Wednesday, 14 November 2007

another one bites the dust

A few days ago I read that american-owned tech giant IBM purchased Cognos ( for $5 billion.

Disappointed? Yes. Surprised? *sigh* no.

It seems that every time I look at the financial section of the papers or read the news feeds or blogs another Canadian company has been swallowed up by a US corporate conglomerate. Cognos, for those of you unfamiliar with the name, was an Ottawa-based technology company employing thousands of individuals in the city's hi-tech sector. Their specialty has always been business intelligence and performance management technologies, and they pull in just under $1 billion in annual revenue. Cognos was a solid Canadian corporation which, sadly, is now part of IBM, Inc. a corporate owned by our friendly neighbours to the south, doing just over $90 billion in annual revenue.

Week after week, month after month, and year after year solid Canadian corporations are being steadily acquired by larger, more ruthless american companies with deeper pockets larger spending budgets....let's talk a (somewhat depressing) walk down memory lane:

Remember Eatons? They were once the biggest and the best dept. store in Canada - selling everything from socks to stovetops. They were acquired just a few years back by Sears, and I haven't heard of them since...have you?

Those of us in Ottawa remember how the current Scotiabank Place used to be known as the Corel Centre (or even earlier, the Paladium). Corel was purchased back in 2003 by Venture Capital, a company whose name exists solely to acquire coroporations.

Want something a bit more recent? I can think of Stelco, the last Canadian independent steel manufacturer (all previous steel producers have already been sold out) acquired by US firm United States Steel just this year; or PrimeWest Energy out in Alberta who was acquired by Taqa (Abu Dhabi National Energy) just a couple months ago. Granted this last company wasn't american, but that's not the main point. The main point is that Canadian business owners are giving control of our most basic industries away to foreign individuals or governments.

Even the companies that instill a sense of national pride are no longer Canadian companies.

Hockey equipment manufacturers Bauer and Cooper were both acquired by Nike in 1994, with CCM bought out by Reebok a decade later. Even the Montreal Canadiens (habs) are now owned by Mr. George Gillett Jr., an american businessman.

At least we still have our trustworthy Canadian breweries...Labatt & Molson ("I am Canadian" marketing slogan). Sorry to disappoint, but Labatt was purchased a Belgian brewery over a decade ago, and Molson "Canadian" was recently acquired by US-based Coors in 2005!

Hudsons Bay Company ("the Bay"), Canada's -- no, North America's -- oldest retailer and a symbol of Canadian entreprenurial ability was purchased by Mr. Jerry Zucker, a US investor, back in 2006.

Good grief even Tim Hortons was acquired by american fast-food chain Wendy's back in 1995 (didn't you notice the doughnuts getting smaller?).

My point is this: it's not good enough for Canada to achieve social independence from our overly-friendly neighbours to the south. We may be more pleasant, more polite, better at hockey, and more diplomatic with the rest of the world, BUT they are looking at Canada's vast resources with dollar signs in their pupils. Canada needs to stick up for itself and take some pride in our nationality. This means economically just as much as anything else.

The noblest motive is the public good - William Kirby


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