Francis, Diane (Marie) 1946-
FRANCIS, Diane (Marie) 1946-
PERSONAL: Born November 14, 1946, in Chicago, IL; immigrated to Canada, 1966, naturalized Canadian citizen; daughter of Paul Marion and Mary Katherine (Egan) Davis; married Frank Albert Francis (a printer), April 24, 1965; children: Eric Michael, Julie Marie. Education: Attended Sheridan College.
ADDRESSES: Home—Ontario, Canada. Agent— Beverly Slopen Literary Agency, 131 Bloor St. W, Suite 711, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1S3, Canada.
CAREER: Worked as a journalist for Brampton Daily Times and, later, Mississauga News; freelance newspaper writer, 1976-78; freelance magazine writer, 1978-81; Canadian Business, contributing editor, 1979-81; Quest, columnist, 1981-83; Toronto Star, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, reporter and financial columnist, 1981-87; Canadian Broadcasting Corp., commentator for CBC-Radio, beginning 1985. Columnist for Maclean's and Toronto Sun, beginning 1987; Financial Post, editor, 1991-98, editor at large, beginning 1998. Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research, director; Financial Post Corp., member of advisory board; Canada-Ukraine Chamber of Commerce, director.
MEMBER: Care Canada, Women's Press Club (honorary member).
AWARDS, HONORS: Western Ontario newspaper award, 1976; Royal Bank Business Writing Award, 1982; CPA National Writing Awards, 1984, 1985, 1987; Edward Dunlop feature writing award, 1990; Chatelaine, named Woman of the Year, 1992, cited among "Women of Influence," 1995; cited among "Women Who Make a Difference," Toronto Life, 1993; named Journalist of the Year, Ukrainian Canadian Congress, 1994; Colin M. Brown Freedom Medal, National Citizens Coalition, 1995; National Leadership Award, Our Lady of Lourdes High School Forum, 1995; National Citizens' Coalition Freedom Award, 1995; honorary fellow, Canadian School of Management, 1995; Ohassta Leadership Award, 1996; Woman of Achievement award, Canadian Hadassah-Wizo, 1996.
Controlling Interest: Who Owns Canada?, Macmillan (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1986.
Contrepreneurs, Macmillan (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1988.
The Diane Francis Inside Guide to Canada's FiftyBest Stocks, Key Porter Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1990.
A Matter of Survival: Canada in the Twenty-first Century, Key Porter Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1993.
Underground Nation: The Secret Economy and theFuture of Canada, Key Porter Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1994.
Fighting for Canada, Key Porter Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1996.
Bre-X: The Inside Story, Key Porter Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1997.
Immigration: The Economic Case, Key Porter Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: Diane Francis was an unlikely candidate to become one of the most prominent financial reporters in Canada. Born in Chicago, she moved to Canada with her English-born husband during the mid-1960s. Francis told a Saturday Night contributor that she considered Canada "the ends of the earth" at the time. Francis left her job as a legal secretary to help her husband set up and run an art studio and typesetting house in Toronto. During the 1970s she gave birth to two children, staying at home to care for them but remaining active on the local political scene. At age twenty-eight she was tested for cancer. The terrible time she spent waiting for the biopsy results made her reconsider how she approached life: "I faced the fact that there wasn't unlimited time to do everything. . . . I had to set an agenda, because I really didn't think I'd be alive for very long," she told the Saturday Night writer. When Francis's test results came back negative, she still faced life with a new attitude.
Having once aspired to be a novelist, Francis now turned to journalism as a way to start writing. She took a newspaper feature writing course at Sheridan College, which required a two-week assignment at a newspaper. Francis found herself at the Brampton Daily Times, where she ended up working for fifteen months. Rather than return to school, Francis began freelancing for the Toronto Star; later she worked for the Mississauga News and began freelance magazine writing. Subsequently she became a contributing editor to Canadian business magazines and a financial columnist for Quest. In 1981 she was hired by the Star as an energy reporter.
Toronto Sun publisher Paul Godfrey offered Francis the job of financial columnist and the opportunity to write columns for Maclean's and the Financial Post as well as the newspaper, all three entities being owned by Maclean Hunter. She accepted this job in 1987 and was catapulted into a new arena where opinion and financial gossip—as well as investigative reporting—were the stuff of her columns. Francis soon became known for her ability to produce a huge volume of material, which was written in an entertaining, easy reading style. A strong supporter of free enterprise, she criticized the Canadian government as a poor regulator and sought to uncover corruption in the world of business.
A year prior to accepting the Maclean Hunter job, Francis completed her first book, Controlling Interest: Who Owns Canada? in which she profiles thirty-two Canadian business dynasties. Furthermore, Francis explains that a relatively small number of business owners are controlling the Canadian economy and, as a result, there are a lack of competition and artificially high prices. All of this is made possible by a system of ill-conceived laws and regulations. In a review of the book for Maclean's, Patricia Best remarked that "although Francis's book is an awkward hybrid of pop journalism and serious writing, it raises a provocative issue: whether members of the political elite will reform the system—and betray their friends in the corporate world." Quill & Quire reviewer Andrew Allentuck found that "there's more brains, more salient research, more intellectual courage, and more truth in Controlling Interest than in libraries of forgotten royal commission reports. It could be the most important book about Canadian business in a decade." Jorge Niosi commented in the Queen's Quarterly, "The book is far superior to anything any other journalist has written about the Canadian establishment. . . . Francis is not afraid to write things that hurt vested economic interests; she is not afraid to name names and point a finger at corporations and politicians."
Francis continued in a similar vein with her book Contrepreneurs. As David Olive explained in Quill & Quire, Francis "coins the term 'contrepreneurs' to describe the savvy con artists who bilk thousands of investors out of millions of dollars every day with near impunity." The book conveys the author's criticism of the Canadian stock exchanges in Vancouver and Alberta as money-laundering operations and portrays the government as a passive player in the increased use of Canada by narcotics shippers as an open door to North America. Writing for Maclean's, Peter C. Newman called Contrepreneurs "not light reading, but it is an essential and frightening document about the dark side of capitalism." Peter Moon's review for Books in Canada included the comment that Francis was the first person to attempt to publicize the role of Canadians in international "economic crime."
Francis used her knowledge of Canadian business to advise investors in the The Diane Francis Inside Guide to Canada's Fifty Best Stocks. The next year she was made editor of the Financial Post. The publication of A Matter of Survival: Canada in the Twenty-first Century offers Francis's views on taxes, welfare, and separatism, among other subjects. While Quill & Quire reviewer Ellen Roseman found the book to have "many fascinating insights," she felt that the author tried to pack too much into the book's 200 pages and that the work was clearly drawn from Francis's magazine and newspaper articles. Moreover, she felt that Francis was a conservative extremist and concluded, "Those who agree will find this tract inspirational. Those who disagree will find it infuriating." Francis received a similar reception when Allentuck reviewed her next book for Quill & Quire. Covering similar territory with Underground Nation: The Secret Economy and the Future of Canada, she seemed to Allentuck like "right-wing truth-monger Rush Limbaugh." He identified the book's strongest parts as the discussions of taxation, losing capital to other countries, and poverty, while the weakest is her take on immigrant welfare fraud and the status of the French language.
However, when Francis issued Fighting for Canada, she took a firm stance to the right on one of the most controversial issues in Canada: separatism. As Patrick Gossage explained in Quill & Quire, Francis holds that "separatism is a full-blown conspiracy to illegally destroy Canada" and she believes that the indifference and complete conciliation of the federal government and Quebec Liberals "virtually guarantee the success of the scheming and immoral ideologues who currently run Quebec." While Gossage regarded some of Francis's ideas as "paranoia," he was convinced by her belief that the separatist movement holds great peril for Canada.
The topic of Francis's next book was not a subject for debate, rather it was one of the most outrageous cases of fraud to be reported in Canada: Bre-X Minerals Limited and its gold mine in Indonesia. When company geologist Michael de Guzman jumped—or was pushed—to his death from a helicopter over the Indonesian jungle in 1997, it was discovered that gold samples had been falsified and that the Bre-X mine was not a huge find. This was, however, discovered after investors had sunk millions of dollars into the company. Bre-X: The Inside Story offers a detailed look at the whole fiasco. According to reviewer Stephen Ewart in Maclean's, "Francis is at her best when she turns her attention to de Guzman's final flight and the theories on why he may have been murdered." But Ewart felt that the book was unable to answer many of the "big questions" regarding the case and concluded that Bre-X "is an unsolved mystery—and seems likely to remain so for years to come."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Books in Canada, November, 1988, Peter Moon, review of Contrepreneurs, pp. 35-36; March, 2003, Martin Loney, review of Immigration: The Economic Case.
Maclean's, September 15, 1986, Patricia Best, review of Controlling Interest: Who Owns Canada?, p. 57; November 28, 1988, Peter C. Newman, review of Contrepreneurs, p. 42; November 26, 1990, p. 52; October 6, 1997, Stephen Ewart, review of Bre-X: The Inside Story, p. 76.
Queen's Quarterly, autumn, 1988, Jorge Niosi, review of Controlling Interest, pp. 714-715.
Quill & Quire, November, 1986, Andrew Allentuck, review of Controlling Interest, p. 27; November, 1988, David Olive, review of Contrepreneurs, p. 20; November, 1993, Ellen Roseman, review of A Matter of Survival: Canada in the Twenty-first Century, p. 29; October, 1994, Andrew Allentuck, review of Underground Nation: The Secret Economy and the Future of Canada, pp. 31-32; November, 1996, Patrick Gossage, review of Fighting for Canada, p. 36.
Saturday Night, January, 1988, pp. 17-19.*