Wednesday Night #961

Almost every Wednesday there is mention of the children who have left Montreal … Québec… and Canada, and what we can do to entice them home again.
This week it is our great joy to have Fiona, our daughter, with us for a brief visit from Regina where she has been with the CIBC Telephone Banking Centre since it started up. Many of you know her, for those who don’t, she is a delightful surprise and has been in Regina long enough to have acquired some very different viewpoints from those with which she departed the Montreal/Ottawa base where she grew up and went to University. Fi has with her good friend, colleague, mentor, co-driver and fellow dog owner, Heather Schilling. We are, needless to say, absolutely delighted to have them with us this Wednesday and hope you will join us in welcoming them!

The Report
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INTRODUCTION OF NEW GUESTS:
David Berger presented Geoffrey and Mira Clarfield from Israel. Geoffrey is an anthropologist with lengthy experience in East Africa, where he currently manages a community building project sponsored in part by CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency). Mira is a jewelry designer.
Fiona Nicholson introduced her colleague and mentor from CIBC’s Electronic Banking Centre in Regina, Heather Schilling.

 

PERES CENTRE FOR PEACE.
Revisiting the breakfast with Shimon Peres at the Ritz Carlton last May, we learned that the PCP now is eligible to participate in the DFAIT international internship program, provided the time can be found to handle a rather significant compliance procedure. Other possibilities for student placement in the region include the McGill Middle East Program and the University of Toronto -based Canadian International Scientific Exchange Program. One guest commented that the Canadian Embassies in the region also have access to funds for promoting cross-border and cross- cultural cooperation in the region. In this connection, attention was drawn to the significance of environmental issues as a catalyst for Israeli-Palestinian cooperation.

ISRAELI PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION.
Regarding the recent defeat of Mr. Peres as Israel’s President in favour of the less prominent Moshe Kalzav, the discussion turned to the “Parli-dential” system of government now in place. Under this system, Israeli voters now elect the Prime Minister directly, which permits “ticket splitting” for the Knesset itself. Consequently, representation of the two major parties has declined to 20 members and minority religious parties’ membership has leapt to 17. Some biographical details of M. Kalzav were also shared. In the 90-day summer recess, M. Peres is continuing his promotion of the peace process which, according to some, had been significantly facilitated by President Clinton’s intervention and the Camp David peace talks. Although ending in failure, these nevertheless managed to open up for discussion areas hitherto never mentioned at the highest level of negotiation, including the governance of Jerusalem and Palestinian right of return. This paragraph closed with an observation about the massive influence of the US in the region, especially now that it is the world’s only super-power.

CANADIAN BANKS.
Turning to Canada’s banking industry, a discussion ensued about tele-banking and in particular the tele-service component of Canadian bank operations. An observation was made that the CIBC, which generally rates 5 of the 6 banks in terms of customer service, has a 95 per cent customer satisfaction rate on its tele-service component — a performance at the levels of some global leaders like Disney. Others nevertheless complained about the impact of branch closings and the loss of personal service which was obtainable in jurisdictions where there was more banking competition. How much was it desirable to disclose to one’s financial advisor? Why did banks now demand so much information just to open an account? Some discussion occurred about the use banks made of this information, it being observed that Canadian banks were relatively un-aggressive and un-innovative in terms of mining personal data and promoting new products compared to some US banks. One observer attempted to relate the discussion to industry trends of the shift to wholesale banking, growing specialization at the retail level and the new global architecture of financial services, but at this point the number of participants shrank dramatically.

BEST-SELLING BOOKS.
Those remaining saluted the success of John Ciaccia’s new book about the Oka crisis, A Mirror of the Soul/ Un Miroir de l’Ame, noting that it was number two on the English language best-seller list and number four on the French-language list.

TANZANIA AND AFRICAN ISSUES
At this point, we heard from our guests about the Tanzanian project at Ha-Nang. The origins of this project are traceable to the burst of international criticism encountered by an earlier Canadian-Tanzanian project designed to encourage food production through the establishment of large-scale wheat farming. While the project achieved its goals, international observers charged that it had done so partly through violating the human rights of the pastoral farmers that had previously used the land for grazing. The new project was a community building project in the same region designed to strengthen the community infrastructure and the ability of the different stakeholders in the area to resolves issues of development themselves, through local deliberative councils that in effect functioned like a New England town meeting, African-style. Democracy works, was the conclusion this project appeared to underline. Less democratic-top-down approaches, in contrast, tended to fail, including such examples as Nyere’s attempts to enforce village socialism and Mugabe‘s land reform failures in Zimbabwe. Kenya’s, by contrast, was relatively successful. Indeed, the harm that non-democratic political and military policies can have can be seen in the Ethiopian famine in which food became a weapon of war with Eritrea. This led to a general discussion of appropriate intervention by the international community and a recognition that this was a subject to be probed further.

Notes by Dr. Guy Stanley
No editing by Diana Thébaud Nicholson required!

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