Fall Back Up with Jonathan Torrens

jonathan-torrens_1Jonathan Torrens is probably best known currently for his roles of J-Roc in the popular television series Trailer Park Boys and CBC’s current comedy Mr. D.

His career, however, extends back into his high school years when he hosted the teen-oriented consumer affairs series Street Cents from 1989 until 1996. He then went on to host, co-produce and write for his own teen-oriented talk show, Jonovision, from 1996 until 2001.

He’s appeared and starred in many television series and movies over the years becoming one of Canada’s most well known young actors.

Now in his 40’s, Jonathan has shifted focus, most recently co-writing a book and developing a podcast with his friend and drummer for the band Our Lady Peace Jeremy Taggert.


Canadianity, a compendium of vignettes of the country is top ten on the Globe and Mail’s Canadian non-fiction bestseller list and the podcast, Taggert and Torrens.

In our conversation we talk about his early year, his decision to leaver Trailer Park Boys as well as his thoughts on reinventing himself and the impact of the Nova Scotia government’s decision surrounding the Nova Scotia Film Tax Credit.

Jonathan is married and has two daughters, Sugar-Daisy and Indigo and lives a few minutes outside Truro, Nova Scotia which is where I sat down with him for a chat…Click here to listen

This is the 15 Dollar Minimum Wage Argument?

Here is the latest argument being made to promote the 15 dollar minimum wage.

Employers should simply pay their employees more. This will help solve our economic problems. With a 15 dollar minimum wage there will more money being spent. People on lower incomes will be spending all this money because they can’t afford to save it. Consequently, people will sell more goods and services and we will all prosper.

In a recent Global News piece, Christine Saulnier from the Canadian Centre of Policy Alternatives said, “If we are putting money into the pocket of those who are the lowest waged workers in our economy, they actually have this pent-up demand, they actually need to spend it. They’re not going to save it and take it out of the economy, they’re going to spend it.”

If this is the only issue, why don’t we raise the minimum wage to $100 per hour? That way, everyone will have enough money for all their needs, small businesses will be rolling in cash from the jump in domestic demand, people will have lots to put in their retirement plans, the real estate market will boom, imagine how quickly our teenagers could save for university…what possibly could be the downside?

Well, the reason this isn’t happening is because businesses operate by creating value through effort. If the cost of creating a product or service is higher than what it can sell for, the business will operate at a loss and it won’t last long. Those employees are subsequently thrown out of work. This is especially true for small businesses.

Advocates suggest however those small businesses should be given a pass and only the Walmart’s and Loblaws of the world forced to pay a 15 dollar minimum wage. This idea was actually in the provincial NDP’s last election platform. The sentiment is a nice one, mom and pop shops aren’t forced to pay unaffordable wages but the problem here is, how will this torque the labour market?

How will the small locally owned gas station or convenience store find workers when Sobey’s owned Needs or Superstore Gas Bar pays 3 dollars more per hour? Or will those larger companies simply automate and eliminate these jobs altogether?

The minimum wage debate is complex and it is an economic balancing act. Understanding the value of labour against demand and impact on costs seems to be totally lost in this discussion.

Another argument being floated is workers will migrate out of Nova Scotia because other provinces have higher minimum wages. Our young people didn’t leave in droves for another 3 dollars per hour, they left because the average income in Fort McMurray was $100,000 dollars.

Sixty percent of minimum wage earners are students, living at home and not a primary income earner in a household. If we want to do something to improve the lives of low-income earners, let’s create a stronger economy with good-paying jobs and help those folks improve their skills so they can participate fully. Forcing businesses to contract or shutter due to arbitrary labour cost increases accomplishes none of that.

Promise Kept. Seriously?

It’s been a big week for small business in Canada. Small Business Week and Small Business Saturday roll around once a year, but it’s rare to have the occasion festooned with quite so much high-level attention.

Kicking off the week was some great news for small firms delivered in perhaps one of the most awkward political pronouncements in the history of Canadian politics. The setting was Stouffville, Ontario and it was all-thumbs on deck as the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister showed up in town with Challenger jet and black Suburban fleet in tow to occupy the Pastaggio Italian Eatery.

Complete with the red “Support for Small Business” sign and its matching banner on the back wall, the Prime Minister stepped to the podium, sleeves rolled up, hair slight tussled, to say that his government would be re-instating the small business tax rate reduction they had campaigned on in 2015 and yet jettisoned in the last two budgets. Curiously, he also relegated the Finance Minister to the back of the house, offering up that he would be fielding any questions for Mr. Morneau. It was just…well…weird.

Under normal circumstance, kicking off Small Business Week with this kind of announcement would be politically run of the mill. Given the last three months of hellfire raining down on both the PM and Finance Minister from CFIB and others, however, made the exercise seem completely disingenuous.

According to the PM’s talking points, we are encouraged to believe this was the plan all along. The government simply needed to have a little look at the tax system before implementing such this three-year-old campaign promise. Now, after having done so, they will honour their campaign pledge. Promise kept.

Uh huh.

Small business owners were about one more Economic Club of Canada speech away from storming the Bastille with pitchforks and torches. The Finance Minister and the Prime Minister have been under withering fire on this issue from every conceivable direction including within their own caucus. If they expect Canadians to believe this was their intention all along, they must think we are very naïve indeed.

Even though this is, unquestionably. damage control of the highest order, there is none-the-less a silver lining in the tax rate reduction as it will result in savings for some small business owners.

Part two of this peculiar week-long tragi-comedy was staged Wednesday with the Finance Minister traveling to Hampton, New Brunswick to announce changes to the proposed changes in passive income application. One might acknowledge this could be good news in that the government is beginning to recognize the important roles passive income plays, and yes it could, if administered properly, allow many small firms to continue to use passive income to ride out challenging times, save for investments or set aside money for a leave or retirement.

On the other hand, these changes have the potential to discourage growth. The $50,000 annual threshold will help the small firms that remain small, but it may be too low for small firms saving to grow and create more opportunities. Think of it as a million dollars under investment with a 5% return. Canada needs medium-sized businesses and the size of the threshold may not be enough to help businesses looking to grow, so it is likely business will be looking to raise that threshold. As the Finance Minister and the Prime Minister should know, 50k just won’t go as far as it used to.

On Thursday, Mr. Morneau did a full climb down on the issue of conversion of income into capital gains. Business owners asked the government to step away from the vehicle and they not only stepped away, they lay down on the ground and put their hands behind their head. Those rules would have made it more costly for small business owners — including farmers and fishers — to sell or transfer their business to their children and the political fallout was potentially far too damaging.

Friday’s pronouncement on angel investment was underwhelming at best, and thus spake Morneau to end the government’s response to Small Business Week. With the political backdrop of Mr. Morneau’s personal financial affairs under scrutiny, one might argue this was the worst week the Trudeau Liberals have seen in their short two years in power. There must be some folks in the Liberal backrooms feeling a bit sheepish about trotting out class warfare, even in the dog days of summer.

Fall Back Up with Gerry Pond

Gerry Pond is the Chairman and Co-Founder of Mariner Partners Inc. and the Co-Founder of East Valley Ventures. He was CEO of NBTel and president of its successor, Aliant Telecom before he moved into the tech startup field.

Gerry is perhaps best known for his successes in the tech world with two New Brunswick startups Q1 Labs and Radian6. Collectively, they sold for a billion dollars in 2011.

Following these successes, he co-created the industry group Propel ICT, which runs the Launch36 tech startup accelerator, and established the University of New Brunswick’s Pond-Deshpande Centre in 2011 with the help of “Desh” Deshpande, an American billionaire tech entrepreneur.

He has also co-founded a number of other successful ICT start-ups in Atlantic Canada, including iMagicTV, Brovada Technologies, Shift Energy and Cirrus9. He is a Director of Upside Foundation, the New Brunswick Business Council, and the National Angel Capital Organization.
Gerry Pond has received many honours, including the 2003 Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal, Atlantic Business Magazine’s Top 50 CEO Award in Atlantic Canada in 2003 and 2005, an Honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of New Brunswick, an Honorary Doctor of Commerce from Saint Mary’s University, and he was inducted into the New Brunswick Business Hall of Fame in October 2007.

He has been recognized with the 2017 EY Atlantic Lifetime Achievement Award, the prestigious Wolf Blass Lifetime Achievement Award and he was awarded the first-ever Business Development Bank of Canada Entrepreneurship Champion.

Most recently, Gerry was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada. I met with Gerry at my office in downtown Halifax…

Click Here to Listen

Fall Back Up with Jeremy White

Jeremy White and his wife Melanie were looking for a summer retreat in Cape Breton after honeymooning in 2008. What they found were a new way of life and a successful small business.

Big Spruce Brewing sprung from a passion for craft beer and a serendipitous real estate buy in Nyanza.

Jeremy’s background was in international engineering and while living in Nicaragua, they stumbled upon an opportunity to relocate to Nova Scotia.

He had been a home brewer for years, and have wanted to scale his production up to a commercial level for a long time.

With favourable condition for growing hops and an industry that has been taking off in the region, they opened up Nova Scotia’s first certified organic on-farm brewery. Big Spruce quickly established itself as a local favourite.

Jeremy has made his views known broadly about the public policy challenges facing the craft beer industry publishing this open letter to the people of Nova Scotia.

In our wide-ranging conversation, we talk about the challenges of starting the brewery, his ongoing frustration with regulatory issues and his views on the future of craft brewing and the Atlantic Canadian economy.

I spoke with him in the brewery in the beautiful setting overlooking the Bras d’Or Lakes.

Click here to listen

Fall Back Up with Denis Ryan

ssob-advisory-denis-ryanDenis Joseph Patrick Ryan. Irish musician turned successful businessman.

He is one of Canada’s leading performers, helping establish the modern form of traditional Celtic music throughout North America, England, and Australia.

Denis was born in Newport, County Tipperary, Ireland, immigrating to Toronto in 1969.

Eventually moving to St. John’s, Newfoundland, he founded what became one of Canada’s most well known traditional bands, Ryan’s Fancy. In 1983 the group was disbanded and he turned his attention to the stock market and other business interests.Ryan moved to Halifax where he and his family have resided for more than 35 years.

Ryan cause a bit of a stir in 2009 when he was featured in a spoof man on the street YouTube interview with comedian/musician  Tony Quinn, who called hryan-wankers.jpgimself “Jason Calibri of the Financial Times. Not one to soft pedal his opinions, Ryan’s video went viral and in 2011 he followed up with another pointed commentary on Wall Street and the banking industry. (Click on photo to launch video)

I sat down with Denis in his home near the Public Gardens in downtown Halifax. In our conversation, we cover topics as wide ranging as his time with Ryan’s Fancy, his involvement with craft brewing in the 1980’s and Nova Scotia Crystal.

Click here to listen to podcast

Fall Back Up with Saeed El-Darahali


Saeed El-Darahali is the driving force behind the SimplyCast team, who built the company from the ground up to what is now an industry-leading marketing platform that serves clients in over 175 countries.

He has over 10 years of management experience in the IT industry, with an interest in strategic partnering, corporate financing, strategic growth, operations, and sales and marketing management.

Saeed, as you will hear, is passionate about technology and about helping people reach their goals.

He enjoys sharing his experiences with start-up companies, offering insights into growing a business and becoming successful.

Saeed holds a Masters of Business Administration, a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, a Certificate of Human Resource Management and Minor in Economics, all from Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Saeed is featured in the Sobey School of Business’s Success on My Own Terms campaign.

I met Saeed in his office in what he has dubbed.. Silicon Dartmouth

Click here to listen to podcast

Fall Back Up with Colin MacDonald


Colin MacDonald Clearwater

In the mid 70’s Colin MacDonald and John Risley opened up a small retail lobster shop on what was then, the outskirts of Bedford Nova Scotia. 40 years later Clearwater has grown into one of the world’s leading seafood companies. With a combination of enthusiasm and grit and a little help from their friends, the duo changed the face of seafood exporting in Atlantic Canada.

MacDonald grew up in Fairview, just down the road, in a family familiar with hard work and the rough and tumble of suburban Halifax. In this conversation, he explores his early days, dealing with adversity, the politics of the fishery and how he views both success and failure.




Fall Back Up with Tim Moore

Tim Moore is the founder of several highly successful Canadian businesses. Starting in 1971, Tim borrowed $2000 to purchase a small moving truck.

That launched a career of serial entrepreneurship resulting in the founding of AMJ Campbell Van Lines, Premiere Executive Suites, Premiere Van LinesPremiere Self-Storage, Premiere Mortgage Center, Oceanstone ResortsMoore Executive Suites and Atlantic Signature Mortgage and Loan.

He is the author of two inspirational books, On the Move and You Don’t Need a MBA to Make Millions where he shares his journey and provides practical advice for entrepreneurs.


Tim has received The Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal, The Distinguished Service Award from the Canadian Mover’s Association, and the Certificate of Merit, Entrepreneur Category, in the Canada Awards for Business Excellence.

He’s been honoured multiple times as one of the Top 50 CEO’s for Atlantic Canada and awarded a tribute as Master Entrepreneur of the Year, Atlantic Region.

An active philanthropist, Tim has given back through mentoring and charitable activities, including Junior Achievement of Canada, Best Buddies of Canada, the Canadian Olympic Association, the Alzheimer Association of Nova Scotia, the Mental Health Association of Nova Scotia and the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

I met with Tim at his ocean-side home in Chester Nova Scotia, where we sat down to talk about his life and his philosophy of doing business…

Click here to go to my podbean site to listen

Federal Tax Changes Show a Profound Misunderstanding of Independent Business. 

Recent musings about the federal tax changes by Finance Minister Bill Morneau are causing significant anxiety for small business owners. In talking with business owners from all levels, there is worry, frustration, and in some cases anger.
In Atlantic Canada, we feel it more than most other areas of the country. The cumulative tax burden is one of our biggest challenges. With new changes proposed by the federal government, it’s going to get worse.
The lower small business tax rate on the first $500,000 in corporate income remains vital to the success of many small firms. Now, big business groups, academics, and government officials are lobbying the government to limit access to it or eliminate it.
When running for office, the Liberals pledged to cut the rate from 10.5% to 9%. That hasn’t happened. These proposed changes will make things more difficult, especially for owners of smaller firms.
The idea is to make sure the wealthiest pay their fair share of taxes. Fair ball, but let’s not throw smaller businesses under the bus in the process. Unfortunately, the government appears to forget that the vast majority of independent business owners aren’t the 1%; they’re the middle class. Two-thirds of small business owners earn less than $73,000, half of whom earn under $33,000.
The Feds plan is to eliminate or restrict how some business owners save on taxes, including:
  • Sharing income with family members;
  • Saving passive investment income in a corporation; and
  • Converting a corporation’s income into capital gains.
These measures are currently legal and are often used by independent businesses to reinvest, ensure the stability or save for the retirement.
Most worrisome is the proposal to make it difficult for small business owners to share income with family members working for them. The support of family members in formal and informal roles is often key to the success of a firm and any limitations could have significant unintended consequences.
On passive income, we know it is much more difficult to borrow money as a small business owner. A business’ passive income acts as insurance against emergencies and unforeseen costs. Business owners need to be able to rely on their investments – in their own business – to protect them against the risks of owning a business.
Also, as business owners don’t have the generous pensions available to public servants or giant salaries creating RRSP room. They need to depend on the value of their business, including any of its investments, for their retirement years.
These changes would come into effect in 2018.
If you are concerned, you can share your views at fin.consultation.fin@canada.ca.