Category: General

Gotta light?

When we returned from Washington, D.C. in May 1993, Canada was in a shambles. There was a recession, the government of the day was at a nadir, and housing prices had fallen 50 percent. I no longer smoked, but my late wife did, so I was in a corner store to buy cigarettes. Asked the clerk, “How much do you want to pay?” Turns out he had legitimate packages where the taxes had been collected but also gray market items that cost much less. Eventually two cigarette companies were fined $1.15 billion for their part in that contraband market. I don’t know who is running...

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Celebrating a celebrity

One of the fluffiest puff pieces ever written is floating on page one of today’s Globe and Mail. The focus is Timothy Caulfield, Edmonton author and academic at the University of Alberta. In the first few paragraphs we learn he can’t sleep for fretting about his projects, by day he is pensive, and in the evening he worries about the health and welfare of the world. Even the professor can’t fully explain why he is so wired, saying, “I can honestly say I don’t know why I care so much.” For a best-selling author, star of a new Netflix show, and...

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Let there be light

On a Tuesday afternoon, the Ontario legislature is brightly lit by massive chandeliers. That’s what the debate is all about: light and the electricity to run the province. MPPs have gathered to debate Bill C-67 that will prevent the 6,000 members of the Power Workers Union from going on strike. Without this bill, there could be rolling blackouts as workers shut down nuclear and hydro facilities. But there is also a strict legislative process that must be followed. With unanimous consent, the bill could pass immediately. The NDP has refused such consent saying it would never halt collective bargaining. As a result, even with a special sitting last night,...

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Retail retrogression

The Runnymede Theatre started life in 1927 offering vaudeville in a 1,400-seat auditorium and then adopted various guises that reflected the changing times: a bingo hall, movies in a twin-screen format, a Chapters bookstore, and now – ta-da – a Shoppers Drug Mart. The latest incarnation of this West Toronto location is an ignominious pratfall from what once was known as “Canada’s Theatre Beautiful.” Oh, the walls and mouldings have been restored, but the entire ground floor is foodstuffs and beauty products with at least 100 running feet of freezers, soft drinks and cold-food displays. There’s countless kinds of chocolates, canned fish galore, and cereal...

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Donald J. Matthews 1926-2018

If ever there were a man in love with life and country, it was Don Matthews: entrepreneur, president of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, and one of the very few who took on Ottawa and won. If he were in a room down the hall you could always hear his “har-har-har” laugh. If you were in that room, trying to avoid some contentious issue – and there were a few such issues in the PC Party – Matthews would declare: “Let’s put the codfish on the table and see how it smells.” Matthews signed up for the Air Force at...

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The fourth estate as third world

After spending five years in politics, I wanted to get back into journalism, but no one would have me. I was seen as potentially too partisan. I might taint my stories with party propaganda. So I joined the Bank of Nova Scotia as director of public affairs. After two years, I was dry-cleaned and became business editor at Maclean’s just as the newsmagazine was going weekly in 1978. Ottawa had passed Bill C-58 which meant that the cost of advertising in the Canadian edition of Time was no longer tax deductible. Suddenly, that ad revenue became available for Canadian publications, thereby making possible more journalism jobs in Canada and...

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When right is wrong

After two years in office, what do we know about Donald Trump? We know he cheats on his wife. We know he cheats at golf. We know he tells lies at a prodigious rate. We know he’s a bully, a narcissist, and a demagogue. We know he supports and prefers other demagogues in Russia, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia, all of whom think nothing of killing their own people. We know Trump’s impossible to work for as cabinet members and White House staffers get dumped almost daily. To date there has been no retribution for any of this. Yes, Trump lost the...

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War and peace

On this one hundredth anniversary of the end of the First World War, the signs are everywhere that while the people might remember the horrors and heroics of the past, some leaders seem to be forgetting. How else to explain the actions of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who is fighting the Kurds, Russian President Vladimir Putin who overran Crimea and portions of Ukraine, and U.S. President Donald Trump who is at war with everyone. In Paris this weekend, only French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel showed any sign of good grace. Their meeting – in the same rail car used...

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