Damn right it is!

Pictured is Canadian Pacific’s (CP) Holiday Train, off on a cross continent tour to restock food shelves from Halifax to Vancouver and dozens of towns in between. Every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas CP redecorates this train, loads up a carload of musicians, and highballs across their system to raise awareness of hunger and raise food and funds for foodshelves. It’s a massive undertaking- CP essentially shuts down the railroad for hours when the holiday train comes through and virtually every CP employee as well as suppliers and customers join in the effort. They’ve been running the Holiday Trains (actually two of them, one goes through Canada and the other the U.S.) for over a decade now and have restocked food shelves with literally millions of dollars in foodstuffs.

But that’s nothing new for CP- this is a company with it’s own corporate museum that rivals the best nonprofit and government funded museums. This is a company where the Maintainence of Way workers still maintain the trackside gravesite of a fellow worker who died laying the tracks over a century ago. This is a transcontinental railroad that doesn’t mind moving just one railcar a hundred miles even though they run two mile long unit trains thousands of miles. This is a company that despatched a locomotive and crew to the burial at a trackside cemetary of a child railfan who left us long before he could hire on, step up into the cab, and highball down the tracks himself.

And yes, they turn a profit while being good corporate citizens and having fun. Once in a great while corporations move beyond artificial legal “personhood” and become institutions that serve the public in a manner far beyond corporate profit taking… Canadian Pacific is one of those rare corporations. What’s not to like?

Well, apparently a band of Wall Street corporate raiders is not pleased with CP. So they’ve launched an attack, buying up shares of CP and running a slate of directors at this month’s annual meeting. They claim CP doesn’t have an impressive enough “Operating Ratio” (OR). OR is the percentage of revenue spent to keep the railroad running, and it’s open to easy manipulation and not a real good measure of performance. “Return On Investment” (ROI) is a better measure, but railroads don’t like to talk ROI ’cause it makes them look bad. The raiders attempt to draw a comparison with Canadian National (CN), CP’s historic transcontinental competitor. In fact, the raider’s even want to hire a Mr. Hunter Harrison, retired CEO of CN, to run CP… But CN is hinting that they’ll pull his multi-million dollar pension if he defects to the enemy.

Not that CN under Hunter exactly set the world on fire. Sure, their OR looked great… But that was a benefit of getting to buy formerly nationalized CN for pennies on the dollar from the Canadian government. Living near both railroads, I saw this firsthand as CN bought Wisconsin Central, then proceeded to layoff local service and maintainence employees while they drove off customers. CP conductors often give customers their cell phone numbers so the customers can get hold of them when they need service… CN customers get angry calls from CN’s home office when they give their workers the week off for hunting season and don’t ship anything for that week. Yup, Hunter actually expected customers to work and ship 24/7/365 just for the convenience of his railroad. Add that to what employees say about his “management” style, and one get’s the feeling that Hunter Harrison retired just in time to avoid a lynching…

Without a pack of corporate raiders behind him, Hunter Harrison damn near destroyed one great railroad, and now the raiders want to turn him lose on another great railroad, Canadian Pacific. My shares have been voted for the veteran  management team that will keep Canadian Pacific the legend that it is!

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