Category: General

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...

Read More ....

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....

Read More ....

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...

Read More ....

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...

Read More ....

The challenge of change

The trouble with Erin O’Toole is his job title: Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. As long as the Conservative leader retains that role, he won’t get any respect from the Ottawa press corps. I know whereof I speak. After all, I was press secretary to Robert Stanfield from 1970-1975 through two losing elections, back in the day when it was the Progressive Conservative Party. As Stanfield once said, “If I walked on water across the Rideau Canal, the headlines would read, ‘Stanfield can’t swim.’” That’s because most journalists then and now are left of centre, more likely to give positive...

Read More ....

Half a life

Everybody is suffering due to the COVID-19 pandemic: death of a loved one, the fear of illness and the relentless loneliness that grips so many. Of those who enjoy good health, I believe that the group who will bear the heaviest long-term cost are high school students. Think back to your own youth. You might be loved and well taken care of at home, but where you really wanted to be was with your friends at school, playing team sports, participating in clubs and choir, or just hanging out. What might seem simply like fun activities are actually lessons in leadership,...

Read More ....

The red coat syndrome

The head of a pension plan loses his job because he got a vaccine shot on foreign soil. A veteran journalist is told to resign because of something he may or may not have said two years ago. A governor undergoes an independent inquiry because of complaints by two former staffers. And Charlie Rose is toast. I miss him still. Welcome to the cancel culture where your life’s work and reputation can be destroyed in an instant. What has happened to us? Where is the forgiveness factor that used to be more freely given? Meanwhile, a former president continues to...

Read More ....

Fredrik S. Eaton 1938-2021

About eighteen months ago I was early for lunch with a member at one of Toronto’s finest clubs. I was guided to a sitting area to wait for my host. As I began to take a seat, I realized Fred Eaton was a couple of chairs away, waiting for his lunch companion. I had not seen Fred since my book on the demise of the family department store some twenty years ago. “I’m Rod McQueen,” I said. “I know who you are,” he harrumphed. I sat down nearby anyway and for the next five-to-eight minutes we had a conversation that got...

Read More ....