QuickLinx, Friday, Sept. 23.
"As the author Brian Lee Crowley has set out, there is a strong argument that the 21st Century could well be the Canadian Century. In the last few years, Canada has got every major decision right." -David Cameron, British PM, in a speech to a joint session of the Canadian parliament. Cameron predecessor Disraeli mused that Canada might be the Russia of the 20th century, which would have meant 73 years of Soviet economic and cultural bankruptcy. So one takes these things with a brick of salt.
"It's not class warfare, it's math." -Barack Obama, U.S. president, on the need to close the widening gap between rich and poor, Sept. 19.
"We have a lot of kids graduating college, [who] can find jobs. That's what happened in Cairo. That's what happened in Madrid. You don't want those kinds of riots here." -Michael Bloomberg, Gotham mayor, Sept 16.
Tim Horton's opens in Dubai. (Tahira Yaqoob, The National, Dubai; Toronto Life) Big whoop. This is likely bad news for Tims investors; the stock already has been a long-time disappointment. The firm, which sacked its CEO without explanation not long ago, continues after a decade to fare poorly in a U.S. market where it should thrive. Why? Lousy locations, for one. (Which killed Canadian Tire's single U.S. foray.) Not understanding unique regional U.S. markets. (The punishment dealt Quebec pharmacy-chain giant Jean Coutu when it got snookered by CVS in carving up Penney's drugstore business.) Also, criticilly, Tims has no critical mass in its U.S. markets, in stark contrast with its Canadian ubiquity. A smattering of stores here, one or two there...If it was me, I'd start over, with just one state, likely Michigan. Cover the Wolverine state with stores, making Tims the default choice. Then another state, and so on. I like the Tims formula - though plenty complain about its food quality - but not enough to hunt for one. The ex-CEO gained that status, BTW, not long after Hortons turned tail and quit New England. Admittedly that's Dunkin Donuts' home turf. But Hortons had a long head-start over a DD that was miserably run and in near-terminal decline under foreign conglomerate ownership. Now that DD has regained its independence, its can no longer be rolled over and flattened as it could so easily have been when Tims first showed up in Massachusetts, Connecticut and so on.
The incredible lightness of being Tim Hudak. (Trevor Cole, Toronto Life) Not yet online, but on newsstands. Ignore the over-sell cover line ("The truth about Tim Hudak). The truth, in this rare in-depth account, appears to be that Tory Hudak's in the running with the Twin Freaks as pols of slender accomplishment. I dunno whether it's Hudak or an author not asking the right questions of enough sources, but Hudak is depicted here as no more than having been born (in Fort Erie, a quirk that's possibly the only interesting thing about him), raised in relative comfort, a loyal but minor soldier in Mike Harris's "Common Sense Revoluton" (an agenda, right down to the name, lifted from then New Jersey governor Christie Whitman, if memory serves) and having inhaled and exhaled more or less consistently as unlikely leader of the Ontario Tories. Best I can tell, Hudak got that job because the Tories, numbed after the spectacularly failed promise of John Tory, just weren't all that interested in who their new leader would be. The real mystery in this non-election Ontario election, at least for me, is that McGuinty, fighting for his political life, has been so shy about his considerable accomplishments, especially those many efforts aimed at reinventing the Ontario economy for the 21st century. That could be the same complacency, on George Smitherman's part, that gave us the Twin Freaks.
Royson James: Waterfront setback could be first of many for the Twin Freaks. (Toronto Star) See, if we had a Richard Daley, we might have realized Doug Ford's over-the-top bid for a giant Ferris wheel, a shopping mall and other predictable, garish amenities for the waterfront. Which I don't want. But it says much about the boys that their idea wasn't even seriously considered. Is my Star colleague Royson exaggerating? Well, Peggy Atwood effortlessly got the Freaks to back down on closing Toronto "libaries" (as Rob Ford pronounces it). A friend, draft-dodging native of Wheeling, W. Va. and Toronto writer for some 25 years, told me that even from a distance (he now lives in Vancouver) it's obvious that "the Fords are going to end up making Mel Lastman look like a Winston f---ing Churchill."
Oh dear, Part I
After nearly a decade atop Economist's list of the world's 140 most liveable cities, Vancouver demoted to #3, trailing Melbourne (above) and Vienna. Get this: Australasia alone accounts for five of the top 10 most liveable burghs: Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide and Auckland. Canada has three: Vancouver, Toronto (4) and Calgary (5). The Top 10 is rounded out by Vienna (2) and Helsinki (7). Least liveable: Harare (140). Much as I enjoy the Economist rankings - Mercer, the corporate relocation specialist, and the Lonely Planet guide do prominent rival lists - can't help noticing that, uh, they have a bias toward small towns, which diminishes the relevance. Greater New York's population exceeds the Economist's top 10 combined. The Melbourne Age, of all sources, questions the validity of Economist rankings: "The rankings reflect an upper-middle-class view of the world that greatly values comforts and security but has no dimensionof social responsibility, diversity, equity or sustainability." That Melbournites are utterly dependent on cars - and the town is thus no friend of global warming combatants - is of no concern to the Economist raters. Who, in fact, put a premium on sprawl, rating highest - as Age art critic Robert Nelson notes - the Economist "authors relate the highest performance to medium-sized cities in wealthier countries of lower density." Um, urban planners rightly hate sprawl's inefficiency and champion density. Also, the top 63 cities are bunched so close together in marks that, in Vancouver's case, a single prolonged road closing cost it its #1 ranking. A road closing, BTW, on Vancouver Island, which is to Vancouver roughly what the Finger Lakes are the Gothamites. As for Beijing (72) as the leading mainland Chinese city (far behind coastal Hong Kong), the Financial Times' Kathrin Hille says the honor would be "funny if it wasn't so sad," citing the Chinese capital's smog, congestion, and civil-rights abuses toward refugees and natives alike. The Economist's executive briefing is here.
Oh dear, Part II
A rock structure at the Bay of Fundy, Canada's sole entry in an international vote on the world's seven greatest natural wonders. What, the Thousand Islands were ruled ineligible by the International Control Commission? Sheesh. This one has the virtue of looking a bit like a beaver on its haunches, but that won't see it win out over the Great Barrier Reef. (CP)
The Swiss-based New7Wonders outfit that four years ago got folks worldwide to pick their seven favorite modern wonders of the world are at it again, as you know, this time seeking votes on the seven wonders of nature. The one Canadian entry among the 28 finalists is, er, the Bay of Fundy, home of the aptly named Tidal Bore. Also of unsual rock structures, and a passable spot for whale-sightings. I've been to border crossings more interesting than the Bay of Fundy, and yes I did have that wonder inflicted on my on a parental visit through the Maritimes. Though you might, I can't see the point in voting, with the Amazon, Mount Kilimanjaro and the Great Barrier Reef among the finalists. How did the Bay of Fundy nose out Niagara Falls, the Continental Divide, Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump and, well, I could go on? Sigh.
7,000 U.S. millionaires paid no taxes last year. (Derek Thompson, Atlantic) If that doesn't make you a fan of the "Buffett Rule," nothing will. The BF, which Obama embraces, would see no millionaire taxed at a rate less than the average American. This one's a non-starter, though, since thanks to the Tax Code and its copious deductions there are no "average" Americans.
Five reasons Calgary tops Toronto. (Ann Dempsey, Toronto Star) In the humble (really) opinion of a visiting Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi. This fellow is very annoying. He's soft-spoken, smart, gracious modest, overtly loves and intimately knows his city. And when invited to, refused utterly to dump on Hogtown. Instead, he mentioned a few of the many virtues of Cowtown. Why annoying? Obviously, because Calgary has the justly popular Nenshi and we have the Twin Freaks - two men, one brain. (*)
Photo: Toronto Star
On the town
Bill Maher at Massey Hall, Saturday. Maher, of course, is descended from Carlin, himself descended from Mort Sahl. Apart from his thing for Ann Coulter, which I never know whether to take seriously, Maher is the most constructive satirist on U.S. politics and culture by far. (Yes, this includes you, Jon, though admittedly HBO gives Maher more breathing room than Sumner "Older Than God" Redstone gives his wage slaves at Viacom's Comedy Central.)
Word on the Street, Sunday. Annual outdoor bookfest is one of the largest in the country, lots of author readings and scribes signing books.
* "Cowtown" celebrates Alberta's ranching heritage. "Hogtown" came about when Toronto, c. 1900, was the British Empire's largest pork processor. Hard to believe, but Toronto got the winsome sobriquet. U.S. counterpart Cincinnati was "Porkopolis."