Wednesday Night #1579

GREAT NEWS: Thanks to tireless work by Bert Revenaz, Diana’s website is again up and running. There is a lot of minor editing to do, so please forgive whatever format lapses you see, but the main thing is Bert was able to save all the content and clean out the Trojan. For which we will never be able to thank him adequately.

With great serendipity, our friends and Wednesday Nighters from Washington, D.C., retired (at least nominally) diplomats and authors*, David and Teresa (Terry) Jones are landing in Montreal on the anniversary of D-Day for their annual Wednesday Night fact-finding mission.
*They have most recently co-authored “Forever Tandem — A Love Story with Ancillary Passion for the Foreign Service” – available in soft cover and Kindle format.

We are also looking forward to welcoming Johanna Bernstein to her first Wednesday Night. Johanna is a diplomat of a somewhat different persuasion than the Jones team. She has been engaged in multilateral environmental diplomacy since 1991, starting as director of the Canadian coalition of NGOs involved in the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development aka The Earth Summit, whose 20th anniversary this year is marked by Rio+20. Following work with several important international environmental organizations, Johanna now runs her own environmental law and policy consulting practice and is based in Geneva (where she indulges her passions for high altitude skiing and her beloved golden retrievers), Brussels and Montreal.

Our American guests will certainly wish to catch up on the latest news and analysis of the Protests and for that we will direct them to multiple sources, but in particular Margo Somerville’s op-ed in the Ottawa Citizen What is happening in Quebec (note the absence of a question mark) and to the just-inaugurated CIC Open Canada forum Are the Quebec riots a manifestation of the global Occupy movement? featuring some notable rapid responders including Jeremy Kinsman, Pierre Martin and Kyle Matthews (we will ignore Ezra Levant). As David is a frequent contributor to The Metropolitain, and has written of his own puzzlement over the protests, he needs no pointing to the Met, or to Beryl’s numerous opinion pieces on the subject.

Of course, what interests the Joneses more are the political ramifications at the provincial level; the comments by Mario Dumont in the Globe & Mail Quebec’s ‘grand awakening:’ not a revolution, but a confrontation should add to the dialogue. Along with anything written or said by Chantal Hébert and Lysiane Gagnon. What of Jean Charests’s future? What will happen the vaunted Plan Nord? Will Mr. Charest call an election sooner or later? And now that the Charbonneau Commission investigating corruption in the construction industry and political financing is open for business, would he be better off calling an election before there are findings?

Nor is Montreal exempt from the conversation; the costs and wear and tear on the city’s resources keep mounting (although there is no truth to the rumour that it was the protests that caused the sinkhole on Sherbrooke Street & McGill College); while concern for the Grand Prix and numerous summer festivals is genuine. Already, the F-1 has announced the cancellation of the Preview Day, although the non-leader of CLASSE now says the organizers overreacted and the students didn’t really mean it when they said that they would use the event as a platform – the statements should not have been taken literally. Makes one wonder what they said and didn’t mean in their negotiations with the government.
Preliminary conclusion? It will be a long, hot summer.

In turn, of course we want to hear Terry and David’s views on events in the U.S. and around the world. We are particularly curious to learn their forecasts for outcomes in the Middle East – Syria, Iran, Egypt and the perennial Israel/Palestine conundrum, along with comments on U.S./Russia and U.S./Asia policies.
Kimon will be with us to inform our thinking about the latest developments and possible outcomes in the eurozone; to beat the anti-austerity drum; and to offer comments on the latest pronouncement from George Soros [who] says three months [remain] to save the euro

On matters of the economy (and social justice), we recently sent out for ‘review’ the link to the article by Joseph Stiglitz in the May issue of Vanity Fair: The 1 Percent’s Problem Why won’t America’s 1 percent—such as the six Walmart heirs, whose wealth equals that of the entire bottom 30 percent—be a bit more . . . selfish? As the widening financial divide cripples the U.S. economy, even those at the top will pay a steep price. Rarely have we had such divergent reactions, from enthusiasm to dismissiveness and most temperatures in between.

While we part ways with David and Terry on environment issues, given the presence of our friend Johanna, we cannot and will not overlook the Black Out Speak Out campaign.
It has at least roused the Harper government to respond, as noted by HuffPost/Canadian Press: “As hundreds of websites went dark in a show of protest, the Harper government dispatched 10 of its ministers across the country from St. John’s, N.L., to Surrey, B.C., to sell its vision that having fewer checks on resource exploitation isn’t necessarily bad for the environment”.
This is also a somewhat simplistic interpretation (like the student protests). It isn’t just about the vision – it’s about the way the Harper government camouflaged the legislation in the Omnibus Bill and has hidden behind the argument that all is justified because “Resource development is too vital to the Canadian economy to be tied up in unnecessary red tape”. And it’s about the intransigence of the government in the face of any and all counter arguments. Couldn’t they even pretend to consider the other side of the questions? And it’s about Canada’s ever-declining role as a role model on the international stage.
We will be very interested to learn what David and Terry hear in Ottawa on these and other topics related to the federal government’s policies and, in particular, what we perceive as its high-handed style of governing.

A footnote to tie some, if not all, of this together: Rio+20 was originally scheduled for 4-5-6 June, but when authorities became aware that these dates clashed with the Jubilee (see below), it was rescheduled for June 20-21-22 which also accommodated a number of Asian heads of government who would be traveling to the G20 Summit in Mexico. However, it seems Mr. Harper is too busy to show up at the Leaders Summit in Rio. Sustainable development isn’t really part of his agenda. Let us then be thankful for small mercies: Canada has finally given up its opposition to recognizing water and sanitation as a basic human right (It should be noted that its previous position was aligned with that of the U.S. and Israel).

To conclude on a more positive, brighter note, even the most Grinch-like of republicans must take pleasure in the pageantry of the Diamond Jubilee – no matter how one feels about the occasion, it is undeniable that nobody does pageantry better than the Brits. The pictures of yesterday’s “Land of Boats and Glory” are absolutely breathtaking. The BBC is positively burbling with excitement and is almost rivalled by our own CBC Poor Wendy Mesley must be gritting her teeth – Peter got to go to London and she had to stay home and mind the (National) store.
The American media are equally enthusiastic and we would point you particularly to Slate’s very nice tribute from an American ‘cousin’:
A Queen for the Ages As Her Majesty celebrates her Diamond Jubilee, Britain stands up to admire the one celebrity who always does her duty.
“Most of all, the queen, simply by living so long, has come to epitomize an increasingly rare idea of duty that many in Britain, and elsewhere, admire. She doesn’t quit, she doesn’t complain, she doesn’t talk to the press or protest when people draw nasty caricatures or say unpleasant things about her family. For six decades, she has shown up at charitable events, raised money for good causes, represented Britain when she was told to, met regularly with the British, Canadian, and Australian prime ministers, among others, attended all of the state ceremonies, always looked the way she was supposed to look, and always thought of something to say.”  — In marked contrast to most public figures on all counts.

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