Wednesday Night #1929

Written by  //  March 6, 2019  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

It’s hard not to make this Wednesday all about SNC-Lavalin/Canadian governance/Justin Trudeau, but there are other matters that deserve serious consideration.
However, top of the minds of our ‘fellow Canadians’ has to be the fallout generated by Jody Wilson-Raybould’s resignation. It has not been a pretty picture and aside from the politics, the image for Canada abroad is pretty devastating.
Not to mention that China has taken advantage of the chaos in Ottawa to question Canada’s position on the extradition to the U.S. of Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou China invokes SNC-Lavalin controversy to advocate for Huawei exec’s release; at an individual level, we can only deplore the current situation of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who have become pawns in the on-going confrontation (China accuses 2 detained Canadians of stealing state secrets days after Canada says it will proceed with US extradition request for Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou).
With the news that U.S.-China trade talks [are] progressing well via video conference: USDA official, may we hope that there will be some alleviation of China’s retaliation? In case it slipped your mind, “Trump said in December that he would possibly intervene in the criminal trial if it could help him to secure a trade deal with China.” (Huawei CFO appears in Canadian court, her lawyer raises Trump comments on case)

In another move, a Chinese customs document dated March 1 says the country has cancelled Winnipeg-based agricultural handler Richardson International’s registration. That means the company is forbidden to export canola seeds to the country. This is not a minor issue, Canada exported more than $5 billion worth of canola last year, and almost half of it was destined for the Chinese market — almost five million metric tonnes worth, according to the Canadian Canola Growers Association.

Andrew Caddell writes in The Hill Times “The tendency of Canadians to “schadenfreude” in the failure of Canadians businesses is not good for our collective psyche or our capacity to build an economy beyond being “hewers of wood and drawers of water.” While our natural resource industries are of enormous value, we have to grow global companies in technology and services to have an independent economy. Beyond the very serious constitutional issues involved, it is within this context I view the controversy over SNC-Lavalin: when it comes to economic interests, just as all countries do, there are times government should support Canadian multinationals.” He goes on to cite an op-ed piece by Matthew Bellamy What happens when Canadian companies stop flying the flag. Watching Gerry Butts’ testimony on Wednesday morning, we were struck by the number of times he referred to the 9,000 jobs that w/could be lost if SNC-Lavalin were to crumble under the pressure of prosecution.

In the increasing focus on whether the Minister of Justice/AG role should be split, you may have missed an equally important issue raised by Donald Savoie: Our top public servant should not be wearing so many hats ” Since the 1990s, the clerk is asked to wear three hats: Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, head of the Public Service of Canada and deputy minister to the prime minister. The clerk was formally recognized in 1992 legislation as head of the Public Service.”

As we continue to navel gaze, the flare-up between India and Pakistan is cause for deep concern, although The Hill notes that “For those who insist on seeing a silver lining, there is one. Both Pakistan and India can, and have, claimed victory: military, diplomatic, moral. Domestic constituencies in both countries fiercely believe it is so. In India, Modi may just have won himself an election. In Pakistan, Khan’s beleaguered government suddenly looks statesmanlike. Neither would like to risk losing this sweet spot with further adventures. Hence, a key condition for de-escalation is fulfilled.” The author of this opinion piece, Adil Najam, continues “it was not just this crisis that festered because the rest of the world — particularly the United States — was distracted, disinterested and disengaged; every future crisis could suffer a similar fate, and to far more disastrous results. With time we will learn, no doubt, of many behind-the-scene efforts by major players to diffuse the crisis, some real, some exaggerated. But the fact is that during the crisis itself, the silence of the international community was deafening.

Have you had time to follow what is happening in Algeria?  The Economist summarizes the issue: Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who is 82 and lies incapacitated in a hospital in Geneva, is running for a fifth term as Algeria’s president. Thousands of Algerians have protested against his decision. The situation offers an insight into the workings of the Algerian state, which has been run during Mr Bouteflika’s illness by le pouvoir (the power), a cabal of army officers and businessmen. Though protests have erupted before, le pouvoir will not be able to squash these ones so easily

Turmoil continues in Venezuela with no end in sight as of this writing. Our hearts go out to the poor citizens suffering hunger and misery as the stand-off continues.

We will refrain from commenting this week on the various acrobats, high-wire acts and wild animals featured in the U.S circus, other than to offer an approving hand-clap to the members of Congress (House & Senate) who are lining up to block Trump’s emergency declaration on the southern border. Of course he will veto it, but we are encouraged that Republicans have joined Democrats in this move. We only hope they will prevail despite arm-twisting from the White House.

Something Canada seems to have got right
It has come to our attention that March 2019 is the 40th anniversary of the introduction of the Privately sponsored refugees system (see The success of the privately sponsored refugee system). Something to celebrate.  And speaking of  refugees and celebration, Sandy W. informs us that  the first OuiCanSki day on Sunday was a great success: : 46 brand new smiling Canadians and 80 on the waiting list.

Good read
How Brexit will save Britain
Leaving the EU will be painful — hopefully painful enough to make the changes the UK needs
Having successfully fended off invasion and kept the specters of revolution at bay, Britain has no “ground zero” moment akin to the American declaration of independence or the reunification of Germany. While most countries on the Continent have been obliged several times to start again, the United Kingdom has simply plodded on with the mechanisms that saw us through the 19th century — including an unwritten and unfathomably complex constitution.

Heads-up:
On Wednesday, 13 March (not quite the Ides), former -and maybe future?- Mayor Denis Coderre is speaking at the Westmount Rotary Club luncheon at Victoria Hall – is anyone going?
That Wednesday Night, we will celebrate the ‘birth’ of Diana Bruno‘s oeuvre Lexique français-anglais de la cuisine et de la restauration, Lexi to friends.

Let us hope that the significance of the number of this Wednesday Night does not portend equivalent events in the forthcoming weeks and months!

As Lent begins this Wednesday, we were somewhat amused by the reports that Justin Trudeau is considering a statement of contrition over SNC-Lavalin – not quite an Act of Contrition and presumably, somewhat less forceful than an apology?

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