For the love of the game
Ageless veteran Joe Thornton still works 'so hard to make the game look so easy'
Saturday, February 13, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S5


We were talking about longevity and career plans and how, in an era when youth is being served all around the NHL, there are still a few holdouts here and there - a Jaromir Jagr, a Shane Doan and yes even a Joe Thornton - who defy the years and the era they play in and still find a way to succeed.

The one common factor is their great love of the game. You ask Thornton why, at the age of 36, he is still thriving in the NHL and the answer comes easily: there isn't another thing he'd rather be doing. After all these years, the life of a professional athlete - competing against his peers on the ice, enjoying the camaraderie of the dressing room off the ice - still holds a certain little-boy appeal.

Thornton and Jagr share the same genuine joie de vivre when it comes to playing the game, which is what inspires them to keep doing it long after many of their peers have stepped aside.

"I don't think you play the game at that level at their ages unless you genuinely love the game," said Sharks' coach Peter DeBoer, who also coached Jagr for most of two years with the New Jersey Devils. "Joe loves everything about the game. He's the first guy at the rink on game days.

He's preparing 31/2 hours before the game starts. Every time we have an optional practice, he's on the ice, working on some part of his game.

"The one difference I see is Jagr doesn't have a wife or kids, so hockey's 24-7 for him. Joe has only two loves in his life - hockey and his family - and I don't see that fire going out any time soon."

Thornton is 6-foot-4, 220 pounds and Jagr 6-foot-3, 230, and both have that same wide wing span, which allows them to protect the puck along the boards from all manner of pressure.

At a time when teams close fast on the puck defensively, there is a calmness to their respective games that allows them to hold the puck just the split second longer that's needed to find the open man. Thornton, especially, can then thread the needle with a seeing-eye pass better than virtually anyone in the game.

It's what makes the San Jose Sharks' power play so effective and a big reason why Thornton is in the midst of one of his hottest scoring stretches in recent years.

Through Thursday, he had collected a point in 22 of his past 24 games - 31 points in all, including eight goals. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, since that streak started in mid-December, only Sidney Crosby has scored more points than Thornton (34 for Crosby; Thornton and the Chicago Blackhawks' Patrick Kane were next with 31 points each).

Earlier this week, Thornton collected his 935th career assist to move past Al MacInnis into 15th place on the career assists list. It also marks a time in which the Sharks have moved into second place in the Pacific Division, nicely positioned to make the playoffs in the Western Conference.

When the Sharks missed the postseason last year, it ended a streak of 10 consecutive years in the playoffs, the second longest in the NHL behind the Detroit Red Wings. That level of consistency is unusual for the salary-cap era, but the expectation was that their time might have passed; that San Jose's slide would continue, given how the core group has been mostly the same for a long time now and was getting on in years.

No one is giving San Jose much of a chance to make a run, even if it makes the playoffs, even though it was only six points out of first place going into Friday's action and is gradually making up ground on the first-place Los Angeles Kings.

But no matter what the external perception may be, Thornton says: "We feel we can play against anybody, and that's a good feeling to have. The way Jonesy's been playing, we have a great feeling in this locker room. We feel we have our home game under control now [points in eight consecutive games]. It took a while, but we feel really confident at home and our road record speaks for itself.

"We're playing some good hockey."

During Logan Couture's absence, DeBoer played young Czech forward Tomas Hertl at centre, but since his return, Hertl has moved up to play with Thornton and Joe Pavelski, where the chemistry on the line is working again.

"I feel good, yeah," said Thornton, who doesn't much like talking about his own play. "Our line's been clicking. Ever since Tomas really got with our line, I think he's added a little extra boost to us. Pav's been playing real good, Tomas has been playing real good and we're working hard for one another and that's very important for success."

Nor would it surprise anyone if Thornton, at the end of his NHL playing days, gave Europe a shot for a time. Thornton met his wife during the 2004 NHL lockout playing in Davos and he went back to play in Switzerland 10 years later during the 2012-13 work stoppage.

Mostly, though, Thornton is enjoying life. He competes harder than most people give him credit for, that happy-go-lucky attitude toward life masking a desire to win and compete that not everybody sees or appreciates.

"I think one of our old owners said it best about Joe at our 25thanniversary celebration," DeBoer said. "Never has he seen a guy work so hard to make the game look so easy."

Follow me on Twitter: @eduhatschek

Associated Graphic

'We're playing some good hockey,' says San Jose's Joe Thornton, currently in the midst of one of his hottest streaks in years.


Toronto amazes in comeback victory
Patterson makes first career playoff start, a move that almost backfired after a horrendous first quarter that saw Raptors down 35-20
Wednesday, April 27, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S3

TORONTO -- The decision to give key reserve Patrick Patterson his first start of the season didn't play out as the Toronto Raptors had hoped it would in Game 5. But Toronto's bench still managed to orchestrate a dramatic 102-99 comeback win that puts the team one victory away from eliminating the Indiana Pacers.

The Raptors had been reluctant to break up their bench unit all season - considered one of the NBA's best - worried that starting one of their core reserves would mess with the energy it provides. They set that aside on Tuesday with their first-round playoff series tied 2-2 and gave one of their most valued bench players the start in place of veteran Luis Scola.

The move was intended to avoid the kind of sluggish start the Raps had in their Game 4 loss to the Pacers by adding speed to the starting lineup. It didn't work - the Raptors got off to a horrendous first-quarter start, and Patterson didn't look like the spark plug he's been in recent months.

"Pat was a minus-20 [Tuesday night], and I love him to death, and I don't know if it took him out of his rhythm or whatever," said Toronto coach Dwane Casey.

"I just thought it would give us some speed and quickness to start the game, but we've got to re-evaluate that. I love Pat; he gives us so much. I don't know if starting him messed up his rhythm or what, but he's a very valuable piece for us coming off the bench."

The move was kept secret until game time, although there were whispers, since Patterson had averaged 4.3 rebounds and 9.5 points on 57-per-cent shooting in this series, compared to the two points, three rebounds and 21per-cent shooting Scola had averaged in the first four games. Patterson is quicker in transition - something Toronto felt may have helped combat the speedy tempo that caused Toronto's undoing early in Game 4.

Patterson hadn't started a game for the Raptors since the preseason, when he was competing with Scola for the starting job.

He instead kept his spot as a valuable spark off the bench, often playing more minutes a game than Scola did throughout the year. Patterson, typically one of the first Raptors off the bench late in the first quarter, instead played the entire first on Tuesday in his first career playoff start. He providing three points and a rebound in that quarter and shared his time between defending George Hill and Myles Turner.

His team trailed by a shocking score of 35-20 at the end of the quarter.

The change altered the usual early-second-quarter group.

DeMar DeRozan started the second alongside reserves Bismack Biyombo, Terrence Ross, Cory Joseph and Norman Powell. That group went on a run and narrowed the gaping deficit to just three points.

It wasn't until late in the fourth that the Raptors manufactured an incredible comeback behind big offence from players such as DeRozan, Powell and Joseph and a massive rebounding performance from Biyombo.

Patterson played 26 minutes and provided seven points on 3-of-10 shooting, along with two rebounds. He has led the Raptors in the plus-minus category this year, so his minus-20 stood out on the stats sheet. He was on the bench during Toronto's biggest comeback moments and the team didn't turn to him for critical fourth-quarter defensive moments in this game like they usually do.

Scola, who has started 76 games for Toronto this year and has 41 career playoff games on his résumé, didn't play a single minute in Game 5. Both teams have made significant counter moves throughout the series and found victories. The Raptors had swapped DeMarre Carroll into the starting lineup for Powell in Game 2 and won. The Pacers won Game 4 - a contest in which they added young Turner to the starting lineup.

Patterson gave huge props to Toronto's bench after the win.

"No matter if I'm in the starting lineup, no matter if I'm on the bench, the bench is still going to be strong," Patterson said. "There are so many weapons on the bench that can show up at any given time."

Associated Graphic

Indiana Pacers guard Rodney Stuckey falls into rapper Drake, left, while playing against the Toronto Raptors during NBA playoff action at Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Tuesday.


Toronto to join English rugby league
The Canadian Press
Thursday, April 28, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S4

TORONTO -- The Toronto Wolfpack, a fledgling franchise with big dreams and even bigger travel plans, took its first steps Wednesday.

Billing itself as the first majorleague transatlantic pro sports team, the Wolfpack plans to play in the third tier of English rugby league come March, 2017. The Toronto club will be the 16th entry in the Kingstone Press League 1, which currently has 12 teams from England, two from Wales and one from France.

The challenge that awaits is both immense and intriguing.

"It's a leap for faith for all concerned," said Nigel Wood, chief executive officer of the Rugby Football League, the governing body for rugby league in the United Kingdom.

Can the third-tier of rugby's lesser-known code succeed in what the NFL or NBA has yet to try? "That's a very legitimate question," said Wood, a hulking former rugby league player. "To a large extent, this could spiral anywhere. ... I think there's every chance [at success]. I think there's more reasons to celebrate than there is to be fearful."

It helps that the Wolfpack will reportedly pay the travel costs of other teams to get here.

The new franchise will play a 22-game regular season, with 11 games at home on the artificial turf of the 9,600-seat Lamport Stadium. It will also take part in the knockout Challenge Cup.

In truth, the team will be based in Britain. Head coach Paul Rowley, a former England hooker, says the team will share a training base with the Bradford Bulls, who play in the secondtier Kingstone Press Championship below the elite First Utility Super League.

The Wolfpack will play in three-week chunks, flying to Toronto to host visiting teams and then returning to train and play away games against the likes of the South Wales Scorpions, University of Gloucestershire All Golds, Barrow Raiders and Toulouse Olympique XIII.

Rowley says while the bulk of his roster will be English, he expects to have some North Americans on his roster. While most teams in the third tier are made up of part-timers, the Wolfpack says it will have fulltime players.

Rugby league is a 13-man game, as opposed to 15-man rugby union, that is primarily played in England, Australia and New Zealand. Unlike rugby union, rugby league stops when a tackle is made and the team in possession launches a new attack. Possession changes on the sixth tackle.

A try is worth four points with a conversion and penalty worth two points.

"I believe rugby league in itself is just the best-kept secret," Rowley said. "It's out there in the corner shop, we need to put it in the supermarkets."

The game is ultraphysical with big men gang tackling. But its influence has bled into rugby union in recent years, both on defence and attack.

"My teams entertain; we're known for entertaining," said Rowley, a former coach of the year in England's second tier.

"There'll be bloodshed, there'll be collisions."

The 41-year-old Rowley, who makes his home in Manchester, resigned as coach of the Leigh Centurions in January. Leigh owner club owner Derek Beaumont subsequently accused him of trying to lure staff away from his club, a charge Rowley denied.

Wolfpack CEO Eric Perez, a long-time supporter of the sport in Canada, says the team ownership consists of 10 people, some Canadian and some not, who made their money in mining and resources. He would not detail the expansion fee other than to say it was "significant."

Judging from Wednesday's launch, which drew nine cameras, Toronto Mayor John Tory and an enthusiastic crowd to Real Sports Bar and Grill, the franchise knows how to put on a news conference.

The team has already laid down a social media foundation via Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat and has publicists on both sides of the pond.

Wood says in Rowley and director of rugby Brian Noble, a former British coach, the Wolfpack already has first-class rugby league credentials. The Wolfpack also has some star power in club director Adam Fogerty, a jumbosized bullet-headed former pro boxer and rugby league player.

Associated Graphic

Toronto Wolfpack CEO Eric Perez, left, head coach Paul Rowley and Toronto Mayor John Tory hold up Wolfpack jerseys in Toronto on Wednesday. The new franchise will play 11 games at home.


Sanchez pounded by Oakland
Saturday, April 23, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S4

TORONTO -- Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons has been warning that Aaron Sanchez would have nights like these.

Friday night, against the streaking Oakland Athletics at Rogers Centre, was one of them.

Pretty much unhittable through his first three starts this season, Sanchez was raked early and often by the hot-hitting A's lineup in an 8-5 Oakland victory, the sixth win in a row for the American League West visitors.

After winning the fifth spot in the rotation out of spring training, Sanchez has acted more like the ace of team than a No. 5.

Heading into Friday's game, he had gone at least six innings and allowed exactly one earned run in each of his previous three starts.

Gibbons has been delighted with the seeming ease the 23year-old flamethrower has grasped his starting role this year.

But Gibbons has been warning those who darken his office doorway on a daily basis that Sanchez will eventually fall to Earth. Every good pitcher, he prophesized, will get his lunch handed to him every once in a while.

For Sanchez on Friday, it was like a three-course meal as Oakland stung him for one run off two hits in the first inning and then three more off four hits in the second. It was just the second time in 15 career starts that Sanchez has allowed more than three earned runs in a game.

By the time he departed with one out in the fifth inning, Sanchez (1-1) had been clubbed around for six runs off 10 hits, including a three-run home run by Chris Coghlan in the second.

Sanchez also added to his own misery in the Oakland fifth, after Toronto had cut the A's lead to 4-1 on a Darwin Barney homer in the third.

With Oakland runners at first and third, Sanchez unleashed a wild pitch that carded the fifth A's run.

Coco Crisp then doubled to bring Stephen Vogt around from second to make the score 6-1.

Playing with a lineup depleted by injuries and the shocking drug suspension announced earlier in the day to first baseman Chris Colabello, the Blue Jays were ill equipped, mentally and physically, to mount much of a response.

Gibbons's hands were further tied heading into the first of three games against the A's by the absence of a couple of starters in shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and left fielder Michael Saunders. Tulowitzki was being rested for a sore hip that he developed after diving for a ball in Baltimore against the Orioles on Thursday night.

Saunders, the Toronto leadoff hitter, was being rested for a sore hamstring that has given him grief, on and off, throughout the season. Gibbons said he doesn't feel either injury is serious.

Still, Toronto fought back gamely, scoring singles in the sixth and seventh before Kevin Pillar found a hole through the left side on a ground ball with the bases loaded that scored two and cut the score to 8-5.

But the spirited Toronto rally was pretty much squelched in the top of the ninth when Oakland added two more runs with Toronto closer Roberto Osuna on the mound.

Khris Davis stuck the telling blow, a line-drive shot to left field that skipped past Ezequiel Carrera and was charitably ruled a double. That brought home Oakland runners from third and first.

Oakland starter Sonny Gray (3-1) worked hard to get the win after allowing three runs off six hits while striking out seven over seven innings.

To fill Colabello's spot on the 25man roster, the Blue Jays recalled left-handed reliever Chad Girodo from their Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo. Earlier in the day the Blue Jays also announced they have signed veteran outfielder Michael Bourn, 33, to a minor league contract. Gibbons said the former allstar will report to extended spring training in Florida.

In another development, Gibbons said that Drew Hutchison will be recalled from Buffalo on Sunday and will start that day in the finale against the A's.

The plan is to start to ease some of the workload on Toronto's starting pitching, meaning that everybody will be given an extra day's rest. And on another (bad) note, catcher Russell Martin left Friday's game after the fifth innings as a "precaution for neck spasms."

Morrison's recovery timeline still unclear
Olympic medalist suffers setback after having a stroke, but 'odds are in his favour' for recuperation
The Canadian Press
Tuesday, April 26, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S3

The timeline for Canadian long track speed skater Denny Morrison's return to the ice remained unclear Monday after he suffered a stroke over the weekend.

Morrison was taken to hospital Saturday in Salt Lake City, Utah, and tests later confirmed a brain blood clot and carotid-artery dissection. No surgery was required and blood thinners were not used, Speed Skating Canada said.

A federation spokesman said Monday that Morrison seems to be in good shape and is hopeful that he'll soon be able to return home. The team's medical staff have been in touch with doctors who treated Morrison in Utah and they're hoping to examine him later this week in Calgary.

Dr. Thomas L. Forbes, a professor of surgery and chair of the division of vascular surgery at the University of Toronto, said it can often take up to half a year for a blood vessel to recover in cases such as this.

"The vast majority of patients - regardless of whether they're an elite athlete or a weekend warrior - will do well after a carotid dissection because these are most often related to car accidents," Forbes said. "It's usually the other injuries in the car accident that are of more concern. But this being an isolated event, certainly the odds are in his favour that he would have complete recovery and at some point would be able to return to normal activities for him.

"But again, generally it takes three to six months for these to heal on average."

The stroke came less than a year after Morrison was involved in a near-fatal motorcycle accident. He suffered a concussion, a bruised liver and kidneys, two bone fractures and a torn knee ligament.

Morrison still managed to return to action last month at the Canada Cup in Calgary. It was the final international speed-skating event of the season.

The 30-year-old from Fort St. John, B.C., recently completed a month of mountain bike touring on the Arizona Trail. He was spending some free time around the Utah capital with teammate and girlfriend Josie Spence when she noticed signs he wasn't doing well.

Spence, a certified lifeguard, drove him to hospital and advised medical staff with the national team.

It wasn't immediately clear whether Morrison had a recent fall or any kind of trauma.

"It would be unusual that this would be the first symptoms of a carotid dissection that occurred 11 months ago," Forbes said. "More mild levels of trauma can cause these. So whether while biking there was a hyperextension of his neck or twisting of his neck or even a fall during the biking, it could be something like that."

Morrison and Spence were not available for comment.

A carotid dissection occurs when blood burrows between the layers of a blood vessel, Forbes said. It can occur anywhere in the body but the carotid artery is a common area.

"Most commonly it occurs after trauma," he said. "The most common time we'll see it is in the early stages after a car accident where there is a significant sort of whiplash-type mechanism. They can also occur spontaneously in people who have not had trauma.

"But with those people, then we're concerned about some kind of underlying abnormality of their blood vessels - like a connective tissue disorder."

The chances of having a similar issue in the future don't usually occur in cases like this, Forbes added.

"Generally not, unless someone was in the very small proportion of the population that had an underlying problem with their arteries ... but I would bet against that with [Morrison], given he's been an elite athlete for so many years."

The Canadian long track speed skating team begins off-ice training next week. On-ice work will likely start in June and the season traditionally begins in early fall.

Morrison has won four Olympic medals over his career, including a team pursuit gold at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

Associated Graphic

Canadian speed skater Denny Morrison, seen in Calgary in March, was taken to hospital Saturday in Salt Lake City, Utah, and tests confirmed a brain blood clot and carotid-artery dissection.


The Associated Press
Monday, April 25, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S2

Spurs 116, Grizzlies 95 (San Antonio wins series 4-0) Memphis - Kawhi Leonard scored 21 points as the San Antonio Spurs routed the Memphis Grizzlies 116-95 on Sunday, sweeping the best-ofseven series and advancing to the Western Conference semifinals. The Spurs finished off their ninth sweep of a postseason series in franchise history, their third against the Grizzlies. San Antonio also swept Memphis in the 2004 first round and the 2013 Western Conference finals.

The only thing that delayed the Spurs advancing was a power surge that knocked out the lights, stopping the game for about 20 minutes in the second quarter.

San Antonio now awaits the winner of Oklahoma City-Dallas.

LaMarcus Aldridge scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Spurs. Tony Parker added 16 points. David West had 11. Lance Stephenson scored 26 points off the bench for the Grizzlies.

Warriors 121, Rockets 94 (Golden State leads series 3-1) Houston - Klay Thompson scored 23 points and the Golden State Warriors set an NBA playoff record with 21 threepointers to overcome another injury to Stephen Curry and beat the Houston Rockets 12194 for a 3-1 series lead.

Curry returned after missing two games with a sprained right ankle, but did not play in the second half after spraining his right knee.

Golden State was just fine without him thanks to threepoint shooting that led to a 41point third quarter. The Warriors bested the NBA record they shared for threes in a playoff game when Brandon Rush made one from the top of the key with about 21/2 minutes left.

Dwight Howard led Houston with 19 points and 15 rebounds. James Harden had 18 points, 10 assists and seven steals.

Celtics 104, Hawks 95 (OT) (Series tied 2-2) Boston - Isaiah Thomas scored 28 points, hitting a corner three-pointer with 30 seconds left in overtime and then adding a pair of clinching free throws as the Boston Celtics beat the Hawks 104-95 on Sunday night to send their firstround playoff series back to Atlanta tied two games each.

Paul Millsap scored 45 for the Hawks - a career playoff high and one off his all-time best - and added 13 rebounds.

Marcus Smart scored 20 points and Jonas Jerebko had 10 rebounds for Boston.

Game 5 is Tuesday night in Atlanta.

Arrieta no-hits Reds in rout
The Associated Press
Friday, April 22, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S2

CINCINNATI -- Jake Arrieta of the Chicago Cubs pitched his second no-hitter in a span of 11 regular-season starts, shutting down the Cincinnati Reds in a 16-0 rout Thursday night.

The reigning NL Cy Young winner threw the first no-hitter of the Major League Baseball season.

Arrieta (4-0) struck out six, walked four and allowed only six balls hit out of the infield. He threw 119 pitches, retiring Eugenio Suarez on a routine flyball to right field to end it.

Arrieta also no-hit the Dodgers 2-0 last Aug. 30, part of one of the best pitching stretches in club history.

The Reds hadn't been held hitless in a regular-season game since 1971, when Rick Wise did it for Philadelphia at Riverfront Stadium. In the 2010 NL playoffs, Roy Halladay of the Phillies pitched a no-hitter against Cincinnati.

Arrieta is the first Cubs pitcher to win his first four starts in a season since Greg Maddux went 5-0 in 2006. Ken Holtzman is the only other Cubs pitcher to throw more than one no-hitter in the modern era, doing it in 1969 and 1971.

Kris Bryant homered twice, including a grand slam, and drove in six runs. Arrieta contributed a pair of singles and a walk as the Cubs pulled away.

The 16-run margin approached the most-lopsided victory in major league history. In 1884, Pud Galvin and Buffalo beat the Detroit Wolverines 18-0, STATS said.

The Associated Press
Friday, April 29, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S2

Chicago -- The Los Angeles Rams have selected California quarterback Jared Goff with the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, and the No. 2 selection for the Philadelphia Eagles is North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz.

It's the second straight year that two QBs were the first names off the board. It's the seventh time in the modern era of the draft since 1967.

The 6-foot-4 Goff started every game during his three seasons at California and set school records with 977 completions, 12,220 yards passing and 96 touchdown passes. The Rams traded with Tennessee to get the pick.

Wentz led the Bison to their fifth consecutive FCS championship in January. He passed for 1,651 yards and 17 touchdowns during his senior year that was shortened by a broken right wrist.

Philadelphia acquired the No. 2 selection in a trade with Cleveland last Wednesday. It's the first opening-round quarterback for the Eagles since they grabbed Donovan McNabb with the No. 2 pick in the 1999 draft.

Associated Graphic

Jared Goff, left, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell pose after the QB was selected as the first draft pick on Thursday.


Buzz killer
Friday, April 29, 2016 – Print Edition, Page P14

Summer in bug country makes remorseless killers of us all. We resort, without moral qualm, to chemical warfare against the buzzing fiends that bear down on exposed flesh. The nuclear option in this annual battle is Muskol, born of the Nova Scotia fishing grounds frequented by Charles Coll, a New Glasgow entrepreneur and outdoorsman. Legend has it that Coll came up with the formulation in 1951 after mixing some paint in his basement workshop. News of the repellent's properties spread by word of mouth, and eight years later he registered the name Muskol with the Nova Scotia government. By 1978, he was a millionaire woodsman whose fishing adventures made the pages of The Globe and Mail. The business slipped out of family hands in 1982, the same year Coll died. Bayer Inc. has since swallowed up the bug-dope company, but still formulates the repellent in Canada, at a factory near Toronto. Just as importantly, the brand maintains a sense of heritage: To this day, every bottle or can of Muskol bears the face and signature of Charles Coll. /Patrick White

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Proportion of DEET in Muskol, which is supposed to keep bugs at bay for up to six hours

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Number of black fly species found in Canada

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THIS STEEL MOSQUITO, WITH A 4.6-METRE WINGSPAN, is the main attraction in Komarno, Manitoba, hailed as the Mosquito Capital of the World. Komarno means "mosquito-infested" in Ukrainian.

Associated Graphic


Crime and no punishment
Saturday, April 23, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1

OTTAWA -- In the final frames of the movie The Big Short, the narrator laments that no one on Wall Street ever went to jail for fraud in connection with the 2008 financial meltdown.

Canada's Sino-Forest scandal is headed for a similar denouement.

More than four years after Canada's largest publicly traded forest products company collapsed under the weight of fraud allegations, top Sino-Forest executives are about to face the music.

Ya, not so much.

The final chapter in this sad saga is being played out before an Ontario Securities Commission panel, where lawyers began making their closing arguments this week in one of the longest and most complex securities cases in Canadian history.

In the mid-2000s, Sino-Forest was one of the hottest stocks on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The company took in $3-billion from investors and eventually reached a market value of $6-billion.

There isn't a trace of most of that money now, and the company's few remaining assets are in the hands of bondholders.

There isn't much sign of real justice in this case. Even if found to have committed fraud, former Sino-Forest chief executive officer Allen Chan and four top executives won't be going to jail because they haven't been criminally charged.

The OSC could fine them, but since all five of the defendants are Chinese citizens living in China, the chance of the OSC collecting anything is virtually nil. The most severe sanction the men face - a lifetime ban from Canadian capital markets - would also be meaningless because the men are unlikely ever to resume business activities in Canada.

It's a safe bet that Mr. Chan and his colleagues aren't losing much sleep over any of this.

The OSC did not have the power to make them appear at the panel hearings and it has limited powers to investigate wrongdoing outside Canada.

So, the case has quietly played out between lawyers for the OSC and the defendants, with little drama or intrigue in front of a near-empty hearing room on most days.

So why does the OSC even bother? The securities watchdog has devoted enormous time and resources to the investigation. So far, the hearings have lasted more than 170 days over nearly two years and involved thousands of exhibits. That's unfortunately typical of securities fraud proceedings.

It does seem like an awful lot of effort in pursuit of a company that, by all indications, was mostly a mirage.

The company purported to own 500,000 hectares of timber, all of it in China, valued at $2.5-billion (U.S.) in 2010.

Unfortunately, there weren't any trees. Neither the OSC nor an independent committee of the Sino-Forest board could find evidence that Sino-Forest owned any timber.

As OSC lawyer Hugh Craig told the hearing: "If you cannot find the trees, you can't prove existence, let alone ownership and value." He said there was very little evidence that the company's main timber operations did any "real business."

The company would report massive timber deals to investors, but no money actually moved through the company.

The heart of the OSC case is that Sino-Forest was a multibillion-dollar pile of nothing.

Through their lawyers, the former Sino-Forest executives have blamed low-level employees for providing them with inaccurate information about the company's assets. At other times, they blamed the OSC's lack of understanding of China's cultural and business practices.

The allegations against the men include fraudulent overstatement of assets, falsified evidence of ownership, and undisclosed control of both its suppliers and customers.

The OSC may well win the case.

But it would be a Pyrrhic victory - a flimsy deterrent to others who might try to dupe Canadian investors with empty promises. A finding against Mr. Chan and his colleagues won't offer much comfort to investors.

Maybe it's all about upholding the reputation of the OSC - a demonstration by the OSC that it won't tolerate white-collar crime and will aggressively pursue fraud cases, no matter how complex.

Instead, the case has exposed gaps in Canada's securities regulation regime - particularly when key elements of an alleged fraud occur in other countries, where authorities may be unwilling to co-operate.

Mr. Chan is probably smiling right now, confident that his Canadian misadventure won't come back to bite him.

Whatever happens, Sino-Forest will be an enduring stain on Canada's financial markets.

Investors betting on energy recovery
Monday, April 25, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1

CALGARY -- Economic Insight

Energy investors are looking past the financial carnage left by oil's collapse to tentative signs of recovery in the sector.

First-quarter results start rolling out this week and the numbers are expected to be grim, marred by hefty losses and heightened concern over debt levels as banks trim credit lines and industrywide cash flow remains anemic.

But investors are wagering on a recovery, even as some companies remain under extreme financial duress. The Toronto Stock Exchange energy subindex has climbed by roughly one-third since mid-February, when U.S. crude sank to a 12-year low of about $26 (U.S.) a barrel.

Oil prices have rebounded despite a failed deal by top exporters to tackle a global glut, with support coming from slowing production in the United States and strengthening demand for gasoline. U.S. benchmark West Texas intermediate oil closed up 1.3 per cent Friday at $43.73 a barrel, capping its third week of gains.

Some companies are now keen to revive dormant drilling plans, betting that a recovery is at hand.

Earlier this month, Calgary-based Whitecap Resources Inc. more than doubled its budget and boosted its production outlook for the year, although it chopped its dividend by 40 per cent.

"Some of them will probably want to wait for firmer pricing, but in general most [exploration and production companies] are more constructive going forward," said Laura Lau, senior portfolio manager at Brompton Funds in Toronto.

"Most people see that the supply-demand imbalance is starting to get back into balance, so they're getting more positive in general."

The industry is far from out of the woods. Drilling activity in Western Canada plunged 46 per cent in the first three months of 2016 to a 30-year low, as producer spending ground to a halt.

By mid-April, there were only 38 rigs working heading into what is considered the industry's lean months, said analysts at investment dealer Peters & Co. Ltd. That's down from a mid-January high of 244 rigs, the lowest and earliest seasonal peak on record, they said.

The drop has sapped revenue at oil-field service companies, prompting deeper cuts and pushing others into seek protection from creditors.

Last week, Mullen Group Ltd. slashed its monthly dividend by roughly 63 per cent, to 3 cents a share, effective in May. It said first-quarter revenue plunged by about 20 per cent and that it has now shed more than 650 staff in a little more than one year.

Meanwhile, privately held hydraulic fracturing firm Sanjel Corp., as well as Alberta-based ATK Oilfield Transportation Inc., were pushed into receivership after skipping debt payments.

Others are expected to follow as banks tighten lending restrictions.

In downtown Calgary, executives will host annual shareholder meetings following a three-month stretch that saw U.S. crude average $33.63 a barrel, its lowest level in 50 quarters.

Western Canadian Select oil sands crude slumped to $26.38 (Canadian) a barrel versus $43 in the first quarter of 2015.

Companies are also grappling with a sharp deterioration in natural gas prices owing to bloated storage levels. Alberta natural gas fetched $1.24 a gigajoule on Friday, down from $2.47 a year ago, according to the NGX electronic exchange.

Citibank analysts said large, integrated oil producers are expected to post losses, hampered by weak margins from their refining, or downstream, operations.

Husky Energy Inc. reports its first-quarter results on April 25.

The other publicly traded refiners, Cenovus Energy Inc. and Suncor Energy Inc., release numbers on April 27. Imperial Oil Ltd. reports on April 29.

Analysts are also watching for updates on cost savings and asset sales, and for companies to bolster their financial hedges as the outlook for future oil prices starts to brighten.

Despite global stockpiles remaining swollen, there is a growing consensus that oil markets will not retest February's lows, said FirstEnergy Capital Corp. analyst Martin King.

"It's just a question of grinding our way through and letting all the cuts to the capital programs and everything else just take their toll," he said.

Real estate board hit by competition ruling
Competition Tribunal finds Toronto Real Estate Board unfairly restricts access to data on home sales
Friday, April 29, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1

In a decision that is expected to be a game-changer for Canada's housing industry, Ottawa's Competition Tribunal has ruled that the country's largest real estate board engaged in anti-competitive practices by restricting the way its brokers share home sales data with clients and the public.

The tribunal confirmed in a statement that a three-member panel had issued a confidential ruling partly granting the Competition Bureau's lawsuit against the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB). The tribunal has yet to issue its full decision publicly, but said it had ruled that the real estate board was stifling competition by restricting the ability of online brokerages to electronically access and publicly display data from the Multiple Listings Service. The MLS is a member-only data feed that offers non-public details about resale listings, such as the number of days a home has been on the market and the home's current and previous selling prices.

The panel ruled that TREB's restrictions "have substantially reduced the degree of non-price competition" in real estate services in the Greater Toronto Area.

"Most importantly, this includes a considerable adverse impact on innovation, quality and the range of residential real estate brokerage services that likely would be offered in the GTA."

In a statement, Competition Commissioner John Pecman cheered the ruling, calling it "a good day for competition and innovation."

Both TREB and the Canadian Real Estate Association, which have argued that allowing realtors to publish automated electronic home sales data would violate the privacy of buyers and sellers, said they were still studying the long and detailed ruling.

Realtors said the decision will likely pave the way for digital disruption of the country's housing industry by allowing online brokerages to offer the public far more details about the local housing market. As a federal body, the tribunal's decisions will likely have implications for other local real estate boards in Canada that have similar restrictions on their own MLS data.

"It's a new beginning for the real estate industry and consumers in Canada," said Bill McMullin, founder of Viewpoint Realty, a site that republishes homes sales data in Nova Scotia, one of few provinces to allow access to MLS data.

The ruling will likely help his efforts to expand his business outside of Nova Scotia, he said.

Under the current Toronto real estate board regulations, online brokerages can only provide data to subscribers, not on publicly accessible websites, and only with the permission of the buyer and seller. Last year, Toronto's real estate board sent letters to its members threatening to cut off access to the MLS for some virtual brokers that it warned were violating the rules.

The tribunal said it plans to hold a new round of hearings before issuing its final order. But realtors expect the ruling would ultimately require TREB to expand the electronic data feed it offers to members to include details that many buyers and sellers care about, such as the sale price of a home and how many days it was on the market.

Tarik Gidamy of online brokerage TheRedPin Inc. expects the ruling will open the door to technological innovation in Canada's real estate industry, which has long resisted the broader move toward low-fee, automated online services happening in many other industries. "There's so much of that data that's just golden and raw where companies like ours want to innovate technologically to give people really easy readable information," he said.

Several realtors challenged the concern that the ruling would undermine commissions.

John Pasalis, president of brokerage Realosophy Realty Inc., pointed to the U.S. experience, where a 2008 Department of Justice settlement with the National Association of Realtors allowed low-cost online brokerages access to MLS data, helping to create popular sites such as Zillow and Redfin. But the move has yet to shift a significant share of buyers away from using full-service commissioned realtors, he said.

Oil firms seek détente with environmental groups
Wednesday, April 27, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1

OTTAWA -- Energy & Resources

Canada's biggest oil sands producers are in discussions with some leading environmental groups in an effort to parlay the companies' support for Alberta's climate policy into reduced opposition to the industry and its proposed pipelines.

Executives of four companies - Suncor Energy Inc., Cenovus Energy Inc., Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., and RoyalDutch Shell PLC - have held meetings with prominent environmentalists with whom they shared a stage when Premier Rachel Notley unveiled her climate plan last fall.

Ms. Notley met with the federal Liberal cabinet at its retreat in Kananaskis, Alta., this week to press for approval for pipelines that would get Alberta crude to new markets by way of the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau supports the industry's goal of reaching new markets, but reiterated on Tuesday that it must be done sustainably, and with the support of First Nations and communities along the route.

Mr. Trudeau restated his opposition to Enbridge Inc.'s Northern Gateway project, saying the Great Bear Rainforest in northern B.C. should not be traversed by a heavy-oil pipeline.

Political and industry sources say the Liberals are eager to approve at least one pipeline, but it remains unclear how much political capital they would expend to override objections outside Alberta. Liberal officials have sent a message to environmentalists that the NDP Premier needs approval for pipelines to secure support for climate action in her province and to boost her political fortunes against the conservative Wildrose Party opposition.

Ms. Notley and Mr. Trudeau have argued that aggressive climate action would help win public support for the industry.

Environmental organizations are now more divided than they were when they could rally against the former Conservative government's inaction on climate regulations. Several organizations continue to campaign against pipelines, over both climate concerns and the potential impact of oil spills and tanker traffic.

Suncor has been meeting with environmentalists since 2014 looking for a way to break out of the polarized debate and sees some common ground forming around the need for climate action. "We're very pleased with where we are right now," Arlene Strom, Suncor's vice-president for sustainability, said on Tuesday.

"We are in this for the long term.

We want climate policy that helps us be carbon competitive and cost competitive and helps us to open up new markets for our products."

But the industry continues to face staunch opposition to pipeline proposals. It is waiting to see whether the province's climate policies - and indeed federal commitments - help build support from the public, said Terry Abel, director for oil sands at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. "We're trying to speak to the ones who want to see clearly demonstrated the resources are developed responsibly and transported to market in a safe and responsible manner."

One prominent environmental group, Calgary-based Pembina Institute, has shifted ground since the Liberals were elected on the promise of climate action and Ms. Notley released her policy. Pembina is now more focused on working with government to fulfill the promises than on campaigning against projects, executive director Ed Whittingham said.

"Our concerns have focus on what pipelines would do to increase upstream [greenhouse gas] emissions," he said. The Alberta climate policy puts a cap on those emissions and provides an incentive for producers to drive down their emissions, although he said the provincial plan still allows for emissions growth from the industry and no reductions for the next 15 years, even as Canada has committed to cut GHGs by 30 per cent from 2005 levels over that period.

Toronto-based Environmental Defence's executive director, Tim Gray, stood on the stage with Ms. Notley and the oil company CEOs, but his group maintains its opposition to new pipelines. Mr. Gray said he supported Alberta's effort, but believes the industry cannot continue to expand emissions if Canada is to meet its international commitments.

Building a better battery
Thursday, April 28, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1

Jeff Dahn's battery-research group at Dalhousie University in Halifax is about to begin a long-term project for Tesla Motors Inc., helping the electric car company's batteries hold more charge, last longer and become cheaper to manufacture.

Prof. Dahn and his students have been working for years on ways to make lithium-ion batteries more efficient, but the Tesla partnership, which was unveiled last year and begins this June, has boosted his lab's profile sharply.

Interest in its research, which could help accelerate the shift off fossil fuels, has blossomed.

"When the Tesla announcement was made ... my e-mail box went bananas, especially with students interested in doing graduate work, because Tesla is very recognizable," Prof.

Dahn said. His work includes developing better battery electrodes and creating devices that measure how long a lithium-ion battery will last.

It's not only Tesla that has recognized Prof. Dahn's work as an important contributor to technology, and society as a whole. He is one of six winners of the first annual GovernorGeneral's Innovation Awards that are being named Thursday.

The award program, first announced last summer by Governor-General David Johnston, highlights innovators who have boosted Canada's quality of life. The idea is to shine a light on all kinds of innovation and inspire young people to see the value of doing creative work.

The overall goal is to "change the culture in the country, to enhance the notion of innovation, and to help Canadians see themselves as an innovative nation," Mr. Johnston said in an interview. One reason he pushed for the establishment of the award was that he was worried Canadians might have become too complacent, and he wasn't sure that "we embrace change with sufficient enthusiasm."

The list of winners, in addition to Prof. Dahn, includes four individuals or organizations working in the medical field, ranging from a maker of robotic arms to a researcher who developed a burn treatment using nanotechnology. Another winner, Métis visual artist Christi Belcourt, was honoured for her innovative use of artwork to raise awareness of violence against indigenous women.

"We really do believe that we should cover the full spectrum of innovation," Mr. Johnston said, including social innovation.

"Certainly artistic and communication innovation should be very much a part of how we look at changes in our society."

Prof. Dahn, who helped create a spinoff company that makes high-precision equipment to measure the potential lifespan of lithium-ion cells, said stable research funding is one key to performing innovative work.

He also said arrangements with industry - such as his partnership with Tesla and earlier work with 3M Co. - help with innovation because it means he is "working on the problems that matter ... it puts one foot on the ground."

Essentially, these partnerships ensure "that our work has commercial relevance and relevance to society."

But the most precious resource for innovators is still "to have the time to think," he said.

Prof. Dahn said the GovernorGeneral's awards will help underline that there is very innovative work being done all across Canada. "It will be great for the Canadian public to see what is happening [and] what these six winners have done. I think people will be proud," he said.

The Governor-General's Innovation Awards will be presented at a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on May 19. The Globe and Mail is one of the partners involved in the awards.

Associated Graphic

Jeff Dahn and his students have spent the past several years working on ways to extend the life of lithium-ion batteries.


Alphabet, Microsoft miss targets
Reuters, Associated Press
Friday, April 22, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1

Tech . Telecom . Media

Disappointing results reported by Alphabet Inc. and Microsoft Inc. Thursday added to concerns about headwinds facing some big players in the technology sector.

Google's parent Alphabet Inc. missed Wall Street targets for first-quarter profit and revenue, driving shares of the Web search company down more than 4 per cent in late trading on Thursday.

Alphabet, the world's No. 2 publicly traded company by market capitalization, said consolidated revenue rose to $20.26billion (U.S.) from $17.26-billion.

That was slightly below the $20.37-billion analyst consensus, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Earnings per share of $7.50, excluding one-time items, missed the analyst target of $7.97.

Rosenblatt Securities analyst Martin Pyykkonen said the effect of foreign currency was worse for Alphabet than expected.

"If there had been a little better foreign currency translation, it would have been better than the Street consensus," he said.

On a conference call after the earnings announcement, Alphabet chief financial officer Ruth Porat said, "As a result of the ongoing strength of the U.S. dollar, we realized a negative currency impact on our revenues year-over-year of $762-million, or $593-million after the benefit of our hedging program."

Cost-per-click, or the average price of online ads, fell 9 per cent in the quarter ended March 31.

Google's advertising revenue increased 16.2 per cent to $18.02billion, while the number of ads, or paid clicks, rose 29 per cent, the company said.

Losses increased at the company's Other Bets business, which includes its broadband business Google Fiber, home automation products Nest, self-driving cars and X - the company's research facility that works on "moon shot" ventures.

The loss widened to $802-million, up from $633-million a year earlier. Revenue rose to $166-million from $80-million.

Alphabet's net income rose to $4.21-billion, or $6.02 per Class A and B share and Class C capital stock, from $3.52-billion, or $5.10 per share. The company's shares fell to $744.21 in after-hours trade from a close of $780.

Separately, in a sign that Microsoft is still finding its way in the post-PC era, the tech giant reported a surprise drop in quarterly sales and profit.

Wall Street was expecting the company to show positive results from a series of changes that CEO Satya Nadella has been making in Microsoft's business. Instead, revenue for the January-March quarter fell 6 per cent to $20.5-billion, while profit plunged 25 per cent to $3.76-billion.

While sales of personal computers have been sliding for the past four years, Mr. Nadella has been working to make Microsoft less dependent on revenue from its flagship Windows operating system, used mostly on PCs.

Microsoft said its revenue from Windows software licences declined 2 per cent in the March quarter, after adjusting for currency fluctuations. That's better than the overall drop in PC shipments, which analysts at the Gartner research firm estimated at nearly 10 per cent.

But revenue from business software and Internet-based services, known as cloud computing, didn't grow as much as many analysts expected.

Microsoft said it earned 47 cents a share for the fiscal third quarter, or 62 cents after adjusting for onetime charges. Analysts surveyed by FactSet were expecting adjusted earnings of 64 cents a share and revenue of $22.1-billion.

Microsoft shares were down more than 5 per cent in afterhours trading, after closing Thursday at $55.78.

Markets, economy send mixed signals
Scotia's Porter says economy remains on solid ground
Saturday, February 13, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1

Brian Porter, chief executive officer at Bank of Nova Scotia, offered an optimistic view of the economy, arguing in a speech that there is a "disconnect" between turbulent financial markets and the actual performance of the economy.

But he cautioned that the federal government must step up with a significant investment in infrastructure to create much-needed jobs, tapping into concerns expressed elsewhere that monetary stimulus from central banks is no longer enough to bolster economic activity.

"We support the Trudeau government's commitment to make sizable investments in infrastructure," Mr. Porter said in remarks delivered to the Canadian Club of Toronto on Friday.

"And, during this time of slower economic growth, we would encourage the government to boost the amount and timing of these investments," he said, pointing specifically to the proposed Energy East pipeline and more broadly to projects that can move people, ideas and resources.

His comments follow an unsettling period of market volatility, raising questions about the health of the global economy.

The benchmark Canadian stock index has fallen more than 20 per cent from its recent high, or a decline known as a bear market.

At the same time, oil prices have slumped below $30 (U.S.) a barrel, the Canadian dollar has plummeted to a decade-low of about 72 cents (U.S.) and slim bond yields are reflecting deep concern about economic activity as investors seek safety in government bonds.

"Business leaders and consumers see all of this, which is then amplified through the media, with dire warnings and premature talk of recession," Mr. Porter said. "This only fuels a negative cycle."

However, he said the troubling market indicators are at odds with modest economic growth and upbeat views among businesses, creating what he believes is the widest discrepancy between markets and real activity since the 1980s.

"This disconnect is unsettling, and threatens business and consumer confidence." He added that in meetings with the bank's commercial customers, which have operations around the world, they tell him that their businesses are performing well.

"They're investing in their businesses and in new technology.

They're hiring new employees.

And on average, they're feeling optimistic about the future."

He also believes that Canada's economy is adjusting to the lower dollar and depressed commodity prices and is becoming more diversified.

Markets appeared to back him up on Friday. The S&P/TSX composite index and oil surged, following a rise in U.S. retail sales in January and news of a possible oil-production cut by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, suggesting that markets may have become too dour in their outlook.

Mr. Porter said the Canadian government has been making the right decisions to help boost domestic economic activity - for example, by signing the TransPacific Partnership agreement.

"The agreement will link Canadian goods, services and investments to more than 800 million consumers. It will also help to solidify Canada's advantageous position within the NAFTA supply chain." But more can be done.

He argued that a strong trading network won't mean as much if Canadian businesses lack the proper infrastructure to take advantage of it, and pipelines rank as a high priority even when oil prices are depressed. He cited a study from the Conference Board of Canada that concluded the proposed Energy East pipeline will create tens of thousands of jobs and inject tens of billions of dollars into the economy.

"And it would also help to address Canada's startling lack of energy infrastructure in an environmentally responsible way."

Associated Graphic


EDC slashes export forecast
Tuesday, April 26, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1

OTTAWA -- Canada's predicted export turnaround has been delayed - again.

Export Development Canada has slashed its forecast of goods exports this year to 2 per cent, down from a previous estimate of 7 per cent.

A cluster of Canadian sectors is likely to do very well this year, including autos, consumer goods, aerospace and machinery-and-equipment, according to a twice-yearly forecast by EDC, the federal government's export lender.

But that strength is being offset by a commodities price collapse that is proving to be unexpectedly deep and prolonged, EDC chief economist Peter Hall said.

"What's surprising is the extent of the volatility, the extent of the commodities price plunge, and the reactions in the marketplace to the [U.S. Federal Reserve Board] finally moving to raise rates," Mr. Hall pointed out.

He insisted that the export recovery is coming, but it's been delayed. EDC is calling for 6-percent export growth in 2017.

"Perhaps more slowly than in the past, but growth is catching on," he said. "Now is pretty close to the time our leading indicators would tell us growth is about to kick in."

The EDC's weaker export outlook is in line with that of Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz, who is also cautious about the year ahead. Mr. Poloz has been warning that a long list of obstacles could derail Canada's economic prospects, including a downturn in the global economy, weak business investment and a recent rebound in the Canadian dollar.

Canada's economy continues to show evidence of a split personality.

On the up side, Mr. Hall pointed to strong expected gains this year in exports of autos (up 10 per cent), forestry (up 5 per cent), aerospace (up 13 per cent) and consumer goods (up 14 per cent).

All of these sectors are getting a lift from the lower value of the Canadian dollar.

"The weaker Canadian dollar is starting to show in the growth in Canadian exports, particularly the high value-added ones," Mr. Hall said.

But that performance is muted by what's happening in the depressed energy sector, where exports are expected to tumble 14 per cent this year. The EDC's forecast is based on an average price of crude (West Texas intermediate) of $40 (U.S.) this year, $45 in 2017 and $54 in 2018. Exports of fertilizers are also weak, now forecast to fall by 5 per cent this year.

The export sector is vitally important to Canada's fortunes because the domestic economy is showing signs of stress, including an overbuilt housing market and tapped out consumers.

"The domestic economy is fundamentally weak in Canada," Mr. Hall said. "It's going to need the export sector - every bit of growth to keep things going."

Associated Graphic


Toronto speeds up Indiana's downhill slide
Led by resurgent DeRozan, Raps romp to only their fifth road playoff win in the history of the franchise
Friday, April 22, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S3


Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey was born in this city, and raised just over the state line in rural Kentucky.

His mother was an Indiana Pacers fan. His brother and sister are Pacers fans. The local paper had him run through his native bona fides, name-checking streets and recalling the creek he used to chuck rocks into.

"The Pacers legacy is still in [my] family," Casey said. "Except when they play [Casey-coached teams] Seattle, Dallas and now Toronto."

As it pertains to basketball, Indiana is close to the main folkloric source. They've got the history. What have the Raptors got?

At the moment, everything else.

Led by a resurgent DeMar DeRozan, Toronto came to Indiana and embarrassed the series' pedigree franchise. Unless something changes in a hurry, inertia has got on top of the Pacers and is now carrying them downhill at a jarring and accelerating rate.

Looking completely untroubled and on-point at every position and in every phase of the game, the Raptors dismantled the Pacers 101-85. You have to reach back to the brightest point in franchise history - the 2001 postseason - to locate a Toronto team with a 2-1 series advantage in the playoffs.

Exactly how unusual was Thursday's result? It was only the fifth road playoff game won by the Toronto organization. Ever.

Assuming you are rooting for the Raptors, you will know how it feels to be a Pacers fan right now. You lived it for 20 years.

Asked ahead of the game whether he'd yet seen the best from his opponents, Frank Vogel, the irrepressible flibbertigibbet who coaches the Pacers, said, "No."

When he realized everyone was hoping to hear something slightly more expansive, he segued into a small soliloquy about DeRozan's as-yet unrealized capabilities.

A couple of hours later, Vogel got what he wasn't wishing for.

DeRozan had been miserable in the first two games, neither making his shots nor getting to the line. In the first quarter here, he had 12 points and shot six free throws. By the simple eye test, he seemed to be moving more freely, doing what he wanted to do when he wanted to do it. The Pacers have only one discernible X factor - Paul George. When he is operating at his best, DeRozan offsets it.

While DeRozan and friends were going off, the crowd was beginning to lose it. The Bankers Life Fieldhouse is one of the great environments in the NBA.

It has that hothouse atmosphere that can only be created in arenas that are built for a single sporting purpose. The residents don't like being shown up, and especially not by visitors flying under foreign flags.

The tone was set in the early going, when the anthem singer flubbed the lyrics to O Canada.

As the Raptors began to dominate the game and the calls started going against them, the crowd got surly. But in a totally Midwestern way.

"These. Refs. Suck," they chanted. These people will allow themselves the luxury of rage, but they want to be crude. There are children to think of.

At one break in play, someone appeared to toss a small, souvenir basketball at Casey. Showing his own Indiana roots, the coach walked out onto the court, retrieved the ball and tried to give it back.

A few more "bad" calls.

"You're pitiful," one well-exercised gentleman bellowed. "Go back to Canada, ref!"

Since lead official James Capers Jr. is from Chicago, that will be a refugee hearing worth keeping track of.

The Pacers players seemed overtaken by the emotion of their fans. At one point, Rodney Stuckey tried to kick Patrick Patterson. In keeping with the night's theme, he missed. He got a technical anyway.

As the home crowd stewed, Toronto's travelling support was on its feet, rubbing it in. They were scattered about the arena in small red-and-black pockets, but clearly audible throughout. It is amazing how unsettled any crowd of 20,000 becomes when it realizes its being out-cheered by a couple of hundred dissenters.

It's a sort of de facto heckling that is so rare in North American sports.

Since basketball is a game of runs, you knew the Pacers were going to mount at least one. It came at the start of the second half. Fielding their starting lineup - one that now looks like their weakest (but not exactly weak) alignment - Toronto weathered it. A 17-point half-time advantage was whittled, but never taken under double digits.

It has been a worrying habit of the Raptors over the past couple of seasons to give back big leads.

More often than not, they hold on, but they do love to inject some theatre into what should be dreary, one-sided games. Not on Thursday. This was front-toback dominance.

When Kyle Lowry picked up a bobbled ball and sank an offbalance three with the shot clock hitting zero, the audience had had enough. Though there were five minutes left in the game, a third of crowd got up and left during the next timeout.

"We still believe!" the arena MC screamed. Well, maybe he did.

But he's on the payroll.

The Raptors didn't just look good. They looked calm. Indiana looked the opposite of that.

There was nothing in their performance to suggest a Pacers letdown. Rather, they were simply overmatched.

If you've ever been here, this city has the salt-of-the-earth feel America hopes it projects from sea-to-sea, but sometimes can't.

The effect is so genuine; it can sometimes drift charmingly into satire.

Only this state would have small, humble-bragging advertisements papered around their arena, including such superlatives as "Second largest FedEx hub in the world," "AAA credit rating from all 3 agencies" and "Non-stop international freight service to Asia."

Hashtag IN(diana)Works.

I'm sure that's true. It certainly has been in the past when it comes to basketball specifically.

But not in this venue, and not right now.

Follow me on Twitter: @cathalkelly

Associated Graphic

Toronto Raptors centre Bismack Biyombo dunks over Indiana Pacers forward Myles Turner during the first half of Game 3 in Indianapolis on Thursday.


Raptors take Game 5 to come within one win of the second round of the NBA playoffs
Wednesday, April 27, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S3

Over the past calendar year, Toronto sports has enjoyed some remarkable curse-breaking moments - that seventh inning, the bat flip; the time the Leafs resisted the urge to trade for a 50-year-old with back spasms at the deadline.

On Tuesday, they managed another - reversing the spell of Paul George.

The Indiana Pacers' unsmiling assassin was in the midst of one of his signature sporting crime rampages on local streets.

Standing on 37 points, he'd single-handedly stolen the game and probably the series. George was about to become another villain a whole city can't ever forget. The list is so long, Canada ought to have a Basketball Anti-Hall of Fame.

Then something happened that never happens to the Toronto Raptors in these situations - things started going right.

Over ten remarkable minutes spanning the third and fourth quarters, Toronto turned a 15point deficit into a six-point lead. Given all that had gone before, the 23-2 run may be the most unlikely in local history.

The sweetest part of it was watching Indiana's Rodney Stuckey get inexplicably tied up by his own legs, lose the ball out of bounds, followed by Terrence Ross - a player who has been zero-for-four billion from threepoint distance - sink his first trey of the game.

A few seconds later, Norman Powell stole a Pacers pass and ran the length of the floor for a jam. Tie game. That's when you knew.

Here were two guys who should not matter - the one who's perpetually a good run away from his breakthrough as a star and a rookie nobody rated - putting George et al in their place. If there is a special place in hell for players who disappear when it matters, they can be redeemed by just one run like that.

It ended in - of course - gutchurning fashion. DeMar DeRozan sank two free throws to give the Raptors a three-point lead with 14 seconds remaining. Solomon Hill sank a three-pointer to tie it, but was not able to get it off before the game clock expired. Toronto's 102-99 victory gives them a 3-2 series lead.

Do you believe in miracles?

Because this wasn't one, but it may have felt like it at the time.

This building is always loud at Raptors games. Over the past couple of years, it's gotten quieter in the playoffs. Having been burned too many times over that span, the fans here no longer let themselves celebrate.

The low point on Tuesday night might've been the supposedly neutral PA guy trying to lead a chant of "We. The. North." Along with the stencils on the free T-shirt giveaways - a fighting beaver and a flaming snowball (summoning to mind "a snowball's chance ...") - this was some pretty damning stuff even by Toronto standards. You could smell the humid stink of collapse in the air.

But then all the bad mojo of two years - the last-play block in Game 7 against the Nets; the capitulation in Washington - bled away. The Raptors did something they had not been able to do for a very long time when it actually mattered - will themselves to a win.

Until the end of the third, all the will had resided in just one man. Indiana's George had spent most of the series so far inside Toronto's head, it appeared the team would need a brain surgeon and a cranial saw to get him out.

For most of Game 6, he was at the peak of his gamesmanship.

As it has in every Raptors loss, it started with a stumble out of the gate.

The Raptors had repeatedly talked about the initial effort.

Coach Dwane Casey banged on the image of responding to a "punch in the mouth." Once again, the Raptors walked right into it.

A much hyped lineup change - lengthy forward super-sub Patrick Patterson for human slowmotion replay Luis Scola - imploded. Pushed out of sync, the Raptors couldn't find any rhythm. While the Pacers could find the extra pass, Toronto couldn't locate a first one.

The emblematic moments of the first quarter involved Kyle Lowry (being stripped of the ball as he stood with his back turned on an in-bounds pass shrieking at Bismack Biyombo) and Terrence Ross (being called for basket interference after picking a George Hill miss off his own rim while under no pressure).

The Raptors heard copious boos - a first in this building for a long while - as they walked off during a timeout. One quarter down, they were already trailing by 15.

A small adjustment in the second - allowing DeRozan to stay in the game with the second unit rather than Lowry - switched the momentum. As George watched glassily from the bench, DeRozan found some measure of the self he left behind in the regular season. Those were four good minutes that whittled the Indiana lead to single digits. That was as close as the Raptors have looked to the team everyone had hoped to see here.

But once George returned, the flood resumed.

A great deal has been said in this series about George's ability to elevate his game. That might not be the right way to look at it.

Instead, he diminishes his opponents' confidence. As he checks in, he may as well do so in a cloud of brimstone.

Labouring under the George curse, the Raptors couldn't seem to do anything right.

All the Raptors could do was needle him. That seemed to work.

Lowry dragged him to the ground as he chased a loose ball.

That goaded George into a foolish technical for retaliation. He nearly saw himself out of the contest in the third quarter, as he flipped out after more physical play. He responded in both instances with more great shooting, but faded badly in the fourth.

That's when the Raptors - finally, and for the first time since Game 5 in Toronto against Brooklyn - found their form.

The trick now will be maintaining it for just one more game.

Associated Graphic

Raptors guard Norman Powell slam dunks the ball during Tuesday's game against the Indiana Pacers in Toronto. The Raptors won 102-99.


Suspended Colabello denies wrongdoing
Pillar says drug-testing program need to be fine tuned and that first baseman 'fell victim to a technicality'
Saturday, April 23, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S3

TORONTO -- Shortly before 3:30 Friday afternoon, the doors to the Toronto Blue Jays clubhouse at Rogers Centre were closed for a playersonly meeting.

Inside the spacious room, Chris Colabello was coming clean on a serious matter that had been weighing him down for more than a month and was about to break into the public realm.

The 32-year-old first baseman admitted to his teammates that Major League Baseball was suspending him for 80 games after he tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug.

And Colabello is falling back on a familiar defence: that he has no idea how an illegal substance could be found in his system.

Shortly after his shocking admission, the news was verified through a statement issued by the office of MLB commissioner Rob Manfred that Colabello had been suspended without pay after testing positive for dehydrochlormethyltestosterone, an anabolic steroid.

The 80-game sentence is the minimum penalty that MLB hands out to first-time drug offenders.

"In some way I feel like, you know, Chris being able to tell everyone lifted a huge burden off him," said Blue Jays centre fielder Kevin Pillar, with whom Colabello had shared the bad news almost from the beginning.

"I think it's an extremely tough secret to hold onto for a long time," Pillar continued. "What he was going through is something that none of us can ever really experience and have to try to go out and play with what he was dealing with.

"The game's already hard enough as is. Him trying to go out on the field and try to hit with that 800-pound gorilla on his back, I can't even imagine what he was going through."

Colabello did not make himself available to reporters after the news broke.

Instead, he issued a statement that was released on his behalf by the MLB Players Association. In the statement Colabello said that he was informed of the positive test in March while the Blue Jays were still at spring training in Florida.

And he denied that he knowingly took a drug that is forbidden under MLB guidelines.

"On March 13, I got one of the scariest and most definitely the least expected phone calls of my entire life," Colabello said in his statement. "I was informed by the Players Association that a banned substance was found in my urine.

I have spent every waking moment since that day trying to find an answer as to why or how?

"The only thing I know is that I would never compromise the integrity of the game of baseball. I love this game too much! I care too deeply about it. I am saddened more for the impact this will have on my teammates, the organization and the fans of the Toronto Blue Jays.

"I hope that before anyone passes judgment on me they can take a look at the man that I am, and everything that I have done to get to where I am in my career."

The substance, known commercially as Oral Turinabol or Turinabol, is an anabolic steroid originally developed in East Germany in the 1960s. The drug is taken to increase a user's strength, speed and endurance.

It was the same drug that Philadelphia Phillies left-handed pitcher Daniel Stumpf tested positive for earlier this month. He also received an 80-game suspension.

It is also the same substance that has landed former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir in hot water after a failed drug test.

Colabello, who appealed the original finding - the reason the penalty was delayed - will lose close to $228,000 (U.S.) of his $521,126 salary. Colabello is batting just .069 this year, but he was a key contributor to the Jays last season when he hit .321 with 15 home runs and 54 RBIs.

"I love the guy," Toronto manager John Gibbons said of 6-foot-4, 210-pound Colabello.

"He's fought the odds his whole life. He'll fight this."

Pillar said he believes Collabello in his assertion that he has never used steroids and suggested that baseball's drug-testing process needs to be fine tuned.

"I just got drug tested before we went on the road and it was the first time I was intimidated taking a drug test knowing wholeheartedly I haven't done anything wrong," Pillar said.

"Being around Chris and getting out and travelling I know how careful he is with the supplements he takes. He's a guy that travels with his own stuff. He doesn't go to a smoothie place and ask for the protein. He provides his own."

Pillar went on to say that Colabello was caught up in a "flawed system."

"I'm a huge proponent of drug testing and I think it needs to be done in this game because I'm a guy who took the road a little bit less travelled as well and I've done everything according to the book," Pillar said. "I work hard, I eat the right things, I take the right supplements and so did Chris.

"And he fell victim to a technicality in the system. I think that the drug-testing policy and Major League Baseball are going to have some soul searching to do. And they're going to have to figure something out because it's really unfortunate for him."

When asked to elaborate on that technicality, Pillar said it wasn't for him to say.

"This isn't my story to tell," Pillar said. "These are things you're going to have to ask Chris, details regarding what was found and how it was found and stuff like that. It's not for me to comment on. This is his life."

Associated Graphic

Blue Jays first baseman Chris Colabello has been suspended for 80 games by Major League Baseball after he tested positive for an anabolic steroid.


A veteran and champion looks to the future
Lecavalier, retiring after an 18-year career during which he won the Cup and the NHL's scoring trophy, says he will focus on family
Monday, April 25, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S3


It was in the handshake line following last Friday's playoff loss to San Jose that a couple of Sharks players gave the Los Angeles Kings' Vincent Lecavalier some friendly, if unsolicited advice.

"A few guys were really nice about it - they said, 'Don't retire, keep playing,' " Lecavalier said.

"Some of those guys, the younger guys, said they watched my career.

"I've had a lot of good moments. One of the best is winning the Cup, but to get a second chance at playing when you think you might not play again was great, too. This was just a really good experience for me, the last three or four months."

Lecavalier made it official Sunday - he was retiring after a distinguished 18-year career in which he won the 2004 Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning and the 2007 Rocket Richard trophy as the NHL's leading goal scorer. Lecavalier - the first player chosen in the 1998 entry draft - played 1,212 regular-season games and scored 949 points. He added 56 points in 75 playoff games.

Lecavalier, who turned 36 this past Thursday, joined the Kings in a midseason deal with the Philadelphia Flyers, where he'd played only seven games this season and had become a spare part on a rebuilding team. The Kings wanted him for his playoff experience and his ability to win faceoffs, after they'd lost two veteran centres from their championship teams - Mike Richards and Jarret Stoll. Coach Darryl Sutter was a long-time fan of Lecavalier. Sutter coached the Calgary Flames in 2004, when they lost the Stanley Cup final to Tampa and Lecavalier, who set up both goals in the deciding seventh game.

Following Friday's defeat at the hands of the Sharks, Sutter had nothing but praise for Lecavalier, calling him "a really good role model for some of our younger players, a champion. He was a pleasure to coach."

Lecavalier was equally thankful to the Kings for the chance to resurrect his career, after it looked as though he would spend the season, watching from the sidelines in Philadelphia.

"I think back to November, I was talking to Luke [Schenn] and I said, 'I may be stuck here.' I'm not playing. Getting a chance to play on this team, obviously, we didn't go where we wanted at the end of it, but to get a chance to play and have fun and to learn, it was just a great time.

"I always had that confidence deep down I could still do well.

This is a great team. I know they're going to win again, just by the way they act and the way the leadership group and the talent they have."

The Flyers paid half of Lecavalier's contract, which carried a $4.5-million (U.S.) annual salarycap charge, but the trade also included an important caveat.

Lecavalier promised to retire at the end of the season, no matter what happened, because of salary-cap considerations. With six pending unrestricted free agents to deal with this summer, including Milan Lucic, who they expect to sign to an extension, the Kings made it clear they couldn't accommodate Lecavalier's contract going forward.

Lecavalier has three children - aged 3, 4 and 5 - and said he planned to stay in California until the end of the school year, at which point he will move back to Tampa, where he spent the first 14 years of his career and developed strong roots in the community.

"Montreal's home, but Tampa feels like home as well," Lecavalier said. "There are probably 10 guys from when I won the Cup that are there now, growing the youth hockey. I see it here. I ask people: 'Wow, has it always been like this? This program is unreal.' My son's been playing. They say, 'It's happened in the last four or five years' - and that makes sense. The winning makes hockey get bigger, and then the Kings get involved. That's what teams have to do to grow the game - have good programs for the kids.

They do a great job here and obviously, I'm going to try and help in Tampa for sure."

As for what the future holds, Lecavalier said he needed more time to process that. The end came sooner than he expected, or would have liked.

"When I was 24 years old, people would say, 'What are you going to do after hockey?' and every time I'd say, 'I'll figure out when that happens.' I still haven't figured it out, but kids keep you busy and I've got three kids and they're at a young age, so it's a busy house right now.

"Family's the most important thing for me, and we'll see after that."

Follow me on Twitter: @eduhatschek

Associated Graphic

Kings centre Vincent Lecavalier tries to score on Sharks goalie Martin Jones during Game 5 on Friday. Lecavalier played 1,212 regular-season games and 75 playoff games during his career.


A bromance that began on the court
Raptor backcourt mates Lowry and DeRozan see their bond forming out of shared emphasis on friends, family and hard work
The Canadian Press
Saturday, February 13, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S4

TORONTO -- Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan sat some 20 feet apart in the ballroom of a downtown hotel Friday afternoon, each holding court with dozens of reporters.

Lowry paused at one point and hollered over at his teammate "DeRo! What's up dawg? Y'all right? DeMar DeRozan over there, the official host of the 2016 all-star game!"

It was just as it's been for the past couple of seasons. Where one of the Toronto Raptors stars is, the other is never very far away.

Lowry and DeRozan will suit up for the Eastern Conference team Sunday, when the Air Canada Centre hosts the first NBA all-star game to be played outside of the United States. It's also the first time the two Raptors have been chosen for the team together, and they took the opportunity to reflect on the bond they've built that extends beyond the basketball court.

"I have no clue how we became cool or how we got cool or anything. It just came about genuinely," DeRozan said. "That's my man. There's no egos at all, no hidden agendas at all. I want to see him do well and he wants to see me do well, as well. When you've got that going, it's perfect."

The two, who shared Eastern Conference player of the month honours for January, are in their fourth season together, leaders of a Raptors team that is inthe midst of its best season yet.

Toronto (35-17) sits just three games back of Cleveland for second in the Eastern Conference.

They make for an odd couple.

They come from different sides of the United States. DeRozan's easy going, Lowry has a surly side. DeRozan is half a foot taller.

"I think basketball is one of the reasons we are friends, but the paths we have taken have been different. Our backgrounds are friends and family and how hard you have to work to be special. I think that is one of the things that keeps our relationship great," said Lowry, whose son, Karter, is friends with DeRozan's daughter, Diar. "I think it's very unique. It's a different bond. Us being teammates first and then friendship growing out of that, it has been special."

The two were keen to play host to the NBA's biggest stars this weekend.

"The whole city's loving it, the country's deserving it - I think it gives the world a chance now to really recognize Toronto," DeRozan said.

An American reporter asked DeRozan what it meant to not just Toronto, but Canada.

"I think we're spoiled in a sense that we're the only team here. If you look at Texas, they've got three teams in Texas, they've got to share Texas. We have all of Canada," DeRozan said. "Everywhere we go in Canada, it's 'We the North.' We've got to appreciate that when we've got something like that going on.

"We've got a whole country to ourselves, it don't get no better than that."

The six-year Raptors veteran said it was in perhaps his second or third season in Toronto that he realized the Canadian connection.

"We were going to other cities in Canada and the reception we were getting, it was the first time the fans were seeing us, but they embraced us like they knew us the whole time," DeRozan said.

"When I got that feeling, you start to understand that you're playing for something bigger than just the city."

Friday's all-star media availability was the traditional tip-off to the weekend's festivities, and more than 330 international journalists from 40 countries are in town. Kobe Bryant's table drew the biggest media scrum, with as many as 100 journalists squeezed in around the retiring superstar. Bryant called an audible when he first entered the ballroom, sitting at a random table rather than his designated spot, causing panic among the journalists that had staked out their spots.

One reporter was asking all the players if they'd heard of Tim Hortons. Many hadn't. Another reporter asked players to name three famous Canadians not named Drake. Many couldn't.

DeRozan had answers for both.

"Lennox Lewis, Wayne Gretzky and Tim Hortons," DeRozan said of three famous Canadians - with an unintentional slip-up in Horton's name.

"A lot of people don't know who Tim Horton is," DeRozan said of the late hockey player.

"Some people think it's just a store. They didn't know he was a hockey player."

"Did you know he was a hockey player?" he asked the reporter.

All-star weekend tipped off with Friday's celebrity games and Rising Stars Challenge. The skills events are Saturday, while the 65th all-star game is Sunday.

Batters look for a Ray of hope
Team that dominated hitting last year is desperate for cold bats to warm up on road trip to Tampa Bay
Friday, April 29, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S3

TORONTO -- The starting pitching was felt to be the Toronto Blue Jays primary concern as they opened the season.

But as the first month draws to a close, it is the surprising struggles of the offence that has bogged down the aspirations of a team many pegged as World Series contenders.

"A swing and a miss" has been a common refrain from Blue Jays broadcasters this year as Toronto's strikeout totals would skyrocket toward historic proportions if left unchecked.

The Chicago White Sox only added to Toronto's misery at Rogers Centre on Wednesday night, when starter Jose Quintana struck out 10 en route to a 4-0 whitewashing and a sweep of the threegame series.

Toronto batters were fanned a total of 13 times, the 11th time in 23 games this season that Toronto has struck out 10 times or more.

That was something Toronto did on just 28 occasions over the 162-game season last year.

The Blue Jays hope to be able to start ironing out the kinks in the batting order this weekend in St.

Petersburg, Fla., where they will play a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Jays open with Aaron Sanchez, in search of his second victory, on the mound at Tropicana Field on Friday night opposing Tampa Bay lefty Drew Smyly.

While Toronto tries to soft-sell its hitting issues so early in the season, it is a problem nobody anticipated after the Blue Jays dominated the majors a year ago in most of the key offensive categories.

"Well there's something to be said for putting the ball in play, that's for sure," offered Toronto manager John Gibbons about the team's continued lack of contact having a role in a tepid 10-13 start.

"We've got certain guys that put the ball in play but they're sluggers. But we have some guys in the lineup, too, they need to put it in play.

"Nothing good can happen when you're striking out other than maybe staying out of a double play sometimes. But [making contact] would help."

The Blue Jays have struck out 217 times this season, the secondhighest tally in the majors, trailing only the Houston Astros, who have fanned 224 times.

That works out to 9.43 strikeouts a game for Toronto's wouldbe hitters.

If that pace continues, Toronto will not only surpass the franchise record for most strikeouts in a season (1,142, set in 2002) but come close to the major-league record of 1,535 set by the Astros in 2013.

"It's kind of tough to tell," said Toronto catcher Russell Martin, when asked what he thinks the problem has been for Blue Jays hitters.

Martin has been Toronto's primary strikeout offender this season. His four strikeouts in four at-bats against Chicago on Wednesday raised his total to 29.

His batting average is .143.

Josh Donaldson has struck out 25 times, but the team is willing to live with that seeing how its allstar third baseman is hitting .297 and leading the team in home runs (seven), and runs batted in (19).

Edwin Encarnacion and Troy Tulowitzki each have 24 strikeouts. Jose Bautista has 20.

"Right now I'm just trying to get myself going," Martin said. "I feel like you just got to keep grinding.

There are times in the season where it feels like everything's going against you. You just got to keep your chin up and keep plugging away.

"Everybody's just got to take care of themselves, make sure they have good at bats and keep battling out there."

In Wednesday's game, Toronto starter Marco Estrada was pitching a shutout into the seventh inning when Chicago broke through for three runs.

Estrada, 1-2, was manipulating his right throwing shoulder throughout the game as though it might be bothering him.

Afterward, the 32-year-old conveyed mixed messages about his health.

"I don't know, it didn't feel very good," Estrada said when asked if his shoulder was okay. After a pause, he added: "I don't want to talk about it."

Later on he insisted: "I'll be fine."

Estrada, 13-8 for Toronto last season, threw 118 pitches, the third time in his career he has thrown that many pitches in a game but the earliest in a season his count has been that high.

Gibbons played dumb when asked if everything was all right with Estrada's shoulder.

"I don't know anything about that," Gibbons said.

Associated Graphic

Jays catcher Russell Martin, hitting a rare RBI single against the Oakland A's last Saturday, leads the team with 29 strikeouts.


Atletico Madrid gets a leg up on Bayern
Niguez puts Spanish team in great position heading to Munich next week, while Manchester City and Real Madrid play to a 0-0 draw
The Associated Press
Thursday, April 28, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S3

MADRID -- An early goal by youngster Saul Niguez gave Atletico Madrid a gritty 1-0 victory over Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final on Wednesday.

The 21-year-old Niguez cleared three defenders before entering the area and hitting a low, wellplaced shot into the far corner in the 11th minute at the Vicente Calderon Stadium.

A draw next week in Germany will be enough for Diego Simeone's side to reach the final for the second time in the past three seasons.

Pep Guardiola's Bayern, trying to reach the final for the first time since winning the title in 2013, came close to equalizing with a long-range shot by David Alaba in the 54th, but the ball struck the crossbar with Atletico goal keeper Jan Oblak already beaten.

Striker Fernando Torres could have increased Atletico's advantage in the 75th but he also struck the woodwork after a breakaway.

"It was a fantastic night and I'm happy for all Atletico supporters," Torres said. "We've got what we wanted, which was to get the scoreline in our favour ahead of the second leg."

Real Madrid and Manchester City drew 0-0 in their first-leg match in England on Tuesday.

Wednesday's result ended Bayern's 11-game unbeaten streak, and kept the German side winless in its past eight knockout games away from home.

Bayern, in the semis for the fifth straight year, has been eliminated by Spanish clubs at this stage of the Champions League the past two seasons - against Real Madrid in 2014 and Barcelona in 2015. It was the team's ninth loss in 13 trips to Spain.

Guardiola's team controlled possession but was not able to break through the tight defence set up by Simeone.

Bayern was able to threaten more in the second half and created some clear scoring chances, but couldn't capitalize on any of them. In addition to Alaba's shot to the crossbar, Bayern also came close to scoring with a header by Javi Martinez in the 56th and a powerful shot by Arturo Vidal in the 73rd.

Both attempts required difficult saves by Oblak, who has kept a clean sheet in five straight games.

"We did very well in the second half," Alaba said. "We created a lot of chances, but in the end it wasn't enough."

Atletico also hadn't created much when Niguez scored to ignite the crowd of more than 50,000 fans at the Calderon. The midfielder left three defenders behind outside the area before moving into the box and clearing another one before calmly firing a left-foot shot past Bayern goal keeper Manuel Neuer. The ball struck the far post before going in.

French striker Antoine Griezmann, who scored twice when Atletico eliminated Barcelona in the quarter-finals, almost increased the lead from close range in the 30th - but Neuer made a great save with his left foot.

It was Atletico's 25th win in 30 European games at the Vicente Calderon. Simeone's team hasn't lost at home in 10 straight games, winning eight. Atletico hasn't conceded a goal in five straight games.

It was the teams' first meeting since the 1974 European final, when Bayern won the first of its five titles. Atletico has never won the Champions League.

Associated Graphic

Antoine Griezmann celebrates after Atletico Madrid scores against Bayern Munich in a 1-0 win on Wednesday. The Spanish team needs only a draw next week to secure a Champions League final berth.


Toronto's Ubermensch bench proving to be a driving force against Indiana
Thursday, April 21, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S1

TORONTO -- The Indiana Pacers haven't seen the best of Toronto allstars Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan in the playoffs, but they have seen how good the Raptors' bench is.

Toronto's bench has provided 45 per cent of the team's points through the first two games of the best-of-seven series and outscored Indiana's reserves 89-70.

The Raptors' backups have provided a much-needed punch as Lowry and DeRozan have made just 27 per cent of their shots and been the focus of Indiana's defence.

The series shifts to Indianapolis. Game 3 is Thursday and Game 4 is Saturday.

Cory Joseph has been a force driving the lane, and he is Toronto's second-highest scorer in the series, which is tied 1-1, behind starting big man Jonas Valanciunas. Patrick Patterson has hit timely three-pointers and has the best plus-minus on the team.

While DeRozan has struggled to get to the free-throw line, Joseph and Bismack Biyombo have stepped up in that category.

"Cory's reading the game at a high level, so that gives Kyle a chance to get off the ball," DeRozan said. "Then you have Bismack out there, able to rebound and contest shots. Terrence [Ross], he's able to knock down shots. It's just a deadly combination when our starters go out and that group comes and we can still feel confident. It's big."

There was just one vote cast for a Toronto Raptor in the media polling for the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year award - a third-place vote for Patterson (the award went to Jamal Crawford of the Los Angeles Clippers). Yet together, the Raptors' bench had a net-efficiency rating in the regular season that was second only to that of the San Antonio Spurs.

"Cory's success has been all year, Bis has been having a solid year, and then the rest of us have picked it up and we found our groove a couple of months ago," Patterson said. "We've carried it into the playoffs."

Biyombo, Patterson and Joseph are all enjoying career playoff stats in several categories, including points. Joseph, who played a handful of minutes in 41 playoff games for the San Antonio Spurs and won an NBA title there, is putting that postseason experience to good use. He's averaging 24 minutes a game in these playoffs along with 17 points.

"He has been that warm blanket throughout the year," Toronto coach Dwane Casey said of Joseph.

"Even though he is a young kid, he has had 41 playoff games. No matter what you say, that is huge. When you have that type of experience - I mean this is an experience league - experience wins in the NBA."

Joseph, 24, is appearing in his fifth postseason. In Toronto's Game 2 win, he scored 16 points to help keep the Pacers from clawing back.

"Bringing that knowledge from San Antonio here to Toronto is big, whether it's on the court, where we trust him with the basketball, or off the court, when we can pick his brain about schemes, plays, momentum or things we can do to swing the game to our side," Patterson said of Joseph. "Having a backup point guard like Cory has made us a much better team."

Manziel's assault indictment expected to come Tuesday
The Associated Press
Tuesday, April 26, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S2

DALLAS -- Johnny Manziel is expected to be indicted Tuesday on allegations that he attacked his exgirlfriend in January, a lawyer for the troubled former NFL quarterback said Monday.

Robert Hinton told The Associated Press that prosecutors have notified him they expect a local grand jury to sign off on a misdemeanour assault charge for family violence for the 23-year-old Manziel. The Class A misdemeanour carries up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

Hinton, a long-time Dallas defence laywer with ties to the district attorney's office, said he expected a judge to set a bond soon after Tuesday's indictment and that Manziel would then present himself for booking. He said there have not yet been any discussions about reaching a deal to end the case before trial.

Brittany Dunn, a spokeswoman for the Dallas County district attorney's office, previously declined to confirm media reports Monday that Manziel had been indicted. Prosecutors announced last week that they had presented a misdemeanour assault case against Manziel.

An indictment would further imperil Manziel's chances of playing pro football. He was cut by the Cleveland Browns, dropped by two agents and no longer has endorsements.

His indictment stems from allegations by his ex-girlfriend, Colleen Crowley, who alleges that he accosted her at a Dallas hotel and later struck her when they drove back to her apartment in Fort Worth.

Crowley was granted a protective order that requires Manziel to not see her for two years, stay at least 500 feet from her home and place of work, and pay $12,000 in legal fees.

Crowley alleged she and Manziel had a confrontation in the hotel room that eventually continued downstairs to the valet station. She said he forced her into a car and a valet disregarded her pleas for help. The two eventually drove to where her car was parked in front of a Dallas bar, she said in an affidavit.

She said Manziel got into the driver's seat and began to drive.

Crowley said Manziel stopped when she tried to jump out of the car, but then he dragged her back inside and hit her.

She also said in the affidavit that Manziel threatened to kill himself as he drove her back to Fort Worth, about 48 kilometres west of Dallas, where police were called.

In the wake of the allegations, Manziel's father said the family had made two recent, unsuccessful attempts to get him into a rehab clinic. Manziel, who entered the NFL with a reputation for partying and drinking, spent 73 days last winter in a Pennsylvania treatment centre specializing in care for alcohol and drug dependency.

A deal between Manziel's lawyers and prosecutors to avoid a trial could include an agreement that Manziel seek anger management or domestic battery counselling, or undergo some form of substance abuse rehab, lawyers watching the case have said.

Lawyers have noted the case has been handled unusually.

Rather than arrest Manziel, Dallas police sent their case for referral to a grand jury.

Trudeau vs. Trudeau
Friday, April 29, 2016 – Print Edition, Page P12

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced his first federal budget to Parliament in March, nearly 50 years after his father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, unveiled his government's initial fiscal priorities to Canadians. Here's how Trudeau the younger's budget stacks up against Trudeau the elder's. /Steve Brearton

* * * * * * * * * *

| | Pierre Trudeau | Justin Trudeau |
| | Budget | Budget |
| | 1968 1969 | 2016 2017 |
($BILLIONS) | | |
| FEDERAL DEBT | $17 | $648.7 |
| REVENUES | $10.1 | $287.7 |
| EXPENDITURES | $10.8 | $317.1 |
| Canada Health Transfer | 4.7% | 11.4% |
| Indigenous and | | |
| Northern Affairs | 2.3% | 2.4% |
| National Defence | 5.9% | 18% |
| (% of total expenditures) | | |
| DEFICIT | $0.7 | $29.4 |
| * * * | | |
| (%) | | |
| Top marginal tax rate | | |
| (individual) | 80% | 33% |
| Top marginal tax rate | | |
| (corporate) | 50% | 38% |
| Debt-to-GDP ratio | 22% | 32.5% |
| Corporate income tax as | | |
| a share of GDP | 3.6% | 3.1% |
| Inflation rate | 3.8% | 1.4% |

* * * * * * * * * *

"Turning to our domestic problems, perhaps the most intractable is the continuing poverty of far too many of our citizens....I have often mentioned the responsibility of the more affluent segments of our society toward the less privileged ones. The majority of us have already satisfied our right to a minimum standard of satisfactory living. It is those who have not who need government help."

-- Pierre Elliott Trudeau

* * * * * * * * * *

Our entire budgetary framework is focused on growth that benefits Canadians, through investment, and through support for the middle class. And that's what we're going to continue to do.

-- Justin Trudeau

* * * * * * * * * *

Associated Graphic


Climate needs its 'Pearl Harbor'
Saturday, April 23, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1

ROME -- Hold the applause. The climate-change accord reached in Paris in December was signed at a leader-studded ceremony on Friday at the United Nations in New York. But that does not mean the agreement is in force; nor does it mean that planetwarming carbon dioxide emissions will fall any time soon even if it does come into force.

There is no doubt that the Paris Agreement marked a grand political victory, in the sense that 195 countries agreed that global warming - now undeniable except among Luddite U.S. Republicans and a few fossil-fuel companies - is a clear and present danger that has to be slowed, then stopped, if Earth is to avoid BBQ status.

As if on cue, the first three months of this year broke hightemperature measures by the biggest margin yet recorded. The Arctic and Greenland ice sheets continue to melt at alarming rates and coral bleaching, caused by warmer than usual water, is devastating Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Some of the warming probably can be attributed to El Nino, the periodic warming in the central equatorial Pacific Ocean, although record amounts of man-made carbon dioxide emissions cannot be ignored.

In Paris, the agreed goal was to limit global temperature increases to 2 C over preindustrial levels; beyond that all bets are off. The aspirational goal was 1.5 degrees, although many scientists think achieving that limit is impossible given the relentless carbon output. Even 2 degrees may prove elusive. Based on the carbon-reduction plans submitted by most countries at the Paris meetings, the Climate Action Tracker project estimates that a 2.7-degree increase is the best that can be hoped for. Before the Paris Agreement, its warming estimate was 3.1 degrees. Even the lower warming figure would make life somewhere between miserable and impossible for some or much of humanity.

To keep warming to 2 degrees or less, industrialized countries will have to launch Apollo moonshot-style renewable-energy innovation programs combined with rigorous environmental regulations over the next couple of decades. Coal plants everywhere would have to be eliminated along with the internal combustion engine. The bill could easily come to tens of trillions of dollars.

The omens are not encouraging. "Climate change" and "global warming" have been part of the everyday lexicon since the 1980s - German reinsurance giant Munich Re first warned about global warming in 1973 - but emissions have only gone up since then.

Every United Nations environmental summit since 1992's Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro has kicked the can down the road.

The ambitious 1997 Kyoto Protocol was never ratified by the United States and was abandoned by Canada in 2012, after then-prime minister Stephen Harper decided that carbon reduction was incompatible with allowing his cherished oil sands development to munch its way through northern Alberta. The Copenhagen climate summit in 2009 collapsed in acrimony.

The sad reality is that tackling climate change has yet to capture the imagination and resources of governments, voters and corporations. Maybe it's because the problem is so big that it seems impossible to fix, or maybe it's because climate change happens so slowly that it's easy to ignore - there has yet to be a climatechange "Pearl Harbor" moment that demanded the accelerated end of the fossil-fuel era.

Or maybe it's because fighting climate change in earnest would produce no short-term benefits in the way the previous environmental wins did in the 1970s and 1980s. Back then, the United States was able to introduce the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Environmental Protection Agency. Leaded gasoline disappeared and the Montreal Protocol phased out the chlorofluorocarbons that were damaging the ozone layer. These measures improved the environment almost immediately.

The Paris Agreement still faces enormous political obstacles. Friday's signing ceremony was merely an intermediate step toward full implementation.

Many countries now have to go back to their parliaments and national assemblies for ratification, which could take two years or longer. The big risk is the United States, the second biggest polluter after China. In a clever move, President Barack Obama will implement the agreement through an executive agreement, because it is not a legally binding treaty, meaning it would not have to be sent to the Senate, where it would be killed. Which raises the question: If it's not a legal treaty, how will it be enforced?

The biggest question is whether a Republican president - Donald Trump or Ted Cruz - would shred the Paris Agreement. They have said they would, in so many words, although doing so could take years. "If the United States does not implement the Paris deal, or pulls out, the deal is dead," says Peter Hoeppe, head of the geo risks unit at Munich Re.

Friday's signing ceremony in New York was a declaration of intent. The Paris Agreement, like all the agreements before it, could still fail. Meanwhile the planet gets ever warmer. A Pearl Harbor environmental event appears inevitable.

Bull run races toward new milestone
Thursday, April 28, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1

Inside the Market

The most-hated bull market in history is now history's second-longest.

As of Thursday, the bull run in U.S. stocks will reach a new milestone, having lasted longer than all but one major equity rally on record.

The market will cross that threshold amid considerable investor caution, which has never been in short supply despite the general upward trajectory of the past seven years. While the "most-hated" handle is hyperbolic, its common use reflects the skepticism reserved for stocks ever since the market crashed.

"It's certainly not one that's been enough to invite a whole lot of euphoria, especially given how long it's lasted," said Craig Fehr, an investment strategist at Edward Jones.

But a healthy amount of negativity has also helped to ensure the bull market's longevity. It's when the last bear turns bullish that markets tend to top out, it is often said. "You haven't seen widespread herd mentality into equities, which would push stocks well above fair value," Mr. Fehr said.

The absence of that kind of irrational exuberance should keep the bear at bay for the time being, he said. "But I don't think we [will] get to the first-place position."

That title belongs to the decade-long bull rally ending with the dot-com bubble bursting in 2000, spanning a total of 3,452 days, according to Merrill Lynch.

But the current rally has surpassed the bull market of 1949 to 1956, with a life span of 2,607 days and counting without a 20-per-cent decline, which conventionally serves as the start of a bear market.

It started when the market bottomed out on March 9, 2009, after the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression had already erased trillions of dollars in U.S. equity value. "The humiliation of equities was complete," Merrill Lynch strategists Michael Hartnett and Brian Leung said in a note.

At that point, "policy makers panicked and have been panicking ever since," they wrote. The years that followed saw extraordinary financial stimulus in the form of quantitative easing and rock-bottom interest rates, a total of 629 global interest rate cuts, and central bank asset purchases worth $11-trillion (U.S.), the report said. "And it's worked wonders for asset prices."

The S&P 500 index, for example, has more than tripled since it troughed, rising at a rate in excess of 17 per cent annually.

But unlike the other two bull markets in the top three, the current one has not coincided with a great economic revival. Growth in the developed world has been persistently lacklustre, and besieged by potential economic threats.

As the West clawed its way back from the depths of the crisis, there were constant worries of a double-dip recession. Then the sovereign debt crisis in Europe threatened to derail the recovery.

More recently, the energy crash, compounded by fears of a hard landing in China, plus a U.S. profit recession, have renewed fears of a global contraction.

But it's just that kind of fear cocktail that dissuades investors from the kind of excesses that doomed previous bull markets, Mr. Fehr said.

"Markets often climb a wall of worry, and I think that's what we've seen in the last seven, eight years," he said. "The worries have been sufficient to keep expectations somewhat in check."

Retail investors have not been pouring money into equities at a rate that might be expected of the second-longest bull market on record.

Last week, data provided by Lipper showed that investors pulled $4.5-billion out of U.S.based stock funds over the previous week alone, making for a total of $51-billion in outflows since the start of 2016.

While retail sentiment has proved shaky, corporations have stepped in to buy back their own stock.

"Corporate repurchases are the main source of net demand for U.S. stocks," Goldman Sachs said in a report last week.

Critics of buybacks have questioned the sustainability of a stock rally fuelled in part by corporate purchasing.

While repurchasing is acting as a key support for stocks right now, the U.S. economy would benefit more from that money being invested in expansion, Mr. Fehr said.

"We haven't seen that level of confidence and optimism."

Follow me on Twitter: @tshufelt

Suncor swagger: Oil output set to jump despite downturn
Friday, April 29, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1

CALGARY -- Suncor Energy Inc. is eyeing a return to big production gains, defying the slump in crude prices that has battered the industry and forced competitors to curtail growth.

Calgary-based Suncor on Thursday said its overall output would climb 40 per cent from 2015 levels, exceeding 800,000 barrels a day by 2019, as a flurry of deals add up and big-ticket projects in the oil sands and offshore Canada's East Coast finish construction.

"That's a growth trajectory that very few companies of our scale can hope to equal," chief executive officer Steve Williams told analysts. "More importantly, it's growth that gives us even more leverage to rising oil prices."

Such swagger stands in sharp contrast to the prevailing mood in Canada's oil patch, where companies have taken a cleaver to budgets and production growth to help shore up finances.

Rival Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., for instance, has said company-wide production will stay relatively flat through 2018

This is despite finishing multibillion-dollar expansions at its Horizon bitumen mine as the company seeks to pay down debt.

Suncor is beefing up its presence in Northern Alberta as U.S. crude tops $46 (U.S.) a barrel, extending gains despite still-elevated global inventories and an intensifying battle for market share between top exporters Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

On Wednesday, Suncor snapped up an additional 5-percent stake in the Syncrude Canada Ltd. project from Murphy Oil Corp. for $937-million (Canadian), lifting its ownership of the oil sands megamine to roughly 54 per cent.

It follows Suncor's $4.2-billion acquisition of Canadian Oil Sands Ltd., previously the project's largest owner with a 37per-cent interest. Suncor also bought an additional 10-per-cent slice of its Fort Hills mine last year from partner Total SA.

The latest deal comes as Suncor reported a first-quarter operating loss of $500-million or 33 cents a share, owing to a 31-percent drop in U.S. crude prices from levels in 2015. A year earlier, the company booked an operating profit of $175-million or 12 cents.

In the quarter, the company posted a final profit of $257-million or 17 cents a share, driven by foreign exchange gains on the revaluation of its U.S. dollardenominated debt. That compares with a loss of $341-million or 24 cents a year earlier. Cash flow skidded to $682-million from $1.5-billion.

Belt-tightening at Suncor includes deferring a planned upgrade at its Montreal refinery as well as the next phase of growth in the oil sands using steam-driven technologies. That has resulted in continuing jobs cuts, adding to a net 1,700 reductions made last year. In February, the company lowered its 2016 budget by 10 per cent to the range of $6-billion to $6.5-billion.

Nevertheless, it has poured billions of dollars into major investments that were started before global oil prices cratered from more than $100 (U.S.) a barrel in mid-2014.

They include its $15-billion (Canadian) Fort Hills mine north of Fort McMurray, Alta., and the $14-billion Hebron joint venture off the Newfoundland coast.

Now, with those developments nearing completion, Mr. Williams said the company would focus on wringing better performance out of the struggling Syncrude operation, as well as possible acquisitions as he seeks alternatives to building hugely expensive projects from scratch.

It could take until 2022 for the next stage of steam-driven oil sands projects in the company's portfolio to start production, he said.

"It is difficult in the current economic environment to see how you would be approving those types of projects," Mr.

Williams said on a conference call to discuss the company's results. "The market is offering a cheaper alternative in terms of buying capacity."

Industry analysts said Wednesday that the deal with Murphy amounts to a slight premium for a majority stake in Syncrude compared with Suncor's earlier deal for Canadian Oil Sands.

Suncor is also targeting between $1-billion and $1.5-billion of asset sales over the next 12 to 15 months, with possible dispositions including processing and storage assets, wind farms, as well as its lubricants business.

Suncor (SU) Close: $36.85, up 60¢

Markets, economy send mixed signals
Despite turbulence, market pullback is not a bubble popping
Saturday, February 13, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1

Economic Insight

Take it from a connoisseur of catastrophe: This is no catastrophe.

Stocks markets have plunged, gold prices have soared and bond yields have swooned in recent weeks as investors have braced themselves for the worst. What is the worst exactly? Well, um, that's a difficult question.

Unlike previous financial panics, people aren't sure exactly what they fear this time around.

Maybe it's a hard landing in China, maybe it's an unwinding of the yen carry trade, maybe it's a retreat by sovereign wealth funds - and maybe, just maybe, it's nothing at all.

This is not the way financial disaster usually comes calling. The out-of-control lunacy that typically precedes a market collapse doesn't creep into the room. No, it breaks down the door. It's big, it's bold, it's obvious.

Consider the U.S. housing bubble, which was so enormous that only a central banker could have missed it.

A decade ago, you had to read just one story about 25year-olds flipping million-dollar homes in Southern California to realize that zero-down mortgages and lax underwriting standards had propelled normally sane American householders into la la land.

The dot-com bubble was equally glaring.

When the Nasdaq index quintuples in five years and backers of online dog food stores became overnight millionaires, you don't require a fine-grained analysis of balance sheet footnotes to realize something is awry.

Just as delirious was the Japanese stock and real estate bubble that came before that country's stock market cratered in the early 1990s.

At the height of the bubble, home buyers had to take out 100-year mortgages to afford a house and Tokyo stocks traded for nearly 70 times their earnings. Again, the lunacy was obvious.

No doubt there are pockets of insanity in today's markets, but it's difficult to see anything that is as massive and out of touch as factors in those previous bubbles.

For confirmation of that, check out the most recent missive from Jeremy Grantham, co-founder of money manager Grantham Mayo & Van Otterloo in Boston and the world's foremost connoisseur of financial disaster.

He has researched the course of many financial booms and, to his everlasting credit, was among the earliest and loudest of the voices urging investors to steer clear of both the dot-com and housing hysteria.

Mr. Grantham says that a true bubble begins when the price of an asset reaches a valuation that is more than two standard deviations away from its historical average.

By that measure, the S&P 500 stock market benchmark in the United States would have to hit the 2,300 mark to be considered a bubble.

The index now hovers around 1,860 - a level that in Mr. Grantham's opinion is overpriced but far from bubble-level exuberance.

Mr. Grantham has been derided in the past for his skeptical pronouncements but he sounds nearly upbeat these days.

"I think the global economy and the U.S. in particular will do better than the bears believe it will because they appear to underestimate the slow-burning but huge positive of muchreduced resource prices in the U.S. and the availability of capacity both in labour and machinery," he writes.

The real mystery is why so many people are convinced that something nasty lurks out there.

John Authers, the wise and witty investing columnist for the Financial Times, wrote an insightful article in which he asked who killed the market and compared the search for an assailant to Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express.

In his article, Mr. Authers ticks off a dozen possible explanations for the recent slide, ranging from the Federal Reserve's decision to start raising interest rates to Chinese currency devaluation.

Maybe they all helped stick the knife in, he concludes.

Or perhaps not. As any detective will tell you, when you have lots of suspects, you really have none.

A multiplicity of possibilities is just another way of saying we really don't know whodunit.

Until we do, it's wise not to panic. It may be that we're really driving ourselves to distress over - literally - nothing.

For Ring of Fire, numbers still don't add up
Monday, April 25, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1


Economic Insight

Good lobbyists know that advancing an agenda works best when the stars align.

That's the moment when what you want is in sync with what the government wants.

Take the Ring of Fire - a mineral-rich, but untapped swath of northwestern Ontario.

The problem (beyond the immediate inconvenience of depressed commodities prices) is that the area is essentially cut off from the world. There are no roads, rail links or power supply to get at the vast deposits of nickel, chromite, copper and platinum buried in the belt, 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay.

Enter Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He's committed to spending billions of dollars on infrastructure. He also wants to forge a new relationship with indigenous Canadians, involve them in resource development and create economic opportunities for troubled northern communities, such as Attawapiskat.

Then, consider that Mr. Trudeau's Liberal government came to power intent on forging closer economic ties with China, possibly though freer trade and expanded investment.

And so along comes a subsidiary of state-owned behemoth China Railway Construction Corp., which wants to build a $2-billion, 340-kilometre rail line into the heart of the Ring of Fire.

Chinese engineers are working on the proposal with KWG Resources Inc., a Toronto-based junior mining company that has hundreds of mining claims in the area and has plans to develop a chromite mine.

A series of common interests may be lining up. Pushing development of the Ring of Fire checks off a number of important boxes for Mr. Trudeau - trade, infrastructure, indigenous policy, the economy and perhaps even climate change.

Mining development would require putting the area on the power grid, allowing remote First Nations communities to stop using dirty gas-fired power plants.

A delegation of Chinese engineers, along with executives of KWG, made a timely visit to Parliament Hill last week to talk up their railway road project with MP Marc Serré, who chairs the Liberals' Northern Ontario caucus.

"This is an international trade deal," KWG Resources chief executive officer Frank Smeenk said, spinning the broader trade implications. "From the Chinese perspective, this is an opportunity to begin the relationship with Canada that they have long aspired to and one that is really mutually beneficial."

Earlier this month, executives of Noront Resources Ltd., which also owns extensive mining claims in the Ring of Fire, also met with a group of Liberal MPs in Ottawa.

It's still unclear whether this confluence of common interests will lead to anything more than chatter.

The Ring of Fire, discovered in 2007, has been a serial disappointment for mining companies eager to get at its riches. Cleveland-based Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. invested heavily in claims and talked of spending billions of dollars there, but walked away in 2014, worried about falling commodities prices, eventually selling its chromite deposits to Noront at a loss.

Without roads, rail lines and power lines, the Ring of Fire will forever be the next great thing.

The big question is: Who will pay for that infrastructure? Ontario's Liberal government has promised $1-billion to develop infrastructure for the Ring of Fire, but hasn't spent any of it yet, still hoping for matching funds from Ottawa.

And that's where prospects may be looking up. Interest (and money) from Ottawa, combined with Chinese investment, might be the catalyst that finally gets the venture moving.

Mining companies clearly think so. That's why they've made the lobbying pilgrimage to Ottawa.

For the federal government, the indigenous angle could be the clincher. Spending billions on Ring of Fire infrastructure to help mining companies is a tougher sell.

It might be considerably more palatable if it were sold as a way to connect remote communities, while delivering jobs, opportunity and clean electricity to a deserving demographic.

The political stars are lining up nicely, and mining companies are eagerly capitalizing on the moment.

But it will take a significant rebound in metals prices before mining companies commit the vast sums needed to turn the Ring of Fire into a winning investment.

The stars are still badly misaligned on the business side of things.

No rate cut barring economic 'shock': Poloz
Wednesday, April 27, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1

OTTAWA -- Economics

Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz has set a high bar for cutting interest rates again.

It would take a "shock of some significance" - such as another economic setback in the United States or China - for the central bank to consider more rate relief, Mr. Poloz said Tuesday.

The bank cut its overnight rate twice last year after the global commodities price crash, which has decimated jobs and investment in Canada's oil patch.

But the rate has been fixed at 0.5 per cent since last July in spite of further deterioration in both the Canadian and global economies.

The new Liberal government's move in its March budget to invest $25-billion in infrastructure and families over two years "more than offset" the renewed downward pressure on the economy, according to Mr. Poloz. In its April monetary policy report, the bank estimated that federal stimulus would boost gross domestic product by 0.5 percentage points this year and 0.6 points in 2017.

Mr. Poloz said it would take a major delay in getting the economy back to full capacity for the bank to revert to an easing bias on rates. Those shocks could include a major slowdown in the global economy brought on by weaker growth in China or the U.S.

"It would be another negative shock but it would need to be obviously a shock which is of some significance or an accumulation of other shocks," Mr. Poloz told reporters after a speech to Wall Street financial professionals in New York.

He was quick to point out that either of these scenarios are built into the bank's current forecast.

"Those are just shocks that economists think about."

He expects the Canadian economy to get up to "full speed this year." But he cautioned that it will take a year or more for the economy to absorb any "excess capacity," including laid-off workers and idled plant production.

Canada is "fortunate" that the federal government is spending money on fiscal stimulus because it balances out the waning impact of monetary policy, he pointed out.

Mr. Poloz dedicated most of his speech to explaining a troubling drop-off in global trade growth since the 2008-09 financial crisis.

He warned that trade growth around the world is unlikely to regain the torrid pace of the years before the global financial crisis.

The days of 7-per-cent annual growth in international trade are gone, perhaps for good, Mr. Poloz said. "The rapid pace of trade growth that prevailed in the two decades before the crisis was the exception, and not the rule."

That's because much of the slowdown is due to the end of a long period of global integration - as multinationals specialized and built global supply chains, countries formed trading blocs and China joined the global economy.

"The big opportunities for increased international integration have been largely exploited," Mr. Poloz explained. "China can join the [World Trade Organization] only once."

He nonetheless put a positive spin on the outlook for trade.

Roughly half the post-crisis slowdown in trade is due to cyclical economic weakness, particularly lower business investment, most of which will be reversed.

"The weakness in trade we've seen is not a warning of an impending recession. Rather, I see it as a sign that trade has reached a new balance point in the global economy, and one that we have the ability to nudge forward."

Some analysts said his comments suggest Mr. Poloz remains a trade optimist. He could have said Canadian exports will remain volatile, Bank of Nova Scotia economists Derek Holt and Dov Zigler said in a research note.

"Instead, [he] walked on the sunnier side of the street."

Countries can bolster trade by striking free-trade agreements and boosting productivity, according to Mr. Poloz. Other sources of trade growth will come from the emergence of new, more productive companies - a process that has already begun, he added.

Valeant taps pharma veteran to lead turnaround effort
Tuesday, April 26, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1

MONTREAL, TORONTO -- Troubled Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. has hired drug industry veteran Joseph Papa as its new chairman and chief executive officer in a move to spur its turnaround efforts and restore credibility.

Mr. Papa is leaving as chairman and CEO of Perrigo Co. PLC to take over at Valeant from Michael Pearson in early May, Valeant said.

Veteran Perrigo insider John Hendrickson replaces Mr. Papa.

A pharmacist by training, Mr. Papa, 60, has been CEO of Perrigo since 2006 and was appointed chairman in 2007. He has more than 35 years' experience in the pharmaceutical industry, Valeant said on Monday.

He leaves Perrigo in less than top shape. The company reduced its earnings guidance Monday due to lower prices on some prescription drugs amid "industry and competitive pressures in the sector." Perrigo also said in a statement that it could face impairment charges related to assets in its over-the-counter consumer health-care business.

At Valeant, the leadership values prized by the board have changed in the eight years since Mr. Pearson - an industry outsider and former McKinsey & Co. management consultant - was appointed. Back in 2008, Robert Ingram, who has been acting as board chairman, praised Mr. Pearson's management experience, business acumen and understanding of the specialty drug space as key leadership qualities.

Today, Mr. Ingram said the board valued Mr. Papa's strong shareholder orientation, a background in science and ability to lead companies through times of transition, among other skills.

Mr. Papa also has experience leading a company that's domiciled abroad for tax purposes, as both Perrigo and Valeant are. In 2013, he led Perrigo's $8.6-billion (U.S.) deal for Irish drug maker Elan Corp., which is why the company is now based in Dublin.

Meanwhile, some analysts and observers have pointed out that Valeant is carrying about $31-billion of debt and under growing pressure to sell off assets in order to clean up the balance sheet.

Wells Fargo Securities analyst David Maris said in a research note Monday that the appointment of an industry veteran as CEO represent for some "a signal that the worst is behind Valeant.

We do not believe that to be the case as we believe debt repayment will require the divestitures of core brands, and as a result, lower earnings and EBITDA."

Valeant "remains a company with poor operating and strategic prospects" as its growth enters a dramatic slowdown and as debt holders gain "effective control of future cash flows and proceeds from divestitures," he said.

Mr. Pearson, who spearheaded an aggressive growth-by-acquisi tion strategy at Valeant, had been preparing to step down; industry speculation was rife amid news reports that Valeant had recruited Mr. Papa to replace him.

Valeant has taken fire for steep drug price hikes on some of the products it acquired as well as for accounting issues and for its relationship with mail-order pharmacy Philidor Rx Services, which was criticized for alleged irregularities in its business conduct.

Valeant is also under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Mr. Pearson has been subpoenaed to testify before a U.S. Senate committee on drug price hikes.

The company also faces the threat of default on some of its debt on the delayed filing of its annual report and it has said it plans to restate 2014 and 2015 earnings. Its share price has plummeted in the wake of the allegations and setbacks.

In a news release Monday, Mr. Ingram said Mr. Papa can be counted on to foster "an ethical culture" at Valeant.

CIBC World Markets analyst Prakash Gowd said in a note Monday he expects Mr. Papa "to make significant changes at the executive level at Valeant ... to restore confidence."

Valeant (VRX) Close: $44.85, down 72¢

Indian demand spurs record lentil seeding
Friday, April 22, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1

Canadian farmers will plant more lentils and peas this season, betting that strong demand from drought-stricken India will soften the blow of low prices for wheat, corn and other field crops.

Growers will seed a record 5.1 million acres of lentils, up by 30 per cent from last year, and 4.3 million acres of peas, a rise of 16 per cent, Statistics Canada said in its survey of planting intentions released on Thursday.

"It's all-in on India. No one else in the world can consume those numbers. If it doesn't go there, it's not going anywhere," said David Newman of Commodious Trading Inc., a seller and processor of pulse crops in North Saanich, B.C.

Farmers are planting pulses after years of falling prices for their main crops - wheat, canola and corn - amid large harvests in the United States and elsewhere.

Wheat prices have fallen 40 per cent in Chicago over the past five years. Corn for grain is down 33 per cent.

"It's not hugely surprising to see farmers exploring other options," said Aaron Goertzen, an agriculture analyst at BMO Nesbitt Burns in Toronto.

"Prices across the board have been so low. If you look at corn prices alone, you'd be surprised to see anybody wanting to plant any of it," Mr. Goertzen said. "But when you consider the fact other crops have been hit really hard the past couple years, you start to see that there aren't many other options."

Acreage for wheat, Canada's largest crop, is expected to be 1 per cent smaller at 24 million.

Farmers will trim canola seeding by almost 4 per cent to 19 million acres.

Meanwhile, pulse acreage has almost doubled since 2013.

Canadian pea and lentil exports rose more than 35 per cent to hit a record $3.7-billion in 2015, according to Weber Commodities Ltd.

Prices for some pulses more than doubled late last season as India placed large orders.

Commodious Trading's Mr. Newman predicts the same thing could happen this year. "The grower pipeline here is empty.

There's nothing in the bins. Yellow peas, empty. Green peas, empty. Green lentils, empty. Red lentils, empty. India didn't have a great year so, come September, they're going to be empty," he said by phone. "Growers respond to market signals," said Carl Potts, executive director of Saskatchewan Pulse Growers. "They look to grow the crops that are in demand in the marketplace."

India, the world's biggest consumer of pulse crops, is facing its second consecutive drought and is expected to boost imports by 20 per cent this year to 5.6 million tonnes. The country of 1.2 billion has a large vegetarian population; lentils, chickpeas and yellow peas are major sources of protein.

In 2015, India bought 30 per cent of Canada's pulse exports, or 1.5 million tonnes.

"India by far is our largest market," followed by Turkey, China, Bangladesh and United Arab Emirates, Mr. Potts said.

Canadian farmers grow most of the peas and lentils eaten around the world. Ninety-five per cent of the country's lentils are grown in Saskatchewan. The province's short growing season and quickdraining fields are ideal for pulses, which are loved by farmers because they restore the soil's nitrogen and interrupt cycles of insects and diseases.

Although 85 per cent of the Canadian crop is exported, Mr. Potts said, North American demand is rising as consumers demand healthy sources of protein and fibre.


5.1 million Number of acres Canadian lentil growers will seed this year, up 30% from last year

30% Share of Canada's 2015 pulse exports bought by India, or 1.5 million tonnes

Should teens be fighting adults? They do in the OHL
A father's painstaking research has revealed that one-third of fights in the Ontario league are between a minor and a veteran
Wednesday, April 27, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S2

It was early in the 2011-12 season when Shawn Bryan first pinpointed what he didn't like about fighting in junior hockey.

Bryan, a father of three and a long-time Barrie Colts seasonticket holder, spent that year watching Aaron Ekblad's first season with the team. The phenom defenceman was granted a rare special exemption to play in the Ontario Hockey League at 15 years old, making him up to five years younger than some players in the league.

What Bryan noticed was several of these much older players were trying to bully Ekblad into a fight, something that is supposed to be against junior hockey's unwritten code. He also realized just how young Ekblad was when the defenceman began attending Grade 10 at the local high school with his daughter.

"That's where it kind of clicked for me that this isn't quite right," Bryan said. "Especially with what we know about [degenerative diseases of the brain such as] CTE."

Four years later, when Bryan began a research project as part of an executive MBA program, he chose the issue of age disparities in fights in junior hockey as his topic. What he discovered was one-third of all the fights in the OHL were between a minor and an adult.

Bryan, now an insurance executive in Edmonton, spent months scouring every OHL game summary - all 3,400 of them - from the past five years to get to that number. Much of the work was painstakingly recording every fight and the age of the participants in a spreadsheet, along with other information, such as who instigated the fight.

Going into his research, Bryan wasn't sure how common a fight between young junior players and veterans really was. But he set a dividing line at 18 years old in order to incorporate the idea of legal - and ethical - consent into junior hockey.

He also looked carefully at whether there was any justification for the OHL to allow minors to fight by evaluating whether fighting improved either attendance or players' draft rankings.

But the more he searched, the more convinced he became that this was an overlooked problem in the game.

"Physical altercations between adults and minors have not been generally accepted in Western culture, inside or outside of sport," Bryan wrote at one point in his study, which later concludes that: "A gratuitous risk exists for the underage participants and an unnecessary ethical conflict exists for ownership" given the age gap.

Of the more than 2,250 fights in the OHL in the past five years, Bryan's data reveal that nearly 400 - or 17 per cent - involved an age difference of two years or more.

More than 80 fights, meanwhile, had an age difference of three years or more.

Some of the most extreme cases in the league involved overage players instigating fights with rookies such as Ekblad.

In January of 2012, Sarnia Sting veteran Tyler Brown, who was almost 21, fought Tyler Bertuzzi of the Guelph Storm. Bertuzzi, 16, was listed in that season's media guide as three inches shorter and 40 pounds lighter than Brown.

In December of 2014, Windsor Spitfires forward Slater Doggett (20) went after Sudbury Wolves rookie Brady Pataki (16) for a hit on a teammate. The age gap in that bout was 41/4 years, the largest in the past five years.

Bryan also discovered that 15year-olds fought four times over that time period. Only one of those fights was against a similarly aged player.

Those extreme mismatches aren't typically permitted in combat sports and certainly not in fights involving minors. Boxing Ontario, for example, stipulates that young fighters face opponents within their age bracket, weight class and experience level.

That's because the physical development curve is so sharp for young athletes. While some junior hockey players are exceptions, a typical teenager's body changes considerably between 15 and 19. They gain on average four or five inches in height and 35 to 45 pounds in those few years.

In fact, many prominent boxing federations around the world call for underage combatants to fall within 12 months of each other in age when they fight.

In the OHL, only half of fights meet that criteria.

"It's too big of an age difference at a developmental time for kids," Bryan said. "And I'm sure they feel pressure [to fight]."

Bryan provided the results of his study and the data he collected to The Globe and Mail in the hope that someone in a leadership role with the Canadian Hockey League sees his research.

He wants president David Branch to push for all three leagues to adopt NCAA rules that give players progressively heavier suspensions for each fight, effectively eliminating them from games.

Bryan points to the fact that OHL attendance has increased even as fighting has fallen substantially in the past five years as further proof that junior hockey can live without teenagers dropping the gloves.

He knows there are fans who aren't willing to pay to watch minors fight adults.

"Both my dad and my fatherin-law refuse to go to the games because of the amount of fighting," Bryan said. "[The CHL] may actually have people who aren't going right now come back [if it's eliminated]. Goals are ultimately what we want to see. At least what I want to see."

Associated Graphic

Of the more than 2,250 fights in the Ontario Hockey League in the past five years, data show that nearly 400 - or 17 per cent - involved an age difference of two years or more.


Hoffman birdies to win Texas Open
Elsewhere, Japan's Nomura comes out on top at Swinging Skirts, as Canadian teen Henderson finishes tied for sixth
The Associated Press
Monday, April 25, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S2

SAN ANTONIO -- Charley Hoffman made a 10-foot birdie putt on the final hole to win the Valero Texas Open on Sunday for his fourth PGA Tour victory.

The 39-year-old Hoffman closed with a three-under 69 at TPC San Antonio for a one-stroke victory over Patrick Reed. Hoffman finished at 12-under 276 and earned $1,116,000 (U.S.).

"This was my hardest one," Hoffman said after a vigorous fist-pump and drill-team leg kick when the winning putt fell at 18.

"Grabbing that lead and holding on to it - it's tough to keep the pedal down and give yourself birdie opportunities and win golf tournaments."

Playing alongside Hoffman, Reed also birdied the par-five 18th for a 69. He missed birdie putts inside eight feet on the parthree 16th and par-four 17th.

"Today I was missing a lot of short putts, so I'm shocked I even had a chance," Reed said.

Reed, who was born in San Antonio, put the pressure on Hoffman with a tap-in birdie at the 18th after reaching the fringe on the 595-yard hole in two. His shot to the green came from the left-hand rough, and had to clear an oak tree and creek in front of the green.

Hoffman followed by hitting his third shot from a green-side bunker to set up his birdie.

"It was about a cup outside left," Hoffman said. "I said to myself, 'Let's finish this here.

Let's not play any more.' "Hoffman also won the 2007 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, 2010 Deutsche Bank Championship and the 2015 OHL Classic at Mayakoba.

Chad Collins was a career-best third at 10 under after a 69. He birdied four of the last five holes.

Third-round leader Ricky Barnes, looking for his first PGA Tour win in 222 tries, stumbled to a 74 to drop into a tie for fourth at nine under with Kevin Chappell (68), Billy Horschel (70), Ryan Palmer (69) and Martin Piller (70). It was a career best for Piller, the husband of LPGA Tour player Gerina Piller.

Brendan Steele, the 2011 winner who led the first two rounds, had a 75 to tie for 13th at seven under.

David Hearn of Brantford, Ont., finished tied for 13th at seven under, while fellow Canadian Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, B.C., was tied for 21st at six under.

Reed pulled within a shot of Hoffman with a 23-foot birdie putt from the fringe at 15. Hoffman missed a 10-foot birdie try on the hole.

Reed missed a bending, rightto-left putt from seven feet that could have tied Hoffman at 16, and missed a straighter putt from about the same distance on the next hole.

"I thought they were in," Reed said. "I put the pressure as much as I could on Charley. It shows he was ready to win a golf tournament, and I had way too many mistakes to close one out."

Fritsch ties for second Leon, Mexico - Wesley Bryan won the El Bosque Mexico Championship on Sunday for his second Tour title of the year, shooting a five-under 67 for a four-stroke victory.

Bryan finished at 19-under 269 at El Bosque and earned $117,000 to jump from second to first on the money list with $260,820.

The top 25 at the end of the regular season will earn PGA Tour cards.

The 26-year-old former University of South Carolina player won the Chitimacha Louisiana Open last month for his first tour title.

Third-round leader Brad Fritsch, the Canadian coming off a victory two weeks ago in the Servientrega Championship in Colombia, had a 73 to tie for second with Richy Werenski. Werenski closed with a 66.

Henderson ties for sixth Daly City, Calif. - Haru Nomura held on in strong wind to win the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic on Sunday for her second LPGA Tour victory of the year.

The 23-year-old Japanese player closed with a one-over 73 in wind gusting to 35 miles an hour at Lake Merced to finish at nineunder 279 and beat South Africa's Lee-Anne Pace by four strokes.

Nomura won the Australian Women's Open in February, pulling away to beat top-ranked Lydia Ko by three strokes for her first LPGA Tour title.

Nomura had a rules scare Saturday. After her third-round 71, she met with rules officials to examine her play from an awkward stance on a slope in a bunker on the par-five sixth hole. The officials decided no penalty was warranted for building a stance, leaving her with a par instead of a double bogey.

Pace finished with a 74.

Ko shot a 75 on her 19th birthday to tie for sixth at one under.

She won the tournament the previous two years. Canadian Brooke Henderson, who was four over for the day with a finalround 76, also finished tied for sixth at 287.

Associated Graphic

Canada's Brooke Henderson makes a tee shot on the fourth hole during the final round of the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic in San Francisco on Sunday. Henderson shot a 76 to finish at 287.


Gibbons tells fans to relax, then gets tossed in loss
Thursday, April 28, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S2

TORONTO -- You have starting pitcher R.A.

Dickey struggling through another dismal April and reliever Brett Cecil blowing up practically every time he toes the rubber late in games.

The offence, while showing recent signs of having a pulse, has been mostly so-so, and the club continues to have an aversion to playing .500 baseball.

Sounds like the first month of the season for the Toronto Blue Jays.

It also sounds like the Blue Jays from a year ago, when they would manage to shake themselves out of the early season doldrums and power their way into the playoffs for the first time in more than two decades.

So for those fans who already have their angst meters switched on high over a season that is not even a month old, the Blue Jays are advising to sit back and take a deep breath. Maybe take a sip on that umbrella drink.

It's not time to panic - at least not yet.

"If there's panic out there, I don't quite understand that," Toronto manager John Gibbons said prior to the Blue Jays game Wednesday night against the Chicago White Sox. "Who's going to quit? Where I come from, nobody quits."

That was the composed Gibbons speaking.

Several hours later, Gibbons was anything but composed, getting tossed from the game in the seventh inning where things turned suddenly awry for the Blue Jays in a 4-0 Chicago victory.

With the win at Rogers Centre, the White Sox (16-6) swept the three-game series from Toronto (10-13).

It was a well-pitched game by the starters, with Marco Estrada of the Jays and Chicago lefty Jose Quintana stringing up zeros across the board heading into the seventh inning.

There it fell apart for Estrada, who allowed a triple off the bat of Dioner Navarro with two runners aboard that lifted Chicago in front 2-0.

For the former Blue Jays catcher, who is not exactly fleet of foot, it was his first triple since Sept. 27, 2012, when he played for the Cincinnati Reds.

Jesse Chavez was brought in from the bullpen and he immediately surrendered a triple off the bat of Austin Jackson that made it 3-0 for Chicago.

With Adam Eaton now at bat for the White Sox, Gibbons - who had been having a running commentary with home-plate umpire John Tumpane for several innings - was ejected as he stood inside the Toronto dugout.

When you compare the Blue Jays over the first 22 games of the season in 2016 with the club from last year over the same time span, the similarities are startling.

Both teams, for instance, sported 10-12 records, and in 2015, that was good enough for fifth place in the American League East for the Blue Jays, three games back of the front-running New York Yankees.

Heading into Wednesday's game against the White Sox, that mark was good enough for fourth place in the A.L. East for Toronto, 2½games back of the Baltimore Orioles.

The pitching from a year ago was still in a bit of flux, both in the rotation and in the bullpen, where Roberto Osuna was just starting to leave his imprint as a quality reliever.

Over all, the pitching staff had a collective earned run average of 4.96 compared with 4.00 this season, where the work of the starting five has, for the most part, been Toronto's strong suit.

From an offensive perspective, the Blue Jays were hitting .249 as a team in 2015 with 28 home runs after 22 games, compared with the .242 with 23 home runs from this year.

Before the Chicago game, the Blue Jays recalled right-handed pitcher Ryan Tepera from their Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo. To make room on the roster, switchpitcher Pat Venditte was optioned to the Bisons.

Quintana has always been a difficult chore for Toronto, having gone 4-2 in seven career starts with a 1.88 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 48 innings pitched.

And Wednesday night was no different, giving Toronto hitters fits once again, especially Jose Bautista, who seemed rather taken aback with the strike zone of Tumpane.

The Toronto right-fielder struck out in each of his first three appearances against Quintana with runners in scoring position, twice looking at pitches that appeared within the strike zone.

Quintana (3-1) earned the win after blanking Toronto on four hits while striking out 10 over six innings.

Estrada (1-2) suffered the loss, allowing three runs off three hits over 6.2 innings.

Associated Graphic

The White Sox' Avisail Garcia reacts to a strike as Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin throws the ball to the pitcher in Toronto on Wednesday. Chicago swept the three-game series.


Wiggins is a major attraction in his hometown
Saturday, February 13, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S3

TORONTO -- Whether it's an hour of his time, an autograph, an appearance, a photo, a bold prediction or an answer to a wacky, off-beat question, everyone seems to be asking something of Canadian basketball star Andrew Wiggins this week in Toronto.

The second-year Minnesota Timberwolves standout has been called everything from Maple Jordan to the face of Canadian basketball. Although the 20-year-old Toronto native is not playing in Sunday's NBA all-star game, that hasn't stopped the hometown kid from being one of its biggest attractions. He appeared in Friday night's rising stars challenge and has been shuttled all around town to build not only the NBA's brand, but the sport's profile in the city.

"Yeah, I'm getting tugged here and there," said the shy wunderkind, seated at a player podium circled by reporters several rows deep during a media session for the rising stars players. "But it's good to be back home."

Coming off a 21-point performance in Minneapolis on Wednesday night in a comeback win over the Toronto Raptors, Wiggins jetted off for a whirlwind Thursday in Toronto.

His daytime called for photos and interviews at an all-star media circuit. Then he threw on a sharp navy checked suit and hit the town. First stop: walking the red carpet at an early evening party for his Canadian sponsor BioSteel, where he met Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman for the first time and towered over him in photos that instantly went viral.

He was soon whisked off to a private Canada Basketball soirée at a King Street restaurant, where people including Steve Nash, Kelly Olynyk and members of the Canadian women's Olympic squad were hanging out with their families and supporters.

He was then scheduled to headline a late-evening party at Toronto nightclub Nest - the posters advertising this event had Wiggins posing sharply in a white suit jacket and cravat.

At his basketball practice Friday morning, the World Team hadn't even finished stretching, and Wiggins was already being pulled away for a live NBA TV interview.

"He deserves all the attention he gets," said his T-Wolves teammate Karl-Anthony Towns, in town to play for the U.S. rising stars team. "He's put this country on the map."

Saturday morning, Wiggins is scheduled to be back in Maple Leaf Square, signing autographs at SportChek.

Thought you might get to see Wiggins take on fellow T-Wolves teammate and reigning champ Zach LaVine in Saturday's all-star slam dunk contest? You won't.

He recently explained it away by saying "I lost one in high school, so I'm not doing one again." He's more excited to talk up LaVine's talents, telling a Sirius XM NBA radio show that his teammate's dunks on Saturday "will leave you stunned."

The first overall choice in the 2014 draft averaged 17 points a game last season and ran away with the NBA rookie-of-the-year award. This season, he's averaging close to 20.8 points a game - good for 16th in the league. Some say the quiet player has started to come out of his shell, too.

"The Andrew I see today is a marked departure from the Andrew I knew at 15," said Rowan Barrett, assistant general manager of Canada's senior men's team.

"He's still the same calm and level, nothing pulls him from his centre no matter what's going on around him. He's learning that his presence and his words can really impact the lives of others.

You see him making more efforts to engage the media. We're protective of him. We want people to always remember he's 20 and a lot has been asked of him. I hope Canadians give him time to grow."

While the city embraces Wiggins and calls him its own, it rarely gets to see him in the flesh.

The ACC crowd had the rare chance Friday to see him team with Latvian sensation Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks.

Rather than always being asked to talk about Toronto, he's happy to see the city getting the stage to speak for itself.

"They can see for themselves," Wiggins said of his fellow NBA players. "It's my favourite city in the world."

Concussions top of mind for superfans
Season-ticket holders question NFL commissioner on head injuries, international expansion and fate of San Diego Chargers
The Associated Press
Friday, April 29, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S2

CHICAGO -- The floor belonged to Philip Feliciano, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell waited patiently for his question.

Given an opportunity to ask Goodell about anything he wanted, Feliciano, a 55-year-old vascular surgeon from Bellevue, Wash., wanted to know about the league's efforts to help prevent head injuries. Even for the NFL's most ardent fans, head injuries remain one of the biggest concerns.

"I think it threatens the viability of the game if we can't make it safe," Feliciano said.

Feliciano is one of 32 seasonticket holders who travelled to Chicago this week to join the NFL for a variety of activities surrounding the draft. The fans and their guests had breakfast Thursday before participating in a question-and-answer session with Goodell and taking pictures with the commissioner.

The league allowed The Associated Press to watch as Goodell fielded questions on topics ranging from the Chargers' future in San Diego, the number of preseason games and the possibility of putting a team in another country.

Feliciano has been a seasonticket holder for 19 years. He said he was watching the Seahawks' game at Dallas on Nov. 1 when Ricardo Lockette suffered ligament damage, a disk injury and a concussion in a collision late in the first half of Seattle's 13-12 victory.

Lockette's injury prompted his question to Goodell, but the subject of head injuries also was on the mind of Terry Broyles, a 64year-old season-ticket holder for the Chargers for 30 years.

"Very concerned about that," Broyles said. "I'm concerned about the mothers and their kids and letting kids play football and get into the sport, and I think it's something that's very alarming and concerning, but somehow, you've got people that are larger big men crashing into each other, there's going to be injuries. But the concussion thing is a very serious problem."

A federal court this month upheld an estimated $1-billion (U.S.) plan by the NFL to settle thousands of concussion lawsuits filed by former players. Critics of the proposed deal appealed the decision Thursday, contending the lead players' lawyers negotiated away compensation for chronic traumatic encephalopathy because the science is still being developed.

The settlement would cover more than 20,000 NFL retirees for the next 65 years. The league estimates that 6,000 former players, or nearly three in 10, could develop Alzheimer's disease or moderate dementia.

Goodell said making the game safer is the league's No. 1 priority, pointing to rule changes, improving equipment and investment in research as signs of the NFL's commitment to player safety.

"And I think the last is just what we do from a medical support standpoint," Goodell said.

"There's greater awareness, which I think we're a large part of that because we brought that on, and I think we've promoted that. We said, 'You have to manage injuries properly,' and it's affected not just football, but all sports."

Broyles used his question to take Goodell's temperature on the future of the Chargers, who are trying to get an initiative on the Nov. 8 ballot that calls for an increase in the hotel tax to help pay for a $1.8-billion stadium and convention centre annex in downtown San Diego.

If the stadium measure fails, the Chargers have the option of moving into a stadium with the Los Angeles Rams in Inglewood in 2019.

"I think your community is better off with the Chargers. I believe the Chargers are better off with San Diego, too," Goodell told Broyles.

Goodell also told the fans he thinks the league should eliminate at least one preseason game, and the chances of an international NFL team some day were "very high." He mentioned Toronto and Mexico City as possible locations before pointing to Britain as the most likely destination.

The NFL is playing three games in London next season.

Elimination games have become a specialty for the Rangers
The Associated Press
Saturday, April 23, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S2

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Trailing 3-1 in a series is nothing new for the New York Rangers.

It's the third consecutive year it's happened.

They rallied against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the conference semi-finals in 2014. They did the same thing against Washington last season, becoming the first NHL team to overcome 3-1 deficits in consecutive seasons.

The Rangers have won 15 of the past 19 playoff games in which they faced elimination, going back to Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarter-finals in 2012 against Ottawa. New York has also won nine of 11 playoff games when facing elimination since the start of the 2014 playoffs.

Once again the Rangers face a win-or-else scenario, and it's the Penguins again this season. The difference is this is the opening round of the post-season, and these are two different teams, although many of the faces are the same. This Penguins team is playing two-way hockey under Mike Sullivan. The Rangers, who went to the Stanley Cup finals in 2014 and the Eastern Conference finals last season, don't seem as sharp this season. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has been a little off, the defence has been lacking and no one is carrying the offence.

Lundqvist said that overcoming 3-1 deficits in the past means nothing heading into Game 5 at Pittsburgh on Saturday.

"It's now," said the 34-year-old said Friday. "It's what we do this year, in this series."

Lundqvist, who was lifted in Thursday's night's 5-0 blowout after giving up four goals on 18 shots in 26 minutes, feels the experience of coming back in recent seasons will be useful, but it will be more important for the Rangers to play their game.

For him, personally, it involves being more focused emotionally and technically. While he is quick to add that Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and most of everyone on the Penguins is playing well, confidence is not something the Rangers lack.

"You can't look at the big picture, that's when you get lost," Lundqvist said. "You just have to break it down and focus on your process. We know we are playing a good team and we know they are confident. But last time there we managed to win. We just need to do everything right."

Coach Alain Vigneault said the most important thing for the coaching staff is to make sure the team has a short memory after consecutive bad performances and to narrow their focus and stay in the moment during games.

"What is in front of us is a must game," Vigneault said. "We're aware of it if we want to continue.

To a man in that room, I know they all know they can play better than they have so far."

Special teams have killed the Rangers in the series. New York is 1 for 16 on the power play. Pittsburgh has converted 7 of 19 chances with the extra skater, including 3 of 6 in Game 4.

New York also has to make sure Penguins goaltender Matt Murray works a little harder than he has in the past two games. He has faced 48 shots, but most of them were not difficult. The Rangers' best chances ended with shots that missed the net.

"Just because we have done it before does not mean it is going to happen again," Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello said. "It's not going to work without hard work and dedication from everyone. At the same time, we have to believe that it can happen."

Tillman fends off Toronto as Os take series
Jays batters make noise in the first inning before Baltimore starter settles down
Friday, April 22, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S2

The Toronto Blue Jays were licking their lips in anticipation of Thursday night's encounter against Baltimore Orioles starter Chris Tillman.

Tillman has been like putty in the hands of the Blue Jays hitters over the past six years, posting a 4-10 record with a hefty 5.79 earned-run average in 20 career starts.

Of the 15 home runs he has surrendered in those games, 10 of them were in 2015, with Kevin Pillar leading the way with three.

After a nervous start, it was Tillman who enjoyed the last laugh as the Orioles (10-4) broke through late in the game to record a 3-2 victory over Toronto (8-9) at Camden Yards. The Orioles won the tight three-game series 2-1.

And, as in Wednesday's 4-3 Baltimore win in 10 innings, a passed ball played a key role in Thursday's outcome.

With Brett Cecil on the mound in the eighth inning in a 2-2 game, Joey Rickard singled with one out, his third hit.

And when Cecil's pitch deflected off catcher Russell Martin's glove and headed toward the backstop, it allowed Rickard to take second base.

Rickard scored the winning run when Manny Machado stroked a bloop double into right field.

The loss concluded a sevengame trip for the Blue Jays, who return home to Rogers Centre to begin a six-game homestand, starting Friday night with the first of three games against the Oakland Athletics.

There were indications early on Thursday night might be a bit of a strange game, one chock full of offence.

Josh Donaldson doubled home Michael Saunders from second base in the first inning for a quick 1-0 Blue Jays lead.

After an Edwin Encarnacion walk, a deep drive to left field by Troy Tulowitzki was heading over the wall for what would have been a three-run homer.

But Rickard, the Baltimore outfielder, timed his jump perfectly and brought the ball back into play for the second out.

Justin Smoak drew a bases-loaded walk before the inning's end to give Toronto a 2-0 lead.

The Orioles had the makings of a big inning in their first at-bat, which began when Rickard led off with a line drive that busted through the webbing of Donaldson's glove at third base for a single.

Donaldson had to leave the field briefly to hunt down a replacement.

Rickard stole second and scored when Machado extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a single to centre.

The Orioles would go on to load the bases on Marco Estrada, who was able to get out of the jam after inducing an inning-ending double play.

After the eventful first inning, Tillman settled into a nice rhythm. He departed after six innings, having allowed two runs off four hits.

It was a little more of a slog for Estrada, who danced his way in and out of trouble through five innings, allowing one run on six hits while striking out nine and walking four before departing with a 2-1 lead.

Baltimore tied it in the seventh after Toronto reliever Pat Venditte loaded the bases with two out.

Toronto manager John Gibbons brought in Cecil (0-3), who gave up a sacrifice fly to J.J. Hardy.

Associated Graphic

Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson misses a foul ball hit into the stands by the Orioles' Mark Trumbo in the third inning in Baltimore on Thursday.


Friday, April 29, 2016 – Print Edition, Page P5


Last month, John Daly reported on the lawsuits and dismal sales plaguing Toronto's Trump Tower ("Donald Trump has a situation on Bay Street"). There doesn't seem to be many Trump fans among our readers: 'I used to tell people I would need a discount to buy into any property with the Trump name. That discount has grown since the presidency stunt. Significantly. ...Who wants to own yuck? Or stay at yuck? Or eat at yuck?' One reader pointed to the fact that the building's developer got financing from a bank in Austria. 'That should be a warning sign. Did it mean that no local bank would touch the project?' Another added: 'Good for our bankers!'

Others were harder on the investors now suing the building's manager: 'I wonder why people look on in disbelief when their investment doesn't work out, as if it must be someone else's fault! First off, if it sounds too good to be true it most likely is. Secondly,...if you don't have the capital to play, then don't use leverage or, god forbid, family money. No sympathy here.'

* * *


Last month, Corporate Governess had some advice for a female manager who was being undermined by a colleague. The column sparked a conversation about bullying and resonated particularly with this commenter: 'Female targets of female bullies lose their jobs 89% of the time. And even if you're not forced out, the stress can get so bad that you MUST leave the job. ...My advice to you is to do whatever it takes to look after your own health.' Another commenter had similar thoughts: 'This worker should be ready for any eventuality, including a job change. It is important to document the bad behaviour but ultimately it is her responsibility to herself to ensure this does not become a career-limiting situation. Abandoning ship might be the best option, particularly if there are opportunities with other companies.'

* * *


In April's Exit Interview, Susan Eng claimed that she was fired by Moses Znaimer and CARP for her neutral stance on assisted suicide. Znaimer and CARP deny Eng's characterization of the termination and insist it was for other reasons.

* * *


17% | Donald Trump has a situation on Bay Street

16% | How murder shook the Oland family dynasty to its core

11% | Fired by Moses Znaimer

7% | Gazprom is a wounded bear

4% | Inside Simon's ambitious westward expansion

* * *


In March, 2013, Sean Silcoff wrote about Valeant pharmaceuticals ("Side Effects") and its high-flying CEO, Michael Pearson. A lot can change in three years. Valeant's stock is down 86% from its peak last July, and Pearson is out. Silcoff's investigation was an early warning for investors: "It may be the work of a strategist rather than a maverick entrepreneur, but Valeant is still following the plot line of industry consolidators that grow rapidly on debt-stories that often don't end well."

Tech entrepreneur hits restart
Maher Arar CEO,
Saturday, April 23, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B2

OTTAWA -- The first thing you notice upon meeting Maher Arar is his smile. It is a wide, effortless and gentle smile. It's also difficult to reconcile with the ubiquitous image from a decade ago of a sympathetic, devastated human rights casualty of the post-9/11 war on terror who demanded and eventually received justice.

"People I see today who haven't seen me for a while, first they tell me, 'I like your smile,' " Mr. Arar says as we settle in for a buffet lunch at the East India Company restaurant in downtown Ottawa.

"It's a polite way of saying, 'You know, you're now smiling.' This is not to say that I don't have flashbacks. I have them when I read a news story about somebody being detained [and] tortured.

But nowadays I try to avoid reading those stories."

In September, 2002, Mr. Arar was detained without charges by U.S. authorities on suspicions he had links to terrorists, then turned over, not to his adopted home of Canada, but his native Syria. There, he was held captive in a cramped, decrepit cell and tortured repeatedly. The yearlong experience, he later said, made him forget every enjoyable moment in his life.

After his return to Canada, Mr. Arar pressed to clear his name and in 2006 was exonerated by a public inquiry. He received an apology and $10.5-million from the Canadian government for its role in his trauma. The Canadian edition of Time named him News Maker of the Year and one of the world's most influential people.

"He's secured a place in Canadian history as one of our most iconic human-rights figures," says Alex Neve, secretary-general of Amnesty International Canada.

But on this day in mid-March, Mr. Arar wants to talk about something else - something that brings him contentment. He stopped talking publicly about his case "because it just brings me back to the past," he says in a pronounced voice, his smile draining away. "But also, it just makes this perception of me being the victim and only the victim, or only the survivor of torture, stick. I'm kind of tired of being labelled like that.

This is not how I wanted to become known. I want to focus on the other side of me, which is the entrepreneur. ... This is what I love doing in life. I'm a tech guy."

At the time of his rendition, the Ottawa-based Mr. Arar was preparing to launch a technology startup. Now, he is about to launch the first product from his first technology startup since then: a mobile platform, CauseSquare, for helping non-profit institutions target, engage and solicit millennials.

"I would like CauseSquare to become the Facebook for good causes," he says.

Like any good entrepreneur, Mr. Arar isn't just selling technology, he's telling a story. Non-profit organizations are struggling to connect with millennials, who have grown up digital, embraced new concepts such as ride-sharing and live on their mobile devices. Studies suggest many have fleeting attention spans, distrust big organizations and expect transactions to be convenient. "We also discovered that it's a misunderstood generation by the non-governmental organizations themselves," he says. "Non-profits mistakenly think of millennials as donors. They should think of them as fundraisers." Most fundraising websites aren't optimized for mobile platforms.

CauseSquare is a mobile-first fundraising platform that will allow users to donate to a range of participating organizations.

The goal is to make it simple for people to give the moment that impulse happens. Having a oneclick donation button is "nonnegotiable," he says. Millennials like to be associated with causes they support, he says. CauseSquare will reward points and electronic "badges" to people who hit certain donation thresholds to encourage repeat giving.

"We think we can mobilize this generation to be involved in good stuff and be recognized."

He's signed up 15 non-profits, including Amnesty, to test the platform when it launches in May.

CauseSquare "gives us an opportunity to reach a constituency our other avenues and channels don't reliably reach," Mr. Neve says.

Mr. Arar immigrated to Canada with his family when he was 17, avoiding military service in Syria.

He was running a currencyexchange operation in his early teens in Damascus and building computers while studying engineering at McGill University, where he met his wife, Tunisianborn Monia Mazigh. He was an honest workaholic, determined to make it as an entrepreneur and start a family, Ms. Mazigh says.

The couple moved to Ottawa in 1997 and he worked for a couple of local tech ventures as a systems engineer before joining Bostonbased MathWorks, which sells mathematical computing software, in September, 1999. He visited U.S. customers as a technical sales rep while his wife stayed in Canada to complete her PhD (she later emerged as an outspoken human rights activist and ran for the NDP in 2004). "He was always able to take extremely technical things and explain them in simple terms that I could understand" and could talk to senior engineering executives "as their peer," says Chris Rutan, a former MathWorks salesman who often travelled with Mr. Arar.

In 2001, Mr. Arar quit to become a consultant - MathWorks remained a key customer - and start his own tech company, developing a tool to speed up the development of programmable chips. He had a five-year-old daughter and a newborn son and was months away from launching when his life was shattered.

Upon his return from Syria, Mr. Arar struggled to establish some normalcy amid the media frenzy.

He had no luck finding work in his field. Ms. Mazigh encouraged him, but eventually concluded "that it was almost impossible that he would be hired again," she says. "His name has a heavy weight, and I think for companies, they are not ready to ... associate their name with his."

Mr. Arar enrolled at the University of Ottawa in 2005 and earned a PhD in wireless communications. He invented and sold the patent for an algorithm. He started an online magazine in 2010 covering national security issues, but it shut three years later.

Mr. Arar spent a year figuring out what to do next, thinking he should try the startup route again. "Every time there was this urge that pushed me to go back, I was always scared. It was, 'How will people perceive it, am I going to be successful or not?' " The trauma of his past also loomed. In March, 2014, Mr. Arar found himself in an ambulance, convinced he was having a heart attack. He'd experienced anxiety symptoms a year earlier; this was a full-on anxiety attack. He was hospitalized once more that year at the behest of his psychologist.

Anti-depressant medication helped, as did his continued determination. "I said to myself ... I have to do what I love in life."

If one had no prior knowledge of his story, Mr. Arar would come across as no different than many other tech entrepreneurs. He is all-in, upbeat and single-minded as he talks about a business he believes will change the world.

In his case, it's more poignant.

Just by getting to the starting line, Mr. Arar has triumphed. "Why should an experience of horrific human-rights abuse define who you are to the rest of the world?" Mr. Neve says. "That's an experience, it's not your identity."

Mr. Arar admits he sometimes feels guilty that he isn't as active as he could be as a human-rights advocate. "But then I say, 'Well, if you go back to that and you don't enjoy life, you're going to collapse again ... that's why I chose this field, because I think it's a balance between me doing what I want to do, and I think there is a need in the market for it. But it also helps make the world a better place."

CauseSquare is young. There's no guarantee non-profits will adopt it en masse, that it can be a sustainable business. Few startups succeed. He and his partners are self-financing for now and plan to tinker with the platform for a year, but prospective financiers could have different ideas about what CauseSquare should be, or demand growth it can't deliver. "I don't want to grow fast and go down fast," he says. "I want to take my time with this."

Add to that one complicating factor: Mr. Arar may be on the U.S. no-fly list. He's not sure, but suspects so (his pursuit of justice there has been less successful.

He's reluctant to attempt travelling to the United States, which could limit his company's ability to engage customers.

He knows there are risks, but is feeling positive, even drawing on his experiences for motivation. "I had an objective, to clear my name and restart my life. ... That's not easy. This is what entrepreneurs face. You're starting XYZ, nobody knows about you, people don't believe in you.

... I have my doubts every morning about CauseSquare. But you have to fight these internal voices and say, 'I just spoke to three customers and they're already paying me.' "CauseSquare "is very important" for Mr. Arar, Ms. Mazigh says. "At the same time, it is very fragile, because he is still very fragile. I think it is important for him to start believing in himself and to start trying to do something on his own. ... I think he's ready."


Age: 45

Place of birth: Damascus

Education: BEng., computer engineering, McGill University (1995); MSc, digital signal processing, McGill (1997); PhD, wireless communications, University of Ottawa (2009)

Family: Married for 26 years to Monia Mazigh, with one daughter and one son.

Currently reading: Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore

Who he'd like to have lunch with (alive or dead): Prophet Moses

Favourite TV show: This Hour Has 22 Minutes

Favourite type of music: Classical

Favourite sport/activity (to watch or play): Soccer. "During my teen years, I played for two national soccer clubs in Syria for one year each. The experience left a bad taste in my mouth as it was my first experience of what nepotism really meant. I would be kept on the bench most of the time and the sons/relatives of government officials would be allowed to play on the pitch for most of the game."

Hobbies: Filming with a camera crane I invented

Favourite cuisine: Mloukhia (Syrian dish)

Guilty pleasure: Spending too much time on Twitter (@ArarMaher)

Associated Graphic


Liberals' OAS reversal is short-sighted
Thursday, April 21, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1

Economic Insight

The Liberal government's decision to restore Canada's Old Age Security eligibility to age 65 may be shrewd politics. It may even be fiscally manageable. But it's lousy economic policy.

Perhaps I should elaborate. It's lousy, short-sighted, dim-witted economic policy. It ignores everything we know about the aging demographics in this country, and the things policy makers should be doing to address the economic fallout from them. It's a remarkable step in the wrong direction.

The Parliamentary Budget Office, the federal fiscal watchdog, weighed in this week on the Liberals' intention - pledged during last fall's election campaign and promised in last month's budget - to cancel the previous Conservative government's plan to raise the eligibility age for OAS to 67, beginning in 2023.

The PBO estimated that the lower eligibility age will cost Ottawa an extra $11.2-billion in 2029-2030 - the first year that the phased-in age change was to be fully in effect - over what it would have spent with the age-67 eligibility.

The good news is, the government can probably afford it. The PBO declared that the OAS program would remain quite sustainable with eligibility at 65, and the additional costs wouldn't impede future governments from continuing to whittle down Canada's federal debt-to-GDP ratio, although a bit more slowly. (The additional cost amounts to a thin 0.35 per cent of GDP.)

But the price tag largely misses the point. In reverting to the age-65 eligibility, the new government, which bills itself as coming into office with fresh ideas to address Canada's economic future, is instead sticking its head in the sand with regard to an OAS program that is decades out of step with Canada's demographic realities.

In the mid-1960s, when Ottawa created the system of old-age benefits that essentially is still in place today, the eligibility age for OAS was 70 - at a time when the average life expectancy for a 40year-old male was just 73. Not long after, the government lowered it to 65, but even then, it could be viewed as a relatively short-term bridge between retirement and death.

In the nearly half-century since, the eligibility age hasn't budged - but the length of our lives has stretched out beyond anything policy makers could have imagined in the 1960s. When the average Canadian of today hits that 65-year eligibility age, that person is expected to live for another 20 years. OAS isn't just helping us be more comfortable in our fading twilight any more; it's paying out for nearly a quarter of our (average) lives.

Where the typical 65-year-old Canadian in the 1960s was, frankly, old, the typical 65-year-old Canadian of 2016 is, relatively speaking, healthy and vibrant. He or she is in many cases more than still capable of working, and is years away from needing government support to maintain a livable income.

And given the harsh economic ramifications of the country's aging population, the Canada of the next couple of decades is going to need all the able-bodied workers it can find. As more and more boomers head into retirement age, growth in the country's labour force looks destined to slow to a crawl. And since growth in productive labour is critical to expanding economic output, that means the economy is in danger of slowing to a crawl, too. This is the biggest challenge to the Canadian economy over the next decade - how to keep it growing with a greying and increasingly non-productive population.

One obvious solution is to craft government policy around encouraging more of the country's older workers to remain in the work force longer. That would improve labour growth, lift the economy's growth potential, and generally raise the prosperity levels for the entire country.

A higher age for qualifying for elderly benefits is a very practical way to do that; it would make retiring at 65 financially less palatable. Instead, this government has committed to spend an extra $11billion a year to provide a disincentive for older workers to keep working.

It's not that this government doesn't grasp the demographic challenge. Indeed, it's the impetus behind the Liberals' massive infrastructure spending plans (only in that case, the idea is to put in place the physical tools so that each worker is capable of producing more).

So why is it tilting its policy away from this when it comes to the OAS eligibility? It's hard to see any logic beyond scoring political points with the huge lump of baby-boomer voters who stood to be hurt by the Conservatives' age change. When you consider that one-third of voting-age Canadians are between 50 and 70 years old (that's roughly the boomer generation), there's a pretty compelling political argument for keeping them happy.

But as economic policy, it's pretty much the opposite of what a government facing a demographic roadblock to future prosperity should be doing. It doesn't much matter whether the government can afford it. It's money poorly spent.

First Nations vs. pipelines
Friday, April 29, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1

CALGARY, OTTAWA -- Ottawa and the provinces may be aligning on support for new oil pipelines, but the most problematic hurdle remains - staunch opposition among First Nations.

Native leaders in British Columbia and in Eastern Canada say they have no intentions of softening their resistance to projects that would ship bitumen to coastal waters through their territories, even as Alberta Premier Rachel Notley insists approvals are closer than they have been in years.

Stewart Phillip, grand chief of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), said his members have not budged from their position that pipelines through the province, including Enbridge Inc.'s Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan Canada's Trans Mountain Expansion, pose unacceptable oil-spill risks.

The group has also lent its support to Eastern First Nations' stance against TransCanada Corp.'s Energy East project.

"Like everyone else, we're monitoring these touchy-feely public statements [from governments] that are floating around. But to my knowledge, there isn't an emerging groundswell of support in First Nations communities, or anything of that nature," Mr. Phillip said.

"[B.C.] Premier [Christy] Clark and Premier Notley are talking to each other and [Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau is talking to Notley, but they don't want to talk to the indigenous people who are standing in opposition to these projects. They want to dismiss and ignore the opposition and the concerns that underline that opposition," he said.

Ms. Notley said this month she has softened her stance against the Northern Gateway line to Kitimat, B.C., from Alberta. She has also said her officials are discussing a potential deal with Ms. Clark's government that could result in British Columbia's support for a pipeline in exchange for Alberta buying hydroelectric power.

The Alberta Premier spoke to Mr. Trudeau and his cabinet in Kananaskis, Alta., this week about the economic importance to her province, and to the country, of getting Alberta crude to markets that would offer better returns to producers by shipping from the East and West coasts.

Mr. Trudeau said he supports the goal, but reiterated that it must be accomplished with support of First Nations. As it stands, many aboriginal groups are unmoved after years of attempts by governments and industry to convince them that the environment and their territorial rights will not suffer harmful effects, and in some cases have turned down offers of equity stakes in projects.

Their opposition raises thorny legal and constitutional issues.

The $7.9-billion Northern Gateway project has a conditional approval from Ottawa, but has bogged down without B.C. First Nations support. Ms. Notley reportedly broached with the federal cabinet the idea of moving the terminus north to Prince Rupert, potentially a less controversial locale.

That won't change the opposition from the UBCIC or Coastal First Nations, a coalition of nine nations in the region, leaders said.

"I can't speak for First Nations broadly. All I know is our position continues to be opposed to Enbridge, whether it goes through Kitimat or it goes through Prince Rupert. At the end of the day, consultation by Enbridge will result in the same answer from us, which is, we oppose it," said Kelly Russ, the Coastal First Nations' chairperson.

TransCanada is expected to file its application for the $15billion Energy East pipeline to Saint John from Hardisty, Alta., next month. It faces resistant First Nations along much of its 4,500-kilometre route. Regional chiefs from Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick have all raised concerns and complain there has been inadequate consultation undertaken by the National Energy Board and federal government.

The leaders argue they have a special relationship with the land and must protect it. And they say they are already seeing the impacts of a changing climate from burning of fossil fuels, such as crude derived from the Alberta oil sands.

Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr extended the hearing deadline by six months to give more time for those talks, but some chiefs suggest there is no room for compromise.

"I would rather starve before I took any money [from TransCanada]," said Serge Simon, grand chief of the Mohawks of Kanesatake in Quebec, in an interview. "My grandchildren would curse me for leaving them with that legacy."

TransCanada's route requires new pipeline to be built through Quebec, traversing the traditional territory of the Mohawks from Kanesatake and neighbouring Kahnawake. The two bands are opposing the project at the upcoming hearings of Quebec's energy regulator, and have applied for intervenor status with the National Energy Board.

In a written brief to the Quebec regulator, Kahnawake's environmental chief, Clinton Phillips, said the community has no confidence in TransCanada's ability to ensure the safety of the line.

For battered Alberta firms, massive auction an 'opportunity to get out'
First-ever five-day selloff another grim marker for province's economy
Monday, April 25, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1

CALGARY -- Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers will hold what it says is the largestever Canadian industrial auction this week - a selloff of more than 10,000 items, including many pieces of idled equipment from the country's battered energy sector.

The massive sale that begins south of Edmonton Tuesday is another grim marker in the recent history of Alberta's oillinked economy, which just two years ago led the country in terms of growth and job creation.

The crude price drop that began in the summer of 2014 has meant the companies that service the oil and gas industry have seen much of their work quickly dry up and are continuing to lay off workers and sell unneeded equipment. Some firms have already gone bust and the likelihood of more insolvencies in the months ahead looms large. Others - such as business owner Jeff Ludwig - say they decided to leave the industry before things get worse.

"I saw this as an opportunity to get out while I still could, before you start getting the mass exodus," says Mr. Ludwig, who is selling his small company's 48 remote work-site office and accommodation trailers, a complete liquidation of Canadian Wellsite Rentals Inc.'s assets.

The vast Ritchie Bros. site in Nisku, Alta., is packed with used equipment including trailers, trucks, cranes, excavators, drilling equipment and portable work camps in anticipation of the sale. What was originally scheduled to be a three-day event was extended to five days last month when Ritchie Bros. realized how much stock it would be proffering. This week's auction also follows record-breaking February and March sales in Nisku and Grande Prairie.

The industrial auctioneer says the size of the sale reflects the long-term growth in the market for its services and includes equipment from a number of sectors. However, the extensive stock of equipment at auction is due in large part to the desperate outlook for oilfield service companies such as Mr. Ludwig's. Even with the crude price drop and dramatic slowdown in activity, oil producers still make some money from already-producing oil and gas assets.

Energy service companies, on the other hand, have no revenues if they're not working.

And during the busy boom years, many ramped up their debt levels to purchase new equipment to meet the demands of their oil-producing clients.

"If you're stressed at the bank, if you're pressured on your balance sheet - what you need is cash," David Yager, a Calgarybased oilfield-service-industry consultant at MNP LLP, says.

Thousands of bidders from Alberta, other parts of Canada and the world will either physically attend the auction or vie for items online. A special pitch is going out to U.S. buyers, who are being wooed with emphasis on the favourable exchange rate.

Randy Wall, Canadian president of Ritchie Bros., says when Alberta's economy was strong, about 80 per cent of everything sold at Alberta auctions remained in the province. Today, about 50 per cent of the equipment stays in Alberta. That shows there is still work being done in the province, he says, and it's not "as bleak as perhaps the general public would think."

But who is buying used equipment if there is a worldwide slump in the price of oil? Mr. Wall says equipment employed exclusively for drilling and exploring for oil and natural gas - such as drilling rigs, or rigmoving or fluid-hauling trucks - has seen a "significant" price drop. There is more demand and higher prices for non-specialized machinery for "general construction - digging holes, pushing dirt, lifting things."

Despite oil price gains in recent weeks, there are few in the oil patch who believe any rebound will be significant enough to lift Western Canada's energy sector out of its gloom before the end of this year. Mr. Ludwig, 56, who has operated out of Red Deer, Alta., for almost 20 years, had to lay off his four remaining workers last fall. "The worst day I've had in business," he says.

He could have tried to hang on for longer, but didn't want to lose more money as his equipment aged and his business operated at a loss. Instead, he has opted to sell his trailers, pay off some remaining debt and begin an earlier-than-expected retirement.

While some business owners will find it too painful to attend the auction, Mr. Ludwig says he will be in Nisku this week. "I'll go - just as much for nostalgia's sake as for anything."

Associated Graphic

The industrial auction south of Edmonton will include more than 10,000 items.


Muskrat Falls Shakeup casts doubt on $9.2-billion project
New CEO Stan Marshall will launch a full review of hydroelectric scheme
Friday, April 22, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1

OTTAWA -- Energy & Resources

A dramatic change in leadership at Nalcor Energy has cast doubt on the future of the $9.2-billion Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project, but it may be too late to pull the plug on the controversial Labrador megaproject.

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball announced on Thursday that former Fortis Inc. president Stan Marshall has been appointed to take over at the Crown corporation from long-time chief executive officer Ed Martin, who resigned on Wednesday after facing criticism for cost overruns and delays in the project. The entire board of directors also resigned.

In a news conference on Thursday, Mr. Marshall said he would launch a full review of the 824-megawatt project on the Lower Churchill River. When completed, it would provide power to the island of Newfoundland, as well as to Nova Scotia and export markets through a subsea cable.

The retired executive from Fortis, a St. John's-based utility conglomerate, said he was never a fan of the Muskrat Falls deal. He would not say whether stopping the project is a possibility.

"There's always a point in any project where the cost of going forward is not worth it. ... [It's] hard to say," Mr. Marshall told reporters in St. John's.

But it is likely too late to turn back, Wade Locke, an economist at Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's, said in an interview.

Nalcor has already spent more than $4-billion on the construction of the Labrador generating station and transmission lines, and has deals with suppliers and contractors that would trigger large penalties - and potentially lawsuits - if they were cancelled. It also has $6.3-billion in federal loan guarantees.

"It's pretty close to impossible not to do it," said Mr. Locke, who has supported the project as the best way to supply clean power to the province. "At the end of the day, it is difficult to see that this project will not proceed. ... I would think the consequence of not doing it would be more severe than the consequences of doing it."

Nalcor's partner, Halifax-based Emera Inc., is responsible for linking Newfoundland and Nova Scotia by way of a $1.6-billion cable under Cabot Strait. In a 35-year contract with Nalcor, publicly traded Emera, which owns Nova Scotia Power, committed to 20 per cent of the cost of the overall project in exchange for 20 per cent of the electricity output.

By the end of December, it had spent $570-million on the link. Emera forecasts an additional $250-million in spending in the first six months of this year, and company spokeswoman Neera Ritcey said Thursday that it remains committed to the project.

"Throughout the maritime link project, we have had a positive working relationship with our partner and the government and we fully expect that will continue," Ms. Ritcey said.

Emera's work is on budget and on schedule to be completed in late 2017, though completion in Newfoundland has been pushed back to 2018.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil has pointed to Emera's investment in Muskrat Falls as a critical element to the province's plan to reduce coal-fired power and meet its ambitious greenhouse-gas reduction targets.

In the news conference in St. John's, Mr. Ball acknowledged that it may be difficult to stop the project now, but he said he would wait for Mr. Marshall's advice on "how to get Nalcor back on track." The Liberals, who replaced the long-reigning Conservatives last fall, supported the Muskrat Falls deal when they were in opposition, but they have raised concerns about the problem-plagued project.

A review by EY (formerly Ernst & Young), concluded last year and released last week, contained a litany of criticisms about the project management.

As well, the prime construction contractor, Italy's Astaldi SpA, has had disputes with its suppliers.

Mr. Martin was at the helm of Nalcor since it was created by former Conservative premier Danny Williams to develop the Lower Churchill and lead the province's efforts to gain a share of offshore oil projects. He hoped to complete Muskrat Falls and then develop the much larger Gull Island hydroelectric site for export to American states that are eager to buy clean power in order to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

Associated Graphic

The construction site at Muskrat Falls, Nfld. With a change in leadership at Nalcor Energy, the future of the venture is uncertain.


Made in Canada?
Moose Knuckles says its parkas are Canadian-made. The Competition Bureau disagrees
Thursday, April 28, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1

How Canadian is the Made in Canada claim of premium coat maker Moose Knuckles?

Not Canadian enough, the Competition Bureau says.

In the first case of its kind, the bureau on Wednesday said Montreal-based coat maker Moose International Inc. (known as Moose Knuckles) uses "false or misleading" Made in Canada claims and should stop doing it.

The bureau is seeking a $4-million penalty from the company and "restitution for consumers."

According to bureau guidelines for Made in Canada, at least 51 per cent of the "direct" costs of producing or manufacturing goods must be incurred in Canada, and the bureau said most of the company's parkas are made in Asia.

Moose Knuckles "vigorously rejects the allegations" made by the bureau, president Ayal Twik said in an e-mail. "Moose Knuckles core products are made in Canada and always have been."

The case underlines the importance that companies place on Canadiana and wrapping themselves in the Canadian flag as a way to gain a customer following and charge a premium price.

Rival Canada Goose led the way in the upscale coat category in flagging its product as Made in Canada and worthy of its high prices. Now Moose Knuckles' claim is being put to the test.

"In this industry, branding, brand value and brand reputation is very important," Chris Hersh, a partner at law firm Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP who specializes in competition law, said in an interview.

Moose Knuckles identifies itself as a Canadian company with a Canadian product, he said. "To the extent that this case challenges their Canadian-ness, that could potentially have a negative impact on their brand reputation and the willingness of some consumers to pay a premium, based on a Made In Canada claim."

Susan McGibbon, president of consultancy the Retail Lab, said it's risky for a company to try to take advantage of Canada's global reputation for being dependable and trustworthy if the company can't fully back up its claim.

"Being uniquely Canadian and Made in Canada mean something on the global stage" with both economic and emotional value tied to it, she said.

The bureau, in filing an application with the Competition Tribunal, alleged that the Moose Knuckles parkas, which cost from $595 to more than $1,000, are mostly manufactured in Vietnam and elsewhere in Asia. The bureau accused the company of only doing the finishing touches to the jackets, such as adding the trim, zippers and snaps, in Canada.

"Consumers are willing to pay a premium for Made in Canada products and manufacturers know this," said Matthew Boswell, senior deputy commissioner of competition at the bureau.

"The bureau has taken action in order to ensure that consumers - and retailers - have the correct information to allow them to make informed purchases."

Moose Knuckles countered that government officials are "using costly litigation against a small and proud Canadian company to test their vague guidelines." It said in a statement that it had on several occasions "pro-actively" contacted the bureau for clarification on its guidelines to ensure compliance. The company said it meets all requirements "to proudly and legally bring its Made in Canada products to the world."

It said it has more than 400 Canadians employed in three domestic garment factories as well as in other production for its core coat collection. "Like virtually every other garment made in Canada, textiles and components from abroad are used in the Canadian manufacture of Moose Knuckles parkas," it said.

In a category dominated by Canada Goose, Moose Knuckles sells jackets with hood trims made from blue and silver fox fur from Finland, gaining a following among well-heeled consumers in North America, Europe and Asia.

Its name conjures a Canadian strain of good humour but has a double entendre, with the word also connoting the bifurcation of an area of the male anatomy.


The Competition Bureau's guidelines for products labelled 'Made in Canada' and 'Product of Canada' require that: .

The last substantial transformation of the good occurred in Canada .

At least 51 per cent of the total direct costs of producing or manufacturing the good have been incurred in Canada .

The 'Made in Canada' representation is accompanied by a qualifying statement, such as 'Made in Canada with imported parts' or 'Made in Canada with domestic and imported parts'

Associated Graphic



When local politics trump policy, implications can be far-reaching
Saturday, February 13, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1

The continuing struggle to find a buyer for Porter Airlines is a painful reminder how local political decisions can ripple through an economy.

The upstart airline, which now flies turboprops out of its main hub on a small island airport in downtown Toronto, had a dream.

It wanted to take on Air Canada and Westjet on longer-haul flights by buying as many as 30 of Bombardier Inc.'s new C Series aircraft. To fly those planes, it needed to end a ban on jets and extend the runway at the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport 336 metres into Lake Ontario.

This isn't just about one company. Extending the runway would have been good for the broader Canadian economy in a host of ways. It would have encouraged more airline competition, improved access to the country's largest city and sealed a symbolic C Series sale on home turf for Bombardier.

But Transport Minister Marc Garneau effectively killed all of that - on Twitter - just a few weeks after the Liberals' election victory. Local politics trumped the national interest. There was strong internal pressure to nix the project. A clutch of prominent winning Liberal MPs from downtown Toronto ridings, including Adam Vaughan and Chrystia Freeland, were dead set against airport expansion.

Perhaps to reward them, Mr. Garneau chose not to wait for the outcome of pending reports on the impact of jets and a longer runway at the island airport.

Governments make political calculations all the time.

But politics and policy are working at cross purposes in this case.

The airport decision undercuts parallel government efforts to help one of the country's flagship manufacturers survive a severe cash crunch and bring one of the country's largest-yet R&D projects to fruition. The aircraft maker, which has already received a lifeline from the Quebec government, is now in talks with Ottawa for an infusion of roughly $1-billion (U.S.). Ottawa has not made a decision on a bailout.

For the cost of a runway, the government could have helped foster a market for the quiet and fuel-efficient C Series aircraft.

Instead, it's an opportunity lost.

A sale of 30 planes to Porter, worth up to $2.4-billion, wouldn't save the C Series. Bombardier needs many more purchases of that size, and larger. But it would have been a momentum-builder and a vote of confidence in the C Series at a critical juncture.

The episode highlights the different ways governments can support a small roster of flagship companies, who drive job growth, exports and innovation. They can give direct subsidies - common practice in the aerospace industry around the world. Or, they can help create the right market conditions to help companies thrive.

Doing more of the latter presumably means less need for the former.

It isn't the first time Ottawa has missed a chance to help drive sales of the C Series, without resorting to subsidies. Back in 2013, a struggling Air Canada lobbied the former Conservative government for relief from a massive pension deficit. The government waved pension rules and gave the company seven years to whittle down the pension shortfall. In return, the Conservatives secured modest concessions that included limiting executive bonuses and compensation.

A government with more vision and ambition might have used its leverage in the pension case to get Air Canada to commit to buying more Canadian-made planes, including the C Series.

It would not have been the first time the federal government used its clout to steer corporate behaviour. Over the decades, Ottawa has swapped favours and pressured foreign car makers, such as Honda and Chrysler, to put assembly plants in Canada.

Looking across the Canadian corporate landscape, there aren't many flagship companies worth saving. Bombardier happens to be one of them - a company that sustains vital aircraft-making expertise, thousands of jobs and a vast network of suppliers across Canada.

Airlines may have a host of reasons not to buy the C Series, including its relatively small size, the steep cost of training crews on a new aircraft and intense competition from Boeing and Airbus.

They might also wonder why they should buy a plane the company can't sell at home.

If Porter eventually runs out of financial runway and Bombardier jettisons the C Series, the Trudeau Liberals may look back with regret on the tweet that killed the island airport expansion.

Sir Terry's fight to save a steel town
Wednesday, April 27, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1

Sir Terry Matthews made a fortune in the technology sector with a string of companies including Mitel Corp., Corel Corp.

and Newbridge Networks, which he sold in 2000 for $7-billlion (U.S.) in stock. Now, Sir Terry is returning to his roots in Wales for what may be his greatest challenge yet: trying to revive Britain's largest steel plant.

Sir Terry has created Excalibur Steel UK Ltd., and he's rounding up investors to buy the troubled Tata steel mill in Port Talbot near Swansea.

Tata put its British operations up for sale in March, saying the division, which includes three steel-making facilities, was inefficient.

The Port Talbot plant is the largest, employing roughly 15,000 people directly and indirectly.

The challenge for any buyer is daunting. The integrated plant, which makes strip steel used in auto manufacturing, construction and appliances, is outdated and losing about $2-million a day.

Energy costs are twice as high as elsewhere in Europe and steel prices have plummeted because of oversupply from China."I've never been one to shy away from some kind of a fight," Sir Terry said in an interview from his office in Ottawa. He added that he chose the mythical name Excalibur deliberately because it's "a sword that was invincible."

Sir Terry, 72, is convinced the plant can be turned around and he points to a restructuring plan that was rejected by Tata officials because it involved nearly $200million in upgrades.

"In my view, everything I've heard says that a turnaround plan could work well," he said, adding that the operation could be profitable in two years. "I would say steel is a critical and strategic item in the U.K."

The buyout effort has won support from Welsh officials and the British government, which is pledging financial assistance and a 25-per-cent ownership stake.

Local Tata management is also onside and Sir Terry has help from his business partner, Roger Maggs, a former Alcan executive also from Wales and ran a Canadian venture capital company founded by Sir Terry in the 1990s.

Sir Terry is revered in southern Wales, where he was born and raised. While he left for Canada in the 1970s and built a career as a successful entrepreneur, he is deeply involved in the area. He owns a five-star resort near Cardiff, chairs a regional development board in Swansea and has invested in 10 tech startups. He's constantly hailed in the local press as the first billionaire from Wales and he was knighted in 2001. "He's got a big commitment to this area and he knows his way around finance," said John Warman, 71, who spent 30 years as a maintenance worker on the blast furnaces at the Port Talbot plant and is now a town councillor.

"We're fully supportive of trying to make Port Talbot a success."

Mr. Warman said the steel plant is the heart and soul of Port Talbot, which has a population of 45,000 and has been the centre of the British iron industry for hundreds of years, thanks to the abundance of metallurgical coal in the region. "Nearly everybody over the years has had somebody working at the works, their father, grandfather, uncle, aunt," he said.

Steven Phillips, the chief administrator for Port Talbot who is working on the Excalibur effort with Sir Terry, said closing the plant would ruin the economy.

"We know the scale of the challenge, but we also know the potential impact that it will have ... [on] the whole of the South Wales economy," he said.

Even so, saving the mill won't be easy. Tata recently sold a plant in England for just £1 ($1.45) to an investment firm that's promising to invest $700-million in the facility in return for wage cuts and changes to the pension plan. And so far, no firm bids have surfaced for Port Talbot.

None of that fazes Sir Terry, who has been invigorated by the battle to keep the plant open. "People are fighting back as a team," he said emphatically. "And I like that."

Associated Graphic

Terry Matthews, seen in 2010 is rounding up investors for the troubled Tata steel mill in Port Talbot, Wales.


Closing the steel plant in Port Talbot would ruin the economy, chief administrator Steven Phillips says.


Sino-Forest's final cut: $242-million
Tuesday, April 26, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1

The company created to hold the remaining assets of Sino-Forest Corp. has negotiated the sale of the last of the failed company's holdings for $242-million (U.S.), signalling there was significant remaining value within the company's disputed forestry assets.

Emerald Plantation Holdings Ltd., which was created to manage the company's assets after it filed for bankruptcy protection in 2013, said it has entered into a conditional offer to sell subsidiary Emerald Plantation Group Ltd. to New Plantation Ltd., a private forestry company.

Emerald Plantation Holdings, based in Hong Kong, is controlled by former bondholders of Sino-Forest, who took control of the company's assets under a court-supervised reorganization.

The sale price for the subsidiary includes an initial consideration of $214-million, plus a further $23-million to be deferred and paid within 12 months, as well as $5-million which has been seized and frozen under court orders but is expected to be released.

Emerald Plantation management could not be reached for comment Monday, and the company's release did not specify which of Sino-Forest's former holdings are included in the subsidiary being sold to New Plantation.

The sale, which still requires approvals from shareholders, comes after several other smaller assets were sold by Emerald Plantation Holdings last year, including two plantations sold for a total of $13.2-million and shares of subsidiary Greenheart Resources Holdings Ltd., which sold for $111-million. All were sold to unidentified "outside buyers."

Combined with the current proposed sale, Sino-Forest's assets have been liquidated over the past year for an anticipated total of almost $366-million, which suggests the company held significant real business assets, but they do not appear to be worth nearly as much as the company claimed in its financial statements prior to its collapse.

In 2010, for example, Sino-Forest reported holding $5.7-billion in total assets, including timber holdings worth $3.1-billion. The company, which traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange, collapsed after a short seller wrote a damning report in 2011 questioning its accounting practices and calling Sino-Forest a "Ponzi scheme."

The Ontario Securities Commission has accused Sino-Forest founder and chief executive officer Allen Chan and four other senior executives of fraud, alleging management overstated the value of the company's standing timber business and falsified evidence of ownership for the vast majority of its timber holdings.

The OSC's long-running hearing in the case continued Monday with closing arguments by the regulator's staff, which began a week ago.

In his remarks last week, OSC lawyer Hugh Craig repeatedly stressed that senior staff of SinoForest have had years to prove the company owned the significant standing timber assets it reported, but have not been able to produce any documents to back the claims.

The company's timber subsidiary, registered in the British Virgin Islands, held most of the company's reported assets, which Sino-Forest said were located in China. Mr. Craig said "no clear or cogent evidence" had been produced at the OSC's hearing to show the existence of most of the standing timber in the BVI division, saying there was "very little evidence that Sino-Forest did real business" within the BVI model.

The OSC had no immediate comment Monday on the sale of Emerald Plantation assets.

Mr. Chan's lawyer, Emily Cole, also said she could not comment on the sale announcement.

Proceeds from asset sales by Emerald Plantation Holdings are being paid out to the company's note holders, allowing the former bondholders to reap some return on their investments.

In November, for example, Emerald notified investors of a plan to repurchase $39-million of outstanding notes using proceeds from asset sales last year. In July, the company paid out $85-million to repurchase senior notes.

Associated Graphic

A Sino-Forest plantation shown in June, 2011.


The league of kids
Players children enjoy access to the best players in the world, with whom they can hone their skills and even enjoy a high profile
Saturday, February 13, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S3

TORONTO -- Ninety minutes before the Toronto Raptors play the Los Angeles Clippers, Bismack Biyombo leaps into the air and throws down a slam dunk, landing near 10-year-old Tiago Scola, who dutifully rebounds the ball and returns it to the towering Raptors centre.

Tiago is growing up behind the scenes of the NBA alongside his father, Luis, the Raptors power forward. It's the coolest backstage pass a kid could imagine.

Well-mannered Tiago, the oldest of Scola's four sons, often tags along with his father, hanging out in NBA locker rooms and on courts with some of the best players in the world, rebounding for them, watching their work habits and getting advice. After the players jog off to the locker room, he sometimes gets the glossy hardwood to himself to work on his own game.

"I learn from the players, and they always give me high-fives, tell me I'm tall and that I have big hands," said Tiago, whose height, dark hair and eyes resemble his dad's. "Lots of players know me here, mostly everyone knows me here. My friends say I'm lucky."

Since his father transitioned from playing in Europe to the NBA in 2007, his family has lived in Houston, Phoenix and Indianapolis before moving to Toronto this season. They spend summers back home in Buenos Aires. He plays many sports, but loves basketball best, playing since the age of 5, and recently joining a club team in Toronto.

He dreams of playing in the NBA and winning an Olympic medal for Argentina, just like his dad.

"Any chance I get to bring one of my kids, I do it because I want to spend a little more time with them and involve them in what I do," said 35-year-old Scola, whose other sons are 5, 6 and 8. "Tiago sees the way pro players practise, prepare, eat, sleep and watch film - things the rest of us discovered when we were like 21.

He's been asking if he can arrive at his own practice an hour early because he's seen me do that. He says, 'If I go at the same time as everyone else, how am I supposed to get better than them?' "The experience is about more than the basketball for little Tiago. He winds independently through the back hallways of Air Canada Centre, wearing jeans, black high-tops and a Raptors jersey with TIAGO across the back. He veers into a large suite reserved for Raptors family members. He scampers around the space playing tour guide, pointing to the catered food, a room for playing with toys or video games and a back hallway the kids sometimes use for hideand-seek or dodgeball.

"I had lots of friends in Indiana, so I was a bit sad to leave there," the youngster said. "At first, I didn't know that Toronto was in Canada, and then when I learned that, I was excited to come. I've made lots of friends here."

Lots of players will have families in tow when the NBA all-star game comes to the ACC on Sunday. The event always provides plentiful photo opportunities of players and their adorably dressed offspring.

The toddlers of Toronto's two all-stars have become familiar faces at the ACC. Kyle Lowry's son, Karter, is often present - the one Lowry wanted in his arms most after his game-winning shot attempt in Game 7 against the Brooklyn Nets was infamously batted away by Paul Pierce.

DeMar DeRozan's daughter, Diar, is usually seen courtside right before tip-off, hoisted up by her mother to deliver her dad a pregame kiss.

Some kids have become nearly as recognizable as their superstar fathers, such as Stephen Curry's charismatic little daughter, Riley, who charms when he puts her in front of a microphone. Curry and his brother, Seth, grew up as tagalongs with their NBA playerdad, getting to dribble around with stars such as Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady.

"Kids of professional athletes can get really spoiled, but we wanted to give our kids everything they needed, but not everything they wanted," said their father, Dell, reached in Charlotte, where he now broadcasts Hornets games on Fox Sports Southeast. "I think that kept them humble and hungry."

The sons of LeBron James - 11year-old LeBron Jr. and eightyear-old Bryce Maximus - pack gymnasiums and prompt YouTube clips galore when they play with their local club team. James recently insisted publicly that colleges stop recruiting his oldest. The two boys are fixtures at Cleveland games and on their dad's Twitter feed, often wearing something from Nike's LeBron collection.

The James kids recently modelled in a holiday campaign for clothing label Sean John, starring in billboards across the United States with Carmelo Anthony's son, Kiyan - an eightyear-old also brimming with hoops talent. Maybe someday, they'll join a line of kids who have followed their NBA dads into a life of professional ball.

"All six of us kids would pile into the car and go to our dad's games," said David Stockton, son of Hall of Famer John Stockton, reached in Nevada, where he now plays for the Reno Bighorns of the NBA's Development League. "We'd wait until [Utah Jazz coach] Jerry Sloan was done addressing the team after the game. When he left the locker room, that was our cue that we could go back, get a basketball and go shoot. That was the kids' time and we had some fantastic competitions."

Stockton can remember going to his father's all-star weekends, especially in 2000, when he was among some kids sitting close to witness Carter win the most eyepopping dunk competition on record.

"I was there sitting next to Allen Iverson's mother, and wow, was she was a lot of fun, taking care of all the kids, giving us signed photos of her son," Stockton said. "We knew there was something special about us because we got to go on the court, and other kids didn't, but my parents were all about teaching us to be very humble."

After tagging along with their father, long-time NBA player Antonio Davis, twins Kaela and Antonio Jr. have grown up to play NCAA basketball. His daughter remembers the little things most - sitting courtside on the floor cross-legged and being a little frightened by the mascots, getting to help herself to cups of Gatorade, news helicopters flying over the house when her dad was being traded or being given a bobblehead by Carter.

"It can be annoying when people say, 'Of course you're good, your dad played in the NBA' - well, we use him as an asset, yes, but it still takes a lot of hard work," said Davis, a guard who recently transferred to the University of South Carolina, by telephone. "People used to pack our high school gym to watch us because my team also had the daughters of Dee Brown, and MLB players Ken Griffey Jr. and Delino DeShields. Everyone wanted to see how we compared to our dads."

Young Tiago bounds back out to the court after his meal, saying quiet hellos to the courtside cameramen and broadcasters who know him. He finds his 6-foot-9 father there shooting threes. The dad breaks into a big smile and ruffles the boy's hair, and the youngster jumps back into rebounding some more before his mom and brothers arrive for the game.

"My dad always talks to me about defending, how to pass the ball when guys are guarding me, and tells me, 'Don't just chuck shots, but get into your stance and shoot,' " the youngster said. "I hope I'm gonna be as tall as my dad some day."

Associated Graphic

Tiago Scola, the 10-year-old son of the Toronto Raptors' Luis Scola, seen at left in top photo with fellow Argentine L.A. Clippers player Pablo Prigioni, at right, sometimes gets the court all to himself to work on his own game.


After a decade of bitter losses to Crosby, Ovechkin yearns to settle score with rival
Monday, April 25, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S1


Every athlete has losses that burn, years - and even decades - afterward.

What makes Alex Ovechkin's losses unique is so many of the worst moments of his career have been to the benefit of Sidney Crosby.

The 2005 world juniors, their first on-ice meeting, where Canada thumped Russia 6-1 and Ovechkin left early with a dislocated shoulder.

The epic second-round battle in the NHL in 2009, where Crosby's Pittsburgh Penguins downed Ovie's Washington Capitals - and eventually won a Stanley Cup - after the two piled up a combined 27 points in the seven-game series.

The 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and Crosby's first golden goal. Then, four years later, his second, in the heart of Russia, where Ovechkin had dreamed of matching Crosby's heroics and delivering gold at home.

Crushing losses, all of them.

Here comes the rematch.

The Capitals finally took out the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday afternoon, holding on for a 1-0 series-ender in Game 6. Washington's reward is a Round 2 matchup with the Penguins, their first postseason meeting since 2009, a series widely regarded as one of the best played in the past decade.

The Capitals enter this one as the NHL's top team after a 120-point regular season. But the Penguins aren't exactly underdogs, as they were the NHL's top team to end the year with a 19-6 run in their final 25 games.

It should make for an even series and compelling theatre.

But the headlines will all be Ovechkin versus Crosby.

It's hard not to view this as Ovechkin's chance to rewrite the narrative. He is 31 in September.

He's on the most complete team the Capitals franchise has ever had, with the expected Vézina Trophy-winning goaltender in net (Braden Holtby) and Jack Adams-winning coach behind the bench (Barry Trotz).

He has more support offensively - with one of the NHL's leading scorers in Evgeny Kuznetsov on the second line - and in leadership roles, with recent Cup hoisters Justin Williams, Mike Richards and Brooks Orpik all airlifted into D.C. to win.

This is Ovechkin's shot to finally get out of the second round, in his 11th year in the league. This is his shot - perhaps the best one he'll ever get - at the Cup.

It's fitting it goes through Crosby.

There are a lot of things wrong with the NHL's new standings format - including the fact these two teams are meeting in Round 2 instead of the conference finals after they finished 1-2 in the East - but the league being gifted this matchup is a godsend.

With no Canadian teams in the playoffs, the ratings were guaranteed to be a problem north of the border, but if you look at the big TV markets that have been eliminated in recent days - Detroit, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and even Minnesota - drawing eyeballs was tracking to become a huge issue down south, too.

A Capitals-Penguins grudge match will save it. Perhaps even in Canada, where Pittsburgh continues to be the mostwatched U.S. team thanks to Crosby.

What helps is what's on the line. Whoever survives this series has a very good chance of winning it all. With the Kings gone and the Chicago Blackhawks on the brink, the longheld notion that the Cup winner is coming out of the West doesn't appear to apply.

In the East, only the Tampa Bay Lightning look like a significant threat, and only then if Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman can return from injury and make an impact.

For Crosby, a second Stanley Cup would certainly cement his legacy - at 28 years old - as the defining player of his generation. After a brutal start had many questioning whether all of his injuries - and those to his head specifically - had caught up to him, Crosby has been the NHL's best player since Christmas. Including the first round of the playoffs, he now has 71 points in his past 53 games - eight more than Chicago's Patrick Kane in second spot.

(Ovechkin, incidentally, has 46.)

Whatever questions Crosby still had to answer about being one of the best players in the world, he's answered, and another championship would be a fitting end to those doubts.

An Ovechkin win would be different. Whether it's fair or not, he needs more team success to win the traditionalists over and to end the never-ending nitpicking of his game. Even getting through this series with the Penguins, and to his first final four, would change some hearts and minds around the NHL - especially if he's a difference maker.

Eleven years is an awful long time to wait to go deep in the playoffs, and despite the fact it's now a 30-team league, there's still an expectation that superstars will at some point play for a Stanley Cup.

Nine times in the past 10 years, however, Ovechkin has instead been at the world championships, where he's quietly won three gold, two silver and a bronze medal in that span.

Crosby? He has played in only two worlds, including last year, when he captained Canada past the Russians in a lopsided goldmedal game to become the 26th member of hockey's Triple Gold Club.

In a tournament few in North America saw, Ovechkin was again on the losing end.

The good news is that his next chance to get the better of Crosby starts later this week. And it can't go much worse than it has before.

Follow me on Twitter: @mirtle

Associated Graphic

Washington's Alex Ovechkin skates past Philadelphia's Brayden Schenn as the Capitals defeat the Flyers on Sunday. Ovechkin and the Capitals now face Sidney Crosby and the Penguins in Round 2.


Red Wings should part with Datsyuk and start anew
If the Russian returns home, he will do so having had a stellar career - and open the door for a changing of the guard in Detroit
Saturday, April 23, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S2

If this is indeed the end of Pavel Datsyuk's distinguished NHL career, it will go into the record books this way: Two Stanley Cup championships, three Selke Trophies, four Lady Byng Awards and more electrifying highlightreel goals than any Russian player since Pavel Bure.

Datsyuk didn't want to make it official Thursday night, when the Red Wings became the first team eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs and that's perfectly understandable. In the immediate aftermath of a five-game loss to a team missing two of its key players, the disappointment was palpable, the realization of an opportunity lost still too raw.

But Datsyuk had indicated before the playoffs began that he might return to play in Russia next season for both personal and professional reasons. Nor does Datsyuk's desire to return to Russia come as a bolt out of the blue to the Red Wings.

Two years ago, he made his interest known to general manager Ken Holland after his contract expired. Holland persuaded Datsyuk to stay, on the grounds that he remained a star player in the NHL, could easily sign one more lucrative contract and still be a competitive player in Russia before age caught up to him.

Datsyuk turns 38 in July. In the past, once a player clearly tied to a single NHL organization passes his 35th birthday, he signs a series of one-year contracts, which provide him with the flexibility to reevaluate his playing future at the end of every season. Teemu Selanne did it that way for years in Anaheim, Joe Sakic with Colorado, even Nicklas Lidstrom with the Red Wings.

The mechanism helps both sides - the player and the team.

Instead, the Red Wings gave Datsyuk a three-year extension, which paid him $10-million in the first year, $7-million this past year and drops to $5.5-million next year. Under the collective agreement, if Datsyuk leaves, the Red Wings will have to carry that final year - and the $7.5-million cap charge - on their books, which would put them in a financial pickle for one year anyway.

The Red Wings have made the playoffs for an astonishing 25 years in a row, a record of consistency and excellence that requires a moment to digest and appreciate. No one else in the NHL comes close.

Of late, however, they have settled into the NHL middle, a dangerous place to be. Consistent success means low draft picks.

There are only so many Dylan Larkins available 15th over all in the entry draft, only so many Anthony Manthas at 20th over all.

Holland and his staff have done a remarkable job of drafting players and, in recent years, of resisting the temptation to move out blue-chip young talent in exchange for short-term help.

They were keenly aware that the cupboard needed to be restocked, with Datsyuk having a foot out the door and Henrik Zetterberg probably not all that far behind.

In the meantime, there are more prospects in the pipeline.

The 110th player chosen in 2012, Andreas Athanasiou, came up in the second half and showed that he might have NHL offensive chops. Tomas Tatar and Gus Nyquist are still young. Tomas Jurco and Teemu Pulkkinen, two players who played well for coach Jeff Blashill in the minors in Grand Rapids, Mich., have not settled into regular NHL roles, but will get a fresh opportunity to show they belong next year.

Although he faltered down the stretch, the Red Wings believe Petr Mrazek will develop into a legitimate No. 1 goaltender.

But if Datsyuk leaves, it will likely mean the Wings are facing a transitional year until they get his contract off the books, a year that will feature lots of young players playing on inexpensive contracts at the NHL level.

It probably wouldn't hurt to take one deliberate step backward and see where it all ends up.

Blashill told reporters earlier this week that, organizationally, the Red Wings' primary goal is to develop winners. Detroit's winning tradition is indisputable. It remains the last team to win back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1997 and 1998 and it also won in 2002 and 2007. Most fans of most teams would happily take four titles in two decades.

But now, after four first-round exits in the past five years, there is no clear sense that the Red Wings are legitimate championship contenders any more. Even if they can persuade Datsyuk to change his mind for a year - and that's doubtful - it doesn't alter the fact that his era is mostly over. They need to move on to the next chapter. If it happens sooner rather than later, so be it.

Datsyuk's exit should be viewed the same way Lidstrom's was - both left nothing but wonderful memories behind. If this was his swan song, out of respect for everything Datsyuk's done for the organization, the Wings should just let him go, with their thanks.

They'll find a way without him.

In Detroit, they almost always do.

Follow me on Twitter: @eduhatschek

Associated Graphic

Pavel Datsyuk, as with the rest of the Red Wings, had trouble scoring on Lightning goalie Ben Bishop in the first round of the playoffs.


Colabello says he 'won't rest' till he figures out drug test result
Wednesday, April 27, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S1

TORONTO -- There was sadness etched all over his face and the occasional tear rolled from his eyes as Chris Colabello made his first public pronouncements after getting busted late last week for ingesting performance-enhancing drugs.

It is no doubt a difficult time for the 32-year-old Toronto Blue Jays first baseman. It usually is for those who get caught cheating.

Interviewed on camera by Blue Jay broadcaster Jamie Campbell and broadcast on the club's Blue Jays Central television broadcast before Toronto's game Tuesday night against the Chicago White Sox, Colabello said there can be no denying the presence of an illegal sub.

stance in his system.

But he said he remains totally mystified as to how it got there.

"I have no idea how this happened and I'm still trying to figure that out," Colabello said.

"And I won't rest until I do."

Colabello will have plenty of time on his hands to try to dig up those answers as Major League Baseball on Friday slapped him with an 80-game suspension after he tested positive for traces of dehydrochlormethyltestosterone in his system.

An anabolic steroid known commercially as Turinabol, the 32-year-old first learned of the positive test on March 13 after a routine drug test in February during spring training in Florida.

In the world of performanceenhancing drugs, Turinabol is what Pac-Man is to video gaming - old school.

According to the medical journals, the drug's main attributes are to enhance strength and endurance.

Sounds like a perfect pick-meup for a baseball player looking for a little help to get through the grind of a gruelling 162game regular season.

Colabello said he didn't actually test positive for the drug itself but for a "long-term" metabolite that is supposedly generated from the use of Turinabol, or DHCMT as he referred to it.

"I've never even heard of this so I'm being told I put this in my body?" Colabello said during the 12-minute interview that was taped in Toronto on Monday. "It was, it still is, gut-wrenching. I cried and cried and cried and cried, just because, my career means everything to me.

"Anybody that knows me, anybody that knows my track record as a person, as a human, more than just a baseball player, understands what this game means to me. And to think it could all be called into question at some point because of this - it's something that I would never have imagined."

The revelation that Colabello was using a banned performance-enhancing substance has been shocking to his legion of fans who came to love his ragsto-riches story of the underdog athlete who persevered to finally realize his dream of playing in the big leagues.

Undrafted out of college, Colabello never gave up his pursuit of playing the game at the highest level and toiled for seven seasons in independent baseball before he finally broke though into the major leagues.

Last year, his first in Toronto, Colabello was a revelation and key component to the Blue Jays playoff drive, hitting .321 with 15 home runs in 101 games.

This season, while Colabello was unsuccessfully appealing the original finding of the positive test, his production had dipped drastically with just two hits in 29 plate appearances in the 10 games he played before the suspension was announced.

During Monday's interview on Sportsnet, Colabello said in no way does he fit the bill of an athlete who would turn to steroids for a career boost.

"Come look at my body," said the slender, 6-foot-4, 210-pound athlete. "Come look at my body.

Come look at the way I work.

Come look at the change I've made in my life to get to be a big leaguer, swing-wise. Look at my track record in minor leagues. I hit everywhere I was. I hit everywhere.

"In the last four years, I've passed 20 drug tests - 20! Nineteen in the regular season, one I think in the playoffs last season.

"I played independent ball for seven years. Why wouldn't I have done it then if I was ever going to do it? I stayed in indy ball for seven years, watched guys in that league cheat. Why wouldn't I do it then?" When he first learned of his positive test, Colabello said he did everything he could to try to figure out how Turinabol got into his system.

"I've sent my dog's blood and urine in to get tested," he said.

And now Colabello said that he feels like the game he has cherished his entire life is being ripped out from beneath his feet, and there's little he can do about it.

"I love baseball so much," he said, tears welling up once again in his eyes. "I love the purity of the game, I love everything about it.

"Just the thought that somebody turns the lights on, I get to go out and play. That's all I've ever wanted to do. I'll always love the game. That will never go away."

Close call gave rookie 'leaps and bounds of growth'
Friday, April 29, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S1

TORONTO -- Rookie Norman Powell was one of the stars in the fourth quarter of the Toronto Raptors' epic Game 5 comeback win over the Indiana Pacers. But in the final two seconds, as the Raptors clung to a 102-99 lead and he chased Paul George, Powell also made a mistake that he could have long regretted.

The Pacers were inbounding under their own basket, hoping to tie the game and send it to overtime, so the Raps made a plan. George would almost certainly receive the ball, and Powell was to slap it away for a steal or foul George if he motioned to dribble.

In those two seconds, George raced around, caught the ball, dribbled and then zipped a fast pass to wide-open teammate Solomon Hill. It happened in such a dizzying flash that Powell didn't reach in quickly enough to foul, and Hill scored an open three.

Luckily for Toronto, video review showed that Hill didn't get that shot off before the buzzer, giving the Raps the win and a 3-2 series lead with a chance to clinch the team's first playoff series in 15 years on Friday in Game 6.

It also provided a valuable learning experience for the player chosen 46th in the last NBA draft, and Powell has meticulously studied game film of his mistake.

"After the game, he was almost distraught, like 'I didn't do the right thing,' but he wants to do the right thing all the time - he's so coachable," Raptors assistant coach Jama Mahlalela said.

"For him, there were leaps and bounds of growth done in that two seconds of film and now that will probably never happen to him again in his career. He loves watching film - he knows the mistakes before I even press play, and that's so impressive from a rookie."

How much the rookie will be used in Game 6 is anyone's guess.

He started Game 1 and played 17 minutes. He came off the bench in Game 2 just three minutes into the game to defend George after DeMarre Carroll got into foul trouble. He played just three minutes in Toronto's shabby Game 3 loss, but then had 10point performances in both Games 4 and 5, highlighted by his game-tying dunk Tuesday night off a crafty steal.

"I give myself up no matter what my role is, and I play with passion and heart," Powell said.

"I just told myself, I've put in the work and time and I've dreamed of being on this stage my whole life, so I should go out and prove to people that I belong."

The 22-year-old guard, who played four years at UCLA, started 24 games this year and defended players such as James Harden and Russell Westbrook.

So it's no surprise he's been asked to help on George.

The task gets tougher on Friday as George will be desperate to avoid elimination and could play the entire 48 minutes. Indy coach Frank Vogel was criticized for leaving his star on the bench too long as the Raptors kick-started that fourth-quarter Game 5 comeback. George said he could play the whole game - and do so at a high level - if asked to.

"If that's the direction the game is going, I'm all for it," George told Indiana media on Thursday.

"We had a chance to make Friday night a special night, a closeout game here, and we blew it."

Toronto fans are once again scooping up tickets to watch the game in Indianapolis. The Pacers announced they will give out gold T-shirts at the game with an outline of the state of Indiana and the words "United State of Basketball, #WeTheGold."

Raptor Patrick Patterson wasn't surprised at the imitation, saying that when Raptors fans sing the Canadian anthem loudly wherever they go, it really gets noticed.

Then suddenly they see opposing fans singing the U.S. anthem loudly in response.

"Same thing probably with, 'We The Gold,' " Patterson said. "Just because we do 'We The North,' they're just trying to find something to get at us."

Associated Graphic

Raptors rookie Norman Powell shows his emotion during Game 5 against the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday.


Naturopath gets light reprimand for doping documentary involvement
Vancouver-based Brandon Spletzer has his practice suspended for 10 days but is not fined for role in Al Jazeera feature
Thursday, April 28, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S1

VANCOUVER -- A Vancouver naturopath implicated in a sports doping documentary has been lightly reprimanded by the College of Naturopathic Physicians of British Columbia.

The case against Brandon Spletzer is the first to be officially resolved, after the airing of an Al Jazeera documentary in late December on sports doping.

Spletzer plays a relatively minor role. In one scene, he talks to an undercover reporter about evading the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). In another, Spletzer delivers the reporter peptides not authorized for human consumption. Peptides are prohibited by WADA. The documentary caught wide attention for scenes Spletzer was not in. Several prominent athletes, led by Peyton Manning, were named. The allegations of sports doping were denied and haven't been proven. Baseball players Ryan Howard and Ryan Zimmerman sued Al Jazeera.

The reprimand against Spletzer by the College of Naturopathic Physicians of B.C. was a suspension of his practice for 10 days.

Other conditions included taking an ethics course and not working with athletes for one year. There was no fine.

The college, in a statement, said it imposes sanctions to protect public safety "that are commensurate with the seriousness of the misconduct."

Spletzer was found to have recommended, ordered and provided a patient with two peptides that are not authorized for sale in Canada and a third peptide that cannot be prescribed by naturopaths. The college, in its public notification of the reprimand, also said Spletzer had made statements to a patient that "could be interpreted as being willing to engage in disgraceful, dishonourable, or unprofessional conduct."

On Wednesday, in his first interview about the case, Spletzer said he never aimed to facilitate sports doping.

"I was not, and I never have been, intentionally involved in sports doping," Spletzer said.

He said he fully co-operated with the investigation and said the details of the reprimand indicate he wasn't what was portrayed in the Al Jazeera documentary.

"If I was deliberately going out and making a whole lot of money, like it was shown in the video, doping athletes all over the place, you'd think I would have been punished a little more heavy-handed," Spletzer said.

Spletzer said he was wrong to prescribe the peptides. He said he had checked whether he could prescribe them as a naturopath and erroneously believed he could. He said the undercover reporter, a former athlete, didn't present himself as aiming to compete. Spletzer added that he was wrong to talk about evading WADA.

"It's cut and pasted," Spletzer said of the documentary. "He [the undercover reporter] was asking a lot of questions, a lot of hypotheticals. I'll be the first to admit I said something I shouldn't have. I said that to my board, as well. It was a mistake on my part to say those things."

In the documentary, Spletzer works with Vancouver-area pharmacist Chad Robertson. An investigation of Robertson by the College of Pharmacists of B.C. is ongoing, according to Bob Nakagawa, the college's registrar.

Robertson remains a full pharmacist with no limits or conditions on his work, according to the college's website.

Robertson is heard saying in the documentary that he has doped people - "I can take a guy with average genetics and I can make him world champion" - and later is shown with the undercover reporter organizing the acquisition of substances banned in sports. The reporter was Liam Collins, a onetime British hurdler.

The documentary positioned Collins as an athlete looking for one last shot at the Olympics.

Spletzer said he had cut ties last year with Collins, when the idea of competing was raised.

"I'm not some big-wig player in all of this," Spletzer said. "I literally got blindsided."

Dickey struggles early, Jays lose in extras
Thursday, April 21, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S2

Beleaguered knuckleball pitcher R.A. Dickey gave the Toronto Blue Jays the start they have been patiently waiting for all season.

Unfortunately, the end result was not to his liking.

Manny Machado singled off Toronto reliever Joe Biagini in the bottom of the 10th inning to score Caleb Joseph from third base as the Baltimore Orioles won 4-3 at Camden Yards on Wednesday night. The winning run crossed on a passed ball by Josh Thole.

It was a bitter loss for the Blue Jays (8-8) to swallow after batting back from an early 3-0 disadvantage. The setback also snapped a three-game Toronto win streak.

Dickey struggled early and surrendered three runs off three hits in the first inning, which allowed Baltimore to scoot in front 3-0.

It was the second consecutive game that Dickey has coughed up three runs in the opening frame.

But Dickey settled down after that, shutting down Baltimore on just two more hits through the next five innings before departing after six innings and the Jays trailing 3-2.

After falling behind early, the Blue Jays chipped away at the Baltimore lead, scoring one run in the third and another in the fifth on an opposite-field home run by Josh Donaldson that cut Baltimore's lead to 3-2. The homer was the American League leader's sixth of the season.

The Blue Jays tied it in the seventh when Edwin Encarnacion doubled home Michael Saunders from third base.

Saunders was grateful for the second chance to score after he failed to tag up on a line drive by Jose Bautista to centre.

If anybody needed a favourable outcome on Wednesday, it was Dickey, whose performance over the first month of the season has provided a year's worth of fodder for the sports-radio junkies.

Over all, Toronto starters have been surprisingly spry this season. In their past nine starts heading into Wednesday's game, they were 6-3 with a 2.30 earnedrun average along with a .207 opponent's batting average.

Dickey has been the outlier to that.

In his previous outing, a loss against Boston on Friday, Dickey lasted 42/3 innings, his third consecutive start that he has failed to reach six innings. You have to go all the way back to the 2008 season to find the previous time he has struggled like that.

Historically, Dickey has shown a penchant for throwing late in into games, his 6542/3 innings over his past three seasons the most by a Blue Jays hurlers since Roy Halladay exceeded 710 from 2007-2009.

At 41, some are wondering if Dickey's age is becoming a factor, something that Toronto manager John Gibbons will pass off as rubbish.

Dickey, Gibbons notes, is a notorious slow starter - and the numbers since the knuckleballer has plied his trade in Toronto back that up.

In his three seasons in a Blue Jays uniform heading into 2016, Dickey's combined record the first half of the year is 18-29, a win percentage of 38.3 per cent.

Over the second half, his win-loss record is 21-8, a 72.4-per-cent success rate.

However, it is interesting to note that in 2012, Dickey's Cy Young Award season with the New York Mets, he went 12-1 in the first half and 8-5 in the second.

Associated Graphic

Orioles outfielder Joey Rickard slides to score a run as Toronto Blue Jays catcher Josh Thole can't hang on to the ball in the first inning in Baltimore on Wednesday night.


Friday, April 22, 2016


A Thursday Sports story on the Blue Jays incorrectly said Manny Machado singled to score Caleb Joseph in the bottom of the 10th inning. In fact, Machado walked and during another player's atbat, Joseph scored the winning run on a passed ball by Josh Thole.

Sudanese man faces second review hearing with Canadian refugee board
Tuesday, April 26, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S1

VANCOUVER -- Jonathan Nicola, the high school basketball player who may be almost 30 years old, faces his second detention review hearing on Tuesday in front of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.

Nicola came to Canada in November from South Sudan on a student visa that indicated he was born Nov. 25, 1998. He then attended Catholic Central High School in Windsor, Ont., as a 17year-old student in Grade 11, and played on the basketball team.

He was arrested by the Canada Border Services Agency on April 15 and is being held at the South West Detention Centre, a maximum-security jail in Windsor.

Nicola had his first detention review hearing last Tuesday and it was determined he was a flight risk.

Detention reviews occur until the main case is heard. On Monday, the Canada Border Services Agency applied to the Immigration and Refugee Board for an admissibility hearing.

Border Services has alleged that Nicola misrepresented material facts in his application for a permit to study in Canada.

Border Services said Nicola had previously used a date of birth of Nov. 1, 1986, for an earlier application to enter the United States.

If the allegations are found to be true in an admissibility hearing, Nicola faces deportation from Canada, said Anna Pape, a spokeswoman for the Immigration and Refugee Board.

Nicola's basketball coach, Peter Cusumano, is hopeful the former player will not be deported.

Nicola stayed at Cusumano's home throughout the winter, brokered by the Canada Homestay Network.

Cusumano said Nicola was an excellent guest, living alongside his wife and 24-year-old daughter.

"Everybody went into this with good intentions, and it's blown up in our face," Cusumano said on Monday.

Cusumano wondered about Nicola's age but there was an array of official documentation that had been vetted by government officials. Cusumano once asked his other players if they thought Nicola was older but there was no outcry.

"He had a kind soul," Cusumano said. "He was desperate to get out of a bad situation."

According to Cusumano, Nicola had previously applied for refugee status in the United States in 2007. Then there was an application in 2015 to go to a prep school in Florida.

These emerged in December, when Cusumano and Nicola went to the U.S. Consulate General in Toronto to apply for a visitor visa to the United States, so Nicola could join the Catholic Central team for some games in Michigan.

The visa was eventually denied.

Cusumano said Nicola told him he didn't know about the previous applications. There were questions about aliases and the spelling of Nicola's mother's name.

On the basketball court, some were skeptical about Nicola.

"We all said, 'There's no way that kid is 17,' " said Trish Biffin, a coach at Pine Ridge Secondary School, which played Catholic Central early in the season and then defeated them in the provincial playoffs.

"I didn't know how old he was."

The stress has been difficult, Cusumano said.

"It's been bad for me. It's been horrible for my family. I can't imagine how bad it is for this kid," Cusumano said. "I do feel I was duped in a way. I question myself, for sure. I don't like being called the village idiot."

Homeland improvement
Former Home Depot head Annette Verschuren's new mission is to make Canada No. 1 in sustainability
Friday, April 29, 2016 – Print Edition, Page P9

Risk can take all sorts of forms-- like starting a new company when you're pushing 60, say. Or riding a mechanical bull in a room full of your peers.

Annette Verschuren smiles devilishly when reminded of the latter, and then responds the way she is apt to do: "I am someone who gets things done. I talk about things I want to do, but I also do them. I'm a risk-taker." The title of her just-released book distills her message to three words: Bet on Me.

Verschuren is best known for her 15-year stint as president of Home Depot Canada. But she's a person of many parts, and one of them is green. The mechanical-bull ride happened at a rodeo themed environmental fundraiser in early 2014. The new company is NRStor, a Toronto energy storage start-up that Verschuren co-founded. And she helps head the Smart Prosperity initiative, a coalition determined to put Canada's economy on a more productive and environmentally sustainable path.

The idea for Smart Prosperity emerged three years ago out of chats between Stewart Elgie, an environmental law professor at the University of Ottawa, and Lorraine Mitchelmore, then head of Shell Canada. The two realized they were on the same page regarding the need to put Canada on a more sustainable track--and they also believed that many business, union, aboriginal and environmental leaders felt the same way.

But herding those cats wouldn't be easy. They needed help. For Mitchelmore, Verschuren came to mind. "Her belief in the capacity of Canada to win in this global marketplace is phenomenal."

Verschuren didn't hesitate to enlist as co-chair of Smart Prosperity along with Elgie and Mitchelmore. Together, the three spent two years building a coalition of NGO leaders and company CEOs that today sits at 26 members. (1)

The coalition says Canada needs to accelerate clean-technology innovation, boost investment in infrastructure and skills, and do a better job of conserving and valuing nature. And they support putting a price on pollution and waste, in a push for cleaner growth. "We have this dream that Canada over the next 10 years will be the country in the world that has made the most progress on sustainability," says Verschuren. "This is where we need to go. Senior people all across the business community really need to push this."

It's a big challenge, but as Verschuren details in her book, she's tackled a few of those in her day--from working the family dairy farm on Cape Breton Island as a young girl after her father suffered a heart attack to taking Home Depot from 19 Canadian stores to a 179-store behemoth with $6 billion in revenues. In between, she dabbled in coal mining, helped privatize Crown corporations, led corporate development at conglomerate Imasco, and established Michaels, the U.S. arts-and-crafts chain, as a force in Canada. (2)

Post-Home Depot, a quest for a new, final challenge led Verschuren to David Patterson, CEO of Northwater Capital. Patterson had been investing in energy storage technologies, such as flywheels and compressed-air systems, and wanted to start a new company that could assemble the disparate pieces. "Dave told me energy storage was going to be a big part of the future, but nobody was developing the market," recalls Verschuren, who took on that challenge in 2012. (3) "It's hard bringing new technologies that aren't commercial to fruition, and man oh man, it's not for the faint of heart. But I love tough stuff," she says.

Elgie says Verschuren could have written her own ticket for any retail CEO job in North America. That she chose to build a clean-tech company speaks to her priorities. "She's walking the talk." NRStor, in other words, is closely aligned with the Smart Prosperity vision. "What I love about it is, yes, I can make money, but I can also help the planet," Verschuren says.

The timing is good. A global deal on climate change struck in Paris last December, record investment in renewable energy, growing public support for climate action, and the election of receptive governments in Alberta and Ottawa helped set the stage for Smart Prosperity's coming-out party in March at the Globe environmental conference in Vancouver. In many ways, the Trudeau government's recent budget reflects the goals expressed in the coalition's road map. "We were waiting for the opening to do this," says Elgie.

Until last November, an opening in Ottawa didn't exist. Verschuren recalls meetings with several federal ministers, including then-finance minister Jim Flaherty and even Prime Minister Stephen Harper. (4) "I could talk to [Harper] about other things and could see movement, but I couldn't move him on this. He did not see. He didn't want to see."

Yet Trudeau, she notes, was part of Smart Prosperity's launch. "If you have government that's really behind it, and a society that says we have to do something, I think you have the momentum to push things forward."

* * *

1. The companies whose heads have signed on include Telus, Loblaw, Desjardins Group and Shell Canada.

2. She was part of an informal group of East Coast business leaders called the "Maritime Mafia," which included TD vice-chair Frank Mckenna and the late Purdy Crawford, who headed Imasco.

3. NRStor scored the exclusive rights to distribute Tesla's Powerwall energy storage system in Canada.

4. Harper appointed Verschuren to the short-lived North American Competitiveness Council; she was also a member of Flaherty's Economic Advisory Council.

* * * * * * * * * *


This month, two hotly anticipated franchise films hit theatres: Captain America: Civil War (the 13th instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe) and X-Men: Apocalypse, the final film in the X-Men reboot trilogy. It's a toss-up who's more excited: comic book nerds or theatre-chain owners.

* * *



* * *

$11.1 BILLION (U.S.)

total receipts

* * *


Proportion of total receipts generated by the year's top 10 grossing films

* * *


That's how much of the total box office receipts Avengers: Age of Ultron generated in the United States in May, 2015 (or $427.5 million of a total $1.1 billion).

* * *


(all currency in U.S. dollars)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens | $933,946,360

Jurassic World | $652,270,625

Avengers: Age of Ultron | $459,005,868

Inside Out | $356,461,711

Furious 7 | $353,007,020

Minions | $336,045,770

Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II | $281,723,902

The Martian | $228,433,663

Cinderella | $201,151,353

Spectre | $200,069,186

Associated Graphic

Annette Verschuren: Where Harper wouldn't listen, Trudeau seems willing


Consumer puts BoC in policy quandary
Saturday, April 23, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1

Economic Insight

Friday's double whammy of key economic data from Statistics Canada - retail sales and inflation - raises an interesting prospect for the Bank of Canada: Its rate policy may become a victim of its own success.

Statscan reported that February retail sales climbed a solid 0.4 per cent from January, despite a slump in the cost of gasoline that sapped overall retail prices. On a volume basis, sales were up a strong 1.5 per cent.

At the same time, March's consumer price index inflation came in at 1.3 per cent year over year - down a shade from February's 1.4 per cent, but still higher than economists had expected, given the massive 14-per-cent decline in gasoline prices from a year earlier. The core measure of inflation - which strips out eight volatile components of the CPI, most notably gasoline, in order to get a better picture of underlying inflation pressures - jumped to 2.1 per cent from 1.9 per cent.

Both were considerable surprises. Retail sales had been widely expected to take a step backward in the month, after a supersized 2-per-cent gain in January, especially given that most other key economic indicators had stumbled badly in February from a white-hot start to the year. Core inflation was expected to be a much more tame 1.7 per cent.

The Canadian dollar leaped nearly a half-cent against the U.S. dollar within minutes of the news, and why not? The retail sales numbers put economic growth back on track for a strong first quarter - perhaps north of 3 per cent annualized. And core inflation jumped the central bank's 2-per-cent target, putting it in territory where an inflation-targeting central bank would typically start contemplating whether a rate increase would be appropriate to cool the price pressures.

The data underlined that the momentum in the Canadian consumer sector is a driving force in the country's growth recovery, even as many other parts of the economy remain fitfully mixed.

Retail sales have risen in eight of the past 10 months, and their momentum appears to have accelerated markedly in early 2016.

In the first two months of the year, retail sales volumes (seasonally adjusted) surged 3.6 per cent.

The blistering pace may now be fuelling consumer inflation to heights where the central bank will have to start taking notice.

And yet it was the Bank of Canada itself that provided the vital fuel that is driving the consumer surge.

The Bank of Canada's two interest rate cuts last year were intended to stimulate the country's oil-shocked economy, but it takes months for rate cuts to work their way into the economic fabric. Only now are the stimulative effects becoming palpable.

Nor were their effects going to be equal across all contributors to the economic recovery. Canadian rate cuts aren't going to stimulate capital spending in the energy sector, where acutely low commodity prices have obliterated the business case for those investments. And while they do help to drive down the Canadian dollar, making our exports more competitive, there's nothing they can do about sporadic demand in those export markets - something that remains an issue.

But what they do particularly well is keep the foot on the gas of consumer spending. The pace of household credit growth has actually increased in the past year, even as incomes have slumped badly in resource-heavy regions. Dirt-cheap interest rates are helping keep the consumer sector buoyant, and are underpinning demand in the housing sector. Which is kind of what the Bank of Canada had in mind when it made the rate cuts in the first place.

So the rate cuts are working their magic on the consumer - maybe, from the Bank of Canada's perspective, a little too well.

The central bank believes the economy needs sustained growth in non-resource exports to get properly back up to full speed; that export growth will, in turn, fuel investment in business expansion and increased hiring, which will generate a virtuous circle of income, spending and growth.

But if booming consumer spending is going to fire up inflation to the point where the currency markets start contemplating Bank of Canada rate increases, a key support for export growth - the dollar - gets pulled out from beneath the whole recovery structure. That has already started; the dollar topped 79 cents (U.S.) this week, a ninemonth high, and it gains a little more strength with every statistic that suggests the Canadian economy is growing faster than expected.

Expect the bank to address this by sticking with its long-standing position that core inflation is overstating underlying inflationary pressures, that it has been distorted by "transitory" factors, most notably the previous sharp declines in the Canadian dollar. It may also play down consumer spending as having gotten ahead of itself, while expressing greater concern about the uncertain momentum in exports and business investment. This could cool speculation in the currency about an earlier-than-expected rate rise.

But as the influence of the 2015 rate cuts continues to get stronger as 2016 progresses - something the bank itself fully expects - the consumer momentum could prove resilient. Ultimately, the question will be at what point will that might push inflation to the bank's breaking point.

The Caisse's transit plan is half 'wow,' half 'how'
Friday, April 29, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1


For years, Montrealers have suffered from infrastructure envy as they've watched new subways, LRTs, airport terminals and highways being built in other Canadian cities while they make do with patches that keep their own crumbling roads and bridges from disintegrating entirely.

So, the news that the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec wants to build a $5.5-billion light rail transit (LRT) network spanning 67 kilometres linking downtown to north- and southshore suburbs, Pierre Elliott Trudeau airport and the western tip of the Island of Montreal was greeted with the kind of giddiness you imagine lottery winners feel on learning they've won the jackpot.

"Wow! Wow!" exclaimed YvesThomas Dorval, head of Quebec's main business lobby, the Conseil du patronat, after the Caisse unveiled its plan last week. He insisted that the largest public transit project since the Metro opened 50 years ago would reposition Montreal as "a global metropolis," helping it recapture the can-do dynamism that propelled the city in the Expo 67 era.

It did not take long, however, for reality to bite.

The Caisse's chosen route for its LRT, through some of the leafiest and lowest-density areas in the region, was decried by east-end Island of Montreal mayors whose low-income neighbourhoods would be entirely bypassed.

The project would also require $2.5-billion in funding from the provincial and federal governments, leading critics to worry that other infrastructure projects that need public financing could be scrapped.

A new Metro line through northeastern Montreal could be the first casualty. Or it could be the quid pro quo politicians must deliver in order to get lower-income voters in east-end Montreal to buy into an LRT that will primarily benefit property owners in well-off suburbs, most of whom will still drive to work. The Caisse estimates that its LRT would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by just 16,800 tonnes a year, a blip compared with the 81.2 million tonnes Quebec emitted in 2013.

The wisdom of allowing the Caisse to design, build, own and operate the most important Quebec transit project in decades, whose influence on real estate values and development will create winners and losers for years to come, is suddenly a matter of intense public interest.

After all, as the manager of $250-billion in Quebec publicsector pension assets, the Caisse does not share the same priorities as transit users, taxpayers and politicians, all of whom have their own wish lists.

This is just one of the hurdles Caisse boss Michael Sabia will need to clear quickly if he is to silence the skeptics and adhere to his ambitious (many say unrealistic) timeline of having the LRT up and running by late 2020.

Mr. Sabia needs to make a smashing success of his all-electric Réseau électrique métropolitain (REM) if it is to serve as a demonstration project that allows the Caisse to sell its innovative turn-key transit model to other cities and countries.

The Caisse says its REM would be Quebec's first "public-public partnership." But while one public partner (the Caisse) is focused on earning a long-term "commercial" return on its investment, the other public partners (governments) are likely to seek political as well as financial dividends.

The Caisse is counting on pocketing the lion's share of the enhanced property tax revenues generated by a projected $5-billion worth of real estate developments along the LRT route. But municipalities may have other ideas.

There's also the question of whether the LRT would require permanent public subsidies to operate. Although the Caisse argues otherwise, it can't guarantee that its LRT would not require operational subsidies.

Should Quebec taxpayers be subsidizing Quebec pensioners?

And what's more important, ridership or profits, since the two are not always correlated?

Low fares can draw riders but still lead to ongoing operating deficits. The Caisse's preferred route suggests it is more interested in drawing a well-heeled clientele than average Joes, although Mr. Sabia has no doubt internalized the painful lessons of Toronto's troubled UnionPearson Express.

As for deciding which engineering firms, construction companies and rolling stock manufacturers win juicy REM contracts, Mr. Sabia will face relentless pressure to choose Quebec-based suppliers. No sooner had the Caisse gone public with its LRT proposal than Quebec Transport Minister Jacques Daoust blurted out: "For us, it would be so good to see the name Bombardier written when the [rail car] door opens."

Despite its caveats, the Caisse proposal is a genuine cause for optimism. Most government-led infrastructure projects in Quebec get bogged down in bureaucracy and politics, if they proceed at all. By handing responsibility for this project to the Caisse, the provincial government increases the odds it will get built, period.

On time and on budget, too?

That would really be like winning the lottery.

Bombardier poised to clinch Delta order
Multibillion-dollar order from U.S. giant Delta Air Lines Inc. could be a turning point for the C Series program
Thursday, April 28, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1

MONTREAL, TORONTO -- Bombardier Inc., trying to recapture investor confidence after two straight annual losses, is poised to make a major breakthrough with its C Series airliner that would ensure the plane program's viability into the next decade.

The Montreal-based company, the world's only manufacturer of both planes and trains, will announce on Thursday that it has won a multibillion-dollar order from U.S. giant Delta Air Lines Inc., according to a person familiar with the situation. The commitment is potentially as large as 125 aircraft, industry analysts have estimated, including 75 planes needed with some urgency and options on 50 more.

Ahead of its annual general meeting Friday morning, Bombardier could also announce the firming up of a letter of intent by Air Canada for up to 75 C Series airliners. That order includes 45 aircraft that Canada's flagship carrier will definitely take and options on another 30 planes.

"This leaves the C Series program in pretty good shape," said Ernie Arvai of consultancy AirInsight in Windham, N.H.

"Once you begin landing very well-respected customers, you can typically go forward. They've got an opportunity to lay out that, 'Yes we're delivering what we promised way back when and nobody believed.' "

A Delta order would be the largest so far for the C Series program.

Plane makers consider backing from the carrier to be highly valuable, both because of its sheer scale - it is the second-largest airline in the United States by traffic - and also because of its influence. Bombardier's commercial aircraft sales chief, Colin Bole, calls such customers "market makers." Many smaller carriers without the same buying analysis resources as their larger peers often wait to see what the big airlines do before making purchase decisions.

A deal with Delta for 75 aircraft would be worth between $5.4billion (U.S.) and $6.2-billion at current list prices, depending on the models chosen. Airlines typically negotiate big discounts for that volume of planes and the actual price paid would be far less.

The two deals, if confirmed, would bring Bombardier's C Series order book to 370 firm airplanes - enough aircraft to ensure production at the manufacturer's facilities for five years.

Based on a transformation plan outlined by management last November, the company estimates it will build 255 to 315 C Series planes from 2016 to the end of 2020.

"What this tells you is that they're pretty much sold out into 2021," said Chris Murray, an analyst with Altacorp Capital in Toronto, adding that Bombardier now has validation for the C Series from three major carriers including Lufthansa AG as well as smaller airlines and leasing companies. "This would actually put the Bombardier C Series program in a better position from a starting point than where Airbus was with the A320 when it was launched in 1988."

The C Series is Bombardier's big bet to drive revenue growth in its commercial aircraft division over the next generation. The plane is the first clean-sheet design of a single-aisle airliner in nearly 30 years and easily beats existing aircraft on operating costs because of its advanced technology and fuel burn, Bombardier says. But the aircraft has suffered problems, coming two years late to market and $2-billion more than its initial $5.4-billion development cost.

More significantly, rivals Boeing and Airbus have used aggressive tactics in trying to keep Bombardier from winning sales campaigns with the airplane.

"It is not a friendly world," Bombardier's Mr. Bole said at the Aero Montreal industry conference this week. "There's no question that the competition is severe."

There is also lingering concern that with far less resources than its two big rivals, Bombardier will have a hard time mounting the war chest needed to compete on pricing. The company has longterm debt of $9-billion and has gone to both the Quebec and federal governments for investment backing for the C Series program after striking a train deal with pension fund Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec that bolstered its balance sheet. Quebec pledged $1-billion while talks with Ottawa continue.

Bombardier's Delta win suggests price isn't the only issue.

The airline, which is seeking to replace its aging fleet of McDonnell MD-88 jets, has a record of giving makers of all-new planes a chance over established manufacturers. Northwest Airlines, absorbed by Delta in a 2008 merger, was the first U.S.-based carrier to buy the Airbus A320 plane.

Delta faces a pressing need to replace 113 MD-88s with an average age of more than 25 years.

The maintenance costs on the planes are growing and replacement parts are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain.

Delta already flies Airbus and Boeing planes and this is a coveted order among airplane manufacturers. "It's Bombardier's to lose," said one industry source.

Fidelity backs opposition to Couche-Tard control plan
Friday, April 22, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1

MONTREAL, TORONTO -- Concerns about family succession and the abilities of the children of Alimentation CoucheTard Inc.'s founders to steer the convenience store chain into the future has erupted into a public saga, putting the Quebec company at odds with some of its biggest institutional investors.

Mutual fund giant Fidelity Investments is among investors opposed to a proposal by the four founders of Couche-Tard to extend their control of the convenience store chain, sources said. Couche-Tard's largest shareholder with an estimated 11 per cent of the subordinate-voting shares, Fidelity voiced its disapproval of the founders' proposal, according to someone familiar with the talks - which was pulled by the retailer before it was scheduled to go to a shareholder vote in September, 2015. Fidelity hasn't wavered since.

The whole situation has made Couche-Tard co-founder and executive chairman Alain Bouchard so anxious that he's gone public and suggested he might sell the multinational if the Quebecbased founders can't retain control. In an interview with Montreal newspaper La Presse published Wednesday, he called out some of his institutional shareholders in Toronto, whose governance departments were "standing high on their pedestal" and lecturing his team. He mentioned no names.

"I have to finish coming to terms with this defeat and then I'll see if there's a way to see eye to eye with those who disagreed," Mr. Bouchard told The Globe and Mail in an interview Thursday.

Mr. Bouchard and three other friends - co-founders Richard Fortin, Réal Plourde and Jacques D'Amours - control Couche-Tard through a special class of multiple-voting shares that carry 10 votes each despite owning just 22.7 per cent of the equity.

Those special voting rights are set to expire in 2021 when the youngest of the founders turns 65, and they had gone to shareholders with a plan to extend them until the last founder leaves the board of directors.

Some key shareholders balked.

Mr. Bouchard expressed his dismay, believing that the fact he made a lot of money for investors would buy him more time.

Then this week, Quebec Inc. got its collective back up, with politicians pledging support for the founders.

In the Quebec media, the backroom showdown has largely been characterized as a Bay Street referendum against dualclass shares, which are more prevalent in Quebec than elsewhere in the country. In one opinion piece entitled "Wake up Toronto!," a La Presse columnist argued, in English: "We ask you no money, no candy, Toronto.

Just one thing: Consider a deal with the four Couche-Tard founders that will enable them to keep control of the company.

After all, hasn't their way of running the family business allowed you to make big bucks?" But an analysis of Fidelity's stock holdings suggest that's not the main issue. For one, Fidelity is a heavy supporter of Canada's largest companies with dualclass shares and is a top-three owner of at least 13 companies with this ownership structure, including Empire Co., Fairfax Financial and Rogers Communications.

Fidelity is also a major backer of Quebec-based companies with dual-class shares. In addition to its ownership position in Couche-Tard, the mutual fund manager, whose Canadian arm is headquartered in Toronto, is the second-largest owner of CGI, Dorel and Jean Coutu.

Fidelity is believed to have the utmost faith in Mr. Bouchard and recognizes the substantial returns to shareholders generated by him and the three other founders over the years. But that support does not automatically extend to their children, who would inherit the founders' controlling position in Couche-Tard, the source said. Even if they do not handle the day-to-day operations going forward, the children will hold power when selecting the company's future leaders and there are worries that they may not have the same business acumen as their parents.

Mr. Bouchard stressed that he's told investors that he does not intend to appoint any of his family members as head of the company. "What we want is that our families be decent shareholders, that they intervene as shareholders and not as managers," he said, adding that he has one daughter who works as a treasurer at Couche-Tard.

In the interview, the chairman said Bombardier Inc.'s status as a company with dual-class shares is brought up frequently in his conversations on Bay Street, which he suggested hurts his cause because of the plane maker's poor performance. He also expressed frustration that the portfolio managers that told him the proposal would pass last year weren't in sync with the governance people who make their own recommendations.

Alimentation Couche-Tard (ATD.B) Close: $55.88, down $2.20

Poor Internet service hurts Nunavut firms
Monday, April 25, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1

When designers at a small media company in Iqaluit have a digital file to send to a local client for proofing, they save it on a USB stick, get in the car, and drive over.

Sending files to clients outside of Iqaluit becomes "a real issue," explains Tony Romito, co-owner of Atiigo Media, a company that specializes in print and Web design. Rather than using a file transfer protocol (FTP) site, Atiigo will send the project using snail mail, which can add weeks to the project's timeline. Still, it's often the best option in a territory with prohibitively expensive Internet services.

Mr. Romito and other members of Nunavut's business community are keeping a close eye on the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) hearing under way in Gatineau. Canada's telecom regulator is hearing from more than 90 intervenors, including municipal and regional governments, non-profit organizations, businesses and Internet service providers as it assesses the level of telecommunication services Canadians require to do business in a digital world.

With no terrestrial infrastructure linking Nunavut to the rest of Canada, the territory relies on satellite Internet provided by one or - in some communities - a handful of Internet service providers.

The price of the service and the amount of bandwidth available varies greatly.

Mr. Romito said because of the lack of regulation, his company pays more than $1,000 a month for "bare minimum service."

He said although his staff of six are constantly monitoring their Internet usage, Atiigo always exceeds its 120-gigabyte limit by the third week of the month and ends up paying "obscene" overage fees.

"As a business that relies heavily on the Internet, we cannot simply cease operations for a week," Mr. Romito said.

The limited bandwidth and slow speed of the Internet cause a lot of headaches for Charlie Cahill, who owns a construction company in the community of Gjoa Haven, about 250 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle.

"Without a doubt, it's a lot more work trying to use e-mail up North than it is in the South," he said. "I spend a lot of my day just fooling around with resizing stuff." Like Atiigo, Mr. Cahill's CAP Enterprises pays monthly Internet bills of about $1,000, but Mr. Cahill's bigger issue is the time he wastes working around the bandwidth problems.

With all of the paperwork required for government contracts, he estimates he spends up to two hours a day just altering documents and photos to keep his e-mails under the twomegabyte limit. If he has a lot of documents to send on a given day, he'll get online early in the morning when there are fewer people competing for bandwidth.

"Almost like dial-up, [the Internet] slows right down at night," he said.

A non-profit organization that provides support to small businesses in the Kitikmeot region of Nunavut says businesses need more bandwidth than they are getting.

"Speed is probably more of an annoyance than anything," said Marg Epp, executive director of Kitikmeot Community Futures in Cambridge Bay. "It's the bandwidth that's the bigger issue for businesses. And the cost of that bandwidth is just so astronomical."

Ms. Epp said local Internet service providers are "all over the map" in terms of their pricing and service and thinks more regulation by the CRTC would level the playing field.

She said she knows of more than one occasion when a business lost out on a contract because of the unreliability of sending large documents by e-mail or fax.

"It's definitely a huge disadvantage."

Ms. Epp said sending documents by air doesn't always work either, because bad weather can delay flights for days.

For Atiigo, the slow speed and high cost has always been an unfortunate aspect of doing business in Nunavut.

"[We] have a lot of experience teaching our clients what is realistic and what is not realistic for a website in Nunavut that's being viewed in Nunavut," Mr. Romito said. That means limitations on the use of "fancy applications" and video.

Mr. Romito said most of Atiigo's clients understand the local Internet issues and the impact on costs.

"We have a good client base in Iqaluit and people appreciate work being done in the North by Northerners," he said but concedes: "We lose projects here and there from the clients that are simply looking at the bottom line."

The CRTC hearing continues in Gatineau until Thursday.

Associated Graphic

In Iqaluit, 'bare minimum' Internet service with limited bandwidth and slow speed can cost a small company $1,000 a month. The CRTC is holding a hearing on broadband Internet issues.


Thornton: 'Barrick is back'
Wednesday, April 27, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1

TORONTO -- Basking in the comfort of a share price that is finally rising after years of disappointment, Barrick Gold Corp. now aims to strike a deal with a Silicon Valley company to help it wring more value from its mines.

John Thornton, the company's executive chairman, announced the impending transaction during a surprisingly exuberant address in which he declared victory in the gold producer's campaign to turn around its operations.

"Barrick is back," he told the company's annual general meeting.

Never one to be afraid of the grand statement, he added: "We will not be satisfied with being a leading mining company. We mean to be nothing less than one of this century's leading companies in any industry, in any region."

During the past year, Barrick has slashed its debt load, streamlined its corporate hierarchy and sold several properties.

It has also received a boost from an unexpected rise in the price of gold, which has defied predictions and climbed from below $1,060 (U.S.) an ounce late last year to above $1,240 today.

The rising gold price and falling fuel costs have lifted profits across the sector and sent share prices of most producers surging upward.

Barrick's stock has doubled since January. But the recent gains only bring the shares back to a level they first touched in 1993.

Despite its recent success in reducing its mountain of borrowing, Barrick continues to be one of the most heavily indebted companies in its sector. Its credit-rating clings to the lowest tier of investment-grade status, one level above junk.

Barrick borrowed heavily during the commodity boom to make bad acquisitions - most notably, the $7.3-billion (Canadian) purchase of copper producer Equinox Minerals Ltd. in 2011. Its share price had been sliding for four years before beginning its recent climb six months ago.

Mr. Thornton, a former president of Goldman Sachs who took over the top job at Barrick in 2014, has focused on reducing bureaucracy, paying down debt and trimming costs.

On Tuesday, he said he intends to make Barrick "a company you hold forever" that can produce free cash flow at any gold price.

He said aggressive use of technology would be one tool that would help the miner create value for shareholders.

"We will soon announce a new partnership with one of Silicon Valley's leading companies, which will make us and our business safer, faster and better," he said. The company declined to comment further on the matter.

Mr. Thornton's pay package had been a lightning rod for criticism in the past. Many investors objected to his generous compensation during a period in which the company's share price was in freefall.

Shareholders twice voted against his arrangement in non-binding "say-on-pay" resolutions.

However, this year's resolution on executive compensation received strong support from shareholders, with about 91 per cent voting in favour.

The vote probably reflected Mr. Thornton's decision, announced a month ago, to forfeit his bonuses and make do with $3.1-million (U.S.) in total compensation - a dramatic decline from the preceding year, when he was paid $12.9million. It also suggests a growing comfort level with the company's recent results.

In results published before the market opened, Barrick said it swung to a loss in the first three months of the year, but continued to shrink its debt at a rapid rate while making impressive progress in reducing its costs.

The miner said its first-quarter loss of $83-million was because of one-time foreign currency losses.

In contrast, its adjusted net earnings - an in-house measure of profitability - rose to $127-million during the first three months of 2016, more than double the $62-million achieved a year earlier and slightly better than analysts' expectations.

The company said it has trimmed debt by $842-million since January, staying on track with its plan to shrink debt by $2-billion this year.

In another positive sign, the miner's all-in sustaining costs - an inclusive measure of how much money it requires to produce gold - tumbled to $706 an ounce. That is far below the $927 an ounce that Barrick notched in the same quarter of 2015.

Kelvin Dushnisky, Barrick's president, underlined the company's intention to further boost free cash flow and streamline the business. "Our head office is less than half the size it was two years ago," he told the annual general meeting.

Barrick Gold (ABX) Close: $20.78, up 29¢

CN Rail cuts profit outlook as freight volumes slow
Tuesday, April 26, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1

Canadian National Railway Co. cut its profit expectations for 2016 amid weak demand for freight shipments and a stronger Canadian dollar.

Montreal-based Canadian National said revenue fell by 4 per cent in the first quarter to $2.9-billion as profit rose by 13 per cent to $792-million or $1 a share.

Analysts expected revenue of $3-billion and per-share profit of 92 cents for the three months ended March 31.

CN downgraded this year's forecast for per-share profit to $4.44, or about the same as last year, after earlier predicting profit would rise by about 5 per cent.

"We're chasing every carload.

We're holding our own but the overall volume is down," Claude Mongeau, CN's chief executive officer, said on a conference call with analysts.

Like other railways in Canada and the United States, CN is facing declining freight volumes amid weak economic conditions and slowing demand for such bulk commodities as iron ore and coal.

Carloads at CN and Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. are down by 6 per cent this year, including their U.S. operations, according to the Association of American Railroads.

The number of crude oil carloads CN hauled fell by half to 14,000, and the commodity has become the least profitable of the company's bulk lines, said Jean-Jacques Ruest, CN's operating chief.

"With the collapse in energy markets, Brent crude purchased by the refineries was very cheap and affordable and there was plenty of pipeline capacity to go around," Mr. Ruest said.

Coal carloads fell by 31 per cent, metals and minerals declined by 25 per cent and grain and fertilizer slipped by 5 per cent. Automotive carloads rose by 21 per cent. Volumes of energy-related cargo - coal, oil and sand used for hydraulic fracturing - will continue to fall this year, the company said.

"We are doing what we can to protect profitability," Mr. Mongeau said, pointing to faster trains and greater productivity that contributed to the company's industry-leading operating ratio of 58.9 per cent. (An operating ratio is a closely watched measure of expenses and revenue; lower is better.)

CP last week reported a 5-percent drop in first-quarter revenue and a 69-per-cent increase in profit to $540-million.

Benoît Poirier, a stock analyst with Desjardins Securities Inc., said in a research note he is "cautious" about investing in CN and CP. "The stronger Canadian dollar and [weak oil] prices, combined with the ongoing uncertainty in the macro environment, are key factors that will likely pressure both stocks in the coming months," said Mr. Poirier, who downgraded CN shares to "hold" from "buy" after the price rose by 20 per cent from a 52-week low.

CN is Canada's largest railway, with 23,000 employees and 32,000 kilometres of track that reaches three coasts, in Canada and the United States. CN's share price has risen by 4 per cent in the past 12 months, compared with a 22-per-cent decline at CP. The Toronto Stock Exchange has fallen by 10 per cent in the same period.

Walter Spracklin, an analyst at Royal Bank of Canada, said CN's exposure to consumer goods and lower focus on bulk commodities make it a "preferred name" he rates as "outperform." CN's container operations in B.C. let the company capitalize on rising cargo shipments to and from Asia.

"With about 5 per cent of containers loaded on the West Coast destined for the U.S., CNR's faster single-line access into the U.S., efficient loop around Chicago and access in southern states and ports represent key advantages in capturing greater market share," Mr. Spracklin said in a note to clients, adding that container terminal expansions in Milton, Ont., Detroit, Joliet, Ill., and Memphis will let the company manager greater volumes.

CN (CNR) Close: $82.77, down 68¢

Associated Graphic

Though its share price has risen over the past year, CN is struggling with profitablity.


Internationally famous rap star Drake will do just about anything to make Toronto look good. He has widened the imaginative landscape of the city, Cathal Kelly writes
Saturday, February 13, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S1

TORONTO -- In order to get from press row down into the bowels of the Air Canada Centre after a Toronto Raptors game, you have to walk past the team locker room.

Some nights, Drake is standing there, slapping backs as the players come off the court. When they win, he's hooting. When they lose, he is suitably mournful.

An MC in more senses than one, Drake is unusually adept at mimicking moods, approaches and verbal gambits. If you're up, he's up. If you're street, he's street. If you're someone's uncle or accountant, he can sound like an ambulating TED talk.

One night, I fell into line behind a slow-moving trio of Raptors assistant coaches. I was rushing to get past the logjam. We turned a corner. Drake was standing there by himself, waiting. He had the look of someone encountering a delightful coincidence.

He bent deferentially at the waist, offering each man a strong Bay Street handshake with impressive eye contact: "Good game.

Good game. Good game."

I was bringing up the rear, now at a small distance. Drake knew I wasn't a coach, or anyone else who mattered. There was a beat that would've allowed him to turn away without causing offence.

I tried to blast past and save him the trouble, but he angled himself slightly so that I had to stop altogether.

Hand out. Full eye contact. Firm shake. "Good game," he said.

"Thanks," I said, stupidly. Then, eyes still locked, he stepped back so that I could continue on.

At the time, I thought the gesture very Canadian. Now, I think it was something more than that. Drake has spent most of his career taking personal ownership of Toronto and its brand.

It would be wrong to say he has reshaped the global perception of this city. That would suggest there had been any perception at all.

Until Drake decided to make it his quixotic mission, Toronto did not exist in the imagination of the wider world. If it does now, it is almost entirely through the lyrical lens of a 29-year-old from Forest Hill.

Talking up Toronto is a responsibility Drake wears like sackcloth, with religious zeal. He'll do just about anything to show the city well. Even sharing special moments with random passing schlubs after the basketball game.

The man in charge of the city

Drake's first appearance as a quasiofficial civic representative came in mid-September, 2013 - at the announcement that Toronto would play host to Sunday's 2016 NBA all-star game. This was shortly after the Raptors had named him their global brand ambassador.

Drake was plunked on a riser beside mayor Rob Ford. It wasn't what most people would consider a flattering photo op.

Four months after the first reporting of his crack video, Ford was entering the weightless stage of public free fall. He looked the part, moistening under the klieg lights. Rickety high chairs had been placed too close to one another. Ford was seated practically in Drake's lap. He kept screwing himself into place, tugging uncomfortably at his suit jacket.

Drake noticed. Before proceedings began, without saying anything, the younger man reached over and began gently petting the jittery older one. On the back, the shoulder, the knee. Ford visibly calmed under these small gestures of affection. By the time things got under way, the doomed mayor looked as though he might be having fun.

The news conference was the usual corporate jabbering, with one real takeaway. That you had just seen the man in charge of the city. And it wasn't the guy who had won an election.

Is this the point where we should talk about why Drake loves Toronto so much? Because there is no good answer to that question.

Drake tries. He is rarely interviewed, but when he is, the topic comes up: "When I think of myself, I think of Toronto."

Beyond personal geography, it's hard to understand why this feeling is so intense. I'm from Toronto. I like the city a lot. I've never known anyone who likes it this much. Perhaps because the rest of us have to ride the subway.

Drake created his own musical subgenre out of being unlucky in love, but the city, rather than any person, is his Beatrice. Having known her when he was young, he can never forget her.

"Somebody has said that we're a city that needs permission to love itself," says Matt Galloway, the host of the city's most important radio show, CBC's Metro Morning. More than any other public figure, Galloway may be Toronto's civic conscience and a mutually agreeable arbiter of what does and doesn't matter here.

"I was at a pub watching football. A guy walked up and said, 'You're Matt Galloway. I listen to you on the radio. This place isn't nearly as good as you say it is. I've lived in London and I can't believe that you'd say this place is so great.' This is a Torontonian who's saying this! Can you imagine if you were in New York or London or Boston or any other great city and someone said that to you? There'd be a fistfight. But here, of course, you feel sheepish saying that you love the city.

"Drake has given people permission to do that. He stands out because he's so genuine about it.

What's the secret? That he doesn't have to do it. But he did it anyway."

"I started to notice it a few years ago," says Cameron Bailey, artistic director for the city's most renowned cultural export until Drake arrived, the Toronto International Film Festival.

"When I go to Los Angeles or some film event somewhere in the world and you're sitting at lunch with someone, Toronto can be a topic of conversation and they have something to say about it. It used to be a blank stare.

Drake did that. He put this city on the map in a way no one else ever has."

There is a rich history in hip hop of taking an iffy place and making it sound like a twisted Shangri-la. Grandmaster Flash did it for the Bronx; Jay Z did it for the Brooklyn projects; OutKast did it for Atlanta - if you've been to Atlanta, you'll know that is a Pritzker Prize-level work of civic reclamation.

What those places have in common is that they are or were dodgy in an interesting way. They have a thwarted, underdog history.

Toronto doesn't have that. Or, at least, not one that is widely discussed among its inhabitants.

Ten years ago, if Torontonians were to sit around the metaphoric bonfire singing songs about the people and where they've come from, it would be a track off Rush's 2112.

Requiring some wedge beyond music into the city's suburban diaspora and shifting demographic, Drake settled on basketball. This never seemed calculating. Back when the team was terrible - terrible with eight "r's" - Drake was its only booster with real profile. He even likes the wretched purple uniforms from the early days.

Drake went on ESPN's First Take just before the global ambassador role floated to the surface. In the context of a wider conversation about the NBA, he said, "The real goal here is to build up the Toronto Raptors."

Host Stephen A. Smith burst into laughter. Then he got quietly incredulous.

"The Toronto Raptors? Really?



Drake had tried to involve himself with the team, but couldn't get anyone to return his calls.

Seeking a local spokesperson, incoming Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment president Tim Leiweke went and found him. It says something about where the city was at that point that Justin Bieber's manager, Scooter Braun, facilitated the hook-up. It took two Americans to figure out what Toronto's most famous citizen meant to Toronto.

Leiweke and Drake arranged to discuss a partnership over dinner at MLSE's executive canteen, E11even. Leiweke took Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri along. Drake brought his DJ.

"I texted all my friends: 'I'm having dinner with Drake.' Nobody believed me," Ujiri said. "He captivated me. He was so passionate about the team, about the city."

This is saying something. Whatever Drake is to a city, Ujiri wants to be for a continent. His relentless boosterism for Africa has made him a formidable political power broker. Over the all-star weekend, Ujiri will host a symposium on Africa's future at the Art Gallery of Ontario. The keynote speaker will be Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

Ujiri visited Kagame's home in Kigali over the summer. Mostly they talked about basketball.

Though one suspects he has more pressing business, Kagame had risen in the middle of the night to watch Toronto flame out of the first round of last year's NBA playoffs.

"I was shocked," he told Ujiri.

It's proof there is nothing that so attracts and disarms the truly powerful as sport. You see them panting around Air Canada Centre's VIP suites, hoping to get a look at a real player. Whenever Drake floats in, they are all at pains to play it cool. The only people innocent and careless enough to get giddy in his presence are members of the opposing team.

Often, the financial power at the centre of this country is arrayed across the court in the form of the MLSE board: chairman and co-owner Larry Tanenbaum, Bell Canada chief executive officer George Cope and others. They sit almost exactly opposite Drake.

Occasionally, you'll catch them watching him, but not the other way round. They are technically his bosses. They are functionally his attendants.

One of the ways you can determine an alpha is to watch his smile. Important men will smile at people they perceive as subordinates. It is riskless gesture of magnanimity. They will not smile at their betters - it shows weakness. Watch the suits in the front row at a Raptors game. They aren't smiling.

Except Drake. He's the only one down there who looks as if he's having any fun. He's about the smiliest human you've ever seen.

What does that tell you?

There was no financial calculation in Drake's new relationship with the Raptors. On the first day, he asked if he could get an MLSE office. He actually said that out loud as he walked the corporate hallways: "I get an office, right?" He did not. That would seem too transactional for all the nervous Nellies in the league who feared (quite rightly) that Drake was becoming the Raptors' talent wrangler.

When he provided complimentary OVO-branded T-shirts for the first Drake night, they were hitting eBay at 200 bucks a pop before the game ended. Drake sold them to MLSE for wholesale cost.

"He does not make a nickel off any of this," Leiweke said at the time.

When he publicly flirted with star forward and soon-to-be free agent Kevin Durant, the league hit Toronto with a $25,000 (U.S.) fine. According to an MLSE source, the league made the Raptors an offer: Drop Drake and we'll drop the fine. The idea was dismissed out of hand. When the approach became news, the league denied making it. They've laid off Drake since.

Little wonder. He has since expanded his role to de facto league rep. He's much more than a mascot - which is what most celebrities end up being for the teams they support. Drake is a totem. He's the hybrid Hollywood star/youth-culture whisperer/ good corporate citizen that every major business concern would build in an underground lab, were such a thing possible.

Drake's relationship with the team's management structure has cooled over the past year, especially after Leiweke left.

When he was initially invited in, he was offered the chance to oversee a complete redesign of the Raptors brand. Everything but the team name was on the table. Only once he had finished was Drake told that his suggestions were just that. Buoyed by success in the standings, the club decided to stick with its familiar colour palette and logos.

Peevishly, Drake took a little poke at the look on social media.

He wasn't seen as often at games.

He has spent many months working on an album that is beginning to feel as though it may never come out. He has other things on his mind beyond Toronto and its need for his approval. It never got to the level of a fight, but it was obvious Drake was in a bit of a snit.

That ends this weekend, the culmination of Drake's involvement with the NBA. The all-star game is the intersection of hip hop and sport, meaning that it is the fulcrum of popular culture.

No one has yet figured out a way to properly televise it - the dunk contest is the closest you'll get - but the streets of Toronto will be, for just a few days, the Woodstock of the right now.

Leiweke envisioned Drake as the city's greeter. You can imagine him, bent at the waist, hand out, eyes locked.

He has a few official duties, little stuff. It's rumoured that he has a rented manse in some leafy part of the city that will serve as a naughty NBA clubhouse. Apparently, LeBron James wanted to host that location, and Drake slapped him back. If so, it is his town.

That is the latest stage in Drake's development: guarding the territory you've marked off for yourself.

Over the summer, he was dragged into a convoluted spat with Philadelphia-based rapper and erstwhile collaborator Meek Mill.

While Mill frothed online, Drake kept his peace. The unlikely person who stepped in for him was 74-year-old Councillor Norm Kelly. Kelly scolded Mill on Twitter. The image alone - "Old man yells at whippersnapper" - was so comedic, it rendered Mill impotent long before Drake had responded in song.

The cover of his most savage rejoinder - the one-off track Back to Back - showed Joe Carter's leaping trot when the Blue Jays won the 1993 World Series. Toronto over Philadelphia. It was all of Drake's passions colliding.

Kelly became a star out of it. It was arranged that the pair should meet before a surprise show at Ryerson University.

"The first thing I remember Drake saying to me was, 'You're my hero.' " Kelly leans back in his chair, face alight with childish pride.

We're sitting in his City Hall office. It's kitted up with enough Drake paraphernalia to make a decent shrine.

You can understand why he's enjoying this. This unlikely connection has turned him into hip hop's cornball godfather. Kelly's gift is that he's in on the joke.

But you get where Drake is coming from, too. After years spent defending the city, the city - speaking through someone pulling the levers of municipal power - defended him. Drake rushed out to embrace that person. What's a key to the city stood up beside that?

Drake seemingly makes these counterintuitive marketing calculations without any consideration of their marketing implications.

Which is probably why they work.

The last word on him rightly rests with Ujiri. They are kindreds in important ways: proselytizers for a place; lovers of the same pastime; glamorous self-made men who are endlessly alluring to the 1 per cent of the 1 per centers.

While he may not understand Toronto, Ujiri understands why Drake might care about it so much. He has the same obsession with home.

They talk often, usually by text.

Drake switches out his phones regularly. On the rare occasions he calls, the ID pops up as "Drake New New New New Number."

Ujiri is retelling the story of how Drake called him in the middle of the night after Raptors centre Jonas Valanciunas was injured in a West Coast game. He is twisting around in his chair, trying to get to the depth of the man.

"He is authentic," Ujiri said.

"He's a real person. Please write that."

Maybe that's the allure, that in his relationship with the city, Drake gives, though there is nothing to take. That's what people mean whey they say he is "authentic."

To be part of this, you don't have to be interested in Drake's music or businesses or (very occasional) adventures in the tabloids. If you live in Toronto, you have been affected by his sense of place. He has widened the imaginative landscape of the city. He has taken a place you know just as well as he does, and reintroduced it to you in a way that makes it, and you, seem better.

Follow me on Twitter: @cathalkelly

Associated Graphic

In his relationship with the city, Drake gives, though there is nothing to take. That's what people mean whey they say he is 'authentic,' Cathal Kelly says.


Drake thanked Toronto for being 'unconditionally supportive' as he received the key to the city from Mayor John Tory on Friday. 'This is probably one of the biggest moments of my life - if not the biggest moment of my life,' the hometown rapper said of the honour before the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game.


An elite team on and off the ice
From satellite TVs on the bus to free meals to the AHL's most sophisticated support staff, the Marlies have everything this season except a championship, James Mirtle reports
Thursday, April 21, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S1

TORONTO -- There are nice cars in the parking lot.

There is free food, customized protein shakes, free massages and an open-concept gym available, too.

But this isn't a high-end getaway. It's Ricoh Coliseum, the 1920s-era arena just west of downtown Toronto that's home to the Marlies, the Toronto Maple Leafs' minor-league team that piled up 114 points this season as one of the best American Hockey League teams in history.

The Marlies have been preparing all week for what the organization hopes is a run at an AHL championship - potentially the franchise's first Calder Cup. They're the favourites after finishing first over all with one of the league's youngest rosters and their NHL parent borrowing heavily from their lineup all year.

In all, 58 players skated for first-year Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe this season, an almost unthinkable number that included players from just about every league possible.

It's common knowledge the Leafs have built one of the better prospect pools in the league, and that in turn helped fuel the Marlies' rise.

But one of the less-heralded secrets to their success has been their ability to tap into Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment's resources.

The Leafs have spent money to make the Marlies' travel schedule less onerous. They've spent money to bring in top-end staff to develop and take care of their prospects. They've spent money on how they eat and how they train.

The players are treated well - almost like NHLers - and some now even make NHL-level money. Those perks have helped make the Marlies the most desirable place to play in the minor leagues.

It's about as far from Slap Shot as you can get.

"It's not like that at all," Sam Carrick said. "They put us up in nice hotels. We go a day early before games. They really do treat us like we're an NHL team, and I think that's a big advantage."

"The bus rides are basically the only difference," said teammate Brendan Leipsic, who had a taste of both worlds after he spent six games with the Leafs. "We get treated really well here."

And the bus? Even it has satellite TVs, he said.

What the Marlies players rave about, however, more than any other amenity, is the food. In an initiative brought in this year by GM Kyle Dubas, the team supplies a nutritionist-approved breakfast and lunch every day to the entire roster and staff, a big expense for a typical minor-league organization.

Players who have played in other AHL cities say they have never had this luxury before. It saves them time and considerable money and also ensures they get a diet fit for a pro athlete, which can be a challenge for young players on an entry-level salary (about $70,000).

Keefe, a second-round pick by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1999, recalled how his diet was filled with fast food when he was a 20year-old trying to make the jump from junior to the pros. Not having a billet for the first time and living in a strange city on a tight budget with limited time to cook meals was a bad combination.

"It just makes a lot of sense at this level," Keefe said. "Players personally don't have the same resources that NHLers do, so we should take care of the guys here.

They're younger. They need development and nutrition more, in terms of adding weight and strength and all of that."

Several young Marlies - the team's average age is a little more than 23 - said they are taking what they're learning about food at the arena home for their other meals.

"It's really good," Carrick said.

"There's rice. There's sweet potatoes. Steak and chicken. It's all healthy. There's nothing really that's going to make you fat."

"We talked about doing this in [junior]," Keefe said. "We just didn't have the resources to pull it off."

That - like a lot of things - isn't a problem for the Marlies.

Another big difference in the organization is how much staff the team has. In addition to the typical pair of assistant coaches, the Marlies have a goalie coach, fulltime video coach, multiple equipment managers, three or four staff focused on physio, massage and rehab, and what Keefe calls a "full army" of doctors. They also have an analytics staffer, socialmedia staff and a sales group that has helped boost attendance by 20 per cent this season.

Because they're in the same city as the Leafs, the Marlies have the added benefit of being able to train in the NHL team's facilities and work with its staff. It's common to see the Leafs' four development staffers - led by former NHLer Scott Pellerin and Olympic figure skater Barb Underhill - around the Ricoh working with players.

Like the free food, these are resources AHL veterans haven't experienced elsewhere.

"Not to take anything away from [the other teams]," said Rich Clune, who played multiple years in Manchester, N.H., and Milwaukee. "They do the best with what they've got. But it's obvious MLSE has a little bit of coin to throw around to take care of athletes pretty well. It's just a first-class organization."

"They really take away virtually every excuse that a player can come up with to not be feeling good and not fight their way through a difficult schedule," Keefe said. "It makes our job easier as a coaching staff."

Even Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello, who spent almost 30 years in the New Jersey Devils organization - including when their affiliate, the Albany River Rats, won the Calder Cup in 1995 - has been impressed by the Marlies operation.

"You can't do everything exactly the same [as the NHL]," Lamoriello said, likening what they're doing to how Triple-A teams function as vital feeder systems in major-league baseball. "But you treat them as close to [the Leafs] as you possibly can. With the type of ice time that's given. The type of travel they have. The support staff. ... We're able to do all of that.

"To be able to have the type of team we have [in the standings] - and still develop players who will potentially be in the NHL - is really a utopia as far as an [AHL] team. Not all teams look at it that way, but the Toronto Maple Leafs do."

The Marlies' wealth is visible in more overt ways, too. Some players who have had a taste of NHL money drive BMWs or Range Rovers. The majority of the team lives in downtown condos, either on their own or with a teammate.

The team's payroll likely topped $5-million (U.S.) this season thanks to big-ticket salaries for players such as Mark Arcobello ($1.1-million), Matt Frattin ($850,000), T.J. Brennan ($675,000), Clune ($350,000) and captain Andrew Campbell ($250,000), whose contracts guaranteed big money even when they played in the minors.

That's equivalent to what many of the high-end European teams pay their rosters - Swedish prospect Tobias Lindberg said the operation reminded him of his team, Djurgardens, back home - and it allows the Marlies to supplement their top draft picks with mentors who are proven contributors in pro hockey.

AHL salaries are also not subject to escrow, so a high-end player on a one-way deal, such as Brennan, actually made more money playing for the Marlies than during his seven-game callup to the Leafs.

While the Marlies attendance was up to 6,400 fans a game this season, the club is still believed to be a money loser for MLSE. But the organization believes the benefits of having the team in Toronto - with Leafs president Brendan Shanahan, Lamoriello and head coach Mike Babcock always a short drive away - is worth that investment.

The Leafs can also save money on the salary cap every year by making last-minute demotions and call-ups, something that is far more difficult for NHL teams with affiliates that are a flight or long bus ride away.

None of what the organization spends on the Marlies, meanwhile, is limited by the NHL's collective agreement, which makes improving their minor-league setup an obvious area for a cashflush team to focus on.

That emphasis could pay off in the AHL playoffs. The Marlies will fly - commercial not chartered - to Bridgeport, Conn., on Thursday morning in order to prepare for Saturday's Game 1 of their firstround series against the eighthseeded Sound Tigers.

As they have all season, they'll be there a day early, booked into one of the nicest hotels in town and ready to have a decent meal.

"It probably helped our road record a lot," Clune said.

With the last-place Leafs' season long over, the organization's focus - and financial heft - is on the Marlies.

It's championship or bust, for at least one professional hockey team in Canada this spring.

"The schedule is a grind," Campbell said. "You have a lot of ... tough bus trips. It definitely makes it easier when the organization is doing everything in their absolute power to make it as good as they can for you.

"If you're an [AHL] player and you have a choice of where you want to be, this has to be at the top of your list."

Associated Graphic

Toronto Marlies players, shown practising at Ricoh Coliseum in advance of their AHL playoff series, lack for nothing as the team's parent company focuses on improving its minor-league squad.


Players change lines during a Marlies practice at Ricoh Coliseum on Wednesday. Besides making players' lives easier, the Leafs organization itself benefits from proximity of its NHL and AHL teams.


Chris Colabello, whose hardscrabble journey to the Blue Jays was an inspiration, tests positive for a PED and MLB suspends him. A great tale takes an unexpected turn
Saturday, April 23, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S1

Chris Colabello isn't just a ballplayer. Until it all fell apart late Friday afternoon, he was a heroic anomaly. He was the exception that proved the rule - that you cannot gut your way to the top level of professional sports.

But Colabello did. The Toronto Blue Jays first baseman spent four years playing at the college level.

They drafted 1,500 players the year he graduated. Colabello was not among them.

He kept playing in the independent leagues. They are baseball's frontier country, populated by no-hopers and guys who can't let go.

Most of them stay there a few years. Colabello played seven.

He didn't get his first big-league shot until he was 29. Last year, at the age of 31, he broke through with the Jays.

As the team advanced into the postseason, his hardscrabble route to the bigs made him a minor celebrity.

"If you shoot for the stars and you miss, you might land on the moon," Colabello told The New York Times.

If Disney had adapted Colabello's story, the run into October was the closing scene. Instead, his journey has become Shakespearean. Last year was only the second act. Now, the tragedy.

On Friday, it was announced that Colabello had tested positive for an anabolic steroid - a very old-school way to enhance performance. He has already appealed unsuccessfully and will be suspended 80 games.

In a statement released through the MLB Players Association, Collabello denied fault: "I have spent every waking moment since [being notified] trying to find an answer as to why or how? The only thing I know is that I would never compromise the integrity of the game of baseball. I love the game of baseball too much!"

You'd like to believe him, but even that exclamation mark looks suspicious.

In another statement, Jays general manager Ross Atkins unlinked arms with his player by saying, "We're confident [Colabello] will return ready to compete and will have taken the steps needed to ensure that this does not happen again."

Translation: "He did it." It's likely that the word used most in coming days to describe this development will be "disappointing." Colabello is a decent player and a far more than decent guy.

Failure beats the ego out of you, and few pros have failed as often or for as long as Colabello. Nobody will take the knives out for him. Instead, they'll shake their heads. But "disappointed" suggests surprise. After all we've seen, that would be a stretch.

If established superstars with tens of millions in the bank do banned drugs to give themselves a mid-career edge, how could a guy in Colabello's position resist?

He'd been so close for so long.

Most of us can understand how someone in his position might find his way to a shady doctor or a mail-order pharmacy.

You don't have to agree with it, but surely you can see how it might happen.

There will be some looking for a head on a plate. Nothing kicks off a carnival of sanctimony like a positive drug test, and especially in baseball.

Since I am not Chris Colabello, I don't feel qualified to judge his choices. Only his colleagues have that right. And none of them worked half-as-hard to get where he's got.

Colabello's teammates have rallied to him because that's what teammates do. Out of earshot, they'll be wondering if the guy they play with was the genuine article or the chemical enhancement of a pedestrian player. The Jays executive will (and must) be more ruthless.

Colabello is only under contract for this year. He's been miserable so far - two hits in 10 games.

Clubs and their fans go to great lengths to forget the missteps of a star (Exhibit A: A conspicuous lack of conversation about Marcus Stroman's 50-game drug ban as a minor-leaguer).

But at best, Colabello is a role player. It's quite possible this is it, and that he'll be out of baseball in short order.

When I first heard about Colabello's suspension, my mind drifted to another former Blue Jay who was also an unlikely bigleaguer - utility infielder Howie Clark.

Clark played 10 years in the minor leagues before he was first called up. Ten years! In the off-season, he worked barges in the Port of Long Beach. Like Colabello (and unlike most bigleaguers), Clark had actually proved he played baseball for the love of the game.

Also like Colabello, he was an unusually bright and thoughtful guy. He had perspective. You'd often find him in the clubhouse to talk, not for a story, but because he was fun to talk to.

Clark was a mediocre majorleaguer, but he shone in his own way.

Clark was 34 years old, still plugging away, when he was named in the Mitchell Report.

His name was buried in the small print, just a few paragraphs in the midst of hundreds of pages. As he had his whole career, Clark hardly registered. But it hit me like a rock.

"Not Howie," I thought.

Followed by, "Of course, Howie."

He wanted to be a big-league ballplayer and would have done anything to get there. Even things he didn't want to do.

Clark admitted he'd used human-growth hormone. He called it "a mistake." A few months later, he was out of baseball for good.

Clark didn't have Colabello's golden moment. The New York Times didn't do a story about his rise to the top, because he'd never quite got there.

However this turns out, I hope people will remember Colabello as I remember Clark - as a guy who wanted something so much, he did not know how to give up on it.

It's still a great sports story.

But now that it is compromised and complicated, it's a great human one as well.

Follow me on Twitter: @cathalkelly

Associated Graphic

Blue Jays first baseman Chris Colabello, who spent seven years buried in minor-league baseball's nether-regions, has had his major-league career put on hold for 80 games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. He said he was mystified by the positive test.


Raptors take Game 5 to come within one win of the second round of the NBA playoffs
Wednesday, April 27, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S1

All of history seems sweeping in retrospect. Except for the sort that involves sports. That turns in a moment.

The Toronto Raptors didn't beat the Indiana Pacers 102-99.

They stole a game from them.

This was all going one way. And then it flipped. This game was a loss. You would've bet it at the end of the third quarter. There was no way the Raptors were going to undo the Paul George curse. For three quarters, George was so far inside the Raptors mind, it'd have taken a brain surgeon and a cranial saw to get him out. But they did. The Raptors didn't just negate George.

They made him irrelevant during what is supposed to be his golden hour.

How much sense did it make to watch? None. And I watched it.

Over nine remarkable minutes spanning the end of the third quarter and the late stages of the fourth, the Raptors went on a 23-2 run. Indiana scored only nine points in the final frame.

They did much of it with a lineup pulled from a Kurosawa film - all-star Kyle Lowry; subs Cory Joseph, Terrence Ross and Bismack Biyombo; and rookie Norman Powell. How much sense did that make? None. And it worked.

"We thought we'd go down with the group that was swinging," coach Dwane Casey said.

Casey is occasionally ripped by obsessives for his conservative substitutions. In that case, this was Casey letting his freak flag fly at the most crucial point in his Toronto career. At this rate, he might be playing two trainers and the mascot in Game 6.

There were storylines all across the Toronto lineup. In an oddly quiet fashion, DeRozan snapped his personal playoff duck with a 34-point night on 45-per-cent shooting. For the first time in the series, he did not look as if he was trying to put a beach ball through the hoop.

"It means nothing," George shrugged of DeRozan's performance afterward.

Ross, the slow learner who keeps skipping class, hit the crucial three that let the crowd back into it. They were his only points of the game. It's proof that it's not always about averages. Once in a while, it's just a question of timing.

For most of the first half, Biyombo was Toronto's best player. He was the only one who didn't seem like he was spending timeouts mentally planning his getaway flight to Cancun. His muscular work inside made up for another off-night by Jonas Valanciunas, and prevented Indiana's big men from taking over, as they had in the previous game.

But the evening was decided by one man and one moment - both on the Pacers side of the ball.

First, there was Paul George.

What we've learned in ten days is that George's magic is not in elevating his own game (though he can do that). It is in sinking his opponents'. Whenever he is on the court, Toronto's performance sags. He is basketball kryptonite.

Though he has dominated much of the series, Game 5 was shaping up as George's to-date masterpiece. At one point, he had five three-pointers while the Raptors' team had three.

Toronto could stage small runs when he was off taking a breather. Once he returned, the Raptors collective spirit sagged.

He'd lope up the floor in that sneaky-fast way he has, turn a corner, get three hands in his face and sink another. He's the sort of player whose statistics should be recorded in reverse - misses first.

Toronto's deficit after one quarter was 15.

No real inroads had been made by the third quarter.

That's when you felt it - the humid stink of collapse settling on the place. Toronto coaches had talked a lot about responding to the first "punch in the face." In fairness, lying down and rolling around is a sort of response.

It reached its nadir in that quarter. The PA announcer - ostensibly a neutral arbiter of game action - tried to lead a chant of "We. The. North."

All the people standing around in their ill-judged giveaway T-shirts - featuring a fighting beaver and a flaming snowball - refused to join in.

This building is always loud at Raptor games. Over the past couple of years, it's gotten quieter in the playoffs. Having been burned too many times over that span, no one wants to get ahead of themselves. Not even if they think it might help.

During that third quarter, the Raptors may have felt as lonely down on that court as they ever have. The roster was walking into another first-round collapse and the existential wood chipper that would follow.

And then the second part - the pivotal moment.

It came in the middle of the run, when everything was happening too fast and it still seemed very unlikely. Rodney Stuckey walked the ball up the court. Once he'd gotten into the offensive half, he fell over.

"He tripped over Drake," Casey said. "I was more worried about Drake than I was Stuckey." It'd be more correct to say he fell "on" Drake (who leapt out of his seat and cheered Stuckey off like a matador who'd just been publicly gored). That's when people began to really believe that the luck - which is trusted far more around these parts than talent - had shifted.

It ended with the predictable gut-churning. Trailing by three with a couple of seconds left, Indiana's Solomon Hill could not get his (successful) shot off in time. Everyone had to wait long minutes for the replay to verify that.

But there was no sense of anti-climax, only relief. Toronto is now one victory on Friday in Indiana from a series win.

They've been in this exact situation before - against Brooklyn two years ago.

Accepting that anything can still happen, it feels different this time around. Being better than Indiana is one thing. Being luckier than them?

It doesn't make any sense, but that feels like it actually matters.

Associated Graphic

Raptors guard Norman Powell slam dunks the ball during Tuesday's game against the Indiana Pacers in Toronto. The Raptors won 102-99.


Lowry and DeRozan must grab Game 5 by the throat if Toronto is to win series
Monday, April 25, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S1


Moreso than most teams, the Toronto Raptors enjoy their prepared talking points.

By enormous coincidence, three or four guys will drop the same word or two repeatedly into conversation on the same day, and then never again. Already this series, we have heard "poise" and "identity." Sunday's word was "accountability."

As in, now would be a good time to locate some.

On Saturday, the Raptors were forewarned that the Indiana Pacers would come at them early and often.

For reasons the team was having trouble explaining, they began the game at a pace that suggested they'd all taken Quaaludes during the anthems.

"They ambushed us," coach Dwane Casey said.

That's not how it looked. It looked like the Raptors ambushed themselves.

The result was, for long stretches, unwatchable basketball. This series shouldn't be close, never mind tied. The star of Game 4 was lightly regarded Frenchman Ian Mahinmi of the Pacers. Statistically, it was the best game of the 29-year-old's entire career. As in, Ian Mahinmi is more likely to spontaneously combust on the court than he is to score 22 points again. But because this is the Toronto Raptors we're talking about, many fans are already laying out their mourning attire.

As one exasperated pressrow wag in Indianapolis put it immediately after the loss: "Raptors trail series 2-2."

"It ain't gonna hurt my feelings if people write stuff. It's motivation," Kyle Lowry shrugged on Sunday. "The same people who love you, hate you the next day."

Things are not yet bad. They're so-so. Toronto has played its choppiest, most inconsistent basketball of the year in the playoffs, and it is still even.

But there are no more mulligans left.

While no one looked good in Game 4, we all know who is to blame.

It's not Casey's adjustments or Luis Scola's weary movement or Terrence Ross consistently choosing to do the hard thing.

Coaches and 15-minute-a-game players don't decide contests.

This is all on Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Their mid-30s shooting percentages have become a statistical scarlet letter, marking them as two of the poorest postseason performers of the past 30 years. We're beyond a couple of bad nights. Either the disaster of last year has got in their heads or they are hiding some significant physical impediment.

On Sunday, Lowry suggested that he'd discovered the problem - "If it usually takes us .9 seconds to shoot, we're shooting in like .4."

He made it sound as if this was some brilliant tactical innovation on Indiana's part, rather than "playing solid defence." The fairly obvious countermeasure is "Don't rush your shots" - a strategy Lowry promised to deploy on Tuesday, fours game too late.

DeRozan was blunt - "We just stink right now" - but straight talk isn't helping things. Over the past couple of days, DeRozan has hit on another rhetorical gambit - blaming the officiating by not blaming the officiating.

"We're not going to complain about nothing," DeRozan said.

For the second day in a row, he said he and his team "ain't whining," while strongly hinting that the Pacers are.

Repeatedly saying that you're not complaining is, in fact, the single most annoying way to complain. We have all known an "I'm not complaining, but ..." person. They are the lowest of the low, just underneath "I'll go anywhere you like/Oh, not that place" people and "I'm not hungry enough to order, but maybe I'll just pick off your plate" people.

DeRozan isn't one of these people, and this would be a particularly bad moment to become one. If he wants to blame the officials for his poor performance, he should just do that. It'd probably be easier and cheaper to just hit a few shots.

On Sunday, at practice in Toronto, he was working alone with a trio of assistant coaches on finding his sweet spots after coming off screens. He missed a lot more than he hit.

A season ago, when he was on a particularly bad run of forcing up off-balance, long-range twos, Raptors' staff set DeRozan a task.

They would not complain about or gainsay any of his shot selections as long as he had one foot in the paint as he took them. All other shots would have to be justified.

Maybe it's time to go back to that plan.

It's neither Lowry's nor DeRozan's fault that they have to spend so much time sounding clueless about all this stuff.

There's only so many ways two guys can say, "I don't know" when people ask what's wrong.

But they should also understand that, at this time of year, talk is worse than cheap.

If they don't turn this around immediately, all people will remember from this year is how they both seemed more mentally prepared for the all-star game than for the ones that actually matter.

At a certain point, failure can't be explained away.

"I've just gotta shoot the shots better," Lowry said. Yes. But now he has to actually go out and do that, rather than making vague promises to do so.

He and DeRozan are both paid a preposterous amount of money to play a child's game.

What they are failing at right now is the sport's most basic skill.

This isn't a last chance, but it's starting to feel that way.

"If we don't play desperate ... we struggle," Casey said. He was talking about the whole team.

But not really.

All the Raptors and their fans can do is trust that two players this good can't be this bad for very long. We'll see Tuesday in Game 5 just how desperate they are.

Follow me on Twitter: @cathalkelly

Windsor high school player from South Sudan detained after report that he's nearly 30
Friday, April 22, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S1

At the Ontario provincial high school basketball championships last month, coach Gus Gymnopoulos of Vaughan Secondary School wondered about one of the players on the opposing team, Catholic Central High School from Windsor, Ont.

Gymnopoulos had already scouted 6-foot-9 Jonathan Nicola, a 17-year-old who had attracted some attention after he arrived in Canada from South Sudan in November on a student visa.

To Gymnopoulos, Nicola didn't look like a teenager. Nicola was a raw talent and threw down several dunks. He was hard to guard near the hoop but he wasn't dominant on the court, as Vaughan Secondary defeated Catholic Central.

"He just didn't physically look like he was in 11th grade," Gymnopoulos said. "He just looked older."

The mysterious 17-year-old may in fact be much older. The story became a sensation on Wednesday when the news emerged of the high school basketball player who was billed in headlines as a 30-year-old.

Nicola was arrested last Friday by the Canada Border Services Agency and may be close to 30, reaching that mark later this year. He had used a date of birth of Nov. 1, 1986, for a previous application to enter the United States, according to a statement from Border Services on Thursday.

Border Services has alleged that Nicola misrepresented material facts in his application for a study permit to Canada, for which he submitted a date of birth of Nov. 25, 1998 - the basis of his age of 17 and short life at Catholic Central, in the classroom and on the court. A misrepresentation would make Nicola inadmissible to Canada, under the Immigration Refugee Protection Act.

Nicola arrived at Toronto Pearson International Airport on Nov.

23, a couple of days before the Nov. 25, 1998, birthday in the passport he presented.

According to Border Services, the differing dates of birth came to light when Nicola recently applied for a visitor visa to the United States.

Border Services used fingerprints to connect the recent application with the earlier application to the United States.

Nicola is being held at the South West Detention Centre, a maximum-security jail in Windsor. Border Services wants to put Nicola into an admissibility hearing before the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.

Nicola's detention was reviewed by the board this week. The board ruled that Nicola would remain in detention because "he presents a flight risk, as he is unlikely to appear for an upcoming admissibility hearing."

Another detention review is set for next Tuesday. A date for the admissibility hearing has not been set.

There have been cases in the United States and Canada of men in their early 20s masquerading as teenagers to play high school basketball - but in this case, a man potentially nearing 30 and looking to escape the strife of South Sudan, is much more spectacular, if the allegations are true.

Nicola hadn't previously played organized basketball and didn't spark undue attention.

There were no official complaints about him lodged with the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations.

Nicola was an intriguing prospect, according to high school scout Tariq Sbiet of North Pole Hoops, who had seen him play and thought he could eventually make it to top-level U.S. college basketball.

Sbiet wondered about Nicola's age but was told by team coach Peter Cusumano that documents such as a birth certificate and student visa had been vetted.

"We've seen guys who do look older and you don't know how old they are," Sbiet said. "You go based on what you're told. It sounded like he was enthusiastic about learning and a nice person, appreciative of his situation, coming from Sudan, wanting to work and get better."

Nicola was supported by the local community. The Detroit Pistons donated a bunch of size-16 shoes and clothing.

Cusumano is a veteran coach who is set to retire this spring.

"Wish I could clear this up," he said through a message on social media, "but I am not allowed to talk." Sherrilynn Colley-Vegh, principal of Catholic Central, referred comment to a district spokesman.

The school is home to numerous international students. Stephen Fields, spokesman for the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board, said that the board relies on the government documentation that it is presented.

Cusumano was a mentor to Nicola and housed him as part of the Canada Homestay Network. A spokeswoman for the network said this is the first time in the organization's 21year history that an international student has been involved with Canadian immigration authorities.

Nicola came to Canada through a series of connections.

According to a Windsor Star feature in January, Nicola was spotted in South Sudan by Deng D'Awol. D'Awol had, earlier in his life, played youth basketball with a Canadian, Greg Dole, a son of a diplomat.

D'Awol and Dole both attended Upper Canada College in Toronto in the mid-1990s, according to records. D'Awol thereafter played low-level college basketball in the United States. Neither man responded to messages on Thursday.

The two men, according to the Windsor Star, were looking to send Nicola to a prep school in the United States when Dole suggested Cusumano and Catholic Central in Windsor as an option. (The Windsor Star also first reported this week on Nicola's arrest and alleged age discrepancy.)

Future of Melnyk and his hockey team caught up in Ottawa redevelopment project
Friday, April 29, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S1


Eugene Melnyk's immediate response was much the same as everyone else gathered Thursday afternoon in that stuffy downtown conference room.


The National Capital Commission, the office that oversees government properties around Ottawa, had called the gathering to announce the winner of the bid to redevelop a downtown swatch of mud and crabgrass known as LeBreton Flats.

The Ottawa Senators owner had hoped his group might carry the day, but he knew he was up against billionaires who would consider him pocket change, up against promises so wild and extravagant that the competition at times seemed more like an election than a redevelopment plan.

Two years ago, the NCC invited proposals for the 21.6 hectares of barren land just to the west of Parliament Hill. Once bustling with lumber mills, railway spurs and working-class housing,

LeBreton Flats sat vacant for decades, its soil contaminated, its future uncertain.

Four groups appeared serious about chasing the opportunity to redevelop the property along the Ottawa River. Then, last fall, two of the groups dropped away, leaving only Melnyk's group, RendezVous LeBreton, and another entity calling itself Devcore Canderel DLS Group in the running.

The Melnyk proposal was always about moving his NHL team downtown and closer to potential ticket buyers from West Quebec and east of Ottawa, fans who balked at the annoying drive west to attend Senators games in suburban Kanata.

That the anchor for RendezVous LeBreton would be a hockey rink was a given. The unexpected was that the proposal from DCDLS was also centred around an NHL-size arena.

The NCC had sought a legacy proposal that would enhance the lands next door to the Canadian War Museum and within eyesight of the Peace Tower. They got two hockey rinks.

The puzzle was that only the Melnyk group had a hockey team. The other group had money - two key backers being Montreal billionaires André Desmarais and Cirque du Soleil co-founder Guy Laliberté.

Melnyk vowed that he would "never, never" sell his team. Others thought he might have no choice if the other group won the competition, built their rink and drew away the concerts and events that make Melnyk's distant Canadian Tire Centre viable.

It was regarded by some as a sports "hostile takeover" even though the DCDLS group insisted some arrangement beneficial to all might be reached.

Both groups knowing they would have to offer something other than a Tim Hortons to complement the rink proposal began expanding their plans to make them more attractive. Both had considerable residential and retail mix and additional facilities for seniors. One group offered a school. Both offered a new site for the Ottawa Public Library.

The DCDLS group then went a tad loopy. It would include a Ripley's aquarium, a planetarium, a bandshell. It would have simulated indoor skydiving. It would build an automobile museum.

It seemed a hockey game might prove unplayable there were so many bells and whistles in the plan.

Melnyk's group remained rather more sensible and conservative, as a government town likes to see itself. It would put in a multiplex sports centre along with the NHL rink. It would restore a historic aqueduct. It would build a square large enough to hold outdoor events and concerts. And it would bury the coming light-rail transit line that had made the whole idea of redeveloping LeBreton Flats feasible in the first place.

The public response was significant. Many found the car museum a "contradictory message" for an area that was supposed to stress "green" sustainability.

The Desmarais-Laliberté group was also seen as "outsiders" despite having significant involvement of local investment and talent. The Melnyk group, despite the owner's residence in Barbados, became the local choice.

It was, surely, pure coincidence that the announcement by the NCC board was preceded by a report on the ecosystem of Gatineau Park in which much talk had been about "invasive species."

In the end, and to the surprise of many who thought the bells, whistles and deep pockets would prove too attractive, the commission went for the simpler plan. It voted to give the Melnyk group permission to enter negotiations, yet making it clear that should these negotiations falter, the other group could still have its chance at LeBreton Flats.

But it will be a long time before anyone skates on LeBreton Flats.

Difficult negotiations with First Nations will also be required.

And negotiations with the federal government. And the cleansing of the soil is far from complete.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson was told it would be "three to five years" before a shovel even hits the ground.

Melnyk, however, says his team will play its first game downtown in October of 2021.

Winning the proposal to develop the lands, he said, has "solidified" the often-struggling franchise "for a long, long time."

"Now, more than ever, I feel we'll bring that Stanley Cup here sooner than you think."

Follow me on Twitter: @RoyMacG

Associated Graphic

Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, second from right, speaks to media following the National Capital Commission's decision to give his group first shot at negotiating the redevelopment of LeBreton Flats. Melnyk hopes the Senators will play there by 2021.


The making of an epic fourth-quarter comeback
A small lineup that never even ran together in practice was behind one of the most memorable playoff wins in franchise history
Thursday, April 28, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S1

TORONTO -- The Toronto Raptors were using a combination of players they had never used before when they dug out of a 13-point hole in the fourth quarter of Tuesday's Game 5 versus the Indiana Pacers. They hope to bottle whatever late-game magic helped them walk off with one of the most memorable playoff victories in franchise history.

After a horrid first three quarters, the Raptors started the fourth with a small lineup to expedite scoring. The combo of DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Norman Powell, Bismack Biyombo and Cory Joseph had never even run a play together in practice - nor had the lineup that resulted when Terrence Ross subbed in briefly for DeRozan.

The Raptors played with a desperation they had lacked in the series - one they hope to emulate in Game 6 in Indianapolis on Friday, as they attempt to capture their first playoff series since 2001.

Here, we dissect significant moments from that epic fourth quarter, in which Toronto outscored the Paul George-led Pacers 25-9.

9:04 IND 90, TOR 77 In a series riddled with missed shots by Lowry, the allstar guard hits a 19-footer that kick-starts an 8-0 run to start the quarter.

8:52 IND 90, TOR 81 Three rebounds into his sevenboard quarter, Biyombo further asserts his physical presence in the paint by leaping at a lob from Lowry and delivering a huge dunk. Lowry crafts this by driving to the hoop and making Indy pay for double-teaming him by dishing off.

6:51 IND 92, TOR 87 The crowd is wild just seconds after Indy's Rodney Stuckey stumbles out of bounds under pressure, right into Drake, who claps right behind his head. So what Ross does next makes the place erupt. On a night in which he plays just 14 minutes and takes six attempts from three-point land, this timely 24-footer is the only one that falls for Ross. It comes off a crafty pass from Joseph that puts the Raptors within two. "That's big confidence, how he changed up the lineup and his minutes weren't what they usually are," DeRozan said. "That's big for T-Ross just to come in there and still be aggressive. That kind of changed the game for us."

6:34 IND 92, TOR 90 Powell intercepts a bad pass from Monta Ellis and speeds down the floor to score on a dunk to tie the game. "There were so many different dunks I was thinking about doing, that I kind of overthought it and the ball slipped out of my hand a little bit," Powell said. "But I just knew that I had to throw it down as hard as I could to get the crowd into it. I think it gave us a tremendous energy boost. Seeing the guys get into it, seeing the crowd go crazy, after that we went on another run."

4:15 IND 92, TOR 92 Lowry drives to the hoop and kicks a pass out to DeRozan on the wing, who nails a three to give Toronto its first lead of the night - and Toronto's two all-stars show the prowess they'd been missing so far in the series. "He didn't have the defence coming at him, he was open," Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. "Kyle did a great job of drawing and kicking. I thought that was a huge difference with our small lineup: our draw-and-kick game."

3:26 TOR 95, IND 92 DeRozan drives to the hoop, taking defenders to him but passes out to Joseph, who coolly drains a three. "I tried to get the Indiana guys to draw in, thinking I was going to go to the rim," DeRozan said. "But I had Cory on my mind the whole time."

0:47 TOR 100, IND 96 When Powell's three-point attempt bounces off the rim, several Pacers seem poised to grab the rebound with enough time left to make two buckets and even the score. But Lowry leaps into the pack and tips the rebound backward to DeRozan, who freezes it. "It may not show with the points or the stat sheet," DeRozan said. "But it's a lot of things that Kyle does that help us to victory every single night."

Casey and Raptors ready to 'ride or die' with DeRozan and Lowry
Tuesday, April 26, 2016 – Print Edition, Page S1

TORONTO -- Dwane Casey will tell reporters quite candidly that no NBA coach will say much of substance publicly during a playoff series. In fact, most will "lie to you big time." But one thing he said while preparing for Tuesday's Game 5 against the Indiana Pacers seemed very sincere.

Toronto's all-star duo of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry have combined to make just 40 of their 130 shot attempts in this series - and just 5 of 35 from three-point range. Yet, in a series full of game-by-game adjustments made by both teams, Casey made it clear that deviating from the reliance on Toronto's two stars will not be one of them. You have to be willing to trust that two players that good can't possibly keep shooting that poorly.

"We're going to ride or die with Kyle and DeMar," the Raptors head coach after Monday's practice said. "Kyle and DeMar are our guys; I don't care what their numbers say - they're still two of the best guards in the NBA."

They were one of the topscoring backcourts in the league during the regular season, combining to average 44.7 points a game. Compare that with the 28.8 points they've averaged together through the four games of this series with the Pacers, now knotted 2-2.

Indiana defenders Paul George and George Hill have stuck to DeRozan and Lowry, and the two Toronto stars have often been double-teamed and forced to take contested shots. Yet, DeRozan and Lowry have even struggled to hit the wide-open looks they've had.

"You've just got to hoop and trust in what you've done all year long and believe in the work and the coverages you've put in and just play basketball," Lowry said. "Shots aren't falling, but I can do other things - passing, playing hard, leading. You still have to trust and believe in the habits you've created."

Each game in this series so far has been dramatically different, with both teams countering as if in a chess match.

Indy's Game 1 win featured pure domination by all-star George and a look at a Pacers defence focused first on slowing DeRozan and Lowry. In Game 2, Toronto won by altering its starters, and sending DeMarre Carroll and Norman Powell to slow George, while Jonas Valanciunas made Indy pay for focusing so much on Toronto's backcourt.

DeRozan found his stroke in a Game 3 win, as the Raptors dominated and seemed on course to roll through for two more fast wins. But in Game 4, Indy adjusted again - it turned up the tempo dramatically, so Toronto was racing. It started rookie Myles Turner and offset Toronto's defensive attention on George and Monta Ellis by feeding the ball to the open lanes that created for Turner and little-known big man Ian Mahinmi, who had a career night. The Pacers also got very physical on Valanciunas, so dishing to him was no longer as easy.

The next countering moves are Toronto's, but they won't be dramatic. Officials aren't calling much of the physicality on Valanciunas nor most of DeRozan's drives to the hoop. Those might have been whistled in the regular season, but Toronto can't rely on them now. Passes have to be crisper to avoid turnovers and screens stronger to provide better scoring chances. Valanciunas can't cheat as far when helping to double-team on defence - leaving low-post opportunities open has proven costly. And Lowry and DeRozan simply have to keep shooting and hope some fall.

"You don't forget how to shoot the basketball - you have to keep shooting it," Casey said. "Don't lose confidence. No one on this coaching staff or the team has lost confidence. Continue to shoot the shots you usually make and the ones you take every day."

Associated Graphic

Kyle Lowry, seen dribbling during Game 3 against the Pacers on April 21, will have to keep shooting and hope his shots fall.


Friday, April 29, 2016 – Print Edition, Page P1

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26 | The silent partner

Ottawa pulled out all the stops to help a giant U.S. defence contractor sell $15-billion worth of Canadian-made armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia. If the deal is such a coup, why won't the feds disclose even the most basic details? /By Paul Christopher Webster

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36 | Uber hero

Canada's third-richest man revolutionized Web surfing and helped launch the hottest and most controversial start-up of the past decade. Do you know who he is? He'd prefer that you didn't. /By Stephen Baldwin

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42 | What a windfall

Europe is fully committed to green energy and Canada is not, so where is Toronto's Northland Power building a massive offshore wind farm? In the North Sea. /By Eric Reguly

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50 | Out where the robots roam

Smart hardware is the next tech frontier, and you need specialized buildings and geeks in hoodies to develop it. Fortunately, Waterloo has plenty of both. /By Mark Mann

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9 | The Interview

Annette Verschuren fulfilled grand plans as president of Home Depot Canada. Now she's cochair of a coalition that wants to build an entire green economy

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12 | Graphic Details

Trudeau vs. Trudeau: How Pierre's and Justin's budget numbers compare

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14 | Made in Canada

The mosquito is our national pest, and the world's best bug spray has the portrait of a Nova Scotian on every can

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16 | Venture

Imaginea Energy CEO Suzanne West is a post-oil oil executive-the kind who already drives a Tesla and uses solar power

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18 | Disruption

Regardless of what online providers actually sell, they are all now in the secrecy business, too

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20 | Corporate Governess

How do you ditch your mentor? And what about the co-worker who shares too many details about his old and new flames?

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21 | Reguly

Big Pharma CEOs who hike prices sky-high say it's to fund R&D. Yeah, sure. Are those massively swollen stock options in your pocket?

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22 | Investing

Gold bugs say the stuff is a great inflation hedge, and now they're pitching the yellow metal as a deflation hedge, too. It somehow makes sense to them

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56 | Exit Interview

What will Steve MacPhail do after building CI Financial into an investment giant? Best to head to the cottage first and do very little

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In e-commerce battle, grocery stores perfect 'click and collect'
Saturday, April 23, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1

TORONTO -- At an east-end Toronto Loblaws store, Safi Hafiz-Zadeh carefully picks through bunches of green onions, rejecting a couple with limp leaves and, approving the looks of two others, places them in a black bin.

As he searches for flawless Royal Gala apples and takes time to chat, his scanner starts to beep. It's telling him he's shopping too slowly, at 14 minutes and 44 seconds. The scanner asks him if he's okay.

"Please let your manager know."

Mr. Hafiz-Zadeh isn't just any regular shopper. As a senior area manager at Loblaw Cos. Ltd., he oversees staff who pick and pack groceries for the retailer's budding e-commerce business, which entails customers ordering online and driving to its stores to fetch their purchases.

He's also at ground zero of the emerging online grocery battle.

Loblaw is raising the stakes in a fledgling segment in which it plans to add close to 100 more of its e-commerce order pickup stores this year to its current 48.

At the same time, other major retailers are stepping up their online selling. Amid the heightened activity, big players increasingly are trying to lure customers to the online pickup model rather than delivery services.

Such services can be logistically complex and costly for companies, pinching already thin profit margins.

"Delivery has all the costs of pickup plus you have the delivery [costs,]" Jeremy Pee, senior vicepresident of digital and e-commerce at Loblaw, said after watching Mr. Hafiz-Zadeh select the green onions and nine apples for an order. "Food is heavy and you have to keep temperature control and a lot of other factors ... Economics aside, the customers just prefer pickup."

Two of the country's biggest retailers - Loblaw, the top player, and discounter Wal-Mart Canada Corp. - are betting that shoppers will vote with their wallets for online pickup orders as a more convenient way to grocery shop.

Even so, once cyber-powerhouse Inc. brings its fresh food offerings to Canada with delivery service, as industry observers expect it eventually will do, incumbents could feel the heat to follow suit with their own deliveries.

"If we don't push the changes now, Amazon will definitely force the retailers to do that," predicted Mudit Rawat, chief executive officer of startup Urbery. It offers Uber-style online grocery deliveries from customers' stores of choice in Toronto and plans to expand across Canada.

A nascent segment, online grocery shopping represents less than 1 per cent of the overall $120-billion of annual sales in the Canadian sector, analysts estimate. But those sales are expected to rise at three to four times the rate of those made in-store, making up 3 per cent of total sales by 2018, according to e-commerce researcher Profitero.

In the emerging debate over pickup-versus-delivery, consultancy McKinsey & Co. has found pickups generate higher margins: after variable costs such as marketing, margins are 13.8 per cent for pickups and just 10.7 per cent for home deliveries. That's in a "best-case scenario" of densely populated areas in Europe, it says in the 2013 report. "The economics of pickup can be substantially more attractive."

Loblaw, which launched its pickup "Click & Collect" in the fall of 2014 in just three stores, has already swayed shoppers such as Cynthia Chapman to it.

Ms. Chapman, 59 and the mother of two university-aged children, has been using the service every week for the past year at the east-end Loblaws supermarket. She finds it eliminates her impulse buying and the drudgery of grocery shopping. "Now, I rarely go into a grocery store," she said after driving into the Loblaws parking lot and having her $153.23 online order, including a $3 click-and-collect fee, loaded in her car by a Loblaws employee.

She said home delivery "might be a nice option" but she's pleased with pickups. Her one beef: Loblaw's website "needs to be more responsive. The search functions aren't the greatest." Mr. Pee countered Loblaw is upgrading its site weekly.

Executives at Loblaw and WalMart say their research found that shoppers prefer picking up their online orders at their convenience rather than sitting at home waiting for a delivery.

"It doesn't mean that we won't do delivery in the future, but it's not in our plans today," Simon Rodrigue, senior vice-president of e-commerce at Wal-Mart Canada, said.

Wal-Mart and Loblaw aim to get customers in and out of their parking lots with their online orders in five minutes. Wal-Mart meets that goal more than 99 per cent of the time, Mr. Rodrigue said. Its research found 86 per cent of its customers would recommend the service to others.

Wal-Mart introduced its pickups in Ottawa last summer and expanded them to Toronto in February, with 33 stores slated for the program by the end of May, he said.

Still, even the pickup model has its costs. Loblaw hired 10 to 12 employees for picking-and-packing in each of its 48 click-and-collect stores, Mr. Pee said. It expects that higher sales will eventually help offset steeper labour costs, he said.

Wal-Mart, which has 110 employees dedicated to its pickup service, finds savings by adopting a "hub and spoke" strategy in which four stores serve as pick-and-packing hubs for all its pickup outlets, Mr. Rodrigue said.

More hubs will be added as the pickup program expands, he said.

Currently, a typical Loblaw online customer spends more than $100 in a shopping trip, whereas an in-store customer spends just $30 to $35, Richard Dufresne, chief financial officer of Loblaw, told a CIBC World Markets retail conference last month.

For the Click & Collect program to break even, Loblaw needs online shoppers to spend even more, he said. (A company spokeswoman added later other factors, such as more efficiencies, are needed.)

Mr. Dufresne said because of the scattered population in Canada and the high cost of delivery "it would probably not be economical to do. That's why we've been pushing to motivate the industry to move to click-and-collect, because it's a cheaper alternative for online grocery," he said. "Based on what we're hearing so far, it seems that a few of our competitors are trying to imitate us, which is the right answer for Canada."

Metro Inc. is the only major grocer without some e-commerce, although it plans to launch a service this year. Industry watchers believe it will offer order pickups while delivery service firms are in talks with the retailer about teaming up with it, sources said. A Metro spokeswoman declined to comment.

Startup delivery services, such as Urbery, deliver food from other companies, thus cutting the services' risk and expense of holding inventory, with potentially higher profits than grocers that do their own shipping, Urbery's Mr. Rawat said.

To help bolster its bottom line, Urbery charges about 10 per cent to 15 per cent higher food prices online than in stores where its "grocery gurus" shop, Mr. Rawat said. Urbery expects to make a profit in 24 to 30 months after its year-ago launch, he said. "Our business model is quite lean."

Rival Instabuggy does shopping and deliveries for Sobeys's discount FreshCo division as well as independent grocers and will soon do shipments for some Sobeys Urban Fresh stores, said Julian Gleizer, CEO of Instabuggy.

Sobeys spokesman Andrew Walker said it doesn't have a formal partnership with Instabuggy. "In essence they are using us as a warehouse."

Sobeys Inc., the country's second-largest grocer after Loblaw, runs its own delivery and pickup services at its IGA stores in Quebec and Thrifty Foods in British Columbia. Sobeys is preparing for a wider launch of e-commerce this year, sources have said. Mr. Walker would not comment.

Even Grocery Gateway, an online shop-and-delivery service which was founded in 1997 and has turned a profit "for many years," is considering offering pickups, said Anthony Longo, CEO of parent Longo Brothers Fruit Markets Inc.

But with razor-thin margins, online grocers need to find savings, said Tim McGuire, a senior partner at McKinsey. For instance, grocers that ensure their pickers use easy-tomanoeuvre carts and closely monitor pickers can boost picking speeds to three times those of the worst performers - and cut those costs by as much as half, Mr. McGuire said. It could make the difference between profit and loss, he said.

At the east-end Loblaws, Mr. Hafiz-Zadeh feels the urgency to shop faster when he hears his scanner beeping. "We are very time-sensitive," he said. "We're focused on efficiency."

Associated Graphic


Loblaw Cos. hired 10 to 12 employees in each of its 48 stores that offer the Click & Collect program, seen above as manager Lyndsey Leask collects a customer's groceries in Toronto in April.


John Oliver is breaking ads - and that's just fine for HBO
Saturday, February 13, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1

If there's one thing John Oliver loves about making a show that has no ad breaks, it is the freedom to break ads.

The comedian's star turn on HBO, the satirical news show Last Week Tonight, has created fake ads in which the taste of Bud Light is described as "if a nickel could urinate"; Fanta's ties to 1940s Germany are mocked with images of Nazi troops marching on Paris alongside the slogan "Annex your thirst"; and Volkswagen tries to recover from its emissions scandal by touting the Jetta's "not-atall-fraudulent features." It's an area where he felt more restricted as a correspondent on The Daily Show.

"It would occasionally come up.

A company would be a sponsor.

That is something that you're always aware of," Mr. Oliver says in an interview at HBO's Manhattan offices "On the most childish possible level, it is really fun to be able to say dickish things about companies without any consequences." But it goes deeper than jokes: Mr. Oliver also credits the freedom from advertising for the aggressive longer-format stories he has done, and will continue to do when the show returns from hiatus on Sunday night.

For example, in the spring of 2014, just four episodes into the new show, he delivered a 10minute invective against General Motors over the ignition switch recall scandal.

GM was mocked for its list of banned "judgment words" advising staff of language not to use when reporting problems, including "death trap," "rolling sarcophagus," and "grenade-like."

The team then created a fake GM commercial using many of those words, and ending with the slogan, "Why walk through the valley of the shadow of death when you can drive."

And there is a structural benefit as well: Because Mr. Oliver's show does not have to tell stories in nine-minute arcs built around commercial breaks, there is time for longer segments - which often last for as much as 20 of the show's 30 minutes - that take deep dives into meatier topics.

"You don't end up talking for nine minutes, and then have to stop so Doritos can tell you about their new flavour of abomination," he says. "Which seems like nothing, but it's actually a big deal. ... You can't keep the stuff in your head unless it's one coherent, linear storyline."

One example is Mr. Oliver's sitdown in Moscow with Edward Snowden, for which a special episode was extended to 45 minutes.

In the 33-minute segment, he pushed "the most famous hero and/or traitor in recent American history" to explain why he had leaked secrets about the U.S. government's surveillance practices. Mr. Oliver pointed out that many people did not understand what Mr. Snowden had revealed or why it mattered. So he asked him to frame the issue in terms that people would care about: whether the National Security Agency could see photos of their genitals sent over e-mail or text message. "I guess I never thought about putting it in the context of your junk," Mr. Snowden said.

Mr. Oliver has become known for longer segments, which - counterintuitively in the age of digitally truncated attention spans - have become incredibly popular online. More than 10 million people have watched at least some of the 33-minute Snowden interview on YouTube; an additional 12 million plus have watched the 13-minute screed against the corruption at FIFA.

The Web has become a more important marketing channel for other comedy shows, with Key & Peele and Inside Amy Schumer becoming well known largely because of skits passed around by millions on YouTube and Facebook.

But if Last Week Tonight benefits from not being beholden to advertisers, it's because HBO demands that people pay to see its content : As such, even more than the cable channels that host those other shows, it is a walled garden. "Do not upload any HBO content to the Internet," reads a white and pink sign in the hallway here. By posting these longform clips online, Last Week Tonight is wandering further outside the walls of that garden than is usually permitted.

But executives believe that giving out free samples on social media has been a worthwhile marketing vehicle. Viewership for Last Week Tonight quickly grew from a standing start to four million U.S. viewers on average in its first season and 4.7 million in its second season.

"With HBO, all they really are concerned about is whether the dragons are okay," Mr. Oliver jokes, referring to the blockbuster hit Game of Thrones, saying he's not surprised at the leniency. "I think we're a very small concern." HBO chief executive officer Richard Plepler begs to differ.

"Even the biggest shows don't necessarily propel new subscriptions immediately," he says in an interview. "It is part of a brand mosaic."

The more widely buzzed-about Mr. Oliver's pieces are, Mr. Plepler says, the better marketing it is for the network at large.

That's helpful as HBO attempts to contend with changing viewer habits that are upending TV's business models. Some of the changes are irreversible - such as the popularity of digital ondemand viewing and the demand for unbundling of TV channels.

Others, less so: Yes, young people relentlessly gobble up content free online, but as they grow up, and their incomes and families grow, Mr. Plepler believes they will grow into paying customers, at least for some of their favourite entertainment.

"There's a very big audience of what we call 'persuadables' out there - millions and millions of people," he says. "... Our job over the next couple of years is to go bring those people into the family.

"Shows like John's are a delivery of the promise that something great is going on here. ... The segments ... become not only part of the cultural conversation, but part of the political conversation. You see that reverberating months and months later in op-eds, in news coverage. So it's beyond just the viewership."

Mr. Oliver continues to take issue with the claim that what he does is anything like journalism, even though he employs researchers with journalism backgrounds to fact-check pieces and even to do investigations - such as when they combed through Miss America documents to show how the beauty pageant's claim to offer academic scholarships for women was greatly inflated. He insists that this isn't in service of the news; it's just a vehicle to get to a punchline. Call it public service comedy.

This perspective is assisted by his background: Mr. Oliver was born in Birmingham, England, and has what he calls "an immigrant's crush" on the United States. (He and his wife just had their first child, and Mr. Oliver says he was just struck recently by the idea that his son would have an American accent.) But it also changes how he looks at the issues, he says.

It's not his first time living in North America as an outsider, though. That credit goes to Canada. Mr. Oliver has an aunt in Kingston, which led him to spend Grade 8 there while his father was on sabbatical and brought the family in Canada.

Last Week Tonight has also mocked Canadian news, and he has plans to do so in the future.

"I find the inferiority complex in Canadian politics immensely appealing, and something I can identify with directly," he says.

"The lack of coverage of the Canadian election in America was pretty fascinating, seeing as you share a gigantic border ... and to think it was somehow irrelevant, what was happening up there, was absolutely astounding to me.

"... And I'm really interested to see how Justin Trudeau disappoints people," he adds. "I'm really interested in how he publicly deals with his father issues.

Especially with Pierre Trudeau, it is like having 'Jordan' on the back of a basketball shirt and not being Michael Jordan. 'Oh yeah, I remember your dad. He was amazing at basketball, the best ever. You just missed.' "He laughs.

"But, undeniably, nice hair."

Associated Graphic

Last Week Tonight is unencumbered by real commercials, giving host John Oliver more time to delve into the issue du jour.


Delta deal a boost to Bombardier
Multibillion-dollar C Series order is largest in company's history
Friday, April 29, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1

MONTREAL, TORONTO -- With its multibillion-dollar order from Delta Air Lines Inc., Canadian plane maker Bombardier Inc. has finally broken into the mainline aircraft duopoly held by Boeing Co. and Airbus Group SE.

But what it took to get there hasn't come cheap. And for a company still battling to regain investor trust and win market legitimacy under a $9-billion debt, the future may hold as many pitfalls as the past.

It was a high-spirited Alain Bellemare who met employees and the news media at Bombardier's Mirabel, Que., production site on Thursday to confirm officially that the plane maker struck a deal with Atlanta-based Delta for 75 C Series planes and options on 50 more. It is the biggest plane order in Bombardier's history and the biggest C Series order to date - one that will carry the previously struggling plane program well into 2021.

"This is a really big deal for us," a beaming Mr. Bellemare, the company's CEO, said. "It's a turning point for the program."

Mr. Bellemare shook the hand of Delta chief executive Ed Bastian too many times to count on Thursday, thanking a person who has now in effect become the C Series' biggest pitchman who is not on the Bombardier payroll.

When the two men parted ways, Mr. Bastian told him: "You've earned this."

This is a deal at least five years in the making, and the two sides have held on-again, offagain talks on several occasions over that time trying to hammer out an agreement. On the Delta side, there was skepticism a pact could get done, Mr. Bastian said.

When Bombardier was facing questions about its liquidity position last year, and the very survival of the company was being evoked by rivals to scare away potential customers, it turned to the Quebec government for help.

Quebec obliged with a $1-billion (U.S.) investment in the C Series program, reassuring the market that it would not let Bombardier fail.

"It's because we were there that this transaction happened," Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said Thursday. Fred Cromer, Bombardier's commercial aerospace chief, put it another way: "It took an issue off the table. To sell an airplane, the last thing you want to do is have to start the conversation with the financial health of the company."

With Delta reassured that Bombardier was going to be around to support the C Series program in the long term, negotiations then turned to the nitty-gritty of cost and other considerations. In the end, Bombardier made a significant concession on pricing - one Mr. Bellemare acknowledged it had to do to win an early marquee customer such as Delta.

"We were expecting to be a little bit more aggressive to relaunch the program," Mr. Bellemare said.

"We've done just that."

Going forward, Bombardier believes it will be able to charge more for the plane in the months and years ahead.

One industry source familiar with fleet purchases said Delta is believed to be paying about $25million for the CS100 planes, representing a discount of about 65 per cent from the $72-million list price. "I'm sure they got a good deal," another industry source said.

For Delta, it's about more than just price, however, said one senior executive at a competing airline. "They view this as good for the industry," the executive said.

"If there's a third competitive player, it will keep the industry more healthy."

With firm orders for 370 C Series planes, enough for the first five years of production, Bombardier faces the challenge of making sure the airliners arrive on time for all customers and turning the Delta endorsement into additional orders from other airlines.

More importantly, with a net debt to EBITDA ratio of 8.1 times, Bombardier has limited financial resources to deal with any significant manufacturing or production problem that may yet arise.

Airbus is currently having issues with another version of the Pratt & Whitney-made engine on the C Series.

"They have a very limited capacity if anything were to come up financially to absorb any sort of issue," AltaCorp Capital analyst Chris Murray said. If something serious were to materialize, the company's current short-term capital resources of $5.4-billion might be problematic, he said.

Bombardier reported a firstquarter adjusted loss of 3 cents a share compared with a profit of 9 cents a share in the year-earlier quarter. Analysts had been expecting a loss of 1 cent. Excluding special items, the EPS loss was 7 cents. Revenue came in slightly below expectations at $3.9-billion.

The company posted only two net orders for commercial aircraft for the three months ended March 31. That was offset by a jump in net business jet orders to 40 units, double the tally for last year's quarter. The company also said it will book a special noncash item it called an "onerous contract provision" of about $500-million in the second quarter related to plane purchase agreements.

Bombardier's earlier C Series units will carry a higher cost as the company works through a learning curve. The plane maker is still in talks for a $1-billion aid request from the Canadian government, which could help finance that transition.

"We've not yet found the right solution" with Ottawa, Mr. Bellemare said. He said federal aid would give the company "more financial flexibility" without offering any more details.

If all goes right with the Delta deliveries beginning in 2018, there is an opportunity for Bombardier to land more Delta orders. By 2020, Delta's fleet of Boeing 717 and Airbus A319 single-aisle planes will be 18 years on average, while its 69 Airbus A320 aircraft will be almost 25 years old. There is a clause in the contract that allows Delta to swap out the smaller CS100 for the larger CS300.

One industry analyst said he would bet on an even larger CS500 version of the plane within five years. That would allow Delta to replace all of its older singleaisle planes with one family from one airplane supplier, reducing the costs of training, maintenance and spare parts.

With a report from Bertrand Marotte

Associated Graphic

Bombardier CEO Alain Bellemare, left, with Delta counterpart Ed Bastian: 'It's a turning point for the program.'


East meets Northwest: China plots Arctic course
Thursday, April 21, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1

BEIJING -- The Chinese government has published a lengthy Northwest Passage shipping guidebook that lays the foundation for cargo vessels to sail across the top of Canada.

Spanning 365 pages of charts and detailed information on sea ice and weather, the Chinese-language Arctic Navigation Guide (Northwest Passage) was compiled by ocean and shipping experts as a way to help the country's mariners plan voyages through a waterway seen as a valuable shortcut between China and North America.

"There will be ships with Chinese flags sailing through this route in the future," Liu Pengfei, a spokesman for China's Maritime Safety Administration, which published the book, told reporters Tuesday. "Once this route is commonly used, it will directly change global maritime transportation and have a profound influence on international trade, the world economy, capital flow and resource exploitation."

The publication of the book makes tangible China's ambitions in the Arctic, where warming temperatures are melting new openings for the movement of goods through waters where Canada has few resources to respond to potential disasters.

"It should send a signal to Ottawa that more and more ships are coming, that serious countries and serious companies see the Northwest Passage as a viable route - or a route that will become viable in the next decade or two," said Michael Byers, a University of British Columbia professor who has written extensively about the Canadian Arctic and holds a Canada Research Chair in global politics and international law.

The guidebook is intended to be an "Arctic passage operating manual," according to China's Ministry of Transport, which replied to questions by fax and called the Canadian route "the world's most efficient and fast passage." The ministry pointed to the sailing of the Nunavik, an icestrengthened ore carrier that in 2014 made the first unsupported trip from near Deception Bay, in Quebec's Nunavik region, to Northeast China. The route was 40 per cent shorter than crossing through the Panama Canal.

The main Northwest Passage ship traffic is likely to be containers hauled from China to the eastern seaboard of North America, said Yin Jingbo, a maritime economics researcher at Shanghai Jiao Tong University An initial shipment could be made "pretty soon," he said, and eventually build up to large volumes.

Research suggests the Russian Northeast Passage, for example, could carry five million 20-foot equivalent containers a year, 40 per cent more than the annual movements through Port Metro Vancouver and "dozens of ships" a day, Prof. Yin said.

But in Canadian waters, he said, "real commercial operations will have to wait a long time."

The Ministry of Transport pointed to a lengthy set of obstacles, including reliable infrastructure, hydrology data, telecommunications, rescue facilities and low efficiency. "Due to the many uncertainties of Arctic sailing, shipping times can't be guaranteed, which is not good for container ships," the ministry wrote.

In recent years, however, southerly routes through the Northwest Passage have regularly been open and growing numbers of ships have sailed through - more than a dozen last year, most of them pleasure boats. Larger vessels are experimenting, too. This summer, Crystal Cruises plans to send its 250-metre Crystal Serenity through the Northwest Passage, accompanied by a British icebreaker.

The prospect of Chinese commercial traffic, meanwhile, stands to renew questions about Canada's claims over the Arctic waterway.

China's encouragement of Northwest Passage shipping could pose "the biggest direct challenge to Canadian sovereignty in the Northwest Passage" if Chinese ships are dispatched without Canadian consent, warned Rob Huebert, a University of Calgary professor. Canada claims the interlocking routes of the Northwest Passage as "internal waters" that it alone governs.

The United States disputes the Canadian position, calling the passage an international strait that should offer rights of "transit passage." The legal distinction is important: The U.S. believes Ottawa should not hold the right to block any ship from entering the Northwest Passage, although under international law it can pass regulations meant to protect the environment.

China has so far declined to take sides.

China's Arctic plans fit with a broader effort to disrupt longstanding global trading by pressing its industrial might into creating new shortcuts. It is, for example, attempting to remake Silk Road-era corridors for the modern age, sending the first container train from Eastern China to Iran in February - a land journey 30 days shorter than by water.

Polar routes offer similar advantages. Cosco, China's largest ocean shipper, sailed freighters across the top of Russia to Europe in 2013 and 2015. Chinese state media have called the Northeast Passage - which Russia calls the Northern Sea Route - a "golden waterway" for future trade, and a Cosco spokeswoman told AFP last fall that "there is an intention to open a regular line in the future."

But most talk of Arctic shipping has so far proven ephemeral: After 71 transits of the Northern Sea Route in 2013, the numbers have fallen drastically, to just 18 last year.

The Northwest Passage offers its own particular challenges.

Canada does not boast Russia's fleet of nuclear icebreakers, which can be used to open the way for commercial service. Canada's Arctic islands, too, present a much more complicated map for navigation, with their series of channels that move and trap ice.

Canada has a limited ability to respond to an emergency in the Northwest Passage, raising the dark spectre of environmental disaster in one of the country's most pristine places.

Still, some in Canada's North welcome the possibility of greater Chinese interest in the area, in part as a means to leverage more federal investment in roads and ports.

It "would be lovely to have additional shipping through the Northwest Passage," said Doug Matthews, who has advocated the construction of a deepwater port at Tuktoyaktuk. "There are infrastructure challenges, but the more the shipping industry expresses an interest in traffic, the more the pressure will build on Canada to deal with that deficit."

Associated Graphic

Carriers such as Nordic Orion will sail more frequently in the Arctic.


iPhone sales show first-ever decline
Apple profit drops in 'challenging' quarter, as company posts first sales decline since 2003
Wednesday, April 27, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1

Sales of Apple Inc.'s iPhone fell 16 per cent in the past year, the first such sales drop in the popular smartphone's nine-year history, as consumers replaced their devices less often.

In a fiscal second quarter that chief executive officer Tim Cook described as "challenging," Apple's iPhone sales slipped below 51.2 million units - down from 61.2 million the year before - but still above gloomier analyst expectations of 50 million devices sold. Revenue of $50.56-billion (U.S.) in the quarter was below analyst expectations, which had predicted it would fall as low as $52-billion, from $58-billion this time last year.

Profit hit $10.5-billion, down from $13.6-billion a year earlier, but earnings per share of $1.90 missed analyst estimates of $2.

While Apple saw its first quarterly decline in sales since 2003, downbeat expectations had been swirling for weeks. The stock has slid almost 20 per cent in the past 12 months and continued to fall in after-hours trading Tuesday.

"The lengthening of the product cycle - that is, how long people hold onto their phones - is going to continue to extend and that, in turn, impacts the overall smartphone market," said Bob O'Donnell, chief analyst at Technalysis Research.

Some analysts have speculated that, after years of product innovation and sales growth, Apple is finally about to "hit a wall," but sluggish sales in the middle section of so-called "S" years have become increasingly common for the company.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based company is essentially on a twoyear product innovation cycle with its device portfolio leader, iPhone. Starting with the iPhone 4, Apple has delivered a fairly major device overhaul one year, which it then tweaks the next year and slaps an "S" on it (see iPhone 4s, 5s, 6s and so on). In the year after, the cycle begins anew.

"IPhone sales come from three sources: customers who upgrade, customers who switch, and firsttime buyers," Mr. Cook said on a call with analysts. He confirmed that in the first half of year, the upgrade rate for customers buying the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus was slightly higher than the rate Apple saw during 2014's 5s cycle, but lower than the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus rate in 2015. Mr. Cook claimed very high Android switcher numbers, and suggested first-time iPhone buyers drove India's 56-per-cent sales growth.

The March introduction of the cheaper iPhone SE does nothing to disrupt that cycle - even though Mr. Cook said he was "thrilled" with the demand for the low-cost phone . Chief financial officer Luca Maestri said the SE drove down the average selling price for iPhones and contributed to the revenue miss.

All of which means analysts will continue to ask the question: What will Apple do if iPhone sales can't recover with the expected new device in the fall?

There is a school of thought that suggests tying Apple's value to the fortunes of the iPhone misses a key point about its ability to attract new customers to its product ecosystem. As analyst Horace Dediu recently wrote on his blog Asymco, Appletypically has been judged by the success or failure of its leading products: First the rise and fall of Mac computers, then the iPod moment drove its recovery and the iPhone pushed the company into the stratosphere. The rest of the tech industry has also suffered its booms and busts along the way.

"The industries Apple has been a part of are filled with one-hit wonders. Companies that had parabolic trajectories and built no loyalties. Statistically speaking, success in Apple's markets is always followed by failure," Mr. Dediu wrote in March on the occasion of Apple's 40th anniversary as he pondered its next 40 years.

"My simple proposal is to think of Apple (and actually any company) as a customer creator. It creates and maintains customers.

The more it creates, the more it prospers. ... This measure of performance for a company is not easy to obtain. It's not a line item in any financial report."

Those customers drove Apple's active device number past a billion machines earlier this year - an install base that is up 80 per cent from two years ago - and that has created a newly robust set of software and subscription services that Apple has built on top of its ecosystem.

Mr. Cook said he was pleased with the services group's performance, which hit its highest revenue in the company's history with $6-billion, up 20 per cent year over year. He went on to say App Store sales were up 30 per cent, Apple music has 13 million paying subscribers and Apple Pay is now adding a million new users a week. CFO Mr. Maestri also said the average amount spent per customer reached an all-time high in the quarter.

But that transition is still providing numbers well below what an Apple investor may find compelling. Denny Fish, a portfolio manager with Janus Capital, earlier on Tuesday gave CNBC a fairly concise summary of the bearish view: "We've moved from a penetration story worldwide in smartphones to a different narrative, and that narrative around Apple is what the business model looks like when it shifts to software and services we're just not entirely comfortable there yet."

Apple is also boosting the capital return program by $50-billion through a $35-billion increase in its share buyback authorization, under which the company plans to spend $250billion by March, 2018.

Associated Graphic

People lined up at an Apple store in China last month waiting for the sale of the iPhone SE.



Micro-satellites aim to expand connectivity
Monday, April 25, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1

Last week, as Canada's telecommunications regulator continued its hearing on the future of communications technology in this country, a possible glimpse of that future surfaced - in Florida.

In a quiet announcement, a startup called OneWeb made public its plans to build a new manufacturing facility about an hour's drive east of Orlando. The facility is designed to churn out, at unprecedented volume, so-called "micro-satellites." Once deployed, the satellites are intended to form a "constellation" that, OneWeb says, will solve what is perhaps the biggest challenge of the digital age: providing Internet access to the billions of people across the globe who still have no reliable means of getting on the Web.

It is, in every sense, an audacious goal. And should OneWeb manage to build and deploy its satellite network - something that could become reality as early as 2019 - the impact on remote communities in places such as Canada could be immense.

But even as countless traditional Internet providers have heralded satellite technology as a panacea (and a convenient excuse not to spend billions building land-based Internet infrastructure in remote and often lower-income communities), the reality of satellite-based Internet access has often failed to meet its lofty expectations.

For years - and as recently as last week - the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has called for a national broadband strategy. The central thesis behind that call is simple: For a variety of economic, education and societal reasons, access to high-speed Internet has become a necessity for virtually all Canadians.

And because of the country's size and relatively minuscule population density, many Canadians often have no choice but to rely on satellites for that access.

However, critics claim that satellite technology still isn't nearly as reliable and cheap as it should be, especially if it is going to remain a central digital backbone for many of Canada's remote communities. In previous hearings before the CRTC - and one that is currently under way - some Canadian Internet service providers have held up the promise of satellite technology as justification for not investing in more traditional digital infrastructure in remote locations across the country.

"Those promises did not materialize, and to the extent that satellite has been able to connect more Canadians, it often does so at high costs and lower speeds than what Canadians can functionally use," said Geoff White, counsel to the Affordable Access Coalition, which lobbies for better and cheaper broadband internet for all Canadians, especially ones with low income.

Current satellite-based Internet technology suffers from a number of drawbacks. For example, it can be difficult to maintain a connection with a stationary satellite from a location on the far north or south of the planet. Satellite connections also tend to suffer from latency issues, making them less suitable for realtime uses such as online gaming.

Satellite-dish reception can also turn decidedly temperamental as a result of snow, rain or a brush with a passing bird.

"Until such time as satellite has proven it will actually do the job," Mr. White said, "it cannot be relied on as a justification for doing nothing."

There is, however, some cause for optimism. Satellite-based Internet has undergone a transformation over the past half-decade - from an often prohibitively expensive, unreliable technology to something that could one day become the default means for most of the world to get online.

"If you go back four years, you're looking at download speeds of 1.5 [megabits per second]," said Chris Johnston, executive vice-president at New Brunswick-based Internet provider Xplornet, which currently serves about 175,000 customers with satellite technology. "That number is now 10."

The chief reason for that turnaround is - as is the case with most new technology - plummeting costs. Geosynchronous satellites, which orbit the Earth some 35,000 kilometres above sea level in sync with the Earth's own rotation, are traditionally very expensive and time-consuming to manufacture. However, a number of private companies (including OneWeb) have invested billions in cheaper, smaller satellites designed to orbit the Earth at between 500 and 1,000 kilometres. The difference in both time and money can be astounding - OneWeb's new Florida plant aims to churn out as many as 15 satellites a week.

"The nice thing about this is that it doesn't have a limited geographic area," said Robin Winsor, president and CEO of Cybera, a not-for-profit technical agency responsible for overseeing the development of Alberta's digital infrastructure. "Once you get into business, [the resulting satellite network] won't just be in service for one region."

Still, even if the technology works, the new age of satellitebased Internet faces several hurdles. Mr. Winsor notes that lowEarth satellites are much more susceptible to drag, meaning they will likely need to be repaired or replaced much more frequently than geosynchronous ones (that's one of the reasons the satellites need to be so cheap to build). And no matter how good the technology gets, it won't change the fact that many of the communities most in need of that technology will always be hard to reach (making it more expensive to send technicians there, for example) and are often not financially lucrative enough for companies to prioritize.

As such, Mr. Winsor notes, satellites represent just one component of what could be considered a holistic digital strategy.

"Canada was connected in the 19th century with railroads and the 20th century with highways," he said. "In the 21st century, we need information, and that means fibre-optic networks."

Idle Fed could complicate Canadian recovery
Thursday, April 28, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1

Economic Insight

In a matter of months, the U.S.

Federal Reserve has gone from revving up its rate-hiking machine to what now looks like an extended idle.

The shift presents some untimely complications for Canada's own economic recovery - unless the U.S. job market can ride to the rescue.

The Fed's latest rate decision, issued on Wednesday afternoon, was, frankly, about as dull as such things get.

To no one's surprise, the central bank left its key federal funds rate unchanged, at a range of 0.25 per cent to 0.5 per cent. To no one's surprise, it acknowledged what anyone who has watched the disappointing economic data of the past couple of months could have told you: "Growth in economic activity appears to have slowed."

Fed watchers scoured for clues as to whether the U.S. central bank was any closer to another rate increase.

A few said "yes," pointing out that the Fed dropped from the statement its concern from the previous rate decision, in March, that "global economic and financial developments continue to pose risks." A few said "no," noting that unlike in the run-up to the December rate increase, the Fed did not indicate a rate increase would be on the table for its next meeting - nor, indeed, did it indicate it is leaning toward a rate hike in the foreseeable future at all. Markets mostly just shrugged and moved on, concluding that there was nothing to see here.

Last December, when the Fed confidently raised its rate for the first time in nearly a decade, it seemed clear to pretty much everyone that the Fed would follow that up with more rate increases in 2016 - indeed, probably several of them. There were questions about how many and how much, but few doubted they were imminent. Now, it looks like at the very least, the first half of the year will see no increases at all.

The rise of the current more cautious tone recognizes that the U.S. economy has been sluggish for several months now and is showing few signs of shaking its funk. The ongoing stream of tepid U.S. economic data - on manufacturing, retail sales, housing, trade - reinforces concerns about the fragility of U.S. demand. The pace of the U.S. recovery, which seemed so certain last fall, has come into question.

That, by extension, raises questions about Canada's recovery.

Despite a strong start to 2016, there's little question the sustainability of Canadian growth is highly dependent on continued expansion of its non-energy exports. A healthy U.S. economy, which consumes three-quarters of Canada's total exports, is absolutely essential.

The most troubling indicator of the U.S. economic malaise, from a Canadian perspective, came just hours before the Fed decision, in the preliminary March trade data.

U.S. imports slumped 4.3 per cent month over month, with the declines coming pretty much across the board. For the first three months of the year, imports into the United States were down nearly 5 per cent compared with the same period in 2015 - and remember, that year-earlier quarter was one in which the U.S. economy barely grew at all. Those numbers don't say much for U.S. demand for imported goods and that's troubling for Canadian exporters.

What's more, with the sputtering economy pushing expectations of another Fed interest-rate increase further into the distance, that should put some downward pressure on the U.S. dollar and (correspondingly) upward pressure on the Canadian dollar, especially given that the Bank of Canada's own outlook has been on the upswing. The Canadian dollar has already risen sharply this year, a move the Bank of Canada has linked largely to the recovery in oil prices, but the faltering U.S. rate prospects have certainly become an element in that story. Further gains would threaten to put an additional dent in export growth.

The key hope to put everything back on a healthier track - for U.S. growth and the rate outlook and, by extension, Canada's export-led recovery - may lie in the U.S. labour market. Indeed, the Fed may have sent that signal in its rate announcement.

Conspicuously, the Fed noted in the first sentence of the statement that "labour market conditions have improved" in spite of the growth slowdown. Only a few lines lower, it essentially repeated that assertion. Even as economic growth has hit the pause button, employment has risen by a brisk 460,000 net new jobs in the past two months; the unemployment rate is near an eight-year low.

It's a timely reminder that the Fed's rate policy is tied to a dual mandate of both maximum employment and stable inflation.

Its emphasis on the jobs side of that equation may signal that if the U.S. economy can keep cranking out jobs, that might outweigh some nagging concerns about slack growth and a lack of inflation pressures.

The Fed noted that the strong labour market is pushing up household incomes "at a solid rate." In short, a strong labour market may cure whatever else ails the U.S. economy at the moment - and could be the key to seeing Fed rate increases return to the radar screen in the second half of the year.

Alberta gains Ottawa's ear with plea for pipelines
Tuesday, April 26, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B1


Federal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr assured Albertans on Monday that he recognizes the importance of building oil pipelines to new export markets, although analysts question how much additional capacity is needed as depressed prices result in lower forecasts for oil-sands production.

Meeting at a retreat in Kananaskis, Alta., Liberal cabinet ministers were told by Alberta Premier Rachel Notley that it is urgent that the federal government approve proposed pipelines in order to provide confidence for the industry and access to international pricing for her province's principal export.

Mr. Carr said the Premier was "very effective" at making her case. "She has an argument and a story to tell and ministers were very keen to hear it," he told reporters. Asked what the cabinet ministers learned, he said: "That Alberta is going through a tough time, [that] access to market is important."

He said the Liberals have long agreed, but critics say the government needs to be more direct in its support and ensure the approvals process does not drag on.

The National Energy Board gave the nod on Monday to Enbridge Inc.'s $7.8-billion overhaul of its aging mainline into the United States, although the company faces stiff opposition in states through which it crosses.

The project would add export capacity into the American market, including the heavy-oil refining hub on the Gulf Coast.

The federal cabinet will provide a final decision on it this fall.

Enbridge is also the proponent, with some oil company partners, of the Northern Gateway project, which would carry 500,000 barrels a day of oil-sands crude from Alberta to Kitimat, B.C., for export to Pacific markets.

The former Conservative government approved Gateway, but with more than 200 conditions, which the company is still trying to meet. It also faces implacable opposition from coastal First Nations and a proposed federal ban on tanker traffic, to which Transport Minister Marc Garneau recommitted on Monday.

Mr. Carr said he expects the government to decide on Kinder Morgan Canada's proposed expansion of its Trans Mountain pipeline, which would add roughly 600,000 barrels a day of capacity to a line that ends at Vancouver Harbour. The mayors of Vancouver and Burnaby, B.C. - along with local First Nations - oppose the proposal.

As well, TransCanada Corp. is planning the $15-billion Energy East project - although it has yet to finalize its application to the National Energy Board. It would deliver crude to eastern Canadian refineries and a Saint John export terminal, and has broad support from Canadian politicians. Most recently, former prime minister Brian Mulroney added his backing.

All told, the proposals would add more than two million barrels a day of pipeline capacity. But that would require substantial new investment in the oil sands to fill those pipelines - investment that is not certain to flow if prices stay too low for long.

The Alberta government argues that the lack of access to international markets has forced the province to accept a steep discount on its crude, although economists say the industry has benefited from recent pipeline expansion in Canada and the United States, as well as the U.S. decision to allow the export of oil.

"In general, for the past couple years and today, the differentials [between Alberta and world prices] are reflecting the cost of transportation," Jackie Forrest, an analyst at ARC Financial Corp., said in an interview. "So there is no extraordinary discount at this moment. But there is still more supply coming, so if we don't get new pipeline, that changes."

After 20 months of depressed crude prices, the big question is how much new pipeline capacity is needed. During the previous era of oil prices in the range of $100 (U.S.) a barrel, analysts and industry officials assumed that any and all new capacity would be required, along with increasing oil-by-rail capacity, to move projected volumes.

Since then, companies have slashed capital spending - by 62 per cent over the past 24 months, according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. It estimated output to hit 5.3 million barrels a day by 2030 - 17 per cent lower than the forecast issued in 2015. Another cut in expectations is widely anticipated this year.

Ms. Forrest said the pipelines through B.C. are the most critical.

"The growth is in Asia and we can't economically access Asia," she said.

Michael Tran, oil analyst at RBC Dominion Securities Inc. in New York, said new pipeline capacity remains crucial to the industry's ability to get sufficient returns, but he agreed that those planned to run to the Pacific Coast offer the best economic returns.

"Any pipeline is just so paramount to the future of Canadian energy, but not all pipelines are created equal," Mr. Tran said.

"The ones that run west to potentially serve such places as China or India, I think, are much more important, just given the proximity to key demand-growth regions."

The Silent Partner
Friday, April 29, 2016 – Print Edition, Page P26

Ottawa says it is powerless to change the contract to sell armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia.

That's odd, considering Ottawa--under both Harper and Trudeau--had, and used, the power to make the deal happen

* * *

As he took the podium, David Hind could take considerable satisfaction from the vista before him.

Arrayed at his feet in a gigantic auditorium inside London's Twickenham Stadium were the leaders of some of the world's most powerful armies and weapons manufacturers. They had joined Hind in January for a conference on armoured vehicles, an industry that Hind's employer, General Dynamics Land Systems Canada, all but dominates. "Our Canadian production line has been running continuously since the 1980s," Hind boasted, after explaining that GDLSC's plant in London, Ontario, has sold 10,500 fighting vehicles to 10 countries. "Whatever the challenge is, we've been there and done it."

And then it was showtime. To the accompaniment of thundering music,Hind rolled a video promoting GDLSC's showpiece, the Light Armoured Vehicle 6. The polished production showed the LAV in a multitude of fighting situations: The eight-wheeled, 30-tonne behemoth can travel at high speed over rough terrain while pumping lethal force through its cannon and complement of machine guns.

As the lights came up, Hind asked his audience, "What's not to like?"

For this crowd, it was a rhetorical question. But as powerful as Hind's presentation was, the preceding speaker was even more potent: Colonel Glenn Dean, manager of the U.S. Army's 3,700-vehicle LAV fleet. Dean delivered an unequivocal endorsement for GDLSC's machine, which in the U.S. is called Stryker. The only real doubt Dean had was whether the multipurpose vehicle should be called a "personnel carrier" or an "infantry fighting vehicle."

For Hind, Colonel Dean's praise--invested with the authority of the U.S. Army--was the ultimate stamp of approval. As GDLSC's director of strategy in the United Kingdom, Hind's quest is to persuade the British Army to select the LAV 6 for a multibillion-dollar contract over competing models from manufacturers in Finland, Germany, France and Singapore.

Seemingly no expense was spared in this campaign: GDLSC even shipped a LAV 6 to the U.K. and sent it on a cross-country trek. Even so, the sales pitch was selective. When taking questions on the podium after his pitch, Hind was reluctant to get into certain details: "Let's talk about that outside," he suggested to a ripple of laughter in the auditorium after I asked him for the LAV 6's sticker price.

Despite all the hyperbole, Hind also had nothing to say on the biggest coup in GDLSC's history: the sale of $15-billion worth of LAVs to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's National Guard in 2014.

The deal is akin to a holy grail for anyone in the armoured-vehicle industry. But like the federal Conservative government that forged the deal, and like the Liberal successors who now stand by it in the face of a growing chorus of political and legal challenges, Hind--along with his colleagues at GDLSC and at General Dynamics headquarters in Virginia--emphatically resisted peeling back the mysteries surrounding the transaction that Conservative Trade Minister Ed Fast called "the largest advanced-manufacturing export win in Canada's history."

Like darts targeted with growing accuracy at a highly political bull's eye, the questions have accumulated, unanswered, ever since the deal was publicly announced in early 2014: How many LAVs are the Saudis buying from GDLSC? What weapons will be mounted on them? How will the Saudis use the vehicles? Is the sale legal under Canadian law? Why did General Dynamics, a U.S. corporation with annual revenues exceeding $30 billion (U.S.), need the federal government's Canadian Commercial Corp. (CCC) to backstop the deal? What exactly was CCC's role? And why will neither GDLSC nor CCC allow their employees to discuss any aspect of the deal?

Although Canadians may like to think of themselves, at least nostalgically, as a peacekeeping nation, we have a large defence industry--all the more so, relatively speaking, as other sectors have withered in the face of globalization.

And the future looks good for Canadian arms manufacturers. In the view of Christyn Cianfarani, president of the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries, a 2008 $490-billion federal plan for military investment, including new ships and fighter planes, could "define the future of our industry for a generation."

But domestic sales are just half the story. According to a 2013 report prepared for Ottawa by a panel headed by Tom Jenkins, executive chairman of Waterloo-based Open Text Corp., Canadian defence-industry revenue is almost equally split between domestic and export sales. The sector in 2011 comprised more than 2,000 companies, over 70,000 employees, and an estimated $12.6 billion in annual revenues.

Among these 2,000 companies, only a few, such as Bombardier, CAE and SNC-Lavalin, are well-known Canadian names. The overall sector shows its roots in the expansion of the American industry in the middle of the last century. Ever since, the U.S. has been the world's largest arms manufacturer and exporter by a wide measure. Thus, domestic players in the Canadian industry are overshadowed by subsidiaries of American companies such as General Dynamics, L-3 Communications, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Textron and United Technologies. The sector's Canadian-owned companies tend to be low-profile, small and medium-size producers of components for the American subsidiaries. They're typically located in Southern Ontario's manufacturing heartland, reflecting the industry's interlocking history with the auto and tech sectors.

When Canadian companies do innovate, they tend to get acquired by U.S. and European heavyweights in whole or part. For example, L-3 Communications, whose 38,000 employees worldwide generated net sales of $10.4 billion (U.S.) in 2015, took over Spar Aerospace in 1999, Wescam in 2001, Bombardier's Military Aviation Services in 2003 and CAE's Marine Controls unit in 2005.

It's a unique industry, the Jenkins panel report noted, "in that governments are essentially the only customers, and have flexibility under international trade agreements to favour domestic suppliers." That means that "a nation's defence industrial capability is inextricably linked to government policies and practices." The government policies that matter most, of course, have to do with defence expenditures. These totalled $1.8 trillion (U.S.)--roughly 2.3% of global GDP--worldwide in 2014.

In recent years, defence spending in the United States--which absorbs roughly three-quarters of Canadian defence exports--has dropped 20%. Meanwhile, new markets in the Middle East, South and East Asia and South America were projected to grow about 40% between 2009 and 2016. Not surprisingly, many exporters are pivoting toward these markets--especially the Middle East, where the Canadian Commercial Corp., a Crown corporation established to assist defence exporters following the Second World War, energetically seeks new contracts. Alongside Export Development Canada, the federal Crown corporation that insures and finances private-sector export deals, CCC has a long track record of stewarding defence deals.

CCC may be publicly owned, and the beneficiary of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal subsidies over the decades, but it would not allow its president and CEO, Martin Zablocki, nor any other officer, to be interviewed. However, Zablocki spoke frankly in a 2015 interview with The National, a United Arab Emirates newspaper. "For us in Canada, we serviced the U.S. for many years--and this is an area where definitely their budgets are going down," Zablocki said. "So with [that] dynamic and with the money being spent in the Middle East, it's a strategic region for Canada on many fronts."

As CCC's corporate plan elaborates, "in every country where a material rise in defence spending has occurred since 2004, one of the identified drivers of the increase in spending has been attributed to the involvement of that nation in significant armed conflict or other violence." The 2014 deal with Saudi Arabia, the plan explains, provided "tremendous momentum."

CCC expects to grow defence transactions from $2.5 billion in 2015-'16 to $3.6 billion in 2019-'20. It forecasts that the fees it earns on those contracts will grow from $19.4 million in 2014 to $32.2 million in 2020--an increase that will leave the corporation in the black after its public subsidy is discontinued next year. (CCC's non-defence fees, meanwhile, are expected to grow from $2.6 million in 2015-'16 to $7 million in 2019-'20.)

According to CCC, "arguably the most significant determinant of CCC's success in a given market tends to be the openness of a foreign government buyer to CCC's value proposition." For CCC's approach to be successful, the corporation says in a footnote to its corporate plan, "a foreign government buyer must be willing to politically defend a decision to undertake a directed, sole-source contract with the Government of Canada as an alternative to an open-tender process." (This despite open tenders for public works being a traditional hallmark of Western democracy and trade.)

The $15-billion LAV contract with Saudi Arabia is by far the biggest example of CCC's value proposition in action. By acting as purchaser on behalf of the Saudis and vendor on behalf of GDLSC--a classic middleman collecting a fee--CCC recast the transaction as "government to government." Thanks to this legal alchemy, which CCC has widely employed, non-controversial Canada stood in Saudi Arabia's stead as GDLSC's client. CCC says in its buyer's guide that this arrangement reduces the risks "that would normally be associated with an open call for proposals, including the confidential nature of certain defence and security acquisitions," and "provides value across a balanced scorecard of success factors."

Further details on CCC's value proposition are not available. Indeed, government lawyers completely censored a description of its value proposition within documents the corporation was obliged to release under the federal access-to-information (ATI) law last year.

Such sweeping secrecy is intrinsic to CCC's culture, notes Patricia Adams, a veteran analyst with Toronto-based foreign-aid watchdog Probe International. Not even CCC's own board members--many of whom have backgrounds with defence and technology companies including CAE, Stratos Global, Spar Aerospace, Cascade Aerospace and software maker OMX--were permitted to see a 2012 external audit of the corporation requested by the federal government.

Whatever the details of CCC's value proposition are, board member Martin Gagné told the CCC's annual meeting last December that it has been extremely useful to General Dynamics, the world's sixth-largest weapons maker, which purchased its London plant from General Motors in 2003.

At an industry conference in the Ontario city last November, defence association president Christyn Cianfarani described GDLSC as "the anchor company in the London defence industry, not to mention one of Canada's defence industry crown jewels, recognized in this country and in many others for producing the best light armoured vehicles in the world."

What is perhaps less well understood, Cianfarani added, is that GDLSC "is at the core of a nascent defence cluster in this city and region, one which, according to the London Economic Development Corp., employs more than 12,000 highly skilled people working in 45 defence-related companies."

Over the past decade, GDLSC's plant--which got its start making GM-brand armoured vehicles for the Canadian army in the 1970s--has delivered thousands of LAVs with a total sales value of $17 billion (not including the notorious new contract). The purchasers included the U.S. and Canadian militaries, as well as Saudi Arabia, which bought an estimated $8-billion worth of LAVs in three separate deals in 2006, 2009 and 2011.

The benefits of the latest Saudi LAV deal will be spread among some 500 companies, according to federal officials. But the names of the subcontractor companies have not been released, and they are not eager to make their identities known. When word got out last year that Brampton, Ontario-based shock-absorber manufacturer General Kinetics was supplying parts for the LAV 6, the company's owner, Scott Griffin, a celebrated patron of the arts, quickly disassociated himself from his own company.

The focus on armoured vehicles at General Dynamics and CCC is commercially astute, says Ben Barry, a retired British brigadier general and senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, U.K. "Armoured personnel carriers are very attractive to a lot of countries," he explains after naming competitors to the LAV 6 made by BAE of Britain, Nexter of France, Patria of Finland, and Rheinmettal of Germany. GDLSC's success with the U.S. and Canadian armies lends its LAVs huge appeal internationally, notes Barry--and not just for military users. "These vehicles are very successful for internal security. Lots of dictators are putting them on the streets. The Saudi deal, for example, is not with the army but with the national guard--which is police and internal security."

As GDLSC's David Hind told me prior to his speech at the armoured vehicle conference in London, the future augurs well for GDLSC. Raging cross-border conflicts and civil unrest have prompted a huge increase in sales of armoured vehicles in the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and Latin America. GDLSC, said Hind, is in "a sweet spot."

As it turned out, Hind wasn't willing to talk to me again "outside" after he descended from the stage at the conference. His colleagues at GDLSC headquarters also refused my interview invitation. Nor was a visit to the GDLSC plant permitted.

This is all in keeping with a thorough-going strategy of obfuscation. Although General Dynamics mentioned its Canadian operation three times in its 2014 annual report, the words "Saudi Arabia" do not appear. Rather, the U.S. dollar-denominated report refers to a "$10-billion award to provide wheeled armoured vehicles, training and support services to an international customer through 2028."

The shroud of secrecy extends to Ottawa, where at least three ministries, in addition to CCC, helped win the contract with the world's top arms importer.

The initial legwork for the contract was done by John Baird, who visited Saudi Arabia as Canada's foreign minister in March, 2012. He made a return visit in October, 2014; Trade Minister Ed Fast also visited in both 2012 and 2013. During his term, Baird also closed the Canadian embassy in Iran, which is Saudi Arabia's arch-enemy. Baird even went so far as to tell the Saudi ambassador to Canada, in a 2014 meeting described in a document released under an ATI request, that Canada considers Iran to be "the world's greatest threat to peace and security." Business analysts worry this stance is now costing Canadian exporters dearly following the lifting of international sanctions against Iran this year.

(As for Baird, a few months after resigning as foreign minister in 2015, he became global strategic adviser at Mississauga-based engineering giant Hatch, which has had extensive contracts in Saudi Arabia.)

Some of Ottawa's reticence to talk about the LAV deal undoubtedly stems from Saudi Arabia's infamous human rights record: Under the House of Saud, there is no due process, no free press, severe repression of women's rights and gay rights, and systematic state violence against civilians ranging from mass executions to brutal suppression of dissent. The regime has also fomented wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

One of the few released documents relating to the deal that has not been fully obscured by censorship is an April, 2014, e-mail written by Anne-Tamara Lorre, a Canadian diplomat stationed at the United Nations in Geneva. Lorre told her colleagues at the Canadian embassy in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, that Saudi Arabia was resisting Canada's call at the UN for bans on child marriage, discrimination against women, judicially sanctioned corporal punishment and the execution of juvenile offenders. Meanwhile, scores of Canadian officials were scrambling to land the LAV deal.

Whether from embarrassment at the Saudi human rights record or not, secrecy was explicitly written into the LAV deal. As Aliya Mawani, a Canadian diplomat based in Riyadh, explained in a January, 2015, e-mail, Canadian officials "would be breaking the terms of the contract" if details were made public.

In another e-mail exchange in January, 2015, Brigette Walenius, deputy director with Foreign Affairs' Gulf-Levant-Maghreb Commercial Relations unit, cited General Dynamics officials who spoke of a "confidentiality clause in their contract with the Saudis"; she warned the Saudis "could terminate [the] contract if too much info is released."

As The Globe and Mail has reported, the Saudis' insistence on secrecy reached all the way into the federal cabinet. When then-minister of state for foreign affairs Lynne Yelich was invited to speak about the deal at a 2015 event to celebrate a Saskatchewan-based company's role as a subcontractor, her speechwriter was advised not to mention Saudi Arabia by Lina Seto, a CCC official. Sure enough, Yelich's speaking notes contain no reference to Saudi Arabia.

Little is known about the lethality of the LAVs. But in an October, 2012, e-mail with the subject line "GDLSC lands the Big One," Canada's ambassador in Riyadh wrote that the LAVs "are going to be 'fully loaded.' " What that meant was revealed in a Jan. 21, 2015, memo prepared by an official in the Export Controls Division at Global Affairs Canada (formerly Foreign Affairs). The export permit indicates each vehicle could include turrets equipped with automatic firearms, smoke grenade launchers and "a coaxial machine gun in addition to its main armament."

ATI documents also show that Ottawa announced the GDLSC deal before satisfying the federal law on exports of lethal weapons. When sales are proposed to countries "whose governments have a persistent record of serious violations of the human rights of their citizens," the government is obligated to obtain assurances that "there is no reasonable risk that the goods might be used against the civilian population."

More than two years after the Saudi deal was signed, there is no sign of whatever assessments Ottawa made of human rights in Saudi Arabia. An ATI request for this article was met only by procedural stalling.

Meanwhile, in February, the European Parliament passed a resolution stating that arms transfers to Saudi Arabia violate European arms regulations, and calling for an EU embargo.

The government of Germany, which has been the world's third-largest weapons producer over much of the past decade, has been especially vexed by the issue. When Saudi Arabia wanted to buy a large fleet of Boxer armoured vehicles from Germany in 2012, the decision was reviewed under German law by Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Federal Security Council. In April, 2014, the council rejected the sale of 800 Leopard tanks to Saudi Arabia. And the following January, the government suspended all arms sales to the country. This news delighted officials at the Canadian embassy in Riyadh, according to a series of internal e-mails released under ATI. The German hesitation was just long enough to allow the Canadian sales job to swing the Saudi deal.

As the sales effort unfolded, so did negotiations on the Arms Trade Treaty, a United Nations-sponsored pact aimed at imposing human-rights accountability on the weapons trade. Canada was one of a handful of countries--along with Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, Syria and North Korea--that declined to sign. The Trudeau government also hasn't signed the pact--although it says it intends to.

Perhaps the ultimate issue surrounding the LAV deal is not how it sits with Canadian lawmakers, but rather how it can be justified under U.S. export control laws.

The International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), which are part of the 1976 U.S. Arms Export Control Act, require that Congress is formally notified 30 days before the U.S. can conclude a government-to-government military sale or issue an export licence for military goods valued at $14 million (U.S.) or more.

The aim is to ensure that exported weapons don't end up being used against either U.S. forces or civilians abroad. Saudi Arabia has long been a hot file in this respect. In 1986, when President Ronald Reagan proposed the sale to Saudi Arabia of missiles, the Senate blocked the sales--a move Reagan then vetoed. During the Persian Gulf crisis in 1990, the first Bush administration triggered a congressional standoff when it proposed to sell $20-billion (U.S.) worth of weapons to the Saudis.

A 2016 report from the Congressional Research Service says that since October, 2010, Congress has been informed of proposed Saudi sales including fighter aircraft, helicopters, missile defence systems, missiles, bombs and armoured vehicles, with a potential value of more than $100 billion (U.S.). But as these contracts proceed, congressional concern has intensified regarding Saudi Arabia's use of U.S.-made weapons (including armoured vehicles) to suppress dissent at home and in neighbouring countries. Here again, regional rivalries come into play. No less an authority than U.S. President Barack Obama recently stated that Saudi-Iranian rivalry "has helped to feed proxy wars and chaos in Syria and Iraq and Yemen."

As the congressional report notes, civil protests in Saudi Arabia are growing, leading to clashes with security forces. Evidence of this is revealed on a video obtained from dissenters, showing troops using armoured vehicles to attack and destroy residential targets in Qatif, a city in the oil-rich Eastern Province, on April 15, 2015. According to Ali Adubisi, director of the Berlin-based European Saudi Organization for Human Rights, Qatif is ringed with troops and armoured vehicles.

LAVs also figure in Saudi Arabia's interventions abroad. In 2011, during the Arab Spring, the Saudi army suppressed protests in Bahrain using its existing fleet of Canadian-made LAVs. More recently, the congressional report notes, "the U.S.-trained Saudi military has used U.S.-origin weaponry, U.S. logistical assistance, and shared intelligence to carry out strikes in Yemen."

Given the stringency of the U.S. export control rules, and the fact that General Dynamics' foreign subsidiaries must abide by them under U.S. law, it comes as no surprise that GDLSC's 2011 sale of LAVs was reviewed under ITAR, and Congress was duly notified. But for GDLSC's 2014 deal, Congress wasn't notified. In other words, Congress was not informed of what proved to be the largest single weapons export deal won by a U.S. company in that year.

How the GDLSC deal squares with the long reach of U.S. law is a topic Canadian officials will not publicly discuss. Sifting through the thousands of pages of documents regarding the LAV contract that have been released to date by CCC, Global Affairs Canada, the Department of National Defence, and the Department of Public Works and Government Services, it is striking that there is not a single reference to American military-export law.

In an ironically revealing response to requests for documents relating to United States government "terms and conditions," CCC has confirmed that the volume of relevant records is so vast that an ATI review "would unreasonably interfere with the operations of the corporation."

Despite calls to correct course from former Liberal cabinet ministers Irwin Cotler and Lloyd Axworthy, the Trudeau government stuck to the position that the deal is a private business transaction and could not be stopped. Yet, as the Globe's Steven Chase reported, the deal is proceeding precisely because Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion signed export permits for the LAVs on April 8.

The groupthink even extends to the New Democratic Party, whose then-leader, Thomas Mulcair, was told by a key union official not to bring up the LAV issue during last fall's election campaign. (GDLSC workers are represented by Unifor.)

On a clear day, the United States is visible from the boardroom of Toronto law firm McCarthy Tétrault. So it seemed a fitting place to sit down with John Boscariol, one of Canada's handful of experts on how companies north of the border can navigate ITAR.

As Boscariol possibly knows better than anyone else in Canada, the U.S. export control regime is a complex legal labyrinth. Those who get lost and incur the wrath of the U.S. government will almost certainly pay huge fines, or do jail time, or both.

A big part of Boscariol's job is helping to ensure that his Canadian defence-industry clients don't fall afoul of the "reach-through" provisions within ITAR, which allow the U.S. to track every single item subject to ITAR control no matter where it goes in the world. Enforcement is pursued by globetrotting American officials. (Boscariol agreed only to discuss government policies, without naming any companies.)

Adhering to ITAR gets tricky if you're a manufacturer supplying both military and non-military customers--"dual use," as it's called. As the panel on Canada's defence industry chaired by Tom Jenkins reported, "ITAR is particularly problematic for dual-use technologies, since even a single, small ITAR-restricted component renders any product that contains that component also ITAR-restricted."

The report observed that, since the global market "comprises both ITAR and non-ITAR segments," many Canadian defence companies--especially those with dual-use technologies--"need to establish very sophisticated firewalls--in effect, ITAR and non-ITAR strategies--to ensure compliance for sales to third-country markets."

In the late 1990s, Boscariol recalls, Washington, concerned that Canada had become a hunting ground for unfriendly nations seeking access to U.S. military technologies, suspended some long-standing exemptions to ITAR that Canada's industry had enjoyed. That led the Canadian government to quickly implement its own system of export controls.

In the current decade, Boscariol said, Canadian weapons makers began quietly streaming their production into two channels: one for ITAR-compliant products utilizing U.S. components and technology, the other for products that were free from the long reach of ITAR.

The ITAR-free products stand much better chances in competition against products from companies in Europe and Asia, Boscariol explained. While Canada's defence industry association holds that ITAR is "a critical impediment to Canadian industrial competitiveness," association president Christyn Cianfarani added in a February interview that ITAR "became an impediment for American companies as well." Any time exporters encounter control points like ITAR, she said, "we will look for opportunities to...I don't want to say get around the control point." (She then shifted to another aspect of the problem.)

The push to get clear of ITAR is extremely sensitive for U.S. officials and politicians, Boscariol says. "They likely recognize that ITAR represents a competitive disadvantage for U.S. companies who must force their customers to be ITARcompliant," he acknowledged. "But that doesn't mean they want U.S. companies to pursue workarounds to ITAR. And Canadian officials wouldn't want it to get out that they are actively discouraging use of U.S. technologies."

Although Boscariol agrees that many in the Canadian industry are rankled by the American export control regime, he says, "I've never seen anything indicating that the Canadian government--as opposed to industry executives --wanted to be ITAR-free."

After telling me that, however, Boscariol revised his opinion while scanning a series of diplomatic wires sent from the U.S. embassy in Ottawa to the State Department in Washington.

The wires, released by WikiLeaks, describe a May, 2009, meeting in which Frank Ruggiero, a senior State Department official in charge of political and military affairs, met in Ottawa with officials representing Canada and the Canadian defence industry. Ruggiero was vigorously lobbied by Canadian and industry officials to let Canada go ITAR-free. "Public Works and Government Services Canada Assistant Deputy Minister Jane Meyboom-Hardy observed that ITAR relief for industry is a 'top priority' for the Government of Canada," the diplomatic note states.

"Department of National Defence Chief of Staff to the ADM for Materiel Jake Jacobson [now a vice-president at defence contractor Babcock Canada] attributed other 'unintended consequences' to the current implementation of [ITAR] in Canada that, he said, undermines bilateral defence relations," the note continued.

According to the diplomatic note, Jacobson told Ruggiero, in words that astutely predicted GDLSC's success in competing against Rheinmetall, that U.S. allies like Canada and the U.K. "are seeking ITAR-free products. Being ITAR-free is not a ploy to permit sales to unsavoury regimes. Rather, it is seen as a useful way to ensure timely bidding and product delivery, as well as ease of post-delivery service on domestic procurements, and to compete with European manufacturers."

At that point in the meeting, defence giant Lockheed Martin Canada's vice-president for business development, Don McClure, added that his company's "ability to develop Canada's new $2-billion combat ship systems integration without ITAR components was key to winning the contract in the face of European competition."

The report then noted that Ruggiero said "that the U.S. is willing to consider extending to industry the government-to-government ITAR relief that State had negotiated with the Canadian Department of National Defence and other agencies in 2007."

To John Boscariol at McCarthy Tétrault, this interchange was news. Boscariol also viewed the version of the CCC document concerning its value proposition that was released under ATI law. His reaction began with a burst of laughter. "I wonder why?" Boscariol marvelled as he looked at the entirely censored document. "Maybe they feel it's a competitive issue with regard to the strategies of other governments?"

It appears that, after the Ruggiero meeting, his office did grant Canadian manufacturers the ITAR relief they sought--but that news of this exemption was not shared with American legislators.

Steven Staples, a veteran Ottawabased defence industry analyst, sees an agenda at work in the WikiLeaks wires. Staples has tracked GDLSC's sales to Saudi Arabia since 2009, when, as president of the Rideau Institute, a think tank dedicated to foreign-policy research, he first demanded the Canadian government curtail the company's transactions with the Saudis. "It used to be that Canada used the U.S. as a country of convenience for the re-export of weapons, because they were less restrictive than us," says Staples. "But now we've lowered our standards in order to become a country of convenience for U.S. weapons companies....We've gone from being quite cautious about weapons proliferation to being quite irresponsible."

In Staples's view, GDLSC's Saudi contract represents the culmination of a long push by Ottawa to attract investment from, and win business for, U.S. defence firms seeking freedom from ITAR's clutches, despite the laws requiring U.S. firms to notify Congress about large weapons export deals.

"Once they got the ITAR issues resolved, they could easily rubberstamp it through the Canadian export controls," Staples says. "Meanwhile, thanks to CCC, General Dynamics gets the Boy Scout stamp of approval that their deal was a sale to Canada, not Saudi Arabia."

In Washington, Colby Goodman, a researcher at the Center for International Policy (CIP), a foreign-policy watchdog, shares Staples's concerns. "This is a very major U.S. deal and it has circumvented our system for reviewing such deals," Goodman says. "There is substantial concern in Congress now about much smaller deals with Saudi Arabia at a time when weapons exported there are being used against civilians in Yemen. And there is strong evidence that these weapons could be used domestically against civilians."

Last December, an impending $1.3-billion (U.S.) weapons sale to Saudi Arabia prompted two senior members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to request, under new weapons export rules, that the committee be notified of future weapons shipments. The vetting will get more granular. "By invoking this new authority, the Senate committee is now saying that we want to monitor each shipment of the ordnance-- and it's a lot of ordnance," an aide to the committee says.

According to CIP research, U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia between 2009 and 2014 came to $13 billion (U.S.), the "highest of any country in the world during that time span." The number also illustrates the immensity of the GDLSC deal.

Goodman doesn't question the legality of General Dynamics' actions: The relaxation of ITAR application in Canada, and the insertion of CCC with its "government-to-government" contract structure in between GDLSC and the Saudis, indicates to him that every legal precaution has been taken. Indeed, the document signed by Stéphane Dion to permit the export says, "the U.S. government supports this new program, and has issued the necessary export authorization to GDLSC."

What Goodman does question is whether it is seemly for the Canadian government to be creating workarounds for U.S. weapons exporters seeking relief from U.S. export controls that are explicitly intended to permit the U.S. Congress to intervene to safeguard human rights and reduce conflict escalation. "If this deal was reviewed by Congress, it would generate very serious discussion and calls for thorough legal review," Goodman says. "Reporters and civil-society groups here in the U.S. would do some serious digging and call for congressional action to protect human rights in Saudi Arabia, and in Yemen," he adds.

"But because this huge deal for General Dynamics is up in Canada without any congressional notification, none of that is happening."

Associated Graphic





After a decade-long disappearing act, Stephen Toope argues, Canada must rethink everything from military commitments to economic development if we are to re-emerge as a power on the world stage
Saturday, February 13, 2016 – Print Edition, Page F1

Conservative Party insiders were annoyed when, just days into his new job as Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau declared on various international platforms: "Canada is back." Members of the last government responded huffily: "It never left."

But is that true? If Canadians are to contribute to any rebooting of our foreign policy, we had better start with an honest assessment of where we stand in the world.

Over the last couple of decades, Canadians haven't been hiding from the world. Business people, aid workers, diplomats and armed-forces personnel have been around the globe, getting on with their jobs. So, too, have teachers and professors, doctors, scientists and engineers.

According to the Asia-Pacific Foundation of Canada, more than 2.8 million of us live abroad - mostly in the United States, but in scores of other countries, too.

Mark Carney heads the Bank of England; Dominic Barton leads the world's most influential management consultancy. Sheila Watt-Cloutier is globally recognized as a leading voice for the peoples of the Arctic. The Weeknd is a worldwide music sensation. So, if by 'Canada' we mean its people, then there is no time when Canadians have been more active outside our borders.

But if by 'Canada' we mean the Government of Canada, the picture is a little different. Stephen Harper's Conservative Party believed in small government, disdained international organizations and viewed foreign relations as merely a series of discrete transactions. It failed to build sustained relationships with partners around the world.

According to a recent study for the Canadian International Council, our country is lagging behind our peers in spending on both defence and internationaldevelopment assistance. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization's target for spending on defence is 2 per cent of gross domestic product; Canada's spending currently stands at half that, dead last among all G7 countries, but also below obvious comparators such as Australia, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands - countries that share many of our values and cannot be accused of militarism. The strong support for the Canadian Forces that was so prominent in the last prime minister's public utterances was never matched by public spending.

If you look at the same group of peers, Canada also ranks last in international-development assistance. To be fair, the steep decline in our support for overseas development assistance (ODA) started under the Liberals, in the mid-1990s - over the past 20 years, the Conservatives outspent the Liberals, just marginally. That said, in the last year of the Harper government, spending on foreign aid reached an alltime low as a percentage of GDP.

In recent times, the Government of Canada has not promoted any major initiative at the global level, aside from the worthy child and maternal health campaign, where Mr. Harper took a leading role. Even here, however, there was ideological baggage - funding restrictions related to abortion - that made the campaign less than fully inclusive. Canada was largely absent from climate-change discussions. Our contribution to the war in Afghanistan, while major by our own accounts, barely registered internationally. In arms control, where Canada has historically been a major player, we became the only G7 country not to ratify or even sign the Arms Trade Treaty, which seeks to impose standards of accountability on conventional arms sales.

As we pursued regional and bilateral trade deals (the major ones not yet ratified), our influence in the World Trade Organization waned. In 2010, Canada was dealt a major blow to prestige when, for the first time ever, we failed, after a concerted political campaign, to win a seat on the UN Security Council.

Over the past decade, the Canadian government has lacked ambition and been largely irrelevant in global affairs. Canada is not the player it once was.

Back to the future?

If Canada is to be "back" in both ambition and influence, we need to avoid one looming hazard: nostalgia. The most obvious risk lies in lazy comparisons with the era of the current Prime Minister's father. In his first meeting with Justin Trudeau, Chinese President Xi Jinping harkened back to Pierre Trudeau's 1973 visit to China, which helped open the way for its re-integration into global affairs. Mr. Xi suggested that this history was a harbinger of good times ahead.

But Pierre Trudeau did not confront a China with powerful economic interests across Asia, Africa and Latin America with a newfound military assertiveness in the South China Sea, or with an army of cyber warriors and spies intent on gaining commercial and political advantage. Nor could Trudeau père imagine working with a China that has the capacity and interest to become a major contributor to global institution building and economic development.

The circumstances today are fundamentally different, and the younger Trudeau had best be wary as he settles on a China policy.

Two former Canadian ambassadors to Beijing, Joseph Caron and David Mulroney, have separately implored Canada to pursue a nuanced strategy with China. We need to build enhanced trade and investment links, of course, for China already accounts for 10 per cent of Canada's exports and a third of our commercial services sold abroad. However, we must be quietly "tough" as well, both in protecting our interests and in asserting our values, including democracy and human rights.

But if a wistful longing for the first Trudeau era is a risk, the much greater one is a backwardlooking invocation of the diplomacy of Lester B. Pearson. For many Liberal old-timers and, it seems, even for some of the millennials who are advising the new government, the Liberal Party is defined by Pearson's legacy of liberal internationalism. Being "back" means leading in a world of robust multilateral organizations and well-defined Western power.

That was then. Our era is one in which middling powers like Canada are going to have to struggle to find a voice in global affairs.

To be effective, our foreign policy will require two key components: focus, and strong relationships.

Not your grandparents' world

Canada's internationalist moment, from the 1940s to the 1960s, was the result of a constellation of factors that no longer obtain. After the Second World War, our economy was strong and our direct military contributions to the Allied victory were widely acknowledged. We had the resources and political will to invest in a highly professional diplomatic corps, and in the promotion of international development.

Even more important, from the war onward, we were tied at the hip to the unchallenged global leader, the United States of America, a leader that sought to build strong institutions of financial and political governance such as the World Bank, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (now the World Trade Organization), and the United Nations and all its subsidiary organizations, including the World Health Organization and Unicef.

As revealed by the inability of the UN member states to address the Syrian fiasco, the utter failure of the WHO to foresee the Ebola crisis, and the stalemate over the current round of trade negotiations in the WTO, postwar institutions are stagnating.

Revitalization will require enormous effort, and Canada will be only one of many players in that process.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is still the only international superpower, but is fading in relation to other growing powers, especially China. With all its remaining might, the U.S. simply cannot dictate the terms of the global order. We live in a world where many countries are important, with relevant coalitions being defined on an issueby-issue basis. Canada's connection to the U.S. is still an inestimable asset, but can't be our defining feature.

And let's be honest: Even in North America, Mexico is becoming more and more important to the U.S. Mexico will likely overtake Canada as a trade partner for the Americans within the next 20 years. In the past decade, total U.S. merchandise trade with Canada has grown by 19 per cent, while its trade with Mexico has risen by 68 per cent. It is no surprise that Robert Pastor, a leading scholar on the North American economy, has suggested that for Canada "the best path to Washington is through Mexico City."

When New York Times columnist Roger Cohen suggests that, with the election of the Trudeau Liberals, Ottawa "has turned away from Harper's weird Canadian unilateralism toward a rediscovery of Canada's traditional multilateral, United Nationsfocused approach to foreign policy," we better ask some hard questions.

"Traditional" multilateralism may no longer be available when its institutions are under such strong pressure to reform. They need to include the voices of non-Western countries and peoples who are increasingly important on the world stage. The voting structure of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with its guaranteed Western control, is unsustainable. The five "permanent members" of the UN Security Council were identified in another era altogether; aside from the U.S. and China, the grouping is simply illogical today.

Canada could build its influence were it to champion institutional reform to address these widely recognized problems.

We should work actively to help China find its proper place in global institutions, assuming that China is willing to be a productive and collaborative player - by no means a sure bet, as its refusal to assist politically in the Middle East demonstrates. Canada could also push for permanent membership on the Security Council, without a veto, for India and South Africa (perhaps in alternation with Nigeria).

More and more, crucial decisions are being taken through networks that include sub-state actors like cities and provinces, non-governmental organizations and corporations. The time of centralized state control of global initiatives has past. That is why the climate-change agenda, after the Paris meetings, is being shaped by actions defined within countries, not by imposed (but utterly artificial) global commitments, as it was under the failed Kyoto Protocol. And that is also why so much of international banking regulation is occurring through the Basel Committee on Financial Regulation, a network of independent regulators such as central banks, and not political actors.

If Canada is to come "back" globally, it cannot be through the same processes and mechanisms that Mr. Pearson used. The tools today are different, and Canada's relative position is not as strong.

I suspect that this caution would not surprise or discomfit Mr. Pearson himself. As Anthony Anderson, one of his biographers, has argued, "we need to do more than just invoke the name of our greatest diplomat to reframe our place in the world.

We need to understand Pearson's subtle, complex and pragmatic approach to foreign affairs."

Assets, interests and values

As the Bretton Woods financial institutions were being designed after the Second World War, Canada was a major player. Bank of Canada governor Louis Rasminsky served as an effective mediator between the U.K.'s John Maynard Keynes and the U.S.'s Harry Dexter White. A Canadian plan provided for significant changes to the U.S. draft, increasing the size of the IMF, allowing it to borrow from members, and permitting greater flexibility in exchange-rate arrangements.

This "honest broker" role proved successful.

The new Canadian government can learn from this historical experience. But it is not enough simply to flatter ourselves. Canada's efforts in Bretton Woods were well supported with good technical advice, consistent over a multi-year span of negotiations, and highly targeted. That is the primary lesson to learn from those days of influence.

Any government will be confronted by unpredictable crises.

In a memorable warning, when asked about how government priorities are shaped, British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan replied: "Events, my dear boy, events." Yet, a government that has no ambition or focus is unlikely to be remembered for much, unless the "events" it confronts are spectacular. Hitler made Churchill. War and the Great Depression made Roosevelt. Separatism made Pierre Trudeau. On the other hand, 9/11 probably unmade George W.

Bush and in so doing profoundly damaged the world, given the disastrous consequences of failed transformations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the spillover effects in neighbouring states and beyond.

Ambition is important, but so, too, is pragmatism, and an honest assessment of capacity.

In his recent door-stopper history of Canada, Rise to Greatness, Conrad Black asserts that Canada is one of the 10 or 12 most important countries in the world. Perhaps, but there are many on the rise. Switzerland has far more global commercial brands than Canada, and a reputation for innovation as well as neutrality.

As the world's most populous Muslim country, Indonesia has influence that is likely to increase. Its economy grew by 4.67 per cent, year over year, in the second quarter of 2015. Although that is not a blistering rate, Indonesia has almost 250 million people, so the implications of its continued economic expansion are important for the whole East Asian region. Meanwhile, Norway continues to use its extraordinary sovereign wealth fund, the world's largest, to influence markets and infrastructure development globally. And Norway's confidence allows it to exercise its diplomacy in Sri Lanka, the Middle East and Latin America in ways that Canada has not been able to do in decades. The examples could continue, without even coming to the obvious major players like China, India and Russia.

If Canada is really only an actor of middling status in our era, this does not mean that it has no leadership role to play. But we need to focus on our assets.

Our close relationship with the United States is an asset that should remain the first priority of Canadian foreign policy. That sounds simple, but is not. In the absence of strong irritants (like terrorists who enter the U.S. from Canada), we will never be top-ofmind for the Americans. That may be just fine on most days, but we do not want to be ignored completely.

We must expend significant diplomatic resources not only in Washington, but in various regions within America. And we have to pay more and more attention to Congress at a time when the U.S. political system is dysfunctional. Things will only become harder if either a nativist or a Tea Party Republican is elected president. And even Hillary Clinton could be a tough partner for a Trudeau government. She is more of a hawk on international security, more of a protectionist on trade, and more willing to tighten borders than the Canadian government would like to see. The U.S. relationship is going to be hard work for Canada over the next few years. But absolutely necessary work.

Our bilingualism is also an asset, allowing us to build strong connections to key states in Africa and Asia. Given the instability in northwest Africa that has already cost Canadian lives, we must use our Francophonie contacts to build partnerships that help to promote the safety of our aid workers, tourists and business people. Commonwealth connections may serve a similar function in Southeast Asia, with Malaysia and Singapore. It has long been popular to dismiss both these organizations as historic relics. But they can be useful and efficient places to strengthen key regional relationships that can protect Canadians and Canadian interests.

The new government has already declared that our pluralism is a primary asset to bring to our global engagements. This is true if we move beyond the lofty and too-often smug assertions that "diversity is our strength."

Although our historical record is by no means pure, by world standards Canada has created a society that is generally inclusive of newcomers. Sadly, we have done far worse as concerns indigenous peoples. Our relative success with social pluralism is an asset only if we avoid preaching and use our diversity constructively.

That means making investments in development assistance that allow us to showcase and share how Canadian pluralism works. It means contributing actively in intergovernmental forums where migration and refugee issues are thrashed out.

Above all, it means finding ways to mobilize our diaspora communities to create stronger linkages for Canadian business, culture and educational institutions with countries around the world. That is not the same as cynically pandering to narrow foreign-policy interests of those same communities in the hope of gaining domestic electoral advantage.

Ever since the financial crisis that struck in 2008, Canadian business and political leaders have been crowing about the relative stability of our financial system. The irony is that, for much of the previous decade, some of those self-same leaders were bemoaning the "heavy-handed regulation" that actually kept our banks from entering into some of the businesses and transactions that ultimately led to the financial debacle.

Nonetheless, there is truth to the claim that our very lack of innovation in financial structures and products has given Canada a reputation for probity. In addition, with some limited and unfortunate exceptions in the extractive industries and infrastructure world, Canadian businesses have largely acquitted themselves with integrity in their global dealings. As we negotiate further trade liberalization and push for a higher flow of inward and outward investment, a reputation for financial and commercial integrity is a real asset.

Canada's military tradition, our experience in two world wars in Korea and Afghanistan, and as peacekeepers or peacemakers in conflict zones such as Bosnia, East Timor and Haiti is another major asset. However, there is a crying need to better define our current aspirations. Mr. Pearson would have known that we are neither exclusively warriors nor peacekeepers. We have to set priorities that reflect our need for border security, our desire to be constructive contributors to addressing global threats and our willingness to pay for a military with a clear mandate.

How important is active NATO membership to us, compared with security interests in Asia? Is "inter-operability" with the U.S. armed forces the most important consideration in military procurement? Is Russia a threat in the Arctic? Is national security our top priority? If so, how much emphasis should we place on equipping our military for disaster response? Could we imagine pushing finally to create the United Nations rapid-response force, designed to take action against threats or breaches of the peace, envisioned in Chapter VII of the UN Charter? We require an honest policy review that relies in part on independent advice to answer these fundamental questions.

Despite the common perception, Canada has done a terrible job for many years in using "soft diplomacy" and "public diplomacy" to project Canada's brand and interests.

The French, the British, the Germans, the Spanish, the Scandinavians and the Australians have all used culture, educational exchange, people-to-people ties, online communication campaigns, and tourism promotion to create a strong public awareness of their countries all around the world. We have no Canadian equivalent to the British Council or the Goethe Institute. Canadian embassies and high commissions effectively have no program budgets. The last government cut funding to the Commonwealth Scholarship, and reduced support to Canadian studies programs around the world so much that they are now on drip feed.

We shouldn't resurrect tired models, but a new approach to promoting the creativity of Canadians globally is sorely needed, backed with increased resources.

Canadian culture could be connected to that much-vaunted pluralism to create excitement around contemporary Canada.

That is a major asset. We should strike while the positive and fresh Trudeau brand is putting Canada back on the global radar screen.

After identifying and focusing upon our assets, we then need to connect those assets to the projection of both interests and values. In a world where more and more Canadians are connected beyond our borders in valuebased environmental, religious or human-rights networks, and where devastating events that take place halfway around the world are known immediately, it is no longer plausible to argue that nations have only economic or other material interests. One picture of a little Syrian boy dead on a Turkish beach forced a Canadian response. Our foreign-policy calculations are not only rational, but emotional as well, rooted in shared perceptions of who we are as Canadians and, increasingly, by who we define as allies, partners and friends.

We need relationships

In a world with no solid hegemonic centre and a growing number of countries with every bit as much to offer as Canada, if we are to get "back" into global affairs, Canada will also have to adopt a more expansive view of who we need to cultivate as friends or partners. The United States, of course, and Britain, France and Germany because of their cultural and economic power. They are strategic, long-term partners.

We should also rebuild ties to some traditionally like-minded friends such as the Nordic countries and Australia. We have allowed those bonds to fray, and have lessened our influence on many issues as a result. Here's one example: In the trade negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Australians managed to protect their intellectual-property regime relating to so-called "biologics."

Canada was not so successful.

Might a joint Australia-Canada position have better advanced our interests?

But Canada has to look beyond its traditional friends and partners if we are to move forward, helping to shape outcomes in a world of many somewhat-influential countries. These relationships may well be more tactical than strategic, in the sense that they are built up around specific shared objectives or interests, but they are still important.

I happened to be in Beijing the day the Chinese government celebrated the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. There was a massive parade in the capital, involving more than 12,000 troops, 500 pieces of military hardware, and 200 aircraft. All very impressive, if rather old-style in its goose-stepping militarism. But I was struck by something quite different.

In the reviewing stand, on one side of the Chinese leader, next to his wife, was Park Geun-hye, the President of South Korea.

China is the only remaining supporter of the North Korean regime, and fought a war with the South Koreans that has never officially ended. Yet, by 2014, bilateral trade between China and South Korea had reached $290-billion (U.S.). In 2015, the two countries concluded a bilateral free-trade agreement, that promises a real bump in economic activity. One year earlier, and after prolonged negotiation, Canada finally got its own FTA with Korea, but in 2013 our bilateral trade was only worth $10.8billion - and the Koreans sent almost twice as much to us as we sold to them.

Meanwhile, Korea has become an active player in international development across much of Asia. As an example, the World Bank reports that in 2013 Korea provided $11.7-million (U.S.) in bilateral aid to Myanmar. That aid program is set to increase over the next few years, supporting the country's transition to democracy and helping to develop its staggering economic potential.

By contrast, in 2014 Canada identified Myanmar as a country of focus for ODA. Yet according to the OECD, average Canadian assistance from 2004 to 2012 was only $ 4.3-million (U.S.). And Canada has been slow to increase its ODA, with disbursements still well below those of Korea as of 2015 - we were doing little before and aren't doing much more now. What is more worrying is that, over the past eight years, as I co-chaired an annual CanadaKorea forum, Korean diplomats kept asking for Canada's help to build an aid program almost from scratch. Canada's reputation for delivering aid is good, but our government simply didn't respond to the request for policy assistance. Now we are playing catch-up in Myanmar and elsewhere to Korea, a country that once sought our help.

If Canada wants to build stronger economic ties with one of Asia's largest economies, we have to work at the whole relationship, not just concluding freetrade agreements and ignoring everything else. Relationships are more than transactions, and we need to consciously develop them with partners who are growing in influence.

Canada is going to need a few partners in Africa as well. During the anti-apartheid struggle, thanks to the efforts of both Conservative and Liberal governments, Canada built powerful ties across the continent. They have unravelled. Yes, there are terrible problems with corruption, mismanagement and violence. But it is not an accident that Chinese investment there reached roughly $40-billion (U.S.) by 2012. That investment is concentrated in countries such as Nigeria, South Africa and Algeria. Of course, they are important for their resources, but they are also regional powers that have the potential for global influence on issues that matter to Canada, such as fluctuating energy markets, climate change, combating violent extremism, and reform to the governance of international financial institutions.

Another set of relationships will also be important for Canada in the years ahead - one that may surprise most Canadians.

Global affairs are no longer the exclusive purview of countries.

There are a number of issues, from financial regulation to energy security to health, where many of the most important players are from non-governmental organizations, corporations and philanthropic foundations. Examples include the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, whose civil-society partners like the Gates Foundation and corporations like Coca-Cola are as important as many countries; or the Energy for All Partnership of the Asia Development Bank, which draws together states, corporations and NGOs to "provide access to safe, clean, affordable modern energy to an additional 100 million people in the region."

Canada must develop and strengthen relationships with many of these key networks if it is to be effective in exerting its influence.

In a world that is no longer dominated by one state or even by the West collectively, where the dividing lines on issues can be economic, regional, ideological, religious, and cultural, the day of fixed alliances has passed.

Although for the foreseeable future Canada will look first to old friends like the United States, Britain and France, on any given initiative or in response to a particular crisis, we will have to rely more and more on new partners to advance our interests and values. Investing in relationships and working hard to build temporary groupings of interested and capable countries and other global actors is the new way to do foreign affairs.

Stephen J. Toope is the director of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. This is the first instalment of a two-part essay examining Canada's foreign relations.

Associated Graphic

From top: Mark Carney, currently governor of the Bank of England, was previously governor of the Bank of Canada; the Rainbow Bridge crossing from the United States into Canada; singer The Weeknd performs in Las Vegas during New Year's festivities.


Clockwise from top: A Canadian corporal surrounded by curious Afghan children as he and military engineers tour villages near their base camp in Kabul, in 2003; Pierre Trudeau with the man he succeeded as prime minister in 1968, Lester B. Pearson; Justin Trudeau walks from Parliament Hill to a news conference this week.


Finland has remade its education system, helping kids like Lara Osman - born to poor, immigrant parents - grow up to be middle-class success stories. Doug Saunders reports
Saturday, April 23, 2016 – Print Edition, Page F1

In most other countries, Lara Osman's prospects would not be good. She was born 12 years ago in a grey apartment-block district of eastern Helsinki, the first of two daughters of recent refugees from Iraq. Her father, who speaks Kurdish, is a taxi driver; her mother, who speaks Arabic and English at home but only recently mastered Finland's difficult language, has a support job at a school. It's not much income to raise a family of four in an expensive Nordic country.

On her wind-blasted morning walk from their apartment to her primary school, Lara passes multihued clusters of adults gathered outside the shops without much to do: Unemployment rates in this part of Helsinki are high, especially among the foreign-born, and business prospects are few. Many of her classmates come from families with similar stories of displacement, marginality and poverty.

The playground scene - with its circles of Eastern and Central European, Middle Eastern, East African, and Nordic kids, whose lingua franca is most often not Finnish but fractured forms of English - is competitive and a bit tough. "You have to stay strong here," says Lara, a slight, bespectacled girl whose welldeveloped self-confidence and curiosity have served her well.

"There are some kids who will treat you badly because you're not like them. You just ignore them if they talk badly to you."

But when the bell rings at 8 and Lara steps from the playground into the sunlit hallways of Meri-Rastila Primary School, her reality, and prospects, change abruptly. In that building, her betterment suddenly becomes part of an all-hands-ondeck national obsession unique to Finland.

The small, modern, glass-and-concrete building resembles many urban Canadian primary schools, but its classrooms are more intense, each with several teachers and assistants minding circles of kids of highly varied educational and linguistic abilities: There are virtually no special or remedial classes. A lot of non-academic activities fill the day, and the combination of the school's collaborative structure and the teachers' detailed devotion to keeping each child on track sometimes gives the place the urgent mood of a hospital emergency ward.

The Finnish obsession is not with education per se, but with making sure that kids like Lara all get the maximum possible school experience. That obsession has produced results: The odds of someone like her, born below the poverty line, becoming a middle-class adult are better in Finland than in almost any other country. More important, those odds are measurably better than they were 20 years ago. And it's almost all because of the way the Finns changed their schools.

Now, a school system originally re-engineered to fill the gap between the rural poor and better-off urbanites is also addressing the wealth gap between established Finns and a growing population of poor immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers - making Finland's challenges increasingly similar to those of Canada.

This is a rare example of a country where national policy has been used to build a better pathway out of poverty and into a productive life. In recent years, that policy, while still successful, has begun to feel the pressures of a more diverse population and a fast-changing economy.

So, in both their successes and their controversies, it's worth looking inside Finland's schools to see what lessons the world's most successful education reform has for the rest of us.

The poor stay poor, the rich get rich: That, in the view of many people, is simply how the world works. Social mobility - the extent to which the less affluent get richer (or the better-off become less so) - is often thought to be an accident of fate, a product of individual will, or a changeless factor dependent entirely on the growth of the economy.

But what if we can make upward mobility happen? If, instead of spending money to make life more tolerable for the poor, governments invested in transforming children of poverty into productive, non-dependent, tax-contributing people?

We are in an era - perhaps transitory, maybe longer lasting - in which the world economy has stalled, and we can't simply count on economic growth to give people better lives. It's time to look at social mobility not as something that just happens, but as something we can create.

We have known for a long time that some countries have more mobility than others. If you're born to a low-income family in Canada, your odds of having an income, in adulthood, in the middle class or better are twice what they would be if your family were in the United States or Britain, but not as good as they'd be in Northern Europe.

But some countries don't just have perpetually high social mobility - they have improved it. Finland, for example, was a middle-ranking country, closer to France, a generation ago, but has soared up the ranks as a result of a major intervention in education and early-childhood policy.

Why should this be of concern to Canada, which already ranks in the social-mobility Top 10? Because there are signs that the "Canadian dream" is beginning to flag. They don't show up in the raw national figures yet - it takes at least 20 years to register a change in intergenerational mobility - but the signs are there.

A much more expensive housing market has limited access to one traditional tool for escaping poverty. A more precarious postindustrial economy is making it harder to find income security. And Canada's social safety net - which many studies have credited for its high rate of social mobility - is not as robust, in some provinces, as it once was.

There are also strong signs that some Canadian regions, provinces and cities are suffering much lower social mobility than is the country as a whole, and that these poverty traps may be getting worse. In the United States, economist Raj Chetty and his colleagues have used big-data studies to show that specific cities, regions and neighbourhoods differ dramatically.

"Cities such as Salt Lake City and San Jose have rates of mobility comparable to Denmark," he concluded in a 2014 paper that transformed the study of the subject. "Other cities - such as Charlotte and Milwaukee - offer children very limited prospects of escaping poverty," because their rates are lower than that of "any developed country for which data are currently available."

And many of these regional differences have to do with schools. Areas with higher test scores, lower dropout rates and smaller class sizes, Dr. Chetty's analysis has shown, had much more mobility; so did those with comparatively higher property taxes (which, in the United States, are the main source of school finance).

That kind of regional microanalysis has not yet been published in Canada. But Miles Corak, the University of Ottawa economist (now based at Harvard) whose work has shaped Canada's understanding of the subject, says he believes that Canada is also highly varied by region and neighbourhood, with the North and rural areas among the places experiencing far lower levels of mobility.

Other recent studies suggest that once-rapid social mobility experienced by newcomers may be slowing down.

Shibao Guo, a professor of education at the University of Calgary, found that recent immigrants from China are facing tougher barriers to social and economic progress than did previous generations, some even experiencing "downward social mobility." Much of this, he discovered, has to do with education and skills-training obstacles.

It is therefore worth taking a close look at policy interventions that have made poverty less hereditary, as they offer potentially huge savings in social-security costs, and the potential economic benefits - higher productivity, higher tax revenues - of a more prosperous population.

From the classroom to the middle class

Lara falls into stride with her fellow students as they file into their classroom; they talk about their Instagram posts and make plans to go to the mall after school. They greet a new girl in her class, from East Asia, who is still grappling with Finnish. She won't be kept out of the class, though: She'll get an extra hour of instruction in the morning, but otherwise she, along with half the school's students who don't speak Finnish as a native language, will learn along with everyone else. Still, there will be special one-on-one attention: By the time they are 16, almost half of all Finnish students will have received some intensive form of personalized help or individually tailored guidance.

Finnish schools have been obsessively and singularly reengineered, in three decades of radical reforms, to ensure that kids like Lara are at the centre of everything, that they receive as much intensive education as the wealthiest and most fluent students, and that they all have the chance to make it through to higher education. Other countries have made education changes, but only Finland has altered its entire system to improve the odds of poor kids entering the middle class.

Equally important is what you don't see: teachers in Meri-Rastila or any other Finnish school delivering lessons from the front of the room, and their students taking notes - the core of the "German system" that the Finns abandoned.

Remedial or gifted classes, special classes for learningdisability or second-language kids, are all but absent. Standardized testing doesn't happen. There is no "ability grouping" at all - not by schools or classes or streams - until age 16. Everyone gets the same lessons in the same classes, whether they're a troubled student in a poor rural area or a university-bound kid from a professional family; differences in ability are handled by individual attention, not by separation.

Even the lunchroom is organized around a notion of empowerment: A buffet of hot food is laid out; all kids, down to the youngest, grab a plate and serve themselves as they wish, but are careful to follow a promise to take no more than they can eat.

Slightly more than half the 222 students at Meri-Rastila, who range in age from 7 to 13, are immigrants: Somalis, Ukrainians, Russians, Estonians and Arabs (from various Mideast countries) are the most numerous, with kids like Lara, the Finnish children of immigrants, also a sizable group. A lot of them have learning disabilities, or troubles at home. A significant proportion arrive each morning not having had breakfast: Malnutrition is a concern.

"We don't have easy days - there are real challenges here," says principal Tarja Tapper, a hands-on, relentlessly upbeat school manager who sometimes wears a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey, in honour of all the Finns who have been on the team's roster. "But we are really determined to make sure that everybody stays in school, and everybody gets the maximum amount of educational attention, no matter what it takes."

The school receives special "positive discrimination" grants to provide extra teaching assistants and iPads for the many newcomers. There is a teacher or educational assistant for every 6.3 students (versus for about every 11 in Ontario) - but Meri-Rastila is otherwise identical to other Finnish schools, both in its design and its educational outcomes. Other than the two hours of intensive Finnish lessons taken daily in their first year, these "difficult" students study math, physics, history, biology and chemistry with the other kids.

Students are strictly kept together by age, not by ability, through the whole education process, regardless of their grades; by using multiple teachers and teaching assistants in each class, multiple learning levels are taught at the same time. This is a familiar practice in Canada and other English-speaking countries, but completely alien to most of continental Europe, where lessons are taught at one level and kids who fail are held back.

Finland has gone radically in the opposite direction because officials realized that less well-off children, and later those of immigrants, were in danger of becoming disenchanted and dropping out.

Tiina Kahara, the Grade 4 teacher, and her assistant present each lesson or unit three ways, to suit varying levels of language facility and education. (Half of her 27 students can't speak Finnish fluently.) This, she says, is better - not just for the immigrant students but for the native-born Finns: "It means that everyone gets more resources and a form of teaching tailored to their style. It's a better form of education for everyone."

What seems unfamiliar to educators from other countries with high-achieving systems is the lack of emphasis on what most places would call "education." School does not begin until age 7 (there are two years of preschool, but they don't include reading, writing or arithmetic). Only a third of the school day is devoted to "core" subjects such as science, math and Finnish; another third is for music, art and gym; and the final third is for second languages (Swedish and English are compulsory). There is a lot of time for recreation and socializing. It's not an intensive or competitive pedagogical experience.

"We want the children to have a lot of time to make friends, play sports and know their families - it shouldn't be stressful for them," says Ms. Kahara, sitting at a lunchroom table and eating chicken curry with some of her students.

"Stress does not create the best results. A good education plus free time builds them up as people. We think that school is for your life, not that your life is for school."

This strong focus on reducing stress is distinctly Finnish but is also a direct consequence of the focus on social mobility: It keeps people in school longer, and they are, therefore, more likely to earn more as adults.

Obsessed with opportunity

Educators from around the world visit Finland to study its famously successful school system, but often come away slightly baffled. From a purely pedagogical standpoint, the reforms offer a strange combination of the touchy-feely and the strict, the professional (all teachers must have advanced degrees) and the experiential (no testing; teachers who aren't publicly assessed and can't easily be fired; large amounts of social and play time).

It all makes much more sense when you realize that the reforms were not undertaken to improve educational outcomes at all, but to solve a social problem. In the 1970s, Finland was much less equal than it is now, with a poor rural population, dependent on fishing and agriculture, and a well-off urban elite, and very little chance of moving between the two. This became a genuine national obsession.

"It was becoming obvious in the seventies that our system was in crisis - people's outcomes were dependent on their social background, and their educational outcome depended on where they came from," says Jouni Valijarvi, a professor at the University of Jyvaskyla in central Finland who was a key figure behind the most recent round of education reforms. "Then, in the 1990s, we realized that we needed even greater educational equality to promote economic growth, which depends on social mobility."

For the next three decades, right into the 2000s, the Finns undertook a series of dramatic reforms designed to "provide equal educational opportunities to all students, irrespective of place of residence or social background," as officials said at the time.

An elite profession

"What has made Finland special," Prof. Valijarvi says, "is that education, its universality, has been accepted as something that's good for everyone - it is seen as a way to strengthen the national identity."

A big part of that, he adds, "has been to trust our schools and teachers, and allow them to work their own way."

Over several rounds of cross-country reforms, the Finns changed almost everything: All forms of testing were abolished (except for analytical purposes). Selection of students into academic or vocational tracks was raised from age 12 to 16 (and even then was easily reversible). Private schools were ordered to become, in effect, fee-charging public schools, using the national curriculum. And the teacher-education system was redesigned around inclusion - keeping kids in school came to count above all else.

A big part of the new system is the exceptional prestige accorded to teachers. New teaching universities were built to create a highly professional cadre of educators. Teaching is considered an elite profession, and requires a master's degree in education, half of it dedicated to a specialty subject (even preschool teachers must have a degree).

And, although teacher salaries are no higher than in most other Western countries, education degrees are highly sought after: This year, Helsinki University's undergraduate education-degree program accepted only 5 per cent of applicants. A big part of that is due to the promise of lifetime job security, but there's also the autonomy: Teachers set their own methods and goals, which are assessed twice a year in meetings with their principals.

The results of the changes, after a generation had elapsed, were startling. In 2006, a team led by Finnish economist Tuomas Pekkarinen, then based at Oxford, conducted a detailed analysis of the population - looking at the same counties before and after the reforms kicked in - and found that the average chance of Finns' being stuck with their parent's income had declined by seven percentage points, a huge increase in social mobility.

At the same time, Finns' "intergenerational income elasticity" - the share that family background plays in a person's future income - fell from 30 per cent to 18 per cent.

And, in an interesting and not really intentional side effect, the reforms also gave Finland the West's (and often the world's) consistently highest scores in the PISA exams, the international ranking of student success compiled by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. The Finns intended to make their system more equal, and accidentally also gave it the best educational outcomes in the world.

While other countries have high scores in social mobility (Denmark consistently beats everyone), Finland is almost unique in having changed, in three decades, from a midranking country to one that now sits near the top: Using a single state intervention, it all but eliminated family background as the main determinant of financial fate.

Finnish-ing our schools

If Canada's envied record on social mobility is slipping - as the increased inequality, regional stagnation and declining immigrant success rates suggest - what can we learn from Finland?

It's a pressing question not least because low mobility comes with a hefty price tag: Finnish officials estimate that, over a lifetime, each child who doesn't complete high school costs the state $1.8-million in social expenditures and lost taxation.

In the past few years, Canadian scholars have begun to take social mobility, as a specific policy goal, more seriously. A research paper that the U of O's Dr. Corak produced for a 2013 social-mobility conference, organized by the non-partisan think tank Canada 2020, proposed that three groups have a significantly higher tendency to fall out of the education system and become trapped at the bottom of the economy: boys, especially those with bluecollar or immigrant parents; children from some indigenous communities; and children born in countries where English and French aren't spoken - if members of that non-fluent group are over age 14 when they arrive, almost one in five drop out of high school, extremely high by Canadian standards.

Early-years programs are also important: They prepare children for success in school; they provide language and social-skills education to kids from different cultures; they often allow parents to remain employed and thus able to support their children's further education. Likewise, an emphasis on making postsecondary education, and especially university, more accessible to deprived students - which generally involves lowering the financial risk of a four-year degree commitment - can ease the path to mobility.

Second-generation tensions

Finland's emphasis on social mobility over narrowly defined educational success becomes more visible with immigrant students because they do not perform as well in international assessments as do students from immigrant backgrounds in other (mainly Northern European) countries. Finnish officials insist that this is deliberate: They see keeping all kids in school as more important than straight grades.

"Academically, immigrants here lag behind the Netherlands and Denmark, but in social inclusion, they are registering much higher than in those countries," says Jari Lavonen, head of teacher education at the University of Helsinki. "It's not just the teaching methods, but the social interaction that surrounds our activities" that spurs integration, he says.

And because students are not sorted into universitybound or vocational paths until age 16, there is a radical determination to treat even recent arrivals and those with learning disabilities as potential university graduates - including those from "troubled" schools such as Meri-Rastila.

"All the students here can go as high as they want," says English teacher Sari Jaatela. "It's not easy for all of them, but everyone has the same possibility. Going to this school will not burn any bridges."

That said, there are some uneven patches beginning to mar the smooth surface of Finland's educational-equality model. For starters, a system designed to elevate poor rural students is now mainly concerned with poor students who are immigrants or the children of immigrants - who are 10 times more numerous than they were in the 1980s. After the government gave special attention and funding to multilinguistic urban schools, rural areas now say they are suffering from a comparative lack of resources.

The proportion of students who drop out at 16 - and are therefore much more likely to become a big expense to society - remains stubbornly stuck at around 6 per cent.

(By comparison, 12 per cent of Canadians and 21 per cent of Americans don't make it through Grade 12.)

In tiny Finland, whose population of 4.5 million is about the size of Toronto's, that 6 per cent amounts to only 4,000 students a year, but Pasi Sahlberg, an official responsible for the 1990s reforms, says it "has become a social and political problem." In 2011, the government launched a special program to guarantee apprenticeship or extended-study places to all students who leave school before 18.

And Finland is beginning to see a pattern that happens in many Western countries in which school choice - an idea that was introduced here, to a limited extent, in the 1990s, and allows parents to apply to send their children to schools in other parts of a city - allows aspirational Finnish and immigrant parents to shift their kids into more middle-class neighbourhoods, leaving the poor immigrant-district schools with a more troubled population. This isn't happening to the huge degree that it is in Western Europe or the United States, but a recent study found that such choices are eroding equality and potentially harming social mobility.

"Today the worry is that we're starting to lose the equality," says Prof. Valijarvi. "But the numbers aren't strongly showing it yet." There is another set of reforms, currently under way, intended to address this by connecting the more vulnerable urban schools to the information economy and the city's institutions. That, combined with the "positive discrimination" funds that schools receive, means that some are now different: Unblemished sameness is no longer the sine qua non of Finnish eduction.

When the reforms began, Finland was moving from a rural to an industrial economy; now, life is dominated by the sharp decline of Nokia, the nation-defining cellphone company whose loss of market dominance leaves many Finns afraid for a new generation entering a more challenging postindustrial economy. They, like Canadians, face a set of challenges that didn't exist 20 years ago: a stagnant world economy; nations missing some of their old motors of surefire growth; housing markets that no longer provide an easy path to prosperity, especially for newcomers; and a more diverse population often needing extra help to get a foot on the bottom rung of the ladder.

What if these obstacles end up leaving part of a generation - or certain regions, cities or ethnic groups - stuck at the bottom, unable to repeat the climb into security experienced by previous generations?

In both Finland and Canada, the cost of such a setback would be huge - economically (in damaged productivity and entrepreneurship) and fiscally (in lost tax revenues and increased social-assistance costs). There could also be a political cost in the creation of an embittered, disappointed citizenry that does not feel included in the Canadian dream and is vulnerable to extreme messages, as we've seen in Europe and the United States.

Canada's robust social-security, provincial-equalization and health-care systems have so far helped to smooth out the uneven patches on the road to a comfortable and secure life: In the five decades since sociologist John Porter denounced Canada's rigid class hierarchies in The Vertical Mosaic, public policy has dramatically improved the odds of rising above your family's station.

Likewise, Finland's profoundly inclusive education system has so far protected its list-topping equality and mobility rankings, in spite of a decade of challenges. But both countries face major threats to the functioning of their economic escalators, and can offer lessons to each other: Finland can learn from Canada's decades of experience in moving newcomers to the centre of economic life within two generations. And Canada can learn from Finland's even more comprehensive approach to ensuring that the most deprived children get the same education as the most privileged; it's not perfect, but it represents a different, and potentially valuable, approach.

As Lara Osman says, her school is far from utopian. "It's tough enough for me," she says, "and I know a lot of kids who are having a harder time, who don't understand much." But the amount of attention they all get is high by any standard. She dreams of studying languages - she's already fluent in three, is working on her Swedish, and hopes to learn Japanese.

Her success owes a lot to her own considerable ambition, to her parents' determination to have high-achieving, very European kids, and to some good teachers - but also to a system designed, above all else, to make sure nothing gets in her way.

Doug Saunders is The Globe's international affairs columnist.

Associated Graphic

Photography by Sakari Piippo

'We don't have easy days - there are real challenges here,' says Lara Osman's principal, Tarja Tapper (known to wear a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey to work). 'But we are really determined to make sure everybody stays in school, no matter what it takes.'

Recess at Meri-Rastila Primary School in Helsinki, where, writes Doug Saunders, 'everyone gets the same lessons in the same classes, whether they're a troubled student in a poor rural area or a university-bound kid from a professional family; differences in ability are handled by individual attention, not by separation.'

No need to be afraid of green energy--after all, capitalists aren't. So why is offshore wind dead in Canada while a Toronto company finds itself conquering the North Sea?
Friday, April 29, 2016 – Print Edition, Page P42

The Danish port town of Esbjerg is dominated by a towering smokestack surrounded by enormous piles of black coal. Even on a windy, wintry day, the air around the DONG Energy site has a slightly oily smell. But it's not just the plant's sheer size and the 250-metre chimney spewing smoke that makes it stand out; it's what lies just beyond.

Here on the west coast of Jutland, the peninsula that separates the North Sea from the Baltic Sea, the DONG plant sits right smack next to an offshore wind-turbine marshalling yard occupied by Siemens, the German engineering giant that has emerged as one of the world's biggest makers of wind turbines. The yard holds most of the equipment necessary to build the vast Gemini offshore wind park in the North Sea's Dutch sector. Look one way and you see a grubby monument to the fossil fuel era; look the other way, and you see the future of clean, renewable energy.

The yard's other distinguishing feature is that almost every piece of equipment stored in it, from the neat rows of blades to the turbine towers, is owned by Northland Power of Toronto. The small company is the lead player in two North Sea wind projects--Gemini and the smaller Nordsee One, off Germany. Gemini is a € 2.8-billion project; Nordsee will cost €1.2 billion. Their combined spend is about $6 billion at recent exchange rates. That's about two-thirds more than Northland's $3.5-billion market value. (That said, as 60% owner of Gemini and 85% owner of Nordsee, Northland doesn't cover the entire bill.)

In August, 2013, when Northland announced it had acquired the rights to the Gemini stake, no one in Europe's renewable-energy industry had heard of the Canadian company. Today, Northland is one of that industry's top names. Gemini, along with the London Array project in the outer Thames Estuary, are the biggest wind farms in the North Sea and among the biggest in the entire world.

"At the onset, the industry was surprised that there were no European companies prepared to take on the Gemini risk," says Pieter van Oord, CEO of Van Oord, the family-owned Dutch marine contractor that is building the Gemini project. "Suddenly, everyone is now talking about them. They've handled Gemini very well."

Van Oord's flotilla of ships installed Gemini's first wind turbine 85 kilometres off the coast of Groningen, Netherlands, on Feb. 16. Thirteen days later, it produced its first power. Another 149 Gemini turbines are to be installed this year. When commercial operations begin in 2017, the project will generate 600 megawatts--enough electricity to supply the needs of 1.5 million people--without, of course, emitting planet-warming greenhouse gases.

John Brace, Northland's CEO, seems somewhat astonished that Gemini is nearing completion. When he started at the company way back in 1988, it was busy banging together biomass plants in the wilds of Northern Ontario. Now it's working with the top names in the renewable energy industry and building world-scale power projects. "When we go out and see what we've actually created, we go, 'Wow! We actually built this,' " he says.

Everything about the Gemini and Nordsee One projects is big, and the engineering works are astonishing. The latest generation of offshore monsters make land-bound turbines look like children's toys.

Brace, 58, and his European front man and company vice-president, Boris Balan, 57, want me to learn as much about Gemini as possible in a single-day tour, which means visiting three sites in Denmark: the first two near Aalborg, a city in the far north of Jutland, the last in Esbjerg. We pile into a cramped six-seat Piper Seneca puddle-jumper at Hamburg's airport and, covered in wool blankets, bounce our way through the frigid January skies. No business jet, the piston-engine Piper is a reminder that Northland is still a relatively small company.

Brace is afraid of heights and I am afraid of flying, so our conversation is punctuated by long pauses as each of us tries to compose ourselves. Still, along the way, Brace manages to give me a rough outline of the European offshore wind industry. The North Sea is to wind power as Saudi Arabia is to oil, he says; theoretically, it has enough wind energy to power Europe four times over. That's because the North Sea winds are consistently strong. In the Gemini area, the average wind speed is 36 kilometres per hour. Turbines in the North Sea can produce electricity about 8,000 hours a year, and will run at the equivalent of full output for about 4,500 hours a year. Turbines on land, where the winds are weaker and less reliable, may produce power for well less than half as many hours.

The North Sea has other advantages. It is immune to NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) syndrome--the Gemini and Nordsee turbines cannot be seen or heard from the Danish, Dutch or German shores. And the water is fairly shallow--28 metres to 36 metres in the Gemini area--which means construction costs, while high compared to onshore installations, are not outrageous.

Our first stop is Bladt Industries, the Danish metal bashers that are making the substation--the massive platform, topped with a helicopter landing pad--that will collect the electricity from Nordsee One's 54 turbines, convert it to 155 kilovolts and deliver it by subsea cable to a land station in northern Germany, where it will be fed into the grid. Gemini requires two substations; Nordsee one. The base for Nordsee's substation, called a jacket, is 51 metres high and weighs more than 1,000 tonnes. The three-storey topside of the substation sits on top of the jacket like a house on a cliff.

More impressive yet is the Siemens blade factory nearby. It's the size of a big-city airport because it has to be. The willowy, tapered blades, whose bases are so wide that they seem like the cross-sections of submarines, are fantastically long and getting longer. The blades used in the Gemini turbines are 63 metres long (Siemens also produces 75-metre blades). Including the rotor, the diameter of the turbine is 130 metres--almost twice the length of an Airbus A380.

But all that engineering and manufacturing is only part of the challenge of offshore wind power; there's also the job of installing turbines offshore, often in conditions that would leave landlubbers frozen and seasick. This is where Van Oord, which recently completed dredging to expand the Suez Canal, comes in.

In the early part of the last decade, Van Oord leveraged its long history in the offshore drilling and dredging businesses to ease its way into the offshore wind business. It lost money at first; the company realized that to turn a profit, it would have to take total control of the engineering, procurement and construction aspects of projects. Pieter van Oord calls this "de-risking the client"--shunting the construction risk onto the contractor.

Gemini is the embodiment of contracting simplicity. Sundries aside, Northland signed only two contracts: the first with Siemens for the turbines, the second with Van Oord for everything else, from sinking the subsea towers (known as monopiles) into the North Sea floor to spooling out the electrical cable that connects the wind turbines to the shore. "We are entirely responsible for the supply chain," van Oord says. "If, say, the monopiles are delivered too late, that's my risk, not Northland's."

Van Oord, the company, has the process down to a fine art. During the height of the Gemini installation, some 40 vessels--from a robot machine that digs the seabed trench for the electrical cables to a hotel ship that houses the 500 engineers, technicians and sailors--will be at sea. The niftiest ship is the 139-metre Aeolus, a floating crane that sinks the monopiles into the seabed. To ensure stability and precision--satellite positioning is used to place the monopiles within 10 centimetres of their target--the ship uses four giant jacks (called "spuds") to hoist itself fully clear of the water.

Brace, the Northland CEO, calls the installation manoeuvres by the Van Oord flotilla "beautifully choreographed, like a ballet."

Northland's project development is a ballet, too, though one largely confined to the company's headquarters in Toronto. In its European life, Northland is essentially a financing operation that leaves the grunt work to the likes of Van Oord, Siemens, Danish steel specialist Bladt and a small number of other contractors.

Northland was founded as a limited partnership in 1987 by Jim Temerty and Alex Juchymenko, two power pioneers aiming to exploit the partial deregulation of the Ontario electricity market that was then under way. Temerty, who was born in Ukraine and who built ComputerLand's Canadian retail franchises, is Northland's chairman and biggest shareholder; Juchymenko, also born in Ukraine, worked for Ontario Hydro for much of his career. He was Northland's chief engineer and resident expert in co-generation--the simultaneous production of electricity and usable heat. He retired in 1996.

One of their first hires was the unflappable John Brace, a Toronto boy and Queen's University graduate in engineering physics who, slowly and patiently, worked his way through the risk management, development, construction and operations departments before landing the CEO's job in 2005, eight years after Northland, a former income trust, listed its shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Northland has a long and largely uneventful history of building solar, thermal (natural gas, biomass, landfill gas) and wind plants--never coal--mostly in Ontario, but also in Quebec and Saskatchewan. In the late 1980s, Ontario was reeling from the cost overruns piled up by Ontario Hydro's decades-long building spree, which included the outrageously expensive Darlington nuclear plant. The high costs translated into high electricity prices. Private power producers like Northland were invited into the market to build cheaper sources. The scheme would also transfer any cost overruns away from the taxpayer to the plants' private investors (Ontario Hydro was later split into segments including Ontario Power Generation and Hydro One, the transmission and distribution company).

Providing competition for big, bad Ontario Hydro wasn't the only reason behind the government's decision to encourage independent power producers. As "global warming" and "climate change" began to enter the everyday lexicon, it also wanted to seed renewable energy. To do so, the government was prepared to pay what Brace calls a "political-societal" price. In Ontario, as elsewhere, including Europe, that meant paying above-market rates.

Thus was born the feed-in tariff. Broadly speaking, a feed-in tariff system offers long-term contracts that reflect the cost of the new technology. Offshore wind farms, for instance, are offered a higher price than relatively inexpensive onshore wind farms. Some tariffs ratchet down over time, all the better to encourage the development of cheaper technologies (the prices of photovoltaic cells have plummeted).

Critics of renewable energy cite the often enormous gap between the feed-in price and the spot, or "pool," price. In Ontario, the spot price has recently ranged from 0.5 to 3.2 cents per kilowatt hour. That amounts, at most, to a quarter of the 12.8 cents per kilowatt hour now offered to small wind projects under the province's feed-in tariff program.

To label the entire gap a subsidy isn't accurate because the spot price does not reflect the cost of building new capacity, nor the value of greenhouse gas emission reductions. Still, countries with lavish feed-in tariffs have earned the ire of old-school power producers and consumers. In Germany, feed-in tariffs are estimated to have boosted consumer electricity prices by about €200 a year, leading to accusations that some low-income families face "fuel poverty."

The various feed-in tariffs across Canada have resulted in steady, if unspectacular, growth in renewable energy. Wind, the fastest-growing renewable, supplies about 5% of Canada's electricity demand, putting the country seventh in the world for installed capacity. But that's small compared to Germany, where wind power supplies 9%. In the Netherlands, the figure in 2014 was 5.2%, but the Dutch government has set an overall renewables goal of 14% by 2020. Gemini will play a big role in achieving that goal.

Northland's first plant was powered by biomass--forestry waste--in Cochrane, Ontario. It acquired its first wind operation in 2004. Today, the company operates 23 solar, thermal and wind plants in Canada, a few of which are partly owned by First Nations communities, as well as two onshore wind farms in Germany (Gemini and Nordsee One are not counted in the tally because they will not enter commercial service until next year). Virtually all the projects went smoothly. The standout duds were four solar projects in Northern Ontario that collectively went about $100 million over budget--no pittance for a company of Northland's size. Brace blames the contractor for the overrun.

Northland's greatest skill is its ability to raise long-term debt to finance its projects. The company was a pioneer in "project" financing, meaning the lenders--banks, life insurers, bondholders--have no recourse with the company itself if the project they back defaults and goes bankrupt. Northland is carrying about $5 billion in debt but the vast majority of that amount has been pushed down to the projects themselves, whose capital structures typically carry as much as 80% debt. None of Northland's projects has ever defaulted.

Northland has recruited some of the biggest names in Canadian and global finance to get its projects built. The lenders take comfort in the fixed-tariff regimes on the projects--typically set for 15 or 25 years--and the generally high credit ratings of the utilities buying the electricity. The non-recourse financing for the Nordsee One project, arranged a year ago, was oversubscribed and included 10 lenders. Among the participants: Bank of Montreal, Export Development Canada, National Bank of Canada, Commerzbank of Germany, Rabobank of the Netherlands and Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi.

Balan, Northland's European man, says the mismatch in size between Northland and Gemini scared some potential European investors. "I had one of the funnier exchanges with a banker we had initially approached for Gemini financing," he says. "He said 'no.' I saw him after we closed the financing and he said: 'I couldn't believe you did it. That was great. I feel so bad we didn't take up the opportunity to join the syndicate.'"

All that said, Northland's perennial challenge is finding enough money to keep its fat dividend intact--the company pitches itself to investors as a yield play--when spending on projects is relatively high and cash flow is relatively low because those projects have yet to produce revenue.

Northland's annual dividend is $1.08 a share, for a yield of 5%, based on the recent share price. In the three years ending Dec. 31, 2015, Northland paid out about 100% of its free cash flow on cash dividends. When the payout ratio is above 100%, credit lines can be used to finance the deficit. (Northland says it has had to dip into its credit lines twice in the last five years, but not to cover the dividend, and for only one fiscal quarter each time.) The payout ratio for 2016 works out to between 100% and 116% because Northland is investing so heavily in Gemini and Nordsee One.

Some analyst shave said that Northland understates its payout ratio by using a distorted and aggressive definition of free cash flow, and that the real payout ratio might be 200% or higher under a conservative definition of the metric. The company, for instance, excludes from its tab any capital spending designated for growth purposes. "Northland is currently in the midst of a major transition and has stretched its balance sheet and cash flow payouts in an attempt to have the best of both worlds," Accountability Research analysts Michael Ruggirello and Mark Rosen said in an October, 2014, report.

But investors don't seem overly concerned whether the payout ratio is north or south of 100%. The shares are up about 20% in the last 12 months, handily outpacing both the S&P/TSX composite and utilities indices. And Northland is one of the few independent North American power producers to retain its investment-grade rating from Standard & Poor's.

For Northland, the bigger issue is finding projects that can sustain its growth. The company had a good run in Canada but found itself running out of options, partly because of deindustrialization, which reduced the need for new power sources, partly because fossil fuel energy is cheap by global standards, and partly because government has been unwilling to open the subsidy taps as wide as the Europeans have. (The European Union, along with Japan, challenged Ontario's Green Energy Act in 2010. They won a repeal of Ontario's domestic-content requirements for the feed-in tariffs, but the tariffs stayed in place.)

Growth of offshore wind power in Canada is exceedingly slow; in the Great Lakes, it is dead (see "Four Strong Winds," previous page). "There is not much need for new power in Canada," Brace declares. "As Canada declines, we've been looking elsewhere."

Yet Northland's leap into the top rank of the European scene was almost accidental. Northland had no strategy to lunge into the European market; it did so opportunistically after it learned about development turmoil at Gemini.

The EU in general and northern Europe in particular have been at the epicentre of the renewable energy industry. An EU directive set the goal of obtaining 20% of all energy from renewables by 2020, and Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Scandinavia, Spain and Italy have thrown fortunes of taxpayers' money into energy subsidies.

With farmers' fields and barn roofs across Europe getting cluttered with turbines and solar panels, offshore wind--out of sight and out of mind--is becoming the hot growth area.

The initial subsidies for all types of renewable power were lavish; some are only slightly less so now, much to the anger of traditional power giants, like Germany's RWE and E.ON, whose margins on coal- and gas-fired generating plants are getting squeezed by the renewable energy onslaught. (Like Denmark's DONG, however, those companies also have moved into renewables themselves. The Thames Array has four owners: E.ON, DONG, a third sooty hedger from Abu Dhabi, and Quebec's top pension fund, the Caisse.)

The contract for Nordsee One, which will have a capacity of 332 megawatts, is a sweetie (one megawatt is one million watts, or enough to power about 300 homes).

Northland will sell its power into Germany's grid at the spot price, currently about €25 per megawatt hour. The spot price reflects the wholesale price from the blended sources of electricity--coal, gas, renewables and nuclear--available on the grid at any point in time. (By one calculation, Germany's power is about 50% fossil fuel, a bit more than 30% renewable and 14% nuclear, with the remainder coming from other sources.)

The German government will catapult that figure to the contract price of €194 per megawatt hour for the first eight years. For the next 1.6 years, the top-up price falls to €154 per megawatt hour. So, assuming rates don't change substantially, Northland will be receiving more than 500% of the spot market price for the electricity it produces. Generally speaking, electricity produced by German offshore wind farms is the second most expensive source of power, after biogas, and about three times more expensive than coal-fired generation.

Gemini has a convoluted history. In 2010, the project was awarded to a company controlled by Russian-German energy tycoon Arngolt Bekker. He then flipped the project to a Dutch company called Typhoon Offshore, which, according to Brace, lacked the offshore wind experience to persuade the banks to back the monster project.

Three years ago, Northland heard about Gemini, did its homework, and realized that it ticked all the boxes--from the secure power contract to the big-name equipment suppliers--and pounced. Northland took Typhoon's 60% of Gemini. Siemens came in for 20%. Van Oord and HVC, the supplier of power to Dutch municipalities, each took 10%.

Northland's edge was speed and the knowledge that the big German utilities would be incapable of mounting credible bids in a hurry as they struggled to meet new environmental standards while competing with the renewable surge. The Canadian company also had the ability to raise a lot of debt from its banking squad. "It doesn't surprise me that a company like Northland got [the Gemini and Nordsee One] projects," says Jens Eckhoff, president of the German offshore wind foundation and a former state of Bremen senator. "Northland was very fast stepping into the market, much faster than the big utilities. We like companies like Northland. They will get more important here."

Pieter van Oord is not convinced the offshore wind game is a breeze, so to speak. He notes that plummeting prices for fossil fuels used in electricity generation will ensure that the old, belching coal and gas plants in northern Europe won't die any time soon. Coal-fired electricity generation in Germany, he notes, is unlikely to go gently into the night, since the country has to get juice from someplace as it phases out its nuclear plants. "Coal and gas are cheap," he says. "Wind relies on subsidies and that makes the wind industry vulnerable. The challenge is to get the generation price [of wind power] down. In Holland, we want to bring down the costs for new projects by 40% in the next six to seven years."

Brace doesn't seem perturbed by the idea that subsidies will one day disappear. He says that the financial plans for Gemini and Nordsee One made that assumption. "For Northland's projects, the project debt is fully repaid during the term of the legislated tariff."

The elimination of the projects' debt will reduce costs substantially, he says. When the subsidies get crunched--they may not be entirely eliminated--the projects will sell electricity into the grid at market rates and perhaps profit from selling carbon credits on the carbon market.

Northland is so confident that it's already plotting Nordsee Two and Nordsee Three, which would add as much as 800 megawatts to Nordsee One's 332.

That would make Northland one of the biggest players in the North Sea wind industry. "Coming to the North Sea? A few years ago, that wasn't even on our radar," Brace says. "If you look at history, we have grown at a compounded 10% total shareholder return over 10 years. So our ambition is to deliver that or better over the next 10 years. Thanks to the North Sea, we'll be more than two times larger than we are now."

That's what you call punching above your weight.

Associated Graphic

Marine contractor Van Oord installs Northland Power's Gemini wind farm off the European coast near the GermanDutch border

Northland Power CEO John Brace: "Wow! We actually built this"

Everything about offshore wind is physically big, and getting bigger: Blades can stretch to lengths of 75 metres

To see a video of the Gemini installation in progress, go to

Banking's next big battle
Saturday, April 23, 2016 – Print Edition, Page B6

When Tom Camps sold his Ottawa-based WiFi software and services company in 2014 after a successful 12-year run, he decided to take six months off to recharge. His downtime didn't last six days.

His teenage son returned to his awaiting car after making a small purchase at a fast-food outlet and declared: "Dad, I hate change."

And just like that, Mr. Camps's next venture, ChangeJar, began.

Instead of taking your change in the form of cumbersome coins, you can use the company's app to have it uploaded to your smartphone, where you can tip, donate to a cause or save it for another purchase.

"I'm being somewhat contrarian because I'm trying to reinvigorate cash payments," Mr. Camps says.

With $500,000 in seed money, three full-time developers and a May launch that will be limited initially to a neighbourhood in Ottawa, ChangeJar may look more like a curiosity than a threat to the banks.

But it is part of a massive wave of new companies - lumped together as financial-technology firms, or fintech - that are making banking simpler, faster and cheaper. As these upstarts gain momentum and grow by the thousands, often staffed by experienced ex-bankers and financed by deep-pocketed venture-capital firms, financial behemoths are growing nervous.

These innovative forces threaten to nibble away at the banks' core franchises or carve out new markets that are particularly appealing to millennials - even if it is a handful of coins at a time.

Global consultancy McKinsey & Co. estimates that banks could lose up to 60 per cent of their retail profits within the next decade as new competitors either take market share or force incumbents to lower their fees.

Still, major hurdles remain for the small players. The fight for consumer attention in an increasingly crowded space won't be easy. And wooing customers away from massive institutions - and the marketing budgets they possess - comes at a significant cost.

But on top of the challenges posed by small startups is a deeper, longer-term threat: Some of the largest companies in the world - firms with histories of disrupting industries - have designs on breaking into financial services.

"We are on a collision course with the Googles and the Apples of the world," Royal Bank of Canada chief executive officer Dave McKay said last year.

In response, banks are desperately trying to reinvent themselves to hold back the onslaught and maintain their relevance with a younger generation. The shift comes as Canada's largest lenders grapple with slowing growth. The domestic economy is weak and consumers have little room for additional debt, leaving analysts expecting profit growth of just 1 per cent to 2 per cent for the big banks in 2016 - a significant drop from a reported average annual profit growth of 9.5 per cent between 2004 and 2014.

Faced with these headwinds, the banks are slashing staff in traditional areas of banking that are being overtaken by online services. Last year, Toronto-Dominion Bank cut its payroll count by 1,600 people and Bank of Nova Scotia is now embarking upon a widespread cull as it responds to what it calls "changing customer preferences."

At the same time, though, banks are devoting tremendous resources to expanding their technology-driven operations, hiring experienced executives and tech-savvy workers, and turning a ponderous, bureaucratic corporate culture into something that can react quickly to new ideas. The environment has fostered an arms race for both tech and talent that spans the globe. Canada's banks are keeping close tabs on a slew of startups emanating from technology centres from Silicon Valley to London, Berlin, Singapore and Hong Kong. In Canada, Toronto, Waterloo, Ont., Ottawa and Vancouver have built major centres of financial innovation.

The banks are buying in. Scotiabank's tech investment has doubled to $2.4-billion in recent years, implying that the Big Five collectively could have technology budgets exceeding $10-billion.

The fintech threat

"Silicon Valley is coming," Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co., said in a particularly ominous letter to shareholders last year.

Tech giants such as Apple Inc. and Google Inc. are wading into financial services with apps that allow consumers to make payments from their smartphones, bypassing the need to produce a credit card at a merchant terminal. They scoop up fees and insert themselves between the banks and their customers, threatening to turn the banks into so-called dumb pipes that simply transfer money and suffer diminished brand value.

Apple Pay began in the United States and has since expanded into Britain, Australia and China.

In Canada, its presence is initially limited to American Express cardholders after Apple failed to strike a deal with the big banks last year.

But smartphone payments won't remain a novelty among consumers for long: Juniper Research expects global users will rise to 148 million at the end of this year. Companies such as Square and PayPal are also revolutionizing the way we pay.

But in his warning, Mr. Dimon - arguably one of the shrewdest bankers on Wall Street - was also alerting the financial industry to the smaller, harder-to-see threats that are starting to emerge in force with equally innovative approaches.

Michael Katchen was living in California in his mid-20s and contemplating his next project after selling a startup. His friends, also young, handed it to him: They had some savings that they didn't want to entrust to pricey professional money managers, so Mr. Katchen, who had been investing since he was 12, helped them out.

He constructed simple portfolios based on exchange-traded funds (ETFs), which resemble index mutual funds but trade like stocks and cost significantly less.

Now 28 and based in his hometown of Toronto, he is doing the same thing but on a larger scale.

He sits atop one of Canada's most successful fintech companies, Wealthsimple Inc., and those friends have expanded to a roster of 15,000 Canadian clients with combined assets of $500-million - not bad for a company that is just 19 months old. Perhaps more impressive, assets are growing by 20 per cent each month.

The appeal is simplicity and cost. Wealthsimple is an automated investing service, or "robo-adviser," where customers can sign up online in about 10 minutes. An algorithm then assesses their risk tolerance and objectives, and slots their savings into a mix of ETFs. The fee is typically less than half a percentage point - or $228 a year for an account of $50,000 - which is a fraction of what investors would pay for a human adviser to pick stocks and mutual funds, and there is no account minimum.

The business model, Mr. Katchen believes, is especially attractive to younger professionals. "If you don't have a lot of money, you really can't get much out of the banks," he says.

As he sees it, the banks will have a tough time emulating him because they are in a bind: They can't afford to alienate older clients - or their own advisers and mutual-fund salespeople, for that matter - who are used to paying hefty fees for investment advice.

"That internal conflict makes it really hard for them to build new models that put the client first," Mr. Katchen says. Power Financial Corp. was so impressed, it backed Wealthsimple to the tune of $30-million.

The success of the company illustrates how quickly new approaches to finance can take root, especially among younger consumers who often gravitate toward alternative brands that build trust with engaging websites and transparent business models.

Fintech has found traction in other areas of finance besides wealth management.

Shrad Rao, CEO of Wagepoint, a payroll-services company, says businesses can sign up for his online software, giving them access to direct deposit functions and payroll calculations, in fewer than 20 minutes. That is considerably faster than the older companies he seeks to replace.

"They're too big to be fast," Mr. Rao says.

Small-business lenders such as Lendified, Grow Financial and FundThrough are finding a market by offering hassle-free online applications and quick access to funds, using sophisticated algorithms to ferret out fraud.

All three firms were founded by ex-bankers, giving them added heft. And although they're targeting areas of the market underserved by the banks - generally small, short-term loans - it is not hard to see a clash ahead as they expand with quick, low-cost services, unburdened by the banks' legacy issues of costly branches and large payrolls.

"They're not built to do this," says Kevin Clark, Lendified's president, who spent three decades at Scotiabank.

For Canada's big banks, which made a collective $35-billion in profit in 2015 and have outstanding loans totalling more than $2.2-trillion, fintech upstarts may look like trivial annoyances right now - except that there are thousands of them and they are continually seeking ways to drive down costs, improve online experiences and take market share one thin slice at a time.

"We think that if the banks start creating what we've already built, we would be 10 steps ahead by the time they completed it," says Sean O'Connor, a vice-president at Vancouver-based Grow Financial. "We're a moving target."

Remarkably, though, fintech is only just getting started. Citigroup analysts estimate that new competitors have grabbed just 1 per cent of revenue from North American banks so far.

But observers expect fintech will gain prominence - and fast.

The same Citigroup analysts estimate that competitors will own a 10-per-cent slice of bank revenue by 2020, rising to 17 per cent by 2023 - raising the question of whether banking will eventually fall into the same category as disrupted businesses such as CD sales and DVD rentals.

Consumer lending and investing could be particularly vulnerable as smartphones change the way we interact with financial institutions - at a time when the banks have already seen consumer-loan growth slip to the lowsingle digits from double digits a decade ago.

The upheaval can already be seen in bank payrolls: Layoffs are frequent as CEOs shift financial resources from traditional branch banking to automated services as consumers move online. While branch numbers are relatively stable in Canada so far, they're being slashed in Europe.

Making matters worse, the new competitors are increasingly well funded thanks to interest from venture-capital firms. According to CB Insights, global investments flowing into fintech firms approached $14-billion (U.S.) in 2015, more than double the influx in the previous year.

When OMERS Ventures - an arm of the $77-billion (Canadian) Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System - announced a new fund last year, it singled out its interest in fintech with a Canadian map showing startups in various cities.

"That was our way of saying, 'If you're out there and you're not on our list, you should give us a call because we'd love to hear what you're up to,' " says Jim Orlando, managing director of OMERS Ventures.

Some fintech players have an advantage for a simple reason: lower lending costs.

Lending Club, a so-called peerto-peer online lender that connects investors with borrowers, originated nearly $8.4-billion (U.S.) in loans in 2015, up more than 90 per cent from the previous year. One of its advantages is the cost of doing business.

According to Goldman Sachs, a typical bank incurs costs of 5.3 per cent of average loans, while Lending Club's costs are just 1.7 per cent.

Mint, a financial "aggregator" that allows customers to track accounts across various financial institutions and set budgets - in the process, pushing bank brands to the sidelines - has more than 20 million registered users in the United States and Canada. Intuit Inc. bought the company in 2009 for $170-million.

Mint's 20 million users represent a key victory in the largest uphill battle facing most upstarts.

Growing a customer base is no easy feat - and it's expensive.

With vast marketing budgets and brand recognition built over decades, the banks have a considerable advantage in this area.

"The success of fintech firms will be dependent on minimizing their customer acquisition costs," says Adam Felesky, former CEO of Horizons ETF Management (Canada) Inc. Mr. Felesky has a frontrow view of this challenge as an investor in Koho - a mobile application that allows customers to conduct day-to-day financial transactions such as direct deposits, purchases, ATM withdrawals, bill payments and electronic money transfers.

"Koho has a simple and attractive financial product, which we believe will be sought out. The company is at the front lines of building the future financial ecosystem as this customer base can then be offered other solutions - whether in-house or through other fintech partnerships," he says.

The banks strike back

On an afternoon earlier this year at the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto - a base and mentorship centre to small companies - about a dozen young designers and developers have assembled in a large room that is plastered with whiteboards and multicoloured sticky notes. There is a nearby foosball table and Xbox gaming console. The dress code: Whatever goes.

The team is taking a break to show a visitor the progress they have made on a project designed to allow online consumers to apply for mortgages, file paperwork and sign documents, without setting foot in a bank branch.

They have been working fast, with a deadline measured in months.

If this sounds like a startup that is propelled by a desire to disrupt traditional banking, check the sign outside: This is Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. It expects to launch the mortgage app later this year, followed by enhancements as they gain customer feedback - a development approach lifted from technology companies.

"We started off with a concept or idea of how we can re-envision the mortgage process, because it can be very clunky for a home buyer," says Greg Elcich, director of digital strategy and innovation at CIBC. "No one has really nailed it digitally."

It's too soon to know whether CIBC has nailed it. But the urgency behind by the development of the app certainly suggests banks are serious about finding new ways to serve their customers before competitors do it for them.

To do that, they are remaking their work forces. Their ranks are being beefed up with experienced technology executives who occupy key management positions near the top of the hierarchy.

RBC's group head of technology and operations is Bruce Ross, who was previously a general manager at International Business Machines. Similarly, Scotiabank's co-head of information technology is Michael Zerbs, formerly the president of Algorithmics, a risk-management software company that was bought by IBM.

Lower down the hierarchy, banks are scrambling to hire computer scientists, engineers, data scientists, designers and anyone else who can offer a fresh approach to a 150-year-old institution.

The demand is provoking a talent war as banks jostle not only with each other, but also envoys from Silicon Valley and the entrepreneurial pull of startups.

To attract new hires, banks are donating hefty sums to universities, ripping up conservative dress codes and, in some cases, finding new buildings to keep the innovators away from the suits.

They are also luring bright young students for months-long work terms with the promise that they can develop ideas that will be embraced by millions of clients.

TD Bank hired Naima Khan, a third-year computer engineering student at the University of Waterloo, for two co-op terms at its TD Labs, an innovation team located within Kitchener-Waterloo's Communitech hub. She has a third term with TD lined up this summer.

"We keep it as much like a startup environment as possible," Ms. Khan, 20, explains. "We pitch ideas every two months to the innovation council. If the bank likes it, that's when the money is put toward bringing the idea to market."

At TD, Ms. Khan helped develop an app called Family Allowance, which teaches children how to save. The app is now available in a test phase.

The banks can point to significantly larger examples of innovations that suggest they understand the need to evolve.

User-friendly mobile banking apps allow consumers to make transactions whenever they want.

RBC, CIBC and TD have created their own payment apps for Android phones. Scotiabank is touting Tangerine, its branchless "digital" bank, as its own disruptor.

Earlier this year, Bank of Montreal launched its own robo-adviser called SmartFolio, which draws on the bank's own suite of low-cost ETFs.

"We recognized that wealth management was undergoing significant change and people are more comfortable than ever using digital tools," says Joanna Rotenberg, BMO's head of personal-wealth management.

In April, TD launched MySpend, a mobile app developed with Movencorp Inc. that tracks your spending and helps with budgeting. The bank is considering allowing consumers to pull in information from non-TD accounts and credit cards, in what looks like a shot at financial aggregators.

"It started with assessing the competitive landscape, but very quickly the objective became to play a significant role in financial literacy," says Rizwan Khalfan, TD's chief digital officer.

Further out, the big banks are exploring the use of blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrency bitcoin, which promises to make transactions faster, cheaper and safer. The Big Five have joined R3, a global consortium of 42 financial companies devoted to the research and development of the technology.

But despite their pursuit of innovation, the banks also believe that their foundation - their history and their millions of clients and reams of data - offers them a key competitive advantage.

"I call it the gold of RBC," says Mr. Ross, the bank's top technology executive. "The gold is how we manage that information and those relationships."

When the dust settles

For all the concern about rising competition, the big banks are doing a lot to encourage it.

In March, Scotiabank gave $3-million (Canadian) to the University of Western Ontario to fund a digital banking lab. In April, RBC committed $3-million to an innovation hub at the University of Toronto, called ONRamp, which will support entrepreneurs. CIBC has a commitment to MaRS, TD has a big presence at Communitech and BMO just announced a partnership with Ryerson University's DMZ to provide support for startups.

"It gives us direct access to young technology companies with a focus on financial services and it gives them access to us," says Cam Fowler, BMO's group head of Canadian personal and commercial banking. "Maybe we're helping the competitors that may disrupt us, but my strong view is that we're better together."

Despite their bluster about disruption, many fintech companies agree. Thinking Capital, an online small-business lender based in Montreal, has struck a partnership with CIBC. Grow Financial is offering its online services through Saskatchewan's Conexus Credit Union.

Even Mr. Katchen of Wealthsimple agrees that talking is better than fighting.

"I think the banks have the attitude, 'if any of these startups become a threat, we'll either copy them or buy them,' " he says.

"But I think they'll realize that procurement and partnerships can be a path to innovation."

In the meantime, expect a lot of awkward moments as collaborations are celebrated and competition is fought.

Some bank CEOs are complaining out loud that the playing field is not level, arguing that many fintech firms enjoy the advantages of operating beyond the gaze of regulators.

Sometimes, the banks' actions go beyond complaining. Last month, Scotiabank clients who used Mint suddenly discovered that the financial service had been disconnected.

The bank explained to its clients: "We regret to inform you that Scotiabank does not provide support for the operation of third-party software."

Associated Graphic

Michael Katchen is founder and chief executive of Wealthsimple, a robo-adviser service that has 15,000 Canadian clients with combined assets of $500-million.



Naima Khan visits with the current group of University of Waterloo co-op students working at the TD Lab inside Communitech in Kitchener, Ont., on Thursday. She's helped develop TD's Family Allowance app.


Human trafficking: Why indigenous women are so vulnerable to sexual exploitation
Half of all victims are aboriginal, often girls barely in their teens, Tavia Grant reports, and so far Ottawa has no effective response
Saturday, February 13, 2016 – Print Edition, Page F1

MISSING AND MURDERED Searching for the lost

This story is part of an ongoing Globe and Mail investigation into the hundreds of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada.

Natalie just wanted to belong. Her home life was troubled - parents who drank too much, an abusive boyfriend and a sense she didn't fit in. So, although just 14, she moved in with members of a street gang.

They were her family, her protectors, at least in the beginning.

She began to sell crack for them.

Then she started using as well, which cost money that she didn't have.

And there was only one way to pay the debt: sell herself. Along with crack, they trafficked her.

Now living in Winnipeg, Natalie has escaped the gang, but asks that her name be changed; she lives in fear of reprisals.

She was in "the life" until she was 18; at 25, she still looks young. And nervous, occasionally twisting her hair as she explains her story to a reporter for the first time.

To most Canadians, human trafficking evokes images of women smuggled from far-off lands. In reality, it needn't involve physically moving anyone anywhere: The legal definition is recruiting, harbouring, transporting or controlling the movement of a person for the purpose of exploitation, and it overwhelmingly takes place within Canada's borders.

And while it is an age-old practice, it is also a relatively new crime: legislation was introduced only in 2005.

Of the 330 cases the RCMP has identified since then, 311 - 94 per cent - are domestic. As of last August, charges under the act have led to just 34 convictions for human trafficking.

Trafficking is also a form of exploitation in which indigenous women and girls are vastly overrepresented. Aboriginal people make up just 4 per cent of the population, but a 2014 study found they account for about half of trafficking victims.

Natalie, like every survivor The Globe and Mail encountered during a three-month investigation - which included more than 60 interviews with trafficked women, their families, researchers, police, advocates and front-line service providers here and in the U.S. - firmly believes that she nearly wound up among the more than 1,200 aboriginal women who have gone missing or been murdered in Canada since 1980.

In 2012, Stephen Harper's Conservative government unveiled a four-year action plan designed to prevent human trafficking, prosecute perpetrators and aid victims. The $25-million budget set aside for the plan was drawn from existing departmental budgets; Public Safety Canada, responsible for co-ordinating the federal response, could not provide The Globe breakdown of how it was allocated. But the Globe has found that more than 90 per cent of what has been spent appears to have gone to law enforcement and to addressing international trafficking. Less than 10 per cent - up to $500,000 a year administered by the Justice Department - has been devoted to victim support.

In a scathing report last March, a United Nations committee declared that the overrepresentation of indigenous women puts them at a "disproportionately high risk for disappearance and murder," calling Canada's efforts to reduce that risk "insufficient."

There is "no question Canada lags well behind other nations on this extreme human-rights abuse," says Barbara Gosse, who was senior research director for a 2014 national task force on the issue sponsored by the Canadian Women's Foundation.

Sweden, she notes, spends on average $1.27 per person a year on ending human trafficking.

Canada's commitment? About 19 cents.

Although the federal action plan expires next month; the new Liberal government has yet say whether it will make the battle against trafficking a priority. Public Safety Canada, now led by veteran minister Ralph Goodale, declined an interview request and said it is still determining its "next steps."

The issue, however, has already surfaced in consultations to prepare for a national inquiry into the missing or murdered indigenous women. The majority of those women - 88 per cent, according to the RCMP - were not involved in the sex trade, but Dawn Lavell-Harvard, president of the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC), says human trafficking "can't help but become part of the inquiry."

Anyone being sexually exploited faces a much higher risk of social isolation and, she says, is "much more likely ... to experience extreme violence."

As Natalie puts it: "Guys are getting away with it ... because they're thinking no one cares about these aboriginal girls - no one's going to do anything about it anyway."

Tragic inheritance

Unlike the United States, Canada has neither a broad national co-ordinating body on the issue, nor any detailed annual report on trafficking.

Also, there has been no central data-collection mechanism, and the information that is gathered rarely includes the victim's ethnicity (partly for privacy).

Based on unofficial police estimates, in Toronto, where less than 1 per cent of the population is aboriginal, about 20 per cent of trafficking victims from the past two years are indigenous.

In Vancouver, Canada's first high-security safe house for trafficking victims says 45 per cent of its residents are aboriginal, as are 40 per cent of the survivors seen by Edmonton's Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation (CEASE) and a remarkable 70 per cent of those in Winnipeg's street sex trade, according to the Transition, Education and Resources for Females program.

For indigenous women, trafficking is part of a continuum of violence that has deep roots.

Many factors increase their vulnerability. Studies have shown that most trafficking victims have already been abused, and that many have spent time in care. Indigenous girls and women are far more likely to have experienced both.

Other contributing elements include the intergenerational trauma that resulted from the residential-school system, systemic racism, and grinding poverty, along with poor housing, limited educational opportunities, high rates of violence more broadly, and a lack of culturally relevant support services.

Eight of the nine sex-trafficking survivors who spoke to The Globe were abused as children.

Six spent time in group homes or foster care.

Seven have parents or close relatives who went through residential schools; the remaining two couldn't say for sure.

Beatrice Wallace-Littlechief grew up with several of these risk factors. Her mother and grandparents went to residential schools; she was placed in foster care when very young, then adopted at 5 into a white middleclass home in Regina.

Pain still evident in her voice, Ms. Wallace-Littlechief says she suffered "all kinds of abuse," was called "a dirty squaw" and "an ugly Indian" - both in her adoptive home and at school. Shame set in.

Tired of being beaten, she fought back and, for doing so, was sent to a group home when she was about 13. Several weeks later, she and another girl ran away, and wound up in a house with two men who "saw fresh meat." She was introduced to injection drugs, and raped. "They were prepping me for the streets," she says.

Found by authorities, she was returned to a group home, only to run away again and fall into the hands of pimps. She was beaten and forced to work the streets.

At 43, Ms. Wallace-Littlechief still bears the marks of what she went through. "I have scars on both my eyes, from being punched shut. My nose has been broken twice. My mouth is scarred up, inside and out. My nose was ripped off, and took seven stitches to close. I was stabbed and I have a scar on my hand from a different knife incident."

But one mark isn't visible: "The very first time is ingrained in my head. It's as if someone took all my dignity... Right then, I realized I was nothing."

Dawn Lavell-Harvard of the Native Women's Association of Canada calls foster care "a direct connection" to sexual exploitation. And 48 per cent of all kids under 14 in care are aboriginal.

"The fact that we have more kids in the care system now than at the height of the residentialschool system shows just how many of our young people are at risk," she says.

Bridget Perrier was 12 and living in a group home in Thunder Bay, Ont., when another girl convinced her to run away - into the "nightmare."

More than 25 years later, she vividly recalls turning her first trick: masturbating an old man who so preferred young girls that he'd spend an extra $400 "for the newbie experience." It was January; she was cold, broke and alone, with few options.

Before long, a madam put her to work, arranging stints in Halifax, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Toronto. By 14, she'd been recruited by a "kiddy pimp."

All the girls she worked with, she says, had a history of sexual abuse, and neglect. Many were in care - "kids that no one wanted" - and many, like her, were indigenous.

The pimp coerced the girls into staying, threatening to send explicit videotapes to their parents, or beating them, in some instances using a "pimp stick" (an untwisted, heated coat hanger).

On one occasion, when she and a group of girls spent several days servicing the crew aboard a freighter on Lake Superior, they were warned that anyone who acted out would be thrown over the side.

The making of a target

On the reserve or off, indigenous girls are more likely to receive inadequate social support. For example, infrequent or costly bus service to remote communities leaves some with little choice but to hitchhike for school, services, social visits or shopping, putting them alone, and vulnerable, with adult strangers.

Another major factor is limited access to education. Because many remote communities don't have high schools, indigenous students often have to leave home when barely in their teens.

"They are young and impressionable and homesick. They don't get to go home at the end of the day or on weekends," says Michele Anderson, a specialist in human trafficking at Torontobased Covenant House, the largest agency for homeless youth in Canada. "For many, they are being exposed to places like malls for the first time."

This can make them easy targets for traffickers, Ms. Anderson says. "It's easy for them to sell the dream, offering them ... the great, bright lights in the city."

The sales pitch can begin right at the bus depot: "They wait in the stations as the girls come in from North Bay or Sault Ste. Marie or Thunder Bay."

Because traffickers follow the money, Alberta has been a favoured destination in recent years, with Calgary and Edmonton long-time hot spots. Secondary routes lead to resource towns, where young men with cash in hand are far from home.

But central Canada is home to the greatest number of documented occurences. Of the 90 cases of human trafficking that had gone through the courts by August, more than 90 per cent were from Ontario and Quebec.

It's unclear exactly how indicative these numbers are: Enforcement varies across the country, as does data collection. It's not like "traffickers have a road map," says Detective Sergeant Thai Truong, who oversees vice and human trafficking in York Region, north of Toronto. They follow the demand.

A new kind of care

Away from the bustle, noise and bright lights of the emergency ward at Surrey Memorial Hospital, there is a room with soft yellow walls, plants and a painting of beach grass. Access is controlled, so it's secure; it feels like a quiet sanctuary.

This is where patients who arrive at the hospital showing signs that they may be trafficked are brought for care.

It's a new approach: As well as caring for victims, nurses have been trained to collect forensic evidence and taught how to give testimony in court.

The list of what they see is lengthy: evidence of sexual violence, burns, bite marks and bruises, tattoos used as branding, sexually transmitted infections, miscarriages, unwanted pregnancies, pneumonia, overdoses, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal tendencies, anxiety, addiction.

They've also witnessed how traffickers track girls by their cellphones and, at least in one case, a GPS-equipped ankle bracelet.

When they leave the B.C. hospital, patients are provided with support, but Tara Wilkie of the Surrey Memorial forensic team says the after-effects of trafficking can be lifelong.

Bridget Perrier is living proof.

As she sits on the couch of her Toronto home, phone buzzing, two dogs scampering around, pictures of her children on the wall, her old life is deceptively distant.

Yet, she says, a decade of sexual exploitation "damaged me to a point where ... I have panic attacks. I have PTSD. I can't have a baby naturally because my cervix is just shot. I sleep with the lights on. I'm hypervigilant."

And there are flashbacks.

"Sometimes a smell will set me off, gagging." Pine-Sol, used to disinfect the rooms, "triggers it."

As do "certain male colognes, certain deodorants."

Also damaged: her relationships with others. Because her clientele was overwhelmingly white, even today, she says, "I can't be on an elevator with a Caucasian man."

The psychological fallout from trafficking can be widespread.

"We see a lot of very subservient behaviour," says Larissa Maxwell, manager of anti-trafficking programs at Deborah's Gate in Vancouver, the first high-security sanctuary for survivors in the country.

She says residents ask permission to do the simplest things, such as going to the bathroom or just sitting down.

Improvements, and gaps, in law enforcement

Last March, police in Toronto called a news conference to announce charges against two men and a woman for trafficking a 14-year-old girl at a local Marriott hotel. A second girl, 16, had come forward, and investigators suspected there might be more.

After the police had finished speaking, Dawn Lavell-Harvard of NWAC took the podium: Invited because it was believed the victims may be aboriginal, and too scared to come forward, she pulled no punches: "We have many remote First Nations where the only way in is with an airplane - we don't have roads in our communities. In many homes, we have no hydro, no water, no schools in some of our communities - and somehow, we have recruiters ... taking our girls right out from under our noses." Her emotional appearance marked a sea change in law enforcement, as some branches forge partnerships with social agencies and nonprofit groups, taking a new view of victims and becoming more proactive in the fight against traffickers. Investigators have even combed through personal ads, such as those on, a U.S.based website whose listings are so associated with sex trafficking that major credit cards have stopped working with it. When girls look underage or coerced, police posing as clients send a text, then show up at their doors, removing those who are under 18 and offering assistance to those who are not.

Yet victims are still afraid to come forward: Many have been conditioned to mistrust the police, or have had bad experiences with them. Also, cases drag on, and can take a year, if not two, to reach court.

Lack of information is also a handicap, although a new national co-ordination centre is to officially open this spring. Its goal is to expand a national hotline for people being trafficked and exploited, and to let the public report suspected trafficking situations.

Thanks to donors the centre has enough operating funds for its first two years; it has no government financing.

Fighting back

Alaya McIvor, 32, is Ojibway, lives in Winnipeg and has grappled with a triple stigma as a trans woman who is aboriginal and working the streets.

She does not describe herself as a victim, but as a survivor - of poverty, child abuse, sexual exploitation, trafficking in Manitoba and B.C., rapes, beatings and police brutality.

She was 12, and had been taken into care, when she was given two options: stay in a northern Manitoba community where she didn't feel safe, or relocate to Winnipeg. She chose the latter, and says she was put on a Greyhound, alone with a one-way ticket and no one waiting at the other end.

When she arrived, she soon fell into the wrong hands.

Over the years, she says, she has "lost count" of friends and relatives who have gone missing or been murdered.

In 2013, she walked across thecountry from Nova Scotia to B.C. to raise awareness of the issue - something she now does as an advocate with a strong sense of what is most urgently needed: around-the-clock outreach services for those being exploited and trying to escape.

She is not alone in her activism: Ms. McIvor is one of the many survivors who have dedicated their lives to fighting human trafficking , even as they wrestle with the after-effects themselves.

"They're the PhDs in sexual exploitation - and they need to be listened to," says Yvonne Boyer, who co-wrote the 2014 report for Public Safety Canada and holds the Canada Research Chair in Aboriginal Health and Wellness at Brandon University.

She feels policy makers should do more to involve survivors and victims. The U.S. now has a council made up of survivors to advise on government policy.

Other strategies to combat trafficking focus on alleviating some of the pressure victims can face in the legal system.

Persuading a victim to testify "is terribly daunting," says Staff Sergeant James Clover, former head of the Edmonton Police Services vice section.

That's why the 2014 national task force recommended changing the Criminal Code so that the prosecutions rely more on what a perpetrator has actually done than on a victim's performance as a witness.

"It's almost unfair. Ultimately, what does she get out of it? She's more scared. She might not even be eligible for victim assistance because she [may have] a criminal record."

Postscript: 'We all deserve a chance'

Beatrice Wallace-Littlechief still has trouble sleeping. She spent about 15 years on and off the streets of Edmonton and Vancouver, hustling and selling drugs, turning tricks as a last resort.

She wound up addicted to drugs but got out (and cleaned up) more than a decade ago for the sake of her eight kids - she didn't want them to turn into "another generation of lost souls" - and now that the family is back together (her children had been taken by social services), she has opened up about her past life.

"This is my reality and the only reason I'm talking about it is because it has to stop."

And yet a smell, a face, a voice or even the weather can act as a trigger. "The memories are always coming back. It's gotten better. But it doesn't go away."

She works as a program coordinator at an AIDS organization and is on the advisory team of Defend Dignity, an anti-exploitation group.

But her dream is to open a ranch some day for girls who want to leave the trade - a safe place for them to recover and rebuild their lives under the open Prairie skies.

"I will never completely understand why I had to experience what I did ... We all deserve a chance at living life to the best of our ability."

Tavia Grant is a Globe and Mail reporter. With additional reporting by Kathryn Blaze Baum.

Associated Graphic

Alaya McIvor: At 12, she was put on a bus to Winnipeg alone - with a one-way ticket and no one waiting at the other end.

Bridget Perrier: She remembers her first trick vividly - an old man willing to spend an extra $400 'for the newbie experience.'

Beatrice Wallace-Littlechief: 'I have scars on both my eyes from being punched shut. My nose has been broken twice. My mouth is scarred up, inside and out ...'

In the havelis of Rajasthan, Dakshana Bascaramurty sleeps, eats and lounges like a royal
Saturday, February 13, 2016 – Print Edition, Page T1

NAGAUR, INDIA -- Iam standing at a precarious spot along the wall of the 12th-century Ahhichatragarh Fort in the north Indian state of Rajasthan, overlooking the pastel-painted city of Nagaur. As the sun sets, boys fly kites from rooftops, groups of teenagers in skinny jeans and flipflops ride scooters and women covering their heads in chunaris (georgette scarves) gather weathered pots to prepare desert beans, lentils and mutton for dinner.

I wave at one young woman who is standing on the concrete balcony of a house a few hundred metres away and she waves back so vigorously that her green dupatta (long scarf) slips off one shoulder. An older woman on the balcony - presumably her mother - scowls, yanks the young woman's hand down and leads her back inside the house. It's only then that I realize how I must look to all the people in the city below.

On my side of the fort's 1.8-kilometre-long sandstone wall is a compound built by an 18th-century maharaja, Bakht Singh of Marwar, that is currently owned by a present-day maharaja, Gaj Singh II of Jodhpur. My residence for two nights is Ranvas, a hotel composed of impeccably decorated havelis (mansions) that Bakht Singh erected for each of his 16 wives. It dawns on me in this moment that I've been here for 24 hours and still haven't left the compound. I haven't had a need to.

I have travelled to Rajasthan to explore the great Mughal architecture of the state: the finely detailed golden stone forts, the elegantly arched doors, the airy havelis. But I didn't just want to stand cheek-to-jowl with other Birkenstock-clad visitors, all jostling to take the same selfies in front of the same architectural treasures the guide books recommended. I wanted a taste of life inside.

It turned out that there was no shortage of accommodations that were marketing just that. Srinath Suras, a resident of Jaisalmer, the haveli capital of India, told me that many of the intricately carved sandstone balconies that protrude from the older homes in his neighbourhood were sold off long ago to hotels looking to add history to their façades. There are also fivestar joints that have used new tools but old materials to imitate the aesthetic of centuries-old forts and havelis. And then there are the true heritage properties, such as Ranvas, whose crumbling structures have been rehabilitated over the span of decades.

I was intrigued by them all and, for a week, I traversed the Thar Desert, trading in my thrifty-traveller identity to live like a modern-day maharani.

My first stop is Jodhpur, where my husband and I have been circling the same tangle of narrow, winding streets for so long that I am certain we have already passed the same pair of sari-clad grannies trading gossip on their stoop twice.

"I think we should just get something to eat and look for it later," I tell Anis, who is glancing down at Google Maps on his phone, trying to find RAAS, a haveli-turned-hotel. With the city's famous tangy cashew-filled samosas and so-thick-you-needa-spoon sweet yogurt lassi in our bellies (and, more important, the help of a tuk-tuk driver), we finally find the hotel. Although it is close to the two biggest tourist magnets in town - the clock tower and the Mehrangarh Fort - RAAS seems to pride itself on being hidden. It doesn't advertise to the domestic market and more than 90 per cent of its guests come from overseas.

While some of the havelis we have seen on the rest of the trip (such as Jaisalmer's famous Patwon ki Haveli) are saturated with colour and busy design - Indian rococo carvings, gilded door frames, muralled ceilings - this one is a study in restraint.

The clean pink sandstone structure is complemented by the same sky-coloured paint that covers most of the homes in "the blue city," allowing it to disappear into its surroundings.

Only the select few who get past the nondescript gate and the small floating plate-glass check-in desk get to glimpse the compound that a thakur (a noble, a sort of mini-maharaja) had built here in the late 1700s as a home away from his village.

At its core is the haveli where the thakur slept, a space now converted into an outpost of British spa chain Ila, as well as the hotel's three heritage suites.

The renovation has been dramatic, but there are still signs of the life of the original owner here. On the hottest Rajasthani summer days, a sheet of fabric was threaded through the large, round iron hooks that pierce the ceiling and a pair of servants would tug the fabric back and forth to create a Mughal-era fan to keep their master cool. The thakur's horse stable is now a posh lounge area with starched canvas seating and copies of Jodhpur Polo stacked on the coffee table.

While eating breakfast in the baradari, the white-washed pavilion once a site for entertaining but now used as a restaurant, we take in the pretourist-boom views of the mammoth Mehrangarh Fort that the thakur would have enjoyed. RAAS's architects cleverly designed the block of suites closest to the fort to be just tall enough to block out the sight of most other hotels, giving guests eating fresh fruit and Rajasthani eggs Benedict (made with turkey, since Muslims, who make up a significant portion of Jodhpur's population, abstain from pork) a clear view of the fort.

When we walk on to the balcony of our suite, we notice another layer of sophistication in RAAS's attempts to protect its guests from the visual clutter of other hotels and restaurants' signage. A latticed sandstone screen (a modern complement to the carved jalis on the original haveli) partly encloses the space.

When Anis figures out how to slide open the top half to open up the balcony, he exposes a couple sitting on the roof of one of the budget hotels across the way, boldly staring us down.

They are sunburnt and sipping pina coladas, probably recovering from the same sweatdrenched hike we took to the top of Mehrangarh Fort earlier that day. While I had used my trusted Indian head bob and my limited Hindi to ask for do tikat (two tickets) to save us some money on admission (in India, most tourist sites have one price for locals and a much higher one for foreigners), it didn't take long for us to shed the imposter syndrome and embrace our new, albeit temporary, life as royals.

After letting the couple gawk at us for a few seconds, Anis pulls the screen closed in one swift motion, blocking out a lot more than just the late-afternoon sun.

From Jodhpur, we make the drive nearly 300 kilometres west to Jaisalmer, near the Pakistan border. The landscape gradually shifts from fields to dunes, and the cows that block traffic as they meander across the road are joined by goats, pigs, sheep and peacocks.

As our white SUV pulls up to the gate of Suryagarh, the next hotel we are checking in to, a pair of men in matching orange and fuchsia turbans and pressed khaki uniforms stop us and lead us up the ramp to the hotel's entrance. They're each holding a flag that bears the hotel's name.

And they're riding camels.

I am skeptical that, at any point in history, high-ranking mughals were offered camel valet service, but I let myself submit to this over-the-top reception, which somehow gets even more elaborate as we crest the ramp.

A man in a crimson turban is standing at the end of a long fountain, emotively singing some Rajasthani welcoming tune while a phalanx of staff members with tight grins extends trays to us loaded with warm towels, water, soda and Indian sweets. Two golden retrievers named after characters from The Lion King traipse around the fountain in what a cynical part of me believes might be a choreographed routine. I turn to shoot Anis a look that pleads, "How do we get out of this?" when, seemingly out of nowhere, dozens of rose petals rain down on our heads. It's too late.

Unlike RAAS and Ranvas, Suryagarh is a new build, the dream of a local liquor and mining tycoon. The sprawling facility is a hodgepodge of every imaginable Indian aesthetic: a façade modelled after the famous Jaisalmer Fort, an interior that takes its cues from Rajasthani palaces, an outdoor auditorium that is a hybrid of ancient stepwells and Agra's Fatehpur Sikri and a collection of haveli suites inspired by the dry-stacked houses the local Paliwal Brahmins lived in.

The suites, while spacious, have a more neutral catalogue aesthetic, like Restoration Hardware's Indian cousin.

Suryagarh's courtyard is India as imagined by the Walt Disney Company: Yards of sheer saffron fabric are draped overhead, a worker fills a pool with four large sacks of bougainvillea leaves over the course of an hour, a turbaned man sitting in a second-floor alcove that faces the courtyard plays the flute while peacocks - which are usually kept in a pen outside but brought in at breakfast to improve the ambience - casually strut around the gleaming and obsessively swept marble floors.

All this careful curation and newness make us itch more than ever to see the area's most noteworthy architecture, which is nestled in and around the 860year-old Jaisalmer Fort. But the staff don't make it easy. They've tossed out our original itinerary (royals have no agency over their own schedules, it appears) and filled our days with several decadent meals and unique hotel excursions, including a five-hour desert trail tour.

The food at Suryagarh - some of the best I've had in India - comes at such an unrelenting pace that it soon becomes a burden.

On our first night, we sit in the Sam Sand Dunes in front of a roaring fire, feasting on hare, quail, goat and a host of side dishes for hours.

The next morning, there is a nine-course breakfast that features every sweet and savoury treatment of fried dough imaginable alongside a cup of thickened milk that had been simmered for hours with sugar and cardamom and topped with chopped pistachios.

Hours later, after an excursion through the Thar Desert, we are ushered to an elaborate picnic site, where we force down chicken kebabs, potato salad, pita, hummus, goat liver, gazpacho and biryani. After undoing the top button of my pants to make room for the plated brownies that were pushed on us, I agree with Anis that we are in no condition to do an evening tour of ancient Jaisalmer and put it off to the next day, our last morning here.

We reach the hotel at 5:30 p.m., bloated and immobile, and collapse on the king-sized bed.

Maybe what I need right now is half an hour at the gym: In Mughal times, royals would swing wooden clubs and go for long walks to help them digest after monumental feasts.

In the next 13 hours, I rise only to use the bathroom and answer the door for tea delivery. As I waddle back to bed, hearing strains of live folk music float into the suite, I wonder aloud: Can you get gout, the disease of kings, in just two days?

About 36 hours later, I wake up in a different bed 330 kilometres away within the protective walls of the Ahhichatragarh Fort in Nagaur. Our stomachs have since deflated and Anis wanders out of our suite, which is decorated with oversized Rajasthani-style hardwood chairs and indigo block-printed textiles, to fetch our "bed tea" - a tray of masala chai and biscuits - which is silently delivered to our courtyard each morning.

Anis pokes his head back into the room and whisper-hisses at me to come outside. I wriggle out of my pyjama pants and into a pair of jeans and step out to see two peacocks and two peahens curiously poking around the sweet-smelling purple orchid tree that stands at the far end of the courtyard.

Three of the birds fly away on my clumsy approach, but one peacock, which has the stride of a velociraptor, curiously ambles out and lets me follow it, Alice in Wonderland-style. It walks past two other havelis, a row of pomegranate trees, and the white baradari where we've eaten all our meals. It passes through the open sandstone doorway that leads to the palaces on the property, whose walls and pillars are covered with recently restored miniature paintings: scenes of ranis (queens) squeezing water from their hair after a swim in the river, of their servants carrying vases of flowers on trays. And then, just like all the staff here, the peacock quietly disappears when I turn away for a moment.

Everyone who works at Ranvas operates on a low frequency - shadows briskly and wordlessly moving to light lanterns, turn down the sheets and whisk away the dishes after we've sopped up the gravy from the best bowl of laal maans (goat stewed in red chilies) I've ever tasted.

Since the top-level suite of our haveli is unoccupied during our stay (in general, we feel like the only guests this weekend), we have the freedom to explore its maze of a terrace, which connects to neighbouring buildings.

These days, it serves as a private space to sit, read or nurse a drink (there are no TVs in the suites), but one hotel employee hints with a nod and a wink that, in Bakht Singh's day, it was probably used as a corridor that would discreetly deliver the maharaja to the door of the wife he had chosen to spend the night with.

While it looks as though only minimal modifications have been made to the havelis to modernize them, in truth, the process of turning the UNESCO award-winning property into a hotel took two decades and the financial backing of India's Mehrangarh Museum Trust, the U.S. Getty Foundation and the Britain-based Helen Hamlyn Trust.

The buildings that are in the process of being carefully restored offer a far richer visual feast than the museum at Mehrangarh Fort two hours away in Jodhpur, but draw fewer than 100 tourists a day on average.

During our two days there, I spotted only one group getting a tour.

As lean as the traffic is leading into the fort, the same is true in the opposite direction.

We're the sort of city explorers prone to making detailed custom Google Maps that usually win either the admiration or ridicule of our friends, but in a very outof-character move, we've ventured outside the walls of the fort only once during our twoday stay here for a short exploration of the local market.

An hour after we checked out of Ranvas and officially ended our royal experiment, we're on a train leaving Nagaur. It's a gentle transition back to our regular lives: We're in a clean, airy and empty second-class car, one of the best ways to travel by rail in India.

But an hour into our journey across the dry Thar landscape, my stomach rumbles and it dawns on me that there will be no fireside quail, no plate of cut pineapple, no laal maans. Four hours later, we finally pause at a station with a snack cart. As we pull away, I hoover a 20-cent bag of stale chips, already nostalgic for my short life as a maharani.

The writer's stays at RAAS, Suryagarh and Ranvas were covered by the three hotels. They did not review or approve this article.


The 27 suites within the serene heritage property in Nagaur are split between 10 sandstone havelis originally built in the 18th century for Rajasthani queens. Guests can lounge poolside or enjoy more private comfort in their own courtyard or terrace. The hotel provides guided tours of the maharaja's mid-restoration palaces, which are also within the fort. Rooms from $316;


Camouflaged in the heart of Jodhpur, this converted haveli hotel offers five-star views of both the mesmerizing Mehrangarh Fort and the famous blue city that sprawls from its base. There are two fine-dining restaurants within RAAS, but those looking for a more casual atmosphere can also sample the street-food-inspired menu at the hotel's Stepwell restaurant overlooking the city's stepwell next door. Rooms from $286 during low season; $428 during high season;


This is a contemporary hotel inspired by the best of traditional Indian architecture. Guests looking for an all-inclusive resort experience can fill up their stays with treatments at the in-house spa, workouts at the gym and Rajasthani feasts. The more adventurous types can participate in elaborate meals and excursions set around Jaisalmer. Rooms from $143 during low season; $265 during high season

Associated Graphic

RAAS, a haveli-turned-hotel, is an exercise in restraint: The pink sandstone structure seems to disappear into its surroundings. RAAS

In Hadi Rani Mahal, one of many palaces in Nagaur's Ahhichatragarh Fort, conservators are restoring the detailed 18th-century murals. DAKSHANA BASCARAMURTY

Above, the mammoth Mehrangarh Fort is seen behind RAAS, a haveli (mansion) converted into a hotel in Jodhpur. Below, the swimming pool at RAAS.

A woman walks near the RAAS hotel in Jodhpur, India, which a thakur (or noble) built in the late 1700s as a home awa

ay from his village.

Above, staff at the Ranvas hotel in Nagaur dress in the style of Rajasthani maharajas, with brightly coloured turbans. Below: The spacious interiors of Suryagarh in Jaisalmer take their cues from Rajasthani palace design. PHOTOS BY DAKSHANA BASCARAMURTY

At breakfast, Jaisalmer's Suryagarh hotel releases peacocks in the courtyard to charm guests. DAKSHANA BASCARAMURTY

Childhood behavioural disorders are notoriously difficult to treat - children with the same diagnosis have varying symptoms, and treatments that work for some don't work for all. Now researchers are exploring a provocative idea: What if the boundaries separating these conditions have to be redrawn?
Monday, April 25, 2016 – Print Edition, Page L1

On the wall of Dr. Evdokia Anagnostou's office hangs a framed photo of a lone toddler.

The boy, a patient of hers, is captured pedalling away from the camera on a plastic orange tricycle.

A quote attributed to U.S. journalist Hodding Carter Jr. floats above his head, and Dr. Anagnostou reads it out loud: "There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots; the other wings."

It's a gift she received years ago from the boy's father, she explains. It's also a reminder of the challenge she faces. Roots and wings are a tall order for a doctor who's striving to understand and find new treatments for autism spectrum disorder. Dr. Anagnostou, a senior clinician scientist at Toronto's Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, has spent more than a decade trying to unearth the causes of autism, with the aim of improving the lives of children affected by it.

But it's become clear that she and others in her field have hit a wall, the soft-spoken child neurologist tells me.

Although her young patients share the same diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder, including difficulties with social interactions and communication and repetitive behaviours, individual cases often look very different. One child might thrive at school, while another might be nonverbal and prone to hitting himself. And almost all the children she sees also have additional disorders, like attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and intellectual disability.

Further confounding her: In study after study, potential therapies that have shown promise in some children fail to yield the same results when applied to larger groups of individuals with the same diagnosis. And not a single drug has been approved that could treat the core symptoms of autism, which by some projections affect as many as one in 63 people.

"I am frustrated," she says, then adds with a puckish smile, "but I am also feeling that this is the right time to do something different."

About five years ago, Dr. Anagnostou began to consider some unsettling questions: What if she and her colleagues had it all wrong? What if by grouping all their patients under an autism or ADHD or OCD label, they were missing critical clues about the roots of their symptoms? What if they needed to rethink their diagnostic categories?

She and her colleagues are now taking a new tack. In a trailblazing project called the Province of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Disorders (POND) Network, sponsored by the provincially funded Ontario Brain Institute, they're studying multiple disorders together, with the hope that such an approach will lead to a better understanding of their biology.

"We basically say that these concepts may be overlapping. So autism spectrum disorder may not be a distinct biological entity," Dr. Anagnostou, principal investigator of POND and Canada Research Chair in translational therapeutics in autism, explains.

The POND Network is part of a paradigm shift in how researchers around the world are beginning to examine mental and neurological disorders. Many are finding the current diagnostic categories don't quite reflect what genetics and neuroscience suggest about the underlying biology of dysfunction. So rather than study each disorder in isolation, they're compiling wide pools of data and seeing where the patterns emerge.

If they are on the right path, this approach may lead to more effective, targeted treatments and, ultimately, to entirely new ways of classifying the disorders.

But a diagnosis is more than just a label for a set of symptoms.

For some patients, it's a core part of their identity. What would new diagnostic categories mean for them?

'The big poke in the eye' When I first heard Dr. Anagnostou discuss her work at an Ontario Brain Institute presentation in December, my mind reeled.

Does this mean, I thought, dumbstruck, autism spectrum disorder may not exist?

On the contrary, the symptoms of autism obviously exist. Dr.

Anagnostou and her colleagues are clear on that. The issue is they may not exist in isolation.

"So the construct [of autism] may not be very useful as a diagnostic category," Dr. Anagnostou explains.

I'm reminded of childhood sorting games, where a category such as "things that hop" might include kangaroos, frogs and grasshoppers, even though to get a better grasp of the nature of each creature, you're better off grouping them with other mammals, insects and amphibians.

This oversimplifies the matter, of course. But throughout history, people have categorized mental illness and neurological conditions in various ways that don't necessarily best reflect their nature. The ancient Greeks, for example, explained them as an imbalance of bodily humours or fluids.

"It's human nature to try to categorize things because lumping helps us understand, especially in the face of great diversity," says Dr. Russell Schachar, a co-investigator of POND and senior scientist at Toronto's SickKids hospital.

Lumping things together may seem like an intellectual exercise, but the ramifications of doing so are very real. Current diagnostic categories, developed over the past century, have provided criteria for distinguishing one type of disorder from another: autism from intellectual deficiency, schizophrenia from bipolar disorder, and ADHD from conduct disorder. And it has allowed doctors to communicate and policymakers to collect statistics and determine publichealth strategies. "That helped us in every which way," Dr. Schachar says.

But the discovery in recent years of genetic mutations that cut across disorders have presented "the big poke in the eye, if you will - the thing that made it impossible to go any further," he says.

Genome sequencing, for instance, has pointed to not just one autism mutation, nor even a manageable handful, but hundreds of possible mutations that could be interacting with an infinite number of environmental factors to determine whether an individual develops the disorder.

What's more, these mutations aren't exclusive to autism. Many of them also appear to be involved in a variety of other neurodevelopmental disorders.

To get anywhere in understanding what's going on in these neurodevelopmental disorders, Dr. Schachar says, scientists must figure out what is shared among them and what is distinct.

Instead of conducting separate studies on each disorder, POND's approach breaks down the boundaries between them. For example, a POND study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry last year examined how well participants diagnosed with OCD, ADHD, and autism could read other people's emotions by looking at their eyes. Although the inability to read emotions is assumed to be an autistic trait, Dr. Anagnostou explains the researchers found it is common among children with ADHD too.

"It looks like it has nothing to do with disorder," she says. "If you're an ADHD kid with impaired social function, your ability to read emotions is as bad as a kid with ASD [autism spectrum disorder]. So it cuts across disorders."

POND researchers are also beginning to find similar structural connectivity in the brains of children who have ADHD and autism.

Other studies within POND are looking at participants' cognitive processes, neurochemistry, and the role of epigenetics or how environmental exposures and other factors may interact with genes.

Now in its third year, the POND project is collecting data on the genetics, behaviours and brain imaging of children with various disorders, including autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, OCD, intellectual disability, Rett syndrome, Tourette syndrome, Fragile X syndrome or Down syndrome. It's a whole new approach to conceptualizing the problem and conducting research, Schacher says.

Thus far, investigators from several participating institutions, including Holland Bloorview and SickKids in Toronto, and McMaster University and University of Western Ontario, have recruited some 1,300 children. Their goal is to bring that to a total of 2,500 within the next two years.

Reliable but not valid?

This new approach to research is like tackling a puzzle from the opposite end. Traditionally, investigators have asked "what can we find out about a specific disorder?" whereas the paradigm shift involves sorting through all the various puzzle pieces - the genetics, neuroscience and behaviours - and asking, "what categories do these form?" The POND investigators aren't the only ones finding that current diagnostic constructs don't seem to align with the latest findings in genetics and neuroscience.

In the United States, the National Institute of Mental Health is taking a similar approach. Its Research Domain Criteria, an initiative launched in 2009, encourages investigators seeking research funding to think beyond the existing diagnostic categories of mental disorders of all kinds.

"Nature, the brain, behaviour, symptoms don't abide by those categories, and so we shouldn't pretend that they do any more because it's getting in the way of progress," says Dr. Sarah Morris, acting director of the initiative.

Dr. Morris says she and her colleagues acknowledge that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) are the standard diagnostic tools for clinical care. But they hope that by opening up the research to other conceptualizations of mental disorders, the results may inform better diagnostic practices. So, for example, instead of conducting a study on depression, a research team might focus on the various genes, molecules, brain circuits or behaviours that may interfere with people's responses to reward.

The thing about the existing categories, whether it's autism, ADHD, depression or schizophrenia, is they're reliable in a scientific sense, Dr. Morris notes, meaning the same results can be generated repeatedly. Individuals with a specific set of symptoms, for instance, can reliably be diagnosed with the same disorder by multiple doctors. But, she says, the real question is whether the current diagnostic categories are valid in terms of understanding the nature of mental illness.

That is, do they accurately reflect the phenomenon being studied?

"There's evidence to think that they're not," Morris says.

Neurodiversity and Identity In recent years, the concept of "neurodiversity" has grown as a movement in the world of autism advocacy. Neurodiversity - the idea that autism and other neurological differences are normal variations of human life - has gained widespread public attention, thanks to the likes of renowned autism activist Temple Grandin, whose 2010 TED Talk on the importance of autistic minds such as her own has received more than 3.7 million online views, and journalist Steve Silberman, author of the recent best-seller NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity. Many proponents of neurodiversity view autism and ADHD not as deficiencies that require fixes or cures, but as natural differences that require acceptance and inclusion in society.

Susan Cosgrove, a Toronto autism advocate who has three children with neurodevelopmental disorders, says she fully believes in neurodiversity. But at the same time, she says, her children need treatment to be able to cope with the world around them. The city won't get any quieter just because they're overwhelmed by sounds, she says, nor will buses clear out just because they find it too crowded.

"I absolutely, 100 per cent believe in accepting them for who they are, but the society is not built for them right now," she says. "Therapy and treatment is super important and is just as important now as it was before neurodiversity was accepted."

Cosgrove says the questions the POND researchers are posing make sense to her. Her family offers proof that the lines between neurodevelopmental disorders are hazy.

Between her two sons, Liam, 12 and Phoenix, 2, both diagnosed with autism, "there are definitely more differences than similarities," she says. At the same time, both also share symptoms with their sister, Kaya, 10, who has been diagnosed with ADHD.

Those include difficulty with sensory processing and working memory. At Phoenix's age, for example, Liam barely spoke.

And when he did, he mostly uttered words he made up himself. By contrast, Phoenix has an astonishingly precocious ability to read and an uncanny affinity for numbers.

During a recent visit to the family's apartment, Liam, a shy, sweet preteen, quietly watches his favourite YouTube video on the features of a model excavator. For him, having autism means "I'm scared of strangers," he explains to me, and "it can be hard to communicate."

Meanwhile, Phoenix, an energetic, cherubic toddler reads from a stack of pictureless flashcards, shown to him in random order. Without even having to sound the letters out, he bounced happily as he declared in rapid-fire: "Truck!" "Orange!"

Hockey!" "Fifty" "Dinosaur!"

"Clown!" "Diamond!" "Egg roll!"

So, if it turns out their diagnostic labels aren't valid, what does this mean for her children's care?

A new classification Dr. Anagnostou emphasizes POND has a long way to go before it can offer any answers.

But eventually, she says, if it turns out the researchers can conclude they "have no confidence that our constructs exist," it could lead to new diagnostic labels.

"Maybe instead of having autism, ADHD, intellectual disability, OCD, we may have [separate clusters of patients with] these types of mutations, these types of brain findings, and these types of behaviours. And they're more likely to respond to medications A, B, C," Dr. Anagnostou says.

This will, however, have significant consequences for patients and those who provide services for them, she says.

At present, for instance, even though there is great variability between children with autism, a school teacher may at least have a general idea of what to expect of a student with an autism diagnosis, Dr. Anagnostou says.

"But if I told them this child has mutation X, Y, Z in this particular cluster, what will the teacher do with that?"

In addition, she says, people often incorporate their diagnoses as part of their identity. "So what happens if somebody identifies as an autistic person and we come out and say, 'We don't know that autism exists as an entity'? That would be something we need to figure out as we proceed."

The aim, she says, is not to take away patients' diagnoses, but to take away their suffering. Cosgrove, whose two sons are enrolled in the POND study, says she isn't holding her breath, but she would have no hesitation accepting new diagnostic labels, as long as they meant her children would receive more appropriate treatment that would improve the quality of their lives.

"Whatever gives them the best chance of a successful future," she says. In Britain, Dr. Declan Murphy, managing director of the European Autism Interventions - A Multicentre Study for Developing New Medications (EU-AIMS), doesn't believe doctors will stop diagnosing people with autism in the future. Rather, he says, sub-types of autism may eventually emerge, which will allow for better targeted treatments. "It wouldn't be that someone who is autistic today would be... no longer called autistic," Dr. Murphy says.

But, he says, what has become clear is that researchers need to collaborate to collect and share data, since it's only by studying large numbers of individuals that meaningful subgroups can be identified. "The days of small studies are just over, really. They've gone far enough."

From research to patient For families and advocacy groups, the promise of better treatments and explanations seems to outweigh any complications that may arise out of reconsidering diagnostic constructs.

Dr. Suzanne Lewis, chair of the professional advisory committee for the advocacy group Autism Canada, which is not involved in POND, says she applauds POND's approach.

"It's not so much what it means to those who are defining the labels. It really is: What does it mean to those individuals and families living with the condition?" Dr. Lewis says, adding she has no doubt that research into the biology of the condition will benefit families. "It'll remove burdens of them wondering 'What did I do or what didn't I do that may have contributed to my child having autism or schizophrenia or whatever?' " Back at Holland Bloorview, Dr. Anagnostou acknowledges the POND project is a gamble. While she is confident they're onto something, she admits it's possible she and her colleagues may end up being wrong about their assumption that the differences and similiarites among neurodevelopmental disorders will lead to any breakthrough in treatments. "We may fail," she says. But, she notes, in the end, whatever data they end up with will help inform future research one way or another.

"If we haven't made a big difference with an alternative approach, we'll have learned something so we aren't where we started. But the kids are where they were," she says.

Associated Graphic


Brothers Phoenix (centre) and Liam Cosgrove both have an autism diagnoses but have varying symptoms. Their sister, Kaya, who has attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, shares some of her brothers' symptoms.


Dr. Evdokia Anagnostou says her aim, is not to take away patients' diagnoses, but their suffering.


It's not quite cool yet, but hardware is taking over from pure software plays in Waterloo's tech hothouse
Friday, April 29, 2016 – Print Edition, Page P50

When Pablo Molina and Faizan Sheikh graduated from the University of Waterloo and moved to Ottawa in 2011, they wanted to apply their new robotics know-how to solve a genuine market need. Canada being Canada, their eureka moment conjured up the world's first self-driving snowplow.

But the young inventors soon encountered a problem that people in Ottawa might have trouble giving credence to: There wasn't enough snow.

The revelation came in a restaurant next to a Walmart parking lot, where, as part of their research, Molina and Sheikh were interviewing the owner of a snowplow company. He explained just how small and sporadic the demand for snow removal really is. It didn't make financial sense to build a robotic vehicle, they realized, if it would only be used a handful of times per season.

But just as their entrepreneurial dreams were turning to slush, the driver pointed to the megastore and said, "Why don't you go indoors? Floors need cleaning every day." Roboticists are always on the lookout for dull, repetitive tasks, and in that moment, Sheikh and Molina found their own little slice of workplace drudgery.

Five years later, the two co-founders of Avidbots are showing me the prototype of their self-driving floor scrubber in what must be the cleanest warehouse in Waterloo Region. The prototype looks like any other floor scrubber--minus the handle--but it does the job slightly faster and a lot more cheaply than a human can, and it never gets bored. The first batch of 10 of the as-yet-unnamed product ships to customers in June, and Sheikh says they've got enough orders to keep shipping 10 a month in the short term, and eventually ramp up production by early 2017.

It wasn't long after they realized they had a viable business that Sheikh and Molina left Ottawa and, after attending a hardware accelerator program in China, moved back to Waterloo to start Avidbots. They wanted access to the engineering talent coming out of the University of Waterloo, and more importantly, to be part of one of the most concentrated and supportive tech clusters on the planet. Where once Waterloo's engineering grads fled the area for flashier jobs abroad, the brain drain has lately been arrested, as more companies are, like Avidbots, capturing venture capital abroad and launching their start-ups back home.

The buzz about Waterloo Region's tech ecosystem has been gaining volume for the last five years. But firms like Avidbots underline a little-noticed shift: the ascent of hardware. The scene's biggest driver has been purring quietly in the background, out at the edge of town where the robots roam.

For a time, Research In Motion, as BlackBerry was known back then, was the sun around which everything else orbited in Waterloo. Today, its former office buildings are being colonized by other companies: Waterloo has reinvented itself as a 24/7 start-up factory. There are more than 1,100 new companies in a place of only half a million people, which makes Waterloo the world's second-densest start-up cluster after Silicon Valley. (Greater Toronto is a dozen times Waterloo's size but has only two or four times the number of start-ups.)

You can visit most of those companies in the course of a short walk. A lot of the action can be found at an old tannery building on Charles Street West, which is home to Velocity Garage, the largest free start-up incubator in North America. The Avidbots principals spent seven months there after their return to Waterloo, at the encouragement of Velocity's director, Mike Kirkup.

When start-ups graduate from Velocity Garage, many of them simply move to another wing of the building, where Communitech offers a co-working space for hundreds of tech entrepreneurs. Here the start-up ecosystem is on full display, with big corporations maintaining outposts to stay abreast of new innovations, angel investors stopping in to check on prospects, and the wider community massing to network.

Continuing out the door of the tannery building, the next stage of evolution for a growing Waterloo start-up is a few minutes away on foot, at 305 King St. West, which houses many of the region's rising stars, like Chalk, MappedIn and Square. Between those two locations and a handful of others--including the Breithaupt Block, home to the new Google Canada headquarters--Waterloo's tech cluster hasn't just taken up BlackBerry's space; it has repurposed the ruins of Waterloo's disappearing manufacturing sector, and reinvigorated a downtown core that five years ago was a place to avoid.

Almost all of these companies originated in the University of Waterloo's engineering faculty, which is the largest in Canada by number of students, and so well regarded that it ranks in the top four feeder schools for tech titans like Google, Facebook and Apple, along with 864 other Silicon Valley companies that recruited here in 2015.

The attraction is mutual. Silicon Valley holds a lot of appeal for young engineers, and for a long time the region struggled to hold on to its talent. With the engineering faculty's mandatory co-op program, along with the university's business-friendly policy on intellectual property, its funding for Velocity and its affiliation with a similar jump-start program at the Accelerator Centre, U of W has played a huge role in seeding the cluster.

To reach critical mass, Waterloo needed more than all those measures--it also needed some intrepid founders to build businesses locally. One of those was Clearpath Robotics, which is a leader in Waterloo's emerging hardware sector, and a sort of older brother to Avidbots.

Like Avidbots, Clearpath makes a self-driving workhorse for industry, albeit a much sturdier one, the aptly named Otto. A low-lying black disc not much larger than a pallet, Otto looks as sleek as any smartphone. Yet it is one powerful robot, carrying up to 1,500 kilograms. Otto started shipping out to some of Clearpath's Fortune 500 customers this spring. It's currently transporting medical equipment at a repair facility in Wisconsin for GE; elsewhere in the same state, John Deere is using Otto to transport materials on an assembly line. Clearpath also makes a smaller model for lighter loads.

But Clearpath's CEO, Matt Rendall, says that Otto is not just carrying boxes; it's making supply chains more flexible. "Our hypothesis is that if a factory is like a city, and traditional automation is like a metro system, a really busy city also needs taxis to deliver ad hoc, point to point, and more efficiently," he says. "This is automation and infrastructure that you don't bolt to the ground, and that means when you change daily, so does your automation."

Waterloo has seen its share of automation that you do bolt to the ground, and much of it is on display at New Age Robotics, a repair shop and reseller about a 20-minute drive from Clearpath. Here, the history of robotic arms for automotive manufacturing is arranged in colourful rows, like so many mechanical birds with their heads bowed. New models mingle with old, all of them the same basic shape: one or two large, multi-jointed arms on a heavy base, created to do one thing--paint a door, weld a rivet--over and over again. Autonomous technology in drones and wheeled vehicles lets robots move around better, but when it comes to manipulating or manufacturing things, the physics isn't much different than it was in the 1960s.

Andrew Goldenberg of the University of Toronto, who helped design the Canadarm, says that robotics is at an awkward stage: The software side has vastly improved, but the underlying electromechanical systems haven't. "We can do wonders, but in reality, the mechanical part is lagging," he says. Thus, a program equipped with machine learning can beat a Go champion, but a humanoid robot can barely stay upright.

While robots that drive and fly are currently finding eager reception in such industries as manufacturing, agriculture and mining, walking robots have farther to travel to reach their markets. "We still don't have a motor that is of the same weight and size and that can generate the same power as the human body," says Waterloo professor Dana Kulic, who develops algorithms for robots to incrementally learn and imitate human action.

Although the electromechanical challenge is daunting, roboticists are eager to overcome it, because humanoid robots open doors to applications that wheeled and winged devices can't reach, like assisting the elderly and disabled or performing search-and-rescue operations. "In those situations, the environment has been designed for the human form. If you have a robot that's human-shaped, it'll be easier for it to access the same tools and use the same space," says Kulic. It's easier to make robots that fit the world than a world that's fit for robots.

But the real world is a complicated place--just ask the developers of the Google car, who have to write code that can handle every possible situation, including the time one of their vehicles encountered someone in a motorized wheelchair chasing a family of ducks with a broom. This is why self-driving machines fare better in the controlled setting of a warehouse or factory. Otto will never have to identify a pile of leaves or avoid a stray cyclist. "Clearpath and Avidbots have found two environments where there's a limited number of confusing cases, and so they're able to automate to a level that's reliable," says Steven Waslander, who directs the Waterloo Autonomous Vehicles Laboratory at the University of Waterloo.

This is what makes Otto special: not the physical robot, but its mapping and localization capabilities, according to Karamdeep Nijjar at iNovia Capital, which participated in a $14-million investment round for Clearpath last year. Clearpath isn't the first company to offer a self-driving vehicle for industry. Amazon and Staples have been using Amazon's Kiva bot in their warehouses, but that system relies on grids of stickers on the floor, each printed with a bar code, to navigate. You can drop Otto into any industrial setting and it will figure out the lay of the land on its own. So while the robot is no slouch, the real value proposition is in the software.

A software-differentiated hardware company faces all the same challenges as a standard software company, plus quite a few more. Venture capitalists are more attracted by the low overhead and recurring revenue streams that software companies enjoy. Hardware companies need more people: the usual array of software developers, but also electrical and mechanical engineers. They also need more cash than a software company, which--thanks to the availability of cloud services--has few upfront costs. A hardware company has to build prototypes, inventory, a supply chain, and a lot of other things that cost money. Software companies go to market faster and see returns sooner, while hardware companies have lumpy revenue streams and find it difficult to keep sales high on the second or third versions of their product.

But hardware start-ups have their advantages too. They can succeed with a small number of customers willing to pay a high price for a premium product, whereas software companies rely on massive user adoption and heavy traffic. There's a higher barrier to entry in hardware than software, but that cuts both ways: In hardware, there's less competition.

And a decade into the smartphone era, app fatigue is making it much harder for new software start-ups to find their market. The recent spike in major hardware acquisitions, such as Apple buying Beats Electronics for $3 billion (U.S.) and Facebook absorbing Oculus for $2 billion (U.S.), suggests more people are betting on software-differentiated hardware to answer the "what's next?" malaise lately hanging over Silicon Valley.

In the same way that the Cold War and the space race spurred advances in computer technology that made Silicon Valley what it is today, competition in the smartphone market has accelerated the trend of software-differentiated devices by driving down the cost of sensors and computing. Smartphones also illustrate why simple hardware coupled with great software makes a powerful business model. "All the cost and complexity goes into the software, which has a huge upfront cost, but then you can amortize that over millions of units," says Rendall.

Nijjar doubts whether Clearpath would have been able to find its footing before the "smartphone dividend" made sensors and computing so inexpensive. And the trend is only accelerating, as companies like Clearpath and Avidbots search for ways to use cameras to perform the mapping and localization functions that currently require costly laser-based sensors.

There is, however, still the small problem of talent. Even though technology makes physical distance irrelevant and promotes remote interaction, the people building the stuff want to be as close to each other as possible. Disadvantage hardware: It doesn't fit into cool office spaces, and instead is confined to beige buildings at the edge of town. When you deal in tangible products, you need warehouses and shipping bays more than couches and climbing walls.

Kurtis McBride of Miovision, which makes a traffic optimization platform for city planners, aims to solve this problem by creating a rallying point for the hardware cluster that's closer to the start-up action downtown. Catalyst137 will be a 475,000-square-foot facility only a few minutes away from Communitech. There will be space for circuitboard production, rapid prototyping and varied product testing (environmental, thermal, etc.). The site will also have a "hackable streetscape" with sensors throughout, so hardware start-ups can test their devices in a real-world simulator.

There's one more hump for the sector to get over: scale. Waterloo's tech cluster may be the second densest in the world, but it doesn't even rank in the top 25 for the total value of its companies. The combined GDP of the Ontario tech corridor is about $350 billion, which, if it were a single cluster, would put it in the top 10 municipalities in North America. Waterloo would be in a much better position if it mimicked Silicon Valley's relationship to San Francisco. Hello, Toronto.

Here's where it might actually be an advantage to be big, but not too big. Toronto's real-estate prices may seem stratospheric compared to Waterloo, but both cities offer cheaper digs for both companies and people than Silicon Valley.

But the bond won't be realized until transit is improved enough to allow an easy daily commute between the two regions. The trip by car currently takes anywhere between 40 minutes and three hours. A drive to Toronto often begins with a traffic jam before you even leave Waterloo.

San Francisco has the Caltrain connecting it to Silicon Valley. "If you look at the distance between Toronto and Kitchener/Waterloo, it's basically the same," says Rendall. There aren't any plans to build high-speed rail, but the mayors of Toronto and Kitchener have been pushing for improved transit connections. For now, that might just mean moving the lone rail offering--which is not part of Ontario's Go commuter system but an 11 a.m. Via train--to a better time for commuters.

Of course, self-driving cars will solve the problem eventually. But if Waterloo and Toronto wait for that, today's upstart robotics scene will become one more Canadian tech wave that we let slip away.

Associated Graphic

Clearpath Robotics CEO Matt Rendall atop Otto, the company's hard-working (and self-driving) warehouse robot


Scenes from a burgeoning cluster: (below left) Avidbots founders Pablo Molina and Faizan Sheikh with their floor-cleaning robot; (below) University of Waterloo professor Steven Waslander flies a drone; (bottom right) start-up incubator Velocity Garage

Friday, April 29, 2016 – Print Edition, Page R4

Selected reviews of films screening in Toronto at Hot Docs 2016 (to May 8), rated on a four-star system. For more information:

The Apology Tiffany Hsiung Canada, 105 minutes 4

It is estimated that during the Second World War more than 200,000 women and girls from Korea, China, the Philippines and Indonesia were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese army as so-called comfort women. This deeply moving film tells some of their shocking stories, but mainly it is about the present, as a dwindling number of survivors continue to petition the Japanese government for an apology and recompense. Led by the 86-yearold Korean "Grandma Gil," who was taken from her hometown at the age of 13 and held captive for several years, the women display a resilience and a persistence that is inspiring.

April 30, 6:30 p.m., Bloor Hot Docs; May 1, 10:30 a.m., Lightbox; May 8, 12:45 p.m., Isabel Bader; May 8, 6:30 p.m., Hart House

Brothers Aslaug Holm Norway, 102 min 3

The Norwegian filmmaker Aslaug Holm followed her two sons with a camera for eight years, covering the period of their school days and recording such moments as a leap off a dock, a difficult soccer practice or a first piercing. Don't mistake Brothers, however, for some mini version of the famed Seven Up series. Holm's film is an often beautiful rumination on family, memory and especially the passage of time rather than an attempt to probe psychology or society. She is motivated by every parent's pained realization - I'm losing them; they are growing up and way before my eyes - and as her boys age they do indeed become less patient with her camera and less accessible to the viewer. Brothers is a poignant project that seems to foreshadow its own limitations.

April 29, 6:45 p.m., Lightbox; April 30, 1 p.m., Scotiabank; May 6, 4 p.m., Scotiabank

Chasing Asylum Eva Orner Australia, 96 minutes 4

In a classic piece of crusading journalism, filmmaker Eva Orner investigates Australia's response to the boat people arriving in its waters and exposes both shamefully cynical government policy and appalling conditions at overseas detention centres. The centres, filmed with hidden cameras, are located in impoverished island states well away from Australia and are intended to discourage more arrivals. They succeed - only insofar as they force migrants to other shores - by violating the refugee rights of the detainees. Former staffers, some of them speaking anonymously since Australia passed anti-whistleblower legislation on the file, report how utterly unprepared they were to deal with the deteriorating mental and physical health of people indefinitely detained. Clearly, the current global refugee crisis needs a solution that is both international and humane, and this is not it.

April 28, 6:30 p.m., Lightbox; April 29, 3:45 p.m., Lightbox; May 8, 9:45 p.m., Scotiabank .

De Palma Noah Baumbach, Jake Paltrow USA, 107 minutes 4

"My movies tend to upset people a lot." As far as understatements go, that's a whopper from Brian De Palma, one of the most divisive filmmakers of his generation.

As the director behind both instant hits (Carrie, Mission: Impossible) and flops that took decades to crawl out from under bad reputations (Scarface, Phantom of the Paradise), De Palma is a true visionary, even if you might not quite appreciate what that vision is. Either way, a trip through his wild and hugely influential filmography is mandatory for any film fan, and that's just what directors Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow offer in their new doc. The setup is deceptively simple: De Palma is the lone interview subject, and ends up walking the audience through nearly his entire life's work, with clips and behind-the-scenes stills acting as a powerful reminder of the man's oft-underrated brilliance. In between, he slips in acidic Hollywood gossip, bits of family history and inadvertently reveals his delightfully G-rated catchphrase: "Holy mackerel!"

Holy mackerel, indeed.

May 2, 6:15 p.m., Lightbox; May 3, 10 a.m., Isabel Bader; May 6, 9:30 p.m., Lightbox .

Future Baby Maria Arlamovsky Austria, 91 minutes 3

In-vitro fertilization, genetic testing, surrogacy, designer babies ... the potential of reproductive medicine, and the ethical dilemmas it raises, come thick and fast.

Director Maria Arlamovsky covers many of them and manages to strike a balance in this informative international flyover between hopeful parents and their confident doctors on the one hand and skeptical ethicists on the other.

Wisely, she is very judicious in her use of cute babies, but the doc does include a lot of filler footage around the talking heads - and not quite enough information about the success rates of IVF procedures.

April 30, 6:45 p.m., Scotiabank; May 2, 1 p.m., Lightbox; May 8, 10:15 a.m., Isabel Bader

The Last Laugh Ferne Pearlstein USA, 85 minutes 3

Is there comedy to be found in unimaginable tragedy? That's the question director Ferne Pearlstein asks in The Last Laugh, a spry, thoughtful film on humour and, yes, the Holocaust. With interview subjects that include the provocative Jewish riots that are Mel Brooks, Sarah Silverman and Gilbert Gottfried, the sensitive subject of Holocaust-based humour is not danced around (except for a Springtime for Hitler clip from Brooks's film The Producers). The consensus seems to be that Nazis are lampoonable but that Auschwitz is not, and that when comically dealing with anything that might be considered taboo territory, the comedian had better make damn sure it's funny, first and foremost.

May 1, 1:15 p.m., Bloor Hot Docs; May 2, 9 p.m., Isabel Bader; May 7, 10:30 a.m., Isabel Bader .

League of Exotique Dancers Rama Rau Canada, 90 minutes 4

In an amusing and informative investigation of their lives, former strippers insist on the artistry of burlesque, an entertainment eclipsed in the 1980s by lap dancing and porn, but they also discuss it honestly as a branch of the sex trade. The women, now in their 60s and 70s, speak of their work as a kind of sexual liberation, a way to use their bodies to hold power in a man's world, but that empowerment clearly came at a price, since most had serious problems with drugs and alcohol.

If they were sexual objects in their heyday, their exuberant reappearance at the Burlesque Hall of Fame in Las Vegas is a gleeful retort to the cult of the young, female body as they reveal the sexiness of broad hips and sagging flesh.

April 28, 9:45 p.m., Bloor Hot Docs; April 29, 1:30 p.m., Lightbox

Living with Giants Sébastien Rist, Aude Leroux-Lévesque Canada, 78 minutes 3

Sébastien Rist and Aude LerouxLévesque's film about an Inuk teenager named Paulusie living in a remote community in northern Quebec is filled with landscape shots that initially strike you as beautiful, then make you bored, then fill you with dread. The filmmakers hold these shots long enough for the complexity to sink in. Paulusie is a similar mix of conflict. He dreams of becoming a good father, he says early in the film, but his jealousy destroys the sweet relationship he has with his girlfriend. He's a gifted hunter who wants to provide for his community, but the village eventually becomes a weight he needs to escape. There are no easy answers, here or anywhere else. But there are moments of poetry and sweetness and anger and burdens of all kinds in this too-rare portrait of life in the Arctic.

May 1, 7 p.m. Lightbox; May 2, 4:30 p.m., Lightbox; May 7, 3:15 p.m., Lightbox

Off the Rails Adam Irving Canada/USA, 87 minutes 3

Next stop, Rikers Island Express.

The New York tabloids exclaimed him as a "train in the neck" and a "transit kook," but a sympathetic documentary from Torontonian Adam Irving portrays Darius McCollum as a troubled, affable subway savant who has spent a good part of his life behind bars as a result of his compulsion to steal public buses and impersonate transit employees. His story here is well-woven, with the kindhearted voices of psychiatrists, playwrights, family members, lawyers and the gregarious McCollum himself failing to come up with a solution on how to handle an autistic, obsessive and irresponsible rail rider.

May 4, 9:15 p.m., Scotiabank; May 6, 1 p.m., Lightbox; May 7, 9 p.m., Scotiabank; May 8, 7:15 p.m., Innis

O. J.: Made in America Ezra Edelman USA, 464 minutes 3½

Director Ezra Edelman's five-part documentary O. J.: Made in America uses sweeping aerial shots of Los Angeles and the USC stadium where O. J. Simpson became a football legend in the sixties to emphasize the contentious divide between California's white elite and the city's predominantly black housing projects. Then there's Simpson poised for fame right in the middle. Before, that is, he was charged with double homicide in 1994. Surprising in its historical scope and intensely personal in its use of archival photographs and home video, Edelman's epic and sweeping film elicits empathy in the unlikeliest of places.

April 29, 6:30 p.m. , Bloor Hot Docs (Part 1 only); April 30, 12:30 p.m., Lightbox (all five parts)

Operation Avalanche Matt Johnson USA/Canada, 94 minutes 3½

Back in January, The Globe ran an interview with Canadian filmmaker Matt Johnson in which he lamented the state of the homegrown industry. The solution for a culture seemingly obsessed with dull films about sad loners? "A lot of people just need to die of old age for the system to change."

That's a bit radical, as Johnson's new film, Operation Avalanche, proves that no one needs to perish from this Earth - they simply need to up their game to reach the director's delirious new heights. Johnson's second film is, on the surface, a mockumentary about two brash CIA agents (Johnson and Owen Williams) who infiltrate NASA to flush out a Soviet mole. But then things take a delightful turn, twisting the film into a mockumentary about a mockumentary, with a liberal dose of historical revisionism and the best single-take car chase since Children of Men. Oh, and Stanley Kubrick, or at least a version of Kubrick, makes a cameo.

It's wild, exciting filmmaking that heralds a bold new talent. The best part of all: No one had to die.

I think.

April 29, 9:45 p.m., Bloor Hot Docs

Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four Deborah S. Esquenazi USA, 89 minutes 4

In the early 1990s, in a deeply conservative Texas city, four women, all of them lesbians, are accused of gang raping two little girls. Despite very questionable, scant evidence that will be challenged years later following advancements in forensics, and what looks like the clear manipulations of the girls' father, the four women are sentenced to between 15 and nearly 40 years in prison. This powerful, devastating film catches up with the women nearly 20 years later, all of them still incarcerated and still proclaiming their innocence. Exploring the homophobia of the justice system and the influence of the satanic-ritual abuse panic that was still pervasive throughout the courts, often unfairly punishing LGBTQ individuals, this case emerges as "the modern version of the witchcraft trials," as one television news show calls it.

May 4, 6:30 p.m., Bloor Hot Docs; May 5, 10 a.m., Lightbox; May 8, 12:45 p.m., Lightbox .

Spirit Unforgettable Pete McCormack Canada, 86 minutes 3½

In June, 2015, the Canadian Celticfolk-pop band Spirit of the West played Massey Hall for the first time in its 30-plus-year history. It was thrilling - but also terrifying: Lead singer John Mann has earlyonset Alzheimer's disease and gigs have become increasingly challenging for the gifted performer. Spirit Unforgettable uses the group's first - and last - Massey Hall gig as a framing device to tell the story of its rise, the immense challenge presented by Mann's Alzheimer's, and how his bandmates - and especially his wife - have created a support system allowing Mann, 53, to continue performing as long as possible.

You don't need to be a Spirit fan to be moved by what happens at Massey Hall - and in Mann's life.

Like the band's music, the film is smart and sensitive - without being sappy.

April 30, 9 p.m., Isabel Bader; May 2, 3 p.m., Hart House; May 8, 12:30 p.m., Royal .

Tickled David Farrier, Dylan Reeve New Zealand, 92 minutes 2½

What starts off as a light-hearted portrait of "competitive tickling" turns into a deadly serious investigation about the destructive powers of the Internet. But while the doc is often disturbing and occasionally startling, its nospoilers-allowed marketing would have you believe filmmakers David Farrier and Dylan Reeve have cracked open a worldwide conspiracy on the level of the Panama Papers. Most audiences, though, will be able to easily guess what happens when you cross desperate young men, easy money and beyond-vanilla fetishes.

April 30, 9:45 p.m., Bloor Hot Docs; May 2, 10:30 a.m., Lightbox

Weiner Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg USA, 100 minutes 3½

"Headline writers and editorial writers," Anthony Weiner observes ruefully, "don't do nuance."

Lucky for us, then, that Elyse Steinberg and Josh Kriegman were rolling their cameras as Weiner, the bulldog Brooklyn politician who had resigned from Congress in 2011 amid a sexting scandal, took a shot at redemption in the spring of 2013 with a bid to be the Democratic nominee for mayor of New York. Begun as a chronicle of a quixotic comeback - halfway through the campaign, Weiner is in fact topping the polls - the fly-on-the-wall doc takes an excruciating second-act turn when a gossip website publishes explicit photos and texts that Weiner (alias "Carlos Danger") had exchanged with a female fame magnet named Sydney Leathers. If you think you know the rest - the media horde does its bullying best, prompting voters and aides to run from Danger - the doc's unfettered access to Weiner and his pitiable wife, Huma, may make you feel something unfamiliar: sympathy for a man who turned his very name into an unfunny joke.

April 29, 3:30 p.m., Isabel Bader; April 30, 1 p.m., Bloor Hot Docs; May 6, 6:30 p.m., Bloor Hot Docs

A circle, edging ever outward
Canada's approach to immigration is the product of a long relationship with Indigenous peoples - and their concepts of inclusion, belonging and balance, writes John Ralston Saul
Saturday, April 23, 2016 – Print Edition, Page F1

Degrees: Experiments in Pluralism is an essay series devoted to exploring Canada's emerging identity as an experimental society. The inaugural 6 Degrees "citizen space," presented by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, will take place in Toronto from Sept. 19 to 21.

Canada is now the only Western democracy in which there is no serious argument among the citizenry or politicians over the importance of immigration. Canadians understand that immigration is not migration. It must be seen as the first step toward citizenship. And the sooner an immigrant becomes a citizen, the better.

The main complaint after the arrival of the first 25,000 Syrian refugees seems to be that more of them should have been citizen sponsored because it is harder to settle those who are government assisted. So we now need more refugees, but in that first category.

Incidentally, I believe the term should be citizen sponsored, not privately sponsored. Private implies self-interest or commerce. This is all about citizen engagement.

Seen from outside the country, our attitude toward immigration and citizenship often seems to make Canada an outlier - problematic, a contradiction, sleepwalking to disaster, even unacceptable as a real nation-state.

Over the last month in Europe, I found that many people, of all backgrounds, educations and beliefs, were quicker than ever to say Of course, you can believe in these things. You have a big country. You're a new country.

Neither is true. We aren't big. For the last hundred years most immigrants have gone to a handful of big cities.

And we aren't new. As a settler society we are the product of 400 years, most of it spent going through the same economic, political and social dramas as other Western countries. We are the oldest continuous democratic federation in the world - beating Switzerland by a few months. We are the second- or third-oldest continuous democracy of any sort in the world - 168 years without breaking up, without a civil war, a coup, an absolute monarch, a dictator.

Our cities are built where Indigenous peoples prospered for thousands of years.

As I pointed out in A Fair Country, back in 2008, First Nations and Métis peoples far outnumbered settlers into the second half of the 19th century. So Canada at its best is very much the product of the long relationship with Indigenous peoples, their approaches and philosophies; and above all, their concepts of inclusion and belonging, which today we would call immigration and citizenship. If the central characteristic of Canada is its complexity, this also is an outcome of our long relationship with Indigenous peoples. In particular we owe a great deal to the example of the Métis Nation, the very model of living complexity.

None of this lessens the reality that, for more than a century as immigrant power grew, the Indigenous-settler relationship was betrayed and great evil was done. But that in turn cannot erase the Indigenous influence on our society. That Indigenous reality is now reasserting itself. The Supreme Court of Canada's decision April 14 that re-establishes Métis and non-status Indian rights is yet another example of this.

Today, repairing the relationship with Indigenous peoples is the single most important test for Canadians. We now seem ready to play our part as their allies, but must remind ourselves every day that central to reconciliation is concrete restitution. Many of us keep coming back to the words of Chief John Kelly - "as the years go by, the circle of the Ojibway gets bigger and bigger. Canadians of all colours and religions are entering that circle. You might feel that you have roots somewhere else, but in reality, you are right here with us."

When I find myself explaining to Europeans why our system of inclusion and diversity more or less works, I inevitably go back to those non-racial Indigenous ideas which leave space for multiple identities and multiple loyalties, for an idea of belonging which is comfortable with contradictions, which shifts humans from their autocratic role as masters of the universe to one more integrated into the place itself. This is an approach to values which is the opposite of the European-U.S. understanding of the monolithic citizen melted into a pot of national uniqueness.

All of which matters today because Canada is out on the cutting edge, doing things other countries are not. We know that the leaders of the three most powerful European countries have declared multiculturalism a failure. Which I suppose is supposed to mean that Canada is or will be a failure. But we should also know that what they mean by multiculturalism has more or less involved the abandonment of what they inaccurately call migrants into ghettos; that they imagine it involves the breaking up of society into unrelated pods, producing in the worst cases police no-go zones and failed schooling. The author of a recent biography of Tony Blair presents the former British prime minster as preferring "multiculturalism" over the "integration of immigrant communities." We know this is not at all what multiculturalism is supposed to mean. And our opinion should be worth something since we are seen as the inventors and the experimental centre of the concept.

Our great weakness as Canadians is that we have been lazy when it comes to explaining what our experiment consists in. Our excuse could be that it is, after all, an experiment. That is not good enough.

The atmosphere out there in most Western countries is one of tired elites, many of them caught up in bourgeoning campaigns of fear. Canadians know all too well how contagious these are. Our last prime minister started down that road, which is one of the reasons he is out of a job. And we know well the confused, divisive atmosphere in the United States - the discourse of walls and security. The current British Prime Minister believes he must get the immigration levels down. The French Prime Minister has just called for the banning of headscarves on students in universities. Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel, having made a great ethical gesture in 2015 to welcome one million Syrian refugees, now finds that, because Germany does not have an overarching immigration-citizenship policy and structure, it is a nightmare to organize their settlement. The result has been a political backlash. And yet we must admire the risk that Germans have taken and their determination to make it work.

What's more, we must not confuse the massive political and ethical failure of most European governments with the attitudes of large parts of the citizenry.

Europe is filled with citizens throwing themselves into the crisis as volunteers.

Just as the Macedonians were closing their borders, I was in the transit camp on the Athenian docks in Piraeus. At that point, they were managing a few thousand refugees. The sheds were all well organized and run by amazing volunteers - not NGOs or government. In fact, the Greeks, almost broken by their own crisis, have responded with generosity and care to the refugees' plight, just as many citizens of Calais have stepped in to support refugees in the awful camp outside their city. In southern Italy, in Germany, there are thousands of such stories. And there are thousands of study groups, professors, NGOs, activists doing whatever they can.

But the problem is so profound that the continent is failing and governments are justifying this failure by blaming others.

You could call it a massive mismanagement of the end of empires; less the uncontrollable outcome of geographic proximity and more the result of 50 years of hypocrisy when it comes to Mediterranean relationships. The Brexit movement in Britain can only be seen as a deeply romantic desire to return to another era, which itself never existed. I hear serious individuals talking about a need to recreate an alliance of the English-speaking peoples, as if we have all been sitting around for 40 years, waiting for Britain to come back to us. The most likely outcome of Britain voting to withdraw from the EU would be Scotland separating in order to stay in Europe. This is one of those do-Ilaugh-or-do-I-cry moments.

There is a whispered conviction among many around the continent that the real problem is Islam; that it is not absorbable into Judeo-Christian civilization. This is the language which Christians used to use against Jews and Protestants against Catholics and vice versa. This was once the excuse in Canada for excluding Sikhs, Chinese, Japanese. And it was the excuse for trying to destroy Indigenous peoples.

Reactive panic - and crisis

The heart of the crisis lies elsewhere. Every year for seven decades Europe has been taking in large numbers of immigrants from many places. They were called many things - migrants, refugees, guest workers. The delusional assumption was that they would serve their economic purpose or be protected for a while, then go home. They didn't. And European leaders, off the record, knew they wouldn't.

And so, 70 years of lying to themselves has resulted in an immigration civilization profoundly unprepared for immigration. No attempt has been made by the EU or by individual European countries to develop an overarching, proactive immigration policy, with the necessary infrastructure both at home and in their embassies. In many cases they are doing better than they think, but their idea of themselves hides this success. The result now is a reactive panic; a crisis of drownings, disgraceful camps, human disorder and suffering. And there is still no hint of any desire to create a dignified, balanced immigration policy with citizenship as an essential celebratory part of the whole. It is precisely now, in the midst of the crisis, that they should be developing a positive, holistic approach. If anything, the latest EU-Turkish agreement crosses basic ethical lines and so in the long run will make matters worse.

The countdown to citizenship

Let me go back for a moment to the failure of Canadians to explain ourselves to ourselves, let alone to others. There are real risks involved in this ham-handed mutism and naive triumphalism. What's more, it is unnecessary. The patterns of our immigration and citizenship history, at their best and their worst, are clear.

The idea of a broad government-supported immigration/citizenship policy goes back to the Indigenous welcome.

That's how the settlers survived. It was equally central to both the New France settlement strategy and system created for the Loyalist refugees fleeing in the 1780s from the American war against Britain. In February, 1848, the first law passed by our first responsible-government parliament laid out the beginnings of a modern immigration-citizenship policy. With Confederation in 1867, the government immediately created a department for immigration and citizenship, and sent agents out around the world. Rules guiding the newcomers from immigrant status to citizenship were put in place and, ever since, that process has ranged between three and five years.

By the late 19th century, citizenship ceremonies were growing in popularity.

Citizenship was a choice to be celebrated publicly. Since 1900, the annual immigration numbers have ranged between 200,000 and 400,000. In 1995 we set the yearly target at 1 per cent of the population. It usually ends up at around 0.7 per cent - between 250,000 and 300,000. As a point of reference: The one million refugees taken in by Germany last year, had they been shared around the EU, would have represented 0.2 per cent of the population. In many of our embassies, over half the staff looks after immigration. We were able to handle the 25,000 Syrian refugees in a few weeks because we have a large group of public servants expert in immigration, settlement and citizenship. The first thing those refugees received on disembarking in Canada was their permanent-residency status, starting them on the countdown to citizenship.

We all know that these 400 years of policy development were tarnished and regularly knocked off track by multiple insurgencies of racism and exclusion. But each of these was gradually eliminated and the main line re-established.

The philosophical trick in all of this is that immigration and citizenship have always been treated as inseparable steps.

Engagement and marriage. This means that each immigrant arrives knowing that she must think of herself as a citizen, because she soon will be a citizen. This is a philosophy which changes radically everyone's attitude toward inclusion and integration. It means that language training is simply part of the package from the beginning, as is the expectation that new Canadians will get involved in volunteerism and politics - the two keys to an engaged citizenry.

A perpetual experiment

What of the multicultural misunderstanding?

Canadians seem to be moving toward other words - diversity, pluralism, inclusion, interculturalism - as we have sensed a growing confusion elsewhere. But the idea is really not so difficult.

I think of it as rooted in balance - a central Indigenous concept of how societies function. At its best a balance between the place, the group and the individual. You could also describe it as a balanced or positive tension between organized integration and celebrated diversity; a conviction that diversity and fairness are reflections of each other; that this requires a rigorous use of political restraint; an allergy to universal mythologies and ideologies. All of which means that we must be self-confident enough and tough enough to live with the reality of complexity.

This is the opposite of the tired European-U.S. insistence on monolithic identities. The Canadian concept of living in a perpetually incomplete experiment may seem radical to many in the Western world. And yet you could simply see it as a profoundly non-racial approach to civilization - one based on the idea of an inclusive circle that expands and gradually adapts as new people join us.

John Ralston Saul is the author of The Comeback and of A Fair Country: Telling Truths about Canada, president emeritus of PEN International and co-chair of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship.

Associated Graphic


After seasons of sketching ready-to-wear collections, Danielle Meder landed in Paris to take on January's round of haute couture shows for the first time. Here, she recounts the experience, which highlights the connection between her craft and the fashion industry's hand-made creations - and the sense of status and competition that makes both as vital as ever
Special to The Globe and Mail
Saturday, February 13, 2016 – Print Edition, Page L4

As a fashion illustrator, I feel an affi nity for haute couture. Both are anachronisms, remnants of a bygone media-industrial complex based on hand work.

In Paris just before World War Two, there were 70 accredited haute couture houses. By defi nition, they had Paris-based ateliers and all the clothing produced was made by hand for individual clients. To have custom-made dresses and suits was not as unusual as it is now. Being a seamstress was a common career for women, and the couture industry in Paris employed a lot of them.

At that time, you could open any fashion magazine or newspaper and see illustrations. Since photography was expensive and didn't reproduce well on newsprint, fashion illustrators were legion. It was touted as a respectable career for a young woman to do before marriage, so many of the names and biographies of early 20th-century illustrators are lost; those that are remembered tend to be men. These men - Carl Erickson, Christian Berard, Rene Gruau and Erte - made a very good living doing it. That's why it was called the golden age of illustration. There was real money in it.

After the war, photography eroded the dominance of illustration in magazines.

Still, in the 1960s, Women's Wear Daily, Fairchild's fashion newspaper, had an entire department of fashion illustrators. The most prominent of these workers was Kenneth Paul Block, who was routinely sent to Paris to attend and draw the haute couture shows. He worked so fast he could beat photography for timeliness.

This season, there were only 12 official houses showing during haute couture week at the beginning of January. For venerable houses like Chanel and Christian Dior, couture is intended to create the prestige needed to sell perfumes and other products. Actual clients are few in number.

As for fashion illustrators? There are only a handful who now make a fulltime living from it, and for those who do, like myself, it is not such a comfortable one. But regardless, I carry on - and so does haute couture. We're not dead yet.

For nine years now, I've been travelling to London, New York and Paris as a freelance illustrator, sketching at the ready-to-wear shows during fashion weeks. Initially, I approached it as an exercise.

Like many fashion students, my drawings were overly precious. I knew that in order to develop a mature style, I would need to loosen up. Drawing runway provided a high-pressure situation that would force my hand to let go because there wasn't any time to think about what I was drawing.

Initially, the sketches were scribbles and my commitment was lackadaisical. As seasons passed, I became addicted to the thrill of nailing a successful sketch in just a few moments. Even the logistical challenge of getting access to the shows (not easy as a freelancer) has been an incredible education.

I've had to make sacrifices to do what I do. One of them has been abandoning a permanent home. For my fi rst couture shows in Paris, I'm living out of a suitcase while figuring out what stop is next.

Haute couture week in Paris has its own wonderful little anachronisms. Obtaining a photographer's accreditation requires a paper cheque or, since I didn't have one, an exact amount of cash paid in person at the offices of the Chambre Syndicale, which oversees the shows.

Tickets are delivered by courier a day or two before a presentation. You don't know what you're attending until you open your mailbox - full of disappointment and surprise. This time, the surprise was pink - a ticket to Schiaparelli. Under the clear Paris sunlight on Monday morning I walked to Place Vendôme, where I encountered the former first lady of France, Carla Bruni, amidst a halo of flashes, working the crowd like a queen in leather pants, wishing us well - "Merci, bonjour, bonne journée, bonne année!" I was led to my seat, in the first row at the end of an aisle (my favourite position) with a note reading "A1 Madame Danielle Meder" written by hand in beautiful calligraphy. I'm not used to such a warm welcome in Paris.

The fi rst show of the week is always a bit of a challenge - I'm just warming up. The fact that this was the biggest ticket I had was intimidating, too. I did my damnedest. As the models turned by me, I gamely tried to reduce the intricate gowns to a few swift strokes.

When the curtain call came, I dropped my pen and gaped at silk prints in countless colours, the fi nest basketryinspired weaving, glittering beadwork, precise pleats, all within arms reach. The journalists around me hurriedly tapped notes into their phones, but I was incapable of critical thought. I had seen haute couture - really seen it.

Later that day, my friend, a photographer, arrived on the Eurostar and dropped off her luggage at the chambre de bonne, a tiny one-room apartment that we were sharing. We didn't have tickets to the Dior show, but we went to see the scene. Outside the Rodin Museum, the narrow street was thick with security guards and crowdcontrol barriers. Celebrity watchers and street-style photographers abounded.

Later, we had access to an off-schedule designer, Rami Al Ali, in the prestigious Le Meurice salon. As it was a presentation rather than a runway show, I had more time to capture the models in architecturally structured gowns. I was so pleased with the sketches I was suddenly feeling more confident.

Afterwards in the lobby, my photographer friend and I discussed our schedule for the next day, and she surprised me by mentioning Chanel. "I got confi rmation for access to the photographer's pit by email.

Didn't you get a ticket, too?" she asked. I hadn't.

The baroque lobby suddenly felt airless. I abruptly excused myself, telling my friend I would see her later.

I found a sandwich shop and sat down, stuffi ng a sandwich in my face so that, hopefully on a full stomach, I would be able to compose a reasonable lastminute email to Chanel.

"You can't be mad at me!" my friend texted me.

And of course, I couldn't, it wasn't remotely her fault. I had hoped and prayed for at least one big ticket (Dior, Chanel, Gaultier) so I could have a real centrepiece for my work this week. Knowing that we were probably not getting it was killing me.

I had one more show that evening - Alexis Mabille.

Under a very bright, hot light, I sketched my heart out. Across the runway from me was David Downton - indisputably the greatest living fashion illustrator.

He gave me a short nod of recognition - he's seen me before, our world is very small. I've talked to him before but I didn't want to bother him this time. After the show, the journalist next to me Instagrammed a time lapse of my sketch. The flowery caption described illustration as an ideal way to represent haute couture.

Below the video, @DavidDownton commented: "Agreed."

Back at the chambre de bonne, I laid in bed next to my friend, not able to sleep.

My mind was burning with uncomfortable thoughts. I wanted to take her Chanel access from her. It wasn't fair. I had spent years attempting to get access to one of the label's shows, and she got hers on the fi rst try. Why was photography always privileged over illustration? Could I take her access for myself, and sketch from the pit?

I wished that she had offered to let me take her place, but she hadn't. Honestly, if I was her, I wouldn't have either. It was true that security in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris was extra tight. Names and IDs could be checked, and if I tried to punk Chanel maybe neither of us would get in.

As I drifted to sleep, I thought, what would Kenneth Paul Block do? And I remembered an anecdote.

Block's boss, John Fairchild, was a notoriously bitchy critic. WWD was often banned from shows. The story goes that Block was so good he could illustrate from dictation. He would call a friend who had gone to the show and sketch the story second-hand.

The next morning I woke up to an email from Chanel.

My request hadn't been received, it had been a mistake, and it was far too late to allocate an additional seat.

I told my friend not to worry about shooting Chanel. Her job now was to watch the show closely and pick an outfit or two to describe to me afterwards.

At the Grand Palais, I stood among the crowd of street-style photographers and fellow gawkers, while my friend went inside.

Though my hand was freezing, I sketched some of the arrivals. When she came out, we went to a café and I attempted to draw from dictation. While the sketch was something like Gigi Hadid's actual outfit, it also looked cold and bitter, perhaps because that's how I felt. How did Block do it? He must have been much more gracious than me.

The next show was Julian Fournié. Fournié's designs are not the tastes of international fashion editors. The models walked so, so slowly, and I barely had energy to lift my brush.

Next up was Alexandre Vauthier, for which (with some persuasion) we managed to get backstage access.

Sketching Vauthier was a rush. The clothes rocked, the models were hot an nd my brush was wet and fast. At the end of the show, I had three great sketches and was feelin ng happy again.

One of the reasons I cam me to Paris is to understand d how fashion is driven by status. Paris upholds s a type of status granted d by wealth, tradition, official branding and expert public relations. Haute couture is like Champagne; there may, in fact, be a better sparkling wine, but if it 's not from Champagne, it t's not Champagne. While official membership at the Syndicale may seem m like a glamorous seal of f quality assurance for a designer house, it's real lly only indicative of a steadfast grip on traditional techniques. Merit, on the other hand, defies regulation, so its place is not so assured.

Does illustration deserve a place in modern fashion? Yes, but not just because it's done by hand.

Modern illustration has to be so beautiful, so alive, that it can convey a level of emotion that photography can't. When pitted against innovation, traditional techniques have to rise above the occasion. It's what I'm trying to do, too.

That evening my friend and I tried our luck at a fi nal show: Zuhair Murad, from Beirut, a member of the Syndicale since 2012.

Going through the backstage entrance, I bothered the security guard to let us both in until, exhausted, he waved us through.

(I had a backstage pass - my friend did not.)

Then I had a similar conversation with a PR girl, explaining I was going to sketch the models backstage and my photographer had to come with me. "Okay, only a few minutes though," she said.

Backstage, I found some idle models. I told them to relax, drawing them while they bandaged their blistered feet, complaining to each other.

Walking back through the grand venue was like a maze. From the makeup and hair salon, we went through a series of smaller mirrored rooms where glittering gowns hung, each with their own protective attendant. The dresses had shape even without people inside them, like ghostly entities. The runway wound through several grand rooms. At the end of the runway on the riser, the photographers packed themselves so closely they resemble a giant cyborg with a thousand eyes.

To get our shot, both my friend and I had to claim positions we did not officially have rights to. I took my place in someone else's seat, "losing" the numbered card that had been sitting on it. She tucked herself under the elbows of another photographer.

Watching the guests at Zuhair Murad was something different.

There didn't appear to be many members of the media. Instead, we were surrounded by clients.

These wealthy women, of all ages and shapes and ethnicities, were swathed in plush furs and sparkling diamonds, hair perfectly blown out, makeup exquisitely applied, heels impossibly high. The air shimmered with expensive perfume.

Finally, the chandeliers dimmed and the show began. I struggled to sketch - I was being pushed off the edge of my seat by the designer's clients, eager swans who kept standing up and sitting down, jostling around, telling each other to get out of the way, dumping fur coats on top of my sketches.

On the runway, the show ignited the imagination of the little girl inside me. Beautiful princesses with delicate features and silken hair crowned with silver laurels, wearing grand gowns that seemed inexplicably light, as if they didn't have to conform to the laws of physics. When the fi nale bride came out, backlit and glowing like an angel, her panniers as wide as the runway, her veil, the length of a stretch limo, trailing after her, everyone hushed.

And then it was over.

The audience spilled onto the runway, effusive with pleasure from this wonderful dream. As we exited the venue, dodging women taking selfies, playing out their own fashion model fantasies, we were walking through an improbably flashy fairy tale world where conspicuous displays of wealth were frankly celebrated.

It seemed so unreal, yet it was real. Clearly, couture still is, too.

Associated Graphic







Wednesday, April 27, 2016 – Print Edition, Page A6


Brazil has never been much of an Olympic power - there is really only room for soccer in this country's sporting heart - but when Rio won the Games seven years ago, there was anticipation that, at least, this would be an opportunity for a rising superpower to show off. Flash forward to 100 days before the Olympics: In the midst of a massive political crisis, a collapsing economy and a publichealth emergency, Brazilians aren't in much of a mood for a party. In fact, there is almost no media coverage of the impending Games here and Brazilians can rarely be heard discussing them. Rio 2016 officials say 62 per cent of 5.8 million tickets offered for sale so far have been purchased. Brazilians have other things on their minds: Unemployment is more than 10 per cent, and so is inflation; the country's international reputation is in tatters. "Forget people who live in the Amazon or Bahia or Sao Paulo - I live right here in Rio and even to me it feels so surreal that we're going to receive the Olympics in a few weeks. I know they're coming, but it seems so very far away from my daily life," said Mauricio Santoro, a political scientist with the State University of Rio de Janeiro. And the Games, unlike the World Cup, are seen as an event for outsiders, he added. "People in Rio really love a good party, and I believe that the moment that the Games start, foreign tourists will be well received.

But it will be very ephemeral."


Brazil's Senate is considering an impeachment case against President Dilma Rousseff, and many analysts are predicting she could be removed from her job as soon as the middle of May. If that's the case, then it may be Vice-President Michel Temer who oversees the opening ceremonies in August. But there's an impeachment case against Mr. Temer, too, as well as corruption allegations, and it's not clear how long his new regime would last. Third in line to run the country is Eduardo Cunha, speaker of the lower house of Congress, but he has been indicted on corruption charges. Olympic preparations have progressed largely insulated from the drama in Brasilia, but the political upheaval could have an impact. The machinery of government is frozen at present. The Sports Ministry is among five without a minister in charge; Tourism got a new minister just a few days ago. If Mr. Temer takes over and appoints a new government, the people in charge of critical files during the Olympics will have been in their jobs for only days or weeks, Prof. Santoro noted.


Brazil's economy is in its worst recession since the 1930s, and the Olympic host city is particularly hard hit, since much of the Rio state budget relied on offshore oil sales; royalties have plummeted.

Spending on virtually everything has been slashed, and the state is weeks behind in payment of civilservant salaries and pensions and other benefits.

Teachers have been on strike since March 2. "We ask people who are coming to Rio please not to get sick," Jorge Darze, the president of the doctors' union in Rio, told the newspaper Estadao after the governor declared a state of emergency in the health department. City residents' enthusiasm for the Games was not boosted by the fact that the state government recently asked the federal one for an emergency loan of $280-million (U.S.) to finish the Olympic subway line. Before the World Cup, angry workers in several key sectors - such as police and rubbish collectors - seized the opportunity to strike, or threaten to. With 33 different sectors on strike here in the past month alone, there is serious risk of labour disruption around the Games.


Among the budgets cut: $550-million (U.S.) was chopped from the state security budget last month.

The security plan for the Games involves 38,000 military personnel and 47,000 police and other state security personnel, more than double the number deployed for the London Games. The state security secretary said plans for the Games would not be affected by the cuts, but it's not clear, actually, that the state can afford to pay what will effectively be a massive overtime bill to officers who work the event. It can compel them to work anyway - just, not happily. And they're needed: After years of improving public security in Rio, the situation has been deteriorating sharply in recent months. There are four murders a day in the city. A man was shot dead a week ago at 9 a.m. in an apparent hit related to criminal activity across the street from Rio's fanciest hotel, just blocks from the Copacabana Olympic venue. There were gunshots exchanged in at least seven different areas of the city in the past week. Pedro Heitor Barros Geraldo, an expert on public security with Fluminense Federal University in Rio, said there is no question the reduced spending is affecting what crimes are getting investigated and how well, and what equipment police have, but he said that the Olympics will be insulated. "The trademark of policing in Rio is inequality," he said, referring to the sharp difference between how wealthy neighbourhoods and favelas are policed. "And I predict that is what you will see at the games, too: Tourists, athletes, visiting government will get well treated - Brazilian citizens won't." Police will boost their presence and control movement so intently that Olympics-related areas will likely be safe for the duration of the Games, he predicted. There are wild-card factors, however: A known Islamic State member has tweeted that the group plans to target the Olympics; Brazilian police have no experience in counterterrorism.


Organizers say the venues are 98-per-cent complete. The velodrome, equestrian centre and tennis centre are all behind schedule, but officials say there is no question they will be ready for the Games. Test events haven't gone perfectly - most critically, the gymnastics venues lost their electricity, and the scoring system didn't work during a recent test. But again, organizers say all this can be fixed (and that's why they hold tests). But tragic events in Rio last week have raised new questions about the safety of the venues: A public bike path along the sea, opened just 95 days ago, snapped under pressure from a wave and a portion of it plunged into the ocean, sending two people to their deaths. The construction firm that built the path had contracts to monitor building works for seven different Olympics-related projects. There are also mounting questions about how Olympics-related construction may be tied in to the giant corruption scandal known as Lava Jato, which is toppling Ms.

Rousseff's government. Infrastructure giant Odebrecht, whose CEO has been sentenced to more than 19 years in jail for money laundering and corruption, had contracts on two key projects, the subway and the revitalization of the old Rio port.


A key part of Rio's plan was a new public transportation system to get visitors to the Games and to be a legacy for city residents who battle some of the world's worst traffic. But neither a bus rapid transit system nor the crucial metro line are finished. Signposts around Rio that were optimistically erected to point the way to metro stations have now been stickered over with "coming in 2018." The key part of the metro was an extension linking Copacabana and Ipanema with the western suburb of Barra da Tijuca, site of the Olympic Park. Without the metro, it's a two-hour trip on a normal traffic day. Games organizers say the line will be finished days before the event begins - but there are rumours from the city planning office that the only new station that will open is the one at the park, and also that the city is testing an alternate transport plan using buses, in case the metro isn't done.


Rio is an epicentre for Brazil's Zika outbreak. The virus, once thought harmless, has been confirmed as the cause of catastrophic fetal brain injuries, with more than 5,000 confirmed or suspected cases diagnosed so far. Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes, seeking to assuage fears about Zika, not long ago remarked that dengue fever is a much bigger problem. Bleak, but true: There were nearly 19,000 cases of dengue - which can be fatal - in the city last year, and rates in the first three months of this year are six times higher than the same period in 2015. The mayor also likes to say that Zika won't be a big worry because August - the Brazilian winter - is cool and dry, bad weather for mosquitoes. The area around the Olympic park has recorded some of Rio's highest rates of dengue - likely because of the plethora of construction work that creates many pools of stagnant water, and because it's swampy ground to begin with. City officials say they have taken extra steps to control water pooling near the venues. And air conditioning was installed in the athletes' village to lower the risk that they might have windows open. Zika isn't just a risk for those who come to the Olympics: This strain has proven to be sexually transmissible, something the virus was never known to be before it hit Brazil - and Canada has confirmed its first case in someone infected by a person who travelled to a Zika-infected area.


The Olympics legacy that Rio residents were most anticipating was the cleanup of the city's postcardpretty, hideously polluted Guanabara Bay and the surrounding white sand beaches. The bay will host sailing, rowing and canoeing events, while competitors in the triathlon will swim off Copacabana. Rio's bid to host promised the water would get cleaned up; it didn't happen. "Guanabara Bay is polluted and it's not going to be unpolluted by August," said Carla Ramoa Chaves, a geographer with an expertise in Rio's water issues. Why not? The short explanation is that it's a really difficult problem to fix.

Some 55 rivers drain down into the bay, and a "large majority" of these receive sewage as if they were part of a sanitation system, Ms. Chaves said. Only about 60 per cent of city households are attached to an actual sewage system and 14,000 industries surround the bay and dump a huge amount of untreated effluent. The cleanup plans got mired in bureaucracy, and the financial and economic crises (the agency that is supposed to monitor industrial pollution has had its inspector roster slashed, for example). The only thing that has actually changed, she says, is that the city deployed new boats to putter back and forth across the water picking up trash (and the occasional corpse). Ongoing tests by the Associated Press have found levels of bacteria and viruses so high that three teaspoons of water would theoretically be enough to sicken an athlete. Most, however, seem prepared to power through, and pay the price of a potential few days of illness after training for years to compete.

"There's no way to know the real health risk," Ms. Chaves said.

Associated Graphic

Teachers and supporters protest at Cinelandia square against corruption in the office of Rio Governor Sergio Cabral in October, 2013.


A woman holds a sign that reads 'Bye Dilma' next to a man holding a puppet of Brazil's former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.


Police clash with 'Teachers' Day' protesters in October, 2013, in Rio de Janeiro. This year, teachers have been on strike since March 2.


Men look at job listings posted in downtown Sao Paulo on Monday. Brazil's unemployment rate is higher than 10 per cent.


A bike lane collapsed in Rio de Janeiro last week, leaving two casualties. The lane was built in anticipation of the Games.


A city worker prepares to fumigate in an effort to eradicate mosquitoes that transmit the Zika virus, in February in Recife, Brazil.


Rio's bid to host the Olympics promised a cleanup of Guanabara Bay, where some water events will be held. The cleanup hasn't happened.


Olympic venues are spread across the sprawling city and divided into four zones.

Forget the game: Here are the hottest parties, VIP visitors and sky-high price tags behind the Drizz-iest weekend of the year. (If you're reading this now ... you're right on time.) Courtney Shea reports
Saturday, February 13, 2016 – Print Edition, Page M2

THE PARTIES What, where, when and - most importantly - will Drake be there? Will you? True North (255 Bremner Blvd.)

MLSE has dropped megabucks to create a temporary 3,000-person space at Roundhouse Park. Last night, the venue was the scene of a party featuring performances by Usher and Gwen Stefani.

Tonight, the TNT TV network has rented out the space for a private party (special guests yet to be announced), and tomorrow Snoop Dog will appear as DJ Snoopadelic at the closing event.

Drake? Given Drizzy's status as an official Raptors employee, it's likely he'll drop in to glad hand with the corporate brass.

You? ACC seasons ticket holders got an early crack at packages, starting at $1,000. If you know someone who fits that description, now's the time to suck up.

Hyde Wildflower Lounge at Thompson Toronto 550 Wellington St. W The entire west-side hotel has been rented out by the NBA Players Association, meaning this will be ground zero for hoop stars foreign and domestic.

Downstairs is the Hyde/Wildflower pop-up party, featuring performances by rapper 2 Chainz (tonight) and party girls Taz's Angels (Sunday). The intimate space includes VIP booths going for well into the quadruple digits.

It's also one of a few venues to score a licence for a 4 a.m. last call, which means a potential A-list influx in the wee hours.

Drake? Prognosis positive, especially post-2 a.m.

You? The party is open to the public, but it's a lot smaller than other all-star party hubs. If you're hoping to get in, go early.

Daytime Ting at Fring's 455 King St. W.

The buzzy King West resto-club (that Drake co-owns along with chef Susur Lee and sons) is hosting an afternoon brunch party today (1 to 5 p.m.), as well as a whole bunch of private events.

Drake? At some point, almost certainly. He had dinner with Rihanna there just last week.

You? Brunch reservations are going fast, which is pretty much your only chance at Drizzyapproved dining this weekend.

Ciroc Night at Nest nightclub 423 College St.

The booty-famous Amber Rose - Kanye West's ex-girlfriend - is hosting at this mega-venue tonight. DJ Fabolous is spinning.

Drake? No, but you can probably dance to Hotline Bling.

You? Tickets are $60.

Sher Club at The Air Canada Centre 40 Bay St.

Drake's favourite spot for midgame escapes hasn't had any official events since the kick-off party on Thursday, but given the prime location and the fact almost every celebrity in town will be at the Saturday night skills competition or the marquee game on Sunday, it's an automatic hot spot.

Drake? Duh. He owns the place.

You? It's a private club, so unless you've got a $7,000 membership - and you've lucked into game tickets - probably not.


Follow some of these behind-the-scenes social-media stars for full all-star party access (from the comfort of your couch)

Kai and Levi Bent-Lee (@kaibentlee, @levibentlee): The sons-of-Susur are Drake's business partners who hang with him often when he's home.

Mona Halem (@monaladyluck): The local event planner (and babe-wrangler) has much of the NBA on her contact list.

DJ Steph Floss (@djstephfloss): LeBron James's personal spinmaster will have a front row seat to all of the weekend's must-hits

Norm Kelly (@normkelly): The city councillor is one of Drake's most inexplicable Six bros.

Ryan Silverstein (@OVORyan): An OVO boy and also Drake's first cousin, known in their crew as "the cute one."

Director X (@idirectorX): He's the fellow Toronto native behind the Hotline Bling video and has worked with everyone whose anyone in hip hop.


Meet the party pro with NBA ties and Grammy-nominated pals Hadi Teherani, a Toronto event planner and sports marketer, gives the scoop on the all-star party scene (including how to get in if you're not on the list)

Ball park: How many all-star parties are going on in Toronto between Thursday night and Monday?

I'd say close to 300. There are the official events, the after parties, after after parties, private dinners. And they're not just downtown. There are parties out by Wonderland and in Ajax.

Everyone is trying to get in on this.

And you yourself are involved in how many?

I would say I'm involved in I think 12 or 13 events. I'm doing nightly parties at Wildfire at the hotel where all the players are staying. I'm involved in the NBA Players Association party at Maison, which is invite-only for the players and their families. We have a huge surprise performance, which I can't talk about. I sign heavy confidentiality agreements when I help with a party, so I can't really name drop. I can say that I was involved in an event last night where LeBron, DeMar DeRozan, Kevin Hart and Dave Chappelle showed up. It wasn't my party, but I was involved.

Last night there was Drake's party at Casa Loma, the TNT party, Shaq and Snoop at Muzik, Kyle Lowry at Soho House and so many others. With so much going on, what's the best way to score some VIP love for your event?

Well a lot of it is having connections. The other thing is, a lot of these parties, the ones at the big nightclubs, where a big celebrity is being promoted - those are paid appearances, as opposed to the celebrity actually partying.

The bigger coup is to be someplace where the celebrities show up on their own time. Last night at Wildflower, we had a bunch of players show up at 2:30 to have a good time.

Who would you say are the party MVPs? Like who are the biggest gets?

Well obviously Drake, LeBron.

That's probably one and two.

Kevin Hart is big - he's one of those guys who lights up a room.

And then some of the all-stars: Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant.

Kobe is huge, because nobody expects to see him out, not even the other players. If you're partying in the same room as Kobe, you've found your way to heaven.

Any tips on how to get past the velvet rope when you're not invited?

Act like you belong. And also name-dropping with confidence.

I was at the Jordan party in New York last year. It was on major lockdown, and a girl walked up to the door and said I'm a guest of Michael Jordan's, and they just opened the door and let her in. Inside she told me, "I've never met Michael Jordan in my life."

I'm guessing she was probably pretty good looking too.

Well yes, but she wasn't that good looking.

Ten years ago, NBA players didn't want to play in our city because the scene was lame.

Now we're "White Vegas."

What happened?

You know, I don't think we were ever lame. That's something the media picked up on when we had star players leave. There were cheap comments - like when Chris Bosh said he couldn't get ESPN up here - and everyone ran with them.

Those are just things you say to your ex-girlfriend when you break up. I don't think we became cooler, I think the brand caught up to what we actually are.

True or False: Hotline Bling will play at least three times at every all-star party.


THE CLUB Meet the man behind Drake's personal party palace Ferris Rafauli is the Torontobased designer behind Sher Club - Drake's uber-exclusive, nothing-but-bling, no-plebs-allowed club hot spot in the ACC. Mr. Rafauli talks to The Globe about collaborating with the Six god, and the big - he means big - names expected there over allstar weekend.

How does one get tapped to design Drake's personal party lair in Toronto?

We were introduced by some friends socially. We clicked. I guess you could say we bonded over our love for the finer things.

My firm handles what we refer to as a black-card market, which means low key, but very extravagant. I think it was just a good fit in terms of what Drake had in mind and what we do.

The vibe of the club is sort of Scarface meets Cirque du Soliel.

Was that something you and Drake collaborated on?

Drake and I had a lot of discussion around the look and the vibe we wanted to create, which I would describe as very sexy, very dark and moody. The theme is modern baroque and the black and gold plays off Drake's OVO colours. The finishing details are extreme: exotic leathers and woods, pony fur couches, hand blown glass lighting. We wanted it to feel like an escape from the rest of the ACC. Many people go in there at halftime and they miss the second half of the game because they get lost in the party.

What can you tell me about the champagne room?

That's an exclusive space, a VIP room within the VIP club. It's a different look than the rest of the club in the sense that it has white banquettes instead of red crushed velvet. There's a huge TV. That space is meant for Drake and his guests when he's in town. That's why it's the champagne room, because Drake's nickname is the Champagne Papi. That and the whole room is wrapped in champagne bottles.

Will you be there this weekend?

Of course! There are a lot of private parties booked there that nobody knows about. A lot of big names coming. Like big ones.

So how do I get in?

That's what everyone wants to know. Members can bring a guest, but it's going to be very exclusive. The idea is to give VIPs a place where they can let loose, and be away from cameras. What happens at Sher stays at Sher.


Here's what the cost of doing Drizz-ness might look like.

The luxe life don't come cheap $300 Special edition OVO Air Jordan sneakers, released at the Jordan pop up store in Toronto (Yonge Street, north of Dundas) today.

$4,000 A single personal security guard rental for four days.

$22,814 The most expensive all-star ticket for sale as of Friday.

$41,570 Minimum cost of a private jet from Toronto to the Grammys, on Monday night in Los Angeles.

$40,000 Minimum rental fee for Casa Loma, location of the weekend's most exclusive bash, which was thrown by Drake and Michael Jordan last night.

$20,000 One- hour set by a celebrity DJ


Odds on who else might be in Toronto this weekend

Rihanna, 2:7: She was in Toronto filming a video just last week.

And she has a new album to promote. And she and Drake are totally, kind of, maybe a thin.

Kanye, 1:1: On one hand, Yeezy's busy with fashion week, his new album and offending everyone on the planet. On the other, does this guy ever miss a chance to make something about him?

Bieber, 1:8: Wild, illegal monkeys couldn't drag the Biebs away from this chance to party with the big boys.

Beyoncé, 11:3: Jay-Z's agency reps all-star Kevin Durant, which would normally be a good sign.

Still, she may skip it to avoid over-exposure after last weekend's unstoppable Super Bowl performance. And also because one of our city councillors suggested that she might be investigated before entering the city.

Blake Shelton, 2:1: His girlfriend Gwen Stefani performed at last night's MLSE party, and thus far these two have been big on travelling as a twosome.

Ben Affleck, 10:3: An odd rumour, but given that Batman v Superman premieres next month, it makes sense The Baffleck wants to bro out in front of potential ticket buyers.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


A Saturday Globe T.O. interview included an incorrect spelling for Toronto event planner Hadi Teherany.

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