Wednesday Night #2062

Written by  //  September 22, 2021  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

THANK YOU TO ALL who helped celebrate Leonard Cohen’s birthday with messages, phone calls, flowers (who are the mysterious senders ‘All of us’?), and a joyous dinner with the Magnificent Seven. What a marvelous day. I am truly blessed.

So now, back to work.

The election campaign is over, the counting of mail-ins almost completed and not much has changed. Was it worth it? Opinions vary. Perhaps the ambiguous remark by Ian Bremmer, political scientist, author, president Eurasia Group is most appropriate: Congratulations to Justin Trudeau and all my friends in Canada for successfully holding an election where nothing at all happened.

But there’s no relief for the weary anglophone:
Sunday, September 26th, is the day the English-language School Board Elections are being held. Wednesday Nighter Julien Feldman is running for reelection as commissioner in Ward 3. He writes:
“With the election of the CAQ and the emergence of the global pandemic, my role as a commissioner has changed dramatically. After a long period of internal challenges, today we face external threats. COVID-19 is a virus that threatens tens of thousands of unvaccinated students and their families; Bill 96, Bill 21 and Bill 40 are serious legal threats to our community’s future.”

A perfect segue to Bill 96. Following the highly informative hearings held by the QCGN last week-at which several Wednesday Nighters made eloquent presentations- Tuesday was the start of hearings of the National Assembly Committee on Culture and Education on Bill 96, An Act Respecting French, the Official and Common Language of Québec. Only a very limited number of Quebecers have been asked to share their views on what is the greatest overhaul to Quebec’s legal order since the Quiet Revolution. See Open Letter to Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette from Marlene Jennings
Who should surface on Day One but bogeywoman Louise Beaudoin who could always be counted on to stir up passions. She did not disappoint. Language law must not be ‘moderate and reasonable,’ Louise Beaudoin tells Bill 96 hearings
The hearings continue through 7 October.

Keeping the voter busy, municipal elections across Quebec will be held on 7 November. Montreal’s campaign should be the subject of much debate. We know no-one who is neutral about the candidates. Plante and Coderre are neck and neck as the Montreal election campaign kicks off. Westmount’s Council is unlikely to change, with the exception of Cynthia Lulham’s seat. Best wishes to Matt Aronson, running to replace her!
NDG will defintely offer a more fractious campaign given earlier news that Joe Ortona, the English school board chair was booted from Denis Coderre’s party over stance on language reform

Despite that heavy dose of Canadiana, there are many other newsworthy events in the rest of the world.
While we were fretting about the federal election, Russia was holding a 3-day poll with all 450 seats in the lower house of parliament, or State Duma, in play. Need we say that accusations of voter fraud and repression were widespread?

AUKUS continues to attract both positive and negative commentary around the world. Writing in the Hill Times, retired diplomat Gar Pardy summs up his view:
It is not often stupidity at the highest levels of foreign policy is so apparent. But the announcement last week of the agreement of an “enhanced trilateral security partnership called AUKUS” between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, in its inanity, surpasses anything we have seen in recent years.
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson stirs the pot ‘Donnez-moi un break’: Johnson deepens rift with France over defence deal
The Spectator muses that The real reason France was excluded from Aukus: “the alliance might be renamed FAUKUS. What’s in a name? ”
At least President Biden and M. Macron seem to be patching things up, but the handling of the announcement was truly sloppy. But while China may be objecting to the alliance, it has more serious domestic preoccupations as China Evergrande veers toward default — and a $300 billion global shock

The UN General Assembly is in session. Climate change, COVID-19 and security are set to dominate discussion during the annual gathering, which has a hybrid format after being forced almost entirely online last year. President Biden promises an end to ‘relentless war’ and start of ‘relentless diplomacy’ (having maybe learned a bit of a lesson from the AUKUS experience), while the Taliban asks to address UNGA and name a new envoy; the Taliban’s new foreign minister has asked to address the General Assembly meeting and the ambassador of the Afghan government removed by the Taliban last month has also requested to speak, with the UN yet to decide who will represent the country at the world body. One more headache for the SecGen.

Long reads
US Afghanistan withdrawal: the impact on MENA geopolitical risk
(The Economist) The rapid US withdrawal from Afghanistan has provided the starkest example yet of the US’s long-standing desire to disentangle itself from the regional conflicts in the Middle East. However, a continued US presence in the Gulf remains a key underlying factor for political stability in the region. Links to free download of report

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