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Blue Skies and Boiler Rooms describes the evolution of the securities market in Canada, from the onset of trading, through the boom of the 1920s and the depression of the 1930s, to the outbreak of the Second World War.

The book documents the problems of fraud, misrepresentation, and manipulation of prices, which plagued the securities industry from the outset and which eventually led to market regulation, first by the stock exchanges and later, after the First World War, by governments. Some people argued that regulation to prevent abuses should be modelled on the American ‘blue sky’ legislation, so named after the promises of smooth-talking con men in fly-by-night operations who victimized the unwary with sales pitches offering shares in virtually anything. Even ‘the blue sky above.’ Such legislation became necessary as shady types marketed shares of doubtful value through ‘boiler rooms,’ which used high-pressure mail and telephone selling methods to separate people from their money.

This is a tale well told, with a splendid cast of crooks and raffish characters. It is also an in-depth study based on extensive primary research that captures the distinctiveness of the development of the Canadian securities market. Armstrong’s book shows that today’s Bre-X saga is only the latest in a series of episodes in which investors have fixed their hopes for quick and easy profits on speculative mining stock. It will be welcomed by students and scholars of financial, business, and economic history.

The British North America Act of 1867 fashioned a Canadian federation which was intended to be a highly centralized union led by a powerful national government. Soon after Confederation, however, the government of Ontario took the lead in demanding a greater share of the power for the provinces, and it has continued to press this case. Professor Armstrong analyses the forces which promoted decentralization and the responses which these elicited from the federal government. He explains Ontario's reasons for pursuing this particular policy from 1867 to the Second World War.

The author's sources are the private papers of federal and provincial premiers and other contemporary political figures, government publications, parliamentary debates, and newspapers. He has identified and developed three separate but related themes: the dynamic role played by private business interests in generating intergovernmental conflicts; Ontario's policy of promoting its economic growth by encouraging the processing of its resources at home; and the tremendous influence exerted by increasing urbanization and industrialization on the growth of the responsibilities of the provinces.

During the 1930s, efforts to restructure the federal system were rejected by Ontario because it preferred to maintain the status quo,and was unsympathetic to greater equalization between the regions. Consequently, Ontario took a leading part in opposing the redivision of powers recommended by the Royal Commission on Dominion-Provincial Relations in 1940.

This book provides part of the historical context into which current debates on the question of federalism may be fitted. It thus will be of importance and interest to historians, students of Canadian history, and the general reader alike.

(Ontario Historical Studies Series: Themes)

Long before the spectacular collapse of Bre-X in 1997, the Canadian capital markets had their share of swindlers and crooks. In the boom times after Second World War, hard-sell speculative mining ventures, pushing what often amounted to a few acres of moose pasture, riddled over-the-counter markets and the TSE. It was in this context that the Ontario Securities Commission developed into Canada's leading securities regulator. Following the war, the OSC concerned itself primarily with fraudsters and attempts to reign in Toronto's boiler rooms, but by the mid-sixties increasingly sophisticated markets and a series of scandals culminating in the Windfall affair resulted in a rewriting of the Securities Act and a widening of the OSC's investor protection mandate. The seventies tested the Commission's new powers as increased corporate merger activity brought the phrase "insider-trading" into the popular lexicon.

Surprisingly, considering that capital markets have such a profound impact on Canada's well-being, this is the first thorough study of the their post-war evolution and regulation. Moose Pastures and Mergers takes off where the author's acclaimed previous work, Blue Skies and Boiler Rooms: Buying and Selling Securities in Canada, 1870–1940, left off. With an ear for a good story – seedy personalities, bunglers and guileless victims abound – and a scholar's rigour, Armstrong has met the protean beast of share markets head on and revealed its shape for the timid or the merely baffled. Essential reading for business journalists, securities lawyers, academics, and interested investors.

Winner of the J.J. Talman Award presented by the Ontario Historical Society

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