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Globe writer, co-author win National Business Book Award

Jacquie McNish and co-author Jim Leech are the writers of The Third Rail: Confronting our Pension Failures.

DAVE CHAN AND TIM FRASER/The Globe and Mail

Globe and Mail writer Jacquie McNish and former pension fund CEO Jim Leech have won the 2013-14 National Business Book Award.

Ms. McNish and Mr. Leech, a former president of the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, examined Canada's ailing pension system in The Third Rail: Confronting our Pension Failures.

"This recognition is just reward for two authors who didn't shrink from the responsibility to ask fundamental questions about one of the most pressing policy issues of our time, that of pensions," said Globe and Mail editor-in-chief David Walmsley.

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"Much of the pension debate today centres on a tug-of-war between people who have pensions and people who don't," said Ms. McNish. "It's really important to move the debate away from pension envy and instead focus on pension plans that work, that can be made to be much more sustainable and to learn from some of the remarkable reforms that are occurring in Canada, the United States and Britain."

The book's title comes from the third rail on a subway line, which electrocutes anyone who touches it. The authors argue that too many leaders in business, politics and labour are afraid to touch the issue of pension reform.

"What we've learned from pension crises is that the longer you wait, the harder it is," said Ms. McNish. "It's harder for retirees and ultimately, for taxpayers, who will have to support the seniors who are left below the poverty line."

Ms. McNish has won the $20,000 award once before, in 2004, for Wrong Way: The Fall of Conrad Black, which she co-wrote with Sinclair Stewart, who is now The Globe and Mail's deputy editor. She also wrote the bestselling book The Big Score: Robert Friedland and the Voisey's Bay Hustle, and has won six National Newspaper Awards.

Mr. Leech retired in December as head of the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan and is now chancellor of Queen's University.

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