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Harper's corporate governance: The problem of running government like a business

Photo: pmwebphotos/flickr

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The Senate scandal that will continue to plague Stephen Harper when the House resumes sitting is far more than just a run-of-the-mill scandal, of which Canada has had many over the years. This one seems to present the result of an accumulation of rot, amorality, casual thuggery and complete lack of shame, as one politico put it. It feels like we are approaching the end point of the collapse of public morality.

Mel Watkins

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| January 23, 2013

International trade agreements and corruption in Quebec

| November 26, 2012
Columnists

Banks and the derivatives scam

Chase Tower in Rochester, New York. Photo: Kristen Cavanaugh/Flickr

John Kenneth Galbraith famously described financial genius as "a rising market." This was on display in the expansionary era of the 1950s and 1960s. New bank credits funded growing businesses. Investment bankers injected their own capital into initial share offerings of "public" companies, allowing businesses to grow by taking in shareholders as partners. Finance flourished.

The underground economy and business tax evasion

| June 30, 2011
Columnists

Pay bonanza continues for bankers

Some people were outraged last week by a report that a member of the kitchen staff of bailed-out Wall Street firm AIG had received a $7,700 bonus.

Surely that was far less outrageous than the million-dollar bonuses paid to others at AIG who actually carried out the firm's financial business.

After all, the kitchen helper produced something that at least could be eaten. Apart from perhaps overcooking the Chateaubriand or leaving spots on the champagne glasses, what harm could the kitchen helper have done -- compared to driving the world economy over a cliff?

Columnists

UBS Investment Bank scores hole in one with Obama

It looked like it was business as usual for President Barack Obama on the first day of his Martha's Vineyard vacation, as he spent five hours golfing with Robert Wolf, president of UBS Investment Bank and chairman and CEO of UBS Group Americas. Wolf, an early financial backer of Obama's presidential campaign, raised $250,000 for him back in 2006, and in February was appointed by the president to the White House's Economic Recovery Advisory Board. Economic recovery for whom?

Columnists

Corporate elite settles an old score

By any logic, advocates of unfettered capitalism should be seeking cover from public wrath these days, as the deregulated capitalism they foisted on us continues to self-destruct, bringing calamity into the lives of millions.

Yet I've heard barely a whisper of mea culpa from members of this corporate crowd.

On the contrary, they seem to see the economic meltdown as an opportunity to finally do in their old foes in the labour movement.

After years of demonizing unions and undermining workers' rights, they're now taking advantage of the unpopularity of the auto bail-outs to try to take away gains that the Canadian Auto Workers spent decades achieving, and that set a standard for the labour movement.

Columnists

The guys in the towers

It would've been satisfying to be among the G20 protesters led by a guy crying: "When I say bankers, you say -- " And we shout, "Wankers!" Better still, to be the guy. Even so, the pleasure would be limited.

It wouldn't shake up the traders high in the towers watching the protests below while laying bets on the number of arrests -- Bloomberg News quoted a spread of 130 to 140 -- as well as deaths and whether more than 20 people would be hurt in charges by police horses. How do you rattle that kind of complacency? I'll tell you: by having an alternative out there in the real world to their gluttonous, failing, yet still smug capitalist system. Of course they're smug. They're the only option available.

Columnists

Her honour as theatre critic

The judge in the case, Mary Lou Benotto, said the defendants' "creative success" was "spectacular" in plays produced by their company, Livent. It "reflected favourably on all of us in Canada." But into each life some rain must fall. So she found them guilty of fraud and forgery. Er, with respect, your honour, beg to differ. If there were a law against debasing theatre culture, I'd convict 'em on that and let the rest go.

Garth Drabinsky and Myron Gottlieb's company was a symptom in that era of high globalization, the 1990s: theatre as a vehicle for corporate grandiosity. Its first coup was getting the Canadian franchise for The Phantom of the Opera. They produced it from a template.

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