Wednesday Night #1465

There is a difference between public interest and what the public is interested in. If you are to be tough (as a politician) you can be unpopular.

Canada at 150: Rising to the Challenge –a thought-provoking topic for a trend-setting  21st century electronic discussion of politics and policies in general and Canada in particular.
Half a century after Canada’s pride in coming of age in expo 67, and some 19 years since the 1991 Aylmer Conference , Canadians (or at least Liberals) are navel gazing about our future, how the country will look and be seen in 2017 in the changing face of the community of nations. We have not fared as well as other world nations.  Have our politicians’ self-image and apparent desire for political longevity overshadowed their devotion to public service? Has Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs induced both the governors and the governed to sacrifice the well-being of future generations to the wants and desires of the present generation?
Canada’s governance is way behind the practices in the most advanced small countries and it is not obvious that we will be able to integrate these, conduct the proper diagnostics in a systematic way, or even address the establishment of a coherent list of priorities.
In the views of  attendees at the Conference, the conclusions were sadly limited to the need for a national strategy in a number of areas, e.g. education, which, certainly in the latter case, is complicated by the provincial responsibility for this vital sector. Inevitably a number of discussions resulted in contradictions, e.g. jobless growth, scarcity in jobs. The way  the number of good ideas are integrated is crucial. And timing is urgent – Canada has lost much initiative, its lack of presence in emerging markets is indicative of its diminishing power. We need good policies, implemented well and quickly – short-term implementation within a long-term vision.
There are, of course, problems particular to Canada such as the advancing age of the working population, exacerbated by imminent retirement of the baby boom generation or the relatively high dependency and low potential for immediate contribution of the current immigrant population, especially as the average age of immigrants is higher than optimum in the light of Canada’s aging population. Furthermore, there is Canada’s apparent inability to solve the problem of under-employment of highly qualified immigrant professionals. Other countries may outperform Canada because their constitution enables them more easily to plan coherently and implement the fruits of their creative planning.

A national election can be expected in Canada within the next six to eight months. The problems, whether or not correctly defined, are real and urgent. Our two major national parties are said to be so eager for power as to be prepared to sell their souls, as well as those of the electorate and those of their grandchildren, to the proverbial devil. If the greatness of the Canadian Nation is to be restored and maintained, the eagerness for power and pandering to special interest groups will have to be subverted to the real needs (as opposed to wants) of current voters and their descendants. If not their politics, the strength of character and devotion of such men as Maurice Duplessis, Réné Lévesque and Pierre Elliott Trudeau should be the templates for politicians who would put our perceived national needs above their own personal interest, who would not permit the power of the ethnic or wealthy vote to compromise what they perceive as being right for the country. Far greater in importance than which party is in power is the quality of ideas and policies within the framework of Canada’s place within the family of nations. The transformation of the image of Barack Obama from consensus seeker to that of purveyor (enforcer?) of ideas and ideals appears to have enhanced his popularity and possibly, the well-being of the country.

Canada and the economy
Patience and a contrarian view are key to successful investing in this environment
Despite the general dissatisfaction with politics and politicians [Update: Canadians not thrilled with Tories or Liberals: poll], the economy is thriving. Growth figures published today show staggering GDP figures – 5-6% for the quarter is probable – and in the opinion of one industry expert, we are not in an L-shape, but rather a V-shape; corporate profits are booming; employment figures are coming back. Foreigners are investing because they see a strong financial system and a terrific image generated during the Vancouver Olympics. On the down side, the small-cap equity market is dead for the moment and there still appears to be a great deal of money sitting on the sidelines.
The long term technical improvement has seen the stock market indices rise from March 9 until today with a continuing phenomenal increase in global equities. This has been the most impressive rise since 1930 – 1932 with no sign of letting up. A short pause is possible in the middle of April followed by the continuing upward trend. Diversification is key to investment strategy. The BRIC countries are lagging.  Canada is in the top category and it is only a matter of time until parity with the U.S. dollar will be surpassed – possibly up to $1.10 – and may soon no longer be a threat to our manufacturing and export sectors. The demand for resources is universal. Upcoming quarterly and annual reports will more accurately depict the situation but investment capital is continuing to target Canada. The expected expansion of global trade should enhance the constantly improving situation. Four to four and a half percent Treasuries are considered inevitable. Asia has become the world’s largest importing area. The risks are geopolitical, protectionism and more inflation coming from Europe.
The new R word, replacing Recession, is Recovery

Ron Meisels publishes recommendations in a column (“Technically Speaking”) the Globe & Mail every Saturday. Recent calculations show that if an investor (with a lot of money) had bought every one of the stocks since 1999 at the time they were recommended by Ron, his/her portfolio would be up over 500%. An admirable record!

Quebec energy outlook
Thanks to new technology developments, Québec appears to be on the cusp of becoming one of the have provinces with the discovery of “the natural-gas equivalent of a gusher” on the South Shore between Trois Rivières and Quebec City. Not only would the importation of natural gas from Alberta no longer be required but the size of the field is such as would enable us to export it to neighbouring states and provinces over an extended period of time. This development implies a new energy policy for Canada.

T H E  I N V I T A T I O N

Now that Greece appears to be on the road to recovery – or at least the entrance ramp –  and the Health Care Reform Bill has safely navigated the complex process of reconciliation (if, like us, you are confused, please see the very clear explanation obtained through the effort of Tony Deutsch), has  passed both the House and the Senate and was signed on March 30  [again, but with less fanfare], we can join with President Obama in turning our attention to other matters. One  with which he will be deeply concerned is the mid-term elections. The Financial Times offers a fascinating analysis of the relationship between the passage of health care reform and those elections in Obama throws out the political rules

What a plethora of news, analysis and commentary over the past week, starting with the dust-up in Washington during Mr. Netanyahu’s speech to AIPAC and his subsequent visit to the White House where he apparently did not succeed in singing for his supper. Seems he couldn’t carry the tune, so was left behind [Netanyahu stews while Obama dines] when the President retreated to have dinner with his family.

The frightening terrorist bombings in Moscow bring implications of harsh reprisals in the North Caucasus and even concerns regarding impact on the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. The news follows on the heels of the announcement that Russia and the U.S. have agreed to the follow-up Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, and may well affect the progress of other nuclear talks, as Russia is distracted by the insurgency.

Haiti is again prominent in the news as a UN conference to discuss the future of aid to Haiti — which could require as much as $11.5 billion immediately and $34.4 billion over the next 10 years — will be held Wednesday. For the project to rebuild Haiti to be successful, it will require self-sufficiency, transparency and involvement of the Haitian diaspora and Haitian government and civil society. The New York Times In anticipation of the meeting, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has written a thoughtful analysis of the need for renewal, not restoration, which “means fully democratic government, grounded in sound economic and social policies that address extreme poverty and deep-rooted disparities of wealth.”

Iraq’s election results are still muddled and with the latest news that Victorious candidates may be purged, boosting Maliki there are increasingly dim prospects for a peaceful installation of a new regime.

And in Burma, any hopes for legitimate elections have been dashed with the announcement that Aung San Suu Kyi party members announced a boycott on the Burma election Monday to avoid endorsing an ‘unfair’ process.

At least the threat of war between Argentina and the U.K. seems to have been averted with the announcement that “oil may be present in thin intervals but that reservoir quality is poor.”


Now that the banks have decided not to wait for the Bank of Canada and have raised mortgage rates the expected rise in lending rates will certainly follow – how great an effect will this have on the housing market? Will it be beneficial to all those home-improvement stocks as people decide to live with and improve what they have?

The Liberal-sponsored Canada at 150 Conference opened – and closed – to mixed reviews from the usual suspects, but everyone praised the widespread use of new technology [Canada 150 conference a multimedia feat] to involve people from coast to coast – and apparently a number of other countries.  There were some excellent speakers and panels, and attendees – including several Wednesday Nighters – reported that the overall atmosphere was upbeat.
Everything is archived, so we encourage you to have a look and listen. Don’t miss Robert Fowler’s condemnation of Canada’s foreign policy Fowler claims Liberals ‘shill for votes’ – we aren’t used to thinking of former diplomats as ‘shock jocks’, but he earned the title with his no-holds-barred critique. Robert Galbraith covered the conference as official photographer and has some fantastic pictures. Meantime, Wednesday Night was brilliantly represented in two panels organized for the Montreal Satellite Conference hosted by Marc Garneau. We hope to have a summary available very soon.One very unexpected by-product – we were thrilled to have a brief visit with Alexandra Greenhill (Tcheremenska) on Saturday evening; she had decided at the last minute to fly in to attend the conference. We’re happy to report that she is in great form, looks beautiful and sends her love to her former Wednesday Night colleagues. The West Wing will, incidentally, celebrate its second birthday on 7 April. Proving Mr. Fowler correct in at least one respect, Canada’s failure to invite Iceland, Finland and Sweden and the aboriginal populations of the region to the Arctic talks in Chelsea, Quebec earned it a rebuke from the U.S. Secretary of State and some serious protests from the non-participants [Hillary Clinton blasts Canada for exclusive Arctic talks] We are NOT impressed. What does this bode for the G8 and G20 talks?
Nor are we impressed by Jason Kenney’s announcement regarding his intention to reform the refugee system – we wish we thought that he had at the very least read James Bissett’s analysis of the problem Close the gates to newcomers
– and could someone PLEASE solve the Stanstead border-crossing problem? So far, Mr. Harper’s concern doesn’t seem to be doing much good. The situation is beyond ridiculous.
Let’s hope that Mr. Flaherty does better with his consultations on pension reform – we are surprised that he has not consulted Wednesday Night yet – if he were looking for expert opinions, he need not go much farther.Finally, Ann Coulter has come and gone amidst charges and counter-charges of intimidation by rioting students. Sadly, Ottawa U gave her a golden publicity opportunity. Fortunately, it will all be soon forgotten.  The best piece on the matter in our view was published by HuffPost “Sorry Ann Coulter, Canada’s Just Not That Into You
As Ms Coulter fades into the sunset (she apparently likes Calgary), we can now look forward to a new star rising in the Northwest:  The eponymous “Sarah Palin’s Alaska”  is to be broadcast on the Learning Channel (bit of a disconnect there).On that happy note, we look forward to seeing you this Wednesday and to covering some – if not all – of these challenging topics. Or others if you prefer.

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