Wednesday Night #1538

Jack Layton and Canadian politics
Jack Layton is being laid to rest after having led a group, largely composed of neophytes, to victory as the Official Opposition in the Commons. Many of these had had no expectation of being elected but ran for the experience. Despite the incredible brainpower within the party, the Liberal Party suffered a humiliating defeat, leading some to speculate whether it is on the path to obscurity as has been the fate of its British counterpart.
A great deal of the popularity of a political party is dependent on the charisma of the leader, a factor that Jack Layton recognized and played to the hilt. Indicative of his recognition of the importance of this aspect of a campaign were his public musings about whether to retain or shave his moustache. His medical handicap became his force and the restraint in his choice of words describing his opponents attracted voters to the man, probably more than to his politics.
As for the Liberals, their defeat was predictable. To all appearances, their concentration on attacking, especially attacking the NDP, but the Conservatives as well, derailed what should have been their main focus, namely, selling the Liberal brand; thus they provided the Conservative Party the opportunity to gobble up the empty space they vacated.
Charisma and appearance
What is believed as an important factor by the Scribe, but almost never discussed except perhaps, in the Nixon-Kennedy debates in the United States, is the appearance and charisma of the party leaders. Talent and political savvy are important in politics, but persona is frequently more important in politicians. If this hypothesis is valid, had television been invented at the time, it is doubtful that Franklin Delano Roosevelt would have been elected President from 1933 to 1945. It is certain that appearance played a critical role in John F. Kennedy’s victory over Richard Nixon. The exception that comes to mind is “the little guy from Shawinigan” whose charisma more than compensated for his flawed physiognomy. Inevitably, the unfortunate death of Mr. Layton will lead to questions about its impact on the Liberal party. The Liberal Party is regrouping. The problems have been identified and lessons learned. Fortunately, funds are available for the next campaign and it is hoped that the next Federal general election, the Liberal party will prove less divided, less governed by emotion and more representative of the political leanings of Canadians than it was at the last. Quite apart from Layton’s charisma and the admiration on the part of the electorate for his character as well as his political skills, the Liberals made many mistakes, mistakes which will have to be corrected if the Party is not to be destined for the trash bin of history.
According to some Liberal insiders, part of the problem was that during the electoral campaign, its policy was left of centre in order to counter the rising fortunes of the N.D.P., but has, since May, worked on the centre and/or right of centre in keeping with the probable desires of the electorate and in order to reconnect with those disaffected former Liberal supporters who abandoned the party which, they believed, had lost its compass, as Jack Layton created the sense of hope and justice that Canadians wanted to hear, a vision of competence and direction, a focus on a viable vision of the future. As stated by one Wednesday Nighter, “If the Liberals can come up with the vision and conviction of Jack Layton they can be resurrected”.

Canada – Education, Science, and Employment
Canada has been blessed with national resources. The bounty of our earth and vegetation have benefited all, but we fail to fully exploit the intellectual capacity of both those Canadians who were born here and immigrants. The Federal government invests money in post-graduate studies in the technological sciences, but specifying where that money is to be placed is totally a provincial matter. In Québec, we are not adequately training students for aerospace and other technical industries. University fees are so low that many students immigrate to study here and return to their country of origin on graduation. Remuneration on graduation is inadequate as compared with other professions, making it less attractive than many other professions. Inexplicably, young women, perhaps intimidated by long standing tradition, are inadequately represented in Engineering, constituting only fifteen to eighteen percent of graduates.
Canadians are recognized worldwide as experts in mining, and natural gas and should support training, development and employment opportunities in those areas. Likewise, l’Institut National d’Optique is a top notch Québec City corporation whose purpose is to help companies become viable entities in optics. Such entities in which Canadians have developed expertise should be supported and helped to be developed further. The same holds true for Canadian expertise in mining, including mining of diamonds , natural gas. Australia aids areas of expertise in areas of activity developed there and Canada should do likewise.

Canadians would do well to procure Information Technology software and hardware locally. Former Industry Minister, David Emerson attempted to get the aerospace industry and government together with a view of building on the expertise already achieved in Canada and buy locally, without success. Although by law, procurement must go through a tendering process, there appears to be a tendency to write procurement criteria in a such a manner as to favour a single supplier to the exclusion of others. The rules governing possible conflicts between free trade and protectionism can be difficult to define. For example, the Investment act, designed to protect the ownership of Canadian potash sources from foreign ownership appears to conflict with our traditional support for free trade. We have yet to hear when an economic takeover is deemed to be in the best interest of Canada, or for that matter, a definition of the game rules.

The markets
This week’s Wednesday Night market mavens, in sharp contrast to previous weeks’ upbeat gurus, see the current situation more similar to that of April, May and June of 2008, see signs of market vulnerability , but reserve judgement until the coming month, which should clarify the direction in which it is heading. Companies are said to have a lot of cash but are totally without vision as to where to invest. They see the structure of the European Union as being on the brink of collapsing, its policies for debt reduction, a recipe for disaster and no clue as to a solution. Other specialists, while accepting the validity of this opinion for the G-7 countries, are of the opinion that this view does not apply to Asia, expressing the opinion that “Europe is sick but the world is not in an abyss.” They believe that the European Central Bank should have raised interest rates.
U.S. economy
As for the U .S., the financial world awaits President Obama’s next speech. They believe that the American economy cannot be stabilized without solving the housing sector problem, stabilizing housing prices. The Federal Reserve can introduce stabilization by sector. Positive indicators are more numerous than negative. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has moved from deficit to surplus.

Banks in France and Germany are in difficulty, but those countries are said by some to be in a good position to bail them out, a statement denied by others who insist that central banks remain in great difficulty.


This was written prior to Jack Layton’s death. His contribution to Canada’s political life will no doubt be much discussed at Wednesday Night as elsewhere and we can only hope that his personal philosophy, approach to politics and grace in adversity will be  studied and adopted by political leaders of all levels.
We have a wonderful double-bill this week. Not only will Marc Garneau, our favorite Member of Parliament and now House Leader for the Liberals, be with us, but also our dear friend, globetrotteuse and geopolitical analyst extraordinaire, Cleo Paskal. [Update] A welcome addition to the double bill, which now becomes a triple – Maureen Farrow will be in town and with us.
While not suggesting an agenda, there are so many topics of interest that we offer a range and will see how the evening evolves.
Marc is of course interested in hearing views on the Liberal Party’s renewal. Obviously, there is a need for structural reform including reduction of layers of intervention, but that is not an area in which most of us can be useful, although with reduction of layers, activities and communications at the riding level become more important. How to engage the grassroots? How to discourage the perception (if not the reality) that the LPC is still ridden with factional rivalries and prefers to hand down important decisions from above rather than encouraging them to filter upwards?
We would suggest that what should be addressed is what can/should the Liberal Party strive to offer the electorate; what has been learned from the disastrous results of the last election and how can/should the Liberal Party differentiate itself, sounding a positive note and avoiding the inevitable opposition for opposition’s sake? Is there a national vision? What is Marc’s role as House Leader of the 3rd party in the House?
And — how can/should the LPC respond to the following:
Harper spins a new brand of patriotism
… The Liberals embraced the Charter, the flag, peacekeeping and multiculturalism. Now, the Harper Tories are pursuing symbols and areas ignored by the Grits – the Arctic, the military, national sports and especially the monarchy, according to senior Tories. Note that the unscientific opinion poll accompanying this article shows 55% (of the Globe respondents) support the Conservative ‘symbols’ while 35% those of the Liberals.
Meanwhile, things Wednesday Night believes to be extremely important: education, environment, science, technology, innovation, public health don’t fit among these symbols. How to integrate them into not only a vision of Canada, but what can the LPC be expected to do in these files, in the House and outside?
On Canadian Values
Are you a real Canadian? If, like most voters, you didn’t vote Conservative in the last election, your values are un-Canadian.
At least, that’s what our prime minister thinks, if his recent speech is to be believed.
This is well worth reading, considering and debating.
Two more items on Canada’s policy, but not limited to the LPC.
Asbestos continues to be in the headlines with the news item that Dr. Kellie Leitch, Conservative MP, Must Choose Ethics Over Politics, Fellow MDs Say – so far the rookie MP has referred enquiries to the Minister of Natural Resources, a wise move in view of the Harper government’s insistence on staying on message.
Last on our Canada agenda are the latest developments in the Keystone pipeline controversy. As Dozens arrested outside White House in Keystone pipeline protests there is profound unease among environmentalists and some economists as to the underlying wisdom of this project. Among others:  Why more oil sands crude in U.S. doesn’t make sense By Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, Director of the international program at the Natural Resources Defense Council ; and Is Canadian Oil Bound for China Via Pipeline to Texas? … one line of attack is more about economics and geopolitics than land and water. The New York Times has published an editorial Tar Sands and the Carbon Numbers which starts off: This page opposes the building of a 1,700-mile pipeline called the Keystone XL ….
Any bets on what the U.S. decision will be?
On to broader issues:
Minister Flaherty and Mark Carney did not sound highly optimistic at their appearance at the Commons Finance Committee on Friday. Mr Carney, in particular, cited concerns about the debt situation in both the U.S. and Europe. We continue to enjoy lively debate among our Wednesday Night economists on Europe, the eurozone, Eurobonds and related topics, which you can follow on EU economy Part II  (and its related posts), where you will also find links to Kenneth Matziorinis’ commentaries as well as to Michael Lewis’ recent piece for Vanity Fair It’s the Economy, Dummkopf! – not only does Mr. Lewis make sense, he is always entertaining.
Events in the Middle East – an inexhaustible subject that changes every day. Please see and related posts on Israel and Libya .
As we write, the ether waves are bursting with the news that Libyan rebels take Tripoli’s Green Square – now what? We are surely living the nightmare of “be careful what you ask for”. ”. [Update] Reuters reports “the international powers and the rebel government-in-waiting in the eastern city of Benghazi lost no time in making arrangements for a handover of Libya’s substantial foreign assets. Funds will be required to bring relief to war-battered towns and to develop oil reserves that can make Libya rich.
France was working with Britain and other allies to draft a new United Nations resolution intended to ease sanctions and asset freezes imposed on Libya when Gaddafi was in charge. Rebels also spoke of restarting oil export facilities soon.”
One friend of Wednesday Night asks:
“… whether western countries such as the US and Canada intend to support legitimate democratic reform, or whether they simply see an opportunity to replace uncooperative regimes with ones willing to further their strategic interests in the ME. It was interesting to see Canada and the US express their support for Mubarak up until the end when it became apparent he could not continue to hold on to power. Mubarak served their strategic interests. Despite human rights violations similar to those of Asaad’s regime, there were no calls for a war crimes inquiry for Mubarak from the US or Canada. In Libya, NATO is effectively choosing sides in a civil war, more intent on liberating Libya from its oil than from its authoritarian leadership. Even Mr. Baird joked that we shouldn’t expect Thomas Jefferson when referring to the questionable Libyan rebel leadership waiting in the wings. Amr Moussa is a seasoned politician with years of international experience. It is said Mubarak wanted him out of Egypt as he perceived Moussa a threat to succeed him. The potential leaders in Libya and Syria are unknown commodities at best. I have my doubts that Amr Moussa or any other legitimately popular leader in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Libya, Yemen or elsewhere in the ME will be given a legitimate shot at running for leadership, let alone standing for election, given that popular sentiment in the ME runs contrary to US strategic interests.”
And looming over everything is the genie released from the bottle – China. Wherever we turn for news, China is in the headlines, whether scolding the U.S. for its profligacy and debt addiction ; or as the possible hoarder of rare earths ; controlling extensive investments in African oil The Queensway syndicate and the Africa trade ; proposing potentially harmful dam construction on the Irrawaddy River China’s dam project in Burma is dangerous and divisive ; as the oppressor of Tibet ; or investor in the tar sands (see above – Keystone, etc.)
Not to be overlooked – India – China’s rival in Asia, a complex society and formidable economic power that has just set an economic growth target  of 9%; we look forward to Cleo’s commentary on the many issues the country faces, including the recent protests against corruption and what their effect may be.
Our plate is already full and we have not mentioned the Republican candidates in the US. The arrival of global warming denier Governor Rick Perry of Texas is an important development; amidst all the hue and cry, we cannot resist this headline Rove Helps Mainstream Media Attack Perry – that would be Carl Rove of GW Bush fame -which sort of brings us full circle to the Canadian political scene and wondering who will be our Carl Rove.

One Comment on "Wednesday Night #1538"

  1. Paul Shrivastava August 22, 2011 at 10:56 am ·

    Last week I met with the founder and Executive Vice President of the National Innovation Foundation of India (, Dr. Anil Gupta. This is an attempt to develop, document and implement grassroots social and technological innovations. One idea for Marc Garneau…… to remedy the perception that LDC prefers to “hand down important decisions from above rather than encouraging them to filter upwards”, would be to foster a grass roots innovation program in Canada. Citizens see so many opportunities for minor tweaking that can improve their daily lives, but don’t have a convenient way of contributing them and being recognized. A Canada Innovation program could get grassroots engagement, especially from young people.

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