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Jim Flaherty, Oleg Deripaska and Maureen Sabia (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)
Jim Flaherty, Oleg Deripaska and Maureen Sabia (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)

Interviews

The Lunch: The tastiest of 2011 Add to ...

Ms. Sabia has no concept of work-life balance. She never got married, though she was engaged once and broke it off. She never wanted children. She doesn't take holidays.

Her obsession with hard work and getting ahead wasn't compatible with finding a life partner, but it helped her land jobs at established organizations and seats on prestigious boards. That intensity began early in her career, playing a part in getting her through law school in the 1960s as one of just three women among 300 at the University of Toronto.

But even as she smashes through glass ceilings in an array of male-dominated domains, she stubbornly holds on to contrarian views. Case in point: She refuses to be addressed by the gender-neutral title of “chairperson” or “chair,” insisting instead on being called “chairman.”

“It's an office of the corporation,” says Ms. Sabia, as she winds down during a catered buffet of baked salmon and salads in a Canadian Tire boardroom. It's just a few doors away from her more expansive top-floor office, which has a flawless south-facing view of the city.

“If we had a female CEO, we wouldn't call her ‘president-ess.’ I object to ‘chairperson’ and ‘chair.’ I'm not a piece of furniture ... I'm a traditionalist.”

NOTE: BEING FINANCE MINISTER IS NOT THE WORLD’S BEST JOB

“The best job I ever had was when I was 19. I didn't have a summer job and I was coming home from Princeton ... and they offered me this job as a waterfront director at this camp in rural Quebec because they were bringing in sailboats that someone had donated. And so I took the job, delivered the sails, and I didn't realize until I got there that it was an all-girls camp with all girls as staff, and I was the only guy. This was the best job ever.”

– Finance Minister Jim Flaherty confesses to Tara Perkins that he has never been as lucky as when he was a teenager

NOTE: BEING THE PERSON WHO HOLDS THE FINANCE MINISTER ACCOUNTABLE IS NOT THE WORLD’S SAFEST JOB

“I don't look at job security the same way I did when I was younger. I have no money. I live in a bungalow and I ride my bike to work. I lost a 20-year-old son. There is no security, so what are you fighting for?”

–- Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, explains to Barrie McKenna what drives him to make such candid, and career-risking, assessments of the Harper government’s budget plans

CONFESSIONS (II)

“Between the rabbit meatballs and the lamb-melt sandwiches, the talk of pipelines and stock exchanges, George Gosbee drops a juicy morsel on the table. He has a tattoo. A maple leaf. Somewhere on his body. ‘At 18, I was a proud Canadian,’ he explains with a mischievous smile. Now 42, after two decades of investment banking in Calgary, having sold one firm and started another, he can afford to laugh at his youthful indiscretion.”

– Writer Gordon Pitts provokes one of Calgary’s best-known financiers into revealing his body art. (It’s on his leg.)

THE FIRST BILLION YUAN IS ALWAYS THE HARDEST

Not many Lunch interviews came with tips for business people looking to raise money. But Felix Chee, who represents the China Investment Corp. at its first North American office, had plenty of advice for those who want to tap the giant Beijing-controlled investment fund. “If I can check the following three boxes, there is a pretty good chance I am going to make an investment,” he told writer Jacquie McNish over a lunch of Peking duck at the Lai Wah Heen restaurant in Toronto.

1. The investment should have the potential for a decent return.

2. There should be a China component to the transaction so that the deal provides some benefit to businesses or professionals back home. CIC’s large equity investment in Teck Resources fit because the Vancouver-based mining company sells a share of its minerals to China.

3. The transaction should be structured in a way that enhances outsiders’ perceptions of China.

THE SECRET TO SUCCESS? FAILURE

“If you don't learn from the colossal number of failed deals that you get involved with, then you are really wasting your time”

– Bill Holland, the executive chairman of CI Financial Corp., on why he spends so much time analyzing transactions that flopped

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