A couple of interesting bits…
– Le Devoir has a couple of interesting bits this weekend. In the first, Gil Courtemanche suggests that a country is not defined by its economics – it’s citizens don’t feel national pride because of employment numbers, for instance – but rather a country’s character and identity are tied up with its culture, knowledge, and skills/abilities. Courtemanche points out: “Un pays, c’est la possibilité de réaliser son rêve, celui de scénariste, de chercheur d’étoiles, de magicien des théorèmes. Ce qui fait un pays, c’est un tissu qu’on a mis sur le métier patiemment et longtemps, qu’on a dessiné ensemble.” This conception of a country, as a place where dreams are expressed and realized, and where we compose a long slow culture together, is contrasted with the beancounters he sees in the current government: “Le Canada de Stephen Harper ne fait que compter et mesurer.” He goes on to accuse Harper of not liking his own country, which is a bit much, but it’s an interesting piece on the role of government in shaping a country’s soul.
– Le Devoir also describes how the Mt Megantic observatory has been rescued. Public Works Minister Christian Paradis, in whose riding the observatory resides, found replacement funds through the Developpement Economique Canada pour les regions de Quebec (DEC). The funding promises to keep the observatory open for the next two years.
– Finally, in a warning that should be heeded by Canadian academics, the New York Times is reporting on increased “town-gown” tensions in various American cities. Turns out that universities that had begun or promised major expansions are finding themselves forced to postpone or halt them, often in mid-contruction. Cash-strapped communities are also casting a critical eye on these institutions which often have tax-exempt status despite their use of municipal services. Relationships between universities and the communities in which they find themselves are often chilly, as each seems to hold the other in some mistrust or misunderstanding. Tough economic times exacerbate these problems. More worryingly, I think this is indicative of an underlying mistrust of elites by current, and though it has been the business elites who have been the target for most outrage and scorn so far, the academic elite should bear in mind that they, and their public funding, represents an easy and likely target.