Unanswered questions

I was busy last week and did not see Peter Mansbridge interview Pamela Wallin. No one I’ve asked watched the show either which may say something about The National and the diminished size of its audience. Fortunately, in this day and age, everything is available, including a complete transcript. I watched a video of the 36-minute interview, read the transcript and I must say that I still don’t fully understand Wallin’s problem. It’s not her residency, that’s all been approved. It’s not charging per diems for Senate work when she’s on holiday as Mike Duffy has allegedly done. Wallin claims she doesn’t...

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My counter ’tis of thee

Sears Canada has been in decline for half a dozen years but the news today that it will be closing its stores in Yorkdale, Square One and maybe Scarborough Town Centre – three of the busiest malls in the Toronto area – mean that the company is finished with Canada. It’s ironic, given that Sears Roebuck & Co. was the first of the U.S. department stores to come here. It was 1952 when General E. R. Wood, chairman of Sears Roebuck, struck a deal with Edgar Burton, president of Simpson’s, for joint ownership of the two companies’ catalogue and mail-order...

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Deja vu all over again

In the run-up to the 1972 federal election, when I was press secretary to then Opposition Leader Robert Stanfield, I wrote a research paper on the Pickering Airport proposed by the Trudeau Government. My conclusion: there was no need. More important, the majority of Torontonians didn’t want the airport. Yes, there was going to be a new airport built in Quebec, but Torontonians would not feel slighted if they didn’t get one, too. During the election campaign, as Pickering Airport became an issue, Stanfield decided he wanted to hold a news conference on the topic. But what to say? The...

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List and sell

While many magazines and other print journals are falling from the sky to their deaths like so many sparrows before the storm, one publication manages to carry on regardless of the economic headwinds facing the rest of its breed: Corporate Knights. Against all odds, the Summer issue just out is Volume 12, Issue 2. I presume that means it has been around for more than a decade which sounds about right in my memory, too. With a healthy 74 pages, Corporate Knights calls itself The Magazine for Clean Capitalism. Who can be against that? One of the stories ranks Canada’s...

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Liveable or laughable

My final 2013 property tax bill arrived today and was accompanied by a very interesting list that showed how our tax dollars are spent by the City of Toronto. The top four are predictable: police, fire, TTC and debt repayment. From the average homeowner who pays $2,532 (plus $1,005 in education tax) police services receive the most at $634. The surprising thing to me was what was at the bottom of the list – city planning – which gets all of $9.58. Less than $10 per average householder goes annually to fund the people and the department that looks to...

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Mandatory women

The trouble with this “comply or explain” strategy proposed by the Ontario government to increase the number of women on corporate boards is this: what exactly are you trying to comply with? The half-baked belief of some CEO? A board’s namby-pamby position? The unstated view of politicians or regulators? Catalyst statements? Which do you think will apply? The other trouble with “comply or explain” is that we went through this with corporate governance fifteen years ago. As I recall there were fourteen aspects that public companies were to strive for … or explain why they weren’t getting there. What occurred...

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Both sides now

I’ll begin this by declaring that I think Mayor Rob Ford and his brother Doug have too little talent for their respective roles. But as a former journalist and someone who continues to write books, I believe that the journalists who pursue the Fords are also at fault for not doing their jobs properly. The Toronto Star, the largest-circulation newspaper in Canada, has decided to bring down the Ford administration single-handedly. This is a worthy goal. Indeed, it should be the goal of any newspaper to ferret out facts that run afoul of what any government – municipal, provincial or federal...

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Do not go gentle

The man sitting opposite me on the subway yesterday was obviously in the wrong place. He was wearing a leather jacket and pants, gang colors and chains, a bandana on his head, and sported a beard and handle-bar moustache. Finally, curiousity got the better of me, and I asked him: “Where’s your bike?” “It’s sitting out in front of my house,” he said, with a note of sadness. “I’m only 50, but the weather’s been too cold.” He put his hands towards me as if he were clutching the grips and said, “After a few hours, they get arthritic.” He...

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