Yearly Archive: 2021

Boys and their toys

We all know about type A personalities and their driven behaviour, but some senior business leaders have taken their private passions to new heights. Literally. Next month Amazon’s Jeff Bezos will take a ride to space in a reusable rocket launched by Blue Origin, his space company. This is not just any ride, this is the maiden flight with passengers. Coming along with him will be his brother, an unnamed individual who paid US$30 million for the privilege, as well as an astronaut yet to be named. In fact, the rocket, called the New Shepard, is named after Alan Shepard,...

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Down memory lane

For the past several days I’ve been working my way through three large cartons of family memorabilia, some of which I have never seen before. My mother must have been the initiator. Among the souvenirs is her mother’s teaching certificate from 1910. Another sign my mother was the original keeper is that the boxes contain every letter I ever wrote to my parents beginning in 1963 from Western, through my first job in Toronto, time in Ottawa and up to 1980 when I was at Maclean’s. That was the year she died. My father must have held on to everything, but...

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Encore une fois

The saga of Quebec language and powers seems to have been debated for most of my adult life. Quebec has always been on the verge of eruption or separation. Following the 1976 election of Rene Levesque, Anglophone Quebecers no longer felt they had a home. Companies left the province and relocated all or part of their head offices elsewhere. The value of the C$ skidded from US$1.03 to US$0.70 during the next decade. Referenda in 1980 and 1995 tested the appetite for separation. During the 1995 vote, many Canadians rallied in Montreal to keep Quebec in Confederation. The outcome was a narrow rejection of sovereignty by 50.6%...

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Birdland

A few weeks ago I reported on the sights and sounds of spring at the farm. As Bachman-Turner Overdrive sang, “B-b-b-baby you ain’t seen n-n-nothin’ yet.” During the past few days, we’ve been overwhelmed by the next phase of this wondrous season of the year. Plants in the garden continue to sprout, the trilliums provide a carpet in the woods, and leaves on the trees are unfolding in so many shades of green they must have come from a painter’s magic palette. Among the more interesting new avian arrivals is a pair of eastern bluebirds that have taken up residence...

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Fleeting fame

I’ve been a Blue Jays season subscriber, along with a small syndicate of others, sharing a pair of tickets since the team’s founding in 1977. Of all the players through all the years whose professional career has included Toronto, my all-time favourite is Roberto Alomar. At second base he had no equal. His range and ability to get to a ball hit anywhere near him was astounding. A lifetime .300 hitter, he was an All-Star for a dozen years, and a driving force when the Jays twice won the World Series. So I was saddened by the news that he...

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Patience and persistence

Regular readers know how much I enjoy a well-written memoir by a business leader. Such a book is “Lessons Learned on Bay Street: The Sale Begins When the Customer Says No,” by Donald K. Johnson. Johnson’s distinguished career as an investment banker started in 1963 at Burns Bros. and Denton and continued through various mergers until he became president of Burns Fry and then vice-chair of BMO Nesbitt Burns. Now eighty-five, he’s as active as ever. Johnson’s grandparents, on both sides of the family, moved from Iceland to Manitoba in the 1880s as did many others after a volcanic eruption....

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The next best thing

I’ve just completed an extensive project, Volume Five of the history of CIBC, covering the years 1973-1999. Four other authors wrote the previous four volumes, one of whom was Arnold Edinborough, editor and publisher of Saturday Night, so I am in good company. Research for the commissioned book included lengthy periods poring over the bank’s archives as well as conducting 150 interviews with people who worked at the bank and others who had relationships with the institution during that era. The book will be published by ECW Press later this year. This is my twentieth book in the nearly forty...

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Everywhere a sign

To quote Geoffrey Chaucer, “Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote (When April with its sweet-smelling showers) The droghte of March hath perced to the roote.” (Has pierced the drought of March to the root).” Beginning at 4 a.m. coyotes bay at the rising half moon that lights up the early morning sky. Once dawn has fully arrived, we notice more activity in the pond. The pair of mallards that were there yesterday has been joined by two pairs of hooded mergansers, preening and diving beneath the water for breakfast. Compared with the mallards, the mergansers appear tiny, but both...

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