Musings by Rod McQueen Blog

The troubles I’ve seen

More than a year ago, I wrote about my so-called career, beginning with a high school news column and proceeding to books. It sounded like an idyllic life, but what I did not reveal were any of my blunders along the way. There was one particular high school column when I quoted an unnamed friend saying, “You can’t let schoolwork interfere with your extra-curricular activities.” After publication, I was summoned to the office of the principal, Lorne Fox. Already on hand were the heads of Student Council and Athletic Council. Fox was livid. “What will Fred Hamilton, head of the...

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The boys of spring

Last night I attended my first Blue Jays game since 2019. It’s great to have the boys back, and me, too. I’m part of a group that shares a pair of seats behind the Blue Jays dugout so the view is perfect. My guest was my teenaged grandson who knows more about sports than any other person on the planet. He’s great company. There are so many new players it takes a while to get used to who’s where, but we seem to have all positions well filled.  Despite the interregnum, a few elements remain the same. The wave spilled...

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Greenbacks for all

In a recent column in the Globe and Mail, Andrew Coyne described a serious problem. Productivity in Canada has always lagged behind the U.S., he noted, saying that we need to ensure the amount and quality of capital that labour has to work with. Second, we need to make certain that labour and capital are efficiently employed.  While Coyne had few answers to improve the situation, he did sound the trumpets, saying, “If this country is ever to break out of the sluggish growth track … it will have to do something striking, even shocking.” Let me quickly say I...

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War (what is it good for)

The world was racked by war in the summer of 1940 when Prime Minister Mackenzie King motored down from Ottawa to meet Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Ogdensburg, N.Y. In President Roosevelt’s private railway car, the two leaders established the Permanent Joint Board on Defence, an advisory body on continental military defence that still exists today. At the time, both countries were bereft of war implements. When the two leaders inspected local troops and lethal weaponry, Roosevelt was embarrassed to discover that what seemed to be cannon were, in fact, peeled logs painted black. Elsewhere, soldiers were busy assembling and disassembling...

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Chasing ghosts

Just finished Eric Reguly’s excellent book, Ghosts of War, that celebrates his father, Robert Reguly. Eric, who writes for the Globe and Mail, is one of the few journalists of his generation still working. All his life Eric has been chasing his father’s legacy as one of the most fearless and innovative journalists ever. In the 1960s, writing for the Toronto Star, Robert found Hal Banks and Gerda Munsinger, scoops no one else could muster. With panache he also covered international stories such as the Vietnam War and the starving children of Biafra. Says Eric, Robert was “a truth warrior”...

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The next generation

On the occasion of Canadian Tire’s 100th anniversary, no mere cake will do. The company has instead announced $3.4 billion in spending that’s mostly aimed at e-commerce, new products and more private label sales. Unlike Amazon, with distribution centres shipping straight to customers, Canadian Tire will work through the stores. After all, the dealers and the pension fund own the rest of Tire beyond what’s in the hands of controlling shareholder Martha Billes. Tire, she likes to call it, not The Tire, just Tire. Dealers have to go through years of apprenticeship before they get their own store, but it...

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Women of the world, unite

As we celebrate another International Women’s Day today, it’s useful to look at progress made. Women seem to be doing well in hockey and the Paralympic games in Beijing, but in few other venues. According to a study by Toronto law firm Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt, in 2021 women held 23.4 percent of board seats among companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, up two percentage points from the previous year. At that rate of increase, it will take another thirteen years for boards to be 50-50 female and male. Growth of female executives in TSE companies has been even...

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The Soviet playbook

The following guest essay was written by my partner, Susan M. Papp, Ph.D Most people in the western world were shocked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, yet, if you examine his mindset and historical perspective, Vladimir Putin’s behaviour is in accordance with the Soviet playbook of expanding and expropriating lands for the empire. It is well known that Putin was a KGB-trained operative. What he has done in Ukraine is similar to the manner in which Joseph Stalin ordered that Transcarpathia, the easternmost region of Czechoslovakia, be expropriated by the Soviet Union in November 1944. This action was taken when...

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Whither Canada?

Canada has become a place I no longer like nor admire. It’s gotten to the point I don’t even want to know the news anymore and that’s an unlikely outcome for a former journalist like me. I made a personal pledge not to watch any Olympic coverage because I don’t think China should have even been awarded these games. They gave the world Covid, treat minorities such as the Uyghurs as slave labour, and took away freedoms from the residents of Hong Kong, all without a fare-thee-well from the world.  In fact, It turns out to be easy to avoid watching the...

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Here we go again

At 62 percent of the total, the seventy-three Conservative MPs who today voted against Erin O’Toole was well over the 50 percent minimum required. But the ouster of another Conservative leader brings as much disgrace on the party as it does the leader who was just seventeen months into the job and in the most recent election beat Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in the popular vote. Among O’Toole’s problems with his MPs was the fact that he wooed social conservatives during the campaign for leader only to move later to the more electable centre by changing his position on some issues....

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A lost opportunity

The market misses Frank Hasenfratz, founder of Linamar Corp., since his demise on Saturday, January 8. Linamar share price at the close of day Friday, January 7, was $78.45. Share price at the close yesterday, January 24, was $67.67, down 14 percent in two weeks. The broader market, the S&P/TSX composite index, was down about 2 percent during the same period. There are many causes for ups and downs in share prices, but I think it’s safe to say that Frank’s death is a major reason for the current drop. This too shall pass. Frank, who founded Linamar in 1966,...

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Frank Hasenfratz 1935-2022

The first thing you should understand about the late Frank Hasenfratz was his sense of humour. When you called him, he would say, “Hello,” and then immediately add, “I’m just sitting here counting my money.” The second thing was his no-nonsense approach to life. His second daughter Linda graduated from the University of Western Ontario then worked briefly as a pharmaceutical rep before deciding in 1990 to join the family business, Linamar Corp. Her father welcomed her but then said, “There’s only one job you start at the top and that’s when you’re digging a hole. And guess where you...

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Bankers ours

A lot of attention and praise has recently been heaped upon hospital workers, and deservedly so. But there’s another group that has also been on the front lines: bank branch employees. While approximately two-thirds of all bank employees have been able to work safely from home during the pandemic, the other one-third have been going into work as always, serving personal and business customers mask-to-mask. That means thousands of workers in approximately 6,000 bank branches across Canada.  The branch used to be the source of bank leaders. In the modern era, CEOs such as Matt Barrett of Bank of Montreal,...

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Going, going, gone

Since the April death of Galen Weston, his son, Galen G. Weston, has been busy selling off what were once among the crown jewels in the family empire. It’s almost as if he didn’t want to make any of these moves as long as his father was still alive. Unlike many family businesses, this one has prospered since founder George Weston went into the bread business in Toronto in 1882. But what to make of all this recent activity? Among the many aspects of the business sold in recent months was the very core of the company — the bakery....

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Wishin’ and hopin’

To all my loyal readers: May your Christmas be merry and bright. And may the year ahead bring good health and much happiness amid the turmoil that surrounds us.  Rod McQueen

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