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‘We’re either a free-market economy or we’re not’: The best comments from Hub readers this week

Commentary

This past week saw Hub readers focus on the different issues and current events related to the state of Canada’s economy and other high-profile topics, including what a federal regime change would mean for businesses, Canada’s economic future, the CBC lacking a proper mandate, how Trudeau’s economic agenda is failing Canada, and the need for nuclear power in the country.

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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Poilievre’s unpredictable flirtation with labour

Monday, January 15, 2024

“A day of reckoning is desperately needed for corporate Canada. They can’t keep having it both ways. We’re either a free-market economy or we’re not.”

RJKWells

Canada’s economic future is looking grim—especially when compared to the U.S.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

“As long as the Trudeau government keeps putting up roadblocks to development and increasing taxes on almost everything we need to run a business, there will be a very grim future for Canada.”

— Daryl Watt

“A good indicator is American manufactured food products disappearing from Canadian shelves as manufacturers from the USA find they cannot make a profit after shipping costs, ie Kleenex, Skippy peanut butter, some cereals. Shipping costs of all products around the world will double and triple. We ain’t seen nothing yet, as they say!”

Paul Crawford

“Today’s article on Canada’s economic future presents in my view an accurate assessment of Canada’s past economic performance and future challenges. I agree we have to focus far more on per capita GDP growth than national GDP growth.

The federal government has mismanaged the controls on the influx of people into Canada which is noted in a report from the National Bank which was reported in the Globe and Mail (business section) in two articles on January 16. Our immigration system was broadly supported by most Canadians; however, the influx of foreign students and individuals on temporary work permits was not properly considered by the federal government despite concerns raised by the civil service in 2022.”

Mark S

Enough with committees and consultations. The CBC needs a mandate with teeth

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

“The CBC caters to an ever-shrinking audience, but many Canadians consider it to be fundamental to maintaining the Canadian identity. Make CBC a subscription-based service and stop the government funding. Those who watch it or claim it’s still an important, relevant institution can directly support it. The rest of us can continue to ignore it, knowing that it is not consuming government funds that would be much better allocated elsewhere.”

Martin Davidson

“I’m an 82-year-old senior who has listened to CBC Radio, while watching CBC TV less so, for 60-plus years. For me, Radio One and Two are essential to all Canadians from coast to coast to coast and inland. It is a vital link for our nation, supporting the population as well as the regional communities small and large that need to feel they are part of the whole. It’s essential for a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic, and multicultural population. One major deficiency is the almost tepid lack of a reminder that we are a bilingual country. Radio Canada is unique but the broadband CBC radio #1 and #2 doesn’t weave the French fabric into our national conscious mindset.”

Mike Slinger

“Journalism is composed of various degrees of fact gathering (relevant data), analysis (connections), and opinion (conclusions). Bias becomes a bigger and bigger factor as one moves from facts to opinion. Even if just limited to fact-based reporting, the selection, ordering, and wording of undisputed facts is an activity infected with bias.

The best antidote to inevitable bias is the diversity of good faith thought in a news organization. That is, professional journalists with diverse acknowledged default perspectives (e.g. conservative or progressive) doing their best to be on guard for their inevitable biases.”

Paul Attics

“The CBC still has a place on the Canadian airwaves, but in a scaled-down format. I could accept a reduced CBC that separates Radio Canada as a separate corporation, maintains the Northern services, and maintains most radio and podcast services.”

Dennis Denney

“I don’t own a television, never have, so I cannot comment on that part of the CBC. I do use CBC Radio One sometimes. Not nearly as much as I did 25 years ago. Their programming has become less interesting. Maybe because I am getting too old. Maybe because they lack funding. Maybe they are producing less interesting content. I was once a very staunch defender of the CBC Radio, but now I can almost envision not having it anymore. Almost. It isn’t a desirable future but liveable. Canada would suffer culturally without the CBC, but has been suffering culturally anyway.”

Paul

Trudeau’s empty-calories economic agenda is failing Canada

Thursday, January 18, 2024

“The decision to not align people-coming-in (immigration, students, temporary workers) with the current infrastructure and resources (health care, schools, housing) is a massive and ongoing failure of management on the leadership that controls the flow: the current federal government.”

Paul Attics

A view of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant at Ishwardi in Pabna, Bangladesh, Wednesday, Oct.4, 2023. Mahmud Hossain Opu/AP Photo.
Canada needs reliable nuclear power now more than ever—just ask Alberta

Friday, January 19, 2024

“This new partnership for developing small nuclear power generation is a welcoming development for sure—albeit long overdue in IMHO. That said, it is hardly the solution to Alberta’s current problem. The lead times for even small nuclear are long and could face the same pushback from the NIMBY syndrome. Frankly, the real solution is to expand natural gas power generation, a resource that is both plentiful and inexpensive and produces power that is far more reliable and far cheaper than either wind or solar (and I might add with less full-cycle environmental costs).

Instead, our federal government is pushing this ‘net zero’ policy which is at best an ill-conceived policy and at worst a policy driven by an eco-ideology. Either way, Canadians will pay and we will reap little or no benefits—not even all these jobs of which Minister Freeland speaks.”

— Stephen McClellan

“Alberta is a red herring. Power is a provincial jurisdiction and, as Premier Smith says, let the feds stay in their own lane. Alberta has kicked the issue of power down the road for a long time. The failure of the grid is on Smith, not the feds. No other Western province is in the same situation as Alberta. Alberta put all its eggs in one basket, fossil fuel, it paused renewables, and when the plant went off grid and the weather turned very cold, Albertans were left in the cold. Smith’s passion, like Poilievre, for blaming everything on the feds, is an abdication of her duty to Albertans.”

A. Chezzi

Malcolm Jolley: The wine world will have to adapt to a tough 2024

Commentary

Levi Dalton worked as a sommelier for three of New York City’s top chefs: Michael White, Masa Takayama, and Daniel Boulud. In their respective hallowed halls of gastronomy, Levi would have poured wines luxurious, esoteric, and rare. And he would have poured them not just for the rich and famous but also for the epicurean elite: the world’s famous chefs and, maybe more importantly, the world’s most respected winemakers.

If Dalton found respect for those winemakers then I am sure it was mutual. I know this from the one time I met him. It was a few years ago in a subterranean restaurant in the Piedmontese wine city of Alba. It was the welcome dinner for the press delegation to Nebbiolo Prima, the annual release of the red wines made from that grape in Barolo, Barbaresco, and Roero.

I was discombobulated from an overnight flight to Germany and a day’s journey via Milan to the Langhe hills. I assumed the tall dark-haired man seated next to me was a local producer because I had seen him talk to a number of the ones who began pouring their wines. But he introduced himself as a sommelier for New York and mentioned he had a podcast.

I was grateful to have my new friend as a seatmate. I hadn’t studied my itinerary very carefully and was surprised that the wines we were tasting and enjoying through dinner weren’t the Nebbiolo we would be tasting all week. What was in my glass was Verduno Pelaverga DOC, a rare, lighter red wine made from a grape that was nearly made extinct as its vines were pulled out to make way for commercially successful Nebbiolo and Barbera.

While I knew nothing, Dalton knew much about Pelaverga. Not only did he give me a concise history of the grape, he knew most of the producers and labels and could comment on each one. As producers rotated around our table with each course, he asked them interesting questions about the vintage and how each was made. He also explained that Pelaverga was enjoying a kind of moment in the New York sommelier scene.

I felt lucky and cool to have met Dalton. Still, I spent the rest of the week immersed in tasting and other events and I didn’t think much of our meeting until another wine writer I follow recommended his podcast, I’ll Drink To That, and I realized the host was the Pelaverga guy. He has been producing a podcast since 2012. And the show, running for more than an hour, was compelling and informative, just like the dinner before. I was instantly hooked.

The only trouble with Dalton’s podcast is that a subscription requires patience. Although he has made nearly 500 episodes, they sometimes come slowly. This is not just because they are long and well-edited and produced, but I think also because they are extremely well-researched. When Dalton interviews a winemaker, he’ll probe with questions, often about specific events, from the entire breadth of the producer’s career.

The latest episode features an interview with Robert Drouhin, the 90-year-old patriarch and head winemaker of Maison Joseph Drouhin from 1957 to 2003. Joseph Drouhin established the renowned Burgundy house in 1880 and his son Maurice took control of the grower-merchant business in 1918. By the time Robert took over in the late ’50s, he was steeped in the institutional knowledge of two generations.

The well of knowledge from which Dalton draws in the interview is deep. And rich. Drouhin’s tenure in Burgundy coincided with the modernization of the wine industry there and around the world. He tells Dalton that until well after the Second World War the family’s holdings were limited to the immediate area around their cellars in Beaune because that was as far as they could take their horses to work the vineyards. Only once the vignerons acquired tractors could they manage plots throughout the region.

Drouhin’s tenure in Burgundy also coincided with the rise in the profession of enology and the scientific study of the process of making wine. When he started, the cellar manager was a cooper, and the management of the company’s barrels was a key priority. With the arrival of the professionals came new technology, like temperature-controlled fermentation, which allowed for consistency and quality control from year to year.

Additionally, Drouhin’s tenure coincided with the internationalization of the wine trade and the exponential growth, in particular, of the American consumer market. Drouhin kept his eye on what was happening in the U.S. and made friends with California’s modern wine pioneer, Robert Mondavi, among others. Eventually, in the 1980s he would establish Domaine Drouhin Oregon in Willamette Valley.

Dalton’s podcast with Drouhin was been at the forefront of my mind in the last few weeks. Not just because it’s entertaining—Drouhin is a charming and eloquent guest—but because the news of the wine world coming into 2024 is grim.

A recent report estimates that Australia currently has 875 Olympic swimming pools worth of wine in storage, with no foreseeable buyers and the 2024 Southern Hemisphere harvest looming. Another reports Champagne sales are in decline, even in France. At my local provincial retailer, I see an increasing number of bottles marked down, especially in the $20 to $30 range, typically made by smaller family businesses. Things look rough and some things are bound to change.

Dalton’s work, and Drouhin’s career, offer hope. They show that despite all the marketing appeals to tradition, the wine industry is remarkably adept at change. Trends come and go. And so does technology and new techniques. As Drouhin says in the interview, “Innovation that works becomes tradition.”

After all, the vigneron must adapt to the changing weather and pest conditions of each growing year, and the caviste to the unpredictable process of fermentation. How the world of wine changes and evolves in the next quarter of the 21st century should be a good story. Stay tuned.