I met Jeffrey Simpson, the Globe and Mail National Affairs columnist, once over top of seat 14D on a flight between Ottawa and Toronto. He has no cause to remember me. I am, after all, not a name brand except probably in my own house. Besides the encounter lasted only long enough for a rapid introduction and gratuitous (though completely genuine) fawning praise for his work. He seemed to be an affable man, with the look of a trustworthy and studious lawyer, accountant, or economist. But how much can you really get from one and a half minutes?
In any event, I mention this only as a lead in to the real point, which is that I am certain that there is not in Canada another more sensible, (usually) politically unaligned assessor of the flows of Canadian politics and society. Andrew Coyne might be a solid rival, but there always seems to be an ideological undercurrent flowing through his writing. Besides, I’ve never encountered Mr. Coyne and he’s rebuked my efforts to contact him. But, back to the point: I feel for Mr. Simpson; he is often so stone-cold right and timely. But his words float off with the winds and are lost until sometime later on those who should have paid heed will come to terms with whatever advice he had provided, will deny ever having been warned. (I suspect.)
What triggered this is a column on Jan 31, which may or may not have been intended to reach farther than its grasp. The column was dedicated to the impact and foolhardy commercial choices made by Canadian businesses (and individuals) in response to the ups and downs of the Loonie. I’m not going to rehash the piece. Suffice it to say, though, that to my read, it is much more than a simple analysis of the obvious: when the dollar’s low, Canadian businesses benefit in international markets but claim too costly to invest in productivity enhancement; when the dollar’s high, Canadian business complains that they are suffering from narrowed profits due to low productivity and don’t have the resources to invest… in productivity enhancement. All the while, it all looks like the death spiral of an airplane that makes the wrong corrections at the wrong time, all the while with the pilot focused on responding to the immediacy and warnings of the instrument panel.
Maybe I’m looking too deep. Maybe the piece is only 700 words to fill 1/3 of a weekly quota, and means only that these responses to the Loonie’s oscillations is typical and cyclical. In any case, I stand by my assessment: Jeffrey Simpson is, in the course of 90 seconds on an Air Canada Airbus 319, a nice person.