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Monday, September 24, 2007

Loonies and Bankers - Any Real Difference?

Well, the )*&#*(& is truly hitting the fan on Wall Street, Bay Street and in The City. Seems our bright minds who thought that easy, "sub-prime" credit and "asset"-backed paper would create wealth are seeing the downside of this bright idea. No matter - they have made their millions (or billions) and could care a less about the fall-out we will see surrounding us.

Everyone keeps saying the fundamentals are strong. I'm not so sure. It's the financial community (ie, the banks, ie the fundamental economic institutions...) that got us into this mess, and it's the central banks (the Fed and the Bank of England) who are trying to bail them out. But the water keeps leaking in the boat, and in a global, integrated economy, how much power does a national central bank even have any more?

Here's how I see it, with particular reference to the Alberta context. There is a slow down coming. Why? A number of things, not the least of which is the long-awaited oil and gas royalty review report, which says we Albertans got royally (or is that royalty?) screwed under King Ralph. No surprise there. But Mister Ed must put it right, or he will be in serious trouble with the electorate. Then we have the housing crisis in the States. Less housing starts equal less soft-wood lumber required, for sure. Watch the consumer spending report due out later this week. If the US abandons its Wal-Mart addiction because of this credit crunch, it means our biggest trade partner will reduce purchasing from us too. And with the loonie at par, it only doubles the danger of that occurring.

The manufacturing heartland (Ontario), is in serious trouble because of the loonie, all the more so with the GM strike and resultant lay-offs. Less cars sold equals less oil sold. The federal government too may well cast a greedy eye westward. And don't for a New York minute think that because we have a Calgary PM that we'll be safe. He is wily enough to ignore Alberta's interests for vote-rich Ontario's. Remember the income trust debacle? 'Nuff said.

Will it result in a complete turnaround in our economy? Probably not, but I'm not buying real estate just yet. I don't think we've seen the full consequences of this whole thing play out - not by a long shot.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Back in the (Rhinoceros) Day

As Brian Mulroney spouted venom about Pierre Trudeau today, it took me back to those halcyon days in the 1980s when we were all more innocent - and a little whackier.

Remember the Rhinoceros Party? I do, with fondness. I had my own Rhino Party badge which I proudly wore in public at the least provocation. A political relative of the Monster Raving Loony Party in the UK, the Rhinos did respectably well in many elections in the 1980s, much to the chagrin of the major parties and to the delight of the electorate.

I took a walk down memory lane (or is that Wiki Lane?) recently and reminded myself why I found their policies so damn compelling. A sampling:
  • reducing the speed of light because it's much too fast;
  • abolishing pumping oil out of the ground as that oil is there to keep the earth moving smoothly on its axis and if you withdraw the oil, the whole thing will grind to a halt;
  • abolishing the environment because it's too hard to keep clean and it takes up so much space;
  • adopting the British system of driving on the left; this was to be gradually phased in over five years with large trucks and tractors first, then buses, eventually including small cars and bicycles last,
  • selling the Canadian Senate at an antique auction in California;
  • annexing Greenland and creating a cartel with other northern nations in order to sell icebergs to the Saudis; the cartel would be called "Snopec";
  • include the word "fun" in Acts of Parliament, Acts of Provincial Legislatures, and Bylaws of municipalities, from which it was apparently conspicuously absent.

A damn fine platform, if you ask me, even though the Rhinos insisted their platform was "two feet high and made of wood."

The Rhinos disappeared in 1993, after electoral law changes meant they would have to run at least 50 candidates at $1,000 a head (or is that a tusk???). Regardless, it has left a gaping void in Canadian politics, only partially filled by the occasional Rick Mercer rant.

Political successors include the Absolutely Absurd Party, which is proposing to raffle off Senate seats as a party fundraiser.

But fear not, dear friends! Apparently there is a movement to bring back our treasured Rhinos. In a blatant nod to postmodernism, the NeoRhino Party is actually contesting by-elections in Quebec this September. Their motto is "From Party to Party until Victory." And they are currently recruiting more candidates. Hmmmm.

And the "Neo" part of "NeoRhino"? Ya, that's from Neo, as in the Matrix. Nice.