Wednesday Night #1761

Written by  //  December 2, 2015  //  Wednesday Nights  //  Comments Off on Wednesday Night #1761

We were delighted to welcome Andrew Caddell  from Ottawa after a long absence. Andrew, who has been has been a reporter and broadcaster in Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary, St. John’s and Geneva is notable for three very distinct passions – his abiding interest in foreign affairs (he has worked for both the UN in Europe and Asia and Foreign Affairs); his devotion to his beautiful and lovingly restored family home in Kamouraska; and his passion for hockey which is seemingly genetic. He has just published  The Goal: Stories About Our National Passion which will be launched at the Montreal West Public Library, 45 Westminster Ave. S., on Dec. 10 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.  Andrew introduced Jennifer Crane, political and government relations consultant and LPC activist, who has served as a VP of the Quebec Women’s Liberal Commission and as Vice-President (English) of the Liberal Party of Canada (Quebec). She now works with Équipe Denis Coderre.

A lively discussion that somehow never focused on the Paris Climate Change COP.
Andrew described in some detail several chapters of his book and encouraged everyone to come to the book launch next Friday in Montreal West. He also spoke about a project that he is working on regarding the security of Canadian missions. In the past, the missions designated high security risks were usually in non-Western countries where there was political and social unrest if not outright warfare. Today, given recent terrorist attacks, those designations apply to locations formerly deemed low-risk, e.g. Paris, London, Madrid.
Julien Feldman discussed the forthcoming Quebec legislation designed to address the plight of the school boards: “operated for generations in defiance of parent demands – they are finally being junked….
the current boards are now obsolete. Many of Quebec’s elected boards simply had a hard time focusing on students and education, being obsessed with internecine bureaucratic culture. At the English school board, the chairman became mired in an unseemly civil war with parent representatives and the board lost a third of its students.” School boards will remain, but their councils of elected commissioners that oversees board operations are to be transformed into school councils, composed of parents, school personnel and members of the community.
Parents will have the option of launching elections to vote in part of the new school councils, notably the members of the community, although they wouldn’t be obliged to exercise that option. That’s where the government’s compromise “parallel system” comes in. Those options would exist in both French and English school boards. (Montreal Gazette Quebec Liberals have proposed a compromise on school boards)

Diana raised the latest LPC fund-raising gimmick, an email from the new Finance Minister, Bill Morneau, urging people to donate up to $250 for the chance to have dinner with him: “just you, me, your guests and great conversation over a delicious meal. I can’t wait!” Most agreed that the constant barrage of fundraising messages from the LPC, sometimes 2 or 3 a day, are a total turnoff. Diana wondered if it would be too cheeky to counter the email with an invitation to Wednesday Night. The consensus was that it would be a great opportunity for Mr. Morneau to meet with ‘real people’ not all of whom are Liberal supporters. [Update: Liberals cancel fundraising promotion to win dinner with Bill Morneau — Cancellation comes after ethics commissioner Mary Dawson said she was looking into the fundraiser.]

Who would have thought that Climate Change could push Terrorism off the front pages, or at least from above the fold? But with the opening of COP21, that is what is happening.
In an eerie coincidence, on the eve of the conference, it was announced that Maurice Strong had died. As John Ralston Saul eloquently said (Maurice Strong: Environmental movement loses a founding father) “With the death of Maurice Strong, the last of the mythic founders of the international environmental movement is gone. With a strange dramatic irony somehow characteristic of the man, this loss comes only three days before the latest, increasingly desperate attempt to force a serious deal on global warming, among other things, gets under way – the latest reluctant attempt by world leaders to rise to the challenge of saving their citizens and the planet.” Not all commentators were as fulsome in their praise given that, as Peter Foster wrote The man who shaped the climate agenda in Paris, Maurice Strong, leaves a complicated legacy.
The first days of the COP were taken up with addresses by the numerous heads of state/government (147 and counting) – all publicly optimistic, even as some threw up assorted ambushes for their negotiators. Nonetheless, CBC’s highly respected Nahlah Ayed reports From ‘pipe dream’ to possibility: Optimism growing at Paris climate change conference. The Canadian delegation is large and features federal, provincial and indigenous leaders, making for a very attractive family photo. Justin Trudeau’s speech generally met with approval, although it was long on “Canada is back” and short on specifics. For specifics, we recommend the op-ed coauthored by Désirée McGraw and Johannah Bernstein Seven things Canada needs to accomplish in Paris.

Now, that the The tumult and the shouting dies;  The Captains and the Kings depart, the negotiators get to work. It won’t be easy. For every enthusiastic and hopeful individual, there are dozens who, for whatever reason, are bound and determined to foil their best efforts. Not to mention that some polls indicate that Public support for tough climate deal ‘declines’. Word of caution: the survey was conducted in January and February 2015.
Meanwhile, back home, a new study from Université de Montréal and the Trottier Energy Institute shows that Canadian attitudes are somewhat ambivalent. The report, entitled, “Feeling the Heat? The Paradox of Public Opinion and Climate Change Policy in Canada: Toward a New Research Agenda”  reveals that “Though a majority see evidence of a global warming trend, few feel personally at risk from a changing climate, … Moreover, Canadians are generally unprepared to personally assume some of the costs associated with a transition towards decarbonised energy.” … [and] while a majority (67%) [of those interviewed] attribute at least some human responsibility to rising temperatures, only about half subscribe to the scientific consensus that rising temperatures are primarily human caused. “The question of cause is an important nuance,” said Professor Lachapelle. “People aren’t going to alter their behaviour or support greenhouse gas reduction policies if they question humanity’s role in a warming planet”.

Turkey’s spat with Russia continues to escalate and with consequences that may not have foreseen [Russia hits back at Turkey by changing Syria ‘game’] including support for the The Syrian Kurdish forces (YPG) which does not bode well for Turkey’s entrenched anti-Kurd stance. The face-off is heating up with Russian charges that Turkey shot down the Russian jet fighter “to protect its secret oil trade with ISIS.” Published a week ago, this interview with Mark Galeotti A Russia expert explains how Putin will likely respond to his downed plane contains some good insights into the fraught Russo-Turkish relationship.
Meanwhile the news that Turkey has promised to help stem the flow of migrants to Europe in return for cash, visas and renewed talks on joining the EU has been greeted with varying degrees of dismay and anger. Former Belgian PM Guy Verhofstadt is scathing in his opinion piece for Politico Europe bribes Turkey – Throwing money at Ankara won’t resolve this refugee crisis. One of our European friends comments “I find it distasteful and alarming to watch Merkel and other EU leaders eating from the blood-stained hand of Erdogan. To sort out the partly self-inflicted migration mess, they now promise Turkey not only huge sums of money, but visa-free entry to EU including eventual membership.This will prove in time to be the last nail in the coffin of my beloved European Union.” Another counters “It is distasteful, of course. But what, if it is also Machiavellian? Turkey will be required to make a number of improvements in its legislation, administration, human rights, etc. In the end just one member country can prevent the Turkish membership.”
For those more curious about the debate over Turkey’s possible membership in the EU, Arguments for and against Turkey’s EU membership is a good place to start.

We are not quite sure why Thomas Piketty‘s new argument,  spelled out recently in Le Monde inspired such a sensational headline from The Washington Post: This might be the most controversial theory for what’s behind the rise of ISIS. The blogger states that “Piketty writes that the Middle East’s political and social system has been made fragile by the high concentration of oil wealth into a few countries with relatively little population.” This is hardly a revelation. Nor is the fact that “within those monarchies (oil sheikdoms), a small slice of people controls most of the wealth, while a large  (sic)— including women and refugees — are kept in a state of “semi-slavery.” Those economic conditions, he says, have become justifications for jihadists, along with the casualties of a series of wars in the region perpetuated by Western powers.

Very sad to learn that Bruce Anderson is leaving CBC’s At Issue in order to avoid perceptions of bias, now that his daughter, Kate Purchase, is Justin Trudeau’s director of communications Actually, it’s about ethics in political journalism. We have a suggestion – get rid of Rex Murphy and give Mr. Anderson that slot. We hope that in any event he will continue to write measured pieces like his latest Most Canadians see Trudeau through a telescope, not a microscope – “Media scrutiny of politics can feel like it’s handled with a microscope. Meanwhile, the audience for political news – (the Twitterati excepted) – like a telescope view. From a greater distance, details matter less. Only big change is noticeable.” Case in point – the fuss over the Trudeau nannies – while, admittedly, the optics aren’t good, the truth is that they are paid out of the household budget and there is no doubt that their services are necessary. Good piece in Chatelaine on the topic. Presumably the chattering (twittering?) classes have pounced on this as plans for the refugees appear to be in hand.  Immigration Minister John McCallum has promised  that he and other federal officials will hold weekly briefings on the resettlement project every Wednesday from now on. The only looming problem appears to be the need for air transport – the holiday season is not a time when the airlines are seeking charter contracts.

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