Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fascinating Dinner last night


Last night, I was invited by a friend to a fascinating presentation about the Canadian political scene.  The speakers, who will remain nameless, are two of Canada best know political commentators and have both been active in Federal and provincial elections (elected, holding office and nominated as ministers).  Both are well know in Canada’s two solitudes for their knowledge of their respective market (Ontario and Quebec).  The tone was collegial (Cannot say the same for several guests present…) before the presentation I had the opportunity to talk to many of those present and I was amazed (mostly high net worth individuals) bottom line they take the American view:  “All politicians are corrupt, crooks, liars and don’t understand anything”.  The strongest reactions I got from two individuals in particular who had never held a “real job” they managed their family’s money.

Now there’s nothing wrong with managing your money, they’ve gone to good schools, but it’s also true that as “the shareholder” and “manager” they’ve never had to make suboptimal decision because they have all the same interest.  First, was their view that the Quebec scandal on the construction industry needs to be “reviewed in public”, there is here some desire to see who were the crooks, but the reality is that the public “shaming” events are generally useless, first because the guilty never go to jail, they get immunity.  Moreover, whatever is said in the witness stand becomes “The Truth” just because the speaker has nothing to lose (no one considers that these people may have some accounts to settle).   When I tried to mollify their view with the nature of Quebec’s construction industry – it’s a cartel with few players – and that’s not about to change (since the Quebec government is prohibited from hiring “out of state” contractors (BTW that’s not exceptional to Quebec it is true everywhere), but because Quebec is small it gives rise to collusion between the players… I got nowhere, they were convinced that something could be done – funny enough they thought “the incompetent” politicians would find the answers, go figure.

There were essentially four topics:  Toronto politics, Ontario Politics, Quebec Politics and Federal politics.  The first was that Rob Ford (the current mayor of Toronto won his elections because of his four word slogan: “We will cut waste”), Torontonians are discovering that (as is Rob Ford) that there’s not that much waste to cut so as one speaker said “he’s cutting the left arm of the city” he’s not cutting fat he’s cutting basic services – that’s not the platform on which he ran.  This win by the conservatives in Toronto has now harmed the Ontario Conservatives who started the election (October 6th) process with a lead of nearly 20% on the Liberal (government).  Ontarians now understand that when the government talks about cutting fat, they mean cutting services (that Ontarians actually like their services).  Ontarians have made that leap and don’t like the cuts that the conservatives are proposing.  So today two weeks before the elections the conservative and liberals are neck and neck…

In Quebec, the situation is even more interesting a Leger Marketing poll that came out this morning (20/09) showed that Francois Legault “movement” gets 38% of the vote, the Liberals get 28%, the PQ gets 17% and the ADQ gets 8%.   This is an unmitigated disaster for the separatist movement in Quebec, the blow of losing the Block Quebecois in Ottawa, and this could spell the end of the Quebec separatist movement (great) and change the conversation.  As one of the speakers mentioned Quebec’s Love affaire with the NDP is a “one night stand” Quebecers don’t know who or what the NPD is and what it stands for.  At the Federal level this is a tremendous opportunity for the government (or the Liberals) if they can seize the day.

There is a large body of opinion that the Conservative have no interest in Quebec – first because they won a majority without the province, secondly because 30 new seats will be created in Parliament to adapt for changing population trends – none of them will be created in Quebec, the Conservative will focus their energies on these seats.  Finally, and most damming is that so few “counsellors” to the prime minister are from Quebec, in fact the vast majority are from Ontario (contempt for Quebec) and the West (even more contempt for Quebec).  They don’t know the place; they don’t like the place (often they don’t even speak the language of the place).  This is a terrible wasted opportunity for the Conservatives.  The Liberals may be able to capitalize on this (it is almost certain that the NDP will not)  there are more than 55,000 members of the NDP across Canada and only 1,700 in Quebec – Thomas Mulcaire cannot win the leadership race, so even if ¾ of all NDP members in parliament are from Quebec someone else will win the nomination).  In fact the real issue is how long will it take for the Liberals and the NDP to merge.

So this was a fascinating conversation.  It was scheduled to end at 8:30, if finally ended just short of 10, as the two speakers had to catch flights to Toronto. 

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