The sky is falling

Met an old friend walking on King Street in downtown Toronto yesterday. Let’s call him Chicken Little; he believes the sky is falling. Not because of the global financial crisis, but because Canada is suffering from lethargy and a lack of innovation from which we’ll never recover.

Chicken Little recited a litany of tales he’d recently learned. An executive at an international company told him they can get people to move to Hamburg or Boston but not Toronto because there’s nothing worthwhile here. Someone else who began their career at a Canadian bank when that institution was five times bigger than Banco Santander pointed out that Santander is now five times bigger than the Canadian bank. Another individual complained that our federal civil service, once a storied and distinguished group, no longer punches above its weight. As for Canada’s vaunted peacekeeping role, Panama has more soldiers wearing the UN blue berets than Canada.
There were other stories, but I got worn down from listening. When he finally stopped to take a breath, I told him I was working on a book about Research in Motion and the BlackBerry, a successful Canadian company with a high profile global brand if there ever was one. Ten years ago, RIM had two hundred employees, now they have more than 8,000.

CL was not impressed, claiming that RIM couldn’t even hire the top graduates from the University of Waterloo, right on their doorstep; they were all being wooed away by Microsoft in Redmond, Washington. And why hadn’t RIM caused to be created a Canadian Silicon Valley filled with dozens of other success stories as did the launch of Hewlett-Packard?

I reflected on the morning I’d just spent at the Million Dollar Round Table, attended by 7,600 of the top life insurance agents from around the world. The upbeat presentations at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre were about courage and persistence, motivation and mettle, how life insurance could change lives and offer career success.
While no one likes life insurance agents because they remind us of our own mortality, I’d rather spend a morning with them than five minutes on a street with the likes of Chicken Little. I did not play the role of Henny Penny. I did not join Chicken Little to go and warn the king that the future of Canada is all behind us.

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