Wednesday Night #1247 – Induction of OWN-ers

25 January 2006

Dear Group of Seven,
Following intensive deliberations, the Committee of the Whole of the Order of Wednesday Night under the skillful direction of Peter Trent, the most tenured member of the august group, has considered nominations and submitted its recommendations to us regarding the elevation of new members to this unique body.
It is our distinct honour and pleasure to inform you that you have been selected as a recipient for the Winter OWN Honours List. Nomination to the Order is a recognition of the quality of your contributions, both to debate and to the expansion and diversification of the Wednesday Night participants. Furthermore, as it has recently been brought to our attention that the Order of Wednesday Night is now recognized as an honour by Who’s Who in Canada, it was incumbent on the Committee of the Whole to select candidates of upstanding nature and moral fibre (or some semblance thereof).
We congratulate you on your selection and would hope that the Formal Induction might take place prior to the departures of Peter Trent, John and Holly Jonas on/about the 31st of January. We would be grateful, therefore, if you would advise the undersigned if you would be able to attend the Induction Ceremonies on Wednesday, January 25, 2006. If you are unable to be present, an individual ceremony will take place at a later date.
Once again, we extend our congratulations to you in the assurance that your acceptance of the honour will further enhance the membership of the Order of Wednesday Night.
David T. Nicholson, OWN
Chair and
Diana Thébaud Nicholson, OWN
Leader of the Opposition

The Report – More notes & photos

The induction of four of the Group of Seven new members of the OWN was followed by a spirited discussion of the economy, with some surprising interventions and remarks; Martin agreeing with Ron – without doubt a milestone (or would that be millstone?). A warm thank-you to the once (Twice? Thrice?) Mayor Peter and welcome to the four new members of the OWN. Note that two of the Group of Seven were with us last week and one (Richard Bruno) will only be with us in a couple of weeks, thus underlining the fluid nature of Wednesday Nights. A high turnout of Wednesday Nighters who have not been present for some time, and a thank you to all for making Wednesday Night what it is.

The economy (Jacques Clément’s Report)
With a number of participants who vied for the dubious honour of being among the longest-standing (or sitting) Wednesday Nighters, this evening returned to Wednesday Night’s roots as an Economic Salon. There was unusually lively debate among the experts, with no lack of contradictory, if not contrarian, opinions.

This, the final leg of the current prolonged bull market is predicted to last most, if not all, of 2006, with the T.S.X. achieving the 14,000 level by the end of the year. This prediction of a Wednesday Nighter with an admittedly unassailable forecasting record, is tempered by others with observations as well as trepidations, a sign that bears, viruses and other creatures, lie in the dark eagerly awaiting their ultimate return. It is estimated that this bull has between one-eighth and one-quarter of its course to run before it collapses and dies, having lived a long, fruitful life until that moment.
Aside from Washington (D.C.), there is a slowdown in housing in the U.S., notably New York and Boston and parts of the Far West. There is some evidence that North America is following England and Australia, where prices are now stabilized, but have come down.
The Canadian housing market, with the exception of Toronto, has weakened. In Montreal, the anticipated January emergence from hibernation of real estate sales has simply not occurred. In an apparent fruitless attempt to ward off the inevitable, some are said to be re-mortgaging their homes in order to maintain an otherwise unsustainable lifestyle. If so, they will suffer doubly when housing prices drop as anticipated.
The prevailing but certainly not universal view of Wednesday Nighters is that Ben Bernanke’s policy will provide a seamless extension of those set by his predecessor and that his proposed adoption of a policy of inflation targets is positive. At current and proposed levels, increases in interest rates will have a minimal effect on the population. There is an expectation that the U.S. economy will slow down in the second half of this year as Europe recovers. It is in 2007 that we will have a difficult time with global growth.
In the world beyond North America, one of the most interesting developments is the recent announcement that China is producing a surplus of electricity, which, according to some, could lead to an impact on
Iraq aside, there are enough possibilities that oil prices may come down possibly to the mid-forties later this year. To some observers, there is still life in the European economy, but there are deep structural problems. The Japanese fiscal situation is disastrous which could well mean real inflation in Japan, leading to outflows of wealth. The core issue in the U.S. is that a lot of things are going right.

Avian influenza
Even the most accurate, positive predictions are subject to imponderables, the most current being H5N1. Between one hundred and fifty and one hundred and sixty cases of avian flu have been identified around the world, causing eighty-two deaths. It is difficult to assess the probability of a pandemic or the capacity of the population and governments to meet it, but governments as well as people are subject to the paralysis of panic. The spectre of the 1918-1919 Spanish flu pandemic keeps arising as does the U.S. [failed] reaction to Katrina. Since early October, the President of the U.S. has the power to quarantine whole cities, a thought that is not reassuring to many people. The slow and totally unacceptable response to Katrina is still fresh in the minds of North Americans. The pandemic may not be imminent, but wars, insurgencies and natural disasters are all possible if not predictable.

The election
The Canadian election holds a fascination for Wednesday Nighters, mostly positive. With all parties requiring about a year and a half to two years to regroup and to refinance, another election is not expected for another year and a half to two years. In fact, the current government may be thought of as operating in a perpetual pre-election mode. The Bloc is expected to support Harper, but will exact a heavy toll for that support.
Frank McKenna has offered his resignation as Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. While viewed as some as a bid for leadership of the Liberal Party, it is just as likely that he has merely acted in a responsible, diplomatic manner. As a Liberal government appointee [not a career diplomat], he can no longer claim to be certain to have the ear and confidence of the current Conservative government.
The proposed decrease in the G.S.T. is seen as largely symbolic as, with the exception of large ticket items, the effect will hardly be noticed, inflation more than counteracting the proposed change. Of far greater significance is the deferment of capital gains tax provided that the proceeds are invested within six months. It appears that the Conservatives are also proposing removal of the step-up tax on assets given to endowments, which could have important medium and long-term effects on donations to education and healthcare institutions.

Arctic exploration
In keeping with the subject of climate change and scientific research, one new guest spoke about a new small (60′ long) oceanographic boat that is being developed for Arctic exploration, noting that 2007 has been declared the Year of the Arctic. The prototype, built in France, is spending the winter in a Montreal area marina, undergoing tests for endurance of cold and ice. Students, the public and scientists will be able to monitor the boat’s voyages in the Arctic on the Internet, thus expanding their knowledge of the effects of climate change on Canada’s North.

Grand finale
The conclusion of the evening was also a reversion to the pattern of earlier Wednesday Nights which often included a musical portion with the likes of Peter Trent and Misha Crnobrjna on guitar, John Ciaccia at the piano and a variety of voices ranging from our favorite opera diva, Susan Eyton-Jones to somewhat lesser (though no less enthusiastic) talents. In celebration of Westmount’s return to independent civic status, newly elected Council Member George Bowser and Peter Trent joined in a rousing rendition of George’s recent composition Westmount Begins With We, 14 verses long, written for the Jan 1 celebration of Westmount’s return to its status of independent municipality, followed by The Old Mil Rate, a bittersweet reminder that all is not as it was before. [Editor’s Note: We also note that WEdnesday begins with WE and wonder if George Bowser might, between duties as City Councillor, turn his attention to this happy coincidence]

And the last word from Ron Meisels OWN

Without the two of you, Diana and David, there would be no Wednesday Night, no place to go to on Wednesday Night, no Salon [or saloon], no place to meet people and discuss. Thank you for putting this on, for bearing with us for all these years, for providing a place where we meet and make friends with people whom we would probably never have met [or wanted to?].

Notes by Herb Bercovitz OWN

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