Jim Leech on top of the world

Conquers the North Pole and nabs top business book award

When QSB’s Advisory Board Past Chair, Jim Leech, MBA’73, reached the Magnetic North Pole on April 28, he and fellow members of the True Patriot Love Foundation’s Arctic Expedition broke into a rousing rendition of “O Canada”. Jim even donned a Santa Claus suit — extra gear he had hauled in his equipment- and supplies-laden sled. The moment capped a seven-day, 120-kilometer trek on skis from King Christian Island, 380 km north of Resolute, Nunavut. The expedition comprised 53 members, including 12 wounded Canadian soldiers paired with business leaders, Olympic athletes, guides and journalists. In addition to raising awareness about the challenges facing Canadian veterans, the expedition garnered more than $2 million in donations to be directed towards post-traumatic stress disorder issues. The Queen’s Alumni Review November issue will include a feature about the incoming Chancellor’s Arctic adventure.

Only a month later, Jim was celebrating an achievement of a totally different kind when he and his co-author, Globe and Mail reporter Jacquie McNish, received the National Business Book Award for The Third Rail: Confronting Our Pension Failures. The recently retired President and CEO of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan is well qualified to tackle the subject. The Third Rail addresses the pension crisis that will be sparked by the retirement of 40% of the current workforce within the next decade. The majority of these seven million Canadians are not saving enough, are expected to live much longer than previously predicted, and have savings that are earning low rates of return, Jim explains.

The reason for writing The Third Rail,” Jim says, “was to change the debate from ‘pension envy’ (“You have a pension; I don’t, so let’s destroy yours and we’ll all be in the same boat.”) to constructive solutions in language easy to understand by non-experts.” 

He adds, “There is considerable evidence that our book has already had a positive impact on Canadian public policy. It has increased engagement in the pension debate, and several provinces have taken steps, consistent with our recommendations, to enhance pension sustainability."