For all the designer drinks and gourmet foods – from raw oysters to sushi, and the sea of men in expensive suits and bejeweled women in elegant gowns, the setting seemed fit only for celebration.

But dressed as they were to the nines, investors attending “A Night with the Bears” at Toronto’s upscale Elgin Theatre, were eager to hear the worst, on the edges of plush seats amid predictions of market doom from some of the continent’s savviest
financial minds.

“I only wish we’d sold tickets,” said a smiling Eric Sprott, arguably Canada’s best known hedge fund manager and chairman at Sprott Asset Management Inc, as he looked out at the 1,500 or so crowd.

In a media room below stage, journalists were held equally rapt by the star speakers after being treated to a hand-operated elevator ride.

Once there, rows of chairs slowly filled as smartly-dressed servers roamed the dimly-lit space
offering drinks to journalists briefed quickly.