Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Parti Québécois

So about 10 days ago the Parti Québécois (PQ) elected a new leader!  Mr. Peladeau, or PKP as he is better known is a rich (mostly inherited) guy from Montreal.  Unlike up his predecessor he speaks perfect English, he's smart, and sounds committed to the cause of separating Quebec from the rest of Canada.

Reading about him in the English press you would think the guy is a failure, sure Quebecor World went bust, but by then PKP had sold virtually all the familly's interest in the business at a very attractive price.  He tried to do the same thing with print media....there he was too late, spending $1 billion and getting maybe $300 million back when he sold it.  That was maybe have been a bridge too far.  In a sense English canada's read of PKP is all wrong they confuse "separation" with left wing politics, which is not the politics of PKP, and frankly not that of the PQ either -- look carefully and you will see a corporatist strategy there.

PKP's problem is more in the nature of his print media dreams than his Quebecor World play; first off he's coming from an old place, separation/independence is the fight of his father's generation.  When I was a high school student (at the same school as PKP -  and at the same time) independence was a hot topic among the student body -  in fact the vast majority were pro-independence!  Today not so much, the youth of Quebec has moved on, the PQ's fight (quebecers are allergic to history) see a world with no English whatsoever, not only that but successive administrations have made it harder and harder to learn English, as one PQ minister said a few years ago, the government has no issue with children learning many languages, just not a second language (she was referring to English), which is almost good enough for a Yogi Berra award!

This recent campaign to replace the outgoing leader of the PQ was one of the longest, and the number one job of candidates was to sell party membership cards at $5.00 each!  Guess what on the night of PKP's election, the number of registered members was around 70,000.  Andre Boisclaire was the last leader of the PQ that was elected in a competitive election and on the day of his election, the party had nearly 140,000 member -  and this is the kicker, the whole "election" process took less than 5 months, while this time around the party had nearly 18 months to sell membership to the citizenry.

Bottom line, the support for the PQ separation argument stands unchanged for the past 20 years, at around 25% of the population.  Ask Albertans how many would like to leave the Canadian confederation, I bet you that it would hover around 20%. It's just that the PQ has been at it the longer, the reason for separating was clearer in the 1960's and 1970's but the reasons are less clear today, except some dream of having a Quebec passport (so that our snow birds can go to Florida...).

In a sense, PKP is probably the leader the PQ needed 20 years ago, but now the parties ideology no longer match the aspirations of Quebec's youth -- and the PQ is mostly to blame for this shift, with little history there is no sense of "Canada" in Quebec youth, they are the generation of Facebook and YouTube. The election of PKP at the head of the PQ will not change anything, but it will be entertaining; PKP strong anti-union views are certain to make things more interesting at the next election in 4 years, since organized labour has historically been a huge supporter of the PQ and a massive get out the vote machine, PKP reign is certain to make these conversations more entertaining, let's just say that I would love to be a fly on the wall during these meetings!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Greece... are we there yet?

Nope!

In a nutshell there is no reason for anyone to take hard decisions, especially since no one knows the consequence of these decisions!  The reality that is Greece's economic melt down (and that it has less then 24 hours of cash at hand) is that no one has any interest in pressing the trigger, and forcing an immediate exit from the Euro.

The eventual departure of Greece from the EU monetary system (and maybe from the entire EU system) will be an error, a miss step, the unintended consequence of a "national interest decisions" that have little to do with Europe at large and everything to do with a probable internal policy breakdown.

Several months ago, when I predicted (and wagered) that Greece would eventually leave the Euro, my timeframe was entirely based on not any one "important" event because politicians are weary of grand gestures -- for which they can be held accountable.  Rather 24 months were necessary for not only the element of the crisis to take their full force, but for unintended events to occur.

I remain convince that the flash point will be this summer, when Europe has to vote, unanimously, for the renewal of Russian sanction -- following its annexation of Crimea.  America is certain to get involved in THAT process, and pressure will be heavy on Germany and France to make sure that everyone agrees on the strategy.  Greece has played the game well, so far, having public opinion on its side (the misery index is high -- but the government has resisted economic changes aggressively), but like all losers, eventually they will over play their hand... the easiest way to solve the Russia problem is to kick Greece out for "geo-political reasons".

The next vote will occur on or before July 31st 2015.  Of course the problem here extends beyond Greece (Cyprus and Hungary -- as is Italy) are still undecided, Cyprus because its a Russian banking center that got "bitchslapped" by the EU, Hungary is very pro-Russia and Italy is desperate to keep its Russian gas deal -- that so far has been excluded...

90-120 days from now...maybe