Wednesday Night #1623

Written by  //  April 9, 2013  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

We are delighted that our OWN Peter Trent will return to Wednesday Night after too long an absence to talk about his adventures as a published author, and of course, municipal politics writ large. On the latter topic our first question to him: as the inventor ofPolymerGranite and former owner of PBI/Plastibeton Inc, what does he think of Louise Harel’s suggestion that Montreal should create its own asphalt company. Is this not an opportunity to create a new proprietary material that Montreal could not only use, but market to other northern countries? [Tony Deutsch  comments We now have ample evidence that Montreal cannot run Montreal, which is hardly a convincing argument to have Montreal go into business to compete with the private sector. Does Mme. Harel have other fertile ideas? Perhaps these could be gathered into a thin volume, and marketed by Montreal, as I assume no other publisher would be interested.]
Could this be a new career when he decides he has been Mayor of Westmount for long enough? Or would he rather become premier (or whatever title) of Montreal as a separate province (we prefer city-state, but still wonder how the necessary clean-up of politics, budgets and above-all infrastructure could be accomplished)?
On the topic of Bill 14 and the bilingual status of municipalities, Cote St Luc presents a succinct argument in this charmingly executed video http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=7HEbGs0nI2k#!

Another lapsed Wednesday Nighter, Jeremy Jonas, will be with us, introducing his colleague and friend John Knechtel, a man of many interests who is currently developing a new not-for-profit initiative in impact investing. His impressive profile indicates that he has “20+ years of experience inventing and producing stuff. Books and brands, business plans, new companies and product lines, exhibitions, festivals, and conferences.”

As we all deplore the decline of Montreal, the rampant corruption and the impact of Bill 14 and the language fights on the city’s public image, thus the economy and tourism, it is interesting to look at a bevy of recent stories about the problems of cities at the opposite end of the scale. Vanity Fair’s A Tale of Two Londons and the New York Times’ A Slice of London So Exclusive Even the Owners Are Visitors highlight the unattractive aspects of expensive real estate that only the Über Rich can afford, while Forbes contents itself with a rundown of The World’s Most Expensive Cities For Luxury Real Estate complete with square footage costs. The London stories, raise a topic for a PhD thesis (as Tony so often recommends): would more affordable (by standards of the ‘moderately rich’) real estate attract wealthy people who would actually live there and contribute to the local economy?

In the face of all of this largely soulless development, it is comforting to examine the wonders across the Channel In Paris, Mixing the Contemporary With the Classics. We particularly love the Ministry of Culture building.

Speaking of the Rich and (In)famous, some of whom no doubt own one or more residences,  we presume everyone has been watching the murky story of the tax havens that has come to light, thanks to the work of the International Consortium Of Investigative Journalists [Secrecy For Sale: Inside The Global Offshore Money Maze]. Naturally, there is a Canadian component, including the involvement of the somewhat unsavoury Tony Merchant, husband of (Liberal) Senator Pana Merchant [truly bizarre story about the Merchants: In 2006, Pana Merchant, then a senator, sued Saskatchewan Government Insurance for $1,450 in damages the family dog had inflicted on their son’s car. …] Much gnashing of teeth from the Feds, but one wonders how much cracking down is possible given the recent cuts to the CRA, e.g. 3,000 staff.

Speaking of cuts to staff, we are interested in Wednesday Nighters’ reactions to the news about RBC’s replacing of Investor Services IT staff by foreign workers – is this simply a necessary cost-cutting reflecting market pressures of the global economy, or are there deeper security implications if the jobs are eventually to be outsourced to India? It’s all very well for RBC to maintain that this is an efficiency and cost-cutting measure, but what about the social costs to the country? Is it legal? The minister says no.  “The rules are very clear. You cannot displace Canadians to hire people from abroad,” said Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. But will a conservative government seriously move against Big Business, especially, a Big Bank? What happens when CNOOC brings in Chinese workers to operate the tar sands? Oh, that’s right, there already have been some. On the other hand, maybe all countries should begin massive outsourcing – a sort of mass (unforced) em/immigration whereby countries could swap large segments of the population and thus governments could rid themselves of all those troublesome outspoken worker/voters, as ‘temporary workers’ would have no participation in political life. Your thoughts?

The Liberal Leadership race has concluded with the ‘showcase’ event in Toronto. It has been a long eight months with the outcome pretty predictable from the start Now the voting starts and we are curious to see how many of the 127,000 eligible will take part with the conclusion so foregone. And when the shouting dies down, as Tim Harper of The Star puts it: Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau’s challenges just beginning

A last word on politics: a must read piece in the Globe & Mail that illustrates how a feisty voter (read ‘Mother’) of any political persuasion with a bit of time can foil the hapless individual conducting surveys of voter intentions. The opening sentence conveys the tenor of the piece: It’s a wonder to me that the Conservative Party of Guelph has managed to survive the quietly obdurate presence of my mother in the heart of town.

Lots of focus this week on Canada, but we are not neglecting events in the rest of the world, especially the Korean Peninsula. We have been updating the website daily, if not hourly.
Although for the optimistic there are elements of that fine film The Mouse That Roared, most commentators and experts (NOT the same thing) are taking the situation very seriously. Be sure to check out this week’s debate: David (Jones) North Korea: Military Maneuvers Indicate a Legitimate Threat vs. David (Kilgour)  North Korea’s posturing merely reflects the country’s crumbling status Perhaps by Wednesday (10 04 13) we will have a clearer view as it seems that the number 9 is of particular significance to the Kim Dynasty.

The U.S. employment figures were the principal focus of the (depressing) David Brooks and Mark Shields segment of PBS Newshour on Friday. Neither offered much hope for short-term fixes, while both cited infrastructure spending and improvements to the education system as necessary long-term actions, ex. David Brooks “You increase training. You increase infrastructure spending. You get the education system, and mostly you devote less resources, fewer resources to the elderly and consumption on health care for the affluent, and much more to young families and young workers, and shift what’s turned into a — really a redistribution machine at the age scale.” Canada’s figures were no better and we don’t seem to have any better ideas of how to fix the situation.

An event for your calendar: the CIC Montreal branch, will host the Turkish Ambassador Tuncay Babalı for a talk on “Turkey’s Rise as a New Regional Power and Global Player”, April 29, 6-8pm at the Atwater Club. Details on the CIC website http://opencanada.org/event/turkeys-rise-as-a-new-regional-power-and-global-player/

This week’s feel-good story we owe to Anita Nowak, who asked that friends and family celebrating her birthday refrain from presents in favour of contributions to Room To Read. The daughter of one of her friends committed to raising $250 – the cost of sending one girl to school for a year. The result of Lily’s efforts was over $2,000 plus nearly $5K through her school!  The heart-warming story was celebrated on CBC and Lily was deservedly named Montrealer of the week. Not incidentally, John Wood, the founder of Room To Read will be speaking in Montreal later this spring – more to come.

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