Saturday, 21 March 2020

Covid-19 – The opportunity that lies in every crisis

The Covid-19 virus has hit the world with a force perhaps greater than WWII. The world is closed and people are out of work and it seems that our health system is struggling to cope, at least in some countries. Our world has changed; there are lessons to be learnt and opportunities to seize upon. The big question is whether our politicians will make the right decisions?
This virus, which originated in Wuhan –China, has attacked the world like a nuclear bomb. Those not directly affected are hangered down in their homes. European streets look ghost towns. Canada and the U.S have declared their borders closed except for essential transportation. There are few planes in the sky, and most hotels and eateries are closed. Schools and corporations are now operating in cyberspace. The entire world’s health system is under siege and medical shortages are being experienced. In other words the pandemic is real and panic has stricken the world.
Governments around the world have for the most part reacted to alleviate the hardships caused by the pandemic. Some better than others, Taiwan and Singapore seem to have reacted quickly and averted mass infections. China where it all started is entering a phase of fewer infections due to their autocratic reaction which saw the use of the army and forced isolation. Unfortunately for the Western world, our leaders have been less opened to drastic measures. Delays in closing borders, the use of democratic self-isolation and fewer testing may be the cause of the rising number of cases and deaths. While I believe that we are equipped to surmount this disaster, it will take some time to get back to normality. Are the decisions made by our leaders going to protect us in the future? Or are we going to see changes that may be used to make our world better and more efficient?
Covid-19 is a health issue, but it is affecting every aspect of our lives. To take a page from the left: “You never let a serious crisis go to waste.” A crisis always provides challenges and opportunities, and we should seize the day. Governments are currently focused on two challenges –health and finance, but they should also come with strategies for the long term. An analysis of the cause an effect of this pandemic should lead us to many opportunities and there are many opportunities for the world.
On a global level, let us acknowledge that Trump’s adversarial position towards China is now being proven right. For years China has been building itself into a position to be the world’s leader. Their preferential trade recognition and the use of their cheap labor, has placed the rest of the world in a positon of reliance which is now gone too far. The vast majority of basic pharmaceutical ingredients come from China. The world trade depends very much on goods produced in China. The western world obsessed with climate change, have shifted many of their productions to China, while reducing their carbon footprint they have also increased China’s CO2 emissions. So where is the gain? In fact in the long run it has been a net loss for the industrialised world, now so dependent on China. Trump’s tariffs may not be the preferred means of getting the world economy in good shape, but it certainly exposed China for what the regime is all about. Governments trying to set fiscal and monetary policies to avert a depression may well have to consider their relationship vis-à-vis China. As deficit spending becomes the norm, governments should also have long term strategies to deliver services in alternative means.
As self-isolation becomes the norm rather than the exception; we see opportunities in many sectors of the economy. Fast food and groceries need more workers for delivery of their goods. The internet is being used to continue work from home and deliver classes to students isolated at home.
Covid-19 has exposed many of our problems, and yet we have the opportunity to move forward with new ways of delivering services. For years I have advocated for the increase use of the internet to provide better education. Now that classes have started to be delivered in cyberspace it is time to look at making online delivery more permanent. Kindergarten to grade 7 should have more face-to face contact because in these formative years basic education and social skills are important. Once they have been prepared grades 8-12 should use the internet to greater use. They would require 3 days in school and the rest can be done at home with guidance from teachers via the internet. A change in education delivery may not come immediately, but we now have the opportunity to experiment, learn and adapt. We will need to increase broadband. Money saved from brick and mortar schools can easily be transferred to investment in cyber delivery. Fewer teachers may be needed, but childcare services may have to be improved.
Healthcare in Canada has been shown to be less capable, despite the hard work of medical professionals. The idea that we continue to insinuate that our system is the best in the world it cannot be further from the truth. We spend a lot of money and yet we do not get the care we should receive. The idea that privatization should not be part of the system is erroneous. Basic services should be covered and there should be a choice allowed for people who can afford them. Unions stand in the way of progress, and we should find ways of delivering services in a more efficient manner. The use of doctor/patient interaction by means of the internet is welcomed but we should limit this practice to just minor ailments. In fact there are too many instances where patients just go to the doctor or hospitals for minor issues. Master nurses and pharmacists can help alleviates the burden put on doctors and hospitals. We can no longer be at the mercy of healthcare unions to find better surgery wait times.
Covid-19 has placed Canada in a very precarious financial bind. Trudeau’s affinity for deficits and his obsession with U.N policies has virtually crippled the economy. With only 1.6% of the world’s carbon emission, his decision to curb the expansion of the oil and gas industry has created havoc in Western Canada. His reconciliation policy has divided the country and created a movement of lawlessness among certain groups. His self-isolation, sic – ‘hiding’ has demonstrated that Trudeau is not fit to lead this country. The current financial crisis was already in motion due to his policies against the oil industry. Canada’s economy was already contracting before Covid-19 or the oil war between Russia and Saudi Arabia. The opportunity is for the country to seek a new government, but that will require other political parties to stand up and be counted.
As we search for solutions and opportunities, government leaders must reassure the citizenry and encourage calm. The media must stop its sensational and bias reporting which causes more panic than reassurance. The public must refrain from panic buying, which creates unnecessary shortages when in fact there is no problem with the supply chain. We must all do our part to get through these unprecedented and difficult times. Collaboration may well get us through this within weeks instead of months- Do your part, stay well and healthy, and be opened to opportunities and change.

Monday, 16 March 2020

A Leaderless world devoid of followers

Kelly McParland opines in the National Post: “World suffering from poor leadership and short-sightedness” . While we are navigating in uncharted waters, he laments that: “Leadership doesn’t necessarily cause crises, but its absence is usually a key component,”, but he fails to explain why we have no leaders today.
In my view the world has been leaderless for the past 20 years, which has seen wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the rise of terrorism, together with health crises including SARS, MERS, H1N1, Ebola and now Covid-19. The real problem is in a so-called new world order, where we are governed by what I term ‘the collective’. Nations have surrendered much of their sovereignty to global organizations, like the EU, NATO, WTO and the UN, to name but a few. It seems that for the past twenty years every problem has had to be resolved in consultation among nations. It is not wrong to have consensus when faced with global issues, but too often the solutions have resulted in more encroachment in national sovereignty. As a backlash we have seen a rise in populism which culminated in Trump’s election and Brexit.
Ever since Trump’s election, the main stream media has labelled him as a liar and basically a disaster. The left for three years have undermined his presidency because he dislikes the establishment, and the continued reliance on globalism. The left hates him, because they preferred Obama the appeaser and conciliator who preferred to resolve problems through the ‘collective’. Trump is not the ‘great communicator’ that Reagan was, but he is definitely his own ‘messenger’. I may not always agree with his style and rhetoric, but he certainly has challenged every status quo of globalism, which in my view is the cause for the absence of true leadership.
Despite the claim that there is a lack of leadership, I will contend that in this ‘woke’ world we live in, it is difficult to be a leader. One cannot lead today because if you stand up, you are labelled as a nail and therefore the hammer of the collective will smash you. As a result autocrats like Putin, Xi and terrorist groups have filled the vacuum. For years, the world has relied upon the U.S to be the policeman of the world, but Trump has decided that he will not allow it to continue without collaboration which includes proper financial contribution. He is often blamed for displaying an affinity for Xi, Putin and Kim, but those people who disagree with him forget that the concept of diplomacy is to obfuscate to gain an advantage in a negotiation strategy. I do not for one minute believe that Trump is a collaborator or supporter of these regimes, a rhetoric which his opponents often use against him.
There is no doubt that Trump made some mistakes in the early days of the Covid-19 crisis, but now that Europe is the epicentre of the pandemic, no one seems to give him credit for closing the borders. The ‘collective’ has always favoured open borders, and we see that even today the Canadian PM is still reluctant to close the country’s borders.
Covid-19 may well be the catalyst to awaken the world to a new form of collaboration. Trump with his tariffs, which I do not support but actually worked, exposed China for what the world has allowed for years. It is now evident that we cannot allow ourselves to be at the mercy of China as a major source of the supply chain. It is time for the Western world to control its own source of pharmaceuticals and not rely on China for 90% of its supply. For too long nations have agreed to relinquish their sovereignty to world organizations under the guise of collaboration, Trump is the one to force a change, and yet we lament that we have no leadership.
 The rest of the world has been asleep at the wheel while certain forces have taken advantage which has resulted in the chaos we find ourselves today. To have leadership we need followers, however the world seems to have decided that we are all leaders, yet no one wants to take the responsibility. When things go bad, we are very quick to blame the one who tries to make change.
In this latest global crisis, there has been no national leader who has been able to rise to the task, Trump may not be the one that most people want to be a leader, but right now he is the so-called leader of the world. To believe that he could be replaced by a ‘communist, or a ‘bumbler’ makes me shudder at the very thought of this happening. The left is quietly but surely wishing for a world recession to blame Trump, despite the fact that for the past three years we have seen enormous economic gains..  So the world is not without a leader, the problem is that we are devoid of sane followers, who have been brainwashed by the main stream media and conspiracy theorists on the internet.

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

A Prime Minister fast asleep at the wheel

The advent of the Covid-19, belatedly acknowledged as a pandemic, is hurting the world in more ways than one. The world economy is tittering on the verge of a recession, caused by a health issue coupled with a war between Russia and Saudi Arabia which has crumbled the price of oil. Governments around the world are scrambling, and yet Canada is still wandering what to do. The bigger question is where is the Prime Minister?
Ever since the virus was identified in China the spread of the epidemic has grown by leaps and bounds. While the rise of cases in China is plateauing, the numbers are rising in other parts of the world. Italy, South Korea and Iran are the ones mostly affected. Passengers on cruise ships are being quarantined because of the spread in confined quarters. What is causing panic is that there are now cases of community infection. The World Health Organization has been slow to react and the media and the Democrat Left has seized upon themselves to search for means of blaming Trump for whatever happens in the United States. The Canadian media, every night, spends more time talking about Trump rather than giving the Canadian public a more detailed explanation of what is happening in Canada. British Columbia is the province with the most cases, followed by Ontario and now Alberta. 
The Canadian economy is not only being hurt by Covid-19, but is damaged by the recent blockades and also now by the fall in oil prices. In all cases the Trudeau government has been slow to react and so far Canadians have no answer from this feckless PM, who is more interested in a UN seat instead of the welfare of the nation. Alberta’s economy which is being decimated by the lack of oil and gas development and a low price of oil, is now facing a more dire future. The Kenney government will have to reassess its latest budget and make more difficult decisions. Given the loss of revenue, it is clear that without drastic measures the deficit will grow.  The NDP opposition, just like the Democrats in the U.S., seem to be wringing their hands at the thought of an economic collapse for political reasons.
The International Monetary Fund is asking that governments around the world “to implement targeted fiscal, monetary and financial measures to help households and businesses weather the impact of the corona virus”. But it is not only the virus affecting the economy, environmental and oil policies are perhaps larger factors.  Opec countries are losing $500m a day, Quebec has lost some $4B of investment in a LNG project, Alberta lost Teck Resources proposed $20B oil-sands mine. Furthermore the delay in the Transmountain pipeline continues to be a major barrier to growth in Alberta. All governments are being urged to take measures to mitigate the unpredictable circumstances, but the Trudeau government mired in its ideological environmental policies coupled with the inability to make tough decisions due to their ‘reconciliation’ policy is now fully responsible for an upcoming recession made in Canada.
It is perhaps ironic that the Covid-19 will be the catalyst for governments to start using technology together with fiscal and monetary policies to create a better economic environment. As personal contact is being frowned upon, schools and businesses are encouraging people to stay at home. For teachers unions, who are bickering about their wages and large classes, let me advise them that they are playing with fire. I encourage governments to implement classes via the internet for students in grades 9 -12. They can have classes for three days and work from home for two days. That will free teachers to have more time to focus on development of younger students from grades 5 – 8 who need more attention in their formative years. Class size, the curmudgeon used by teachers’ unions becomes a moot point. This is just one example on how technology can be used to cut costs. Furthermore governments need to stimulate the economy, not by spending but by cutting taxes. Trump is making a payroll tax cut. The Trudeau government should cut the carbon tax which is a burden on businesses and customers, and they should also consider a 1% reduction in the GST, while removing many of their environmental regulations which are detrimental to foreign investment and economic growth.
There is no doubt that Covid-19 and oil politics have had a massive impact on the stock market and the world economy. However from a Canadian point of view, our problems rest solely on the shoulder of the Liberal government fixated in ideologies emanating from a Prime Minister’s feckless behaviour and personality. His response or lack of it, in all cases is affecting this country since the beginning of year and demonstrates that his government is no longer fit to run the country.

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Creating a State of Anarchy

For the past few weeks Canada has been in the tentacles of a standoff by some indigenous groups blockading trains tracks and roads. The feckless Prime Minister has been out of the country and upon his return did not resolve the problems. The question is why not?
The protagonists in this latest feud may not be a majority, but a small minority who call themselves the Hereditary Chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en people of northern B.C. who in a 1997 court case were recognized to have authority and the exclusive right of the Wet'suwet'en peoples to the land but did not specify the boundaries which includes jurisdiction over 58,000 square kilometres of land and water in northwest British Columbia. Coastal GasLink, the company building the pipeline, did sign agreements with representatives from 20 First Nations, including Wet'suwet'en duly elected band councils, who so far have had no say in the conflict. The project was subsequently approved by the provincial government. Yet the blockades in support of the Hereditary Chiefs have escalated and affected the whole country. Many of the supporters are environmentalists, who in my opinion have absolutely nothing to do with the ‘reconciliation’ agenda of the liberal government.  The opposition to the pipeline is being used by several groups, often funded by foreign organizations, to stop developments of fossil fuel projects.
 There is no doubt that the conflict between Canada and First Nations has been going on for years. Several governments have tried to bridge the gap of poverty between the indigenous people and the rest of the country. Billions of dollars have been spent; however it seems that political correctness has always been in the way of a favorable solution. Governments have ignored or deliberately misunderstood indigenous sovereignty for political gain. The Trudeau government is conveniently and for political expediency  using  the conflict to expand its environmental agenda.
Weeks of silence and inaction by the Trudeau government has seriously damaged the economy of Canada. The blockades have affected transportation of goods and people. Canadian economic growth has been hurt, and will take months to recover. Our trade credibility is in jeopardy because our partners cannot deliver or receive goods. However, in a desperate move to appease the Hereditary Chiefs and their supporters, a deal was struck but with no details made public. So far the only part that we know is that the government entertained an arrangement that will also honour the protocols of the Wet’suwet’en people and clans, but the Hereditary Chiefs are still opposed to the pipeline.
The negotiations were led by Crown-Indigenous Relations minister Carolyn Bennett. Why not the Hon. Wilson-Raybould? Minister Bennett has been in politics since 1997, as the face of “reconciliation”, she is a person who has been seen wearing indigenous jewelry and garments – no acculturalization here! For the past four years she has done nothing to make real progress in the relationship between First Nations and the rest of Canada. Now the country is faced with a real economic and constitutional conundrum. Trudeau’s reconciliation agenda coupled with an environmental ideology, was always going to create anarchy. The zealots will use the inability of his government to make decisions to hold the country to ransom. The yet to be disclosed agreement will not solve the current or future conflicts. Any resolution that does not address the right of way on indigenous lands as well as the need for economic purposes is bound to result in a repeat of the current nasty dispute. A government agreement that gives away everything without getting assurances for the free movement of people and goods will result into more protests and more blockades, not just against the oil industry but against anything that zealots will decide to oppose.
It is time for Canada to review its relationship with the First Nations including if need be a complete reform or abolition of the Indian Act. The current Act stands in the way of a resolution due to its complexity and refusal to recognize that despite the difference in culture there is only one country with different people. These differences are at the root of the multi-cultural nation that is Canada, but there should always be one and only one rule of law. Zealots cannot be allowed to hold the country to ransom.