Monthly Archive: January 2015

A life of giving back

Canada has lost not just a giant in the business world but a cultural maven and generous philanthropist with the death of Joe Rotman. I can’t think of another corporate leader in Canada today who was so dominant across such a wide range of activities. His life was a classic case of entrepreneurialism where you see a field that needs expertise and investment, you calculate the risks, then step in. Starting in the unusual world of oil futures, Rotman also became involved in oil and gas exploration, real estate and venture capital. In 1987 he launched Clairvest which in turn backed...

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A woman of substance

Jalynn Bennett, a pioneering business executive and one of the warmest people I’ve ever met socially, has died at 71. Her combination of brilliant insight and self-deprecation was a delight to behold.  After graduating from Trinity College in 1965 with a degree in economics she was forced to do what many well-educated women did at the time, take a lowly secretarial job. In her case, she worked at Manufacturers Life Insurance Co. (Manulife) where CEO Syd Jackson recognized her prowess. Within twenty years of joining the firm she was a vice-president and among three female executives reporting to Jackson, a high-water...

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Whither the wind

I like John Tory. I voted for John Tory. And I sure am happy to see the backside of Rob Ford. But I wonder: do we know who we’re getting as mayor with John Tory? A breath of fresh air or same old same old. In his first few weeks in office, Tory has sent both signals. He’s talked about getting rid of gridlock, working with all members of council, helping the homeless, in fact there’s no matter too small for John Tory to tackle. On the big issues, however, I sense backsliding, a direction you don’t like to see...

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Unnatural gas

Everyone has been enjoying the fall in the pump price of gasoline. I saw signs in Hamilton today for 81.9 cents a litre, down 34 percent from $1.24 a year ago for regular. The price of a barrel of oil has fallen even further, from US$110 a year ago to US$50 today, down 55 percent. The full extent of the drop in the world price has not yet reached the consumer but at least it’s heading in the right direction. Natural gas prices have not been behaving in the same friendly manner. My Enbridge bill arrived today with a notice...

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The problem with Canadian retailing …

… is Canadian retailing, not price disparity with the U.S. Ottawa has ordered a study of price differentials on consumer products between the two countries. I’ve spent the last 10 days in the U.S. and I can’t say I notice much difference on food or pharmacy products, two large categories. To be sure, gasoline in the U.S. is 20 per cent cheaper and the savings are even greater on beer and wine. Twelve bottles of Corona cost $14.99 in the U.S. versus $24.95 at The Beer Store. But higher gas and alcohol prices are caused by government taxes. Of course,...

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Keystone kops

After six years of debate, rulings, protests and pronouncements, the Keystone XL pipeline proposal is finally coming up for a decision. The Republican-dominated U.S. Congress will approve the pipeline carrying bitumen from Canada’s oil sands to the gulf coast of Texas. And President Barack Obama has already said he will veto the bill. The consensus is that there aren’t enough votes to override the veto so that’s it – Keystone is kaput. To be sure, there’s a saying in Washington, nothing is ever over, so it’s entirely possible this issue will come to life again, but the likelihood of getting...

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Live and let die

The Alex Colville retrospective at the Art Gallery of Ontario is spectacular. It is huge, half a dozen rooms worth, all of his best works. Everyone knows at least one: the horse racing toward the train, the woman staring through binoculars, Colville with a pistol on the table. Like any good art, his individual pieces get engraved into your mind.  Colville seems like a modern painter because of his realistic style, but in fact he is from another era. He was a war artist during the Second World War, painting in The Netherlands with Canadian troops and rendering horrific scenes...

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