Friday, July 13, 2007

Today In Business

"Honest Ed" Mirvish gets buried, and Conrad Black gets convicted.

If there's a Torontonian inclined to speak poorly of Ed, I've yet to make their acquaintance. I'm sure he pissed someone off: he was a businessman and a success, which requires some steel and ruthlessness. But whatever bad karma he may have kicked into motion he more than made up for with his turkey give-aways and cheerful, deliberately low-rent star schmoozing. He insisted he was just one of the regular people, even as he blew a fortune attempting to make downtown Toronto the Canadian "Great White Way." And no-one doubted him because, well, he obviously was who he was.

And just who is shedding tears on behalf of Conrad? Hard to say, though there are Canada Post writers who will talk about what a treat it was to work for him. I don't doubt it. In his inevitably massive way Conrad Black attempted to be an "Honest Ed" on behalf of the entire nation by throwing his considerable clout into breaking the hegemony of Toronto's national newspaper. While he was at it, he took a vigorous stab at keeping Canada's oldest magazine alive, as well. Personally, I thought it was all great fun -- the country needed this hubris-driven craziness. Pierre Elliott Trudeau pulled it off, but he had to dip deep into the people's purse; if the free-market really is superior to all that, why couldn't an unfettered capitalist achieve a visibly public legacy similar in scale?

But you can only hemorrhage money on such an enterprise for so long before your interests are distracted by something flashier, like becoming a Lord. And pissing off that gnarled toad in the PMO. And writing a laudatory biography of Richard M. Nixon that sits at 1148 pages.

Black lost my sympathies somewhere down that road. It could have been that smirk on his face while he wore those funny clothes, I dunno .... But whatever he's guilty of, I'm sure it's incredibly big, because Black isn't a person who does anything on a small scale.

And yet today's headlines somehow do make him seem smaller, like the ex-husband who's finally lost his fortune and his arm-candy. If only he'd stuck to Canada, maybe we'd still love him.

Ed Mirvish, 1914-2007: a guy who knew how to contribute to the place he grew up in.

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