Wednesday Night #870

Written by  //  November 4, 1998  //  Gerald Ratzer, Jacques Clément, Reports, Wednesday Nights  //  Comments Off on Wednesday Night #870

Several new faces were introduced, starting with Leo Gervais , the new publisher of the Westmount Examiner. Leo comes with excellent credentials, which include an MBA and good computer skills. David reminded all members of the press that what is said at Wednesday night is off the record, unless the speaker indicates otherwise.
Byron Tobin and Mac Mercer were among the other guests introduced. Although Byron has been with us before, David Nicholson wanted to celebrate the entertaining re-creation of the 1939 broadcast of “War of the Worlds” which Byron had organized the previous Friday evening at McGill. Video clips of Westmount’s “acting” Mayor were shown in support of the topic.
Mac is the Director of the Canada Bureau of the IUCN- World Conservation Union and also a director of the World Water Council. In addition, and pertinent to one of the evening’s topics, he has served on Hospital Boards, living through the trials of amalgamation talks.
Arriving a bit late, Stratton Stevens introduced Lynne Paradis who is working with the Charest team.

David Marler’s candidacy
David gave us considerable details on his background and that of his family. With several generations of Marlers having been active in Quebec and Westmount in particular, David described his recent activities culminating in his announcement associated with his plan to enter the local political scene. A card-carrying member of the Quebec Liberal Party for many years, he had tried to offer his services to the QLP. However, his attempts to work with the Liberal organization were frustrated and “Nothing opened up”.
So on Friday, November 6th, David Marler will announce to the Press Club that he will be running as an Independent candidate in the Westmount – St Louis riding.
The ensuing discussion covered the process of selecting candidates for a given riding. The idea of having a political figure “parachuted” into a safe riding like Westmount was of concern to a number of people. Neither the MNA nor the MP for Westmount live in the riding, and in fact as newspeak terms it, both are 450 residents while representing a 514 riding!
Michael Marler commented that he is excited that his father has decided to run as an independent and he looks forward to working together with him. David’s daughter, Stephanie said that David had many solid ideas and knew how to balance ideals and objectives. He understands the international, polyglot nature of Montreal and wants to bring out the best in the area.
David gave passionate reasons why he had decided to run as an independent, including his family background, his ability to relate to people in the riding, and his desire to protect the institutions and language of all residents. He also stated that he was shocked by the current political practice of overriding the needs and wishes of constituents When asked if his running as an independent could in any way split the vote and let a PQ into Westmount – St.Louis – the response was an emphatic “NO”.
Leaders become “prisoners of their own platform”; an independent voice can help to modify positions, bringing new logic to bear publicly on issues.

The Quebec campaign and related issues
Turning to the broader picture of how the provincial campaign was developing, concern was raised that Charest had not displayed any of the “fire in the belly” needed to galvanize the undecided and soft nationalists to his cause.
He and Lucien Bouchard will have a TV debate in French (on November 17th) and hopefully this will be to Charest’s benefit, as he is known to have a very good TV presence. [Ed. But we will be at the “Treehuggers Ball”]
A short discussion followed on placing star candidates in marginal ridings and also the difference between 514 and 450 (on and off the Montreal Island) ridings. The case was made that under the Canadian parliamentary system, the leader traditionally must pick his cabinet largely from among the elected members of his party, unlike the U.S. system under which the President has the luxury of recruiting expertise from the non-elected ranks. Therefore, the leader must look at his/her agenda and encourage “star” candidates with expertise to run in “safe” ridings so that the Party has an effective team to develop and implement policy and laws. In keeping with this practice, the QLP will announce the name of its candidate in Mount Royal over the weekend.
Update: the announcement that André Tranchemontagne, a former Molson’s executive with extensive marketing experience, was greeted very favorably by the riding association, many constituents and the incumbent. [Editor’s note: He lasted 5 years, did not run again in in 2003, did not distinguish himself in any particular way]

Jacques Clément Commentary
Jacques Clément gave his usual rundown on the Canadian economic scene. He was happy to report the unemployment was reducing across Canada (now at 8.1% nationally and 9.7% in Montreal). The projected growth in GDP is revised down to 2%+, but he did not see any possibility of deflation. We are currently benefiting from the easiest monetary conditions in our country’s history. Overall the performance of the Canadian economy is the best of the G7 countries. More of the national debt has been repaid and currently stands at $583 billion. With this positive outlook, there is room for a much needed tax cut and/or increased transfer payments. Of concern is the very low saving rate of about 0.7%. Canadians are100% in debt! Commodity market prices are at a 20 year low. Resources and metals are recovering and this is expected to have a positive effect on the Canadian situation. As mentioned on previous evenings, while most people think of Canada as a resource based economy, this is only partially true and the percentage of other goods and services is increasing.
Chilian Heward reviewed recent comments by Robin Griffiths. Foreign investors are looking at Canada, foreign liquidity is pouring in. The Canadian dollar is strengthening, commodity prices rising. Meanwhile we shouldn’t forget what is happening elsewhere – the British may go into the Euro; China is seeking a euro position; Japanese elections could lead to a rise in the yen. The IMF has done a remarkable job in Brazil.
On the general situation in the financial markets there was debate as to whether the bear market is taking hold, or whether it is just a correction in an ongoing bull market. The Dow is working its way back up to 9 000 (Talk of 11 000 in ’99) and the Canadian dollar is well over 65 cents US. Investors seem to be calm over the recent gyrations in the markets. In summary, volatility, yes; recession or depression, no.
In the Québec situation the goal of balancing the books by 2000, is being promised with deceptive, off-balance sheet financing, such as $350 million downloaded onto the municipalities. Also $200 million for Transport is being capitalized over 5 years.

Montreal – Pierre Bourque re-elected
With the arrival of Helen Fotopulos, re-elected as Councilor for Mile End, conversation turned to the recent City of Montreal mayoralty election won by Bourque with a large majority over his nearest rivals. While Bourque is well intentioned, he does not have a good record as a delegator and traditionally has surrounded himself with a “bunch of sycophants”. Thus, the majority with which he was elected may, like his last one, disappear quite quickly. In any event, it should be an illuminating four years. (More Christmas lights!)

On the topic of the recent announcement that the McGill University Hospital Centre has purchased land below the tracks to the west of the Glen, most people were guardedly supportive of the principle, but not necessarily the proposed location. The current hospitals are old and spread out, a consolidated operation could and should produce real synergies.The Mayor , reflecting the concerns of many citizens of Westmount is concerned about the traffic and other unpleasant environmental impacts that MUHC would have on Westmount. He believes that the plan, insofar as it affects Westmount must be subjected to a referendum.

The evening ended with a gracious thank you to David Marler. Peter Trent, while stating that in his opinion David Marler’s decision to run is somewhat quixotic, affirmed that he knows that David is motivated by the highest ideals. Not sure that David will succeed, Peter nonetheless expressed the good wishes of all in the room.

[Editor’s Note: On Friday, November 6, David Marler decided against running, feeling that it was too late to build the kind of organization required in order to have the voice he sought.]

Minuted by Gerald Ratzer, with additional notes by Linda Leith

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