where credit’s due

Of all the elegies inspired by the Blue Jays’ rise, and fall, my favourite was an R.A. Dickey quote: “It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets the credit.”  ( Dickey goes on in this interview to recognize everyone’s effort in a team victory after he, in midst of a brilliant, […]

seems like one is never enough

deciphering speed bumps

While travelling recently , I became fascinated about how speed bumps work, and what they reveal about us. If you’re like me, you probably haven’t thought much about them, and aren’t interested in reading thousands of words on the subject. So here’s a point form summary, and you can decide whether or not to read […]

deja vu all over again?

John Tory: Once and Future King reigns over the Gardiner

On the morning of the vote to save or demolish the Gardiner Expressway, I have a prediction to share.  Regardless of how the vote goes today, this will be one of the issues that ends John Tory’s honeymoon with Council, the press, and the public. That states it too mildly.  It’s not the end of his mayoralty’s […]

Colour it all yellow - it's faster and easier.

A false dilemma about Section 37 deals

I’ve been urging that we manage public-private partnerships differently, and that we use Section 37 agreements to better effect.  I should be more careful what I wish for. The City of Toronto is now exploring the possibility of creating more affordable housing by diverting Section 37 resources from other needs.  If we don’t reserve space […]

feeling good is different than getting better

Ended before it begins

I had to withdraw from a project last week.  Not only was this costly, I hate withholding help from someone who needs it.  Unfortunately there was no way to deliver a high enough standard of service.  To continue would have put the client, and NetGain, at risk.  I won’t name the client, because they are […]

DonE Mills?  EglinGton?  ReallLy?

Scarborough subway is the Maginot Line of Toronto transit

Mayor Tory has prevented another debate about the Scarborough subway.  Council has agreed to stop talking about it. Yet the papers are full of questions and discussion about alternatives.  A few Councillors, led by Josh Matlow, are demanding to know more about the net cost of switching to Tory’s new transit scheme.  Imagine that!  Maybe the discussion won’t […]

The failure of start-ups in Toronto: a bit of forensics

The City of Toronto’s time-consuming procurement process largely favours the 800lbs gorillas, leaving many new start-ups without the benefit of the biggest buyer in town’s attention.

panda fedex

Gambling with Pandas

Maybe it’s time we all weaned ourselves off pandas and focused on the animal and habitat problems in our own backyards. After all, who do these creatures need protection from? Not each other. The danger is us, and we are here, in Toronto, chewing up our own habitat and displacing our own species.


takes three to tango

It’s encouraging that Section 37 deals are starting to get the attention they deserve.  For example, Mayor, John Tory, wants to review the practice ( ), and columnist, Edward Keenan, has tried to explain why ( ).  Other organizations, including the City, have sought to improve the general understanding of this practice, if only to […]

leafs winning %

down the rabbit hole of Leafs analytics

This SAS shuttle bus has become so familiar in my neighbourhood, I failed to notice how hilarious it has become. They’re using the Maple Leafs to promote their brand. It’s funny because the Leafs have negative branding value at the moment, and SAS appears to be advertising their role in the team’s bottomless decline. Fans […]

generated from keyword search with

NetGain 2014 blog in review

  We’re often asked what NetGain does.  The question never gets easier to answer because our focus and methods continually change with client need.  Periodically I review what we’ve been doing, hoping to find common themes and issues on which to hang a statement of purpose. Last year at this time, I examined our 2013 […]

swinging in the breeze

The space between

In 2014, NetGain clients trod the dangerous ground between the public and private sectors in ways that illustrate the problems with 3P’s ( ).  Like the example of Centennial College’s proposal for Guild Inn Park, these suffered from the misalignment of public and private sector cultures and demonstrated the need for a third party intervener. […]

P3's - Better well hung than ill wed

P3’s – Better well hung than ill wed

Ontario’s Auditor General is calling attention to the general failure of public private partnerships.  Intuitively we’ve known about this for a long time.  Every P3 mega deal seems to go awry.  The MaRS bailout is only the latest and by no means the most embarrassing.  Highway 407 is Ontario’s favourite example. Developed first  by Liberal […]

does it really take a miracle?

Jesus Christ, food banks, and moral hazard

Edward Keenan is right about how food banks duplicate what grocery stores already do ( ). In fact lots of product goes to food banks directly from the manufacture/distribution/retail system because of over-production, stale-dating, damaged packaging, mislabelling, etc. Bulk food goes to food banks that would otherwise go to landfill, saving industry tippage fees. There is […]

spot the ventriloquist

media manipulation and “the Big Mo”

I made a presentation in a City Hall committee room the other day.  It was received graciously, despite obvious skepticism from some in attendance.  An earnest and courteous discussion ensued.  There was agreement to disagree.  Is this the Tory effect?  I truly hope so.  It might be a coincidence, but I prefer to think that […]

Aren't we still in the home stretch?

Home stretch: still long odds and no sure bets

  Steve Paikin, host of TVO’s the Agenda, used these words to preface his assessment of Olivia Chow’s chances: “Every public opinion poll I’ve seen on the Toronto mayor’s race tells me what I’m about to write is ridiculous.” ( ). That was January 27th, a full nine months before the 2014 election.  Chow wasn’t even […]


Campaign Fairy Tales

This election has been all about polls.  Far from being barometers of public opinion, they have dictated opinion so thoroughly that they have eliminated candidates and narrowed the range of voter options. This election has been all about polls because of the unspeakable Ford years.  The majority of Torontonians are so traumatized that they’ve been […]

forum polls

Political Poll-arization

The neurotic obsession with polls has hit a new height in the Toronto mayoral election.  It’s as if the polls keep watch so that Ford can’t sneak up on us again.  It’s terrible that the polls dominate the discussion.  Policies, experience, and character are forgotten when talk turns to trends and predictions. Polls also reduce […]

how do they get their whites so white?

How Olivia Chow can STILL win

  A couple of weeks ago I offered a scenario in which Olivia Chow could still win.  At the time, I acknowledged her decline in pre-Labour Day polls, but argued that pre-Labour Day polls are irrelevant. Given the incumbent Mayor’s rare cancer, the unexpected candidacy of his brother Doug, and the withdrawal of David Soknacki, […]

Tory's secret edge

How can Chow possibly win?

  It is now past Labour Day,the actual start of the 2014 mayoral campaign.  Everything until now has been a prelude.  Now that the race is on, conversations are starting with questions about who is going to win.  I’d prefer that people ask who SHOULD win, or why they should win, or how to help […]

off-stage, the real Olivia Chow

A minor miracle: Chow detractor becomes disciple

My old friend is a political blowfly.  He hasn’t got time to figure out what’s really happening behind the news and doesn’t pretend to know too much.  Yet as a mature lawyer, a visible minority, with deep roots in his ethnic community, and active membership in the oldest, WASPyist clubs in town, he is seen […]

NO - 72

The City that Care Can’t Forget

Comparisons are odious, it’s true.  They’re also informative.  Toronto suffers constantly from comparison with other cities. Most of this suffering is self-inflicted. We compulsively check international rankings to make sure we’re doing all right.  For more than 20 years we’ve been tortured by the ambiguity of, “New York run by the Swiss,” which was the late […]

what goes around, comes around

Electric Vehicles and the Glacial Pace of Change

  Months ago, I knew nothing about electric vehicles.  Decades ago, I knew even less. I had long been certain that electric cars would fail.  Like most people in the 90’s, I felt confident that fuel cell technology would revolutionize personal transportation like the internal combustion engine did.  I remember a television commercial featuring a […]

group therapy needed

Ford addiction

  It’s safe now to ignore the municipal election.  Summer is starting.  Voters will tune out, if they were ever tuned in.  Compulsive campaigning will continue nonetheless.  Nothing has changed since the candidates were named.  Soknacki rose a bit, Stintz slipped a bit, and Ford’s support remains high enough for concern.  Chow and Tory are front […]


Ding Ding Ding…!

My friend and former NetGainer, Darryl Moyers, delights in solving problems.    We were trading war stories, ranging from the court system to the performing arts, before the subject turned to transit. “Here’s one,” he said, “You’ll love this.” Trying to get to work, on a deadly cold winter morning, he became stuck in one of […]


Of dollars and sense

Brace yourself for boredom.  Here comes the most petrifying post ever inflicted on the blogosphere.  I want to talk about economic and financial literacy. As a society, we don’t have a common language for money.  Our financial industry and schools of economics have become towers of babble [sic].  On a personal level, most people are […]

olivia chow

Unsolicited note to the “un-politician”

Dear Olivia (c/o John Laschinger and Warren Kinsella): Maybe I’m holding you to an unfair standard, but I’m disappointed in you, and the campaign’s only a month old.  After tantalizing us with your candidacy for the past year, my expectations were high. Since your campaign launch, they’ve been lowered. As a humble consultant, often working in and around […]


Ways to Grow A Silent Majority

Whether it’s by intent or omission, members of the political class are appear to be more interested in talking to each other than in in bringing strangers into the conversation.


Big Data, Small Tool

As consultants, we spend a lot of time extracting useful insights from data. The data is often inconsistent or incomplete, and rarely is it structured to permit the kinds of analysis we apply to it. Naturally we love it when we’re presented with an abundance of good data. We’re even more excited when it comes […]

follow the cheese (apologies to Oliver Stone)

What’s that I hear squeaking?

The following comment appeared in response to yet another article by Christopher Hume, slamming Toronto for being too choosy about what gets built and where it gets built in our City. “Sad to say, but the squeaky wheel gets the politicians’ attention. It is politically safer to be led by a group of naysayers, than […]

Toronto Scottish RFC

Rucking Great Volunteers

Sometimes the good will and generosity that sustains the voluntary sector gets obscured by success. As non-profit organizations acquire layers of paid staff, it gets harder to see the undercurrent of selflessness that once propelled the organization forward.

don't cry, folks, it's just a staged sinking

Canada Post isn’t comedy–it’s a Neocon melodrama

All joking aside, I’m offended by the Canada Post strategy because, as a strategist, I think the Corporation’s executives are trying to deceive us about the necessity of the course they have chosen.


What was 2013 about?

What did Socrates say about blogging; “The unblogged life is not worth living,” or, “The unexamined blog is not worth blogging?”

message in a bottle

Canada Post: the new business model of non-delivery

Canada Post is better at delivering punch lines than delivering mail.


Canada’s biggest political party

If non-voters formed a political party, they would win every time.

US and UK sister cities blaze a trail for Canadian cities to deal with CETA

Canadian municipalities have a whole library of examples from more intrepid local governments around the world, who have tried to coordinate procurement with economic development strategies.

Rob Ford Council Chamber

Toronto: take responsibility and royalties for Rob Ford!

Since we’re all starting to be grownup about our culpability in the election and enablement of this vicious stumblebum, it’s time for everyone to show a little love and understanding to him and his hardcore constituency. This isn’t their fault, after all.  It is the fault of amalgamation.  We can agree on that, can’t we? […]

Point pelee point

When the ketchup runs out, relish? The Leamington Heinz plant closure’s Plan B

After 100 years of ketchup making, closure of the Heinz plant in Leamington, Ontario is bad news indeed. No rural community in Ontario can withstand 740 direct job losses without widespread suffering.  The spin-off effects will be felt by everyone in the region.  The local Chamber of Commerce estimates that 95% of its member businesses […]

Ford Harper 2

Federal Conservatives MIA for the Ford Afterparty: My Insider Scoop

AFFIDAVIT OF DOCUMENTS I, DOUG SIMPSON, of the City of Toronto in the Province of Ontario, MAKE OATH AND SAY: 1. I was the man. I suffered. I was there, but; 2. No, I did not accept money from Mr. Henderson or HISSS, and; 3. Yes, I do expect this affidavit to protect me from […]

Canadian Cities Need to be Assertive in the Face of #CETA

Snapshot of Canadian Local Procurement & Implications for CETA Part 1 from Genevieve Tran

Rabbit Hat

Our Hare-Brained Predictions Come True!

Consulting blogs are usually thinly veiled attempts at asserting “thought leadership” in fields where the consultant is an eavesdropping carpetbagger.  But, if only our readers knew just how cathartic writing is. We are filled with incredulity on a weekly basis about the state of the world, and our city! Writing this blog is often the […]


“Ask not what I did to the City…”

A funny thing happened Sunday afternoon.  I was cleaning my kitchen when the Mayor of Toronto and his brother came on the radio and started confessing things.  The effect on me was profound.  Within minutes, I was shaking and sweating all over, wanting to make confessions of my own. It was a spiritual moment.  His […]

Picture 9

Secret’s Out: International Trade is Just Trickledown Economics 2.0

From @PMHarper:  “The #CETA trade negotiations are the most transparent and collaborative that Canada has ever conducted. #cdnpoli“ Sure.  I don’t know who PM Harper was trying to impress–maybe his mother–because no one in the Canadian laity bought that line. There is a reason why democratically governed nations resort to secret meetings when it comes to trade agreements.  […]

Executive Committee

A Muddy Affair: Paul Ainslie’s Selective Moralizing

Paul Ainslie is asking for our sympathy.  He says the Mayor has been a bully and a liar, and he just can’t take it anymore. I can’t take it anymore either.  Here is yet another Councillor acting like a victim after having enjoyed the power and privilege of being on the Mayor’s team. Councillor Ainslie […]

Harper Tweets

CETA’s Minimum Thresholds Problematic for Toronto

Today, PM Harper, Old Testament God-style, let us know that the Canada-EU trade agreement was complete.  No real public consultation, and still no details, yet this bolt of lightning from the Twitterverse: “The #CETA trade negotiations are the most transparent and collaborative that Canada has ever conducted.  #cdnpoli“ A few weeks ago, we downloaded […]

Edifice complex

Edifice Complex: Toronto’s billion-dollar “spectator sport”

I want to understand why the erection of Frank Gehry’s towers, or the gleam in David Mirvish’s eye, makes thoughtful people like Christopher Hume weak in the knees. A year ago, I wrote about all the ways we sabotage our plan for the City of Toronto.  It was a response to how Mirvish had tied […]

denisty requirements

Scarborough Subway: A Ride to Nowhere

The triumph of Scarborough subway advocates is demoralizing.  I felt the same way at the height of the Toronto casino debate, but this is worse.  Much worse. The casino debate was like a gold rush.  Everyone was afraid of missing out.  Otherwise decent public servants and politicians turned into lobbyists for a plan that would […]

crowd sourcer tries out a new tagline

Is Crowd Sourcing the New Pan Handling?

people who contribute money through crowd sourcing platforms aren’t just well-intentioned, they’re smart too

Charles St Tavern

Identity Politics: Battery No Longer Included

While it’s still fresh in my mind, I want to say something about identity politics, alienation, and inclusiveness. I have argued that Pride depends for its relevance on its undiluted gayness.  To maintain this quality of spectacle, it should keep straight folk from being over represented in its events. Now I’m having second thoughts. Membership […]

Proud Anglicans

When Gay Was Gayer

Remember when the Pride celebrations made straight people anxious?  Speaking as a lardy, middle-aged, breeder, the bane of gay folk in a social setting, I do.  For one hot summer weekend, we knew that lawlessness would grip Toronto’s gay ghetto and all hell would break out. It wasn’t rioting and looting we feared.  It was […]

Welcome, Yuki, Roy and Doug!

“And my grown-up was glad to know such a reasonable person”

This week, NetGain became a bit like that poor hat / snake in the first couple of pages of the Little Prince: But instead of a childlike rendering of an elephant swallowed by a snake, NetGain’s office is actually bulging with three extra interns!  It’s a happy acquisition to be sure–one that will sustain us […]

Stephen Harper's Attempt at tai chi-ing public opinion

Waving the Red Cape: Canadian politics as usual

The tai chi strategy label is just that, a label.  It’s too broad and loose to be more than that.  It describes a general set of preconditions and one approach to strategy, nothing more. In my last post I drew examples from politics, about which I have very little direct knowledge.  So it was gratifying […]

Tai Chi

Tai Chi-ing is the new black. And white.

“Tai chi” is now a verb.  I heard it a couple of times at work and it made so much sense that I couldn’t deride it as I do most deviations from the OED. “If he keeps pressing on the issue, I’m just going to tai chi him,” for example.  This describes that moment when […]

Picture 289

Hedgehogs vs. Foxes

  There is this horrible, old, musty thing in the consulting business that needs to be smoked out of its hole.  I wish it could simply be explained as the fax machine—that some clients and consultants still require the fax.  But the truth is, the steadfastness of the “tried and true” practices all around this […]

Picture 284

Cash bar at Labour-Management sham wedding

  I know that Toronto isn’t the centre of the universe.  When I obsess about local issues, I have to keep in mind the likelihood that some readers have no idea what I’m talking about.  Like, for example, the folks in Accra, Ghana (!), who visited a couple of dozen times in the past 10 […]

Picture 282

Nostradamus 0.5

Surprise. I’ve crossed some personal boundaries lately. It’s wrong to seek cheap laughs at the expense of a phlegmatic, morbidly obese, alcoholic.  Just as it’s uncomfortable to admit being wrong for denigrating someone’s performance before they’ve had a chance to act. In both cases commenting on the Mayor and the Premier, respectively, I congratulated myself […]

Good Egg

Kathleen Wynne: Composite of a Good Egg

  It’s so easy to criticize politicians when they’re not doing what you want. But when they act in a principled way, no matter how it turns out, any criticism seems petty. This is how I feel about Premier Wynne now. While trying to establish herself with a new cabinet and a hostile legislature, she […]

Bixi Staff Recommendations

Bixi, We Hardly Knew Ye

Bike sharing, like car sharing, is a fine civic idea that has yet to prove itself commercially.  It’s such a cheap way of relieving pressure on overloaded roads and transit, who cares whether or not it breaks even financially?  Add in the environmental, health and aesthetic benefits (Bixi riders tend to make less noise and […]

no way to run a railroad

Casinos and the public service: a collision of motives

The Province’s hard driving campaign to promote gambling in Ontario has become an ethical train wreck.  The surest sign is the sudden defection of people from high levels of public trust into the employ of casino promoters.  Their recruitment by the industry is a sign of desperation.  Their unconcealed service of private interests, while engaged […]

Banksy 0% interest

A Wynne-Wynne for Gambling in Ontario

I was hoping that the new premier would act on her convictions and take a stand against a Toronto casino.  Unfortunately she doesn’t think that her convictions are affordable.  Instead she makes the argument that we need more gambling to reduce the provincial deficit. While the OLG’s media blitz seems to have ended, and I’d […]

appearances can be deceiving

Reconsidering colleges as corporations

My astute new colleague, Genevieve Tran, took me to task for blithely suggesting  community colleges should make it a priority to improve their performance as corporations ( colleges as corporations ).  I had argued that they weren’t designed for the competitive environment they find themselves in 45 years after they were founded.  Genevieve didn’t disagree, […]

Jus' ride it already!

Plodding to “yes” on an economic no-brainer

Skeptics have an easy time dismissing claims about failsafe investments in the economy.  My favorite example, the $40 million Downsview Aerospace Campus, probably suffers from this.  The return on investment sounds too good to be true, and skepticism tends to trump opportunism when public sector spending decisions are made. When governments demur from an expensive […]


Playing Better Odds: Let’s Fold Toronto Casino’s Losing Hand

I don’t want to think about casinos any more, but I don’t know how to avoid the issue.  The rolling barrage of OLG advertisements cannot be ignored. Now that we have a Premier and a Mayor again, it might be hoped that the OLG can be reigned in, but that hasn’t happened yet. A joint […]