Let’s take a quick walk around the world and see what is happening..
One of the few people not asked to investigate the Biden’s was Kim Jong-Un – he was too busy building and testing ballistic missiles and writing love letters to Donald Trump. But Donald Trump has now confirmed that he did ask Ukraine (and now China) to investigate the conspiracy theory that the children of prominent politicians can get jobs that they are not qualified for and get paid for it. Ivanka explained that this is how she got her job, together with her husband. There is about as much truth to the Biden “corruption” conspiracy as there is to Trump’s claims that he is the best US President since Tony Soprano.
A man in France who has been paraylzed for some time has now been able to walk using the his thought processes (via a brain implant) to control an exoskeleton. Mr. Trump may find this technology useful in controlling his mouth, though finding the brain in which to place the implant may prove a challenge.
Borish Johnson has unveiled his master plan for a deal for Brexit, which the EU has given him one week to significantly improve. If he cannot do so by October 19th, he will have to ask for an extension of the Brexit negotiations for another 247 years. He has said he would rather be found dead in a ditch than ask for an extension – a variety of volunteers are scouring Britain for an appropriate ditch, preferably near the Irish border.
Andrew Scheer, the leader of Canada’s conservative party (so he claims), claimed to have been an insurance broker, except he never was. He also claimed to have a degree from the University of Saskatchewan, except he didn’t. And he also claims to be a proud Canadian, except he is also a US citizen who is still on the active service list and can be called up in the US military reserves. Who has black face now, intelligent people ask and wonder?
It is becoming increasingly obvious that deviousness and deceptive methods were used to ensure that Jason Kenney, now Premier of Alberta, won the leadership election for the United Conservative Party of Alberta – at least according to a report from the CBC. Fines have already been levied for some involved in this debacle and the RCMP continue their investigation of possible criminal activity. Some of us are old enough to remember when conservatives were the party of law and order. No longer, it seems. Nor are they a party of truth tellers – see above observations about Andrew Scheer.
The biggest lie the Tories tell people is about trickle-down economics – the idea being that giving millions and millions to rich people helps create jobs and solves poverty. The technical term for this form of economics is “bullshit” – researchers cannot find a shred of evidence that this works. So when Premier Kenney gave away $4.5 billion to rich Alberta corporations, they paid themselves more, paid shareholders more, bought back shares and laid people off. Trump’s tax cuts led to the same thing. So as to pay for this give away, poor people and the middle class will now be punished. What is interesting is to hear them talk this “bullshit” as if it made sense. It doesn’t. Maybe this is what Scheer didn’t learn at the University of Saskatchewan.
Another bad idea these same people have is that governments should balance their budgets. This is another piece of “bullshit”. They should manage the economy, seek efficient and effective ways of supporting the needs of communities and their citizens and manage debt. Balancing the budget is what they talk about – but two conservatives (Mulroney and Harper) created the biggest chunk of debt Canada now has to deal with. Kenney will do the same in Alberta. Some fall for this, but that is usually because they misunderstand what the conservatives do is not what they talk about. Look at Trump. Look at Boris. Look at Kenney. Look at Doug Ford, who is now spending more per week in Ontario than the Liberals did.
The good news is that real television is back after the summer break when we were forced to watch Barry Manilow specials and then go for therapy. Catherine the Great, QI, Graham Norton, The Capture, The Confession, Scarborough – all good British TV. Makes a change to watch some professional acting versus the stuff Boris, the Donald, Kenney-Scheer give us – amateur theatricals with no make-up.
Let’s talk a walk around the world and see what is happening.
Showing his strong sense of history, Donald Trump suggested that the Kurds did little to help the US, Canada and Britain (supported by the RAF and the Australian Air Force) in the World War II landings in Normandy. Neither did the Afghans or Iraqi’s – it wasn’t their fight. They also didn’t help with the moon landing and they have never won the NBA or NHL finals. You can see where his strong sense of history takes him – probably to prison. He has abandoned an important coalition ally without consultation with anyone other than the President of Turkey (who also didn’t help in Normandy and is another dictatorial leader). Meanwhile, he is resisting all forms of response to the impeachment inquiry other than bluster and bullshit. Based on the theory of total executive privilege and supreme right of Kings and the historic rights of people with bad hair, Trump sees himself above the law. I have no doubt some judges will take a different view and will do so soon.
In Britain, Borish Johnson is having a heck of a time persuading people to take his ideas seriously, even though the Conservative party has a 10-point lead in UK opinion polls right now. His “new” plan for Brexit was seen by his EU counterparts as about as useful as a pair of worn underpants as a way to fix a Boeing 737 Max aircraft. Parliament is having a special sitting on October 19th after the EU summit next week to decide what to do. Don’t hold your breath. Brexit is so much of a mess that even Trump looks sensible in comparison. Part of the problem is that Jeremiah Corbyn, leader of the UK Labour Party, is a sensible as a cat on a freezing tin roof. He has no plan, no support, no idea, no sense. In fact, the paucity of leadership amongst the political elite in the UK is remarkable. No sign of a statesman or woman anywhere. Even Meghan Markle starts to look like she could be effective as a leader.
Speaking of effective leaders, Canada held a leadership debacle on TV. It wasn’t as good as the Big Bang Theory or as bad as the final season of the Game of Thrones, but it was a spectacle. But then so was Catwoman or Snakes on a Plane – two of the worst films of all time. What the media and newsprint has done is reduce politics to a popularity contest and made all a bit like Big Brother or X Factor. Andrew Scheer may be a muppet with a dodgy CV but his policies would take Canada back in time and help make America Great Again. Trudeau (a.k.a. Mr Dress-up) may be a bit of a poser, but he is helping to shape a modern Canada. As for Maxine Bernier, well, think of a love child from a Boris Johnson and Donald Trump mating with some DNA from Atilla the Hun. Voting is soon. Votes need to be cast for the future of Canada, not on whether or not you “like” some bloke in an ill-fitting shoes or another bloke whose shoes don’t match his suit (why is that?).
A friend, who is generally very smart and thoughtful, and I had an interesting chat. It was about debt and government. I hadn’t realized that most smart people misunderstand money and the responsibilities of government. Her argument was “I balance my chequebook at the end of each week, so should the government” and also “debt costs us money that we could well spend on services, like health and education”.
First, some obvious things. Government should be efficient and focused in its use of resources – it shouldn’t waste time, people’s skills, money or equipment. Second, government should demand not just efficiency but also effectiveness – it needs to be able to show outcomes and impacts. Third, governments should occasionally fail at something worth trying – it shows that they are trying to innovate and not all innovation is 100% successful.
But government should not be run like a household. Few households need a defence system, warships, soldiers, police. Second, few households carry the responsibility for an entire nation or Province’s future education, health, social needs, transport, etc. Finally, all major corporations and most Canadian families have debt – debt that they consider manageable. Air Canada has debt – around $5.3 billion. Yet this debt is seen as “manageable” – revenue enables them to pay off both interest and a % of capital. If they didn’t have debt, we’d all be flying around in converted B52 aircraft – they couldn’t afford to buy new jets. The issue is not being debt free, but how manageable that debt is.
One of the rationales for debt is that it can produce assets – we use mortgages (debt) to buy a house we will eventually own (an asset). So we look at the difference between our borrowing and the value of the house (which increases each year in most parts of Canada) to look at net debt.
Alberta’s debts, for example, are very modest. In 2019-20 they are projected to be $37 billion (up $10 billion from the previous year due to decisions already taken by Jason Kenney) giving a net debt to GDP ratio of 10.3% – one of the lowest for any government anywhere in the world and almost exactly one third of the net debt to GDP ratio of the Federal government (30.7%).
Gordon Brown, when he was Chancellor (UK), suggested that net debt to GDP should always be below 40%. Indeed, if debt is being used to invest in the future (education, public health, infrastructure) and not to fund current operations, then both Alberta and Canada have room. Debt should not be used to fund operational activities.
Indeed, some of the most vibrant economies in the world have debt to GDP ratios worse than Canada – it is the lowest in the G7. Britain has been in debt for 300+ years and is the world’s fifth largest economy.
The idea of balanced government budgets is a pure nonsense if people’s needs for appropriate government support are not being met. Modest debt, especially when interest rates are so low, makes a great deal of sense especially if the funds are used to invest in all our futures.
As we get close to the election in Canada – 21st October – it is looking possible that we will either get a small, tight Liberal majority or a Conservative minority. This means we have to vote tactically. There are only two ridings in Alberta where this really matters, and I live in one – Edmonton Centre. I happen to know the Liberal candidate well and I have no difficulty voting for him. But others – especially NDP and Green supporters – may have more challenges in doing so. If they vote conscience, they will help elect an austerity, anti-climate sense, anti LGTBQ2+, anti-women’s rights candidate who is a Conservative. I appreciate their dilemma – BUT isn’t it obvious that neo-fascists and neo-liberals are not who we want to run Canada?
The mantra I hear a lot is that the Liberals are destroying oil and gas and, de facto, are anti Alberta. This is nonsense.
Oil and gas companies are quite capable of destroying themselves.
The large oil and gas companies are strongly in favour of a range of climate change policies. They worked WITH the NDP government in Alberta to introduce the Carbon Levy and proposed the large emitter tax – a tax which Alberta was amongst the first jurisdictions in the world to introduce (it’s still there by the way at $30/barrell and was introduced by a Conservative Provincial government). They also favour “social license” strategies, which the Liberal party of Canada are pursuing.
The Liberal party bought a pipeline when the oil and gas industry was about to give up on it. People forget that the government bought it because investors and bankers were abandoning it. When they say they were abandoning it because of Liberal policies, they forget that it was the Conservative party that (a) didn’t build the pipelines when then had years to do so; and (b) messed up the environmental legislation which enabled the courts to intervene (which the Liberals have now significantly improved). The Liberals are supporting Alberta’s need for a pipeline.
The Liberals are accused of paying off Quebec through transfer payments. All they are doing is following the policies and practices introduced and fully supported by the then Conservative government of Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney. Alberta doesn’t actually PAY transfer payments, it comes from general revenues which Alnbertan’s contribute to.
The Liberals are seen to be spending too much and adding to debt. Yet net debt in Canada is going down and is the lowest in the G7. The biggest chunks of Canada’s debts were created by Conservatives Mulroney and Harper.
The oil and gas sector will decline as green technologies start to displace fossil fuels. The oil and gas sector needs to embrace the transition (as several large global players are doing) as investors shift their investors OUT of fossil energies into green tech. A large group of banks and investors have and will continue to divest fossil fuel investments. Get used to it.
I am not a liberal by nature, but the brand of conservatism embraced by Scheer and his cohorts disgusts me. His stance on women’s rights (vague but encouraging anti-women policies), lGTBQ2+, austerity and anti-fact (like killing off CBC News) is deeply disturbing. I am not a big fan of Trudeau, but we are not electing a leader we are electing a Government. Vote for Canada’s future – don’t take us back to a dark age!
I am thankful for many things in my life, not least of which is that I am still living. Given my family history, getting to 69 on halloween is quite the thing. Hoping to have another 15-20 years, but that is pushing the genetic odds.When I had my DNA test some time ago, it didn’t show any markers for genetic disease, but I do know that the Murgatroyd males are not schedule to get much past 80-85. I am 70 in 2020. But I am part neanderthal!
I am also thankful for family – my wife Lynne of 49 years, my sons James and Glyn, their wives Lena and Nadine and the three grandkids – Lily, Oliver and Sam. Family means a lot. It is so wonderful to watch them all grow and develop.
I am grateful and thankful to friends like Sarajane Aris and her husband Brian, to Brain and Kate Thomas-Peter, to Neil and Janne Henry and their family, and to so many Edmonton friends (like the members of the Little Club) and to all who spend time keeping me sane and amused. It can’t be easy. I also love spending time with Ray Bassett, Bob Fessenden, Ron Dyck and Robert Ascah at the Faculty Club once a month.
I am thankful to my colleagues for their never ending support and encouragement – Areef (business partner), Maxim (faithful client), Jean and JC (partners in the non profit company), Don Simpson and the Innovation Expedition team (especially Jan and Adrian, but also Leah, Alex, Keith, Tom, Abdullah) who have kept me going all these years.
I am thankful to all the music makers, artists, chefs and film-makers that enrich my life and give meaning and purpose to it. Music is with and beside me each day as I write, I love to cook and to eat and to explore the culinary world. I also have a special place for poets.
Most of all, I think, I am grateful to occupy a world of ideas, of challenge and of opportunity. Innovation intrigues and enables. While some ideas are uncomfortable (my friend Harry Gray always observed that “most significant learning comes from challenge or pain”), all of them help me grow as a writer and thinker.
Indeed, this week we celebrate 25 years of the Athabasca University MBA which I had something to do with along with Lindsay, Dwight, the Shelley’s, Marco, Konrad and others. An example of ideas and innovation in action. The same time we launched the MBA, Jeff Bezos launched amazon.com! Ah well…I am thankful that I could work with the team to create something that has made so much difference to the lives of so many.
Finally, I am grateful that I inherited my father’s sense of humour and my mothers sense of place. Without laughter, life would be too long. With laughter, life is likely to be too short.
Let’s take a walk around the world and see what is happening..
In Europe, Borish Johnson looks like he may broker a deal with the EU in the next 2 days which would lead him to a rare Saturday meeting of parliament who will, in all probability, vote it down since they are very clear about nothing in particular. The DUP – a kind of Irish version of the Kamikaze Pilots Alumni Association – want a veto on the deal. The Welsh remain silent. The mess continues.
In the Dis-United States of America, the pathological liar a.k.a. as President Trump is unravelling before our eyes. In a just released letter to the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan,
he basically asks him not to be a bully or he will be a bigger bully him back. Most thought the letter was a hoax until the White House confirmed its authenticity. We all think the President is a joke, but the White House will not confirm this.
Meanwhile, the impeachment hearings continue. It is becoming clear that there is no government in the United States. There are oligarchy-mafia -like operations in the shadows, such as the Ukraine operation run by Rudi (“yes I’m getting divorced yet again”) Giuliani, who is under investigation by the FBI. In a set of moves based on the divine rights of kings, Trump is refusing to co-operate with the impeachment inquiry, asking his staff and members of the executive branch to disobey legitimate subpoenas. None of this will end well.
In North Korea, Kim Jong-Un has been seen riding a horse on Mount Peaktu, a sacred mountain. This is a dictator thing. Turkmenistan’s dictator Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov recently built a massive golden statue of himself riding a horse. And we can’t forget those iconic photos of Vladimir Putin, senior advisor to President Trump, riding a brown horse shirtless. Let’s hope the Trumpkin doesn’t get any ideas.
The Canadian election trundles along. We could end up electing our first US Prime Minister – Andrew Sheer, but the odds are increasingly on a modest Liberal win or a Liberal minority government. The NDP has offered to form a Liberal-NDP coalition to ensure that the conservatives don’t form government. We also have a Trump impersonator – Maxime Bernier – running and showing that we can produce our own nut-cases who think they are stable geniuses. His web site says he “speaks his mind”, trouble is his mind is empty and therefore he has nothing to say. He says he is leader of the People’s Party – which people and where they are having the party is not known.
Finally, the Alberta government’s $30 million war room setup to combat foreign influences whose funds are intended to impact Alberta “oil and gas” (based on a pile of pants blogs from the widely discredited Vivian Krause) is not going to be transparent. It has been set up as a corporation – the Canada Energy Centre – and does not have to disclose anything about its work. I suspect its funded by the Taliban or possibly the Trump Foundation. Don’t expect value for money.