Wednesday Night #1574

May 2ndfirst anniversary of the election when Canadians (at least 40% of those who voted) gave Stephen Harper a majority.
For an excellent analysis read John Ibbitson Harper unbound: An analysis of his first year as majority PM  To us, the most disturbing point made is … however long he serves, by the time Mr. Harper leaves, the country will be a very different place. It will be divided as never before between left and right, progressive and conservative, east and west, decline and growth. Politics will become – has already become – a clash of irreconcilable values, of stark choices, with the voters forced to choose.
As we absorb the news of new spending cuts each day/hour we are left incredulous – did anyone notice that the federal government has quietly removed internal auditors from four regional development agencies, placing the work in the hands of a central department that is itself faced with a shrinking budget? or that the unit at Environment Canada that responds to oil-spill emergencies will be dramatically scaled back and most of its regional offices will be closed to meet the cost-cutting demands of the federal government.
BUT there will be plenty of new prisons for all those first-time offenders who might otherwise have been rehabilitated. UGH! And as regulations regarding advocacy activities by environmental groups are tightened, along with lots of noise about the foreign influences that are funding them, the “Charitable” Fraser Institute accepted $500k in foreign funding from Koch oil billionaires
Meantime, environmental reviews are to be accelerated or in some cases dispensed with. And there are many, many more changes as Andrew Coyne points out in his blistering column on Bill C-38 introduced in the House last week, calls itself, innocuously, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures. The bill does implement certain budget provisions, it is true: for example, the controversial changes to Old Age Security. But “and other measures” rather understates matters — to understate the matter. The bill runs to more than 420 pages. It amends some 60 different acts, repeals half a dozen, and adds three more, including a completely rewritten Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. It ranges far beyond the traditional budget concerns of taxing and spending, making changes in policy across a number of fields from immigration (among other changes, it erases at a stroke the entire backlog of applications under the skilled worker program), to telecommunications (opening the door, slightly, to foreign ownership), to land codes on native reservations.

Some of our opinionated Wednesday Nighters have been busy this week publishing their opinions on a diversity of subjects.
Cleo Paskal writes about corruption in China and the havoc that may soon be wreaked when its long-term effects in the construction and infrastructure sectors become tragically evident. “Corruption is literally built into the foundations of modern China. The construction and infrastructure sectors are two of the most corrupt in country, putting at risk China’s vaunted development, and also potentially endangering its neighbors.” Read and ponder.
David Jones has written a perceptive piece (available, unfortunately, only to those with a subscription to Embassy) “Slicing Diplomacy: You Get What You Pay For”on the proposed cutbacks and changes to Foreign Affairs’ modus operandi. If you are interested, we can forward a copy. Guy Stanley commented: “One question it raised for me is what is the role of detailed local knowledge in the conduct of contemporary diplomacy and the development of foreign policy? Based on recent performance (Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya) it isn’t clear that NATO governments value it that much–at least not before they blunder. In the Fowler case, clearly someone knew whom to call and how to safely route whatever it was that had to be routed. One of the plusses (?–opposite of non-?) of the Wikileaks cables was just how good some embassies are at communicating the texture of life in their host countries.”
[Meantime, RCI reports that Foreign Affairs is expected to close some of its 18 trade offices across Canada. The offices help businesses to sell their products abroad and to attract foreign investment. Foreign Affairs could also reduce its operations in Europe and redirect resources to expanding countries in South America and to China and India. We find the closure of offices in Europe somewhat counterintuitive (although it depends on where they are) in view of the sudden PR blitz from Ottawa to promote the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.]
Kyle Matthews co-authored with Senator Roméo Dallaire and Professor Frank Chalk Where’s Canada’s atrocity prevention board?
“Obama invited other nations to share the burden of mass atrocities prevention, declaring this “a global responsibility.” Will Ottawa grasp the president’s hand? Will Harper’s government introduce a policy framework in Ottawa designed to prevent future genocides and crimes against humanity that fully honours the memory of the victims of the Holocaust and other genocides? The prime minister should boldly seize this opportunity to join with the U.S. to make civilian protection and mass atrocity prevention a key part of his legacy.”
And Adam Daifallah took to the airwaves on TVO’s April 30 “Agenda” for a panel discussion on the challenges of creating societal change, “From Protest to Change” Making change happen: From mobilization to the cultivation of new ideas. While the discussion revolved mostly around Occupy, the Quebec student movement was also part of it. Some good points made by the panellists and we congratulate Adam for hiding all traces of condescension when addressing the representative of Occupy.
This inevitably leads us to a continuation of last Wednesday’s excellent compare-and-contrast discussion of education systems, with special reference to the Scottish model. All the while in Quebec, the students keep manifesting their displeasure with the tuition hike and, more and more, the entire model of Quebec society. There’s not a lot of sympathy for the movement around the Wednesday Night table, especially as it has become increasingly evident that the focus has expanded to a degree of total incoherence when addressed by most students. There is a stunning example of this in the audio track of a YouTube in which our very OWN Judith Patterson stars (visual) as the Maggie Thatcher of Concordia. No, we are not supplying the link!
With the news that Charles and Camilla are the Queen’s stand-ins in Canada for her Diamond Jubilee celebration, we can expect John Curtin to pop up in the media as a commentator or perhaps with yet another film on the Royals. Which reminds us, when is his new film to be released?

We recommend the PBS Ray Suarez interview on economic woes in U.S. and abroad with Scheherazade Rehman, director of the European Union Research Center and professor of international finance at George Washington University On a somewhat less serious note, check out Paul Krugman meets Ron Paul Krugman is used to arguing against people who claim that we’re in danger of runaway inflation any day now. Instead he faced Paul arguing from first principle, “governments aren’t supposed to run the economy. The people are supposed to run the economy.”

And because we know that you rely on us for those indispensable bits of news that you may have overlooked, this item from Spiegel:
German Police Identify Burglar by His Earprints
Criminals beware — don’t leave earprints. They are as useful to the police as finger prints. A burglar in Germany made the mistake of pressing his ear to front doors to check if anyone was home. The unique prints have allowed the police to pin 96 burglaries on him.

 

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