By Alex Ballingall - Thursday, August 9, 2012 - 0 Comments
The catastrophic WWII battle may have had a much larger purpose than just taking a French beach
New evidence shows the doomed Dieppe raid had a vital mission — and a certain spy author — at its core. In an exclusive feature story in this week’s issue of Maclean’s, on stands now, we go behind the scenes of a dark chapter in Canada’s history.
Dawn had broken by the time Ron Beal scrambled out of his landing craft to storm the beach with the Royal Regiment and attack gun positions looking west over Dieppe harbour. In the early-morning sunlight, the Canadian soldiers were easy targets for the French town’s German defenders; scores lay dead and dying on the rocky beach as bullets rained mercilessly from the cliffs above. Beal kept running toward them, as commanded, even while his comrades were cut down around him. “We were running over our own dead,” says Beal, now 91, a resident of Toronto. “We felt like we were just lambs to the slaughter.”
Beal was taken prisoner, along with 200 fellow Canadians in his landing section. His regiment wasn’t alone in defeat: the Dieppe raid of Aug. 19, 1942, was a disaster, an amphibious assault on Nazi-occupied France that went horribly wrong. In total, 907 Canadians were left dead that day.
Questions about the raid have lingered for decades, and its meaning and purpose have been hotly debated. Why were they sent to Dieppe, a French port town of 25,000 facing north across the English Channel? With a shingle beach shoreline flanked by imposing cliffs topped with German defences, it was no easy target for an amphibious raid. Why did it happen?
Some argue the Canadians were sacrificed in a British-planned effort to placate Soviet and American demands for a second front in Western Europe. Others frame it as a botched dress rehearsal for D-Day. But for many historians, it’s as if there’s been a glaring hole in the Dieppe narrative—a large piece of the puzzle for understanding what happened that day has been missing.
Until now, that is.
On Aug. 19, the 70th anniversary of the Dieppe raid, a groundbreaking documentary called Dieppe Uncovered will air on the specialty TV channel History. (It re-airs the following day.) The film finally uncovers a clear explanation for why so many young Canadians were sent to their deaths.
O’Keefe has discovered that the main goal of the operation was to provide help and cover for a top secret commando unit—whose very existence was kept hidden for years—to steal highly valued intelligence material from a German naval headquarters in the seaside town. This mission was of such consequence that, had it been successful, the entire course of the war could have been altered. It’s an extraordinary revelation, involving closely guarded military secrets, the soon-to-be-famous creator of James Bond, and the bravery of hundreds of men pursuing an objective of paramount importance to the Second World War in 1942.
In an exclusive feature story in this week’s issue of Maclean’s, on stands now, we go behind the scenes with David O’Keefe to find out how he made this astonishing discovery, and explore what his findings mean to our understanding of that dark chapter in Canada’s history.
Peter Henshaw, a history professor at Western University, says he is amazed by O’Keefe’s findings. “It’s especially rare in this area of Second World War history, because so many people have already plowed through a lot of this stuff,” he says. “It’s a big deal.”
And it promises to forever change the way Canadians, especially the living veterans who endured so much that day, look back at Canada’s worst military defeat.
Read more in this week’s issue of Maclean’s.
By Alex Ballingall - Tuesday, July 24, 2012 at 6:00 AM - 0 Comments
Toronto band makes, promote and distributes its own albums
Jimmy Shaw couldn’t believe what was happening. The guitarist for Toronto synth-pop band Metric was speaking at a music industry conference last year at Harvard University with lead singer Emily Haines and their long-time manager, Matt Drouin. “The panel was, like, R.E.M.’s manager, U2’s manager—some serious heavyweights,” says Shaw, laughing. And they all had questions for Metric. “It was pretty surreal.”
They were curious about Metric’s bold experiment in independent music making. In 2007, while working on their fourth studio album, Fantasies, the band turned down two multi-million-dollar deals from labels Interscope and Warner Brothers. Instead, during a ﬁve-hour conference call with Drouin and the band’s lawyer, they decided to start their own company, Metric Music International (MMI), with Shaw and Haines as co-CEOs. Rather than rely on a record company to make, promote and distribute their music in a multi-year, multi-album contract, the band started releasing their albums through MMI. The four members took control of virtually every aspect of the operation, from approving advertisements and renting cars for touring to poring over balance sheets and hiring booking agents. Metric is now a stand-alone enterprise unlike anything in the music industry. You might call it a band business.
“They’re becoming an all-encompassing world unto themselves,” says Eric Alper, a publicist with eOne Music Canada. “Nobody is doing this to the same extent.”
By Alex Ballingall - Monday, July 2, 2012 at 8:05 PM - 0 Comments
Inspired by Roméo Dallaire, Tarcisse Ruhamyandekwe joined the Reserve, where abilities were judged, not ethnicities
As war in Rwanda exploded into 100 days of genocide in April 1994, Tarcisse Ruhamyandekwe watched in horror from his apartment in Quebec City. TV images showed the indiscriminate slaughter of his ethnic people, the Tutsis, at the hands of the Hutu government. From the safety of Canada, all he could do was worry about whether the bodies belonged to his family and friends. That one could be his mother. The other, a sister. He couldn’t sleep. “I really did not know what had happened,” recalls Ruhamyandekwe. “It was really tough.”
A year earlier, he had arrived in Quebec from Swaziland, where he had been living in a UN refugee camp. After a series of interviews and medical exams, he moved to Canada. “I come in from a refugee camp, and I go into heaven,” says Ruhamyandekwe. “It was like, ‘Wow, people can live like this!’ ”
Ruhamyandekwe was born in 1963, a year after the long-suppressed Hutu majority led the charge for independence from Belgian colonial rule. Tutsis like the Ruhamyandekwe family found themselves discriminated against by the institutions of their newly sovereign country.
By Alex Ballingall - Saturday, June 30, 2012 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
John Trafford swept Omaha Beach for mines before the U.S. soldiers came ashore
When John Trafford of Belleville, Ont., searched his memory for his proudest Canadian moment, he found an experience that needed no lyrical flourishing, no elaboration; the facts spoke for themselves. “On D-Day, June 6, 1944, I was serving in HMCS Mulgrave, a ship of the 31st Minesweeping Flotilla of the Royal Canadian Navy approaching Omaha Beach,” he wrote to Maclean’s, and left it at that.
Weeks later, Trafford died of a heart attack. At 91, his death was sudden and unexpected. Even as a nonagenarian, Trafford cycled 30 km per week. “For heaven’s sake, he was a goer. He was a mover and shaker,” laughs Elsie, 92, Trafford’s widow. They met in Toronto through Elsie’s brother-in-law, and were married there 68 years ago (“69 years in August,” sighs Elsie) while Trafford was on a one-week special leave from the Royal Canadian Navy. After the war, they moved from Toronto to Belleville in the late 1950s, where Trafford worked as an area manager for typewriter-maker Underwood. In the early 1970s, he took a job with the federal correctional services before retiring in 1986 at 65.
Like so many of his compatriots, Trafford enlisted in the Navy just days after Britain, and then Canada, declared war on Germany in 1939. Before long, Trafford was stationed on the East Coast, where he was assigned to serve on the naval convoys that protected vital supply routes to Britain from the menaces of German U-boats. It was a tough slog in the North Atlantic. “He said, ‘You never got dry and you never got warm,’ ” recalls Trafford’s son David, 64.
On D-Day, when the Allies invaded Nazi-occupied France from the beaches of Normandy, Trafford and his shipmates stealthily deactivated German mines in the waters off Omaha Beach, where American soldiers landed hours later. “That was his peacock moment,” says David, chuckling. “He always rubbed it in to American veterans when he could, that we had to sweep Omaha Beach before they could go in.”
By Alex Ballingall - Sunday, June 24, 2012 at 7:57 PM - 0 Comments
California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a law mandating the “realignment” of the way California puts people behind bars.
Being “tough on crime” has meant two things in California: severely overcrowded state prisons, and a huge budget deficit (US$16 billion).
With an eye to tackling both issues—and under order by the U.S. Supreme Court to reduce overcrowding by 137.5 per cent, a curiously specific figure that adds up to 30,000 prisoners—Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law mandating the “realignment” of the way California puts people behind bars. That is, the state is passing the buck, shifting responsibility for prisoners convicted of “nonviolent, non-serious, non-sex crimes” from the state to counties.
The new system allows for more flexibility—county sheriffs have far more latitude than state prison officials, being able to place criminals under monitored house arrest or send them for mental health treatment rather than to jail. But the move has also downloaded major costs onto cash-strapped local governments.
Still, for Brown, it’s been a success. New statistics show inmate populations have fallen to a 17-year low.
By Alex Ballingall - Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 8:30 PM - 0 Comments
Photographer Brian Howell turns shopping carts of cast-offs into arresting art
Brian Howell’s mind was wandering. It was February 2010, and the freelance photographer was snapping pictures of the world’s best hockey players at the Vancouver Olympics. Despite the patriotic fervour at Canada Hockey Place, Howell’s thoughts drifted past the capacity crowd of $1,000-ticket holders to the streets of his native city, where scores of brawny men push shopping carts filled with bits of society’s refuse—anything from entire fridges and satellite dishes to Ethernet cables and yellowed books. These carts, vessels for things discarded by those privileged enough to throw them away, were the subjects he really wanted to photograph.
“It’s somewhat unique to Vancouver,” says Howell of the “binners” that parade through the city, gathering castaway goods to sell from their carts. “I look at these things as mini garage sales on wheels . . . Each one tells a story.”
More than two years later, the 45-year-old is riding the success of his photographic series, Shopping Carts, which debuted at Vancouver’s Winsor Gallery a year ago. It featured large, high-resolution photographs of shopping carts that Howell bought from people on the street for whatever price they named, usually $20. To transport the carts, Howell bought an $800 GMC Safari van. Using a wooden ramp, he rolled them into the van and drove them to his garage. Leaving the carts as he bought them, Howell took them to a rented studio to photograph, each one facing the same direction in front of a bright white background so it “would come forward and you could sort of study it in an almost scientific way.”
By Alex Ballingall - Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Doing good turned out to be good for Canadian Tire, Ford and Gap too
In 2008, Tyler Elm had a job interview with Canadian Tire. He brought with him a vision: there’s money to be made in environmental sustainability. He just had to convince the bigwigs.
“Why should we care?” they asked. Elm responded by pulling a socket set from a nearby shelf. He pointed out its excessive packaging and told them they were wasting paper and plastic—and money. A smaller package not only reduces waste, Elm said, but also unit size. That means more products per shipping container. And that translates to lower shipping costs.
He got the job. Four years later, Elm is Canadian Tire’s vice president of corporate strategy and business sustainability. “Sustainability is strategy,” he says. “We’ve tailored that concept to our for-profit mandate.”
His idea to cut down the socket set packaging led to a 15 per cent cost reduction in the shipment of that product. Later, his team discovered that changing the positioning of overhead lights could reduce energy use by up to 25 per cent. And the addition of a white roof—reflecting light and retaining less heat than dark shingles—on a new Canadian Tire store in Bowmanville, Ont., has led to savings on air conditioning costs in the summer (indeed, the company believes that the outlet is the most energy efficient retail store on the continent). By improving the company’s environmental record, Elm found money to be made: a win-win.
By Alex Ballingall - Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 5:41 PM - 0 Comments
The Quebec government has pulled out of negotiations with student leaders, quashing hopes that…
The Quebec government has pulled out of negotiations with student leaders, quashing hopes that renewed talks this week would lead to an end more than three months of student protests in the province.
Martine Desjardins, leader of the FEUQ student union, told the CBC that the government hadn’t considered the students’ most recent proposal, and that the government instead stuck to its offer to reduce the annual tuition hike to $219 from $254, the CBC reports.
“It’s an impasse, it’s really an impasse,” said Education Minister Michelle Courchesne, speaking with reporters in Quebec City.
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, the leader of the more militant CLASSE union, has called for renewed protests over the government’s decision to walk away from the negotiating table. “The objective is to solve the crisis and to solve the crisis we need an offer that will be accepted by the general assemblies. And that is what we continously repeat to Ms. Courchesne,” Nadeau-Dubois told the Globe and Mail.
By Alex Ballingall - Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 2:59 PM - 0 Comments
Detroit Red Wings captain Niklas Lidstrom announced his retirement Thursday after 20 seasons in…
Detroit Red Wings captain Niklas Lidstrom announced his retirement Thursday after 20 seasons in the NHL, closing the book on one of the most successful careers in the history of the league.
“My drive and motivation are not where to need to be to play at this level,” Lidstrom, 42, told reporters at an emotional press conference in Detroit. “Retiring today allows me to walk away with pride, rather than have the game walk away from me.”
Born in Vasteras, Sweden, the seven-time Norris Trophy winner (for best defenceman) had 264 career goals with 1,142 points and a 450-plus rating. He won four Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings, and scored the gold medal-winning goal to defeat Finland in the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy.
“I think he’s going to go down as one of the all-time best defencemen ever to play,” Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman, who was the captain in Detroit before Lidstrom, told the Windsor Star. ”You have to watch him closely to appreciate how good he is, what a great athlete he is because he makes the position look so easy. He is a special athlete.”
By Alex Ballingall - Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 12:02 PM - 0 Comments
Ireland is voting on whether to ratify the EU’s fiscal compact that sets strict…
Ireland is voting on whether to ratify the EU’s fiscal compact that sets strict limits on budget deficits for member nations. If rejected, the debt-beleaguered country will be denied further bailout money after its current tranche runs out in 2013.
Ireland is the only country in the EU holding a referendum on the pact. But since only 12 of 17 eurozone members need to ratify it, an Irish rejection won’t sink the entire agreement. It has already been accepted by all EU members except Britain and the Czech Republic.
Those against the treaty in Ireland argue that austerity is dragging Europe into economic recession, and that the country should instead default on its debt. Last year, Irelands ran a 13.1 per cent deficit. The treaty commits countries to holding their deficits to under 0.5 per cent of total economic output.
Prime Minister Enda Kenny urged Irish voters to support the pact in a televised address. ”I ask you to make a further contribution by coming out to vote ‘Yes’ on Thursday. Yes to stability. Yes to investment. Yes to recovery. Yes to a working Ireland,” he said, quoted by the BBC.
As voters took the polls in Ireland, concern over the eurozone continued to affect markets around the world. In Canada, the loonie took a 0.60 cent dive on Wednesday to close at 97.16 cents US. The euro dropped below $1.24 US for the first time since 2010.
For investors, one of the biggest concerns in the eurozone is Spain, a country with soaring borrowing costs and a troubled banking sector. “They have to do something to put a ring around their banks,” Chris Kuflik, investment adviser at ScotiaMcLeod in Montreal, told the CBC. ”There has to be some form of a resolution and the difficulty is, you have so many different agendas from so many different nations.”
By Alex Ballingall - Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 12:00 PM - 0 Comments
Toronto City Council will vote next week to rename Toronto’s ferry terminal after Jack…
Toronto City Council will vote next week to rename Toronto’s ferry terminal after Jack Layton, the Toronto Star reports.
In a press release, Mayor Rob Ford said he would ask council to forego the usual two-year waiting period so that the terminal can change its name to the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal immediately.
“Jack sat next to me in council when I was first elected, and he taught me a lot about politics,” Ford said in the release, quoted by the CBC. ”Renaming the Toronto Island Ferry Terminal in memory of Jack is a fitting tribute. Not only did he represent waterfront communities during his career as an elected representative, but he was also a great supporter of the Island Public School and helped save Island residents’ homes.”
Layton died last summer of cancer, mere months after leading the federal NDP to an historic electoral result, surpassing the Liberals to became the Official Opposition in the House of Commons for the first time. Toronto became the epicentre of a nation-wide show of grief after the 61-year-old’s death. Hundreds of messages were written in chalk along the concrete square adjacent to Toronto City Hall.
The late NDP leader got his start in politics at the municipal level in Toronto in the 1980s. In 1991, he made a failed bid to become the city’s mayor, but soon returned to city council. He is remembered as a champion of the homeless, the plight of women and the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Layton’s son, Mike, sits on city council and will vote on the motion. “Some of my fondest childhood memories are taking the ferry to the island and spending time with my family,” he told the CBC.
By Alex Ballingall - Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 11:47 AM - 0 Comments
Who would have thought that a little lizard spit could help dieters with self-control?
One of the most challenging aspects of dieting is self-control—you simply want what you can’t have. But new evidence out of Sweden suggests a way around that. A substance called exendin-4, which is a peptide found—oddly enough—in the saliva of North America’s only venomous lizard, the Gila monster, may be able to stop those pesky cravings for snacks both savoury and sweet.
Researchers at the University of Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska Academy decided to look into exendin-4 after they noticed patients receiving it for treatment of Type 2 diabetes tended to lose weight (previous research had shown it helped control blood-sugar levels). Working with lab rats, assistant professor Karolina Skibicka and her colleagues found exendin-4 effectively dispelled rodents’ cravings for chocolate and sugar. Given the mechanism that causes cravings—the release of dopamine in the brain—is the same in rats and humans, their hope is that exendin-4 can be used to chemically reduce the urge to overeat. “With the Western world obesity epidemic ballooning, any help to reduce food intake and body weight can have enormous health potential,” says Skibicka.
The results of their study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, have caused speculation that the substance might also hamper alcohol addiction, since the dopamine circuitry of the brain is also involved in the desire to drink.
By Alex Ballingall - Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 10:33 AM - 0 Comments
Israel has sent the remains of 91 Palestinian militants to the occupied West Bank…
Israel has sent the remains of 91 Palestinian militants to the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip as part of a deal to end a weeks-long prison hunger strike by hundreds of Palestinian inmates. The Israeli government says it also hopes to kick-start stalled peace talks with the Palestinian Authority.
As the BBC reports, all of the 91 died carrying out attacks against Israel since 1975. Some of them were suicide bombers. The bodies had been kept in numbered graves for enemy combatants until Thursday, when they were handed over to Palestinian officials at dawn. According to the Associated Press, 80 of them were taken to Ramallah in the West Bank, and the remaining 11 were transported to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
From the AP:
Near the crossing from Israel to Gaza, families held framed pictures of their dead sons as they awaited the bodies. Ahmad Kahlout’s 21-year-old son Yehiya was killed 17 years ago after he raided an Israeli settlement.
“I am happy they are sending back his body so I can go and pray on his grave before I die,” said Mr. Kahlout, 78. “Until my dying day I will be proud of him, but also sad for the years I wasn’t able to visit his grave.”In describing the dead, Palestinian officials are using the word “martyrs,” while Israelis have deemed them “terrorists.” Among the 91 bodies includes the remains of fighters killed in a 1975 assault on the Savoy Hotel in Tel Aviv, the AFP reports.
“We hope that this humanitarian gesture will serve both as a confidence building measure and help get the peace process back on track,” said Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, quoted by the AFP. ”Israel is ready for the immediate resumption of peace talks without any preconditions whatsoever.”
Peace talks haven’t been held since they broke down two years ago over the development of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority wants the construction of new settlements in the occupied territory—captured in the war of 1967—to stop before the resumption of peace negotiations.
By Alex Ballingall - Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 10:31 AM - 0 Comments
Two Canadian girls are still in the running to win the annual Scripps National…
Two Canadian girls are still in the running to win the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee. Twelve-year-olds Mignon Tsai of Abbotsford, B.C. and Jennifer Mong of St. John’s, N.L. spelled their way into the semifinal of the famous competition on Wednesday. They are now among 50 schoolchildren with a chance to take the Scribbs title Thursday night in a televised spelling showdown.
Tsai and Mong made it to the final 50 after separating themselves from a field of 278 competitors. A third Canadian from Windsor, Ont., Zhongtian Wang, was eliminated, the Windsor Star reports. From the Canadian Press:
In Round 2 of the spelling bee on Wednesday, Mong spelled “limousine” correctly, Tsai aced “hyacinth” but Wang got a tough one — “issei,” a word for a Japanese immigrant. The audience applauded in relief when she nailed it.
In Round 3, Tsai got a difficult word: “leegte.” Mong got “vaticination” right and Wang spelled “embarcadero” correctly, but her scores from a 50-word computer quiz on Tuesday didn’t give her enough points to take her to the semifinal.
Last year, a Canadian came tantalizingly close to winning the famed spelling bee. Laura Newcombe of Toronto placed second after she misspelled the word “sorites” (note: my spellcheck doesn’t know how to spell it either). Newcombe was the third Canadian runner-up in the competition since 2005.
To the winner Thursday will go the coveted Scripps trophy, and more than $40,000 in cash, scholarship money and educational material.
By Alex Ballingall - Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 10:24 AM - 0 Comments
A pipeline spill in northernwestern Alberta has dumped 22,000 barrels of oil and salt…
A pipeline spill in northernwestern Alberta has dumped 22,000 barrels of oil and salt water in the muskeg outside the community of Rainbow Lake. The pipeline carries roughly 70 per cent water and 30 per cent oil, the Globe and Mail reports.
The line is owned by Calgary-based Pace Oil and Gas. The Energy Resources Conservation Board told the Canadian Press Thursday that the Pace well has been shut off, and that crews are on the ground to contain and clean up the spill.
The leak was reportedly spotted May 19 from a passing aircraft. It now covers 4.3 hectares.
From the Globe:
The company is now setting up a 50-person camp near the spill site, and has hired contract workers to clean it up. By Monday, it had recovered some 3,700 barrels of emulsion. It’s unclear how long it will take to clean up. Alberta’s Environmental Resources Conservation Board is investigating the spill.
It is just the latest of several large pipeline spills for an industry pushing to break ground on future projects to carry oil through the Rockies to the Pacific Ocean. Last year, an Enbridge pipeline leak spilled about 19,500 barrels of oil into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River.
A week earlier, a pipe operated by Plains All American Pipeline burst and dumped 28,000 barrels of oil near a small Cree community in northern Alberta. It was billed as the largest spill in nearly 36 years.
By Alex Ballingall - Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 10:22 AM - 0 Comments
The hunt for the man believed to be responsible for murdering a man and…
The hunt for the man believed to be responsible for murdering a man and mailing his body parts to Ottawa has gone global. Interpol, the international policing agency, has posted a wanted picture of Luka Rocco Magnotta, a 29-year-old porn star living in Montreal.
Montreal police Cmdr. Ian Lafrenière told the CBC that Magnotta could have fled the country. A Canada-wide warrant for Magnotta’s arrest was issued Wednesday. “He left a letter on a website mentioning how to disappear for good and secondly our investigation brought us to some details that might let us think that he could be away from the country,” Lafrenière told the CBC.
The Globe and Mail is reporting that Magnotta is believed to have travelled to France last weekend.
Police believe Magnotta was “in a relationship” with the victim, whose decomposing torso was found stuffed in a suitcase behind Magnotta’s Montreal apartment, the CBC reports.
When searching the apartment, investigators came across a gruesome, blood-soaked scene and powerful stench. “For most of the officers who have been there all night long, this is the type of crime scene that they have never seen in their lives, in their career,” Lafrenière said, quoted by CTV.ca.
By Alex Ballingall - Tuesday, May 29, 2012 at 3:33 PM - 0 Comments
The fast food chain is ‘barely breathing’ in the U.S., but north of the border it’s on a tear
A&W Canada is an old-school company. It opened its first drive-in on Winnipeg’s Portage Avenue in 1956. Many of its executives have been at the company for years, including the CEO, whose first day with A&W was 32 years ago. Most outlets still have a ’50s-inspired decor. And like a humble pro athlete from a bygone era, A&W celebrates its victories—nine consecutive years of same-store sales growth and continued expansion into new markets—quietly. “A&W has kind of always been in the background, just steadily growing,” says Robert Carter, a food industry analyst with NPD Group. “It’s under the radar.”
The home of root beer and Teen Burgers has emerged as the second biggest burger chain in Canada by number of outlets, topping better known rivals like Wendy’s and Burger King. On May 16, it opened its 754th restaurant in Canada. Two weeks earlier, A&W released its ﬁrst-quarter results, showing sales growth of 3.7 per cent over the same period last year, to $173 million. What makes the success all the more surprising is that in the U.S., where the brand originated in 1919, A&W has been falling off the map. There are only 300 A&Ws in the entire country. “They’re barely breathing,” says Bob Goldin, executive vice-president at the Chicago-based industry consulting firm Technomic.
A&W Canada is a separate company from its American counterpart, and has charted a different course in everything from its branding to menu items. The key to its success, says CEO Paul Hollands, is a willingness to adapt, while at the same time staying true to the character of a brand built largely on baby boomer nostalgia for drive-ins and frosty mugs. “We just keep picking away at the business as the world around us changes,” he says. Up until about 15 years ago, says Hollands, the burger chain was largely absent everywhere except the Atlantic provinces and the West. More recently, its main strategy has been to establish a stronger presence in Ontario and Quebec, regions traditionally dominated by Tim Hortons and McDonald’s. It’s working: on Feb. 8, Hollands was at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport for the opening of the 750th restaurant, making Ontario the province with the most A&W locations.
By Alex Ballingall - Wednesday, May 23, 2012 at 2:30 PM - 0 Comments
Canadian Pacific Railway‘s freight deliveries screeched to a halt early Wednesday after workers went…
Canadian Pacific Railway‘s freight deliveries screeched to a halt early Wednesday after workers went on strike. Last-minute negotiations between CP and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference failed to reach an agreement before the midnight deadline.
“We have made every reasonable effort to get a settlement,” Doug Finnson, Teamsters vice-president, told the CBC. “Every union member knows how important the outstanding issues are. We will not walk away from the negotiation table.”
The Globe and Mail is reporting that Via Rail, which runs on CP tracks in some areas, is relying on alternative transportation between Ottawa and Sarnia, and White River and Sudbury. A deal was struck on Tuesday to ensure that commuter trains in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver will remain open despite the labour strife, the Montreal Gazette reports.
The main points of contention between the Teamsters and CP have been management’s attempts to enroll new union hires on less costly benefit contribution plans, and water down existing pensions by 40 per cent, according to the union. The Teamsters represent more than 4,800 conductors, yard workers, rail traffic controllers and engineers. Their last five-year collective agreement with CP expired Dec. 31, 2011.
The federal government, which has been willing to step in and force resolutions at high profile labour disputes in recent months, has indicated a concern over a prolonged strike at CP. “Our government is concerned that a work stoppage would have a negative effect on Canadian businesses, families, and the economy,” Industry Minister Lisa Raitt said in a statement, quoted by the National Post.
Pierre Gratton, President and CEO of the Mining Association of Canada, has also expressed worry. His industry relies heavily on freight service and wants Raitt to force arbitration. “A strike by CP workers will have a serious effect on the industry,” Gratton said in a statement. “The shipment of fuel and other supplies to mine sites will be compromised as is the transport of mineral products.”
By Alex Ballingall - Wednesday, May 23, 2012 at 12:41 PM - 0 Comments
He loved the outdoors, and was determined to become a police officer. He understood the trauma crime caused its victims.
Douglas William James Marshall was born at Toronto Western Hospital on July 16, 1966. He was the third of three children born to Sandra, a homemaker, and Don, who ran Marshall’s Refrigeration, an air conditioning business. Doug, his sister, Colleen, and brother, Steve, grew up in Scarborough, Ont., on a tree-lined street where the road hockey game never seemed to end.
Doug was a friendly and inquisitive kid who loved exploring outside. He would tromp through the wildernesss on the family’s frequent camping trips, and wander the woods when visiting his grandparents in Parry Sound. He was known for his thick, velvety blond hair. “Everybody always wanted to touch his head,” says Sandra.
At 11, Doug met Mark Pelzl, and started helping him with his paper route. “We were like brothers,” Mark says. They remained tight through their teens, along with a growing circle of friends brought together by their love of nature. “Any long weekend, we were rock climbing or going up to Algonquin Park,” says Mark.
By Alex Ballingall - Wednesday, May 23, 2012 at 11:59 AM - 0 Comments
A doctor accused of helping the U.S. track down and kill Osama bin Laden…
A doctor accused of helping the U.S. track down and kill Osama bin Laden has been jailed for 33 years in Pakistan after he was deemed guilty of treason. Shakil Afridi allegedly ran a fake vaccination clinic that helped American agents find bin Laden.
The sentence—which includes a US$3,500 fine—is likely to add strain to an already frayed bilateral relationship between Pakistan and the U.S., Reuters reports. NATO is attempting to negotiation to re-opening of vital supply routes to Afghanistan, which have been blocked by Pakistan. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made public appeals to Pakistan for Afridi’s release, the Associated Press reports.
After the American raid of bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound in May 2011, intelligence ties between the two countries were scaled back. As the New York Times reports, Afridi’s clinic, which was set up as a hepatitis B vaccination program, was a intelligence ploy to test the DNA of bin Laden family members in the area. Officials say Afridi didn’t know he was searching for bin Laden, the newspaper reports.
By Alex Ballingall - Wednesday, May 23, 2012 at 11:34 AM - 0 Comments
It is being billed as the first exercise in true democracy since civilization sprang…
It is being billed as the first exercise in true democracy since civilization sprang up in the Nile Valley 5,000 years ago. Egyptians are lining up outside polling stations as 50 million eligible voters cast ballots to choose the country’s first president since Hosni Mubarak was deposed in the face of revolution 15 months ago.
“We have been ruled by pharaohs, sultans and kings, but this is the first time we have elected one of our own to lead us,” one Cairo woman told the CBC as she waited to cast her ballot. “This is amazing.”
Ahmed Shafiq, a former commander of the air force and briefly prime minister during February 2011 protests
Amr Moussa, who has served as foreign minister and head of the Arab League
Mohammed Mursi, who heads Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party
Abdul Moneim Aboul Fotouh, an independent Islamist candidate
A military council has ruled Egypt since February 2011. Its leaders have promised fair elections and a total transition of authority following the swearing in of the new president July 1.
By Alex Ballingall - Wednesday, May 23, 2012 at 9:55 AM - 0 Comments
Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Montreal Tuesday to mark…
Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Montreal Tuesday to mark the 100th day of the Quebec movement against tuition hikes, and express anger over an emergency law that some say violates Charter rights.
More than 100 people were arrested Tuesday night as police declared sections of the large protest illegal—according to the hastily passed Bill 78, protests consisting of more than 50 people must be pre-arranged with police at least eight hours in advance. But followers of the more radical student union, the CLASSE, have been encouraged to defy the law, and a small group split off from the main protest Tuesday, which was following a route given to police.
“We want to make the point that there are tens of thousands of citizens who are against this law who think that protesting without asking for a permit is a fundamental right,” CLASSE spokesman Gabrielle Nadeau-Dubois told the CBC while marching with protesters. “That is part of the objective of the protest today, to underline the fact that this law is absurd and inapplicable.”
According to police, some protesters threw projectiles and wore masks, breaking a new Montreal bylaw that bans demonstrators from concealing their faces. As a result, sections of the protest were declared illegal, and police moved in to make arrests, the Canadian Press reports. It was the 29th evening march on Montreal streets since the movement began in February.
By Alex Ballingall - Wednesday, May 23, 2012 at 9:54 AM - 0 Comments
The Los Angeles Kings are going to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Their quest was…
The Los Angeles Kings are going to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Their quest was clinched Tuesday night with an overtime goal by left winger Dustin Penner that lifted them over the Phoenix Coyotes to end a gritty five-game Western Conference Final in five games.
The 4-3 win at Phoenix’s Jobing.com Arena means the Kings remain undefeated on the road this playoffs, with an overall record of 12-2. Since both contenders in the Eastern Conference Final ended the regular season with more points that L.A., the Kings will return to the road for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
After the overtime goal, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly came onto the ice to present the Clarence Campbell Bowl—the Western Conference trophy—to Kings captain Dustin Brown. But Brown didn’t lay a finger on the gleaming hardware.
“I’m not touching the trophy,” he later told the Los Angeles Times in the Kings’ locker room. ”It’s called the Stanley Cup playoffs for a reason. I didn’t want to be near it.”
Advancing to the Finals for the second time in franchise history, the Kings will square off against either the New York Rangers or New Jersey Devils on the east coast next Wednesday. That series is tied 2-2.
By Alex Ballingall - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 11:56 AM - 0 Comments
The SpaceX rocket launched successfully from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Tuesday,…
The SpaceX rocket launched successfully from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Tuesday, marking the first time a private company has sent a vessel to dock with the International Space Station.
As Reuters reports, the rocket took off from a refurbished launching pad near where the now-retired space shuttles once launched. The rocket’s cargo, a 1,200-pound Dragon capsule carrying supplies for the ISS, reached orbit less than 10 minutes after the launch.
The SpaceX rocket is owned by Space Exploration Technologies, a California-based company that is among four private enterprises vying to replace the space shuttle as NASA‘s vehicle to take astronauts and supplies into the Earth’s orbit. ”Dragon in orbit … Feels like a giant weight just came off my back,” wrote company founder Elon Musk on Twitter. Musk, co-founder of PayPal, poured much of his own money into the venture. In total, SpaceX spent more than $1 billion on the first privately-funded trip to the ISS, the Associated Press reports.
The next big test for SpaceX will come Thursday, when the Dragon capsule is scheduled to practice its maneuvering capabilities before docking with the space station on Friday.
By Alex Ballingall - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 11:54 AM - 0 Comments
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has pledged $330 million to Afghanistan after the complete withdrawal…
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has pledged $330 million to Afghanistan after the complete withdrawal of Canadian soldiers from the war-torn country in March 2014. The money, which will be delivered over three years, is meant to help fund the Afghan National Army when it takes over security responsibilities from NATO-led troops, the CBC reports.
Harper made the statement on Monday during the NATO summit in Chicago, where leaders of member countries affirmed their support for a 2014 withdrawal of combat forces from Afghanistan, where they have been fighting since the invasion of the country in 2001. In a collective statement, NATO leaders said transition of authority to the Afghan army is “irreversible” and that the 130,000 NATO troops in the country will be completely withdrawn by the end of 2014.
“The time has come,” Harper said, quoted by the Canadian Press. “All the benchmarks, all the milestones are being met to make this possible.”
Canada’s pledge is part of a NATO-wide effort to fund the Afghan National Army, which will be tasked with creating stability and fending off a potential Taliban resurgence. “We are on the right track to reaching the goal of around $4bn a year for financing of Afghan security forces – it’s a positive story,” said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, quoted by the BBC.