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‘Step aside and behold the wonder that is the free market’: The best comments from Hub readers this week

Commentary

This week saw Hub readers engaging with a range of pressing issues, including how universities conduct themselves in the realm of politics, our country’s messy federalism, what the media needs to do to earn back public trust, the impact of the oil and gas emissions cap, and the importance of learning and appreciating our country’s history.

The goal of Hub Forum is to bring the impressive knowledge and experience of The Hub community to the fore and to foster open dialogue and the competition of differing ideas in a respectful and productive manner. Here are some of the most interesting comments from this past week.

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Reform is coming for entitled universities—one way or another

Monday, December 11, 2023

“Universities should be places where ideas can be explored, discussed, and debated freely. In our society today, sadly, civil discourse seems to have been lost.”

A. Chezzi

“Different systems, different outcomes. Depending on who cuts the cheques, money does talk. The pace of cultural change within government-funded Canadian post-secondary institutions will be glacial, if in fact there is any movement.”

RJKWells

“A key takeaway is that as universities face an increasingly difficult time defending their political neutrality on a range of issues and debates, it becomes more difficult for proponents higher education of to marshal a credible defense against political meddling by government. Administrators hopefully are waking up to this contradiction and fathoming that the ‘juice isn’t worth the squeeze.’ In sum, it is hard to see how universities don’t end up losing public support, public funding, and their intellectual independence if they continue to selectively take ideological stands on a range of issues from climate to indigeneity to anti-racism while downplaying antisemitism, their responsibly to fashioning genuine public, non-political goods, and providing neutral places and spaces for free and open debate and discussion.”

Rudyard Griffiths (Executive Director at The Hub)

Does everything feel broken? Canada’s messy federalism is a big part of the problem

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

“Municipalities seem to be a lot less infected by party politics, which is usually a good thing. I could envisage a constitution that has the federal government playing a smaller role in dealing with truly national concerns, the municipalities basically taking over the provincial responsibilities, with the provinces having a residual power where there are no real municipalities that are sufficiently populous in order to bring the services needed.”

Jon Snipper

The media must start listening to the public it serves

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

“Journalists used to be concerned with the ‘truth.’ As discussed in the article mentioning the three U.S. university presidents and their Congressional testimony, nowadays truth seems to require context. Rather than wordsmith around issues, I wish journalists had the moral backbone to ask elites hard questions. Where is the ‘science’ about managing COVID? Where was the risk analysis of closing schools or borders? Why were vaccine mandates seen as a good rather than as a punishment? Why do so many journalists seem to report politician’s statements rather than challenge them for evidence?

The best thing our media could do is to foreswear the federal funding as presently delivered and to be augmented by the social media tax soon to be collected. If they need paywalls, use them and explain why to readers. Sell the value of reporting Canadian stories to advertisers, rather than clicks.”

Ian MacRae

“To be relevant and to be trusted, the news media must be responsible. That means being very strict with themselves about what is news, how it is reported, and the technical accuracy of the words and terms they choose.”

Gregory Lang

“Respect your audience enough to listen to them and above all, ‘show, don’t tell.'”

Zoe C.

Careful—an oil and gas emissions cap won’t just hurt Alberta

Thursday, December 14, 2023

“The one interregional conversation that needs even more focus should be about energy conservation and it should be taught in schools across the country.”

Pierre Filisetti

“Canadians want action on climate change. Over 100 countries including Canada lobbied hard for strong language on the phase out of fossil fuels at COP28. This government is not an outlier on this issue.”

Michael F

“Oil and gas will continue to be a part of our economy. The path to the less carbon-intensive environment (we’ll never be carbon-free, never) that you desperately seek today can only be achieved through innovation, not taxation. Those who believe in taxing the prosperity of others to achieve their elusive goals are free to join the soon-to-be unemployed minister Guilbeault and Greta Thunberg to engage in glib protests and unfurl shallow banners. Step aside and behold the wonder that is the free market.”

— RJKWells

No past, no future—How Canada’s historical amnesia is dooming our democracy

Friday, December 15, 2023

“Our history, good and bad, is our history and we must embrace it, but we have to study and understand that history to make the distinction. I think it is ignorance that leads to cancelling when we should be correcting the narrative to move forward.”

Gregory Lang

“The threat of this has been hovering over Canadians for a couple of decades now. And now that it’s being treated seriously, it’s probably too late. Social capital (trust is another example) takes generations to build and once broken/lost is almost impossible to rebuild.”

Menzies

Malcolm Jolley: The best Christmas gift for the wine lover in your life

Commentary

“Sometimes the old ways are the best,” says an aging James Bond in Skyfall. If there ever was an audience for this message, it must be the wino crowd, particularly those of us contemplating Bondian middle-aged obsolescence. We can be a cranky bunch, suspicious of newfangled things, in pursuit of tastes and flavours from long-dead grapes that take years to slowly evolve.

And yet it’s difficult to imagine an area of human endeavour that has taken more advantage of the digital information revolution than the wine world. If one buys the most obscure bottle of wine made by a single row of vines that are only indigenous to a particular hillside in a former Soviet republic, there is still a very good chance that some byte of information will be brought forward by entering its name into a search engine.

That search result might be found at one of the great centres of the accumulation of digital wine knowledge over the last two decades or so. First called the Purple Pages it’s now named after its founder, jancisrobinson.com. There, Jancis Robinson OBE MW has assembled an elite team of oenological information gatherers that includes, for the better part of two decades, a fellow master of wine in senior editor Julia Harding.

From this virtual hive of vinous information has sprung a number of important works, made very much in the old bookish way, not least is the just published fifth and physical edition of The Oxford Companion to Wine. At just over a million words, this edition is by far the biggest yet, with over 4,498 entries (272 of which are new) from 267 contributors.

The Oxford Companion to Wine is a relative newcomer to the Oxford University Press stable of reference books. Robinson compiled and edited the first edition in 1994. That’s one hundred and ten years after the first Oxford English Dictionary, for instance. There’s some irony that it was launched just as the internet began to take off, though, given the Robinson media team’s proficiency at both old and new media, it probably makes a lot of sense.

In some circles (mine) ownership of an up-to-date OCW is an essential credential to being a serious wino. There are few topics undertaken for this column that are not referenced first in the OCW before being taken to Google. Likewise, a quick look-up in the big book is an essential pre-event ritual for any tasting or interview. What The Oxford Companion to Wine holds is authority. (Often also wit: it’s actually fun to read.)

The push for the fifth edition began in earnest two years ago during the dark days of the pandemic. Robinson handed over the reins of lead editorship and the brunt of the work to Harding. Robinson stayed as a titled editor and they recruited North American expert Tara Q Thomas as assistant editor. When I spoke to Julia Harding MW from her office in London over Zoom, she explained that the lead role chiefly meant ownership of the master spreadsheet of entries. 

Harding told me the new edition of the OCW begins the day the finished one goes to the printer and the filing of notes into the possible updates begins.Harding also told me that a new, second edition of Wine Grapes (2012), which she wrote with Robinson and ampelographer José Vouillamoz, is “overdue” and being planned. The work of amassing as much of the world’s wine knowledge as possible into three kilograms (six pounds) of paper and cardboard reaches its frenzy in the twenty-four months before publication.

Anyone who’s ever had to work within a word count knows that a lot of hard work in editing is deciding what gets left out. Harding told me the OUP had given her a firm limit of no more than 65,000 more words in the fifth than in the fourth. Some things, she explained, were easy to take out to make room for new entries, like appellations that are no longer in use. They also tried to tighten up existing entries as much as possible. But a few, like “Coffeehouses”, were deemed no longer relevant enough to remain.

I asked Harding if she was often solicited by people who wanted whatever they did in the wine world put into The Oxford Companion to Wine. “Not really”, she answered, “it’s more that we get complaints about things left out.”

Harding explained that a “huge logistical challenge” of putting together the book, once the entries were decided, was less the selection of entries and more the management of the 267 expert contributors spread across the world. During the intense production period, she describes the editors’ work as “like being in a giant post office, with things coming and going constantly…it’s a massive booking in and booking out operation.”

The contributors to the OCW include wine writers and journalists, but also academics, winemakers, and trades who contribute as much out of a love for their field as anything. The problem is often, Harding explained sympathetically, that they know so much it’s difficult to pair down their entry to a word count appropriate for the reference book.

When I suggested that it was a mark of honour to be listed as a contributor to the book, and keen readers like me would go through the list to see who we recognized, she said she hoped that was the case. Harding added that it was certainly an honour to work with them.

Holiday shoppers should take note that the new edition of The Oxford Companion to Wine is an ideal present for those curious about wine, including one’s self. They might also take note that it costs eighty Canadian dollars, or maybe less if you find a deal. If the next edition is another eight years away, that’s like a ten-dollar-a-year subscription, or about two cents an entry, or about one one-hundredth of a cent per word. This is, to borrow a concept from wine criticism, a high price-to-quality ratio.