Wednesday Night #1843

Written by  //  July 5, 2017  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

To add to Gerald Ratzer’s eclectic collection of historical and fun facts:
Founding fathers Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and James Monroe all died on July 4 –  Jefferson and Adams within hours of one another.
Downton Abbey’s real-life alter-ego’s role in founding Canada
and finally, the astonishing List of international observances and its companion piece List of awareness days and they don’t even include National Days. In the latter category, we discovered that 5 July is Venezuela’s Independence Day. Sadly, there is little to celebrate in that country at present.

Canada Day and July Fourth (to be closely followed by Bastille Day) generate much serious and light-hearted commentary, some sober reflections and even some good advice.
Several writers recall the summer of Expo 67 with nostalgia and contrast the mood of the country with that of today:

Andrew Cohen: Captains of complacency – What if Canada is wasted on Canadians?
Having visited Expo 34 times as a starry-eyed sixth-grader, I was overcome by sentimentality and wistfulness by the display at the [Canadian] museum [of History]*. Why? Because Expo 67 could not happen in today’s Canada. Because we don’t aspire to much anymore. Because, on our 150th birthday, Canada has many fine qualities but ambition – a coursing, creative ambition – is no longer among them.
*
Why is it not the Museum of Canadian History?

Ian Austen: Canada Is Turning 150. Oh, to Be 100 Again
“World fairs may well be outdated in the 21st century, and this year’s 150th anniversary celebrations offer nothing like the thrill of Expo 67. Not many 11-year-olds are likely to be all that excited about the red leather couch that is touring the country, one of the government’s “signature projects” for the anniversary.”

Terry Glavin: Canada 150 unhappiness? Blame 1967.
It was a ‘giddy, insane’ year. And the events it set off are at the centre of the national debate unfolding today.
(Maclean’s) In his just-published book, The Year Canadians Lost their Minds and Found their Country: The Centennial of 1967, author Tom Hawthorn makes the case that 1967 is the year we should be thinking about: “The Canada of 2017 owes more to decisions made in the wake of 1967 than to the negotiations conducted in 1867.”

Not all of the 150 celebrations are boring. Have you been following the saga of Toronto’s giant Rubber Ducky? Giant Rubber Duck Arrives In Toronto After Causing A Flap
Joe Schwarcz supports the project in this semi-humourous video in which he relates ducks to quackery.
And don’t miss
‘Places you’ll only visit due to random misfortune’: an alt guide to Canada’s cities. Montreal comes out pretty well by comparison with the others.
Maclean’s A Two-Four of Facts for Canada 150 reveals some entertaining – and sometimes surprising – Canadian attitudes.

Far less entertaining is the news that Montreal is paying 41 per cent of the $1 billion the 375th is costing. By contrast, Canada 150’s budget is 500-million funded by the federal government. A quick survey of legacy projects gives the 150th a gold star in contrast to Mr. Coderre’s $39.5 million illumination of the Jacques-Cartier bridge, building a new amphitheatre in Parc Jean-Drapeau (we have ranted about that elsewhere) for $73.4 million, and a $78-million update for the Old Port’s Alexandra Pier. As far as we can ascertain, potholes remain untended.

The two Davids (Jones and Kilgour) present their characteristic different perspectives on Canada @ 150. David Jones‘ slightly condescending view (Canada at 150, With Satisfaction if not Excitement) of the celebrations -a sentiment shared, incidentally, by a number of Canadians- leads  to a reflection on Canada-US relations summed up in “the trenchant phrase attributed to John Bartlet Brebner: ‘Americans are benignly ignorant of Canada. Canadians are malevolently well informed about the United States.’” David Kilgour (Canada at 150 Should Celebrate, and Accept Its Past) prefers to celebrate the positive influence of immigrants to Canada. However, recognizing that “It is also true that many Canadians, like others in the United States and around the world, sense that their voices are not being heard”, he draws attention to the need to address the plight of “Indigenous groups from the Nisga’a in B.C. to the Mi’kmaq on the east coast [who] have experienced the wounds from colonization.” He argues that Canada needs to accept its past in order to build its future. “Accepting our past means teaching our history in a way that reflects the truth about how we became a nation. immigrants need to fully understand what Canada is and why Indigenous Peoples deserve and are owed the utmost consideration in the construction of the future of Canada.”

And CBC panelists debate whether the nature of Canada-U.S. relations has changed as Paul Krugman sounds a warning in Oh! What a Lovely Trade War.

So now, time to heed Don Pitts?
Party’s over Canada — time to buckle down and invest for the next 150: Don Pittis
If the country plays to its advantages, it can become a global economic leader
(CBC) “What makes Canada’s natural resources so valuable is smart, confident, educated people working with them, together. By investing in people, we are creating the most valuable resource of all for making Canada an economic world leader in the next 150 years.”
Transport Minister and Westmount -NDG’s favorite MP Marc Garneau announced today that Ottawa will spend $2.1B on transportation corridors and more, with the aim of improving access to international markets. We confess that we were unaware of the Trade and Transportation Corridors Initiative until now, but it seems like an excellent infrastructure investment.

The Washington Post analyzes The evolution of Donald Trump, as seen in his Fourth of July tweets over the years nine years since he started on Twitter. Far more edifying is Thomas Jefferson’s powerful last public letter reminds us what Independence Day is all about
“all eyes are opened, or opening to the rights of man. the general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth that the mass of mankind has not been born, with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately by the grace of god. these are grounds of hope for others. for ourselves let the annual return of this day, for ever refresh our recollections of these rights and an undiminished devotion to them.”

Trump’s Fourth of July speech was mercifully brief and he did not veer off the text that he was reading.  Let us hope that he maintains the same restraint at the G20 that starts on Friday. And of course, all eyes will be on his first meeting with Putin (or is it really his first?). There is a lot for them to discuss including North Korea ’s launch of an ICBM. We wish we felt more confident of Donald Trump’s diplomatic abilities (of which we have seen no evidence). Blustering is not going to get him very far in light of the result of the meeting between Putin and Xi Jinping  China-Russia diplomatic double act exposes Trump’s crudeness. ABC News reports that “Moscow has built on the anticipation by releasing an extensive, if predictable, “agenda” for the meeting” while “Trump is not likely to put together an agenda for the meeting because it’s expected to be brief. A senior administration official said issues pertaining to Ukraine and Syria are likely to dominate the meeting’s agenda.”

Meanwhile, Emmanuel Macron has been ruffling some feathers with his promise to bring about a “profound transformation” of France and Europe, calling for an end to defeatism and “cynicism” in a rare address to both houses of parliament.  Macron had summoned members of parliament and senators to sit in a joint congress at the sumptuous palace at Versailles to listen to his speech – a gesture which has never before happened at the start of a French presidency and which confirmed his tendency to use regal and majestic symbols to stress what he has promised would be a “revolution” in France. While the setting has been criticized, we think that his proposals to streamline the government by slashing the number of members of parliament by one third may be pretty upsetting for those members – does this mean redistricting for all of France?  On the other hand, his profound commitment to the European Union is a refreshing change.
Meanwhile, if you missed it, enjoy the Quartz analysis of the official portrait of the new young president – it would appear that he is a micromanager, at least with respect to his image.

In local news, Beryl Wajsman is running for Mayor of Westmount and filed his papers on 4 July. After so many years of Peter Trent’s acclamations Westmounters can look forward to a lively campaign.

Finally, some will remember that we gave Tony Deutsch Don Johnston’s new book MISSING THE TIDE  to read (and possibly review) over the summer. Herewith his delightful response:

Donald J. Johnston was born in 1936 and grew up in a house without indoor plumbing. Twenty-two years later he was the  Gold Medalist in his graduating Law Class at McGill. He practiced commercial and tax law  in Montreal with a large firm, eventually to strike out with two of his colleagues to start their own. The eclectic political atmosphere of Johnston, Heenan, and Blaikie may well be illustrated by the fact that eventually Johnston became national president of the Liberal Party, and Blaikie rose to the same position with the Conservatives. Johnston eventually secured the nomination for what then was the most secure Liberal riding in Canada, and served as a cabinet minister under Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Subsequently he was elected, as the first North American to hold that post, to serve for ten  years, as the Secretary –General of the OECD. That organization, with a very general mandate, is charged to keep international statistics, and address questions of prosperity and development from an international perspective.
With his experience and background, plus the recent collapse of the Soviet Empire, Johnson took up the task in the belief of a world progressing towards general peace, democracy and economic development. The task was to define problems, and to coordinate the actions of governments to proceed together towards the shared goals. While some situations are complex, properly staffed committees will find feasible solutions, and governments will carry them out. The world is irretrievably moving towards becoming a better place.
The book is a narrative of how Johnston ran into obstacles, and discovered that not only is progress not inevitable, but on key questions sometimes there is none. Still worse, one can point at clear cases of regression. The final straw, clearly woven into an almost finished manuscript, was the election of President Trump.
Johnston worked as hard as humanly possible under these circumstances. His experiential reward was a plethora of meaningful  encounters with people whose name most of us know only  from the newspapers . These included statesmen, politicians, senior civil servants, and that 1% of economists whose names are familiar from the media. Johnston has widely read Economics, but perhaps to his credit, does not claim to be an economist. If he had, I would raise here the question about the connection between the economics of climate change as explained by  the theory of public goods. The book is well written, easy to read, without compromising on the content. It is highly recommended to the intelligent general reader.

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