Noticing the New National News.

November 23rd, 2017 by Peter Lowry

Many of us count on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for reliable, well vetted news. Well, we used to. Despite Peter Mansbridge’s droning, all-knowing, stony style, we liked his panels, the depth and the humour they brought to the concerns of the day.

But news is not an art form. The National has been turned into a Picasso. And it is not the artist’s Blue Period. We have been restraining ourselves from commenting. The Toronto Star’s Heather Mallick jumped the gun the other day and she says she loves the new National. Frankly, we have been worried for a while that dear Ms. Mallick might be losing some of her professional observational skills.

We cannot understand why the CBC would waste a reporter of Adrienne Arsenault’s skills as an announcer. We do agree that Ian Hanomansing is a fine announcer and he is quite capable of doing that entire show by himself. Andrew Chang is new to us easterners and he also seems like a fine announcer. We assume that nobody wants to do seven nights a week, so the others could do backup. Mind you if they traded Rosemary Barton to the Montreal Comedy Festival, we might all be better off. She is just not our primary source of political news.

But the people who really need to pull up their socks are the guys and gals on the switches. From the first time I walked into Ted Rogers’ nascent TV studios on Adelaide Street in Toronto many years ago, as a new (volunteer) producer/director, I have been aware of the importance of these people. It was when I asked who will be on the switches that my admiration of them heightened. I was told that along with my lofty titles, I was to call the shots on the show by doing my own switching. As we rolled the credits at the end of that first show, I was desperately trying to figure a way to miss my name.

From that rudimentary switch in that pioneering studio to today’s electronic marvels, I have a great admiration for those who can make them sing. This new National is based on the ability of a master switch taking the inputs from satellite studios across the country and creating the picture on your screen. The quick mixing and cutting between four people and news scenes does not always come off. They should ease up on that fancy stuff until they get more practiced.

It is not that most watchers really understand what is causing the confusion between the four, and sound and picture, but today’s news can be confusing enough without adding to it.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

There’s a great job opening here.

November 22nd, 2017 by Peter Lowry

This is not your standard help wanted situation. Into every life there is an opportunity that comes knocking. This is an opportunity beyond your wildest dreams. It is fame and fortune. There are no limits. You just have to seize the opportunity. It is not for the faint of heart.

To start with, you had better like people. That will be a unique experience here. Male or female hardly matters. Likeability is key. Life experience or education matter. You better like hard work. And the harder you work, others will work harder to help you.

This is a political job. There are many good people in politics today but we need more. If you are old enough to vote and young enough to want to build a better future for all, we need you. You have to be a leader among people and a team player with the Liberal Party.

Did we mention Liberal? Nobody goes to Queen’s Park to get things done if they are not connected with a political party. This could be your party. And it needs leadership. It needs a progressive hand at the wheel. There will be an opening in leadership coming soon.

And that leadership needs someone with a clear vision of what Ontario should be. It needs someone who can attract young people and show them that politics can deal in the possible, be the peoples’ problem solver and lead.

Think of the recent events in the Montreal mayoralty race. Valérie Plante was a first term councillor. Few were complaining about the business as usual attitude of incumbent Denis Coderre. Plante won because she excited the Montreal voters.

We want the same type of excitement in Ontario electoral district of Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte.

The last Liberal to run in that riding lost by just 86 votes. (Federal vote recount, 2015.) In June 2018, the Conservative candidate will be Patrick Brown. The difference will be that these people know Patrick Brown. They know he did nothing in Ottawa. They expect nothing from him in Queen’s Park. They think they are supposed to vote for him because he is the party leader. They would really like to have someone more interesting.

Are you that person? You can apply to the Ontario Liberal Party at 10 St. Mary Street in Toronto, if you wish. I can also supply names of key Liberals in the riding, if that is what you want. What I can promise you is this: Brown can be beaten.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Writing Off NAFTA.

November 21st, 2017 by Peter Lowry

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is still on the operating table. While it appears that the gurus at Canada’s banks are giving poor odds, that seems to be what banks always do. They do appear to like spreading doom and gloom. Despite their predictions, nobody is willing to announce time of death at this stage.

If any party is about to walk out on the negotiations, it is the Mexicans. They have suffered the most insults and the most scurrilous pressure. They are also the country that cannot afford to lose NAFTA. It has become a critical factor in the country’s economy.

Mexico also has the growing concern that Canada might just be a fair-weather friend. There is just too much talk to be heard about Canada and the United States going back to the NAFTA that existed before Mexico was brought on board. And then Trump really would need that wall to keep angry Mexicans seeking redress from coming to Washington to visit him.

Mexico needs those automotive plants and the easy access to American markets for their farm products. Tourism in ‘olde’ Mexico does not cut it.

The next round of the negotiations takes place in Mexico starting this week. All the signals at this time are that the American negotiators are passed the negotiating stage. They are expected to get tough.

Canada’s quest for labor law equalization and environmental concerns have fallen on deaf ears. Neither the Americans nor Mexicans are interested. It seems nobody has any conditions to trade to make the deal.

The essential ingredients of any trade negotiation seem to be missing from this series of trade talks. Those ingredients are good will and an eagerness for success by all parties. With the good will down the tubes as signalled beforehand by Donald Trump, the resentment of the Mexicans and the obvious preparation for failure by the Canadians, we hardly want to be the odds maker in this situation.

But the key question is whether the American President can unilaterally cancel or change NAFTA without the concurrence of Congress? (And do not bet on help from the U.S. Supreme Court.) The Canadians have been working the system hard across the U.S. with governors, representatives and senators, seeking support for NAFTA. It takes six months to cancel NAFTA and Canada might just have to find out how many American legislators really are friends.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

The Surrender of Socialism.

November 20th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

For what began as a socialist dream on the Prairies during the Great Depression, the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) and its successor New Democratic Party (NDP) have seen little success on the federal sphere in Canada. The party might now be moving into its twilight.

Unlike the pattern of the Conservative and Liberal parties, the CCF/NDP have been based on the party’s provincial organizations. (We will stick with the federal situation today and discuss the rifts between the provincial organizations at another time.)

The major problems the federal party is faced with today are the related problems of policies and leadership. This is a party without direction. From the extremes of the LEAP Manifesto to the environmental blindfold of the party leadership in Alberta, the party tears itself apart daily. The overly long election period of the 2015 election exposed the party and its leadership as lacking direction and policies. That election was a down-hill slide.

The party then worked at cross purposes to itself at the Edmonton convention that fired Tom Mulcair as leader. The very fact that the man would honor his commitment to leading the party in the House of Commons spoke volumes for his character.

It is the character of Jagmeet Singh that is the most serious question mark today. It makes you seriously wonder about a man who would use his religious group to take over his political party. There is a big difference between using that affinity for support and using it to swamp the ‘others’ in the party organization.

And how much better is Jagmeet Singh than Ontario Conservative Leader Patrick Brown who used Sub-Continent immigrants to swamp the existing membership of his provincial party?

Sikh names have been prominent in Canadian immigration since records started being kept in the 1800s. Today, there are more than 450,000 people in Canada identifying themselves as Sikh. There are large numbers of Sikhs in British Columbia and Ontario. They are free to support a fellow Sikh but you have to question if Jagmeet Singh could possibly have won without them?

What Jagmeet did not prove in taking over his party is that he has broad appeal outside his religious community. And why would you trust it? I have been told that a Sikh does not have to leave his hair uncut and wear a turban to be a Sikh. Is Jagmeet testing Canadian tolerance?

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me

Watt’s ugly leopard doesn’t wash.

November 19th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

We might be mangling some metaphors here but Jaime Watt can never wash the spots off that ugly leopard. The head of Navigator Ltd., Mr. Watt has spent many years advising Conservatives in the fine art of winning votes. He might be taking on too much of a challenge to try to sell us on Ontario Conservative Leader Patrick Brown.

Watt tells us in a recent op-ed in the Toronto Star that he believes that the Ontario Liberals have been the government in Ontario for the past 14 years because they are keen political operators and they connected with Ontarians. I think he jests!

The truth is that after the experience of being pissed on by Conservative Premier Mike Harris, the Tories have taken a long time making any comeback with Ontario voters. They had even endured three terms of ‘Premier Dad’ McGuinty and then seemed prepared to replace his replacement with a Conservative.

It almost happened but someone advised then Conservative Leader Timmy Hudak that he should promise to fire a hundred thousand Ontario civil servants. He did not understand that he was threatening the jobs and family stability of more than a million Ontario voters.

Coincidentally, Timmy made that promise to an audience at the Barrie Country Club. Patrick Brown (then a backbencher in Stephen Harper’s government) was the first person to jump up and congratulate Timmy on his brilliant idea. He probably realized then that Timmy would be vacating the leadership job soon.

And contrary to Jaime Watt’s view, Brown’s taking the leadership of the Ontario Conservatives was no accident. It was a carefully planned and executed con job. And in taking the leadership by less than fair means, Brown has turned loose all that is mean, unscrupulous and disgusting about Conservative activists in Ontario. Lawsuits and even a charge of fraud are being made over how people have been trying to win nominations.

Watt wisely concludes that the Liberal brand is struggling these days and that Brown is there to take advantage of it. Watt says this is why Brown is trying to shed all his former extremist positions that could offend voters.

Watt seems to think it is mean to suggest that Brown acts as a weather vane on policies and yet uses Trump’s strategies of vilifying his opponent.

Frankly, Mr. Watt’s reasoning does not appear to be a particularly good sample of Navigator Ltd.’s strategic thinking.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

The late lamented Liberals.

November 18th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

When discussing the sorry state of the Liberal Party of Canada the other day, we never did mention the provincial Liberals. It is actually an interesting subject. Would you believe I am old enough to have met the last surviving Father of Confederation?

Okay, that is a joke, but Joey Smallwood loved that introduction. My favourite Newfie was always the late Don Jamieson. He might have resisted Newfoundland and Labrador coming into Confederation but once there, he did an outstanding job in Pierre Trudeau’s cabinets and finally as High Commissioner to London.

The four Atlantic Provinces are the core of progressive liberalism in Canada. They just need more leaders such as Don Jamieson, Alex Campbell, Bob Winters and Louis Robichaud to bring that progressivism further west.

The Rouge of Quebec are not the progressives Quebec voters keep expecting. The Quebec Liberals are a closed-shop, top-down oligarchy who are oddly out of step with the left of centre voters who have few alternatives. It is a situation very much in need of democratization.

And the same applies to Ontario. I could name names here but I would not want some of those people to know how powerful they really are. Toronto’s Bay Street lawyers wield a heavy stick over Queen’s Park. At least Dalton McGuinty knew when to quit. Premier Kathleen Wynne does not have the political smarts or sensitivity. She should have resigned over the summer. Her only saviours are the hopeless leadership of the opponents.

At one time the core of progressive liberalism in Canada, Toronto Liberals have been frustrated, put down and bypassed. They have been fed baby spoon-sized portions of reform over long periods. Freeing up liquor distribution, pension improvement and minimum wage boosts are just samples of the achingly slow steps in reform. Instead of real action, you get lullabies.

I think there is a Liberal Party in Manitoba, I have just never seen it in action.

There is no Liberal Party in Saskatchewan. They joined the Conservatives in the Saskatchewan Party and everyone lived happily?

I have more respect for the Alberta Liberals. They do exist and they have made their presence felt.

We know about the B.C. Liberals but they are not the most progressive people we have ever met. That last bunch of Liberals in the legislature had us wondering how far to the right liberalism could go?

Summing it up, we can only say that liberalism has fallen on hard times. It needs a healthy infusion of young people, new ideas and energy. The winners can be the people.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Trudeau tries to tip-toe through the tulips.

November 17th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

Canada’s prime minister always looks good. With or without his shirt on, he can always draw an admiring crowd. In Manilla the other day, he even looked good in that traditional Filipino shirt they gave him to wear while his suits were being pressed.

And did you see how friendly the Duterte’s were when they greeted him. His reputation for selfies must have preceded him. It seems the advance people must have told them the Canadian PM was coming to talk trade. That is always a safe topic at foreign gatherings. Even that American Mr. Trump came to talk trade and they were all smiles for him too.

Mind you Trump could only be jealous of Trudeau when a group of young ladies of Manilla got all giggly and flustered when Trudeau joined them for a group photo. That seems to be becoming routine on Trudeau’s travels. He loves being treated as some sort of rock star. His guard’s all seemed to be resigned to it.

Where he was when everyone else was waiting for him at the Da Nang APEC meeting, never was explained. The other countries had gathered to sign the Trans Pacific Pact Version 2 (without the U.S.A.) and Mr. Trudeau had a conundrum. It was obvious he was trying to stall the signing by asking for environmental and labor considerations. To his surprise everyone agreed to the suggestions and they expected him to sign along with them.

The Canadian prime minister and his foreign affairs minister were concerned that Canada signing of the TPP-2 documents would annoy President Trump and speed his decision to cancel NAFTA. It makes you wonder though if Donald Trump had even noticed. He has had his own problems with the trip. We should not forget that Trump is in his seventies and has nowhere near the stamina of Trudeau who is still in his forties. It looked like Trump was out of gas by the time he got to Manilla and he just stuck to his script.

But even Trudeau can tire and he blew it on his last day in Manilla. The do-gooders on his staff were obviously pushing him to bring up the human rights concerns with the Duterte regime. The police there have been turned into a Murder Incorporated approach to law enforcement. Thousands of addicts and minor drug dealers have been killed.

No other leader made comment on the situation but Trudeau stuck his oar in. Obviously, President Duterte did no like it. He said that he “did not answer to bullshit from foreigners.” Trudeau must have kicked the tulips.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Diminished democracy of Justin’s Liberals.

November 16th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

In George Orwell’s 1984, new history was written and old history incinerated. The old think and the new think were not allowed to co-exist. Nowhere is that thinking more obvious today than in Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party of Canada. It is not his father’s Liberal Party.

After his overwhelming victory in 1968, Pierre Trudeau felt omnipotent and laughed at the pretentions of the party organization. It was that party and those of us who rose to the cause in 1972, who saved him from inglorious defeat. His deal with David Lewis and the New Democrats kept his minority in power. The senior Trudeau admitted that the party was necessary.

But it could be too late to help Justin Trudeau. We die-hards all had our selfies with him when we handed the leadership to him on a platter. He promised us much and delivered little. The first promise he broke was to respect the democracy of the party and to not interfere in electoral district nominations. He knew that his leadership of the party entitled him to accept or reject nominations. He wielded that power as a blunt instrument.

Like a pig getting the scent of apples in the mud, Trudeau dove into the party fight in the old Toronto-Spadina area. His choice of campaign chief in Ontario had no experience at this type of party tempest and Trudeau less. What the resulting law suit cost to buy off potential candidate Christine Innes and her husband Tony Ianno, we might never learn. You can be sure though that any costs will be borne by the public purse.

That was the mind set that took the party into the 2015 federal election. It was amateur night across Canada. Young Trudeau was surrounded by elites who had little of the hardened experience needed for a hard-fought election.

Luckily for Trudeau and his elites, the 2015 federal election was a walk in the park. It was Stephen Harper’s last hurrah. The Orange Wave in Quebec was proved a one-time phenomenon. The Liberals had some electoral seats gifted to them and they carelessly lost some clearly winnable.

The Liberal Party was supplying money and manpower to the election but none of the direction. The party became irrelevant and after the election Justin Trudeau set about destroying it. He had dispensed with the membership fees and anyone could say they were Liberal and nobody cared. Do not send ideas. Do not develop policy. You will be told whom you will have for your local candidate. And for goodness sake, do not bother to  meet. Your role is only to send money. Send some now!

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

The Indignity to Indigenous.

November 15th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

People struggled for many years with the error attributed to Christopher Columbus in thinking native peoples he found in the Americas were from India. That name stuck for a few centuries. It was either sensitive aboriginals or well-meaning non-aboriginals who then started playing the name game.

For a while we were happy to be calling the various tribes, bands, Metis, Dene and Inuit Native Americans, Native Canadians, Native Mexicans and so on. And then someone, somewhere thought it would be better to use the word aboriginal.

Frankly, aboriginal was a relatively poor choice. It fit the need but had connotations of the Australian name for their native people. While aboriginal and indigenous are treated as synonyms, aboriginal does not have quite the same connotation as to origin. Indigenous means ‘something or someone who originated here.’ That means it did not come from somewhere else.

And DNA science tells us that is wrong. It is likely that the first wave of peoples from Asia crossed from one continent to the other over an ice bridge during the last ice age, about 15,000 years ago. It was revealed about five years ago that DNA shows that there were two later waves of tourism by water that added to the DNA mix in the Americas. What that means is that we might have plants that are indigenous to this western continent but the peoples came from away.

But nobody denies the claims of the North American natives to their lands. There is lots of room for everybody. Maybe my ancestors came two centuries ago. Others are even more recent. We all share the same rights and privileges of a democratic country. We all share the same concern for equal treatment and protection under the law. We all share a very serious concern for any segment of our society that is disproportionately missing or murdered. We want to know why and what the police and politicians and people are doing about it. We want to share fairness and empathy and understanding.

Maybe some of our ancestors were less understanding than we are today. There have been long learning curves for everybody. What is critical today and for tomorrow is our respect for each other. We have much to share as citizens of this land.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Chuckles’ Canned Conservatism.

November 14th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

In discussing the ebbing strength of the democracy of Canada’s Conservative parties yesterday, we never got to the major problem faced by the federal Conservatives. Their problem is one of leadership. If there ever was a good example of the mediocrity produced by preferential voting, the Conservative party faces that problem today in its leadership.

Andrew ‘Chuckles’ Scheer’s leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada should have come in a can—marked ‘Open in an emergency only.’ The former Speaker in the only majority Conservative Parliament under Stephen Harper, Scheer was the leadership candidate with the least to offer the party. He was simply the second, third or fourth choice of too many Conservative members.

A social conservative from Saskatchewan, Scheer has the perpetually surprised look of a deer caught in the headlights. You just know that he will stay there awaiting the impact.

But he got lucky lately. While the Trudeau Liberals are on a death watch for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Tories found their bonanza in Provence. And Bill Morneau’s French villa was only part of his problems. While the rest of the cabinet was distracted, Trudeau’s finance minister found himself engulfed in charges of conflict of interest and being rich. And the charge of being rich became incendiary.

It seems that neither Morneau nor the Parliamentary Ethics Commissioner had the political smarts to realize she had hung the finance minister out as a target for the opposition parties. At this late stage the ethics commissioner has had to open an investigation into the possible conflict of interest between the minister’s business interests, that deal in pension programs, and his changes in tax positions of pension funds.

Few voters will have the understanding of what any investigation will find. Guilt or innocence will be irrelevant.

When ‘Chuckles’ and his pack in the House of Commons first started baying after the finance minister, we carefully explained that the finance minister was in the position of Caesar’s wife. It was not a question of guilt or innocence. It was the very inference of wrong-doing. Bill Morneau should have been asked for his resignation then.

And do you not bet that the Conservatives, with a target in their sights, are sorry now that they opened the can labelled ‘Scheer.’

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me