Wednesday Night #935

Written by  //  February 2, 2000  //  People Meta, Reports, Wednesday Nights  //  1 Comment

See also Wednesday Night.com for links and photos.

Maybe we are witnessing the death, and none too soon, of the old left/right dichotomy. On the face it you could hardly get more leftish than Julius Grey nor more rightist than Peter White. As a general rule, opinion among the group tends run a little to the right, and voices like Julius’s and Warren Allmand’s provide a welcome corrective to everybody thinking more or less along the same lines. But last Wednesday, it was surprising how many points of agreement cropped up between the two ends of the spectrum. People were refusing to put a label on points of view on particular issues and focussing on the issues themselves.
On ideological grounds, whether in the private (the Calgary Herald case) or the public (in Quebec hospitals and universities) sector. Left, right, and the good old middle (why did the Canadian cross the road?) appeared equally disturbed by the huge percentage of tax money that is eaten up in our institutions by administrative and other built-in costs that are ancillary to doing the main job.
Discussion of the “one big city” concept was similarly bereft of doctrinaire views: the attitude around the room was that it ain’t broke, so don’t fix it, although some modification may be in order. People simply looked at the case at hand, and agreed with Peter Trent.
More public spending out of the surplus? We’d all like to pay a hell of a lot lower taxes, but… Most participants seemed resigned to the fact that polls show Canadians today are interested first and foremost in resuscitating the health care system, and that’s going to take a lot of spending that will preclude any really significant tax cuts. As for the system itself, no one on the “left” was saying that the principle of universality was inviolable, and no one on the “right” was saying we should dismantle the whole thing and go back to private care.
Toward the end of the evening, somebody said (or said in effect): “Let’s not talk in terms of right wing and left wing here, it’s getting us nowhere.”
Is 33 Rosemount a bastion of Canadian pragmatism, or what?

This piece by Robert Stewart is as is, unedited, and he has our thanks.

The Report

A very full house in anticipation of a Wednesday Night of politics, reform of Canada and music. New faces included featured guest, Peter White, three members of the Groupe des centBernard Amyot, Robert Greenhill, and Bruno Roy – and Benjamin Higgins.
Peter was introduced by his long-time friend, Donald Patriquin who paid tribute to Peter’s many activities and interests, but also mentioned the bright blue Brazilian bikini which had somewhat astonished Peter’s classmates at BCS. On to more serious topics.

This week’s Canadian political developments
It is a maxim of political life that the mandate of any party in power is of finite length and the current Chrétien government has all the earmarks of a government reaching the end of its life span. The current scandal in Jane Stewart‘s department appears to be one that will stick to the Teflon Party and now the question arises of course, as to the probable date of its demise and the identity of its successor.
Québec appears to have opted out of national politics by supporting The Bloc Québecois, but this is not necessarily what will happen in the future. After all, in 1958 the Conservatives under John Diefenbaker succeeded in winning fifty seats in Québec.

Preston Manning quite rightly recognized that the west-based Reform party could never hope to be more than a regional party, thus the initiative of launching the United Alternative or Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance Party. Three of the four objectives of this new entity have already been met.

  • A new constitution has been adopted,
  • as well as new policies and a new name.
  • It is in the process of electing a new leader with the expectation of gaining support on a national basis.

Rex Murphy (January 27) The Rideau Canal is not the Rubicon and Preston Manning is not Julius Caesar. I think we’re safe on both those points. Still what’s going on in Ottawa this weekend with Mr. Manning and his effort to bridge Reform into a United Alternative is fundamental. Whatever happens there’s no turning back. The key to Canadian politics can be seen in that wonderful drama of last week,the hockey fiasco, in which for a couple of days John Manley appeared to be playing Regis Philbin’s “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” to people who were already millionaires. What was remarkable about Mr. Manley’s attempt to play game show host with taxpayer money wasn’t that he backtracked but where he got the courage to try in the first place. It’s all as they like to say when negotiating players’ contracts, in the numbers.
With half the adult population of Canada either on the public payroll or students, or on social assistance or not earning enough to pay taxes, the promise of tax reduction comes as a very poor rallying cry.
The main issue among Canadians appears to be the restoration of a healthy Medicare system. (Please see Wednesday Night’s Medical file) With the Conservatives in disarray and in the absence of a centrist party with national scope that is in a position to challenge the Liberal Party, it appears that the current ailing Liberal government is destined to remain alive albeit possibly on life-support through the next election, if not the next two.
Some form of proportional representation appears to have gained some support in order to ensure that Parliament more accurately reflects the view of the electorate.

McGill College International
The McGill College International scheme gets mixed reviews. McGill University is otherwise in a strapped situation. Fees are regulated and spending is controlled. McGill cannot hire because it cannot match U.S. university salaries. The revenue earned from a private university within McGill would enable that institution to hire high quality academic staff that might be able to serve both institutions. Our universities require an additional five to eight million dollars per year.

Municipal Amalgamation
The government of Québec may be having second thoughts on municipal amalgamation. It is possible that it is listening to the municipalities who resist amalgamation, but would prefer a light regional structure as a partial solution to Montréal’s problems. It was predicted that Premier Bouchard will make an announcement on February 7th to the effect that regional concerns will be the focus of any action, effectively putting amalgamation on a back burner.

The Economy
The economy remains very strong, perhaps too strong. The United States can expect interest rate increases of a quarter percent in February, March and again in June of this year. The major concerns are inflation and labour shortages. On the latter point, there was agreement that the unions have outlived their usefulness and are impeding progress with the pervasive philosophy that seniority must be served before talent. Moreover, mandatory retirement age is a concept that must be eliminated if we are to fill the jobs available and guarantee a healthier pension outlook. (Editor’s note: please see this cogent discussion piece submitted by Margaret Lefebvre of the Couchiching Institute on this subject.)
I was most miffed by the Cochrane article on the pension plan this morning. Why is it that despite all evidence to the contrary, there is a systematic refusal to recognize that not only are we living longer (and therefore becoming a burden on the system), but we are living HEALTHIER longer and in fact are working right up until our health gives out.
Bismark set the age for retirement at 65 precisely because statistically most of the population would have died before that age. We tied pension benefits to that age with the same premise. In fact, there have been very few years during which people did in fact retire and live on their pensions exclusively.
Canada is enjoying a very strong level of capital investment, consumer spending is up with sales at a record level. We enjoy an international trade surplus of three or three and a half billion dollars per month. The major concern remains the high level of accumulated debt.
At the present rate, the job market is getting so tight that the future employees will be the newly retired. CARP may evolve into a Labour Union of the newly recycled and start agitating for better furniture, stronger lighting and shorter hours. The future cannot does not lend itself to linear extrapolation of statistical data.
Ask any turkey who was making plans for the day after Thanksgiving.
MML

One Comment on "Wednesday Night #935"

  1. Diana Thébaud Nicholson February 7, 2000 at 7:43 pm · Reply

    Dear Diana and David,
    Thank you both for a most interesting evening on February 2. You certainly have gathered an eclectic family, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to make some new acquaintances, as well as to see some old friends. The music was particularly enjoyable.
    On reflection, the logistics of my Knowlton base, my Toronto office and my frequent mid-week travels unfortunately have led me to conclude that I must decline your kind invitation to become a regular guest at your salon. Pursuant to your suggestion, I might however be able to help orchestrate some web-based work on the issues surrounding health care in Canada. I was very impressed with Dr. Mark Roper, and Margaret, as head of Couchiching, is also both knowledgeable and interested in the subject. My main contacts in this field are in Alberta and Ontario, and I suspect that they would be interested in participating. Please let me know how you propose this might proceed.
    Thanks again for your stimulating hospitality. Yours sincerely, Peter (White)

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