Author: Rod McQueen

The golden thumb

Laurie Bennett showed me how to hitchhike. We were both bellhops at Britannia Hotel on Lake of Bays in 1963. Ben, who remains a good friend, wanted to get home to Meaford to see his girlfriend. I tagged along, promised a blind date. Neither of us had a car, so at his urging, we set out to hitchhike. The twenty minutes to Huntsville was an easy ride along with someone from the hotel. But so was the remainder. We’d hardly put out a thumb when we were on our way to Barrie, then across Highway 26 to Meaford. The travel...

Read More

The trouble with Canadian retailing

On a trip to the U.S. in March 1994, I stopped at the Wal-Mart store in Meadville, Pa. to inspect the outfit that was coming to Canada after buying 120 Woolco stores from Woolworth Canada. Inside the door, a cheerful employee greeted me and offered a shopping cart. The place was well lit, aisles were wide, stock neatly displayed. Some prices were as much as half off. An employee near me carrying what looked like a Flash Gordon ray gun zapped a product barcode with a laser beam. With little prompting, she proudly showed me how the readout gave her...

Read More

Rogers dodgers

During the extended Rogers outage on Friday, I happened to drive past the two main buildings that form the company’s head office. There’s a permanent sign on the north building that reads “Rogers: Canada’s biggest and most reliable 5G network.” Well, as we all now know, that’s a bit of a nose-stretcher. For the second time in two years, Rogers was down. Clients were still coming back aboard today after twenty-four hours without service. Phone calls, debit and credit payments, calls to 911, Interac transfers, text messages and emails were all affected. Who knew that Rogers commanded such heights? Or...

Read More

The real meaning of pur laine

I’ve read a lot about Quebec’s latest controversial laws, Bills 21 and 96, but I don’t think the explanation for their existence has been complete. But before I say what I believe is the cause of these attacks on minorities, let’s look at what’s happened in what all too many people outside Quebec call la belle province as if to show off their bilingualism. In the past, Quebecers have talked about “pur laine” (pure wool) the term in French for those who are descended from the original settlers from New France. This group is seen as the ultimate Quebcois although...

Read More

Potpourri

Have you noticed the increasing amount of Americanization that’s creeping into our language? For years, Canadians have spelled defence with a “c” unlike the Americans who spell it with an “s” as in defense. Even as I write, my iMac underlines that word in red to let me know that I have made a mistake. But lately I see defense in Canadian newspapers all the time. When Ontario recently mailed me a notice about how I could renew my driver’s licence online, the form used both “licence” and “license” on the same one-page advisory. Obviously some bureaucrat was careful to...

Read More

Apologies

Some subscribers to my blog today received a blog post that you will have already read in February about the ouster of Erin O’Toole as leader of the Conservative Party. Gremlins in the works! If you’d like to read what you were supposed to receive, please go to rodmcqueen.com and you’ll find a post on the much more interesting topic of Elvis the Pelvis.

Read More

Elvis the Pelvis

A few days ago I heard some songs by Elvis Presley. Not the blousy Elvis of Las Vegas but the clear-voiced rock-n-roller of the 1950s. I was surprised in how many cases I knew the lyrics right from the first guitar licks even before he began to sing. Of course, most of what Elvis sang in the early days was what today we would call covers. “Blue Moon of Kentucky” had been performed by many others. It was Ray Charles who first did “I Got a Woman” and Big Mama Thornton whose biggest hit was “Hound Dog.” Elvis ‘borrowed’ those...

Read More

Down through the years

In April 1963, I walked Highway 24 from Brucedale to Guelph carrying signs in support of the Liberal candidate, Ralph Dent, in the riding of Wellington South. There were about a dozen of us Young Liberals on the ten-mile trek to my home town that marked my first foray into politics. Dent lost to the Progressive Conservative incumbent, Alf Hales, but the PC minority government was replaced by a Liberal minority under Lester Pearson.  I have often described myself as a Pearsonian Liberal, someone who believed the state could help in specific ways, such as universal health care. I also...

Read More

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...

Read More

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...

Read More

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...

Read More

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...

Read More

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”...

Read More

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...

Read More

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...

Read More