Local boy metes out Capital punishment
Wilson scores a pair of first-period goals to sink the Leafs and tie the series as Washington steps up to quiet its many doubters
Thursday, April 20, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S3

TORONTO -- It was like the Washington Capitals rewound Game 3.

Only this time, instead of slowly falling apart from the second period on, they kept pounding the Toronto Maple Leafs. The chief assailant was Capitals forward Tom Wilson, yes, the same guy, a Toronto native even, who was the overtime hero in Game 1.

Wilson had 21/2 minutes for the ages in the first period, which sparked a 5-4 Washington win that tied the first-round NHL playoff series 2-2. The best-ofseven series is headed back to Washington with all those Capitals doubters much quieter, not to mention the Maple Leafs, who were schooled, maybe not in the same manner the Edmonton Oilers were the other night by the San Jose Sharks, but nonetheless reminded that the Capitals were the best team in the NHL regular season.

However, unlike the Oilers the Leafs did not stop skating and threw yet another scare into the Capitals. They managed to keep the Caps in sight in the second period, blew a five-on-three power play early in the third and then made it close at 12:19 when Auston Matthews scored his second goal of the playoffs.

But T.J. Oshie settled things 40 seconds later with his second goal of the night that gave the Caps some breathing room. That came a few minutes after the Caps had a goal waved off because of goaltender interference.

Tyler Bozak made the score 5-4 with 26 seconds left when the Leafs had an extra attacker on the ice.

The win quieted a lot of the talk that the Capitals were feeling the weight of being the overwhelming favourite going into the series.

"I think the whole favourite thing and expectations are certainly put on ourselves more than anyone else," Caps winger Justin Williams said. "Everyone will talk about them, but when you feel you have an opportunity, and I know this very well, you want to seize that opportunity, because you don't know, you really don't know how many more you're going to get.

"Like I said, it's very rare that you can waltz your way through these playoffs, absolutely. Seeding doesn't matter in the playoffs. We have a tough test here, and sometimes you have to man up and win some games."

As in Game 3, the Capitals took a 2-0 lead before the game was five minutes old, just as they did in Game 3, with Oshie and Alexander Ovechkin providing the goals. Zach Hyman scored his first NHL playoff goal 42 seconds after Ovechkin's goal to keep the Leafs close but then Wilson stepped in.

Wilson, 23, started what may have been the best 21/2 minutes by any NHL player this season by saving a goal against his team. He dived into the Capitals crease and swept the puck away from the goal line after Morgan Rielly managed to slide it under goaltender Braden Holtby.

Then Wilson went out to the blueline and knocked Rielly down, drawing a crowd. Wilson then joined centre Lars Eller on a two-man rush and finished it with his second goal of the playoffs at 13:41 to give the Caps a 3-1 lead.

As if that wasn't enough, Wilson came out on his next shift and scored again to make it 4-1 for Washington. This was the same Tom Wilson who scored all of seven goals in the regular season. Then again, he played most of the season on the fourth line where his job is more to agitate than score.

"He's Tom Wilson. Everybody knows who Tom Wilson is," Capitals head coach Barry Trotz said a few hours before the game.

"That's what he brings."

Playing the Maple Leafs brings out the best in Wilson, who grew up as a fan of the team. He has seven career goals against his hometown team, with three of them coming in this series. It was also the first two-goal game of Wilson's NHL career in either the regular season or the playoffs.

Trotz promoted Wilson to the third line for Game 3 because he knows Wilson has some offensive ability and he needed to get some production out of that line.

Going into the game, Eller, Andre Burakovsky and Brett Connolly had a total of one assist between them in the series, so Connolly was dropped to the fourth line.

"You'd like a little more production out of it, no question," Trotz said of his third line.

"They've had some shifts and some zone time, and now they just need to get on the board a little bit."

Also getting on the board was Ovechkin, who heard lots of questions after the first three games saw him play a few monster shifts and too many ordinary ones. He was more of a presence around the Leafs net on Wednesday night, although his powerplay goal was the result of a Leafs mistake exactly like the one they made in Game 2.

This time the Toronto penalty killer who completely forgot about watching Ovechkin was Connor Brown. No one was anywhere near Ovechkin when he took the puck at the left point, moved up and drilled one of his patented slapshots past goaltender Frederik Andersen at 4:34.

The Leafs came back with a power-play goal by James van Riemsdyk at 5:39 but then blew a chance to get back in the game when they could not capitalize on a five-on-three advantage to start the third period.

Associated Graphic

Washington left winger Alex Ovechkin reacts after scoring against the Maple Leafs during Game 4 on Wednesday.


For the Flames, Anaheim is a troublesome opponent
Wednesday, April 12, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S2

CALGARY -- You can't pick your playoff opponent, Calgary Flames' defenceman Mark Giordano was saying Monday, but what would happen, even if you could?

With the Pacific Division standings such a closely contested jumble right until the end of the NHL regular season, the Flames would almost certainly have chosen anyone but the Anaheim Ducks to play in the opening playoff round. Anaheim is home to Disneyland, otherwise known as the Happiest Place on Earth.

For Calgary, it has been the opposite. It has been Death Valley.

The Flames have lost their past 25 regular-season games in Anaheim, an NHL record. Two years ago, in their past playoff appearance, the Flames lost to the Ducks in five relatively easy games.

Calgary matched up reasonably well against a lot of Western Conference opponents, and even might have preferred to face the No. 1 team statistically, the Chicago Blackhawks.

But Anaheim?

Anaheim always poses problems - and this year's series is further underscored by the bad blood that occurred in the final meeting of the season when a knee-on-knee collision between Giordano and Anaheim's top defenceman, Cam Fowler, put Fowler on the shelf for between two and six weeks.

Fowler plays more minutes a night than any Duck player (24 minutes 50 seconds) and is arguably their second most important player after team captain Ryan Getzlaf.

Fowler will almost certainly miss the entire first round and his absence will represent a competitive edge to the Flames, who played without Giordano, their best defencemen, in the series two years ago because he was injured. It doesn't completely close the gap between the teams, but it narrows it a little.

Predictably, Ducks general manager Bob Murray was livid that Giordano didn't receive a suspension and was critical of the way the Calgary captain plays - which is how you'd expect the GM of a team smack in the midst of its championship window to respond. They always rally in support of their own player. Murray, a likeable straight shooter, probably even meant it.

But his counterpart in Calgary, Brad Treliving, replied in kind, labelling Murray's comments about Giordano "asinine" and without merit.

"Mark Giordano is a true pro," Treliving said, "and we're going to go into the series not worried about what's happened before.

There's a method to the madness there - to put something in the officials' heads going into the series."

So the war of words is already under way, even before the teams hit the ice for the series opener Thursday in Anaheim.

Because of who he is and how he plays, Giordano will be a focal point. He hasn't played an NHL playoff series since his first full season, 2006-07, absent for the Flames' 2015 two-round postseason cameo series because of a bicep tear. After delivering the hit on Fowler, Giordano was jumped by the Ducks' Josh Manson, the predictable coming-tothe-defence-of-a-teammate ethic that still governs NHL player conduct. Having already answered the bell once, Giordano believes the matter has been resolved and he will not face extra attention from any Duck player, seeking another pound of flesh.

"If you play a lot against other teams' top lines, you're going to get extra attention, whether you like it or not," Giordano said.

"That game happened, but it's done with. It's a playoff series and emotions are going to be high, but as a team and an individual, you can't let it affect your game."

The matchup represents an interesting psychological puzzle because many of the Flames players, including starting goaltender Brian Elliott and head coach Glen Gulutzan, are comparative newcomers and thus really shouldn't have to answer for more than a decade of failure in Anaheim.

For their part, the Ducks have a few of their own demons to exorcise, after they were upset in the opening round last year by a wild-card team, the Nashville Predators. The Ducks have the unhappy distinction of having lost three consecutive Game 7s on home ice - to Nashville last year; to Chicago in the third round two years ago; and to Detroit in the second round the year before that.

So the Ducks need to get their playoffs off on the right foot, and though they'd never acknowledge it publicly, getting Calgary to open is probably as good as it gets for them, in what they anticipate will be a long playoff run.

Giordano, incidentally, knew exactly how many more regularseason wins separated Anaheim and Calgary this season - one. In 61/2 months of hockey, that's a narrow gap.

"Those are the sorts of things you want to bring up to the guys," Giordano said. "Not a lot separates most teams in the West. In our division, it was pretty tight. That's how close the league is and that's why it's such a battle to get in.

"And once you get in," Giordano concluded hopefully, "everyone has a shot."

Associated Graphic

Flames defenceman Mark Giordano skates during a practice in Calgary on Monday. When it comes to the playoffs, 'not a lot separates most teams in the West,' Giordano says.


Senators expect 'desperate,' hard-fought game from Bruins
The Canadian Press
Friday, April 21, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S3

BOSTON -- Guy Boucher doesn't want the Ottawa Senators to get too wrapped up in eliminating Boston when they take the ice for Game 5 of their first-round series with the Bruins on Friday night.

"I never see them as elimination games," the Ottawa coach said at the team's hotel Thursday morning. "That's my experience. When I start thinking of that, that's where guys get nervous, they get anxious, they want to overdo things, they want to get things done right away in the first five minutes.

"You get totally lost in that kind of excitement, so for me it's we're going to play another game and it's going to be another one-goal game and it's going to be extremely hard. They're going to be at their most desperate - they were desperate yesterday and they're going to be even more desperate the next game, so we have to be extremely ready and prepared for it."

Ottawa, which leads the series 3-1, has history on its side. The Bruins have never come back from a such a deficit to win a series, going 0-for-22.

"Oh my goodness, I couldn't care less about history - history is different people at different times and different circumstances," Boucher said. "So it's all about us right now against the Bruins. They're been a great opponent all year long and we're expecting nothing less the next game - we're expecting a onegoal game, an overtime and really we're just focusing on the first 10 minutes of the next game."

Ottawa forward Kyle Turris agreed that the team can't get too far ahead of itself.

"It's important but you're not thinking, 'Oh we have to do this,' " he said. "We're going into next game just thinking the same way we have all series: just playing our system, trying to limit what they get and score on the opportunities we do get to just to kind of give us a chance. If it doesn't happen next game, we're going to do the same thing the game after."

Wednesday night's 1-0 victory gave the Sens a 7-1 record against Boston this season. All the games have been decided by two goals or fewer, and three of them have gone to overtime.

Asked why these games have been so close, Boucher said: "Because there are two good teams that are going at each other and nobody wants to give up."

Craig Anderson, 8-1 against Boston in his past nine starts, pitched his fourth career playoff shutout and Bobby Ryan scored off yet another nifty play by Erik Karlsson in the third period to give the Senators a sweep of the two games in Boston.

With the Bruins defence decimated by injuries - three of their top four defencemen are out - Karlsson has been freer than usual to work his magic.

In Game 2 in Ottawa, his wizardry led to a setup for Derick Brassard for the tying goal in the third period. In Game 3, he was a key in three of the four Ottawa goals, earning actual assists on two of them.

Then, Wednesday, he saw the path to the goal was actually shooting the puck wide, letting it hit the boards and come out to Bobby Ryan, who was behind defenceman Charlie McAvoy, playing in only his fourth NHL game.

Ryan slipped the puck past Tuukka Rask and Zdeno Chara, the tallest man ever to play in the NHL, couldn't prevent it from crawling over the goal line with his dive.

"I think you look at the NHL and there's a handful of guys that are able to make those type of plays," Boucher said. "Whether it's the Crosbys, or Johnny Tavares and those guys, or its Erik, that's what makes them those guys.

"They're able to see through the traffic in times of pressure, their minds seem to be working either faster than everybody else or they seem to be able to slow down the pace of the game in their minds to a level that not a lot of guys can do."

It was Ryan's third goal of the series and his second winner. He has four goals in the past five games following a 13-game goal drought.

Boucher liked the way his team played in the third period Wednesday, getting the lead and frustrating the Bruins to help Anderson finish off the shutout.

Boston had only five shots in the third, the last two by Brad Marchand, his fifth and sixth of the game. He was stopped twice on breakaways in the first period and has but one goal in his past 24 playoff games.

But the Sens are expecting the Bruins to again come out storming, this time with their season on the line.

Associated Graphic

Ottawa Senators head coach Guy Boucher talks to his players during a timeout in Game 4 against the Bruins on Wednesday.


Desjardins says he feels he let Vancouver down
The Canadian Press
Friday, April 14, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S3

VANCOUVER -- With the logo of the team that fired him just 72 hours earlier covered by a black curtain on the wall to his right, Willie Desjardins started to go through a list of people he wanted to thank.

The former head coach of the Vancouver Canucks began Thursday's news conference with glowing words about his family,

the club and its fans. Desjardins even gave kudos to the media, but his voice started to crack when he returned to a conversation he had with Alexandre Burrows after the veteran forward was traded at the end of February.

"When he was going to leave, he goes: 'I was just really disappointed that I couldn't win a Cup in this market. I felt I let the market down,' " said Desjardins, his eyes starting to water. "And that's what I think. It's the same thing.

"[Burrows] gave everything he had ... I did the same."

Desjardins was fired by the Canucks on Monday at the conclusion of a miserable season, one that saw Vancouver lose its final eight games in regulation to finish 29th in the NHL's overall standings with a 30-43-9 record.

The 60-year-old made the playoffs with a 101-point campaign in 2014-15 as a rookie NHL head coach. But as the Canucks attempted to transition from an aging core to younger players while at the same time trying to stay competitive, they dropped to 75 points and a 28th-place finish in 2015-16 before the justcompleted 69-point effort.

Desjardins - 109-110-27 during his three seasons in charge - was more candid with reporters in his final weeks, confirming Thursday he knew two months ago he was likely going to be shown the door.

"You just get a sense sometimes," said Desjardins, speaking in the same room at Rogers Arena where he was introduced in June, 2014. "When you've been around the game a little bit you get a feeling when things are coming to an end."

Named the 18th head coach in franchise history after John Tortorella was fired, Desjardins came in as a man preaching speed and a balanced four-line attack.

He kept to that road map his first season, but said he was forced to adopt a more passive, defensive approach based on available personnel.

"I definitely coached different than I did my first year or I have coached in other places," said Desjardins, whose wife watched the press conference from the back of the room. "As a coach, you have to adjust to the players you have. You can't just say: 'We're going to play this way regardless of who we've got.' " Despite mounting injuries this season, the Canucks were 2320-6 at the end of January and occupied the Western Conference's second wild-card spot before the bottom fell out.

More players went down before a case of the mumps tore through the locker room, further hampering Desjardins' attempt to salvage the campaign.

The playoffs no longer within reach, Burrows and Jannik Hansen were dealt as management finally gave the signal a full rebuild was needed for a club that stumbled to a 7-23-3 mark over its final 33 games.

Special teams were a disaster for Vancouver, which managed just 178 goals to set a new franchise low on the heels of the 186 registered in 2015-16.

"It's a tough situation when you get to this point," said Desjardins, 2-13-2 over his final 17 games. "There's casualties sometimes." While often criticized for his deployment of both veterans and youngsters, Desjardins had an undeniable impact in the growth of Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi and Markus Granlund, among others.

"Those guys may leave me, but I'll never leave some of those guys," Desjardins said. "Some of the guys on this team, I'll always follow and they'll always be special."

Asked why bother holding a press conference at all following his dismissal - there's no expectation for a fired coach to speak with the media about his own demise - Desjardins said he wanted to leave on good terms.

"I'm not bitter about it. I am disappointed," he said. "It's such a great game. There's just lots of people I owe thanks to."

The native of Climax, Sask., was in discussions with the Pittsburgh Penguins before accepting the job in Vancouver some 34 months ago, and admitted Thursday that decision has recently crossed his mind.

"That's not wrong," said Desjardins, who wants to continue coaching. "I picked here for a reason. It wasn't that I didn't think about it, it's not that I didn't go through all the options.

"Knowing what I knew I'd always make the same call."

Associated Graphic

Former head coach of the Vancouver Canucks Willie Desjardins thanked the fans, club, players and even the media at a news conference on Thursday.


Ryan redeemed in overtime, gives Sens series lead
Tuesday, April 18, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S3

BOSTON -- There is something troublesome about a lead and trying to hold it in this opening NHL playoff tussle between the Ottawa Senators and Boston Bruins.

But the only score that matters to both teams is the one that is up on the scoreboard after the final whistle sounds and, in that regard, the Ottawa Senators are breathing a little easier.

The Senators, after coughing up a three-goal lead in the second period, put all those bad memories behind them. Bobby Ryan proved the hero for Ottawa, redirecting a cross-ice feed from Kyle Turris while Ottawa was on the power play and the puck drifted past Rask to give the Senators their second consecutive overtime win of the series and as Ottawa won 4-3.

The Senators have now taken a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven-game Eastern Conference quarter-final.

Game 4 of the playoff is in Boston's TD Garden on Wednesday.

It was the Senators turn to play fast and loose with the lead after taking the Bruins to school and leading by three goals before four minutes had elapsed in the second period.

Perhaps scared stiff by the drubbing, the Bruins responded and scored three times before the end of the period to knot the score 3-3 heading into the final frame.

The third period was a rollicking affair with great scoring chances at both ends but the score remained deadlocked.

Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson made a great glove save off a tough shot by Kevan Miller. At the other end, Boston goalie Tuukka Rask was fortunate when a blast by Mike Hoffman, seeking his third goal, rang off the iron.

In the first game of the playoff last week in Kanata, Ont., it was the Senators who could not hang on to a 1-0 lead heading into the third period where the Bruins scored twice to take a 2-1 win.

And in Saturday's second encounter, it was the Bruins who coughed up a two-goal lead in the third period that allowed the Senators to skate off with a 4-3 overtime win.

The event capped an exciting weekend of sports in the New England city that also included an NBA postseason game between the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls and a weekend home stand for the Boston Red Sox, the city's major-league baseball team.

And Monday was the Patriots' Day holiday in Massachusetts and before the hockey game came the 121st Boston Marathon with close to 30,000 participants pounding the pavement.

But the spandex set eventually disappeared to be replaced that night by the city's hard-core hockey fans, who haven't had an NHL playoff game in which to vent their excitement since 2014, the last time the Bruins played a home playoff date.

The fans were already in fine fettle before the teams had even hit the ice, whooping it up when the maniacal laugh of Ozzy Osbourne erupted from the PA system, signaling the start of heavy metal anthem Crazy Train.

Neither team had scored a goal in the opening period in both of the first two games, but the Senators quickly halted that anomaly.

Hoffman broke in behind a sleeping Ottawa defence for a breakaway and scored at the seven minute, 15-second mark of the frame, using his long reach on a deke to slide the puck past Rask.

Less than 30 seconds after that Derick Brassard took advantage of a sloppy Boston clearing attempt, banging home the puck while stationed on Rusk's doorstep for a 2-0 Ottawa lead.

Ottawa outshot Boston 10-3 in the period.

More trouble was to follow Boston into the second period where Hoffman potted his second, on the power-play, his shot from the blueline sailing into the upper half of the net through heavy traffic to bring the score to 3-0.

Even Bobby Orr, the beloved former Bruin great who was among those in attendance, must have had trouble digesting what was unfolding at ice level.

But the Bruins battled back, and quickly.

First it was Noel Acciari, playing in his first playoff game for Boston, deflecting a shot past Anderson.

Then, just 42-seconds later, a horrible gaffe by Ottawa's Ryan all but gift-wrapped Boston's second goal.

Ryan lost control of the puck just inside the Ottawa blueline and then fell as David Backes quickly closed ranks.

Backes then scooped up the loose puck and broke in all alone on Anderson to score and cut the Ottawa lead to 3-2.

And the Bruins were not done yet.

While on the power play, David Pastrnak wired home a shot to the short side of the net that tied the score at 3-3.

Associated Graphic

David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins hits Ryan Dzingel of the Ottawa Senators into the boards in Game 3 on Monday.


Rangers get all the bounces in Game 4
Untimely mistakes by the Canadiens lead to two Rangers goals, proving to be the difference in the series' fourth instalment
Wednesday, April 19, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S3

NEW YORK -- Giving is good, and we could probably all stand to engage in more of it - you know, like the Montreal Canadiens did with puck after puck in Game 4 against the New York Rangers.

All it takes to lose a hockey game is a single ill-timed mistake, the Habs committed nine official turnovers in the second period (it felt like more) and logged only six shots, so the odds of it biting them were high and rising by the time Rick Nash slipped a puck under Carey Price's pad for what proved to be the winning margin.

Down 2-1, Montreal would have several decent chances to tie - Shea Weber cranked a slapshot off the post with 1 minute 18 seconds to play - but the cost of one terrible period in a series this finely balanced is steep.

The teams head back to Bell Centre for Game 5 on Thursday on even terms, two wins each.

In a sense, Montreal head coach Claude Julien predicted all this at his team's pregame skate when he sought to manage expectations: it's simply not realistic to expect NHL players to play their best every night.

Over their last five periods against the Rangers, the Habs had been very good indeed, but whatever is gained can also be lost.

Where the Habs were exiting their own zone crisply, they suddenly began labouring; where Rangers were a step slow in cutting off lanes, suddenly they were right on top of the play.

Perhaps it was the result of coach Alain Vigneault's lineup tinkering - he jumbled his lines - or maybe it was down to the Rangers' badly wanting to avoid tumbling into a 3-1 series deficit.

It can be hard to differentiate between one team's effectiveness and the other's incompetence. In this case the Rangers' much-improved effort was bolstered by the Habs' propensity to make mistakes and lose their concentration.

Two emblematic plays involving some of the Habs' best performers in the series summed the evening up.

Seconds before Nash's goal, captain Max Pacioretty had a chance to clear a puck that had bounced around the Montreal zone for several seconds because of a Jordie Benn giveaway - or at least prevent Rangers counterpart Ryan McDonagh from keeping it in the offensive zone.

The options were to block the pass or throw a hit. Pacioretty could do neither.

With Price mis-timing a pokecheck attempt, Nash tucked it home just after four minutes into the second.

Habs defenceman Andrei Markov has played something approaching to an ideal series, so of course the first conspicuously boneheaded blunder he made, 11 minutes into the game, resulted in a goal.

The Russian was retrieving a puck in the corner of the Habs' zone and under no pressure when he decided to kick it up to his stick - instead it went directly to New York's Jesper Fast, who slid it past a surprised Price.

Markov looked to the heavens, the Gardens erupted.

The Rangers faithful were in a singing mood again a few moments later when Kevin Hayes jabbed the puck into the net, but Nash was adjudged to have interfered with Price, namely by driving his knee into the goalie's head on a rush to the net.

The teams would trade chances and power plays - Lundqvist coming up big to save a breakaway from Torrey Mitchell, one of three he would stop on the night - before Montreal would tie the game under controversial circumstances.

First, Alex Radulov screamed up the ice to put pressure on young defenceman Brady Skjei as he handled the puck near his own blue line, won the on-onone battle and poked a pass to the onrushing Mitchell.

Weber jumped into the play to create a two-on-one, accepted a pass and quickly returned it, hopelessly wrong-footing New York's Nick Holden, and allowing Mitchell, of Greenfield Park, Que., to fire into an open net.

Radulov collected his sixth point of the playoffs on the sequence, to lead all scorers in the series.

The trouble is as Radulov retreated toward his bench, the Habs had six players on the ice.

It went unnoticed by the officials.

Julien likes to say you need to be lucky to win; here was another proverbial good bounce.

They'll need more.

Associated Graphic

Rangers winger J.T. Miller jumps to screen Montreal goaltender Carey Price in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarter-final on Tuesday in New York. The Rangers victory evens the series 2-2.


Play of flying Finn Lehkonen is a pleasant surprise for Habs
Rookie is not a big man, but he is smart, dogged and 'shakes hands like he's six-four'
Saturday, April 22, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S3

MONTREAL -- Roger Neilson, the late, great NHL coach, had a theory about fore-checking and early in his career he used a large, elderly collie named Jacques to teach it to junior-aged players.

Neilson would head behind the net with a tennis ball on his stick and his dog would stand in front of the goalie, waiting for him to make a move. The lesson: If canines know not to chase people mindlessly around stationary objects, hockey players should be able to learn to do the same, or at least imitate the behaviour.

It's not known whether Montreal Canadiens forward Artturi Lehkonen had a dog growing up in Piikkio, Finland, but he plays like one, relentlessly, tirelessly and with enthusiasm.

In the first period at the Bell Centre on Thursday Lehkonen provided an example of how subtle positioning and on-the-fly decision making can affect a close game. With New York Rangers defenceman Marc Staal skating back to retrieve a loose puck in the right corner of his own zone the Finn bustled in behind him, on his outside shoulder, forcing him behind the net.

That's where Lehkonen, rather than following, turned hard and scooted around the front, thus forcing Staal toward the boards and, as he turned to avoid a referee, the Finn sneaked his stick in and pilfered the puck.

The play would eventually result in a goal - Lehkonen's second of the playoffs, which jointly leads the team with Alex Radulov - and showed why Habs coach Claude Julien has compared the heady young winger to Loui Eriksson of the Vancouver Canucks, a one-time 36-goal scorer in the NHL.

"A smart, smart player, he just has that personality, not much fazes him," Julien said. "He just goes about his business."

Lehkonen later added an assist on Brendan Gallagher's go-ahead goal and ended the night on the top line and first wave of the power-play.

So, hands up out there if you predicted the 21-year-old NHL rookie would be the Habs' most consistent forward in the playoffs to this point. Anyone?

The Canadiens face elimination on Saturday at Madison Square Garden, which will test the theory character is more consequential than other qualities in hockey.

Habs general-manager Marc Bergevin began stockpiling grit and leadership last summer (out: P.K. Subban and Lars Eller; in: Shea Weber, Andrew Shaw, Radulov), and continued at the trade deadline (in: Jordie Benn, Steve Ott, Dwight King, Andreas Martinsen).

Overlooked in much of the discussion is the never-say-die contribution from Lehkonen, a second-round choice in 2013, Bergevin's second draft with the club.

Adjusting to the NHL travel schedule took time.

He has 14 points in his past 17 games playing mostly third-line minutes. Not that his emergence is a shock.

Lehkonen has a lethal shot and a sky-high hockey IQ. He also owns a world junior championship gold medal and, a year ago, led Sweden's top pro league in playoff scoring, setting a Frolunda club record. Coincidentally, one of the club's signature exports is Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

"Although [Lundqvist's twin brother] Joel might be a bigger deal back there," said Lehkonen, who speaks in a commanding baritone.

These days, Ismo Lehkonen is most often seen on Finnish television as a hockey analyst and, in his son's world, heard on the telephone.

"We talk pretty much every day and after every game," Lehkonen said earlier in the series.

The younger Lehkonen made his debut in the Liiga, or Finland's elite league, at 16.

He'll never be a bruiser in the NHL - he is listed, optimistically, at six feet and 182 pounds - but as Bergevin told the Montreal Gazette earlier this year, "he shakes hands like he's six-four."

Hunwick brings dependability to Toronto's blueline
The Canadian Press
Saturday, April 15, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S2

WASHINGTON -- Matt Hunwick had ice bags on his shins late Thursday evening, still sore from a wicked Alex Ovechkin first-period blast.

"You hope it hits you," Hunwick said of the shot, which struck a shin pad. "You don't want it to get to the net."

The block came shortly after the Maple Leafs raced out to a 2-0 lead in a Game 1, only to see the Washington Capitals storm all the way back to win 3-2 in overtime.

Hunwick had a big hand in Toronto getting even that far.

The 31-year-old soaked up more than 26 minutes in the opener at Verizon Center - second on the team - and mostly succeeded under the heaviest strain he'd seen in months. Hunwick and fellow veteran Roman Polak were both asked to play more, and against better competition in the opener against the Capitals, because of the suspected concussion sidelining 25-year-old rookie Nikita Zaitsev.

Babcock has relied on the duo all season, but more so now with the uncertainty around Zaitsev along with the considerable inexperience on the Leafs' roster.

"There's simple things that we can do to set the tone for the team or set the example," Hunwick said of himself and Polak, who went to the Stanley Cup final with San Jose last spring. "I don't want to get into specifics, but when guys are doing it shift after shift after shift, the young guys on the bench can see it and everyone just kind of falls in line."

Hunwick joined Morgan Rielly in Game 1 and finished as the team's top defender in terms of possession (53 per cent). Polak slid into Zaitsev's place alongside Jake Gardiner and fared well against the Ovechkin-led top line.

The two composed Toronto's third pair for much of the season and, despite looking overmatched early on, Babcock strenuously defended their value. He pointed to the Chicago Blackhawks routinely bringing back defenders who were well past 30 for their annual postseason runs. Why?

"Because they know where to stand," Babcock said earlier this season.

There's some truth to that, Hun wick said, and it's especially valuable come playoff time when the stakes rise.

"When you're young, I don't want to say you chase your mistakes, but sometimes you run out of position because you want to make plays or you want to redeem yourself," he explained.

"Sometimes less is more. I think sometimes you learn that later in your career."

The 224th overall pick of the 2004 draft, Hunwick had to scratch his way into the NHL from the University of Michigan. Listed now at 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds, he wasn't big nor especially skilled, but earned a role with Boston - and then Colorado and the New York Rangers - as a safe, simple, product on the back-end.

He was someone who could move the puck capably, kill penalties and bring some sense of dependability.

After missing some time with a lower-body injury, Hunwick's first half of he season proved to be a real struggle. By the end of December, he and Polak were stuck around 45-per-cent possession - an especially weak number for a depth duo, though one that also assumed important minutes for the Leafs top-10 penalty kill.

Their effectiveness spiked in the second half and it looked to be largely the result of increased effectiveness from Hunwick, who was more than 51-per-cent possession in 2017.

Raptors can't get cozy after Game 4 win
Team's history of folding after victories has got to stop if Toronto hopes to fend off pesky Bucks
The Canadian Press
Monday, April 24, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S5

TORONTO -- DeMar DeRozan hasn't finished redeeming himself yet.

The Raptors all-star rallied with a game-high 33 points Saturday in Toronto's 87-76 Game 4 win in Milwaukee after failing to hit a field goal in a humiliating 104-77 loss to the Bucks in Game 3 on Thursday night.

But the bad taste of that debacle persists, despite the fact that Toronto holds home-court advantage as the first-round playoff series - tied two games apiece - switches to the Air Canada Centre for Game 5 on Monday night.

"Looking up at that score, losing the way we did, it was embarrassing. It was a feeling you can't get over," DeRozan, speaking after practice on Sunday, said of his miserable Game 3 memories.

That was music to coach Dwane Casey's ears.

He wants the Raptors to break the cycle of upping its game after a loss and then relaxing after a win.

"That's been our MO [modus operandi]," he said.

"So that's why I'm glad to hear that DeMar was upset and not [saying] 'Okay, I had one good game.' And that's he's ready to come out."

Casey wants his entire team, like DeRozan, to come out with a chip on its shoulder.

"We're much better when our backs are against the wall," he said.

Added DeRozan: "We're going to have to play extremely hard.

We're going to have to play like we're on the road, our backs [are] against the wall, it's a Game 7.

"Sort of like we played [Saturday]. That's the mentality we've got to have."

Casey said the Bucks will hold no surprises Monday. "They're going to come out ready to fight, they're going to come out ready to compete ... We know what to expect from them," Casey said.

"We've got to be ready for that.

That's why we can't relax."

Going into games Sunday, Toronto ranked bottom among the 16 playoff teams in scoring average (88.3), 15th in shooting percentage (39.9) and 14th in three-point shooting percentage (31.3).

"We've missed some shots that we normally make," Casey said.

"We've haven't shot the ball well.

Even on open shots, I think we've missed some shots we normally make. At some point they're going to go in."

Milwaukee wasn't much better - 15th in scoring average (94.3) and 13th in shooting percentage (43.7). The Bucks ranked third in three-point shooting percentage (41.1).

The Raptors coach also wants his team to improve its rebounding and to be smarter when using its physicality. Also to make sure that if shots aren't landing, that players look to up their defence or contribute in other ways.

Casey offered no concrete hints of whether he would continue with Norman Powell in the starting lineup at the expense of centre Jonas Valanciunas. But he praised Powell.

"I thought Norm performed. He did a good job offensively and defensively," Casey said.

Powell's insertion made a difference in Game 4, with DeRozan saying having an extra ball handler on the court helped him find space.

Associated Graphic

Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and Raptors guard Kyle Lowry collide during Game 4 on Saturday.


Toronto kid comes back to take on his hometown team
The Associated Press
Monday, April 17, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S2

As NHL playoff hockey returns to Toronto for the first time since 2013, a local boy whose family couldn't afford to attend many games when he was younger will be in the building.

Ditching the Maple Leafs jerseys of his youth, Tom Wilson will try to beat his hometown team as his Washington Capitals attempt to rebound from a double-overtime loss that tied the first-round series at a game apiece. The Capitals' Game 1 overtime hero, Wilson the Toronto native, is back and ready to be public enemy No. 1 at Air Canada Centre.

"A couple years ago I got booed off the ice at the end of a game in my hometown, so we've crossed that one off the list," Wilson said last week. "I'm going to go out there to play my game and it's going to feel good to beat anyone in the post-season, and obviously pretty cool to go in. The ACC is going to be absolutely electric, and there's no doubt in my mind that that's going to be charged up and fun to play in, and so as a hometown guy it's going to be fun to go back and play there."

Toronto coach Mike Babcock ruffled some feathers when he pointed out that Wilson is "not as big of a concern" as other Capitals players, such as Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Wilson agreed with that even after scoring in overtime to win Game 1, but the 23-year-old power forward specializes in getting under the skin of opponents and opposing fans.

"He's probably so excited to go in there and be the villain and just do his thing," Capitals winger Brett Connolly said. "He's a guy who does a lot of dirty work and [plays] a lot of hard minutes and sticks up for his teammates and gets in fights with guys that maybe you don't want to at the time, but he's going to do it anyways because he's a good teammate."

Loved by teammates and despised by opponents, Wilson perhaps fittingly had a Darcy Tucker Maple Leafs jersey as a kid, a nod to the kind of player he has become. It speaks to how rare playoff games in Toronto have been recently that it was only 10 Maple Leafs playoff games ago that Tucker levelled Sami Kapanen in the final game of a 2004 second-round series loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.

Fast forward 13 years to Saturday, and Kapanen's son, Kasperi, scored twice in Game 2, including the winner in the second overtime to send the series across the Canadian border tied at 1. Toronto was always going to be jacked up for the first home game of the playoffs, but perhaps even more so now that the Maple Leafs have some serious momentum.

"It'll be a great environment, it'll be a playoff atmosphere," Washington coach Barry Trotz said on Sunday during a conference call. "You'll get chills down your spine when you're on the bench for both teams."

At the top of the food chain
Charged with guiding a grocery empire and growing Canada's second-largest family fortune, Galen G. Weston sees opportunity in technology, nutrition and medical marijuana
Saturday, April 15, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B6

The son also rises. In January, shortly after his 44th birthday, Galen G. Weston took over as chief executive officer of George Weston Ltd., the public company that controls the biggest pieces of Canada's second-largest family fortune.

It was the final step in a decade-long succession plan that makes him the key decisionmaker for a collection of businesses and brands that touch millions of people every week: Loblaws, Shoppers Drug Mart, No Frills, Provigo, President's Choice, Fortinos, Real Canadian Superstore and more. The group owns Weston Foods, a large bakery operation; a chartered bank with $3-billion in assets; a majority stake in a $5.5-billion real estate investment trust; the Joe Fresh clothing line. Chances are, it also owns a share of your shopping bill.

Mr. Weston's ascent to the very top of the Weston food chain has been a long time coming. So, too, was the turnaround at Loblaw Cos. Ltd., where he remains chairman and CEO. When he was named executive chairman of the supermarket chain in 2006, it was suffering from the hangover of an attempt to beat back WalMart, which was expanding its food selection in Canada. Loblaw had built massive new stores and went deeper into selling home goods, seasonal merchandise and other non-food items. At the same time, it was also trying to clean up the mishmash of technology that ruled its supply chain. Some stores were habitually understocked.

It was a mess.

"The business had been following a very successful strategy for the previous 20 years. And it really stopped working," Mr. Weston said. "Prices were too high, execution was inconsistent.

I think we had overbuilt certain types of stores which weren't performing at the level we expected when we put the capital in."

Consumers noticed and so did investors. The shares plunged from about $76 in 2005 to near $26 a few years later.

The climb back was slow. One catalyst was the decision in late 2012 to put the company's billions of dollars in real estate (including more than 500 retail locations) into a new public company, Choice Properties Real Estate Investment Trust. That bit of financial engineering lifted Loblaw's share price instantly and raised hundreds of millions of dollars for the ultimate megadeal: the $12.4-billion takeover of Shoppers Drug Mart, announced in the summer of 2013 and completed the following year after a lengthy review by the federal competition regulator. (Ottawa's competition watchdog is now looking at the merged company's purchasing practices after complaints from some suppliers and smaller rivals.)

The dealmaking has recharged the company. Last year, Loblaw earned $1.4-billion before tax, up from $853-million in 2003, and the shares are now at $71. But as the job has grown, Mr. Weston's public visibility has shrunk. For years he had a huge profile as the advertising voice of President's Choice, appearing on your television screen beside babies in high chairs or strolling on a farm in jeans to promote organic food.

That is changing.

"Right from the beginning, I made a commitment to myself that when my children started school I would stop putting myself in front of the camera," he said. His two boys are now 6 and 7. "And so over the past few years we have been scaling down my role and challenging the marketing and brand teams to carve a new path for representing the brand in a different way."

Less noticeably, he has become a spokesman for a longer-term approach to running a business.

Last year, he wrote a chapter in Reimagining Capitalism, a booked edited by McKinsey & Co.'s Dominic Barton and two others. In it, Mr. Weston argues that familycontrolled companies can exploit numerous advantages over widely held firms, including a greater ability to manage risk and to invest with long-range trends in mind, regardless of the pressures of shareholders.

"You can't change your strategy every six months, in my view.

You have to give people time to execute against their strategies, adjust strategies, in order for it to have any hope of success," he said. Our interview was in late March at the company's headquarters in Brampton, Ont.

What's the key thing you hope somebody will walk away with, reading this chapter in the book?

I think that there's a role for family business - and there's a really important need for businesses to reframe their thinking from quarterly results to longer-term results. If large businesses - and small and medium-sized businesses - can effectively follow some of those principles, they'll build better businesses, both for themselves and for the communities those businesses operate in.

You describe the Shoppers Drug Mart deal as taking a half-decade to complete. Can you walk us through how that went down?

When I took over as chairman of Loblaw [in 2006], it was at a period where the business had reached the end of part of its journey, and it needed some transformational change to get it ready for the next part of the journey. It was a little bit early, I would say, in terms of the development of my career, but the time was right and necessary for the business itself.

We spent a lot of time trying to re-engineer the Loblaw organization, almost from the ground up.

The next thing was to say, "All right ... where do we want to be invested?" And here, this idea of thinking for the long term played a really important role. What are the things that we see in 10, 15, 20 years that are going to be important to us?

Health and nutrition has been something I've believed in for a long time, not only as an important part of where the community needed to go but also where consumers were headed. You've got millennials who are thinking differently about food than they ever have before. They think about it more as a lifestyle experience than just about getting calories into their stomachs.

Then you have baby boomers who are aging who are also thinking differently about food.

And then there was another demographic [trend]. You saw this incredible growth in the major urban centres of Canada.

How do you invest in retail to take advantage of and build on those trends? And it was clear early on that a pharmacy with a really compelling retail proposition was a core idea, something that made a lot of sense.

We developed our own concept [pharmacy]. We came very, very close to opening it. We looked at other, smaller, easier-to-bite-off drugstore chains to potentially add to the portfolio. And ultimately we decided that it would take us 30 years to do what Shoppers Drug Mart has already done.

And then all kinds of things had to happen. We had to get ourselves into a position where we had the financial capacity to do the Shoppers acquisition. We had to start to build relationships with people in Shoppers. We actually entered into discussions with them as early as 2011, and for a number of reasons the timing wasn't right for us to do a deal.

What was particular about that timing?

You mean when we actually did it? Stable leadership, stability on both sides. When we approached them the first time, they didn't have a CEO and we were in the middle of a CEO transition. Two years later they had a CEO who had stabilized the business, made it stronger. We had stabilized the Loblaw business, made it stronger.

What's been the hardest part about the merger?

I think it continues to be a challenge to get the cultural blend right.

We bought Shoppers because it was different. We didn't buy it because we wanted to make it the same. And that's always a tough thing to do - to try to preserve the magic of what makes an acquisition special but also to get the financial synergies that make the math work.

We took a very deliberate approach - it was going to be slower. The synergy aspiration was perhaps not going to be quite as ambitious. And we were going to build trust ... and convince people that we meant what we said when we said we wanted Shoppers to continue to operate as a standalone business.

And so they're still different! And yet in lots of ways, to fill the long-term strategic vision of bringing the two companies together, people have to work together. We want people from Shoppers who are really good at certain things to come to Loblaw and teach us how to do things better, and vice versa.

Then you're dealing with people, you're dealing with emotions, you're dealing with worry, and that's hard work.

What's been the biggest surprise for you?

There were a lot more positive surprises than negative surprises.

The success of President's Choice going into Shoppers wildly overdelivered our collective expectations. We didn't realize at all how meaningful that would be.

When you're trying to make a business better, really intimately understanding something that used to be on the outside and now is on the inside and seeing how they do things differently - it creates a catalyst for change that is incredibly powerful.

Give us an example.

Shoppers has clearly one of the best loyalty programs, in Shoppers Optimum, of anyone in Canada - we might say in the world.

The way they integrate loyalty programs, promotions, rewards and also customer insights to enhance the decisions that they make with products in the store is more integrated and simpler and more impactful than, up until this point, what we had been able to do at Loblaw.

What's your own process, as CEO, to learn about something that's large and outside?

How do you get a sense of what you think is right is right? I learned this from my father [W.

Galen Weston, his predecessor at the helm of the business]. You have to talk to people, and you have to listen to what they have to say. And that's clearly your immediate set of advisers - the management team, board of directors - but it's also talking to people in stores, finding out what's bothering them. What they think the opportunities are.

I do a series of "let's talk" sessions with multiple levels in the organization, just to hear what's on their minds.

Typically what I ask them is, "Tell me, when you wake up in the morning and you just do not want to get out of bed, you do not want to go to work, because you're so frustrated by something, what is that thing that frustrates you? And when you bounce out of bed and you say, I love my job and this is the thing I really want to do, I can't wait to get stuck into this when I get to the office today - what is that thing?" It's amazing what you hear. If you hear the same things enough times, then you know there's something to dig into.

You said your thesis on health care is, if anything, stronger now that it was because of things that have happened in the past two to three years.

What do you mean by that?

There's a transformation happening in health care that is driven by two things. The first is ... the ever-escalating cost of health care. It's driven by a national health-care system that is run by the provinces, [and] the stress is amplified by this aging population. And it's being met by this extraordinary digital enablement that is happening.

In the U.K., for example, 95 or 96 per cent of all prescriptions are sent from a doctor to a pharmacy digitally. In Canada, it's 3 per cent. We're still walking in with paper prescriptions.

But imagine a universe where instead of all of your health-care records being stored in pieces - the hospital has something here, your GP has something here, the local medical clinic has something here, the pharmacy has it here - imagine a world where all of that stuff can be digitized and put into one place that is the property of the patient. Imagine what that enables, if the patient is the hub and all of their healthcare providers can instantly access that information when they're thinking about treating them.

Going and getting your blood pressure taken once a year during your annual medical has value. But checking your blood pressure regularly at a Shoppers Drug Mart if you're a sufferer of hypertension - and having that reading uploaded automatically to the pharmacist and to the doctor - then you're starting to talk about leveraging the access to all of this information.

Now plug in your nutritionist, and use a digital record of your nutritional profile. We have, at Loblaw, a digital database of nutritional information for every product that we sell in the stores.

So now connect that into this personal patient record which all of the various health-care professionals have access to. And then connect that to an incentive system like Optimum or PC Plus, where if you choose to eat products that have more appropriate nutritional characteristics for your particular condition, you earn points. For hitting your 10,000 steps with your Fitbit on any given day, you earn points.

We've got 5,000 people inside Loblaw connected using their cellphone in exactly the way I described.

Wait - so these 5,000 employees, what's happening with them?

It's fascinating. I'll give you an example. We have an executive challenge and all members of the management team are signed up to the same challenge. And it's 365 days - who is going to deliver the most steps. Connected to your Fitbit. Every night you can upload your results and see how you're doing on the leaderboard.

A couple of executives - one is working on weight management, and the other is working on his blood pressure - are right off the charts in terms of where they sit on the leaderboard. And both credit knowledge, understanding and being able to directly measure how they're doing on a daily basis.

In the natural-foods departments in our stores, you see continued, relentless, skyrocketing growth. This is more than just a bunch of rich people who can afford to spend a little bit more.

It's about people making a choice because they believe and they have information and data that says it's going to lead to a healthier life.

Where does this view on health and nutrition take you strategically? Does it lead you to other acquisitions, other lines of business?

Maybe. One way of thinking about it is if you start to change the way people make decisions about the products they buy. And in a world that has been massively price-focused, with food prices being one of the principal drivers of how customers make shopping decisions, we can start to shift that a little bit so that people are buying products for a different reason.

It also opens the strategic lens to other areas of business. We acquired QHR, which is one of the largest doctors' medical records software companies out there. Why is that? Because if you have the pharmacy record, you have the nutritional record and then you have the system that connects to 20,000 medical doctors, you start to see how you can digitally connect that personal health record in a really compelling way.

Does that lead to other services and other opportunities that are more directly tied to the provision of health-care services?

Maybe. Maybe.

How does your life change now that you are in charge of not just Loblaw, but George Weston too?

I would say that this recent change, which has me taking on the incremental role at George Weston, is part of the succession plan. It's a transition. Sarah Davis has stepped into the role of president at Loblaw. She's responsible for running the day-to-day operations of the business. That allows me to focus more specifically on the medium and long-term strategic mission for Loblaw, but also creates the space for me to effectively take on the CEO of Weston job.

Can the grocery business be Amazoned?

Amazon, for any retailer, in any category, in any part of the world, has to be acknowledged as someone to watch very closely.

Right now we feel really good about where we sit. We have a terrific e-commerce platform for our apparel business. We have the leading e-commerce platform for our grocery business with click and collect. [The program allows customers to buy groceries online, then pick them up at a store.] We've recently launched the first stage of our pharmacy offer for customers. And we're going to continue to do that.

Having said that, if you look around the world and you see where the disruption to grocers in particular is really coming from, it's not coming from e-commerce yet. Where it's coming from is the notorious German discounters, Lidl and Aldi. They have been wreaking havoc in Europe for years, they have been disrupting the U.K. market for the last five or six years, to devastating effect. And both Lidl and Aldi are on aggressive growth trajectories in the United States.

So in terms of the clear and present danger, as opposed to the future danger, we certainly see the discounters as the ones that we can really, really understand the impact they're going to have.

Do you see the Germans coming into this market in the near future?

I don't have any insight to say that they will come. But from a planning perspective, our expectation is that at some stage they will come to Canada. I always say in three years, but I've been saying three years for a while.

How is the Joe Fresh business doing? You guys don't disclose very much on it.

The Joe Fresh business is doing great. Really strong.

It's been widely reported that we retrenched from our standalone investment in the U.S. So what were we doing there? We did a lot of research ... it made a lot of sense to take a controlled, staged chance on whether or not that business could be successful in another country.

We made that investment, it didn't work, and we had a predetermined threshold around how much we were going to invest.

Once we hit that threshold and we didn't see that it was going to move to the next stage, we retrenched and got on with life.

Our principal focus is on the Canadian business and it continues to perform really well. In fact, the last two years that we've been restructuring that business, post [Joe Fresh founder] Joe Mimran's departure, was probably in my experience one of the most significant positive transformations in one of our lines of business that I've seen.

At one point you had a billiondollar sales target on that business. Are you close?

So I'm never going to make a statement like that again! Look, we're really happy with the business and continue to feel it's a really important part of our customer proposition here.

The Rana Plaza disaster was four years ago. [In April, 2013, a garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed, killing more than 1,100 people. Joe Fresh products were made at the factory, and two years later the company was served with a proposed class-action suit seeking $2-billion in damages. The company is defending itself.] How did that event change how you approach that business and your thinking around that business?

You know, this was a horrific thing. And even though we did everything we were supposed to do from an inspections point of view, meeting all of the appropriate international standards at that time, there was still this monstrous tragedy that had our products directly involved.

My grandfather - family values - we really believe that business, and big business, has an important responsibility and a positive role to play in the community.

And if you're a big, big business like we are, then you have a positive role to play and you have to think about the impact that you have on the country as a whole.

And if you are sourcing products internationally, it's not an unrealistic expectation that you should also be thinking proactively about those areas of influence that you have.

My statement following Rana Plaza was far less about wanting to ... [acknowledge] a legal accountability for what happened and much more about saying, "Hey, something terrible happened in this industry, let's stand up and face into it."

When bad things happen - and they do happen, they happen in big businesses, no matter what your control systems are - part of what you have to expect of yourself and of your organization is that you'll stand up and take accountability for it in the right way.

In this case, it was drawing a spotlight on the issue and saying we have a responsibility as an industry to figure out ways to make a more positive impact.

And that's happened - not exclusively because of us, because of NGOs, because of union engagement and Bangladesh working hard in its own right to make changes.

The addition of building structural inspections across all factories in Bangladesh and a number of other countries ... is a direct outcome, a positive outcome, from a very terrible circumstance.

Can you feel confident that in that business, you won't have this issue come up again with one of your suppliers?

Well, listen. I can feel confident that we are delivering on the standards and expectations that are set by the international accord that we are participants in. But for me to say that, based on that, nothing terrible will ever happen again would be inappropriate.

Certainly we are evolving the standards and we are continuing to invest to meet those standards. We have boots on the ground, which I think is a big and important step.

How big is the potential business opportunity around medical marijuana for Loblaw and Shoppers Drug Mart?

I'm not going to comment on how big it is. But we see it as an opportunity. We are a drugstore and we see a lot of emerging research around the potential for different delivery models for cannabis to help with pain management, if you think about things like the opiate crisis across Canada and the U.S.

We do think that distribution of medical marijuana should be enabled through a pharmacy distribution model as opposed to simply through the mail.

And we do think it represents a meaningful business opportunity for us. But you're not seeing us as an organization pile into the cowboy chaos of the producers that is happening at the moment.

We're focused on working with particular producers who can effectively supply ... in the event the legislation changes and pharmacy ends up being a big part of the distribution system.

So you're only interested in the medical side [of pot], not the recreational side?

One has to be super-careful to say what we will and won't ever do. But our principal focus has and will continue to be for the moment medical.

You've got two young boys.

You've written quite passionately about this being a family business, and it's fairly rare that a business runs this long under family control. What are your thoughts about their future involvement?

I think this is important. What I aspire to is, I aspire to raise with my wife Alexandra two boys who have a strong sense of values, a sense of responsibility that comes with opportunity or privilege, and some ambition that they want to do something meaningful with that opportunity and privilege. If they grow up with those things, there will be an opportunity for them in the business, if they feel that connection.

People often ask me, what's it like growing up as a Weston?

They ask me, what about this incredible pressure you feel to be part of the business? I think I was incredibly fortunate - I love the business. I spent time in it when I was young, summer jobs and so on.

So I get up every day - mostly every day - feeling charged up about what is going on in the business and ultimately what we can do. That you have to have, to be a compelling and effective family leader.

To push somebody into it when they don't have those things is a recipe for disaster, or at least for suboptimal performance. Ask me in 20 years and we'll see where either of those boys end up.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Associated Graphic

Galen G. Weston, right, CEO of George Weston Ltd., with his father, W. Galen Weston, after the Loblaw annual general meeting in May, 2010. Left, the Loblaws supermarket in the former Maple Leaf Gardens, on the northwest corner of Carlton and Church streets in Toronto.


A Loblaws store shown in 1988. Mr. Weston says the grocery business is seeing 'relentless, skyrocketing growth' in the natural foods departments of its stores.


Franchises wary of new workplace rules
In Ontario, a proposal that franchisees and franchisors be deemed 'joint employers' is cheered by labour, jeered by business
Special to The Globe and Mail
Wednesday, April 19, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B2

Ontario's review of its labour laws has spurred much concern from businesses worried that the province will add regulations that will harm their companies in a bid to protect vulnerable workers. But for the province's franchisors and franchisees, the idea that they might be deemed "joint employers" has sparked the greatest outrage.

Labour groups contend that the joint employer clause would prevent large organizations from using intermediaries such as franchises, temporary worker agencies and contractors to shed responsibility for their work force.

The "arm's-length" relationship that has traditionally been used to protect franchisors in the case of labour law infractions by their franchisees is questionable, says Deena Ladd, co-ordinator of the Workers' Action Centre, a Toronto-based labour rights group. She says both should be considered joint employers of a franchisees' work force.

Ms. Ladd argues franchisees are often told by franchisors how to organize their franchise, what prices to charge, how their staff should look and how they should advertise and present products. So why not exert some control to ensure workers' rights aren't trampled on? "The franchisor has all the control, but none of the responsibility," she says.

If joint employer is adopted, she says, both franchisee and franchisor would be responsible for ensuring employment standards are met and providing a workplace that is "free of harassment and injuries, where people get paid for their work."

They'd also have to ensure the implementation of potential updates proposed in the Changing Workplaces Review aimed at eliminating practices such as just-in-time scheduling to ensure additional hours go to part-time workers who want them (rather than deliberately keeping everyone part-time and without benefits). Another potential change being considered is eliminating differential pay rates for people doing the same job.

Firmly on the other side of the fence, the Canadian Franchise Association (CFA) contends the change would harm franchisees, who are drawn to the franchise system because it offers them a chance to run a business on their own based on a proven business concept.

"The beauty of franchising is that, if I'm an entrepreneur and I want to run my own business I can use a proven business model and follow the road map that has been set out for me, but I remain an independent business person," says John Ferracuti, chief operating officer of the franchise operation Bin There Dump That, a provider of dumpsters for renos and clean-ups. "If you make the franchisor joint employer with the franchisee, it changes that relationship significantly."

Every good franchise agreement already stipulates that the franchisee must run their business in compliance with any provincial or federal laws, Mr. Ferracuti says. But if the joint employer clause is adopted, franchisors worry they might be held jointly liable for dispute resolution between franchisees and their employees, as well as claims for wrongful dismissal, human rights violations and wage and overtime class actions.

"I feel strongly that this type of legislation would force the franchisor to have a much more controlling and heavy-handed role," Mr. Ferracutti says. "I'd have to get involved with some pretty grassroots aspects of the franchisee's business, from scheduling to human relations."

Staffing a business, he argues, is a delicate dance that takes into account both the employee pool in the area and the business requirements. And a franchisor with many outlets, sometimes broadly geographically separated, simply can't be up to speed on market conditions for every one of their franchises.

"Individual franchisees are much more in touch with the needs of employees in their own community than I am," Mr. Ferracuti says. "We do train our franchisees in how to hire and how to schedule, but we give them guidelines. They take those and staff their business according to what works best for them."

Mr. Ferracuti says policing all of his locations to ensure they meet every employment standard would also require added staff and added expense, all of which would have to be passed on to the franchisee. "Not to mention that, philosophically, most franchisees don't want the franchisor looking over their shoulders."

Ryan Eickmeier, vice-president of government relations and public policy for the Canadian Franchise Association, contends that a change in joint employer status could "have a dramatic chilling effect on future investment in the province," by discouraging franchisors from opening operations there.

The franchise industry is a significant driver of the Ontario economy, he says. Ontario is home to 65 per cent of Canada's franchise outlets and 56 per cent of the country's franchise headquarters. And the industry employs "hundreds of thousands of people." And yet, Mr. Eickmeier says, "Ontario is the only jurisdiction in Canada - and in North America - that is actively looking at this."

Although the franchise industry supports the mandate of the Changing Workplaces Review to protect workers while supporting businesses in today's economy, Mr. Eickmeier says, deeming franchisors and franchisees joint employers won't help achieve either goal. "We don't think it protects workers and we think it will be detrimental to the economy."

The Ontario Ministry of Labour says the review's final report is expected to be released in midto late-May.

The 2017 Globe and Mail Small Business Summit is a one-day conference of insightful sessions, proven business growth strategies and innovative ideas from the country's brightest business leaders. Full details at

Associated Graphic

The franchise Bin There Dump That would see its business relationship change 'significantly' under the proposals, COO John Ferracuti said.

WestJet takes aim at no-frills fliers
Friday, April 21, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

WestJet Airlines Ltd. is moving to capture the most price-sensitive airline passengers - and attract some people who don't fly at all - creating an ultralow-cost carrier (ULCC) that is scheduled to begin operating before the end of the year.

Canada's second-largest airline will make the move down-market in what some analysts regard as a defensive measure against fledgling ultralow-cost carriers Canada Jetlines Ltd. and Enerjet, which are trying to raise money to get their own networks up and running. "We believe this is the best approach for us for the price-sensitive end of the market," WestJet executive vice-president Bob Cummings said. "We do believe there's a significant market out there beyond what we have today."

Mr. Cummings would not reveal route plans, fares or other operating details, but said WestJet will begin with 10 Boeing 737 800 aircraft in a high-density seat configuration.

Ultralow-cost carriers typically charge rock-bottom fares and jam as many seats into an airplane as possible while charging fees for baggage, food and drinks, inflight entertainment, paper tickets and other services that some mainline airlines include in the price of a fare. Among the targets for the new airline are people who don't fly now, Mr. Cummings said in an interview on Thursday.

"If you go through our history, how we've stimulated markets, I think it was about 15 per cent of Canadians flew in 1995 before we entered the market and last year I think it was 33 to 34 per cent."

The ULCC service is likely to offer flights both within Canada and to the United States, he hinted.

"A 737 has a range of almost 3,000 miles, so it makes sense for us to look beyond domestic," he said.

There's a potential market of about 10 million passengers, about half of whom travel to such U.S. border cities as Bellingham, Wash., Buffalo and Plattsburgh, N.Y., to take advantage of lower U.S. fares.

"Where this is going to be attractive is [to] someone who's very price sensitive: 'I've got a family of four and I want to go to Florida, if the family and I drive over to Bellingham I can save $1,200,'" said industry analyst Chris Murray, who follows WestJet for AltaCorp Capital Inc.

Mr. Murray agreed that there is a market for people who want to pay ultra-low fares, which could be as low as $19. But they will have to pay for any amenities, he said, up to and including boarding the plane earlier than others.

Spirit Airlines Inc., an ultralowcost U.S. carrier based in Miramar, Fla., generates revenue from 60 to 70 separate ancillary services for which it charges, he noted.

A search on Spirit's website revealed a fare of $276.08 (U.S.) for a return flight between Buffalo and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with one stop.

WestJet's fare for a non-stop flight to Miami from Toronto with a one-stop return flight was $661.24 (Canadian).

National Bank analyst Cameron Doerksen said in a note to clients that the new carriers in startup mode in Canada threaten WestJet's positioning as the low-fare leader.

"Thus, WestJet's strategy is aimed at maintaining its share in the price-sensitive leisure segment," Mr. Doerksen wrote in a note to clients Thursday.

Canada Jetlines said the WestJet plan "offers nothing more than an 'airline within an airline' that will not increase competition into the market and it remains to be seen whether it will be able to achieve the full benefits of a ULCC."

While WestJet moves downmarket in competition with the new carriers, it has also been targeting Air Canada by adding flights to Britain on wide-bodied aircraft.

The Calgary-based airline appeared to be making a bigger international move earlier this year when it got approval from its pilots to add more widebodied planes, but Mr. Murray said he wonders if WestJet is rethinking that further expansion.

Mr. Cummings said WestJet is still evaluating further expansion, but had nothing to announce Thursday.

WestJet (WJA)

Close: $22.91, down 21¢

Associated Graphic

WestJet says it is planning to expand into the ultralow-cost carrier market to compete with international rivals such as Spirit Airlines.


As Canadian stocks tread water, investors await profit rebound
Monday, April 17, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

Key Canadian companies are set to roll out their quarterly financial results over the next couple of weeks amid upbeat economic expectations and near-record-high stock prices.

Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. and Rogers Communications Inc. are two highlights for this week.

Barrick Gold Corp., Canadian National Railway Co., Metro Inc., Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. and Bombardier Inc. follow next week.

These companies are among more than a dozen corporate heavyweights that should provide a clearer picture of where profits - and share prices - are headed.

"Pre-tax corporate earnings are likely to speak louder in driving equities from here," Avery Shenfeld, chief economist at CIBC World Markets, said in a note.

Analysts are optimistic.

They estimate that Canadian profits are set to rise 28.1 per cent over the same period in 2016, according to David Aurelio, an analyst at Thomson Reuters.

Rebounding commodity producers are expected to lead the gains. Yet, even after stripping out energy stocks, Mr. Aurelio expects Canadian profits will rise 14.6 per cent.

The results will land during a particularly sensitive time for stock markets, given stretched valuations.

Major North American stock market indexes have enjoyed a sharp upswing since last year, when investors embraced U.S. President Donald Trump's promises of rolled-back regulations, lower corporate taxes and stronger economic growth.

The gains have pushed priceto-earnings ratios - 22.4times trailing profits in the case of Canada's S&P/TSX composite index - to multiyear highs.

The S&P 500 has risen 15 per cent since November, hitting a record high of 2,396 in March.

The S&P/TSX composite index has risen more than 7 per cent over a similar four-month period, hitting a record high of 15,922 in February.

But both indexes are off their highs and have been drifting sideways over the past month, which is putting pressure on profits to provide the next jolt.

Stéfane Marion, chief economist and strategist at National Bank Financial, believes this sort of pressure is good for markets at this stage.

"We like the fact that most equity markets have been driven by earnings growth rather than P/E expansion so far in 2017, making the current rally more sustainable," Mr. Marion said in a recent note.

Profits from energy companies are set to explode by 113 per cent from last year - an easy comparison given that depressed oil prices had hammered energy producers' profitability in early 2016.

Investors will have to wait a bit longer to see evidence of this rebound, though. Suncor Energy Inc. reports its first-quarter results on April 27, followed by Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. on May 5.

Similarly, materials companies are expected to report profits that are 68 per cent higher from last year.

Barrick Gold Corp., which reports its results next Monday, is expected to double its year-overyear profit, to 20 cents a share from 10 cents in the first quarter of 2016.

But the two big companies to watch for this week will likely kick things off with far less excitement.

Rogers, which reports its results on Tuesday after markets close, is expected to show that its profit rose 11 per cent from last year, according to Bloomberg.

There is little room for disappointment, though. The shares have rallied nearly 17 per cent this year, raising the stock's trailing price-to-earnings ratio to 21.5 from 18.4 at the start of the year.

As a result of this expanded valuation, Robert Bek, an analyst at CIBC World Markets, downgraded his recommendation on Rogers earlier this month to the equivalent of a "hold" from a "buy."

"With Rogers outperforming both peers and the TSX at large so far in 2017, shares continue to push up against our valuation parameters," Mr. Bek said in a note.

Canadian Pacific is expected to show relatively unchanged profit, year-over-year, when it reports its results on Wednesday.

But Walter Spracklin, an analyst at RBC Dominion Securities, believes the shares are inexpensive relative to peers and improving conditions for railways.

"Moreover, we see a further avenue for multiple expansion in the medium term should talk of consolidation increase on the back of [CEO Hunter Harrison's] departure," Mr. Spracklin said in a note.

U.S. eyes punitive lumber duties
Ottawa denies American industry's allegations of 'critical circumstances' in Canadian softwood exports
Monday, April 24, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

QUESNEL, B.C. -- The U.S. Department of Commerce is on the verge of imposing duties on Canada's softwoodlumber exports, a move that will send shock waves across forestry-dependent communities from British Columbia to New Brunswick.

The department will announce its preliminary determination on Tuesday on countervailing duties for Canada's alleged lumber subsidies.

Precisely how much pain is felt by Canadian producers will depend on how successful the U.S. industry is in swaying the department. U.S. producers allege there has been a surge of softwood exports from Canada into the United States - "massive" shipments that would constitute "critical circumstances" to warrant not only duties in the future, but retroactively up to 90 days.

Commerce selected four mandatory respondents in Canada in the cross-border lumber dispute: Three B.C.-based producers (West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd., Canfor Corp. and Tolko Industries Ltd.) and Montreal-based Resolute Forest Products Inc.

New Brunswick-based conglomerate J.D. Irving Ltd., a major lumber producer regionally, is a voluntary respondent.

"Based on the most recent information received from the company respondents, the department should make an affirmative critical circumstances finding as part of its preliminary determination in the countervailing duty investigation," a group led by the U.S. Lumber Coalition said in a letter last week to the U.S. Commerce Department.

Industry analysts predict the United States will slap a preliminary countervailing-duty rate of least 20 per cent on Canadian exports, followed by an announcement in late June for an antidumping rate that is expected to be 10 per cent or higher. Analysts also forecast a ruling of critical circumstances, meaning punitive tariffs would be backdated 90 days from the effective date of duties on new exports.

The Canadian government denies the U.S. industry's allegations of a surge of lumber shipments south of the border.

Ottawa counters that the U.S. producers have cherry-picked statistics to suit their pro-tariff agenda by creating new measurements that go well beyond traditional methods of gauging exports after an investigation is launched.

The U.S. industry group's "proposed comparisons appear to be solely aimed at finagling a way to show an increase in imports greater than 15 per cent, but that increase bears no relationship whatsoever to the purpose of the critical circumstances provision," the Canadian government said in a letter Thursday to the U.S. Commerce Department.

The 2006 Canada-U.S. softwood-lumber agreement expired in October, 2015. The U.S. lumber sector petitioned the Commerce Department to begin its probe this past November, after the expiration of a one-year litigation moratorium.

With tariffs anticipated to total at least 30 per cent on Canadian lumber exports, the stakes are enormous for forestry communities such as Quesnel in the B.C. Interior.

West Fraser, founded in Quesnel in 1955 by the Ketcham family, has grown over the decades to become one of the largest lumber producers in the world.

Brian Balkwill, West Fraser's vice-president of Canadian lumber, proudly pointed out the 400 jobs at the sawmill - one of the largest in British Columbia.

Forestry management and employees across Canada are nervously awaiting the details of punitive duties.

British Columbia is Canada's largest lumber exporter into the United States, with a 55.2-percent share of sales volume last year, followed by Quebec (19 per cent), Ontario (7.9 per cent), Alberta (7.8 per cent) and New Brunswick (7 per cent).

The Atlantic provinces have escaped U.S. tariffs and quotas over the decades in the long-running softwood dispute dating back to 1982, but New Brunswick is being targeted this time around by the influential U.S. industry group named COALITION, which stands for Committee Overseeing Action for Lumber International Trade Investigations Or Negotiations.

COALITION said it isn't asking the U.S. Commerce Department to take action against Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.

OSC set to slash red tape for investment funds
Tuesday, April 18, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

The Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) is planning to streamline disclosure requirements around investment funds - something the regulator says will help reduce the regulatory burden for companies, and allow investors to make better investment decisions.

The OSC says it plans to nail down its specific proposals for funds by the end of the year, and have a paper out for public comment for industry players by the end of the first quarter of next year.

New disclosure rules may take effect as early as the end of 2018.

Reducing regulatory red tape is a priority for the OSC this year.

A few weeks ago, the regulator put forward ideas to streamline disclosure rules for publicly-listed companies in a report that was released for public comment.

Some of those proposals included moving away from quarterly financial reporting in favour of semi-annual reporting.

Like publicly traded companies, investment funds such as mutual funds, closed-end funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and structured products are required to continually disclose myriad documents on the System for Electronic Document Analysis and Retrieval (SEDAR).

Those disclosures include a simplified prospectus, semi-annual financial statements, fund-performance reports and fund-facts sheets.

"We know that investors don't necessarily know how to read [disclosure documents]," John Mountain, director of investment funds and structured products branch with the OSC, said in an exclusive interview.

"And it's pretty easy to confuse them by giving them too much disclosures."

Mr. Mountain says the regulator is looking at the disclosure requirements and figuring what's "really important" and must stay - and what "serves no purpose whatsoever," and therefore can be eliminated.

"Hopefully, the changes will lead investors to the needle, rather than giving them the haystack and asking them to find the needle," he said.

Observers have argued that, in some instances, investors are essentially given a choice of too much information or not enough.

Prospectuses, which are filed when a fund is first offered for sale, typically run more than 100 pages, and but a "fund facts" document that gives investors only the essentials is usually a two-pager. Mr.

Mountain raised the possibility that the prospectus document could be shortened as a result of the new rules, but he said the fund-facts document is unlikely to be modified (other than the possible addition of a line).Some disclosure requirements within regulatory documents may be discarded entirely. Mr. Mountain cited the example of every prospectus currently containing a 25-30 page description of what a mutual fund is - something he says was needed 20 years ago when investing in mutual funds was relatively limited, but is largely redundant today.

Mr. Mountain also pointed out the potential confusion that is created when essentially the same information is described in slightly different ways in different documents. For example, the "fundamental objectives" of a mutual fund is described in both the fund facts document and the prospectus, but there are subtle differences in the wording.

Before rejoining the OSC last year (he worked at the regulator in the mid-eighties as an articling student and again from 1989 to 1996 as senior counsel), Mr. Mountain spent a decade in the fund industry. From 2005 to 2015 he worked as chief counsel for Northwest Funds (later NEI Investments).

The OSC is working closely with the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), Quebec's securities regulator, on this file.

Any new rules would ultimately be introduced by the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA), an umbrella group for Canada's provincial securities regulators.

'The No. 1 threat': Poloz warns of U.S. trade tack
Friday, April 14, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

The spectre of U.S. trade protectionism is "the No. 1 threat" to Canada's economic well-being over the next several years, Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz told a Senate committee in Ottawa on Thursday.

In response to a question at a hearing of the standing Senate committee on banking, trade and commerce, Mr. Poloz said the uncertainty surrounding the U.S. Trump administration's trade policies is a major impediment to Canadian businesses investment, which has already been a weak point in Canada's economic recovery. He said the U.S. trade outcome, while still impossible to predict, "will certainly be negative" for the Canadian economy, "and could even be a major shock."

"It's very, very significant for Canada," he said. "I would say protectionism is absolutely the No. 1 threat."

His testimony follows Wednesday's release of the Bank of Canada's quarterly Monetary Policy Report, in which the central bank upgraded its 2017 economic growth forecast in light of a steady stream of strong economic indicators since the start of the year, but remained distinctly cautious about the future.

The bank said one of the key risks to its economic outlook is the threat of new trade policies that would hurt Canadian access to the U.S. market, including a possible renegotiation of the North American free-trade agreement, which has been the basis for integrated continental trade for more than two decades.

But with little clarity on what actions the U.S. government will ultimately impose, the central bank has resisted quantifying the potential impact on the economy.

"We really can't give any figures," the central bank's senior deputy Governor, Carolyn Wilkins, told the committee, citing the wide range of protectionist measures the United States is still considering, involving a variety of trading partners.

"We really don't know which of these measures are going to be chosen. We don't know what the timing will be, either, or the scope of these measures," Ms. Wilkins said. "But what we do know is, that at the end of the day, it will be negative for the Canadian economy.

"I can tell you that there are base cases that could be very negative for Canada. But we haven't seen that yet. And it's not clear that we will see them," she said.

Mr. Poloz believes the same uncertainty that is holding back the Bank of Canada's forecasting is also keeping companies from investing in expansion, a factor that will continue to impede Canada's economic growth.

"When we talk to companies today ... they talk mainly about what might be coming from the United States; what's the future of NAFTA," he said.

"For me, it's the uncertainty that matters. Even if [U.S. policy makers] don't do anything, companies are wondering, and they're holding back on their investments today, which has a long-term effect on the economy. It's slowing down employment growth in new sectors that would be expanding," he said.

"Investment could be significantly higher if that were just cleared up - one way or the other."

Associated Graphic

Continued uncertainty around the Trump administration's future approach to bilateral trade remains the Bank of Canada's top concern, according to Governor Stephen Poloz.


Canada's inflation rate cools in March as food prices drop
Saturday, April 22, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B2

OTTAWA -- Canada's annual inflation rate cooled more than expected in March, pulling away from the central bank's target as food prices dropped for the sixth month in a row, underscoring expectations interest rates will stay put for some time.

The annual rate fell to 1.6 per cent from the previous month's 2 per cent, Statistics Canada said on Friday, exceeding forecasts for a decline to 1.8 per cent.

The three measures of core inflation put in place by the Bank of Canada last year remained tame, with CPI common the lowest at 1.3 per cent.

The central bank, which has an overall inflation target of 2 per cent, had dismissed a recent rise in inflation, saying that reflected temporary factors.

The bank cut rates twice in 2015 as the economy was hit by the oil-price shock. While economists have seen the odds of another rate cut diminishing amid signs of a strong first quarter, they said the muted inflation figures gave no reason for policy makers to begin hiking rates.

"This is suggesting that there is really not a whole lot of inflationary pressure in Canada right now, thereby no real reason for the Bank of Canada to move any time soon," said Brian Depratto, senior economist at TorontoDominion Bank.

The Canadian dollar weakened against the greenback immediately following the data.

The central bank is expected to hold interest rates at 0.5 per cent until next year. It said after last week's rate decision it had not considered cutting rates, though it was too early to say the recent economic strength is sustainable.

Food prices were down 1.9 per cent on a year-over-year basis as Canadians paid less for food purchased in stores, while a decline in clothing costs also weighed on inflation. That was offset by a 4.6per-cent increase in transportation costs, led by higher prices for gasoline. Among the closely watched core measures, CPI common, which the central bank says is the best gauge of the economy's underperformance, was unchanged at 1.3 per cent.

CPI median, which shows the median inflation rate across CPI components, slipped to 1.7 per cent, while CPI trim, which excludes upside and downside outliers, dipped to 1.4 per cent.

Derek Holt, economist at Bank of Nova Scotia, said the core measures drifting lower was likely the more disturbing element for the Bank of Canada.

"I just don't see the talk of rate hikes anytime soon as being credible, anchored in the inflation numbers that we're getting," he said.

Thanks to MacArthur, Sens move on to second round
Monday, April 24, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S3

BOSTON -- Almost two full seasons - 156 consecutive games - lost to concussion. Two years of fighting annoying retirement questions and unwelcome medical advice, self-doubt and uncertainty.

And then, suddenly, you're the playoffs hero.

Meet Clarke MacArthur, the 32year-old Lloydminster, Alta., native who scored the overtime goal Sunday afternoon that gave the Ottawa Senators a 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins, sending the Senators into the next round of the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Senators meet the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference semi-final.

The winning goal came on a power-play opportunity, the key play coming from another player so often written off, Bobby Ryan, who ended the six-game series as Ottawa's leading scorer with nine points. Ryan's cross-crease pass struck a Boston player and then, MacArthur thought, Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask's stick before landing on his own stick. One quick roll of the wrists and Boston was finished and Ottawa moving on.

"It's just awesome," a jubilant MacArthur said. "To be back playing - and to end the game like that.

"I was just lucky enough to be in the right spot. You get an opportunity like that, you've got to put it away."

MacArthur indicated later that there were "a few times" during his two-year odyssey through baseline tests and neurosurgeon meetings when he believed his career was finished. Finally cleared to play again at the end of this regular season, he improved game by game, ending with two goals against Boston over the six games.

"It's something everyone has to deal with one day," he said. "But I just wanted to stretch it out as long as I could."

The Senators kept their dressing room door closed for several minutes after the win, during which his teammates applauded and saluted the popular forward.

"He's a great friend of mine," defenceman Dion Phaneuf said.

"A great ending to the series."

"He was the right guy to make the overtime winner," captain

Erik Karlsson added.

It was an unusual series in that first goals, long considered so important in playoff hockey, had little to no importance. In six games, the team scoring first won but two of the matches.

Despite the team's long history, Boston had never before come back to win a seven-game series in which it had fallen behind three games to one. The Bruins still have yet to accomplish this.

"We battled hard to give ourselves a chance," Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron said. "It definitely stings a lot."

While other teams dropping out in the opening round are talking rebuilding already, the Bruins would be well advised to take the advice of former Boston general manager Harry Sinden, who once responded to a disappointing elimination by saying, "The remedy now is two Scotches and an Aspirin, I think."

On reflection, this was a tough, hard-fought series that could have been won by either team.

Four of the games went to overtime. This contributed to an NHL record for overtime games in an opening round, with a remarkable 18 matches going into extra time.

Keen to avenge Friday's doubleovertime comeback loss in Ottawa, the Senators were determined to start well in this game. Yet they did not. Despite doubling up on the Bruins in opening-period shots, with 12, the Senators looked disoriented. Gifted three extra-man situations on a rare three straight delay-of-game calls against the Bruins, the troubled Ottawa power play continued to sputter, moving to a bleak 3-for-21 for the playoffs.

The Senators could not even manage a single shot on net during the three straight power plays.

Rask proved unbeatable in the first 20 minutes. Ottawa's Craig Anderson was also good but finally faced his own man-advantage situation when the Bruins power play completed a sweeping series of passes before Drew Stafford one-timed a shot into the Ottawa net for the game's first lead.

Ottawa's fourth power play of the afternoon came in the second period when, finally, they transferred the x's and o's to the ice, with Karlsson, who is rumoured to be playing with two small fractures in his left heel, sending a quick pass across to Derick Brassard, who one-timed a slap shot from the blueline that tipped in off Ryan.

The much-maligned Brassard and Ryan came through regularly in the series, proving once again that regular and postseason at times have little in common other than the surface they are played on.

The Senators went ahead when speedy winger Ryan Dzingel gathered up a loose puck in the Boston end during a broken play, slipped it to Kyle Turris and Turris's hard wrist shot beat Rask on the blocker side.

For Turris, the team's leading scorer during the regular season with 27, it was his first of the playoffs.

Early in the third period, with the Senators attempting to play lock-down hockey, the Bruins caught a break on a poor Ottawa change and Bergeron was able to hammer home a puck that had hit his skate, the Ottawa post and had bounced back onto his stick.

"No lead is safe," MacArthur said.

"Both teams weren't giving an inch," Senators head coach Guy Boucher said.

If Ottawa seemed listless in the third, it was anything but in the overtime, taking charge early and challenging often.

"We stuck with it," Karlsson said. "We had a feeling in here [the dressing room] that we were going to be fresh. We never gave up, even though we were down in the first period."

"We said, 'We're not going to play on our heels,' " Boucher said.

"Instead of being scared to lose, we were hungry to win."

"It was a tough series," Phaneuf added. "It's a great feeling."

Follow me on Twitter: @RoyMacG

Associated Graphic

The Bruins' Brad Marchand and the Senators' Cody Ceci battle for the puck during Game 6 in Boston on Sunday.


Leafs want a series win, not 'experience'
After two gruelling OT games, young guns still upbeat despite Caps' plan to 'pound the rock' that is Toronto's depleted defence
Monday, April 17, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S2

WASHINGTON -- Before this NHL playoff series began, it was all about hope.

As in, how the Toronto Maple Leafs didn't have any against the Washington Capitals, a team that may have playoff baggage, but is now big, strong and fast, and cruised to first place overall by playing it any way it needed to.

The Leafs were a bunch of rookies and guys a little bit older, but still kids, and sure, they could play, but when the heavy playoff hockey started, well, thanks for coming out fellows but your education will continue in the fall.

Only now, after two wacky, cartoonish roller-coaster rides where one minute the Leafs are barely hanging on and the next they are the Katzenjammer Kids, roaring around and driving the adults crazy, there really is hope.

As in, hope they can actually steal this series from an opponent that must surely be feeling some nervous tremors.

After two wildly entertaining overtime games, in which the Leafs could have lost both or won both, they came home with a 1-1 split in the first-round, bestof-seven series. This was thanks to their 4-3 win in double overtime Saturday night amid an ear-splitting din at the Verizon Center powered by thousands of giveaway cowbells.

Now the Leafs get to go for the lead in Game 3 on Monday night in front of their own fans, who will surely forget their usual corporate reserve and be screaming their heads off at Air Canada Centre, not to mention the really crazy ones a few steps away in Maple Leaf Square in front of the big screen.

While the youthful Leafs are, by and large, an unassuming bunch, it is easy to imagine them away from the cameras, laughing and channelling the banditos in Blazing Saddles: "Experience? We don't need no stinking experience."

Well, goaltender Frederik Andersen, who was really good in Game 1 - save for an unfortunate whiff on the game-winner - and superb in Game 2, practically said as much.

"I don't think we expect to just have an experience," he said.

"We want to be here for real and play as good as we can. Everyone's talking about how it's been unexpected for us to just make the playoffs but we want to do more. We want to show we can play." But they are getting lots of playoff experience, and fast. Fully half of their 18 skaters had not played an NHL postseason game when the series opened last Thursday. Now they have nine periods of it in what was supposed to be six periods of hockey.

The success is because a lot of the Leafs are growing quickly right in front of everyone's eyes.

No one is doing that more than defenceman Morgan Rielly, 23, who played better in the first two games of this series than he did in most nights in the regular season. He is logging top-dog minutes and he scored his first NHL playoff goal on a late second-period power play.

This is fortuitous timing for the Leafs because they now have to rely on Rielly and fellow defenceman Jake Gardiner, who has been right there with him in the stellar-play department.

Roman Polak is not going to play again this season after suffering a gruesome injury to his right leg in the second period on Saturday.

Leafs head coach Mike Babcock essentially went with four defencemen after that, with Rielly and Gardiner both logging more than 40 minutes of ice time. Matt Hunwick and Martin Marincin were in the 30-minute range while Connor Carrick was used sparingly to spell them off.

The hope is that Nikita Zaitsev, who's been out since the last weekend of the regular season with a suspected concussion, will be able to return on Monday. But Babcock, who gave the Leafs Sunday off after they got in from Washington at 3:30 a.m., said that still won't be known until after Monday's game-day skate. Otherwise, it's No. 8 defenceman Alexey Marchenko.

Capitals head coach Barry Trotz is rubbing his hands together at the prospect of an already thin Leafs defence taking another hit. He said on Sunday he thought some of the defencemen were sorely taxed and the Capitals will keep the heat on.

"This series is about wearing people down, and I think we're fine that way," Trotz said. "We need to sort of pound the rock, if you will, and see if we can wear people down. Their [defence] got extended pretty hard [Saturday] night in a lot of areas. Those 40-plus minutes, those are hard to recover from."

Rielly, though, doesn't see the problem.

"As far as minutes go, we'll be fine, we've got young legs," Rielly said. "We've got lots of training staff. We know what we have to do to prepare for the next game."

Rielly thinks the Leafs are managing to overcome some big mistakes, and there were a few more in Game 2, because they are a close-knit team that look out for each other.

"I think over the course of a game that long [on Saturday] it's draining mentally and it's easy to make mistakes," he said.

"But I think we did a good job as a team backing each other up, picking each other up when we needed to."

Associated Graphic

Leafs defenceman Jake Gardiner, left, swoops in for the puck as Martin Marincin and the Capitals' T.J. Oshie, right, tangle in overtime of Game 2 of their first-round playoff series in Washington on Saturday.


Nylander, Matthews get first playoff goals
Tuesday, April 18, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S3

TORONTO -- Resiliency thy name is the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Once again, the Leafs used their speed to wriggle out of a stranglehold by the Washington Capitals and win another overtime game, this time 4-3 on Monday night. Tyler Bozak the winning goal at 1:37 of overtime on a power play to send 19,841 fans at Air Canada Centre into ecstasy, not to mention many thousands more watching on the big screen next door in Maple Leaf Square.

The Leafs now have a 2-1 lead in the first-round NHL playoff series that no one predicted. But the Capitals, who cruised to first place overall in the regular season, are falling into their history of playoff flops.

It was also a coming-out party for Leafs rookie sensations Auston Matthews and William Nylander. Their line keyed the Leaf comeback, with Matthews scoring once and setting up Nylander's goal that tied the score in regulation time.

The Capitals had no business letting this game get away from them. Forget Evgeny Kuznetsov putting one off the post and crossbar late in the third period, the Caps had two-goal leads twice and squandered a five-onthree power play. At the same time, the Leafs may have started the game in a fog but got better as it went on. By the third period, they were taking the play to the bigger, more-experienced visitors, albeit punctuated by the odd heart-stopping Caps chance.

Before the game, some of the Leafs talked about the importance of not letting the emotions of playing in front of their own fans for the first time in the playoffs get the best of them.

"Yeah, as a team I think we have to be careful," Leafs winger Matt Martin said before the game. "Obviously we want to hear our fans roaring but we're playing a very strong team in the Capitals so we've got to be very disciplined in what we do on the ice. We can feed off the energy in the building, use our fans to our advantage, but if you're not dialed in and you're letting the emotions get the best of you, we'll make some mistakes."

While Matthews poo-pooed the idea - "No, I don't think that is really the case, we'll just play hockey." - Leafs head coach Mike Babcock, like Martin, saw the potential problem. "We don't want to be too wired up either," he said.

The fans did start the game roaring and the Leafs did appear to be the victims of their own emotions. They had the deer-inthe-headlights look for the first time in the series and were caught standing around too often.

First, defenceman Nikita Zaitsev, playing in his first NHL playoff game after missing eight days with a suspected concussion, somehow got lost in the Leafs zone with the Capitals' Nicklas Backstrom-Alexander Ovechkin line on the ice. This allowed Backstrom to step into a huge opening and rip a shot past goaltender Frederik Andersen.

It was the first time in the series the Capitals scored the first goal. A few minutes later, Ovechkin fired one of his patented rockets from the top of the faceoff circle and it was 2-0 for the Capitals before the game was five minutes old.

This silenced the crowd and pretty much squelched the Leafs, too. The Caps were playing the way they had not for too much of the first two games, using their size to push the Leafs around and working their transition game much faster to get the puck out of their own zone.

For their part, the Leafs spent too much time crying to the referees and not enough hitting and skating. But to their credit that did not last long.

Successive bodychecks by Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri and Leo Komaraov, the latter on Ovechkin, got both the crowd and the Leafs back into the game. Within seconds, Matthews established himself as a star presence with a great shift that ended when the puck bounced off defenceman Nate Schmidt's face and landed in front of Matthews in front of the Caps' net and he had his first NHL playoff goal at 14:08.

Escaping to the second period with the Capitals only up 2-1 was a big break for the Leafs. But Kuzetsov scored early in the second and Washington seemingly had a stranglehold on the game again.

Even worse, a little more than a minute later Martin succumbed to that emotion and was suckered into a doubleminor penalty for roughing by Capitals agitator Tom Wilson, who was also flagged. But Leafs defenceman Matt Hunwick also drew a minor and the Caps had a five-on-three advantage for two minutes.

This is where the Leafs gathered themselves, and the Caps squandered a bunch of scoring chances, to turn the game around. The Leafs killed the penalty and eight minutes later cut the lead when Kadri bounced a shot off Caps defenceman Brooks Orpik's rear end and into the net.

The killer for Washington came with 40 seconds left in the period. Both Shattenkirk and Orpik went after Leafs winger Zach Hyman behind the Caps' net.

Hyman managed to get the puck to Matthews, who relayed it to Nylander in front. He had all the time he needed to put in his own rebound for his first playoff goal to tie the score and ignite the crowd.

Associated Graphic

Capitals defenceman Brooks Orpik and Maple Leafs centre Nazem Kadri collide during the first period of Game 3 on Monday.


Maple Leafs scrum up lots of interest
At the first official postseason practice of the new era, the media contingent was double what it would be in the regular season
Wednesday, April 12, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S2

TORONTO -- Over the past couple of days, there was much conversation about how the youthful Toronto Maple Leafs would quickly learn that playoff hockey in the NHL is a much different animal from the regular season.

On Tuesday, at their first official postseason practice of the new era, any of the baby Leafs who paid attention noticed the different atmosphere was not just on the ice, where there is a lot less time and room to make plays because even the worst floaters in the league are fired up enough to check hard. Instead, it was everywhere they turned.

When the Leafs make the playoffs is when every news director at every television station or radio station and every news editor at every newspaper or website discovers them. Reporters who usually cover the latest crisis at city hall are dispatched to Leaf Land to find out how they are going to somehow knock off the Washington Capitals.

Any veteran sportswriter knows it will be a bad day when the first thing he sees at the arena parking lot are two satellite television news trucks.

In the dressing room of the Leafs practice facility is a crush of people carrying television cameras, microphones, digital recorders, smartphones and even the odd notebook. A rough count before the club's public-relations staff opened the room showed there were 30 media types storming the players' boudoir.

Ten years ago, 30 would have been the number of those covering a rather important regularseason game. But the great recession of 2008 combined with the decline of the media business created waves of layoffs and buyouts that decimated the troops. Nevertheless, this is at least double the regular-season media contingent.

Most of the new faces know as much about hockey as Kim Kardashian. They are there to stick their microphones in the face of any stray player whose lips are moving, turning every scrum into a sardine convention. Very few of them actually ask a question, which makes them expensive microphone stands.

The overcrowded scrums lend themselves to the odd pushing match between camera operators and foul-tempered scribes who object to being hit on the back of the head by a camera lens for the 13th time. When Pat Quinn was head coach of the Leafs, he once stopped near the end of a scrum to watch with obvious amusement a pushing match, accompanied by an F-bomb contest, between a Philadelphia talking head and, ahem, your usually mild-mannered agent.

However, some of the new comers do provide amusement.

One of them, who obviously spends much time in front of a mirror thinking, "I'm a steelyeyed newsman," is hilariously famous for striding into the Leafs room a couple of times a year determined to get to the bottom of their latest malfeasance. He will bark questions such as, "What do you have to say to the fans?" at bemused players and coaches, who reply with a cliché or two.

However, Tuesday proved to be a decent day for nuggets despite the crush. On one side of the room, the Leafs' prize rookie, Auston Matthews, was giving his usual non-committal answers to a crowd. He has developed an almost somnambulant style in scrums, tossing out a few platitudes while all marvel at how a 19-year-old handles the media.

But then someone mentioned he was talking to Matthews's father, who lamented the discovery of a large pile of takeout-food boxes in his son's apartment.

Matthews's eyes widened in interest.

"You get tired in season, and the takeout containers start filling up," he said. "I think I'm pretty responsible with that kind of stuff. I know if my parents are coming, I will clean up as much as I can."

It was the followup that struck gold. In a clear bid to find out who the real leaders are on the team, Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun asked Matthews who picks the restaurant when the Leafs' youngsters are going for dinner.

"It's usually Morgan [Rielly]," Matthews said. "This is his fourth year here; he's got a pretty good [knowledge] of the restaurants."

So if you are looking to bet on someone other than Matthews as the next Leaf captain, Rielly might be worth a buck or two.

Head coach Mike Babcock's scrum paid off, too, after a slow start when Lance Brown of CTV Toronto wondered if he noticed an increase in tempo at the practice because of the playoffs. This was a curious thing to ask the fellow who designs and runs the practice, but Brown recovered nicely as the scrum ended.

After Babcock said he expects Frederik Andersen, who left last Saturday's game after a bump on the head, to play in Wednesday's series opener against the Capitals, and he hopes injured defencemen Nikita Zaitsev and Roman Polak will, as well, Brown tried again.

"Your fan base is obviously satisfied already with what this team has accomplished," Brown said.

"Are you ..." And then Babcock interjected with, "That's not what they're yelling at me when I'm walking around Yorkville, so you're meeting different people than me."

"What are they saying?" "Let's get going!"

Associated Graphic

The Leafs' prize rookie, Auston Matthews, middle, has developed an almost somnambulant style in media scrums.


Flames will need to make history to overcome 3-0 deficit
Wednesday, April 19, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S3

CALGARY -- Hope springs eternal in NHL playoff season, though hope frequently gets couched in boilerplate clichés as soon as a team falls behind 3-0 in a series, which is where the Calgary Flames found themselves Tuesday morning. Mere hours after a perplexing collapse in which they blew a 4-1 second-period lead and lost 5-4 in overtime to the Anaheim Ducks, the Flames reassembled at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

Unlike the night before, when the scent of victory was in the air for most of the night, this gathering felt funereal. One-byone, the players were ushered out of the dressing room, to speak about the possibilities of carving a small piece of NHL history with an epic comeback.

Only four times in the history of the NHL playoffs has a team overcome a three-game disadvantage to miraculously win a series. Nothing in the current edition of the Flames suggests they will be the fifth.

For starters, the level of goaltending required to win against the Ducks hasn't been there.

Goaltender Brian Elliott may have been exceptional for the Flames in the second half of the regular season, but his past two performances have been subpar.

In Game 2, he had troubles early - surrendering two quick goals - and in Game 3, he gave up a momentum-changing flutter-ball to Shea Theodore in the final minute of the second period that gave the visitors life.

Had the Flames uneventfully played out the period, they would have carried a decisive three-goal lead into the third.

In 33 games this season, the Flames had a perfect record of securing the win when leading after two periods. They picked a bad time to see that streak come to a halt.

It was suggested at the start of the series that the Ducks were probably the worst possible matchup for the Flames, even more difficult an opponent than the Western Conference's leading team, the Chicago Blackhawks.

The first week of the playoffs support that contention.

Anaheim finished the regular season on a 14-game point streak (11-0-3), becoming just the fifth team in league history to do so and the first since Pittsburgh finished the 1992-93 season with points in 18 consecutive games.

From the end of their bye week until the conclusion of the regular season, the Ducks went 14-2-3 to catch and overtake the San Jose Sharks for first place in the Pacific Division. Calgary was decent down the stretch until it clinched a playoff spot and then collectively exhaled. The Flames haven't quite been the same team since.

"Honestly, I think they have great players, great individuals over there who, in key moments, step up and make plays," Flames' captain Mark Giordano said. "But in saying that, it's been a really close series. In our opinion, 3-0 is not the way it should be right now, but it is."

Giordano acknowledged the psychological difficulty in overcoming Monday's loss, considering the Flames were in control for the better part of two periods.

"It was a tough loss, but you can't dwell on it," Giordano said.

"Today's a day where you have to refresh and regroup and get over it somehow. Collectively, we've got to look forward to the next game. There's a new opportunity. We've got to get a spark early and just play with no fear.

There's nothing to lose, so you try to get a game and if you get a game, you go to the next one and try to do the same thing."

If there was one unexpected bright spot for the Flames, it was the play of centre Sam Bennett, who is finding that old playoff magic from two years ago.

Bennett, who was drafted as a centre, played mostly on the wing until this season, when the Flames put him back in the middle. It meant Bennett played down the depth chart most of a year punctuated by some long scoring droughts.

Bennett's mentor in junior hockey was former Flames' star Doug Gilmour - and there are similarities in the way they approach the game. Bennett will go into the hard areas in front of the net, which is where he scored Calgary's fourth goal Monday night. His most memorable moment came when he laid a hellacious open-ice check against Ducks' defenceman Kevin Bieksa, a popular villain in these parts from his days as a Canucks agitator.

Until they got jittery and let the game slip away, the Flames had mounted the necessary response Monday after playing two reasonably competitive games on the road in Anaheim, though they didn't win either. Now, however, the task seems nearly impossible - four wins in a row, two of which would have to come at Honda Center, where they've lost 29 in a row. But that didn't prevent a bunch of players from saying all the right things Tuesday.

"We're going to do everything in our power to send a message and make them a little nervous over there," forward Matthew Tkachuk said.

New York spoils Montreal homecoming
Series returns to the Big Apple on Saturday where the Habs' immediate and long-term futures could be decided
Friday, April 21, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S3

MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens will meet the New York Rangers on the Madison Square Garden ice on Saturday but it risks becoming more than just an elimination game: an adverse result could well become a referendum on the Habs' core.

General-manager Marc Bergevin has several weighty decisions to make this summer, which will see a contract extension window open for the marvelous Habs goalie Carey Price, a decision made on 23-year-old Alex Galchenyuk and 24-year-old Nathan Beaulieu, and free agents Alex Radulov and Andrei Markov.

Should the Habs suffer a hasty first-round exit at the hand of the Rangers, who as befits the league's best road team won Game 5 on hostile ice, the judgments could be harsh.

When Montreal's players step on the ice, they will be fighting for more than just a chance to extend the series.

After having clawed back a 0-1 series deficit with two straight wins, the Habs have now lost two.

Mika Zibanejad inflicted the coup de grace at 14:22 of overtime, a period the Rangers dominated, beating Price on a lovely feed from Chris Kreider, who ended the Habs' playoff hopes three years ago when he crashed into the Montreal goalie in the Eastern Conference final.

Montreal was thought to have a decisive edge in goal in this series, with Price in his imperious prime and Henrik Lundqvist, the King, coming off a season that whispers 'decline'.

Well, he's not done yet.

Price was called upon to make an in extremis stop in the opening minute, stretching out his left pad to repel a Mats Zuccarello shot as the seas parted in the Montreal zone to allow J.T. Miller to make an uncontested seam pass to his streaking linemate.

The Habs opened the scoring on a shift where rookie Artturi Lehkonen ticked pretty well every box on a forward's to-do list: forecheck like a crazy person to turn the puck over, start the cycle, out-maneuver a defenceman at the front of the net, fight off the check to grab the puck, skate around the net and slide it home.

Pity poor Marc Staal, who is fully six inches taller and 30 pounds heavier than the little Finn who bamboozled him so thoroughly en route to his second playoff goal.

With the Bell Centre in song, the Habs went to the power play after captain Max Pacioretty - criticized by some around these parts for his lack of goals in the postseason - drew a penalty against Jimmy Hayes after some strong play along the boards.

The man-advantage did not go according to plan, at least at first.

As Alex Galchenyuk lifted a saucer pass to the point, Rangers centre Mika Zibanejad knocked it out of the air and set off on shorthanded rush with Jesper Fast.

Montreal had two defenders back, but Zibanejad managed to feed a sweet little pass to Fast, who beat Price between the legs with a quick shot.

Just 24 seconds later, Lehkonen won a board battle to funnel the puck to Andrei Markov at the point, whose astute backhand pass found Brendan Gallagher alone in the slot.

His perfect wrist shot - top corner, glove side on Lundqvist - lifted the crowd once again.

Second periods have been a problem for Montreal against the Rangers, and the Habs were evidently keen to avoid a let-down.

They did, limiting New York to zero shots through the first 12 minutes of the frame and taking it to the opposition.

Andrew Shaw, who had a vigorous punch-up with the Rangers' Brendan Smith earlier in the game, punished Oscar Lindberg with a crunching hit.

It was far from the only bit of nastiness in the game: early on, Pacioretty and Alex Radulov sandwiched Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh behind the net.

McDonagh would exact revenge on Shaw later, and would also single Gallagher out for rough justice in the form of a punch to the head as the little Habs forward lay on the ice.

Lundqvist was tested early and often in the period, but was able to withstand the barrage.

And then, the typically raucous Bell Centre crowd fell silent.

Rick Nash, former first over all draft choice and one-time Team Canada fixture, has presented an unsolvable puzzle to the Montreal defence in this series, and when he rounded into the low slot after some nice work by Jimmy Vesey to find him in the corner with a pass, the Habs defence collapsed around him.

Bad idea.

First-year defenceman Brady Skjei had snuck in from the point, it was simple enough for him to shoot the puck past Montreal defenceman Shea Weber - who was looking the wrong direction at Nash - and into the net.

It set the stage for a breathless third where the teams alternated in carrying the play.

The action will only get more furious this weekend in midtown Manhattan.

Associated Graphic

Carey Price extends to deny the Rangers' Mats Zuccarello a goal during the first period at Bell Centre on Thursday.


Senators vow to 'create chaos' for Bruins goalie
Friday, April 14, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S2

OTTAWA -- Being an NHL goalie can be a lonely existence.

Ken Dryden, when he was stopping pucks for the Montreal Canadiens, used to strike that famous pose with his gloved hands perched on top of his goal stick, which provided a convenient landing spot for his chin during those contemplative moments.

During a stoppage in play, you will often see a netminder take a leisurely skate to one corner of the rink and then back to the net to while away some time.

Grooming the crease of built-up snow is another popular pastime for these masked marvels. After all, a neat home is a happy home.

Which brings us to Tuukka Rask, the flashy Finnish goaltender for the Boston Bruins, who lead the Ottawa Senators 1-0 in their best-of-seven game in the Eastern Conference quarter-final playoff series.

Rask was anything but lonely at the Canadian Tire Centre on Wednesday night, where he was instrumental in Boston skating off with a 2-1 win, in a game the Senators are ruing they let slip through their fingers.

The Senators are of the belief that they accorded Rask too much respect in the opening game, that many of the 27 shots they fired his way were of the garden-variety type - from far afield and with little in the way of interference in front to impair the goalie's vision.

For Game 2 on Saturday, the Senators are promising that Rask will have a lot more company in and around his territory as Ottawa looks to square the series.

"For sure," said Ottawa defenceman Cody Ceci when asked if Ottawa has to make life more difficult for Rask in order to achieve success. "I think any goalie at this point of the year ... you've got to make sure get some screens, you get some tips, push them back in the crease.

"That's how you score goals in the NHL in the playoffs." Ottawa dominated play through the first two periods on Wednesday but only had a 1-0 lead to show for it on a goal by Bobby Ryan about midway through the second frame.

The Senators were skating rings around the plodding Bruins and even outshot them 12-0 in the second period, when Rask saved his team's bacon time after time.

"Can someone in the advanced stat community tell us if that is good?" came a response from the official Senators' Twitter feed.

In fact, that was pretty good.

According to the Bruins, it was the first time in 78 years that a Boston team recorded zero shots on goal in a period during the playoffs.

But in the third, the Senators started "cocooning," to use the description supplied by coach Guy Boucher, mostly standing pat in the defensive zone, trying to protect the lead.

It allowed the Bruins more freedom to roam and on two shifts in the third period, after hemming Ottawa in its own end for extended lengths of time, Boston broke through with two goals that proved the difference.

First, it was Frank Vatrano who notched the tying goal and then Brad Marchand, the Boston superpest, supplying the winner with just under three minutes to play.

"We didn't sustain what we were doing for 60 minutes and we paid for it," Boucher said. "And obviously two shifts killed us ... nine turnovers in two shifts. One of the goals was five turnovers in our zone and the other one was four turnovers. Even one turnover is not good."

Neither team practised on Thursday but they will get back to work on Friday at the Bell Sensplex, the Senators official practice facility nearby the Canadian Tire Centre, which is unavailable because of a Dixie Chicks concert.

Mark Stone, the Ottawa winger, said that apart from those two lapses in the third period the Senators believed they played well enough to win.

"We played well," he said. "It's obviously the little things we need to adjust to.

"It was just one game, there's still a long series to go. We knew that we weren't going to sweep them."

And he said the Senators know what they need to change if they want to see a different result on Saturday.

"It's tough," he said. "We're in a new season now and it gets harder and harder to score this time of year.

"I think as a whole we need to put more pressure on their D, on their goalie, make it harder for him to see pucks, make him work a bit harder than he had to do [on Wednesday night]."

"That's our game plan, just try and create chaos in the offensive zone, shooting pucks from everywhere," Ottawa forward Kyle Turris added.

Associated Graphic

Ottawa Senators right winger Bobby Ryan attempts a wrap-around on Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask as Boston Bruins defenceman Colin Miller defends during Game 1 on Wednesday.


Senators hope Methot can return to the lineup for Game 2 against the Bruins
Saturday, April 15, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S2

OTTAWA -- Marc Methot is the owner of quite likely the most famous pinky finger in sports.

Specifically, we're speaking of the one on his left hand, the one that Sidney Crosby nearly amputated with a swift, not to mention painful, swipe with his hockey stick about three weeks ago.

That whack sent Methot scurrying off the ice, but not before removing his glove to reveal the gruesome sight of the top portion of his bloodied, mangled digit just sort of hanging there by a strand.

Talk about an upper-body injury.

It took about 12 stitches to reattach and Methot has yet to return to his role as a steady defender along the blueline with the Ottawa Senators as his pinky continues to heal.

Methot missed the last nine games of the NHL's regular season and then the first game of Ottawa's Eastern Conference quarterfinal playoff on Wednesday against the visiting Boston Bruins.

Despite being outplayed by a wide margin, the Bruins scored twice in the final period to carve out a 2-1 victory.

The second game, with a 3 p.m. (ET) start time, is Saturday at Canadian Tire Centre.

"We looked like, scared to lose instead of hungry to win," Ottawa coach Guy Boucher said after the loss, chalking it all up as a valuable learning experience for his team.

All signs are pointing to Methot's return for Saturday's game.

"He was ready to go last game, so we're obviously getting closer and closer," Boucher said on Friday after the Senators practised.

"And for me it's about, can he shoot? He can do everything else.

Now it's a question of can he, under pressure, can he give us a good shot when he's going to need to? I think that's where it's at. But we're getting really, really close, that's for sure."

Other than provide regular updates on his healing process, Methot has said little about Crosby's slash on March 23, which did not draw a penalty.

He left that to Ottawa owner Eugene Melnyk, who reacted scornfully toward the Pittsburgh Penguins star, who said he was only trying to strike the stick of the Senators defenceman.

Crosby obviously missed.

"You do anything that's almost a certain injury and I think the only way to do it is you wipe the guy off the map for not one or two games, [but] 10," Melnyk sounded off to an Ottawa radio station at the time. "How about a season for a few of these guys?

Really. He takes my guy, I take your guy. That's my attitude."

Melnyk went on to describe Crosby as a "whiner beyond belief."

You sense that Methot just wants to move on from the widely publicized chop and get back in the game as the primary defensive sidekick of Erik Karlsson, the Ottawa captain.

When speaking with the media on Friday, Methot diligently tried to keep his left hand hidden from view. The only evidence of the damage was a black bandage that wrapped the pinky.

Methot practised on Friday and is obviously close to returning.

But if he knows if he's playing Saturday, he's not saying.

"There's a whole bunch of stuff going on," Methot said. "I think at the end of the day, I just want to be able to be an effective player and help the team when I am coming back in and not hurting anybody by coming back prematurely.

"So I think when I get to that point, whether it be tomorrow or the next game or whenever, we'll deal with it."

Methot is not the only health concern for the Senators.

Karlsson, their star defenceman, is obviously still bothered by a sore right ankle. To what extent the Senators are not about to say.

Karlsson, who missed the last three games of the regular season after taking a shot off his skate, took a regular shift in the playoff opener. He played well and assisted on Ottawa's only goal, by Bobby Ryan, but he was hardly his explosive self and the ankle is obviously still affecting his mobility.

He practised Friday, but left the ice early.

"It feels good enough to play," Karlsson said. "And again, I think it was good enough last game. I think that we played a decent game, myself and everybody else.

And hopefully next game we can play a little bit better."

"We just want to make sure that things don't flare up," Boucher said, trying to explain the captain's limited practice time.

Associated Graphic

Mark Stone of the Senators reacts as the Boston Bruins celebrate a win in Game 1 on Wednesday in Ottawa.


Blackhawks, Blue Jackets look to stay alive with a win on the road
The Associated Press
Thursday, April 20, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S2

SAN JOSE -- After posting two of the top four records in the NHL in the regular season, the Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets both need to find a way to get a win on the road, or their playoff runs will end almost as soon as they began.

The Blackhawks were shut out twice at home by Nashville and then blew a 2-0 lead in Game 3 to fall behind 3-0 in the series.

"We're in a tough spot and a place we don't want to be in, but we got a game," defenceman Brent Seabrook said. "We got to worry about one game and try to win one game."

The Blue Jackets have got one win after dropping the first three games to Pittsburgh. The Penguins don't want to give them any life.

"You have the opportunity to close it out, you want to make sure you do it," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "You could see the desperation in their game and saw the importance of that to be in our game as well."

The other two series Thursday night are much tighter with Edmonton-San Jose and Montreal-New York Rangers tied at two games apiece.

The Sharks evened their series with a 7-0 win at home but the Oilers are focused on the series score rather than the lopsided game.

Blue Jackets at Penguins

The defending Stanley Cup champions are hoping a better start will help them finish off Columbus.

The Blue Jackets have outscored the Penguins 5-2 in the first period over the course of the series, including building two-goal leads in both Game 3 and Game 4. Pittsburgh managed to rally and win Game 3 in overtime but couldn't quite get there in a 5-4 loss in Game 4 as Columbus extended its season.

Taking that final step has been a difficult process during the Crosby era in Pittsburgh. While the Penguins have won a pair of Cups during the two-time MVP's tenure, they are just 15-13 in games in which they can eliminate the opponent. Not playing catch-up in the second period would help.

"It's about being ready from the drop of the puck," coach Mike Sullivan said. "It's about the mindset. It's not a wait-and-see approach. We've got to be ready to dictate the terms from the very first puck drop."

Blackhawks at Predators

The Predators have been led so far this series by their top line of Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg.

Johansen leads the series with five points (one goal, one assist), while Forsberg has scored twice and Arvidsson once through three games. The Blackhawks as a team have scored just twice all series.

"They've got a lot of confidence right now," Chicago defenceman Duncan Keith said. "They've all scored goals in this series."

Nashville isn't overconfident, knowing that the core of this Blackhawks team has won three Stanley Cups in the past seven seasons and won't go out easily.

Giovinco elevates TFC over Chicago in Schweinsteiger's debut
The Canadian Press
Saturday, April 22, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S2

TORONTO -- Sebastian Giovinco scored twice as Toronto FC defeated the Chicago Fire 3-1 Friday, handing German star Bastian Schweinsteiger his first loss in Major League Soccer.

Giovinco upped his season goal total to three, punctuating the victory with a glorious free kick to the top corner in the 82nd minute. A goal away from a hat trick, he was not happy to be taken off in the 84th minute, slapping a stanchion as he headed to the dressing room.

Eriq Zavaleta also scored for Toronto (2-1-4) while Spanish playmaker Victor Vazquez notched his fourth assist of the season, pulling the strings in his 66 minutes of action before 27,097 at BMO Field.

Substitute David Accam pulled a goal back for Chicago in the 88th minute. It was the Fire's only shot on target. Giovinco, in comparison, fired 11 shots on the night - with six on target.

Toronto's only previous win this season was on March 18 in Vancouver. And it marked its first victory at home since Nov. 30, when Toronto beat Montreal 5-2 in the second leg of the Eastern Conference final.

Chicago (3-2-2) arrived on a good run of home form but had a hard time generating offence on the road and Toronto soon began to pull the Fire shape apart.

Giovinco found the target in the 28th minute taking a pass from Vazquez and then deftly making room for a shot through defender Michael Harrington's legs. Giovinco celebrated the goal by heading to the corner and blowing kisses.

The play started with captain Michael Bradley intercepting a Chicago pass.

Chicago goalkeeper Jorge Bava had to tip over a Giovinco free kick in the 32nd minute. On the ensuing corner, Toronto took advantage of slack Chicago defending with Zavaleta's powerful header from a Justin Morrow cross beating Bava.

It was the defender's second career goal and he celebrated by pointing to the sky in tribute to his grandmother - head coach Greg Vanney's mother - who passed away last week in Arizona.

The Toronto visit marked the first MLS away game for Schweinsteiger, who scored two goals in his first three home games for the Fire. He had a relatively quiet evening, firing a shot high over the bar in the first half.

Momentum greets new Rogers CEO
Wednesday, April 19, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

Momentum appears to be on Joe Natale's side.

With the new chief executive officer set to take the reins, Rogers Communications Inc. revealed a rising tide of revenue from customers and smartphone data use at the company's crucial wireless business. Mr. Natale's challenge: Turn that momentum into sustained profit growth.

The Toronto-based telecom and media company said Tuesday that it attracted 60,000 new contract wireless customers in the first quarter of 2017, beating average analyst estimates in the range of 28,000 and repeating a pattern established over the past several quarters of renewed strength in its most important division.

Rogers said revenue across the whole company was up 3 per cent in the quarter to $3.34-billion and profit increased by 28 per cent to $294-million. On an adjusted basis, Rogers earned 64 cents a share in the quarter, up from 48 cents in the same period last year and ahead of average analyst estimates of 57 cents a share.

"Wireless, our largest segment, was clearly the main contributor to these results," Alan Horn, chairman of the Rogers board of directors, said on a conference call Tuesday afternoon. Mr. Horn has been acting as interim CEO since October, when the company announced the departure of former Vodafone UK Ltd. executive Guy Laurence.

Mr. Natale, the one-time chief executive of Telus Corp., will become CEO of Rogers on Wednesday morning - at one minute after midnight, Mr. Horn joked on the call - and will also take a seat on the company's board at Rogers's annual general meeting later in the day.

That's about two months earlier than the company expected him thanks to a deal Rogers struck with Telus to release Mr. Natale from a noncompete agreement. Rogers announced the deal last week but did not disclose the terms.

In 2014 and for much of 2015, Rogers was outpaced on the wireless front by Telus and BCE Inc., but in recent months Canada's largest mobile carrier has turned to its nationwide sales network to compete more aggressively with its rivals.

"Rogers remains the turnaround story. Following years of under-performance in wireless, recent results reflect a marked turn in operating momentum.

The challenge for Rogers is to now convert the turn in subscribers to accelerated EBITDA [earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization] growth," BMO analyst Tim Casey wrote in a research report Monday outlining the task ahead of Mr. Natale.

Rogers said customers are using more mobile data through family sharing plans and adding new lines to existing accounts, leading to steady growth in wireless revenue, which was up 4 per cent to $1.97-billion. Adjusted operating profit at the division increased by 7 per cent to $813-million, helped in part by a reduction in the rate of customer turnover, known as churn, which fell to 1.1 per cent in the quarter as the company managed to keep more of its existing subscribers on board.

Rogers attributed the strength in wireless results to a focus on improved customer service, the company's "higher-value offerings such as our Share Everything plans" and investments in network quality.

Those initiatives were all in place under Mr. Laurence, who was CEO for just under three years. In the months since his departure, staff at Rogers say Mr. Horn as well as Tony Staffieri, the company's chief financial officer, have also put extra emphasis on controlling spending and taking other steps to support growth in not just revenue but bottom-line profit, too.

Both executives said Tuesday that they were pleased to see revenue growth "flow through to [adjusted operating profit]."

"Importantly, robust growth did not come at the expense of profit," Mr. Staffieri said of the wireless division.

Revenue and adjusted operating profit at the cable division were both flat in the quarter, at $855-million and $392-million, respectively. The division is now propped up by its Internet service, which accounted for the majority of revenue in the period and helped offset weakness in television. Rogers is working toward the launch of a new TV platform (based on technology licensed from Comcast Corp.), but that will not be available to customers until at least early 2018.

Rogers added 30,000 new Internet customers in the first quarter, up 14,000 from the same time in 2016. But revenue increases on the Internet side were offset by the continued loss of cable subscribers. The company said it lost 24,000 television customers in the quarter.

Ontario's new housing plan: What buyers and sellers need to know
Friday, April 21, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

Home owners and buyers are going to need an attitude adjustment as rationality seeps back into the country's hottest real estate market.

The Ontario government has introduced measures to restrain housing price surges that last month came in around 30 per cent in Toronto and nearby Hamilton. We could see prices stagnate or decline in the months ahead, but a crash is unlikely for now.

Housing markets have two arch enemies - rising unemployment and rising interest rates.

Neither is a threat right now.

Unemployment numbers have been quite good lately, though wage growth has been stagnant.

And while pressure was building in financial markets not too long ago for a small mortgage rate increase, the threat has lately evaporated. As ever, there's no conviction that the economy is strong enough to justify a return to more normal borrowing costs.

Let's take a look at how buyers and owners should position themselves for the market conditions ahead. The point of the measures announced by the Ontario government is to shut down the speculative frenzy that has been driving house prices up at rates vastly ahead of both wage and economic growth.

This should ease the pressure on first-time buyers who feel they must venture into an unaffordable market before they're permanently priced out.

Take a break, first-timers. Wait and see how the new measures affect prices and bidding wars. If the gold rush in housing isn't over, expect more action from government.

So much for the everyday homeowner's investment rationale for jumping into the market.

Governments will not permit prices to keep rising like they have been because of the risk of a messy market crash that affects the national economy, not just Ontario. Buy a house because you love it and it fits your budget and family. There is zero chance the house you buy today will be worth 30 per cent more in April, 2018.

First-time buyers should also understand that governments are unwilling to enhance the already substantial number of supports available to them.

Expect no additional propertytax rebates, tax breaks or encouragement to maim your registered retirement savings plan by using the federal Home Buyers' Plan. These measures stoke demand for housing, which is the last thing Canada's hottest real estate market needs.

The best way for buyers to protect themselves against any price declines to come is to remain in a house they buy for at least five to 10 years, which should bridge us to the next upswing in housing. The purchase of a starter home makes no sense if you'll outgrow it in short order and want to sell.

Heavily indebted home owners need to consider the impact of Ontario's measures as well. Lots of them have been able to stay afloat financially by tapping into the rising equity in their homes.

If home prices move sideways or fall, this relief valve is closed.

See a financial planner or debt counsellor if you're worried about this.

Boomers who plan to cash out of hot markets in Southern Ontario and buy elsewhere, what are you waiting for? You might end up leaving money on the table if prices keep rising, but that's the price of locking in a great price today and eliminating your exposure to a market decline.

Downsizing within a hot market is problematic today because there's often not much money left over after moving to bungalows, townhomes and condos. A more rational real estate market might break this impasse. There could be less demand for condos, for example, if more people can afford houses.

A re-think of buying real estate strictly as an investment is also called for as a result of Ontario's steps to reduce speculation in the housing market.

One of the clearest signs of a housing bubble in the Toronto area is the number of pitches being made these days by people who show others how to get rich in real estate. People have, no question, made amazing money speculating in real estate in the past few years.

But the Ontario government is pretty clear in wanting this to stop. If housing were the stock market, the smartest investors would be taking profits rather than buying more. That's how they build up money to pick up bargains in the next market dip.

Follow me on Twitter: @rcarrick

How dairy farmers are trying to milk consumers with EU trade deal
Monday, April 24, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

OTTAWA -- Donald Trump grumbles about what Canada's dairy industry is doing to Americans. But it isn't half as bad as what we're doing to ourselves.

Take cheese, for example.

Among the key concessions Ottawa made in its recent free-trade agreement with Europe was to allow more duty-free cheese into this country.

That's a big deal because Canada imposes a 245.5-per-cent tariff on cheese imports - a barrier that keeps retail prices artificially high.

Europe will eventually be allowed to ship almost 18,000 tonnes of additional duty-free cheese to Canada - the equivalent of roughly 2 per cent of Canada's domestic market. The first batches are set to hit the Canadian market this summer with the coming into force of the Canada-European Union comprehensive economic and trade agreement (CETA) on July 1.

Imported cheese currently makes up just 5 per cent of the Canadian market, and virtually all of it comes in tariff-free.

So you might be thinking: Finally, some relief on the steep price of that tiny wedge of Camembert.

Not so fast, cheese lovers. Trade deals aren't always about more competition and lowering costs.

Nothing is ever quite as it seems in Canada's sometimes upside-down world of supply management - the convoluted system that regulates everything to do with milk, chicken and eggs, from farm to fridge.

The Europeans won't get to choose which cheeses we're going to get or at what price. Nor will consumers. That will be up to the Canadian importers that Ottawa arbitrarily picks to bring in the cheese.

The government is poised to start doling out these lucrative permits in the coming weeks.

With potential mark-ups of as much as 100 per cent available on the goods, importers have been lobbying furiously to get a piece of the action.

Among the aspiring importers are Canadian dairy farmers and processors, who say all the new import quota should go to domestic cheese makers because they are the ones most affected by the trade concessions to Europe.

If Ottawa agrees, these new import permits will act as a backdoor subsidy to Canadian processors and, indirectly, to the farmers who sell them milk. That's because some large processors, including Agropur and Gay Lea, are farmer-owned co-operatives.

These subsidies would be on top of the $350-million in support that Ottawa has already pledged to help the dairy sector adjust to the European trade deal.

Canadian cheese makers wouldn't want to import cheese that competes directly with their own offerings. Why would Agropur, for example, undermine its own Oka sales?

One can imagine other ways Canadian processors might use permits to further their own interests at the expense of consumers or retailers; for instance, import permit holders could, at least temporarily, choose not to bring in any cheese, effectively denying Europe the trade gains it made in CETA.

Not surprisingly, retailers say all the new quota should go to them because only they know what consumers want. Retail Council of Canada vice-president Karl Littler told a parliamentary committee last fall that only retailers can "ensure that the right product is provided to consumers, at the right price." He suggested other industry players might impose unfair mark-ups.

The only thing Ottawa has said - publicly, at least - is that it wants 30 per cent of the new European quota to go to "new entrants" - players who aren't currently importing duty-free cheese.

That has created some unusual business arrangements. A group called the Canadian Alliance of Cheese Makers Inc. is seeking a share of the new quota. Among the directors is Caroline Emond, executive director of the Dairy Farmers of Canada, the national lobby organization for the country's roughly 12,000 dairy farms.

The final call on this will come from federal Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne - or even further up the food chain, given the high stakes.

The government should tread carefully. Dairy farmers and processors already have a pretty firm grip on their industry. Making them import gatekeepers as well would be like putting the fox in charge of the hen house.

It won't help consumers, and it risks enraging Europeans.

And that's before Mr. Trump takes on Canada's merchants of dairy.

Buy Canadian isn't the answer to Buy American
Monday, April 17, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

OTTAWA -- Canadian officials are breathing a sigh of relief that New York has backed off putting Buy American restrictions on most state purchases.

But this isn't the end of the story for Canadian companies that sell to federal, state and local governments in the United States.

Not by a long shot. Emboldened by Donald Trump's America First rhetoric and widespread anti.

trade sentiment, protectionist purchasing rules are spreading rapidly in the United States - the main market for Canadian exports. New and more expansive purchasing restrictions are likely inevitable.

A clutch of U.S. Senators are pushing the Trump administration to remove the procurement provisions from the North American free-trade agreement. Likewise, some members of the Congressional steel caucus are sponsoring a bill that would extend Buy American restrictions to various departments and agencies now untouched by these rules. Meanwhile, the Commerce Department is working on a plan to ensure that all energy pipelines are built with U.S. materials, even if financed by the private sector.

This raises a vital policy question for federal and provincial governments: Is "Buy Canadian" the answer to the Buy American problem?

Some industry leaders say yes.

The Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, for example, want Ottawa to provide "a level playing field" by embracing "reciprocity" in the doling out of federal infrastructure cash, president and chief executive Dennis Darby said in a recent letter to Infrastructure and Communities Minister Amarjeet Sohi.

"Certain goods originating from the U.S. should be disqualified from use in federally funded infrastructure projects, in a manner that is consistent with the unfavorable treatment that Canadian goods ... are receiving in infrastructure projects funded by the U.S. government," Mr. Darby argued.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne acknowledged last month that the province was weighing "all reasonable options to protect Ontario jobs" in the event that New York State went ahead with its plan to block foreign companies from bidding on all contracts worth more than $100,000 (U.S.).

The state eventually removed the provision in its budget, defusing the confrontation for now.

Retaliation might be satisfying - like standing up to a bully. In the short term, it could even save a few Canadian jobs.

But it's like a fight with your next-door neighbour. Neither side really comes out ahead. Retaliation can quickly escalate, with devastating consequences for both parties.

Your neighbour puts up a fence. You put up a bigger one, casting a shadow over their prized vegetable garden. So they redirect the downspout from their eavestroughs into your flower bed. And so on.

Retaliation is a dangerous economic proposition for Canada, the smaller and more vulnerable player in this showdown. As a small, relatively open economy, Canada needs the United States more than the other way around.

Say, for example, the City of Toronto builds a new subway line. Strict Buy Canadian rules would inflate the cost of the project. By limiting the range of potential suppliers for steel, electronics and lighting, the price tag of the project would inevitably rise. Taxpayers would pay more and get less.

The same logic applies to the United States. But it has the benefit of a much larger domestic market and a much wider spectrum of local suppliers to choose from.

Though not directly analogous, a recent C.D. Howe Institute paper analyzed the impact of titfor-tat border taxes by Canada and the United States. Both sides would suffer an economic hit, concluded authors Dan Ciuriak and Jingliang Xiao, but retaliation would be far more painful for Canada than the United States. And it would not make the United States. any more likely to back down.

"Retaliation would double the damage domestically with little deterrent effect on U.S. real GDP or production," according to the report, Protection and Retaliation.

Retaliation could prove to be a costly dead-end.

But Canada is not completely powerless.

Canadian officials can, and are, making their U.S. counterparts aware of all the benefits American companies currently enjoy in Canada through economic integration. They should also make it clear they are willing to invoke trade agreements and other legal means to defend Canadian interests.

The best hope for Canada is to push for clear and reciprocal rules in a renegotiated NAFTA.

Engaging in a wall-building contest with your richer neighbour never ends well.

Ten TSX stocks that crush the index
Thursday, April 20, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

We get it: Investors can't beat the index. So why do we keep picking individual stocks?

The latest reading on the number of equity mutual funds that have outperformed Canada's benchmark index makes for sober reading for do-it-yourself investors. If most professionals can't succeed, retail investors must struggle even more.

According to S&P Dow Jones Indices' SPIVA Canada scorecard for 2016, which was released on Wednesday, just 17.3 per cent of active managers investing in domestic equity outperformed the S&P/TSX composite index last year. That's less than one in five.

The percentage of outperformers rises to 19.4 per cent over three years and 30 per cent over five years, but then declines sharply to less than 9 per cent over 10 years. The situation is even worse for U.S. equity managers.

In other words, the index is hard to beat, raising the question of why any retail investor would own individual stocks.

Yet, we do. Perhaps it's because stock ownership provides a closer connection to capital markets.

Stock ownership is interesting and educational. It's free, after the initial purchasing cost. And it gives us the opportunity of tailoring our portfolios to, say, higher dividends or lower risk.

Mostly though, we refuse to accept the facts. If you're in this camp (I hold some individual stocks in a portfolio that is heavily tilted toward index-tracking funds), is there at least a way to raise your odds of success? We crunched some numbers to find Canadian stocks that stand up to the same criteria used in the SPIVA scorecard. That is, we looked for stocks that have outperformed the index (after factoring in dividends) over one-, three-, five- and 10-year periods. This rigorous test ensures stocks have done well over shortand longer-term horizons - and stand a reasonable chance of ongoing success.

To make matters simpler, we substituted the S&P/TSX 60 index for the broader 251-member composite index. As you might expect, the list of outperformers was small: Just 10 names made the grade. But this group shines: On average, 10 stocks beat the index by 11 percentage points over one year, 24 percentage points over three years, 62 percentage points over five years and a dazzling 109 percentage points over 10 years.

The Big Six banks dominated. Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto- Dominion Bank, Bank of Nova Scotia, Bank of Montreal, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and National Bank of Canada comprised six of the 10 winners. Different banks tended to dominate over different periods. Scotiabank was the top performer in 2016, beating the index by nearly 18 percentage points. BMO was the best bank over three years, beating the index by more than 30 percentage points. RBC and BMO were essentially tied over five years. Each bank beat the index by more than 62 percentage points. And TD was the 10-year champion, cruising past the index by more than 116 percentage points.

To be clear, even the worst-performing bank stock during each of these four periods crushed the index. Four other stocks have also proven themselves as consistent outperformers.

Saputo Inc., the Montreal-based cheese maker and dairy processor, has risen more than 400 per cent over the past decade - doubling, quadrupling, tripling and sextupling the index's performance over the past one- three-, five- and 10-year periods, respectively. Enbridge Inc., the Calgarybased energy-distribution company, rose nearly 40 per cent last year and has delivered a return of more than 290 per cent over the past decade.

TransCanada Corp., the Calgary- based pipeline owner, has a more modest 10-year return of 123 per cent, or about double the index. It, too, has beaten the index consistently over the four periods we looked at. Sun Life Financial Inc.'s 10-year return of 64 per cent only narrowly outperformed the index (the stock's long-term performance was hit during the financial crisis, during which the share price fell more than 70 per cent). But it has powered ahead over the past three- and five-year periods. Will these stocks continue to outperform? Let's put it this way: If they were mutual-fund managers, they would be celebrated stars and well worth a closer look.

The trouble with Trump's take on the greenback
Friday, April 14, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

Donald Trump is discovering an awkward truth: When it comes to waging currency wars, it is awfully hard not to shoot yourself in the foot.

The U.S. President rocketed to power by thundering that China is a currency manipulator and declaring that Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen should be "ashamed" of herself for keeping rates artificially low to boost the economy and the Obama administration.

This week, Mr. Trump executed U-turns on all those positions. China, it turns out, is not a currency manipulator after all. Low rates are just dandy.

And Ms. Yellen? Gosh, she's actually a fine person who just might be reappointed to her job, he told The Wall Street Journal.

The President's brand-new opinions may be a welcome sign that reality is, at last, penetrating the White House.

But the education of the leader of the free world remains a work in progress.

For evidence of that, look to his assertion that the U.S. dollar is "getting too strong."

The pronouncement sent waves rippling through currency markets as traders tried to figure out what the comment portended.

Could Mr. Trump be signalling a major shift in the strong-dollar policy that has ruled Washington since the mid-1990s?

Could he be mulling a new international pact designed to weaken the greenback? Could he be signalling a new currency war?

Maybe. But he could just be displaying, once again, his lack of economic polish.

The fundamental issue he faces is that his vow to make America great again is also a pledge designed to drive the dollar higher.

Think about it: If the U.S. economy picks up speed, interest rates will climb in response.

Higher rates would then make Mr. Trump's America an even more powerful magnet for foreign capital seeking good returns.

And, everything else being equal, that inflow of global funds would drive up the value of the greenback.

"When it comes to the dollar, Donald Trump is his own worst enemy," Barry Eichengreen, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote in the Financial Times in January.

Prof. Eichengreen, a renowned economic historian and former senior adviser to the International Monetary Fund, pointed out that Mr. Trump's stated priorities - tax cuts plus greater spending on infrastructure and defence - are designed to raise demand for U.S. goods.

"With the economy near full employment, other spending will have to be diverted to foreign goods.

"Further appreciation of the dollar, which makes imports cheaper, is the market mechanism by which this shift in the direction of private spending is induced."

There is no obvious way out of this dynamic, Prof. Eichengreen wrote.

If, for instance, Mr. Trump slapped tariffs on Mexico and China, the trade barriers would divert U.S. spending toward domestic supply. But in an economy nearing full employment, a stronger dollar would be necessary to shift spending toward foreign sources and prevent the added demand from stoking an outburst of inflation.

To be sure, while Prof. Eichengreen does not mention it, one scenario could conceivably rein in the greenback.

It's an outcome, however, that seems directly at odds with what Mr. Trump has promised: It would consist of a world in which other countries begin to grow faster, perhaps even faster than the United States itself. If that were to happen, other central banks would feel pressure to raise rates and that, in turn, would help to attract capital away from the United States, weakening the U.S. dollar.

So Mr. Trump, the man who declared that he always puts America first, finds himself in a tough position. If he truly wants to bring the dollar down, he has to help other countries grow more rapidly.

At the very least, that would seem to rule out waging any trade wars that might disrupt the global economy.

Going from making America great again to making the world great again would be an enormous U-turn for Mr. Trump.

But, as his shifts on everything from Syria to Ms. Yellen demonstrate, he is getting experienced at such swerves.

After lull, Vancouver housing prices set for rebound
Tuesday, April 18, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

Prices of detached homes in Vancouver may have hit bottom in the first quarter of this year, but are poised for a rebound this spring as sales activity surges across the region, according to a Royal LePage survey.

The Royal LePage quarterly house price survey, released Tuesday, shows home prices in the Greater Vancouver region dropped 1.9 per cent in the quarter ended March 31 compared with the last quarter of 2016, driven by a decline in prices of detached homes. Twostorey houses were down 3.1 per cent in the quarter while bungalow prices fell 1 per cent.

The Vancouver market began softening last spring and the market cooled even more after the B.C. government imposed a 15-per-cent tax on foreign buyers in August. But sales activity has grown so far in each month of 2017, suggesting the market for detached homes in Vancouver could rebound even sooner than people expected, said Royal LePage chief executive officer Phil Soper.

Mr. Soper said the number of units sold in Greater Vancouver climbed more than 48 per cent in March compared with February this year, which is much stronger than seasonal norms.

He predicts the slowdown caused by the introduction of the foreign-buyer's tax could lead to "market whiplash" this summer as pent-up demand is unleashed in coming weeks, sending prices sharply higher again.

"Frankly, I thought the correction would be deeper and longer, but that unit-sales number says to me that there's still a lot of demand in the region and people may not sit on the sidelines for as long as we thought they would," he said in an interview.

On a national basis, home prices are a tale of two cities, with Vancouver slumping while the Toronto region sees soaring prices, marking the first period in years in which Vancouver and Toronto's housing markets have headed in opposite directions.

The combination has driven the average price of a home in Canada up 12.6 per cent in the first quarter of 2017, compared with the same time last year.

The average home sold for $574,575, according to sales data from 53 of Canada's largest real estate markets.

Removing the hot Ontario market from the calculation shows a more modest national price increase of just 6.4 per cent in the first quarter this year.

Mr. Soper said growth in the rest of Canada outside of Vancouver and Southern Ontario is strong but sustainable, and higher prices in cities in Alberta and Quebec are particularly welcome news.

"Generally it is shaping up to be the best and healthiest year we've seen in Canadian real estate probably since before the global financial crisis," he said.

Prices soared not only in the Greater Toronto Area, but also in other cities across Southern Ontario. Prices climbed 12.4 per cent in London, 9.9 per cent in Kingston and 8.5 per cent Windsor, all of which are two hours or farther from Toronto.

Mr. Soper said the growth well beyond the Toronto region is being fuelled by Ontario's strong economic performance, with the province now leading Canada in economic growth.

Closer to Toronto, the city with the greatest year-over-year price gain was Richmond Hill, north of Toronto, where prices climbed by 31.5 per cent in the first quarter this year compared with the first quarter of 2016. Oshawa, which is east of Toronto, saw prices rise 28.2 per cent in the first quarter compared with the same period last year.

The price growth in suburban cities is being fuelled by singlefamily home buyers, who have concluded they can get more "bang for your buck" outside of central Toronto, Mr. Soper said.

He added he sees no sign that Toronto's market is cooling yet, but believes a slowdown is coming soon as prices move too far out of balance.

"There is so much momentum in the market that it will carry through the spring market at full steam," he said.

Ottawa's courtship of pension plans is on the rocks
Saturday, April 15, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's first date with the country's pension plan CEOs went well. He snagged the hardest-to-book tables in town last November, at Toronto's swanky Shangri-La hotel, and said all the right things in pitching money managers on a $35-billion commitment to the planned infrastructure bank.

Short of sending flowers the next morning, Mr. Trudeau hit all his marks. Leaders of the largest funds, who collectively call the shots on more than $1-trillion, all committed to getting serious.

Sadly, the once-promising courtship between politician and pension plans is breaking down.

Their differences may be irreconcilable.

Like many relationships, the issue here is one of control: Both sides want to call the shots. The federal Liberals tabled draft legislation Wednesday on the planned infrastructure bank, which is meant to kick-start the economy by marrying private-sector capital with public projects.

For the pension funds, the key test of the Liberals' bill revolved around governance: Is the board of directors and, by extension, the investment team at the planned bank independent of political interference?

Ottawa flunked this test. C.D.

Howe Institute, a think tank with bipartisan support, quickly pointed out flaws in the legislation. The federal cabinet would have the right to remove infrastructure directors and the power to approve or nix certain investments, such as loan guarantees.

A governance approach that gives Mr. Trudeau and his cabinet control of the boardroom is never going to fly with the money managers. Their CEOs have taken pains to spell this out. Last November, just ahead of that love-in at the Shangri-la, the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan sent out a news release with a bold headline that stated the fund supported the Liberals' infrastructure plan.

The real message to Mr. Trudeau was buried deeper in the release, when Teachers' CEO Ron Mock spelled out the terms of engagement on the planned bank. He said: "We recommend the government appoint a strong, professional and independent board to ensure it is run like a business, as is the case for Canadian pension plans, which have validated the soundness of this model on the global investment stage."

Teachers' and the country's other major pension plans own roads, water systems, airports and other essential infrastructure around the world. The funds enjoy tax-exempt status. Their reluctance to invest in domestic projects must drive the Liberals a little nuts. However, as Mr. Mock said, the ability to invest independent of political interference has created a Canadian pension system that's the envy of the industrialized world.

Pension plan CEOs are comfortable saying no to requests for capital, even if the caller is as charming as our Prime Minister.

Mr. Mock, for example, gets endless investment advice from wellmeaning teachers who want to make the world a better place: No nukes, no smokes, no trans fats. Mr. Mock smiles politely, points out that the fund's only goal is to earn superior riskadjusted returns, and quietly invests in uranium, tobacco and junk-food companies, if that's where he sees value.

None of Canada's biggest investors - pension plans, banks and insurers - have ruled out backing the Liberal's infrastructure bank.

But it's clear these institutions are only going to make a commitment on their own terms.

At a news conference in early April when Teachers' announced its financial results, Mr. Mock took time to point out that jurisdictions with track records for successfully attracting private capital to infrastructure, such as Britain and Australia, started with an overarching philosophy that these assets should be in private hands, and got sign-off on that approach from every level of government - provinces and cities control the bulk of infrastructure assets in this country.

The Liberals can still get their infrastructure bank off the ground, but to win the hearts and wallets of Canada's biggest fund managers, Mr. Trudeau is going to let them run this relationship.

United Airlines: Putting shareholders before customers
Wednesday, April 12, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

So an airline passenger dared to believe his ticket actually gave him the right to a seat? No wonder United Airlines was so enraged.

Its clumsy response to the nowinfamous incident in Chicago can be read in many ways - as a commentary on United's tone-deaf management (which has since apologized) or on the sad state of air travel, for starters.

Really, though, the case is one that echoes way beyond any single company or industry.

It's a fine example of what happens when there is a clash of two supposedly sacred imperatives.

One: Treat customers well. Two: Maximize shareholder value.

No need to linger here in suspense. When the two principles have clashed in recent years, the second one has reliably won.

It did so in United Airlines' case, when the company stood by as a paying customer was bloodied for having the nerve to demand the service he purchased. It also did so at Wells Fargo, where employees under pressure to meet sales targets resorted to opening fake accounts for customers. And the overwhelming imperative to create shareholder value completed the trifecta by overruling common sense at Volkswagen, which cheated on emissions tests to win approval for some of its diesel vehicles.

This was not how things were supposed to work out. In theory, deregulation and fierce competition were supposed to create a golden age of customer service as companies battled to win the public's trust and affections.

Some times, that has happened.

But in other cases companies have veered in the opposite direction. They have adopted a grudging, or even belligerent, attitude toward their own customers while directing the benefits to shareholders.

United Airlines offers a case in point. Investors in its parent company, United Continental Holdings Inc., tripled their money over the past five years. In contrast, United's ranking in the Airline Quality Rating improved only moderately, to eighth place (out of 12 contenders) in 2016, from 14th place and dead last in 2012.

The results suggest the link between happy customers and happy shareholders is nowhere near as tight as many of us would like to assume.

Perhaps that's because consumers believe all the available suppliers are more or less equally dismal. It's a pattern that holds true in many industries. Canadians, for instance, love to complain about banks and wireless providers but don't rush to embrace alternatives.

How to improve things? We can start by creating more complete markets. In the case of airlines, this would entail removing limits on how much companies can pay passengers to give up their seats.

Airlines should be forced to hold open auctions if they find themselves in situations such as the one in Chicago. United says it offered passengers up to $1,000 (U.S.) to get off the flight but couldn't get enough takers. The solution would have been to offer even more money. At some point, a few more passengers would have stepped forward.

It may also be time to look at common ownership of major industries. A paper by economists Jose Azar of the University of Navarra, Martin Schmalz of the University of Michigan and Isabel Tecu of Charles River Associates points out that mutual fund families and other big institutional investors now own more than 70 per cent of publicly traded firms.

When the same handful of big investors own all the major companies in a sector, there is - in theory - less incentive to compete, since the same group of shareholders reaps the benefits no matter which company wins the battle for customers.

The researchers do some heroic number crunching and conclude that "ticket prices are 3-7 per cent higher on the average U.S. airline route than would be the case under separate ownership."

This is controversial. But it is one explanation for why an airline might be willing to see a passenger pummelled in pursuit of higher efficiency.

Data-driven: x's and o's meet 0's and 1's
For Claude Julien, long hours of studying the minutiae of games all part of the job to have 'our stuff ready' for players
Friday, April 14, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S2

BROSSARD, QUE. -- Information may be power, but the sheer abundance of data available to hockey coaches means it is also a serious impediment to a good night's sleep.

This is particularly true in the playoffs, where minute tweaks can reap enormous dividends. It's an arms race of tiny details, fuelled by in-house statistical metrics and reverse-angle replays.

Lose a tight game, as the Montreal Canadiens did to the New York Rangers on Wednesday, and the search for answers goes late and resumes early.

"There's nights that are shorter than others, and we don't get as much sleep as players do, but at the same time, we don't exert as much energy as the players do in a game, so it's a pretty even tradeoff," Claude Julien, the Habs coach, said with a smile.

The Franco-Ontarian has a reputation in hockey circles as a gifted analyst, an expert at breaking the game down to its constituent parts (he also hoovers up information - moments after Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarter-final opener on Wednesday, he knew the scores and top-line stats for the other games in progress.)

"I think that's been, I'd say, one of my strengths; I like to dissect games. But the thing that's most important in that is I can dissect games as much as I want, but I certainly don't overload players with all these details," he said. "As long as I know it, I give them what's necessary because a player who overthinks is skating in mud by the time he gets on the ice."

Some coaches like to review the full game tape themselves - Julien said he often does - while others leave it to their coaching assistants to go over their area of influence (special teams, defencemen, forwards and so forth).

It can happen immediately after games but more often it's early the next morning. NHL coaches may not keep the crazy office hours of their National Football League brethren, but that's only because they don't have a week between games.

"There's times when we're on the road and we're in the plane, our laptops are out and we're already watching it. Sometimes, we come in early in the morning, like we did today; and we wanted to be ready for when the players came in and we had our stuff ready," Julien said.

In the postseason, people such as Mario Leblanc take on added importance.

Leblanc, a former junior hockey player, has been the Habs' video coach for more than two decades.

He was on Julien's staff the first time around in 2003 and works out of a windowless room in the Bell Centre that has the trappings of a television production truck.

Such is the level of technological sophistication at his fingertips that sequences can be uploaded onto the coaches' tablet computers during the game and players are often shown video between periods.

"You can see just your defensive-zone shifts from the second period, or what happened on the power-play or whatever, it's all right there," defenceman Jeff Petry said.

The added degree of difficulty for coaches is there are basically no secrets or surprises in the NHL any more, everyone tracks tendencies. Everyone scours the footage to discern injuries.

The challenge is not in surprising the other guys; it's performing and executing your game plan to the point where there's not much they can do about it.

And so, adjustments.

The Rangers present a particular challenge, given that their coach, Alain Vigneault, knows Julien better than anyone.

Not merely because they faced off in the 2011 Stanley Cup final between Boston and Vancouver, but also because both are natives of the Ottawa region who first met in minor hockey, both coached the Hull Olympiques of the QMJHL, and they played together in the St. Louis Blues system (both had a lot of penalty minutes, Julien had more goals, Vigneault got called up to the NHL sooner).

Asked this week about his memories of those days, Julien joked that "I remember he had size six skates, we used to tease him about that."

In the chess match between the old friends, it's Julien's move.

On Thursday, by the time the Habs' players straggled in for a light practice, their coach was ready with game footage and a few ideas.

"He's really, really good at identifying what needs to be done, and then communicating the solutions," Petry said. "His meetings are open, he wants you to ask questions."

Added centre Phillip Danault, who sought out his coach for pointers after his postseason baptism: "He's the smartest guy in here, he sees everything on the ice, he breaks it down, it's like he knows what we're thinking ... he has a lot of experience, and it shows."

Then, it was on to the ice for a practice where the Habs, who can't afford to let their well-documented struggles scoring goals to become entrenched, worked on how to convert chances into goals: by screening the goalie, deflecting pucks and positioning for rebounds.

It was clearly the product of having reviewed the previous evening's evidence (after the game, he said, "What I look at is the opportunities we had, and what we can do with them").

After practice, Julien said that, on balance, he was happy with his team's play in Game 1, a 2-0 shutout loss, and that "we showed [the players] a few things that should help us score more goals."

Lest anyone be left with the impression Julien is a one-man tactical band, he isn't.

Associate coach Kirk Muller, assistants Jean-Jacques Daigneault, Clément Jodoin, Dan Lacroix and goalie coach Stéphane Waite - all holdovers from the Michel Therrien era - have responsibilities.

"You've got coaches that are working with you that you have to trust, and you have to delegate because you're only as good as the people that surround you," he said.

It helps when they too are willing to deepen their shut-eye deficit.

Associated Graphic

Montreal Canadiens coach Claude Julien argues a call during his team's 2-0 loss to the New York Rangers on Wednesday.


Leafs lose hard-fought overtime battle
Defying the odds, Toronto goes toe to toe with the regular season's best team for five games that could have easily gone either way
Monday, April 24, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S3

TORONTO -- The roller-coaster season of the Toronto Maple Leafs came to an end Sunday night but what a ride it was.

Marcus Johansson of the Washington Capitals scored at 6:31 of overtime to give the Capitals a 2-1 win and a 4-2 win in the best-ofseven first-round NHL playoff series. That was the result almost everyone predicted but no one forecast what a fight the upstart Maple Leafs would give the Capitals, who cruised to first place over all in the regular season.

Of the series' six games, five went to overtime and each game could have been won by either team. Quite an accomplishment for the Leafs, who finished last over all a year ago and out of the playoffs.

Auston Matthews scored the Leafs goal, another feat in a remarkable rookie season, while goaltender Frederik Andersen was outstanding in a duel with Capitals counterpart Braden Holtby.

The Capitals outshone the Leafs for most of the third period but Matthews brought the 19,740 fans at Air Canada Centre alive when he scored the first goal of the game. Defenceman Morgan Rielly dumped the puck into the corner, where it hit the dasher board and took a strange bounce to the front of the net. Matthews was waiting there and roofed the shot at 7:45 for his fourth consecutive goal in the past four games of the series.

But the Capitals kept fighting and Marcus Johansson tied the score 1-1 five minutes later. His shot squirted under Andersen and just across the goal-line.

Then, the familiar tight-rope dance ensued until the series went to overtime for the fifth time in six games.

The Maple Leafs made their best start of the series, taking the play to the Capitals from the start. For the first several minutes they had the Capitals' defence on its heels trying to cope with their speed in getting on the forecheck.

The Leafs also dominated the faceoff circle, taking 67 per cent of the draws in the first two periods. Tyler Bozak won nine of his 10 faceoffs while Nazem Kadri was 10-for-13. This was what Leafs head coach Mike Babcock demanded after a poor effort in those areas in Game 5.

"The whole thing is the last game [the Capitals] dominated the faceoff circle and the neutral zone," Babcock said before the game. "You think about it, it's no big deal you lost a neutral-zone faceoff but then you spend a ton of time in your zone. If you want to have 35- or 30-second shifts, 10 seconds is off that faceoff loss, and you're digging it out trying to get it back.

"I think that would be an area we need to bear down on for sure.

They're either going to be on our [defence] or we're going to be on their D. There's not a whole lot in-between. Both teams are trying to clog up that neutral zone so I think that's a priority for us for sure."

Outside of noted playoff hero Justin Williams, the Capitals did not have a lot going for them offensively, at least in the first period. In the second, the Caps' third line with Lars Eller and right winger Andre Burakovsky created some good chances.

But the Leafs were getting another good night out of centre Matthews and linemates William Nylander and Zach Hyman.

Nylander in particular was flying, and was in on a couple of scoring chances.

The real difference in the first 40 minutes for Toronto was Tyler Bozak's line. The Leaf centre and linemates Mitch Marner and James van Riemsdyk have not been at the top of their game, especially in Game 5. They were all skating hard and Bozak was a beast in the faceoff circle.

"I've got to have more patience with the puck," Marner said before the game. "I think I'm just trying to rush things. Thinking too much. I've just got to go out there and have fun, and just relax a little bit."

That's exactly what he appeared to be doing in the first 40 minutes. He was back to the furiously skating Marner fans grew used to in the regular season, and the line gave the Caps defence a hard time for the first 20 minutes.

There were more good scoring chances in the second period but both goaltenders were superb.

Holtby robbed Hyman early in the period from in front when the Matthews line had yet another good shift. Then good fortune shone on him several minutes later when Bozak's line was buzzing around. Leafs defenceman Jake Gardiner drilled a shot from the left point but it hit the crossbar.

Andersen was just as sharp down at the other end of the ice.

His best one came midway through the period when Williams reached up and caught the puck while it was flying high in front of the net. He dropped it at his feet and had Andersen to himself. But the goaltender made a classic butterfly save with his right pad to set off chants of "Freddy! Freddy!" from the crowd. It was one of 28 saves over the first two periods to 21 for Holtby.

They were chanting again late in the period when the Capitals had their best sustained pressure of the game. Eller's line had the Leafs running around a little but Andersen robbed Burakovsky to relieve the pressure and get the fans chanting again.

The crowd really went bonkers midway through the third period when Andersen robbed T.J. Oshie from close range, again with that flashing glove, to keep the Leafs' 1-0 lead alive.

There was a small sideshow late in the second period when Kadri and Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin renewed acquaintances. They sort of reenacted their Game 5 clash when Ovechkin took a run at Kadri behind the play. They tangled together and Kadri climbed up Ovechkin's back and was tossed off like a sack of potatoes.

Associated Graphic

Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen makes a save on Capitals forward Brett Connolly in Toronto on Sunday.


Burned in Anaheim, Flames fired up for Game 3 return to Calgary
Monday, April 17, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S2

CALGARY -- Calgary Flames defenceman Dougie Hamilton is struggling to find his regular-season form in a series against the Anaheim Ducks that has been close on the ice, but not on the scoreboard.

And if Hamilton and his teammates don't reverse the course of the series soon - say, beginning with Monday's third game - it isn't going to end well.

Calgary is down 2-0 to the Ducks, having lost 29 regularseason and playoff games in a row on Anaheim ice, dating to the 2006 Western Conference quarter-finals.

Johnny Gaudreau, the team's leading scorer, has been practically invisible at even strength.

Troy Brouwer, added to provide some playoff oomph to the team's young lineup, has yet to make an impact.

But no one has had a tougher start to the series than Hamilton, who had a major impact in the regular season, in which he scored 49 points, while mostly playing alongside team captain Mark Giordano on the team's No. 1 defence pair.

Together, the two formed one of the most effective regular-season defence tandems in the NHL.

Along with goaltender Brian Elliott, they were considered the key to shutting down a topheavy Anaheim attack that has relied heavily on Ryan Getzlaf's production since early March.

But Hamilton had two grim nights against the Ducks, taking three minor penalties in the opening-night loss. One game later, he was sitting in the penalty box again for holding Corey Perry's stick with under six minutes to go when Getzlaf scored the Ducks' game-winning goal.

Hamilton has taken four minor penalties in two games. Three resulted in Anaheim power-play goals. The Ducks won both games by identical 3-2 scores.

You can do the math. When the margins are so small, the errors seem more egregious - and when you believe the calls are inconsistent, which Flames coach Glen Gulutzan asserted Saturday night, the losses sting a little more.

"It's part of the game and you can't control those calls," Hamilton said. "You just kind of keep playing through."

The expression on Hamilton's face, when he delivered those words, was morose, closing in on hang dog. At different times, it veered into sorrowful. Only when Hamilton was asked about Monday's venue change in their best-of-seven playoff series - from the Honda House of Horrors to the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary - could he summon up a small ounce of optimism and resolve.

"It's going to be fun to play at home," Hamilton said, in a tone that telegraphed exactly how much fun he's had in the series - which is to say, none at all.

The Flames played two pretty good games against the Ducks and probably deserved to win at least once. But they didn't, and professional sport is unforgiving that way.

The reality is, the Flames are on the ropes already, and hoping the change of venue also changes their luck, having lost Saturday's game on a Getzlaf shot that pinballed in off Lance Bouma's skate and changed directions so wildly that it will make the blooper reels forever.

Getzlaf was a force for Anaheim again, with four points in two games, and another good night (12-2) in the faceoff circle.

Getzlaf is a bit of a local hero in Calgary, after playing his junior hockey for the WHL's Hitmen, which retired his sweater some years ago.

Accordingly, whenever Getzlaf plays in Calgary, he does so in an arena in which his retired number is hanging from the rafters.

At different times in his career, this has been a source of great mirth to some of his teammates.

But right now, the Ducks seem all business. They were laughably bad in the second period of Saturday's game, which coach Randy Carlyle called one of the team's worst of the year.

But they reset in time for the third and Getzlaf, in that nononsense way of his, dismissed the fallacy that something was said or changed in the Ducks' dressing room between periods to reverse the course of the game.

"We don't have to have a magical phrase or whatever," Getzlaf said. "We're all professionals in here. Just breathe and get ready to go."

Collectively, the Flames and Hamilton were following Getzlaf's advice Sunday, taking a few deep breaths to steady themselves.

"You've got to stay as much as you can in the present and think positive thoughts," said Alex Chiasson, who had a secondperiod goal disallowed for goaltender interference Saturday that might have changed the outcome. "What happened in the past, you can't control anymore."

The games in Anaheim ended so late that the Flames stayed over Saturday night and then flew home Sunday to celebrate Easter with their families. Their margin of error in the series may have evaporated, but they are also aware that territorially, they've been no worse than even against the Ducks. The way things are going - more than 4,000 days since Calgary last won in Anaheim - you start to think that maybe there really is a curse at work here.

"We don't think about that," Hamilton said. "It's just a hockey game to us. It's just an unfortunate outcome - and my responsibility on the penalty. But you just have to stay positive. We can't quit. We haven't quit all season. We're going to come at them hard at home and turn the series around."

They are brave words on the surface, which Hamilton delivered in just a shade above a whisper, in the midst of a funereal Flames' dressing room, where they were left to clutch all available straws. The good news: There will be nearly 19,000 screaming, red-clad supporters in the pews Monday, all hoping Hamilton will be singing a happier tune.

Associated Graphic

Ducks' Ryan Kesler, centre, is checked as he attempts to split two Calgary defenders at Honda Center on Thursday in Anaheim.


Washington puts Toronto on the brink
A gritty Game 5 goes to overtime where Justin Williams plays hero again to give Caps the series lead
Saturday, April 22, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S2

WASHINGTON -- The Toronto Maple Leafs slipped from the tightrope they have walked in this playoff series and now are hanging on for dear life.

Justin Williams was the overtime hero for the second time to give the Washington Capitals a 2-1 win at Verizon Center. He scored the overtime winner, at 1:04, for the second time in four extra-time games. The Caps now lead the first-round NHL playoff series 3-2. They can eliminate the Leafs in Game 6 of the best-ofseven affair on Sunday night in Toronto.

The game was a little more conservative, at least as far as firewagon, end-to-end hockey goes, than the previous four games in the series, although that is a relative term. As the third period wound down to the fourth time a game went into overtime in this series, the tension grew with each scoring chance.

The score was tied 1-1 going into the third period, although the Capitals can thank their penalty killers for keeping it that way.

The Leafs had three power-play chances in the second period, with the last one carrying into the third, but were unable to get anything going against the Capitals. However, they still carried the play for most of the period, outshooting the hosts 8-4 and scored the only goal of the period six minutes in.

That came from Auston Matthews, fresh off his selection as one of three finalists for the Calder Trophy, which goes to the NHL's rookie of the year. The goal came at the end of a tremendous shift by Matthews' line, as the Capitals were hemmed in their own zone.

William Nylander created the goal by doing what coaches always tell their players - throw the puck at the net. In this case, the shot created a fat rebound in front of the net that Matthews cashed in for his third goal of the playoffs. He said before the game he thinks he is getting better as his first NHL playoff experience moves along.

"Yeah, I just think each game, myself personally I feel like I've gotten better," Matthews said.

"You kind of get more comfortable each and every night to expect not too much space, it's pretty physical, a lot of 50-50 battles that you got to make sure you're winning.

"I think that's kind of been the key for us, for everybody, just trying to get better each game and tonight's a big one for us."

The Leafs power play continued to struggle in the third period when Caps forward Tom Wilson took his fourth minor penalty of the game. The Caps closed the Leafs off from retrieving the puck after they dumped it in. James van Riemsdyk did get a chance alone in front of the net but Caps goaltender Braden Holtby, who took some criticism after the Caps' 5-4 win in Game 4, made the save. He made a few more big saves when the Leafs pressed hard late in the period.

The Capitals took a 1-0 lead to the dressing room after the first period and almost paid a heavy price for it. The goal came on a power play late in the period after Leafs centre Nazem Kadri threw a hip check that knocked Capitals superstar Alexander Ovechkin out of the game with what appeared to be a left knee or leg injury.

Kadri threw a classic hip check on Ovechkin at 17:32, flipping the star over. He landed on his left left and was down on the ice for several minutes and had to be helped to the dressing room.

However, Ovechkin sent a buzz through the crowd when he returned for the second period.

Ovechkin was out for the opening faceoff and then flattened Leafs defenceman Jake Gardiner for the second time in the game.

The game grew nastier in the wake of Kadri's hit.

Kadri was given a tripping penalty for the hit, although it was a hip check. There might have been grounds to call Kadri for clipping, which is when a player lowers his body and throws it at or below the knees of an opponent. However, the replays showed Kadri hit Ovechkin on the thigh, above his knee.

The power play gave the Capitals a chance to turn up the offence in what had been a closechecking period. Nicklas Backstrom ripped a shot off the crossbar and the puck bounced to linemate T.J. Oshie, who slid his third goal of the series into the open net at 18:15.

The Leafs, who made their best start of the series by keeping the play mostly in the Washington zone for the first 10 minutes, escaped a jam a few minutes before Kadri's penalty. Goaltender Frederik Andersen misplayed a dump-in and Leafs centre Brian Boyle had to take a hooking penalty to prevent a Capitals scoring chance. The Leafs, though, killed the penalty.

Ovechkin went after Kadri in the second period. He gave Kadri a jab on the arm and then Capitals defenceman Matt Niskanen chopped Kadri on the left knee with his stick. That drew a penalty for slashing at 19:34, while Kadri and Caps forward Tom Wilson were given minor penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct in the ensuing scrum. Ovechkin also skated toward the Toronto bench and offered some thoughts.

Associated Graphic

Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews skates with the puck between two Capitals players in Washington on Friday night.


Exit stings, but Flames are on a good path
Treliving should be re-signed soon so he can get on with preparations for next season, beginning with the goaltending situation
Friday, April 21, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S2

CALGARY -- Officially, the postmortems on an eventful and relatively successful Calgary Flames season will all take place Friday. Players will conduct their exit interviews and mumble words about their off-season plans. Johnny Gaudreau will update all about the progress of his university studies and explain what it was about the Ducks' defensive strategy that made him struggle at even strength in a playoff series won by Anaheim in the minimum four games.

Most of the attention will be paid to management's off-season plans - and an outline of the steps needed to evolve from a promising up-and-coming team to a real Stanley Cup contender.

But the first order of business will be to determine the future of general manager Brad Treliving, the man in charge of all the buying, selling and trading decisions.

Three years into his tenure, Treliving is like a handful of his players, on an expiring contract.

In two of those three years, the Flames made the playoffs (after missing them for the five previous seasons). He has made some missteps along the way, especially early on when players signed to provide depth (Devin Setoguchi and Mason Raymond to name two) didn't work out.

But mostly, he has done a thoroughly professional job of setting the franchise straight. Some of the contracts he inherited from the previous regime are either expiring right away (say goodbye to Dennis Wideman and Ladislav Smid) or soon (Matt Stajan, one year left at $3.125-million [U.S.]).

When the Flames hired Treliving, they identified him as one of the NHL's bright rising managerial talents. Nothing he's done in his first three years would contradict that belief.

Assuming they get around to confirming that he's staying around, Treliving can then shift his attention to dealing with this summer's primary tasks, which begin in goal, where the Flames made important year-over-year strides. Two seasons ago, the quartet of Jonas Hiller, Karri Ramo, Joni Ortio and Nicklas Backstrom produced a cumulative 3.10 goals-against average and .892 save percentage, which statistically left them 30th out of 30 NHL teams.

Not good. This year, it was much improved. The duo of Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson, who saw all but 80 minutes of duty, finished 14th over all in the league, their 2.64 GAA almost half a goal better per game. The Flames actually scored five fewer goals this year compared with last, but allowing 39 fewer goals was the difference between making the playoffs (with 94 points) and missing them (with 77 a year ago).

A 17-point rise in a 12-month period, thanks largely to improved goaltending, would make you think they'd rush like mad to get Elliott and Johnson signed, as both are on expiring contracts.

But the goaltending faltered in the playoffs, so the temptation may be there to scour the market one more time to see if an upgrade is available.

The problem with the pending crop of unrestricted free agents (a list headed by Ben Bishop of the Los Angeles Kings) is the cost.

They will all want term and dollars. Calgary has a trio of promising youngsters in the pipeline (Jon Gillies, David Rittich and Tyler Parsons) and at some point, they will need to feed one of them into the lineup.

So a lengthy commitment to an established goaltender may not be the right fit, financially or in terms of stalling the development of one of their kids. Instead, they may need a shorter-term solution in goal (Marc-André Fleury or Mike Smith?) who can buy them time to get Generation Next ready. Beyond his goaltending dilemma, Treliving will also need to sign or acquire at least one more top-four defenceman. The available options include two of his own pending unrestricted free agents, Michael Stone and Deryk Engelland. Up front, a quartet of restricted free agents - Sam Bennett, Micheal Ferland, Curtis Lazar and Alex Chiasson - will also need new contracts, but that will be mostly busy work compared with some of his other tasks.

Bennett didn't have the kind of breakout season that Gaudreau or Sean Monahan previously had, so his leverage in extracting a big deal coming out of his entry-level contract won't be nearly as great.

Centre Mikael Backlund, coming off the finest season of his career, has one year left on a $3.575-million contract, at which point he will become an unrestricted free agent. Retaining his services will be critical.

When the Flames players speak on Friday, the message will sound familiar to anyone who heard them after Wednesday's game, which they lost to the Ducks.

There will be genuine disappointment, given it's far too soon for the sting of the defeat to fade away. But there will also be resolve - that this is a team headed in the right direction, with better days ahead.

The core pieces, at forward, on defence, behind the bench, in the GM's chair, are in place.

A few roster tweaks here; a little more experience there; and a critical make-it-or-break-it decision in goal will ultimately decide how soon that promising future actually arrives.

Associated Graphic

Disappointed Flames players endure the dying seconds of their loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday in Calgary. Despite the sweep, fans of the team have reason to be hopeful.


Leafonomics: Lessons in opportunity cost
Not only did coach Babcock's team squander an impressive lead in Game 1, it may have given Capitals an important wake-up call
Saturday, April 15, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S2

WASHINGTON -- The Toronto Maple Leafs came out flying and hitting in their first playoff game but wound up learning the hardest lesson in the ultimate school of hard knocks, the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Now, instead of the Washington Capitals having to spend two nights fretting about blowing a playoff game and the franchise's reputation for postseason flops, it is the young Maple Leafs who have to think about a missed opportunity.

More food for thought heading into Saturday night's second game of their first-round NHL playoff series is that even one mistake in a playoff game will kill you, let alone two. You also have to be careful of everyone on the ice because NHL history is full of unlikely heroes, such as Caps fourth-liner Tom Wilson, who scored the winning goal in overtime in the series opener.

Capitals head coach Barry Trotz made it clear his team knows it dodged a bullet in Game 1.

"There's a saying in the coaching fraternity, 'It's not always what you get it's what you leave,' " Trotz said Friday. "What you leave sometimes are opportunities for the other team. I thought early in the game we left them lots of opportunities, and we were fortunate that they didn't capitalize on as many as we did. And then they gave us some opportunities, we earned some opportunities and we were able to capitalize on a couple.

"I think from our standpoint, we're looking at it as we didn't play our best game. That was far from our best game and we got a victory."

Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock was thinking the same thing.

"I really thought we passed up a ton of opportunities to shoot the puck, trying to make a better play, a better play," he said. "At playoff time, there's no better play. Just get to the net and get people to the net without it and shoot the pill."

That is exactly what happened with Wilson. He became the latest instant big story in the NHL playoffs a little more than five minutes into overtime when he threw the puck at the net and caught Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen, who had been flashing his glove all night like Troy Tulowitzki, thinking he was going to pass. The result was a 3-2 comeback win after the Leafs had a 2-0 lead in the first period.

Now Wilson has a chance to join unexpected playoff heroes such as John Druce, one of his Caps predecessors who went from fringe player to scoring 14 goals in 15 playoff games in 1990, including four game-winners.

That helped take the Capitals to the conference final. Or there is Chris Kontos, who scored nine goals in 11 playoff games with the Los Angeles Kings in 1989, although some guy named Gretzky was setting him up.

There is also more recent history, such as this week when Wilson was joined by fellow worker bees Joel Edmundson of the St. Louis Blues and Melker Karlsson of the San Jose Sharks in scoring the winners. Even better, Wilson is a Toronto native who grew up as a Leafs fan and then was dismissed by Babcock on the eve of the playoffs.

"Nothing against [Wilson] because he works hard and all that, but he's not as big a concern as a lot of people on their team," Babcock said.

It was a valid point and even Wilson agreed with it: "Honestly, it's a pretty true quote."

Babcock overlooked the old saw about NHL playoff heroes.

The reason so many of them come from the ranks of the third and fourth lines or third defence pair is that the stars as often as not are smothered because everyone checks like a maniac, particularly in the first round.

Nazem Kadri and linemates Leo Komarov and Connor Brown did such a good job containing Alexander Ovechkin's line in the first period on Thursday that Trotz quickly used his home advantage of last line change to keep them away from his big scorer. Ditto for the Caps' fourth line of Wilson, Jay Beagle and Daniel Winnik, which not only provided the big goal but first kept Auston Matthews's line tied up and then switched to Kadri's line when Ovechkin needed a break.

Now the Leafs have to go into Game 2 facing a deep, veteran opponent that got a wake-up call in the first game. They will also have the same short-handed defence corps, as the injured Nikita Zaitsev is still unable to play. The Leafs did well without him but substitute Martin Marincin often looked overwhelmed and it was his failed clearing attempt that led to Wilson's goal.

But at least the Leafs are still talking a good game.

"I think some guys getting their first game under their belt, I think you'll see a little bit more confidence out of us," forward James van Riemsdyk said. "I think there are some things we can clean up. It'll be another hard-fought game, and we'll see what happens."

Associated Graphic

The Maple Leafs had the Washington Capitals down but couldn't put them out on Thursday as the Capitals won 3-2 in overtime.


Caps seeing stars after overtime loss
Heavily favoured Washington struggling to find a way to deal with Toronto's youth and speed
Wednesday, April 19, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S2

TORONTO -- It was never supposed to come to this for the Washington Capitals.

After three games of a firstround playoff series, they were not supposed to be the team trying to explain away what appears to be a case of tightening collars and the wobbles from bearing the weight of playoff expectations. But they have somehow let moments when they could have buried the Toronto Maple Leafs slip away.

Now, it is the neophyte Leafs who are breathing fire with a 2-1 series lead and whose confidence has grown so much in three overtime games that they really think they can win this thing.

"We're giving it away and it's not good enough," Capitals centre Nicklas Backstrom said after they blew two two-goal leads and lost 4-3 in overtime in Game 3 on Monday night. His linemate Alexander Ovechkin, whose ice time was listed as a mere 15 minutes 8 seconds on the game sheet and who is once again coming up short in the playoffs, was similarly fatalistic.

Ovechkin said the Capitals have to forget what happened Monday and move forward for Game 4 on Wednesday. Then, he indicated this will take some doing.

"But how I said, it's on us," Ovechkin said. "We play the game, we're out there. We have to do a better job. If we have the lead, we have to manage the puck, manage the game, be more focused on a more simple game.

"Series goes to go four wins.

It's not going to be easy. It's a huge test for us."

In the Leafs' dressing room, the talk is mostly about how much fun they are having. Or how they are not getting flustered when the Capitals come out as they did Monday night and take a 2-0 lead in the first five minutes.

"Surprisingly, it was fine," Leafs defenceman Jake Gardiner said of the mood on the bench when the Caps took the early lead. "We just stayed positive and stuck with it. I think earlier in the year we might not have.

We kind of matured as a group and we have a calm about us right now, which is pretty good."

While not even Leafs head coach Mike Babcock would have predicted his players would handle themselves with aplomb through three playoff overtime games, he was right in saying before the series the pressure is always on a big favourite such as the Capitals. The pucker factor, he called it, which meant all his kids had to do was skate like crazy and play their game.

"We've got a bunch of kids so we've got energy to burn," Babcock said on Tuesday. "We'll play as long as you want. We'd just like to win."

Over the past two years, in response to repeated playoff flameouts, the Capitals were refitted as a team that could defend as tenaciously as it could dangle the puck on a string.

Fancy talents such as Ovechkin, Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov were joined by bruising defenders such as Brooks Orpik or playoff comets such as Justin Williams.

After a nice cruise to first place over all and the William Jennings Trophy in the NHL's regular season, the Capitals were finally supposed to shake the postseason blahs, as they've never made it past the second round in the post-2005 Ovechkin era. The Leafs were merely supposed to be a tune-up for the serious playoff hockey.

Funny thing, though, the NHL now is all about speed and youth. The Leafs may not have much playoff experience, but they have plenty of speed and youth. They are using it to make the Capitals, particularly their defencemen, look ponderous.

So the questions for Washington head coach Barry Trotz were more pointed. Such as why Ovechkin only played about 15 minutes in Game 3, more than two minutes behind his centre Backstrom and three fewer than the line's right winger, T.J. Oshie.

There is some evidence Ovechkin did not receive credit from the game officials for all of the time he was on the ice. Then again, that would mean he was lousy for 20 minutes instead of 15, although Trotz rushed to his defence.

"It wasn't based on play," Trotz said. "I thought [Ovechkin] was playing terrific. It's on me to get him a little more ice time, no question.

"He's [playing] quality minutes right now. Sometimes you look at minutes, sometimes they're overstated. You're out there 20 minutes, but they're not quality minutes. His minutes have been hard, quality minutes. I know him and [Leo] Komarov have been going at it."

As it stands, though, the Capitals are still very much in this series. And even if they are giving off the sense of a team whose playoff history is now a burden, no one is going to admit it.

"No, I don't think so. I don't feel that," Caps forward Daniel Winnik said.

Associated Graphic

Maple Leafs winger William Nylander celebrates his goal against the Washington Capitals during Game 3 in Toronto on Monday. The Leafs lead the series 2-1.


Pacioretty hopes to break scoring slump
Montreal captain leads the team in scoring chances and shots, but has only one point through four games this series
Thursday, April 20, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S2

MONTREAL -- When sophisticated equipment falters, the first step is to run a diagnostic check, so let's delve into the data for the Montreal Canadiens' finely tuned goal-scoring machine, Max Pacioretty.

First off, the 35-goal man has 19 shots in four first-round playoff games against his boyhood favourites, the New York Rangers, which led the league going into Wednesday's games.

He is also tops among Habs forwards in generating scoring chances at even strength according to Corsica Hockey, so the argument his shots are strictly low-percentage hope plays doesn't seem to hold true.

The system appears to be working pretty well as designed, so how come he's got zero goals and only one point?

There are external factors to consider, such as the opponents trying to smother him.

It's not that Pacioretty is playing terribly, but when you're captain of the Canadiens, the pressure is constant.

And it only builds as the playoff spotlight intensifies.

Precedent indicates it's only a question of time before Pacioretty rediscovers his offensive touch - as he said this past weekend, hockey is "all mental, all feel."

In his past two playoff appearances, he had one goal through the first five games before breaking out (in 2015 he had one in his first nine, then four in his last seven).

A big diesel takes longer to warm up than a zippy sports car.

The problem: time is not something Montreal has in abundant supply with the best-of-seven series knotted at two games apiece.

The 27-year-old Pacioretty has worked hard in recent seasons to modify his outlook - this is a player who is extremely hard on himself - and through the first week of the playoffs he has been unrelentingly sunny.

"Everything is positive in the room right now," he said before Game 3 in New York, suggesting the "good feelings" have made it easier for the Habs to recover from setbacks.

The next 24 to 48 hours will be a stiff test for Pacioretty's - and coach Claude Julien's - doctrine of insistent positivity.

On Wednesday, Julien felt moved to proffer a vigorous endorsement of his captain after the team met for a video session and meetings.

"We're jumping on a guy here that's scored 30 goals every year.

All of a sudden people think 'Well, he hasn't scored yet, let's jump on Max Pacioretty' "he said. "Max Pacioretty is a good captain. Right now, he's doing whatever he can. He wants to be better."

Pacioretty used almost exactly those words after Montreal's 2-1 defeat in Game 4, in which he bore part of the blame for the deciding goal.

The question is how.

Goal scoring tends to be a streaky proposition and - shocker alert - it's harder to do in the playoffs, where space is compressed as defenders raise their intensity.

It's no coincidence most of the NHL's top scorers rack up a lot of their points against non-playoff teams in the regular season (Pacioretty scored 24 of his 35 against also-rans, Sidney Crosby tallied 28 of his league-leading 44 on teams that are no longer playing).

The Rangers' plan for Pacioretty is not especially subtle: stick rough-hewn right defenceman Dan Girardi in his face as much as possible, and have the equally rugged Ryan McDonagh pile in for support as needed.

Girardi sent Pacioretty cartwheeling to the ice with a spectacular hit in the first period of the series opener, and the latter has mostly spent the series surrounded by two or three blue shirts (for what it's worth, Montreal is doing the same thing to New York's 28-goal guy Chris Kreider, and using feisty winger Brendan Gallagher in the effort to tenderize McDonagh).

After Game 4, Pacioretty said the physical barrage by the Rangers - who lead the playoffs in hits - is just another challenge to overcome: "it's up to us to fight through it."

Ironically, it's a strategy not unlike what Julien deployed to nullify the Vancouver Canucks in the 2011 Stanley Cup final. That team was coached by Rangers boss Alain Vigneault.

The great tactical question involves what Pacioretty and his teammates can do to thwart it.

More speed ought to do it and scoring early at home on Thursday might help, doubly so if the goal were to come from big No. 67.

Julien noted "this is a sport that has ups and downs ... through ebbs and flows, we can choose to be who we want to be. I choose to support him and help him be better."

He plainly views it as his job to take the pressure off his captain.

That involves defending him publicly, but also doing things such as flipping Andrew Shaw and Alex Radulov in a bid to give Pacioretty and Phillip Danault's line a different look.

More tinkering on the coaching staff's part will surely follow.

Associated Graphic

Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty is checked by Rangers winger Jimmy Vesey during Game 4 on Tuesday.


Look to The Globe for playoff coverage
Wednesday, April 12, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S1

Five Canadian teams begin their NHL playoff run over the coming few nights, a thrilling change from last year when not a single one of our country's seven teams made the postseason.

The Globe and Mail has made a commitment to bringing you coverage of the playoff runs of all the Canadian teams - the Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers - for as long as their runs excite and endure.

We will extend deadlines in all markets to the extent that we can still deliver the newspaper to your door at its usual time. And we are committed to bringing you the most complete coverage possible, the game analysis you've come to expect and far more.

In Montreal, Sean Gordon will chronicle the Habs' quest to avenge their heart-breaking loss to the New York Rangers in the 2013-14 conference final. In Ottawa, Robert MacLeod and Roy MacGregor will follow the steady Senators in their series against the Bruins. David Shoalts and Cathal Kelly will be watching the upstart Maple Leafs as they try to surprise a long-suffering city and the Capitals. Eric Duhatschek will be with the Flames as they open their series in Anaheim against the Ducks. And Marty Klinkenberg will be with the NHL's hottest team down the stretch, the Oilers and their Art Ross Trophywinning superstar Connor McDavid, as they face the Sharks in Edmonton's first playoff series in 11 years. Our coverage will be smart, surprising and reach beyond the rink. You won't find it anywhere else.

Here is what readers can expect in each market during the busy first round.

In Montreal, readers will receive extensive coverage of the Canadiens, from news to features to game-night reports. Games that end in regulation will be carried in all editions of the next day's newspaper. Overtime games that end before midnight will be carried in most editions. If it's not in your print edition, please look for it at

In Ottawa, readers can expect full coverage of the Senators, from news and features to gamenight reports if the games end in regulation time. Games that are decided by the end of one overtime period will be carried in most editions of the next day's newspaper. If games take longer to decide, readers will be directed to

Toronto readers will receive full game coverage when the games end in regulation or by 10:30 p.m. ET. Games that go into extra time will make most editions, depending on what time the game concludes. News, features and analysis will also be part of a substantial package.

In Calgary, game-night coverage in the newspaper of the Flames is dependent on what time the games finish. We will turn our reports around quickly to make as many editions as possible.

Otherwise, readers will be directed to for coverage of the game, but will receive news, features and analysis between games in print and also online.

In Edmonton, readers will be directed to for game coverage that begins at 8 or 8:30 p.m. MT, but will receive news, features and analysis throughout the Oilers' run in the print edition and online.

Penguins put Blue Jackets on the brink
Despite its best season in franchise history, Columbus is in hot water against the defending Stanley Cup champions
The Associated Press
Tuesday, April 18, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S2

COLUMBUS, OHIO -- The Columbus Blue Jackets scored more goals in the first six minutes of Sunday's game than in their first two playoff games combined. That still wasn't enough to slow down the Pittsburgh Penguins, who dealt the Blue Jackets a third straight playoff loss and put them on the brink of elimination.

Now the Blue Jackets, whose best season in franchise history included a 16-game winning streak, will try to get a win at home on Tuesday night to avoid being swept out of the firstround series by the defending Stanley Cup champions. An overtime goal by 22-year-old rookie Jake Guentzel - set up by some deft puck-handling behind the net by Sidney Crosby - was the latest dagger. Guentzel had a hat trick in the 5-4 Pittsburgh win Sunday.

Columbus isn't the only team in trouble. The Minnesota Wild, who had a 12-game winning streak this season, are down 0-3 to the surprising St. Louis Blues while Cup favourites Chicago and Washington have been plunged into challenging firstround series of their own.

The Wild's struggles are even more perplexing. Minnesota has outshot St. Louis 117-79 and killed off eight of nine power plays, but has never led. Game 4 is Wednesday at St. Louis, whose goaltender, Jake Allen, has a .974 save percentage and 0.91 goalsagainst average after being 3-5 with a .902 and 2.29 in his playoff career coming in.

Columbus outshot Pittsburgh in their first two playoff games, and the Blue Jackets had chances to win all three. Veteran goaltender Marc-André Fleury, replacing injured starter Matt Murray, has been sharp for the Penguins and made a critical mask save of a potential game-winning Brandon Dubinsky shot in overtime Sunday.

"We've played good hockey, and it's unfortunate we've put ourselves in this situation," Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno said Monday. "There's pressure, but we know what we're facing.

We've got a chance to just go out there and try to make a series of this."

Columbus will be without sensational rookie defender Zach Werenski, who was lost for the year after taking a Phil Kessel shot to the face Sunday. He suffered a fractured cheekbone.

But the Blue Jackets will get forward Matt Calvert back for Game 4. Calvert sat in the press box Sunday night, serving a onegame penalty for breaking a stick over the back of Pittsburgh's Tom Kuhnhackl and then decking him after the game was out of reach Friday night. Calvert didn't want to talk about the play Monday, but he did say it wasn't payback for anything that happened in the game.

There was "nothing that led to it," he said. "The series is a battle."

Associated Graphic

Evgeni Malkin of the Penguins avoids a check from Sam Gagner of the Columbus Blue Jackets during Game 2 in Pittsburgh on Friday. After a 5-4 win in overtime, the Penguins lead the series 3-0.


'Science fiction' into reality: a twist on startup strategy
Monday, April 17, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

MONTREAL -- Tech startups typically begin with a couple of guys who have an idea, little money and no customers. Few manage to raise money; fewer achieve commercial success.

Helge Seetzen has a different strategy for starting tech firms. So far, it's working exceptionally well.

The Montreal-based venture capitalist starts by asking customers - typically consumer electronics giants - what trends they're looking to incorporate into their products. Then his incubation and seed investment firm, TandemLaunch Inc., scours the world's universities looking for inventions that fit the need.

Once TandemLaunch has validated and secured rights to the patents, an in-house team builds a demo based on the research. TandemLaunch finally creates a company around its product, provides about $500,000 in seed financing and hires a management team.

"Normally if you build a seedstage company, you end up almost inevitably doing fairly vapid stuff: You're two guys, you have to code together, build a website. There's only so much you can do," Mr. Seetzen said. By the time TandemLaunch founds companies, "you're [at] this jump-off point that is so far away from any normal startup, that you can actually do really interesting stuff."

Indeed, TandemLaunch firms don't just build your average smartphone apps. One of its creations, Landr, has built a digital audio tool that automatically generates studio-quality sound mixing. Another, Aerial, uses wireless signals from devices to create frequency grids that can detect movement and even identify people inside buildings. "I live in deep tech, but that one is black magic," Mr. Seetzen said. A third, Stratuscent, has developed an "electronic nose" based on U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration technology. Its polymer sensors can identify and quantify air quality and whether milk has gone sour.

"Some of the stuff they're working on is genuine science fiction - although they're making it a reality," said Montreal entrepreneur, startup financier and TandemLaunch backer Ben Yoskovitz.

The firm, which recently raised its second $15-million fund from outside investors, has so far had great success for an early-stage venture capital firm: Of the 17 companies it has created and financed since its 2010 launch, 10 have raised a combined $30million-plus from such investors as Warner Music Group and U.S. billionaire Mark Cuban. Six others are incubating at TandemLaunch offices in a vast heritage industrial building in the hip Saint-Henri borough. Only one has failed. TandemLaunch ventures have attracted founders from around the world, licensed technology from about 60 universities, including the California Institute of Technology and the University of Toronto, and created more than 300 jobs.

TandemLaunch stands apart in three other ways. The firm charges no fees or carried interest - a rarity among venture capitalists. Mr. Seetzen makes his money as a limited partner alongside other TandemLaunch investors, including Quebec business personalities Guy Laliberte and Nathalie Marcoux, and runs a lean ship, with 90 per cent of capital going into investments, much higher than a typical seed fund or accelerator.

Meanwhile, TandemLaunch is a welcome vehicle to help understaffed university technology transfer offices find markets for campus inventions. "That's the biggest problem that Helge addresses," said Roger Miller, a technology transfer manager with the University of British Columbia.

Most impressive is Mr. Seetzen's commitment to addressing the tech sector's chronic diversity woes. As the industry faces well-founded criticisms about its gender-imbalance problem, Mr. Seetzen is showing up his peers: about half of the founders TandemLaunch has recruited in the past two years are women.

Mr. Seetzen, who is married to Dominique Anglade, Quebec's Economy, Science and Innovation Minister, says that is "100 per cent intentional. My talent team (including CFO Emilie Boutros) knows that if I see a sequence of dudes, I'll just stop interviewing until they field some [female] candidates. It's the only way to fix things ... Trust me, if you meet 20 awesome women and 20 awesome guys, you will hire 50-50."

"He has encouraged a lot of female leaders," said Soodeh Farokhi, the Iranian-born cofounder of TandemLaunchbacked C2RO, which makes an artificial intelligence cloud software platform for robots. "In leadership positions and the tech industry in general, there is a lack of females," she said. "He was the true mentor for me and the one that gave me courage" to be an entrepreneur.

The 38-year-old Mr. Seetzen's emergence as one of Canada's most sophisticated and enlightened early-stage investors is the culmination of what he calls a "random walk" of a career. His uneducated parents from a small German village wanted him to be a roofer. But Mr. Seetzen was interested in studying physics and learning English, which led him to UBC, known internationally for its particle accelerator [other than touring the facility, "I've never had anything to do with particle research," he said, laughing].

Shortly after arriving in 1998, he met associate dean Lorne Whitehead, who invited him to work on a project developing display screen technology. Before long, the undergraduate was working for a company that evolved out of the project and, by fourth year, he was chief technology officer of a spinoff developing LED display screens, called Brightside Technologies Inc., which was sold in 2007 to Dolby Laboratories for $32-million.

By 2009, he was an accomplished 30-year-old, when his Quebecois partner, then a McKinsey & Co. consultant, said she wanted to return home. He left his job and the young family moved to Montreal.

The down-to-earth, financially secure Mr. Seetzen arrived in a city that had not yet become the teeming startup hotbed it is today, unsure what to do. He soon decided to pick up where he had left off in his 20s, this time as an investor, creator and mentor of firms like Brightside.

His timing was good: Many giant companies were open to partnering with nimble startups to remain innovative.

"There's a magic sauce in the way he picks the technology," said Code Cubitt, whose Ottawabased Mistral Ventures has invested in Stratuscent. "It's not for drive-by venture capitalists."

Associated Graphic

Venture capitalist Helge Seetzen, left, sits with some of the women who run startup incubator TandemLaunch.


It's time to call in the oligopoly busters
Saturday, April 15, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

ROME -- I hope David Dao, the 69-yearold doctor dragged off the United Airlines flight screaming and bleeding, his nose and teeth smashed, will win millions in compensation - he is planning to sue the company.

I also hope his case unleashes a Peoples' Spring against the choice-denying oligopolies that are smothering consumers in the United States and elsewhere in the wealthy world.

Why did United forcibly remove a passenger who refused to "volunteer" to get off an overbooked flight and why did the airline's boss, Oscar Munoz, initially support the passengerjet raid by his security thugs?

(He has since apologized profusely.)

The simple answer is: Because United could. United is one airline in a four-airline oligopoly that utterly dominates air travel within the United States.

Businesses that dominate their markets don't have to worry about attracting, pleasing and retaining customers the way that businesses in highly competitive markets do.

Calls for a consumer boycott of United went pretty much nowhere because few competing airlines exist. Boycott United and fly with whom? United Continental shares did fall after video clips of the distraught Dr. Dao burned up the Internet, but not by much.

The shares, up 22 per cent over the past year, still trade close to their 52-week high.

There is a reason why savvy investors, such as billionaire Warren Buffett, have changed their stand on U.S. airlines. Not long ago, Mr. Buffett dismissed airlines as capital-destroying monsters.

But that was before the merger frenzy turned eight airlines into four. The result was oligopoly profits. Mr. Buffett recently confirmed that he owns stakes in United Continental, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines.

The term "airline oligopoly" is no exaggeration. According to the Associated Press's analysis of airport data collected by airlinetracking firm Diio Mi, a single carrier controls a majority of the market at 40 of the top 100 U.S. airports. That's up from 34 airports a decade ago. At 93 of the top-100 airports, only two airlines control a majority of the airline seats, up from 78. No wonder the share prices of the airline biggies is soaring.

Sadly, airlines are not the only examples of highly concentrated corporate power - monopolies, duopolies and oligopolies - that have snuffed out competition, raised prices and harmed innovation.

The list is extensive. Cable TV pretty much everywhere in the United States and Canada is a local monopoly. The enormous infant nutrition market (baby formula) is dominated by four players - Mead Johnson, Nestlé, Abbott Laboratories and Danone.

When Bayer's purchase of Monsanto and ChemChina's purchase of Syngenta are completed, the global seed market and pesticide market will be dominated by four companies. Want a mattress? Not much choice there. Two companies - Tempur-Sealy and Serta - control that market.

Car-company mergers are under way. In Canada, the banking industry is dominated by five banks (the number would have been three had the federal government not killed off the industry consolidation attempt in 1998). Amazon's market power in retailing is becoming awesome.

Google, whose parent, Alphabet, has a market value of $575-billion (U.S.), is synonymous with the Internet.

How did market concentration in key industries become so extreme? The cult of deregulation that began in earnest in the Ronald Reagan era, and amplified in the Bill Clinton era, ended the antitrust era. "Natural" market forces were deemed better regulators than bureaucrats sitting in competition bureaus, or so argued neo-liberal economic philosophers such as Milton Friedman. Mr. Clinton repealed the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act, which had separated commercial and investment banking. The new breed of universal banks, as a result, became too big to fail (with the exception of Lehman Bros.) and many had to be bailed out in the 2008 financial crisis.

The era of ultracheap money turbocharged the merger craze.

The flood of money that was pumped into the economy after the crisis to help homeowners was put to use by financiers to launch a mergers-and-acquisitions frenzy. The big airline mergers all happened after 2008.

A recent report in The Economist on "superstar" companies noted that the share of nominal gross domestic product generated by the Fortune 100 - the top American companies - reached 46 per cent in 2013, up from 33 per cent in 1994. Their share is probably higher today. Over the same period, the share of revenues of the Fortune 100 among the Fortune 500 companies went to 63 per cent from 57 per cent. The management consultancy McKinsey calculated that the top 10 per cent of global companies generate 80 per cent of all profits.

The five largest banks control 45 per cent of total U.S. banking assets, up from 25 per cent in 2000. While the merged companies that operate in oligopolies would deny their market influence allows them to shirk on research and development, the share buy-back figures say otherwise. As companies and their profits have climbed, share buybacks have exploded in value. The S&P 500 companies have spent literally trillions of dollars on buybacks since the early part of the last decade. These are fortunes spent to please shareholders, not boost innovation or increase wages.

Eventually, duopolies and oligopolies get diluted or broken up as new players enter the market with clever ideas and competitive pricing. But that process can take decades. Who will go after Amazon or Google? Probably no one, at least not in the next few years.

There is a solution, one that would restore competition and its benefits, including innovation and job creation, quickly. Bring back the trust-busters to break up industries with obscene corporate concentration. Here's hoping that Dr. Dao, the roughed-up United passenger, will provide the spark.

U.S. farmers sour on Canadian dairy: The final nail in supply management's coffin?
Friday, April 21, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

It was clear for months before U.S. President Donald Trump finally pointed his finger this week at "some very unfair" dairy policies north of the border that Canada was sleepwalking toward a trade dispute that would threaten, once and for all, the survival of supply management in the milk sector.

Politicians in Wisconsin and New York warned then-trade minister Chrystia Freeland last summer that a move by Canadian regulators to shut out U.S. imports of ultrafiltered milk could trigger a trade war that would bring the whole system of supply management crashing down. But such warnings were simply dismissed by Canadian officials as sour grapes on the part of a U.S. dairy industry upset that a once-lucrative loophole in Canada's dairy-tariff wall was being nailed shut.

What central planners failed to realize then was that the loophole they sought to close had served as a vital pressure valve for U.S. dairy farmers faced with a glut of domestic milk and declining prices for their product. As long as U.S. farmers could export ultrafiltered milk to Canada, calls to end supply management altogether could be more easily defused.

That became a lot harder after the U.S. President went to Wisconsin on Tuesday to denounce "another typical one-sided deal against the United States," this one enabling Canada to protect its producers from foreign competition. Are the last days of supply management finally upon us?

Ironically, what triggered this possibility was a move by the Canadian Dairy Commission to obey market signals for a change, rather than to continue its usual practice of denying them.

In recent years, Canadian cheese makers and other dairy processors had been turning to suppliers of cheaper U.S. milk as regulators here continued to dictate above-market prices that enabled even the least efficient dairy farmers to survive. This imported class of so-called ultrafiltered milk used in processing did not exist when the North American free-trade agreement was formulated and is therefore not on the list of foreign dairy products on which Canada slaps tariffs of as much 300 per cent.

Canadian producers were naturally outraged at this violation of the spirit, if not the law, of supply management, so the CDC, following regulators in Ontario, moved last year to create a new class of industrial milk priced at the world level but sold only to processors. Consumers still pay an inflated made-in-Canada rate for the fluid milk they buy at the grocery store.

The CDC initially deemed this Milk Class 4(m) a temporary measure, making it hard for U.S. dairy farmers to challenge as an unfair subsidy. Temporary programs are not typically worth challenging under NAFTA or World Trade Organization rules.

But when the CDC announced plans to entrench the Class 4(m) in a new National Ingredient Strategy, U.S. politicians pounced.

"Our Canadian friends must understand that our current and future trade relationships depend on their compliance with the agreements they've signed," Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker wrote in an op-ed published in state newspapers last October. "How they respond to our concerns about dairy may cause us to re-evaluate our trade relationship with Canada as a whole. It is in their long-term interest to keep their word with us on dairy trade."

This month, one of the largest U.S. producers of ultra-filtered milk - Wisconsin-based Grassland Dairy Products - told 75 dairy farmers in the state that it would cease to buy their milk after May 1. Since the CDC's move, it said, Canadian demand for U.S. ultra-filtered milk had dried up.

"The Canadian government has put in place several regulations to prevent this trade from continuing," Grassland said in a letter to the farmers.

The Grassland announcement unleashed a wave of panic among dairy farmers in the state, who are faced with the immediate loss of their biggest customer. The loss adds to the woes caused by a 40-per-cent drop in U.S. milk prices since 2014, the same year the U.S. Congress reformed a key insurance program for the dairy sector that producers decry as far stingier than its predecessor.

"More broadly, tens of thousands of dairy farmers will be affected by the larger scope of what Canada is doing, which is using pricing policy to offload milk powder in global markets where it will be competing with U.S. exports," National Milk Producers Federation spokesman Chris Galen told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this month after the Grassland announcement.

This is one fight the CDC was unwise to pick. Mr. Trump's election, in part thanks to a 0.77-percentage-point win in Wisconsin, means the timing could not be worse. The "America First" President is predisposed to court the Badger State. Our politburo of milk has made Canada his perfect foil.

'Buy American' flouts 200 years of economic logic
Thursday, April 20, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

This week marks the bicentennial of the publication of one of the most important books in economic history. Judging how he marked the anniversary, I'm guessing Donald Trump hasn't spent the week boning up on it.

On April 19, 1817, David Ricardo - who, like the U.S. President, was a tremendously wealthy businessman who launched a second career in politics - published On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation. The book introduced the world to the concept of "comparative advantage" - the principle that has endured at the core of the free-trade argument ever since. It's one of the seminal moments in the history of economic thought.

The idea of comparative advantage is that every country is better at producing some things than it is at others; if it exports things it is more efficient at producing, while importing the things it is less good at, and its trading partner does likewise, both countries are better off. By making use of each other's comparative advantages, both end up with more goods for the same amount of inputs of labour and capital than if they had relied solely on domestic production; they allocate their resources more efficiently; they reduce costs. It's the classic win-win.

As Mr. Ricardo put it, international trade "will very powerfully contribute to increase the mass of commodities, and therefore the sum of enjoyments."

While governments haven't always agreed, the idea has dominated world economic thinking for much of the 70-odd years since the end of the Second World War. It is at the root of the massive wave of globalization that has reshaped the world economy.

Many credit the growth in global trade flows with spurring the unprecedented economic prosperity and technological advancement seen in the second half of the 20th century. While economists quibble about the extent to which Ricardian economic theory translates into real-world trade decisions, it's taken as pretty much a given that comparative advantage works.

"Ricardo's framework has endured as a workhorse model of international trade because of the malleability of its underlying structure and the timeless insights that it yields," wrote Dartmouth College economics professor Douglas Irwin on the London-based Centre for Economic Policy Research's website marking the anniversary.

Apparently, Mr. Trump disagrees. The day before Mr. Ricardo's anniversary, the leader of the world's most powerful economy took another step down the protectionist path he has mapped out for his presidency. His "Buy American, Hire American" executive order will enforce requirements to maximize the use of U.S.-made goods and materials, and U.S.-based contractors, in all contracts with the federal government and federal agencies.

Mr. Trump says his actions will promote more good jobs for middle-class Americans. Narrowly speaking, there's almost certainly some truth in that: Buy more American-made stuff, and you'll need more Americans to make it.

But if it were more cost-effective to award those supply contracts to U.S. manufacturers, government departments and agencies would have already been doing so - they wouldn't need a Buy American law. So that's the first problem: Poor, inefficient, expensive use of taxpayers' money.

Devoting those tax dollars to less-efficient output amounts to a substantial misallocation of labour and resources that would otherwise end up in other areas of the U.S. economy that offer superior comparative advantages, artificially starving those sectors of demand and, by extension, jobs.

(It doesn't help that it also misallocates resources in the Canadian economy, as goods for which Canada has a comparative advantage are thwarted at the border.) The reliance on higher-cost goods and materials is generally inflationary, which is a drag on consumption - which, again, hurts job creation.

Push protectionist, America-first policies far enough, and the inefficiencies you promote will stifle economic growth, remove market-based incentives for job creation and innovation, and generally lower living standards.

America-first protectionism is a gross distortion of market forces.

Free-market believers in Mr. Trump's own party must be pulling their hair out.

But try telling this to the Trump administration, which is convinced that trade is not a win-win proposition, and that the United States has been losing. The head of Mr. Trump's National Trade Council, economist Peter Navarro, recently argued that "most of our profession, as well as much of the mainstream media, continues to embrace and espouse an antiquated Ricardian view of the world that has little to do with the events or risks of our time."

So the Trump administration is openly challenging 200 years of sound economic wisdom. U.S. taxpayers will be on the hook.

New Suncor report signals shifting climate
Wednesday, April 19, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

CALGARY -- Suncor Energy Inc.'s new report on risks of climatechange policies to its business would have been an unthinkable document to publish just a decade ago.

It suggests the age of the everexpanding oil sands megaproject - the company's foundation - has come to an end if technological developments in transportation and renewable energy continue apace.

Under a range of scenarios that Canada's biggest energy company suggests could play out over the next two decades, prospects for massive new projects in the oil sands are also threatened by such things as weak economic growth or long stretches of low or wildly gyrating commodity prices.

Indeed, all have been factors in recent years, and that's partly driving a shift in thinking among some of the more enlightened executives and investors. Beware business as usual.

Suncor released its report this week following a push by its own shareholders to spell out climaterelated risks and what chief executive officer Steve Williams and his managers are doing to prepare for them. The company is adamant that none of its existing operations will be stranded in any case.

Mr. Williams has been front and centre in sometimes controversial moves on the carbon-reduction front. He's sought common ground with environmentalists who have opposed oil sands development. He and a handful of other executives stood with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley in 2015 when she announced stringent policies to try to lower emissions through a carbon tax, phase-out of coal-fired power and, counterintuitively for any oil man, a cap on CO2 from the oil sands.

He has taken flak for his unconventional approach, first from a few other energy executives, who grumbled about his working outside the confines of the main lobby group, then by the likes of right-wing rabble-rouser Ezra Levant, who organized a petition against Mr. Williams's environment-related initiatives.

Mr. Levant was bothered by the Suncor boss's assertion that some oil sands reserves should stay in the ground. What's not said, of course, is all oil companies have reserves they will never produce because they are too expensive or too dirty to recover - basically the dregs.

This is not 2007, when oil prices began a march well above $100 (U.S.) a barrel, creating an anything-goes approach to oil sands investment. The boom led to massive inflation before crude cratered and prompted a collapse in activity.

Now, with prices still just above $50, the capital-andcarbon-intensive industry faces competition on a number of fronts: from the shale deposits of Texas to an expanding suite of fossil-fuel alternatives.

Smart investors are trying to gauge what the future holds, if it doesn't include ever-expanding oil production.

Indeed, ARC Financial Corp., the Calgary-based private-equity firm focused on energy, hosted a well-attended conference this month to examine advancements in transportation.

The topics - from electric and autonomous vehicles to tightening green policies - were talked about in five-, 10- and 15-year time frames and hardly seem the stuff of The Jetsons.

"I've long encouraged people in our industry, the oil and gas industry, not to be in denial, to be vigilant" said Peter Tertzakian, executive director of ARC's research arm.

"We don't need to see a wholesale replacement of the entire transportation fleet to have an impact on our energy consumption, and specifically our oil consumption."

Suncor's report assumes different carbon worlds.

In one, technological advancement and falling costs for clean energy lead to low oil prices and declining exploration and production activity. Major new oil sands projects are unlikely to get built.

In another, improving global living standards and advanced technology fuel increased demand for energy, but carbonintensive industries face rising costs and more stringent standards. Demand for fossil fuels remains, but alternatives take a growing share of the market.

A third envisions more global conflict and instability as well as skittish investors and tight capital markets, with environmental concerns taking a back seat to economic woes. That would mean little change in the global energy mix.

This detailed reporting should be the start of a trend.

If cost and climate risks played any part in recent sales of oil sands assets by foreign companies, investors should know what those things mean to the companies that bought them.

Associated Graphic

A Suncor refinery near Edmonton is seen in 2016. Suncor's new report on the risks of climate-change policies to its business was released this week following a push by shareholders to spell out climate-related risks and what the company is doing to prepare for them.


The housing experts nobody wants to hire
Monday, April 24, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

Home inspectors are taking a substantial hit to their businesses amid the frenzied bidding for houses taking place in Toronto and the surrounding regions.

In desperation to come up on top in bidding wars, many home buyers are forgoing conditions that may make their offer less appealing to a seller. One of the first conditions to go is the need for a home inspection.

"Nobody has a clause for home inspection in this hot housing market," says Murray Parish, president of the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors, who says his 550 members have experienced a 30 to 50 per cent drop in home inspections over the past few months.

Toronto has seen consecutive years of double-digit price gains.

The average sale price for detached homes in the central 416 area code in March was $1.56million, up 33 per cent from a year earlier. In the 905 region that surrounds the city, detached homes went for an average of $1.12-million, up 34 per cent.

Prices for semi-detached homes, townhouses and condos are all up sharply.

Alan Carson, president of home inspection agency Carson Dunlop, says that while the city of Toronto may be the epicentre of the issue, his business has felt the shock waves even in regions such as Kitchener-Waterloo, Oshawa and Hamilton.

In February, the number of home inspections his company did was down 30 per cent overall.

"Buyers aren't forgoing the inspection because they want to; it's because they feel like they have to," says Mr. Carson.

But while there has been a decrease in home inspections on the buyer's side, Mr. Carson says he's also seeing an uptick in home inspections being conducted by the seller. When sellers conduct a home inspection and offer the results in a report, they are finding that more buyers are coming to the table, he says.

However, this isn't enough to completely offset the decline in buyer home inspections.

"We're frustrated," Mr. Carson says. "We know people want to protect themselves and are just finding it so hard to do."

In a more balanced market, 60 per cent to 70 per cent of deals include a home inspection clause, says John Hansen, who runs a home inspection business in Hamilton. "This year, I don't think it's even 5 per cent. The market in Hamilton is crazy."

According to March data, Hamilton home prices shot up 28 per cent from the previous year. In a city where the average price is half that of Toronto, bidding wars are increasingly becoming the norm, as buyers priced out of other regions make aggressive moves to close deals in areas nearby.

The number of home inspections Mr. Hansen says he conducted in March was fewer than half of the amount he did a year prior.

It's making it harder for home inspectors to bring in money, he says, and some have gone out of business. Mr. Hansen says he's been relying more heavily on his work on septic, well and fireplace inspections to keep him afloat.

Home inspectors warn that forgoing inspections puts buyers at risk.

"You wouldn't buy a car without taking it for a test drive," Mr. Parish says. The same rationale, he says, should apply for a purchase that is much bigger.

Mr. Hansen says he worries that buyers - particularly young, firsttime home buyers - are placing themselves in a position of financial vulnerability. "They tap out all their resources to get their house ... What happens when they find out they have a $20,000 fix?" The effects are starting to spill over to other businesses as well, Mr. Parish says. Electricians and plumbers who receive business following results from a home inspection are feeling the impact from the lack of referrals.

Mr. Carson is hoping the Ontario government measures announced on Thursday, which include a 15-per-cent tax on foreign home buyers, will cool the housing market.

"I hope it has a positive impact on housing availability and affordability for the average home buyer."

The 2017 Globe and Mail Small Business Summit is a one-day conference of insightful sessions, proven business growth strategies and innovative ideas from the country's brightest business leaders. Full details at

Associated Graphic

Home inspector John Hansen checks the furnace in a house in Hamilton Friday. The number of houses Mr. Hansen inspects has dropped as sellers reject buyers with bids conditional on an inspection.


Ontario's housing solution fails to define the problem
Saturday, April 22, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

OTTAWA -- On Thursday, Ontario unveiled a package of measures to cool Toronto's sizzling housing market, including expanded rent controls and a 15-per-cent tax on absentee foreign buyers.

Next week, the province starts collecting data to determine the extent of speculative foreign buying.

Pick your cliché: It's like trying to run before you walk, putting the cart before the horse, the tail wagging the dog or doing things ass-backward.

The province is applying fixes to a problem that it doesn't fully understand because it lacks reliable data.

It can't possibly know how its actions will play out.

No one doubts Toronto has a housing problem. Home prices have shot up more than 30 per cent in the past year. The average price of a detached home tops $1-million, or more than 15 times the median annual household income of Torontonians.

So we know there is an affordability issue.

We also know that too many home buyers are taking on precarious levels of debt in this crazy market. The Bank of Canada has warned repeatedly in recent months about a spike in risky mortgages, particularly in what the province is now calling the Greater Golden Horseshoe, or GGH.

Beyond anecdotal evidence and unscientific surveys, precious little is known about how much of the overheating is due to normal market conditions (population growth, immigration, lack of supply and the like), and what's speculative froth caused by an unusual influx of foreign cash.

The best industry estimate is less than 5 per cent. But maybe it's 2 per cent, or 10 per cent.

No doubt, some buyers are treating housing like the stock market - either as a store of value or to generate rental income - rather than a place to live. But these speculators are just as likely to be Canadian as foreign. And so far, Ontario has not moved to thwart domestic speculators.

Unfortunately, federal and provincial officials don't have a clue how much of the apparent price bubble is due to speculation versus other market forces. And they can't possibly know how much of the upward price pressure is caused by foreign buyers.

Ontario is right to be gathering more data about buyers, including where their citizenship is and what they intend to do with the property. British Columbia started doing the same last year.

But they're late to the party.

It will likely be a year before Ontario has a clear picture of what's really happening in the real estate market from the data it collects.

And by then, the market may have gone cold. Indeed, if the market is already cooling, the new measure would be countercyclical, with unpredictable consequences.

Ottawa is also investing heavily in more timely national housing data. The Liberals are giving Statistics Canada an extra $40million over five years to gather information about foreign ownership of homes, demographics of homeowners and the mortgage market. Statscan won't start publishing its new "housing statistics framework" until the fall.

What the measures do address, however, is a political problem, as it was in British Columbia.

Ontario and Ottawa are feeling heat from voters over what's happening in the housing market.

Young families wonder if they'll ever be able to get into the market. Older homeowners wanting to downsize find they're buying into a market that's just as hot as the one they're trying to escape.

And financially stretched owners worry the bubble may soon burst, leaving them with little or no equity.

Without a proper diagnosis, Ontario risks exacerbating the crisis.

At the other extreme, if its actions don't fundamentally change market conditions, there will be profound disappointment.

Taking on foreign speculators is unlikely to change the fundamentals of the market, which is being propelled higher by powerful forces. Prices will stay high in Toronto because economic opportunity is drawing people there. A home in Toronto will still cost way too much. And, as long as interest rates stay low and the economy doesn't falter, there will be plenty of fuel stoking the market.

Toronto and Vancouver are world-class cities where people will want to live and work, now and in the future.

That's not something governments can or should discourage.

Natale to get head start as Rogers CEO
Former Telus chief will step into top job ahead of schedule after companies reach deal
Friday, April 14, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

After six months without a fulltime chief executive officer, Rogers Communications Inc. is preparing to welcome Joe Natale on board next week, bringing an end to an awkward and uncertain leadership transition.

Mr. Natale will start about two months earlier than expected thanks to a "confidential" deal Rogers struck with his former employer Telus Corp., which agreed to release Mr. Natale from the terms of a non-compete clause that would have barred him from working at the rival firm until July.

Mr. Natale, the long-time Telus executive who left the Vancouver-based telecom provider after about a year as CEO in 2015, will officially begin as Rogers's CEO on April 19, the company said Thursday.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Sources close to Rogers say the company was initially optimistic it could negotiate an earlier start date for Mr. Natale. But after several months passed and Rogers was unable to reach an agreement with Telus, it announced in late January that he would not start until July.

Until Thursday's announcement from the company, Mr.Natale had never publicly commented on his plans to become CEO of Rogers. His new start date means curious employees will finally get a better sense of their new leader and his plans for the company.

Alan Horn, chairman of the board and a loyal adviser to the Rogers family, has served as interim CEO since the company ousted its last chief executive,

British import Guy Laurence, last October.

But since that time, the telecommunications and media company has largely followed the strategic plan put in place by Mr. Laurence. Among rank-and-file Rogers employees, there is great interest in what new direction Mr. Natale will take, while some senior leaders are anxious to understand what it could mean for their own future at the company.

There has already been some turnover in the upper ranks of management: chief corporate affairs officer Jacob Glick left Rogers in March while chief strategy officer Frank Boulben has announced plans to leave by the end of this month. Both were high-profile hires of Mr. Laurence, who devoted significant energy to building his own executive leadership team after taking over in late 2013.

In another change, chief brand officer Dale Hooper, who used to report directly to the CEO, now reports to Dirk Woessner, president of Rogers' consumer-business unit. Mr. Woessner, another star recruit of Mr. Laurence's, is widely respected in the company and many employees say they hope he will remain with Rogers through the transition.

For his part, Mr. Natale is a highly regarded executive who was squeezed out of Telus after just 15 months in charge when Darren Entwistle, who had served as CEO for 14 years before moving to a role as executive chairman, returned to the CEO's job.

Since then, the Rogers board had its eye on Mr. Natale, sources confirmed, and the company began courting Mr. Natale last year.

During his 12-year stint at Telus, Mr. Natale gained a reputation as a talented leader who spearheaded Telus's renowned customer-service strategy, which helped the wireless provider keep its customer turnover low compared with its peers.

He will be expected to apply that expertise to Rogers's own problems with customer service.

It's an issue Mr. Laurence took steps to tackle during his tenure, but there is still significant room for improvement.

Mr. Natale will also be faced with the roll-out of a new television platform - which Rogers has licensed from Comcast Corp. after taking a $484-million writedown on its own efforts to develop Internet-protocol television (IPTV) - and managing Rogers's all-important wireless business, which has regained some momentum in recent quarters.

"We are thrilled to have a person of [Mr. Natale's] calibre and experience lead Rogers," Edward Rogers, the deputy chairman of the family-controlled company which bears his name, said in a statement.

Mr. Natale, who will also join the board of directors at the company's annual general meeting next week, added that he is "really excited" to join the company.

Rogers Communications (RCI.B)

Close: $60.41, up 31¢

Bad news, soaring stock: Why National Bank keeps rising
Wednesday, April 12, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

National Bank of Canada has delivered some bad news over the past 18 months: It has diluted investors by issuing new shares, taken an embarrassing writeoff on an investment and rattled observers with its large exposure to the troubled energy sector.

But the stock has soared.

Since Oct. 1, 2015, when the lender issued the first of its trio of disappointments, National Bank's share price has risen about 38 per cent (including dividends).

This total return has beaten the broad S&P/TSX composite index by more than 13 percentage points. It also topped the average gains from the bank's five bigger peers, including Toronto-Dominion Bank and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

The stellar performance raises two questions: Why has the market looked past the bad news and will National Bank continue to outshine its rivals?

For answers to both, look to Quebec.

The Montreal-based lender is nowhere near as diversified as the other Big Six banks. Although it has a national presence and is keen to expand internationally, 60 per cent of its revenue in fiscal 2016 flowed from La Belle Province.

This concentration in one province might not appeal to investors when Quebec is lagging economically, but this isn't the case today.

Quebec is doing surprisingly well, thanks to the positive impact of the lower Canadian dollar.

Economists at RBC recently raised their expectations for real economic growth to 1.8 per cent in 2017, up from a previous estimate of 1.6 per cent.

While that's not exactly fastpaced growth, it is moving in the right direction.

Even better, labour conditions are improving. The province's unemployment rate declined to 6.2 per cent in January, touching its lowest level in at least 40 years, after employers added 89,000 new jobs over the past six months of 2016.

"The best labour-market conditions in memory send a positive message about the state of the Quebec economy as 2017 begins," Robert Hogue, an economist at RBC, said in a recent note.

Provincial economic stimulus and federal infrastructure spending could deliver a further boost, he added.

National Bank, then, is at the right place at the right time: Employed people in an expanding economy make good bank customers.

In contrast, National Bank's recent setbacks have little to do with this Quebec base, which is why investors may be in a forgiving mood.

The bank had to raise $300-million in a new share offering in 2015 because lower notional values for its bond holdings had eroded the bank's financial strength below a key regulatory threshold. Soon after, it booked a $165-million charge against its investment in Maple Financial Group of Canada in February, 2016. The charge related to the shutdown of Maple Bank, a German subsidiary, after an investigation into its trading activities.

Most recently, National Bank set aside $250-million last May to cover bad loans. The provision largely addressed loans to the energy sector, where the bank had an exposure that was considerably larger than most of its peers.

To be fair, concerns about loans to the energy sector have largely dissipated as the price of crude oil has rebounded above $50 (U.S.) a barrel. Nonetheless, this trio of setbacks raised the prospect that this was an accident-prone bank, and no doubt reinforced the idea that the stock deserves to trade at a discount to its peers. National Bank shares currently trade at just 10.6 times estimated profit - the lowest among the Big Six.

Yet National Bank has eased concerns with upbeat financial results that reflect the strength of its home base.

In its 2017 fiscal first quarter, the lender's profit rebounded to $1.34 a share, double the profit from the first quarter of 2016, when the Maple Bank charge appeared.

In particular, profit from its personal and commercial-banking division rose a dazzling 18 per cent year over year, or 13 per cent after a one-time adjustment.

National Bank is pursuing greater geographic diversification, but investors seem to like it just the way it is.

National Bank of Canada (NA)

Close: $55.33, down 69¢

AGF at 60: Transformation is a work in progress
Tuesday, April 18, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

Blake Goldring just has to look out the window to see the future of AGF Management Ltd.

The chief executive's office in a downtown tower overlooks Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, an infrastructure project AGF acquired two years ago as part of a strategy to diversify from roots in mutual funds.

Pointing out a plane taking off from a busy runway, Mr. Goldring joked: "I like to keep a close eye on our assets," as he detailed new ventures and the improving fortunes of its fund business just ahead of a celebration Tuesday of AGF's 60th anniversary.

Family-controlled AGF was cofounded in 1957 by Mr. Goldring's father and made its name as a trailblazer, as the first Canadian fund company focused on investments in foreign markets, first in the United States, then regions such as Japan. Mr. Goldring became CEO 17 years ago.

For much of its history, AGF was one of many successful employee-run firms. But in the past two decades, the mutualfund industry consolidated around a handful of the largest players, such as banks. AGF held out as an independent. It hasn't been an easy run. Following the 2008 financial crisis, AGF stock price went on a prolonged slide, reflecting increasing competition and shrinking profit margins, along with lack-luster fund performance.

Piece by piece, Mr. Goldring rolled out new ventures meant to transform AGF from a fund company, narrowly focused on individuals, into an asset manager, managing money for institutions alongside retail investors.

Diversification included the 2015 launch of an infrastructure fund, branded InstarAGF. It already owns a wind farm in British Columbia and oil and gas infrastructure in Alberta, along with the Toronto airport. And in January, AGF jumped into the rapidly growing market for exchange traded funds by establishing a unit called AGFiQ and rolling out its inaugural offering of seven ETFs.

At the same time, AGF took a hard look at its core fund business, hiring president and chief investment officer Kevin McCreadie from a U.S. asset management firm in 2015 and moving to improve performance and trim costs ahead of regulatory changes that made fund fees increasingly transparent. Mr. Goldring summed up the effort by saying: "We never want to be embarrassed discussing our performance or our fees."

It's too early to say AGF has turned a corner, according to analysts. While the infrastructure fund has raised more than $600million in two years and is targeting a final close of $750-million later this year, the real payoff for AGF will come when this fund begins harvesting investments and a successor fund is launched.

And the firm's fledgling ETF business has potential - Canadians have already poured $120-billion into the sector - but analysts project it will not make an impact on AGF's bottom line until 2018.

But as AGF hits a landmark birthday with $35-billion of assets under management, pumped-up fund performance is drawing positive reviews. BMO Capital Markets analyst Tom MacKinnon bumped up his target price on AGF stock following the release of financial results in late March to reflect "steady improvement" in the mutual fund division, which still accounts for the bulk of AGF's profits. Mr. MacKinnon noted that AGF's target is to have more than half its funds turning in performance that is at or above the industry's one-year median results. In March, 44 per cent of funds were hitting this goal, up from 33 per cent last year. Over the past two years, 62 per cent of AGF funds turned in performance that exceeded the industry average.

Asked what AGF's founders might say if they could see their firm at age 60, Mr. Goldring said he hoped his predecessors "would be proud of the fact that we took on challenges and came out stronger." The CEO is the first to admit his firm and sector face considerable challenges. Mr. Goldring plans to overcome those headwinds by making his legacy mutual fund business a top performer and moving decisively into new fields.

Call it Boston's ultimate triple-header
Monday, April 17, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S1

BOSTON -- It was in 2009 and Rob Campbell remembers it like it was yesterday - only he can't recall which NBA team was involved.

A quick check of the record books indicates it must have been the Chicago Bulls, who played the Celtics in Boston in the opening round of the playoffs that season.

Campbell can be forgiven for his foggy memory.

The Toronto electrician had just completed the Boston Marathon, the world's most famous 26.2-mile (42.2-kilometre) trip for the running obsessed, and even his brain was sweaty.

"Actually, it was my first year here doing the marathon," said the reed-thin Campbell, who now has five of these expeditions under his belt, soon to be six. "I had just finished and was a little wobbly and I walked right through this procession of really big guys getting off their bus in front of their hotel.

"I didn't even really notice until I looked up, and they were obviously basketball players, and this one player was cursing me out because I was in their way."

Campbell was asked what he did. He got out of the way, naturally.

Welcome to Boston, in midApril, where a convergence of big-time sporting events have been known to collide within the confines of this edgy New England city over the course of one, wild holiday weekend.

And this is one of those weekends.

Over the course of four days, Boston-area sports fans are overwhelmed with events, starting with the Boston Red Sox, who were at home over the weekend at Fenway Park to do battle with the Tampa Bay Rays.

After the Red Sox game on Sunday afternoon, those lucky enough to have scored tickets could head across town to TD Garden for the first game of the Celtics' NBA Eastern Conference playoff series against the Chicago Bulls.

And on Monday, it all comes to one, big, glorious finale.

The long haul starts with the Red Sox, who play their final game of the series against the Rays, with a start time on the Patriot's Day holiday of 11:05 a.m. (ET).

That early start is a concession to the 121st running of the Boston Marathon, the legendary road race that attracts close to 30,000 competitors and winds its way through the outskirts and into the city and past Fenway near the end.

The race, which will include some 2,000 Canadian runners, will be cheered by a crowd estimated to be a million people who line the route.

And if that's not enough to fill your athletic appetite there is always Game 3 of the NHL's Eastern Conference quarter-final, at TD Garden on Monday night between the home-town Bruins and the Ottawa Senators.

"It's going to be nuts in there," said Ottawa forward Clarke MacArthur, about the prospect of entering the lion's den of a wild Boston sports scene. "With everything going on there it's going to be a lot of action. The bars will be packed, the Irish boys will be out drinking.

"It's always a great atmosphere."

"It's Boston's day," added Evan Allen, 34, a local elementary school teacher.

For the past several years Allen has been using this weekend to meet up with several friends to celebrate Boston's vibrant sporting atmosphere.

Sunday afternoon, it was the Red Sox and Sunday night, the Celtics.

"And Monday, it's like Christmas morning," he said. "My friends and I have a tradition where we go watch the Red Sox and after that's over catch the end of the marathon.

"And then Monday night, if we're still standing, we're going to try and scalp some tickets to see the Bruins game."

Call it the ultimate New England triple-header.

Jim Taggart is the manager of The Fours, the Boston sports bar that has been operating in the shadow of the Bruins' home rink since the mid-1970s.

The name is spawned by the iconic Bobby Orr, who made the No. 4 jersey both famous and cool when he starred for the Boston Bruins.

There is a painting of Orr behind the desk at the main entrance of The Fours. Inside the restaurant, a framed shot of Orr's famous celebratory dive after scoring the Stanley Cup-clinching goal in 1970 is on a wall.

This is, first and foremost, a hockey outpost.

Taggart said that saloon operators in Boston always look forward to this time of year, especially on the holiday Monday when both the hockey and basketball teams have made the playoffs.

"It's probably the No. 1 drinking day of the year for Boston, more than St. Patrick's Day," Taggart said on Sunday as his establishment started to swell with locals getting their game on for the Celtics' playoff match that night.

"We're not on the marathon route, but if you go up into the Back Bay [neighbourhood], you go to any of the bars on Boylston Street, they will be full by 8 o'clock in the morning, absolutely jammed."

The events of four years ago, when bombs were detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three and maiming many, many more, obviously had on impact to the city's festive vibe.

The Boston Marathon continues but heightened security is still an obvious aftershock.

The attack, as crude as it was, could not dampen the spirit of Boston sports fans such as Allen, a former runner in the marathon.

Allen said he was in a restaurant with friends when the bombs went off that year, not too far from the finish line.

"They locked the doors, they locked us inside the restaurant," Allen said. "It was a bit eerie."

But Allen said the attack failed miserably in that it could not divide the city and its insatiable love affair with sports.

"I think it had the opposite effect," Allen said. "I think it really united the city - and we were right there when it happened."

Associated Graphic

Spectators cheer runners near the finish line of the Boston Marathon in 2014.


Oilers let Game 1 victory slip through fingers, but emotions got away from them first
Friday, April 14, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S1

EDMONTON -- So many people wanted to experience the Oilers' first stab at the playoffs in more than a decade that the team sold $80 passes on Wednesday night allowing fans to wander the concourses at Rogers Place without benefit of a seat. A thousand more jammed into a beer garden in the entrance hall and watched their first-round game with San Jose on television.

Edmonton's downtown arena turned into an ocean of insanity.

The clamour started before the puck dropped and rose to earsplitting over three hours.

"There is no doubt we fed off that energy," Mark Letestu, the Oilers' 32-year-old centre, said Thursday. "During warmups, I took two or three good laps around the ice and had to tell myself to slow down. My heart rate was soaring.

"It was a good experience for everybody, but there is a bit of a lesson there. I think emotions got the best of us."

Fuelled by excitement, the Oilers jumped out to a 2-0 lead, and then got schooled by the older, more experienced Sharks. San Jose won, 3-2, in overtime. Only 41 saves by Cam Talbot kept Edmonton from receiving a major thumping.

"I think you could argue that coming off that high in the first period led us to not being as sharp as we needed to be for the rest of the game," said Eric Gryba, the Oilers' brawny defenceman.

"You could feel the passion in the building, and there is no way you can't be affected.

"There were a bunch of orange maniacs in the stands. It was unbelievable out there."

Pro athletes are so well trained and so elite that it is rare to see them undone by raw emotion.

They are so robotic during interviews that it is rarer still to hear them talk about such a common failing. For a moment, at least, they seem human, after all.

The Oilers let victory slip through their fingers in the opening game of their Stanley Cup playoff series, but their emotions got away from them first.

Suddenly, they started taking dumb penalties, which contributed to a sea change in momentum and, ultimately, to them frittering away the lead.

Their penalty killers got exhausted. The Sharks repeatedly trapped the Oilers in their own end. Edmonton was outshot, 37-9, after the first period, and 44-19 over all.

"We looked like a team on our toes early on, and like a team on our heels later," said Todd McLellan, the Oilers coach. "The Sharks are a savvy, veteran team, and they were able to grab hold of the game and we weren't able to grab it back.

"That is a lesson learned on our behalf. We will be better next time."

The teams meet in Game 2 in Edmonton on Friday night, before continuing the series in San Jose on Sunday. Only steelier nerves and a much better effort will keep the Oilers from falling into a scary 2-0 hole.

They beat the Sharks the final three times they played in the regular season, finished ahead of them in the Pacific Division and had won nine consecutive games at home.

Suddenly, all of that meant nothing. Eight months of improvements seemed to unravel on Wednesday night. That may be a foreshadowing of bad things to befall the Oilers. Or, it could be a momentary slip caused by the emotion of the moment. To pretend to know is folly.

The Sharks lost 10 of their past 14 games but have shown they will not be an easy mark. It is not a coincidence that they have reached the playoffs in 11 of the past 12 seasons, and played in the Stanley Cup final against the Penguins last year. San Jose's players have more than 1,000 games of playoff experience combined. By comparison, the Oilers have only a fraction. Until Wednesday night, they hadn't played a game that mattered at this time of year since 2006.

The 46 victories this season was their most since 1986-87. Common sense says they will put up more of a fight.

Their one-hour practice session at Rogers Place on Thursday took on a more serious tone. McLellan was louder than usual, and did more hands-on coaching. He talked to his players about game management, momentum and discipline, all of which went to hell over the last 43 minutes in the series opener. At one point, the team gathered around him on the ice as he scribbled on a blackboard.

Wayne Gretzky, an executive with the Oilers Entertainment Group, watched from the stands.

They are a young team and were nervous on Wednesday night, the Great One said.

The Oilers recognize that.

"We are going to play a much better game on Friday night," Letestu said in the dressing room afterward. "Hopefully, we will be better at channelling our emotions.

"We've been through some adversity this season and we've always bounced back well. We know we are a lot better than we showed. That was a pretty poor game on our part."

In the first period on Wednesday, energy and excitement created an illusion that was shattered as the game went on. That's what happens in the Stanley Cup.

"I think as a team we played well in the beginning," said Zack Kassian, Edmonton's big forward.

"The crowd helped. Then in the second period, they took over.

"Definitely, in order to win, we have to stay out of the penalty box. I think maybe guys were trying to do a little too much."

Associated Graphic

The Sharks' Jannik Hansen and the Oilers' Patrick Maroon vie for the puck during Game 1 on Wednesday.


Ottawa lets Boston off the hook
Saturday, April 22, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S2

OTTAWA -- They say that the fourth game is hardest to win.

They might be right, given the way the Ottawa Senators squandered a two-goal lead Friday night to allow the Boston Bruins another life as the Bruins turned a 3-2 victory into a Game 6 back in Boston on Sunday afternoon.

The game was not settled until the second extra period, when at the 10:19 mark Sean Kuraly put a rebound past Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson for the victory.

Had the Senators held on to what seemed an easy win, the series would have been over.

Certainly the Ottawa team had every reason to be confident. In the Bruins long history of Stanley Cup playoffs, they have never come back to win a series in which they were down three games to one.

Hall-of-Fame coach Al Arbour once said that opening series can sometimes be the most difficult. "This is a hump you have to get over," Arbour believed, "and it usually comes in the first series. You get over the hump and you're on a roll."

It certainly seemed the Senators were on a roll.

With Ottawa up 2-0 30 seconds into the second period, thanks to a breakaway goal by Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Ottawa should have been able to put the game out of reach, only to see players blow a two-on-one break, a partial breakaway by swift, stone-handed Ryan Dzingel and an all-alone-in-front-ofthe-Boston-net opportunity by defenceman Cody Ceci.

Instead, the second period slowly tilted back in favour of the Bruins as, first, the muchbooed Brad Marchand sent a wraparound pass from back of the Ottawa net and David Pastrnak clipped the puck in behind Anderson.

The goal marked more than two hours - 120:32 - of playoff hockey where the Bruins had been unable to score on Anderson.

With the period running out, Boston scored again, this time an embarrassing goal from back of the net by Kuraly that Anderson seemed not to see.

It goes without saying that it is the end of the game that decides, but it is the beginning of the match that usually determines the game that will be played.

Both teams talked about how they had to open strong in such a pivotal game - Senators win they would move on; Bruins wins, they would go back to Boston for Game 6. Senators coach Guy Boucher had even put a time frame around it: the first 10 minutes.

As expected, the game began hard and fast, with both teams seemingly driven to gain an early edge. At the 10 minute mark both teams had a power play, both had a successful penalty kill and each had four shots on net. Anything more even that that would be hard to come by.

Less than two minutes after that 10-minute mark, however, Senators forward Mike Hoffman sent a long saucer pass to a breaking Mark Stone, who came in alone on Boston goalkeeper Tuukka Rask. Stone faked to his forehand to draw Rask out and effortlessly deposited a backhand into the Boston net to give Ottawa a 1-0 lead.

For Stone, who had struggled at season's end and into the first four games of this playoff series, it marked a welcome return to form for a player who has for some time been one of the Senators most dangerous scorers.

(Stone might have been the hero of the night, had he not rattled a quick wrist shot off the Boston crossbar in the third period.)

No less an observer than Wayne Gretzky once said that there are actually several seasons in the hockey year - exhibition, regular, post-trading-deadline, early rounds of the playoffs and the Stanley Cup final - all featuring very different hockey as well as different stars.

The second assist on the Stone goal went to Derick Brassard, the former New York Ranger who was picked up in a trade last summer to add depth to the team. Known for his postseason play, Brassard had a generally miserable season - only to explode in the first round with now two goals and four assists.

The other fans' whipping boy, Bobby Ryan of the $7.25-million (U.S.) salary, similarly came to life against Boston, with five points heading into Game 5 and two game-winning goals to his credit.

Ottawa's key player, however, has been captain Erik Karlsson, whose game has appeared to move into a new level these playoffs.

In the afternoon, thanks to a social media faux pas by the Tampa Bay Lightning, it was revealed that Karlsson, along with Tampa's Victor Hedman and Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks, is once again a finalist for the Norris Trophy, the top defenceman award he has already claimed twice. He has been "incredible," said defenceman Dion Phaneuf. "He changed his game this year, in a sense of blocking more shots, and I think he's done a really good job of paying the price blocking the puck - which isn't easy to do. ... He's such a force night in and night out."

This night, however, Karlsson could not save his team. "It's not like he's invincible," Boston coach Bruce Cassidy has said earlier in the day. Sometimes it seems that way, though.

"We haven't played our best game yet," Karlsson said.

That had better come Sunday afternoon.

"It's a different series," Boston's Krejci said.

With both teams trying to get over that difficult hump.

Associated Graphic

Noel Acciari of the Bruins skates with the puck against Marc Methot of the Senators in Ottawa on Friday night.


Habs winger has been team's heartbeat in his second season as captain
Wednesday, April 12, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S1

BROSSARD, QUE. -- He would have been about nine or maybe 10 years old, that part is fuzzy. Anyway, the point is Max Pacioretty would conscript his sister and commandeer one of those little clickers sometimes used to take attendance in cinemas and hockey arenas.

Into the basement they would go, where Pacioretty would fire shot after shot at an old softdrink can that had been hung up as a target.

A ping got you a click, duly tracked by young Katie Pacioretty.

He reckons he loosed more snapshots in that cellar in New Canaan, Conn. - the ceiling was too low for a full windup - than any hockey player alive or dead.

"I know everybody says that, but I really believe it," Pacioretty said earlier this season. "Literally all day long, every day."

An NHL player is necessarily more driven than the average beer-leaguer, but as Pacioretty allowed, "you probably have to be a little bit nuts."

By that standard, you might call the Montreal Canadiens' captain, upon whom a great deal depends for the Habs in the coming NHL playoffs, a recovering obsessive.

Speaking of recovery, he is also famed for his recuperative powers, which will once again be put to good use after taking an accidental stick under the visor from teammate Michael McCarron in practice Tuesday.

Though the 28-year-old left the ice clutching his face, coach Claude Julien said the club is "very confident" he will suit up for the playoff opener against the New York Rangers on Wednesday.

Good thing, too. The team's offence can't afford the loss of the NHL's sixth-leading goal scorer.

But in addition to possessing uncommon offensive prowess, Pacioretty is a legendarily selfcritical player, who by his own admission had chronic difficulty earlier in his career in leaving his work at the rink; as the father of two young boys, he now has less time for ruminating.

There are still relapses here and there - after a hard-fought loss to the Chicago Blackhawks last month, Pacioretty was incandescent, kicking himself for a couple of missed chances and batting aside any suggestions there were any silver linings in the performance.

Last year, Pacioretty was voted team captain, an honour that brought him to tears, and after a record-breaking start, the Habs' season promptly crumbled around their new leader's feet.

If the 'C' looked like an anchor - and it did - the burden appears considerably lighter as the Habs look to avenge a 2014 Eastern Conference final defeat at the hands of the Rangers.

A lot of attention will focus on goaltender Carey Price, injured by a sliding Chris Kreider early in that series, and that's perfectly appropriate; Price is the club's best player.

But as Julien points out, good goaltending is only helpful insofar as you can score on the other guy, and that's Pacioretty's department.

The big left-winger potted 35 goals for the third time in four seasons; only Alex Ovechkin, Joe Pavelski, Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane have more goals since 2013 (he's within five of the latter three).

Teammates say he's more or less the same guy he's always been behind closed doors, but no one disputes the idea he has grown into his leadership role this season.

"Everyone gets older, and you start to learn how to cope with things better," said winger Paul Byron.

All teams have their peaks and troughs in a given season, and when the Habs began to wobble after another strong start, their captain stepped to the fore.

Phillip Danault, who has centred Pacioretty and Alexander Radulov for much of the year, pointed to a Jan. 31 hat trick against Buffalo and to the left-winger's performance in a Feb. 9 game in Arizona, where he scored twice and added two assists in a come-from-behind win.

"For me, he carried the team," Danault said.

A few days after the neardebacle in the desert, coach Michel Therrien would be fired, Julien would be hired and the Habs would take flight to the league's second-best record since the middle of February (they also swept the regular-season series with the Rangers, which is neither here nor there).

The Habs have also been among the top two or three defensive teams in hockey over the span.

Though the Rangers are no pushover - loaded as they are with offensive balance and backstopped by Henrik Lundqvist in goal - the underlying stats suggest they and the Habs have been trending in opposite directions over the past 25 games, particularly at five-on-five.

Beating the Blueshirts would hold particular significance for Pacioretty, who grew up idolizing them.

It could also provide a signature playoff moment for a captain who has yet to accrue any.

No one will be happier for that to happen than his teammates.

"I don't think people necessarily realize what he goes through every day. He's the focal point in the media, he's thinking about every single person on this team and how to help them do their job better," sid veteran winger Torrey Mitchell said.

"He's the heartbeat of the team.

He's the face of it, too."

Associated Graphic

Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty has grown into his leadership role this season, teammates say.


Habs even series in OT thriller
Alexander Radulov scores late in overtime in a Game 2 victory that was both rapturous and cathartic for all involved
Saturday, April 15, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S1

MONTREAL -- So how to describe the roar that issued forth from the Montreal Canadiens' home crowd when Alexander Radulov nudged the puck into the net in overtime.

Volcanic doesn't quite do it.

Your lesser weather phenomena - thunder, etc. - aren't adequate either. Primal?

Suffice it to say the experience was both rapturous and cathartic for all involved; two years of pent-up playoff emotion will do that. Particularly when paired with a thrill-ride of a hockey game that saw Montreal take two leads, get down a goal late, and tie the game through Tomas Plekanec - conspicuously terrible in Game 1 - with 17.2 seconds left on the clock and goalie Carey Price on the bench in favour of an extra attacker.

There is debate as to whether momentum is an actual thing in sports, but in the extra frame the Habs flew out of the gate. By the time Radulov potted the 4-3 goal with 1:26 to play everyone in the building knew it was coming; New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist had been tested repeatedly and severely.

On the eve of the first round series pitting his team against the New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher said: "You know, in past playoffs I've gone in feeling like we were a young team. I don't get that feeling anymore."

The advantage of experience and maturity is that it raises the panic threshold; the message in Habs-land after a tough 2-0 loss in Game 1 was they only needed to clean up a few things to tilt the result their way.

That, they did.

The Habs managed to score twice in the first period - both goals involved the pesky, relentless net-front presence that is Gallagher, the Habs' best player on the night.

At the 4:05 mark of the opening period, the 21,000 in attendance got the cathartic moment that stubbornly wouldn't come in the series opener: a Habs goal.

It came after Blueshirts goalie Henrik Lundqvist got his stick caught up in that man Gallagher as the latter rounded the net; the stick broke, Lundqvist discarded it, and seconds later Jeff Petry picked the far side.

It was the defenceman's first goal since Dec. 23. You could say the building was appreciative, if understatement is your thing.

Montreal continued carrying the play but with just over six minutes to play in the opening frame, defenceman Nathan Beaulieu wasn't able to corral a pass that bounced off his shin, and when he dove for the puck it allowed Rangers speedster Michael Grabner to set sail for the Habs' net on a clear breakaway.

Unlike Montreal speed merchant Paul Byron moments earlier, Grabner made good on his chance.

But just under two minutes later, the Habs were on top once again.

Gallagher started the play with a crisp zone entry, then held Marc Staal off behind the New York net to make a delicate feed to Byron, who rifled home from the slot.

In Game 1 of this series, the second period featured the Rangers pretty well whatever they wanted.

On this occasion they once again came out with intent.

With Alex Galchenyuk's banishment on the fourth line ended after four periods (he would earn an assist on the tying goal), he took to the ice with Andrew Shaw and Artturi Lehkonen.

On their first shift of the period they created a half-chance, Shaw then got a cross-check to the neck from Ranger defenceman Brendan Smith for his trouble.

A short time later Price absolutely stole a goal from winger Jimmy Hayes on a fabulous right-to-left slide with the Rangers on the power-play.

Then came the series' first outbreak of serious churlishness; Montreal's Steve Ott clobbered Mats Zuccarello with what looked suspiciously like a blindside hit, then a melee broke out where Hab rearguard rained punches on New York's J.T. Miller like he was a heavy bag.

It was Weber's first fight in the bleu-blanc-rouge and rather improbably the Habs got a powerplay out of the fracas.

But without Weber's point shot they looked disjointed and couldn't take advantage on either that or a second manadvantage.

With Weber still in the box, Rick Nash darted past Andrei Markov and let fly a gorgeous shot that Price could do nothing about; it was vintage Nash, sniped in the top corner, glove side.

The Habs did generate some decent chances, they'll have felt a little hard done by when Smith shot intentionally wide of the Montreal net - after shaking off Weber in the corner - and the puck caromed into the net off Zuccarello's pants.

The Rangers may have thought, quite reasonably, it would be enough to see them through.

This Habs team, however, showed it is not to be underestimated.

Associated Graphic

Goaltender Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens gets out of position near Tanner Glass of the New York Rangers during Game 2 at Bell Centre on Friday.


Shark bait: San Jose keeping McDavid in check
Thursday, April 20, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S1

SAN JOSE -- From last fall to early spring, Connor McDavid hit the score sheet pretty much whenever he stepped on the ice for the Edmonton Oilers. More often, when he wasn't scoring goals himself, he was helping teammates score. He never failed to do one of those things more than two games in a row. Until now.

Through 131 NHL games, the Oilers' captain has never gone more than two without a point.

That could happen for the first time when the Oilers and San Jose Sharks meet Thursday night at Edmonton's Rogers Place in Game 5 of their playoff series.

It is not because Edmonton's young captain is playing so poorly. It is mainly because the Sharks, especially in the past two games, have swarmed around him like a man on a life raft. Even when he is not around a rink, McDavid must be peering over his shoulder to see if Marc-Édouard Vlasic and Justin Braun are following him.

The San Jose defencemen are sticking to him like fly paper. On occasion, Brent Burns, the Sharks' mountainous Norris Trophy candidate, has chipped in.

When the opportunity has been presented, Joe Pavelski has not hesitated to give McDavid a nudge or a sharp jab with his stick.

The rude treatment is not unusual for young players, especially supremely gifted ones such as McDavid. If it happened to you or me on the street, police would be summoned.

At this time of year in arenas across North America, it is described as playoff hockey.

The last time McDavid went consecutive games without a point was Jan. 31 and Feb. 2.

From then to now, he has played 33 games. He had 27 points over 16 appearances leading into the third game of this best-of-seven series. Since then, nothing.

Before that, he torched San Jose for five goals and five assists in seven games. He had 100 points and won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's scoring champion in his second season. So of course, he is Shark bait.

He knows it, the Oilers know it, fans know it. With each game that he is held in check, tension rises. Angst is not without merit.

It is unlikely Edmonton can win without him having much of a presence, especially without contributions from his teammates.

Leon Draisaitl, who finished eighth in the NHL in scoring with 77 points, has all but disappeared. The 21-year-old German, without a point through four playoff games, got so frustrated during the Oilers' 7-0 bushwhacking by San Jose on Tuesday night that he speared Chris Tierney in the groin and was subsequently ejected.

On Wednesday, the NHL fined Draisaitl $2,569.44 (U.S.), the maximum allowable under the collective agreement, for the spearing infraction.

Patrick Maroon has four penalties and zero points through four games. Zack Kassian, who had seven goals during the regular season, scored the winners in Games 2 and 3 but was not a factor on Tuesday night. The game ended with fans chanting, "We want eight!" That is never a good sign.

Counting himself among the Oilers' top performers, Milan Lucic said afterward that it is time for the team's key players to have an impact. He is right.

When a baseball team's sluggers suddenly can't hit a lick in the World Series, things usually go south. The same is true in hockey.

In San Jose this week, McDavid said it doesn't matter if he doesn't score as long as the Oilers win. Todd McLellan, the Edmonton coach, said that nobody on either team is likely to be near the top of the chart in playoff scoring after this series because of the tight checking.

"There is not an inch of room out there," Lucic said.

McDavid has 150 points in his first 131 games. He either led or was tied for the league lead in scoring every day this season from Nov. 22 on. Players with such immense skills are unlikely to disappear for long.

"You never know when he's going to break out, so every shift we've got to be on him," Braun said.

The Sharks aren't easy. To a man, they are nearly four years older than the Oilers. At 37, Joe Thornton is as old as Moses and rather resembles him. Five other San Jose players are 32 or over.

Mark Letestu is the oldest player lining up for Edmonton, and he is 32.

Sidney Crosby, the NHL's last great generational player before McDavid came along, had three goals and two assists in his first playoff series. In his first crack at the Stanley Cup, Wayne Gretzky had three points in three games.

It is harder than it looks, especially for a young player. The great ones persevere, and produce. There is still no reason to think McDavid won't.

Associated Graphic

Oilers centre Connor McDavid, right, battles with Sharks defenceman Marc-Édouard Vlasic on Sunday in San Jose.


Habs' ageless wonder making mark on playoffs
Tuesday, April 18, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S1

NEW YORK -- It was the third period at Madison Square Garden and Montreal Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty could hear a familiar Russian-inflected voice barking at him from back on the blueline.

"Radu [Habs forward Alex Radulov] was F2 on that play, so he was up the ice and I think it was [New York Rangers forward Rick] Nash who was in behind," Pacioretty explained after a team chalk talk and video session in Manhattan.

The man shepherding the defence and moving Pacioretty into the proper position in the waning states of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarter-final - the Habs won, and hold a 2-1 series lead - was 38-year-old Andrei Markov, the General.

"We end up scoring when Radu cuts off a pass, but it could have gone the other way," Pacioretty continued. "It's little stuff most people don't notice at all, but [Markov] saw the whole play before it happened, he's the guy directing traffic out there."

On a team that boasts Team Canada fixture Shea Weber on the blueline, it's hard to argue anyone else is a more crucial cog in the defensive machine.

So let's just say Markov is the kind of complementary piece most coaches can only dream of.

Weber's game has taken off since coach Claude Julien elevated the savvy and stylish Russian to the top defensive pair on Feb. 25 for a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Against the Rangers, Weber has been a monster. He assisted on the overtime goal in Game 2 before scoring the winner himself in Game 3, and New York's J.T. Miller has the bruises to show what happens if you tick him off.

Markov has merely been essential.

His vision and passing ability are a perfect complement to Weber's punishing approach, and his quiet, efficient presence on the top pair allows Julien to slot the left-shot Jordie Benn with righty Jeff Petry on the second pair.

That knocks Nathan Beaulieu, a gifted but inconsistent puck mover, to the third pairing with playoff rookie Brandon Davidson. It's a level of depth the Rangers are finding problematic.

It is instructive Markov has played the fourth-most minutes in the playoffs - not bad for an old guy with ruined knees - and has yet to register an official hit.

That takes some doing in a series in which the statisticians are giving them out like rally towels (the teams have combined for league-leading 299 in three games).

"How many hits did [Hall of Fame defenceman] Nick Lidstrom ever have?" Pacioretty said.

It's a lofty comparison, but in many ways it's apt.

Markov may not have any points yet in the series, but his influence is all over it, at both ends of the rink; Weber is mashing people, Markov is pulling tactical strings.

When they are on the ice the Habs have controlled 57 per cent of the even-strength shot attempts and just under 70 per cent of the scoring chances according to Corsica Hockey, a stats website.

In Game 3, the Rangers simply couldn't get to the net. On one rare occasion where they did late in the game, agitator and resident jokester Steve Ott gently caressed New York forward Mats Zuccarello's curls after a whistle. Zuccarello was deeply unimpressed and replied with a hefty cross-check, but the Habs thought it was hilarious.

From a pure numbers standpoint, Petry and Benn's underlying numbers are among the best in the playoffs.

Still, the latter said he often finds himself watching Weber and Markov in practice and in games.

Markov is a man of few words although Benn, who arrived at the trade deadline, has discovered a funny, mischievous teammate behind closed doors.

On the ice, he sets an obvious example.

"Just so consistent, and [Markov] always manages to be in the right place at the right time," said Benn, who was a healthy scratch for the Dallas Stars in the postseason a year ago but has emerged as perhaps the Habs' most unsung contributor. "He's one of those dynamic players where no situation is ever overwhelming, he never panics."

That sang-froid has helped Markov cope with the Rangers forwards' superior speed, the heavy workload may yet catch up with his aging body, but for now Julien is more than happy to ride his top pair.

Unlike the Rangers, who typically distribute their ice time evenly, the Habs have a clear-cut top four - Weber, Markov, Petry, Benn - and mix in the third pairing here and there.

That Julien can enjoy a certain measure of flexibility in his combinations, as Benn, Davidson and Alexei Emelin are comfortable playing on either the right or the left, is a function of the sterling play of his top pair.

Weber's play has been exemplary. But look a few feet to his left and you'll notice No. 79 hasn't been too shabby.

The agony and the ecstasy
Oilers After nearly 11 years since Edmonton was last in contention for the Cup, the tide has turned. Fans are delirious, dancing in the streets and, as ever, loyal to the Oil
Monday, April 24, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S1

EDMONTON -- There was not a vacant seat at Rogers Place on Saturday night. More than 18,000 people filled Edmonton's downtown arena to cheer for the Oilers as they tried to oust the San Jose Sharks from the playoffs.

The team was not there. Game 6 was played on the southern shore of San Francisco Bay, nearly 2,500 kilometres away. Tickets for the viewing party sold out earlier in the day. Fans paid $5 to take in the telecast on the massive scoreboard over centre ice.

Several thousand more watched on a giant screen in the entrance hall. Beer was flowing.

It was a magical night, on an unseasonably cold day. If it is spring elsewhere, there are no buds or blossoms in central Alberta. A week after Easter, it was perfect hockey weather.

Snow was falling, and there were few complaints. It is a beautiful time in Edmonton.

At Rogers Place, fans crowded souvenir stands to buy playoff beards.

They painted on mutton-chop sideburns to look like Zack Kassian. The gritty winger scored Edmonton's winning goals in Games 2 and 3. They wear orange Connor McDavid sweaters and high-five one another on the concourse. The 20-year-old captain turned the series around with a crushing hit in Game 5.

When he flicked the puck into an empty net to clinch the 3-1 victory in the game's final second on Saturday, the Oilers' long-suffering fans became delirious. It has been nearly 11 years since the team was in contention for a Stanley Cup. The lost decade is a faint memory now. Winning changes everything.

Anaheim looms on the playoff schedule. The Ducks are better than the Sharks, the Oilers are better than the Flames. Edmonton won three of the five games it played this season against the team with an arena on the doorstep of the Magic Kingdom.

From all appearances, it is unlikely Edmonton will bow out in four games, as Calgary did.

The Oilers lost Game 1 in overtime to the Sharks after blowing a twogoal lead. They were embarrassed, 7-0, in Game 4 at SAP Center, and promptly forgot about it.

They have not lost three in a row since the first week of February.

McDavid, the game's ascending superstar, was 9 the last time the Oilers were in the playoffs. Leon Draisaitl, the German forward who joined McDavid among the NHL's scoring leaders, was 10. The oldest player dressing for games, Mark Letestu, was 21.

He is from a small town north of Edmonton and he went to Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final in 2006 on a date with the woman who would become his wife.

A young woman and her boyfriend danced joyously, as if nobody was watching, in the beer garden at Rogers Place two hours before Saturday night's game.

Afterward, the surrounding streets were alive with people chanting and shouting late into the night.

It has been a long time since Edmonton has been this happy.

For the past 10 years, the Oilers have been an afterthought during the playoffs. The oil-driven economy has suffered. Fires tore through Fort McMurray, Alta., at this time a year ago. There has been a lot of anguish.

For the time being, the Oilers and hockey are a lovely distraction.

Ten thousand people showed up at Rogers Place for a viewing party when the Oilers were in San Jose for Game 3. Twelve thousand came to watch Game 4.

Game 6 was sold out. For a road game.

"We knew how passionate and loyal our fans are, and wanted to create unique ways for them to come together and feel a part of it," said Tim Shipton, vice-president for corporate communications for the Oilers Entertainment Group. "We didn't expect the uptake to be as amazing as it has been.

"We strongly feel Oilers fans are the best in the NHL."

Tickets for the second round go on sale in Edmonton on Wednesday. They will be snapped up in minutes. There is so much demand, so much devotion, so much love.

When the Ducks come to town for Game 3, Rogers Place will be wild. Hockey playoff games are so exhilarating it is hard to compare them with anything else.

"Excitement is not just occurring within the confines of Rogers Place," Todd McLellan, Edmonton's second-year coach, said Saturday. "It is happening throughout the community. You can feel the energy just driving around town.

"Even after so many years of being in the league, there are moments when the hair stands up on the back of your neck."

Associated Graphic

Oilers players celebrate after their 3-1 victory over the Sharks in Game 6. Though Game 6 was a road game for the Oilers, Rogers Place was full of fans watching the matchup on TV.


Straight-shooting Ryan is a boon to the Senators this playoff season
Wednesday, April 19, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S1

BOSTON -- One thing you can always depend on with Bobby Ryan, the veteran winger with the Ottawa Senators, is a straightforward answer to a straightforward question.

There is no ducking the punches with this guy - as Riley Nash of the Boston Bruins can attest - no stand-pat responses that are commonplace in the limited vocabularies professional athletes use when dealing with the media.

The 30-year-old is having himself a whale of a postseason with the Senators in their openinground NHL playoff series against the Bruins, which is simmering nicely after three games.

Ottawa leads the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final 2-1, thanks to Ryan's dramatic overtime goal in Game 3 on Monday night.

After Erik Karlsson, the sublime defenceman who plays a key role in just about everything the Senators do, Ryan has been Ottawa's second-best playoff performer.

Ryan has four points in the series including two goals - none bigger than his winning tip-in, which gave the Senators a 4-3 hurly-burly triumph over the Bruins on Monday. Game 4 is Wednesday night at TD Garden and a rollicking affair is anticipated with Ryan now considered public enemy No. 1 among the rabid Boston faithful.

"I guess if that's the role that I'm going to take on, then so be it," Ryan said. "I'll be prepared for boos if that's what happens."

Redemption is the word that comes to mind with Ryan, who has two goals, two assists and 12 shots in the series.

This on the heels of a crummy regular season in which he struggled with a wrist injury and scored only 13 goals, not the production expected from a player who inked a seven-year, $50-million (U.S.) contract extension with the Senators in 2014.

With his resurgence in the playoffs, Ryan is asked repeatedly if this is the best he has played all season.

"It wasn't hard to go up, was it?" he responded with typical candour following his big game on Monday.

Ryan was the second player chosen over all in the 2005 entry draft, by the Anaheim Ducks, which is no slight when you recollect it was Sidney Crosby who was selected above him.

A perennial 30-goal scorer in his first four full NHL seasons, Ryan was traded to Ottawa in 2013 and was expected to provide a big offensive lift.

His lacklustre season often brought him at odds with impatient Ottawa fans, something Ryan said he can understand.

"People are going to say what they're going to say and be on me for it for a long time," Ryan said.

"That's what happens when you're paid and you're expected to do things. ... I'm going to try to do everything I can for us now."

Ryan had his nose in everything on Monday night. His game did not get off to a memorable start when he fell trying to control the puck just inside his own blueline early in the second period.

That led to a breakaway goal by Boston's David Backes. A comfortable 3-0 Ottawa lead was down to 3-2 and soon to be tied heading into the third where it remained that way until Ryan settled matters in overtime.

The goal occurred with Ottawa on the power play after Nash was sent off for throwing a right cross in Ryan's face after the two collided into the boards.

Was it the best shot in the chops he has taken, Ryan was asked?

"I'm not giving Nasher the satisfaction over that," Ryan shot back with a laugh. "Nope, I've taken harder."

It was an iffy call at a crucial moment in the game and when Ryan scored the winner, it was just too much for the Bruins' faithful at TD Garden.

As the Senators left the ice, they had to duck as water bottles and goodness knows what else rained down from the stands.

One fan tried to pry away the stick of Chris Wideman as he was departing.

Boston interim coach Bruce Cassidy was livid over the penalty call on Nash in overtime and Ryan's subsequent goal, which killed the momentum of the Bruins' big three-goal comeback.

A key for Boston on Wednesday will be to try to get Brad Marchand, a 39-goal scorer over the regular season, away from the relentless Ottawa checking that has stifled his effectiveness to just one goal.

"March can create a bit more out there, and he will," Cassidy said.

Associated Graphic

Ottawa Senators right winger Bobby Ryan, right, celebrates his goal with teammate Clarke MacArthur during Game 1 against the Boston Bruins in Ottawa on April 12.


Jays leave the nest hoping to put abysmal homestand behind them
Friday, April 21, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S1

TORONTO -- The Toronto Blue Jays are heading back on the road, looking to put the first homestand of the season behind them. After dropping two of three games to the Boston Red Sox, and seven of nine over all during a 10-day run at Rogers Centre, the Blue Jays begin a week-long road swing through Anaheim and St. Louis on Friday.

"I think it's a great time [to leave]. It's been a tough - and that's probably an understatement - homestand," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said after a 4-1 extra-innings loss to the Red Sox on Thursday. The defeat sunk Toronto's record to 3-12, the worst in the majors, as it lost its fifth successive series, a franchise record.

Take your pick at what's wrong with the Blue Jays, who have been a powerhouse in the American League East the past two seasons, but lacklustre in 2017.

Their best player, Josh Donaldson, could be lost for up to a month as he recovers from a persistent calf injury that he aggravated last week. Two key starting pitchers are on the 10day disabled list. And Jose Bautista, once the engine of the team's homer-heavy lineup, is hitless in his past 16 at-bats.

Kevin Pillar, typically known for his stellar defence, not his hitting, has been the most consistent hitter, going 14 for 33 on his current eight-game hitting streak.

"Any time you're accustomed to being a contributor, and you're not, it kind of weighs on you a little bit," said Bautista, who struck out four times facing Red Sox ace Chris Sale and has yet to homer this season. "But I've gotta get past that and just figure out a way to get back on track and start doing more at the plate and put us in a better position to win games."

Winning games has not been easy for Toronto. It had a shot to win back-to-back matches for the first time in the series finale against Boston, but relief pitcher Jason Grilli came undone in the 10th, giving up a three-run double to Mookie Betts, putting the game out of reach.

The mounting losses have left many Blue Jays players perplexed.

"It would be understandable if we were on a different team with different names, but you look at who we have here and start thinking 'How is this happening with a lineup like that?' " said right-hander Marco Estrada, who allowed three hits and no runs over six innings, but did not factor into the decision on Thursday.

"It's surprising, but anything is possible and we're facing pretty good teams," Bautista said. "We just need to continue to grind it out and wait for a better result."

"Losing only makes you appreciate winning, there's not much else to say. There's no words right now," Grilli said.

The wins won't be any easier for the Jays in their four-game series in Anaheim.

A pair of call-ups from Triple-A Buffalo - Mat Latos and Casey Lawrence - will have the unenviable task of getting the Jays back on track against reigning American League MVP Mike Trout and the Angels. Latos, who has made 186 career starts over an eightyear major-league career, signed with the Blue Jays as a free agent in the off-season. Lawrence, meanwhile, made a pair of relief appearances for the team this season, and allowed three earned runs in two innings.

Injuries to left-hander J.A. Happ (elbow inflammation) and right-hander Aaron Sanchez (blister) necessitated the promotions, and while neither pitcher is expected to miss more than one game each, using farm hands as starters on back-toback nights is not ideal.

Still, despite the negative outlook through 15 games, players maintain they are not worried.

After all, there are still 147 to go.

Vying for Vancouver: How CN is winning rail business from CP
Saturday, April 15, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

Turmoil and fierce competition at the Vancouver port are reshaping the businesses of Canada's two major railways.

Canadian National Railway Co. has outbid Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. on container-handling contracts for two big Asian shipping lines, Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL) and Yang Ming Marine Transport Corp. And, amid port congestion and delays that left ships waiting, CP has stopped handling the freight of some shipping companies on the south shore of Canada's busiest port, ending a long-standing practice in which the two railways split the rail switching duties between them.

Steve Hansen, a Raymond James stock analyst, calls it a "great divergence" of the rail rivals, although one that will narrow in the coming quarters.

Keith Creel, chief executive officer of Calgary-based CP, attributed the lost Vancouver bids to "pricing discipline" and said on a conference call in January that markets should expect CP's international container revenue to be "slightly" lower in the first quarter of this year.

"Yang Ming is gone, so that's a headwind, but we will offset about $40-million of that $60million loss with initiatives," Mr. Creel said.

"So we are still going to see some growth. It's just going to be muted by the Yang Ming loss and the lack of the ... OOCL win," he said.

"But on the domestic side, which is where our network really thrives, the strength of our network is, as we continue to grow and outpace the industry, you will see more of that growth on the wholesale side as well as working with our domestic partners cross-border in that Montreal, Toronto to Chicago lane."

CN is winning market share from CP because its superior network can link shipping customers at three coasts with more U.S. destinations, said Christian Wetherbee, a transportation stock analyst with Citigroup Global Markets.

Vancouver is one of North America's most important freight gateways to Asian markets, home to major exporters as well as buyers of Canadian grain and other food.

"Currently, 50 per cent of the inbound containers CN moves from Canadian ports are destined for the U.S., which is up from [about] 30 per cent a few years ago," said Mr. Wetherbee, adding that the port of Prince Rupert, B.C., at which CN is the only railway, will increase its capacity more than 50 per cent by the summer.

Vancouver, meanwhile, is also adding capacity in the next few months.

"The company has been successful at both taking market share and opening up new markets," said Mr. Wetherbee, who recently raised his profit and share-price targets for CN.

The number of containers CP has hauled in its international business fell 20 per cent in the first week of January, and has declined in 11 of the 12 weeks up to March 25, compared with the same period a year earlier, according to company data.

Another key measure of a railway's performance are revenue ton miles - how much the railway collects to pull one ton one mile. CP's revenue ton miles are flat in the three months ended April 1, compared with the yearearlier period, buoyed by strong shipments of potash, metals and U.S. grain. CN's revenue ton miles, meanwhile, rose by 15 per cent in the same period, according to company data.

CP has posted a string of record profits since new management took over in 2012, even as the carrier lost major container customers, including Mitsui OSK Lines and APL Ltd.

(CP this month stopped separately reporting revenue and carloads for containers from international markets, and now combines them with domesticcargo boxloads.)

Analysts have been reducing their expectations for CP's profit and raising CN's when the companies report first-quarter results this month. CP's net profit will be 2.4 per cent lower than the yearearlier quarter, while CN's will rise by 8 per cent, according to a Bloomberg survey of analysts.

CP's share price has risen 5 per cent over the past 12 months; CN's stock is up by 20 per cent, outperforming the S&P/TSX composite index's 15-per-cent rise.

"CN's [freight] volume growth again surprised to the upside and outperformed the [other North American railways] by a very wide margin," Walter Spracklin, a Royal Bank of Canada analyst, said in a research note.

In the name of efficiency, Canada's two major railways have geographically split the business of moving freight cars in and out of Vancouver's port. CN served the grain elevators, coal terminals and other customers on the north shore of Burrard Inlet and Vancouver Harbour, while CP worked the south shore, assembling or switching trains for handover away from the port.

The so-called co-production agreement means the railways served each other's customers.

But poor winter weather, unreliable train schedules and a spike in freight related to a late grain harvest and construction at a nearby terminal led to congestion and complaints about poor service on the south shore that left ships waiting.

As of Jan. 1, CN replaced CP and began serving its own customers at the two major container terminals on the south shore, Global Container Terminals Inc. and DP World.

"CN then said to hell with it, we're going to perform all of our work at the south shore, and we're still going to do [CP's] work at the north shore, because CP doesn't have access there," said one rail-industry source who The Globe is not identifying to protect them from retribution.

"There were a number of factors that just accumulated and resulted in a great dependency on switches and the fluidity of the gateway. So that's why ... CN had to step in and start managing switching for their own trains," said Bonnie Gee, vice-president of the Chamber of Shipping of British Columbia, which represents about 16 container shipping companies.

"Ships were delayed because they couldn't get into the berth because the berth was congested and so it just was not a very good situation. The container lines run on a very tight schedule and strict berth windows, as well.

Once they miss a berth window, there's a delay subsequently at other ports of call," Ms. Gee said in an interview.

"I think [CP] didn't have enough resources to apply to the switch," Ms. Gee said. "There were some changes in [CP] management and that caused some issues as well. There would be a commitment one day and the next day someone else would be

in charge. There was just a lack of continuity in terms of what was being committed and what was being delivered."

Five sources in Vancouver's rail, marine and container industry confirmed Ms. Gee's account.

"In short, customers were not getting timely service and commuters were arriving at their destinations late," said Martin Cej, a CP spokesman. "By amending the co-production agreement to no longer provide switching services for CN, CP was able to decrease the overall volume of traffic on its line to the south shore of Vancouver and increase capacity for its own customers."

Mr. Creel said he spent "quite a bit of time" in Vancouver over the winter to find solutions to the congestion. "I am happy to say I was out there again last week and things have dramatically improved," he said in January.

"Since January, it's gotten a lot better," said Rob Jones, sales director at West Coast Reduction Ltd., a CP customer that ships animal and vegetable oil through the south shore of the port.

CP did not respond to a question about train scheduling. The Port of Vancouver declined interview requests. A CN spokesman declined to comment, and pointed to a recent conference call on which marketing chief JJ Ruest said CN is, "putting new service in place for the container business offloaded at [Vancouver's south shore] solving the congestion issues."

"All of our major contracts are renewed," Mr. Ruest said.

Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) Thursday close: $199.95 Canadian National (CNR) Thursday close: $97.25

Associated Graphic

A CN train trundles through North Vancouver. The railway has taken over a significant share of freight hauling at the Port of Vancouver, where there had been complaints about poor service.


In Alberta, a rush to renewables amid bet on new energy
Monday, April 17, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

CALGARY, OTTAWA -- Arenewables rush is in high gear in Alberta as the province better known for oil and natural-gas resources formally pushes to up its wind, solar and hydro power capacity.

By the end of the year, the province will have completed the first in a series of annual competitions that sees companies bidding to provide renewable electricity into the power market.

The agency overseeing the contest says it has already had formal expressions of interests for dozens of projects to supply the first 400 megawatts - enough to power about 170,000 homes.

More than 200 people are signed up for the Alberta Electric System Operator's information session on Tuesday, some travelling from as far afield as Scotland and Spain.

"The biggest opportunity in Canada is what's going on in Alberta, for renewables," said Gordon Potts, director of business development at Torontobased Northland Power Inc. - a firm developing wind and solar projects in Alberta with the hope of winning a part of this year's action.

It won't mean the end of the province's economic focus on the wealth and jobs created by the production of hydrocarbons, and the success of the strategy will be assessed on how many additional costs power consumers, industry and citizens face in the years ahead.

But Premier Rachel Notley's government hopes the push to phase out coal-fired power in the next 13 years - and the resulting decrease in carbon emissions - will help Alberta's environmental image across Canada and abroad, and diversify the province's energy-focused economy.

The plan is to double Alberta's renewable-energy capacity by 2030, to an eventual 5,000 megawatts of renewable electricity capacity.

Powerful gusts are a frequent feature of the foothills and prairie and turbines have figured as part of Alberta's windswept landscape for more than two decades. Canada's first commercial wind-power facility was built near Pincher Creek, Alta., in 1993. The province already gets almost 10 per cent of its power from wind.

However, coal still makes up about 50 per cent of electricity generation. Developers tout wind as a competitive source of clean power that can make a reliable contribution to a grid - especially when complemented by natural gas and other renewable sources.

The New Democrat government estimates that construction of the new renewable projects will create at least 7,200 new jobs. Any business activity, however small, is welcomed in a province where low global oil prices have hammered employment and investment. There are hopes Canadian or global renewable-energy firms will establish roots in the province - by setting up offices in one of Calgary's partially vacant office towers, giving the province's struggling industrial manufacturing sector around Edmonton a boost, or hiring employees and consultants.

Alberta has abundant wind and solar resources, and will also benefit from a sharp decline in the cost of wind-turbine manufacturing in the past five years.

"We have some of the best onshore wind resources in the world. We have the best solar resources in Canada," said Calgary-based Greengate Power Corp. chief executive Dan Balaban, whose company has a 10-year history of developing renewable projects in the province.

"This is not something that is that well-known. But Alberta truly is an energy-rich province.

It's energy-rich in terms of our fossil fuels. But it's also energyrich in terms of our renewable energy."

The proponents bidding in this year's first power competition have their act together - successful projects in this 400-megawatt contest must be operational by the end of 2019, and have to come in with lower costs. The agreements with winning bidders will be supported with fixed, market-insulated prices for two decades.

The cost of that certainty will be subsidized using carbon revenues from large industrial emitters. Duane Reid-Carlson, president of energy consultancy EDC Associates Ltd., estimates those payments could equal $4-billion to $8-billion over the next 13 years - and that doesn't include other billions that the government is spending in Alberta's massive electricity redesign. He cautions the system put in place today will have an impact, and costs, for decades to come.

"There are many unintended consequences," Mr. Reid-Carlson said, advising, "go slow and don't jam this down people's throats."

There are already worries about the costs of renewables, and the phase-out of cheap and abundant coal. Jason Kenney - the frontrunner to lead the province's yet-to-be-united conservative parties, and a vocal opponent of the province's new carbon tax - has described Ontario's power system as a "disaster, now being inflicted on Alberta by the NDP."

Both Alberta and Saskatchewan - which has a goal of 20 per cent of electricity generated from wind energy by 2030 - have learned from costly errors made in Ontario, which paid large feed-in-tariffs (FIT) to establish a renewables industry and attract manufacturing. Consumers and critics often blame the FIT program for steep increases in electricity costs, though there were many factors that contributed to power price increases.

Robert Hornung, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association, insists it was not the renewable program that was primarily responsible for higher prices - citing instead expensive nuclear refurbishments, investments in transmission and new natural-gas plants.

"Ontario's experience is not being replicated in either province," Mr. Hornung said. "We're very confident that when you look at Alberta and Saskatchewan, which have stronger wind resources than Ontario or Quebec, we're anticipating a very high level of competition in these processes."

Alberta's program will also be judged on whether it creates significant supply chain and maintenance jobs.

Helmut Herold, of Germany's Senvion SA, a top global windturbine supplier, said manufacturers tend to look for local suppliers for key components, including the steel towers - which are large and bulky to transport but relatively uncomplicated to manufacture. He said it's important that provinces have a steady, multiyear procurement program so local companies can gear up to provide content to the projects.

"We need to see consistency, not just one year of this current tender for megawatts," said Mr. Herold, the chief executive for Senvion's North American subsidiary. "If you are able to create a three- to five-year program with consistency, then you will see people settle down and use this advantage."

He noted Senvion began sourcing a sensor for particulate matter from a small Ontario company that now supplies the component for its project worldwide. He said the energy industry in Alberta is well-suited to turn its skills to production and maintenance of wind turbines.

Why BMO's Brian Belski believes we're in a long-term bull market
Special to The Globe and Mail
Monday, April 24, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

Brian Belski has been covering his ears a lot lately. The chief investment strategist at BMO Nesbitt Burns says there's too much noise in the market - blame U.S.

President Donald Trump - that is distracting investors from what he sees as the early stages of longterm bull market.

How long term? Decades, perhaps.

The pessimists might be tempted to tune out Mr. Belski if it weren't for his recent track record. In late 2015, he forecast the S&P/TSX composite index would outperform the S&P 500 in 2016 and set a target for the S&P/ TSX composite index of 15,300. It did outperform and closed at 15,288. The Globe recently spoke to him about his view of the markets and his calls for 2017.

What's your take on the markets?

U.S. stocks are mired in a 20-to-25year bull market. Canada is going to come along for the ride. I think investors are focusing way too much on rhetoric.

Our call for 2017 for North America is overweight analysis and underweight rhetoric. The U.S. is going to continue to outperform Canada, I think, for the next three-to-five years, especially given the fact that the U.S. has a clear path towards fiscal policy changes - meaning tax cuts, health care changes, repatriation and infrastructure.

The positives we've seen so far from the Trump administration on Canada are the Keystone XL pipeline.

While Trump has been increasing the rhetoric on Canada, it's our belief that [a trade war] isn't going to happen. Our call all along has been that Trump needs a friend in the region, and that friend is going to be Canada. [What we've heard in recent days about trade regarding dairy, energy and lumber] is just noise. Trump needs Canada for the oil, the paper, the wood and the railroad, and those types of things.

You're calling for a 20-plus-year bull run. What year are we in now?

We originally came out with that call in 2009. I can build a scenario that the bull market hasn't even started yet. The move to date has been driven by momentum and multiple expansion. We haven't seen real growth. We've had eight years of zero growth.

You can't recess from zero growth. We don't think there's going to be a recession any time soon, given the fact that recessions happen from higher levels of GDP and are triggered by an inversion of the yield curve.

What are your forecasts for 2017?

Our base case is 2,350 for the S&P 500. Our best-case scenario is 2,500. [The U.S. benchmark ended last week just shy of 2,350.] We don't change targets because the markets go up, only if we see something change in the base, and that would be earnings. If we get this mythical pullback, what I call the "chicken little correction," we'll change our forecast, potentially. For Canada, it's 16,000. I think we'll see single-digit returns in Canada.

[The TSX is at 15,614, so a rise to 16,000 would imply a return of about 2.5 per cent.] Canada is on pretty firm footing. Oil prices have solidified. We think oil is mired within a $40$60 [(U.S.) per barrel] trading range for the next several years.

That can be good for Canada.

What will drive the next market correction?

This has been the most hated, discontented, discorded stock market rally in the history of bull markets and it has everything to do with the fear and loathing of corporate America and financial services. Investors should never base their decisions on fear or hatred. They should base them on fundamentals. Our call is that the big correction everyone is waiting for isn't going to be Trump-related. Corrections are driven by fundamentals or some geopolitical-type of surprise, which you can't manage money for. You just buy high-quality companies and when the market gives you an opportunity to buy them cheaper, you buy more of them.

What sectors do you like today?

Our favourite sectors in America are financials by far, health care, materials and industrials. In Canada, we are overweight financials, materials and industrials.

We like banks and insurance companies, and insurance companies in particular in Canada over the U.S. because of the asset management side of things. We love the banks that have U.S. exposure. Industrials, this is all about a North American recovery - the waste management, railroad and aerospace companies.

Don't you see a threat to Canada's banks from the overheated national housing market?

All of the bank CEOs are being defensive - of course. Canadian banks are the most excellent stewards of capital in the world.

They're all too conservative.

They're all very smart in terms of managing their money. The "chicken little" housing correction [sentiment] in Canada is similar to the "chicken little, sky is falling any day now" in the stock market in America. Everyone can't wait for housing to go down in Canada. They've been willing it lower for five years.

Think about the bull market in America in terms of stock prices; since March, 2009, nobody has believed it. Fear and loathing gets you nowhere.

What sectors are you underweight?

Anything to do with yield. REITs and utilities in Canada. We are also underweight health care in Canada because there are better alternatives in the U.S. We like telecom in Canada more than we like telecom in the U.S. Any parting advice for investors?

You have to turn down the volume on the noise. Noise doesn't drive stocks, fundamentals drive stocks. Investors need to deploy discipline and stick with it.

Stocks are rarely linear for long.

Never try to time the market. If we do see some sort of pullback, that's an opportunity to buy your favourite names.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Associated Graphic

Brian Belski, chief investment strategist at BMO Nesbitt Burns, considers Canadian banks to be the world's 'most excellent stewards of capital.'


Bombardier shares jump on news of rail merger talks
Wednesday, April 12, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

ROME -- A new report that Bombardier Inc. is in talks to merge its vast trains operations with those of a rival drove the Canadian company's shares up and revived speculation that the train industry is on the verge of consolidation to cure overcapacity problems.

Bombardier shares were up 6.76 per cent in Toronto after Bloomberg, citing anonymous sources, reported that Bombardier and Siemens AG of Germany are in talks to combine their train operations.

Speculation that Bombardier Transportation (BT), as the train division is known, might merge with a European or Chinese competitor is not exactly new.

In recent years, rumours of merger or purchase attempts have surfaced every few months. Bombardier itself has said it is open to a deal for the train division, whose headquarters are in Berlin.

In 2015, when Alain Bellemare replaced Pierre Beaudoin as Bombardier's chief executive officer, he said the company would consider consolidation options for BT. At the time, Bombardier had contemplated putting BT on the stock market through an initial public offering but chose instead to sell 30 per cent of BT to the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec for $1.5-billion. The investment valued BT at about $5-billion.

BT declined to comment on the report that it and Siemens were in talks. "We can only say that we don't comment on market speculation," Claas Belling, BT's head of external communications, said on Tuesday.

Shares of Siemens, one of the world's biggest technology and engineering companies, also rose, although far less sharply, closing up 0.35 per cent. Siemens, which makes the highspeed ICE trains used in Germany, also declined to comment.

Bloomberg said the two companies were in talks to merge their train-making and signalling activities and that a deal could come by midyear.

In a note, Desjardins analyst Benoit Poirier said a combination of the trains divisions of Bombardier and Siemens would make strategic sense. "Over all, we believe such a combination would benefit [BT] as it would be able to compete more effectively against Chinese competitors who are currently expanding aggressively internationally."

He warned, however, that the deal would face antitrust issues in Europe and would be subject to approval by the Caisse.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail in Berlin last year, BT president Laurent Troger, a systems engineer from France who spent his early career years developing automatic-weapons systems for the French navy and who joined BT 12 years ago, hinted that Bombardier is unlikely to sell its train division outright.

Bombardier is controlled by the Bombardier and Beaudoin families through their super-voting A shares.

"I know Laurent [Beaudoin] and Pierre, and they are passionate about our products," Mr. Troger said. "They like trains, and they came into this business not as short-term investors. This highlights a significant commitment to rail. Nothing we have in our hands should change their minds."

A recent French media report suggested that French train company Alstom might work a deal to join forces with BT. The report, carried by Capital, a business magazine, said that French industrial giant Bouygues wants to sell its 28-per-cent stake in Alstom and that Bombardier is the "most serious" potential buyer.

Alstom and Bombardier know each other well. The two companies operate a joint venture to build as many as 255 regional, double-decker trains for the RER network around Paris. The order is valued at 3.75-billion ($5.3billion).

It is widely known that BT has been courted by Chinese train companies, who are eager for a "turnkey" operation in Europe that would instantly give them a full operating and managerial presence, from factories and R&D centres to lobbyists and lawyers.

The merger of China's two largest train makers has heightened competition and Bombardier is said to have held exploratory talks in recent years with a number of strategic players. A combination between the two would be "a European answer" to the Chinese merger, rail consultancy SCI Verkehr has said.

In late 2015, Reuters reported that Beijing Infrastructure Investment Co., a state-owned company that operates metro lines in Beijing, offered to buy 100 per cent of BT and put the company's enterprise value (debt and equity) at $7-billion (U.S.) to $8-billion. On Tuesday, Bombardier's market value was $5-billion (Canadian).

Bombardier may be tempted to extract more value from BT because of problems in the aerospace division that nearly sent the company into bankruptcy in 2015. The liquidity crisis was partly cured by the Quebec government's $1-billion (U.S.) investment in Bombardier and the BT investment from the Caisse.

BT is one of the world's largest train companies. In the last fiscal year, it had revenue of $7.6-billion, an order backlog of $30.1-billion and more than 37,000 employees. BT's earnings before interest and taxes came to $396million while the commercial aircraft side reported an EBIT loss of $903-million.

With a file from reporter Nicolas Van Praet

Bombardier (BBD.B)

Close: $2.37, up 15¢

Associated Graphic

An Aventra Class 345 electric multiple-unit test train, right, manufactured by Bombardier sits in a hangar at a Bombardier Transportation production site in Derby, Britain, in 2016. S


Canada's 'buy American' dilemma
Exporters face tough choices as United States toughens up protectionist purchasing rules
Wednesday, April 19, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

OTTAWA, TORONTO -- Canadian exporters face a stark choice in a "Buy American, Hire American" world: Shift production to the U.S. or lose the business.

Vancouver bus maker Grande West Transportation Group Inc. recently struck a deal to assemble its transit buses in Atlanta to meet strict U.S. rules on federally funded transit purchases. Those rules require that at least 60 per cent of the content and final assembly be done in the United States.

"Whatever they need us to do we'll do," company spokesman John LaGourgue said.

Corporate decisions this could become a lot more common in Canada as U.S. President Donald Trump toughens up protectionist purchasing rules. He signed an executive order Tuesday that directs government agencies to look for ways to boost the purchase of American products in federal contracts. The order also directs changes to the popular H-1B temporary visa program used to bring foreign workers to the United States to fill highskilled jobs.

It all means more business investment in the United States, and presumably less in Canada.

The threat of a much more protectionist United States - the destination for nearly three quarters of Canada's exports - is already having a chilling effect on business investment in Canada. Many companies are either delaying investments or shifting production to the United States as they nervously watch what the Trump administration is doing.

One key concern among Canadian companies is that they are effectively shut out of U.S. infrastructure projects, while U.S. companies bid and win work on Canadian projects.

Decast Ltd., a Canadian company that makes precast concrete tubing for water mains and other infrastructure projects, laid off 24 employees last week after U.S. companies were awarded projects by Halton Region, west of Toronto.

"This has had a direct and real impact on our business," said Jim Tully, executive vice-president of Decast, which employs about 440 people in Utopia, Ont., north of Toronto. "This is supposed to be Canadian tax dollars spent on Canadian infrastructure hopefully by Canadian firms, but [we] seem not to look after our own very well."

Decast is now considering building a manufacturing facility in the United States so it can bid successfully on U.S. projects, he said.

"Companies do not have time to wait for these issues to be resolved," pointed out trade lawyer Dan Ujczo of Dickinson Wright in Columbus, Ohio.

"They will set up shop in the U.S. if the contract is worth the effort, regardless of any additional inefficiencies."

Grande West's Atlanta subcontractor is spending $1-million (U.S.) to upgrade its plant to build its Canadian-designed Vicinity bus.

The company says it may also use its Atlanta subcontractor to assemble buses for Canadian transit authorities. Roughly 20 per cent of the content in Grande West's U.S.-built buses will be Canadian and another 15 per cent from China, where the chassis and frame are assembled. Most key components are American, including the engine, transmission, seats and air conditioning equipment - as required by existing U.S. government rules.

Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz warned last week that U.S. protectionism is the No. 1 threat facing the Canadian economy. The central bank pointed out in its quarterly Monetary Policy Report that the prospect of a more restrictive trade environment is already weighing heavily on business investment in Canada.

Canada is not the target of U.S. moves, but it could become one if, for example, foreign steel that is removed from the U.S. market finds its way back to that market via Canada, warned Barry Zekelman, executive chairman of Zekelman Industries, which owns Atlas Tube of Harrow, Ont., and operates 16 U.S. factories.

"I support Buy American," Mr. Zekelman said Tuesday. "I would support even more 'Buy North American'- being Canada and the U.S."

The federal government needs to enforce trade decisions that go against other countries that are dumping products into Canada, he added.

Ottawa should be telling the White House that it's willing to retaliate - just as the Ontario government did recently in the face of New York State's aborted attempt to impose sweeping Buy American measures, said Joseph Galimberti, president of the Canadian Steel Producers Association.

"The Trump administration and the United States generally need to understand that there is a consequence - a fundamental business opportunity consequence - in proceeding in this manner," Mr. Galimberti said.

The U.S. government may be targeting China and Russia with Buy American policies, he said, but there is no opportunity for U.S. steel companies to win business on infrastructure projects in those countries. "There is a very tangible economic opportunity for American steel in Canada" with Canadian infrastructure programs, he said.

Associated Graphic

Workers prepare a truss, to be used to support damaged exterior girders on the Champlain Bridge in Montreal.


The Champlain Bridge is seen in Montreal. Some companies are not waiting for trade issues to be resolved and are setting up shop in the United States so they can bid successfully on U.S. projects.


Home Capital shares plunge
Mortgage lender loses $300-million in market value after OSC levels allegations
Friday, April 21, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

Home Capital Group Inc.'s shares plunged Thursday, erasing about $300-million in market value, as investors weighed the potential damage from regulatory action against the company, one of Canada's biggest alternative mortgage lenders.

The Ontario Securities Commission accused Home Capital of making "materially misleading statements" to investors and named its current chief financial officer and two former chief executive officers in a statement of allegations released late Wednesday. By withholding information about fraud by mortgage brokers in its broker channel, Home Capital allegedly violated securities laws, the securities regulator said.

On Thursday, investors fretted about the potential financial hit the company could take as a result of possible OSC sanctions and other negative impacts on the business, analysts said.

The OSC allegations "could cause material damage to the company's reputation," National Bank analyst Jaeme Gloyn wrote in a note to clients. Among the other repercussions, Mr. Gloyn raised concerns about a possible downgrade on the company's debt, weaker funding capabilities and softer loan growth.

The shares, which had been heavily shorted in recent months, closed down 20.6 per cent. Home Capital, a former stock market star, has lost roughly 55 per cent of its value in the past 12 months. The company's bonds also took a modest hit.

"The company believes that its disclosure satisfied applicable disclosure requirements, and the allegations are without merit," Home Capital said in a release late on Wednesday. "The allegations will be vigorously defended."

None of the allegations has been proven.

A number of analysts cut their ratings and target prices on the company's stock Thursday, including Brenna Phelan with Raymond James. "Our previously positive outlook on the stock was based on improving underlying business fundamentals, specifically in its non-prime mortgage business," she wrote in a note to clients. "Incremental information from the OSC's Statement of Allegations leads us to believe that continued improvement may not be achievable due mainly to an inability to obtain cost-effective funding."

Mr. Gloyn, who already had an underperform rating on the stock, reduced his target to $23 a share from $27.

According to the OSC, former Home Capital chief executive Gerald Soloway and then-president Martin Reid failed to disclose material information they had learned after an internal investigation, dubbed Project Trillium, which concluded in February, 2015. The probe found that certain mortgage brokers in its network were submitting fraudulent employment-income documentation. The OSC also alleges that CFO Robert Morton violated securities law by certifying financial reports that omitted material facts.

"From February, 2015 until July, 2015, Home Capital misled its shareholders as to the immediate and on-going causes of the decline in [mortgage] originations," the OSC wrote in its statement of allegations.

Mr. Soloway stepped down from the company in May, 2016, but remains a board member and a significant shareholder.

Mr. Gloyn said there may be a push among investors for Mr. Soloway to give up his board seat. "Mr. Soloway remains a member of the board," said Boyd Erman, a spokesman for the company.

Mr. Reid, who succeeded Mr. Soloway, was fired in March, not long after the company disclosed that a number of its current and former executives had been served with enforcement notices from the OSC - the first indication that the regulator was investigating the company's disclosure practices.

Among the sanctions the OSC could levy against Home Capital if the matter goes against the company are penalties of $1-million for each failure to comply with securities laws.

With files from Christina Pellegrini


1 June, 2014: Home Capital Group "became aware of irregularities" associated with certain mortgage applications and launches an investigation in August, the OSC says.

2 Feb. 11, 2015: HCG files annual financial statements for 2014 and blames a decline in mortgage originations on "external vagaries such as macroeconomics, seasonality and competitive markets," according to the OSC.

3 Feb. 2015 - July 2015: HCG "knew it had terminated certain brokers because it had discovered fraud in HCG's broker channels," but didn't disclose its findings to shareholders, according to the OSC.

4 June 2015: HCG's chair of the audit committee receives a "Whistleblower memorandum" from a vice-president of HCG concerning the failure to disclose the findings of fraud.

5 July 10, 2015: HCG for the first time publicly announces an internal review of its business partners led to the termination of relationships with certain brokers, which caused the drop in originations. HCG shares drop 19 per cent the next day.

6 Feb. 29, 2016: HCG announces co-founder and CEO Gerald Soloway plans to retire.

7 March 14, 2017: HCG discloses OSC served several current and former executives with enforcement notices concerning disclosure.

8 March 27, 2017: HCG terminates CEO Martin Reid.

9 April 19, 2017: OSC files disclosure allegations against HCG, Gerald Soloway, CFO Robert Morton and Martin Reid.

Associated Graphic


Brookfield makes major play in gas stations
Thursday, April 20, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

Brookfield Business Partners LP is pumping its international experience and growth plans into a $540-million deal to buy Loblaw Cos. Ltd.'s Canadian gas-station network amid rampant industry consolidation.

The alternative-asset manager said on Wednesday it would buy the 213 service stations and convenience stores located near Loblaw grocery stores along with institutional partners, and had simultaneously struck a deal with Exxon Mobil Corp.-backed Imperial Oil Ltd. to rebrand under the historic U.S. Mobil fuel banner.

The deal pairs Brookfield's ability to strike cross-border partnerships with its ambitions to boost cash flows and earnings in the businesses it controls. And the investor makes no secret of its plans to extend the network of Mobil gas stations across more Loblaw locations, since the company now has more than 1,050 grocery stores. Cyrus Madon, chief executive of Brookfield Business Partners, said in a statement it will "work with Loblaw to enhance and grow the current network of gas stations."

Brookfield is taking a major position in retail gas sales and marketing at a moment when deals in the sector have been frequent and transformative. On Tuesday, Parkland Fuel Corp. bought Chevron Corp.'s Canadian oil-refining and marketing business for nearly $1.5billion - that was just a few months after siphoning off hundreds of gas stations in Quebec and Atlantic Canada in a deal with Quebec-based Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. to buy the majority of Texas-based CST Brands Inc.'s Canadian business. And last year, Imperial Oil sold its Essobrand retail gas stations to five fuel distributors for $2.8-billion.

"I think there's an awful lot of interest in the Canadian downstream sector - it's in a state of transition the likes of which I haven't seen in 35 years of consulting in this industry," said Michael Ervin, senior vice-president at Kent Group Ltd., which monitors the retail-gasoline industry. "It's just a panoply of mergers and acquisitions happening in the Canadian sector right now, and I don't think we've seen the last of it, for that matter." When Loblaw first sought to sell its gas business about a year ago, the growth-minded Parkland was also seen as a potential suitor for the assets. But Loblaw executives weren't in a rush to unload the gas stations and were adamant the company's loyalty program stay intact. They said the gas bars weren't as relevant to the company's strategy as had been in the past, and that Loblaw could benefit from their presence without owning them. Still, executive chairman Galen G. Weston said "only a very attractive price is going to compel us to sell."

Brookfield Business Partners is a newer arm of Brookfield Asset Management Inc., formed last year to buy and manage businesses that have, by its own description, high barriers to entry, low production costs and that could be helped by Brookfield's global experience as an owner and operator of real assets. The business targets returns of at least 15 per cent on its investments.

Operating efficiency is key in the retail-gas sector, where the number of gas stations has been declining for 20 years, according to the Canadian Fuels Association. Average gasoline output per site increased during that time as the remaining stations grew in size. With low margins on the sale of gas, the extra services such as car washes and profits from convenience stores became more important to many operators. Mr. Ervin said Loblaw's gas-bar pricing and competition model was tied to cross-merchandising opportunities with the grocery business.

Michael Van Aelst, an analyst with TD Securities, said in a note that Loblaw gas stations move a high volume of gas, but added the small kiosks and convenience stores have an operating agreement that "includes restrictions on what can be sold in the [store] to prevent undue competition with the adjacent grocery store, and we expect this agreement to remain intact." He also said no real estate is included in the sale.

Brookfield hasn't been known as a gas-station owner but has been expanding into the fuels business in recent months.

Brookfield Business Partners and its investors recently announced a deal for a controlling stake in road-fuel and biodiesel company Greenergy Fuels Holdings Ltd., which is a major player in Britain but also has a presence in Canada. The company touted the investment as a way to increase its presence in the European market, but the company also said it would broaden Greenergy's "operations outside of the U.K. by leveraging our global presence."

That deal has yet to close and the transaction with Loblaw is also subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to close in the third quarter of 2017.

Brookfield Business Partners (BBU.UN)

Close: $33.51, up $1.15 Loblaw (L)

Close: $72.50, down 42¢

Trump targets changes to crisis-era reforms
Saturday, April 22, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

NEW YORK -- U.S. President Donald Trump is taking aim at key changes instituted to avert future financial crises in a signal that his administration hopes to reshape the rules governing Wall Street.

Mr. Trump has already ordered a broad review of the major banking overhaul passed by his predecessor, but on Friday, he directed officials to focus on two elements in particular: the government's emergency authority to seize failing financial institutions and the process used to determine which institutions are subject to the highest level of regulatory scrutiny.

The postcrisis reforms have "done the opposite of what they were supposed to do," Mr.Trump said on Friday. They "encourage risky behaviour."

As Mr. Trump approaches the 100-day mark of his administration - traditionally a benchmark for judging progress - he remains stymied in his efforts to pass legislation in a Republicancontrolled Congress. Instead, he has used executive orders and memoranda as a way to demonstrate action, even if the impact of such tools is limited.

That pattern continued on Friday, with Mr. Trump signing an executive order and two memoranda during his first visit to the U.S. Treasury Department.

The order instructs officials to scrutinize recent tax regulations to determine whether they are necessary. One such regulation was an effort by the Obama administration to discourage companies from shifting headquarters overseas in order to avoid U.S. taxes, a technique known as a "corporate inversion."

The two memoranda focus on portions of the Dodd-Frank Act, the landmark regulation passed in 2010 aimed at preventing a future financial crisis. In the past, Mr. Trump has made clear he considers the law an unnecessary burden on the financial industry and promised repeatedly to scrap it.

But his chances of fulfilling that pledge appear small. Already this year, Mr. Trump is facing what promises to be a bruising fight over tax reform and is hoping to pass an infrastructure package, putting any banking overhaul lower on the priority list.

And any attempt to make significant changes to DoddFrank would face stiff opposition in the Senate, where Democrats could block a bill using a filibuster.

One area where Mr. Trump will have direct impact is in the area of personnel. Regulators enjoy a degree of leeway in implementing the rules and Mr. Trump's nominees to key posts are likely to take a less-confrontational approach to reigning in Wall Street than their predecessors.

On Friday, Mr. Trump focused on two parts of Dodd-Frank, a sprawling piece of legislation that runs more than 2,000 pages. He ordered a review of the law's "orderly liquidation authority," which allows the government to seize a failing financial institution in an emergency situation where the existing bankruptcy code is not adequate.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, speaking to reporters earlier on Friday, said that the administration wanted to ensure that the authority didn't encourage "excess risk-taking [and] moral hazard."

Last month, former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke wrote that while the measure was not perfect, eliminating it would be a "major mistake." Mr. Bernanke noted that critics have described the authority as a bailout in disguise, because it allows a failing firm to borrow money temporarily from the government. But such loans are limited in size and would be repaid by private creditors, Mr. Bernanke wrote.

What's more, the creation of the liquidation authority enjoyed support from members of both parties, said Aaron Klein, an expert on financial regulation at the Brookings Institution in Washington. Friday's memorandum is "a troubling signal that the Trump administration is departing from even the portions of DoddFrank with the most bipartisan consensus," he said.

The other directive orders a review of how financial institutions are designated "systemically important," a label that subjects them to a high level of regulatory scrutiny. All major banks receive the designation, but in the past, so too have a handful of insurers and GE Capital. Mr. Mnuchin said the President wants to ensure the process is "fair and transparent."

Friday's moves are "the Trump White House using the bully pulpit to make clear to regulators and legislators that it's interested in these topics and will likely push for specific changes in these areas," wrote Ian Katz of Capital Alpha Partners, a policy-research firm, in a note to clients. But "doing a lot and getting a lot done are not the same thing."

Associated Graphic

U.S. President Donald Trump's administration is likely to take a less-confrontational approach to reigning in Wall Street than its predecessors when it comes to financial staff.


U.S. lumber firms take aim at N.B. in trade battle
Friday, April 14, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

VANCOUVER -- U.S. lumber producers are expanding their attack on Canadian exporters by adding New Brunswick to the list of provinces targeted for tariffs.

A group led by the U.S. Lumber Coalition petitioned the U.S. Department of Commerce in November to challenge what it calls Canada's unfair subsidies for softwood lumber. Since then, the lobby group has stepped up its campaign, playing hardball in a letter last week to Wilbur Ross, the new U.S. Commerce Secretary.

In the April 3 letter, the U.S. group refers to itself as "Petitioner" - also known as COALITION, which stands for Committee Overseeing Action for Lumber International Trade Investigations Or Negotiations. The Atlantic provinces have escaped U.S. tariffs and quotas over the decades in the long-running softwood dispute dating back to 1982.

"Although these past exclusions also covered products produced in the province of New Brunswick, Petitioner has alleged that softwood-lumber producers in New Brunswick benefit" from subsidies, COALITION told Mr. Ross.

The strategy to corral New Brunswick is part of the U.S. lumber industry's increasingly aggressive stance in the trade war against Canada, broadening the scope of complaints.

Preliminary countervailing duties are expected to be disclosed by the U.S. Department of Commerce on April 25, industry experts say. "We anticipate 'shock and awe' softwood-lumber duties," RBC Dominion Securities Inc. analyst Paul Quinn said in a research note.

Last month, Commerce officials met with representatives from the New Brunswick Lumber Producers and conglomerate J.D. Irving Ltd., the largest softwood producer in the Atlantic region.

Irving requested to become a voluntary respondent on Jan. 25 in the Commerce investigation into alleged Canadian lumber subsidies, according to an April 4 internal memo written by two Commerce officials. Irving should be accepted as a respondent, the officials recommended to Gary Taverman, the Commerce deputy assistant secretary for anti-dumping and countervailing duty operations.

The influential COALITION said it isn't asking Commerce staff to take action against Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland. Combined, those three Atlantic provinces accounted for only 1.5 per cent of lumber export volumes last year from Canada to the United States, but New Brunswick had a 7-per-cent share of the total.

Industry observers say Irving hopes that a company-specific duty will inflict less pain on the Saint John-based firm than a general duty that averages different rates to be assessed on leading Canadian companies.

Irving is slated to be the lone voluntary respondent while four mandatory respondents have been selected by Commerce officials: Resolute Forest Products Inc. of Montreal and three B.C.based producers, West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd., Canfor Corp. and Tolko Industries Ltd.

The five respondents each face a company-specific countervailing duty rate, while other Canadian softwood exporters will be subject to an average of those five preliminary rates.

U.S. producers say that under their system, the cost of timber rights on private land is more expensive than the Canadian "stumpage" fees paid by forestry companies to cut trees down on Crown-owned property in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. The 2006 Canada-U.S. softwood-lumber agreement, which covered those six provinces, expired in October, 2015.

After a one-year moratoriumon legal proceedings, COALITION launched its petition this past November. The cross-border lumber fight is now in its the fifth round of trade litigation since the early 1980s.

The New Brunswick government denies allegations that it provides lumber subsidies, urging the U.S. Department of Commerce to take into account the availability of private timber in the province.

"We request that the department continue to exclude New Brunswick producers in recognition of the free-market conditions that prevail in the province's private stumpage market," the New Brunswick government and producers said in a recent letter to Mr. Ross.

Irving said in a letter this week to Mr. Ross that in New Brunswick in 2015, "Crown stumpage rates in the province exceeded private stumpage prices," and the market isn't distorted.

Crown (publicly owned) timber had a 47.7-per-cent share of the total supply within New Brunswick in 2015, Irving added.

By contrast, Crown timber accounts for 95 per cent of British Columbia's forested lands.

B.C. is Canada's largest lumber exporter into the United States.

A preliminary U.S. determination on anti-dumping duties is expected to be announced by late June.

Associated Graphic

A worker is seen at the Delta Cedar Sawmill. British Columbia is Canada's largest lumber exporter into the United States.


A bittersweet, final road trip for the Nunavik Nordiks
Former NHLer Joé Juneau wanted to bring hockey to the youth of remote Nunavik. Now, his select team is being cancelled. Roy MacGregor reports on what the program meant to the community on, and off, the ice
Saturday, April 22, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S1

OTTAWA -- There is something wrong with this picture.

The selfies that the coaches and players are taking show ecstasy - the triumphant 4-3 victory of the Nunavik Nordiks over the Sudbury Stars to win the midget women's hockey championship. They kiss and raise high the trophy, hug and scream at each other, skate about the rink holding out their gold medals for the few dozen fans to applaud.

Their coach, former NHL star Joé Juneau, stands on the bench of the suburban Ottawa rink, staring out with tears forming in his eyes - but not tears of happiness.

In the team dressing room, moments later, the championship team will break down into open sobbing.

Team captain Siqua Munick, usually the definition of bubbly, is so distraught she can only hide her face in her hands. The same for assistant captain Malina Berthe, who cannot even catch her breath the crying is so intense. They are not tears of happiness.

Once dressed, Berthe, whose father Matthew serves as an assistant coach for the team, will take to social media. She will post photographs of the triumphant team, the last time it will play together.

"The program meant everything to me!" the 17-year-old will type into her mobile phone.

"I'm SO ANGRY, sad and heartbroken that it had to stop ... I wanted my little brothers to experience this amazing program. I wouldn't be who I am today if it wasn't for this program. It taught me many things about hockey, perseverance, respect, how to control myself in certain situations, but most of all through this program I gained a lot of confidence. To the person who made that stupid report saying the program only focuses on winning tournaments ... I hate you. You never got to experience what I experienced!"

Their coach lets them cry for a while. He cannot speak himself.

After a long pause and several difficult swallows, he finds his voice.

"The plane is waiting," he tells them. "We will have three hours of special time together - something that is going to stay with you the rest of your lives."

'What could I do with them on the ice?' Joé Juneau was different as a hockey player - very different. He was born in Pont-Rouge, Que., and grew up unilingual, a happy kid who was never so content as when he was deep in the woods.

He was so gifted in the sport of hockey, however, and so bright in school, that he was wooed in his teenage years and soon headed off to play for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. That he would excel in sport was never in doubt: twice he was selected as an All-American. How he would do in school was the question. He failed his first two exams. But he learned English so quickly, and studied so hard, that he ended up graduating in three years rather than the usual four. We are not talking bird courses here - his degree is in aeronautical engineering; he once built an airplane with his father.

Drafted by the Boston Bruins in 1988, he told team management he wanted to be paid full salary even if he was sent to the minors - and if they didn't like it, he would go and play in Switzerland.

"Then he'll have to learn to yodel," Boston general manager Harry Sinden responded. Instead, Juneau joined the Canadian Olympic team, winning a silver medal at the 1992 Albertville Winter Games and leading the tournament in scoring.

Once he did join the NHL, he lasted 13 seasons, mostly with Boston, the Washington Capitals and the Montreal Canadiens. His 70 assists as a Bruins rookie are still an NHL record for a left winger.

His hockey career came to an end in 2004. Two years later, he and his wife, Elsa, joined two friends on a trip north into the Nunavik area of Quebec's Far North, a vast swath of tundra with 14 Inuit communities and a total population of around 13,000.

As they travelled about the small villages, Juneau could not help but note there was little to no structure for the children.

They were up all hours of the day, often playing street hockey well beyond midnight.

In the village of Kangiqsualujjuaq he met with Mark Brazeau, the vice-principal of Ulluriaq School, who suggested he come to school the following day and speak to the youngsters.

"I always carried hockey cards with me to autograph," Juneau says, "so I figured that might interest them. They mentioned on the local radio that I'd be there and when I got there it was just crazy. The vice-principal says to me, 'You should come here more often.' I asked him why. 'Because this is the first time all year that we have had all our students at school.' " Flying back to their home near Quebec City, Juneau talked over his fast-blossoming idea with Elsa. "If a former player can have that much effect on youth just by showing up at their school," he wondered, "what could I do with them on the ice?" And within months,the Nunavik Youth Hockey Development Program (NYHDP) was born. The Makivik Corp., which oversees funding to the communities through a 1975 land-claim settlement, embraced the program as a youth crime-prevention initiative. It was agreed that Juneau would run the program and be paid $100 an hour. He and Elsa and their two young daughters moved to Kuujjuaq, the largest community in Nunavik (population: 2,400), and spent two years there while the program was set up and running; they later returned to their home in SaintRaymond, Que., while Juneau continued to run the program and coached the select teams.

Everything costs more in the North, and throw in air travel for the select teams and the expenses soar. The program this year cost $2.2-million. For the 440 boys and girls (17 and under) who are involved, this works out to roughly $5,000 a player. For the 80 players chosen for the select teams, the cost of air travel, accommodation, meals and equipment takes that figure to $15,000 a child. (The majority of the players stay in their home villages playing house league, and sometimes play against other teams from other villages. The select teams attend week-long training camps before heading south to play in occasional tournaments.)

As in any minor-hockey system, there had been grumblings - parents unhappy their child wasn't selected, parents not wanting their children to miss school for tournaments, jealousy that Juneau's annual pay could sometimes top $200,000 - but there had also been high praise. In 2016, Juneau's unique program was given the YMCA Peace Medal for its success in "motivating young people to surpass themselves on the ice and in the classroom."

Then, on Feb. 10, the program funding was slashed nearly in half. There would be no more select teams travelling to southern tournaments.

The Nunavik Nordiks, still wearing their gold medals from the Ottawa tournament, made their way home from what will likely be their final tournament "down south."

When Malina Berthe landed back in Kangiqsujuaq, where she is going to school, the community held a parade for her and teammate Sarah Jaaka. The girls wore their gold medals and stood on top of the fire truck as it rolled past the cheering townsfolk, siren blasting. They were too late, however, to save anything.

'The whole thing doesn't make sense' "I saw it coming," Juneau says.

With the program in its 10th year, a decision was made last year to evaluate it and, if necessary, make some decisions on the future. Makivik hired Goss Gilroy Inc., an Ottawa management-consultant firm, to undertake a comprehensive study. The company travelled the region, interviewed more than 140 people in Nunavik, praised the value of minor hockey in the communities, but ultimately concluded: "While an indirect impact on crime prevention is possible within the Northern Youth Hockey Development Program, there is no evidence to support that it does have these results."

The study referred to police statistics that showed physical and sexual assaults had gone up in the region over the past five years.

There are, of course, no statistics available for crimes not committed by children between the ages of 5 and 17, the target group of Juneau's program.

"I knew that the evaluation was coming and the decision was not surprising to me," Juneau says.

"But the whole thing doesn't make sense. Am I a dreamer - or is this really what people feel and see?" Juneau says he personally "took it hard," but he adds that "I have to accept the decision - it's their money. But I have seen this work.

I've seen the leadership skills they develop. I know it's very expensive - we have to bring them to the camps, we have to fly to the tournaments, feed them, bus them - but it's worth it."

Danielle Demers certainly agrees. For the past decade the retired teacher has served as the program's pedagogical co-ordinator. She is particularly passionate about the select girls team, which she says has developed critical values such as commitment, discipline and self-esteem that are simply immeasurable. On the championship team that played in Ottawa, for example, three of the 15 girls have been dealing with the effects of youth suicide, either having attempted it themselves or having a sibling who killed him or herself. One of the players was even taken out of hospital rehabilitation so she could join the team where she is happiest and feels she belongs.

"It's not just about girl athletes," says Demers, who has spent a quarter-century working in the far North. "It's about life skills and bonding. It's about learning about the importance of respect and perseverance."

Demers says she and the coaches are "friendly but strict." The players have to go to bed at a certain time, eat breakfast together, show respect for the people they encounter. "They are so grateful, so respectful. They behave so well," Demers says. "Everywhere we go, we get compliments - 'Your girls are so good and polite.' "This program gives them structure. We tell them to 'Do your best at all times' and 'Never give up.' At first it might seem we are a bit hard on them, but they get used to it and they like it."

Both Demers and Juneau say the team jackets - a small expense - bring enormous value to the program. "It's a great inspiration," Demers says. "To be part of the Nunavik Nordiks, to wear that jacket, it has great impact.

Other kids see our teams wearing their jackets so proudly all over Nunavik and it inspires them.

"And our players know they have a responsibility when they wear that jacket. They represent Nunavik when they go about.

There's a sense of the way you have to behave when you wear that jacket."

Demers also argues that the program has an enormous benefit to those young Canadians who play against the Inuit teams and get to know them. After each game, the Nordiks surprise their opponents with individual gifts of a hand-made beaded necklace, a small ulu knife and an inukshuk.

They sometimes demonstrate throat singing to the amazement of girls on the other teams.

"Our Nordiks are great ambassadors for Nunavik," Demers says.

'It has helped me mentally as well as physically' John Cairney, a professor of kinesiology and physical education at the University of Toronto, happened to be listening to a local sports talk-radio station when he learned of the demise of Joé Juneau's select program. He called the producer of the show, who gave him a contact for Juneau.

At his own expense, Dr. Cairney, along with Zoe Poucher, a master's student in the faculty, travelled to this year's select training camp, which was held from March 11 to 20 in Inukjuak, Que.

What he and Ms. Poucher experienced, he says, was "truly remarkable to witness." They were able to experience the camp and the growth of the team, talk to the coaches, to Danielle Demers and some of the parents, as well. They also saw what Juneau and Demers and the other coaches are up against.

"There wasn't a single day when there weren't significant challenges," Dr. Cairney says. Some of the young women had come from difficult, abusive situations. There were youngsters dealing with addiction, youngsters on suicide watch. And yet, as the team rounded into form - Juneau is a classic "position" and "responsibility" hockey coach - the two academics saw a remarkable transformation. They also say they found "a fairly strong consensus that this program is going good."

One who certainly believes so is the captain of the Nordiks, Siqua Munick, who comes from the small community of Kuujjuaq and has played on the select team for five years, beginning at the age of 12. She aspires to be a mechanic and says the program has given her a belief in herself that she will carry on into her schooling.

"It has helped me mentally as well as physically," she says. "I've made a lot of friends from the other communities. Being on the team and playing keeps me away from peer pressure."

Dr. Cairney, who is also president-elect of the North American Society for Pediatric Exercise Medicine, also takes issue with the consultant's report and its methodology. "It is my contention," he says, "that the conclusions drawn from the review cannot be fully supported by the data collected."

Since a critical question addressed in the review was whether participation in the program prevents crime, he feels that a conclusion is difficult, if not impossible, to reach without the ability to compare statistics from before and during the program.

In Dr. Cairney's professional opinion, the program has a significant "paying it forward" element.

The players grow up and mature in the program and "graduate" to become coaches and leaders back in their small communities. The academics took particular note of the pride the players had in receiving and wearing their team jackets.

"You have to consider the symbolic value of this," Dr. Cairney says. "The jackets are a recruitment poster."

'The program is a big part of who I am' As word spread of the possibility that the program might be cancelled, support from around the country began coming in to Makivik Corp. on behalf of Juneau, who this week was awarded the prestigious Hommage Jacques Beauchamp/Journal de Montreal award for his work in the North.

Tom Renney, the president of Hockey Canada, wrote from Calgary: "There is no individual hockey award, gold medal, or Stanley Cup that comes close to achieving what the NYHDP has done and we hope will continue to do for the youth of ... all of Nunavik."

Justice Louise Otis of McGill University's faculty of law, a former judge of the Quebec Court of Appeal and past chair of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, wrote to say, "Based on my experience, I am convinced that programs such as the NYHDP positively contribute to lowering the propensity to commit crimes in vulnerable youth."

Similar letters of support came from elected politicians, the president of the Kativik School Board, school principals, coaches and parents - all to no avail.

Makivik Corp. and the Kativik Regional Government countered that the vote to alter the program was unanimous. They felt that whatever money they could put toward minor hockey would be better spent if it were spread within Nunavik's 14 communities, that sending select teams south was too expensive to ever be cost effective.

In a "fact sheet" sent to The Globe, Makivik said Juneau's program "is designed to reduce crime in the Nunavik region. Submissions are evaluated based on their ability to reduce crime. The NYHDP scored poorly on this measure."

The president of Makivik, Jobie Tukkiapik tried to explain the decision in an open letter. "We have observed many hockey enthusiasts, and political leaders - notably in the Québec National Assembly - speak in favour of the hockey program we as elected Inuit leaders made a difficult decision on," he wrote. "Our choice was years in the making, and included a 100-page professional evaluation ... we want to move to a new chapter in the development of minor hockey in Nunavik, developed by and for Inuit, and played by many more children and youth."

Joé Juneau wishes it would never get personal. Had the decision been purely financial, he would have accepted it. But it is the report that he could not abide. In his mind, it says that his 11 years of work has been wasted.

"Of course I'm hurt," he says.

"The program is a big part of who I am."

As for Malina Berthe, she still had one final thing to say in her social media cri de coeur over the death of the Nunavik Nordiks.

"If someday I become president of Makivik," she signed off, "I'll bring the select program back.

"And I'll be one of the coaches."

Associated Graphic

Nunavik Nordiks coach Joé Juneau addresses his players in the dressing room before a game last month in Ottawa.


Noemie Koneak is checked into the boards during a game last month in Ottawa. The Inuit girl's hockey team used to travel frequently, and often at great expense, for tournaments.


The jackets members of the Nordiks wear inspire pride in their northern Quebec community, and serve as a reminder of the responsibility of players to serve as positive role models.

Tough love
Ten years on, Milan Lucic isn't the same man he used to be: He's no less frightening, but now he picks and chooses his battles
Wednesday, April 12, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S1

EDMONTON -- He is not the man he used to be. Milan Lucic is older and wiser. He is not the fellow who taunted fans in Montreal from the penalty box a few years ago, making an obscene gesture and pretending to hoist the Stanley Cup over his head. He is not the same guy who became engaged in a late-night scuffle once outside a poutine joint in Vancouver.

A man changes with time and circumstances. Lucic was close to his dad, and was shocked in 2015 when Dobro Lucic killed himself.

His father was an immigrant from Serbia who came to Canada when he was 27. He was a longshoreman, an occupation every bit as tough and gritty as a hockey enforcer.

It is not to say that Milan Lucic is softer now, but he is more mature. He remains the most frightening player in the NHL, and has helped Connor McDavid enjoy an MVP-calibre season. The Art Ross Trophy winner is rarely roughed up, and that is because of the fear that Lucic, his hulking 235pound bodyguard, will retaliate.

He will, but not without thought.

"When I came into the league, I kind of knew the way to make a name for myself, and for me the best way was to stick up for myself and my teammates," Lucic said Tuesday after the Oilers practised at Rogers Place for their first-round playoff game on Wednesday against San Jose.

"You don't think of much when you enter the league at 19 or 20.

You are full of piss and vinegar and single and living your dream.

"Now it is 10 years later and I have a wife and two kids, and I have a better understanding of what's good and what's bad. Of course, things change."

Lucic picks and chooses his fights now. He went 20 games at one point this season without a penalty, and is barely in the top five on the team in penalty minutes. He finished the regular season with 23 goals, three more than Taylor Hall scored in New Jersey. Lucic had 50 points, including nine in the past 10 games as the Oilers pushed their way up the standings. He had a natural hat trick - three straight goals - when Edmonton dispatched with the Sharks last week in San Jose.

Before that, with the Oilers trailing 1-0, he had an extended slugfest with Micheal Haley.

"We are lucky to have him at this time of year," Oilers' coach Todd McLellan says.

"Milan's completely, emotionally attached to this group now and his play has reflected that. He has stepped up to the plate."

Lucic has fought only six times, and has deferred when opportunities presented themselves. He had a quiet stretch early on, but has finished with a flourish. That is in keeping with his stature as a veteran and assistant captain. Combined, the Oiler players have only participated in 342 postseason games.

Lucic has been in 102, and won a Stanley Cup with Boston in 2010-11.

"Maybe I was pressing a little too hard in December and January," Lucic says.

The Oilers announced his signing as a free agent with great fanfare on Canada Day. He was one of the biggest names available, and it was a sign that things were markedly improved when Edmonton was able to get him. At the time, he said he came because of McDavid - that a guy only gets to play with a talent like that perhaps once in a lifetime. He was gregarious and accommodating and his wife, Brittany, was there with him. Together, they have two little girls.

Lucic is not what you expect.

There is much more to him than the tough guy on the ice.

He is friendly and outgoing and doesn't give easy answers during interviews. He talks from his heart and commands respect from his teammates. He has been there and done that, and done it well.

In his mid-teens, McDavid made a video and imaged himself playing on a dream line with Lucic. Reality is better than fiction.

"His is such a great voice in the dressing room," McDavid said Tuesday. "He knows what it takes to do this, and we know guys on other teams aren't taking liberties with me or any of our other young players."

Louie DeBrusk, a brawler when he played with the Oilers and three other teams in the NHL, says there is nobody in the league that can compare with Lucic.

"He is the type of player that every tough guy wants to be," says DeBrusk, now a broadcaster. "He is one of the toughest guys in the league, but he is going to score 30 goals one of these years for the Oilers.

"I can't think of another guy in the NHL that is like him."

It hasn't always been that way for Lucic. He remembers breaking in with the Bruins in 2007, and playing only limited minutes for about half of the season. He credits Marc Savard and David Krejci for taking him under wing, and making him a better, more confident player.

"They taught me about playing smarter and being more efficient," Lucic says.

You can see that in him as an older player. He is 29, and the playoffs are only a day away.

The Oilers are in them for the first time in nearly 11 years.

Edmonton won 47 games this season, its most since 50 in 1986-87. The Oilers came within an eyelash of unseating Anaheim atop the Pacific Division.

"There was a lot of uncertainty about the Oilers this year," Lucic says. "Coming in, I thought we would most likely be pushing for a wild-card spot rather than the division lead. So I can't really say that I saw it coming.

"A lot of has to do with Connor, but other guys have stepped up their game, too. It shows that there is a will here to win."

He says he has been telling his teammates that if they keep playing as well as they have, they can go far into the postseason.

"It's the first time for many of them, so it is definitely going to be a new experience," he says.

"But even for a guy who has been there, it is still exciting.

You always look forward to this time of year.

"I am excited to see what Connor is capable of in the playoffs.

He took his game to another level at the end of the season. I am fortunate to call him my teammate and am excited to be at his side and be part of this journey with him."

He is not the man he used to be, but in one way, Lucic is.

"At the end, what I focus on is keeping that love I had for the game as an eight- or nine-yearold kid," he says. "I remind myself of that every day."

Associated Graphic

Milan Lucic went 20 games at one point this season without a penalty, and is barely in the top five on the team in penalty minutes.


Jays' failure to launch intensified with bloody Sunday
Monday, April 17, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S1

TORONTO -- Over the past couple of decades, there have been some spectacularly awful stretches of baseball in Toronto. Few cities in the majors have such a high bar for low quality.

But Sunday may have been the worst single day in the recent history of this organization.

The Blue Jays lost again, atrociously this time. It ended 11-4 for the Baltimore Orioles. The few thousand fans that made it until the end got a souvenir umbrella for showing up and a Purple Heart for suffering through this entire horror show.

The Toronto clubhouse afterward was funereal, if it were the sort of funeral where several mourners had dropped dead mid-service of carbon-monoxide poisoning. Outside that room, people are still in the "It's early days" phase of baseball hysteria.

Inside, they know that things are not right.

At 2-10, Toronto has the worst record in the major leagues. The Jays are dead last in most major offensive categories. As Sunday's game ended, the Jays were four games out ... of fourth place.

Amazingly, the Blue Jays' early season badness is managing to overshadow the Leafs' postseason goodness. That's some really aspirational failure.

The Jays are missing their best player (Josh Donaldson) for who knows how long and, on Sunday, lost two-fifths of their rotation in the space of a few hours. Insert something here about Oscar Wilde and the difference between misfortune and carelessness.

In the morning, Aaron Sanchez put himself on the disabled list to deal with a persistent blister on the middle finger of his throwing hand.

How long has he had this problem? According to Sanchez, two years. Thank goodness it's not pernicious or anything.

"We don't really know when it comes, how it comes, why it's coming," Sanchez said disconsolately, while shielding his right hand from view with his left.

Sounds optimistic.

Sanchez thought he'd be out "not too long." Later, manager John Gibbons said that these sorts of things can be figured out quickly - "as little as two weeks."

For a team in freefall, losing its best pitcher for two weeks will seem like forever and a day.

Then it got worse.

In the fifth inning of the game, starter J.A. Happ threw a routine fastball, felt something pull in his elbow, did an awkward little hop off the mound and, after a gloomy medical conference, left the game.

At the best of times, Happ is a stoic figure, but after yesterday's setback he'd gone full-Easter Island statue.

"It's a little concerning and definitely frustrating," Happ said stonily.

How long has it been since you felt anything like this?

"A long time," Happ said.

It's good to see that the Jays' shrilly promoted "high-performance department" is paying early dividends.

For now, the Jays are calling Happ's injury "left elbow soreness." He'll get an MRI on Monday.

It's the sort of thing that often starts off "a little concerning," and then ends in a surprise e-mail from the club's PR department telling you so-and-so has just had successful reconstructive surgery.

Last year's grind into the playoffs was down to several factors, but the most important of them was healthy pitching. Put aside the Jays' current record and statistical wretchedness. If Sanchez and Happ are laid up for any length of time, you can forget about 2017.

Of course, the Jays aren't going to say that.

Though manager John Gibbons already has his longestpart-of-August look going - eyes glassy, cap tipped way back on his head, a lot of weary face stroking - he described himself as "concerned" as opposed to worried.

"We'll lean on [pitchers] in Triple A and see how that goes," Gibbons shrugged.

I suppose that's a plan. Not a good one. But it does meet the definition of the word.

Since it's April, we must keep up the baseball charade that no amount of consistently terrible play by the Toronto Blue Jays may yet lead us to the conclusion that they are a bad baseball team.

But after the two weeks just past, only Rogers' shareholders and tinfoil-hat types will be suggesting that, on evidence, this team is any good.

They are not as bad as their record - post-1900, no Major League Baseball team has ever been this bad over a complete season.

Instead, the Jays look bad in an average and depressingly familiar sort of way - banged up, inept, uncertain and, most of all, unlucky.

When you lose 10 of 12 in June, you can take comfort in the law of averages and tunnel your way out of it. But when it starts out this miserably, a tone is set for an entire year.

So far, this is the year the Blue Jays begin coming apart.

It was obvious that team president Mark Shapiro and GM Ross Atkins wanted to start that process this off-season. They talked up getting younger, bulking up the farm system, and very clearly wanted rid of Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista.

When the fans revolted, they got cold feet, made up with Bautista and reaffirmed their faith in the current core. This 'no changes required' approach made fans happy, while allowing Shapiro and Atkins to invest nothing extra in the team. They can still blow it up any time.

This result of this neither/norism was a wafer-thin roster, one or two injuries from disaster. On Sunday, disaster walked through the door and hung up its coat.

It may be staying a while.

We don't know how long Sanchez, Happ or Donaldson will be gone, but it's already too long if the goal is the division. The Jays can't grind their way out of this.

To make the playoffs, Toronto will probably need to play something like .580 baseball the rest of the way. The last time the Jays did that was 25 years ago.

Mathematically, I suppose it's possible. Certainly, stranger things have happened.

But is it likely any more? No. It's early, but even the Jays wouldn't be dumb enough to tell you that now.

Associated Graphic

Troy Tulowitzki, centre, and Russell Martin, left, gather with pitcher J.A. Happ just before he came out of their game against the Orioles with an injury in the fifth inning Sunday. Baltimore starter Dylan Bundy (2-1) struck out six over six shutout innings in front of 38,188 at the Rogers Centre. Trey Mancini had a three-run homer during a five-run sixth inning and added a solo shot during a five-run eighth for the Orioles.


Sports is becoming disconnected from reality, and we're all to blame
Thursday, April 20, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S1

TORONTO -- The New England Patriots are the emblematic U.S. sports franchise of the 21st century.

While the American experiment begins splitting at the seams, the Patriots' relentless success reminds the country that hard

work, nimble thinking and iffy morals can still be counted on to get you ahead.

In time, this Patriots team will be remembered for two things: Tom Brady and Aaron Hernandez.

Brady is the athlete par excellence of his era - a wholesome backstory, a rise from obscurity, best-to-ever-play credentials and bland, approachable good looks, all adding up to an awesomely powerful branding machine.

Brady is the player every sports league would engineer in a homosapien hamster mill if such a thing were possible.

Hernandez was a dim facsimile of Brady. He did not have the sort of upbringing that makes for bright feature copy; he played only three seasons; he was handsome in a threatening way.

He was a good, if unremarkable, pro football player - the sort of human chum the NFL churns through. Then it emerged that Hernandez had a sideline in killing people who'd offended him in inconsequential ways. That increased his Q Score. However, because of our constant jonesing need for more and better media highs, even Hernandez's lurid story couldn't grip public attention for very long. There was no apparent darkness in him. Not any you could easily see.

He wasn't articulate and evil - qualities that draw people. He was sullen and casually cruel.

Whatever you tried to project onto Hernandez glanced off his sleepy demeanour. There was no lesson to be learned here since none of it made any sort of sense.

Which, in itself, sums up the current mood in America.

Down there, everybody's killing everybody else for all sorts of stupid reasons. They're broadcasting it on Facebook. Our Running Man future grows ever closer.

So, sure, why not a rock-star pro-footballer who's just signed a $40-million (U.S.) contract and has a baby on the way? Why wouldn't he be shooting casual acquaintances in between two-adays?

The inexplicability of Hernandez's crimes and the opacity of his personality made him a poor subject for the traditional arc of the transgressive athlete - fall and redemption. Had he spent the rest of a long life in prison, Hernandez would have become the answer at a bar trivia night.

But in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Hernandez, 27, hanged himself in his Massachusetts jail cell, according to corrections officials.

The timing of his suicide seemed portentous. In the afternoon, his former teammates were due to appear at the White House for the traditional feting of Super Bowl champions. Shortly after Hernandez's death was made public, Brady announced that he would be skipping the occasion to attend to "family matters." In fairness, he has sponsors to think of.

With their most valuable and photogenic product removed from the equation, the New England organization decided to go ahead with the visit.

In order to make things more bizarre, Patriots' doofus Rob Gronkowski crashed the daily White House press briefing.

"Need some help?" he said to Sean Spicer, the administration's secretary of foot-in-mouth affairs. Spicer pretended to be surprised.

"I think I got this, but thank you," Spicer said, incorrectly, and then: "That was cool." The watchdogs of U.S. democracy tittered in the background.

America, you no longer watch Saturday Night Live. You live in it.

As ESPN's senior conscience, anchor Bob Ley, pointed out angrily, the two events - Hernandez's death and the Patriots' photo-op - will now always be linked in the public imagination.

Today, it may not seem to matter. I suspect it might in the years to come, around the time we are deconstructing a moment in U.S. history.

Has there ever been a starker example of how primary and ultimately baffling a position sports are given in our culture than to light off a few confetti cannons for a team hours after one of its number, a high-profile murderer, has made himself global news via suicide? Does the proper response really seem to be trading a few zingers to lighten up the pre-nuclear gloom? I'm envisioning John F.

Kennedy doing knock-knock jokes on national TV in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Consider how this would go down in your own professional world. The company picnic is on the weekend. Someone from accounting kills him or herself on Friday. But you go ahead with the sack races because, hey, people have booked babysitters.

It's unthinkable in the real world. But sports have become disconnected from the reality the rest of us inhabit. Flying the banner of "let's get back to normal," sports trudges on regardless of events or their consequences.

The unintended result of that decision is to begin turning Hernandez from a figure of derision into a tragic one. The conspiracy theories around his death are already flowering. His agent said there was "absolutely no chance" Hernandez took his own life and his family (understandably) wants an investigation.

For some, Hernandez will become an anti-heroic outsider, the John Dillinger of the gridiron. The further we get from the havoc he wreaked on other people's lives, the easier that is.

Eventually, someone will make a downbeat feature film of his life, one that will attempt (and fail) to bring meaning to meaninglessness. From an entertainer to an outcast and then repurposed into entertainment again.

It's the lifecycle of American celebrity.

In the days to come, America will launch into its usual bout of performative soul searching.

Why did he do it, who was to blame and what does it say about the rest of us?

Nothing. Aaron Hernandez the person is the least important part of the equation. He was a damaged man who had the good fortune to be born with an ability that just happens to be highly prized right now - catching a ball. Had he been really good at bringing up kids, doing math or connecting people (skills that actually matter), no one would care about any of this.

Aaron Hernandez the New England Patriot is the key here.

What his life and death point out is the hollowness in the centre of our popular culture.

Hernandez mattered because he played football. Once he screwed that up, football continued on. And when he killed himself, football trod right over his corpse.

Associated Graphic

Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, left, killed himself in his jail cell, prison officials say.


Rookie Leafs fall to the league's best in Washington
An inexperienced Toronto team loses Game 1 in overtime against the likes of Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie.
Friday, April 14, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S1

WASHINGTON -- As NHL playoff debuts go, the one by the rebuilt version of the Toronto Maple Leafs was not too shabby.

But it wasn't quite good enough. The Washington Capitals fought back from a two-goal disadvantage to subdue a determined group of Leafs with a 3-2 overtime win in the first game of their Eastern Conference firstround series. Tom Wilson won the game with a long shot that eluded Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen, who deserved better, at 5 minutes 15 seconds of the first overtime.

The spark for the Capitals to come back was provided by someone with all kinds of playoff success, although that experience did not come with the Caps. Justin Williams, who scored the first two Capitals' goals to erase the Leafs' twogoal lead, has three Stanley Cups - one with the Carolina Hurricanes and two with the Los Angeles Kings - plus a Conn Smythe Trophy in 2014.

But Williams' heroics usually come in Game 7, not Game 1, as he holds the NHL record for most points in the seventh game of playoff series with 14. It was the fourth time he has scored multiple goals in a playoff game.

Thanks to Williams, the Capitals were able to come back hard in the third period. They came at the Leafs in waves, with the crowd roaring, but goaltender Frederik Andersen was rock solid, as he had been for the entire game. His best save came with 3:29 to play in the third when he robbed Caps winger Marcus Johansson with a glove save for the second time to keep the Leafs alive for overtime.

Andersen topped that save early in overtime when he stopped the puck and then flung his pad up to get the rebound. Some of the Capitals were on their way over the boards to celebrate. They got the chance a minute later when Wilson scored the winner.

Leafs coach Mike Babcock spent the days leading up to Thursday's game hammering away at the Capitals' reputation for regular-season greatness and playoff flops. The Caps made the playoffs every year but one from 2008 through 2016, and they never advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs.

He was at it again after the Leafs' game-day skate when the question of how his inexperienced team (nine Leafs made their NHL playoff debuts on Thursday) would handle the increased intensity and the negative energy from the wall of sound usually created by the Capitals' fans come playoff time.

"It will be if the game goes the right way for [the Capitals]," Babcock said. "But there's nothing like a bunch of fans with long faces and sitting on their hands and are nervous like you can't believe.

"That's obviously the goal for us. If I'm not mistaken, four road teams won [Wednesday] night, didn't they?"

By the end of the first period, Babcock looked like a visionary. For what his team lacked in experience it made up in effort, as the Leafs went at the Capitals hard from the opening faceoff. It was an uncharacteristic display of hard-hitting, hard-checking hockey from the Leafs interlaced with their speed and skill.

Just one minute and 35 seconds into the game, the Leafs' aggressiveness paid off. Caps goaltender Baden Holtby misplayed a shot by James van Riemsdyk and allowed the puck to bounce around, under him and in front of the net.

Mitch Marner wasted no time sliding the puck in the open side of the net for his first playoff goal in his first playoff game.

Eight minutes later, the Caps again were guilty of sloppy play in their own end. They coughed up the puck twice in about five seconds with the second giveaway by defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk.

The puck wound up at the point and Leafs defenceman Jake Gardiner fired it at the net. It bounced off Washington forward T.J. Oshie and into the net.

However, the goal was waved off by the referees, who ruled Leafs centre Nazem Kadri interfered with Holtby as the shot came in.

But Babcock used his challenge and after a look at the replays the referee reversed his call and the Leafs had a stunning 2-0 lead.

The Capitals got one back at 12:24 on a power play with Williams' first goal to finish the first period down 2-1. There were questions about the Leafs defence with Niktia Zaitsev out with an undisclosed injury and little-used Martin Marincin filling the vacancy. But all of the Leafs went at the Capitals with vigour. Before the series all of the talk was about the Capitals not giving the Leafs any room to play but they were all over the hosts for most of the first period and it paid off.

While the Leafs were surprisingly physical and did not hesitate to push back, where they really excelled was in stick-checking.

They were constantly knocking the puck off the Capitals sticks.

The Leafs stuck with their efforts in the second period and the crowd at the Verizon Center began to get restless as well as quiet. There were even a few boos about 12 minutes in when the Caps iced the puck a few times.

Behind all of the work of the forwards and defence was an excellent Andersen. He quickly settled any doubts about the two knocks on the head he suffered in the last two weeks of the regular season by coolly making a few glove saves in the opening minutes and got better from there.

But just after Andersen picked off a Johansson wrist shot and for good measure flattened Caps winger Brett Connolly behind his net, he made one mistake that cost the Leafs the lead.

Andersen stopped a shot by Evgeny Kuznetsov and then lost track of the puck. But instead of just remaining on the ice he got up, leaving the puck loose in his crease. This, coupled with the Leafs collective failure to pick him up, allowed Williams to cruise in and knock the puck into the net to tie the score 2-2 with four minutes left in the period.

Associated Graphic

Washington Capitals centre Marcus Johansson and Toronto Maple Leafs centre Mitch Marner reach for the puck in front of Frederik Andersen during Game 1 Thursday.


Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals shoots in front of Matt Hunwick of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first period in Game 1 in Washington.


Raptors, bolstered on D, healthy on O, look to build on M - momentum
Saturday, April 15, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S1

TORONTO -- Masai Ujiri could hear a loud, fiery conversation outside his office this week as the Toronto Raptors prepared for the NBA playoffs. It was music to his ears.

The team president heard recently added players Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker in the thick of a heated discussion with assistant coach Rex Kalamian.

Just then, coach Dwane Casey walked by and happily enlightened Ujiri: "Those guys are talking about defence."

Ujiri shared the anecdote to illustrate the increased intensity the Raptors added by trading for Ibaka and Tucker. After making it to the Eastern Conference final last year - where they were outplayed by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers - the Raps wanted to add more defensive toughness before the playoffs.

The team landed two focused defenders it had long coveted. Ibaka filled the gaping need for an elite power forward. Tucker added veteran leadership, defensive versatility and a knack for aggravating opposing stars.

They bolstered an already strong Toronto roster. DeMar DeRozan had his best season and Kyle Lowry had a hot first half before injuring his wrist. With Lowry now healthy again and all the pieces assembled, this appears to be the best-built team in franchise history. The only way to prove that is by making the team's best playoff run.

"On paper, it all looks good when you make trades, but you hope they all jell. It worked out fine for the regular season, but now the second season starts," Ujiri said. "The last 15 games, I think we were 12-3, so you like that momentum."

These Raptors could start by extinguishing a long-standing hex when they open the postseason on Saturday against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Raps are 0-8 in the opening game of first-round playoff series, and 1-10 overall in Game 1s. The last time Toronto won the first game of any series was in 2001, against the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round.

The postseason began the same way for the Raps the past three years. Each featured an early afternoon game in Toronto before thunderous crowds inside and outside the Air Canada Centre.

Whether the players were inexperienced, overhyped, underwhelmed, or outplayed, an inexplicable Toronto loss resulted each time.

The Raptors were relieved to learn this week that the NBA didn't, for a fourth straight year, give them the earliest start time.

"Well we have changed it from a 6 a.m. game to a 5:30 p.m. game," Ujiri said with a laugh.

"Oops, I might get fined for that [comment]."

The Raptors-Bucks series certainly won't be the sexiest matchup in the NBA playoffs, but it will feature plenty worth watching.

It will be Tucker's first NBA playoff appearance, an opportunity to see why many experts describe him with words like "sandpaper." It's a chance to see if Ibaka can duplicate the sort of postseason play that helped the Oklahoma City Thunder to the 2012 NBA finals. It could feature Jonas Valanciunas tangling with Greg Monroe. A host of Raptors - including Tucker, DeMarre Carroll and Patrick Patterson - will try to smother one of the league's most dynamic talents, Giannis (the Greek Freak) Antetokounmpo.

Toronto's two all-stars both had career bests in scoring this season. But both have had their playoff struggles, particularly early in last year's playoffs.

Game 1 of their opening round against the Indiana Pacers had Raps supporters in a panic as Lowry made 3 of 13 field-goal attempts while DeRozan made 5 of 19. The pair went 1 for 10 from three-point range and 8 for 15 at the free-throw line.

Now, Lowry will try to resume an all-star level of play with just four games under his belt after wrist surgery. DeRozan will try to play through a web of defensive schemes that Bucks coach Jason Kidd always plans for him.

"The biggest thing DeMar did this year, I think he's more composed," Carroll said. "He understands being a great player sometimes you're going to draw a lot of attention and sometimes you've got to get other guys involved. He's not the type of kid now that guys are going to double team and he's still going to shoot it. He's like 'let me get this guy involved, that guy involved.' "He doesn't mind scoring 10 or 12 points and winning the game.

I think two or three years ago he would've minded that."

Toronto, the No. 3 seed in the East, will be heavily favoured against No. 6-seeded Milwaukee, especially after taking three of their four meetings this season and going 13-2 against them over the past four seasons. Round 2 could feature a Raptors-Cavaliers showdown. While most never gave Toronto the slightest chance in that series last year, the additions of Tucker and Ibaka (not to mention the late season slide of Cleveland) make it far more intriguing this year.

"If you're looking at a series that goes seven games, you'll get a couple of those dirty, nasty games where neither team catches a rhythm and makes shots, and the defence catches up to what you're doing and they take away your top option and it's like a 92-91 game," said TNT analyst Kevin McHale on a teleconference with NBA writers this week. "Tucker and Ibaka give Toronto the edge in that kind of game that they didn't have before. I think [the trades] were huge for Toronto. They now have so much more versatility on the defensive end."

Chatter about the Cavs will no doubt intensify over the next week, and the Raps will face the challenge of tuning out that noise to focus on Milwaukee and the present. The first dragon to slay is that 0-8 opening-game curse.

"Game 1 has always - I don't want to say haunted us - but it is what it is," Ujiri said. "Records are made to be broken so hopefully we break this one this time."

Associated Graphic

Toronto Raptor Delon Wright drives to the basket against Edy Tavares of the Cavaliers in Cleveland on Wednesday.


The agony and the ecstasy
Canadiens Teams don't win Cups hewing to the demands of hot-blooded fans, but what if the armchair GMs are right this time as Price's free agency looms?
Monday, April 24, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S1

MONTREAL -- During the NHL playoffs Montreal is the kind of place where municipal transit employees customize the bus-front panels, which usually flash route numbers, to read "Go Habs Go."

You might jump aboard to find the driver has a radio with the game on, the passengers living and dying with every rush.

And when it all goes wrong for the Canadiens, as it did in New York on Saturday - again, for the 24th spring in a row - passion can turn to angst and fury.

The armchair general managers came out in their legions on the phone-in shows after the Habs were eliminated in Game 6 of their firstround series against the Rangers.

Mostly they were demanding Carey Price, the best goaltender since Patrick Roy was run out of town, be traded.

No one ever won a championship hewing to the whims of hot-blooded fans, but what if they have a point this time?

Not that Price is to blame for this year's hasty playoff exit. To win, you have to score, and the Habs didn't, or at least not enough.

General manager Marc Bergevin is stuck in the mediocrity trap that hard salary-cap systems can create - good enough to win a round or two, but patently not on the cusp of domination.

Now, about busting out of it.

In July, 2018, Price will be eligible for free agency, and if the Habs wish to sign him to an extension this summer - assuming he's interested in staying as he approaches his 30th birthday - it will be eye-wateringly expensive.

Does Bergevin stick with the plan of assembling enough talent around Price to get him into a position to steal a Stanley Cup final series?

Or is it time to accept it's unreasonable to place such a crushing burden on a player who has no margin for error and tear the thing down, sell high on veteran assets and players who aren't likely to improve, start over with draft picks?

The smart money says that's the way to go.

There are several compelling reasons why it won't happen.

First, the Habs are a riskaverse organization. The gambles Bergevin took last year - trading P.K. Subban for Shea Weber, signing Alex Radulov, paying over the odds for Andrew Shaw - fall comfortably within mainstream NHL thought.

They are also liable to see the glass as half-full: They have a perennial top-10 goal scorer, a hard-rock franchise defenceman and a smattering of young secondary talent that could easily have won the series with a bounce here or there ("a game of inches," coach Claude Julien said).

After the disastrous 2012 season, majority owner Geoff Molson identified stability as a key element in building a contender, and Bergevin and Julien, the latter of which has put the team back on the rails since replacing Michel Therrien in February, will both see five-year contract extensions kick in next fall.

But Molson has also made it clear his only priority is winning another Cup - his business depends on icing a team people are excited about watching - and on that score he is perfectly in tune with the fans.

And make no mistake, the ticket- and merchandise-buying masses are in high dudgeon.

They may even be as ticked off as downtown business owners, who were hoping for a deep playoff run and its attendant cash-register sounds.

"It's bad for the restaurants, the hotels, for everybody," said Santana Enrique, owner of Sports Crescent, which opened on rue Ste. Catherine - what used to be known as the usual Stanley Cup parade route - in 1989.

Enrique, who watched the Cup parade past in 1993, is discounting all his Habs paraphernalia 50 per cent just to get it out the door.

"I looked for something black to wear today, but almost all I have in the store is red," he said.

The difficulty for Bergevin is that after five seasons in charge he hasn't meaningfully addressed his team's main flaw, which is down the middle.

Alex Galchenyuk, drafted third over all in 2012 as the team's No. 1 pivot of the future, hasn't entirely worked out. Some of the blame falls to him, some to an organization that seemingly can't decide if he's a winger or a centre.

Conventional wisdom suggests he could be dealt this summer.

Can Artturi Lehkonen, the revelation of the playoffs, play centre? He did for a time in Sweden, but the NHL is a different beast.

Tomas Plekanec, signed to a two-year extension in 2015, is aging and his offensive skills have eroded. He will count for $6-million (U.S.) against the cap next season.

Phillip Danault, a promising two-way centre and just 24, has never scored more than 40 points in a season as a pro.

Shaw played centre late in the season, but he's not there for offence.

Michael McCarron, a firstround draft pick in 2013, is not yet a full-time NHLer.

The minor-league cupboard is mostly bare when it comes to prolific scorers (Charles Hudon being the exception), never mind centres.

Bergevin has often said the surest way to acquire front-line offensive talent is via the draft, but the fact is he hasn't.

In the moments after being eliminated Habs captain Max Pacioretty, a 35-goal scorer who was unable to convert any of the myriad scoring opportunities he created in the series, was asked whether the team's 11 goals over six games - a franchise low in the playoffs - meant more firepower is needed.

"I don't know. I'm not the GM," he replied.

Yes, well, touché.

All eyes now turn to the man who is.

And he's got a big job to do, lest the fans' passion and anger turn into something far more damaging: apathy.

Associated Graphic

A cluster of Rangers teammates celebrate on Saturday after Mats Zuccarello notched his second goal of the game against Montreal goaltender Carey Price at New York's Madison Square Garden.


The intrinsic Leaf-ness of low expectations
Wednesday, April 19, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S1

TORONTO -- When the Washington Capitals had their traditional playoff humiliation last year, Alex Ovechkin was asked to put it all in perspective.

The Russian star seems to enjoy his role of as a graduate of the Conan the Barbarian School of Public Speaking - skimpy with the verbs and adverbs; then really hitting the nouns. But when he cares to be, Ovechkin can be very conversant in his second language.

"Every year, lots of expectations, lots of great players, but something missing," he said. "We have the best goalie in the league, we have a solid group of guys on the defensive side, all four lines can play well. You can see it."

Except for those times you can't. Which would be all the times that matter.

After blowing two two-goal leads and a five-on-three secondperiod power play on Monday night, the Capitals are doing it again.

It's happening so quickly, you can imagine the whole Washington team writhing around on the locker-room floor between periods, horror-movie-style, as their regular-season Jekyll transforms into postseason Hyde.

Meanwhile, the Leafs are sitting across the hall listening to all the screaming going on in the visitor's dressing room, drawing their overtime pool picks out of a helmet. Everybody got "Tyler Bozak," because they all won 4-3.

Three games into this thing, with Toronto leading the series 2-1, a few things have become clear. The process is working; the Leafs cannot lose (even if they end up losing); and that dropping down to eighth seed the day before the playoffs started was a gift so divine we must assume the heavens parted over Air Canada Centre as it happened, allowing a single shaft of light to fall upon the House Where Hockey Goes to Die.

Because Washington had to - had to, had to, had to - win this first round. All Toronto had to do was show up on time and not put a dozen goals into its own net or run over anyone with a Zamboni.

We can spend all day breaking down the minutiae of tactics - and if this keeps up, all terrestrial TV and radio will soon be dedicated to that exercise - but the only meaningful factor at play is pressure.

Every last ounce of it has been laid across the Capitals' shoulders. By the time we get around to Game 4 on Wednesday, Washington is going to come out looking like a group of skating hunchbacks.

When asked to discuss Cartesian epistemology and the difference between certainty and doubt (possibly not in those exact words) after Monday's game, Capitals defenceman Matt Niskanen told reporters, "Until we change the narrative, that's going to be the question."

Whenever a hockey player begins philosophizing in public, or starts using words like "narrative," you know he is not in a good headspace. The terrible thing about doubt is that as soon as you stop to consider it, you are - ipso facto - doubting.

What are Toronto players talking about? The usual nonsense about believing in your teammates, taking your chances and 110-per-cent effort. In the best possible sense, the Leafs aren't thinking at all at the moment.

They're busy doing.

In any other year over the past 50, this would not have been possible. Customarily, the Toronto Maple Leafs are not judged on their place in the standings, their personnel or their quality, but on their Toronto Maple Leafsness.

The usual local calculus is that the team isn't very good, but owes it to the city to be much, much better in any case. Somehow, Toronto had convinced itself that tradition and expectation can act like a sixth man on the ice - that it's some sort of advantage whenever people want it to be. Like magic.

Evidently, it hasn't been.

According to many leading hockey scientists, Toronto's habit of putting its mouth an inch from the Leafs' ear and shrieking, "Try harder, stupid!" is not an effective spur to performance.

Ask the Capitals about that right now. Expectation is a millstone around the neck of any team that has experienced it first-hand and failed to follow through. Every successive time, it gets exponentially heavier.

Eventually, you end up like Washington on Monday night, wound up like a rubber-band ball, taking a penalty a few seconds before the end of third and knowing in your rapidly blackening professional heart that this is not going your way.

It's just a look the Capitals have. It's difficult to describe, but you know it when you see it. They know it, too. If they were feeling swamped before this thing started, they are now forehead-deep in sticky uncertainty.

In its weird way, Washington as a sports town is Toronto's American doppelganger. Fans there have passed beyond disappointment into cynical despair.

When the Capitals lost last year, a local rag ran a satirical piece proposing a fill-in-theblanks season-ending story for use in all situations. For instance: "Another promising (SPORT) season came to a premature end last night as (WASHINGTON SPORTS FRANCHISE) fell to the (TEAM WITH A WORSE REGULAR-SEASON RECORD) eliminating them from the playoffs."

To which not-so-long-ago Toronto might reply, "At least you're making the playoffs."

Present-day Toronto still knows how they feel. We've been there before. Our therapist keeps asking about it.

But the city's pitchforks remain stored in backyard sheds. There will be no need of them this time around.

Even if the Leafs lose this thing, no one will succumb to frustrated rage, or demand the coach should be fired, or give a lot of non-nautical thought to "changing course."

For the first time in forever, nothing beyond decent effort is expected from the local hockey club. Up a game, there are still no expectations.

Which is exactly why they might win.

Associated Graphic

Alex Ovechkin, bottom, of the Washington Capitals is checked by Leafs' Morgan Rielly, right, April 13 in Washington.


Oilers goalie Talbot having the season - and the year - of his life
Tuesday, April 18, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S1

SAN JOSE, CALIF. -- On Oct. 18, Cam Talbot made 31 saves to help the Edmonton Oilers beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2. Around 6 the next morning, he and his wife, Kelly, were en route to the hospital for the birth of their twins. The cesarean section was planned months earlier, on an off day for the team.

The next night at Rogers Place, Talbot wore his babies' yellow hospital bands around his right wrist and made 34 saves as the Oilers beat the Blues 3-1.

That's the kind of year it has been for Edmonton's goalie. He is the hardest-working in the NHL. He started a league-high 73 games, and tied for first with 42 wins, a franchise record.

Not even the birth of his first son and daughter could distract him.

"I have been very impressed with the way he has taken care of his family and his whole body all season," said Oscar Klefbom, the Oilers' defenceman. "He is a real professional."

In three playoff games against the San Jose Sharks, Talbot has stopped all but three of 83 shots.

He enters Tuesday night's game at the SAP Center with back-toback shutouts against last season's Stanley Cup finalists. The Oilers have a 2-1 lead, with the best-of-seven quarter-final series returning to Edmonton on Thursday night.

"I try to just go about my business and not think about how big all of this is," Talbot said on Monday after the Oilers skated for a half-hour to stretch their legs. "I feel pretty good. This group is a confident group right now. I am just one part of the puzzle."

At 29, Talbot has become one of the sport's elite goaltenders.

He is easily the most proficient in Oilers history, a rich one that includes Hall-of-Famer Grant Fuhr. Nobody who has worn an Edmonton jersey for any length of time comes close. He has nine shutouts this year, including these past two in the postseason.

"Cam always looks calm in there," said Jordan Eberle, the Oilers right wing. "When things go wrong, he isn't scrambling.

He makes a save, and calms down the bench."

The Talbot twins - Landon Thomas and Sloane Colleen - will be six months old on Wednesday. Personalities are beginning to emerge. Initially, Landon was the screamer. Now, the roles are reversed. When one has a toy, the other tries to get it.

"It's tiring," Talbot said. "In the middle of the night one cries, and the other wakes up. It seems never-ending.

"On game days, my wife takes them in the other room to feed them so that I can rest. She is the real MVP this year."

Cam and Kelly met when they were attending the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Her brother was one of his best friends on the team. They hit it off, but Cam tred cautiously at first.

"Eventually, I got her brother's blessing," he said. "The rest is history."

Growing up in Caledonia, Ont., Talbot was a decent hockey player but never a great one.

When it came time for college, little interest was shown in him.

His family was not well off. He needed a scholarship to help pay for university. He received an offer from Alabama-Huntsville, one of only two southern schools in the United States playing NCAA Division 1 hockey.

He won three games in his first two seasons. In his last year, he won 12 and ranked fifth in the NCAA in save percentage.

It was enough to attract the attention of the New York Rangers, who signed him as an undrafted free agent in April, 2010. After three seasons in the minor leagues, he became Henrik Lundqvist's backup. When the Swedish star was injured in 201415, Talbot took over for 21 games and helped the Rangers make the playoffs.

The day after the Oilers selected Connor McDavid in the 2015 NHL draft, they acquired Talbot for that year's 62nd, 79th and 184th picks. Perhaps Robin Kovacs, Sergey Zborovskiy and Adam Huska will become great players; if not, for Edmonton, it was a steal.

"When I [was] with the Rangers, I dreamed of getting a chance to be a starting goalie in the NHL," Talbot said Sunday night after stopping 23 shots in the Oilers' 1-0 win over the Sharks. "For me to be the guy for a team that is in the Stanley Cup [playoffs] is very humbling."

After McDavid, Talbot has become the Oilers' most popular player. Fans line up at Rogers Place to take pictures with a giant Cam bobblehead. He has won their hearts with his play, his twins and with his kindness.

Several times this year, he donated his $1,000 player-of-themonth prize to the Second Chance Animal Rescue Society.

He and Kelly own a rescue dog, a mixed breed named Winnie.

He is on a heck of a run. Last summer, he was the starting goalie when Team Canada won a gold medal at the IIHF world championship. In October came the twins. Then he put together a season worthy of consideration for a Vézina Trophy. Now, the Oilers are in the playoffs for the first time since 2006, even if the twins are keeping him up at night.

"It must be a track meet around the house," said Todd McLellan, the Oilers' coach.

Talbot would not trade it for anything.

"Personally and professionally, it has been the best year of my life," he said.

"I am taking things day by day."

Associated Graphic

Tyler Bozak of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates his game-winning goal in overtime against the Washington Capitals in Game 3 at Air Canada Centre on Monday.


Edmonton Oilers goalie Cam Talbot stops a shot against the San Jose Sharks during Game 3 on Sunday.


Maple Leafs suddenly find themselves with little margin for youthful errors
Friday, April 21, 2017 – Print Edition, Page S1

WASHINGTON -- The playoff pressure pendulum that was stuck on the Washington Capitals for the past two games is now bearing down on the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Their skate-like-crazy, throwpucks-at-the-net, see-what-happens style made the Leafs the talk of the NHL for the first week of the playoffs.

But now that the Capitals gave them a good lesson on playoff hockey in Game 4 - yes, the Leafs made it close near the end but that was only on the scoreboard - it is time to see if the roller-coaster team really is ready to stay ahead of the rebuilding plan and finish this upset, which looked so close until the Caps tied the firstround series with that 5-4 win on Wednesday.

The best-of-seven series is now a best-of-three, with two games in Washington. The Leafs have more than a chance to win but that means once again bouncing back against the best regularseason team in the league. Game 5 may well decide this, since the winner gets a 3-2 lead, one game from ending it in what is a battle of the psyches as much as on the ice.

After hearing Leafs head coach Mike Babcock talk every day about how much pressure there is on the Capitals because they are the heavy favourites despite their mediocre playoff history, his counterpart with the Capitals threw a little back on Thursday.

"I think they're wrapping their heads around what we have to do," Barry Trotz said of the Maple Leafs. "As I said [Wednesday] we've just got to continue to build a 60-minute game.

"In the playoffs, you're going to have times where you have to weather their storm and times they're going to have to weather our storm. There's no 60-minute domination. That doesn't happen in the playoffs. I think we've figured out how we have to play and we've just got to do it for longer."

What the Leafs have to do now is figure out a way to stop making the glaring error. So far, they've been able to play their way out of them, but that did not happen in Game 4.

The reason the Maple Leafs are wildly entertaining is that they can buzz around the Capitals goal one minute and then watch the Caps wheel around the Toronto end the next because of some awful mistake. Everything is writ large with this team, the mistakes as well as the highlight-reel plays.

Nothing speaks to that more than a couple of blunders against Capitals superstar Alexander Ovechkin, who is not dominating this series by any degree but has managed some moments thanks to the Leafs.

Ovechkin was left all by himself on the left side of the ice on an early power play Wednesday night for an easy goal.

This must have driven Babcock into a rage. Ovechkin is a sporadic participant in this series. He has three goals, but two of them were gifts from the Leafs.

During a Game 2 power play last week, Ovechkin was Zach Hyman's man. Now, anyone who has watched more than three Capitals games knows Ovechkin plays the left point on the power play. Then everyone else works to get him an open shot from the top of the faceoff circle, where Ovechkin can launch his customary bombs.

Hyman must have been hiding in the washroom playing poker with a couple of the other kids from the back of the class when Babcock taught that particular lesson because he was nowhere in sight when Ovechkin ripped a shot that tied the score and put some life into the Capitals.

Connor Brown was probably in that poker game, too, along with a couple of others on the penalty-killing unit. Four minutes and 34 seconds into the first period Thursday night, Brown and company left the entire left side of the ice open for another Ovechkin rocket that made it 2-0 Washington.

Brown was asked what happened.

"Yeah, he was by himself," Brown said. "We had the puck and so when there is a loose puck we're trying to create as much pressure as possible or outnumber them in that wall and we've got to get our clears down. When they get it back it's tough to be in our coverage."

Sorry, no English translation was provided. But a rough guess is, "We all took off to chase the puck on the right side. We didn't get it. Ovie did. That's when I knew I didn't want to go back to our bench."

You can bet Babcock went over the Ovechkin lesson again Thursday morning. You can also bet no one sneaked out for a smoke in the boys' room. Leafs defenceman Connor Carrick admitted as much when he was asked about the need to worry more about Ovechkin.

"It's our job to play at our pace, with our execution, in our system, what's made us successful all season long and against Washington, be aware of our pitfalls and stay away from them and manage the game," he said.

"We saw some clips [Thursday] morning in our meeting - is this what the Maple Leafs are doing when we're playing our best? No."

NAFTA at stake amid backroom battles at White House
Saturday, April 15, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump's administration is sharply divided over what demands to make in the upcoming renegotiation of the North American freetrade agreement, with some top officials favouring limited tweaks that would open markets further while others want a significant overhaul to usher in a new era of "America First" economic nationalism, sources who have taken part in highlevel trade discussions with the administration say.

On one side are economic adviser Gary Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who favour an enhanced NAFTA that would make it easier for companies to do cross-border business. On the other are chief strategist Steve Bannon, policy guru Stephen Miller and National Trade Council director Peter Navarro, who want protectionist measures to fortify the U.S. market against foreign competition.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, the administration's NAFTA point man, is somewhere in between the two poles, speaking the language of open markets privately while flirting with economic nationalism in public.

The NAFTA rift is part of the larger internecine battle between moderates and nationalists being waged in the West Wing. The rift blew into the open over the last week, with Mr. Trump publicly denigrating Mr. Bannon's importance in government and instructing him to mend fences with his rivals, particularly the President's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who is on the side of the moderates.

Mr. Trump spent much of last year's campaign blaming NAFTA for hollowing out the U.S. manufacturing sector and promising to tear it up once in power.

During a September debate, he called the pact "the worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere."

But nearly three months into the job, say sources in the Canadian, U.S. and Mexican governments, the Trump administration does not appear to know what it actually wants to get from the negotiation, with wildly opposite messages coming from different people in the President's circle.

Further complicating the uncertain landscape in Washington, Congress is mulling a border-adjustment tax that would curb imports to the United States.

And the country's convoluted method for negotiating trade deals gives senators power to add different trade priorities to the agenda, leaving everyone uncertain as to what will ultimately end up on the table.

Two other key moves - the confirmation of U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and 90-day notice to Congress of the intent to open renegotiation - have still not taken place, meaning formal talks will not start until midsummer at the earliest.

It is all leaving a trilateral trade zone worth $1.1-trillion (U.S.) in limbo, exposing one of the world's most lucrative economic partnerships to the whims of a chaotic administration and a fractious Congress.

The White House declined to discuss the split. "As of now we're not ready to comment on NAFTA talks," spokeswoman Natalie Strom wrote in an e-mail. Neither Mr. Ross's nor Mr. Mnuchin's offices responded to requests for comment.

The closest the Trump administration has come to setting out specific NAFTA demands was a draft of its notification letter to Congress, which leaked two weeks ago. The missive listed a wide-ranging set of negotiating objectives: A "safeguard mechanism" that would allow the United States to slap temporary tariffs on Canadian and Mexican goods if a sudden influx of them hurts U.S. companies; the scrapping of trade panels that have consistently ruled in Canada's favour in the softwood-lumber dispute; tightening "rules of origin" requirements on goods produced in the NAFTA zone.

Much of the language, however, was vague - hinting at U.S.-content requirement for manufactured goods, for instance, but not saying it explicitly. And the 40point list of objectives is exhaustive, alternating between more targeted provisions to beef up the deal - gaining more access for U.S. agricultural exports, for example - along with tougher protectionist measures that could tear it apart.

"The letter reflects the diversity of viewpoints that exist within the administration, and I think that's going to continue," said trade lawyer Stephen Claeys, a former adviser to ex-president George W. Bush and congressional Republicans. "What they do with it now is going to depend on how the dynamics of the administration work out."

Scotty Greenwood, senior adviser at the Canadian-American Business Council, says the White House appears to be keeping its options open as it tries to simultaneously push forward with renegotiation and get congressional backing.

"It's probably purposefully vague because they're not completely sure what they are going to do. They're trying to build a bike and ride the bike at the same time," she said. "They're leaving themselves room to interpret it later."

Such fluidity leaves an opening for Canada's strategy to fight back against the protectionist tide. A parade of federal and provincial cabinet ministers, premiers and MPs have flooded Washington and state capitals across the country to lobby the administration, legislators and business. The uniform message: Blowing up NAFTA would hurt businesses on both sides of the border. Ottawa is also insisting the deal remain trilateral, arguing that replacing NAFTA with a series of bilateral pacts would be inefficient when many companies do business across all three countries.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, who will be overseeing the NAFTA talks, has been meeting with Mr. Ross. And several other Trump administration officials - including Mr. Cohn, Mr. Mnuchin, Mr. Bannon, Mr. Miller and Mr. Navarro - have had discussions on trade with Canadian and Mexican representatives, insiders said. Mr. Kushner, who helped organize Mr. Trudeau's February visit to the White House, has also been involved in some discussions around trade, the sources said.

The two camps in the administration have given wildly different messages on what to expect at the negotiating table. One source said the divide is so stark, "it's like dealing with two different governments."

Mr. Ross, for his part, has sent mixed signals. Publicly, he has complained about other countries offering rebates to exporters on value-added taxes, such as the GST, and is overseeing a review of trade deficits with 16 countries, including Canada, to determine if those countries are ripping off or cheating the United States. "It's not our fate in life that we have to absorb all the net exports from everyone else," he declared on Bloomberg TV last month.

But behind closed doors, people who have dealt with him say he has been less hawkish. In some cases, he has spoken of using NAFTA to eliminate more trade barriers. Mr. Ross was also behind a push to exempt the Keystone XL pipeline from Mr. Trump's edict that new pipelines use only American steel, sources said.

While Ottawa is happy to discuss measures that could expand NAFTA (labour mobility and the digital economy are two frequently cited examples), increased protectionism, in the form of taxes or tougher rules-oforigin requirements, are nonstarters.

Mr. Ross is said to be particularly keen on the rules-of-origin revamp. These rules set limits on the amount of non-NAFTA materials and work that can go into a particular product for it to be exempted from tariffs in the NAFTA zone.

Autos, for instance, must contain 62.5 per cent NAFTA content.

Also included in the rules-of-origin provision are so-called "tracing requirements" that determine which components of manufactured goods are traced to see whether they come from within NAFTA or not.

Mr. Ross wants to look at tightening these rules to ensure more content is made within the NAFTA zone. And the Trump administration is also toying with adding an additional requirement that a percentage of content be made in the United States, sources with knowledge of its thinking said. The leaked letter hinted at this, declaring that rewriting rules of origin to "ensure ... production and jobs in the United States" would be a negotiating objective.

The theory is that tighter rules of origin and tracing will help suppliers located in the NAFTA zone, and particularly the United States. But any such move - whether raising the limits, adding more items to the tracing requirements or slapping on a "buy America" clause - would mean manufacturing companies would either have to start paying tariffs on some goods or switch to new suppliers.

Moving in parallel is the border-adjustment proposal. Such a move would slap an extra tax on U.S. companies that import goods while offering a rebate to firms that export. The levy threatens to make the products of all non-U.S. countries, including Canada, less attractive to the world's largest market. After failing to pass health-care legislation last month, legislators may turn their attention to tax reform, including the border-tax idea, when they return from break in the last week of April. But with a heavily divided GOP caucus, it is unclear what exactly will happen.

Ontario Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid contends that his province's international supply chains - particularly in the auto sector and other manufacturing businesses - are so interconnected that adding extra burdens will hurt companies on both sides of the border.

"Any costs that are imposed on trade, on moving goods and people across our border, have the potential to make our collective economies less competitive globally," he said. "We hope that, out of a sense of enlightened self-interest, the decision makers in the U.S. take that into account."

Adding to the complication is the United States' complicated negotiating system. Under the Trade Promotion Authority, Congress has given the President the right to negotiate with other countries - but the final agreement must be submitted for approval. This means that legislators can demand their own interests be put on the negotiators' agenda in exchange for backing the deal in Congress.

Representative Kevin Brady, chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means committee, told The Globe and Mail that the administration had promised to give Congress a major role in setting the agenda.

"The Trump administration is clearly committed to following the new trade rules, which is an unprecedented amount of consultation before negotiations begin," he said following a closed-door meeting with Mr. Ross and several officials from the Office of the United States Trade Representative.

The Senate finance committee, which must confirm Mr. Lighthizer, used a hearing last month to press him to commit to a long string of specific trade policies: Ending Canada's system of supply management for milk, eggs and poultry; getting Ottawa to stop counterfeit goods flowing through the country en route to the United States and pushing Canada to raise its $20 (Canadian) limit on the amount of cross-border goods Canadians can buy online without paying duty.

The tight time frame for talks only makes it harder to get through so many items: A deal would likely have to be done in time to be ratified before Mexico's June, 2018, election, lest an anti-NAFTA administration win power.

Whether the fragmented Congress - and the internecine battles within the administration - work in Canada's favour or against it are anyone's guess.

At a forum sponsored by the Canadian American Business Council in Washington last month, Representative John Delaney confidently predicted Speaker Paul Ryan would never be able to marshal enough support for a border tax.

"Let's face it: It's never going to happen. Why would you take the No. 1 economy in the world and bet it on a theory?" the Maryland congressman said. "It doesn't have the votes."

But Liberal MP Wayne Easter, who led an all-party delegation of MPs and senators to Washington last month to lobby members of Congress to back away from a border tax and protectionist NAFTA measures, cautioned that such sweeping predictions are a mug's game - particularly after last month's chaotic unravelling of the health-care bill.

"You've got so many different factions: the Blue Dog Democrats, the Freedom Caucus, the Tuesday Group, the Tea Party," said Mr. Easter, co-chairman of the Canada-United States InterParliamentary Group. "It's really uncertain which way this goes.

It's too close to call."

Associated Graphic

The border-adjustment proposal to tax Canadian imports into the United States - at crossings such as the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit - would damage the appeal of Canadian products.


From Canada's fields to the world's kitchens
Rapeseeds were long crushed for their oil, but the product was unhealthy. It was a Saskatoon scientist that bred a new crop, worth $8.6-billion last year
Monday, April 17, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

Among the 25 ingredients in chef Jason Bangerter's terroir salad are marigolds, wild berries and ground black almonds, all grown within a short walk of his kitchen.

Foraged flowers and herbs supply bursts of citrus and pepper, he says, while seeds lay a crunchy base.

But it's the canola sorbet he spoons into the middle of the plate that ties it all together: a soft and buttery bearer of the sweet and savoury in a dish he serves at Langdon Hall, an inn and spa in Cambridge, Ont.

Mr. Bangerter makes the sorbet with canola oil, not olive oil, because it's Ontario-made - the only ingredient in the dish that isn't grown on the 75-acre estate - but also for its special taste.

"You have that fresh coldpressed canola flavour as the igniting point," he says. "You get a really big ... almost like a toasted corn flavour. It's just so unique and interesting."

It wasn't always that way.

Before there was canola, there was rapeseed, canola's smelly, bad-for-you cousin.

The small, dark seeds were crushed for their oil, which for centuries had been used for everything from cooking and lamp oil to lubricants in the steam engines and ships that powered the war effort.

But today what's known as canola is grown on 8.2 million hectares of Canadian farmland and found in doughnut deepfryers, chicken feed and fine kitchens such as Mr. Bangerter's.

By acreage, canola rivals wheat, comprising 25 per cent of farmers' fields compared with wheat's 27 per cent. (In 2000, there were twice as many acres of wheat as canola.)

That's all due to the work of Richard K. Downey, a plant breeder and federal government scientist from Saskatoon.

In the 1960s, he transformed rapeseed into a healthful, edible crop by breeding out the nasty traits - the erucic acid (bad for the heart and other organs) and the glucosinolates (bad for the livestock that ate the crushed byproduct known as meal).

Canola oil is low in saturated fat, high in monounsaturated fat and smokes very little in a frying pan.

The processed kind - not the cold-pressed canola Mr. Bangerter uses - adds little taste to food.

Like most other vegetable oils, canola oil is processed using chemicals - hexane and bleach. This, and the fact the Canadian crop is now genetically modified to resist drought and insects, makes it unpopular in some countries and in parts of the Internet.

Still, Canadian farmers in 2016 harvested canola worth about $8.6-billion, making it the most valuable field crop by revenue.

Canola production has doubled in the past 10 years, to more than 18 million tonnes in 2016, as global demand has soared.

"We've seen huge growth of canola over the last 20 years or so," said Michael Burt, the Conference Board of Canada's director for industrial economic trends.

Dr. Downey first came across rapeseed (as it was then known) while working in the fields of the federal Dominion Forage Crops Laboratory in Saskatoon as a 14year-old during the Second World War. Canada and its allies had lost access to a valuable source of rapeseed lubricant from Asia, and Ottawa was asked to begin growing the crop in greater numbers.

So, Dr. Downey began his first of several summers in the plots, weeding around the plants and eventually cross-breeding different varieties to find a strain best suited to the short Prairie growing season.

"When the first [seeds] came it was not well-suited. It was very late [to ripen] and the yields were reasonably good but there was a lot of improvement to be made in the oil content and maturity," Dr. Downey, 90, said by phone.

It turned out a Polish immigrant in the area had a garden full of the stuff, grown with seed he had brought from his homeland, where summers are also short and early maturing crops are favoured. This wound up being the variety much of the Prairies adopted.

Encouraged by a governmentguaranteed six cents a pound, farmers had planted 80,000 acres of the yellow-flowered crop by 1948.

By the late 1950s, Canadian rapeseed oil was being used for more than machine lubrication. It was being eaten by people, especially in Ontario, at a time the country imported 95 per cent of its cooking oils. Ontarians were not alone - people had eaten and cooked with rapeseed oil in China, Japan and other countries for centuries.

However, the federal government responded to a study that questioned the safety of eating rapeseed oil by - temporarily - ordering it off the shelves of grocery stores. Rapeseed, it turned out, contained something not present in other vegetable oils: erucic acid, which caused lesions on the hearts and other organs of lab rats.

Ottawa's ban did not last long.

But Dr. Downey, who had built his career spreading rapeseed throughout Canada, soon found himself working with another scientist in Saskatoon, Baldur Stefansson, on a new task: making it safer to eat.

By 1968, Dr. Downey had developed a low-acid rapeseed. By the mid-1970s, the pair of researchers had come up with three more varieties, each one better yielding and with low acid and glucosinolate (the chemical found unhealthful for livestock).

"The oil and meal that the crushers extracted were sent to the nutritionist and the margarine industry, as well, to prove to our customers that it had it had all the advantages we said it did.

They all said, this is great stuff," Dr. Downey said.

But now that the stuff was palatable, it needed a name to match.

"The industry said, we don't like phoning up our customers to say, 'We've got some low erucic, low glucosinolate rapeseed for you.' It was way too much," Dr. Downey said.

The western Canadian oilseed companies got together in the early 1980s and settled on canola - can for Canada and ola because it sounded a bit like oil, he said.

"So that was that."

Richardson International Ltd., a Winnipeg-based agriculture and food company, is just one Canadian company that has ridden the rising wave of new global demand for canola as a cooking oil, animal feed and biodiesel.

"We're handling eight times what we were in 2005," said Aaron Anderson, Richardson's assistant vice-president of grain merchandising.

China is now the biggest buyer of Richardson's canola, accounting for more than Japan and Mexico combined in 2015.

Also driving Chinese demand for Canadian canola is the Asian country's failure to grow enough of its own to become self-sufficient in the crop, said the Conference Board's Mr. Burt. "It's a niche where they do need to import a certain amount to meet their domestic needs, so we've been successful at exploiting that opportunity," Mr. Burt said in an interview.

Rapeseed, the smelly, unhealthful oilseed, has all but vanished.

But not the name. It's still called rapeseed in most countries, a quirk Dr. Downey attributes to professional pettiness.

Growers and seed companies "have used our material to breed that but they don't call it canola, officially, because they were jealous. They don't like the 'can' in front. They don't like to acknowledge that all this came from Canada," he said.

Dr. Downey's canola is grown worldwide. But neither he nor the federal government patented any of the varieties they developed.

As he sees it, any inedible rapeseed would only limit the market for the good old Canadian type.

And the more countries that grew it, the better.

"We did this for the common good and it's really paid off for the whole country," he said.

Associated Graphic

Canola crops, used for making cooking oil, are seen in full bloom near Fort Macleod, Alta.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017


Baldur Stefansson developed canola at the University of Manitoba. A Monday Report on Business story on canola incorrectly said he worked at a government facility in Saskatoon.

Investors look for restraint as good times roll for gold miners
Monday, April 24, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

With Canada's biggest gold miners back in the mode of making deals and striking partnerships, analysts will be watching the companies' self-discipline as first-quarter financials start rolling in.

Last year was a period of recovery for gold producers: balance sheets got better, gold prices were healthy and rising and share prices climbed. The S&P/TSX global gold index went up 50 per cent in 2016, and it's up another 12 per cent so far this year.

In the past, strong gold markets have led to a round of mergers, acquisitions and mine-building, followed by a painful reckoning.

Investors haven't forgotten, so free cash flow, cost savings and debt reduction remain in their sights as precious-metal miners mull new projects in their march out of the commodity slump.

The industry's poster child for irrational exuberance was Barrick Gold Corp., which burned billions of dollars with the $7.3billion cash purchase of Equinox Minerals Ltd. in 2011. Barrick's Toronto-listed shares, once worth about $55, fell below $8 a couple of years ago as the magnitude of its errors became apparent to the market. (They've since rallied to near $26.)

In this cycle, the deal making has been more sober and cautious. Typical was last month's announced deal between Barrick and Goldcorp Inc., the country's two biggest gold miners, which said that they would join together to consolidate gold-mine development in Chile's Maricunga Belt.

It's a complex, multistage transaction that also involves Kinross Gold Corp. and a junior mining company, but the result is that Barrick and Goldcorp will be partners in northern Chile, a move the companies said would help them split capital and operating costs while sharing infrastructure.

It's a busy week for Canada's big resource companies, with Barrick, Goldcorp and other gold miners reporting first-quarter results, joined by other mining outfits, including Teck Resources Ltd. and Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc.

The gold industry "is definitely in a better position than it was in 2015," said Siddarth Subramani, mining analyst with Veritas Investment Research Corp, in an interview. "What I'll be looking for is operating discipline," he continued, keeping an eye on cost- and debt-reduction programs - like Barrick's plan to reduce its debt by $2.9-billion (U.S.), to $5-billion, by the end of next year.

Barrick will report its financials after markets close on Monday and is holding its annual general meeting on Tuesday.

In a research note, BMO Nesbitt Burns Inc. analyst Andrew Kaip and his team said mergers and acquisitions are expected to play a big role in earnings conference calls for the sector. "Asset sales and partnerships continue to remain topical for Barrick," BMO's analysts wrote.

On top of its joint venture with Goldcorp, Barrick this month announced a nearly $1-billion (Canadian) deal with Shandong Gold Group Co. Ltd. that will give the Chinese company 50-per-cent of Barrick's Veladero mine in Argentina, among other benefits.

That announcement came shortly after the third cyanidesolution incident in two years at the site prompted Argentine officials to request the mine suspend operations. Analysts will be keenly watching for an update.

Goldcorp on Wednesday will reveal its first-quarter results.

The company announced its aggressive "20/20/20" five-year growth program in January, aiming for 20-per-cent increases in both production and gold reserves and a 20-per-cent cut to all-in sustaining costs.

Mr. Subramani said that compared with major-producer peers Barrick and Newmont Mining Corp., Goldcorp's growth pipeline is strongest, with the most options to increase production over the next five years - though its ability to fund such projects with cash on hand has diminished slightly, because of recent deals.

Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. analysts, who have a "hold" rating on Goldcorp, are more skeptical: "We await operational delivery and predictability following a challenging 2016," they wrote in March.

The company is aiming for growth in part through partnerships such as its joint venture with Barrick, and a similar one with Vancouver-based, diversified miner Teck in Chile in 2015.

Following a better-than-expected profit in the fourth quarter of 2016, Teck will release first-quarter financials on Tuesday. Recovering from the commodity price slump, Teck's share price has increased nearly six-fold since the start of 2016, and the company has been rapidly retiring its debt; in the 15 months ending Dec. 31, 2016, the value of outstanding notes shrunk to $6.1billion (U.S.) from $7.2-billion.

Analysts are now curious about a potential dividend increase, which in December chief executive Don Lindsay suggested to Bloomberg could happen this month. Teck, like Barrick, had to make a severe cut in its dividend to get through a debt squeeze; the former's semiannual payout was cut from 45 cents per share (Canadian) to just 5 cents.

With a stronger balance sheet and lowered spending at the Fort Hills oil sands project as construction nears completion, Teck "is positioned to shift its focus toward revisiting its dividend policy and growth opportunities, namely the QB2 copper project," wrote TD Securities Inc. analyst Greg Barnes in a March research note. (QB2, or Quebrada Blanca Phase 2, is a project aiming to expand production at the Chile-based copper mine.)

Potash Corp. will also report first-quarter financials Thursday morning. With an oversupplied global market, the company has been grappling with low potash prices - receiving $157 a tonne in the fourth-quarter of 2016, compared with $238 a year earlier.

But the potash company has suggested its forthcoming merger with Calgary's Agrium Inc., slated to close this summer, could generate up to $500-million in synergies annually. And in a research note last week, Andrew D. Wong of RBC Dominion Securities Inc. said that steady global demand and improved market fundamentals for the fertilizer producer should help give the company a boost.

"We expect to see improving free cash flow as the potash market gradually recovers and capex investments are essentially completed," he said.

Related companies reporting on the Toronto Stock Exchange next week include Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd., AuRico Metals Inc., Cameco Corp., Capstone Mining Corp., Detour Gold Corp., Eldorado Gold Corp., Excelsior Mining Corp., First Quantum Minerals Ltd., Hudbay Minerals Inc., IC Potash Corp., Lundin Mining Corp., Nevsun Resources Ltd., New Gold Inc. and Teranga Gold Corp.

Associated Graphic


Housing rules: 'Tapping the brakes' on loan growth
Friday, April 21, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

Ontario's suite of new measures aimed at curbing runaway growth in Toronto housing prices could similarly slow growth in mortgage lending, but Canada's largest banks are expected to absorb any impact comfortably.

A list of 16 recommendations put forward by the Ontario government includes a 15-percent tax on foreign home buyers, as well as expanded, province-wide caps on rent increases and a green light to cities to introduce a property tax on vacant homes.

The biggest impact for banks will likely come from the foreign buyers tax, at least in the short term. National Bank Financial Inc. estimates that foreign residents make 5 per cent to 15 per cent of Greater Toronto Area purchases, and those sales could diminish noticeably.

But the ultimate risk to banks from a slowing mortgage market - that it might translate to slower growth in earnings, which in turn could curb increases in dividend payouts and hurt bank valuations - still seems remote, banking observers say. As long as the rules work as intended, and the provincial government successfully walks the tightrope of dampening increases in house prices without actually shrinking the mortgage market, the big banks' lending should remain intact.

The new measures "could curb mortgage growth for the banks," said Gabriel Dechaine, an analyst at National Bank Financial, in a research note. But most large Canadian banks had already slowed the rate of growth in their mortgage portfolios and Ontario's rules shouldn't "materially alter" the broader outlook for bank stocks.

"As long as mortgage volumes are not going down, it won't decrease earnings, and won't put any pressure on the payout ratios," said John Aiken, an analyst with Barclays Capital Canada Inc., in an interview.

Meanwhile, investors who typically look for steady growth in banks' lending are mostly expected to give institutions a pass as long as banks continue to grow over all. Those same investors have had pointed questions about mortgages, but "have been reasonably agnostic about growth and where that has come from," Mr. Aiken said.

Generally speaking, banks appear comfortable with the health of their mortgage portfolios, even when faced with the prospect of a slowdown in Ontario's housing market. At most large banks, anywhere from 45 to 60 per cent of mortgages are insured and the ratios between the size of loans and the value of homes still look healthy.

"We're comfortable with the quality that we're seeing come through," said Royal Bank of Canada chief executive Dave McKay, speaking to reporters earlier this month.

New federal rules that force buyers to meet tougher stress tests mean potentially riskier borrowers "are choosing to exit the market."

A spokesperson for the Canadian Bankers Association said only that its members "are continuing to assess their mortgage portfolios" in the context of their risk-appetite frameworks.

Among the county's six largest banks, Toronto-Dominion Bank, Bank of Nova Scotia and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce have the largest proportional exposures to Ontario's new mortgage rules, as roughly half of their domestic mortgages and home equity lines of credit are in the province.

CIBC had one of the fastestgrowth rates in new mortgages over the past year, up 12 per cent in the first quarter from a year earlier. A spokesperson for the bank declined to comment on the measures on Thursday.

Spokespeople for TD, BMO and National Bank also declined to comment, while representatives for RBC and Scotiabank could not be immediately reached.

The broader concern for banks is economic in nature - that if the housing market were to crash, and unemployment were to rise at the same time, it could lead to somewhat higher losses on credit card and auto loan portfolios, which are also important components of bank lending.

"This can be viewed as adequate tapping of the brakes without jamming on the brakes," Mr. Aiken said. "Most of the measures are going to impact players outside of ... your average home owner."

Banks have generally been supportive of government intervention to try to cool the market, but have warned against hasty measures that could trigger unforeseen effects. Mr. McKay was particularly vocal about the need for federal, provincial and municipal leaders to co-ordinate any new policies or regulations.

"If it's not in a co-ordinated fashion, we could do real damage," Mr. McKay said in early April.

Mr. Dechaine, the National Bank analyst, still sees Ontario's actions as benign, but said that it is worth considering "potential negative outcomes," given that the housing sector accounts for about 20 per cent of Ontario's gross domestic product, both directly and indirectly.

"If regulation results in job losses and reduced economic activity in the housing sector, then the banks could have a problem," Mr. Dechaine said in his report, but added: "We believe it is too early to make this call and there are some offsetting factors (for example, a tax on vacant land could spur development) to consider."

The Canadian real estate market has been looking overheated for years, said Prem Watsa, head of insurance and investment firm Fairfax Financial Holdings Inc., at the company's AGM in Toronto on Thursday.

Mr. Watsa pointed to housing bubbles and corrections in countries, such as Ireland and Dubai, that caused major problems for banks that backed mortgages.

"On real estate prices, my view is the same as its been now for years, is that it's going to come down, and lots of people are going to get hurt," he said.

With files from Jacqueline Nelson

Associated Graphic

Even if there is a slowdown in Ontario's housing market, the size of loans and value of homes still look healthy, analysts say.


How a Bay Street star became an OSC target
Friday, April 14, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

Ben Cheng was once among an elite group of Bay Street portfolio managers who could legitimately claim star status.

As a money manager who capitalized on the boom in income trusts - before Ottawa's infamous crackdown on them in 2006 - he had a hot track record and a strong personal brand. Mr. Cheng's name helped attract billions in assets from investors - with an ego to match, say some observers.

His career has now ground to a halt. This week, the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) alleged that Mr. Cheng leaked confidential information about a blockbuster 2014 takeover deal by online gambling company Amaya Inc. The OSC also alleges that Mr. Cheng, who signed a non-disclosure agreement and learned about the deal weeks before it was announced, shared the details with a co-worker, then attempted to cover up his transgressions when confronted by the regulator. The OSC case includes three other individuals, including well-known executive Eric Tremblay, with whom Mr. Cheng helped build an assetmanagement company from scratch.

Mr. Cheng is disputing the allegations and will contest the matter in a series of hearings that are due to get under way next month. But well before any allegations of wrongdoing, his star had been waning. An illfated detour with an American hedge fund company, and later a failed attempt to build a firm around his vision, had already knocked the wind out of him.

The Globe and Mail attempted to reach Mr. Cheng via Shara Roy, a partner at Lenczner Slaght who represents him. Ms. Roy declined to comment.

Mr. Cheng largely built his reputation while serving as a portfolio manager at independent mutual fund company CI Investments Inc. in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He joined CI after it acquired fund company BPI Financial Corp. in 1999. Mr. Cheng was running a fixedincome and dividend fund at the time.

"He was a very high-profile, diligent, and highly accomplished guy," Bill Holland, executive chairman of CI, said in an interview.

In the early 2000s, Mr. Cheng came into his own as an income trust guru. His funds leaned heavily on trusts, which were structured to pay out fat yields, yet were considered to have only a moderately high risk profile.

By the end of 2004, he was colead manager on five CI funds with assets under management of approximately $4.9-billion.

Mr. Holland said Mr. Cheng was a consistently strong performer at CI.

"I was in the industry and remember him well," said Dan Hallett, principal with investment counselling firm HighView Financial Group. "If you look at the star managers of that time, he qualified."

In 2005, Mr. Cheng left CI to take a position with U.S. hedge fund company Fortress Investment Group. "I was certainly disappointed to lose him when he left," Mr. Holland said.

But he didn't last long at Fortress - and neither did the Canadian income-trust market. Trusts essentially blew up in late 2006, after then-finance minister Jim Flaherty announced that they would be taxed at a punitive rate. Previously, they had enjoyed a low-tax status, with their distributions instead being taxed in the hands of the unitholders. The surprise move, unveiled after the markets closed on Oct. 31, was later termed the "Halloween massacre."

In 2007, Mr. Cheng resurfaced as a fund manager, senior executive and major shareholder at newly created asset manager Aston Hill Financial Inc. While the company initially had a focus on resources, over the years much of the firm's assets were built around funds managed by Mr. Cheng. The hope was that Mr. Cheng's previous strong track record at CI would attract investors.

Initially it seemed to pay off, with funds managed by Mr. Cheng attracting some $3-billion.

But the difficulty of starting a new venture and competing against established mutual fund giants - at a time when active managers were facing pressure from reams of new exchangetraded funds - meant the level of competition was infinitely tougher. Mr. Cheng marketed the funds heavily and made regular television appearances on Business News Network (BNN), but still Aston struggled.

"Aston Hill was never really seen as a firm that could offer good core products," Mr. Hallett said. "His level of success wasn't even close to what he experienced back at CI."

It appears the pressure was building for Mr. Cheng.

In its statement of allegations, the OSC alleges not only that Mr. Cheng leaked confidential, nondisclosed public information about Amaya's imminent $4.9billion (U.S.) takeover of the company that ran the PokerStars gambling site. He gave that information to Aston Hill sales manager John David Rothstein and "instructed, encouraged and/or suggested" that Mr. Rothstein give the tip to others "who had lost money" on investments promoted by Aston Hill, the OSC alleges.

None of the allegations has been proved.

In 2015, Aston abruptly lost about one-third of its assets when it lost a subadvisory mandate from the IA Clarington group of funds. The Globe and Mail reported that Aston tried to sell itself in the aftermath but ultimately was unable to find a buyer.

Last fall, Aston Hill announced it was merging with Front Street Capital, and the merged firm was eventually rebranded as LOGiQ Asset Management. At the time of the deal, Aston's assets had slipped to roughly $2.2-billion (Canadian) from a peak of $7.7billion in 2014. At the time, Mr. Cheng went on an indefinite leave of absence from Aston Hill, from which he has not returned.

"Mr. Cheng has never been actively employed with LOGiQ," a spokesperson said on Thursday.

'Control of our future' Oil leaders tout homegrown push
Canadian producers express confidence in oil sands' long-term prospects
Wednesday, April 12, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

TORONTO -- Canadian oil producers are confident in Alberta's oil sands projects as a long-term play, betting that consolidation and a homegrown focus will drive down operating costs and make the industry more competitive as foreign players retreat.

Brian Ferguson, chief executive officer of Cenovus Energy Inc., which last month announced a $17.7-billion deal for ConocoPhillips Co.'s oil sands holdings and other Canadian assets, told reporters Tuesday that the pending acquisition gives Cenovus "complete control of our future in the oil sands."

Working in the recent low-oilprice environment has helped Cenovus become more efficient in its cost structure, Mr. Ferguson said. The company is now trying to find more efficiencies by embracing big data and automation.

As such, "we're well-positioned now to become the sole owner of these great oil sands assets," Mr. Ferguson said. He made the comments on the deal, his first in public since a conference call following the announcement, at the 2017 Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers Scotiabank Investment Symposium in Toronto.

The conference comes at a major juncture for Canadian oil production, as companies such as ConocoPhillips and Royal Dutch Shell PLC exit the oil sands, and Canadian businesses including Cenovus and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. buy up their stakes. This has helped to repatriate the world's third-largest crude deposit, but in some cases disappointed the market; Cenovus shares tumbled sharply after it announced its deal with ConocoPhillips. On Tuesday, executives and observers piled on the message that despite global producers' shifting focus, Canada's oil projects should be strongly positioned, particularly in the medium and long term.

They have yet to assuage all concerns about the shift, though.

Cenovus is funding its deal - the oil sands' biggest to date - with $10.5-billion in loans and has issued $3-billion in shares in a bought deal at a price of $16.

Shares remain below that level, at around $14.75 on Tuesday afternoon.

Mr. Ferguson played down concerns about the debt financing, pointing to Cenovus's investment-grade ratings from Standard and Poor's, DBRS and Fitch; he said the company has 75 per cent of the permanent financing in place as of last Friday.

To help deleverage Cenovus's balance sheet, the company plans to divest $3.6-billion of assets from its existing conventional portfolio. Mr. Ferguson says he's already fielded many calls from investors interested in the assets.

"We did a 10-, 20- and 30-year unsecured-note financing last week, which was oversubscribed, so the credit side of the debt-capital markets is very supportive of the transaction," he said, noting that the company should be able to "comfortably" complete its divestiture bridge in 18 to 24 months.

Asked about fears of further falling oil prices after the deal, Mr. Ferguson said the company is keeping $1-billion in cash, and has $3-billion available in its revolving debt, giving it a "strong contingency" in a low-price environment.

Global energy-research firm Wood Mackenzie has estimated that more than 70 per cent of oil sands production is now split between four producers: Cenovus, CNRL, Imperial Oil Ltd. and Suncor Energy Inc.

Last month, CNRL bought assets from Shell and Marathon Oil Corp. for $8.5-billion (U.S.) in cash and shares to give it a controlling stake in the Athabasca oil sands project.

Steve Laut, CNRL's president, told reporters Tuesday that where international companies might get frustrated with the oil sands - thanks to complicated extraction coupled with environmental, employment and safety standards - Canadian companies' shareholders should take solace that national familiarity can help them win the long game.

"We can still have all these high standards that we have here in Canada, but be much more effective and efficient," Mr. Laut said.

He said he also expects steady oil prices, in the $50-to-$60 range, to help stabilize operations.

Robert Johnston, chief executive of the Eurasia Group, a leading global political-risk consultancy, said he expects to see the global oil market in a deficit in three to four years, with Canadian production looking more attractive as a result.

Foreign-owned companies, he said, are looking to deep-water plays for long-cycle investments amid emissions concerns in the oil sands. But there's also the issue of focus: "It's something you really have to be in, specialized in, and focused on technology. Make it a major strategy, a focal point; it's too expensive and capital intensive to be a side project," he said after a speech at the CAPP conference Tuesday.

"I think Cenovus is a company that will be very focused on, 'How do we make this particular resource work?' as opposed to 200 other plays around the world," Mr. Johnston said.

At a CAPP seminar earlier Tuesday, Suncor Energy Inc. executive vice-president and chief financial officer Alister Cowan said the consolidation of projects in the oil sands - such as its recent move to deepen its investment in the Syncrude mining and upgrading project - will help drive down operating costs and make the region more competitive.

"Being able to increase [Suncor's stake] at a very good price last year was, we thought, a great deal, and we've seen others take that strategy," Mr. Cowan said, referring to the recent deals by Cenovus and CNRL.

Rogers will 'truly obsess' over customer service: Natale
Thursday, April 20, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

On his first day as chief executive officer of Rogers Communications Inc., Joe Natale made it clear he will tackle the company's perennial problem: customer service.

Mr. Natale has been noticeably silent since being named by the board in October to lead the company, bound by the terms of a non-compete agreement with his former employer, Telus Corp.

Freed of those constraints on Wednesday and now officially on board as CEO, he highlighted the work that must be done to better serve subscribers - something he worked closely on at Telus, which leads the Canadian telecom industry in its approach to customer service.

"I believe teams only succeed if they obsess - truly obsess - over the customer experience," he said in a speech to the company's annual general shareholder meeting in Toronto. He said Rogers has made some "inroads" on customer service in recent years, adding, "There's definitely more work to do, but there are signs of good progress."

Mr. Natale said he does not yet have a detailed plan for the company but will spend time in the coming weeks talking to cable technicians in the field and visiting retail stores and call centres to get a better sense of the customer experience on the ground.

The Toronto-based company is Canada's biggest wireless carrier and has a large base of cable television and Internet customers in Ontario and the Atlantic provinces. Its size alone makes attention to the customer experience crucial, said BMO analyst Tim Casey in a research report Monday.

Better-quality service can help reduce the rate of turnover - known as churn - and keeping existing customers helps boost a company's net subscriber additions. Plus, it's cheaper than acquiring new customers.

"Rogers consistently has had one of the highest churn rates amongst the Big Three," Mr. Casey said, referring to competitors Telus and BCE Inc. "This is a critical operating metric for Rogers, given it has the largest installed base. Simply put, churn rates matter more at Rogers."

Mr. Natale's predecessors - most recently Guy Laurence and before him Nadir Mohamed - both recognized poor customer experience as a major hurdle at Rogers. Mr. Laurence took a number of steps to address the problem, including easier-tounderstand bills, data management tools, unlimited Internet plans and a popular flat-rate international roaming service.

But Mr. Casey said that while Rogers has some momentum behind it now, improving customer service and churn rates are still among the most important tasks for if the company hopes to promote profit growth.

"We believe it is no coincidence that Rogers hired Joe Natale, given his leading role in executing Telus's multiyear 'customer first' culture; an accomplishment that is reflected in the company's industry-leading churn metrics and consistently higher customer and employee satisfaction score," Mr. Casey said.

Mr. Natale was a long-time executive at Telus and served as CEO for about a year before Darren Entwistle returned to the role in 2015.

Rogers's churn rate among contract wireless customers was 1.24 for the full year in 2013, when Mr. Laurence took over as CEO. For the full year in 2016 it remained stubbornly high at 1.23, compared with Telus's fullyear churn rate of 0.95. (Rogers's first-quarter results, reported Tuesday, did reveal an encouraging drop in churn, down to 1.1, compared with 1.17 in the same period in 2016.)

The company is also struggling with the consistent loss of television customers as its outdated cable offering struggles to compete with BCE's Internet protocol television (IPTV) product, Fibe TV. Rogers has used attractive Internet plans and speeds to help slow down the rate of cable losses in recent years - in 2016 it lost a total of 76,000 cable customers, 52,000 less than the previous year. But Mr. Natale will nevertheless be under pressure to execute a smooth roll-out of an IP-based television platform, which Rogers is licensing from Comcast Corp. and plans to begin offering next year.

Mr. Natale also said Wednesday that he wants to promote a culture at Rogers "where people can thrive professionally and personally" and that he plans to use innovation to support "profitable growth."

On top of operational decisions, investors will be waiting for Rogers under Mr. Natale to resume dividend growth. In a surprise move last year, the company decided against increasing the payout, keeping it at the same level it has been at since 2015 as it tries to rein in its debt-to-income ratio.

The new CEO did not take questions Wednesday, and in response to an inquiry from a shareholder, Alan Horn - who is chairman of the board and served as interim CEO - did not provide a definitive timeline on a return to dividend increases.

He said Rogers would take the strength of its networks and balance sheet, as well as shareholder returns, into consideration in assessing its dividend policy.

Rogers (RCI.B)

Close: $62.36, up 94¢

Home Capital's housecleaning has unfinished business
Saturday, April 22, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

Home Capital Group Inc. says it will vigorously defend itself against allegations by the Ontario Securities Commission that are, it says, "without merit." This is a standard response, particularly for a company that may not have quite figured out how much trouble it's in and what the best course of action is.

I have a suggestion for the company and its leadership: Defend yourself with a little less vigour, because a read of the OSC's narrative suggests there may be merit in this case. Then find a way to thank director Gerald Soloway and chief financial officer Robert Morton - two of the three defendants in the OSC matter - for their years of service and show them where the door is. Companies can't be fully contrite for their alleged misdeeds when the accused are still running the show.

Now, to be clear, the OSC's allegations have not been tested in court. But it seems there are two main lines of defence for Home Capital here: Either the commission is making up facts out of whole cloth, or the company disputes that the facts it failed to disclose were of importance to the average investor. I am wholly unpersuaded by either potential argument.

In short, here is what the OSC says: In June, 2014, Home Capital, one of Canada's biggest alternative mortgage lenders, became aware of irregularities in the applications it was receiving.

Some brokers were putting through mortgages in which the documents verifying the borrower's employment income were bogus.

In August of that year, it launched an internal investigation that lasted several months.

The probe revealed some ugly stuff, and from about November, 2014, to January, 2015, Home Capital terminated brokers and brokerages with which it had done a lot of business - $881.4-million worth of mortgage originations in 2014 - about 10 per cent of the company's total.

The investigation concluded the company needed to make major changes in its internal controls to prevent a similar problem from occurring in the future.

According to the OSC, all this was known to the company by Feb. 10, 2015 - the day before it filed its 2014 annual financial statements.

But in the management discussion and analysis that accompanied them, Home Capital blamed its decline in mortgage originations not on the fact that it ditched those brokers, but on things such as macroeconomics, seasonality and competition. The first-quarter report, filed May 6, was no better, with weather taking a share of the blame as well.

Instead, the company sat on the facts for months. It took until July 10 for Home Capital to breathe a word to its investors of the investigation and the broker firings.

The essence of the OSC's case is that that was way too late.

"These facts known to HCG would have been considered important by a reasonable investor in making a decision to buy, sell or hold HCG securities," the OSC writes in its complaint. As such, company statements about the cause for the decline in originations were "misleading or untrue or did not state a fact required to be stated or that was necessary to make the statement not misleading."

Will Home Capital and the former and current executives named - which include ex-CEO Martin Reid, excused from further work by the company last month - claim that these facts should not have been considered important by investors? Will they be able to avoid mentioning the 18.9per-cent drop in the stock price on July 11, after the announcement of the broker problems?

The 20.6-per-cent drop Thursday, after the OSC's allegations were revealed?

If OSC investigators got their facts right, the continued presence of Mr. Morton in the CFO's role is particularly egregious.

Here is the man who is directly responsible for Home Capital's financial disclosure to investors.

And what was he doing two days before the firm filed its yearend financials for 2014? According to the OSC statement, he was boasting in an e-mail about how cleverly the company had buried even the vaguest mention of the broker-fraud investigation. It was, he said, "pretty deep within existing wording on cyber risk. I would be impressed if someone even asked about it."

He's still at the financial controls of Home Capital. Really?

I look forward to the forthcoming formal response from the company and the former executives, should there be no settlement. On Wednesday, Home Capital said in a statement that it "has always carefully considered its disclosure obligations" and it "believes that its disclosure satisfied applicable disclosure requirements."

For the sake of investors in all Canadian stocks, we shouldn't want to invest in a market where Home Capital's disclosure is deemed satisfactory.

Markets show rising anxiety amid global tensions
Tuesday, April 18, 2017 – Print Edition, Page B1

Major stock market indexes are struggling for direction and typical haven investments are on the rise, suggesting investors are giving the market-driving optimism that greeted 2017 a long, hard look.

The S&P 500 has been zigzagging for the past six weeks, despite Monday's strong rally, while U.S. Treasury yields are well off their recent highs and gold is among the world's hottest commodities - all of which points to an uptick in anxiety.

It has many sources.

The early promise of a bromance between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to be over, ending speculation that the two countries might co-operate to make the world a safer place.

Syria's recent chemical attack against its own citizens has drawn a U.S. military response, threatening to drag the United States into another overseas conflict.

Tensions between the United States and North Korea are growing worse, as the regime of Kim Jong-un pursues nuclear arms and the United States says it could take pre-emptive action against the authoritarian state.

In France, the popularity of Marine Le Pen in upcoming presidential elections raises the possibility that another pillar of the European Union could crumble.

Even the U.S. economy is raising some concerns. In March, employment growth was disappointingly weak, while retail sales fell for the second consecutive month.

A consensus of economic forecasters now believes the U.S. economy grew by less than 1.5 per cent in the first quarter, down from an earlier forecast of about 2.2-per-cent growth.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta is particularly gloomy. It reduced its forecast for U.S. economic growth to just 0.5 per cent in the first quarter.

Against this barrage of revisions and geopolitical concerns, stocks have been drifting below their record highs for more than six weeks.

Despite Monday's gains, the S&P 500 is down 2 per cent from its record high on March 1 and Canada's S&P/TSX composite index is 1.6 per cent below its high in February.

To be sure, optimists still have something to chew on. On Monday, China reported that its economy expanded by 6.9 per cent in the first quarter, marking its fastest pace of growth in six quarters and providing an upbeat signal for the global economy.

U.S. corporate profits are also providing support. During the early days of the first-quarter reporting season, companies in the S&P 500 have reported a 9.7per-cent gain in their quarterly profits, beating expectations, according to Bloomberg.

But stock valuations, by some measures, are at their highest level in more than a decade, leaving little room for disappointment at a time when the bull market recently marked its eighth anniversary.

"Valuations alone rarely put an end to a cycle, but they do help give an idea of its age," Robert Kavcic, an economist at BMO Nesbitt Burns, said in a note.

Bonds yields are slumping The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury bond surged after Mr. Trump won the U.S. presidential election in November, rising above 2.6 per cent in March from below 1.8 per cent in November. The sharp rise coincided with a far more bullish outlook for economic growth and inflation. But the yield has since retreated below 2.3 per cent, or roughly where it was in mid-November.

Gold is shining Gold can become a popular holding when global tensions are rising and investors are looking for a safe place to park their cash. Its price has risen to about $1,285 (U.S.) an ounce, up 14 per cent since mid-December, touching its highest level since early November.

The S&P 500 is drifting The U.S. benchmark index rose nearly 15 per cent between November and March, in a rally known as the Trump bump. But the index appears to be taking a breather now: It has moved more-or-less sideways for six weeks, raising the question of whether investors are waiting for the economy to catch up to stock prices.

The VIX is stirring The CBOE Volatility index, or VIX, rises when investors' nerves are rattled. It has risen as much as 29 per cent since the start of April. Though still at a relatively low level, the VIX's sudden rise may be signalling that investors are jumpy.

A radical grief
In 1985, Cliff and Wilma Derksen's daughter was abducted and left to die in the cold of a Winnipeg winter. With no idea of her killer's identity, they made a controversial choice: to forgive. Now, Jana G. Pruden writes, a suspect in the case awaits his verdict - and the couple reflects on the decision they made
Saturday, April 15, 2017 – Print Edition, Page F1

WINNIPEG -- It was late on January 17, 1985, one of the longest days of their lives. There had been people around them for hours but he came to the door the moment they were alone, as though he'd been waiting outside for the others to leave. He was dressed in black and they recognized him from news coverage, though they couldn't quite place it at the time.

He stood outside their house in the dark, in the cold.

"I'm the parent of a murdered child, too," he said. "I've come to tell you what to expect."

Cliff and Wilma Derksen had identified their daughter's body at the hospital just hours earlier.

They were in shock, reeling, but still they invited the man into the warmth of their kitchen and offered him the fresh cherry pie one of their friends had made.

Then he started to speak.

For two hours, the man recounted the things he had lost to murder. Not only his daughter but his relationships and his work, his belief in justice, his trust, the goodness of his life before. Even his daughter's memory. He showed them notebooks from the trials, lined up the bottles of pills he was taking. He told them, "It will destroy you."

As he spoke, the Derksens saw for the first time what faced them. They would come to know it as the darkness, an abyss of sadness and anger that could swallow a person and take away everything they loved, that would spread until it destroyed all that was beautiful. Alone in their bedroom after he left, they made a decision: They had lost Candace, they wouldn't lose everything else, too. They couldn't.

"We kind of looked at each other and said, 'We have to stop this,'" Cliff says. "We have to forgive."

But what does it mean to forgive the person who killed your daughter? The person who bound her hands and feet in a way so dehumanizing it is called "hogtying," then left her alone and helpless to die in the cold? How do you forgive a person you have never met? Who has never asked your forgiveness? How do you forgive a person who may not even be sorry?

It took more than 22 years for a man to be charged, and four more for him to stand trial for murder. Now, after a second trial, the violent sex offender Cliff and Wilma believe killed their daughter may go free. A verdict could come within weeks.

He has never admitted he did it.

He has never said he's sorry. And the Derksens are still discovering what it means to forgive him.

Candace Derksen vanished on Nov. 30, 1984, a Friday afternoon on the sharp edge of a Manitoba winter. She had started Grade 7 at Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute in Winnipeg that September, not the best student but well-liked and social, and her marks were getting better. She was 13 years old with clear blue eyes and golden brown hair, pale skin sprayed with freckles that came out with the summer sun. Her parents thought of her as sanguine, an old-fashioned idea of temperament but the one that fit her best; the kind of person who was invigorated by the attention of others, who loved people and attracted them with her light.

People often commented on her vivaciousness, her laugh, the brightness around her. It was too much, sometimes. Wilma noticed how men looked at her daughter and it made Wilma worry, even then. Candace was just a child.

There was a snowball fight outside the school that Friday afternoon and an older student named David Wiebe grabbed Candace and rubbed snow in her face, a childish facewash they both knew was flirting. David was her first real crush and the attention made her giddy. He liked her, too. When she called her mother from a payphone to ask for a ride, she was still laughing.

Wilma might have gone to get her, but Candace's best friend was coming for the weekend and Wilma was busy wrangling her two younger children and tidying up. She called Cliff to see if he could leave work early, but he couldn't. So when Candace called back from a payphone at a nearby convenience store, Wilma asked her to walk home or take the bus instead. It wasn't far, and Candace didn't mind.

So Candace turned toward home as a winter afternoon turned to evening, and the cold and snow blew in.

It didn't take Wilma long to realize something was wrong. Candace had called around 4 and when she wasn't home 40 minutes later, her mother had a sickening, uneasy feeling. By 7:30 that evening, after searching for her themselves for hours, Cliff and Wilma called the police.

Police at first dismissed Candace as a runaway, a teenager rebelling against her Mennonite parents and religious environment who would find her way home again after a few days. No matter how strongly the Derksens tried to tell the officers that their daughter was happy - and that even if she wasn't, she wouldn't have run away right before her best friend came to visit - the police weren't convinced. A lot of teenagers ran away. It happened every day.

Abductions didn't.

But when Candace didn't come home by Monday, and when the sightings of her proved false, police started to consider other possibilities. At first, that meant shifting their focus to David Wiebe, the boy she'd been fooling around with that day, and to Cliff, her father. Most people are hurt by those they know, and the two of them seemed like obvious suspects if something had happened to Candace. Meanwhile, the Derksens' friends, church, and community struck up their own search committee, and were scouring the city day after day in the cold, looking for Candace to bring her home.

December came, then January.

Six and a half weeks. Almost seven.

Victor Frankowski was out on the lot at Alsip Brick Tile and Lumber on Jan. 17, 1985, when he peered inside an old machinery shed looking for a saw. As his eyes adjusted to the dark, he noticed a figure on the ground, so still and pale he thought at first it was a doll.

It had turned cold the day Candace disappeared, and it was bitterly cold the day her body was found as well. As police officers headed to the scene, the temperature fell and wind whipped the snow into a whiteout.

Candace's cheeks were frostbitten red, her body covered in a thin layer of frost. Pieces of twine bound her wrists and ankles behind her back. One of her shoes was missing. She had been tied and left to freeze to death in the shed the same day she disappeared. There was nothing to indicate she had been otherwise harmed or sexually assaulted.

The officers moved around her carefully, their breath and words making clouds above her in the air, camera shutter clicking in the cold.

'People suffer in different ways' The search for Candace Derksen had been the largest in Winnipeg's history, and her death felt close and personal. Everyone in the city knew the bite of that kind of vicious cold, and it was easy to imagine how cold and scared she must have been.

In the weeks after she disappeared, her school picture had become as familiar as that of a friend, feathered hair and a black and white sweatshirt, a smile as though she was sharing in a joke or about to burst out laughing.

For many of us growing up in Winnipeg then, it was a moment of profound change. With no suspects in custody, there was a feeling of danger in the city. Parents started walking their children to and from school, and warned them with new urgency about the threat of strangers. Mike McIntyre, a true crime author and veteran reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, turned 10 years old the day Candace Derksen's body was found. He describes her disappearance as one of the first times he realized the world wasn't a safe place. At my elementary school, across the city, there were rumours about other missing girls, about a man in a silver van that prowled for children. When my uncle came to pick me up from school in a van one afternoon, other kids ran away across the playground, screaming in fear. We called her Candy as though we knew her, though none of us did. When she died, we mourned her, as though we understood instinctively that, on a different day or a different street, she might have been any one of us.

The Derksens had turned to the media early in Candace's disappearance, appealing to the public for help with the search and trying to keep the case in the public eye as police dragged their feet.

By the time Candace's body was found, Cliff and Wilma knew their daughter had become the city's child. At a press conference two days later, they invited all of Winnipeg to come to her funeral.

When a reporter asked how they felt about Candace's unknown killer, they each publicly expressed the decision they had made alone in their bedroom the night her body was found. They would try to love whoever killed her, and forgive.

"We would like to know who the person or persons are so we could share, hopefully, a love that seems to be missing in these people's lives," Cliff said. "I don't believe the person who did this had loving parents or a circle of friends who thought the world of him or he wouldn't have done a deed like this."

Wilma said their main concern had been finding Candace, not her killer. "I can't say at this point I forgive the person," she said. "But we have all done something dreadful in our lives or we have the urge to."

The reaction to their comments was unexpected and strong.

Some people were angry, as though the Derksens were saying they didn't care about their daughter or that they thought her killer shouldn't be caught or punished. Others questioned what that forgiveness meant, at a time when Cliff and Wilma weren't sure themselves.

"We said we were going to forgive and we didn't know how to talk about it, and we really didn't know what it meant ourselves," Cliff says. "Our big thing was just we were going to forgive whoever it was. We just were going to forgive. We didn't know how or where or when this was going to happen, it was sort of a north star we put out there."

Some people also found their comments suspicious, especially since the case remained unsolved. News coverage noted they didn't cry at the press conference, and that there was "not even a tremor in their voices" as they talked about their daughter's death. The Derksens weren't behaving the way people expected grieving parents to do. Free Press columnist Gordon Sinclair wrote a column about how some people saw Cliff and Wilma as "cold," and were surprised by their composure and lack of emotion in public. In a phone call in the spring of 1985, he asked them if they cried.

"I think people suffer in different ways," he quoted Wilma as saying then. "And I think we, by nature, suffer differently. I like to cry in private."

The Mennonite faith was forged by persecution, and forgiveness is a deep part of the religion and culture. Cliff and Wilma had both been raised to believe in the power of forgiveness, and Wilma says it was "in their DNA" to try to forgive. But to say they were able to forgive because of their faith is far too simple. It was also a radical choice, contrary to their instincts as people and parents, but the only way they could see to save themselves, to ensure they wouldn't lose their marriage and their family, the good memories of Candace's life.

"There was an article three or four months later saying 80 per cent of Canadians didn't agree with us and would be upset with us because forgiveness meant letting the murderer go free and condoning murder," Wilma says now, 32 years later. "That wasn't what this was about at all. It really was about escaping the aftermath of murder."

But there was so much to forgive, and it went far beyond forgiving the brutality of a stranger they did not yet know. There were the police, for not believing them when they said Candace wouldn't have run away, for implying that they were bad parents, and for focussing so long on Cliff as a suspect. For not finding her when she lay in a shed not more than 500 metres away from home. There were their own actions and choices, for the small things said and done, for not picking her up that day. There were the friends and family that disappointed them, the media that sometimes got things wrong.

The strangers who piled on more hurt with false confessions and crank phone calls. There were the years Cliff spent under suspicion, even after a polygraph declared him a truthful man.

Forgiveness was not something to be done only once. It had to be a constant choice, letting go as a way of living.

At times, there was pain so intense Wilma described it like amputating one of her arms without anesthetic, moments of anger so blinding she once imagined shooting 10 murderers in retribution. She knew then even that much bloodshed would not be enough. Her daughter was innocent, the killers she imagined were not.

"Anger is very natural. It comes out of fear, it comes out of dishonour, it's a reaction to anything that threatens us and it's addictive," she says. "To forgive and say, I'm going to let it go, give it to the higher power, whatever we call it, and then find something good in it, it's not an easy process."

Wilma threw herself into trying to help others. Within four months of Candace's body being found, she and Cliff had helped start a Manitoba chapter of Child Find to help in other missing children cases, and were fundraising for a swimming pool at Camp Arnes in Candace's name.

Wilma started speaking publicly and got involved with victims' advocacy and support groups, eventually heading Family Survivors of Homicide and Victim's Voice. In some of the groups, she says she was instructed not to use "the f-word," forgiveness being too controversial to broach in a space for victims.

The Derksens became wellknown as advocates and survivors, but as the 10-year anniversary of Candace's murder approached, they found themselves struggling. Wilma was working so much she was burntout and crashing. Cliff, still living with an undercurrent of suspicion that he had something to do with his daughter's unsolved disappearance and death, had become so consumed with rage he seemed to Wilma like a different person. He would yell and swear, throw things around, say things he didn't even know he was capable of. Afterward, he would apologize and promise to fix it, but he never would.

Cliff says the anger felt good, but he knew he had to change.

He began memorizing scripture about Jonah and the whale, and soon recognized himself in its words. He was working as a truck driver at the time, and he started to vividly imagine loading a truck full of pallets of things he had to forgive. One day, he imagined dumping it all into the Grand Canyon.

"The thing about forgiveness is you have to go to the hard places," he says. "You have to be ready to be courageous. I didn't do this overnight. I was really trying to go to all the bad places and the ugly stuff, and really address it."

It would be more than a decade later, when a suspect was finally charged, that Cliff would really be tested again.

In the fall of 1984, Mark Edward Grant was 21 years old, a mentally ill young man from an abusive home who had a history of sexual assault and violent behavior, and an attraction to vulnerable victims. He'd been hanging around the area near Candace's school that fall, dating a runaway girl not much older than Candace.

Mr. Grant was one of two sex offenders questioned early in Candace's disappearance but there was nothing solid to link him to the case and, as years passed, police focused on another violent sex offender who had been charged with murdering a teenage girl in the 1990s.

Eventually that man was ruled out, and in 2005, after serving 13 years in prison for two brutal rapes, Mr. Grant became a prime suspect again.

Police had retained evidence from the 1985 investigation, including hair from where Candace's body was found and the twine used to tie her, and the items became increasingly important as DNA science emerged and the technology continued to develop. As part of a cold case investigation called Project Angel, undercover officers in Winnipeg collected new DNA from Mr. Grant's spit on the sidewalk. That evidence - as well as DNA from Mr. Grant's relatives and blood from a pair of his pants - provided enough of a link to charge him in Candace's death.

In May, 2007, more than 22 years after Candace disappeared walking home from school, police arrested Mr. Grant on Main Street in Winnipeg and charged him with first-degree murder.

Having a suspect identified and charged was a new challenge for the Derksens, who, after two decades, had grown accustomed to life without a suspect. Their forgiveness had been, by necessity, not focused on one person, and they were comfortable that way.

They learned to forgive without him. And yet, 22 years later, there he was. A real man, who had inflicted real harm on other women and girls.

The news coverage laid out his history in spare terms after his arrest. "Mark Grant is a schizophrenic whose mind is filled with disturbing rape fantasies, lust for vulnerable teens, a hatred of women and an unwillingness to take any treatment for his perversions...," one news story began.

They referenced parole documents that called him a predator, that described his violent sexual attraction to prepubescent girls.

Watching the news on the day of his arrest, Cliff and Wilma bristled seeing his picture next to Candace's. It bothered them to see him so close to her, as though he was connected to them now.

"It felt like he was now a member of our family, like an extended uncle or some distant relative and suddenly he has been found," Cliff says. "And here's this ugly story and this guy who had done such a bad thing and he was put right beside our Candace, on the TV screen side by side. That hurt. And I thought, are we going to be seeing this now forever?" It occurred to Wilma that it had been far easier when he wasn't around.

The murder trial started on Jan. 17, 2011, exactly 26 years to the day after Candace's body was found. It was the first time the family would learn the full details of Candace's death, and hear the evidence against the man accused of killing her.

Before the trial began, they formulated their own strategies to survive it.

Cliff, who had struggled so deeply with his anger, worried that the rage he had experienced would resurface in the emotion of the court proceedings.

"I was wondering how much I had forgiven him when I didn't know who he was," he says. "And I thought that kind of forgiveness or attempt at forgiveness would be shallow or wouldn't have much depth to it because you don't know who you are forgiving."

But the rage he expected didn't appear. Instead, Cliff took a sketchbook and drew. Sometimes he sketched people in the courtroom - the jury, witnesses, lawyers. On other days, a magnified strand of hair, a pair of hands tied.

Their daughter Odia, who was nine when Candace disappeared, was now in her mid-30s. An artist, she sat crocheting circles, using red yarn for pain, black for anger, and white for neutrality, the emotion of the hearing coming out through the yarn in her hands, and later, turned into an art gallery installation called Evidence of a Trial.

Syras was three when his sister disappeared, and by the time of the trial had become a practicing psychologist. He told his family he believed that at hard and important moments in court they should take off their shoes as though in the presence of something holy, like Moses before the burning bush. In that way, they would transform the courtroom, in its ugliest moments, into something sacred.

It turned out to be a powerful subversion.

"When something really, really hurt and you are dishonoured or Candace is dishonoured, our instinct is to be angry and to fight back and to be very defensive," Wilma says. "The other alternative is to submit to the moment. Don't fight the birth pains, you know? Breathe with it.

The taking off the shoes is saying this is holy, this is bigger than us.

Let's embrace it. Let's see what it is. And let's look at the opportunities to learn, to find the goodness in it."

Wilma, who had gone to journalism school before Candace disappeared, had become a writer, the chronicler of her family's own story. She took notes, recording the events of the day along with descriptions of Cliff's drawings and Odia's choice of colours. Wilma also logged the weather, itself such a powerful part of their story, -26, -30, -23, the cold, dark days of winter.

A jury convicted Mr. Grant of second-degree murder, and he was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. After the trial, Cliff and Wilma held a public ceremony in their backyard, honouring Candace's life and talking about the effects of her death. Among those who attended were jurors from the trial.

For four months, it was settled.

Then the defence filed an appeal based on evidence of another alleged kidnapping which was excluded from the first trial and never presented to the jury, and questions about the DNA evidence. The case went to the Supreme Court, and a new trial was ordered.

'All of life is good' The air in Winnipeg on Jan. 16, 2017, was stinging cold. Not as frigid as Jan. 17, 1985, when Candace's body was found, or Jan. 17, 2011, when the first trial began, but cold enough to bring back the feel of those days and reinforce the strangeness of the timing, the sense of a cycle repeating. The kind of cold that hurts. That can kill.

They were back in Room 230, the same courtroom as the first trial, a grand space in the historic Winnipeg Law Courts with oldfashioned theatre seats and marble walls, ornate trim painted with the colours of the prairie.

The courtroom was full. There were old friends, people who had been with the Derksens since the earliest searches, and others who have come to know them through the years. There was the mother of another girl who was sexually assaulted by Mr. Grant, and a row of reporters. A class of high-school students whose parents were children themselves when Candace disappeared.

It was striking how much time had passed. David Wiebe, their daughter's first love, was now a man of almost 50. Candace's younger siblings, Odia and Syras, were 41 and 36, with children of their own. The police officers and witnesses were older, some retired, others gone. Among the missing was Candace's best friend, Heidi, who had died of cancer the previous January at 44. She had remained close to the family all her life. In their last visit before Heidi's death, Wilma gave her a message to pass along to Candace.

Sitting in court, Wilma thought about the beauty of friendship and how it lasts, the what-ifs of a life not lived.

Mr. Grant was older, too. Now 53, he walked into the courtroom with his wrists and ankles in shackles, chains clanking with every lumbering step. He was heavy and pale, mostly bald, with glasses and a greyed goatee.

He faced the judge directly from inside a high-backed prisoner's box, which was positioned in such a way that he was almost completely hidden from the view of those in the body of the courtroom. Even when they watched him being brought in and out of court, Wilma thought he seemed like a "non-entity," like nothing.

At times, unable to see him, she and Cliff almost forgot he was there at all.

They admit it's strange that the man at the heart of their story somehow doesn't play a bigger role, but yet he is nearly invisible. Through the years, they have come to know that their forgiveness must be offenderless. They have fought so hard to keep him from destroying their lives, that in some ways it is not really about him at all.

Over six weeks, the Derksens would again listen to testimony about the knots used to bind Candace's wrists and ankles, the hairs found around her body, the gathering of evidence long before DNA protocols existed.

They would hear again how Candace was in the shed for a day before she died, about how her body was completely frozen through when it was found.

There are things that still hurt deeply even after so many years.

Moments, Wilma says, that sink like lead in your stomach.

The defence maintains Mr. Grant didn't kill Candace, and that the evidence used to convict him the first time was deeply flawed. Defence experts raised serious questions around the DNA testing that was done, and the lawyers pointed at the possibility of other suspects.

Cliff and Wilma were convinced in the first trial, and then again in the second, that Mark Edward Grant murdered their daughter. But they have learned a lot about the law through the years, and they know he may not be convicted this time. In a way they almost expect he won't, and they are preparing for it.

They say they feel sorry for him, for the love he missed as a child and for the abuse he suffered then. They heard about how he was locked in a shed for two days when he was a boy, and they know how violence can repeat. They pray for him. They are afraid for others if he is released.

"I think it will be sad no matter what happens, and I worry about the vulnerable," Wilma says.

"Not about us, but the vulnerable. Nothing is going to bring Candace back, and to some degree Candace is good. She has managed to outlive this. She has created her own justice."

The effects of Candace's death have been profound and farreaching.

There is Candace House, an ongoing project to build a safe space for victims' families near the Winnipeg courthouse, and Child Find Manitoba, now known as the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, created after her disappearance. There is the swimming pool at Camp Arnes that bears Candace's name, the site of so much fun and joy.

Wilma has spoken to people around the world about trauma and forgiveness and has written eight books. Her most recent, The Way of Letting Go: One Woman's Walk Toward Forgiveness, happened to be released in the middle of the second trial.

Malcolm Gladwell devoted a chapter of his book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants, to Cliff and Wilma's response to their daughter's murder. He wrote the introduction to Wilma's new book.

There is Cliff and Odia's art, Syras's psychology practice, the way their story has affected people, in ways large and small.

They have all had the opportunity to create, to be heard, to help others. Wilma still shakes her head about it all, as though she can't believe how they have been blessed.

"All I have really done in my life is chosen to forgive, just to let go of the bad stuff and move toward good stuff," she says.

"And the rewards for that are overwhelming. Look at our children. Look at our grandchildren.

It's amazing, the beauty."

The judge will hear closing arguments in May, and then she will decide if Mark Edward Grant will be convicted a second time for the murder of Candace Derksen. Wilma wonders when they will have a decision, and what it will be like when they do.

Whether one day, they might finally feel free.

Outside court on the first day of the second trial, a reporter asked Wilma, "How do you keep a lightness about you?" Wilma giggled, as she often does, whether she is talking about things that are happy or sad.

"I want to live," she said. "If we had waited for justice 32 years ago, can you imagine where we'd be? We would just have put our whole lives on a shelf. And we have two other children, so we've had to say, you know what, this is good. All of life is good."

Cliff and Wilma Derksen were standing side by side, together, just as they were on that cold winter night so long ago. They have spent 32 years fighting to keep the darkness away. It is not easy or perfect, but every day they keep trying.

Jana G. Pruden is a feature writer at The Globe and Mail.

Associated Graphic

The search for Candace Derksen (above) was the largest in Winnipeg's history.


Wilma and Cliff Derksen never met the man who they believe killed their daughter, the man they vowed to try to love, though they have sat through both his criminal trials for the murder.


Odia, at left, was nine when her older sister Candace, right, disappeared. During Mr. Grant's appeal trial this year, Odia and Cliff, centre, each transformed the pain of their loss into artwork.


On their own
After a year of government support, Syrian refugees are still struggling to settle in Toronto and face an uncertain future
Saturday, April 22, 2017 – Print Edition, Page M1

After school rush-hour at Leaside Towers in central-east Toronto is when the general rules of how many people can reasonably cram into an elevator are suspended.

Ahmad Al Rasoul, black hooded jacket straining over his belly, pulls in his shoulders, trying to take up as little room as possible.

His three sons, sporting backpacks bigger than their torsos, cluster together in one corner.

Their friends are squished in on the other side of the elevator, out of sight, but not out of range to continue the conversation they began when walking home from school. A tired-looking woman in a parka inhales, sharply sucking in her stomach, and presses her back against the wall. Two more kids enter the elevator in this final phase of human Tetris and finally, with 15 on board, the doors close.

After depositing passengers at floors 24, 30, 36 and 39, the elevator makes the last leg of its journey up to Floor 42, where Mr. Al Rasoul and his brood disembark and head to the family's twobedroom apartment. As the door opens, the aroma of fried falafel briefly pours into the hallway.

Mohammad, Hamze and Youssef kick off their shoes at the door and scamper to the bedroom they share to put down their backpacks and change into pyjamas.

"Wash your hands and your feet," their mother, Rasmia Al Mekhlef, scolds in Arabic.

Just like the elevator, these, too, are cramped quarters. They had hoped by this point they'd be on Floor 43, in a spacious threebedroom apartment. Marwa, the 13-year-old, dreams of a room of her own in a more expensive apartment, rather than having to bunk with her sister, but Ms. Al Mekhlef, who must share a room with her husband and their four sons, knows there is nothing left to save at the end of the month.

As government-assisted refugees, they received about $9,500 in startup costs and $1,600 a month for their living expenses for their first year in Canada. This Floor 42 two-bedroom apartment alone is $1,635 plus utilities. But at the start of this year, the stipend ended and they were left to fend for themselves.

Canada's unique private sponsorship system, in which a group of private citizens financially support a refugee family for a year and help them integrate, is regarded globally as a model worth imitating, but the truth is that the largest portion of refugees who come to Canada are like the Al Rasouls, supported by the federal government in their first year. From November, 2015, until the end of February, 2017, a total of 22,405 government-assisted refugees arrived in Canada, compared with 14,960 privately sponsored ones.

The start of the second year in Canada - when the proverbial cord is cut - is seen as the crucial launch point for refugees, a point many are reaching now. The thinking goes that if Ottawa or private sponsors can carry them along in their first year with financial resources, language lessons and assistance navigating schools and clinics, the newcomers will have the tools to carry forth on their own by Month 13.

But only a small portion of government-assisted refugees have functional English or French skills at the end of their first year and just a sliver are able to find jobs. The settlement workers and social workers who assist them, many of whom also take a big step back after a year, say that despite the emphasis on Month 13, it's unrealistic to expect refugees to be thriving at that point.

At the end of their first year, most do what Mr. Al Rasoul and Ms. Al Mekhlef do: cover their expenses with welfare and the federal child benefit.

Government-assisted refugees in many ways face greater challenges than the privately sponsored cohort: They generally have lower levels of education and bigger families, according to federal figures, but fewer resources and support from volunteers. They struggle more with navigating cultural differences, finding employment, maintaining a social life and finding housing. In March, 2016, Leaside Towers, a high-rise complex, became a hub for more than two dozen government-assisted refugee families. It is now the place where they navigate the struggles of their first unsupported year in Canada.

One year in, whenever their children trill on in English they've picked up in school, Mr. Al Rasoul and Ms. Al Mekhlef struggle to understand. Their grasp of English is weak and neither has found a job yet.

Ms. Al Mekhlef's 12-year-old son, Mohammad, has been asking for a cellphone for the past five months. He's too young to burden with the full picture of the family's dire financial situation (each month comes and goes without any money left to put into savings, let alone cover a cellphone plan for Mohammad), so she simply tells him she will get it for him one day. "I said, 'You have to be patient. There is no money.

But bit by bit it's going to get better,' "she explains in Arabic.

She can't yet tell him when that will be, though.

Arrival neighbourhood There are many reasons why COSTI, one of Toronto's biggest settlement agencies, chose to cluster 28 of the 525 refugee families they settled in Toronto in Leaside Towers. As far as Toronto apartments go, the units are massive: the bigger two-bedroom units are more than 1,400 square feet. Most landlords might be reluctant to rent a two-bedroom apartment to a family of eight, but Morguard, the real estate firm that owns the property, has been accommodating of the large Syrian broods who have moved into their 4,000resident twin towers. They don't require a guarantor and gave COSTI a discount on rent for the first year.

The Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood, where the towers are centred, is dense, with most things newcomer Syrian families would need close by - a mosque, schools, supermarkets and Middle Eastern shops, says Mario Calla, COSTI's executive director.

Wanda Georgis, a community social worker who has helped a dozen of the families in the two buildings since they arrived in Canada, says the residence is okay in the short term, but she hopes they move out.

"They're paying exorbitantly high rent. And once you're settled, it's really hard to move."

But the hurdles to getting out are high and numerous. With no credit history and no one to serve as a guarantor, Ms. Al Mekhlef doesn't think she'd be able to move to a cheaper place anyway.

None of the Syrian families she knows in the building have moved out.

And despite a strong local Middle Eastern community, the refugees have found tensions with their neighbours since the day they moved in, but have had to navigate them without the small army of private sponsors to advocate on their behalf.

When he returns from the quick produce run to the supermarket on Friday afternoon, Mr. Al Rasoul embraces this quiet time when five of his six children are at school. He fetches a pomegranate-coloured prayer mat from his bedroom and lays it down in the middle of the living room, which is lined with bulky upholstered furniture. He's doing one of his five daily prayers, as three-yearold Sava lies on stacked pillows a few metres away, hands folded behind her head, entranced by the Minions video she's watching on TV.

Most of Mr. Al Rasoul's prayers are done here, quietly, in the living room, though he tries to make it to the mosque on Fridays.

When the large group of Syrians first arrived at Leaside more than a year ago, they took to gathering with their small mats in the lobbies of the two buildings for group prayers, recalls Ian Kaufman, who lives in the complex.

"If you want to talk about cultural conflict, it was right off the bat," he says. The group prayers were short-lived. Someone intervened, explained that this could not be done in communal spaces, and the Syrians retreated to their apartments.

By Mr. Kaufman's count, there are 151 Syrians - 94 of them children - currently in the two towers, and their presence has given rise to conflict. The Syrians didn't understand why they couldn't use the communal spaces for what they saw as harmless group activities and also took offence to the presence of dogs in the building (which many consider haram, or forbidden). Other tenants saw the Syrians as acting entitled. A sponsor group might have been the ideal go-between to diffuse things from the start, to explain cultural norms to the Syrians and to act as their advocates when speaking to neighbours, but without one, people grew more frustrated.

Tenants complained last summer about the way the Syrian children rode their bikes unsupervised in the parking lot, or played loudly in front of the building, when there are many parks and playgrounds in the neighbourhood. Some parents have asked building management for a playground, but Mr. Kaufman, a wry, Larry David type, is pessimistic it will happen.

"If you do one thing for one group, everybody bitches," he says. He points out that Mississauga has a thriving Muslim population and lots of culturally specific resources and perhaps would have been a better spot to settle the refugees who now live in Leaside Towers. They'd probably be happier and things would be calmer in the building, he says.

Ms. Al Mekhlef likes living here, though, and said she wishes she knew her non-Syrian neighbours better. But her difficulty with English gets in the way. "I can't understand what they say very well or we'd mingle more," she says through an interpreter. "If we knew how to speak English we'd have met the whole building."

Learning the language On a recent Friday, in an English class down the hall from the ones Mr. Al Rasoul and Ms. Al Mekhlef are in, Mr. Abdel Al Mohte Al Dibel and his wife Abir Abdel Al Kader are sipping eye-poppingly strong Turkish coffee from a bottle they brought from home.

This is where all the Syrians in Leaside Towers come for English instruction, though they're divided among several classes with other newcomers based on their aptitude.

"Elle-vett-er," Ms. Al Kader says, her hazel eyes focused on the illustration of an elevator on her computer screen.

She clicks on an icon to play a recording of the correct pronunciation.

"Elle-uh-vay-turr!" the recorded voice cheerfully says.

"Elle-uh-vay-turr!" she mimics, briefly adopting a Canadian accent.

"I feel like a small kid sometimes," she says in Arabic with a sheepish smile, her fair-complexioned face framed by a charcoal hijab.

Before moving the family to Lebanon, Mr. Al Dibel split his time between Homs, Syria, where his family lived, and Tripoli, Lebanon, where he worked in construction. He's a trim man with a carefully manicured mustache and eyebrows that rest in a concerned position, softening everything he says. After bundling up and saying goodbye to their teacher, Mr. Al Dibel and Ms. Al Kader climb into their Audi station wagon, which has three coconut air fresheners dangling from the rear-view mirror.

It's the family's second car; the first, purchased through Kijiji eight months ago for $1,200, turned out to be a lemon. There was no question they'd replace it - they're still not used to the Canadian climate and driving has become a necessity.

When they return to the apartment, Husam, 18, who doesn't have class today, is sleeping in.

Though his parents had high hopes he'd be preparing for university by now, he's struggled more than his two elementary school-aged sisters to pick up the language. He curses his parents for moving into Leaside Towers, where he says the abundance of Arabs has prevented them all from learning English more quickly. The family listens to Arabic CDs in the car, they speak to their neighbours in Arabic and, even in the morning, Mr. Al Dibel plays YouTube videos by the legendary Lebanese songstress Fairouz to get his two yellow pet birds, who sit in cages mounted in the living room, to chirp along to the Arabic ballads.

Learning English can be especially tough for the governmentassisted refugees with less education than their privately sponsored counterparts. About one-third of the Syrian refugees the government brought in between November, 2015, and November, 2016, had zero years of schooling, compared with 12 per cent of those who were sponsored privately.

Sometimes Ms. Al Kader jokingly threatens her Syrian friends, "I'm going to be in a fight with you," on a hunch that if she couldn't speak to them for a few weeks or months, it would accelerate her English learning. But she knows they are the key to her survival here, the ones who get her from week to week, keep her mind in Canada when it so often strays to Lebanon.

Families divided Some mornings, when everyone else is asleep, Ms. Al Kader tiptoes into the living room, sits by the window and cries, racked with guilt that she is here but some of her family is not.

They fled from their house for Tripoli in 2012. Three years later, when the United Nations High Commission for Refugees told her they had been accepted as refugees in Canada, she learned that only she, her husband and their three youngest were listed together as a family unit. Though she and Mr. Al Dibel lived together with their five children, the two eldest, who are in their twenties and married with one child each, were not considered part of the household. She worries for their safety there - both her son and her daughter's husband were imprisoned for having invalid residency papers. Since January, she's been in touch with a group from a local church that is trying to sponsor them and she is hopeful they will be reunited soon.

During the first few months in Canada, Ms. Al Kader cooked only simple dishes. It seemed wrong, disrespectful somehow, to eat well here in Canada, to behave as if everything was normal, when she knew her children were on the other side of the world, struggling. A doctor suggested she take antidepressants.

Ms. Georgis, the social worker, said many of the Syrian refugees she works with, including some of the dozen families in Leaside Towers, have mental-health struggles, including post-traumatic stress disorder. Even after a year here, the horror they lived through feels fresh, and many are glued to the news reports and WhatsApp updates on the chaos and destruction in their hometowns.

In these cases, too, privately sponsored refugees have a leg up.

Ms. Georgis notes that those refugees have an instant social network of stable people around them, volunteers who are there to help them adjust but also to provide them with company. Government-assisted refugees, meanwhile, often cling to each other. They receive help from settlement workers and social workers to register their children in school, and take them to their first doctors' appointments, but they're just a few among many clients oversubscribed workers are juggling. After a year, the regular visits come to an end, though COSTI does a check-in with the refugees it settles halfway through their second year. Some volunteers have assumed a role similar to private sponsors where they drop by to visit the government refugees, help find them furniture, even visiting multiple times a week, but not all are as consistent or involved as the refugees wish they were. And for many, the relationship ends once the first year is over.

The refugees the government assists also tend to come from bigger families - more than 57 per cent of those who arrived between November, 2015, and July, 2016, were part of families of six or more people, versus just 7 per cent of privately sponsored refugees. This is because a larger household usually means a higher financial burden for those footing the bill for the first year, so private sponsors tend to request smaller ones.

The way Ms. Al Kader sees it, the bigger families are the luckier ones, since they receive the benefit for all their children. Their friends the Al Rasouls, for example, receive $3,400 a month for their six children, on top of their welfare payment. Still, what they receive gets used up quickly feeding eight mouths, clothing eight bodies, and covering rent, utilities, insurance and car expenses in one of Canada's most expensive cities. Most of the children's clothing was donated or comes from consignment shops. Last Eid, instead of buying her son a $5 pair of pants at Value Village, Ms. Al Mekhlef spent $9 for a pair from Wal-Mart. She can't splurge like that often.

Making ends meet There is an enormous pressure many impose on themselves to mask their trauma, anger and frustrations after they arrive. At various points, all three of the Syrian refugee families The Globe spent time with rhapsodized about how happy they were to be in Canada now, how thankful they were to Canadians and to the government for taking them in, as though reciting from a script.

They were careful not to complain too much about squeezing six people into a bedroom, the fact that the springs were broken in the sofa donated to them, or that they had no idea how to prepare the frozen egg patties the food bank had given them. The last thing they wanted was to seem ungrateful.

But it can be difficult to keep their spirits high when, more than a year out, their integration has been so difficult. Mr. Al Dibel was introduced to a man who said he could find him work in construction, but after seeing how limited his English was, the man declined. He told Mr. Al Dibel to come back once his English was at Level 2, which he believes will take at least two years to achieve. Dejected, he started looking for work at restaurants, though he feels no employer is interested in hiring someone his age.

"If my husband doesn't work, there's no hope. If we're on welfare, no one's going to give us an apartment to rent," Ms. Al Kader says in Arabic.

The networks that privately sponsored refugees have access to give them an enormous advantage when it comes to securing employment, according to preliminary results of surveys conducted by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. More than half of privately sponsored Syrian refugees who arrived in Canada (excluding Quebec) by March 1 had already found employment, compared with just 10 per cent of government-assisted ones. Many privately sponsored refugees enjoy the benefit of having their sponsors hustle on their behalf: It helps a great deal to have a dozen motivated Canadians canvassing their networks just to find you, one member of the family they're sponsoring, a job.

A few among the 28 government-assisted families who have settled in Leaside Towers have found work in the neighbourhood - some frying up halal chicken at the Popeyes, or stocking shelves at Iqbal Halal Market.

But some see a disincentive to taking a minimum-wage job: In Ontario, if you are on Ontario Works and get a job, half your earnings over $200 are deducted from your welfare cheque. As they see it, they'd be bringing home so little money that they're better off using that time to focus on improving English, or running their households, which can consume much of their day.

And this is the flip side of having no guidance from sponsors - the freedom to make choices and to learn from mistakes.

Ms. Georgis works with both government-assisted and privately sponsored refugees and is amused watching the way both handle finances. There can be a tendency toward paternalism among private sponsors, she said, who, with good intentions, scold refugees for what they see as irresponsible spending.

"Ultimately, these are human beings who have been caring for themselves," she said. "If they make a wrong decision, fine, they'll learn. We learn from our mistakes, too."

Four months after the families moved to Leaside Towers, Ms. Georgis noticed some of them were buying cars and it gave her pause. But she watched the positive effect it had on the mental health of the men, the clients who struggled most with the transition to life in Canada and loss of identity as family breadwinners.

"What the car has given these men is a sense they can do something for their family, for their kids. When their kid has to go to the doctor, they can drive their kid to the doctor and feel good about that. They can drive themselves to Niagara Falls and feel good about that," she said. "I am convinced that has been so good and healing for these families."

Emerging leaders On Friday evenings just before 6 p.m., Manal Alumoor is on her phone, pounding out a WhatsApp message in Arabic to all the other Syrian refugees in Leaside Towers, telling them to go to the library in building 95 for the evening English class organized by volunteers. If she doesn't message them, she says, they don't go.

She's emerged as one of the newcomers who leads the group, who has figured out how to navigate this new life in Canada without needing a lot of hand-holding.

Though she has little education and comes from a rural village near the Syria-Jordan border, Ms. Alumoor is a bridge to the broader community in Leaside Towers.

When Pat Wright, an organizer of many activities in apartment complex, has a message she needs to send to all the families, she asks Ms. Alumoor and another Syrian man in the building who has strong English skills to convey it.

"Leader, leader, I am leader," Ms. Alumoor says proudly with a half-smile, pointing at her chest.

She has a no-nonsense way about her, with stern, archless eyebrows and a prominent chin.

Ms. Alumoor, her husband Ahmad Alhaj Ali and their children have benefited from programming set up by Ms. Wright, other residents and Omar Khan, a volunteer who has come to know some of the families well. The benefits of Mr. Khan's efforts extend into the wider community of Leaside Towers as well, bringing much-needed understanding in rocky times.

Last year, he came to speak to the tenants' association to act as a spokesman for the newcomers, explaining the challenges they face and suggesting ways tenants could help the newcomers integrate - by helping tutor some of the children, for example.

From there, a lineup of free programming has grown: English conversation sessions, extra math help for the kids. Ms. Wright, who has come to know many of the Syrians through co-ordinating these programs, believes they have transformed the complex for the better. She's already thinking ahead to what might happen when some might move out.

"It's more alive now," she says.

"I think we would miss them."

Ms. Alumoor attends all three of the supplementary classes offered in the building each week, and credits them for her fast-improving English. She still struggles with basic greetings such as "take care," for example, which she pronounces more like "daycare."

"It will take me 100 years to learn that," she says in Arabic.

Ms. Alumoor makes small talk in her English class about how she's happy spring is arriving, but in fact the longer hours of sunshine also bring anxiety. A new season means big expenses: clothes and shoes for her five kids, among them nine-year-old triplet boys, who are always measuring what each receives compared with the others when it comes to food, toys and attention.

After they arrive home from school on a Friday afternoon and eat, they park in front of the TV to play a video game, occasionally elbowing and shoving each other, then dramatically reacting to being shoved or elbowed to elicit sympathy from their parents.

"Foreigners here have one or two kids. We didn't know why," Ms. Alumoor says in Arabic. She pauses for effect, then smiles widely, shaking her head. "Now we know why."

Her husband, Mr. Alhaj Ali, has the silver stubble of a man who doesn't need to report for work daily and smiles widely when he senses a joke in English, even if he doesn't fully understand it.

He was about to register in technical school when he met a Canadian man who promised he could find him a high-paying job in a line of work he was familiar with: tile installation. Mr. Alhaj Ali excitedly sent the man photos of some of the projects he'd completed in Syria and awaited the man's call, but it never came. By then he'd missed registration in the course and is now on the waiting list.

Some of his neighbours have taken to driving for Uber and some have been taking underthe-table payments to work at a warehouse in Vaughan, a long commute northwest of Toronto.

Mr. Alhaj Ali has prioritized his learning for now.

Normal teen concerns Seidra, the eldest child, is hopeful her parents will find work, for no other reason than she absolutely must stay in this neighbourhood, where she has carefully built a social network over the past year and a bit. The loud, belly-laughing 13-year-old looks nothing like her dark-featured parents. Her hair, covered by a leopard-print hijab, is auburn and her nose and cheeks are dotted with freckles.

She visits the mall with one set of friends to window shop. She'll meet with others to buy Mars bars at Dollarama. Her parents bought her a cellphone, but it has no data, so she mostly calls her friends to find out what happened in the five minutes since they last spoke.

While standing in the kitchen with Ms. Alumoor, who is preparing stuffed grape leaves and zucchini for supper, Seidra reminds her mother that she'll be going to Tim Hortons at 3 p.m. for her Friday standing date with her closest friends, one of them Mr. Al Rasoul and Ms. Al Mekhlef's daughter Marwa. Seidra never eats doughnuts (she's convinced they'll make her fat) but she and her friends are obsessed with the chain's French vanilla and creamy chocolate chill drinks, whose nutritional composition they are clearly unaware of.

"I tell her there is lots of sugar," Ms. Alumoor says in stilted English.

"I not go with my friends every day to the Tim Hortons," Seidra bleats, her voice dripping with adolescent disdain.

"I know, I know," Ms. Alumoor says quietly. She looks up from washing zucchini to give her daughter the sort of warm, loving smile that teenagers always receive with an eye roll.

This is a few dollars she will not fret over.

Associated Graphic

Fifteen-year-old Bilal Al Rasoul tosses his youngest sister, Sava, 3, while sitting with Marwa, 13, and Mohammad, 12, at the family's Thorncliffe Park home last month.


Unable to go to his mosque for prayer service, Ahmad Al Rasoul, left, prays at home while daughter Sava, 3, lies on cushions to watch television. Some of Mr. Rasoul's sons, middle, head home from school, while Sava, right, shows off a furry selection from her wall of toys.

Manal Alumoor, gathers her family for a late-afternoon meal at their Thorncliffe Park home last month. Ms. Alumoor eats with husband Ahmad Alhaj Ali, while their three nine-year-old sons eat in the kitchen nearby.


Rama Al Dibel, 9, grabs something from the fridge while helping her mom, Abir Abdel Al Kader, prepare a meal in their Thorncliffe Park home in March. In the top photo they sit down to share the meal.

U.S. cutbacks undermine efforts to keep Africa's population in check
Monday, April 17, 2017 – Print Edition, Page A1

GANVIE, BENIN -- The contraception boat has arrived, and now it's time for a party. "Ladies, have you heard the news?" the singer tells the villagers as his drummers strike up a pulsing beat.

"You can take a pill every day," he croons to the women sitting beneath a sprawling tree where goats and chickens roam past. "You can be with your husband and only have children when you want."

Women leap to their feet and dance to the music. "Shame on the men who have lots of wives," the singer tells them as he prepares for a condom demonstration. "Woe to the women who have lots of children. Two is okay, three is already good."

Many of the women in this isolated village have never heard of modern contraception.

But when the music is finished and the dancing is over, a few climb aboard the brightly painted boat, venturing inside for their first glimpse of a new future.

Villages such as this one, in rural Benin, are the fragile front line of a global battle over population growth and women's bodies - a battle that has now expanded to draw in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump on conflicting sides of the issue.

The contraception boat and its crew, puttering cheerfully from village to village in a lagoon in southern Benin, is the latest innovation in an intensifying campaign by family-planning agencies to break the cycle of near-constant pregnancy that exhausts and oppresses millions of African women and stokes the rapid growth of population and migration worldwide.

But the contraception campaign has been dealt a blow by Mr. Trump. Just days after taking office, he ordered a halt to an estimated $600-million (U.S.) in annual support for family-planning and health programs overseas. Any international program in which women are informed about the abortion option will have its U.S. funding removed, in a policy known as the "global gag rule."

In recent weeks, Mr. Trump went even further. His administration announced that it will eliminate all U.S. support to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), accusing it of supporting a Chinese agency in "coercive abortion" policies, despite an earlier U.S. acknowledgment that there is no evidence of UNFPA funding for abortions in China.

The eliminated U.S. funds will have a huge impact on reproductive health programs in the developing world, since the United States has been one of the biggest donors to the UN program.

The Trump cuts, an expanded version of earlier Republican policies, have triggered a global push-back. Analysts say the Trump policy could lead to 6.5 million unintended pregnancies over the next four years. A new global fund to replace the lost U.S. money has raised about $200-million so far, including $20-million (Canadian) from Canada. Without it, women could be pushed "into the Dark Ages," according to Belgium's deputy Prime Minister, Alexander De Croo.

In addition to its contribution to the new fund, Canada launched a bigger response to the Trump cuts on March 8, International Women's Day, when Mr. Trudeau announced a $650-million three-year fund for reproductive and sexual health and rights in the developing world, including contraception and legal abortion programs.

African women are at the centre of these issues, but politicians have neglected them for decades. To understand the human pain and conflict at the heart of the population debates, The Globe and Mail travelled to the remote fishing villages of Benin. In these impoverished corners of the continent, the contraception campaign is more urgent than almost anywhere else in the world.

In a country like Benin, the impact of the campaign could be enormous. It finally offers hope to long-suffering women whose health has been badly damaged by decades of child-bearing.

But it could also help to slow the rapid rate of population growth that has helped create a global migration crisis, which in turn has fuelled the rise of nationalist politicians in Europe and the United States, along with controversial policies such as Mr. Trump's temporary halt to migrants from six Muslim-majority countries. The migration pressures from Africa's soaring population will also be felt in Canada, where immigration remains a divisive issue.

The fertility rate in sub-Saharan Africa today is alarmingly high: about 5.1 children in a woman's lifetime, more than double the global average. And the population boom is concentrated in the world's poorest and most fragile countries, the ones least able to cope. The world's highest fertility rates today are in the impoverished West African countries of Niger (7.5 children for every woman) and Mali (6.8 children).

Benin's fertility rate is not far behind those countries. "If you tell your husband that you don't want a large family, he will just go and marry another woman," says Christiane Djengue, the mother of eight children in the fishing village of Houedo-Gbadji in southern Benin.

"It's a lot of pressure. Our husbands love children and large families."

Her husband, Jacob, is happy with his big family, and even took a second wife. "You need a lot of babies because you never know how many are going to live and how many are going to die," he says. "What if we had only two babies and both died?" But the cost to his wife is enormous. She has given birth 10 times over the past 19 years, and two of her children died. "I've had too many babies," she says. "I feel sicker and weaker. I suffer illnesses, like hypertension. I get headaches and vertigo and fatigue."

What's at stake in the population battle If the family planning campaign can reduce Africa's stubbornly high birth rate, it will not only bring new freedoms to African women - it could also curb an explosive rate of population growth that threatens the future of the planet.

Population growth is helping to fuel many of the world's biggest crises, from climate change to migration and war. Many African countries can't produce enough jobs to keep pace with the birth rate, and people are left fighting over diminishing resources. The impact can be felt from the refugee camps of Nigeria and the malnourished children of Central Africa to the migrant boats of the Mediterranean and the humantrafficking routes of the Sahara and the Middle East.

Demography helps to explain why Africa is becoming increasingly crucial to the fate of the Earth. While the rest of the world has seen a sharp drop in its birth rate in recent decades, Africa's fertility rate has remained persistently high, to the surprise of experts who assumed Africa would follow the global pattern.

Africa's growth is now expected to be much more rapid than demographers had predicted. By the end of this century, the continent will be home to 4.4 billion people - a staggering fourfold increase from today, and double the number that the United Nations had been predicting a decade ago.

By the year 2100, according to UN studies, nearly half of the world's children will be African.

The continent will account for more than 80 per cent of global population growth, pushing the world's population to a new peak of 11.2 billion. For better or worse, Africa will shape the world's destiny.

As the population boom gains momentum, humanity is increasingly becoming African. By the end of the century, about 40 per cent of the world's population will be African. Five of the world's 10 most populous countries will be African countries: Nigeria, Ethiopia, Congo, Niger and Tanzania.

One country alone, Nigeria, is projected to have 752 million people by 2100 and will be contributing more births to the world than any other country.

The consequences for the planet's health and environment will be immense. Africa's economies are unlikely to keep pace with this dramatic population increase. The result could be an escalating crisis in hunger, overcrowding, ecological damage and rising migration pressures in Europe and North America and within Africa itself.

The Globe's investigation in Benin helps reveal how this extraordinary African population boom is driven by a disturbing pattern of inequality and discrimination against women. Shackled by illiteracy, poverty and cultural taboos, a quarter of married African women who want to avoid pregnancy still have no access to modern contraception. They remain subject to traditional and religious leaders who urge them to have large families, despite the risks to their health. Husbands and elders routinely pressure them into having more children than they can safely nurture.

Many African women have their first children in their teenage years and continue with scarcely a pause for much of their adulthood. Many women believe they need their husband's authorization before they can take contraception. Rumours and religious edicts have persuaded them that birth control is dangerous. And many African countries contribute to the crisis by criminalizing abortion and making contraception difficult to obtain, in rural regions especially.

"Our pastor told us that we can never use family planning," says Claudine Degbo, who belongs to a Methodist church in her home village of So-Ava in southern Benin.

After her first two children, she felt that her family was too poor to afford more. But she felt obliged to obey her husband and her church. She knew nothing about contraception, and it was impossible to talk to her husband about her desire to avoid pregnancy. So she had two more children, and both died. And then her husband took two more wives, so that he could have more children. "If I was to tell you about my suffering, it would take the whole day," Ms. Degbo says.

Yet throughout her ordeals, she has never questioned the pastor's edict that contraception is banned. "Our faith forbids it," she says. "When a teacher tells you something, you should obey."

To be sure, some African countries have made progress on family planning, especially in urban areas. Countries such as Zambia and Kenya have rapidly boosted the availability and use of contraception. But a recent study by a non-profit partnership, Family Planning 2020, identified 14 countries worldwide with the slowest growth in the use of contraception - and all 14 were in Africa.

Outside of Kenya and southern Africa, less than 30 per cent of African women are using modern contraception. In many regions of West Africa and Central Africa, less than 10 per cent of women are using contraception. In Benin, for example, only about 7 per cent of married women are using contraception.

That's why the UNFPA and its local partners in Benin have begun using innovative ideas such as the "contraception boat" to provide information and supplies to remote villages where families of 10 or 12 children are still common.

The boat and the women Every day, the boat cruises slowly through a lagoon of fishing villages known as So-Ava, home to some 120,000 of the poorest people in the country. Most live in rickety huts of wooden slats and metal roofs, suspended over the water on stilts. Small canoes are their only link to the outside world. The birth rate in rural Benin is 5.4 children per woman, but in So-Ava the average is seven children.

The flat-bottomed boat, nicknamed the Barque Mobile, uses a loudspeaker and a raucous sound system to attract attention. As it motors down the canals and rivers, it pumps out a steady beat of loud rhythmic music. Men sometimes dance on the stairs of their stilt houses as the boat passes.

At each village, when the Barque Mobile docks, a few curious women step cautiously aboard.

Inside the boat, nurses work in two small clinics, giving counselling and contraception to the women. From tidy cabinets and desks, they hand out stocks of condoms and explain samples of birth-control pills, IUDs, implants and injections to those who are willing to give them a try.

At other stops on the boat's route, the campaigners organize boisterous meetings with music and speeches. "Who knows what contraception is?" a nurse asks a crowd of about 100 women (and a few men) in the stilt village of Ganvie.

"Me, me," a few women shout.

"If you have a lot of children, you'll have a shorter life, and you won't be able to take care of your children," one of the campaigners tells the crowd.

They hold up a poster with pictures of the various contraception methods. They explain the benefits of "spacing" a couple's children, with several years between births. They bring out a male musician to demonstrate the use of a condom on a carved wooden phallus, with much commotion and laughing from the audience, and they correct him on his errors.

"When your husband comes home and wants to get together with you, you tell him, 'Hey boy, that's not the way you do it.

Here's the way you do it,' "a nurse tells the women.

Then the campaigners answer questions about the contraception methods, dispelling some of the common myths. No, they tell the men, an IUD won't cause any injury to you during sex. No, they tell the women, taking the pill won't make it more difficult to have children later.

Among the crowd in Ganvie is a woman named Albertine Hoyeton. She is clutching her threeyear-old son, her youngest child.

Until she heard the loudspeaker from the approaching boat that day, she knew nothing about modern contraception. With her fisherman husband, she had five children in seven years - at great cost to her health.

"I was strong, but then I had several children," she says. "And now I'm weak and I'm often sick and I can't do many things. I don't sleep much, because I always have worries on my mind."

She often sees teenage mothers in her village. "I feel sorry for them, because their lives are miserable."

She wants her children's lives to be different. She wants them to use contraception, and she hopes that at least one of them will grow up to be a doctor.

At another stop, Simplicia Zannou climbs aboard the boat with her husband and infant son. She is about 20 years old. (Like many people in Benin, she's not sure of her exact age.) She and her husband already have three children, and they want to learn about contraception. They listen quietly as the nurse explains the various methods. They decide that they prefer the pill. Then, as a routine check, the nurse asks if she can do a pregnancy test before prescribing the pills.

A few minutes later, the test strip reveals that Ms. Zannou is pregnant. She stares at the floor in shock, mopping her brow, while her husband laughs and plays with their baby.

"Another child," she murmurs to her husband. "We should have been finished with this. I told you before that we should have gone for family planning."

Her husband, a tailor named Bourasma Kokossou, has been dominating the conversation in the nurse's office, even when the questions are directed to his wife.

"She'll just say exactly what I say," he explains. "My wife obeys me. Without my approval, she can't do anything. She can't even move."

But later, in a back room of their village home, Ms. Zannou agrees to talk without her husband's presence. Their small tworoom hut, filled with fabric and sewing machines, is built on stilts over the swampy water. Its floor is of rough wooden slats, and its walls are papered with tattered newspapers, old calendars and magazine pages.

Ms. Zannou is worried that her family cannot afford another child. She's afraid that her children's health could be affected by the burden of another newborn child. Her family is already sometimes forced to cut back to just one meal a day when the tailoring business is slow.

"How are we going to cope with this situation?" she asked her husband when they returned from the boat after the news of her pregnancy.

"Don't worry about the money, we'll get more customers," he told her.

And then they stopped talking about it. "In our community, the wife always does what the husband tells her to do," Ms. Zannou says. "The church tells us to obey our husbands."

While wives are taught to await their husband's authorization for family planning, husbands are allowed to have multiple wives.

Only the first wife is legally registered, but their right to "marry" other women is widely condoned.

In Benin, there are popular songs on local radio stations that jauntily tout the benefits of polygamy.

With these patriarchal attitudes firmly entrenched, Benin is one of the 14 African countries that have been the slowest to adopt modern contraception methods.

Its government wants to persuade 20 per cent of women to begin using contraception by 2020, compared to the current rate of 12 per cent, but the goal is unlikely to be met.

It's almost impossible to make significant improvement in education and economic development if the contraception rate is below 20 per cent, UN specialists say.

Even the spacing of children - allowing more than two years between births - can have a dramatic effect in reducing the death rate among children and mothers, while improving health and education levels. Bill and Melinda Gates, the billionaire philanthropists, argue that contraception is "one of the greatest life-saving and anti-poverty innovations in history."

In the impoverished villages of So-Ava, progress is so slow that a typical year would see only 60 or 70 women adopting contraception for the first time. But the campaigners found that they could triple this rate by using the boat to spread the message. Now, they plan to add three more boats to the circuit.

The obstacles In a country where illiteracy is common, the contraception boat has sparked wild rumours and suspicions. Some villagers claim that it must be a brothel. When doctors deny it, they are accused of taking bribes.

Other villagers are convinced that the boat's family-planning ideas are a "Mami Wata" practice - a reference to a mermaid-like water spirit in traditional religions, which local churches often portray as evil. They are afraid that the spirit will cause their death if they enter the boat.

"We tell them that it's nothing to do with Mami Wata," says a nurse, Laetitia Gnansounou, who works for OSV Jordan, a local health group that runs the Barque Mobile with the UN's help.

"There's a widespread idea that if they use contraception, they could die. In church, they're told that their mission from God is to multiply - to produce a lot of children."

To counteract the religious edicts, the family-planning advocates tell the villagers that they should have only as many children as they can afford. But even in a desperately poor village, the villagers often reject this argument.

"They think children are their wealth," says Benin's health minister, Alassane Seidou. "It's a paradox. They think, 'If we don't have money, we should at least have children.' " The problems in Benin are just a microcosm of a global crisis.

The UN has estimated that 220 million married women worldwide are unable to get access to contraception, even though they want to avoid pregnancy. It's a shocking and worrisome number.

In some parts of the world, there has been strong progress in expanding access to contraception. One initiative, Family Planning 2020, estimates that 30 million women across the world have begun using contraception since the current campaign began in 2012. Yet, this is still 19 million fewer women than the campaigners had hoped to reach by now, and they admit that their goal is unlikely to be achieved by the target date.

The future For many women in Africa, contraception is a late discovery, after a lifetime of children. Christiane Djengue, the woman who gave birth to 10 children in 19 years in a fishing village in southern Benin, suffered complications in most of her births. She remembers how she began thinking of getting an abortion after the seventh pregnancy, but a hospital nurse told her it was impossible.

"This hospital will never do it," the nurse told her.

Only after her 10th birth - when she almost died, trekking from hospital to hospital, bleeding, as she searched for a place that would give her a C-section operation - did she finally visit the Barque Mobile and get a birthcontrol injection. Nobody had told her about modern contraception before.

Today, her life is still difficult. "I can't relax, except when the children are sleeping, because one of my kids could fall into the water and drown," she says.

But she seems cheerful as she sits on a pile of fishing nets in her stilt house, breastfeeding her youngest baby, then playing with him and patting him affectionately. "It's because of this baby, my 10th, that I finally went to family planning," she says, laughing.

There is hope, too, from a younger generation of urban women, who are increasingly aware of contraception. Larissa Koukoui, a 22-year-old university student in Benin's biggest city, Cotonou, says she wants to be married by 26 and then have three children at the most. On a recent day in Cotonou, she was visiting a clinic to ask about changing her contraception method.

Like most of her university friends, she has been using condoms, because of rumours that birth-control pills could make it difficult for her to have children later. But now she is thinking about switching to the pill, if the clinic doctor will dispel the false rumours.

"This is Africa, and most of our mothers don't use these methods," Ms. Koukoui says. "Our mothers tell us, 'We didn't use it, so you shouldn't.' But our generation is better informed."

Associated Graphic

In impoverished corners of Africa, such as the remote fishing villages of Benin, the campaign to introduce contraception is more urgent than almost anywhere else in the world.


Women gather in a remote village in the Ganvie region of Benin for an information and counselling session with staff members from the contraception boat, a mobile family-planning clinic.



The mobile family-planning clinic boat, left, leaves a village wharf in Ganvie, a lagoon region in Benin where many people spend their lives on or near the water, having little contact with outside sources of information about subjects such as contraception.

While her husband rests on a hammock of fishing nets, Christiane Djengue holds her youngest son in the village of Houedo-Gbadji in Benin. 'It's because of this baby, my 10th, that I finally went to family planning,' she says. Two of her children died.

With Operation Reassurance set to unfold in Latvia, Canadian soldiers will soon be permanently garrisoned in what was once the USSR. As Mark MacKinnon writes, with tensions at a fever pitch between Russia and the West, many Latvians are viewing NATO as an unwelcome aggressor - one that could incite all-out war
Saturday, April 15, 2017 – Print Edition, Page F1

DAUGAVPILS, LATVIA -- It's dubbed Operation Reassurance, but not everyone in Latvia agrees with the moniker given to the NATO mission Canada will soon be leading in this former Soviet republic.

Unease abounds about the deployment, which is expected to begin some time in June. Never before have soldiers of the Western alliance been permanently garrisoned on the territory of the former USSR, with some Canadian troops and their families expected to spend years based in Latvia. Never before has Russian alarm been as shrill about what it calls an "aggressive" deployment so close to its border.

And the military mission will begin under stormy international skies. This week, Russian President Vladimir Putin described his country's relationship with the United States as "deplorable," following the U.S. cruise-missile strike against Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria. Canada is not in Mr. Putin's good books, either.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has firmly supported U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to hit Russia's ally, which stands accused of using deadly chemical weapons against a rebel-held village.

This, history teaches us, is how bigger wars start: with all sides saying they don't want conflict, but mobilizing their militaries and waiting for the other side to back down.

Operation Reassurance, and the Canadian contribution - 450 soldiers, backed by a Navy frigate and a half-dozen CF-18 fighter jets - is warmly welcomed by the Latvian government and a solid majority of the population in this country perched precariously between Russia and the Baltic Sea.

But as you drive east toward the Russian border, the local mood shifts. In Latvia's easternmost region of Latgale - where Russian is the dominant language, and Kremlin-controlled television is the main source of news - many see NATO, rather than Russia, as the aggressor. Rather than feeling reassured by the arrival of the Canadians, Latgale residents worry that it will only exacerbate tensions in the region.

"My feelings toward NATO are very bad.

They make enemies for themselves," says Aleksej Vasiljev, the head of a local nongovernment organization that claims to represent the Russian community in Daugavpils, the largest city in Latgale and the second-largest in the country. Sitting beneath a wall of Soviet heroes of the Second World War - including a portrait of Joseph Stalin - he says the presence of NATO troops in Latvia is a "provocation" that will spur Russia to build up its own forces in the region.

"All wars start with provocations," Mr. Vasiljev says, adding that Canadian troops need to be respectful of the local population. "I don't want my country, my Latgale, my Latvia, to become a place where people are fighting."

The Canadians will be headquartered hundreds of kilometres to the west of Latgale, at a former Red Army base near the Latvian capital of Riga that is rapidly being upgraded and expanded to accommodate the additional troops. But Alain Hausser, Canada's ambassador to the three Baltic States of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, says that Canadian soldiers will likely end up doing training missions and patrols all over Latvia, including the heavily Russified Latgale: "This is a NATO mission in Europe. We're defending a NATO member. There are no no-go zones."

It's impossible to predict what kind of atmosphere the Canadians will arrive into this summer, let alone how the U.S.-Russia relationship will develop in the years ahead. Mr. Trump's election in November initially unnerved America's allies, who worried about Russia's alleged efforts to tilt the U.S. vote in Mr. Trump's direction, and about the new President's campaign-trail description of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as "obsolete."

Now, worries that Mr. Trump might be too close to Mr. Putin have been upended by the cruisemissile strike in Syria. Hours after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was given a chilly reception in Moscow this week, Mr. Trump met NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and emerged to declare that the 28-country alliance was "no longer obsolete."

Canada's own relations with Russia are also near all-time lows, with almost no bilateral ties to speak of. Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland is among 13 Canadians banned from entering Russia as part of a sanctions war with Moscow. And Canada - along with the U.S. and the United Kingdom - already has troops on the ground in Ukraine, helping to train the national army for its fight against Kremlin-backed separatists that have taken over part of that country's southeast.

The Canadians headed to Latvia are tasked with ensuring that the fighting doesn't spread there, too.

(While Latvia is an open-ended deployment, Operation Unifier in Ukraine requires Parliament to renew it every two years.)

On top of Latvia's complicated ethnic and linguistic mix - and the population's polarized feelings about NATO - there's also the poorly kept secret that, if Mr. Putin did decide to launch an invasion of Latvia, the small NATO deployment wouldn't slow the Russian army down for long.

Instead, Operation Reassurance is what's referred to in NATO parlance as a "tripwire deployment," intended to make clear to Russia that attacking one or all of the tiny Baltic States is tantamount to attacking every other member of the military bloc.

But there's not much that can be done to save those tasked with being the tripwire. Most scenarios have the Russian army capturing the capitals of Latvia and Estonia within 60 hours of the start of an invasion.

"The troops die," is the blunt assessment given by Stephen Saideman, chair of Carleton University's Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, when he is asked what happens to those deployed to Operation Reassurance in the event that war does break out. "The idea is that their deaths would lead to an automatic response - politicians can't just let their troops die without a response - which then would lead to an escalation and on and on, so that [NATO] deaths serve to deter the Russians. But, yes, the troops being sent to the Baltics would die in a real war."

Russia says that talk of its invading the Baltic States is alarmist - and driven by "Russophobia." But the threat of war in the Baltics is being taken seriously enough that 19 NATO members are contributing troops to Operation Reassurance, which will also see battle groups deployed to Poland, Lithuania and Estonia.

Lithuania reintroduced conscription two years ago, after the Russian moves in Ukraine; neutral Sweden surprised many by taking the same step earlier this year. In Estonia, some 25,000 volunteers regularly spend their weekends learning how to take part in an armed insurgency should Russia attempt to invade and occupy their country.

There are similar fears in Latvia.

But in a country where 37 per cent of the population speaks Russian as a first language, and polls suggest that nearly one in five citizens share the Kremlin's suspicion of NATO, there's a sense that the threat might be internal, as well as external. "The Kremlin has already won the hearts and minds of many Russian-speakers here. It's really too bad," says Andis Kudors, a Rigabased political analyst. "There are really two worlds here inside Latvia."

Worries about Russian influence - particularly in Latgale - are such that staff in one popular Daugavpils nightclub are barred from speaking Russian, even to customers who order in the language. The club's owner, Andrejs Faibusevics, says he's glad that Canadian and other NATO soldiers are headed to Latvia to show their solidarity. But he says that Canadian troops would be well-warned to keep their guard up, and to be aware that there is a part of the population that is more loyal to Moscow than to NATO or the Latvian state.

"It would be naive to think that we don't have any spies here. We have enough mindless Soviet jihadis who will go and help [Russia] if they are called," Mr. Faibusevics says, speaking fluent English that he has also encouraged his three children to learn, along with French and German, instead of studying Russian.

"Of course we are worried," he adds. "Until Ukraine - we thought it was not possible here.

After Ukraine, it's clearly possible."

'Crimea was a part of Russia' What happened in Ukraine was that the Kremlin - furious over a pro-Western revolution in 2014 that ousted the Moscow-backed government of Viktor Yanukovych - activated an asset that it also has in Latvia and Estonia (where about 25 per cent of people are ethnic Russian): a large Russian-speaking population that absorbs Kremlin-produced news on a daily basis and that broadly admires the more muscular Russia that Mr. Putin has built.

Within hours of the change of power in Kiev, Russia sent undercover special-forces troops into the Crimean Peninsula, where they quickly seized control of strategic locations, then oversaw a snap referendum on joining Russia.

Even as Mr. Putin was signing the papers to formally annex Crimea from Ukraine, his agents were stirring up a secondary revolt in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of southeastern Ukraine, sparking a civil war that three years later sees Kremlinsupported militias in control of two "people's republics" that the separatists declare to be independent, though no one else recognizes them as such. More than 10,000 people have died in the fighting there.

And while the West saw Russia's actions in Ukraine as pure aggression - leading Canada, the United States and the European Union to target Mr. Putin's inner circle with economic sanctions - the events looked rather different to some in Latgale. Here, many cheered on what they saw as Mr. Putin's standing up for the rights of Russian-speakers abroad. Criticism of the Western sanctions against Russia - which resulted in countersanctions from Moscow that have hit Latvia's agriculture industry hard - is common.

"Crimea was a part of Russia. It is a part of Russia," says Evalds Jankovskis. An 18-year-old with mixed Russian and Latvian parentage, he recently joined an anti-EU political movement, in part over frustration that Latvia's membership in the EU meant that it had to join the sanctions against Russia.

As events in Ukraine accelerated in 2014 and 2015, someone even created a Facebook page calling for the creation of a "Latgale People's Republic" akin to the pro-Russian mini-states being formed in Donetsk and Lugansk.

A deep divide over the meaning of 'liberation' The history of Latgale has much in common with southeastern Ukraine. Like Donetsk and Lugansk, Daugavpils was almost flattened during the Second World War, then rebuilt afterward as a Soviet industrial centre that drew an influx of ethnic Russians from other parts of the USSR, dramatically changing the city's demographic mix.

The quarter-century since the fall of the Soviet Union has been marked in both Ukraine and Latvia by tensions between linguistic groups. Russian-speakers in both countries (as well as in Estonia) have spent much of the past 25 years fighting to have Russian made an official language, while their governments have resisted out of concern about Moscow's lingering influence. A quarter century after independence, 250,000 of Latvia's resident Russian-speakers - 10 per cent of the entire population - remain noncitizens of the country, denied passports because they're either unwilling or unable to pass Latvian language and history tests.

As in Ukraine, there's also a deep divide over the country's Second World War history: Most Russian-speakers see the Red Army as having liberated the country from the Nazis in 1944; most Latvian-speakers view that "liberation" as involving nothing less than the German occupation being replaced by a Russian one that lasted until independence was gained in 1991.

There are, of course, important differences between Latvia and Ukraine. Chief among them: Latvia has since become a member of both NATO and the EU. Plus, the country has an average income roughly double that of Ukraine's.

The example set in Donetsk and Lugansk also looks far less attractive after three years of grinding war that have left the rebel-held areas as no-man's lands that are part of neither Russia nor Ukraine. There are no obvious signs of separatist sentiment in Latgale today.

Still, there's enough pro-Russian sentiment here to justify Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan's public worry that Canadian troops could themselves be targeted by the sort of "hybrid warfare" tactics that Russia has used in Ukraine. Mr. Sajjan has publicly suggested that Russia could try to whip up local hostility against the troops, perhaps even to the point of inciting violence against them.

Several incidents involving NATO soldiers are already legendary among Latvia's Russianspeakers. Most infamous is a 2014 incident that saw inebriated NATO soldiers brawl with residents in the port city of Ventspils after the sailors were accused of harassing local women and urinating in public. The story was spread widely by Russian media after the mayor of Ventspils accused the NATO troops of "behaving like occupiers."

Many Latvians also resent the idea that their government will pay $100-million (U.S.) to upgrade the Soviet-era Adazi military base near Riga to accommodate the Canadians - as well as the Albanian, Slovenian, Spanish and Italian troops that will also take part in the mission - who will be based there.

Mr. Hausser, the Canadian ambassador, says the troops would need to be on guard against "provocations" that could be used by Russian media to drive a further wedge between Latvians and NATO. "I would not say that all Russian-speakers are against NATO, or against the Canadian battalion," he said in an interview. "Some are against, for sure. But the opposition will come more from outside Latvia, in the form of fake news and propaganda."

Those who get their news from pro-Kremlin sources already see the NATO mission through the same lens as does the Kremlin.

"We don't need this here," 80 year-old Regina Galasko says of the idea of NATO soldiers patrolling her town of Piedruja, which sits along Latvia's border with Belarus, a close Russian ally.

Like many in Latgale province, Ms. Galasko - who was Piedruja's mayor in the late 1980s, when both Latvia and Belarus were part of the Soviet Union - gets her news exclusively from Russian sources. That's not entirely her decision: Sitting on a sofa in her cramped bedroom, she flips through her television set to demonstrate that the only channels she receives are Russian-language services broadcast from Russia and Belarus.

Ms. Galasko says she doesn't believe everything she sees on TV.

"Everyone has their own truth," she says. Still, although she's proud of her Latvian citizenship, she wishes the country had not joined the European Union or NATO, and had instead remained closer to Russia.

Canada will be the next front in the disinformation war, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics warns. Russia has already turned some in Latvia against NATO, and Mr. Rinkevics says that the next logical step will be an effort to sink the Canadian public's support for the mission. "I do believe Canadian society will be quite a target," he said in an interview at the Foreign Ministry building in Riga, which served as the headquarters of the Latvian Communist Party in Soviet times. "We do not expect physical provocations against Canadian soldiers. We do expect fake stories like we have seen with German soldiers in Lithuania."

German troops, who are leading the Operation Reassurance battle group in Lithuania, arrived in that country in February. (The United Kingdom heads the mission in Estonia, while the U.S. has taken the lead role in Poland.)

Shortly after the Germans arrived, the speaker of Lithuania's parliament received an e-mail claiming that an underage Lithuanian girl had been raped by German-speaking men in uniforms, a story that also reached the media in both Lithuania and Germany.

A Lithuanian police investigation found the purported crime never occurred, and prosecutors are now looking into who sent the e-mail, which they say came "from a country outside the EU."

How tripping a NATO wire could lead to all-out war Last year, in a controversial BBC mockumentary, World War Three did indeed begin in Latvia, and specifically in Latgale. The hourlong Inside the War Room splices together real footage of pro-Russian fighters seizing control of Donetsk and Lugansk in 2014 with fictional clips that show Russian-speaking actors storming a government office in Daugavpils.

Sporting balaclavas and Kalashnikov rifles, the crowd tears down, and then burns, the Latvian and EU flags, before raising Latgalian and Russian banners to proclaim a "Latgalian-Russian Union." The TV show then cuts back and forth between more footage of dramatized events on the ground, and a "war room" of 10 real-life British security experts - former military, intelligence and government officials - debating how they would respond to them.

Things get dire fast, and Latvia's fictional government invokes Article 5 of NATO's collective defence treaty. As all-out war with Russia draws near, complete with talk of nuclear weapons, one member of BBC's security cabinet asks: "Are we ready to die for Daugavpils?" The show was heavily criticized in both Russia, for portraying the country as an aggressor, and Latvia, for emphasizing its internal divisions. But those involved in real-life strategic decisions say the program's premise of a small incident in the Baltic States spreading rapidly into a wider conflict wasn't too far off some of the scenarios they're looking at.

Karlis Neretnieks, a retired major-general and former head of Sweden's National Defence College, says that his country's decision to reintroduce conscription was based on its own wargame scenarios, which suggested that Sweden would be rapidly drawn into any conflict between Russia and NATO over the Baltic States.

While the presence of the NATO troops in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania successfully removes any doubt about whether the alliance will respond to an act of aggression against the Baltic States, it also raises the question of how NATO will defend its allies - and rescue its "tripwire" soldiers - if war really does break out.

Flying in NATO reinforcements from Germany and Poland, which lie to the south, would be close to suicidal, Maj.-Gen. Neretnieks says, because of Russia's formidable air force and the presence of long-range anti-aircraft batteries in Russia's Kaliningrad exclave, which is wedged between Poland and Lithuania.

That means that the safest route for NATO forces to reach Latvia and Estonia would be via Swedish airspace. "The Russians know that, and would do everything they can to prevent it," says Maj.-Gen. Neretnieks.

In the estimation of Sweden's defence ministry, the Russians would seek to quickly seize the Swedish island of Gotland - in the centre of the Baltic Sea - in order to erect anti-aircraft batteries there in the path of any effort by NATO to reinforce its tripwire troops on the ground. That analysis, combined with the realization that Sweden's tiny armed forces could do little to stop such a move by the Russians, helped prompt the return of conscription, Maj.-Gen. Neretnieks says.

"If Russia would do something regarding the Baltic States, and NATO chose to defend them, then Sweden would be drawn into the conflict. We would have no choice. The World War Two option, to stay out and be neutral, doesn't exist today."

Latvians on both sides of their country's political divide say such talk remains far-fetched.

Mr. Vasiljev, the head of the pro-Russian group in Daugavpils, says that Ukraine and Latvia are two very different situations.

"There are things we don't like about the Latvian government, but we are not going to invite the Russian army here, or go into the streets with weapons," he says. "If nobody pushes Russia, Russia will not start anything."

But Mr. Faibusevics, owner of the Daugavpils nightclub that forbids its staff to speak Russian, isn't as convinced that Russia won't try to stir up trouble in Latgale as tensions mount between Moscow and the West.

"We know that they can do this.

Whether they will, we don't know."

Mark MacKinnon is The Globe and Mail's senior international correspondent, based in London.


Associated Graphic

Latvian teenager Evalds Jankovskis, who is of mixed Russian and Latvian parentage, recently joined an anti-European Union political movement, in part over frustration that Latvia's membership in the EU meant that it had to join the sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.


The Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas, in Piedruja, which sits near Latvia's border with Belarus, a close Russian ally.


Regina Galasko (right), who was the mayor of Piedruja in the late 1980s, gets her news exclusively from Russian sources. 'Everyone,' she says, 'has their own truth.'


'My feelings toward NATO are very bad. They make enemies for themselves,' says Aleksej Vasiljev, the head of a local non-government organization that claims to represent the Russian community in Daugavpils.


A ceremony in the Roman Catholic Church of the Assumption of Virgin Mary in Piedruja, a town in which some residents wish the country had not joined the European Union or NATO, and had instead remained closer to Russia.


Can the centre hold?
Britain under Theresa May is heading out the door. Marine Le Pen wants France to follow suit. Once again, the European project hangs in the balance, Paul Waldie writes
Saturday, April 22, 2017 – Print Edition, Page F1

PARIS -- After Brexit and the rise of populism across Europe, the real test of the strength of the European Union comes on Sunday when voters in France begin choosing the country's next president. And just about everyone is on edge.

These are uncertain times for France and the EU experiment.

The country is in the midst of the most hotly contested election campaign since the founding of the Fifth Republic in 1958 and all signs point to a political earthquake taking shape after the first round of voting ends Sunday night. And that will only set the stage for the next phase in the race, the ultimate showdown between the top two finishers on May 7.

Four candidates are within striking distance of each other. Their platforms couldn't be more different, stretching from the far-right call of the National Front's Marine Le Pen to stop all immigration, to the hard leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who wants to align France with Venezuela. In between, there's the centrist Emmanuel Macron and his upstart movement En Marche! and the Thatcherite reformer François Fillon of the Republicans. Traditional parties and establishment figures have been laid to waste by voters who seem eager to embrace new radical ideas and directions.

Young people in particular have flocked to the extreme right and left, seeing the election of Ms. Le Pen or Mr. Mélenchon as the only way to smash a system they believe no longer works.

All of this is taking place amid a backdrop of heightened fears over security, an issue that galvanizes the followers of Ms. Le Pen, who draw a link between terrorism and immigration. Campaign events were cancelled Friday after three police officers were shot in a terrorist attack Thursday night near the Arc de Triomphe. The attack left one officer dead and prompted more soul-searching about this country's ability to confront terrorism.

The perpetrator was killed by police and though it's unclear if he was born in France, that hasn't stopped the angst over radical Islam and the infiltration of Islamic State, who took credit for the attack. All week, police had beefed up their presence across the country, checking bags in public squares and patrolling campaign rallies, as terrorist threats mounted.

For Europe and the Western world, the stakes in this election could not be higher. Consider this: depending on who wins, France could soon be pulling out of the European Union, withdrawing from NATO, scrapping the euro and forming a new alliance with Russia. Even the most moderate outcome will see France demanding major changes to how the EU operates and testing the limits of Europe's open borders. With Britain already heading out the door, and an election coming there that could deliver Prime Minister Theresa May a mandate to drive a tough bargain, the EU can't afford instability in one of its core members.

If voters like Hugo Poidevin are any indication, the EU is in for a difficult time with France.

"I've been raised with the ideal of the European Union, which is that it leads the people together for better, for good. I grew up with that dream. But that dream is not true," said Mr. Poidevin, a 24-year-old university student from Normandy. "They forced us to believe in a Eurozone that's not true... They betrayed us, everyone. They betrayed us about changing Europe. They betrayed us about everything."

For him and millions of other young people who face a youth unemployment rate that hovers around 23 per cent, and a labour market that's so rigid, few can expect more than a short-term contract, the only choice is Mr. Mélenchon or Ms. Le Pen. "We think a change can only come with a new majority and not with the old party that has blown everything since 50 years," he said.

It's that kind of anger that has experts like political scientist Dominique Moïsi calling this the most important election in a generation. This campaign is being driven by "anger, fear and nostalgia," he said. Anger at years of chronically high unemployment, fear about immigration and nostalgia for a time when some believe the country had neither, he explained.

"The French today are at a turning point, for them and for the entire European continent," said Mr. Moïsi, a senior counselor at the Institut Montaigne, a Parisbased think tank.

That France should even be wavering in its relationship with the EU is stunning. After all, this is where the origins of the EU took shape. In 1951, France and five other European countries signed the Treaty of Paris, creating the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). That laid the foundations for the European Parliament, the Special Council of Ministers and the European Court of Justice. As the ECSC developed into what became the EU, France was an eager participant, joining the euro, hosting the European Parliament and pioneering the concept of open borders and the free movement of people between member states.

Enthusiasm for the EU soared in France during the 1980s and 1990s, when it was led by Jacques Delors, a former French cabinet minister. Mr. Delors helped shape the modern-day EU and laid the groundwork for the introduction of the euro. He also oversaw the rapid expansion of the EU in the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. For countries across Eastern Europe, EU membership was seen as a path to a bright future as part of a rising power block that could serve as a counterweight to the United States and China.

Not everyone in France welcomed the push for expansion.

Former President François Mitterrand worried about accepting so many new members with weak democratic institutions and of varying economic standings. He proposed a kind of confederation, something that would give the new countries a form of membership but keep them out of the core EU arrangements like the single market and open borders. But his efforts were thwarted, largely at the behest of the U.S., which was keen to see former Soviet satellites join the EU, and NATO, as quickly as possible in order to keep them out of the Russian sphere of influence.

Real cracks in French support for the EU emerged in 2005, when the EU came up with a constitution to set out the union's legal framework. It was more like a 400-page rule book that outlined the powers of various EU institutions and the workings of the single market. The French government held a referendum on whether to ratify the constitution and President Jacques Chirac took it pretty much for granted that voters would overwhelmingly vote Yes. They didn't. In a stunning upset, the No side took 55 per cent of the vote, leaving the government searching for answers and the EU eventually scrapping the constitution after voters in the Netherlands rejected it as well.

"Europe had become a more and more remote external body and the constitution made it even more complex," said Pierre Haski, a political analyst based in Paris. "They were voting against something that had become too intrusive and too much lacking transparency."

Four years later, the EU repackaged much of the proposed constitution into the Treaty of Lisbon. Instead of putting that treaty to a referendum, the French government presented it to parliament, where it was adopted. That infuriated those who led the No side in 2005. And many of those voices are now at the forefront of the current presidential election campaign, including Mr. Mélenchon and Ms. Le Pen.

"What was the point of asking people for their opinion if you didn't take it into account?" Mr. Haski asked, by way of explaining the current frustration. "That's a wound that is very much present in today's debate."

By 2009, France also faced economic pressures from the financial crisis, leading to more disenchantment with the EU and the governing parties. Unemployment soared above 10 per cent, where it has generally remained ever since. The government's fiscal plans went astray and President Nicolas Sarkozy and his successor François Hollande largely failed in their attempts to introduce reforms that would encourage more employment.

The crisis also exposed deep and persistent problems in the French economy. The government has run an annual deficit for 43 years and the country's total debt is almost equal to the size of its entire economy, a figure that puts France among the highest debtholders in the EU.

Government spending is equal to 57 per cent of the gross domestic product, one of the highest ratios among developed countries. The comparable ratio in Britain is 38 per cent and 40 per cent in Germany. French labour market regulations are so complex that companies have shied away from hiring full-time staff, preferring shorter contracts with easier layoff provisions. As a result, 86 per cent of all hiring last year was for temporary positions, and 80 per cent of those jobs were for contracts lasting less than one month.

"You have the situation of an insider-outsider labour market," said Bruno Cavalier, chief economist at ODDO BHF, a Paris-based investment firm. "For people aged 25 to 45, it's close to full employment, and if you are inside the system and have a job, it's great. For the people close to retirement age, if they lose their job they won't find another one.

And for the young, it's very difficult to find work."

That's true for people like Chloé Lescoules, 26, who is frustrated with her career prospects. She graduated from law school in Paris last year and is hoping to break into the art market as an auctioneer. But the only job she could land was a temporary internship.

"To go through [and land a career], it's hard," she said. "It needs to change." Part of the problem, she added, is the cronyism in the art world, where jobs are handed out to friends and relatives, as well as the licensing fee for auctioneers which can reach 400,000, or $576,000 (CAD).

Some changes have been made to ease the process, including lowering the fee, she added. But it's still hard to find work, and, as a result, Ms. Lescoules became so fed up with politicians and their promises, she spoiled her ballot in the last presidential election. "I was angry against all the parties," she said. She's supporting Mr. Macron this time and hopes he can bring some real change to the system.

Ms. Lescoules also backs the EU and she wants France to remain in the union. But many others see the EU as a burden that makes France's unemployment problem even worse. They focus on EU regulations like the "posted worker" rule, which allows companies in one EU member state to assign workers to a branch operation in another EU country, so long as they pay those workers the host country's minimum wage. But with minimum wages varying across the EU, posted workers from Eastern Europe can earn far more in France. Its minimum wage is about 1,480 a month, compared to about 450 in Poland.

France is home to about 286,000 of these so called detached workers, one of the highest totals in the EU. In some parts of the country, these employees have become a source of friction, amid complaints they undercut wages and drive out job opportunities for local workers.

The EU has wrestled with the issue for years but it faces resistance from many Eastern European countries who see the measure as a key benefit for their citizens. The debate over detached workers has also morphed into general disgruntlement about workers from Eastern Europe, something that drove many in Britain to vote to leave the EU last June.

All of the four leading contenders for the French presidency have vowed to either ignore the posted worker rules or force the EU to change the measures. And some, like Ms. Le Pen, want to introduce French-only language laws in workplaces to ensure jobs go to locals first.

Many French voters have also grown fed up with the complexity of the EU, seeing it as an amorphous, opaque entity that isn't relevant to their day to day lives. That's a view shared by others in the EU, even in the Netherlands, which recently re-elected a pro-EU government in the face of a rising populist revolt similar to France's. Dutch politician Kees Verhoeven said the EU needs to be wary of the growing concerns in countries like Holland and France. "Nobody understands what [the EU] is doing," said Mr. Verhoeven, a leading figure in D66, a Dutch party that is committed to the EU. "People hate it.

They just want an effective, sober, lean and mean organization that solves the big problems."

Mr. Haski points to another dilemma, a series of ineffective EU leaders who have been incapable of coping with major challenges. He cites a string of recent figures including former British Prime Minister David Cameron, departing Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Mr. Sarkozy and Mr. Hollande. "They could have been good managers of prosperity, but they were not the people up to the level of the challenge of today and to rethink the whole system," he said.

For him and many others, France has essentially stood still for the last 10 years while other EU countries, particularly Germany, have recovered and roared ahead.

It's that sense of stagnation that has spurred the shift toward nontraditional candidates in this presidential election. For many people, Mr. Sarkozy was a failure of the right and Mr. Hollande a disaster on the left, so why stick with the two traditional parties?

That's been the message of Mr. Macron, a 39-year-old former banker who has never run for public office and resigned from Mr. Hollande's cabinet last year to launch En Marche! The movement has amassed nearly 300,000 members and vaulted Mr. Macron into the lead among the four contenders. He's running on a platform of "neither right nor left" and promises to draw advice from all sides and implement significant labour-market reforms without jeopardizing France's social safety net. He's also committed to a strong EU, though he wants to see changes.

It's a tall order and many have questioned whether he is up to the task. And while he has been leading in the opinion polls, his support is soft and he is only marginally ahead of Ms. Le Pen.

Ms. Le Pen too is positioning herself as the anti-establishment candidate, even though her party has been around for 40 years.

She's reinvented the National Front since becoming leader in 2011, toning down its harsh language and expelling her father, party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, who had become a liability with his blatant anti-Semitism. She now talks about immigration largely in economic terms, saying new arrivals are threatening jobs and wages. However, her campaign has floundered and she has been slipping in some recent polls, raising questions about whether she will make it to the second round. But even if she doesn't, Ms. Le Pen is expected to double the party's best vote total, setting her up for major gains in parliamentary elections in June.

Mr. Mélenchon, 65, is the true radical in the race, storming the country with a firebrand pitch of communism that calls for a tax rate of 90 per cent on income over 400,000, limits on corporate dividends, withdrawing France from NATO and the EU and instead forming an alliance with Venezuela and Russia. He's captured the imagination of young people and become such a social media sensation that his YouTube channel has nine times more subscribers than Mr. Macron's and Ms. Le Pen's combined. Mr. Mélenchon has been a politician for more than 30 years, holding positions at every level of government including serving briefly as a cabinet minister in a Socialist government. He broke with the Socialists in 2008 and has led a leftist movement called La France Insoumise (Unsubmissive France). Polls put him in third, but only just behind Ms.Le Pen and Mr. Macron.

For France's traditional parties, the Republicans and Socialists, this election has become a nightmare. Mr. Fillon of the Republicans is campaigning on an agenda of reforms that would see 500,000 civil servants laid off and sweeping changes to the country's labour laws and cherished 35-hour work week. But the former prime minister has been hampered by allegations he put his wife on the public payroll even though she did no work. It's even worse for the Socialists, a party that just five years ago held the presidency and controlled the National Assembly and the Senate. Now its candidate, Benoît Hamon, is running fifth and may get less than 10 per cent of the vote on Sunday.

Most of the smart money is on Mr. Macron and Ms. Le Pen finishing first and second on Sunday, with Mr. Macron winning the runoff on May 7. There are indications his pro-EU message might be getting through. The country's economy is also showing signs of turning around and the economic performance across the Eurozone has been strengthening lately. But no one is certain and polls show any one of Mr. Macron, Ms. Le Pen, Mr. Fillon and Mr. Mélenchon could make it to the second round.

That's left people like Jeanne Mertens fretting. She's 69 years old and recently retired from her job with the Ministry of Environment. She's a long-time socialist but she's so disenchanted with the party and the overall election campaign that she might not even vote.

"It's sad," she said this week as she stood on the edge of the Place de la République, watching Mr. Hamon's last major campaign rally. Despite the warm sunshine, lively music and colourful balloons, Ms. Mertens said she was anxious about where the country was headed.

"I worry for my three grandchildren," she said. "I worry about the future."

Paul Waldie is The Globe and Mail's European correspondent.

Associated Graphic



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