Obama is here.....govern yourselves accordingly!

Prez departs D.C.

Welcome back everyone!

Today (February 19th) the President has dropped into Ottawa on his first foreign visit and I must say it's a real--oh sorry he's gone. I hope you enjoyed it!

A lot of people in the capital of the Great White North are disappointed that President Obama is having such a short visit. What about skating on the canal? Eating Beavertails (a local delicacy)? Watching a Senators' hockey game? Ahhh gee, eh?

It's important to put this into perspective. That's the great thing about the Canada-U.S. relationship - our closeness. The President can leave after breakfast. Heck he can even whip home for lunch; go back again and be home by supper! Now what other nation can claim that?

The economy is on everyone's mind and with the passage in Congress of the stimulus/reinvestment package and in Canada, with the passage of the Budget how are the media handling the coverage? Also, all around us politicians, athletes, bankers and others are apologizing for their sins and asking for forgiveness. Some work out and some don't. In this edition, we'll examine why.

But first a little catch-up on what's been happening since my last missive.

Catching up

We were in Washington for a few days last week, and among other meetings, we attended former U.S. Ambassador David Wilkin's reception at his new law firm. He understands the cross-border issues like no one else and was a real coup for the firm of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP. Then who should walk in, but Sen. John McCain? It was great talking with him again. He seems at peace with himself and is clearly not looking backward but forward to more years in the Senate. When he lost the election he said he had no intention of growing a beard and moving to Europe. He just wanted to get back to work, right away.

McCain and his fellow Senators and Congressmen who attended were in the middle of negotiations on the Congressional bail-out package and Sen. McCain was clearly opposed to the amount and focus of the package.

It was also great to catch up with Canada's Ambassador, the Hon. Michael Wilson, with whom I had the pleasure of working with back when he was Minister of Finance. I didn't want to take up too much of his time as he had to work that room to argue Canada's position against the 'Buy America' clause in the package. The consensus was that although it was watered down, Canada will be inevitably affected by it - which won't help American consumers or industry, but is a great 'bone' to throw to protectionist forces.

The Psychology of Recession - Fighting

Clearly the American public is deeply split on the bail-out. It does appear that huge chunks of the spending were pent-up spending demands by Democrats in Congress. Certainly for all the talk of bi-partisanship, the process for getting that support was as important as the substance. McCain and his Republican colleagues seemed to be particularly worked up over that.

Will it work? Well, I'm no economist but.......it has the potency of perception. The President is DOING something. He's giving us HOPE. When you consider that a huge chunk of a recession is psychological, then it sometimes requires a psychological solution. Most of it will probably not create the kind of growth and jobs that have been trumpeted. However, the psychological impact may be a significant kick-start to the moribund consumer economy that is our reality. People have to be willing to reach into their wallets and SPEND. Combine that with a restored credit market and who knows?

Meanwhile in Canada, the spill-over effect of the American economic woes have triggered a much greater hit on the economy than anyone had ever expected. However, even after Canada's next two combined deficits of $64 billion the Canadian debt-to-GDP ratio will still be only half of the Americans. While there is not great comfort in that, it does keep the scale of the problem in some kind of context.

The other day I was speaking to a well-known television reporter who was agonizing about the 7.5% unemployment rate. I replied "yes that is true, but keep in mind that 92.5% of people who want a job actually have one!" I added "that will never be a news item.... details at 11:00". She was taken aback and said, "honestly I never thought of it that way." Hhhmmmm.

Final point on the economy (I promise). The media need to stop 'banging the drum' on every conceivable negative story that they can possibly report. Otherwise it will be a self-fulfilling prophesy. And hey isn't that the most satisfactory kind?

When it's not enough to just be sorry.
Recent revelations and admissions from the White House to the executive suites to the dug-out have triggered a spate of apologies from the President on down. (Although we're still waiting for (the aptly-named) Bernie Madoff to release his no-doubt-deeply-felt apologia.)

Recent apologies:
A-Roid (uh-I mean A-Rod) "I'm the one who screwed up and no one else."
Obama - "I screwed up".
Notice the importance of the phrase "screwed up"?
I mean "I made a mistake is so nineties."

And now for something completely different.....
How about these British bankers?


I don't know about you, but they were less than convincing - perhaps it was their tone, body language...but they didn't quite pull it off.

Until next time....

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