Mon pays, c’est l’hiver

During a walk in the sunshine this afternoon, I saw my first robin of spring. He was sitting alone in the middle of a baseball field in my neighbourhood so he was unlikely a wintering robin, or he would have been surrounded by a flock. He sat for the longest time, hoping to find a worm, but finally flew away, empty-beaked. Maybe he will fill up on berries before nightfall. This has been the winter of our discontent. February was the coldest month ever in Toronto with an average temperature of –12.6C. As a boy growing up in Guelph, the...

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The Agenda

No journalist in Canada knows more about politics – and a lot of other topics – than Steve Paikin, host of The Agenda on TVOntario. In addition to being an excellent broadcaster, Paikin has written several books including Public Triumph, Private Tragedy on John Robarts and Paikin and the Premiers, a personal reflection on the last 50 years of Ontario politics. He is currently working on a biography of Bill Davis, Ontario Premier from 1971-1984. So it was a pleasure and a privilege for me to be asked by Paikin to come into the TVO studios to talk about my...

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Oh, Canada

For years I’ve been struggling to understand why Americans are so much better at so many aspects of life than Canadians. After all, we have drawn on the same pool of immigrants and we are both democracies with excellent education systems. Canadians even have a few advantages such as a universal health care system and a safer environment.  To be sure, we both have problems. The U.S. has a racial divide. We have native Canadians who are routinely ignored even when they’re murdered by the hundreds. But we should also have the same opportunities as Americans do to grow, invent...

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House of Cards

Plot spoiler – I’m at Episode Ten of Season Three of House of Cards, so stop reading now if you don’t want to learn about the disappointments ahead. The first thing that went wrong was that Frank Underwood all but disappeared in the first two episodes. Rather than command the screen for 85 percent of the time (or whatever the exact number was) he went absent for long stretches. Doug Stamper, his henchman in the two earlier seasons, dominates airtime as he fights his way back to health after we thought he’d been murdered. I don’t care that much about...

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They spill more than we drink

I should have known when I read the title of the study, Mortgages or Margaritas, which choice Jamie Golombek, managing director of CIBC Wealth Advisory Services, would take. With RRSP season about to wrap up next Monday, readership on the thorny question Golombek was addressing – pay down the mortgage or invest your money in a balanced portfolio – was bound to be high. Surveys have shown that three-quarters of Canadians favour paying down debt but Golombek says that “when interest rates on debt are low, the short-sighted objective of getting out of debt now may actually negatively impact your...

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I walk the line

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I like Justin Trudeau. I have said he is well versed on policy and is an excellent retail politician. Many people who know me well are incredulous that I could support a Liberal after working for Robert Stanfield. But as Trudeau himself said, when we met and I told him I’d been with Stanfield and tried to defeat his father, “So, you’re a Progressive Conservative.” Exactly. And our current prime minister is anything but. Truth be told, I’m a Pearsonian Liberal and actually helped the Liberals during the 1963 federal election....

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The cho$en few

Stephen Poloz was appointed Governor of the Bank of Canada in June 2013. The Canadian dollar has been declining against the American dollar ever since. Could this collapse have anything to do with the fact that Poloz, who worked at the central bank earlier in his career, came back to the bank following almost 15 years with Export Development Canada, his final two years there as CEO? Let’s see, what does Export Development Canada do? Why they finance, insure and generally grease the wheels of exporters seeking to sell their goods abroad. And what have exporters been complaining about during the last...

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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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