Monday. 20/9/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Alamy

Opinion / Genevieve Bates

Left hanging

Canada goes to the polls today in a nail-biter – not what prime minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party expected when he called the snap election barely a month ago. As a Canadian living in London, I’m seeing some worrying parallels with UK politics. Erin O’Toole (pictured, on left, with Trudeau), the Canadian Conservative Party’s leader, has risen up the opinion polls by appealing to ageing, blue-collar voters, who traditionally supported the left but might swing to the Tories, who are milking public disenchantment with so-called “elite” liberals. O’Toole has even hired strategic advisors who worked on Boris Johnson’s 2019 election campaign and is trying to rebrand as “not your dad’s Conservative Party” – not unlike David Cameron trying to break the perception of the UK Conservatives as “the nasty party”.

Will it work in Canada? Trudeau hasn’t done himself any favours. Undermining his re-election chances are a whiff of corruption that clings from various scandals and the overall sense that his liberal views are a lightly worn mark of privilege, rather than gained through life experience; the sense that he is not a man of the people. Still, what’s likely to happen is that Trudeau will hold on to power in another minority government delivered largely by voters in central and eastern Canada. This will only further entrench divisions across the country: between provinces, ideologies and demographic groups.

All elections stoke divisions to some extent but the mood is particularly tense this time. This is also due to the wild card, the People’s Party of Canada, which has surged this year as a crucible for anti-vax and “no lockdown” views and is voicing populist sentiments seldom heard so loudly in polite mainstream debate. As a Canadian abroad with an idealised view of my egalitarian home nation, I can probably expect the status quo to remain. But my rose-tinted impression of the country as a beacon of calm, progressive politics has been tarnished by this campaign.

For more on the Canadian election, listen to Monocle 24’s series of candidate profiles last week and tune in for updates today and tomorrow on ‘The Globalist’.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / Mediterranean

Common ground

Stability in the Mediterranean continues to be one of the key issues for European leaders and it was precisely those concerns that brought the so-called Med7 leaders together in Athens this weekend. The summit of southern EU states was established in 2016 by Cyprus, France, Portugal, Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain. This year, Croatia and Slovenia joined for the first time to “discuss issues ranging from the pandemic response to migration and the crisis in Afghanistan”, Greek journalist Nektaria Stemouli tells The Monocle Minute. There was also a session with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on security in the region, while the Greek government highlighted the need for joint action when it comes to green goals. “The climate crisis is at the top of the agenda after this devastating summer, with wildfires having swept through Greece and the broader region,” says Stemouli.

To delve deeper into the stability and unlikely alliances of the region, join us in Athens this week for our Quality of Life Conference and hear our panel The Eastern Mediterranean: A Regional Briefing, featuring Skai TV anchor Sia Kosioni, US ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt, Monocle’s North Africa correspondent Mary Fitzgerald and Athanasios Ellis, editor in chief of the English edition of ‘Kathimerini’.

Image: Dabin Ahn

Design / USA

Winds of change

The fourth edition of the Chicago Architecture Biennial kicked off this weekend at sites across the city. It runs until 18 December and this year’s theme is the “available city”: conversations around the intersection of architecture, design and issues such as health, sustainability and racial equality. Here are three highlights.

Block Party: A collaboration between Miami-based Studio Barnes, Shawhin Roudbari, MAS Context and the Westside Association for Community Action, this event will feature music, performances, activities and a basketball tournament to celebrate Chicago’s rich history of block parties.

Epic Academy: Constructed from sustainable timber, this outdoor pavilion by Kidmore, Owings & Merrill doubles as a classroom, event and performance space to highlight issues that matter to the surrounding community. Chicago State University will gather for a performance and instructional workshop at the pavilion on 2 October.

Brendan Fernandes’ ‘72 Seasons’: The Chicago-based artist will present a free performance-based artwork (pictured) in Millennium Park. Featuring dancers and costumes by Rad Hourani, the piece explores the history of ballet and Chicago’s prairie landscape. Performances take place on 25 September and 23 October.

Image: Alamy

Elections / Russia

Written by the victor

Russians took to the polls for parliamentary elections this weekend and while the final result has yet to be declared at time of going to press, it’s widely expected to deliver a thumping victory for Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party. This should hardly come as a surprise: Putin’s most vociferous political opponent Alexei Navalny languishes in a prison cell and attempts by supporters to organise an effective campaign have largely been scuppered by the state.

Navalny’s backers were dealt a particularly cruel blow on Friday when technology giants Apple and Google removed a smart voting app that could have helped their cause. So, what will become of Russia’s political opposition now? “The crackdown by the authorities ahead of this vote suggests that there is an appetite for change in the country,” Mark Galeotti, author of We Need to Talk About Putin, told The Monocle Minute. “All hope is not lost for Putin’s political opponents.”

Image: Getty Images

Culture / France

Art nouveau

It’s been announced that the Musée d’Orsay (pictured) in Paris will welcome a new director next month: Christophe Leribault will lead both the Orsay and the affiliated Musée de l’Orangerie. Director of the Petit Palais since 2012, along with previous stints at the Louvre and the Musée Delacroix, Leribault’s wealth of experience in the Parisian cultural scene will likely prove vital as he prepares to steer a major redevelopment of the Orsay over the coming years. Plans include the transformation of the fourth floor into an education centre, as well as the establishment of an international research centre in a nearby venue. These initiatives form part of both museums’ “opening up” policies, which particularly aim to boost French visitor numbers. In the coming year, Parisians and the wider French public will be integral to filling the gap still left by foreign tourists – an opportunity for citizens to reconnect with the cultural gems in their own country.

M24 / Eureka

Fettle

Jeyda Heselton is the co-founder of Fettle, a technology-driven bicycle repair company based in the UK that was created to vastly improve the experience of getting your bike fixed. Fettle hopes that its platform will get more people riding, while also helping to tackle the environmental challenges cities face by working with partners and local authorities to think about mobility solutions for the future.

Monocle Films / Turin

The new urban rowers

We wake up bright and early to meet creative director Luca Ballarini at the Circolo Canottieri Caprera, a rowing club on the banks of the river Po in Turin. We follow his slender boat and glide along the river beside charming palazzi, castles and bridges, while the rest of the city comes to life.

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