Archive for October, 2013

How I miss Parliament Hill (on days like today)
October 22, 2013

Years ago, I was a Parliamentary Page. Best Job Ever. Paid for university. Custom made suit (but ugly shoes). Front row seat to Canadian democracy and human frailty.

A few years after that, I was a Hill staffer for a wonderful Member of Parliament. Worked in a Whip’s office. I’ve seen phones ring. I’ve seen eight lines light up at once. Trust me, some days it’s worst than watching paint dry, but every now and then, a day will come that makes up for all of that and more.

Today would have been one of those awesome days. All the TVs would have been on. All on different channels. We’d be standing rather than sitting. Marveling at the drama. “He said what?” “No way, did he really, really say that?” OMG. Except we didn’t say OMG then.

When Mike Duffy stood up in the Senate and called out the PMO, I wanted to stand up too. When he called the PMO “the kids in the short pants”, I wanted to cheer. Best line ever.

There’s ┬áplenty of childish behaviour happening on the Hill right now. And no trade deal with Europe is going to make that nonsense go away.

And, despite a happy life, a lovely family, a great town, and all that important stuff, part of me would have traded it all in to be on Parliament Hill today. I’ll settle for Power and Politics with Evan Solomon. I bet that studio was abuzz with OMGs today too.

I don’t know how PM Houdini’s going to get himself out of this locked box contraption, but I’ll be tuning in tomorrow to catch up on the drama. OMG indeed.

Dear USA
October 16, 2013

You are being a nightmare roommate. I’m pretty sure Mexico feels the same way. You can’t spend our rent money flirting with what’s her name, that Debt Ceiling gal and her buddy Default and expect us to bail you out.

I want my comedians, my actors, my singers, and my circus back. You can keep the wood and the steel and the oil. I can do with what I have left.

Please leave them in that empty box on the border you call Detroit. I’ll pick them up there.



Not so small business
October 4, 2013

This article first appeared in the October All Month edition of the Friday AM in Salmon Arm, BC

October is small business month. Ironically, small business isn’t small at all. In fact, it’s the biggest business we have. According to Industry Canada, there are 1.1 million small businesses in Canada and 55% of those employ 1 to 4 people. Small businesses employ 69.7 percent of the private labour force and create the most new jobs.

Canada’s real economic action plan, it would seem, is small business. But there are areas where we don’t do as well. Government lobbying for one. Large businesses are much better at it. A study entitled Corporate Welfare at Industry Canada since John Diefenbaker studies what it calls “rampant corporate welfare”. Tens of billions of tax dollars have, over many decades, gone to giant resource, oil, mining, transportation and technology companies. The argument, of course, is job creation and economic prosperity but the numbers just don’t add up.

While I appreciate that traditional financial institutions are also in the business of making money and selling it as loans, I think it fair to question their commitment to small businesses and the local economies they serve. Even industry Canada regularly reports on the lending commitments made to small business. The especially small ones, that employ most of the people, are the most often denied turning instead to angel investors, personal debt, supplier credit and non-traditional lenders to make it happen. I believe there’s a seriously missed opportunity here both in an under served business market for banks, and a loss of productivity and jobs for the economy as a whole. But then again, I’m no banker.

There is thankfully, support for small businesses (albeit it a fraction of what’s dolled out to the big guys) in public agencies such as Community Futures, chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, industry associations and export and business development banks that work hard in communities across the country to support what small business is about.

That we need a Small Business Month indicates to me that there is plenty of work yet to do. But then, that’s no surprise to small business owners. There’s always plenty to do despite the constant challenge of finding the time, money and resources in which to do it. We should take the opportunity to remind one another of the importance of small businesses as employers, consumers, taxpayers, neighbours, volunteers, supporters and community builders.

This is especially true for small businesses in small towns. Statistics Canada tells us that more and more Canadians are choosing an urban lifestyle and further studies suggest that small towns are at risk, economically and otherwise. Salmon Arm bucks this trend, as it happens, having recorded an increase in population over the last two census reports. A quick review of the recent history of Salmon Arm reminds us that who we are and what we do for a living are part and parcel of the city in which we live. So, in October, if you shop small, you’re thinking very big indeed.