch for the birdie

Is President Obama becoming too visible? In the last week I’ve seen him yukking it up with Jay Leno, talking on 60 Minutes about how many decisions he makes, and tonight he’s holding his second prime time news conference. The only memorable moment in the first press session was that he didn’t just call on the usual suspects, he also fingered Huffington Post for a question. As for 60 Minutes, I’m not sure how helpful it was to show off what the president called the “Rolls-Royce of swing sets” given the precarious state of most household budgets. With these sorts...

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Looking for the old Dodge

What is David Dodge up to taking on the optimists in Ottawa? Always a plain-spoken man, he was somewhat muzzled in recent years, first as a deputy minister, then as governor of the Bank of Canada. In those roles, he either had to say nothing or measure his words so the C$ wouldn’t take a dive. As a former journalist and sometime author (my book on Manulife and CEO Dominic D’Alessandro will be published this May) I’m all in favour of bright people speaking their minds. But I think it’s inappropriate for the former governor to take on the current...

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Road to redemption

I was delighted to see that George Radwanski, the privacy commissioner whose expense accounts became public, was cleared of all charges. Every man should have his day in court and Radwanski certainly had his after six years of being a pariah. In fact, Radwanski has been on the outs with society all the time I’ve known him, which is thirty-five years. When I was press secretary to Robert Stanfield in the 1970s, Radwanski was one of two journalists in the 150-member Parliamentary Press Gallery who stood apart and held independent views. The other was Bill Johnson, who as a bilingual...

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Enough to make your toes curl

We’re hoping to return to Florence for a holiday in April. If we do, first stop will be my favourite piece of art in all of Italy, Donatell’s David in the Bargello. To my mind, this beautiful piece of work from the fifteenth century, the first free-standing statue created since Roman times, is far superior to Michelangelo’s more famous David. The latter is certainly bigger, a towering sixteen feet compared with Donatello’s five-foot version. As a result, Donatello’s work is more human in scope. You can go nose-to-nose with it, something impossible to do with Michelangelo’s overpowering marble. Moreover, I...

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No big deal

The new tax-free savings account is bound to appeal to investors who got snookered by last fall’s market crash. What could be better than earning money and paying no tax! But for the life of me, I can’t see the big deal in being able to invest $5,000 annually and not pay any tax on either income earned or capital gains. The trade-off for no tax is that the annual $5,000 investment does not bring any immediate benefit in the form of a tax deduction as happens with an RRSP contribution. The official example given by the Department of Finance...

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