Musings by Rod McQueen Blog

Shout it out

Do you find yourself shouting at the television these days because your Covid-19 fatigue has reached new heights? We do. A favourite target for our ire is Justin Trudeau who regularly assures us that the vaccine program is “on track.” At one press briefing he must have used the phrase half a dozen times. All of which is punctuated by his quick intakes of breath, an unlikely but annoying leftover from his days as a drama teacher. In fact, the only Canadians I know who have received shots are both in their 90s and live in retirement homes. They deserve...

Read More

Where were my eyes yesterday?

It’s coming up on a year since the pandemic began and, oh, how our lives have changed. No theatre, no art galleries, too few times with family. You’re left with asking people what they’re recommending among Netflix offerings. The Dig, with Carey Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes tops my list. As for Ozark, after sitting through too many bizarre plot twists and grisly incidents, we abandoned the series early in the second season. But there’s a whole other world out there, one that’s always been around, we just haven’t paid as much attention as we should. The moon is a prime...

Read More

The power gap

Robyn Doolittle, along with half a dozen colleagues at the Globe and Mail, has spent months investigating the status of women in the workplace. Usually, such studies just look at business, but this work not only covered public companies, but also universities, cities, cultural institutions, hospitals, police services, and not-for-profit organizations. What they found, published on Saturday, was that while pay was still a problem, “what really stood out was the overall lack of women. At entity after entity, women were dramatically outnumbered. In the higher bands of salaries, it wasn’t unusual to see five times more men.” The problem...

Read More

The dogs of war

When I think back to my time as bureau chief in Washington, D.C., for the Financial Post, it feels so long ago compared to what is happening now it might well have been the Pleistocene Age when mammoths walked the earth. During my posting from 1989-1993, Washington was an idyllic spot troubled only by a few eccentricities. As Jack Kennedy quipped: “Washington is a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm.” Pansies bloomed all winter when the worst that could happen was a forecast of an inch or two of snow. The federal government would promptly send everyone home. Residents would clean out their local...

Read More

Scribble, scribble

I just finished writing a book. It was a four-year-long project. You’d think I’d want to take some time off but you’d be wrong. When you’ve been writing pretty much every day since Grade Twelve, you get twitchy when you’re not typing away at something. The whole thing started with a weekly high school news column in my hometown paper, the Guelph Mercury. I was paid nine cents a column inch. It was due Monday morning so I’d sit down at 9 p.m. on a Sunday night and write until I fell asleep. My forty inches of copy earned $3.60,...

Read More

The ghosts of Christmas past

The earliest Christmas dinner celebrations I can remember occurred at my maternal grandparent’s home in the west end of Toronto. They just had a small bungalow but somehow my mother, father, me, my mother’s brother, his wife and their two children who were both younger than me, could all squeeze around the dining room table with our hosts. In my mind, the turkey was the size of my elder cousin and carved with gusto, after much sharpening of the knife on a whetstone, by my grandfather. My grandmother always ate the roundish nub at the turkey’s rear, something she called...

Read More

Death and indifference

Have we all become inured to deaths caused by Covid-19? Every day the front page of our newspapers and the top of the broadcast news highlight the number of new cases and the mounting death toll. Odious comparisons are made with other jurisdictions; pundits talk about deaths per one hundred thousand; words such circuit-breaker and lockdown take on new meanings. Obituaries cite Covid as the cause of death. But, the problem is that there is no means of grieving. Funeral services will be held at some future, unspecified, date. There’s havoc being wreaked in long-term care facilities where those who die in...

Read More

Make haste slowly

The just-released memoir by former Bank of Montreal CEO Tony Comper is an unusual achievement. To the best of my knowledge, no other Big Five Bank CEO in the modern era has published a memoir. In “Personal Account,” Comper writes that he didn’t want to follow the usual “when I was three” chronological rendition. Instead, he picked out twenty-five incidents in his business life that demonstrate qualities of leadership or character. Among them is his explanation how he went into banking rather than join the priesthood or become a professor teaching Chaucer. With help from Calgary-based ghostwriter Bruce Dowbiggin, Comper...

Read More

Ups and downs

My morning paper delivers good news and bad. Today’s edition contained a legal notice under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA). CCAA is the last gasp of a firm that has become insolvent. Justice James Farley, who reigned from the insolvency bench and has now retired to arbitration work, delighted in pronouncing CCAA as “caw.” Farley had other jokes, too, that always made the lawyers who appeared before him laugh uproariously. He liked to hear their laughter; they hoped it would improve their cause. The legal notice was for Sears Canada Inc. and was aimed at unsecured creditors, the last in...

Read More

The road less travelled

By now, everyone in the world must have viewed that TikTok video of the man roller-boarding on a roadway, lip-synching a snippet of “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac, and drinking juice from a jug. He’s just an ordinary guy, living in an RV outside his brother’s house, on his way to work as a labourer in a potato factory. Yet his carefree mood, the music, and the movement created magic for so many. I guess the explanation must be nostalgia as we recall the easy freedoms of pre-pandemic times. Covid-19 has drastically changed the way we communicate. A businessman told me...

Read More

Fit to print

Earlier this week, the Globe and Mail ran an ad promoting a new member of staff at the newspaper, Tanya Talaga. She certainly has a high-achiever’s background: nominated five times for the Michener Award for public service journalism and twice a contributor to stories that won National Newspaper Awards. As an Ojibwe, Talaga brings a particular perspective, said the ad, “to give voice to those who were not being heard.” Moreover, she will set “the record straight on Indigenous peoples’ lived experiences.” This is all very commendable, but is this the right job for a newspaper? Can such a role...

Read More

From the shelf

The fastest-growing activity during the pandemic must surely be reading. A neighbour recently told me that he’d read sixty books. I’m behind that at about two dozen. Among them are some re-reads such as Gentlemen, Players and Politicians by Dalton Camp, still the best ever Canadian political memoir. I’ve also read books I’ve always meant to but never did such as Jim Bouton’s Ball Four, written fifty years ago. The best I’ve read so far is Radical Wordsworth by Jonathan Bate, telling how William Wordsworth changed poetry forever in the late eighteenth century by writing about nature, imagination and feelings,...

Read More

What’s past is prologue

The advertising sign on the bus shelter was like a punch in the nose. “A name to match our history,” said the line at the top. In the middle was a bottle of Coors beer and, at the bottom, a line saying “Now called Original.” Imagine the hours of Zoom meetings it took for some ad agency to come up with that brilliant, new moniker – “Original.” But that wasn’t what bothered me. Was the word “our” about the history of Canada, the history of Coors, or a presumptive both? And what was an American beer doing there anyway? Of...

Read More

Machine politics

The sound you heard over the weekend at the Conservative Party leadership convention was not only machines mutilating ballots but also the last gasp of the Red Tory wing of the party. There was a time when Red Tories dominated under leaders Robert Stanfield, Joe Clark, and Brian Mulroney. With the defeat of Peter MacKay they’re no longer even a wing, barely a prayer. What exactly is a Red Tory? Well, someone who is pro-choice, favours intrusion by the state, and might even lean towards a guaranteed annual income. She is a caring person, not someone who thinks everyone can...

Read More

The world within

Six months into the pandemic, where do we stand? In Canada, 9,000 are dead; in the U.S. it’s 170,000. Did anyone really think it would hit this hard and last this long? Worse, no one knows how much more is to come. A friend remarked recently that we will be dealing with Covid-19 for the rest of our lives. It was a jarring thought. I worry about students returning to school. Too many will be taught virtually. Anybody who suffered through online lectures during the spring term knows that method doesn’t work very well. Moreover, there isn’t the same socializing...

Read More