Wednesday Night #1682 with David & Terry Jones

Written by  //  May 28, 2014  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

Cyrus CylinderWe were deeply touched by the incredible, thoughtful, gift that Somayeh and Hosein brought us from Iran – a replica of the Cyrus Cylinder – sometimes described as the ‘first charter of human rights’. The original is currently on loan to the British Museum, following its display last August-September at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. See the Ted Talk 2600 years of history in one object

P R E L U D E
Terry and David Jones are making their annual pilgrimage (aka fact-finding trip) to Montreal and Ottawa and as always, have staked out their claim to a Wednesday Night.
They will be introducing their friend of long-standing Marc Boucher.  He has wide-ranging experience with the Québec Ministry of international relations and led the Quebec offices in Los Angeles (2000-2005), Atlanta (1994-1996) and Louisiana (1980-1983); he has served as an adviser in New York City and London. He has also held management positions at the Ministère des Relations internationales and  was a guest professor from 2005 to 2007 at the École nationale d’administration publique (ENAP), during which he co-authored the comprehensive look at  Les relations internationales du Québec comparés
The Joneses are among the most loyal observers of all political, economic  and related  public policy matters in Quebec and Canada, and, as you are certainly aware, David writes extensively on Canadian affairs for a number of publications including the Hill Times and  the Métropolitain (most recently his take on the Fair Elections Act) . He and his good friend David Kilgour also conduct a highly opinionated – and informative – dialogue in the David vs. David columns on Yahoo – the most recent,  on the Ontario elections, features a rare agreement between them.  [Ontario election: Given the alternatives, the Liberals are the most reasonable option and Ontario election: Hudak represents much-needed change, but unfortunately, little hope].
Since their last visit, much has changed – and much has changed for the better. As Linda Naiman remarked a couple of weeks ago, the mood in Montreal is more optimistic than it has been for many years. Xavier Dolan’s triumph at Cannes is a delightful boost for that pervasive cheerfulness – the improved weather also helps.  However, few will deny that  major credit belongs to Mayor Coderre who has exceeded the expectations of  all but his most committed supporters with a combination of canny  actions and unflagging  confidence in the ability of officials and citizens to work together for the good of their city. Denis Coderre est devenu le cœur et l’âme de Montréal. Il a maintenant cette autorité morale nécessaire pour prendre des décisions, populaires ou impopulaires, et à les mettre en application.
In a rare pairing,our mayor manages to combine bonhomie with subtle graciousness; witness the award of the keys of the city to Oliver Jones  his reaching out to Marcel Côté after the latter’s defeat, and immediate offer of a civic funeral for M. Côté when he learned the sad news of the latter’s death on Sunday.
At the same time, citizens firmly believe that Mayor Coderre will be their staunch defender in tough battles with Quebec  (special status) and Ottawa (Champlain bridge tolls) – at least he has  sympathetic understanding from Quebec’s minister, Pierre Moreau. In the case of Ottawa, the fight is on, and our mayor is showing his teeth:
Coderre not giving up fight against tolls on new Champlain Bridge
Coderre said Friday that there is a growing coalition in Quebec against tolls on the bridge that Harper cannot ignore.
“This is not just a war of words,” Coderre told reporters. “It is not just the Coderre Show, either. I am president of the Montreal Metropolitan Community, so I represent 82 municipalities. You have the truckers’ associations, you have the boards of trade, you have the government of Quebec. That is starting to be a lot of people (opposing tolls). We will continue to apply pressure.”
Coderre also noted that there will be a federal election in 2015
It’s good to have a mayor with federal political experience!
The new government in Quebec (see Quebec post 2014 elections)  is also sounding a positive note, despite the very necessary bleak statements about the province’s finances —It’s going to hurt: Philippe Couillard warns of Quebec’s turbulent economic transition onto austerity track – how refreshing to hear M. Couillard’s strong federalist tone and his description of diversity as a positive quality. At this very beginning of the new mandate, the government will have to do some very unpleasant things, but for the moment, we are hopeful that the priorities are established and the follow-through will come with the next session of the Assembly. Meanwhile, the thunder cloud  hanging over the legislative body is the controversial Bill 52 (Act respecting end-of-life care) re-introduced last week. Variously described as legislation ensuring death with dignity, or  promoting euthanasia, the Bill  has been fiercely debated by proponents and opponents – the latter include our OWN Margo Somerville  Why euthanasia and assisted suicide must remain legally prohibited, and,  in contrast to  Justin Trudeau’s stance on pro-choice legislation, Dr. Couillard has announced that  all MNA’s  will have a free vote.
And let us not forget the Charbonneau Commission with its parade of figures from a far-fetched Hollywood movie. In the latest twist, Dr. Arthur Porter is shocked and dismayed that the Inquiry has called the superhospital work corrupt – So why is he fighting extradition from his Panama jail, asks one Wednesday Nighter.
The Quebec wing of the Liberal Party of Canada met over the weekend (as did the Bloc Québécois) – neither the LPCQ biennial meeting, nor the Bloc convention that set the stage for a leadership vote next month was well covered for the reasons that Chantal Hébert makes abundantly clear (HÉBERT: Tories deliver coup de grâce to crumbling Quebec media but we understand from other sources that Rachel Bendayan did a brilliant job of presiding over the meeting where Linda Julien was elected president of the LPCQ. We are very proud of these amazing Wednesday Nighters!
We know that David & Terry will be given an extensive overview in Ottawa of federal goings on, however, we too will make time to explore the (many) views from Quebec on such burning topics as the acquisition of the Turks & Caicos as an 11th province –on which apparently John Baird has firmly closed the door .
More seriously, the  issue of appointments of Quebec justices to the Supreme Court (The secret short list that provoked the rift between Chief Justice and PMO) is of major concern (Premier Couillard has now weighed in on the matter)  and many of us simply fail to understand why Mr. Harper is behaving so obtusely on this and other files such as the Citizenship Act (Citizenship Act will create two classes of Canadians) – we know why his government is chipping away at CBC/Radio Canada and deplore the forced erosion of the national broadcaster – although the consequent departure of Kevin O’Leary would be cause for celebration. Long may he live at Fox News!
The Liberals under Justin Trudeau appear to continue to make gains, although there are some rumblings about less-than-open nominations and, more recently complaints from, disgruntled Quebec Liberals that the party is becoming Ottawa focused, taking Quebec for granted. [Martin Patriquin: Why Justin Trudeau risks alienating Quebec]
Lest our American friends believe that we are guilty of navel-gazing (which Justin Trudeau has now warned Liberals against), we continue our deep interest in international news, of which there is a surfeit this week. Our interest and concern ranges from the elections in India, about which Wednesday Nighter Cleo Paskal has written with her usual insight and flair, to the outcome in Ukraine, where Helen Fotopulos has been serving as an international election monitor, and  the European Parliamentary elections; we would particularly draw your attention to the segment on Monday night’s PBS Newshour and the FT report that  José Manuel Barroso, told a European Central Bank conference in Portugal that he was “extremely concerned” by the rise in support for anti-European parties in the elections, which he called “the biggest stress test ever for European institutions”. He also attacked mainstream parties in member states for pandering to anti-EU sentiment. “If you spend all week blaming Europe, you can’t ask people to vote for Europe on Sunday, he said.
The plight of the abducted  Nigerian school girls, continues to be a shocking display of incompetence on the part of the Nigerian government and military.
In contrast, the papal visit to Israel appears to have been a diplomatic tour de force by the pontiff and we wonder what will come of his invitation to presidents Peres and Abbas to join him in Rome. (Did anyone catch the exchange between Pope Francis and Bibi when the latter claimed that Jesus spoke Hebrew and the former gently corrected him, “Aramaic”?
All of which is more than enough to keep Canadian policy wonks busy for a very long time.
Westmount Science Camp – an invitation from Nigel Penney:
If any of you want to have some fun this Saturday, May 31, from 10 am, come join me and the team at the Westmount Science booth at Westmount’s Family Day, Westmount Park. There are tons of activities, food, and we get to meet families who want to send their kids to camp. No need to confirm, just come!

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