Wednesday Night #1485

Written by  //  August 18, 2010  //  Reports, Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

Moving matters
Opening the evening, Diana announced that 33, home to Wednesday Night since 1982 – and to the Nicholsons since 1971 – is officially on the market. As to the future, there are only two criteria for their next home: it must accept the dogs, and offer welcoming accommodation for Wednesday Night.
The Centre Greene on Greene Avenue needs books for their annual book sale the proceeds of which go to fund programs for their kids.
The McGill Book Fair is also a good cause offering a home for books of all types;  the proceeds finance scholarships. Many un-bought books are sent to schools in Jamaica, or to villages in Ghana.

Canada’s veterans
With the news that Veterans ombudsman Pat Stogran is to be let go by Mr. Harper’s Tories, there is a new focus on Veterans’ Affairs.
There can be no greater debt than that owed to the young men and women who risk an otherwise relatively carefree youth, to face possible serious physical and psychological injury and even death in the defence of their country or, more importantly, in defense of the freedom of fellow human beings, at home or abroad.  One of the few areas in which our present government appears to behave very differently from its U.S. counterpart is in the treatment of veterans of the Afghanistan campaign, described by some Wednesday Nighters as appalling.  Senior and junior elected U.S. government officials make frequent visits to American Veterans’ Hospitals.  In contrast  the current Canadian government plans to close two remaining Canadian Veterans’ Hospitals (where, to judge by experience with Ste-Anne’s, the services are above average), sloughing off the responsibility to the provinces.  Whether or not the provinces will be motivated to provide the level of care now provided, the appearance of the national government (rightly) revering and respecting those members of the armed forces who have given their lives, while contracting out the loving care of those who have been physically or psychologically injured and survived, seems unreasonable. The proposed transfer of Ste-Anne’s to provincial jurisdiction – and a consequent change in mandate – is not yet a fait accompli and is being carefully watched by Liberal MPs Marc Garneau and Francis Scarpaleggia.

Potash
Rural Saskatchewan has historically been a desolate place up until the mid twentieth century, without electricity, trees or running water.  The greatest joy was the  beauty of the magnificent sunset as it was unobstructed thanks by trees or near-by buildings.  This difficult existence was chosen by farmers attracted from other provinces or countries to either religious freedom and/or the bounty provided by the wheat crop.  The current demand for potash as a fertilizer has changed the physical and economic nature of the climate.  Hills are now said to dot the horizon as the landscape changes as demand for Saskatchewan potash in fertilizer has boomed.   As appears to have  been the case in other commodity-based industries, the developing Saskatchewan potash industry is now the target of larger foreign corporations (Potash Corp. rejects unsolicited bid from BHP Billiton). The problem lies in the fact that there are not large multinational companies that can afford to buy our natural resource companies, thus there is little choice if the Canadian companies are to expand.
Some see the dilemma as a double-edged sword, depriving Canadians of the profits of exploitation, while engendering a lack of the sense of a need to be competitive in the manufacturing sector. One solution might be that the government(s) charge higher royalties on natural resources, ensuring that the taxpayer benefits in some way.
A more optimistic view is that the buried treasure that may very well ensure Canada’s continuing prosperity for a long time to come, lies beyond the as-yet largely undeveloped two hundred kilometres north of the U.S. border and may represent an as-yet-undiscovered treasure trove ensuring prosperity for future generations of Canadians.
[Updates: 24 August (Reuters) – China’s visceral response to the $39 billion BHP Billiton bid for Potash Corp — talk abounds of a possible Chinese white knight — show it fears a concentration of pricing power in the big miner more than the current Russian-Canadian marketing cartel.
It must seem like déjà vu to China after it struggled to stop BHP gaining control of Rio Tinto and almost half its supply of imported iron ore, then got into a bruising battle with the company over the pricing of the steel-making raw material.
25 August (Reuters) – BHP says it won’t buy Potash “at any cost” BHP Billiton, tried to damp expectations it would sweeten its hostile $39 billion offer for Potash Corp even as the world’s biggest miner showed it had the wherewithal to up the ante.]

The market
There are situations in which the only valid rule is that there are no rules.  Some, perhaps either super intelligent or super intuitive individuals, appear to have an excellent record in accurately predicting human reaction to various events.  Wednesday Night boasts of several of these among its guests who have an outstanding record of predicting human reaction to a vacillating stock market.  One of these mavens points to the unwritten rule that an upward move in the market is followed by a correction equivalent to one third the gain.  This has, in fact, happened in the current bull market that began in March 2009.  After a drop of about one-third in April, the market has resumed its upward trend. One concern is that the U.S. and possibly the U.K. may revert to protectionism.  Many would-be investors continue to view the U.S. as a reference point, thus ignoring the positive results reported from many of the other countries, including European countries.  The resulting reluctance to invest may be seen to be a positive sign as idle money will be inevitably find its way into the market.  The fact that most people appear to be reticent may be seen as a positive sign, indicating a rising market, as is the need for pension funds receiving regular contributions to invest.
For many, the upward trend in the price of gold over the last thirty years represents an attractive form of investment.  Some have linked the upward beginning of the cycle of increase to the current season of Ramadan which is traditionally followed by weddings, Christmas and a series of events in which gold, both in the form of bullion and jewelery, plays an increasingly important part.

The Tamil refugees – or are they? – and Canada’s immigration policies
There is much controversy among Wednesday Nighters over the arrival of a shipload of Tamils seeking refugee status in Canada. (Canada in 2010: Immigration) Our constitution requires that we receive those who seek asylum, process them and accept them as landed immigrants if they qualify.  They are impoverished and usually do not have a birth certificate or other identification which might otherwise give them access to our country. The risks and hardships endured on the long ocean voyage speak favourably of the desperation of those who accept those risks, but also, perhaps with reason, of the less than altruistic motives of those who provide the cost of their transportation.
Those who object, offer Australia’s outright rejection of queue-jumpers and would encourage us to follow their  example; others believe that the ship should be seized to pay for the processing.  The possibility that the ship  might represent a Trojan horse (perhaps more poetically, Trojan Tiger) in disguise bringing terrorism to our shores frightens others.  In truth, however, their number is relatively small when compared with the  number of immigrants arriving after having followed the approved process.
The growth of our country from approximately fourteen million in 1950 to over thirty-four million today is largely due to our open immigration policy, certainly more so than birth rate.  Unfortunately, although immigrants and their offspring tend to be more productive than natives, we tend to discourage some with professional and/or technical skills in occupations in which those skills are badly needed in Canada.

A general election?

A united right, a fractured left and several single issue opposition parties, virtually assures the continuation of a Conservative government despite the vocal dissatisfaction  expressed at the dismissal the Police Commissioner, the scrapping of the long census form, the changes in the penal system and building of prisons in the face of falling crime rates.  Sheila Fraser’s imminent report on stimulus spending may very well add to dissatisfaction with the current government, but there is virtually no probability of a federal election in the foreseeable future.  In the unlikely event that the government does fall, it will come in the form of a vote on a non- confidence motion presented following a budget presentation.

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Prologue

Due to a number of other pressures, this is a succinct invitation, but we would like to call to your attention a few items worthy of debate, encourage you to think about them and prepare for debate.

How Long Will China’s Economy Be the Second Largest?
– note the references to recent WN issues, debates and comments.  “Some interpret the growth in China’s economy as a validation of its embracing capitalism but there is also a major factor of government planning involved. Yes, government planning and economic growth can go together in spite of many people’s mantra to the contrary (see Singapore for another example).
While China’s manufacturing dominates much of the world’s consumer products, this will not likely last forever. Importers are looking to diversify their production since companies know they should never rely on a single supplier. Investments in Vietnam, Indonesia and other countries which have low wage costs will continue in the future. Robert Reich on the same topic: The Truth About China As #2

The long form census debate continues: Harper’s Latest Step in Building ‘Tea Party North’
His census stance is meant to fan populist anger while killing a key tool for social advocacy.

The debate over education in the U.S. has much relevance to Canada Diversity Debate Convulses Elite High School could be a starting point.

Karl Moore’s recent article in the Globe & Mail: Toronto tops Montreal for global career? Not really — capital clearly rules in the financial sector, but not in terms of diversity

Obama Strongly Backs Islam Center Near 9/11 Site
President Obama delivered a strong defense on Friday night of a proposed Muslim community center and mosque near ground zero, while it is reported that ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ Imam Helped FBI With Counterterrorism Efforts

Shauna Sylvester of Canada’s World writes: Canada’s World has been nominated for a prestigious international award – the Reinhard Mohn Prize for Vitalizing Democracy. The German Bertelsmann Stiftung will be awarding 150,000.00 Euros to this year’s prize winner.  The prize celebrates and recognizes institutions that have shown innovative democratic leadership by making a strong and lasting contribution to “Vitalizing Democracy through Participation”.To be considered for this award, I need your help.  One of the factors that the awards committee will be considering is the comments and rankings made about our nomination.  Could you take a few minutes now to rank and make a comment on the Canada’s World nomination.  The deadline is August 22.
How to make a comment: Go to this website, http://www.vitalizing-democracy.org/  Register by noting your email address and a password.  Go to the View Projects page, search under country – select Canada and select search.
Highlight the Canada’s World nomination.  I believe we are project number 49.
Add your comment (the button is on the right) and ranking.

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