At the Berkeley Square-Bilbao Conference – our staff hard at work in Western Europe, last half of September

Sep 15th, 2014 | By | Category: In Brief

“This is a big week of big events. Hold onto your socks.” (Frances Horodelski, BNN)

September for the people in Berkeley Square, London, where our 2014 Travelling European Conference will hold its inaugural sessions.

“It seems like we’ve just returned from our Walnut Creek Conference in California,” someone among us said the other day. “And now we’re going to another travelling conference in Europe? Does that make a lot of sense? Or any sense at all? ”

We all got the point. Here in Toronto, for instance, the mayoralty race that will end this coming October 27 has just jagged in an almost entirely unanticipated direction. See : “Doug Ford enters Toronto mayoral race as Rob Ford drops out” ; “Rob Ford pulls out of mayoral race, Doug Ford steps in, Mayor to run as councillor in his old ward, replacing nephew as candidate” ; and “Toronto mayor Rob Ford says God ‘wants him somewhere else’.”

Those Were the Days : Councillor Doug Ford and Mayor Rob Ford pose for a photo before they head out of City Hall to the Leafs first home playoff game in nine years. May 6, 2013. (Don Peat/Toronto Sun).

(Oh and btw, in a favourite related connection of ours, see the Facebook message “Breaking: Richard Underhill withdraws from ?#?TOpoli? mayoral race to support @oliviachow ‘I’m proud to support Olivia and her progressive policies.’ Thanks to everyone who supported my campaign and to all those passionate citizens that want to make ?#?Toronto? a better place.”)

Like everyone else here our first public thoughts turn around best wishes for Mayor Rob Ford’s health. None of us are fans of his politically. But we all sympathize with his current medical issues, and pray for his best options. (The great Saint George Orwell believed that “health is not the only thing that matters.” But he died at 46.)

More people (and less populism) in Berkeley Square, where the nightingale sang on still another day again.

In any case, all we counterweights editors will be back in Canada’s current largest metropolis well before the October 27 municipal election. We will be out of the country for the September 22 provincial election in New Brunswick. But already it seems most likely that Brian Gallant’s Liberals will win this handily enough. (In the latest poll “Gallant’s Liberals were picked by 48% of decided voters … followed by the Progressive Conservatives at 29%, the NDP at 17%, the Green Party at 4% and the People’s Alliance at 2%.”)

Meanwhile, Newfoundland and Alberta already have new premiers. And the Canadian House of Commons has returned to work in Ottawa – with the 2015 federal election foremost on everyone’s mind. (See “Four things to expect as Parliament resumes Monday” ; “PM talks tough in campaign-style return to Ottawa” ; “Liberal polling lead more than a Justin Trudeau honeymoon” ; and “MPs hear talk of trade, economy as Parliament resumes.”)

One thing we will be doing in Europe is watching the September 18 Scottish independence referendum on TV in London, England, near Berkeley Square.

Recent intelligence here includes “Scottish referendum: Markets put chance of ‘No’ vote at 81pc” ; “Scotland referendum: Prime Minister David Cameron warns vote is ‘forever’ … Queen Elizabeth urges Scottish voters to ‘think very carefully about the future’” ; “Scottish Independence Poll Gives ‘Yes’ Campaign 8 Point Lead, But Other Polls Show ‘No’ Ahead” ; “Scottish independence: polls show it’s too close to call …  ICM survey for The Telegraph suggests Yes campaign is in the lead but a Survation poll for Better Together puts the No vote ahead .”

1. Governor General of Scotland?

Queen Elizabeth II with Scotland's first minister Alex Salmond at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA. The Scottish and English monarchies or crowns were united in 1603, unlike the Scottish and English parliaments, which were only united in 1707. It is the second not the first union that would be undone by a Yes side victory in the September 18, 2014 referendum. And Alex Salmond is also the leader of the Scottish National Party, and leading supporter of the Yes side.

Even if the Yes side were to win in the end, Frank Bunting’s recent post on this site noted that an independent Scotland would still keep the British monarch as head of state, at least initially.

Canadians ought to be especially interested in other recent commentary on this issue : “Queen would need governor general in Scotland if it leaves UK, says expert” ; and “Yes vote could force Queen to appoint Australian-style governor general to act on behalf of the sovereign in an independent Scotland.” (Though, as Canadians and Australians ought to know, it wouldn’t really be the Queen who appoints the governor general : it would be the new Scottish prime minister!)

2. Champlain and La Rochelle

The port of La Rochelle, still guarded by medieval towers.

Along with London, England, our counterweights editors’ travelling European conference this year will take us to Le Havre, Paris, and La Rochelle in France, to Bilbao and Vigo in Spain, and to Porto in Portugal.

Again Canadians might take a particular interest in “one of the most attractive ports along France’s Atlantic coast,” La Rochelle. On perhaps the mainstream reading, it is a less than 60-click drive north of Brouage – birthplace of Samuel de Champlain, Father of Canada or New France. (And, if you like to live a little more dangerously, according to Wikipedia : “Champlain was born to Antoine Champlain … and Marguerite Le Roy, in either Hiers-Brouage, or the port city of La Rochelle, in the French province of Aunis.”)

3. Huronia/Wendake 2015

Aataentsic (?) shows Champlain Georgian Bay, Midsummer 1615.

Mention of Champlain also reminds us that we were privileged to meet with the multiple personalities of C.M.W. Marcel this past September 4, at the somewhat updated Linsmore Institute facilities on the Danforth in Toronto (just east of Oakville).

We discussed M. Marcel’s plans for a kick-off note on the 400th anniversary of Samuel de Champlain’s August 1615 visit to the surprisingly sophisticated agricultural society of the Huron Confederacy or Wendat, in the north end of present-day Simcoe County in Ontario.  As noted elsewhere, this kick-off note will be a retrospective on the commemoration of the 300th anniversary, which somewhat mysteriously took place in 1921!

Apparently C.M.W. was thinking that maybe he’d have this retrospective done before the counterweights Toronto offices closed this afternoon (until early October – no later than October 6). But he claims that he has been contractually obliged to attend a number of andacwanders recently in the North Bay area.

He says he has digested most of the September 4 material, and hopes to have a draft in the hands of Institute fellows sometime around thanksgiving. (Though when pressed he declined to specify Canadian or American thanksgiving, and just said “It will be soon …”)

4. Bilbao and the autonomous community of the Basque Country

The Basque Country in its largest meaning takes in Basque-speaking regions of both Spain and France. But the autonomous community of the Basque Country is only in Spain, established under the Spanish Constitution of 1978.

Canadians – and Scots etc – could have reasons as well for taking a special interest in our two-day conference sessions in Bilbao, Spain.

We go directly to the Wikipedia “translation-work in progress of the Bilbao article from Spanish to English” here : Bilbao “is a municipality and city in Spain, the capital of the province of Biscay in the autonomous community of the Basque Country. It is the largest city of the Basque Country and the tenth largest in Spain, with a population of 353,187 in 2010. The Bilbao metropolitan area has roughly 1 million inhabitants, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in northern Spain, and includes the comarca of Greater Bilbao (pop. 875,552) making it the fifth-largest urban area in Spain.”

We hope to have a slightly better idea of just what this means when we leave Bilbao. What seems especially intriguing beforehand is that “the autonomous community of the Basque Country” sounds a bit like, not what an independent Scotland may or may not become, but what Quebec is now! Or would be if we ever wrote the November 2006 Canadian House of Commons declaration of the Quebecois as a nation within a united Canada into our Canadian Constitution.

Flag of the Basque Country. Look familiar somehow?

And who knows? The autonomous community of the Basque Country in Spain could be a model of sorts for Scotland in the United Kingdom, after a narrow No victory in the September 18 referendum, that we will be watching in a hotel with a Nightingale Room near Berkeley Square. Whatever else, one immediately intriguing thing about the flag of the Basque Country is that it looks a lot like what the 1960s might have called a psychedelic Union Jack.  Maybe Europe is a more complicated place than even Europeans sometimes think?

5. Last gasp on politics in crazy town for now, I : conflicting polls

Staircase to site of 17th century Seneca village of Teiaiagon, now the West Toronto neighbourhood of Baby Point.

As longtime residents of what the 17th century Seneca village of Teiaiagon has finally developed into, we can’t cease and desist with our incessant commentary until early October without one last comment – no make that two – on the crazy Toronto mayoral race of 2014.

To start with, is cp24 the only local media outlet touting the poll that shows Doug Ford’s new candidacy with some impressive popular support already, without mentioning the other poll that shows the opposite? In any case, here is the more balanced report in the closest English-speaking Canada still may have to a newspaper of record (as viewed from Toronto at any rate!) :

The Scots nation at work – even bigger than Ford nation.

“A poll Friday of 1,228 people by Forum Research for the Toronto Star had Mr. Tory at 41%, Mr. Ford at 34% and Ms. Chow at 19%. A poll the same day of 1,054 people by Mainstreet Technologies put Mr. Tory at 45%, Ms. Chow at 27% and Mr. Ford at 16%. The latter poll also had  Rob Ford on track to win his old council seat easily, with a 30-point gap over the nearest challenger …  Both polls were conducted by interactive voice response and at least part of each was done around the time Mr. Ford made an emotional speech to launch his campaign.”

So … the polling jury on Doug Ford is still out … that has to be the conclusion here. Right?

6. Last gasp on politics in crazy town for now, II : Goldstein on Ford the Elder

“Councillor Doug Ford avoids media questions at City Hall on Wednesday. On Thursday, he didn't show up at all.” November 7, 2013. VINCE TALOTTA / TORONTO STAR.

The sensible conservative Lorrie Goldstein gets our coveted Marilyn Lastman Award for most sensible article on Toronto politics during the especially turbulent past week. Its crisp title captures the essential message – “Doug Ford not yet qualified to be mayor of Toronto.”

Mr. Goldstein begins with : “What Toronto needs right now isn’t a confrontational and abrasive rookie politician for mayor who lacks not only tact and diplomacy, but the political smarts borne of experience.”

He goes on, several paragraphs later :” Doug Ford’s brand was that he’s the mayor’s brother, one he took advantage of at City Hall by constantly talking about issues over the past four years as if he was the co-mayor of Toronto, along with his brother … He wasn’t. He never was … He was a rookie councillor who made rookie mistakes, culminating most famously in his calling out Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair for daring to say police had obtained a copy of the infamous video showing his brother appearing to smoke crack, just hours before Rob Ford admitted he had, in fact, smoked crack.”

The gentlemanly (and still properly conservative) Mr. Goldstein does properly allow that the older Mr. Ford has a few talents and some admirable instincts : “It’s understandable Doug Ford wants to carry his younger brother’s legacy and message of fiscal discipline and restraint forward at City Hall … He’s a smart businessman who heads the Ford family’s very successful Deco Labels firm, and in doing such things as donating his council salary to charity, he showed a generosity of spirit that other councillors … could learn from.”

The gentleman in the blue shirt was “delighted that my girlfriend, Lucy, accepted my proposal in Berkeley Square Gardens while London Trio played her favourite music composed by Ludovico Einaudi,” July 2, 2012.

Lorrie Goldstein pauses to note the sympathetic imperative we have alluded to above ourselves : “And of course every decent human being joins with Doug Ford in hoping his younger brother overcomes his health crisis.”

Then he returns to his essential message in a deft concluding 10 words : “But mayor of Toronto? No. Doug Ford hasn’t earned it.”

To which we sensible non-conservatives here can only say Amen.

And, for now and the next few weeks, Au revoir, Hasta que nos encontremos de nuevo, Até nos encontrarmos novamente, and Until we meet again (compliments of Google Translate : so don’t blame us if it’s all wrong, or unidiomatic, or just plain dumb).

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