Wednesday Night #1397

Reprising last week’s major topics: WHERE TO START?

Canada’s Opéra bouffe
Well, the GG decided for Harper – after almost three hours – but what did she say during that time? We haven’t heard about any conditions imposed, although we do note a much improved tone in Mr. Harper’s message today. But then, that could change again with new Liberal leadership. After last week’s passionate discussion, we should all lighten up with a dose of Jon Stewart
The twists and turns of the about-to-be uncoalsced Liberals?
Can we really accept a potential Prime Minister called ‘Iggy’?
The resurgence of the PQ – possibly thanks to Stephen Harper’s Quebec-bashing spree?
Is Mario Dumont really going to Ottawa as one of Stephen Harper’s minions?
The lowest voter turnout since 1927 in Quebec – and Westmounters among the most recalcitrant?
The U.S.
Even as Frank Rich reminds us that the Brightest are not always the Best , President-elect Obama garners more and more plaudits for good choices (and also for not making bad ones, e.g. Robert Rubin ). The President-elect’s comments on Meet the Press regarding his economic stimulus proposals seem to have met with general approval too.
The only glitch, and not of his doing, is the news of the arrest of the Governor of Illinois for attempting to auction off Mr. Obama’s now-vacant Senate seat. WOW! Illinois politics in the grand tradition of the Daly fiefdom. And guess who is back in the limelight? U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald, of Scooter Libby fame.
Looks like the automakers’ bailout is about to happen, all we are waiting for is the naming of the ‘car czar’. And now Stephen Harper is making noises about stimuli including something for Canada’s automotive industry, arguing “We don’t want to be in a situation where we would put ourselves, our [auto] sector, at a severe disadvantage because we’re not necessarily doing what they’re doing or not moving along similar lines”.
All of which gives us a nice lead-in to some worthwhile holiday reading, – papers from the Carleton University Canada-U.S. Project Conference “From Correct to Inspired Relations: A Blueprint for Productive Canada-US Engagement”
The World
While we were busy navel-gazing, who noticed (aside from Bert & Jaime who are there) that the Climate Change COP (Conference of the Parties) 14 is happening in Poznan. So far, it looks as though everything is going a lot better than last year’s meeting in Bali. From our perspective, we are happy to see the able new Minister of Environment, Jim Prentice leading the Canadian delegation – a vast improvement over John Baird. With luck, this year may see Canada’s sobriquet of ‘shrub’ replaced by something less ignominious.
And what a coincidence that the President-elect should meet with Al Gore today ….
On a less sanguine note: events in Greece, Thailand (The Economist report is, we are told, very accurate) and, as always, Zimbabwe are worrisome. And just as we were about to say that the Somali pirates appeared to have cooled their jets, BBC reports new problems Mumbai is getting back to normal, but relations with Pakistan remain strained.
More on the Financial crisis
One irate Wednesday Nighter sends this message: “AIG, you know the insurance company who’s getting over $11 billion of our dollars in bailout money? Well, they announced they’re giving 130 of their executives cash awards of up to $3 million. These are cash awards, not bonuses. They say they are payments to guarantee that their top executives stay with the company. Oh, yeah, God forbid AIG should lose any of these business geniuses. Imagine what kind of shape they’d be in without these people. Again, these are cash awards, not bonuses. So we should send them to jail, not prison, see?”

T H E  R E P O R T

Religion, Accommodation and related issues

The advent of the once sacred, but increasingly secular Judaeo-Christian part of the year, the numerically small group of Wednesday Nighters examined the slippery slope from militant literal monotheism to atheistic hedonism.  While Canada refused to sign the universal declaration of human rights, because God was not mentioned, here, in Québec, the transformation from government that took its inspiration from the Bible to a secular society in which over half a century, more than half the unions between couples have changed from religious to secular and once affluent houses of worship are impoverished and empty.  At times the concept of culture and religion appear incompatible.  Israel considers Jewish citizens of all countries to be de facto Israeli citizens, permitting unrestricted immigration by basically atheistic Russian Jews who lived in an atheistic society since the Bolshevik revolution.  This poses an insurmountable problem in what is essentially a theocracy and has thus far made it impossible to formulate a constitution.  Similar situations causing considerable controversy here are wearing religious articles such as the kirpan, Moslem women covering their heads or the (presumed) excessive imposed modesty of the Chassidic sect.  Nudity is accepted and even embraced on the beaches of France and Spain but frowned upon on the streets of Montreal.  There is the question of but not great support for Sharia or Rabbinical law in Canada.  When considered part of religion, it is rejected, but when considered a contract between consenting parties it is tolerated.It would be difficult to promote one’s own religion as the true faith without implying that other religions are at best, inferior and at worst, a differing point of view that has the potential of leading to a conflict between the right of religious expression and that of freedom of speech.  The line is indeed slim between the right of freedom of expression, slander, libel and hate or between art and pornography.
An interesting instance of the acceptance of a practice that defies current values is the Aboriginal practice of sentencing circles which would probably not pass the legal test of secular law, but which has proven much more successful than the majority custom of delegating trial and punishment to the legal system because the community that judges and carries out the sentence itself and ensures that the miscreant has been reformed.  On the other hand stoning, as reportedly permitted by Sharia law, would hardly be acceptable.
Whether it be secular or religious law, it is personal freedom that is a function of its interpretation.  Historically, Afghan women have been extremely independent, demonstrating a thirst for knowledge, suppressed by the oppressive Taliban regime.

Stimulation, Recovery and Inflation?
The fable of the three blind men and the elephant comes to mind in considering the stimuli proposed to soften the effect of the anticipated depression.  One of the problems of the current stimulus package that proposes investing large sums in infrastructure is that it may prove to be counterproductive because of the inherent delay in selecting, planning and executing large public works.  If, during the delay in the execution of the work, the economy recovers it would actually have an inflationary effect.  If infrastructure is the target cure, it would be better to accelerate existing projects.  If an immediate stimulus were to be required, a cheque to every Canadian would stimulate spending at the retail level, extending along the chain to manufacturers.  CMAC has been buying up mortgages from the bank at very little risk to itself, but freeing up money for banks to lend.  In today’s climates, however, there are fewer bank loans and very few investors in the banking sector.

Canada’s political saga

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has slowly, over the years permitted his Reform Party roots to emerge.  Last week, however, he lowered his aggressive tone, and appears to be concentrating on splitting the Liberals from the coalition. The Liberal Party is destitute, having used the subsidy earned from the election to pay off incurred debt. It needs to learn how to emulate Obama’s successful broad-appeal fund raising. While it was evident that Stéphane Dion could no longer lead the party and that the Party could not afford a lame-duck leader until May, there is concern that the virtual coronation of Ignatieff, a divisive move in itself – did not sit well with the rank and file who were left out of the process, which in turn makes it difficult to bring them back into the fold. Opinion of Ignatieff is sharply divided around the Wednesday Night table, ranging from: he is inspired; he is learning the ropes; he will do well in Québec, to: he is arrogant; he has been too far removed from Canada for too long. But no-one doubts that he is brilliant and that Mr. Harper will quickly regret losing his favorite punching bag, the unfortunate M. Dion.
So, everyone goes home from Ottawa for the holidays while the unfortunates at Finance will be working to cobble together a budget that will somewhat satisfy the opposition. January 26 will be an exciting time — Maybe.

One Comment on "Wednesday Night #1397"

  1. sam totah December 12, 2008 at 10:23 am ·

    The issue: Lower voter turnout. It worries me and it is simply the fault of the liberal party of quebec who saw a poltiical opportunity and seized on it. That is now past. What were the real issues — yes, the economy but how about fixing it — no advice and no plan came foreword during the election process. To take the public for granted — like sheep going to slaughter house and expect them to go to the polls when no real issue has been put foreward is “an insult to the electorate” and the people residing in this province. I am not sure why politicians take us for granted –may be we just give them that opportunity. I rest my case.
    Sam –friend of wednesday nights.

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