Skip to main content
Welcome to
super saver spring
offer ends april 20
save over $140
save over 85%
$0.99
per week for 24 weeks
Welcome to
super saver spring
$0.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Mark Machin waits to appear at the Standing Committee on Finance on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on Nov. 1, 2016.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Tell me why Mark Machin had to resign.

Why, that’s easy, right? The now-departed chief executive officer at the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board jumped the vaccination queue by jetting off to the United Arab Emirates and getting a COVID-19 shot.

Think about it. Doesn’t that mean you’re now one step closer to the front of the vaccination line? Mr. Machin did you a favour.

Story continues below advertisement

Sure, but the CPPIB boss breached government guidelines on avoiding non-essential international travel. Okay, the key word there is “guideline.” There’s no ban on travel. The same government suggests you should avoid driving fast on slippery roads, don’t smoke and stop at three beers in an evening for men, two for women. How many Canadians broke those guidelines over the weekend?

And please don’t argue Mr. Machin had to go because Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s office was “disappointed” with his vaccine tourism, which the federal Liberals were willing to go on the record last Friday to communicate. The CPPIB is an independent, arm’s-length agency. If its board of directors believes in good governance – that’s the G in the ESG standards that CPPIB professes to embrace – then Ms. Freeland’s view is no more important than that of any other working Canadian.

Look, I do actually get it. We pride ourselves on our egalitarian society. If you’re running a taxpayer-funded organization, getting paid more than $5-million a year to look after nearly $500-billion of Canadians’ retirement savings, standards are high. Mr. Machin was expected to lead by example. The CPPIB board decided he failed to do so.

However, it speaks volumes about the state of the nation when a prominent business leader, employed by the government, opts to head to the Middle East for medical treatment. As does Mr. Machin being out of work within a day of his actions becoming public.

The concept of Canadians enjoying equal access to services was clearly a fiction, long before the pandemic. When it comes to universal health care, supposedly one of our defining characteristics as a nation, we all know that plenty of wealthy citizens tap private medical clinics for check-ups and treatments, avoiding lengthy waits. No one kicks up too much of a fuss because these folks also pay taxes that support local hospitals.

Now we face a global health crisis. Lockdowns are hugely disruptive, on the personal and economic level. Canada’s vaccine rollout is agonizingly slow. The Lowy Institute, in Australia, recently graded the effectiveness of pandemic responses in 98 countries. Canada ranked 61st, behind Belarus. (New Zealand was at the top of the chart, UAE was ranked 35th.)

Listen to CEOs across the country, and you hear strongly worded concerns that Canadian governments of all stripes have lost the ability to get things done. When it comes to health care, it’s clear that lessons from past pandemics were quickly forgotten.

Story continues below advertisement

Now governments are asking Canadians to wait, patiently, for COVID-19 vaccines, while death tolls rise and lockdowns continue. Is it any surprise a wealthy individual like Mr. Machin, who initially trained as a medical doctor, decided to tap the best available service?

In a note to former CPPIB colleagues, Mr. Machin cited “deeply personal” reasons for his actions. While he and the fund manager have declined to elaborate, the 54-year-old, British-born father of two has family outside Canada. Do you believe he’s the only CEO who has personal reasons to open their wallet to get to the front of the line?

Here are two takeaways from Mr. Machin’s really bad week. First, Canadians are increasingly frustrated with the government’s response to the pandemic. Those with the means to do so are starting to act in their own best interest. That’s further fraying the social contract that holds this country together. Second, a furious response awaits those seen as somehow breaking the public trust. Just ask the otherwise smart guy who just lost one of the best jobs in finance.

Your time is valuable. Have the Top Business Headlines newsletter conveniently delivered to your inbox in the morning or evening. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies