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Ross, Alexander.

Toronto, Collins, c1984. 269pp, cloth, $24.95, ISBN 0-00-217381-6. CIP

Grades 10 and up
Reviewed by David Chadwick

Volume 13 Number 3
1985 May

The Traders is the story of Canada's recent stock promoters and brokers. The author is a former editor of Canadian Business, currently the editor of the investment newsletter The Money Letter, and the author of four previous books. He has written extensively on business matters for a variety of publications and as well for television.

Not surprisingly, Ross is an ardent admirer of the investment industry, and, as such, has written what amounts to a paean to them for their efforts in developing this country.

To Alexander Ross, stock promoters and brokers are a small clan with two main branches: the respectable Toronto blue chip dealers and the wild mining promoters of Vancouver. His only complaint about their conduct is that somehow the Canadian populace does not share his enthusiasm. He repeats the cliche about Canadians being over-insured, having too much in their savings accounts, and participating in the stock market at a rate half of that of the more adventurous Americans.

In this and elsewhere, Ross shows fidelity to his biases but neglect of Canadian history. In criticising crown corporations, for example, he ignores how Canadian governments, Conservative and Liberal, from Confederation have consistently practiced government intervention in the marketplace, partially because the marketplace was unwilling or unable to further national goals such as the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway, the CBC, Air Canada, and others. Moreover, because of living next to the United States it was often necessary for cultural and economic sovereignty reasons.

In his tribute to the personalities of the stock market, Ross drops some rather amazing asides. For instance his premier stock salesman says, "Only 10-15% of my clients ever listen to me." Coincidentally, the broker himself never plays the market. Ross claims that, "After 1964 Bay Street's main activity became the reshuffling of wealth rather than its creation. Toronto (the TSE) hasn't found or developed a single significant mine since 1964 (the year of the Windfall scandal which altered the rules)." In discussing future option contracts, Ross himself says that they "have progressed to the absurd level of trading future contracts on bonds, treasury bills, and stock index futures contracts."

Most amazing of all he inadvertly questions the future of brokers and salesmen, (they all seem to be men in this book), by disclosing the fact that by 1984 over 800 of the TSE's 1350 listed stocks could be traded by computer access.

As a study of business personalities this book will appeal to many business students. For a more critical look at the development of the Canadian economy readers should look elsewhere.

David Chadwick, University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, Man.
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