Affordable Feenie

July 24, 2008

A positive review in the Globe and Mail for Kickstart participant Rob Feenie’s new culinary incarnation, as the “food concept architect” at the Cactus Club. People have taken shots at Feenie’s ostensible move down market and they’ve certainly had fun with his new title (an absurd-sounding moniker, but one that keeps him from violating the non-compete clause he has with the owners of his old restaurants, Lumiere and Feenie’s), but, from what Alexandra Gill says here, the move may not only provide the man a valuable salary boost – it may result in a major contribution to the quality of “casual dining” across the board.

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An intriguing little piece from Marcus Gee in today’s Globe about natural gas engine-maker Westport Innovations Inc., one of the few Canadian companies to take advantage of the huge money to be made helping China green itself before the Olympics.

Westport and its US-based partner, Cummins Inc., have equipped 3,500 Beijing buses with natural gas engines, as the Chinese government scrambles to clean its air before the international media descends in August.

But where are the other Canadian companies? It turns out the Australians and Europeans are doing boffo business, while Canadian producers of green technology are sitting on the sidelines. Seems odd, no? We’re an international leader in clean coal technologies, among other things green and innovative, right?

According to David Fung, Chariman of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, it’s partly because we’re being so gosh darn ‘Canadian’ about it (my words, not his).

Of Canada’s predominantly small, independent environment technology companies, Fung says “They have the technology and the capabilities, but they refuse to set themselves up in a way that would allow them to succeed.”

Westport’s David Demers agrees, saying “a lot of Canadian companies go with a naive view that they’ll go over and spend a couple of days in a hotel in Beijing and get a big purchase order and then they’ll send a container of the stuff,” he says. “It takes a lot more sophisticated approach than that.”

The key, according to both men, is commitment and perseverance. Doing business in China requires time: months, maybe more, before serious agreements can be made.

It’s time, Gee argues, that we start pushing and stop waiting our turn.

Take a moment to think

February 4, 2008

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If you haven’t already, why not mark this lovely Monday (a day on which Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach is likely to call an election) by checking out the remarkable series the Globe and Mail has been doing on runaway development in the oil sands? Not only does it feature a slew of sublime and scary aerial photographs from Kickstart contributor Edward Burtynsky, but it also raises some long overdue questions about Alberta’s eagerness to rape its natural riches, why we refuse to learn from the Norwegians, and why there was little to no debate before Ralph Klein and his energy minister Murray Smith started selling off the sands a decade ago.

While Stephen Harper crows away about Canada being an “emerging energy superpower” and Stelmach’s supporters are deafened by the ch-ching of teeming profits, no one seems too bothered by the environmentally irresponsible way in which the gooey bitumen is being mined, the inevitability of increased inflation, or the fact that the PM hasn’t turned the country’s “boon” into new influence on the world’s stage.

Hopefully, the coming election will give Alberta (and the rest of the country) the chance to look itself in the mirror and consider what’s important.