Mark Carney

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The 50 Most Influential People in Toronto: who really runs this city?

The 50 Most Influential People in Toronto 2013 You know you live in interesting times when the chief of police is the most powerful person in town. What propelled Chief Blair to the top of our Influentials list was Rob Ford’s Crackgate—a story that consumed the city for much of the last year and whose bewildering narrative is still being written. Of course, Ford wasn’t the only politician who behaved badly in 2013. Chronic dysfunction is evident at all levels of government, from the petty infighting at city hall to the crippling gamesmanship at Queen’s Park and the expense scandals on Parliament Hill. And yet, it’s not all doom and gloom. Some of the city’s most formidable leaders are outside the traditional halls of power: global hip-hop stars, tech titans, gossip bloggers and guitar-strumming astronauts, among others. The people ranked here all did something in 2013 that made an impact on our lives, for better or for worse. Our list demonstrates that sometimes influence is enduring, sometimes it’s fickle and sometimes it rests on a single cellphone video that could forever change the complexion of the city.

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50 Most Influential 2012: a ranking of Toronto’s top tycoons, backroom operators and supersize egos

50 Most Influential

The people driving the agenda for the city are more likely to come from outside local government than inside. This was the year our premier, rendered virtually impotent by a minority legislature, up and quit without warning. And our mayor, who listens to no one and refuses to build consensus on council, has created a city hall power vacuum.

What follows is Toronto Life’s list of the real influence peddlers—the people who, either publicly or behind the scenes, have had the greatest impact on the city. We looked for people whose power was broad enough to be felt across different sectors, or else so palpable in their immediate field that it somehow changed things for the rest of us. We looked for people whose ability to alter public opinion, raise money, rally troops or simply get stuff done was both formidable and undeniable. The result is a carefully calculated and highly opinionated look at power in the city in 2012.

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Camera: financial and diplomatic bigwigs hobnob at the Canadian International Council gala

Camera:

Ritz-Carlton, October 25. Masters of the financial and diplomatic universes took part in the gala for the Canadian International Council, the global affairs think tank funded by ex–RIM boss Jim Balsillie. This year the Globalist of the Year award—past honourees include Egyptian telecom titan Naguib Sawiris and super-investor George Soros—went to International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde, for keeping the eurozone intact post–Greek meltdown. After a meeting where they conspired to solve the world’s problems, the VIPs broke for cocktails and Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney dotingly ushered Lagarde around the room. She lauded Canada’s financial soundness and called Carney a fantastic central banker; he evoked a 2009 Financial Times article that ranked Lagarde the best minister of finance in the eurozone, then paused before delivering the punch line: “and that was back when that meant something.”

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Business

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The three biggest corporate cash hoarders in Toronto (and what we imagine they’re doing with the dough)

Last month, Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney accused corporate Canada of hoarding hundreds of billions of dollars of “dead money,” kicking off a heated debate over whether companies are being tight-fisted at a time when the economy could use a little stimulation. (Carney says companies should invest in Canada by spending the money or pay dividends to shareholders, while others say having large cash holdings is just prudent, considering that the global economic outlook is still far from certain.) The Toronto Star’s list of Canada’s top corporate hoarders includes three local (or semi-local) companies: George Weston Limited, Research in Motion and Magna International. Below, the answers they gave the paper—along with our own, speculative answers—to the question: What does one do with more than a billion dollars?

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Editor’s Letter (September 2012): real estate crazy

Sarah FulfordA few blocks down the street from me, in Seaton Village, there’s a beautiful three-storey house with four bedrooms and tremendous character. Its owners, a pair of journalists in their 60s, bought it in 1972 for $35,000, which was $2,500 less than the asking price. When they moved into the neighbourhood, they were considered pioneers—none of their friends had even heard of Seaton Village. The property was a dilapidated rooming house, and the couple spent the next 40 years lovingly restoring it. When they put it on the market this spring, they got seven offers. The asking price was $1.195 million, it sold for $1.44 million, and the money they made will play a big part in funding their retirement.

This is the kind of story that drives members of my generation crazy. As baby boomers cash out on their real estate investments, their children are finding themselves either priced out of the market or buying houses they can’t afford. The big gamble of Toronto’s young professional class is that they’ll have the same luck in real estate as their parents. Torontonians in their 20s and 30s are throwing themselves into frenzied bidding wars, banking on the hope that Toronto house prices will continue to rise in perpetuity.

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Real Estate

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What bubble? RBC says Toronto condo’s market won’t crash

The city’s condo boom may be keeping both Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney up at night, but at least one high-level economist is contradicting both (because when has anyone ever agreed about the real estate market?). Robert Hogue, a senior economist at the Royal Bank of Canada, insists there’s no bubble in Toronto and, while the market will likely see a bit of cooling, there won’t be an epic condo crash. In a report released today, Hogue argues that demand for housing remains strong—after all, there are roughly 38,000 net new households in the Greater Toronto Area each year and they have to move in somewhere.

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Toronto’s housing forecast according to Garth Turner, the Dr. Doom of real estate

Bubble Boy

Turner outside his Caledon home, a former inn built in 1855

If the Toronto real estate market has nine lives, so, too, does its most famous prophet of doom, Garth Turner. Over a 40-year career, Turner has worked as a journalist, a broadcasting entrepreneur, a newspaper chain proprietor, a hotel and restaurant operator, twice as a federal MP (including a stint in Kim Campbell’s short-lived cabinet), a PC leadership candidate, and a financial author and speaker (or, as his critics put it, “seminar shill”). Most Canadians still know him best as the rebellious member of Stephen Harper’s government who was kicked out of caucus in the fall of 2006 for blogging about party business, then crossed the floor to join the Liberals.

Turner, you may be surprised to learn, is also a self-professed real estate junkie who over the years has bought and sold—very profitably—about 50 commercial and residential properties; he moved four in 2011 alone. But as he has watched prices and consumer debt levels soar, especially in Toronto and Vancouver, he has come to see the housing market as a grossly distended balloon that will—any day now—explode, raining debt and misery on the Canadian populace. Each delay to the inevitable reckoning, he argues, more deeply entrenches our delusion that the real estate boom—“the biggest bubble economy in history,” as he puts it—can continue forever, and leads a few thousand more naive young couples to sign five-per-cent-down mortgages on wildly overpriced fixer-uppers in Leaside or Riverdale. “The real estate correction will hurt,” he warns, “and the longer this thing goes before it tips, the more pain there will be.”

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Real Estate

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Bubble Trouble: the latest (and heartening) analyses of Toronto’s housing market

Sometimes it feels like real estate watchers aren’t even talking about the same city when they’re discussing Toronto’s market. Mere weeks ago, columnists and analysts predicted government regulation and oversupply could sap some of the energy from Toronto’s condo boom and hot home sales. Now, the latest flurry of opinions on the market are, confusingly, optimistic. 

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Why Roger Martin believes the corporate world needs to be overhauled—starting with excessive CEO compensation

The head of Toronto’s most prestigious business school has a seditious idea, and it might save us from financial catastrophe

Something Rotten on Bay Street

(Image: Daniel Ehrenworth)

Last fall’s Occupy Toronto protest was more of an idea than a place, a kind of free-floating rage against what is perceived as an unjust, morally skewed, out-of-control, soul-sucking machine. The number of protesters ranged from a few hundred people to 3,000, depending on the day, and the camp at St. James Park possessed a vibe similar to Occupy camps around the world. Gordon Lightfoot and Rachel McAdams dropped by. The placards that hung from tents or rested on the grass—“Corporate Greed Hurts Everyone,” “Reclaim Your Life!”—could just as easily have been found in London or Atlanta or Calgary.

Almost from the beginning, critics were quick to say that Occupy Toronto was misguided and irrelevant, a copycat protest at best, and a case of rich envy at worst. Corporate kleptocracy is not nearly as bad here as it is in the United States, the argument went, and our economy has triumphantly eluded any deep, lasting meltdown. Canadian executives are not, for the most part, cut from the same overpaid, underhanded cloth as American CEOs. In Canada, super-elite is just a passenger class on Air Canada. “We obviously have a very different situation here,” Stephen Harper said in response to the claims made by Occupiers. “We didn’t bail out our banking sector. Our banking sector is the strongest in the world.” In other words, put down the sign, comrade, nothing to complain about here.

William DowneWhile it’s true that economic disparity is not as pronounced in Canada as it is in the States, and the European Union could take a few pages—maybe even a whole chapter—from our playbook, the smugness is unwarranted. The Conference Board of Canada, a not-for-profit economic research organization, has found that we’ve been outpacing the U.S. in income inequality since the mid-1990s. The ratio between the top 10 per cent and the bottom 10 per cent of earners is now 10 to one (in the early ’90s, it was eight to one). The country’s wealthiest one per cent account for 32 per cent of all income growth between 1997 and 2007—the largest percentage in our recorded history. In 2010, the average Canadian income was $44,366, while that same year the average compensation for the country’s 100 highest-paid CEOs was more than $8 million. Frank Stronach, the former head of Magna International, received roughly $40 million a year over the last decade and in his last year at Magna pocketed $62 million. (In 2007, he set a Canadian record by collecting over $70 million in compensation.)

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Ottawa-based cult chain The Works sets out to become the Second Cup of burgers

(Image: The Works)

The Works, the popular chain of gourmet burger joints that started in Ottawa in 2001, has announced a downright Manifest Destiny–like plan for national expansion: 50 new locations across the country. The chain already has locations in London, Kingston, Ottawa, Guelph and Oakville, and three others under construction—including one on the Danforth set to open in May. It’s an impressive spread for the company, which, by its own admission, developed “a cult-like following among burger connoisseurs in Ottawa.” Among those connoisseurs: Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney, not to mention former Montana’s president Andy O’Brien, who took over The Works last year along with two of his vice-presidents. Michael Bregman, the former owner of Second Cup, is one of the company’s new directors, which suggests The Works might soon be the Little Burger Place That Could.

The Informer

Real Estate

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Globe’s Economy Lab forecasts an imminent rise in interest rates; Toronto housing market waits with bated breath

One thing that could spark a big sell-off in Toronto’s real estate market is a sharp rise in interest rates, as homeowners that were previously on the fence about selling try to cash in before the market softens. So, naturally, anyone looking to sell (or, for that matter, buy cheap) would like to get as much advance notice as possible that an interest-rate hike is coming. Well, economist Stephen Gordon issued such a warning yesterday, suggesting that the interest rate is set to increase much sooner than most observers thought.

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The great burnout: recession survivors didn’t count on the surge in workload, the smaller paycheque and the all-consuming resentment. A story about workplace hell with no escape

It’s been three years since the mass cull of the Great Recession began.

Three years since all those jobs were zapped into oblivion, and the people who remained employed were left to shoulder double, triple or quadruple loads.

For my generation, the timing couldn’t have been worse. My close friends and university classmates are exiting their 30s and have mortgages and kids and barely enough minutes to shovel the driveway. They’re entering the phase that used to be called “mid-life,” which in the best of times is a moment for evaluation and maybe even reassessment. But after the worst economic upheaval we’ve ever known, they’re reeling. A financial analyst in her early 40s tells me how 12-hour days—which used to be the exception—are now the norm: she puts in full and breakless stretches at the office, then keeps the laptop burning for hours every night after her two young kids have gone to bed. Another executive was burned out after her company took on dozens of new projects and she was left to run everything. She now works up to 100 hours a week and gets phone calls from friends she hasn’t seen in months, asking if she’s moved or died.

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Business

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Mark Carney says debt is too high; BMO asks, What does he know, anyway?

Canadian debt loads are this big (Image: Sebastian Derungs, World Economic Forum)

Yesterday at the Economic Club of Canada, Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney warned in the strongest possible terms short of yelling “fire!” that Canadian personal debt loads are too high. The problem is that the cure for the last crisis (low interest rates to fight recession) is getting us ready for the next disease (a wallop in the wallet when interest rates start to go up again).

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