Seven Days: A week in a life of Stephen Harper

Good News, Bad News
Adrian Wyld/ CP

A week in the life of Stephen Harper
Within four heady days the Prime Minister had accepted embattled junior minister Helena Guergis’s resignation; welcomed Nickelback singer Chad Kroeger to 24 Sussex Dr.; caught the band’s Ottawa concert with son Ben; then jetted down to Washington for a nuclear summit with Obama. Such is politics—being, to quote Nickelback, a Leader of Men. By week’s end, will the PM be a political Rockstar, or will he have Something unsavoury—a foot, an apology?—in [his] Mouth?

Good news

A new chapter
The online book juggernaut Amazon was granted approval this week to open a distribution centre in Canada. Canadian booksellers decried the move, arguing that allowing the foreign-owned retailer threatens to undercut Canada’s cultural industry. But Amazon says it will invest $20 million in Canada, including $1.5 million on cultural events and awards, and promote more Canadian books internationally. More importantly, the move stands to benefit both Canadian publishers and Canadian consumers with better prices and more options. A little competition is nothing to fear.

Northern tiger
In the Bank of Canada’s latest quarterly business survey there was plenty of cause for optimism. Canadian executives say they plan to hire more workers, boost investment and raise prices to meet growing demand for their goods in the next year. Meanwhile, the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcies reports that bankruptcies fell in January for the fourth straight month, while the country’s trade surplus widened in February to its highest level since the beginning of the recession. This all comes on top of solid GDP growth. No doubt about it—Canada’s roaring recovery is here to stay.

Bottoms up
Workers at a Carlsberg brewery in Copenhagen went back to work this week after a five-day strike over company plans to cut back their free beer rations from three bottles a day to one, which must be consumed at lunch in the company cafeteria. Workers agreed to sit down with management and come up with a temporary solution to the dispute. No matter how this brouhaha is resolved, the new drinking policy  may not be such a bad idea. A recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that having one or two drinks a day can reduce the risk of heart disease in young adults.

The family guy
What started as a golf tournament—all but consumed by the prodigal return of the adulterous Tiger Woods—ended with the triumph of devoted family man Phil Mickelson, who won his third green jacket at the Masters. While Woods had been away from golf dealing with a sex scandal fallout, Mickelson faced his share of distractions too. Both his wife and mother were diagnosed with breast cancer a year ago, and he dedicated his victory to them and his family. Mickelson’s win provided a welcome narrative shift and a nice break from talk about Tiger, who was back to his old habits on the course, yelling and flipping clubs in anger, even pouting over his fourth place finish. Sometimes, nice guys do finish first.

The Bad news

Alberta grit?
Dave Taylor, the former Alberta Liberal leadership contender, has quit the party to sit as an independent, saying he’s “lost confidence” in his one-time rival David Swann’s “abilities as a leader” and calling the party “invisible” and “irrelevant.” If the Alberta Liberals ever had a chance to grow the party, now would be it: Danielle Smith’s Wildrose Alliance seems poised to cut the Progressive Conservative vote under Ed Stelmach’s moribund premiership, leaving an in for the Grits. Well, don’t count on it. Long encumbered by backbiting, this is yet another instance of bad Alberta Liberal party politics. That’s bad for democracy in a province that, with 40 years of Tory rule, has become a one-party state.

All news fit to bleep
Since the New York Times began broadcasting video of its morning news meeting across the Internet, some of its highest-ranking editors have been seen to utter inaccuracies. On just the feed’s second day, executive editor Bill Keller said that Britain had thrown “the head of Mossad,” Israel’s intelligence service, out of the country “in retribution for the Israelis having assassinated a Hamas militant in Dubai.” But the Brits hadn’t accused Israel of the hit, and the Times hadn’t confirmed whether the diplomat they’d ejected was the Israeli London spy chief. “This is why I went into print rather than TV,” Keller wrote to his paper’s ombudsman, explaining today’s accelerated news delivery: “The deadline is always.”

Simmering down
Protests against Thailand’s coalition government turned violent last weekend, killing 21 and threatening to send the country spiralling into crisis. In Kyrgyzstan, meanwhile, 83 people were killed during an anti-government uprising that saw the president flee the capital. The incidents leave dark stains on two countries with histories of political instability. But there are signs the worst may be over. In Thailand, the head of the army ruled out using further force to stop protesters. Kyrgyzstan’s president said he would resign if his safety and his family’s safety could be guaranteed. Cooler heads must prevail.

Fat food
This week, KFC introduced the Double Down sandwich, a savoury creation consisting of two deep-fried chicken fillets rather than a bun, and with bacon, cheese and sauce as filling. All told, it contains an alarming 1,380 mg of salt (more than half the recommended daily allowance). Then again, if you’re the type who’d eat this beast, you probably don’t care too much about your health anyway.