Wednesday Night #869

Written by  //  October 28, 1998  //  Herb Bercovitz, Reports, Wednesday Nights  //  1 Comment

This session of the Wednesday evening salon, was an action-packed occasion. The broad scope of interest of the assembled guests permitted a fascinating airing of seven main topics of current interest, in a two-hour time frame.

Diana started the evening by reminding everyone that The United Nations Association of Canada is holding a Gala fund raising evening on November 17th at the Windsor. The guest of honor is to be Dr. Klaus Topfer, Assistant Secretary General of the UN and Executive Director of the UN Environment Program. The theme is “Montréal au coeur de l’environnement international” and Diana reminds us that Montreal has become the North American centre for a large number of international organisations in environment and sustainable development.
She is justifiably proud of the honorary committee which includes Pierre Marc Johnson, Janine Ferretti of the CEC and her husband, Gary Gallon of the Canadian Institute for Business and the Environment, Malcolm Mercer of the World Conservation Union and World Water Council (of which Bill Cosgrove is an important player) and Jacques Gérin of the International Institute for Sustainable Development.
The Gala committee is headed by Carolina Richer-Lafleche and includes Margaret Lefebvre and Ysabel Trujillo. The theme of the evening is reinforced by works by Astri Reusch and, according to Diana, the decorations are superb, as will be the food and wines.

Air Canada, its Profitability and the Millennium Bug (Y2K)

The strike took a heavy toll on earnings, but Air Canada customers remain loyal. They have come back to their airline of choice, but at great cost in terms of free tickets, bargain fares and other incentives.
Air Canada has already completed and tested most of its system in critical areas in terms of Y2K compliance. The balance will be achieved by the first quarter of 1999. Guidance and facilities in other countries remain problematic, but it is virtually certain that international pressure will achieve compliance world wide during the coming year. Robin Wohnsigl is so confident that he promises to fly on January 1st 2000 and David has of course volunteered to accompany him!

The National Post
On the positive side, it is less of a Toronto paper than the Globe and Mail. It is less stodgy and more interesting. The writing is not particularly inspired and the columnists would seem to be all cut from the same cloth. As of now there is no indication that readers will turn immediately to see what novel approach has been taken by one or another pundit (i.e. Simpson in the Globe & Mail); the current stable of writers is all too predictable.
The financial pages are not much different than those of the Financial Post. The front page is colourful, but the inside pages are drab.
There were only two articles on the front page dealing with Canada, one of which dealt with Ralph Klein.
It is still too early to make a judgement. Wait a month or two to see how the coverage is different from other Southam papers, whether the editorials and op-ed pages are stimulating. The birth of the National Post may result in the death of the Canadian Press. It would have been preferable that Conrad Black improve the Gazette, which is attempting to cover all bases without doing anything well. The rapid growth of the national chains may very well herald the death of local newspapers.
In this room of news junkies, the subject is sure to be re-visited soon and often.

Québec Elections
We are about to embark on a very difficult period economically. The party that wins this election will be unable to fulfill its election promises and thus will face defeat next time. If the Parti Québécois wins with a very large majority, it is probable that Lucien Bouchard will encourage a dozen or so hard liners to leave the P.Q. caucus to form a rump party. This would create a government which was neither separatist nor federalist.
If the P.L.Q. wins, there is a great probability that independence would be set back a generation, because the people who are pushing independence are aging and will not spend the next four years in opposition.
Jean Charest unfortunately gives the impression of being very distant with people, but appears to be doing his homework and placing his efforts in the regions where they stand the greatest probability of success. This, however, makes many of the Montreal Region traditional Liberal voters uneasy; they feel (and are) removed from the inner circle, and react badly to being marginalized. Furthermore, there is growing disenchantment with the imposition of candidates on riding organisations.
The question of degree of government intervention as well as the area of intervention, plays differently to Anglophones than it does to Francophones. Francophones are more homogeneous and hence more comfortable with government intervention. Far from being a hands-off government, the United States is very interventionist in some areas but not in business. Governments can intervene by establishing standards, without directly delivering services. This has been achieved in the school system.
One danger of government intervention is that government agencies like the Caisse de Dépôt are easily politicized by the party in power and become powerful tools for policy implementation..

Montréal Elections
The only logical explanation for Bourque’s sudden popularity is the lack of sex appeal of the candidates. This situation will lead to a low voter turnout, a condition which invariably favours the incumbent. Unfortunately, Mayor Bourque has surrounded himself with low-calibre sycophants. This can only lead to greater power for Québec.
Montréal’s population is declining steadily and significantly. The hypothesis is that the elite has fled Montréal for the suburbs, diminishing the quality of members of the Montréal’s municipal council.
It is argued that apartment dwellers who comprise a large proportion of Montrealers do not have the same stake or interest in municipal government as do home owners who pay their taxes directly to their municipality. One solution proposed is the construction of additional housing units here. This will not solve the problem because there is a sufficient number of dwellings to house the population. It is the average number of inhabitants per dwelling that has decreased, with younger members moving to the suburbs.
Another proposed solution is amalgamation which, it is argued, would increase the intellectual level of municipal council members. This is a recipe for disaster. (Editor’s note: Amalgamation would be a disaster, NOT an increase in intellectual levels!)

The November 3rd Elections in the United States
A Republican congress will be elected. Nothing will happen in the next two years until the next presidential election. There will be no backlash on the Republicans and there will be a low voter turnout. A low voter turnout favours the Republicans. The next two years will prove to be boring.
[Editor’s note: there is some difference of opinion concerning the potential backlash from voters who are fed up with the Starr inquiry, the media frenzy and general inattention to the state of the nation. The Middle East talks make Clinton look effective; the economy is in good shape and that leading indicator of the definition of a good President – the price of gas – remains low]

The Economy
In the short term, the market will climb somewhat higher followed by a possible downturn. If the Dow can rise to about 8700 and the T.S.E. to 6100 in three weeks, we can anticipate a good month and a half.

The Mega-hospital and Westmount
Several guests brought up the latest reports regarding the proposed location of the Mega-hospital. It would appear that this proposal has never been fully explored with Westmount authorities who feel that this is not a good location, access is terrible and the impact on Westmount’s quality of life would be negative in the extreme. Let us hope that the Mega-hospital planners revert to an earlier solution in the area of the proposed baseball field.

One Comment on "Wednesday Night #869"

  1. Diana Thébaud Nicholson April 24, 1999 at 8:21 pm · Reply

    Saturday 24 April 1999 Alliance Quebec has lost its balance
    The group should be doing more to promote the integration of English Quebecers and of English into the new Quebec. It should also recognize that the ‘lamb lobby’ is a myth. JULIUS GREY
    …the hard-liners have invented a myth, that of the “lamb lobby.” According to this myth, the anglophone community was betrayed by its leaders into complying with oppressive language laws and took all of the indignities heaped upon it lying down. Then the hard-liners came on the scene, resisted and – presto! – results appeared. Nothing could be farther from the truth….. They have embarked on a futile and self-defeating crusade, backed by misleading polls about popular support, to obtain freedom of choice in education and to abrogate all rules regarding signs. Although their defeat is easy to predict, they will undoubtedly rage against Quebec’s “chauvinism” and against the “lamb lobby” when it finally occurs.
    Julius Grey

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