The confidence men and the shadow recovery

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The Fake Lake at the G20 in Toronto. Photo: John Maclennan.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper raised the "cataclysmic" spectre of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Financial Stability Board cancelled not one but two scheduled press conferences and the Dick Fuld/Vampire Squid/Go-for-the-jugular schools of hypocritical finance and unrepentant greed hid behind their taxpayer-funded life support systems last weekend. The legitimate concerns of civil society groups were also, once again, sidelined by a cynical, adversarial, provocative and non-inclusive process.

Harper's explicit reference to the dangers of moral hazards was uncharacteristic, chilling and surely a signal that the G8, if not the G20 and beyond, now have grave concerns about the simmering reality of a double dip or worse. Coupled with his disingenuous regret about the violence and destruction inflicted upon downtown Toronto residents and businesses, his domestic action plan and messaging is becoming increasingly tenuous and confused. His summit communiqué soiled by his increasingly blind allegiance to a narrow petro-dollar economy worldview, Harper was no doubt spooked by the collapse of three more U.S. banks over the weekend -- for a total of 86 already this year.

The tacit approval by the Harper government for police to provoke violence using destabilizing tactics only serves to further undermine police and public relations at a time when RCMP and CSIS reputations are in tatters. Harper's ploy turned downtown Toronto into his play thingy. The disgruntled looks on Barack and Michelle Obama's faces as they arrived for dinner Saturday night said it all. "We are not amused by what has happened on the streets, this is not our kind of divisive politics, and we do not appreciate being associated it." The visceral intensity of the moment was palpable and seeding foment that was so "Bush league."

The World Bank alluded to the need to accelerate and clarify pension reform initiatives in G20 countries or suffer the devastating consequences. Given that the U.S. Financial Reform bill will likely be signed by President Obama in the very near future, G8/G20 International financial corporation dissolution authority has de facto become a very real and tangible point of deliberation and contention; and if the global financial system is not to be held hostage by the $600-trillion shadowy world of hedge funds that feed off systemic risk business models, the G20 Communiqué will need a lot more flesh on its bones before its next meeting this fall in Korea.

It is clearly time for the largest debtor nation in the history of the world to get serious about a modern day economic Marshall Plan by addressing its fossil fuel addiction head on. Even though both Tim Geithner and Larry Summers took a strong, if rhetorical, pre-summit position on their willingness to move on the elimination of fuel subsidies, G20 Leaders largely ignored the issue which would have freed up substantial fiscal wiggle room for their respective treasuries.

If reports are true that Paul Martin is now advocating for the Financial Transaction Tax (hell must have frozen over) and accelerated action on carbon pricing/trading is under way, Liberal Party Green Shifters must be flabbergasted. Seems as though blue skying has taken over the Liberal Party brain trust. If the sky is the limit, how about insisting upon the G8/G20 instructing the IMF and World Bank to re-calibrate special reserve drawing rights in proportion to each member country's actions to eliminate fuel subsides and their subsequent linking of these liberalized carbon dollars to sustainable, quality, green jobs creation.

While Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae were conspicuously absent from the Summit "shenanigans," former Liberal politicians Bill Graham and John Manley did make fleeting appearances -- a stone's throw from the Fake Lake. At least Jack Layton had the intellectual curiosity to show up several times for extended periods at the accredited media centre and public events across the city. Just to give you an idea of how bad things have become -- former French President Jacques Chirac actually went for a walk in the streets at the 1995 G7 meeting in Halifax. With Michael Ignatieff now praising the electoral accomplishments of Jean Chretien, opposing off shore drilling, and scheduling London-based meetings with his long-lost relative, Liberal Democrat leader and the U.K.'s deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, one must ask the question: Are things really shaping up to be the change we can believe in?

The reality is the Conservatives are now drinking two-fisted from the punch bowl because there ain't many quarters left in this Parliament. And if Stephen Harper has ever wondered what decimated the Kim Campbell Conservatives, perhaps he should take a good look at the interior and utility of the next military helicopter he gets in, because it looks a lot different than the cost pit of an F-35.

And if, by any chance, you have ever wondered about of the costs of building and decommissioning a nuclear plant may I suggest you do an internet search using any combination of the following terms: Trudeau, Harper, Canada, India, nuclear energy, law reform, Union Carbide and Bhopal tragedy.

Morality, Immunity and Justice will not appear in the results.

Morgan Gabereau has been covering the curious workings of the G20 Summit for


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