The parade of the Conservative losers.

May 28th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

A political movement died out near the Toronto airport yesterday. It was the once powerful Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. The new Conservative Party of Canada, heir to the Reform Party, struggles on. It was a time of bad television and bad politics as the surviving party chose a new leader. By a margin of less than two per cent, in complex voting, the social conservatives beat out the libertarians for the leadership.

The convention hall had seen better times. The Canadian Broadcasting Corp tried desperately to make a television event of a fiasco. The presentation of the ballots was stretched past credibility for a computerized count. Political pundits were perplexed and pollsters were puzzled.

As a television personality, Kevin O’Leary again proved that he has no knowledge of politics to pass on to future generations. His choice for leader, Quebec MP Maxime Bernier, led in voting until the final count. The perpetually smiling Andrew Scheer MP is the new leader of the Conservative Party, heir to the lost legacy of Stephen Harper.

Bernier and Scheer were Babel-on-the-Bay Morning Line’s fourth and fifth likely possibilities as leader—which is not bad considering the complexity of the strange voting method and the field of 13. Lisa Raitt and Michael Chong would have been far better choices politically but they could not produce as many new party members as the social conservative candidates. Michael Chong was the only candidate for leader who could have given Justin Trudeau a hard race in 2019. He was the only candidate who actually thought about where the party is headed.

Instead, the Conservatives now have Andrew Scheer to lead them. At least he has more of his own hair than Stephen Harper.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Trump’s travels as ‘The Ugly American.’

May 27th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

U.S. President Donald Trump has been out of the country this week. Life in Washington has been more peaceful. While Congress is despairing, trying to make sense of his budget, they have sent Trump to the Middle East and Europe on a pilgrimage to find his true religion and meaning.

What Trump is really doing is a reprise of Eugene Burdick and William Lederer’s 1958 novel The Ugly American. His first visit to the House of Saud was the classic example of the American tourist; flattered to be fed American foods, spoken to in American English and sleeping on an American style bed.

Trump was either unwilling to understand or unaware of the Saudi’s duplicity in funding Islamic extremists and where those American arms are ending up in Mid-East wars. Like Trump, the Saud family have too much money for anyone’s good.

Having learned nothing of the religion of the Prophet Muhammad, he was off to Jerusalem. Here at least, he was taken to the ancient Western Wall of the Second Temple. He appeared to have no prayer to leave in the wall.

Air Force One barely had time for an oil change before heading on to its next stop in Rome for the President to visit Pope Francis. It would have been interesting to know what the President and his wife were having a difference about. When leaving their multi-million dollar plane on the tarmac in Rome you saw Trump reaching to hold her hand and she batted it away. Being Catholic, maybe she wanted to appear more virginal for the audience with His Holiness.

The First Lady and her (Jewish) step-daughter Ivanka wore mantillas as head coverings out of respect for the Pope. As in Trump’s visits with the two other hosts, there was no insight into what was said during their meetings.

It was a pushy Trump who headed on to Brussels to meet with his peers of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. He lectured them instead of listening. He complained they were reluctant to pay their way. Is this the organization that told its members to keep their remarks of Twitter size? They seem aware that Trump has the attention span of a nine-year old.

But it was in a palatial Sicilian hotel overlooking the Mediterranean, that Trump really left the largest pile. As just one of the four new leaders of the G-7, Trump was the untrained elephant in the room. He criticized the Germans, reiterated his denial of climate change, insulted his hosts and probably told a horrified chef to burn his steak.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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We can blame Cousin Oliver.

May 26th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

It is all Oliver Mowat’s fault. The myopic Father of Confederation had a mainly rural and agrarian Ontario to oversee in the early years of confederation. His picture hangs over our desk today, not as a distant relation but in the form of a preserved and framed, full front-page of a Saturday Globe published in 1893.  The lead story recognizes Sir Oliver’s then 21-year tenure as Ontario’s premier.

But Ontario is a very different place today than the Province of Upper Canada that came into the Canadian confederation 150 years ago this July 1. Cousin Oliver would probably have something snarky to say about the picture of his one-time colleague Canada’s first Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald on the same wall. The two of them had very different views of confederation. Our preference is the country as foreseen by Sir John.

Yet, it was Sir Oliver who won those early battles taken to London that defined this country. He saw Canada as an outrider to the British ship of state. He saw us as a supplier of raw materials to English industry. He wanted strong provinces that could dictate to a national government of convenience. The British adjudicators of the time agreed with Sir Oliver.

But Sir John had his revenge. He built the national links of steel that drew Canada into one. His Canada was from sea to sea.

Give Oliver the credit he deserves in building Ontario into the powerhouse of confederation. It was his short-sightedness that left us with a constricting constitution that is so unsuited to the needs of our modern Canada.

Who knew in 1867 that Canada would outgrow the concept of the Commonwealth? Who knew in those early years of confederation that Canada could become a production powerhouse to help change the course of European and World Wars?

Let’s give Oliver the credit he deserves. He was a wily politician. He took George Brown and Edward Blake’s early Liberals and led them for 24 years as Premier of Ontario. He put together a voting coalition that included Catholics and working class voters. It was said about him that he was supported strongly by both the liquor interests and the prohibitionists. Cousin Oliver was a Liberal.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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With thanks to Rona Ambrose.

May 25th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

Rona Ambrose M.P. is cleaning out her desk. With a new leader to be chosen this weekend, Ms. Ambrose is packing it in and going home to Alberta. It is a smart move for her at the right time.

And Canadians owe her special thanks for the job she did as interim leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. She took on a dispirited and unruly caucus in Ottawa after the last election. Rona created some order and made sure the job of official opposition was fulfilled. She did it well. She did it with style. She had us almost forgetting the arrogance of Stephen Harper.

Rona Ambrose brought humanity and decency to the job. She did it by giving no quarter to the Liberal government. She was tough when she needed to be tough. She was understanding when she needed to be understanding. She was not there to obstruct but to give thoughtful opposition.

It hardly helped that Rona had to do the job while the Conservative Party was running a 14-ring circus of a leadership contest across the country. That was tough competition for public attention. And the race was opening new and sometimes unintended pathways to impoverished policies.

The confusion caused by the structured voting method chosen by the party, left Rona and the caucus with no idea as to who will wear the leadership ring next week. She will have no ownership of the outcome.

But Rona Ambrose will be missed. Somehow, we sense with her that once a politician, always a politician. Maybe this new amalgamated Conservative party in Alberta will need her. Maybe the Prime Minister has a worthy appointment in mind. Rona Ambrose is an outstanding Canadian.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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The infrastructure bank argument.

May 24th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

As a general rule, it seems useless to respond to e-mails from readers that are longer than the original commentary. It also seems useless to try to correct someone’s misconceptions on the subject. Besides, if federal finance minister Bill Morneau is not interested in better explaining his new infrastructure bank to Canadians, why should others feel responsible?

The recent Babel-on-the-Bay commentary on the infrastructure bank drew such a long and obviously annoyed comment from a Nova Scotia reader that it needs an answer.

First, the reader seems to have confused infrastructure funding with public-private partnerships. While an infrastructure bank might decide to support a P-3 project, it handles it as a business case. The deal has to produce a revenue stream that can repay the bank’s investment.

Canada is a particularly attractive place for safe and secure investment today and the infrastructure bank would just be one more investment opportunity. It will attract both Canadian and foreign investment.

The infrastructure bank will be no “give away.” The larger the funds the bank gathers from investors, the larger the projects it will be able to fund for Canada. There might be people who think we should only spend money that we have and not use debt financing but you can also make a very strong case for what infrastructure can earn.

It is definitely not “running up our credit cards.” It has taken more than 40 years for Ontario to get started on inter-city high-speed trains. The availability of funds from the infrastructure bank might just break through some of the political inertia in this country.

It might have been in the heat of the moment that the reader suggested that your writer was not very bright to be promoting something that he considered to just be a give-away to the private sector. Having been chair of the federal government’s very thorough study of the potential for public-private partnerships back in the middle of the 1980s, this writer does know a bit about the subject.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Why progressive elites are losing.

May 23rd, 2017 by Peter Lowry

The disappointment progressives have felt with the New Democratic Party over the last couple decades has been something we have argued about but maybe not understood as well as we should. Maybe Robin V. Sears of the NDP put his finger on it the other day when complaining in print about the ease with which Donald Trump took much of the angry underclass away from the Democrats in the American’s 2016 presidential campaign. Donald Trump caught all of us progressive pundits with our pants down.

In Canada, we were still wondering why it was that NDP leader Thomas Mulcair blew away a sizeable lead towards winning the 2015 federal election. He could not even hold on to the seats in his own province brought to his party by former NDP leader Jack Layton.

But when the biggest policy argument of the NDP convention that fired Mulcair was the shallowness of the LEAP Manifesto, we should have twigged to what was wrong. This is a party that is out of touch with the people about whom it is supposed to care. It is a party dominated by unions that hardly know how to serve their own members.

What academics explain as the anger of the white working class is supposedly caused by the job losses to automation and the corporate ability to move production to lowest-wage jurisdictions. Add to that the realization that all politicians lie to them and that nobody can solve global warming and you can see how the frustration is building.

When stressed, voters turn to extremes. In America, we saw the accident of Trump. In Europe, we saw Brexit and the close call with Marine Le Pen. Canada picked the untried and unproven Justin Trudeau.

What the public is looking for are politicians that put principals ahead of promises. That is the lesson that at least Mulcair learned in the last federal election. Who was going to believe a socialist who promised a balanced budget? And where was the decency in arguing about Niqabs?

In the American tragedy of their last election, voters saw what anger, lies and distrust can produce. The only politician who came out of that horrendous selection process with honour was an aging democratic socialist by the name of Bernie Sanders. We should all take a page from his book.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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When the Pope meets the Antichrist.

May 22nd, 2017 by Peter Lowry

The arrival of U.S. President Donald Trump in Rome needs a Cecil B. DeMille style Hollywood epic production. It would have trumpets and bass drums, rolling black clouds in the sky, flashes of lightening. We would see a Donald Trump dressed in black, towering over the gargoyles of Hell in his retinue. He would be met by a cowering claque of priests led by their Pope holding tightly to his cross.

That would be a bit melodramatic but Trump would like the showmanship involved. He certainly has no idea of how to act with a pope. There would be a considerable hypocrisy to him referring to the pope as “Your Holiness.”

There will be no epiphany. Trump would no more think that he is representing his country’s Catholics to the Vatican as he would be representing America’s Jews in Jerusalem. The Saudi’s had no thought of inviting him to drop in at Mecca as representing America’s Muslims.

The trouble with Trump is that he has no idea what he is doing or who he represents. He never seriously believed he would win the presidency. All he did was feed on the anger of the people coming to him. Tea Party darling Sarah Palin introduced Trump to the Republican convention as beloved of the rock ‘n’ rollers and holly rollers but she left out the bikers and white supremacists, the losers and the angry, the people mired in poverty without hope and anyone else that ‘civilized’ Americans had written off.

This American proletariat knew that Trump was a bigot, a chauvinist, ignorant and ill-equipped to be president but they all helped set up the accident that was the Electoral College. They chose him in anger and bitterness in a country of denied promises. They knew the weaknesses of America’s claim to greatness. They wanted their share and, if they could not have it, they simply wanted to get even.

And now they think Trump is serving them. He serves no one other than his own ego. They delude themselves and they delude Trump with their continued devotion. For Trump is the Antichrist.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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The anger is real Ms. Wynne.

May 21st, 2017 by Peter Lowry

It is the time of year when Canadians come out of their winter refuges. We travel. We talk to each other. And if we are smart, we listen. What we are hearing here in Ontario is the strong desire for change. That is not necessarily bad if Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is also listening.

What we are hearing might be a surprise to her. Her notoriety has gained momentum over the winter. We are hearing her being blamed for many things, even some for which she has no responsibility. It is hard to argue with the anger.

If something is worth doing, she does it by half measures and for optimal political benefit. We understand she was in London, Ontario yesterday to announce a high-speed train plan for the Toronto-Windsor corridor. While we understand the political choice to starting with that section, we are appalled at the political hutzpah behind it.

Of course, we all know that the Windsor-Toronto leg will be the cheapest and there are more Liberal seats to be won in that part of southern Ontario. We will also concede that it is the leg that can be moved along with some alacrity.

But Wynne really needs to wait and announce this when they can say something more definite about costs than it will cost between $4 billion and $12 billion. We will soon be referring to Kathleen Wynne as the $8 billion-dollar woman.

What is particularly disappointing with this is that she is appointing David Collenette, former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s Minister of Transport, to drive this train through the years it will take to complete building the line. The only money really allocated at this time is $15 million for the environmental studies. It is the thought that David might be expendable after next June’s provincial election that concerns us. And we would also hate to see this vital project turned into a political football.

But it is just the latest cynical political move by a sorry politician with an ego that is bigger than her sense of duty to this province.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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The darkening clouds of the Trump presidency.

May 20th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

President Donald Trump took his case to the graduating cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy the other day. They did not rise up in support. They were surprisingly polite. And probably dumbfounded. Trump’s problems are not their concern.

When you are commissioned as a junior officer of the United States Coast Guard, your interests are in the right billet and career growth. You expect very little of America’s current, erratic and incompetent President.

But as he heads down the road to an inevitable attempt at impeachment, Trump grasps at any and all straws. No matter how many wiser and more knowledgeable advisors told him not to talk as he did to the cadets, he was steadfast in his determination to follow his path to destruction.

This is not a man to be humbled. He would neither understand the feeling nor has he the capacity to act humbled. He believes he can brazen out all they can pitch at him.

But his detractors should also weigh carefully their cause. Would they really prefer the ultra-conservative Mike Pence as president? Why trade a fool who does not know what he is doing for a fool who does?

The prospect of having President Pence dancing to the Koch Brothers tunes is both sad and frightening. If you thought Trump was ignorant about the environment, the Koch Brothers’ businesses make billions out of defiling the environment.

If you were not aware, the Koch Brothers of New York are the principal donors of the Republican Party in the United States. They spend hundreds of millions on Republican politicians and virtually own the extreme right-wing Tea Party. If Mike Pence becomes president, the Koch Brothers would own the White House, the Congress and the United States of America. God help America then!

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Fixing Ontario’s out-of-date work laws.

May 19th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

Ontario Labour Minister Kevin Flynn has a tough road to travel with the Wynne Cabinet. He is seeking to address the antiquated labour laws in Ontario. He wants to restore balance to the rights of part-time workers. He wants to guarantee a minimum wage on which someone can live. What will be interesting in these deliberations will be the blocks the Wynne government puts in the way.

The full package is just too much to expect of a cautious and conservative government such as Wynne runs. She will probably agree to the raising of the minimum wage except it will be piecemeal and behind the poverty curve.

She will likely agree to making it easier to unionize rather than to really digging into the wrongs of the workplace. Her cabinet would have little understanding of the pride of place in the working environment and the need for individual rights in employment. Unions are not the only answer and addressing those rights under collective agreements cannot necessarily enable individual rights in the workplace.

While Kevin Flynn might want to overcome some of the problems in unionizing widely dispersed workers, he seems to be ignoring what can be done in labour law to improve their lot. He seems to also be unaware that the federal and provincial governments are both guilty of having massive numbers of employees under contract that treat them as contractors without benefits or many rights.

Moving temporary workers to an improved vacation pay—allowing for a minimum of three-weeks actual time off with pay is a minor step. Ensuring temporary workers of the same benefits as full-time employees is key to sorting out what is temporary work and what is full-time employment.

But the minimum wage question is still the key question that Flynn has to fight on. The Wynne Cabinet has already dug a line that can also bury them after the election next June. All they have to do is leave the minimum wage behind the poverty line.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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