Wednesday Night #903 – mercredi soir champêtre

Photos, related news articles and more on Wednesday-Night.com
slide show

Wednesday Night in the park
The City of Westmount, David and Diana Nicholson and their guests broke with tradition on Wednesday evening June 23, 1999, the eve of the feast of St. John. Many Wednesday Nighters joined hundreds of other Westmounters and some Rimousquois, to picnic in Westmount Park, watch the lighting of the traditional bonfire and listen to music and speeches before retiring to the Nicholsons’ for a somewhat abbreviated evening of (more) serious discussion.

[Editor’s Note: Gazette article by Bill Brownstein   Paging Mr. Fellini.
The late Italian cineast would have certainly appreciated the images, not to mention the irony, of Wednesday evening at Westmount Park.
A most proper anglo gentleman, sporting an ascot and smart blue blazer, was clutching his goblet of burgundy in one hand and waving his wee fleur-de-lis with the other. Sharing his blanket and wicker picnic hamper – loaded with wine, cheese, baguettes and pate – were a gaggle of equally distinguished-looking friends, also letting their little fleurs-de-lis fly.
Addressing them was Westmount Mayor Peter Trent, attired in period tails and top hat in tribute to the municipality’s first mayor, Eustache Prud’homme.
…Even the bearded gent with the ascot, David Nicholson, was not what he might appear to be. A proud Westmounter, to be sure, but Nicholson has been preaching rapprochement among the province’s cultural communities for years. Among his closest cronies is Pierre Marc Johnson, the former PQ premier, who often attends Nicholson’s weekly think-salons.)

***********

Because of the celebration, the debates started late, the bell sounding at ten-fifteen p.m. and the first order of business was a joyful welcome back to David and Terry Jones formerly of the U.S. State Department and good friends to Canada, Québec, Montreal and Wednesday Night.

New faces around the table included John and Holly Jonas, introduced by their friend Gerald Ratzer, who said of John that his office contained a staggering number of awards and trophies, possibly attributable to the practice of his profession as a metallurgist. Holly is a writer whose current subject is directors of Canadian chorales.

Also new to Wednesday Night was François Charbonneau, Executive Vice President of AquaLandsis, introduced by Aylmer and Eleanor Gribble; François brought several bottles of his company’s ultra-pure water and explained the technology of its production.

Though shorter than usual, the quality of the exchanges was high. Politicians joined diplomats, investors, human rights activists and businessmen in addressing several interesting topics.

Waning influence of the anglophone community
The various approaches to countering the loss of power, influence and numbers of the Québec Anglophone Community were discussed at length, without arriving at a consensus. Was this happening wherever access to power is denied to adherents of other than the dominant language, religious or ethnic group? Is Québec’s situation unique because of political instability? Does William Johnson’s aggressive approach help or hinder the viability of the Anglophone community in Québec? Are young people leaving Toronto to find more remunerative work in the United States? There were more questions than there were answers, and no consensus except on the success of Westmount’s initiative in celebrating La Saint Jean this year which has attracted wide coverage in the French language media – and all favorable-.

A common North American currency
Stimulated by the article by Thomas Courchene and Richard Harris published on June 22nd by the C.D. Howe Institute and suggesting that Canada should seek a continental monetary union, this subject of several previous Wednesday-Night discussions received renewed scrutiny.
Wednesday Night remains divided on both the wisdom and workability of the proposal as indicated by several thoughtful comments.
* It may work in Europe because the economies of participating countries are similar in size and make-up, there is mobility of labour and Europe is working towards a common parliament.
* In Canada, businesses engaging in international trade have the choice of dealing in any currency in the world, but the Canadian government should avoid falling into the trap of taking the route of adopting a North American (hence American) dollar, for many reasons:
* Canada’s economy is commodity based; that of the United States is industry based. Our business cycles are asynchronous. (We were reminded, however, by other speakers that the “resource-based economy” profile is considerably out of date.)
* In adopting a common currency, a country loses its margin of manoeuvre in setting fiscal policies and in applying band-aid measures to the economy.
* The American economy is ten times the size of our own. This overwhelming imbalance is not the case among countries of the E.E.U.

[Editor’s note: for further Notes on this topic on Wednesday-Night.com and  One-NA-dollar
“The politics of a common currency” – A common dollar is unthinkable? Think again
Thomas D’Aquino of the Business Council on National Issues is urging Canadians to abandon an independent currency and become as much as possible like the United States in terms of economic and social policy
A partial rebuttal by Gordon Thiessen, governor of the Bank of Canada, was reported the next day, but I have seen nothing challenging the remainder of the recommendations of the council.
I stand behind no one in my admiration for the thoughtfulness and decency of millions of Americans and for the excellence of many U.S. universities, museums and other cultural institutions. But it is exactly in the realm of economic and social policy where the United States has abandoned long-standing ideals and common-sense policies.
For example does Mr. D’Aquino know how many Americans go bankrupt every day because they cannot pay their hospital and other medical bills? Does he know how many Americans become legally blind every day because they could not afford or thought they could not afford to be tested for diabetes? Does he know that since the unsuccessful attempt at the beginning of the first Clinton administration to do something about the medically uninsured, there are now 10 million more people in that category?
I can tell him, however, that with 2 million Americans in prison, the United States has an incarceration rate many times that of other industrial countries, to the extent that an article in the Washington Post recently claimed that with 5 per cent of the population it had 25 per cent of the world’s prisoners. John Lehnert, Westmount

Saturday, June 26, 1999 Evanston, Ill. — Jeffrey Simpson’s piece on a common currency for Canada based on the U.S. dollar leaves out a critical point: What do the Americans think? Comments by Robert Rubin and Alan Greenspan this past spring, in response to dollarization in South America, were clear: U.S. fiscal policy will be based only upon the American situation. Mr. Greenspan will raise U.S. interest rates to slow the U.S. economy, even if such a tap on the brakes leads to a global pile-up. Using the U.S. dollar will not add a seat at the Fed for the Bank of Canada. Gary L. Dare

Water Exports
Another familiar topic from recent weeks was revisited for the benefit of David Jones, – the desirability of exporting Canadian water to the United States. Is water a natural resource like oil or electricity, or is it much more, perhaps an environment, not to be tampered with? Does the diverted water return to us as rain, or are there currently unknown effects arising from the diversion of fresh water from the oceans into which it normally flows. Is there a true shortage of water, or is much of the developed world suffering from having polluted our sources of fresh water?
Is it a matter of water shortage or poor water management?
What appears certain is that new advances have been made in the use of filtering water through semi-permeable membranes in a cost-efficient manner (the technology employed by AquaLandsis). This break-through may possibly put an end to the debate.

The U.S. Presidential hopefuls

The guests were left to draw their own conclusions on the chances of the current frontrunners in the United States’ presidential race of 2000.
On the Democratic side, Al Gore has a leg up. It is almost impossible to deny a sitting vice-president the nomination. However, history shows that it is also almost impossible for a sitting vice president to win an election. The last man to achieve this was Martin Van Buren. [remember him?] Al Gore is intelligent and thoughtful, however his public persona lacks charisma and he will campaign under the handicap of Americans’ distaste for Bill Clinton’s personal actions.
On the Republican side, George W. Bush has managed to suck all the life out of his opponents. He has done a good job in Texas, reaching across ethnic and colour lines and achieving important results in improving access to and raising the standards of secondary education. He has been able to appeal to a cross-over vote as indicated by his endorsement by the democratic lieutenant governor in the last election.
If Bush is elected president, there is a greater probability of a change in policy towards Cuba than with a more liberal government. Any change will, however, come well after the election as the Florida presidential vote is strongly influenced by the Cuban expatriates. [Editor’s note: The National Post of June 23rd carried a provoking piece “New voters with clout” by Jan Cienski regarding the Hispanic voters’ influence in the forthcoming election.]

The Economy and the Market
Despite David’s abiding preoccupation with the market, in the absence of the usual plethora of Wednesday-Night economists discussion of this recurring topic was cursory. On the economy, interest rates are up in the United States. Alan Greenspan is good at forewarning and announcing. He has recently been harping on the theme of higher level of technical achievement and if he sees signs of the market rising too rapidly, he will start to make sounds that when he finally raises interest rates, everyone has been forewarned and there is little effect on the market.

In deference to the late hour and the (very) warm evening, our host invited John Ciaccia to thank David and Terry for returning to Wednesday Night and contributing their usual thought-provoking questions and informed comments.

T H E  I N V I T AT I O N

This Wednesday, June 23rd 1999 will be unique in the annals of both Wednesday-Night and Westmount.

Dans l’esprit d’il y a 125 ans, le Maire Prud’homme nous invite à entrer dans la danse avec des musiciens ambulants autour d’un grand feu de joie, le mercredi 23 juin à 20h30.
In honour of this (first-ever-within-living-memory) Westmount celebration of the Fête de Saint Jean-Baptiste, – weather permitting – we will be in Westmount Park for the early part of Wednesday evening – a “mercredi soir champêtre”.
We suggest that those invited bring a flask and join us around 7:15-7:30 p.m. under the trees, on the grassy knoll overlooking the area between the tennis courts and the (westerly) baseball diamond, just south of the bicycle path.*** From there we should have an excellent view of the bonfire which will be lit at 8:30 p.m. Following the festivities in the park, we will return to 33 Rosemount to continue along more traditional lines.

In the event of rain, we will expect you at the usual time (after 8 p.m.) sans pique nique.

Our good friends and former Wednesday Nighters David and Terry Jones from Washington are to join us. David is the former Political Counsellor at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, while Terry served as Economic Consul in Montreal before joining David in Ottawa where she was Science Officer. They are interested in all things Canadian, québécois and montréalais. Particularly, David writes:
” It will be helpful to be able to talk with people about Canada’s water issues as it remains one of the points that continue to puzzle me about Canadian attitudes. It puzzled me before we came to Canada, but I didn’t have to deal with it and it was pretty quiet as a problem in the mid 90’s.”

Mayor Hon. Eustache Prud’homme, senator (aka Peter Trent) will also join us in the park and will light your bonfire!

Leave a Comment

comm comm comm