Monday. 19/8/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Megan Gibson

Still on track

What a difference four years can make. In 2015, Justin Trudeau’s political future looked bright: the fresh-faced progressive Liberal leader had become Canada’s new prime minister, prompting the rest of the world to sit up and take note of the country in a way it hadn’t in decades.

Now, as another general election looms, Trudeau’s sparkling persona has lost some of that sheen. The SNC-Lavalin controversy – where Trudeau was accused by his attorney general of trying to interfere in the criminal case against SNC-Lavalin, a Québec-based company charged with bribing foreign officials – seemed to have died down earlier this year. But the scandal erupted again last week when an ethics watchdog released a report stating that the prime minister acted unethically. The report is definitely a bad look for the PM.

However, I’m not convinced that it will actually lead to devastation for Trudeau at the ballot box come October. Although his political opponents and conservative columnists have worked overtime to capitalise on Trudeau’s tarnished image, many Canadians have met the scandal with a collective shrug. He may no longer be squeaky clean but opinion polls still predict that the Liberals are likely to win the most seats.

Diplomacy / Hungary & Germany

Crossing the line

German chancellor Angela Merkel and Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán are attending a commemorative event today in Sopron, on the border between Austria and Hungary. They will be marking the 30th anniversary of the Pan-European Picnic, when almost 1,000 people crossed the Iron Curtain to Austria following peaceful protests. One wonders whether Orbán recognises the irony of his own attendance: the protesters in 1989 were fighting for exactly the sort of free movement and democratic rights that the prime minister’s Fidesz party so detests. Immigration is sure to be a subject of discussion when Orbán finds time to speak to Merkel; perhaps his German counterpart, and the contemplative event, will be a softening influence.

Architecture / Taiwan

Stuck at the gate

Taiwan’s Transport Ministry has, once again, pushed the opening of Taoyuan Airport’s third terminal back – this time by four years. The airport, which receives 11 million visitors a year, is already oversubscribed. Its expansion was approved in 2015 but ambitious design plans have caused delays. UK architecture practice Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners wanted to include 130,000 flower-shaped aluminium tubes on the ceiling of the terminal. Those plans were rejected for being expensive and difficult to maintain – and the NT$78.9bn (€2.3bn) budget is starting to run out. If the architectural giant behind Nuevo Norte and Helsinki’s Guggenheim wants to maintain its golden reputation, it must submit a revised design within six months.

Science / Russia

Under the microscope

Russians took to the streets of Moscow this weekend in unauthorised protests calling for a fair democratic process in the country. But last week there was another reason for outcry, specifically among the scientific community. Russia’s Ministry of Science has published a new set of rules for how scientists should liaise and interact with foreign colleagues. The government must be informed five days in advance of any meeting between a Russian scientist and a foreign contemporary. The experts must also be accompanied by at least two Russian colleagues. All conversations must be reported and the equipment used – even including, bizarrely, watches and binoculars – must be logged. It’s a poor decision: regulations such as these will only stifle the sciences in Russia.

Retail / The US

Add to basket

There seems to be little that can halt the downward slide of the US department store. Barneys has filed for bankruptcy, citing sky-high rental costs at some of its signature locations and the continued migration to online shopping. Macy’s also recently lowered its earnings outlook after falling short of profit expectations. To survive, department stores will need to be smarter. Look at Nordstrom, for instance. The Seattle-based retailer is opening a vast womenswear outlet in Manhattan later this year but also two branches of Nordstrom Local. The Local “shops” do not sell inventory; instead they are based around tailoring, pick-ups and deliveries.

M24 / The Menu

Sal Marim

We visit the Algarve coast to meet a sea-salt producer whose products have won a loyal following.

Film / Spain

Entrepreneurs: Casa Bonay

Monocle Films travels to Barcelona to meet 32-year-old entrepreneur Inés Miró-Sans, who is busy shaking up the hotel industry. We check in to Casa Bonay to find the key to its success.

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