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‘Pay attention to the basic needs of Canadians’: The best comments from Hub readers this week

Commentary

Dynamic discussions were had in Hub Forum this week as January ended and February began. Readers spent their time discussing pressing economic issues in Canada, how Pierre Poilievre might govern, Canada Pension Plan funding, as well as debating the big question: is Canada broken?

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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Six charts that set the stage for Parliament’s return

Monday, January 29, 2024

“The charts highlighting our nation’s declining economic output are depressing enough. In the waning days of their coalition, though, the only chart catching the attention of the two parties that put us in this pickle is their sagging polling numbers.”

— RJKWells

Canada really is broken right now

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

“As I write in the article, obviously judgements about whether Canada ‘is broken’ are inherently subjective. But one does get the sense that there’s a broad-based view that something seems off. That the country’s economic and social conditions aren’t quite what we’ve come to expect. There are various factors behind this and it would be wrong to lay the blame solely at the feet of the Trudeau government. But it’s axiomatic in politics that governments claim credit for good outcomes and then try to absolve themselves of responsibility for bad ones. Polling suggests that Canadians believe that Ottawa is disproportionately responsible for today’s economic challenges. If one believes that we’re in the midst of a ‘lost decade,’ we need to be focused on how we get out of it.”

Sean Speer (editor-at-large at The Hub)

“I want a politics that has big and bold policy prescriptions because, at some point in time, we forgot that effective politics, and governing, means you’re going to annoy some part of the population to govern effectively for the vast majority. We need both incentives and penalties to get there.

It’s time for a politics that is bold and optimistic because lord knows, you don’t beat malaise by sitting around in a circle and complaining about how broken everything is. We have a culture problem as much as we have a policy and government problem.”

— A Gen Z Subscriber

“I still think we are pretty lucky to live in such a great country—plenty to fix but doomsday thinking is not that useful. Polarizing one another is like poison. We should have different opinions and there should be more space for debate (not just yelling & spitting out one-liners). Canada still ranks high in many waysone of the best countries in the world, very safe, stable economy, plenty of resources, reasonable inflation compared to many countries, longer life expectancy, and yes lower cost of living than many countries.

So much more we could be doing and maybe we need more grassroots think tanks. Maybe we all need to hold our politicians (regardless of party) to account when they lie and twist facts.
So much more to be done if we could start off by listening to one another with robust discussions.”

— Cathy

“The question is not whether Canada is broken. The question is, can it still be fixed?”

— Jim R

“I agree with your assessment. Pay attention to the basic needs of Canadians and give us the opportunity to do meaningful work.”

Anne Phillips

How would Poilievre govern?

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

“Canada hasn’t had an effective opposition party for many years…so someone actually performing the role of presenting a cogent alternative is startling to many people and very threatening to a lot of interests that are benefiting from crony politics. Canada by all measures is suffering and they alone call for a new set of ideas and approaches.”

— John Williamson

“Converting slogans into effective policy is rarely as straightforward as Mr. Poilievre tends to suggest, and he needs to be perhaps a bit more circumspect in this regard.

As one example, I’d look at his housing policy suggestions: ‘build homes, not bureaucracy’. Great slogan. But most of the bureaucracy involved is at the municipal level, while some are at the provincial levelnot within the federal wheelhouse.

Mr. Poilievre lays out an approach that would ‘reward’ cities that met specific housing start numbers, and punish those that fell short. Yet he is also on record as wanting to be more respectful of jurisdictional boundaries than the current government. With regard to his housing policy, it seems hard to square one policy position with the other.

The sad reality is that our current housing situation results from decades of government fumbling and myopia. The disparity between house prices and income began in the early 2000’s and has continued, unabated, through four federal administrations, including under P.M. Harper. While the Trudeau government has managed to turbo-charge things with increased immigration during a period of (now reversed) extremely low-interest rates may be the icing on the cake, the problem long predates this specific policy fumble. Unfortunately, it is not a problem that will see a quick reversal. So Mr. Poilievre might want to be just a bit more cautious about positioning around this issue.”

— David Foster

“It is totally reasonable that the opposition party does not put out a platform until part of an election process. Conservatives that are being pushed by the press on what cuts they will make, or where is your climate policy should be aggressive in their response that no opposition party puts out their platform until election time. Also, their response to (you did this or didn’t do that) needs also to be simplethat was then, this is now and things have changed significantly.”

— Al Raftis

Should we spend some of Canada’s CPP funds?

Thursday, February 1, 2024

“With all the taxes this current government collects, there shouldn’t be any need for them to touch any funds within the CPP. Furthermore, legislation should be put in place to keep any opportunity from government to utilize any money within CPP.”

— Arthur

“If there is such a surplus, I would look first at how many middle to low-income Canadians need more future retirement and look to benefits before the other suggestions.”

— Lloyd Posno

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau address his national caucus during a winter caucus retreat on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024. Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press.
All hail Canada’s aristocratic overlords

Friday, February 2, 2024

“The current immigration policy, or lack thereof, has put an unrealistic strain on the availability of housing, health care, and infrastructure.”

— Kim Morton

“‘Neofeudalistic’ is really just good old-fashioned inequality. It is a guaranteed outcome in political systems that allow wealth to garner political power, even democratic ones. It snowballs as more wealth begets ever more disproportional political power.

This is just an ongoing extension of those with wealth incrementally and steadily and legally rigging the game ever in their favor, despite tragically being against their own long-term self-interest.”

Paul Attics

Malcolm Jolley: From Cape Town to Canada: Niagaran wines with a South African spirit

Commentary

In 2005, Marlize Beyers, who has a Bachelor of Science in Viticulture and Oenology from Stellenbosch University, had been making wine in South Africa for a couple of years when her husband, Meiring, got a dream engineering job in Canada. He was to apply his specialty, researching the fluid dynamics of snow, and when Beyers landed in the Great White North she must have wondered if she’d have to make a career change.

“Luckily, there was a wine region, Niagara, nearby, so I could get a job and continue to make wine,” she explained in a Cape Dutch accent when I spoke to her recently over Zoom from her home in Hamilton, Ontario.

Beyers began making wine in Niagara at Flat Rock Cellars on the elevated lands of the Twenty Mile Bench. After she took a break to have her first child, Harald Thiel, the founder and proprietor of nearby Hidden Bench, invited her to make wine a little further west in Niagara, which she did for the better part of seven years.

Geographically, the Niagara wine region is best known for its limestone soils and the micro-climate created by the interaction of deep Lake Ontario and the continuous cliff of the Escarpment. But Niagara’s other great geographical advantage is its proximity to Toronto. It’s 400 kilometres from Vancouver to Penticton and more than 600 between Calgary and Penticton. By contrast, it’s less than 100 kilometres from Toronto City Hall to Beamsville and the western end of Niagara wine country. (Though many may prefer having to scale mountain passes to battling the traffic on the Queen Elizabeth Way.)

In the 2000s and 2010s Beyers was in the middle of a heady time in Niagara as the Toronto restaurant scene exploded. Times were good and discretionary income and expense accounts grew. The new trend of interest in local food quickly translated to interest in local wines and Ontario wine went from a term of derision to a shibboleth of gastronomic savvy. Money, thirsty collectors, and curious sommeliers power charged the scene, and the winemaking was innovative and forward-thinking.

In 2017, when Beyers left Hidden Bench to join her old South African employer, Bruce Jack, she took that energy and spirit of adventure with her. Beyers, who kept her principal address in Ontario, became a flying winemaker. She became a winemaker at Jack’s The Drift Estate in the Overberg Highlands, about 170 kilometres southeast of Cape Town. She also formed a consultancy partnership with Jack, Resolute Wine Works, with projects in South Africa, Chile, Napa, Spain, and… you guessed it: Niagara.

Resolute Wine Works currently consults at Beyer’s first Canadian employer, Flat Rock Cellars. But I came to talk to Beyers, who I knew from her days at Hidden Bench, because of a bottle from the first vintage of an entirely new project: The Long Way Home Chardonnay 2022.

Made from fruit picked at Hidden Bench’s Felseck vineyard, I received the bottle by way of South African serendipity. My friend, the winemaker Norman Hardie, whose family immigrated to Canada when he was a schoolboy, was making a personal Christmas delivery on my street when I ran into him walking my dog.

“Malcolm,” he said excitedly as he went through the boxes of wine in the back of his car, “you have to try this Chardonnay, it’s amazing.” I briefly looked forward to one of his own, but he explained with a smile that the bottle he was handing me was made by Marlize Beyers who was making wine in Canada again: “You’ll love it.”

He wasn’t wrong. The Long Way Home is an impressive, rich, and powerful yet lean wine, like a long-distance runner. Crisp and citrus with food-friendly acidity, but tempered with a luxurious touch of custard cream. And, though it’s bone dry, I found honeyed notes on a marathon finish, once it’s opened up. I had looked Beyers up and sent her an email before I finished the first glass.

When I spoke to Beyers, and said I thought her wine would make a very good excuse for a long lunch at a fancy restaurant, she laughed and protested a bit. “I’m not a fancy winemaker,” she said, “I just try and bring out the best from the fruit I’m working with. Once you’ve done all the work in the vineyard, you shouldn’t have to do too much in the cellar.”

Then, as Beyers walked through how she made the wine, she surprised me by telling me that the yellow straw-coloured wine had in fact been subject to skin contact, the process that normally turns white wines into orange ones. There was no sign of pigment in the glass, by my eye, and no sign of skin tannin by my palate. 

Winemaker Marlize Beyers.

What was going on?

Beyer explained that she became interested in skin contact and maceration for white wines a few years ago when she was more or less forced to experiment with a co-fermentation of Viognier and Malbec at The Drift. When she applies skin contact on white wines, like The Long Way Home Chardonnay in Ontario, or Chenin Blanc in South Africa, she explained she said she does it as gently as possible and likened the process to steeping tea. 

Other than keeping the top of the skins from drying out, she really doesn’t do too much in the cellar. There are no “punch downs” or other manipulations to stir up the fermenting juice and crushed skins. She also ferments the wine at cold temperatures. Beyers explained that she is looking for “floral and fruit character” from chemical compounds in the skins, but without the tannins from the pigment in them that gives red or orange wine a drying or textured mouthfeel.

The 2022 Long Way Home Chardonnay ($50) is available through the Niagara Custom Crush Studio website. The 2023 is being made there now, this time with fruit from just down the road at Malivoire. Since it ships directly from the winery, consumers can order one bottle at a time rather than committing to a whole case.Contact Niagara Custom Crush about shipping outside of Ontario.

Bruce Jack wines are frequently available across Canada. Right now in Ontario, two of The Drift wines that Beyers makes can be ordered online by the bottle through the LCBO Classics program. The Ghost in the Machine Chenin Blanc 2022 ($29) is also a skin contact but is very much a white wine with peach and grapefruit flavours that remind me of mid-Loire white wines from Angers like Savennières or the dry versions of Coteaux du Layon. The grapes are from Beyer’s brother’s farm.

The Ghost in the Machine Shiraz 2021 ($38) is made partly with carbonic maceration, where whole bunches of grapes are piled on top of each other, keeping out oxygen so fermentation happens with carbon dioxide instead. Primarily used in Beaujolais, it gives the wine a big wine fruit character. Look for sour cherries, like in a pie filling, and raspberry seasoned with peppery notes.