Religion, Politics and Leadership.

April 22nd, 2021 by Peter Lowry

The admonition to never bring religion and politics into a conversation is a lot of B.S. They are two very interesting subjects and they are ever present in our daily lives—not only in Canada but around the world. In some countries, the subjects of religion and politics are the same subject. In China and Russia, for example, politics has replaced most religious practice. In countries such as Israel and Iran, religion appears to control the politics.

One of the benefits Canada offers is the clear trend to separate politics from religion. We are certainly not free of all biases about religion but I feel our growing tolerance is a work in progress. While fewer of us are taking part in organized religion today, there is no question but the many religions observed in Canada bring values to us.

And now we can get to our subject for the day: leadership.

We have already discussed the federal liberal and conservative leaders in previous commentaries and it is time to bring up Jagmeet Singh of the new democratic party.

Jagmeet is an observant Sikh. That means he follows the teachings of the Tenth Guru of Sikhism. This includes the uncut hair, the wooden comb, the iron bracelet, the undershorts and the symbolic knives. There are many fine qualities to the Sikh religion. While based on a warrior ethic, it teaches tolerance and protecting the poor and downtrodden, no matter the religion or caste. It is a religion where every woman is a princess and every man a lion.

And as an educated Canadian, Jagmeet Singh, can count. He looked at the less than 100,000 members of the new democratic party during the last leadership contest and realized that his supporters, with ties to the Indian Sub-Continent in British Columbia and Ontario alone, numbered more than 200,000. He simply had to swamp the membership of his party with new sign-ups from this cohesive group to win the leadership of the NDP. And he did.

In Toronto, we considered it the ethnic edge. It is why someone with an Italian name ran in certain ridings and Anglo names in others. I never approved of that way of choosing candidates. I still don’t. I want my MPs and MLAs to represent everyone in their electoral district.

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Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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‘I’ve heard that song before.’

April 21st, 2021 by Peter Lowry

It was a confused kindergarten teacher who once asked me why my daughter would tell her and the class that her mother went to hotels at night with men. She was quite relieved when I explained that my wife sang with a 21-piece swing orchestra and they performed frequently at Toronto hotels.

Listening to finance minister Chrystia Freeland delivering her budget document reminded me of a popular song from the swing era that my wife often sang. It was the 1942 hit, recorded by Harry James with Helen Forest, ‘I’ve heard that song before.’

After about a half an hour of that budget, it seemed to me that I had heard that song before. Only, this time, I was bored.

I must admit that I am delighted that after so many years of talking about it, we just might do something about adequate, low-cost daycare for working parents. It sounds to me like there will be a lot of negotiations with the provinces before the dust settles on this proposal.

But that will just be practice for the coming fight over who has the jurisdiction over long term care homes. Decent national standards might be a lengthy process to achieve.

They only want to spend a couple billion to replace Canada’s ability to develop and produce vaccines. And to think the original investment in Canada’s Connaught Laboratories was the cost of building some horse stables.

I hope it was just a sick joke when the budget said the minimum federal wage was only to be raised to $15 per hour. Try living on that?

There were also allocations for high technology in support of a green future that will be welcomed by those familiar with the technologies.

What I did not see in this first budget from Ms. Freeland was any daring, any surprise, any thing for a better future for our country. It was disappointing.

I suppose, as a senior, I should also welcome the little bonus the budget threw my way for being a senior. I guess it is nice to be recognized occasionally.

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Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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Leave ‘em Laughing.

April 20th, 2021 by Peter Lowry

In writing about the leadership skills of our political leaders, we have borrowed the title of a 1927 Laurel and Hardy two-reel movie to explain federal conservative leader Erin O’Toole. You can just visualize Stan Laurel saying to Erin O’Toole or Oliver Hardy “Here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into.”

The fine mess is, of course, Erin O’Toole’s climate plan. His only excuse was that the conservative party drove him to it when they blindsided him by saying that there was no problem with climate change.

Figuring out what training Erin O’Toole had to become leader of the conservative party and leader of the official opposition in parliament is a different matter. O’Toole’s training is the antithesis of leadership.

From the beginning of his training at Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario, O’Toole was taught to salute, march in groups and do what he was told. As a navigation officer in the Canadian air force, he never got to fly the planes or helicopters.

After his military service, he went to law school at Dalhousie University. He got his bar admission in Ontario and proceeded to practice commercial law. And from that base, he went into politics. Luckily, it was conservative politics and that does not require much independent thinking.

So, what does a person trained to follow commands and laws do when he has to come up with a climate plan to match the liberal carbon tax deal—the one where the liberals give back the money to taxpayers?

You copy it, of course. In fact, the only real difference between the liberal carbon tax is that O’Toole does not call it a tax—he calls it a levy. He also gives more back to the people who spent the most on carbon producing fuels and he only gives them back the levy when they buy carbonless or reduced carbon items such as bicycles and high-efficiency furnaces.

Frankly, I am less than impressed by O’Toole’s plan. As an apartment dweller, I have no place to put a high efficiency furnace and, at my age, the wife is not about to let me buy a bicycle.

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Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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The Actor Within.

April 19th, 2021 by Peter Lowry

We were puzzling the other day as to what training our current leaders had that prepared them for their political roles. If all you have to base your conclusion on is their set-piece biography, the answers are not all that easy to deduce. It is therefore best to do some deep-dive research and take them one at a time. We started with prime minister Justin Trudeau.

First of all, the assumption that his famous father helped prepare him for the role of prime minister is wrong. Pierre Trudeau made every effort to keep his three sons away from politics. Any communications expert who tried to get him to appear with his sons was usually shot down in flames. We thought appearing with them would help soften his image but he would have none of it. If anything, Justin would have heard his father disparage politics.

And any influence his mother had on him would not help. His mother neither understood nor wanted anything to do with politics.

What the National Post labelled as kitsch in 2019, I had seen when I first met Justin as an adult back in 2010. I saw the actor with the ability to move in and out of character. It was hardly Strasberg’s method acting, where you stay in character. The young Trudeau appeared to have a switch that he can turn on and off. The telltale signs were all there: the family dress-up in India, the black face in Vancouver, the hot reaction of the crowds at the Kielburger’s Me to We shows starring the future prime minister. Justin could sure work a crowd.

Like many Canadians, I watched Justin give the eulogy for his father at Pierre’s funeral. It was poignant. I wish I had seen him also when he played the role of World War One hero Talbot Papineau in the 2007 CBC movie.

I once corrected a fellow blogger who accused Justin of stammering. You often hear it when he is answering a question—off the cuff—in parliament. It is actually thinking noises. It is the noises that people will use while they are thinking about their answer. It is a noise that poor public speakers will use to fill what they consider a void. It is not there when Justin is speaking to a prepared text or a teleprompter. Justin just needs to be scripted.

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Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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A Mea Culpa on Small Nukes.

April 18th, 2021 by Peter Lowry

The other day I really wanted to write something positive. I feel guilty about writing so many negative comments about politicians today. It was an old friend who suggested to me that I could make up for my past criticisms of nuclear power. This guy is a retired university professor and a noted environmentalist. He was singing the praises of small nuclear generating systems. I should have known he was putting me on.

But, needing something to comment on, I bought his malarkey. It ran the other day and I have been hearing from readers—not all polite, I should admit. One e-mail from a reader in Nova Scotia was particularly articulate and knowledgeable. He politely told me I was an idiot. The writer was an engineer and seemed to know his nuclear. The e-mail was so detailed, I forwarded it to my professor friend.

When we talked later, the professor was having a good laugh. I was annoyed. I asked him how I was supposed to respond—other than ritual suicide? He said that he was thinking of congratulating the writer for his overall observations on my column.

“But, but,” was about all I could say. After all, it was his suggestion.

“Yah, but I was thinking about Iqaluit in Nunavut,” he said. “Do you realize that a warm summer there is a couple months when the temperature gets up to ten degrees Celsius? They can use the normally waste heat generated by nuclear power.”

And that was his excuse. I get left with egg on my face and Jason Kenney in Alberta thinks he can include me among his few friends in Ontario. The thing is, we have to recognize that Kenney and the Three Stooges; Larry – Blaine Higgs in New Brunswick, Curly – Doug Ford in Ontario and Moe in Saskatchewan are putting forward a carbon solution that Canadians will never buy. So, who really are the idiots here?

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Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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The Ford Agenda.

April 17th, 2021 by Peter Lowry

It is hard to tell if the pandemic is helping hide premier Doug Ford’s agenda for Ontario or just slowing it down. His plans seem to be everything except the stuff you would hear in a speech from the lieutenant governor. It is enough that he keeps confusing Ontario residents on how to handle covid-19. His real agenda seems to keep coming out with surprise packages for us.

When he first took office, it was all about him. He got even with his old enemies on Toronto city council by cutting the number to be elected in half. He stopped former conservative leader Patrick Brown from running for the top dog role in Peel County. He asked the provincial police to provide him with a ‘comfort wagon’ for his trips around his province. He even picked an old friend to run the provincial cops for him.

It seemed he was also picking the least qualified people to do cabinet level jobs. The classic was the initial choice of Caroline Mulroney as attorney general. All her legal training and experience was in New York State. That did not last long. She is currently transportation minister and minister of francophone affaires. I assume, she can, at least, speak French.

Another example of his curious choices is political publicist Stephen Lecce, a graduate of a private school—St. Michaels in Toronto—as the replacement minister of education. His parliamentary assistant in this is a very young Sam Oosterhoff MPP who is a product of home schooling.  It is difficult to guess what Mr. Ford had in mind here but he would do almost anything to get rid of all those expensive teachers. Watch for more remote learning by computers when the pandemic is over.

Mr. Ford must also be less than impressed with a university education. He certainly is not rushing to save Laurentian University in Sudbury from bankruptcy during the problems created by the pandemic.

His plans to cut costs in medical care in Ontario also seem to have been upset by the pandemic. The people in the local health units around Ontario are scrambling to try to save their jobs while the actual costs of the pandemic are escalating every day.

But it is plans for his friends who have invested heavily in land around the proposed new Highway 413 that is even more concerning for him. It is a highway that makes no sense unless you own lots of land in the area and want to develop it.

Maybe, sometime, before the next provincial election, Mr. Ford will tell us what he has in mind.

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Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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Small Nuclear? Think Ships.

April 16th, 2021 by Peter Lowry

Anyone who is worried about small nuclear reactors being promoted by four Canadian provinces should check out the nuclear ships using nuclear reactors. The world has had nuclear ships now for over 65 years. The four countries who use nuclear powered ships tell us that they have about 160 ships currently using this form of power. Nuclear is mainly used in submarines because it allows the submersible to stay under longer and move much faster than previously. The importance is that nuclear in ships has proved to be safe, clean and efficient.

And it is the efficiency of small reactors that is a strong argument for this type of power generation. The small reactors are safer, give a better power output ratio than previous nuclear systems, producing less nuclear waste per megawatt, eliminate greenhouse gases and can be modular to fit a variety of needs in remote parts of the country as well as industrial areas.

I mention this as because I have done studies on Canadian attitudes towards nuclear power for electricity and the answers are always negative. In one study I asked what would be the reaction to having nuclear power generation in the high arctic. Even the Toronto respondents turned thumbs down.

But folks, if the sun don’t shine, the wind don’t blow and the cricks dry up, we are still going to have to have clean electricity.

What worries me the most about the current proposal for small nuclear generators is being sure that there is adequate and plentiful deep storage for the nuclear waste.

And I try not to be turned off by the four conservative premiers promoting this form of electricity generation. The fact that the Alberta premier has joined with his buddies in Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick has not turned me off the reasonableness of their proposal.

We all have to realize that we have to have cleaner fuels to generate electricity than coal or natural gas.

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Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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Chaos: The Canadian Model.

April 15th, 2021 by Peter Lowry

“Throw the scoundrels out” might be the rallying call for elections in Canada but there are too many times when we are not at all sure who the scoundrels might be. Obviously, the scoundrels in the coming federal election are supposed to be Justin Trudeau and the liberals. The only problem is that it is hard to find a replacement.

Who are the good guys? Since confederation, Canadians have been going back and forth from conservatives to liberals and then back to conservatives. Sure, there have been some variations over the years with minority governments, some alliances and compromises.

Compared to our neighbors to the south, Canadians are in a rut. The Trump interregnum of the past four years had the entire world shaking their heads. Canada remained a beacon of sanity.

But we will not continue in this vein. We deserve our chance to shake, rattle and roll. Canadians want out from under the thumb of the attitude that government knows best. Rebellion is brewing. And the weapons of choice are the pollsters and the ballot boxes.

And we are not talking about Quebec here. If anything, Quebec is complacent. Ontario voters are mad at both the federal liberals and the provincial tories. Would you believe that Alberta is seething at their unified conservatives? Moe in Saskatchewan is lost without Larry and Curly.

Blame it on the pandemic if you wish. Canadians are fed up with the missteps of our politicians. They have been selling off our successful companies and technologies for years. We used to make trains in London, Ontario, planes outside of Montreal, gas-guzzling automobiles in Oshawa, Ontario and vaccines in Toronto. Even when one Canadian company wants to buy another, we have to get an American bank to fund the deal. (That last is the Rogers deal for $20 billion from Bank of America to buy Shaw.)

Do you blame Canadians for being pissed with all their politicians?

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Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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How does Jeff Lehman MP sound?

April 14th, 2021 by Peter Lowry

It is finally likely that Barrie mayor Jeff Lehman will make the move. After being elected to three four-year terms as mayor, he is checking out the federal waters. The first hint of this was a while ago when Jeff’s old campaign manager, Quito Maggi of Mainstreet Research did a survey in Barrie-Springfield-Oro-Medonte electoral district.

Personally, I would not waste the money on that type of survey, at this stage, but I am sure it showed that it would be a tight race between the mayor and the former city councillor who is currently the sitting conservative member. The Tory has been a yawn as a member of parliament but the riding was gerrymandered to accommodate the strongly conservative rural vote.

Based on the mayor’s strengths in voter recognition and his service to Barrie, he is shoo-in with the urban part of the electoral district. Plus, he is a very good door-to-door campaigner.

But he has to get enough votes from the rural area to carry him to the finish line. Much will depend on the liberal positioning on gun control (a hot button with rural voters) and the handling of the environmental issues.

By the way, I always lie to those “press one for Joe” surveys. If Quito saw my name on his survey, he would know not to count my choice.

It is obvious that Lehman is waiting until after the budget speech next week before making his announcement. The one thing that he does not need to worry about is competition for the nomination. I really doubt that there would be any problem getting approval for his candidacy from either Ottawa or the riding.

I wish him the best of luck.

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Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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A potpourri of liberal promises.

April 13th, 2021 by Peter Lowry

Reading the list of 26 resolutions passed at the liberal non-gathering last weekend is frustrating. There are duplications of themes, confusion in intent and cost considerations. And there are a few where you had to be there to know what they were discussing.

It is hard to imagine anything more top of mind for liberals than the need for a national pharmacare program and a universal income program. National standards for long-term care came next but we could be complaining on that subject for the next couple decades.

What impressed me was that high-speed rail came in number four in priority. This is not only a critical need for Canada but can pay its own way, can make a huge dent in greenhouse gas emissions and can improve relations, tourism and trade between provinces. I do not think that people are aware of the carbon cost of all the aircraft flying just the Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City corridor. We are unlikely to replace all the aircraft flying between those cities but high-speed rail can cost less and be just as efficient for those distances.

Being old enough to remember when we had ‘bumper-sticker’ policies, I still believe that a short, catchy title can make a promise work. “No worker left behind” might be a catchy title for the NDP but seems too narrow for liberals. And a ‘New Deal’ is something American Franklin Roosevelt campaigned on back in 1932.

It was good to see that there was a discussion on the post-pandemic economy but without a serious look at the tax base and the adjustments needed, our great-great grandchildren will inherit some of the debt we are accumulating.

And yes, our seniors need a better support structure. If anything, the current pandemic has shown Canadians many of the serious gaps in in the safety nets for Canadian citizens.

When a political party is willing to discuss the serious financial imbalance between the top one per cent of our population and the rest of us, I would be willing to pay the price of being there.

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Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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