Business

  • What's Being Demolished?

    "Given the state of Quebec's bridges, roads and other infrastructure, I was under the impression construction workers have been on strike for the past 40 years," the comment writer wrote under a news story when the strike began June 17. No wonder the government-mandated construction holiday each July is a two-week source of jubilation for Quebecers who can finally move around their communities without being waylaid by traffic snarl-ups or getting clonked on the head as they pick their way through the war zones at the perimeters of building sites.

    A clever web commenter put Quebec's current construction strike in perfect perspective.

    "Given the state of Quebec's bridges, roads and other infrastructure, I was under the impression construction workers have been on strike for the past 40 years," ...

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  • More is Not Enough

    Last week, Lord Conrad Black said to a Cardus audience:

    More is not enough, and it never will be. This is both a true description of the way markets work, and why those who are concerned about morality in economic behaviour and structures might want to go beyond "more" as a basis for supporting free markets.

    ...

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  • The Perfected Downtown

    In the mid 1950s a German socialist named Victor Gruen, feeling more and more concern for the isolated lifestyle that the car, subdivisions, and miles of strip malls were creating, envisioned a new type of community—or rather a reworking of an old one. It would allow its inhabitants to live independently of the car, to live, study, and work in their neighbourhood, and its crowning jewel would be an indoor air-conditioned shopping mall at the centre, complete with gardens, parks, cafes, and shops—a community centre.

    This past week, PBS aired a show called 10 Buildings that Changed America. Host Geoffrey Baer looked at, among others, the Wainwright Building in St. Louis, MO; Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House in Chica...

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  • Can Ethics be Taught?

    But if trust in our economic system cannot be created by legislation and regulation, then how is it created? As the conversation continued, the role of other institutions came into focus. The role of business schools in teaching ethics was especially highlighted. But again, the contradiction quickly became evident.

    Last week, Cardus sponsored a conversation involving Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney, Rotman School of Business Dean Roger Martin and Convivium Editor Father Raymond de Souza on the subject of "Banking, Trust, and the Culture of Capitalism." All ...

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  • Neither Too Simple Nor Too Complex: The Bangladesh Tragedy

    Let's begin, where we should, with the simplicity. Over four hundred people are dead and thousands are injured. It's a shame that in our rush to get at the complex nature of the context in which these people died, we forget this very simple fact. Four hundred people, made in the image of God, are gone from this world, not to return until the resurrection, and their loved ones are forced to pick up the pieces and continue living.

    The tragedy in Bangladesh last week is at once maddeningly complex and very simple. A proper response to this tragedy should keep a tidy ...

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  • Stone, Tablets, and Miracles

    "In five years I don't think there'll be a reason to have a tablet any more. Maybe a big screen in your workspace, but not a tablet as such. Tablets themselves are not a good business model," Thorsten Heins was quoted by Bloomberg news service. Blackberry's attempt to get into the tablet game was, after all, among the worst corporate howlers of the century.

    It seems the new CEO of Blackberry was being anything but ironic when he declared this week that tablet computing will be all but dead in five years.

    "In five years I don't think there'll be a reason to have a tablet any more. Maybe a big screen in y...

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  • Keep the Super PACs out of Canada

    If there is one thing on which most Canadians can agree it is that we do not want to be like the United States. In an adolescent way that manages to mix extreme levels of narcissism and insecurity, we create volatile and embarrassing concoctions of Can-con television, totalitarian liquor regimes, and parliamentary bills in support of hockey in order to convince ourselves that, yes, we are in fact not Americans but Canadians so there.

    Well, the one on the right was on the left And the one in the middle was on the right And the one on the left was in the middle And the guy in the rear was a [...] ...

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  • Rescuing the Indebted and Imprudent

    In Canada, personal debt as a percentage of income has risen from 50% in 1970 to over 165% today. Governments have fared no better. Debt to GDP ratios within the OECD countries has skyrocketed from 40% in 1970 to over 110% in 2012. These levels of debt are unprecedented during times of peace and purported prosperity! When you pile on the unfunded liabilities or promises governments have made (for example, in the United States), the ratio of debt to GDP explodes beyond 300%.

    During the last four decades the developed world has enjoyed the biggest debt binge in history. The "Pepsi" generation that brought us Woodstock, psychedelic drugs, hard rock, and a desire for peace, love, and freedom has in the end shackled itself to the s...

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  • Candid Discussions Worth Having

    "Cardus is hosting an event with Mark Carney?" We look forward to both events advancing Cardus's mission of renewing social architecture.

    "Cardus is hosting an event with Conrad Black?"

    "Cardus is hosting an event with Mark Carney?"

    "Yes," we are delighted to answer our interlocutors. Many Cardus followers last week received invitations to two forthcoming events in the Hill Fami...

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  • Disruptive Innovation or Passing Oddities?

    A 2011 report by McKinsey & Company identifies three key themes in mobile banking: convenience, digital commerce, and disruptive entry into new markets. The convenience theme follows a sustaining innovation path where existing activities (paying bills and reviewing balances) and customer service strategies are made more convenient by using mobile devices.

    Clay Christensen's insight that companies may do somewhat well refining what they know but fail to take advantage of disruptive innovation appears to be as true today as it was when he first published his work more than 16 years ago. For some time now I've ...

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  • Quinoa Strikes Help No One

    The newest food for fret is quinoa. The Guardian warns, "There is an unpalatable truth to face for those of us with a bag of quinoa in the larder." The article continues, "The appetite of countries such as ours for this grain has pushed up prices to such an extent that poorer people in Peru and Bolivia, for whom it was once a nourishing staple food, can no longer afford to eat it."

    Fretting is the hot new side dish, but it's not healthy. I'm sure there are many in wealthy North America who eat their oatmeal every morning blissfully unaware of the controversies around whether their porridge is fair-trade, organic, local, steel cut or m...

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  • An Engagement with Acton on Right to Work

    The legislation gives workers covered by a collective agreement in their workplace the option of membership (and subsequent dues payments) in the union responsible for negotiating that agreement. Needless to say, the debate around this law has been heated; so heated that multiple rules of engagement were broken in the span of minutes.

    Michigan is now a right to work state. Let the market rejoice, and let unions weep and gnash their teeth. Let prognosticators wait a few minutes before prophesying.

    The legislation gives workers covered by a collective agreement in their workplace th...

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  • In the place where the NHL's heart should be

    Every morning when I read the sports pages, and during the day as I browse the web for news updates, I feel enormous relief—nay, deep satisfaction—that the NHL lockout continues.

    I have a confession that may lead to me following the lead of Conrad Black and abandoning my Canadian passport. Nothing criminal, I must hastily stress. But definitely something that would currently qualify as un-Canadian.

    Every morning when I read t...

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  • The Fine Print Matters!

    In case the self-deprecating sarcasm did not adequately come through in the previous paragraph, let there be no mistake that I am under no illusion that everything I do is world-changing in its nature. That is not to dismiss it—if I didn't think it important I would find something more meaningful to do.

    I work for a think tank. We have lofty goals and sometimes even think our work is important in changing the way other people think. And so, whether it is in earnestly sitting down to write a blog, reviewing various proposals with a view to making a recommen...

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  • Wishing for a Secret Agenda

    Have a closer look at what the leaked documents say. We see the Prime Minister's intended plan to diversity trade to emerging markets. This has been true since even before the collapse of Keystone, and what Fen Hampson at Carleton University called the Americans' "silly season", also known as an election.

    For Christmas this year, I'm wishing for a secret agenda—the kind everyone kept promising me was coming, only to disappoint me over and over. Now, we have "leaked" documents...

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  • Reference Points

    His comment emphasized it was an important campaign. Dove was pushing back at our culture's obsession with size 2, 6-foot women, and validating women who don't fit that mold. Dove was, in some way, giving permission to women to love their bodies, no matter the size. The campaign was, I think, so well received because this message was a breath of fresh air in a stifling culture of unattainable, and often unhealthy, expectations.

    I was in high school the year Dove launched their Campaign for Real Beauty. I remember it because the launch week corresponded with a trip to Toronto for one of my classes. When we got off the subway, there in front of us was a billboard of five "real women...

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  • Day-After Musings

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    It takes more than a day for partisan emotion to adjust to reality. For the 49% of Americans who voted Republican yesterday, today is a combination of disappointment, anger, and fear. The divide in America is real and stark. Gender, ethnicity, and urbanizat...

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  • Strength Isn't What it Seems

    Fans, it seems, would've felt better and had their jilted scratches itched had the Blue Jays punished Farrell and made him sit out the year. This would have made the Blue Jays appear strong, viable, and ready to attract top talent.

    This week, Toronto sports talk radio is dominated by baseball fans, foaming at the ...

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  • Cities and Commitment

    Toronto's Deputy Mayor, Doug Holyday, evoked political controversy this summer when he objected to the requirement that 10% of the units in a new condo development be 3-bedroom, family-friendly units. Mr. Holyday referred to the requirement as "social engineering." He expressed reluctance to dictate that the developer build 3-bedroom units when there "may or may not be a market for it," and alienated his urban colleagues and parents when he said the downtown core was "not an ideal place to raise children." But while the commoditization of housing is itself deeply worrisome and a worthy blog topic for another day, the Deputy Mayor's reluctance to support the creation of spaces for families is disappointing.

    ...

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  • When Teachers are Less than Exemplary

    This lack of funding is clearly displayed within our public service sector. Over the past five decades the public service sector has, with the complicity of government and powerful unions, increased the value of their benefits (pensions and health care) to levels that are totally unsustainable. . .

    The Baby Boomers are retiring. This aging tidal wave sweeping over Canada, along with the whole developed world, is placing massive stress on the financial solvency of governments. As Boomers retire they believe they are in line to receive an unprecedented ...

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  • The Caspian Sea Monster

    Iranian instability is one push factor, but so is the growing power of oil states around the Caspian, post-Soviet republics hung-over on the Kremlin's kool-aid: Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan. Newfound petrodollars are funding more aggressive posturing on oil reserves, and ultimately setting the stage for a global first: a Caspian arms race.

    A sea monster is rising from the black, oil slick lagoon of the Caspian Sea. Discoveries of oil reserves are sparking an arms race between Russia, Iran, and several former Soviet Republics. Russia and Kaz...

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  • The Leaning Tower of Ivory

    What is to be done to resolve this stalemate between a marginalized academy and a disinterested, maybe hostile, political class? A few options have surfaced over the last decade. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    ...

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  • Human Common Ground

    On my one visit to Disneyland, I received an unexpected lesson in the difference proper training for true service can make. A Disney worker nearby very politely asked me to take a step back. It was the moment for my Mr. Cranky Pants stand.

    ...

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  • False Hopes and Dreams

    While the majority of the 211 players drafted will not make the big stage, a few will make an impact and maybe a handful will play a game that will allow them to be a part of the NHL elite. Does this small probability of success mean that the players shouldn't even try or that they should give up because they are unlikely to be the best, to be special?

    This past Friday night, hundreds of young men with natural talent and physical prowess descended upon the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, PA, hoping and praying they would hear their names announced by a National Hockey League team in the 2012 NHL draft...

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