In defence of First-Past-the-Post.

December 11th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

Write a few comments on how we vote and suffer the outrage of readers. Write about something serious and it’s ‘ho-hum.’ It’s not fair, you know. Last week I was called, among other nasties: “The finest mind in the 16th Century.” All I did was comment on the foolishness of Toronto city council considering ranked voting.

Fairs, fair, folks. I think people should at least pass an examination on the various common voting systems before they are allowed to malign those of us who have devoted time and interest in looking at how other countries vote. Europe and the Middle East are easy. The Scandinavian countries’ governments are a snore, the German Reichstag confusing, the Israeli Knesset a disaster and, surprisingly, the French have done the most experimentation. The English system for the Mother of Parliaments, has not been all that exciting since they abolished the two-member rotten boroughs in 1832.

A country’s voting system is at the core of its democracy. It has to be fair, easy to understand and transparent. Where we go wrong is when the politicians we elect, see it as an opportunity to serve their party’s ideology instead of the needs of the citizens.

The best and the worst thing we do under our parliamentary system is to vote for one person. If we vote for the very best person to represent us in parliament, we can be winners. If we vote for the village idiot because he or she represents a particular party, we deserve the problems that ensue.

That is what is wrong with most proportional representation voting systems. While you get to choose the party leader, you are leaving the choice of individuals in government to the party. You are giving up your right to direct input to your government.

Always remember the old saying about democracy, that it is not the easiest form of government and probably not the most efficient. It is just better than any of the alternatives.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Does Kenney prefer Ottawa?

December 10th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

Alberta’s Jason Kenney spends an inordinate amount of time in Ottawa. This is hardly the norm for premiers—especially western premiers. It just maybe that the real prize tantalizing Mr. Kenney is Mr. Scheer’s job. Maybe this stretch at the funny farm in the Edmonton legislature has just been a means to an end?

It would be far too early for him to be measuring for new curtains at Stornoway or even Sussex Drive. Those who know Kenney, know he plans ahead. His determined takeover of the united mess of Alberta conservatives and the Wildrose showed how hard nosed and ruthless he can be. He takes no prisoners.

It was particularly interesting last week when Jason left the ranting and roaring on behalf of the west to his dear friend Andrew Scheer. Here was Chuckles standing up in the hallways and the house claiming the liberals were to blame for “fomenting a national unity crisis.”  And all this, he declared, was at a time commodity prices were stagnant and the prime minister’s climate policies were fanning the flames of western alienation. It was a heavy load, of something.

And all the time Chuckles was carrying on in this way, Kenney and the prime minister were quietly making a deal to split the climate change financial action. Kenney got the big players out in the tar sands and Trudeau got the users who would actually get their money back. I have not heard what Kenney is going to do with his province’s share.

I have this funny scene going through my mind of Jason Kenney visiting his friend, former foreign affairs minister, John Baird, while in Ottawa, sitting on John’s lap and telling him what he wants for Christmas. Would you not like to tap into those secrets?

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Singh sings Scheer’s song.

December 9th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

One of the questions we have always wanted to ask new democratic leader Jagmeet Singh is what makes him think he is a politician? When you have a question such as that, it is always best to just watch for a while. Now it can be asked. What ever gave this guy the idea that he had a career path in Canadian politics?

Singh has had more than enough time. His years in the Ontario legislature, including two years as deputy leader, was more of a comment on how poor a job provincial NDP leader Andrea Horwath was doing rather than anything Singh did to help. And his first two years after swamping the federal NDP with Sikh sign-ups were wasted until he found a safe seat to contest in Burnaby.

It appeared that NDP MPs and benefactors were less than impressed with Singh, until into the 2019 election. It was during the federal election that the news media discovered him. He was colorful, controversial and convenient. He was usually off topic and accommodating, anyway. He could not afford to rent a plane and was more available.

But his response to the throne speech was his least political action to-date. He followed conservative Scheer’s lead and attacked it. He complained that the speech only paid lip service to the needs of Canadians. “What we’re seeing is a lot of pretty words but not concrete actions,” was his complaint.

But what did he expect? A throne speech is about expectations, not action. It is direction, not doing.

The problem in the NDP leader’s reaction to the speech is that he was giving no quarter. He was still in the nagging attitude of the NDP’s approach to electioneering. He wanted more but did not know how to get it. He wanted to show off for his voters but acted as though he was still campaigning.

This was the guy who lost the NDP’s previous gains in Quebec. He saw his caucus whittled down. He wanted to shout louder than the conservative leader. Instead of taking advantage of the liberal’s minority, he stayed in an attack mode instead of making himself useful. He gave what little ground he had left to the Bloc Québécois.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

A stealth pipeline?

December 8th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

You do realize, do you not, that the Trans Mountain pipeline is being twinned as you read this? Yes, the federal cabinet has obviously, and quietly, given the pipe people the go ahead. There are still some legal issues to resolve but the cabinet is acting as though they do not matter.

I like to think of it as the Justin Trudeau Memorial pipeline. There is some question as to which will do him in first: His amateur approach to Canadian politics or his hypocrisy about global warming? You simply cannot send tar sands bitumen off-shore for processing and not be responsible for the additional global warming that it causes?

Bear in mind that the old pipeline over the Rockies to Burrard Inlet is not just being twinned. This will not be the old pipeline when finished. The twin pipelines will have gas heaters to keep the gunk moving and under higher pressure—putting more stress on both pipes. Any leaks or spills will be harder to clean up and can be ecologically ruinous.

Despite Trudeau’s Quisling-like betrayal of liberals who care about the environment, Jason Kenney’s pal ‘Chuckles’ Scheer accused Trudeau of “of fomenting a national unity crisis.” I must have missed what Scheer refers to as Trudeau’s attack “on the Western Canadian economy.”

It was left to conservative MP Michelle Rempel to sum it all up as “finishing the job that the prime minister’s father started in the 1980s.” She was, of course, citing the conservative interpretation of Pierre Trudeau’s National Energy Program. It’s funny, this liberal had always thought the idea was to give Canadians greater control of their own natural resources.

But here we are, more than 37 years later, with ignorance abounding as Trudeau The Younger betrays us. And our only real defence against pipelines in the current house of commons is the Bloc Québécois and three greenies.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

There has to be a pony in there.

December 7th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

You cannot have all that cast-off material from a barnyard without a pony in there somewhere. The speech-from-the-throne writers must have figured that if you have to use weasel words, you might as well use a lot. So, if you could stand one more reading of that speech, that the governor general struggled so gamely through, please tell us where it is taking this country?

The most positive thing that the prime minister has done this past week, was to comment on the American president’s presumptuousness. And here, all this time, I would have assumed there was respect for the sanctity of the pre-dinner cocktail gathering—at Buckingham Palace for God’s sake! Next thing we know, the media will be following the world leaders into the washrooms!

But I doubt that the prime minister did himself any damage making fun of the American president. In fact, I would bet that his overall approval rating by Canadians has gone up a few degrees.

I would certainly not say that for ‘Chuckles’ Scheer. He must think he is on permanent ‘attack dog’ duty, as leader of her majesty’s loyal opposition to the liberal minority. And for Singh of the NDP to make it a duet defaming the throne speech, is just ludicrous.

Why doesn’t somebody tell those two that the election is over and everyone has to catch their breath, beg for more money from their benefactors and plan ahead. To rush pell-mell into an ill-considered election will hardly solve their parties’ leadership problems.

And why would those guys want to make the point to Canadians that the leader of the Bloc Québécois just might be the smartest politician in that troubled house of commons.

Frankly this situation reminds me more of the Joe Clark government in 1979 than anything more recent. The Clark people could not count and it cost them a government. It makes you wonder if school teacher Justin Trudeau ever taught any mathematics?

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

The existential Doug Ford?

December 6th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

For today’s philosophy class, we are going to debate whether or not we have seen the real Doug Ford, premier of Ontario, this past week? When we saw him in action at the premiers’ meeting at the Toronto Airport on Monday, are we to assume that all the premiers were acting out for the national audience that would be seeing them on the late day news? And where was the Doug Ford who rarely came out of hiding during the recent national election campaign?

As much as you wished he was in rehab, he must have been in training at a political obedience school. Obviously, somebody got to him. It was like the transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Instead of the boorish, brash and boisterous Doug Ford, we have all grown to hate, we saw a civilized version of deceased brother Rob Ford. Rob always was the Ford brother who understood politics. The older brother was just a load of bull in a china shop.

But what have we here? Ford shows up in the Toronto hotel, where the premiers were meeting, with a cheesy load of Toronto Maple Leaf jerseys. It was the old political chestnut of giving the local team’s jersey to the visiting politician. Whoever on Ford’s staff dreamed that one up has been in politics far too long.

And you would think that with all the trouble Dougie has gotten himself into as a climate-change denier, there would have been some gas pump stickers for his fellow premiers. They also need to assure their voters that fighting carbon should not cost money for the major polluters across Canada.

But was any of it real? (That is what we mean by existential.) Seeing as how the communique from this type of meeting is agreed upon well in advance, there was nothing contentious in it. There was no mention of pipe lines that Quebec does not like or dress codes denoting religion that Quebec does not like—and someone else might like. They want you to think the premiers are a harmonious group—not a troublemaker in the bunch!

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Trump’s Triumph?

December 5th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

It will only be after someone translates the French word “merde” for him that Donald Trump will really know what the audience of world leaders thought of his plans for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Trump’s triumph this week is the meeting of the organization in England to celebrate its 70 years of protecting the world with truth and justice, in the American way.

If Brexit goes through as planned, this could be the last time that the United Kingdom will play host or any meaningful role in NATO,. Trump even had the chance to be fêted by the Queen the other day as sort of a farewell gesture. (Would that the Americans could rid themselves of him so easily.)

But Trump’s bête noire, French president Emmanuel Macron, will still be belittling the importance of NATO to annoy him. He and that kid from Canada (with his snide remarks) seem to be there just to make life difficult for the Trump-in-chief. It is assumed though that Trump made no more threats to pull the U.S. out of the alliance.

They would be luckier if Turkey made the same threat. A resignation from that quarter would certainly be accepted. Turkey’s president Erdogan thinks he can keep one foot in Russia and the other in Europe and that is not sitting well with his NATO allies. It seems Erdogan has recently bought an air defence system from Russia and nobody has figured it out yet if it is to fight off the Kurds, the Syrians, the Ukrainians or the Americans?

Turkey’s allies might baulk at the idea of rushing to the defence of Turkey, when it’s overrun by the Kurds.

Trump must be having fantasies about his triumphant return to Washington, such as entering the city with Macron in chains, dragged along behind the Trump chariot.

But like Julius Caesar, Trump might be misreading the “lean and hungry look” of the Democrats and miscounting the number of Republican impeachment knives ready to do him in.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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Kenney’s apocalypse or fiscal restraint?

December 4th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

It must depend on where you are in the food chain. Premier Jason Kenney of Alberta looks like he has never missed a dinner. To him, a little fiscal restraint is no big deal.

When hundreds of protesters showed up at the united conservative party’s ‘love-in’ with Andrew Scheer last weekend, you could see that there was a difference in opinion. The impression was that these people could brave the cold of an Alberta winter and they intended to fry a fish named Kenney. They gathered in front of the Westin Calgary Airport Inn and kept warm waving their signs and calling for Kenney and his friends to come out and play.

Regrettably, Kenney and his friends in suits stayed inside where it was warm. He bemoaned the fact that the protestors were ranting and roaring about the loss of 6000 jobs so that Kenney and company of the UCP could balance the province’s books.

Kenney referred to the cuts in the provincial budget as a modest period of fiscal restraint. He objected to the protestors “making it out as the arrival of the apocalypse.”

I guess it all depends on for whom it is apocalyptic.

And if you ever thought that Jason Kenney and company might be a little out of touch with reality, you had to see what was going on inside the hotel. It was a love-in between the federal conservative leader and the Alberta version of a provincial united conservative party. The keynote speaker at this annual meeting was Federal leader Andrew Scheer. These people jumped up to give Scheer a standing ovation. After Mr. Scheer had received a less than enthusiastic reception in Montreal and Ottawa conservative meetings last week, this meeting showed the lack of clear consensus among conservatives.

We live in interesting times.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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Toronto wants to choose mediocre?

December 3rd, 2019 by Peter Lowry

Toronto councillors are setting things up to enable voters to choose mediocre council candidates in 2022. This was brought on by the previous provincial government allowing municipal councils to opt for ranked balloting as an alternative to first-past-the-post voting for council positions.  The system seems simple but the complications grow with the number of candidates seeking office in each ward.

Proponents of ranked balloting claim it is simple but anyone who has ever faced a ballot with more than ten candidates listed would beg to differ. Even knowing the names of all the candidates is a chore. To rank all of them is next to impossible.

What really happens when there are many names on the ballot is that the least obnoxious candidates get most of the third, fourth, etc. votes because the voter has nothing against them. In effect the voters end up drilling down to the candidates that nobody has anything against. It becomes a contest to elect the least controversial candidate.

Case in point: The conservative party federal leadership that chose Andrew Scheer as national leader was a ranked ballot fiasco. There were 13 candidates and the counting process actually went through 13 counts to arrive at a final tally, just over 50 per cent, for the Saskatchewan MP. And when you realize that Maxime Bernier was a very close second, it is enough to make you shudder.

But there is still time to make sure your favourite councillor in Toronto does not fall into the ranked ballot trap. Council has asked staff to lay the groundwork for the change in 2022. This includes holding multiple open houses and other forms of public consultation. The law does not say what to do if the public reaction is negative. You can only hope.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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Running in place.

December 2nd, 2019 by Peter Lowry

The serious jogger does it when blocked by traffic or a stoplight. It is called running in place because your legs keep moving but you are not moving forward. By keeping up the motion, the jogger is not cooling down or loosing that high of a good run.

This is mentioned, because until today, the candidates for the liberal party leadership seem to have been running in place. Fund raising and team building might have absorbed most of their time but the average liberal was not seeing much action.

This lack of build up about the coming delegated convention might be the problem but I got comments from some Ontario readers that they had no idea what I was writing about the other day.

Let me explain: The Ontario Liberal Party is planning to hold a delegated convention at the Mississauga International Centre on March 7, 2020. At time of writing, there are at least five, if not six, approved contenders for the job of leader. Contender number six has yet to be approved by the party. Why the party might reject her is between her and the liberals who run the party—which is just number one of the reasons that I believe this contest is badly run.

What I was commenting on the other day was the ease with which people can manipulate this form of delegated convention. It starts in the electoral districts. There are quite a few ridings across Ontario that have less than seven members. Those are easy pickings if you need a bunch more delegates. Some ridings are also easy for a small group to take over. The only bad news is that the membership in the party closes today, if you wish to vote for delegates to the March 7 event.

What is considered particularly corrupt is the demand by the party hierarchy that all candidates to be a delegate indicate who they are supporting. In effect, the person is no longer a representative from that part of the province but a representative for that leadership candidate. It defeats the purpose of a delegated convention.

Before the delegate elections in February, I hope to provide some handicapping on the leadership race and some observations on the candidates’ credentials.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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