Wednesday Night #1672

Written by  //  March 18, 2014  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

UPDATE: Finance Minister Jim Flaherty resigns from cabinet
The government will announce a new finance minister Wednesday, sources say.
Sources say the next finance minister, who’s already been chosen, “will be somebody with impressive credentials and who’s very capable.”
Mr. Flaherty is staying on as an MP for now. His statement is unclear on his future, but the comments about pursuing a return to the private sector suggest he plans to leave politics before the next election.
To no-one’s surprise, the Crimean referendum result was overwhelmingly in favor of leaving Ukraine – not that the ballot gave any option for the status quo. As one somewhat jaded European Friend of Wednesday Night observed “Putin ought to be ashamed! In the good old days under Soviet rule results were known before polls closed and those in favor with whatever was voted about was at least 113%.” There are, naturally, stories of pre-marked ballots being delivered before the vote, but that couldn’t happen, could it?
The Financial Times reported that “Earlier on Monday, Mr Putin had signalled he might be prepared to negotiate a diplomatic deal over Ukraine, possibly using Crimea as a bargaining chip.” However, adds, rather bleakly  “How much scope remains for diplomacy – and how quickly tougher international sanctions will be adopted – may depend on whether and how quickly Russia proceeds with absorbing Crimea into the Russian Federation. After Mr Putin’s recognition of its independence, that process could theoretically be completed within days if Moscow chose to fast-track it.” morning (EDT)  the lead story was Putin defies west with Crimea decree— Moscow recognises breakaway state, a move that threatens to escalate the crisis in Ukraine after Sunday’s overwhelming vote and US and EU sanctions.
On Tuesday, Putin will address a special joint session of the Duma, which will likely take a decision on annexation and thus dismember Ukraine.
Kimon (from smog-bound Paris) recommends the most recent  Stratfor analysis Russia Examines Its Options for Responding to Ukraine with the comment “A good geopolitical analysis of Ukraine and Russia with chess like moves and counter moves. Worth a read”
On Monday,  the U.S. and EU promptly imposed personal sanctions on Russian and Crimean officials involved in the seizure of Crimea, as did Canada, but we won’t know what effect they will have for a while. Meantime, Reuters carries a story (Russian government admits economy in crisis as Ukraine weighs) stating that Russia’s government “acknowledged for the first time on Monday that the economy was in crisis, undermining earlier attempts by officials to suggest albeit weakening growth could weather sanctions over Ukraine.”
Sadly, the U.S. Congress did not follow Brett House’s sage advice The West should forget about punishing Russia and do more to help Ukraine and instead adjourned Friday for a 10-day recess without approving emergency assistance for Ukraine.
The failure to pass the billion-dollar package of loan guarantees resulted largely from Republican opposition to reforming the International Monetary Fund (IMF) U.S. Ukraine Aid Frustrated by IMF Reform Debate
As mentioned, Canada has been quick to slap on sanctions, MP Rob Anders is all in favour of armed intervention to teach the Russians a lesson. Fortunately he is proposing intervention by others – not Canada.  And Mr. Harper is off to Ukraine on Saturday to do precisely what we are not sure, but it will certainly go down well with Ukrainian-Canadians. Will he be taking anyone from the opposition with him (e.g. Chrystia Freeland)? Probably not.
John Ivison has raised a good point in the National Post – one we are surprised is only being mentioned now: Canada is currently chair of the Arctic Council and has already had some confrontations with Russia over the latter’s claims. Given the sorry state of the Canadian Forces, there is an urgent need to re-examine defense policy in light of Mr. Putin’s territorial ambitions.,  According to Mike Blanchfield of the Canadian Press, So far, so good: Russia’s Ukraine moves not yet spilling into Arctic Council but the next meeting of the Council is at the end of this month.  

With all of these geopolitical considerations to ponder, it might help to have a look at shifting European borders. Thanks to Bert Revenaz,you can  Watch as 1000 years of European borders change

The only news that will divert us from the inscrutable Kremlin is the ever-deepening mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. The theories and pronouncements from everyone from real experts to witch doctors have come so thick and fast that the only discernible fact is that the Malaysian authorities have been woefully inept in their handling of the matter. No, there is a second indisputable fact – nobody knows where the aircraft is, whether it has sunk to the bottom of the Indian Ocean (or some  other vast body of water), or landed safely in a remote location that might be a Stone Age island or in Central Asia. Nor does anyone know why. If you are seeking one source of information,  Slate has done an excellent job of following the saga, even answering   Why Didn’t the Missing Airliner’s Passengers Phone for Help?

Not quite in the same world-class realm of geopolitical derring-do, but nonetheless, a source of fascination for residents/voters in Quebec, as well as (some of) the chattering classes across the country, the Quebec election campaign continues to provoke reactions ranging from scepticism to outrage, along with concerns that a number of names may have been left off the voters list. A number of Wednesday Nighters have been astonished to find that despite living in the same place for decades, their names do not appear. We urge you to check online and remember  to try different formats ( include middle  names, initials and look for maiden names) , as the system is cranky and not at all intuitive.
PKP continues to be a major topic for the media – we can only imagine J-F Lisée grinding his teeth as he yields dauphin status to the political newcomer. But  the media glare is not particularly friendly to the union-busting boss of Quebecor. There certainly was quite a bit of glee in the reports of Mme Marois shoving him aside at that press conference. She   probably has wished to do it more than once, as he seems determined to derail the carefully crafted campaign messaging designed to avoid at all cost any mention of sovereignty/separation.( See Celine Cooper: The PQ scrambles to get its campaign back on message)  But then Mme Marois  created her own mini-crisis when she advanced the idea that not only would an independent Quebec use the loonie, but it would also seek a seat at the Bank of Canada table. Not too well received.  Philippe Couillard and his team are determined to focus on the sad state of the Quebec economy and so far, appear to be doing well. The trailing CAQ  are also singing out of that hymn book, but it doesn’t seem as though they are having much success.
A cautionary note from the First Nations: Ghislain Picard, chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, says First Nations have the right to determine their own future and aren’t bound to the result of another referendum vote. It’s useless to consider Quebec sovereignty while there’s still uncertainty about the place of aboriginal peoples, Picard said.
One of the more curious stories that has emerged concerns the relationship between Brian Mulroney and M. Péladeau  Mulroney’s business ties to Peladeau likely to keep him on election sidelines — Brian Mulroney is upset and disappointed by Pierre Karl Peladeau’s decision to run for the Parti Quebecois but is not likely to speak out against his long-time protégé’s candidacy because he is a key part of Péladeau ‘s management team (and will remain so, because it’s all about fiduciary responsibility – and certainly has nothing to do with the $244,000+ he apparently earns as vice-chairman).
Julius Grey dénonce la « dérive droitière » du PQ
le célèbre avocat Montréalais, Julius Grey, qui s’est distingué à de nombreuses reprises dans la défense des droits de la personne au Canada, se « désole » de la campagne actuelle au Québec, et se dit inquiet : il estime notamment que les relents identitaires exploités par le PQ vont trop loin.

Bits and pieces of federal goings-on:
The latest questionable use of parliamentary funds Mulcair’s taxpayer-funded Montreal office skirts the rules, Liberals charge  brings this comment from the Board of Internal Economy, which  issued a statement saying, “It was never the intention of the Board to allow House of Commons resources to be used to support political party activity or party staff.” But the board said the rules, as written, were unclear, and it declined to take any disciplinary action. It seems to us that Mike Duffy also complained of unclear rules. Maybe we the people (e.g.  the taxpayers should demand that all of the rule be revised by non-lawyers/accountants so that they can be made perfectly clear, as our Prime Minister is so fond of saying.
Stephen Kinsman sent a link to Military rejected Canada Day Afghan tribute, citing ‘militarization’ concernsMilitary planners have treaded (sic) delicately on how best to remind the country of the sacrifices of Canadian Forces members in Afghanistan, raising concerns about potential political and public sensitivities, newly released documents show. That led military brass to ultimately recommend abandoning plans for a noontime ceremony on Parliament Hill this coming Canada Day that would have commemorated the mission. And we thought that Mr. Harper was so dedicated to the Forces. Maybe only when politically useful?
The Liberals seem to be in a spot of trouble over various nominations.  First came Hugo de Grandpré’s story Des militants mécontents des nominations libérales fédérales
L’influence exercée par les hautes instances du Parti libéral du Canada dans le processus de nominations de candidats en vue des prochaines élections fait des mécontents au sein de la base militante. Au cours des derniers jours, par exemple, plusieurs libéraux ont contacté La Presse pour dénoncer ce qu’ils jugent être une manipulation des règles pour favoriser un candidat dans la circonscription de Ville-Marie, Marc Miller, un ami de longue date de M. Trudeau. This was followed by Trudeau Blocks Candidacy Of Christine Innes, Ex-MP’s Wife and on Monday,   Liberal star Zach Paikin quits Hamilton nomination race ‘as a sign of protest’ against Trudeau (Liberal party sources have confirmed that Paikin was never an official candidate as he was still in the process of filling out his nomination papers ahead of a now-cancelled March 19 campaign launch – but he got more publicity than any of the real ‘stars’)

Coming up: The leaders debate on Thursday evening – not to miss.
Supreme Court to rule on Justice Marc Nadon’s appointment on Friday – any bets how the ruling will go?

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