Saturday, March 27, 2010

Reuters Chief Lauds Canadian Caution

The newly minted global editor-at-large of Reuters, and former managing editor of The Financial Times, Chrystia Freeland, was the guest of honour at this month’s Salon Speaker Series. The invite-only function happens four or five times a year in Teatro Restaurant.

Her talk focused on risk and the global economy. She praised Canada’s cautious regulatory regime (prompting some guests to leave the restaurant in a huff), and spoke at length about the psyche of Americans.

“Ottawa sees itself as a policeman,” she said, “Rather than a farmer of the free market.”

“Canada is not top of mind in the U.S. but it could or should be more so in the near future,” she said, pointing to ‘economic stabilizers’ that are under-valued south of the border.

An Albertan herself, Freeland brought a folksy, pragmatic tone to the dinner. She opened with a story about her grand-mother. Before departing to Harvard University to study Russian history, Freeland asked her grand-mother for advice. Having lived through two world wars and the great depression, her grand-mother was less than enthusiastic about her choice to study history. You need a practical skill, she advised, that will always be in need ... the world is unpredictable.

Unpredictable, indeed. Freeland began by assessing U.S. resistance to extended health care services. It was baffling, she said, that for thousands of people who would not even be affected by this change, it would become such a divisive issue. It is the end of the American era, she said, despite the fervent belief of most Americans that they have a God-given right to rule the planet. She pointed to the necessity of international experience in the workforce, and the lack thereof in the previous generation of executives.

Freeland also spent a great deal of time talking about Europe. The EU is wholly preoccupied with worry over Greece, she said. At a recent meeting in the Arctic, she said, Canadian Minister Jim Flaherty, along with the American and Japanese delegate, took a tour of igloos while the EU
representatives huddled together in a corner talking about Greece. But the idea that this most recent crises is the fault of Goldman Sachs, she says, is ludicrous. “It’s the Greek government’s fault.”

Turning back to the United States, she said, “Even for a Canadian Tory, Obama is not what you’d call big government.’

Although there were a few people in the crowd re-thinking their subscription to FT, the response overall was positive. The speech came after a three-course meal of gnocchi l’amatriciana, arctic char with caramelized endive, and a selection of small pastries.

Among the guests were Geoff Pradella, vice president of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, Tony Luppino, former executive director of the Art Gallery of Alberta, Randy Pettipas, president of Global Public Affairs, attorney and patron of the arts Greg Forrest, McCarthy
T├ętrault's Director of clients and markets Lindsay Fikowski, former bureau chief for the Financial Post Claudia Cattaneo, John Cordeau Q.C. of Bennet Jones and his sister Elizabeth Cordeau-Chatelain of Total.

Published in National Post, March 27 2010
Photo by Adrian Shellard

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