Wednesday Night #1358

It seems we are stuck in a topic rut and not only in terms of frequency, quantity and quality of snowfall. The news appears to be same old – same old, with one outstanding exception (see below).
There are the U.S. economy (tanking) and the markets, which are looking for any excuse to rejoice and seem to have found one temporarily today:
U.S. Stocks Advance Most in Five Years on Fed’s Liquidity Plans
(Bloomberg) — U.S. stocks rallied the most in five years after the Federal Reserve said it will pump $200 billion into the financial system to shore up banks battered by mortgage- related losses. And FP reports “The Bank of Canada and other central banks on Tuesday teamed up to get hundreds of billions in fresh funds to cash-starved credit markets, allowing financial firms to use home mortgages as collateral, and Toronto stocks soar on central bank move. We are counting on Peter Perkins to interpret and prognosticate.
There is the never-ending and increasingly nasty race for the Democratic nomination which sometimes takes labyrinthine turns. Now it is the (Governor) Spitzer scandal that could cost Hillary a super delegate or two, not to mention some other headaches. The only prediction we dare make is that until the Convention we will be watching the news and political blogs every day. Meantime, NAFTA-gate continues to elicit commentary from Canadian observers
On the home front and one of our recurring topics, the government has released its Climate Change Plan with much prior harrumphing by Mr. Baird about how tough it would be. It seems NOT. We note the lead story in the National Post that the “U.S. May Protect Oilsands” – seems that Canadian Ambassador Wilson scared off the legislators who were about to cause headaches for U.S. investors, not to mention U.S. government customers.
While we are pleased to see increased serious coverage of the Arctic as a potential flashpoint for international squabbling, we can only hope that policy wonks will somehow convince their political masters that sooner rather than later the Canadian government must grasp this (briny) nettle and start to seriously consider strategic alliances to protect our security, economy, and energy sources.
In international news, aside from the regrettably frequent news of bombings in Pakistan, Iraq and ongoing frustration and violence in Israel-Palestine, a BBC report recalls the exceptionally interesting evening with Mark Kruger: “China’s inflation hit 8.7% in February, the highest rate in over 11 years … Soaring food prices were driving inflation, up 23.3% in February against the previous year, In recent months inflation has continued to rise despite higher interest rates and other measures by Beijing to keep the economy from overheating. This is a serious concern for the government, which fears higher food prices could trigger social unrest” which, as Mark pointed out, the government certainly does not want to see during the Olympics. Jaime Webbe has just returned from Bejing and will have more to say on issues of environment and climate change, provided she has recovered from jet lag and smog.
In the category of good news/bad news is the overwhelming vote of confidence given to Premier Charest by the Quebec Liberals this past weekend. As the Quebec budget is to be tabled Thursday and the opposition parties have threatened to bring down the government over it, plunging us into another unwanted election, we join Mr. Charest in wondering what impact the confidence vote will have on the opposition. We can only agree with the Gazette editorial “For a party saved from irrelevancy in the last election by anglophone and allophone votes, the Liberals seem amazingly careless of those constituencies … the new party president can’t even speak English. The message to anglophones and allophones from the Liberal Party these days is crystal clear: Lie back, think of the economy, and vote for us.”
Finally, a Gazette editorialist outdoes the best of the spin doctors advising that “This is no time to quit. We know you’re tired of all the digging, the fouled traffic, the delayed trains, the blocked streets, the cancelled school days (well, parents are tired of those, anyway) and of course the bank-account numbing heating bills. But Montreal is so close to making history that, in a perverse way, it would be a shame to stop now. If we can just hang in there for another month or so and a couple more good-sized blizzards, we can set a record. After all, we need just another 36 centimetres – a mere 13.17 inches, or just a little over a foot for those of you who still think imperially. And then we’ll match the record 383 centimetres that fell on Montreal in the dark distant winter of 1970-71.

The Report (Photos and notes )

Wednesday Nighters at work and play
It is not unusual for guests at Wednesday Night nor for established Wednesday Nighters to contribute to society in an extraordinary manner. In addition to the many politicians, teachers and diplomats who have enhanced the intellectual, political, physical and social environment in which we live, such people as Harry Meyerovitch, Brian Morel, Robert Galbraith, John Curtin and Jacques Clément, are two who are in the process of offering to the public the fruits of their fertile brains.
On Thursday, March 20, Holly Jonas is launching an 8-part series “A Magic Carpet Ride in Search of Canada’s Choral Best”. This prime time evening (8pm) radio series on CJMQ FM features the choral directors from all the Canadian provinces and territories about whom she wrote in her recently published book In Their Own Words. For Holly, what is most exciting is that the radio medium allows her to share the music of these conductors and their ensembles with many listeners who may never have heard of them.
Beryl Wajsman, a practicing Lawyer, President of the Institute of Public Affairs of Montreal, Editor of the Suburban, Radio Talk Show host, is about to launch The MétropolitaIn, a bilingual, limited circulation bi-weekly, a worthy successor to Cité Libre. It will bring a variety of contributors together in the classic collegial newsroom rather than in isolation. Guaranteed corporate funding has been secured with assurances of non-intervention in editorial content and sophisticated, limited, targeted circulation will maximize readership. More on this topic next week.
In another contribution to our wellbeing – physical rather than intellectual, Dr. Mark Roper has spearheaded the establishment of the the Queen Elizabeth Health Complex on the site of the former Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Notre Dame de Grace. The complex, a teaching- unit of the McGill University Health Center operating within Medicare, consists of the previous medical and imaging clinics and the Montreal General Hospital department of Family Medicine, and has now expanded to absorb various local medical clinics. It operates during extended hours, seven days a week. Although government funded, its small size enables a dedicated, flexible staff to operate more efficiently in the treatment of urgent, non-emergency primary care patients. One must sometimes draw the distinction

The economy
Urban legend places the origin of the word “buck” to denote dollar, to the practice of trappers in the Far North of taking animal (buck) skins to the Hudson Bay trading post in exchange for a credit, in the form of a small square cut from the buckskin. It is not that great a stretch of the imagination to imagine counterfeiters creating false credit by cutting multiple squares from a single skin or from The Hudson Bay Company from extending credit in anticipation of receiving skins during poor hunting seasons.
If this is true, not much has changed. Students studying Economics learn that credit is just a matter of credit and debit entries in a ledger without necessarily representing any solid monetary value. The practice of the house-of-cards type sale of less than solid loans through multiple hands has ultimately led to the financial crunch through which the United States and hence the world, is currently suffering. Fortunately, Canadian banks have been more stringently regulated than those in the United States and our commodity-based economy acts as a buffer but ultimately, we will be hit by the ripple effect. Logic would dictate that the U.S. face the obvious fact that the financial institutions in that country are essentially bankrupt, but politics would dictate otherwise, thus delaying the inevitable. The default decision has been the injection of up to the equivalent of four hundred billion dollars of credit, not to be confused with cash, by European and U.S. central banks into the economy. This news has led to a sudden resurgence of the stock market, but when the reality inevitably sinks in, the market is expected to resume its downward trend as inflation increases, making debt repayment less costly. The banking sector is not expected to recover for some time. The weakening of the U.S. economy is expected to increase the relative value of the Canadian dollar to an estimated $1.10 U.S. Inevitably, the increasing inflation will adversely affect the price of oil. As North America is essentially an urban continent, food must be transported to its destination by air and truck. The ripple effect of rising petroleum prices is already translating into significantly increased cost of food.

Energy and the environment
It is a certainty that the cost of petroleum will continue to rise exponentially and although the petroleum market has thus far proven to be almost impermeable to increasing prices, at one point it will become not only financial feasible but imperative to invent and/or implement hitherto undreamed of changes in our current means of transportation of humans and goods. As a country, Canada has benefited considerably from the soaring price of petroleum at the expense of the environment.
As for Canada, it is said that every four barrels of oil produced from the tar sands requires the equivalent of one barrel of oil from the natural gas required to extract it from the sand.
The obvious solution is nuclear energy and it is probable that two CANDU reactors will be installed shortly to provide the necessary energy.
However, the Canadian government has not only failed to meet Kyoto agreement targets, but appears to be planning to implement placebo effect measures that will lend comfort to the concerned electorate but achieve nothing positive and perhaps, some negative effects. The deadline of 2020 is so far in the future that the current government will certainly not have to account for failure to achieve even minimal progress and the proposal to impose a carbon tax on only new companies not only places an exceptional burden on new competition but exempts, if not encourages, small existing, polluting companies that may have the potential of growing into giant polluting companies. Although European countries have been well ahead of North America in controlling carbon emissions as well as compulsory labelling in the United Kingdom indicating the amount of carbon required in the production of a product, unless a world-wide agreement can be reached for the control of carbon emissions, there is every likelihood that local economics and political dependence on lobbyists will set the agenda. Paradoxically, The Honourable John Baird has made the list of the 245 people most influential young leaders in the world, an event that causes some concern to some Wednesday Nighters as to the future fate of the planet.

Healthcare in Québec
The current trend in the delivery of government funded urgent, non-emergency medical care is government funded, privately provided medical care. The Rockland Clinic has been set up in co-operation with Sacré Coeur Hospital, and more recently, the Queen Elizabeth Health Complex.

The Spitzer affair
One must sometimes draw the distinction between legality and morality. On the surface, (about-to-be former) New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s highly publicized night of entertainment seem no more worthy of note than the escapades of former U.S. Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt or Bill Clinton. Whether or not that comparison is valid, if public money was not used to support the Governor’s habit, although unlicensed guns may be a constitutional right, prostitution is illegal in the United States of America and therefore, the career of a high-profile Democrat bites the dust.

The Presidential Race
The current U.S. presidential race would make a great film plot, the main elements being support and prejudices on both sides of the gender, race and generation gap. Millions of dollars have been donated, betting on the outcome. Will the articulate, squeaky-clean black candidate win the race and more importantly, if so, how will he be able co cope with the alternative use that the large donors had for the millions that they had donated to his campaign and would his idealism permit him to face that challenge in a realistic manner?

3 Comments on "Wednesday Night #1358"

  1. Diana Thébaud Nicholson March 11, 2008 at 12:23 pm ·

    George Monbiot: The Patient Stalkers
    Beware of privatisation schemes dressed up as customer choice.
    This was surely a victory for the people. We [U.K.] have lost, over the past 20 years, all kinds of public services, but next month one is due to expand. After heavy bludgeoning by the government, Britain’s general practitioners have agreed to open their surgeries late into the evening and on Saturday mornings. As Gordon Brown says, the health service is “too often centred on the needs of the providers rather than those of patients.”(1) Now we will have a service better matched to the pattern of our lives. Read post

  2. sylvain March 12, 2008 at 4:22 am ·

    Perhaps you should consider having a discussion night on the subject of the SPP. The anti-SPP movement will start rolling in in April in several major cities across Canada; it will make front page news after tax time.

  3. Diana Thébaud Nicholson March 13, 2008 at 9:07 pm ·

    Group names Baird a ‘Young Global Leader’
    Canwest News Service
    OTTAWA — It is unlikely that actor Leonardo DiCaprio, skateboader Tony Hawk and Environment Minister John Baird had ever been mentioned in the same breath — until Wednesday, when all three, along with 242 other overachievers, were named as Young Global Leaders by the World Economic Forum.
    The group’s website says young global leaders are selected based on criteria that include: being under age 40; having a record of extraordinary achievement and a track record of substantial leadership experience; and a demonstrated commitment to serve society at large.
    “It’s obviously a big honour and hopefully there’s an opportunity to work with other global leaders around the world,” Baird said Wednesday, adding he didn’t know exactly why he was chosen. [And neither do we!]

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