The docility of Canadians

Allan Fotheringham April 28 1986

The docility of Canadians

Allan Fotheringham April 28 1986

The docility of Canadians


Allan Fotheringham

The docility of the Canadian public is incomprehensible to behold. The rugged land of bush and rock is populated by 25 million sheep, who do not even bleat. Canadians abide abuse and contempt from those on high that would cause riots in the streets anywhere else. No one complains, no one protests. The country is still run by the private clique, bank directors in daisy-chain links with corporate directors, as it was 50 years ago.

We are talking here of those at the

top who make the big bucks and how they thumb their noses at you.

And how a docile government, Tory as well as Grit, is too weak-kneed to even keep watch on them. There are two executives in Canada who seem likely to make $40 million apiece. There are at least six executives in Canada who made more than $1 million last year.

How do we know? Because the Americans tell us so. The United States, which is a democratic country, requires by law that companies must disclose all the goodies they heap on their pinstripe types—from cars to golf

clubs to retirement benefits to golden handshakes. In Canada, which is not quite so democratic, gutless Liberal governments before and a gutless Conservative government at present cozily protect the fat cats and will not let the public at such embarrassing evidence.

So we have the ludicrous and humiliating situation that Canadian reporters, to find out what Canadian executives make, have to go to the Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, since most of the Canadian biggies have their shares listed on U.S. stock exchanges. Cap in hand, tugging their forelocks, Canadians have to find out from a foreign country what is going on in their own land. Gag me with a spoon.

Let us take, for our prime examples of greed and blind corpulence, Ross Turner and Angus MacNaughton. They

Allan Fotheringham is a columnist for Southam News.

are at the top of Genstar Corp. and chummily switch jobs annually as chairman and president. With Imasco’s successful $2.5-billion takeover of Genstar, they stand to make some $40 million each in a combination of salary, shares they hold in a private partnership and stock options they have garnered over the years.

Is any bloated capitalist, whatever his genius, worth a $40-million windfall? You and I know he’s not. Even Stephen Jarislowsky—perhaps even more Stephen Jarislowsky—knows it. He’s the brainy Montreal investment

whiz whose firm looks after $4 billion worth of investments for his clients, most wealthy, some not. He says the amounts coming to Turner and MacNaughton, whom he counts as friends, are “absolutely outrageous. And what have they done for that? They took absolutely no risk.”

You want another screamer? The Daffy Duck act of Canadian corporations, Dome Petroleum, had to file its annual report this month with the SEC in Washington. Only then could Canadians discover details of a deal in which Dome, in effect, is in receivership and has passed all its assets over to the banks, which are owed some $6 billion. Dome is now a joke, but an even better joke is the golden parachute arranged by the guy who runs it, Howard Macdonald. A Scottish accountant who was treasurer of Royal Dutch/Shell, second largest oil outfit in the world, Macdonald was hired by Dome in 1983 to save it. He, first of all,

being a good Scot, negotiated a personal-service contract. Basic wage? The SEC, not gutless Ottawa, tells us it was $812,768 last year. Better still, $4 million in a trust fund that he will get if he quits or gets fired, if Dome falls or thrives.

He is now openly contemptuous of the once-greedy bankers who, in effect, own Dome and don’t dare put it into bankruptcy. Citibank of New York is owed $2 billion. The Bank of Montreal is owed $800 million, the Royal $300 million and on down the line. Says the banking analyst for Merrill Lynch

Canada: “There’s all this talk about the banks in trouble. You can be sure the shareholders will be wiped out first.”

The fat cats looked after themselves last year. You don’t like your telephone service? Phone Bell chairman Jean de Grandpré, who made $882,100. Oil prices plunging? Please send a commiseration card to Imperial Oil executive vice-president William Young who limped by on $962,399. Which is better than the $675,675 for Imperial Oil executive vice-president Bob Peterson. Must be expensive times around the water cooler in that joint.

The mining industry in trouble? One George Albino of Rio Algom made $1,036,884. Company perks? Dome Mines’ chairman Fraser Fell had a golden parachute worth $950,000 plus a clause guaranteeing that if his company is taken over, his present stock options were good for another 10 years. And wouldn’t we like to know what is being made by Mickey Cohen, the former deputy minister of finance who quickly moved to the Reichmann family’s privately held Olympia & York empire?

Michael Wilson, the terribly earnest current finance minister, may go into history with only one quote: “Canada doesn’t have enough millionaires.” That may or may not be true, but every institution in history has been killed not by its enemies but by those idolaters who abuse it, as Marcos and Imelda’s shoe collection has proven once again. We get the millionaires we deserve.