Does Canada have a strategic vision for at home and abroad?
I have thought about this a lot since returning to Canada after 35 years of living abroad. I feel it most acutely when watching grainy National Film Board documentaries from the post-war years.
The films are fascinating time capsules that capture the immense hope of Canadians at the time about their country and its future. Narrators marvelled at the scale of the country and its potential.
There were lovely bits of Canadiana showing the prairie harvest, miners in northern Ontario, woodcutters in Quebec and fishermen on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
Many of the vignettes would be considered politically incorrect and patronizing today, yet they were produced by the progressives of that time. Women figured prominently in many of the stories. So did Indigenous peoples and poor immigrant families.
Excitement was expressed about the RCAF’s Canadian-made Argus reconnaissance aircraft, the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway and the launching of polar icebreakers such as the Louis St. Laurent.
It was a time of great pride in Canada’s peacekeeping missions to places such as Congo and the brigade and air squadrons in France and Germany that helped keep the Soviets in check.
Both sides trying to sway opinion on Teck Frontier mine
Developing natural resources was a national obsession, and it was acknowledged that the lucre they created brought greater prosperity to remote areas and to cities such as Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver.
There was a universal sense then that Canadians were embarked together on a great national project and that the country punched above its weight. There was confidence that the nation — which was far more prosperous than Europe at the time — had become a world-beater and was just about the fairest place anywhere.
Those threads have unravelled a lot since then. Not many Canadians, whether oldtimers or newcomers, have much interest in the can-do mentality that propelled the country for its first century.
Though much of the population now lives in fast-growing cities, rather than the hinterlands, many urbanites are convinced that smaller is better. Such a philosophy is difficult to reconcile with an expansive frontier mentality.
What we have instead are provinces bickering constantly, and sometimes spitefully trying to do each other economic harm. There is little patience anymore for the notion that what is good for one can actually be good for all.
No political leader has figured how to convince Canadians that the best way forward must be to continue to responsibly develop the country’s natural resources, while at the same time urgently investing billions into projects that seriously mitigate the effects of climate change and will encourage the super high-tech industries that will eventually overtake resource industries as the backbone of the economy — but not soon enough to walk away today from oil, gas, coal and the like.
Nor does any politician articulate a far-sighted nation-building vision that includes, say, a high-speed train corridor from Quebec City to Windsor or a partnership with the Inuit, who tend to be practical and business-oriented, to finally exploit the treasures of the High Arctic archipelago and adjacent waters.
Not to do so harms Canada economically and is a gift to China and Russia, who have no compunctions about resource development.
Canada’s lack of a strategic vision was underlined last week by a development that got relatively little attention. With no more poorly thought out federal or provincial bailouts coming, Bombardier Inc. must soon decide whether to sell its business jet or its rail arm.
Worse than that, even Quebecers have stopped caring about what, given how much it has cost taxpayers, should have been one of the country’s crown jewels for decades to come.
Would the Japanese, the South Koreans, the French or the Germans have ever let a company with such great international potential as Bombardier sell off its world-class C series jet company to Airbus for $1, only to see it immediately rack up hundreds of millions of dollars in new sales?
The indifference surrounding Bombardier’s fate today reminds me of the way many Central Canadians and British Columbians regard Alberta’s energy industry. It is commonly viewed as evil and unnecessary because Canadians are smart enough to find alternatives, although this natural gas and oil still fuels the national economy and pays a lot of bills in Quebec and Atlantic Canada.
Oil cars continue to burn at site of Saskatchewan CP train derailment
The consequence of this illogical sentiment about the energy industry was underscored last week when a freight train carrying crude oil derailed in Saskatchewan, triggering a fire and spewing great black smoke clouds into the prairie sky, reminiscent of a similar crude oil train fire that in 2013 killed 47 people at Mégantic, Que.
These disasters happen because it has somehow become more politically correct to endanger Canadians by sending long oil trains snaking across the country than to build pipelines, which are a much safer option. Yet there seems to be little political will or skill to sort out what has become a hugely divisive problem.
For all that, Canada has muddled through until now because of the resource-based economy that was largely created between 1880 and 1970 by visionary politicians, captains of business and labourers willing to do the bull work and trade with the world.
Perhaps it is naive to think this, but with the country badly fractured along east-west lines and divided into traditional and progressive camps today, there is a huge opening for an internationally-minded political leader who can inspire Canadians with an articulate, coherent dream of a united Canada.
Finding such a visionary — or having him or her find us — is a daunting task in these cynical times.
Matthew Fisher is an international affairs columnist and foreign correspondent who has worked abroad for 35 years. You can follow him on Twitter at @mfisheroverseas
Bitcoin hovers near 6-month high on ETF hopes, inflation worries
Bitcoin hovered near a six-month high early on Monday on hopes that U.S. regulators would soon allow cryptocurrency exchange-traded funds (ETF) to trade, while global inflation worries also provided some support.
Bitcoin last stood at $62,359, near Friday’s six-month high of $62,944 and not far from its all-time high of $64,895 hit in April.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is set to allow the first American bitcoin futures ETF to begin trading this week, Bloomberg News reported on Thursday, a move likely to lead to wider investment in digital assets.
Cryptocurrency players expect the approval of the first U.S. bitcoin ETF to trigger an influx of money from institutional players who cannot invest in digital coins at the moment.
Rising inflation worries also increased appetite for bitcoin, which is in limited supply, in contrast to the ample amount of currencies issued by central banks in recent years as monetary authorities printed money to stimulate their economies.
But some analysts noted that, after the recent rally, investors may sell bitcoin on the ETF news.
“The news of a suite of futures-tracking ETFs is not new to those following the space closely, and to many this is a step forward but not the game-changer that some are sensing,” said Chris Weston, head of research at Pepperstone in Melbourne, Australia.
“We’ve been excited by a spot ETF before, and this may need more work on the regulation front.”
(Reporting by Hideyuki Sano in Tokyo and Tom Westbrook in Singapore; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)
China’s plunging construction starts reminiscent of 2015 downturn
China’s September new construction starts slumped for a sixth straight month, the longest spate of monthly declines since 2015, as cash-strapped developers put a pause on projects in the wake of tighter regulations on borrowing.
New construction starts in September fell 13.54% from a year earlier, the third month of double-digit declines, according to Reuters calculations based on January-September data released by the National Bureau of Statistics on Monday.
That marks the longest downtrend since declines in March-August 2015, the last property malaise.
When the sector recovered in 2016 after authorities loosened their grip on purchases and development, tens of thousands of real estate firms borrowed heavily to build homes.
But as regulations tightened again this year, many of them have started to face a liquidity crunch, which was then worsened by sharply weaker demand due to tighter restrictions on speculative purchases.
Property sales by floor area dropped 15.8% in September, down for a third month, according to Reuters calculations based on the statistics bureau’s data.
The slowdown in the sector was also underscored by a 3.5% drop in property investments by developers in September, the first monthly decline since January-February last year at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in China.
“All the data are poor,” said Zhang Dawei, chief analyst with property agency Centaline.
“Financing is hard, sales are tough, so of course, there has been no enthusiasm to build. For the first time in history, developers are encountering two blockages – blockages in sales and blockages in financing.”
The potential collapse of highly indebted real estate firms such as China Evergrande Group have raised concerns about systemic risks to the broader economy. The real estate sector accounts for a quarter of China’s gross domestic product.
Authorities will try to prevent problems at Evergrande from spreading to other real estate companies to avoid broader systemic risk, Yi Gang, governor of China’s central bank, said on Sunday.
On Friday, a central bank official said the spillover effect of Evergrande’s debt problems on the banking system was “controllable.”
“There is a likelihood that housing policies may loosen in the fourth quarter, and that would ease the pessimism in the property transaction data,” said Yan Yuejin, director of Shanghai-based E-house China Research and Development Institution.
On Friday, representatives from 10 Chinese Property Companies met government regulators to ask for an “appropriate loosening” on policy restrictions, financial news outlet Yicai reported.
China’s real estate shares have fallen 22% so far this year. On Monday, they were down 2.6% as of 0300 GMT.
In the first nine months, property investment rose 8.8% from a year earlier, slowing from 10.9% growth seen in January-August.
Funds raised by China’s property developers grew 11.1%, slower than the 14.8% rise seen in the first eight months.
(Editing by Jacqueline Wong)
Saks Fifth Avenue ecommerce unit aims for IPO at $6 billion valuation – WSJ
The ecommerce business of luxury department store Saks OFF 5TH is preparing for an initial public offering and targeting a $6 billion valuation, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, citing sources.
The company is interviewing potential underwriters this week for an IPO that could take place in the first half of next year, according to the report.
(Reporting by Sheila Dang; Editing by Daniel Wallis)
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