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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Merry Christmas

I’m reading for the umpteenth time my favourite piece of seasonal literature, A Child’s Christmas in Wales, by Dylan Thomas, and thinking festive thoughts. Season’s Greetings and best wishes for 2105 to all those loyal souls who look in on my blog.

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Common Ground

With Justin Trudeau and the Liberals ahead of Stephen Harper and the Conservatives by as much as eight points in the final months before a general election, what manner of man is Justin Trudeau and what are his leadership skills? Some answers flow from a reading of his just-published book, Common Ground. First off, he is self-deprecating, no prima donna trying to ride on his father’s political coattails. Indeed, he says Pierre was poor at retail politics and did little to nurture the party’s grassroots. Justin says his political chops come more from his maternal grandfather, James Sinclair, a minister...

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Nature morte

The twenty-one works by Paul Cézanne on display in an exhibit entitled “The World is an Apple” are a coup for the Art Gallery of Hamilton (AGH) which is celebrating its centenary. The still lifes by one of my favourite nineteenth-century French artists feature pears, ginger pots, flowers and skulls in addition to the aforementioned apples. Cézanne’s work is noted for the angles he uses. In one painting it appears as if he moved his easel several times to render the tableau with no regard for the wonky perspective that results.  Unlike Vincent Van Gogh who described his paintings in...

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A lifetime of friendship

I had lunch with my three oldest friends today. We all attended the University of Western Ontario 50 years ago. We’ve held this regular Christmas gathering at the Old Mill for a long time. As a first step we declared that matters of personal health – the organ recital I call it – were not open for discussion. Otherwise, you get into a lot of kvetching and complaining. We did, however, congratulate ourselves on surviving for another year. Among the four of us there is a lawyer, a dentist, an accountant and me, the writer. Topics ranged from Stephen Harper...

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Money up the flue

This past Monday was a windy day in Ontario, with westerly howls reaching 100 km/hr from Windsor through Toronto and beyond. Fallen trees and branches brought down power lines and crushed vehicles, highways were closed, a stained glass church window was damaged in Hamilton and a roof ripped off at a Burlington airport. A tornado was confirmed near Mildmay. While communities cleaned up after the path of destruction, the expense to citizens continues, according to former TD Bank President Robin Korthals, a graduate engineer with a Harvard MBA, who follows such matters closely. On Monday Ontario’s wind turbines generated record...

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