Thursday, October 23, 2008

Confederation of Labor: Iceland Should Join EU

The central committee of the Confederation of Labor (ASÍ) agreed yesterday to submit a momentous proposal to ASÍ’s general meeting today that Iceland applies for membership to the European Union and adopts the euro as its currency.

According to the central committee, EU membership is the only realistic option for the reconstruction of the Icelandic economy, Morgunbladid reports.

Iceland best place for press freedom

The international journalists’ body, Reporters Sans Frontieres has published its annual report on global press freedom, The Guardian reports.

Iceland, Luxembourg and Norway jointly top the list of 173 countries, which takes into account different factors including freedom of speech, treatment of journalists and media ownership.

Howard Davies attacks Britain's response to Iceland

"In Europe we had individual governments taking steps in a crisis that were clearly beggar-thy-neighbour solutions," he said. "You can accuse the Irish government. You can accuse the British government of that over Iceland."

Bulletproof hanky is life-saving accessory

Although Iceland is normally much safer, its overnight economic collapse may prompt recently unemployed bankers to start wearing Mr Sluli's handkerchiefs close to their hearts.

British dispute delays Iceland deal with IMF

Iceland's decision to seek a rescue loan from the International Monetary Fund has been delayed by failure to reach a deal with London over British savings frozen in an Icelandic bank, media reports said Thursday.

The IMF wants Iceland to resolve the dispute with Britain first in order to determine what Reykjavik's needs are, but talks with a British delegation currently in Iceland have advanced slowly.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Iceland down but not out

Although reeling from the global financial crisis, tiny Iceland is well positioned to recover and can serve as a model on how to tackle the energy and climate change challenges, its president said on Tuesday.

"Icelanders are fortunately aware that despite the current financial challenges, our long-term resources are fundamentally strong," he told the seminar on the theme "Small States - Emerging Powers."

Grimsson pointed to Iceland's "enormous wealth in the potential for clean energy production, both geothermal and hydro, strong fish stocks, large reservoir of fresh drinking water, plus the beautiful natural wilderness, valleys and rivers."

Richer than Iceland

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The party's over for Iceland, the island that tried to buy the world

We will have to go back to the basics now. Icelanders are risk-takers, but hard working, they will have to downsize. We will have to eat haddock and Icelandic lamb and forget these imports of goose livers and Japanese soy sauce. When everyone was extremely rich in Iceland - you know, last month, it was with money that they never have earned. Now those who were extremely rich are just normally rich, but they think they are poor. They were spoilt, spending billions.'

Hall is due to open his new restaurant on 17 October, but insists the crisis is not worrying him. 'I had been losing customers because people were flying off to Copenhagen and London and New York for the weekend, to eat out. Now they will stay in Iceland, but they will still eat out. People need to eat.'

How do I size thee? Let me count the ways

We're getting into double-decker bus territory here. By my back-of-the-envelope calculations, the Icelandic population would fit into about 6,000 double-decker buses, which, piled on top of each other, would reach 600 times the height of Nelson's Column. If Icelanders all linked hands they would stretch from London to Leeds - whose population, incidentally, is twice the size of Iceland's.

A few more calculations: £250 billion, spread out on the ground in £5 notes, would yield an area 50 times the size of Iceland.

Covering Iceland in £5 notes would cost £54,000 billion. Why do obviously well educated commentators have such a poor grasp of mathematics?

Richard Williams, Sutton, England

Crunch has put paid to Scottish independence

Around Alex Salmond, and his party's flagship policy, lies the wreckage of Scotland's independent banking sector, the very symbol of his future hopes for a robust economy. Worse, the two main Scottish banks have been saved from collapse by a Westminster Government, drawing on the resources of the United Kingdom's taxpayers. They are now British, not Scottish banks and their future strategy will be determined from the City of London not Edinburgh.

Whether you are one of the 40,000 employees of RBS and HBOS in Scotland, or work for the thousands of companies that rely on the banks' investments, or are part of the sprawling public sector drawing on Scottish bank loans, or enjoy the lucrative sponsorship that keeps the cultural life of the nation afloat, now is the time to consider how you would have fared in an independent Scotland.

Where would that rescue fund,its value estimated at about £100 billion - the equivalent of Scotland's entire GDP - have come from? Would Scotland, as Mr Salmond claims, have had the resources, like Norway, to rescue its own banking system? Or would it, perhaps, have found its exposure more like that of Iceland, a nation facing the prospect of bankruptcy?

Do we want to end up like Iceland

Bad news for the SNP: the banking crisis makes Scottish independence look rather less attractive than before.

What is the capital of Iceland

Official reserve assets: 3,703,510,000 US Dollars
Short term net drain: 2,432,130,000 US Dollars

Iceland fixes crown at different rate to market

Friday's fix valued it at 151 to €1 and 112.69 to the dollar, slightly weaker than yesterday's levels. But the Reuters matching dealing system showed the crown at almost half that value in international trade at 275 to the euro.

"Effectively, you have a dual exchange rate which isn't that unusual in this sort of case," said one analyst covering Iceland, asking not to be named.

"What the government is doing is giving away foreign exchange locally at much cheaper than the market rate."

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The probable show stopper

Large nations tend to presume their sovereignty a given, while small nations tend to consider their sovereignty a matter of enormous pride. A man is just a man, but a man with a crown on his head imagines himself a king. As a very small nation Icelandic sovereignty is as important to Icelanders as their language. Canada is not in a position to offer Icelanders sovereignty within our federation. This issue is likely to out weigh all others to Icelanders. Only if they find themselves in a position where their sovereignty is compromised are Icelanders likely to seriously consider options that involve any loss of sovereignty.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Security shopping in Iceland

I spent $100 (ISK 10,000) to buy a two month basic food supply. Today, in Iceland, the Krona stopped trading on the international markets. People are talking about an Argentinean-style financial collapse. I do not think that Iceland will experience food security issues, but it would be deeply ironic for a disaster preparedness advocate to be caught hungry in a financial collapse. So I went shopping.

Icelandic Shoppers Splurge as Currency Woes Reduce Food Imports

After a four-year spending spree, Icelanders are flooding the supermarkets one last time, stocking up on food as the collapse of the banking system threatens to cut the island off from imports.

"We have had crazy days for a week now,'' said Johannes Smari Oluffsson, manager of the Bonus discount grocery store in Reykjavik's main shopping center. "Sales have doubled.''

Bonus, a nationwide chain, has stock at its warehouse for about two weeks. After that, the shelves will start emptying unless it can get access to foreign currency, the 22-year-old manager said, standing in a walk-in fridge filled with meat products, among the few goods on sale produced locally.

Is Switzerland the next Iceland?

After Britain and the US injected massive amounts of capital into their banks, Switzerland has taken emergency measures to try to shore up its banking system.

EU ready to help Iceland weather financial crisis

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso expressed in a statement issued on Wednesday the willingness of the EU to help Iceland weather the financial crisis.

"Iceland is one of the EU's closest partners and has its natural place in Europe. It participates fully in the EU's internal market through the European Economic Area, and its citizens enjoy freedom of movement in the Schengen area," he said.

The cost of living

Gasoline/Petrol prices here in Ontario have fallen from 1.20c/litre, mere weeks ago, to an advertised rate today of 99.1c/litre. Fuel cost more than this in the UK right now in pounds sterling.

As a general rule of thumb, things in Canada cost the same or less in canadian dollars here, as they do in pounds in the UK, or in euro's in Europe. A coffee at Tim Horton's here is currently 1.28c, and at the Tim Horton's on route to Dover last time I was in England that same cup of coffee cost more than 2 pounds. Since a pound is worth approximately 2 canadian dollars, canadians find holidays in Europe horribly expensive. For Europeans a holiday in Canada is cheap, cheap, cheap.

The biggest factor governing net wealth for any individual is the amount one has to pay for accomodation. A large mortgage can leave the holder of this mortgage, effectively broke. Compare house prices in Toronto with those in Europe, and ask where one would be better off owning a home. People in Europe are struggling to own one house, and can't afford as consequence to travel. Here in Waterloo, I own three houses, and have travelled extensively.

For those planning extended holidays in either Canada or Europe, I believe Canada offers more bang for the same buck.

Iceland: A European Exception

The Icelandic prime minister said Monday night that there was a possibility of "national bankruptcy." Do you agree?

That would only be a possibility if the government was to assume all the debt of its banks. No government is going to bankrupt itself to save the creditors of banks .

So do you think Iceland will face pressure to join the E.U and then the euro zone?

Well this is certainly an issue in Iceland. But personally, I think it is too late, because this is a political process. There is no quick fix in joining either the E.U. or the euro zone.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Newfoundland Independence Now

With 28 signatures in 6 years, that is just under 5 signatures per year. Not exactly strong support for Newfoundland Separation.

Union between Canada and Newfoundland 1949

The supporters of responsible government spent more of their time attacking Confederation than building a case for Newfoundland's independence, claiming that union with Canada would result in the destruction of Newfoundland's industries and fisheries and would bring higher taxes. The proponents of Confederation claimed that Newfoundland had always lived a precarious existence and that union with Canada offered a much brighter future than facing the postwar world alone. Smallwood and his supporters pointed to the social and economic benefits that Canada had to offer.

The issue of union between Newfoundland and Canada divided communities and families, and after two bitter referenda, the people opted by a slight margin to join Canada because they believed that it offered their best chance of prosperity in the postwar world.

Iceland lowers interest rate to 12 percent

Supplies of foreign currency have dried up on the island of 320,000 people, prompting the government on Tuesday to draw 400 million euros from a swap facility set up with fellow Nordic nations to give it access to euros.

A major problem is that many Icelanders were encouraged to join in the bounty of deregulated markets and a stock market boom in the mid-1990s by buying houses and cars that were financed by 100 percent loans based on a spread of foreign currencies.

The loans, called "Myntkorfulan" or "breadbasket" loans, were immensely popular because of their low interest rates compared to loans based on the then strong krona. But thousands of people are now defaulting as the Icelandic currency plummets.,0,3604972.story

The saga of Newfoundland

I love Iceland for precisely the same reason that I love Newfoundland. I have travelled the width and breadth of Newfoundland. I remember Port aux Basques being my first sight of Newfoundland, and Lance aux Meadows, and St Johns, and of the times I've climbed Gross Morne. And I also remember that appalling walk the Newfoundlanders praised so highly, in Terra Nova. You take a boat out to the point, get dropped off, and then walk a couple of hours back round the bay. No one mentioned the mud up to ones knees or worse at every step, and the ravenous insects that hadn't seen fresh meat for weeks. One thing one has to say for Newfoundlanders, they sure do have a sense of humour, when it comes to entertaining both themselves and their visitors.

Iceland and Newfoundland are similar in terms of geography, outlook, profession, character and attitude. They are both home to proud peoples. Key differences between Newfoundland and Iceland are that Newfoundlanders predominately speak English as their first tongue, they are a lot closer to Canada, and they have a larger population. Newfoundland also boasts spectacular scenery, though (sorry Newfoundland) your scenery is at best a pale imitation of what Iceland offers the intrepid visitor to her shores.

It is said that "Ships on the beach are lighthouses to the sea".

Newfoundland is from an Icelandic perspective very much such a ship. It clearly had more opportunity to make of its own union with Canada a success story. It is reasonable for Iceland to look at Newfoundland and ask, do we want to go where Newfoundland went. Newfoundland is the mirror which when viewed shows Iceland where union with Canada will lead.

Newfoundland relinquished its sovereignty for a place at the Canadian table, as we are suggesting Iceland might consider one option among the many available to it. So what were the pro's and what were the con's for Newfoundland and Canada uniting.

Newfoundlanders became the butt of Canadian jokes, just as in England it was the Irishman who was the butt of most English jokes. This seems to be the lot of those who live on Islands perceived as less significant than where the majority of a population live. One makes jokes about those that are different from the self, not those that are the same as the self. And Newfoundlanders were different.

It is enormously hard for a proud people to feel that their strengths are not appreciated, and that others laugh at their perceived foolishness, when they know themselves to be a damned sight smarter than those who laugh.

Newfoundland which had a fish stock equal to that of Icelands saw its fish stocks destroyed by overfishing. The Canadian government in its shortsighted greed, traded permission for many nations to fish in Canadian waters for what might reasonably be called short term blood money. Very much a dollar in the hand is worth two fish in the sea approach to fishery management. The permitting of such foreign fishing in Canadian waters meant that the problem of the "commons" was created. No one could afford to step back and give the fish stocks time to recover, because they knew that not all would.

Newfoundland was bankrupted by the loss of its fish. Iceland, please learn from this ship on the beach if from no other. Do whatever is needed, even if it is painful, to protect your own fish stocks now. You risk as Newfoundland did loosing that which you don't know how to appreciate and care for, until it was too late to either appreciate or care for.

Newfoundland saw a painful migration of its people to other parts of Canada in search of alternative work, and alternative futures. This threatened Newfoundland with the collapse of its unique culture, and was enormously painful for many communities within Newfoundland.

I am sure that Newfoundlanders could potentially name other grievances that arose as consequence of joining Canada, but I hope I've at least touched on the biggest.

So what advantages did Newfoundlanders enjoy as consequence of Newfoundland joining Canada.

For years, I and other Canadians partially funded Newfoundland through transfer payments, the better to help equalise the standards of living of those in Newfoundland, with the standard of living enjoyed by the rest of the country.

This is Canadian generosity at work. This is the generosity I display when I say that I am prepared to give Iceland with 330,000 people an equal voice at the table, with Ontario which has 12,500,000 people. This is the generosity that most Canadians will be displaying if they collectively invite Iceland to join Canada.

When the fish stocks on the Grand Banks collapsed, Canada did not hang Newfoundland out to dry. We gave additional money to help our fellow Canadians in Newfoundland, and to ensure that to the extent possible they were protected from the harm caused by our (and Newfoundlands) mismanagement of our fishery.

The cods stocks could just as easily have collapsed if Newfoundland had been independent. It may be that Icelands fish stocks will also collapse. Iceland's banks collapses despite Iceland being a sovereign nation. Being sovereign does not necessarily make one wiser, or more secure. How many people are helping bail Iceland out in its time of need? Being part of a larger nation provide an insurance policy that can be relied upon when help is needed.

While migration was painful to Newfoundlanders, Newfoundlanders had the complete freedom to migrate. They could and have exploited the opportunities to travel that Canada provided them. As a separate nation, Newfoundlanders having lost everything would have been forced to live with the fact that they now had nothing. Not so in Canada. Fort MacMurry in Alberta (renamed Fort MacMoney because of its ability to put money in peoples pockets), has a population that is now 17% Newfoundlander. Newfoundlanders have made of Fort MacMurry, a second home for themselves. They have not in the process become Albertans, even though they have as much right to call themselves Albertans as any Albertan. They remain proud Newfoundlanders.

For Canadians the pendulum has now changed. Newfoundland is more wealthy than Ontario, and it is my own premier who is saying that with these changing times, it is now Ontario which needs financial help from Newfoundland. Newfoundland is now a have nation, Ontario a have not nation. We gave Newfoundland help for years. It is now time to see if Newfoundland (which is on a per capita basis the most generous province in Canada) reciprocates in Ontario's own hour of need.

I think on balance Newfoundlanders would say that joining Canada was the worst thing they ever did for many reasons, but the best thing they ever did for as many others. If Icelanders were to join Canada I think they would say the same. If Newfoundland is so unhappy with being a province of Canada, where is the Newfoundland separatist movement.

Fundamentally, I am not saying that Iceland should unite with Canada. I am not saying that Canada should necessarily offer Iceland that option. What I am saying is that both Iceland and Canada risk missing an opportunity of potential benefit to both, if they dismiss the idea of union without even considering the merits of such a union.

It is doubtful whether Iceland would be willing to give up its sovereignty, though give it up it effectively will, irrespective of what nation it joins, if it finds itself obliged to adopt another countries currency. Only if Iceland finds itself obliged to give up its sovereignty might a union with Canada be appropriate. If Iceland must find partner, Canada is as worthy a suitor for Iceland's hand as any other. I would not trade being Canadian for being European. I don't think many Newfoundlanders would.

Sound advice

Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.

Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.

If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.

He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.

As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.

In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.

Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun:

But if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that cometh is vanity.

Ecclesiastes 11:1-8

We thought we had friends

We thought we had friends, in Europe and in the United States. They were sought in the hour of need and found to be busy with their own problems; only the Scandinavians were prepared to extend a helping hand, and then, all of a sudden, Russia — somehow the world has changed. The disappointment with our old “friends” is great and people ask, did we really behave any worse than the others?

People joke about going back to the ’70s, when there were restrictions on how much currency one could take abroad and the government devalued the krona regularly to reduce spending on foreign luxuries. It wasn’t all that bad then, they say, apart from the bellbottoms and high-heeled shoes for men, perhaps.

But the jokes are not funny, for we did join the party in the 1990s, we did pour money into our apartments, houses, cars, gadgets, stocks; the money was borrowed, too. After an era of deprivation, we were eager to enjoy the newfound freedoms of capitalism and credit cards. We believed everything would add up; certainly the free-market enthusiasts told us so time and again. And most of us could pay our mortgages and credit cards, at least until last week.

Now that we don’t know if we can, the shock is so strong that neither anger nor sorrow have really taken hold. We thought Iceland was an independent country that could take care of itself without the help of Russia or the International Monetary Fund, that our currency amounted to something, that we could own companies and banks all over the world. We thought we could enjoy our beautiful country and clean air in the backyard of the aluminum smelter.

In many ways, we uncritically accepted the capitalist system, which now appears to have been a gigantic casino without an owner. We did in the end believe that we could get “money for nothing” and now we face the fact that we will get nothing for our money.

What to do, nobody knows, least of all the politicians, bankers, tycoons; but then again, I heard that a new edition of “The Communist Manifesto” will be published here this autumn. Coincidence, of course, but like everything else, unreal. Kafka’s Iceland probably has an ending different from anything that we can possibly imagine.

I extend my friendship Iceland.

So how many is 300,000 people

Of the approximately 300,000 people in Iceland 1/3rd live in Reykjavik, and a further 1/3rd live in the metropolitian area surrounding Reykjavik. The remaining 1/3rd are sparsely distributed in and around the smaller towns in Iceland.

The city of Reykjavic, Icelands largest city, has a population (118,000) making it comparable in size to that of the City of Waterloo, Ontario (114,700). If one adds in the population of the City of Kitchener, Ontario (204,668), one arrives at a population size comparable to that of all of Iceland.,_Ontario,_Ontario

I would not describe the population of the City of Waterloo, or even the combined population of the City of Kitchener-Waterloo as either large or unwieldy.

Would you?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What about natural resources

Icelands most profitable renewable resource is fish. 700,000 tonnes of fish products worth nearly one billion euros are exported annually. On average, an Icelandic fisherman catches 210 tonnes of fish per year. That is more that three times as much as his Norwegian counterparts and eight times as much as fishermen from the EU.

Icelanders are however experiencing decreases in catches, and needs to urgently address the management of this vital natural resource, if it is to be a genuinely sustainable resource.

In 2006 Iceland produced 8,647 tonnes of lamb, 3,196 tonnes of beef, and 5,744 tonnes of pork.

In the same year Iceland mined one metric ton of Aluminum per person in Iceland. By comparison, Canada in 2001 produced less than one tenth of a metric ton per person in Canada.

Iceland also offers opportunities for hunters

and angling for salmon.

But it is so far away

Hawaii is 3,800km away from the West Coast of the USA, 3,700km away from the nearest point of Alaska, and almost 8,000km from Washington DC.

Iceland is 1,800km from the nearest point in Canada, 2,800km from St Johns Newfoundland and 3,800km away from Ottawa. It is only 4,800km from Dawson City.

Now, when was the last time you heard an American say that Hawaii should be allowed to separate from the USA because it is just too far away. If Hawaii is viewed of great strategic value to the US, why exactly wouldn't Iceland be of at least equal strategic value to Canada.

Could Icelanders trust Canadian Banks

Canada has the soundest financial system on the globe, according to a new report from the World Economic Forum, which also placed Canada on the top 10 list of the world's most competitive countries.Based on the opinion of executives, the 2008-2009 Global Competitiveness Report ranks 134 countries on a variety of "pillars", or factors, ranging from institutions and infrastructure to technological readiness and innovation.Within the pillar analyzing financial markets, Canada snatched the top grade for its soundness of banks, plus made the top 10 for its strength of investor protection (5th) and financial market sophistication (6th).

Could someone from Iceland understand me

Most Icelanders speak English, but it doesn't hurt to be aware of your 'please and thank you' to make things go a little more smoothly. Many people have basic knowledge of German, the Scandinavian languages (Danish in particular) and some Spanish and French too. At college level, Icelandic students choose a "third language" to study, often between Spanish, German, French or Italian for example. Many students also opt to study a fourth language. Danish and English are taught at an elementary school level.

Icelandic is an ancient norse language not used to communicate outside of Iceland, most closely related to the language spoken in the Faroes. A modern Scandinavian speaker would have similar difficulties understanding Icelandic to an English speaking person trying to make sense of middle English.

Consider for example the following Middle English:

Whan þat Aprill with his shoures sote
Þe droghte of Marche haþ perced to the rote,
And baðed euery veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is þe flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeþ
Inspired haþ in euery holt and heeþ
Þe tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Haþ in the Ram his halfe course yronne,
And smale fowles maken melodye,
That slepen al the niȝt with open ye—
So prikeþ hem Nature in hir corages—
Þan longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, couthe in sondry londes;
And specially, from euery shires ende
Of Engelond to Caunterbury þey wende,
The holy blissful martir for to seke,
Þat hem haþ holpen, whan þat þey were seke

Icelanders do not expect to communicate in Icelandic when abroad, any more than those who speak Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun, Cree, Dëne Sųłiné, Gwich’in, Inuvialuktun, Slavey, or Tłįchǫ Yatiì would expect their languages to be used outside their own communities within Canada.

I don't think the language issue would prove any more of an impediment for those now living in Iceland, than it already does for many living in Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

I very much doubt that Iceland would insist that Icelandic be added to all Canadian packaging, though I am sure they would want Icelandic to continue to be Iceland's official language.

Icelandic migration statistics

You can select multiple categories such as all years, by holding down shift and/or cntl while selecting the information to be recovered. Alternatively click the tick mark above a column to select reporting on all attributes in a given column.

How can a financial crisis in the United States cause Iceland to go bankrupt?

Generally speaking, a national government is large, relative to its country's banks, but not in Iceland -- bank assets there are nine times larger than the country's annual GDP.

It turns out that this is a major problem during a global financial crisis.

Iceland warns of extreme troubles ahead

"This is not the time to assess blame for what happened; this is the time to find solutions," said Haarde.

The raw demographics

Area 9,984,670 km^2 / 33,212,696 = 0.301 km^2 / person.
Water 891,163 km^2 / 33,212,696 = 0.027 km^2 / person.
Coastline 202,080 km / 33,212,696 = 0.006 km / person.

Area 103,000 km^2 / 301,931 = 0.341 km^2 / person.
Water 2,750 km^2 / 301,931 = 0.01 km^2 / person.
Coastline 4,970 km / 301,931 = 0.016 km / person.

European Union:
Area 4,324,782 km^2 / 491,018,683 = 0.009 km^2 / person
Coastline 65,992.9 km / 491,018,683 = 0.0001 km / person

Now tell me that Iceland isn't like Canada.

Given the size of Canada and how much of Canada is too far north to be readily habitable, while all of Iceland is habitable, the above numbers might astonish some Canadians. Icelanders hold more territory per person than Canadians, have slightly less water, and considerably more readily accessible productive coastline. European Union statistics have long deterred Iceland from joining the European Union. Canada's statistics by comparison should be much more attractive to Icelanders than the European Union's.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Iceland best nation on earth for human development

Not only did Iceland win the laurels for being the most peaceful nation on earth. They also were ranked number one worldwide on the human development index in 2007. That year Canada came fourth. But Canada to its credit have been ranked highest in the world more often than any other nation, scoring highest marks every year the survey was conducted between 1985 and 2000 except 1993 and 1991 when Japan took top honours.

Manitoba feels Iceland's pain

“I'm watching with bitter sadness,” said Winnipeg businessman Neil Bardal, a former honorary consul-general of Iceland who has been involved in several Canadian-Icelandic business ventures. “The ties between here and Iceland are very, very strong.”

Where goes Iceland now

As with all polls, those that don't know the answers can at least enjoy the assurance that comes with thinking that they do. Cast a vote.

Canada as a Nordic Nation

Canada currently has membership in the British Commonwealth and is represented at La Francophonie by its French provinces.

The incorporation of Iceland into the Canadian federation might open the door to Canada (through Icelandic representation) being adopted by other Nordic Nations into the league of Nordic Nations, since Iceland is already a member of this group. I would be all in favour of seeing Canada cooperating closely with the other four Nordic nations (Denmark / Norway / Sweden / Finland).

We share with these nations a common regard for our environment, a common love of the north, and are already cooperating closely in sports such as ice-hockey, and skiing. Geographically we are already Nordic in all but name. It would be wonderful if as consequence of union with Iceland we could be Nordic in name too.

A walk on the wild side

Yes this is Iceland, and yes that is me. It was late summer 2001. We returned from Iceland via Boston International Airport one week before the attack on the World Trade Centre.

Canada votes today

Today I have to decide in our Canada wide federal elections whether I will vote conservative, liberal, socialist (NDP), green, communist, libertarian, left nationalist (action party) or for an independent candidate, not aligned with any one political party. It is thus natural to ask today how would the incorporation of Iceland into Canada impact upon the Canadian political landscape.

As a province Iceland would retain a large amount of autonomy.

However in our federal (Canada wide) parliament Iceland would not be well represented since representation is loosely based on population. Iceland having a population that would comprise approximately 1% of Canada would be entitled to at least (at a guess) 3 or 4 representatives in a parliament of 308. This number might generously be made a little higher, given that Prince Edward Island currently has 4 representatives and Newfoundland 7. Whatever the number, Icelandic representatives would of course be valued by which ever party they belonged to because politics is all about having marginally more seats than the other parties, but they would not have a very strong voice in defending Icelandic interests unless they worked at developing one.

Iceland would have a much larger footprint in intra-provincial negotiations, conferences etc. Here there are grounds for saying that Iceland would have too much influence proportionate to its size. Iceland would have an equal seat at the table with the 10 other provinces. Geographic considerations could make this somewhat problematic.

The problem is that Canada can be roughly divided into three voting blocks. The west (British Columbia / Alberta / Saskatchewan / Manitoba), the center (Ontario / Quebec) and the maritime provinces (Prince Edward Island / New Brunswick / Nova Scotia / Newfoundland). These voting blocks are more geographic than actual. Ontario could as easily oppose Quebec as support it, and British Columbia as a marine province, could find that it was supporting the maritime provinces on some issues to the detriment of Alberta and Ontario.

But if Iceland generally found itself aligned with the maritime provinces, to the detriment of the west, the west would have grounds to feel discriminated against. For the east would then comprise a larger voting block than the west, even though the west had a much larger population. Currently the maritimes have approximately 2,500,000 people. Including Iceland that number would rise to slightly under 3,000,000 people. Quebec and Ontario have close to 20,000,000 people, while the West has approximately 9,000,000 people. I do not think this issue would be a show stopper, for the change proposed are only slight but it would have the unfortunate consequence of potentially making the existing political balance within Canada even more fragile, and further accentuating the divide between West and East.

Iceland Eyes

For the many who have never seen Iceland, a wealth of pictures, and a lot of heart. Hi Maria.

Iceland was arguably unfortunately named. It certainly has ice. It has glaciers that rival those in the rockies. It has absolutely stunning scenery. But compared to Ontario, it really is not that cold. Greenland was also misnamed. It unlike Iceland is not at all green.. it really is (or was before global warming) a land made of ice. Greenland's name was a very early sales pitch (as well as sails pitch). Those promoting emigrating from Iceland to Greenland, thought that calling it green might get suckers who had never seen it to imagine it greener than Iceland. I've never forgotten the salesman who convinced my wife that a pure white carpet wouldn't stain. Never trust a salesman.

In the summer when I was in Iceland I quickly found myself thinking that Iceland should be called "The land of rainbows". There was always the threat of a light drizzle, and thus a rainbow to be seen somewhere. It became almost a compulsion to find the rainbow of the moment. Iceland is a lot further north than most of Canada, and the light therefore very different. Rather than being brilliant and intense it was more red, and full of dappled shades and ever changing character. Most Canadians having seen Iceland once would long to visit it a second time.

The reason you wouldn't want to go to Iceland in the middle of winter would not be the risk of turning into an icicle finding your way to the out house, but the risk of getting lost finding you way to the out house. In the middle of winter Iceland sitting at its northern tip less than 1km from the Arctic Circle, and so is dark close to 24 hours a day. At Christmas I was told massive bonfires are lit in celebration, and it is the light as much as the warmth which is celebrated.

Here in Ontario the snow would be great if it just went sooner. I suspect that in Iceland, it would be a much better place to live if it just got light sooner. Of course just as in Ontario we make up for the cold of winter by having tremendous summers, so in Iceland they make up for the dark by having great summers with close to 24 hour daylight. We both know when to party, and when to close up shop.

Monday, October 13, 2008

You meant Greenland right

By the way, do you think Canada would be interested in a slightly larger and more contiguous acquisition? Just floating the idea …

I earlier presumed the above question referred to Greenland and not the USA.

Regarding the USA, I am strongly in favour of a proposal I read recently. We should send all our conservatives to the US. Since they want to turn Canada into an extension of the US it is fair I think to presume that they'd be much happier in the US. The US should in exchange send us all their liberals. Since they are always bitching about the state of their union, it is fair to imagine they'd be much happier in Canada.

The biggest impediment to union between Canada and the US is the future of the US dollar. It is one thing for Canada to contemplate inviting 330,000 bankrupt individuals to join Canada. We can turn the lives of 330,000 around with ease. It would arguably be unwise to invite 350,000,000 bankrupt individuals to join us. It is not clear that we could rescue numbers that large from their misfortunes.

If George Bush is right and "this sucker does go down", for sure I'd want Canada to do everything it could to help the US, for I'd be friend to the US. But I think it would also be time for Canada to go looking for new friends and new export markets.

A more contiguous acquisition

By the way, do you think Canada would be interested in a slightly larger and more contiguous acquisition? Just floating the idea …

It is possible that the successful integration of Iceland into Canada, would encourage Greenland to subsequently also contemplate uniting with Canada. But Greenland is administered by Denmark, and I for one believe strongly in respecting existing borders, and the rules of international law.

I doubt whether Greenland with a population of only 56,000 would be in a strong position to be accepted into Canada as a province, even if hypothetically it were eligible for adoption. Under such a hypothetical scenario, it would probably be incorporated as a new territory, just as Yukon, North West Territories, and Nunavut currently are.

We'd welcome our new overlords

I am not suggesting that Canada should take over Iceland as Norway or Denmark might. Einar Gudfinnsson (Iceland's Fishery Minister) has said that Iceland has to consider every option. It is to be hoped if he is indeed considering every option, that the possibility of union with Canada as a new province is at least being considered as one such option.

Geographically, and culturally Iceland is far similar to Canada than Europe. As Canada's 11th province, Iceland could retain its parliament, as all provinces do, protect its own language (as Quebec currently does), employ its own legal system (Quebec uses the Napoleonic code), retain its own religious freedoms, traditions, holidays, etc. I would personally hope that Iceland would insist on the right to manage its own fishery, since this is something Iceland has proved far more capable of doing than our own inept leadership in Ottawa.

It may be that Iceland is best advised to continue going it alone. It may be that Icelanders best interests are served by moving towards much closer integration with Europe. Perhaps Iceland should revert to being a colony of Denmark, or forge new relationships with Norway, or even Russia. I can not speak for Icelanders.

But I can say that a union of Iceland with Canada would be of enormous long term value to Canada. Iceland potentially is in a strong position to leverage its strategic position with Canada as a very valuable asset to Canada. Canadians respect Icelands achievements, and would I think be proud to include Iceland in our federation. I think Icelanders would find a good home for Iceland in Canada. I grew up in England before emigrating to Canada. I found a good home here.

At a minimum I think both Icelanders and Canadians should give the idea serious consideration, even if either or both sides eventually reject the idea as being unworkable.

Iceland prepares to seek help from the IMF

It will be interesting to see what terms the IMF offers Iceland. I hope that the IMF can help.

Iceland - The Worlds Most Peaceful Nation

Seems Iceland also wins the most peaceful nation on Earth award.

Iceland - a history lesson.

A bit of little known Canadian/Icelandic history

Sunday, October 12, 2008

How might Iceland change Canada

Let us suppose that Iceland joined Canada. What impacts would that have on Canada? Would they be positive impacts or negative?

Icelands biggest impact would almost certainly be cultural. Just as the inclusion of Newfoundland added to the cultural diversity of Canada's identity, and gave Canadians a new found appreciation for things Newfie, so the inclusion of Iceland would result in a new found appreciation for things Norse. It would no longer be some alien people that first arrived at the shores of the New World via Iceland and Greenland from Europe, but Canadians who first arrived at our shores from Europe.

The inclusion of Iceland into Canada would infuse new blood into Canada. We have in the more than 100 years of our existance grown rather too familiar with what is, and who the parts of the whole are, and have lost some of that spirit of adventure and discovery which was central to our identity in our youth. Our dullness troubles us. Enlarging the Canadian mosaic to include Iceland would make Canada more vibrant and challenge Canadians in ways that we need to be challenged, thus reinvigorating Canada. It would be exciting.

Iceland would clearly be a distinct society within Canada, as other provinces such as Quebec and Newfoundland are. By adding to the number of distinct societies within Canada culturally we would be emphasising that the being a federation composed of such distinct societies, was consistent with Canadian attitudes towards the nature of our federation. This would strengthen those who assert the right to be distinct. But the addition of new clearly distinct societies within the Canadian federation would act as a moderating influence on those components of our society that think that distinct society should confer special status on those that are distinct. With multiple clearly distinct societies within Canada, no province could demand special status for itself, without conceeding that others provinces were equally entitled to that same special status.

Regarding other nations; including Iceland within the Canadian mosaic would greatly increase our geographic presence, giving us more credibility and visibility on the world stage. The inclusion of Iceland within the Canadian mosaic, would once it was reflected upon, have little cause to ruffle feathers. Iceland is rather unique among nations. It came to the dance alone, and if it should choose to leave the dance, it may do so with whom it pleases. Moving our borders more than half way towards Europe, would turn Europe from being a continent the width of the Atlantic away, to being a neighbour little more than across the fence. Increased opportunities for cultural, and economic exchange would result both with mainland Europe, and also with Scandinavia.

Strategically Iceland is ideally located to serve not only as a bridgehead to Europe, but also as a cornerstone of Canada's security. With the arctic now becoming open water, through out the summer months, Iceland sits not only to our east, but also to our north. Incorporating Iceland into Canada, would permit Canada to fully integrate Iceland into Canada's defence systems, and provide as consequence a significantly improved ability to defend both Canada's maritime provinces, and Canada's northern sovereignty. Such mutual cooperation would likewise improve Icelands security.

It is almost certain that the addition of Iceland into the Canadian federation would be of benefit to Canada in yet other ways. The bottom line is that the inclusion of Iceland into the Canadian federation would enrich Canada in numerous ways, at almost no cost to either Canada or Iceland. This is a win, win opportunity for both nations if they have the vision necessary to see this fact.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Calling Peter Goldring

In 2003, MP Peter Goldring drafted a motion to invite the tiny Turks and Caicos islands into confederation. (It didn't happen, but the CBC has kept their coverage available if you're interested).

Peter's running for re-election right now, so he's likely very busy. Nonetheless, we hope he can take a chance to reply to this letter:

Mr Goldring,

I'm not in your riding, and I realize that it's a busy time for you and your staff. Still, in 2003 you were involved in trying to bring the Turks and Caicos into Canada. Now that Iceland is on the brink of financial collapse, would you be willing to extend them the same courtesy?

Even if it's not something you can tackle right now, your input on a topic that's being discussed from the National Post to Washington DC blogs, would surely be much appreciated by all.

If you'd like to contact him, here's his MP contact info. (He's on track to be re-elected easily on October 14th, so I imagine this won't change)

Hill Office
Telephone: (613) 992-3821
House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6

Or in person:
9111 - 118 Avenue NW, Edmonton, Alberta T5B 0T9
Telephone: (780) 495-3261

Iceland is polite too?

I have to admit, there's a lot about Iceland that I don't know. But they've won me over yet again by being overly polite:

We are truly sorry

We, members of the Icelandic nation, are truly sorry for the problems we have caused, and plead guilty with an explanation.

Proud and Independent

The Icelandic people are among the most proud, rugged people on this planet. They have existed as a people cut off from most contact with the rest of the world for over 1,000 years. In those thousand years they have organised themselves, managed themselves, policed themselves, and been ever ready to help themselves. These are their strengths as a people.

As someone growing up in England I remember well the cod wars, and how offended the English were that the Icelanders would dare to defend the interests of their own fish, to the detriment of all of Europe by extending their zone of control over their fishery to include all of their fishery. Today, Iceland through its policies of protecting its natural resources has the only thriving fishery in all of Europe. If Canada had Icelands vision, and Icelands courage, we might still have cod on the Canadian grand banks. Iceland has more to teach us about fish than we Iceland.

As someone who has visited Iceland, I know from personal experience that Icelanders produce the best lamb on this planet. It is absurd to be importing lamb from New Zealand, when Iceland is so much closer.

Iceland has good infrastructure, a well educated, friendly, peaceful, population, and a people as used to the far north as any Canadian. They have the same concerns about their environment, the same love of their country, and live in a region of the world which could easily be mistaken for Canada.

Iceland is one of the most progressive nations on this planet in exploiting geo-thermal energy, and this is viewed as one of the most under utilised sources of energy in the US. Canada wants to sell itself as a green nation, committed to use of renewable energy sources. Iceland could provide us with the expertise needed to make us leaders in the field of geothermal energy.

What Iceland does not have is the political clout which comes with being part of a large nation. What Iceland does not have is the ability to be resilient to disasters when disaster hits. What Iceland doesn't have is the financial and political security which would come with being a significant part of a larger whole. And Iceland is left largely outside all of the existing efforts to enlarge economic unions. All of these issues would be addressed by a union with Canada.

For Iceland to enter into union with Canada, it would require agreement by both sides. Canadians are not that familiar with Iceland. Most Canadians do not head north for their holidays, and Iceland is if one examines the globe reached by flying north over Canada. Until recently the economic prosperity of Iceland also meant that Iceland was a very expensive place for Canadians to visit. There would be a need to educate Canadians about Iceland, its culture, its heritage and its people. But at a practical level, Canada would have no problem absorbing the population of Iceland into the Canadian community, and providing that population with whatever assistance was needed for the population of Iceland to survive the current and any future economic downturns. If Iceland wanted to join Canada, it is clear that its participation in the Canadian community would be very much to Canada's long term benefit.

I am not Icelandic so it is harder for me to see the issues as an Icelander would.
Most certainly travel between Iceland and Canada would involve flying, but that is not so very different from what is involved in travelling between Ottawa and Vancouver. Indeed the physical separation between Iceland and Canada would I think serve Iceland well, since it would give them an emphasised sense of being separate from Canada even while being part of Canada. Iceland does not speak English as a first language, though most are fluent in English, but this is not an issue. Quebec does not for the most part consider English its native language either. Just as Quebec actively protects its own culture and identity so too could Iceland. Iceland has only a small population, but there are already examples of provinces in Canada with smaller populations. While Icelanders might not emotionally feel trading being a nation for a province was a step up, they would be trading being 330,000 for having a significant voice, as an equal, in the affairs of 35,000,000 people.

Icelanders might feel that their roots are in Europe, that they are European, and that to become North American would be a bridge to far. But they should remember that it was the bravest of their kin, who went on to settle Greenland, and Newfoundland. Most of their kin did not choose to return to the Europe they had left behind. Instead they went on further. Today, Canada is still the preferred destination for those who emigrate from Iceland.

If Iceland must find friends, I sincerely hope that Canada has the sense to offer Iceland the friendship that Canada alone can offer Iceland. And that is union. There is strength through diversity, and Iceland would make Canada far more diverse, while Canada would make Iceland far more secure.

Bizarre as it might appear at first blush, there is merit for both Canada and Iceland in talk of union.

The British are Coming

Gordon Brown considers legal action against Iceland

PM says he is freezing assets of Icelandic companies in the UK in response to 'illegal action they have taken'

Matt chimes in ominously:
This talk of “legal action” is nice, but if Brown’s really willing to do “whatever is necessary,” then the UK is one of the few countries capable of projecting substantial military power in Iceland.

A Canadian Solution? -- Matt Yglesias

Matt Yglesias weighs in:

As world economic conditions continue to deteriorate, Iceland continues to be the leading edge of collapse. Small countries tend, in the nature of things, to have less-balanced economies than do big ones. And Iceland is a very small country with an economy that revolves more-or-less exclusively around fish, tourism, Bjork, and banking so a banking collapse amidst a global economic slowdown leaves them in bad shape and facing national bankruptcy. There’s some thought that Russia may bail them out. Were there not a million other stories in the news, the thought of a NATO ally that long played host to a strategically important US military base becoming some kind of dependency of Russia would be prompting a lot of alarmed coverage. Thus far, though, not much. But David Hayes in a letter to Canada’s National Post suggests a Canadian solution:
Iceland, in the words of its President, is facing the “very real danger” of national bankruptcy. If the situation deteriorates, Canada should invite the small island nation to join our confederation, just as we did 60 years ago with another island in the Atlantic facing bankruptcy.

The island in question, for those not up on their Canadian history, would be Newfoundland which until 1949 was a politically separate element of Britain’s evolving empire-then-commonwealth. He observes that Iceland is no further from Ottawa than is Vancouver, that Iceland’s population largely speaks English (and one might add that Canada has some experience with bilingualism), that Iceland’s population is comparable in size to Canada’s smaller provinces, and that Canada is already committed to Iceland’s defense through NATO

It's worth reading the comments too:

Bold move, which would have the additional effect of opening Canada to EU membership and markets, protecting them from their dependence of the US (which is currently dragging the otherwise fairly stable Canadian economy down).

It Even Looks Canadian

National Post, Letter Of The Day

Published: Thursday, October 09, 2008

Re: 'National Bankruptcy' Iceland's Latest Fear, Oct. 8.

Iceland, in the words of its President, is facing the "very real danger" of national bankruptcy. If the situation deteriorates, Canada should invite the small island nation to join our confederation, just as we did 60 years ago with another island in the Atlantic facing bankruptcy.

Canada is far larger and more economically diverse, and thus is far less likely to suffer huge shocks from a single bank failure. We also already have an existing concept of distinct "nations" within the country masquerading as provinces that could accommodate Iceland. After all, Iceland is the same distance away from Ottawa as Vancouver, and it has a largely English-speaking population (and a healthy dose of French speakers). In fact, Canada is the first choice of Icelandic emigres. A NATO member with no army of its own, Iceland is already functionally defended in part by Canada, and would cement our claims to the Arctic as well as providing a link to Europe.

With a population almost as large as Newfoundland's and larger than P. E. I.'s and the territories combined, and with a strong history of self sufficiency, Iceland would likely neither be a long-term drain, nor swallowed up in a melting pot.

Most importantly, it's the polite thing to do.