House of Cards

Plot spoiler – I’m at Episode Ten of Season Three of House of Cards, so stop reading now if you don’t want to learn about the disappointments ahead. The first thing that went wrong was that Frank Underwood all but disappeared in the first two episodes. Rather than command the screen for 85 percent of the time (or whatever the exact number was) he went absent for long stretches. Doug Stamper, his henchman in the two earlier seasons, dominates airtime as he fights his way back to health after we thought he’d been murdered. I don’t care that much about...

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They spill more than we drink

I should have known when I read the title of the study, Mortgages or Margaritas, which choice Jamie Golombek, managing director of CIBC Wealth Advisory Services, would take. With RRSP season about to wrap up next Monday, readership on the thorny question Golombek was addressing – pay down the mortgage or invest your money in a balanced portfolio – was bound to be high. Surveys have shown that three-quarters of Canadians favour paying down debt but Golombek says that “when interest rates on debt are low, the short-sighted objective of getting out of debt now may actually negatively impact your...

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I walk the line

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I like Justin Trudeau. I have said he is well versed on policy and is an excellent retail politician. Many people who know me well are incredulous that I could support a Liberal after working for Robert Stanfield. But as Trudeau himself said, when we met and I told him I’d been with Stanfield and tried to defeat his father, “So, you’re a Progressive Conservative.” Exactly. And our current prime minister is anything but. Truth be told, I’m a Pearsonian Liberal and actually helped the Liberals during the 1963 federal election....

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The cho$en few

Stephen Poloz was appointed Governor of the Bank of Canada in June 2013. The Canadian dollar has been declining against the American dollar ever since. Could this collapse have anything to do with the fact that Poloz, who worked at the central bank earlier in his career, came back to the bank following almost 15 years with Export Development Canada, his final two years there as CEO? Let’s see, what does Export Development Canada do? Why they finance, insure and generally grease the wheels of exporters seeking to sell their goods abroad. And what have exporters been complaining about during the last...

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A life of giving back

Canada has lost not just a giant in the business world but a cultural maven and generous philanthropist with the death of Joe Rotman. I can’t think of another corporate leader in Canada today who was so dominant across such a wide range of activities. His life was a classic case of entrepreneurialism where you see a field that needs expertise and investment, you calculate the risks, then step in. Starting in the unusual world of oil futures, Rotman also became involved in oil and gas exploration, real estate and venture capital. In 1987 he launched Clairvest which in turn backed...

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A woman of substance

Jalynn Bennett, a pioneering business executive and one of the warmest people I’ve ever met socially, has died at 71. Her combination of brilliant insight and self-deprecation was a delight to behold.  After graduating from Trinity College in 1965 with a degree in economics she was forced to do what many well-educated women did at the time, take a lowly secretarial job. In her case, she worked at Manufacturers Life Insurance Co. (Manulife) where CEO Syd Jackson recognized her prowess. Within twenty years of joining the firm she was a vice-president and among three female executives reporting to Jackson, a high-water...

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Whither the wind

I like John Tory. I voted for John Tory. And I sure am happy to see the backside of Rob Ford. But I wonder: do we know who we’re getting as mayor with John Tory? A breath of fresh air or same old same old. In his first few weeks in office, Tory has sent both signals. He’s talked about getting rid of gridlock, working with all members of council, helping the homeless, in fact there’s no matter too small for John Tory to tackle. On the big issues, however, I sense backsliding, a direction you don’t like to see...

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Unnatural gas

Everyone has been enjoying the fall in the pump price of gasoline. I saw signs in Hamilton today for 81.9 cents a litre, down 34 percent from $1.24 a year ago for regular. The price of a barrel of oil has fallen even further, from US$110 a year ago to US$50 today, down 55 percent. The full extent of the drop in the world price has not yet reached the consumer but at least it’s heading in the right direction. Natural gas prices have not been behaving in the same friendly manner. My Enbridge bill arrived today with a notice...

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