Friday 11 November 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 11/11/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Reuters

Opinion / Amy van den Berg

Under the influence?

Welcome to the club, Canada. This week a report from broadcaster Global News claimed that the North American nation could, like the US, be a victim of foreign political interference. According to the allegations, China meddled in the 2019 general election – in which prime minister Justin Trudeau secured his second term – by placing agents in the offices of sitting MPs and funding a secret network of candidates. Beijing denies the reports.

If the claims turn out to be true, it would hardly be surprising. China has become an increasingly aggressive global power and clandestinely exerting its influence on Canada’s democratic process would allow it to target the US by proxy. Also concerning is that, according to the report, Trudeau and several members of his party were briefed about the interference in January by Canadian intelligence officials.

The prime minister might have decided to prioritise the long-awaited Indo-Pacific strategy, which will be revealed next month, but many MPs want more. “Trudeau has failed to protect our democracy,” said conservative leader Pierre Poilievre on Wednesday, calling for a parliamentary committee investigation. Others are demanding the establishment of a foreign-agents registry similar to those in Australia and the US – something that has been on the table for years.

This is the last thing that Trudeau needs. His party is already four weeks into an investigation into its use of extreme powers to disband February’s Freedom Convoy protests in Ottawa. Aside from the serious implications of the allegations for Canada’s security and sovereignty, China’s alleged meddling makes the standing of the prime minister’s Liberal Party even shakier than it already is. Trust in Trudeau is waning and one more embarrassment might push him over the edge.

Amy van den Berg is assistant editor for Monocle’s books division.

Image: Getty Images

Business / Thailand

Open-and-shut case

Following a public backlash, the Thai government is scrapping its plan to extend land-ownership rights to foreign investors. Last month the country’s cabinet approved a proposal that would allow foreign nationals to buy land for residential properties, hoping to attract wealthy remote workers and retirees. But Thai opposition parties halted the proposal, arguing that it would drive up prices for citizens and encourage speculative investment without significantly boosting the economy. Thailand’s foreign-property-ownership rules have always been strict: non-Thais are allowed to buy some smaller properties or take out long-term leases but not purchase land. Since the country reopened its borders after the lifting of pandemic-related restrictions, the government has been seeking new ways to boost economic growth. Let’s hope that it can find a way to rethink its plans without discouraging foreign investment altogether.

Image: Getty Images

Environment / France

Catching the sun

France’s Senate has approved a bill that will require car parks with space for 80 or more vehicles to be covered by raised solar panels. From July next year, lots of between 80 and 400 spaces will have five years to comply with the law, while operators of larger car parks will have just three years. The measure is part of a broader push by French lawmakers to improve the country’s renewable-power generation, after France became the only EU nation to miss its green-energy targets in 2020.

Other spaces expected to be carpeted by solar panels include vacant ground alongside motorways, unused farmland and areas next to train tracks; national rail operator SNCF plans to install more than 1,000,000 sq m of panels by the end of the decade. Such large-scale measures are an effective way for developed countries to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels while also putting liminal spaces to good use.

Image: Photofairs Shanghai / Creoarts


Picture perfect

Events company Creo announced this week that the Big Apple will host Photofairs New York, the stateside iteration of the contemporary photography and digital art fair, in September. It follows sister event Photofairs Shanghai (pictured) and will bring together about 100 exhibitors at Manhattan’s Javits Centre. This isn’t the first foray into the US market for Creo, which runs the Photofairs events in partnership with Angus Montgomery Arts. A San Francisco edition launched in 2017 to expand the company’s presence in the Western art market but the firm announced its closure in 2019.

The New York event joins shows such as The Photography Show on the city’s cultural calendar but Creo’s chief executive, Scott Gray, believes that its larger scope and reach will “plug a gap” in the market, thanks to its focus on new media. It will also provide a snapshot of a city with a remarkable photographic tradition.

Image: Getty Images

Culture / Brazil

Voice of the people

Brazil lost one of its most distinctive voices this week as singer Gal Costa died at the age of 77. Costa (pictured) was one of the flag bearers for tropicália, Brazil’s countercultural movement of the late 1960s. Despite being a political and exuberant artist, the Bahia-born musician led a discreet personal life. While many fellow singers were exiled and silenced by Brazil’s military dictatorship in the 1970s, she became the voice of dissent and resistance – though some of her work, including the cover of her 1973 album, Índia, was censored by the government.

From bossa nova to pop, rock’n’roll and, more recently, electronica, her music spanned several genres and was beloved in Brazil as the frequent soundtrack to many popular telenovelas. Costa was also a provocateur, with songs such as “Vaca Profana” serving as transgressive hymns to disrupting convention. Her timbre inspired a generation of singers and her influence will be felt in Brazil’s music scene for years to come.

Image: Ola O.Smit

Monocle 24 / The Menu

Recipe edition, Zuza Zak

A simple recipe for mini-dumplings by the author of new cookbook Pierogi.

Monocle Films / Portugal

Portugal: The Monocle Handbook

Part of a new travel series, Portugal: The Monocle Handbook is a practical guide that will introduce you to the best the country has to offer as we present our favourite spots across the country. Order your copy today.


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