Trudeau’s and Canada’s Ally, Renzi, bleeding and swimming with sharks
by The Honourable Joe Volpe, Publisher
TORONTO - His naysayers will turn every action into a sign of desperation, every statement into a reflection of an implausible goal and every program into a distorted understanding of the country’s needs.
One could be describing the condition of a political leader anywhere but the statement has never been more true than it is today of Matteo Renzi, Italy’s embattled Prime Minister. Yet, in a post-Trump victory, post-Brexit vote, he stands as the most likely Leader of the G-8 positioned to balance the trends taking the Western world towards economic and political protectionism.
Renzi is the youngest of the G-8 Leaders of government. That description, whatever its symbolic value, may soon fall to Prime Minister Trudeau, if the Referendum on Italy’s Constitutional Reform next December 5 runs aground. In that event, Canada’s interests in securing the ratification of the CETA or indeed in obtaining the support of an invaluable European ally in it quest for a position on the Security Council may suffer a severe set-back.
Italy’s political environment is, at the best of times, like a pool of sharks: the inhabitants have to keep swimming and avoid injury, or they trigger a feeding frenzy. Survival is virtually impossible.
For Renzi, these are not the best of times. He has staked his personal political future on a gamble to restructure the framework of Italy’s governance apparatus - initially with what appeared to be widespread support.
And why not? When he emerged as Prime Minister just a little over two years ago, the country was teetering from economic Recession, fiscal imbalances in government operations, bond rating down-grades, a poor and declining political reputation in Europe and the betrayal by industrial giants who, like Fiat, were abandoning Italy for greener pastures.
Renzi’s “sunny optimism”, vigorous schedule, willingness to take on all comers while building “coalitions”, and manifest preparedness on issues (local and international) won support from all quarters. His “action figure”, energetic approach seemed to staunch the bleeding.
But we are talking about Italy. It is a relatively small country whose GDP is about 120% the size of Canada’s – it used to be closer to 200%, even though the country has little by way of natural resources.
Ninety five percent of its industries fit into the category of small, or family owed enterprises. Governments seem incapable of maximizing its vast Tourism potential.
Unions and other entrenched interests engender “protectionism” and distrust at all levels. Separatists in the North and regionalists in the South make political decision-making an art that neither Leonardo nor Michelangelo could possibly divine or that Macchiavelli could describe.
The country’s political apparatus virtually screams for change and simplification as some challenges, either generated elsewhere, or beyond Man’s control, test resolve and resources.
In the last two years, unemployment among millennials and women in some parts of the country has climbed to beyond 55%. Emigration is averaging 100, 000 per year. Refugees are pouring in at the rate of 160,000 per year. In the last two months, no less than three earthquakes have devastated parts of Central Italy.
Politically, former Prime Ministers and Party leaders are resurfacing to nip at his heels. They smell blood in the water. Renzi is now being accused of presenting a “flawed process” for approval. His “sin”? The Constitutional proposal is not “perfect”, they say. Better to ditch the entire Reform process and start over, they say.
Presumably, it will not be with Renzi. There are three weeks remaining in the Referendum campaign. Renzi, now appropriately wrapped in the proverbial flag, has to swim a lot faster to survive.
(Tuesday 15 November 2016)