Wednesday Night #1246

18 January 2006

In case you haven’t noticed, we have an election looming. The campaign has not been pretty. We were bored before the holidays, unhappy with having our Christmas cheer interrupted by the clamour of politicians asking for our votes. As the ever-eloquent Rex Murphy put it: “Nothing so depresses a good seasonal carouse as the sound of a bleating politician.”
Then there was a little burp, when the RCMP announced that it was investigating the Income Trust leak. [Rex again] “RCMP. Investigation. Liberal. Any arrangement of these discrete terms in a single sentence during the current campaign was a sprinkling of malign wizard’s dust to curse the already unsettled Liberal effort. It reworked Gomery and all its mischievous pomps back into the election. It tested the elastic, already at full stretch, of voters’ tolerance for real and potential Liberal wrongdoing.”
Now, in the last days leading up to the elections, as we watch our post-holiday bills hurtle through the mailbox, we contemplate the bills piling up with the promises of the politicians with an air of ennui, if not outright disgust. We recently received this link to a running total of the cost of the war in Iraq from Ron Robertson, and, prompted by David Mitchell, wonder whether this could be adapted to the cost of election promises.
This unwanted, although probably necessary election has managed to distract our attention from the many important issues and events in the world.
Who has noticed that Chile has its first ever woman president-elect? Brava Michelle Bachelet!
And that Liberia has sworn-in the first elected African woman leader? Brava Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf!
We hope and pray that each will do better than some of the males who have preceded them (Pinochet comes to mind) and, as both are quite extraordinary individuals, our prayers may be answered.
Iran continues its nuclear intransigence; Europe, China, Russia and the U.S. seem agreed that the only body to deal with the problem is the UN, but will they agree to go to the Security Council – and then what will Iran do? We suspect a response like that of Syria
With fears of sanctions on Iran and attacks on Nigerian pipelines, the price of oil is again in play
Grim news for the environment as James Lovelock, the scientist and green guru who conceived the idea of Gaia – the Earth which keeps itself fit for life, publishes a new book in which he concludes that the world has already passed the point of no return for climate change, and civilisation as we know it is now unlikely to survive.
Bird flu appears to be on the rise and the World Bank takes heed.
Meanwhile, who has been watching the U.S. un-diplomat, John Bolton at work at the UN ?
If that isn’t enough grist for your mill, it looks as though the Alito confirmation is a done deal and that gives cause for worry over the climate of the Supreme Court in the years to come.
The saga of Abramoff is becoming more entertaining than West Wing and Commander-in-Chief rolled up into one. Reminds us of the old movie title “See how they run”.
Finally, unhappily, as Robert Galbraith has warned us, there is increased terrorism in Afghanistan resulting in many deaths, amongst them, Canadian diplomat, Glyn Berry.
Which brings us back to the opening salvos on the topic of the elections. In conclusion, allow us to quote from the Letter of the Day in the National Post:
“Those who want to honour and respect the courage of Glyn Berry and our injured soldiers should do one thing. Do what they were defending our right to do. Do what they were trying to extend to the people of Afghanistan. Vote next Monday.”

The Report – More notes and photos

 

Although the formal induction will be held on Wednesday, January 25, Peter Perkins OWN, who will be away, was warmly welcomed to this outstanding group by the chairman, Leader of the Loyal Opposition, a number of OWNers and his fellow nominees, Canon David Oliver and Marie Cormier.

The Election campaign draws to a close
The election is taking place in the midst of the Venus retrograde cycle, which happens every 19 months. The June 2004 election fell during this period, and, if the pattern continues we should be going to the polls again in August 2007.
As a rule, retrograde planets presage a period of seemingly inevitable or fated events, which relate to their sphere of influence. …Since Venus rules diplomacy, slowdowns in all sorts of negotiations can be expected, including industrial disputes, legal issues and diplomatic endeavours. (And politics?)
In the very few remaining days before the coming election, the question is will Québec, as it has traditionally done, be the bellwether, leading the sheople, or simply follow the trend? In either event, it appears that there could be a strong francophone federalist vote in Québec for the Conservatives. Even as the Conservative candidates gain steam, the situation remains fluid and few are prepared to predict with near certainty, a minority, if not a majority Conservative government. Interestingly, Jack Layton’s plea for traditional N.D.P. voters to remain loyal to that party in the face of a probable Conservative victory appears to be heeded and it is even likely that some disgruntled traditional Liberal supporters will vote N.D.P. In contrast to previous elections, the Conservatives have run a tight, well-organized campaign while the traditionally highly organized Liberals have made basic errors in judgment (notably those dreadful attack ads and the inexplicable volte face on the Notwithstanding Clause) and placed themselves in a vulnerable position.
As the probability of a previously unanticipated Conservative sweep appears more certain, some mention is being made of the influence of the Calgary School , a group of neo-conservative, pro-west, pro-American scholars which was chaired by Roger Gibbins when Stephen Harper was at the University of Calgary. Mr Gibbins is now the President of the Canada West Foundation. The Calgary School is alleged to have influenced the Social Credit and Reform parties as well as the current Conservative campaign, presumably in the interest of increasing U.S. influence in Canadian government and economy. Conservative supporters point out that even if that were the case, the nature of Canadian politics is such that any transition would be slow and visible.

Westmount – Ville-Marie
An interesting transformation has quietly taken place in Westmount over the years. Regarded for decades as an Anglo-Saxon bastion, Westmount has been slowly, almost imperceptibly, transformed into a multilingual, multicultural community, with a Francophone population of approximately twenty percent and a growing number of allophone citizens. Since redistribution, which has increased the diversity as well as the size of the population, the city of Westmount now represents a mere eighteen percent of the Ville-Marie constituency. The new western boundaries of the riding extend 11 streets into eastern N.D.G. with its population including diverse, moderate income, informed, intelligent, aware, dedicated voters supporting the Green Party, the Bloc, the N.D.P. as well as the traditional front-runners.

American views
Several Wednesday Nighters who travel to the U.S. on a regular basis note that despite close personal ties between Canadians and Americans there appears to be a general resentment in the U.S. arising from Canada’s lack of support for the Iraq war and very different attitudes towards such issues as same sex marriage, abortion, Kyoto and gun control. It does not help that the Liberals have long recognized that a certain anti-American stance is popular with many Canadian voters. [Editor’s note: see recent piece in the Christian Science Monitor, Open season on the US in Canadian elections, nor that many Canadians, including a number of media stars, genuinely do not like the direction in which the Bush Administration has been leading the U.S.

World outlook
The most worrisome situation today is the confrontation with Iran over nuclear power (see: Iran: Origins of the nuclear dispute Financial Times ) Israel has expressed growing alarm about Iran’s nuclear program since late October, when the Iranian president called for the Jewish state to be “wiped off the map. More recently, Israel has stated that it is preparing for military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities if diplomacy fails. The concern is that Iran in 2006 is very different from Iraq of 1981. While the military option exists, it is unlikely that a clean surgical strike could destroy nuclear capability and quell the desire of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to restore 14th century Islamic hegemony across Western Europe. It was noted that the Americans and British made an error in judgment prior to the 2005 elections in Iran [see BBC in-depth analysis], believing that the strong student, women’s and academia movements would be able to exercise moderating influence over the election outcome and future policies. No-one believed that the mullahs would blatantly rig the elections and pursue aggressive nuclear expansion.

Economic Outlook
The stock markets have had a few nervous days and there will be some more. Most markets have gone up a lot for some time so people are getting nervous, but that will pass and they will pick up again. Following the long upward trend, it is time for a rest, but following the election, Canada is well poised for a stronger market. International investors will likely react positively whatever the outcome of the election, – Conservative majority or Conservative minority. In fact, things have been going well around the world and should continue to do so. An indicator of the continuation of this trend is long-term bond rates, which tend to be low. There should be a period of gradual increase in interest rates by Bank of Canada, only because there is no reason to keep them at current low rates.
As always, the image of an extended positive outlook for the economy might be interrupted by such unpredictable events as the predicted Avian Influenza pandemic or a sharp rise in prices because of the curtailment of supply of petroleum (very different from rising demand), or other unforeseeable catastrophic events.

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