October 11 2004


October 11 2004


Gyms, free cars, fresh fruit: the best firms offer nice work if you can get it


TRAVELLING TO and from Yellowknife several weeks ago, my wife and I flew on the Innuowned Canadian North airline. It was terrific: staff were helpful and cheerful, the caribou stew would be a treat in any restaurant—never mind measured against regular airline food—and one flight attendant in particular, a multilingual guy of Peruvian origin named Alberto, was as entertaining as he was efficient in keeping people happy over a six-hour

period. Canada’s north isn’t an easy place to run an airline: they deal with a disparate passenger list that includes impatient people from the big cities to the south and, at the other extreme, people from north of the tree line who have never flown on an aircraft before—and are sometimes seeing trees for the first time. But Canadian North, at least in our experience, pulls it off with aplomb. One reason may be what its president, American expat Tom Ruth, calls “the willingness of staff to do a bit of everything.”

Canadian North isn’t on the list of 100 best companies to work for in our cover package: it didn’t fit all the criteria for fastest-growing companies set by Mediacorp Canada Inc., which supplies the data and works in partnership with Maclean’s on this project. But based on my experience, don’t be surprised if it shows up one of these years. In the meantime, you will be impressed by the range and quality of services offered by employers on our list. Some places open fitness facilities to all family members as well as employees; one company gives top performing salespeople a free Mercedes for a year, and has fresh fruit delivered every morning; another offers an individual training budget for each employee and has yoga classes led by an executive vice-president (although that’s admittedly not an incentive in the case of some VPs I can think of).

A happy company isn’t automatically better or more effective: I’ve visited a couple of retailers as a customer, only to leave because staff seemed more interested in their own entertainment than in helping visitors. And the best companies aren’t always those with the longest-serving employees: an employer must guard against a culture of entitlement settling in that discourages

A happy work place isn’t automatically better-but, in general, happiness and

productivity go together

input from new people with new ideas and energy. But in general, happiness and productivity go hand-inhand—and a happy long-term employee usually is that way because he or she and his/her employer have cause to feel good about each other.

This year marks the first time that

Maclean’s—working with Mediacorp—has singled out one company as the best overall to work for. You can find our choice on

page 22—and then discover what your bosses should do to contend for that title.

TWO OTHER ITEMS: first, a new feature on our website—Daily Press Review, written by Norman Spector, a former diplomat, newspaper publisher and senior federal civil servant, offers his analysis of news coverage on television and in the newspapers. As people who have read and heard Norman elsewhere know, he’s not shy with opinions. And we’re delighted to welcome back Chief Photographer Peter Bregg after a medical leave. One of Canada’s most acclaimed news photographers, he’s also one of the most decent people in our industry: our office is a happier place with his return. to comment on The Editor’s Letter

‘Neither side cares about the fans or the game.

Only the money matters. Both sides should hang their

headS in Shame. — Keith Ratcliffe, Fort Erie, Ont.

Hockey humbug

Wah, wah, wah! Welcome to the real world, NHL players (“Last.hurrah,” Hockey, Sept. 27). Refusing to agree to a salary arrangement that is based on revenue shows you are self-centred greedy jocks who only look out for No. 1.

G. P. James, Edmonton

The players are always going to want more money, the owners are always going to want to pay less, but the real group that is to blame for the labour troubles is the fans— for continuing to pay for such a low level of hockey compared to the great level that was enjoyed for years before expansion. There are too many players on too many teams watering down the level of hockey.

Gary Copeland, Springhill, N.S.

We have created monsters in these hockey players. They earn too much for the average person to relate to. I cannot afford $100 to see a game at the Air Canada Centre. The players and the owners need a reality check, while I need a hockey player’s cheque.

Erin Munro, Cobourg, Ont.

The owners say that the players’ slice of the revenue pie is too big. But who the heck agreed to pay the players so much in the first place? The players shouldn’t have to pay for the owners’ poor money management and business acumen.

Jeff Myhre, New York City

I haven’t paid much attention to the NHL for years. The Canadian Hockey League is much more enjoyable, and the best seats in the house can be had for 12 bucks.

Paul Henderson, Sarnia, Ont.

Am I really supposed to feel sorry for people who make an average of $2.3 million a year? Poor babies. I guess there won’t be new golf clubs and a new SUV for daddy this year. T. K. O’Shea, Edmonton

It will be ultimately good for hockey and Canadian hockey in general if this strike

weeds out some of the weak American teams. The NHL would then have to look at the fact that a strong Canadian franchise is better than two weak ones in the States.

Paul Lamothe, Edmonton

Professional hockey no longer celebrates excellence. This has resulted in fans—who must pay dearly for an inferior productstaying away in droves.

Carl Bourassa, Richmond Hill, Ont.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and players’ union boss Bob Goodenow are mirror images of each other. They could easily have each other’s jobs and no one would notice the difference. Neither is about to blink first.

Hockey fights I Whose side are you on—the players or the owners?

After our Sept. 27 cover on the strike, the mail started roiling in. Most of the letter writers came out against the playerswhile many also lamented the state of hockey today. Like Jason Baker of Toronto, who wrote: “Given the low quality of the game over the past few years, these millionaires have no right to demand that things remain the same.”

As long as these two are at the helm of their respective organizations, nothing will get resolved.

Jim Robertson, Calgary

We all are to blame—the players for asking for overinflated salaries, the owners for actually giving it to them, and we, the fans, for actually paying the extremely high prices for tickets. In the end, I think it’s my kids who will be hurt the most—they love watching the games on Saturday night.

Jerry Kean, Halifax

Would you guys lighten up already? The Canadian media spent the entire Olympics lamenting the lack of Canadian glory. Then Canada triumphed as world hockey champions, but rather than pausing to celebrate, your cover skipped the fun stuff and proceeded directly to lamenting the lack of NHL hockey this season. Why are you so determined to put forth such a negative spin on everything?

Adam Green, Ottawa

Vanity unfair

Graydon Carter has the audacity to say that “after 9/11, the U.S. got sillier.” (The Maclean’s Interview, Sept. 20). His admission that he hasn’t voted in Canadian elections, but that if he had, he would have voted Liberal is more than silly, it’s downright stupid.

Larry Bennett, Surrey, B.C.

Health-care oversights

As a nursing student and future Canadian nurse, I applauded Paul Martin’s health care initiatives (“The feds are coming,” Politics, Sept. 27). However, reforming health care will take much more than just throwing money at the problem. Although a steady increase in funding is needed and expected as the baby boomers age, there is also the much greater issue of medical staff shortages. If there is a shortage now, then what crises will the future hold? Major policy changes in Canada need to include hiring nurse practitioners to take on many of the responsibilities of family doctors, increasing the enrolment of medical staff in universities and looking toward countries in western Europe that have achieved better results in their health care systems than Canada. How will your waiting lists get shorter, Mr. Martin, if there are no people to staff the procedures? Kathy Majowski, Winnipeg

If Ottawa has so much money to spend on health care, education and cities, then it’s collecting too much to begin with. At the same time, if the premiers could get together and actually develop coherent, consistent policy in these areas, then the federal government wouldn’t have to. The only way this country will be able to maintain the federation is to stand up and tell Ottawa to get out of provincial affairs. But the provinces are going to have to show that they have good ideas of their own.

Craig McNaughton, Toronto

Idol time

As a middle-aged Canadian male who seldom watches TV, much less reality shows, I confess that I was completely drawn into the Canadian Idol phenomenon, thanks to the magnetic personality of Theresa Sokyrka (“Sweet success,” Television, Sept. 27). This wholesome young woman with the husky voice and radiant smile has definite star quality. It was a foregone conclusion for several weeks that Kalan Porter

Porter won Idol, but will his records sell?

would win. He is a deserving winner, but my guess is that Theresa will have the more lasting career. Her style and choice of material will appeal to a broader demographic. I would happily show up to listen

to Sokyrka, even if she were just singing the phone directory!

David Fox, Furdale, Sask.

As a music teacher, I wish I had had the foresight to advise my students to watch Canadian Idol before the summer set us adrift to our various summer haunts. I must confess, my first reaction to Idol was reluctance, but quickly turned to curiosity and admiration. I almost felt silly, as an adult teacher, being drawn into a pop music venue of this sort, but it was clearly something I could not avoid. I’m truly sorry it’s over.

Rob Payne, Mitchell, Ont.

Appeal to reason

In “After the horror,” you tell the heartbreaking story of the people of Beslan, Russia, “burying the dead—and vowing revenge.” (Terror, Sept. 20) This is an eminently predictable reaction, but in the face of grief and horror, we need to step back and search for reasonable, sane and productive outcomes. Patricia Ruane, Toronto