Yearly Archive: 2014

Globe trotters

As a former winner of the National Business Book Award (1997 for Who Killed Confederation Life?) I always keep a close eye on the annual prize. The award has been around since 1986 and the belief always was that it was rigged in that you couldn’t win twice. This year’s winner proved that old shibboleth wrong. The award went to Jacquie McNish and Jim Leech for The Third Rail, a book about pensions, not the sexiest topic ever. McNish previously won in 2004 for Wrong Way: The Fall of Conrad Black. She had a collaborator then, too, in Sinclair Stewart. It’s...

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Staying put

I’ve had occasion this month to travel to two different cities in southern Ontario. The names are irrelevant, the stories are the same as a lot of other places. Let’s call them B and C. After I’d parked my car in a municipal lot in B and was walking to my destination five minutes away, the first person I passed said, “Good morning.” I thought, “Well, I’m not in Toronto any more.” When I checked out of the automated lot two hours later, I knew for sure I was somewhere else. The total charge was $2.  In city C I...

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The power of pushy

The appointment today of Anne Marie Owens as editor of National Post, the first woman ever to head a Canadian national newspaper, raises the question: how will a member of the fair sex fare in the role? It’s hard not to think about the recent firing of Jill Abramson as editor of the New York Times. Media specialist Ken Auletta, who wrote more knowledgeably about the dismissal than anyone else, said one of the reasons was because Abramson was seen by management as “pushy.”  Pushy. What a word. It’s only used about a woman, never a man. Owens, currently deputy...

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And a child shall lead them

I recently attended an open house at my granddaughter’s school. There was a fascinating tour of the school conducted by my granddaughter, who is in Grade Four, that included the library, art room and a computer facility where they can make their own videos. I also saw her math notebooks, heard poetry, inspected a history project and heard a lot of unfamiliar wordage such as “unit of inquiry” that seemed to mean an essay or project. Some of the units of inquiry looked pretty complicated for her age, but she pulled everything off with aplomb. What an education our young...

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Every inch a king

Colm Feore is a magnificent King Lear at Stratford. My daughter Alison and I attended the first of the preview performances today and came away overwhelmed by his portrayal of the character. The play doesn’t officially open until May 26 and runs until October. My only concern is that it will be difficult for Feore to maintain the intensity that he displayed today over such a sustained period of almost 50 outings.  Scott Wentworth’s Gloucester is also excellent as is Edgar, his legitimate son, played by Evan Buliung. The rest of the cast is good too and the costuming is...

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Priming the pump

There’s long been a debate about public incentives for private sector projects. Otherwise profitable companies come to governments, cap in hand, demanding funds or they’ll build a new plant in some other more favourable jurisdiction.  Automotive is a prime example. In 1978, Ford President Roy Bennett tracked down Ontario Premier Bill Davis and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who were both attending the Calgary Stampede. Bennett convinced them to invest $68 million in an engine plant in Windsor, Ont., that might have gone to Ohio instead. In 1986, Toyota got $50 million from Ontario Premier David Peterson for a new assembly...

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The gang that couldn’t shoot straight

The sudden announcement by Gerry McCaughey yesterday that he’s stepping down as CEO of CIBC should come as no surprise. In fact, life at the top of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce has always been about as unpredictable as it has been unproductive. Despite all the modernization CIBC has gone through in the last four decades the corporate culture of the place remains unchanged. All banks are political, but CIBC is like the Vatican.  The story begins in 1969 when Gordon Sharwood was reading his morning paper and discovered that his colleague Russ Harrison had been named to the number two...

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The meaning of death

The recent deaths of Jim Flaherty and Herb Gray tell us something about the state of politics in this country. Flaherty was unique in the Stephen Harper cabinet. He was someone who cared about his role as finance minister, gave his all, and didn’t take himself too seriously. When I look at the rest of the cabinet, I don’t see very many others with Flaherty’s breadth or gravitas. In the 1970s, when I was working in Ottawa and saw Herb Gray up close, he was a study in contrasts. By all boring appearances he was the least interesting member of...

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