Saturday, March 3, 2018


As much as I hate to admit, the President of the United States and I are of the same generation. But after a week when most mainstream American media have described the mayhem in their nation's capital, and in particular the White House, as 'Pure Madness' - I am first to admit that sometimes at least, I keep my crazy to myself.

As best I can: I sympathize with how lonely it must seem being the most powerful man in the world when everyone has concluded you're an idiot. Perhaps just like the great icon of American manufacturing, Henry Ford who became increasingly dictatorial and ever more demented in the post World War II years,  Mr. Trump has convinced himself and a handful of 'believers' that America will be great again when dinner is brought to your car window on roller-skated damsels or the 'cinemascope' movie speaker hangs from the driver side window.

Unsafe at any speed !
How else to explain the delusional notion of plunging the world into a global war on trade over the manufacture of key components of the great muscle machines of the pre-Viet Nam era:  Steel and Aluminium.

From beer cans, appliances, aircraft, auto making, and God forbid gun-making (Sigh !)  more than 6 Million Americans depend directly on jobs which use manufactured steel and aluminium. Less that 100,000 Americans work in the country's ageing steel and aluminium rolling mills, mostly along the mid-Atlantic rust-belt which can't, won't and could not keep-up with domestic demand - Trade Wars are not good for America : They're wars in which.... OH WAIT !... I was going to say everyone loses.

On second thought, perhaps the one winner over yet another looming trade dispute with our bullying deranged neighbour to the south is our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, and his embattled Cabinet. Even with the many gifts and promises of more in an early Federal Budget Tuesday last; nothing deterred the country's (and much of the world's) attention away from "That India Trip !" Until "The Donald" ill advised and unplanned blurting. Until the next shoe drops, perhaps Mr. Trudeau should be thankful.

Saturday, February 24, 2018


We Canadians, in a manner of smugness with which we're really not accustomed, thought we'd cornered the charisma market in the post Obama years after your bizarro President, Donald Trump, was elected and our sophisticated, charming, debonair, young, image obsessed Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, rose to the world's media attention.

Alas ! When the history of our 23rd Prime Minister is writ...pretty much all that may need mention is "That India Trip" to challenge our preconceived perception and to pinpoint that week in 2018 when the wheels came off the charisma wagon.

We're about to legalize Marijuana in Canada. I am assuming perhaps that it was the celebratory Indian Ganja shared onboard the Prime Minister and his entourage's flight from Ottawa to India a few days back that kiboshed their official mission. And, somehow and in some unimaginable way (For no particular worthwhile reason) allowed our government's leader to parade and blunder his way, family and retinue in tow, in overly inappropriate Indian outfits across a chunk of southern Asia. All of which, to say the least in just about less than 72 hours, turned a really important international sortie into a bad joke and an international embarrassment. What could they possibly have been thinking ?

Pundits have suggested that there had been recent hints that bats were slippin' out of the belfry. One of which was a recent overzealous suggestion that the term 'mankind' should really be changed to 'peoplekind' to reflect gender neutrality - A comment Mr. Trudeau subsequently characterized as a silly joke - Be that as it may, the current India brouhaha has likely left the world's media to revise or downgrade some earlier glossy front page adorable fawning over our photogenic Prime-Minister. Even former advisors to other Liberal Prime Ministers have weighed-in with the opinion that there seemed to be little purpose, and clearly no proper planning to this get together of Canadian official misfits on Indian soil. In a blunt editorial even the 'Toronto Star', certainly not a newspaper unsympathetic to Canada's National Liberal Party, calls the India misadventure "(perhaps) the least successful foray into that country since the repelled Mongol invasions of the 13th century." - Yikes !

Canada's trade mission to India may be one for the books, the bad books. But there has also been little if any progress on the sputtering NAFTA talks with the United-States and Mexico, the Trans-Pacific deal (TPP) though still in talks, minus the USA, is progressing at a snails pace and though concluded,  there's been little if any more mention of the European Free Trade accord. Later in the spring, Prime Minister Trudeau presides over the G-7 Summit of world leaders at La Malbaie, an idyllic resort on Quebec's lower St. Lawrence River. The conclave will involve Donald Trump's first foray into Canada as President of the United-States. The world has a fairly good take on what Mr. Trump is all about. But in the afterglow of this India imbroglio, we may have suddenly been jolted into a revised notion of Mr. Trudeau's competence playing at the world's leadership table. Let's hope it's not too late to reverse the damage suffered, and that the next time our PM comes to play, he shows up as who 'HE IS' and not as a Mr. Dressup - The clown shoes have already been claimed by someone else already.

Saturday, February 17, 2018


It's inevitable, the President of the United States of America, Donald J. Trump, will set foot on Canadian soil when Justin Trudeau hosts the 2018  'G-7 Summit of World Leaders' in the spring, on June 8 and 9.

The somewhat unorthodox President will join other world leaders from the United-Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Japan as Canadians welcome the most powerful politicians on the planet to our land for the 6th time since the inception of the world body in 1976 when Trudeau 'pere' was added. An informal group of world leaders had been created a couple of years earlier for the most part under the tutelage of Treasury Secretary George Schultz a member of Richard Nixon's Cabinet.

The setting for this year's 'tete a tete' is the sumptuous Fairmont Manoir Richelieu in La Malbaie, on the lower north shore of the St. Lawrence River in Quebec's Charlevoix Region. Mr. Trump should feel right at home: Built in 1899; for most of its first century, the manoir was a summer refuge of rich American patriarchs. Fact of the matter, it was the President of the United-States, William H. Taft (another Republican) who inaugurated the resort's 27 hole championship golf course in 1925. - Lest I digress about the setting, and to Prime Minister Trudeau's credit, at least no 'fake' Muskoka Lake setting will have to be built several miles away to accommodate the world's media as per the case of the 2010 event held (for the most part) secretly in Huntsville, Ontario.

As a sidebar it's none-the-less interesting to note the dynamics of a the 'Hawk / Dove' like relationships between previous Canadian P.M. and the U.S. President each previous time the G-7 has met on Canadian soil - In 1981 at Montebello, Quebec,  Ronald Reagan and Pierre Trudeau met (I sense the excitement). Though it was surely an altogether different atmosphere with the Reagan, Brian Mulroney 'kiss fest' at Quebec City in 1988 - Remember 'Danny Boy' ? ... Clinton faced Chretien at Halifax in 1995, Bush and Harper at Kananaskis, Alberta in 2002,  and as referenced already Obama and Harper in Ontario in 2010.

To the degree that it may be possible, the Americans have launched their own charm offensive to pave the way for their unpredictable President's June visit to the G-7 in Canada. Flanked by the  cannons, bombs and airplanes of Ottawa's War Museum, in just about her only public appearance since arriving in the nation's capital in October 2017,  Mr.Trump's envoy to Canada, U.S. Ambassador, Kelly Craft, told the annual gala of the MacDonald-Laurier Institute last week that "Trump has more in common with (Justin) Trudeau than most people might think" - Her comments were echoed by Texas Republican Congressman Peter Sessions, also in attendance, who was quick to add that it's in America's best interest to "make Canada stronger" ... Oh Dear ! - Lest you ask : Formed in 2010, the MacDonald-Laurier Institute which hosted this bun fest describes itself as a 'Public Policy Think Tank' - ("High Muck a Mucks" my late mother would have called them.) - Last week's $200 a plate dinner to hear Ambassador Craft was a sell-out...Somehow my invite must have been lost in the mail.

Saturday, February 10, 2018


Statistics from 2017 released last week show the United-States has lost its second place to Spain as the world's most 'visited' country. (France is #1) - Experts blame President Trump's travel ban on some primarily Muslim countries as well as his harsh rhetoric about Hispanics and others for this decline. It's also in part due to the 'Make America Great Again' mantra which has been interpreted by some as code for make America white era when and where the white family patriarch always knew best.
Like so many of us, I grew-up in the years of those popular American television sitcoms, 'Father Knows Best', 'I Love Lucy', 'Leave it to Beaver' and I'd defy anyone to recall when a person of colour, (A Negro as we called them), or an Asian, Hispanic or 'First Nation' American was ever featured, except perhaps as a caricature, though each, as is the case today, then also made-up a substantial percentage of the population of the United-States of America.

For reasons I really do not quite understand 49.6% of eligible voters in the United-States (about 50 million electors) chose to abstain from voting in the November 2016 Presidential election. Be that as it may, the nation that once prided itself as the world's greatest democracy chose a 'Brand' of some dubious background and character as its leader rather than a person of diplomacy and political know-how. 

Most assuredly entrepreneur Donald Trump has set the world on its ear, if not a Twitter, with his silly pronouncements, gross accusations, and blatant untruths.  In the process he's tarnished the country's reputation as the leader of the 'free world,' with little if any noteworthy accomplishments to his administration's credit.

I have no vote in the USA:  If I did, I would hope that unlike so many Americans, I would have chosen to cast my democratic ballot in the fall 'Presidentials' of 2016. Though since that election and as those statistics bear out, I have chosen, along with many others, to vote with my wallet and remain on the Canadian side of the border with the United-States. It's a personal choice, easy to make considering that at the close of markets this weekend the Canadian dollar (The Loonie) was discounted just about 25% of the U.S. dollar....Let alone other expenses such as the cost of travel, lodging and most important medical insurance coverage while outside of Canada. Lest I digress: In December of 2015 my Canadian insurer was billed $21,060 US for the 4 1/2 hours I spent at a Florida hospital with a kidney stone.

I'm prepared to admit, given the frigid winter we endure in this 'Great White North' particularly this year, that my choice to stay-put hasn't been easy. However, In my mind at least it's a choice that defines who I am as a Canadian willing to sacrifice my smallish level of personal comfort rather than enable they who chip away the basic tenets of their democracy.

I acknowledge and accept that others, Canadians like me, see things differently. That for reasons of their own they shop 'cross-border', travel to, and visit frequently for extended periods of time, months really, as Snowbirds spending hard earned discounted Canadian dollars contributing to making America great again. Canadians who seek admission to the United States are for the most part welcomed as visitors, and they become the guests of a foreign country. It's incumbent upon them to behave as respectful visitors. What I do not accept, and I witness it frequently, almost daily, is that they complain and be critical on social media and elsewhere of the politics of their host while on it's soil  - It's impolite, dangerous and akin to biting the hand that's feeding you with your discounted Canadian dollars : If I see and note it - Others too are watching !

Monday, February 5, 2018


Just about a month ago, Delta Airlines Flt 9721 from Newark, New Jersey was the last scheduled passenger flight of the "Queen Of The Sky," the Boeing 747 anywhere in North America.

 Introduced into passenger service by Pan Am in 1970, of the more than one-thousand in world wide service by 1998, just a handful remain flying passengers mostly in the Middle-East, and a few more have been pressed into cargo service around the world.

I was reminded this week when Canada's second largest air carrier, West Jet, announced the launch of it's no frills airline (Swoop !) next summer,  just how miserably challenging  travelling by air has become in the first decades of the 21st Century. There was a time when getting to one's destination by air was as much fun, perhaps more some time, than the vacation, event, or activity that would be happening at  destination. Air carriers are greedy, the competition cut-throat and passengers are constantly demanding cheaper air fares. Boing has just narrowed the seats on the 747's modern replacement, the 777, by one inch so airlines can fit-in more people.

 I sense passengers in Titanic's steerage class were better treated than tourist class ticket holders on today's air carriers. On Titanic they had meals, fresh air, and space to lie-down - Lest I digress, the voyage most certainly more pleasant than their ultimate destination at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean in April of 1912 - In the case of West Jet's Swoop ! launching June 1,  the lowest fare I've seen advertised is $9.00 (Hamilton - Winnipeg) "Seat Only", there's a charge for everything else...including carry-on and use of the over-seat bin.

Launching a 'no frills' discount airline in Canada is challenging - Others have tried, many have failed : Canada 3000, Can-Jet and New Leaf are three that come instantly to mind. - Problem is the small population (About 1/10th of the USA population) and the shear size of the geography, and all of the extra costs related to operating inside the 2nd largest land mass on the planet, next only to Russia.

In just a week or two, thousands of those same residents of 'The Great White North' will be heading south, family in tow, or if you're college age, with like minded young people, for the annual ritualistic 'Spring Break' pilgrimage to the south coasts of the United-States, or Mexico and/or other destinations in the Caribbean and central America. Guess what ? - Top of mind will be 'how cheap a flight' can they possibly book, boast about, and ultimately suffer through.

If you are considering being, or still think you want to be among those travellers, be prepared for the cattle-like herding experience of airport line-ups and security, and the somewhat like above described despicably miserable airline experience.

Consider yourself appropriately advised...