Wednesday Night #1550

Written by  //  November 15, 2011  //  Canada, Economy, Environment & Energy, Europe & EU, Events Calendar, Fiona Nicholson, Middle East & Arab World, Trade & Tariffs, Wednesday Nights  //  Comments Off on Wednesday Night #1550

This week, we have a double treat. Fiona is flying in from Calgary for a 5-day visit, neatly arranged to permit her to be with us on a Wednesday Night, and to hold our hands through David’s cataract operation the next morning. Michel Choquette, fresh from last week’s Montreal launch of his oeuvre “The Someday Funnies” – only 35 years in the making – will be joining us. The book is amazing, awesome – you can peruse our copy and apply your own superlatives.

Fiona, who works as a Management Training Consultant, criss-crosses Alberta giving coaching sessions on behalf of the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT). Her travels have helped her to form a number of opinions that may run counter to some of those expressed at Wednesday Night on such topics as the pernicious effects of the tar sands and the need to give subsidies to the dairy industry; as she is always well documented and offers refreshing views (but don’t think that she is a Stephen Harper fan), we look forward to her lively participation this week.

Certainly, we will not lack for topics, although this early in the week, we hesitate to flag items which may have been surpassed by events before Wednesday.

The world is not tranquil.
Italian opera has now replaced Greek drama on the sovereign debt charts. With the departure of Signor Berlusconi (according to an AP report: “protesters uncorked sparkling wine and danced in a conga line, shouting “We’re free!” Several dozen singers and classical musicians – complete with music stands and chairs – performed Handel’s Alleluia” – how gloriously Italian, although a little Verdi might have been more appropriate), the repair of Italy’s economy should be in the hands of technocrat Mario Monti (a “reserved economist with little in common with colourful Silvio Berlusconi”) ; but all is not settled and by some accounts Berlusconi is not going gentle into that good night.

Syria’s spat with the Arab League is escalating. At least one source suggests that Syria’s suspension from the Arab League, along with the explosions at Iranian revolutionary Guards bases have sparked renewed fears of Middle East war. Syria is now asking for an Arab League Summit. And there are other concerns, including both the prevalence of armed and uncontrollable militia in Libya and smuggled Libyan arms in neighbouring states. Seeking a brighter note, we have taken refuge in the Christian Science Monitor’s upbeat report Tunisia’s democracy blooms as model for Arab Spring

The U.S.
We did not watch Saturday’s Republican debate which revealed, not unsurprisingly, that the candidates don’t always get their facts straight, e.g. Mitt Romney proposed hauling China in front of the WTO for currency manipulation. We are growing very tired of these exercises which are neither instructive nor entertaining – even when they produce a Rick Perry oops moment. Given the quality of the current crop, they are actually quite depressing.
On a related matter, some of you may not have seen the story on the de-bunking of the GOP’s ‘uncertainty’ talking point. Seems “it has nothing to do with government regulations or taxes on millionaires. It’s an uncertainty driven squarely by consumers and small-businesses who are worried about their short-term financial prospects.” Tony Deutsch takes issue with the term ‘uncertainty’, suggesting that ‘overwhelming pessimism’ is what the author is after; he is certainly correct, however we respectfully submit that it is not the author, but the Republicans who are using the term.
Finally, on the subject of the U.S. economy, we would recommend that all Republican candidates read and absorb the contents of Debt and Dumb on the basis on which Alexander Hamilton shaped America’s fiscal policy.

Narrowly escaping scrutiny last Wednesday (even had we known, we were too busy with externalities) was the announcement that U.S. to Delay Decision on Pipeline Until After Election which has set off a flurry of reactions including Mr. Flaherty’s slightly petulant pronouncement Keystone delay could kill project – what we really don’t like in this story is the (to us unseemly) role of former Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins, who is identified as having lobbied on behalf of the Canadian oil industry. But that’s what we get when political appointees and not career diplomats represent the (any) country. Much more alarming to some is that Canada may now forge ahead with the Enbridge pipeline to Kitimat.
[Update on Keystone TransCanada backs new route to keep Keystone alive]
Returning from the G20 in Cannes, Mr. Harper paused in Ottawa to lay a wreath on 11 November before flying to Hawaii for a meeting of APEC. We are not quite sure of the APEC outcomes (other than an expressed desire to form a “united front to prop up economic growth despite divisions over trade and currency policies as they face a common threat from Europe’s debt crisis”), but are encouraged that Canada has asked to join the TPP (TransPacific Partnership), despite the fact that the government refuses to budge on its supply management system for fewer than 20,000 dairy and poultry farmers. This could, we presume, take Wednesday Night into a major debate on the correctness of these subsidies and back to Professor Pigou? (See WN 1549)

Discussion last week of the future of the Liberal Party might have benefitted from the National Post piece on Mike Crawley, candidate for the Liberal Party presidency
The latest (DUMB) political correctness involves the wearing of the red poppy at work – read and weep.

Close to home, we ask if you are watching the evolving story of Arthur Porter, CEO of the MUHC and civilian chief of the Security Intelligence Review Committee (what on earth qualified him for that post?) – we are sickened by the story and feel helpless. Any suggestions?

Note: We are always delighted by the responses of Wednesday Nighters to news items that we send out to individuals/groups with a specific interest and relevant qualifications in a topic. Recently there has been a lively exchange on Energy markets or energy governance? which we have posted in the hope that others will join in.

In conclusion, to reprise the black humour of our friend Michel’s title of “Someday Funnies” – possibly, someday we will look back on all of this and find it funny!

Some notes for your calendar: See Scrapbook for details
Monday, November 14 at 6:30pm
The CIC presents Conflict or Cooperation? The Geopolitics of the Arctic
A discussion with Michael Byers about his research on Canada’s policy on Arctic sovereignty

Tuesday, November 15 at 6:00pm
Steven Lightfoot
will road test his 25-minute talk on Energy, Security and Social Justice
Basement of Brutopia brewpub, 1219 Crescent
Space is limited, so please contact Steven at (514) 830-7838 or

Friday & Saturday, November 18-19
Adam Daifallah recommends
Cambridge House Montreal Investment Conference (focus on mining)

Monday, November 21 at 7:30pm, the Atwater Library
The Montreal Press Club presents Beryl Wajsman public lecture on Will the Québec government plan compromise a free press?
The Quebec government is considering introducing an accreditation requirement for persons to be licensed as “Professional Journalists”. Christine St.Pierre, the Quebec Minister of Culture is drawing up a bill, based on a report of former Radio Canada journalist Dominique Payette. What are the goals and dangers?

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