One of our most important clients, William Grant & Sons, is a family-owned business. The Scottish distiller of fine spirits has been around since 1896. One of the advantages of being family-owned is that the company does not have to answer to short term shareholder demands for return on investment. They can take the long view. This means that they can lay down whiskies for many years without outside pressure to monetize the ingredients, storage facilities and other costs related to producing their products. William Grant & Sons now has one of the largest holdings of aged whiskies in the world allowing them to offer a regular range of 30 year old, 40 year old and 50 year old whiskies. Other companies may be able to produce one-off aged product but cannot provide a vintage collection. Public companies just do not have this freedom.
Governments that face voters every 3 to 5 years are also rarely in a position to take the long view. Of course, royalties are a different matter. I was recently in Paris and had cause to reflect on the wonderful heritage the city offers both its citizens and the world. Taking 200 years to build a palace or a cathedral requires the vision and authority of an absolute monarchy. Of course this came at enormous cost to the citizenry and may well have been a factor in the French Revolution, but it is tough to argue with the splendor that resulted.
Paris has a fabulous subway system that runs under some of the oldest parts of the city. Ditto London and any other major metropolis. That’s why I find it so hard to argue with Mayor Rob Ford’s proposal for an expansion of Toronto’s subway. Light rail may be a partial answer to moving masses of people about the city but in my view it is confusing and potentially hazardous for passengers and motorists. It is also a blight on the landscape. I don’t often find myself in sympathy with Ford. Generally I find his posture on the arts and city services repugnant. But on this one, he gets my vote. Let’s hear it for some long term vision for Toronto.