Saturday, March 27, 2010

How Shale Gas Changes Everything: Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the upcoming demographic shift

A guest post by Kyle Olsen from Can150 Montreal - If anyone else in Montreal wants to share their thoughts on the conference, flip me an e-mail ( and I'll post them here

Not enough retirement savings, out of control healthcare costs, a lack of skilled workers, the uneducated unemployed, the future of Canadian content in the Internet age, inaction on climate change, Canada being excluded from new international alliances in international affairs – there certainly is a lot of soothsaying at Can150 and most of it is of the doomsday variety.

One participant indirectly alluded to this during a discussion on Canada’s energy future – looking back on long term planning based on predictions surrounding the dual energy crisis’s of the 1970s. The predictions of high priced oil forever and the plans for making this the foundation of our national economy collapsed soon after the plans were implemented when oil prices collapsed. In this context I don’t know if we should hope that our experts are wrong and their prognostications won’t come to pass.

The seeming theme of the conference – that the only solutions to these problems are so politically unpalatable that we are doomed to failure - might seem familiar to participants of the Aylmer Conference (huge debt, pension collapse, constitutional change).

While journalists and MPs might be searching for ‘magic beans’ that would make measures talked about popular (ahem, Green Shift 2 – Back to the Future) platform writers and pollsters may look back at the conference as an exercise in agenda setting on a massive scale.

Setting the theme leading into a probable fall election as doom and gloom (but not directly linked to the immediate economic situation) may do the most to recalibrate the playing field. It is possible Liberals with a prescription of bitter medicine contrasted to Tory denials will reconnect them with Canadians as competent managers.

And believe you me – this is a media exercise. The party is educating the media on the storms ahead while immersing them in an environment full of ‘senior liberal sources’ and Canadian opinion leaders. This is the closest thing to a post debate spin room I have seen in Canada (and it is lasting 3 days). When else has the media been corralled for an entire weekend on one holistic subject – challenges to Canada’s future.

So will this conference change the agenda, setting up the Liberal Party for a coherent election campaign in the fall? As I sit in the foyer, a CBC reporter conducts a stand up where she reports on the seriousness of the challenges and the Liberal Party’s openness to take on the tough challenges - I would say the mission may be half done. We will see if the Ignatieff front bench will be able to capitalize on this brand of seriousness in the weeks and months ahead.

Will Ignatieff ask about the issues of the day in question period over the next weeks or will he build a wedge in the approach to Canada’s serious problems – only time will tell.


  • I think the mere fact that the people on the panel are telling people what needs to be heard and not what they want to hear, makes this conference a success

    By Blogger Big Winnie, at 7:57 PM  

  • They are also asking for input from everyone. Non-partisan. What a concept!

    By Anonymous Valerie, at 9:41 PM  

  • Looking ahead, will the benefit of the conference extend beyond a couple of weeks to say 6 months hence, or will Ignatieff want to take a more aggressive stance in the HoCs, even attempting to defeat the gov't before the Summer recess and into an election.

    If Ignatieff senses the conference affords him some momentum, he should consider going into an election in April and May, because to hesitate again will destroy the advantage coming out of Montreal.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:31 PM  

  • Isn't there supposed to be a continuation of something in April?

    By Anonymous Cari, at 11:03 PM  

  • If Iggy can open up the parliamentary committee process to Canadians using the #Can150 approach, we'd be cooking with gas (to borrow an apropos expression).

    By Blogger ChrisInKW, at 12:18 AM  

  • From what I heard today I am a little more encouraged.

    Liberals need to return to the party of big ideas.

    The cons are offering nothing but division.

    The libs have a pretty impressive caucus, need to start using it more.

    Start giving people a reason to vote liberal again, remind them of Harper's record.

    Keep speaking positively, and to remind Canadians about the common good.

    No more nattering nabobs of negativity, which is what the conservatives practice.

    Good policy, and a positive message I think will win out in the end.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:56 AM  

  • Curious that it seems a "given" that what is presented at the gabfest is automatically going to be Liberal Party Policy going forward.

    Ignatieff has a hard enough time keeping his own policies for more than two days running. Not sure how someone from outside the Party will dictate Policy and get it to stick.

    By Blogger Paul, at 1:18 AM  

  • No dictators here, Paul. I think that's the whole point...

    By Blogger ChrisInKW, at 1:25 AM  

  • Cari - I believe there will be some sort of party policy process in April or May to vote/discuss ideas that come out of this conference.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 10:39 AM  

  • 5 regional conferences is the scuttlebutt, question on whether concurrent or sequential still to be determined.

    Shall be interesting - however they just be more Davos style panels, just on more regional issues.

    By Blogger Kyle G. Olsen, at 10:45 AM  

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