Wednesday Night #1731

Written by  //  May 6, 2015  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

WOW! Alberta election 2015 results: NDP sweeps province in historic win
Very few people believed this would happen.
All of the political junkies were  in a heightened state of anticipation of the results of Tuesday’s Alberta elections, Can the PC dynasty defy their long odds? Andrew Coyne was doubtful “So while there is ample reason to be skeptical of predictions of an NDP majority — the party’s support is heavily concentrated in Edmonton, where a lot of its vote will be “wasted” racking up huge majorities rather than winning seats elsewhere, while on past form many of its supporters among the 18-34 cohort will not show up to vote — it seems hard to believe it will not at least emerge with a plurality. Though whether that means it will form a government is another question: there may be many a slip ’twixt that cup and lip.” Mayor Nenshi of Calgary suspected the PCs might win, perhaps a minority, but admits that he really doesn’t know. He also had nice things to say about Rachel Notley and Brian Jean.
It is a very long time since we have so many people so busy punditing about a provincial election (except for Quebec, of course). There are those who reminded us that polls don’t count, and those who counted polls with glee. And then, there will be weeks of thoughtful -and wordy- analysis of what went right/wrong, and what the implications are for October’s federal election. One thing is certain, Jim Prentice may never revover from this defeat – he has already resigned his seat.
Meantime, in Quebec, we  are witnessing the coronation of PKP (check out Martin Patriquin’s piece ‘Citizen Péladeau’: What will the PQ do with their Péladeau moment?). Thanks to our good friends at the Oxford & Cambridge group, last week we encountered and heard PKP’s very engaging rival, Alexandre Cloutier. Of course, he doesn’t have a chance, but we were impressed and hope that after the May 22 vote, we might entice him to a Wednesday Night.

Once Alberta’s fate is settled, we  will turn our full attention to Thursday’s elections in the UK. We confess to being more than a bit confused, so would welcome guidance. Our usual sources, the Guardian and the BBC have assume that we have more information than we have. Stratfor’s analysis How British Elections Represent the State of Europe is thoughtful, but not overly helpful. Quartz says the outcome could be the messiest in a generation.

The run-up to the 2016 U.S. elections will be entertaining for some time to come – the Republican field is not yet over-crowded, but what a bizarre collection of early-bird candidates, the latest being Carly Fiorina, who arrives with lots and lots of baggage. Maybe she could team up with Donald Trump?

Italy is not holding an election, but in anticipation of future ones, the  parliament has approved an election-rules overhaul,  part of a reform package spearheaded by prime minister Matteo Renzi, it aims to eliminate the instability written into the Italian political system, with its ever-changing coalitions and and governments. The party that wins the most votes will henceforth get an automatic majority in parliament. Wow, simplified elections in Italy? What is coming next, decorum in parliament?

Speaking of messy outcomes, the standoff between Greece and its creditors, especially the IMF, is discouraging. The Guardian reports that “as the European commission described discussions over the long weekend as constructive, albeit with more work to be done, one Greek minister criticised the International Monetary Fund’s “extreme” demands for austerity cuts. …  Eurozone finance ministers convene on 11 May, and negotiators have been in marathon talks to pave the way to an agreement that could be signed off at the meeting.  Athens confirmed on Monday that its finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, will represent Greece at those talks after reports last week that the outspoken economist had been sidelined when Greece’s negotiating team was reshuffled.” Is that good or bad? Stratfor’s piece The ‘Grexit’ Issue and the Problem of Free Trade makes the case that the underlying problem is one of comparative advantage(s) and guaranteed free trade within the European economic zone. What say our economists?

Finally, some good news from Nigeria where about 300 women and children have been rescued from their Boko Haram captors. These are not, however, the Chibok girls. And the stability of Nigeria remains questionable. Al Jazeera presents an array of views Nigeria’s future: Failed state or African superpower?

San Francisco is setting a great example as the city bans sale of small plastic water bottles on city property.Americans use 50 billion plastic water bottles a year, according to an anti-plastic bottle campaign Ban the Bottle, and just 23% of those are recycled. There are smaller towns that have imposed the ban, but San Francisco is the first big city to do so and we applaud the move. Montreal, on the other hand, has decided to regulate terrasses, requiring owners to set up at least 1.8 metres from the building and/orbuild strange wooden enclosures that protrude into the street (and eliminate parking spaces). The by-law has been on for a while but Hell hath no fury like our friend Beryl when his beloved Alexandre was forced to remove its chairs and tables. It’s a good thing that Beryl dropped out of the nomination race in Mount Royal, now he can devote his energies to fighting this bigger battle. We suspect it will be epic!

Worthwhile reads
Strengthening the Multilateral Institutions: A G20 Priority, by The Right Honourable Paul Martin
How Canada made the Koch brothers rich
and for those who are passionate about North American education issues
The Big Problem With the New SAT

Calendar Items
Guy Versailles
, who is Chairman of Relations publiques sans frontières (RPSF), advises that the organization is hosting a special breakfast on May 14th featuring Jean Charest, Pierre Marc Johnson and Raymond Chrétien, who will speak to Les défis du Québec et du Canada en Europe, Afrique et Asie.
Much further down the pike is the CFA’s October 29 dinner debate FACE-TO-FACE ON ECONOMIC POLICY KRUGMAN VS ROGOFF, moderated by Professor Christopher Ragan. Tickets for the cheap seats are $200 p/p which is pretty reasonable for Nobel laureates, no?

Wednesday Night authors at work
Writing in the MetropolitaIn, David Jones draws an intriguing parallel between the current debate over ‘free-range parenting’ vs ‘helicoptering’ and the national reluctance to accept combat deaths.
Céline Cooper‘s A free press in the information age is a thoughtful reflection on World Press Freedom Day and rightly calls attention to the suppression of that freedom in many parts of the world. She calls for a renewed commitment to “support those who dare to ask questions, to challenge, who refuse to serve as mouthpieces for tyrants, radical clerics, unethical corporations or corrupt authorities. Quality journalism lays bare the truth, informs opinion and debate, and contributes to the circulation of ideas in a free society. It strives to expose inequality, corruption and abuse of power. All people must be free to create and share information without fear.” We wish, however, that her allotment of words were large enough to allow her to examine the other side of the coin – the frequent irresponsibility of both established and new media, as editors and fact checkers disappear, victims of corporate cost-cutting.

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