Category: General

The write stuff

A line popped out at me in an opinion piece I was reading yesterday: there are 4,350 journalists working in Ontario. In a province of 14 million, that number is so minuscule I can’t even determine what it is as a percentage of the total population. There must be more people cleaning windows right now than there are researching and writing newspaper articles. My writing career began in 1960 with the simple act of putting up my hand. As a member of the Athletic Council at John F. Ross Collegiate in Guelph, Ont., I was attending a regular meeting led...

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Sir John to the rescue

As someone who writes for a living, you want your words to satisfy the editor of a book or a politician if you’re a speechwriter. But wordsmiths can sometimes suffer. Joe Clark once told me that when he was an aide to Robert Stanfield, then leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, he became fed up by Stanfield’s consistent refusal to use speech material that Clark wrote for him. As a result, Clark quit his job to run for Parliament in 1972 in order to champion his own ideas. Just as well for me that Clark left – I replaced him...

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Seeking consensus

I am saddened to see the result of acrimonious protests at the Lincoln Alexander School of Law at Toronto Metropolitan University. Things have become so heated over the Israel-Hamas war that some Toronto law firms have said, never mind which side you’re on, we won’t be hiring you to come and work at our firm. I have never before heard of a student demonstration extinguishing a career in that individual’s hoped-for profession. When Alexander’s name was given to the law school earlier this decade, I was delighted. After all, Alexander was among the first Black lawyers to graduate from Osgoode...

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Get the word out

Words are nothing. Words are everything. Both statements are accurate, depending on the circumstances. Some words can get used far too often and become annoying. For example, take the phrase “not so much.” I’m sure you’ve recently read some columnist who’s describing Person A in glowing terms and then goes on to compare Person A to Person B, by saying, “Person B, not so much.” As soon as I see that phrase I search for something else to read that doesn’t contain those all-too-easy, dare I say lazy, words: “not so much.” But fancy words can cause just as much...

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Every day is a winding road

As mistakes go, it was a small one, but the resulting cost did hit hard. I was headed this week to see my eye doctor at Toronto Western Hospital. I usually park at an asphalt lot run by Canada Wide Parking on Bathurst Street opposite the hospital. There were about thirty cars already there and just two slots left, so I was happy to get one. There’s no attendant, just a pay machine where you use a credit card. It’s a bit of a complicated setup. First, you have to enter your licence plate info so it appears on the...

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Building blocks

I live in an apartment building at Bay and Bloor Streets in downtown Toronto. You know, where the shops are. Or should be, except they’re fast disappearing, soon to be replaced by condos. As if we don’t have enough already. Let me paint a picture for you. Walk with me one block east to Yonge and Bloor. On the southwest corner is The One, an eighty-one floor condo that’s been under construction for about four years. I don’t go too close anymore because work on the upper floors seems to require build-outs that reach over the sidewalk below. Who knows...

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Lifelong learning

Look around you and the symptoms of a society in decay are everywhere. Parliament has become a mockery of its former self. It’s no longer a place where ideas are debated, it’s a schoolyard where epithets are thrown. Traffic has become an angry nightmare. On a downtown Toronto street this week I watched as one car chased another, horn constantly honking, around a corner and down the next street as if the driver was avenging some sin, real or imagined. Said a woman on the sidewalk beside me; “That’s my definition of a moron.” I agreed but my heart went...

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Life at the top

Chief Executive Officer has become a four-letter word. These days you’d no more trust your money to many CEOs than ship lettuce by rabbit. I’ve interviewed numerous directors over the years who’ve been involved in selecting CEOs and I’ve also interviewed many of those who have been chosen for the top job.The trouble is that no one can predict with certainty how well or otherwise a new CEO will do until they’re actually in harness. As an individual moves up the corporate ladder, the rungs are all pretty equal. But the distance is vast between being number two in an...

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Losing the game

The Toronto Blue Jays are off to what I would call an okay start with a 6-6 record. They seem to have a goodly number of position players although pitching may be a problem. But this season I won’t be at the renovated Rogers Centre anywhere near as often as in the past. Since day one in 1977 I’ve been part of a group that had a pair of seats. Actually, two groups, one following the other. The most recent group had excellent sightlines just five rows behind the Jays dugout. Usually, I’d chip in for seven games spread throughout...

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Bring on the empty rhetoric

Not since soldiers marched on the parade square have I seen anything quite so regimented as the annual meeting. I’ve been to many such corporate gatherings and it matters not a whit whether it’s held in Calgary or Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver – everything is interchangeable from one city to another, one company to another. Shareholders assemble outside a downtown hotel meeting room for free coffee and cookies then take their seats as close as possible to the rear of the hall for a quick departure. The top corporate executives sit at a long table with their names emblazoned on...

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Paperback writer

Once, when I was a much younger and more callow man, I was sitting with friends over dinner at one of those restaurants that has brown wrapping paper covering the table as well as crayons for decorative activities. Someone said, “Let’s write down what we want in life.” Various declarations were made: marriage, money, good health. I wrote “Fame.” Looking back, it was a foolish and immature ambition. The closest I ever got to fame was the 1998 publication of The Eatons: The Rise and Fall of Canada’s Royal Family. Canada’s most famous department store had gone bankrupt and I...

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A woman’s place

HBO’s “Succession” is all about which one of his offspring would succeed the feisty founder Logan Roy. In fact, the autocrat’s belligerent handling of the topic gave the four-season television series its vigour. CEOs of the big five Canadian banks cannot conduct any such shenanigans. In those institutions, succession must be as smooth as a kitten’s wrist. That’s why eyebrows popped in 2022 when the board of Scotiabank chose a director, Scott Thomson, to become president, then president and CEO in 2023. To be sure, the board makes the final decision to appoint the CEO, but I cannot recall any...

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Brian Mulroney 1939-2024

After Robert Stanfield announced in the summer of 1975 that he was stepping down, potential candidates for his job as leader of the Progressive Conservative Party bestirred themselves. Brian Mulroney, one of the party’s very few high-profile stalwarts in Quebec, began calling me at home every Sunday afternoon. The reason was not to seek my support but to read me his draft of a possible speech, opinion piece, or policy proposal and ask for comment. Mulroney ran for leader in 1976 but lost to Joe Clark. That must have hurt, but Mulroney kept his curses close. While Mulroney served as...

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The dying of the light

The Globe and Mail has recently added a new feature, a half-page wanna-be-there story about some sunbaked resort, festive cruise, or guided tour so grand that it will turn you into one of those sought-after influencers. At the end of each massaged piece there’s always a reverent sentence, displayed in an italic font, that says something like: “The writer was a guest of Fantasy Farm but the Farm did not read or approve the story before publication.” Last Saturday there were two such articles in my morning paper, both on skiing in Japan, written by two different authors about two...

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Letter of the law

I took a guided tour of of the Ontario Legislature this week. I’d previously sat in the visitors gallery and once attended a reception on a lower floor, so decided it was time to see the full panoply.  Opened in 1893, the main floor, legislative chamber, and vast hallways are magnificent in oak. There are skylights, green and gold trim everywhere, and carvings above the doorways. The Mace, symbol of the Speaker, is displayed in a glass case for all to see up close because the legislature is not sitting. Crafted in 1867 it was regilded recently with two diamonds...

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