Wednesday Night #900

Written by  //  June 2, 1999  //  Herb Bercovitz, Reports, Special Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

For more see www.wednesday-night. com

Education is the process through which a person moves
from cohesive ignorance to thoughtful uncertainty

The Report

The debate was abbreviated on June 2 1999, on the occasion of the nine hundredth consecutive Wednesday evening salon at the Nicholsons’. The seventy or so assorted guests included academics, architects, artists, authors, economists, bankers, business men, computer geniuses, film makers, journalists, lawyers, physicians, politicians, stockbrokers, various combinations of the above, and others, all of whom heaped praise on David and Diana Nicholson and explained how each, though a recognized leader in his or her own field, had learned about the world and how it worked at the Wednesday evening salons. They described the warm, comfortable environment in which to float and exchange unconventional ideas. They left no doubt as to the future of the weekly event as long as David and Diana agreed to host it.

A brief discussion followed prior to an early break to “let them (the guests) eat cake(s)” provided by Me Margaret Cuddihy, to celebrate and socialize.

FREE TRADE was viewed as a mixed blessing. It is the undisputed wave of the future, with electronic transfer facilitating trade emanating from anywhere in the globe. Electronic trade is viewed as an unstoppable genie, impossible to put back into the bottle, levelling the playing field between suppliers in disadvantaged and wealthy countries. The detractors of free trade see the diminution of real income and the creation of giant companies threatening the autonomy of democratically elected governments. (Editor’s note: See links to coverage of the Montreal Conference and the June 4-5 conference of the 10th anniversary of NAFTA, organized by Dr. Des Morton)
I AM concerned about the recent evident weakening of support for free trade in this country, [Alan] Greenspan said in a speech to an international business conference in Boston. Should we endeavor to freeze competitive progress in place, we will almost certainly slow economic growth overall, Greenspan said in a text that was also released in Washington.

AMALGAMATION OF MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENTS IN QUÉBEC is seen as a bureaucratic attempt to solve problems by creating new structures rather than the more logical approach of applying ideas to existing structures. We should think very carefully before throwing cities that have existed and prospered for hundreds of years into the trash can. Greater Boston consists of 101 municipalities, Atlanta 92 and Minneapolis St. Paul, 189. Rather than solve Montréal’s problems, the proposed amalgamation would merely paper them over.

ON NATO AND KOSOVO The only way that the European countries could get together on Kosovo was to endure criticism for some time. Kosovo is not being destroyed by NATO bombing. It is being destroyed by other less obvious events. We appear to be much better at resolving external conflicts than we have proven to be at solving internal conflicts.

THE ECONOMY looks good in Canada. This year should see Bank of Canada rates vary between two and three-quarters and four percent, three to four percent in the United States. The United States is likely to tighten policy only be 1/4% in June. Inflation should remain at two percent or less and unemployment drop to seven percent. The current account may end up in surplus. The Canadian dollar is undervalued and will climb to seventy cents U.S. Canada is heading for lower taxation. Mr. Landry is not credible in appearing to favour using the U.S. dollar as a common currency. His motivation in taking such an approach remains suspect.

Wednesdays bring the world to Westmount

 Nicholsons celebrate their 900th weekly Salon

By Wayne Larsen, Westmount Examiner
Curious residents of Rosemount Avenue probably noticed more parked cars on their street than usual on June 2.
There was no cause for alarm, however, because this has happened every Wednesday night without fail for more than 18 years.
That’s how long David and Diana Thébaud Nicholson have been presiding over a Wednesday evening discussion in their dining room, and on June 2 they passed a momentous milestone – 900 consecutive weeks – with over 70 guests dropping by to wish them well.
“Here’s to another 900,” was the catch phrase of the evening as glasses were raised in unison to toast the dedicated hosts and thank them for their unflagging hospitality over the years. To highlight the round of congratulations, venerable Westmount artist and architect Harry Mayerovitch -who has attended more than half of the 900 evenings-presented the Nicholsons with a framed caricature of the most regular of regulars seated around the table.

In what might be described as the Algonquin Round Table updated and transplanted to Westmount, the Nicholsons’ Wednesday Night Salon has created and nurtured an informal environment where many of Canada’s top financial, legal, political and creative minds can meet to discuss the stock market and international finance.
While the focus remains primarily on these topics – the night of the 1987 stock market crash drew a full house – the spotlight can easily shift to anything from politics and health care to, more recently, Y2K and the threat of municipal amalgamation.
But just about any subject can find its way into the Nicholsons’ dining room. The hosts take great care to prepare specific topics for each Salon, sending e-mail invitations to the appropriate guests and editing video clips from newscasts and documentaries – shown on three TV monitors around the room-to introduce each discussion.
You never know who might appear at the table. Over the years, more than 6,000 different people have sat in on the conversations. Montreal mayors Pierre Bourque and Jean Doré have dropped by, as have MP Lucienne Robillard, MNA Jacques Chagnon, former Quebec premier Pierre-Marc Johnson and Liberal leader Jean Charest. Senior officials such as the British High Commissioner and the managing director of the International Monetary Fund,- not to mention a long litany of diplomats, doctors, judges and investors-, have also accepted invitations to share their views.
Each Wednesday Night Salon invariably begins anytime after 8 p.m., as people arrive, pop open bottles of wine and gather in small groups at the foot of the Nicholsons’ staircase. This is where the conversation really flows-from general shop talk to current events-where new acquaintances are made and where old friends catch up on each other’s latest endeavours. Ties and tongues are both loosened as lawyer rubs elbows with writer, banker with artist, professor with ambassador, and sworn adversaries in the political arena might find themselves in total agreement over the quality of a certain wine.
At precisely 9 p.m., David reaches up and rings a bell above the bar-the not-so-subtle signal for everyone to start migrating toward the dining room for the formal discussion. Those who were just about to make a profound point have to speak quickly, for a few more impatient clangs of the bell cut off any further conversation and all attention is quickly focused on finding a choice seat for the evening’s main event. Some nights it’s standing room only, and latecomers are relegated to the adjoining living room where they might not be in the thick of the debate but can still pick up every word.
But the work doesn’t end once the last guests have found their coats and gone off into the night. Notes from the evening’s discussions are edited down and the next day David goes to work on his computer, adding digital photos and a rundown of the previous night to the ever-expanding Wednesday Night Salon website.
Not only has the Nicholsons’ two-year-old website grown into somewhat of an institution among Westmount’s cyber enthusiasts with its plethora of links, its extensive documentation of each Wednesday Night Salon serves as an effective way for non-regulars, transplanted Montrealers and the general public to keep up with the group’s weekly discussions. Recently upgraded and given a brand new look, the site is now available at www.wednesday-night.com
Imagine planning and hosting a party for anywhere from a dozen to 40 people every week for a year… for two years… for 18 years. This is what David and Diana Nicholson have achieved, and they have no intention of stopping now. In fact they look forward to marking Wednesday Night number 1,000 in the spring of 2001. Although the topics for that milestone have yet to be decided, one thing is certain – parking space on Rosemount Avenue will be at an all-time premium that night.

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