Wednesday Night #1663

Written by  //  January 15, 2014  //  Wednesday Nights  //  Comments Off on Wednesday Night #1663


EVERYONE’S BACK TO WORK OR WHATEVER  and we can again enjoy the spectacle of the Charbonneau Commission hearings (Charbonneau Commission resumes where it left off: focused on powerful labour unions) – appropriately underscored by Monday’s news that concrete fell onto a car from the Henri-Bourassa overpass. In fairness, as of this writing, it has not been established whether the concrete came from the overpass itself, or “fell off a truck” (an unfortunate choice of words). Still, it is a vivid reminder of the problems with our aging infrastructure and less-than-perfect construction oversight.

If that is not enough entertainment for you, the Quebec parliamentary  hearings on the Charter (Bill 60) opened on Tuesday. Some 250 organizations and individuals are submitting briefs, with the first being the Société d’histoire de Charlevoix (Quebec National Assembly prepares for charter hearings)

A stunningly perceptive  Montreal Gazette headline alerts us to the fact that The Charter hearings will be highly political.
So far, Chantal Hébert has once-again outclassed other commentators in her January 10 column Get ready for Quebec values charter debate replay: Hébert wherein she reminds her readers in ROC that … the PQ government’s preference is to wait to be dragged in[to] court, ideally from the perspective of sovereigntist optics by an unpopular federal government.

Have you been following the somewhat related issue (at least according to Andrew Coyne (York accommodation and Quebec values charter aren’t opposites, in fact they are the same) of the flap at York over (un)reasonable accommodation? You may have missed the Beaverton’s take on the matter York University Dean supports student’s religious right to Aztec human sacrifice.

Kimon Valaskakis‘ nuanced view of  Bill 60, which he has expressed previously on Wednesday Night, was published as an op-ed Opinion: A Tower of Babel society doesn’t work. This should stir the debate pot!

Whenever we think of Kimon, we immediately think OECD. Thus, we call your attention to one of the most fascinating interviews we have read, the one with Sylvia Ostry recently published on
The Making of Summitry — An interview with Sylvia Ostry
( In the forward to the book The Sterling Public Servant, David A. Dodge writes, “Perhaps no Canadian economist’s contributions to public policy have been as wide-ranging as Sylvia Ostry’s.” Sylvia’s long and storied career took her from academia to Statistics Canada to the Economic Council of Canada to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development to the Department of External Affairs and many other positions besides. Five times she served as Canada’s sherpa – the personal representative of the prime minister – at the G7 summits. OpenCanada sat down with Sylvia to talk about the creation of that institution, Canada’s place within it, and the future of global economic governance.

It’s Davos time once again and it appears that the public – or those who bother – is less and less enchanted  with what one observer calls A corporate boondoggle at a Swiss ski resort with leaders of third world dictatorships and criminal entities We share the general disenchantment with a good idea gone wildly out of control. And we are particularly skeptical  when the mastermind of this extraordinary display of excess smugly  informs the world that “Ultimately, however, the path to sustained growth requires not just new policies, but also a new mindset. Our societies must become more entrepreneurial, more focused on establishing gender parity, and more rooted in social inclusion. There simply is no other way to return the global economy to a path of strong and sustained growth.” (Klaus Schwab: The Global Economy in 2014)

We wonder how the eminent – and not-so-eminent persons gathered at Davos will deal with thorny issues like the TPP, which is under fire from a number of critics like Gordon Lafer who questions why developed nations should sign a trade agreement that enables “a kind of Potemkin democracy, in which citizens are free to choose their flags and holidays but cannot afford to enact any laws that might reduce international investors’ profits. Workers’ wages in the US, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and other developed countries would be inexorably competed down toward those of lower-wage trading partners, while developing-country workers would find it increasingly difficult – even in nominal democracies – to improve their standard of living.”

Is it just us, or is there a tangible flurry of stories about politicians’ misdemeanors, led of course by the revelations regarding Frisky François, as the Daily Mail has dubbed him, that rock star of French politics, “France’s most unlikely swordsman since Inspector Clouseau“, the less-than-charismatic François Hollande who, it is reported has been cheating on his (possibly pregnant) mistress/First Lady. Who would have thought that the chattering classes of la Grande République would be so scandalized by liaisons dangereuses?
We cannot help but wonder how a similar escapade at 24 Sussex might enhance the image of Canada’s PM … it will NOT happen. Instead, we poor Canadians are fed taudry tidbits about Dean Del Mastro’s cousin. The never tongue-tied Murray Dobbin believes that the root of the problem is the objective of running a government like a business. He says: At first blush this may seem like an innocent precept because, as its advocates were careful to frame it, it could mean little more than just running things more efficiently. But running government like a business begs the question of just what business you are talking about. The mom-and-pop grocery or Goldman Sachs? The local shoe store or Lehman Brothers? The local eatery or Enron? It does make a difference.
Meanwhile south of the border, this week it is all about Chris Christie.
We do like the Atlantic’s opinion that Chris Christie Was Never Going to Be President Anyway, reminding us:
Think for a moment who makes up the Republican Party, and most specifically the part of the GOP base that dominates the presidential nomination process. Think about the people they seriously considered for their party’s presidential nomination last time around. Think Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, and Newt Gingrich. Now, quickly, think Christie. Now think Sesame Street: “One of these things is not like the others; one of these things just doesn’t belong.” It’s laughable that the party that has previously seriously considered some fairly inconceivable candidates as worthy of the GOP nomination would suddenly reverse course and head over to a center-right candidate such as Christie.
Andrew Coyne believes that Chris Christie, Stephen Harper demonstrate how little we expect from our leaders – that It is about the culture of politics — the values, the standards, the expectations, the rewards and penalties. And it will not change until we change that culture. Which is to say: If we want leaders who take responsibility, we have to accept our own.

Parliament is still in recess  and we can only hope that while the MPs meet with their constituents in their ridings, they are getting an earful about the unremitting denigration  of scientific input to policy making . Those of us who live and vote in Westmount-Ville-Marie are blessed to have as our MP Marc Garneau,  who fully understands the dangers of the drastic cuts implemented by the Harper government, but many, many,  other citizens are not so fortunate.
If you have not watched it, do see :
The Fifth Estate: The Silence of the Labs
“Scientists across the country are expressing growing alarm that federal cutbacks to research programs monitoring areas that range from climate change and ocean habitats to public health will deprive Canadians of crucial information”
Not least of the concerns is the closing of important libraries. We are glad to see that the Canadian Library Association is asking for proof that digitizing of the valuable collections is indeed happening. (Nation’s Library Advocate Raises Questions about Federal ‘Culling’

As this is a pretty gloomy agenda, we add two uplifting items:
Dance Me To The End of Love – Leonard Cohen
A favorite Leonard Cohen is beautifully matched with a dance sequence from Vincente Minnelli’s movie The Band Wagon (1953), with Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse.
And Some nostalgic photos to remind us all of how far our city has come
Montréal, il y a 50 ans


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