From the shelf

The fastest-growing activity during the pandemic must surely be reading. A neighbour recently told me that he’d read sixty books. I’m behind that at about two dozen. Among them are some re-reads such as Gentlemen, Players and Politicians by Dalton Camp, still the best ever Canadian political memoir. I’ve also read books I’ve always meant to but never did such as Jim Bouton’s Ball Four, written fifty years ago. The best I’ve read so far is Radical Wordsworth by Jonathan Bate, telling how William Wordsworth changed poetry forever in the late eighteenth century by writing about nature, imagination and feelings,...

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What’s past is prologue

The advertising sign on the bus shelter was like a punch in the nose. “A name to match our history,” said the line at the top. In the middle was a bottle of Coors beer and, at the bottom, a line saying “Now called Original.” Imagine the hours of Zoom meetings it took for some ad agency to come up with that brilliant, new moniker – “Original.” But that wasn’t what bothered me. Was the word “our” about the history of Canada, the history of Coors, or a presumptive both? And what was an American beer doing there anyway? Of...

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Machine politics

The sound you heard over the weekend at the Conservative Party leadership convention was not only machines mutilating ballots but also the last gasp of the Red Tory wing of the party. There was a time when Red Tories dominated under leaders Robert Stanfield, Joe Clark, and Brian Mulroney. With the defeat of Peter MacKay they’re no longer even a wing, barely a prayer. What exactly is a Red Tory? Well, someone who is pro-choice, favours intrusion by the state, and might even lean towards a guaranteed annual income. She is a caring person, not someone who thinks everyone can...

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The world within

Six months into the pandemic, where do we stand? In Canada, 9,000 are dead; in the U.S. it’s 170,000. Did anyone really think it would hit this hard and last this long? Worse, no one knows how much more is to come. A friend remarked recently that we will be dealing with Covid-19 for the rest of our lives. It was a jarring thought. I worry about students returning to school. Too many will be taught virtually. Anybody who suffered through online lectures during the spring term knows that method doesn’t work very well. Moreover, there isn’t the same socializing...

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Roots and wings

My daughter Alison and I recently spent a day visiting Guelph, my home town. We began on Wyndham Street, walking from the train station to the cenotaph and back. The main street still includes a few restored architectural gems such as the Petrie building with its unusual metal facade but all the retailers from my youth are long gone. No more Treanon, Vorvis or Peacock restaurants. No more Ryan’s or Budd’s department stores. No Marshall’s or Stewart’s drugs. Only the Big Five Banks still do business there, a sure sign of their eternal life. Two places where I worked summers...

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Reads and re-reads

Like everyone these days, I’ve had more time to read than usual. I normally stick to nonfiction, but I did read a few fiction books, reread some old favourites, and enjoyed several new titles. Here’s part of my list, with brief comments. Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens, is well told, full of twists and turns and the “marsh girl” is a compelling central character. Why are so many of the best fiction writers all from the Deep South? Another good read was one I should have already read long ago: In the Skin of a Lion. Michael Ondaatje...

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My kingdom for a horse

I love equestrian statues. There, the secret’s out. Just about any equestrian statue will do, but I have a few favourites. In New York’s Grand Army Plaza, there’s the gilded bronze of William Tecumseh Sherman. Another gilded bronze is Joan of Arc in New Orleans and the Place des Pyramides in Paris. In fact, it you visit the cities and towns of France it’s amazing how many of them have a copy. Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of a united Italy, is on a horse in the centre of Ancient Rome. I don’t know if it’s the tallest equestrian...

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The China Shock

Sometimes you read newspaper articles, complete with studies and statistics, that seem far from reality. Such a commentary written by Andrew Sharpe and Myeongwan Kim ran yesterday in the Financial Post, (you can read it here) based on a study conducted by the Centre for the Study of Living Standards (CSLS).  The study sought to discover the impact on consumer prices in Canada and on inflation caused by an increase in goods imported from China, an effect known as “China Shock.” First, the bad news. An earlier study by the CSLS estimated that Canada lost 113,500 manufacturing jobs in the...

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