When did the Toronto Star decide “progressive” was a synonym for NDP?

In case you haven’t noticed, the Toronto Star recently decided to dispense with the New Democratic Party descriptor when referring to NDP-connected municipal politicians. They are now, it would appear, “Progressives.” I can’t tell you exactly when this change took place, and it certainly hasn’t been codified in the Star’s Journalistic Standards Guide. But the use has become so rampant that I think “progressive” is now the officially sanctioned Star synonym for “NDP”.

Sounds much more harmless, doesn’t it?

It first came to my attention when the Star used the “progressive” word to refer to at least six different municipal candidates on its editorial slate for the recent Toronto City Council elections. Each of the six appears to have strong NDP ties, yet the Star’s editorial team found a way to utilize “progressive”, instead. As in:

“…he is a progressive voice on city council”
“…a forthright advocate of progressive causes”
“She’s a progressive with strong history of grassroots community work…”
“…an outspoken advocate for his ward and for progressive issues on council”
“..a council progressive”
“…a compelling and progressive presence”

The Star’s Education Reporter followed suit a few days later, when covering the outcome of the Toronto District School Board elections. “Progressive” was used when “NDP” would have been technically correct.

Just this morning, the Star’s City Hall bureau used the descriptor “Council’s Left wing” and “Progressive Councillors” interchangeably:

Rob Ford was elected mayor four years ago on a promise to take a sledgehammer to city council, its transit plans, and its budget. Immediately after he won, council’s left wing began trying to figure out how to thwart his agenda.

John Tory was elected mayor Monday on a promise to bring council together. He will get a grace period.

Tory, a moderate conservative, will be granted an opportunity to be the consensus-building pragmatist he said he would be, progressive councillors said in interviews Wednesday.

As a noun, “progressive” refers to someone who is an advocate of social reform, according to the Oxford Dictionary. As an adjective, it would imply someone “favouring change or innovation.” Golly, I think I fall into each category, and I’m certain that most of my political mentors, including Norman Atkins, Dalton Camp, Pat Carney, Mary Collins, Eddie Goodman and Hugh Segal would all see themselves as advocates of social reform, social change and innovation.

Of course, the antonym of “progressive” is generally “conservative”, “regressive” or even “reactionary.” Although “left-wing” politics are often associated with the late 19th century Progressive Movement, in the case of Toronto politics, it seems as though the Toronto Star is doing a disservice to its readers by hiding a politicians’ New Democratic Party association with this potentially less-threatening “progressive” moniker.

Only 20% of Torontonians voted for the NDP’s Mayoral candidate. And yet, upwards of 35% of Toronto Council seats are going to be held by NDP-associated politicians for the next four years. And all that goes with that brand, for better or worse.

For the media to pretend otherwise can only be a conscious, overt and inexplicable effort to deny a long-standing reality on Toronto City Council: there are no “party politics”, except when it involves NDP-backed candidates advocating the NDP agenda.

(disclosure – this post, like all blogs, is an Opinion Piece and personal view and does not reflect the views of the TPA/WDBA (boards or staff) or the Federal government.)

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Wellington Financial leads $25 Million Growth Capital financing to Market Leading On-Demand Software Company

There’s plenty going on at the firm. The most tangible example is that we just led a US$25 million venture debt financing for a rapidly growing Silicon Valley-based On-Demand Software company. The company’s existing investor base includes a number of prominent Silicon Valley venture capital firms, and has many Fortune 1000 customers from around the world.

Over the course of 2014, Wellington has led approximately US$70 million of growth capital financings to seven U.S.-based, VC-backed growth companies, advancing US$60 million. More on that tomorrow.


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“Accountability” a worthy goal for Tory

Fixing Toronto Part 16

“Why would the City of Toronto plan regular annual maintenance on the Gardiner Expressway on the very same weekend that there are three Toronto Blue Jays games, a TFC game and other civic events, when you could have done it just as easily on the prior weekend or the following one, when there was only a soccer match but no MLB events? You’d inconvenience 20,000 people, but not 120,000 people. Who made that decision? Someone had to. It didn’t just happen.”
John Tory, October 2, 2014

That quote (recounting as best as I can) speaks to the challenge that lies before Toronto Mayor-elect John Tory. He often spoke of accountability on the campaign trail, and the public responded to it. If you tally up all of the votes that he and Councillor Doug Ford received, almost 75% of Toronto voters were in favour of the concept that accountability at City Hall, broadly speaking, was a necessary component of good government.

The challenge, when all but one City Council incumbent was re-elected to office, will be this: how do you put that natural, City-wide yearning for accountability into action? After seven and a half years of closely watching the wheels churn at City Hall under both David Miller and Rob Ford, I can tell you that it won’t be easy.

What Mr. Tory was used to seeing at the United Way or in a business meeting will be a far cry from his new reality.

When Rob Ford was elected four years ago, he had the mandate of a change agent (see prior post “A million Howard Beales” Oct. 22-10). And yet, four years later, not much has changed at City Hall. There are plenty of examples, but I’ll use one close to my heart as a case in point.

In September 2009, Toronto City Centre Airport (TCCA) was renamed Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport by the Toronto Port Authority.

Canada was celebrating its 100th anniversary of powered flight that year, and the TPA Board of Directors wanted to commemorate the occasion by renaming the TCCA after one of Canada’s most celebrated figures, the fighter pilot and First World War hero Air Marshal William Avery “Billy” Bishop, VC, CB, DSO & Bar, MC, DFC, ED.

At the time, I said that the name “Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport would recognize both the past and the future of Toronto’s downtown airport. As Canada’s greatest air ‘ace’, Mr. Bishop is a Canadian hero for the ages, and his ties to our airport and harbour are strong.”

After the First World War, Mr. Bishop and another Victoria Cross recipient, Billy Barker, ran a flight service from the Toronto harbour to Ontario’s cottage country. During the Second World War, Mr. Bishop also helped recruit soldiers at the newly built Port George VI Island Airport, and flew military aircraft in and out of what would become the TCCA.

I added that “I hope that our men and women in uniform will know that by honouring Canada’s most enduring military hero, we are also acknowledging the service of every Canadian who has worn a military uniform.” Think about what has happened over the past 10 days….

Mr. Bishop’s son, Arthur, himself a WWII RCAF fighter pilot was “excited by the idea”, and spoke of how “honoured” his family was by the “recognition.” The feedback was fabulous, and the Billy Bishop name has stuck; the former head of Mr. Bishop’s museum in Owen Sound, Mary Smith, saw it as a way to acknowledge his legacy with a profile that his historical birthplace couldn’t match.

The new name hasn’t been embraced, though, in certain corners of City Hall. For the past five years, the TPA has tried and failed to get the “TCCA” signs along the Gardiner and Lake Shore Blvd. changed to “Billy Bishop”.

It got to the point where, out of sheer frustration, I actually included the request to change the Billy Bishop signage in a letter to Mayor Rob Ford on Feb. 13, 2013. Remarkably, all of this has been ignored by City bureaucrats, although they were definitely quick to replace the Skydome signs after Rogers Communications bought that facility in 2005.

It was never a question of the added cost of replacing the old TCCA signs, either, since the TPA said it would pay (despite the fact that airport passengers paid $1 million in direct City taxes via their plane tickets last year alone). City staff just willingly chose to ignore the fact that the airport had been renamed after Canada’s best known WWI veteran. How is that possible, you ask?
TCCA Gardiner signage photo
It gets worse: during the past two weeks, a new “TCCA” sign was installed on the Gardiner Expressway by Transportation Department GM Stephen Buckley’s staff — to replace one that had been damaged some months ago (it is about 200 yards earlier than the one pictured above).

After more than five years – despite 2014 being the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War – the “TCCA” wayfinding signs along city routes such as the Gardiner Expressway and Lake Shore Blvd. remain. Canada might call William Avery “Billy” Bishop, VC, CB, DSO & Bar, MC, DFC, ED a “hero”, and tourists might find their trip to the airport to be unnecessarily confusing, yet I’m told that one City staffer recently advised that the airport’s name “isn’t that important to them”.

As Mr. Tory said with the poorly-timed Gardiner closure: “someone had to decide.” The same goes for the refusal to update BBTCA’s signs, when the Transportation Dept. gladly did it for the Skydome. These things don’t just happen. Either the bureaucrats were told to stand down by an area Councillor, which seems hard to imagine given the fallout that would occur, or mid-level staff took it upon themselves to ignore the historic event. I’ve even emailed Mr. Buckley a couple of times myself, seeing that he works for the taxpayers of Toronto and all and is accountable for the department in question, but he has yet to reply.

This is what Mayor-elect John Tory is facing when he takes office in early December. City staff will be in attendance at Toronto’s Cenotaph on Remembrance Day to honour the 100th anniversary of the Great War, where almost 61,000 Canadians died and another 172,000 were wounded. But when it comes to acknowledging a Toronto resident and hero like Billy Bishop, VC, no one is accountable. None seemed all that motivated to change a few simple signs.

Fortunately for Toronto, people like Billy Bishop, Billy Barker and Arthur Bishop were only too happy to be held accountable for preserving the freedom that we all cherish today.

(disclosure – the post, like all blogs, is an Opinion Piece and personal view and does not reflect the views of the TPA, board or staff, the Federal government or the RCN.)

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Decade of Daddy Mirror Fund goes to cash

It has been more than seven years, and the strategy of the Decade of Daddy Mirror Fund has served us very well (see prior post “Decade of Daddy Mirror Fund Q4 Report” Jan. 16-14). Starting with $40 million of play money on July 1, 2008, the fund has more than doubled to date. That’s right: a gain of 100%. Unlike the original O’Leary Global Equity Income Fund, which has generated a return of barely more than 4% since inception (including its successor funds the O’Leary Global Equity Yield Fund and the O’Leary Global Dividend Fund). That’s not an annual return figure — that’s the entire gain, including distributions.

The Yahoo Finance account I used began making errors in the cash balances starting around March, and I’ve been unable to accurately track dividends and cash levels ever since. That’s why I’ve not done updates for the first, second or third quarters of 2014. The Mirror Fund’s positions have done just fine, mind you, just the same.

As of the last trade, here’s where they stood:

Berkshire Hathaway (+48%), BCE (+37%), BMO (+44%), BNS (+38%), Bristol Myers (+122%), Constellation Software (+126%), Goldman Sachs 2037 Subdebt (+67%), Duke Energy (+46%), JP Morgan (+40%), Merck (+60%), Royal Bank (+42%), Spectra Energy (+67%), TD Bank (+48%), Thomson Reuters (+11%).

As I reported in February, we exited our two Venezuelan bond positions when things looked tough there. The BOLIVARIAN REPUBLIC VENEZUELA AMORTIZING BD REG S 2022-08-23 12.7500% went out for US$81, while the PETROLEOS DE VENEZU NOTE 2014-10-28 4.9000% realized US$89 — including accrued interest. In the end, we earned 5.6% on the face value of the Republic one ($95k), and 50.5% on the Petroleos version ($859k).

Since the fund began we’ve locked in our gains on BMO ($775k and $1.133MM but we are back in again), BNS ($136k but are back in again), CIBC ($242k plus dividends), JP Morgan ($1MM but are back in again), Merrill Lynch ($799k), MKS ($3.19MM plus dividends), Royal Bank ($566k but are back in again) and Teranet ($307k plus distributions) as you’ve read in prior reports. We’ve also realized losses on Canadian Oilsands, Discovery Air bonds and Eli Lilly.

We hold nothing in the portfolio that’s currently in the red column. Not that I see a 50% sell-off over the coming weeks and months, but since I went to 50% cash in my own RRSP on Oct. 3rd., I figured that I should take the ultimate step with our Daddy funds.

After all, as KO reminds us, money is the “only thing” that matters. And if you don’t have it, you can’t spend it.

Having never made such a move on the personal side during 2007 or 2008, I’m not sure what you should take from it. The Decade of Daddy Mirror Fund definitely traded during that time (sold one Canadian bank in the high $40s and bought back at $30), but I didn’t lift a finger on the personal side; never got scared, even as we blogged away about the Armageddon that was underway. Rode it right down and then right back up again.

The futures are up this morning, and I remember some nice market tops (ie. head fakes) in April and August 2008. too. It’s not just economic challenges in Europe, the inexplicable drop in oil prices, or the potential black swan represented by Ebola; it’s all of the above, demonstrated by the pounding 250-300 point down days that usually foreshadow a tough time.

(disclosure: this post, like all blogs is an Opinion Piece; it is not meant to represent investment advice and should not be taken as such)

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How did experimental Canadian Ebola vaccine wind up in Iowa?

News report: Canadian Ebola vaccine to be shipped to Geneva next week

Along with the rest of our planet, I dearly hope that the researchers at Winnipeg’s National Microbiology Laboratory have discovered the 21st century’s version of Major Sir Frederick Banting, MC’s insulin discovery (and then some).

What will come as a surprise, perhaps, is the news that the Public Health Agency of Canada has exclusively licenced the intellectual property, and not to a Canadian biotech firm. As reported by The Globe and Mail:

Canada holds the intellectual property rights to the vaccine but has licensed the rights to a small American biotech company, NewLink Genetics. Based in Ames, Iowa, the company’s primary focus — until recently — has been the development of cancer vaccines. It does not have its own vaccine production facility and has never brought a product through the expensive and onerous process of gaining regulatory approval.

But because it holds the licence to one of a very few experimental Ebola vaccines — and one of only two ready for human safety trials — NewLink has found itself at the centre of a storm.

While the company has been getting assistance from a U.S. government agency — the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA — frustrated scientists and others have questioned whether the company has the resources, finances and clout to push the vaccine forward.

NewLink Genetics (NLNK:Q) listed on the NASDAQ three years ago on the back of work its researchers had done to use immunotherapies to treat cancer. Like most early stage biotechs, the company is still looking for meaningful revenue from that research. To date, NewLink has burned more than US$150 million, and had cash on hand of about US$78 million as of Q2 (or 8 quarters of cash at current burn rates).

For the past few years, the Conservative government has tried to stimulate Canada’s innovation economy in a variety of ways. You’ve read about them here (see representative prior post “Feds on right path with Innovation ecosystem consultations” July 2-12). Direct investments, fund investments, commercial offset programs, policy directives and so forth. It took the CVCA a few years of effort (see prior post “CVCA letters to Messers Flaherty, Clement and Ignatief” Dec. 26-08), but we are now in a better place.

How is it possible, then, that not a single Canadian biotech company is involved in what could be the most important clinical trial of this generation?

Billions of tax dollars are spent annually in Canada on research and development. Much of it within university campuses and in federal medical labs. For reasons that I’ve never understood, little of this R&D is ever successfully commercialized. This commercialization step is a core ingredient for a thriving angel and venture capital ecosystem, as traction on that front eventually leads to outsized financial gains for institutional investors (which in turn fund Canadian pensions and retirement funds). Which allow VCs to raise another fund, and start all over again with a new group of researchers and entrepreneurs.

Our poor record of commercialization has always been an element of why Canada’s VC industry punches below its weight as compared to our American or Israeli counterparts. And yet, when one of the greatest potential discoveries comes along, a firm in Iowa, with no reported experience in bringing a drug to market, is given the chance to harvest the fruits of Canadian research labours. What’s the point of having an Economic Action Plan geared to the sector, if this kind of thing can happen? It would have made sense if NewLink had the bonafides to bring this product to market faster than anyone else in the world; humanity’s needs trump all. But, according to the Globe, that doesn’t appear to be the case.

And an exclusive licence? What were they thinking?

Hopefully, someone in Winnipeg has a clear answer as to how that happened; not that a “clear answer” will help soothe anyone in the Canadian biotech industry. But it might give us a window into what’s broken in the research/commercialization world, and a sense of how to fix it once and for all.


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