Learning life’s lessons from the best – and worst – of leaders

What we learned from Winston Churchill and Pierre Trudeau won't be taught to our children by Donald Trump

Learning life’s lessons from the best – and worst – of leadersWinston Churchill was the first political leader I noticed. My school, St. George’s School for Boys, was staffed with many First and Second World War veterans, men and women who revered Churchill. He was constantly held up as the epitome of global politicians: erudite, opinionated, brave, loyal au mort, sportsmanlike, impeccably groomed and dressed for…

Civic renewal that drains the soul – and people – from communities

When investor neighbourhoods replace residential ones, civic sustainability is the big loser

Civic renewal that drains the soul – and people – from communities“We are basically not a self-sustaining society. There is no other way to provide amenities we need … currently land and development is one of Canada’s biggest exports,” Ian Egloff of Creekside Architects is quoted as saying in Kerry Gold’s real estate column in the Globe and Mail on Nov. 25. What a great oxymoron.…

Angry times require rational argument

But in the time of Trump, there is too little reasoned articulation of viewpoints and too much posturing and pouting. It puts us all at risk

Angry times require rational argumentWe live in angry times. So much of the volume is directed over the Internet, by individuals tethered by coaxial cable to a universe of other individuals. Millions of people sit in rooms by themselves venting into screen space what they never would find courage to vent if they went out into the public sphere.…

On board but not bored: why committee work makes a difference

The best boards reflect Canada’s diversity of gender, age, ethnicity, language, regionality, background and enthusiasm for the cause

On board but not bored: why committee work makes a differenceMany of us volunteer to sit on boards of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and some of us also sit on for-profit boards that govern businesses. In both cases, we know the experience (and consequences) of good and bad board encounters. Consequently I increasingly ask myself, after board meetings, how did it really go? Was the time…

Moving on: nature migrates as winter closes in

On the Pacific coast, the fascinating fall movements of whales, salmon and sea ducks have begun

Moving on: nature migrates as winter closes inOne evening recently at about 6 p.m., I heard a familiar sound from the sheltered bay just in front of our house at Skelhp. If you’ve never heard it, it can be bewildering, even frightening. It’s very loud blasts of air – sometimes two or three in succession, sometimes with about a minute’s silence before…

Bringing clarity to the muddy waters of separatist movements

Canada's Clarity Act may be the key to managing issues of sovereignty around the world

Bringing clarity to the muddy waters of separatist movementsMany Canadians still have sharp memories of the Oct. 30, 1995, Quebec sovereignty referendum. Now, what the experience taught our nation may be of great use to other countries. Quebec voters were asked by their government, led by the Parti Quebecois, to decide if the province should assert national sovereignty, arguably with some form of…

Facts or flights of fancy: how Trump tackles problems

Could it be that, at 71, Trump draws on an innate ability to reason that works in the absence of any understanding of the facts?

Facts or flights of fancy: how Trump tackles problemsRigour, noun: the quality of being extremely thorough, exhaustive, or accurate. As in, “His analysis is lacking rigour.” Synonyms: meticulousness, thoroughness. If there’s one quality we have a right to expect from the most powerful person in the world, I would argue that it’s rigour. When your decisions have the daily power of life or death…

A minibus ramble through Scottish Highland history

As our minibus pulled to a stop, I felt suddenly that my grandmother’s love of the Highland landscape was surrounding us all

A minibus ramble through Scottish Highland historyI count myself lucky to have had a Scottish grandmother. She was a Graham of Montrose, and came from humble beginnings. I remember her describing something called a byre, and explaining that her mother lived in a crofter’s house with the cattle. From the moment I learned this, I have wanted to travel to northern…

The hardships of Orkney link to Canada’s early days

Displaced from their homes, many citizens of the Orkney islands ended up in Canada working for the Hudson Bay Company

The hardships of Orkney link to Canada’s early daysThe Standing Stones of Stenness on Mainland, the main Scottish island of Orkney, date back to approximately 3,100 BC. Stonehenge, to put the Orkneys in time perspective as a Neolithic parent to western Europe, was constructed from 3,000 to 2,000 BC. What was it about these outpost islands that attracted the earliest agriculturalists to their…

Decoding Orkney by channelling the subtle Norse air

Part 1: A Scottish contribution to Canada’s Arctic genome can be found in the deep history of these remote islands

Decoding Orkney by channelling the subtle Norse airWhen you hear mention of the Orkney islands, off Scotland’s northeast coast, what do you think of? For me, they conjure up a northern vision of Orkneymen, the founding of the Hudson’s Bay Co. on May 2, 1670 (I still recall this date after wearing hundreds of HBC clothing labels over the decades), the Arctic…

Calgary’s potential for renaissance can be found in its history

Here's how the best of the city's founders would approach the problem of rebuilding the city

Calgary’s potential for renaissance can be found in its historyCalgary is becoming a city of ghosts. And it’s from ghosts that salvation may be found. I lived there for 30 years and pursued three careers – in oil, academia and museology, about one a decade. Each time I moved on, I did so enriched by stories of the founders of Calgary and with new…

Calgary’s down, but is it out?

A former Calgarian returns to find empty office space, a battle over a multimillion-dollar hockey rink, and deserted restaurants and hotels

Calgary’s down, but is it out?After a summer spent up B.C.'s Sunshine Coast, I recently returned to Calgary for board meetings. The onset of fall is the uptake of my work as a member of five boards. They all crunch back into business mode almost the same week that ocean swimming becomes unpleasant. Every September, swimming is replaced by Robert’s…

Are we wired to follow our parents’ occupational footsteps?

Does it even matter what your parents did in their work life?

Are we wired to follow our parents’ occupational footsteps?To what degree do parental occupations influence their children’s choices? Does it even matter what your parents did in their work life? And how is this playing out in the day-to-day lives of older children, especially after the death of key parental influencers? These questions have been circulating in my brain because of the realization…

World needs a Canadian perspective, steeped in small-town values

Our store of creative capital, entrepreneurial risk taking, peacekeeping and a welcoming attitude rooted in our small-town history

World needs a Canadian perspective, steeped in small-town valuesFor the past year, I’ve been living in a small town. It has about 20,000 residents counting the ‘highway people’ – those few thousands of us who live along Highway 101, which stretches about 30 km north and south of town. We’re seasonally augmented by a few thousand ‘island dwellers’ who essentially show up for…

Canada and the U.S.: A tale of two countries

Compared to the Americans, we’re showcasing a national unity and sense of purpose that verges on the exemplary

Canada and the U.S.: A tale of two countriesThe Syrian food concession at the Powell River Saturday farmers’ market is doing a crackerjack job of introducing us all to hummus, manoushi bread, falafel and tabbouleh. There’s now a lineup every market day to sample and buy from the community’s two adopted Syrian refugee families. They also had their food tent set up on…