Doug Ford is just Trump Lite.

March 16th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

It was made clear when we announced the winner that the new Conservative leader in Ontario was just Trump Lite. There are some interesting similarities between the two men and their many failings but there the similarity ends.

To start with both men came into their wealth the old-fashioned way: they inherited it. They have no rags to riches stories. Nobody doubts that Trump turned his father’s development business into a billion-dollar enterprise but there were many complaints of chicanery and quite a few bankruptcies over the years. Doug Ford kept his company’s presses printing labels.

Trump started out disliking politicians and never really changed his mind. His ego finally drove him into the midst of politics and he wasted no time heading for the top. Doug Ford never did anything political until his younger brother headed for the Toronto mayoralty from his council seat—which he gave to his older brother.

Doug Ford’s entire political career as a one-term city councillor was spent alibiing his brother the mayor and trying to keep him sober, on the job and off crack cocaine.

When Doug Ford jumped into the mayoralty race four years later to replace his sick brother, he got the nod from what was left of the Ford Nation followers but lost to a real politician.

You could argue with Donald Trump as to whether the development business or politics requires the most lying, cheating and stealing but those traits took him to the American presidency. He is at his happiest when addressing a rally of his lumpen proletariat who think his B.S. is the word of God.

The difference with Doug Ford is that he thinks he is a politician. It was his late brother who was the populist who excited his followers with a plain-spoken, campaign that said he would listen. And it was true that Rob Ford listened. He returned telephone calls from voters who called in to complain. The two brothers even had a radio show for a while where they listened to voters who called.

But compared to his brother, Doug Ford is no listener, no politician and no populist. And in that, he and Donald Trump are alike. Both would rather moon the media than deal honestly with it. Many in the U.S. await the time that the American Democratic Party gets its act together. It would foretell the demise of the Trump presidency.

Doug Ford is hardly getting the free ride into office in Ontario that Trump had in the U.S. The difference is that Ford will be facing off against and experienced and wily politician. She is not going to buy into his crap.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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The last adult has left the White House.

March 15th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

President Donald Trump has fired secretary of state Rex Tillerson. He fired him on that children’s program Twitter. And, in case Tillerson might not have checked Twitter, Trump phoned him from Airforce One and made sure he knew he was fired.

Tillerson will, regrettably, go down in history as the least effective American secretary of state in the history of the office. He could not win his arguments with Donald Trump and was resented by the experts at Foggy Bottom—as the area of Washington is called where the Department of State Headquarters is located.

He came into office with the high hopes that he could bring some good management to an administration that was shaping up as a total screw-up. His efforts were wasted.

The one area where it was expected he could help was with the Russia file. He faced too much interference by the alphabet soup of U.S. government agencies starting with the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. as well as a special counsel appointed to dig into the external interference in the election that resulted in Trump winning.

In the neighbouring countries of North America, Canada and Mexico, Trump was making enemies while Tillerson was trying to make friends.

But the major obstacle between Tillerson and Trump was the North Korea file. Tillerson wanted to use diplomacy and the support of allies. Trump wanted to call the North Korean leader names and ridicule him. Trump wanted to use threats.

It was North Korea that broke with all diplomatic protocols and invited President Trump to visit that country. It was a schoolyard dare and Trump grabbed at it. He must have realized at that point that secretary of state Tillerson would never agree to such a meeting without all the diplomatic niceties of preparation and protocols. For Trump to be the ‘Big Man on Campus’ in this situation, he needed to get rid of his secretary of state.

And he had the perfect fall guy and spook to take on the job. Trump has nominated Mike Pompeo, currently director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), to replace Tillerson. Pompeo is best known as a pit-bull representative of the fourth district of Kansas, where he was considered a Tea Party adherent. His one endearing quality to Trump is that he does not like the news media and does not talk to them.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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There are some real royals.

March 14th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

It is too bad that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was too busy to meet with the King and Queen of Belgium when they were in Ottawa the other day. These are a somewhat different type of royal. They are useful. They are not just figureheads and dilettantes. The Belgian royals brought 150 business leaders and others with them to help build stronger ties with Canada.

While trade between Belgium and Canada was $6.5 billion last year, Canada does that much bilateral trade with the United States in three days. The Belgians are hoping to see a substantial increase in their trade with Canada as the new Canada-European Union trade deal comes into effect.

The Belgians were greeted according to protocol by the Governor General and with all the correct ceremonies. It was obvious that they had hoped for a few words with Canada’s Prime Minister.

Belgium, as a sovereign country, is only about six years older than Canada. It is also a constitutional monarchy and has two major language groups. Part of the role of the royalty is to help hold the country together despite ongoing tensions between the Flemish (about 60 per cent of the population) and Walloons (close to 40 per cent).

In the United Kingdom, the Queen has a periodic briefing from her prime minister as to the affairs of the nation. In Belgium, the monarch is much more involved and he maintains direct contact with his cabinet ministers as to the progress of their bills and programs. He supplies the ministers with highly knowledgeable and apolitical advice.

Having visited Belgium and seen first hand the animosity between the Flemish and Walloons, I can only feel admiration for how the Belgian monarch helps to smooth relations between the two groups. Compared to the concern Prince Harry has with the guest list for his upcoming wedding to an American, it does seem to make our royals quite redundant.

But Canada will never be able to ameliorate its borrowed monarchy from England that does this country no favours. It might be a convenience for our politicians who think they know best about our needs but the refusal of our government to address concerns about the un-elected and undemocratic senate, supreme court appointments and the myriad of concerns about our need to update our democracy are not being solved.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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See what preferential voting gets you?

March 13th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

Will they ever learn? The Ontario conservatives used preferential voting in their recent leadership race. Yes, they were rushed and used the same foolish system that gave them Patrick Brown as leader two years before. They used a system that fails to produce a leader. They end up with the lowest common denominator. And those people think they should form a government?

Political parties have been using computers to manage membership lists for more than 30 years. Elections Canada and provincial counterparts have become proficient in producing voters lists for electoral districts and for candidates. Political parties have embraced this capability and have little trouble using these extensive lists for distributing information to electoral districts and asking their members and supporters for money.

It was typical that the first e-mail sent to Ontario Tories by the party after the Saturday fiasco was, in effect, “Doug Ford won, send money.”

Like their federal counterparts last year, the provincial conservatives major mistake was to use preferential balloting. In both cases, the party let the losers be the choosers and regretted the result.

The problem with preferential voting is that the voters are concentrating on voting for their preferred candidate. Asking them to make a second and even third and fourth choice at this time is a serious mistake. They have probably given little thought to their second choice and this becomes a quick and not well thought through decision. The greater the number of candidates to select from, the less the thought given. (Only 21 per cent of federal conservative voters made Andrew ‘Chuckles’ Scheer their first choice in last year’s federal leadership race.)

And then the vote counting system only counts the next choice available on the ballot cast originally for losing candidates. Unlike a run-off election, voters are not given the opportunity to re-evaluate their first ballot. (Candidates who receive the most votes in the first round of a run-off election do not always win the final vote.)

The Ontario conservatives added to the confusion in their counting when they tried to make each electoral district equal. The truth is that they are not all equal. To penalize the districts with the largest and most aggressive party memberships is not only a serious mistake but provides inadequate leadership and little opportunity to those members elected by these successful electoral districts. And it is not even democratic.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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“What the world needs now…”

March 12th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

Got an interesting e-mail the other day from a fellow commentator on Canada’s left coast. He had an excellent suggestion on what Canada should do about the currently growing estrangement from a badly run United States of America. He sees it as an opportunity for an independent Canada to become an honest broker for our world.

He wants us to create peace rather than be failed peace keepers. He sees our newfound freedom from the Americans as an opportunity for Canada to not only offer to broker but to enforce the peace. He sees us as taking Canada to a new level in world affairs.

He sees Canada as having been used as something of a foreign Legion by the Americans. The best example of this is when the Americans dumped their failed Afghanistan campaign on us.

I thought of it as Art Eggleton’s war. He and Prime Minister Paul Martin were duped by the Americans and their own military experts. It was the only war Canada ever lost. We were just another bunch of foreigners feeding our rations to the Pashtuns. They have been killing foreign soldiers for centuries and are getting very practiced at it.

He and I both agree that it was shameful that Canada never had enough troops in Afghanistan to make a difference. Thankfully we got out and those left came home to mourn our dead.

The problem I see to this plan for enforced peace is that we need a larger and better equipped military capability to undertake the role. We need ground support aircraft and aircraft that can give us control of the sky in troubled areas. We need rapid mobility and better intelligence in likely areas of need. We never want to go in blind. And it has to be clear up-front that decisions on the ground take precedence over the armchair experts at the United Nations.

We could be the world’s problem solvers. It would take commitment. The biggest problem is that these small police type actions often create more problems than were there in the first place. The Middle East for example is like a wack-a-mole game that nobody is allowed to win. We got rid of that dictator in Libya and have done worse in the long run.

Our advantage in this are the people from those troubled countries, who came to us for refuge and a better life. We need to interview and study what these people have to say about their former home and its needs. It can help come up with solutions.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Donald Trump Lite and the Ontario PCs.

March 11th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

After spending Saturday afternoon watching Rosemary Barton and CBC News struggling with the Ontario Conservative fiasco, I was not sure whether the party or the news media did the worst job. It was embarrassing. I actually paid the CBC $6.85 plus GST for the right to watch that screw-up on streaming video. And I want my money back.

I spent a career working on news conferences, conventions, political rallies, candidate selections and leadership contests across Canada. I always worked to the rule that whatever happens is supposed to happen and you live with it.

But I never considered that you could have a disaster such as the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party leadership announcement.

The worst of it was that nobody seemed to be in charge. There seemed to be nobody willing to deal with the news media. There was no information shared with the attendees. They waited for hours without anyone coming to the microphone to apologize for the delays and then they were sent home without answers. Like wayward children, they were sent to bed without their supper.

What really amazes me is that when you are using computer collection of data (such as voting) that you would not write the simple program needed to count those votes. The only time I complained about the weighting of the ridings is when I tried to simulate a program to do that in preparing Babel-on-the-Bay’s Morning Line.

I estimated that there would be less than 70,000 votes cast. It was also clear that Tanya Granic Allen was the fringe candidate. She did better than expected but still came fourth.

It was the collapse of the Caroline Mulroney campaign that surprised us. Like her father, her campaign was just hot air. She blew it.

But it was the attempt to make all electoral districts equal that left the Tories in a mess. Like the electoral college in the U.S., the Tories had an undemocratic system. In the end, Christine Elliott won the most votes and Doug Ford won the election.

All I could think of last night was that Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne had a chance to resign last year. We can only hope that she takes a look at what Hillary Clinton did wrong in the last U.S. election. She has to remember that there are lots of angry conservatives in Ontario. Her and her party have to win the rest.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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‘Chuckles’ Scheer, meet Donald Trump.

March 10th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

Did you hear that Andrew ‘Chuckles’ Scheer, Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition in Ottawa, wants to move the Canadian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem? He must have heard that is what U.S. President Trump intends to do. That is a very bad move by Chuckles.

The problem is that the Canadian conservative leader wants to pander to the Jewish vote in Canada. He assumes it is the same reason as Donald Trump is supposedly pandering to the American Jewish vote. That is wrong.

Chuckles does not seem to be aware that Donald Trump is not political. He never has been and he panders to nobody but his lumpenproletariat followers. He has been doing business with New York Jews all his adult life. They have likely influenced his attitude about Arabs and Muslims. It boils down to: Jews good; Arabs bad. It would take a good psychiatrist to break that down into the whys but it means Trump sees Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu as an ally.

Netanyahu was visiting Washington the other day and in their joint news conference, the news media tried to get some clear answers from the American president about his proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum. Netanyahu was visibly amused by the byplay. It seemed to this political apparatchik that Netanyahu should be asked by the Canadian Jewish community, why he thought the proposed tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum were that funny?

The preponderance of Jewish voters in three electoral districts in Toronto and two in Montreal can be important in federal elections. Those five MPs are usually Liberals. Stephen Harper used ever trick in his book to try to win Irwin Cottler’s Mount Royal seat in parliament when Cottler stepped down at the 2015 election. Despite the concerted effort, a Liberal still won.

What Scheer also does not seem to understand is that Canada has maintained a very clear policy. As a friend of Israel, we maintain Israel’s right to exist and believe the time for moving embassies around is when there is a clear and lasting peace established by Israel and its Arab neighbours.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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The Ontario PCs in Wonderland.

March 9th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

Vic Fedeli is hardly the Alice in Wonderland who foolishly headed down the rabbit hole. Yet it was Interim conservative leader Fedeli who first let on that Patrick Brown might not have been telling the whole truth about party memberships. And with three of the four candidates still in the running asking about “tainted” memberships, it sounds like they are laying the groundwork for potential challenges to the outcome of the leadership contest on Saturday.

We would never question why Doug Ford and the Mulroney camp would know how to create false memberships. It is when both camps demand that memberships paid by prepaid credit cards be rejected they seem to know what they are doing. They certainly do not want all those cards voting.

Vic Fedeli seemed even less forthcoming when he told the news media that he could not find 67,000 of the supposed 200,000 memberships that former leader Patrick Brown claimed were signed up by last November. In as much as Patrick Brown signed up about 40,000 from the Indian Sub-continent in 2015 to swamp the PC Party membership, it is highly unlikely that any of those temporary memberships have been renewed.

(It absolutely amazes this old politico that the news media keep buying into the idea that the social conservatives won the leadership for Brown in 2015. It is unlikely that Tanya Granic Allen’s vote will be announced on Saturday but she will likely be the first candidate dropped from the count. She might get as much as 10 to 15 per cent of votes cast but that could take every possible “Right to Life” vote in the party.)

The reality of voting in the party’s confused voting system is that the winning candidate has to not only win the most votes but to have them distributed proportionally across enough electoral districts. The voting system is designed to work against the candidate who has his or her vote concentrated in just one area of the province. It is why in the last all candidate appearance in Ottawa, Doug Ford must have mentioned being in every area of the province except Toronto. Ford Nation cannot help him without strong support from outside Toronto.

The heavy betting seems to be on Christine Elliott. The only question is that if she does not win on the first ballot count—where would she get the second-choice votes to go on to win? There might be further twists and turns before this race is decided.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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“We stand on guard for thee.”

March 8th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

The last time our parliamentarians screwed around with Canada’s national anthem, they were trying to make it gender neutral. What they accomplished was to have some of us singing different words, others of us confused and all of us stuck with awkward phrasing. And it is tough to fake that you are singing along under those conditions.

But we can all be robust in song when we come to standing on guard. We know those words and we all concur in their meaning.

And, these days, we all want to stand on guard against that incompetent ass Donald Trump in the American White House.

But be warned. That bastard is trying to get us angry, He wants us to retaliate. It will launch a trade war that he will win only when he puts North America into the grip of a depression. He is more than willing to damage his own country to prove himself right. He will blame Canada. We all know of his disrespect for Mexico.

Foreign minister Chrystia Freeland can threaten retaliation but no wise person would carry it out.

Trump will do that for us. He is raising the price of softwood lumber on the west coast of the United States. Canada has already passed the 50 per cent mark in shifting our B.C. softwood lumber sales to China, Japan and Korea.

The steel markets he is threatening are more complex. It would take several years for America to replace the rolling mills in Hamilton and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario that supply much of the rolled steel to America. Americans will hardly appreciate the cost increases inflicted by Trump in the meantime. Nobody is worried about aluminum tariffs as Canada and Norway share the ability to supply world markets of aluminum at the lowest costs. Trump’s lumpen proletariat will just have to bite the bullet of a higher cost for their beer cans,

In the meantime, we should let our friends and relations know that a loony spent in the United States might be less than 78 cents but it helps pay for Trump’s pomposity. We are already paying too much for products from the United States and it would pay us to cut back when we can.

And after the winter we are presently experiencing, is the southern U.S. that much better a place for a holiday? Why not enjoy a Caribbean holiday or a trip to Mexico instead?

Frankly, we should all be doing what we can to give Mr. Trump the one-finger salute.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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The troubled travels of Trudeau.

March 7th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

Good advice is a treasured commodity in government. Bad advice is plentiful. It seems that our current prime minister has plenty of the latter and not enough of the former. It could also be that Justin Trudeau has lots of good advice but chooses to ignore it. That was how his father behaved in his first term in office. He almost did not have a second term. And watching Trudeau the Younger these days, we are wondering if he even knows in what direction he is headed?

After an easy election despite the obvious weaknesses of his advisors, Justin Trudeau had a good start. He made the point that it was 2015 after all and he was a new broom. We said: Go for it, tiger!

We were not aware that we now had an elitist for prime minister. We were unaware that he wanted to take family vacations with the rich and famous. We had no idea that he would turn appointments over to elitist panels.

He did not seem to know that real men support feminism because they are proud of what women contribute in our society. Their respect and the equality of the sexes is self-evident and accepted. Real men and real women have little to prove.

Justin Trudeau’s devotion to his family is evident and commendable. His family is a truly charming representation of our country.

But when they travel abroad they are representing our country. They are not there just as tourists. They are not there to ape the dress and manners of their hosts. For the children to try native dress is charming. For our prime minister to repeatedly try native dress is distressing.

Stephen Harper would travel to excess to escape what he saw as the boredom of parliament. Justin Trudeau travels to escape what he sees as the nagging of parliament. If he does not find better sources of advice, nagging will be the least of his problems.

Watching ‘Chuckles’ Scheer paraded through the talk shows last weekend, it is obvious the shift in his position in his Conservative party. The move is from an interim fill-in to a possible success. The day they think of Scheer as a possible prime minister, I thought there would be at least three moons in the daylight sky.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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