Big news week
The seven days starting April 24, 2011 were an exciting Big News week.
On Friday, April 29thI saw on live TV here images of Prince William and Kate Middleton returning by horse drawn carriage to Buckingham Palace after their wedding at Westminster Abbey in London. I knew the Royal Wedding was that day, but I had no plan to watch it because I thought it would be on in the middle of the night, or something. So I was at home that afternoon kind of oblivious of the time difference between Japan and the rest of the world, watching a DVD movie. When the movie was finished the TV automatically reverted to television broadcasting and the screen was filled with a close-up of William and Kate. Then I realized what I was watching. I watched for maybe thirty minutes as the entire royal family and the Middletons returned to the palace. Then I’d had enough. I didn’t hold out to watch them come out on the balcony and do the wedding kiss thing. Instead, I read about the entire wedding and saw the pictures in the next day’s morning newspapers.
When I was watching the slow procession back to the palace I noticed all the horse manure spotting the London streets, compliments not just of the carriage horses but the entire accompanying parade of mounted guardsmen. I thought what kind of accessory is that to recommend a wedding? Then I thought of the London City Works officials who would probably be out very quickly to scoop it up, before pedestrians or vehicular traffic trampled in it.
Osama bin Laden
Around 2:00 p.m. on Monday, May 2, 2011 - 1:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time in North America - I learned of the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of American Special Forces in Pakistan from the top-of-the-hour news on AFN Radio - the American Armed Forces Network radio. I often listen to news and talk radio on AFN. At that time the news was already a couple hours old, but I was at the Kinokuniya Bookstore in Shinjuku and I had just come home. I learned the story in detail from the morning newspapers on Tuesday 3rd. While the morality of celebrating the death of another is questionable I nevertheless felt very satisfied.
Free Trade Accord
In newspapers on Sunday, May 1st I read about the possibility of another minority Conservative government in Canada’s May 2, 2011 elections, and the possibility of a New Democrat coalition government. But then I learned the actual election results on the Internet late in the afternoon of Tuesday 3rd here, and in the evening I heard an oral report of it on the AFN radio station. Three times a charm for Prime Minister Stephen Harper who finally landed a majority government. To the surprise of many, both the federal Liberal Party and the separatist Bloc Quebecois imploded, while the socialist New Democratic Party rocketed into Official Opposition status for the first time ever.
Since Pierre Trudeau retired in 1984 Canadian politics has been a roller coaster ride. Or, maybe it only seems that way. The long governments of Brian Mulroney (1984-1993) and Jean Chrétien (1993-2003) might resemble stability, but to me things look exciting and volatile:
Quebec sovereignty/separation referendums (1980, when charismatic, chain-smoking Réné Lévesque was Premier, and the nail-biting 1995 vote when the abrasive Jacques Parizeau was Premier); the Liberal Party almost wiped out under John Turner’s brief tenure (1984);
1984-88, Conservative government of Brian Mulroney is plagued by a series of patronage appointment scandals - blatant and crass distribution of jobs and government contracts to supporters, allies, friends and friends of friends, attributed to the party’s inexperience in government; the bombing of Air India flight 182 over the Atlantic Ocean by Vancouver-based Sikh militants in 1985;
the failed bombing of a Japanese carrier departing Vancouver at the same time, the device detonating after landing at Tokyo, Narita, killing a handful of Japanese baggage handlers;
1987, the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement (FTA), precursor to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It was very divisive in Canadaand the 1988 federal general election was fought almost exclusively on this issue; Ontario Liberal Premier David Peterson, already enjoying a majority government, called an unnecessary and much resented summer election in a mercenary bid for political longevity only to be rebuffed with electoral defeat and the loss of his own parliamentary seat (1990). He was immediately rewarded with a University of Western Ontario teaching post;
the Oka Crisis (July-September 1990), a Mohawk Indian land claims dispute (protesting the incursion into a burial ground by a golf course development) that got out of hand when Quebec provincial police and Canadian soldiers laid siege to the Kahnawake Reserve near Montreal;
the failure of the Meech Lake Accord in 1990 by the resistance of Manitoba aboriginal legislator Elijah Harper, infamous for blocking a ratification vote of the constitutional amendment intended to bring the Province of Quebec into the Constitution by sitting at his desk in the provincial legislature in Winnipeg holding an eagle feather for inspiration;
the collapse of the North Atlantic Cod fishing industry and the Canadian declaration of a cod fishing moratorium in 1992;
the first and so far only female Prime Minister (Kim Campbell, 1993, Brian Mulroney’s last Defense Minister);
the creation of the Bloc Quebecois (1991, once led by former Mulroney cabinet minister Lucien Bouchard, the man who lost a leg to that flesh-eating bacteria “necrotizing fasciitis” in 1994). And now, the fall of the Bloc;
the Progressive Conservative Party wiped out (1993) and the Liberals’ victory with the biggest majority in Canadian political history;
the record-setting and unequalled three majority governments in a row by Jean Chrétien (1993, 1997, 2000), disdained by Quebecers but much admired in English Canada;
January 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) comes into effect, negotiated by the Mulroney Conservatives and President George H.W. Bush, the pact was opposed by Liberal Jean Chrétien. It came into effect after Jean Chrétien won a majority government in federal elections, but before he took office to replace Conservative PM Kim Campbell. After taking office, instead of abrogating the treaty the Chrétien government negotiated supplemental treaties;
the creation of the Inuit autonomous region of Nunavut(April 1, 1999) - not an April Fool’s Day joke;
the rise of Preston Manning’s and Stephen Harper’s Reform Party in the West (1987-2000) and its evolution into the Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance (Canadian Alliance Party);
2003, the Canadian Alliance Party merges with the battered remnants of the Progressive Conservative Party to form the Conservative Party of Canada;
the SARS epidemic of 2003;
the mad cow/BSE epidemic a couple years after that;
and now the rise of the NDP.
1981 – Montebello, Quebec
- Pierre Trudeau
1988 – Toronto, Ontario
- Brian Mulroney
1995 – Halifax, Nova Scotia
- Jean Chrétien
2002 – Kananaskis, Alberta
- Jean Chrétien
2010 – Huntsville, Ontario
- Stephen Harper
It’s anything but boring. Maybe politicians count on public amnesia, but I don’t forget anything.