Donald Trump has a plan?

April 27th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

Heard any good conspiracy theories today? It is amazing how many pundits are writing about Trump’s real plans for world-wide dictatorship. They see Trump’s actions in the White House as part of a scheme. They think it is designed to keep outsiders confused.

But it should be obvious to everybody that Trump is the one who is confused. He is erratic, unprepared, unaware and badly advised. And if you can figure the conspiracy in that, good luck!

Just look at those decrees that he so grandiosely pens in the Oval Office. They are a sham. They are window dressing for his supporters to show that he is working for them. He could save time by sending the presidential decrees to the courts for vetting. Most make no sense. The ones that the departments try to implement such as the restrictions on Muslims coming to America are basically racist and cause nothing but problems.

And the promises he made to squash Obamacare were blocked in Congress by his own Republican Tea Party supporters. How he expects to get his budget passed might be the most serious problem he will ever face. He would need a new book on the art of the deal for that.

Judging from what we have seen so far, Trump’s idea of getting things done is to be the bully who shouts the loudest.

His version of foreign affairs is to trade insults with the crazies of North Korea and hold hands with the British Prime Minister. Now the poor lady is facing an election and that interaction with Trump could cost her job.

Justin Trudeau of Canada also had a friendly meeting with Trump and Canada has been dumped on ever since. Trump thinks it is Canada’s fault that the steroid-fed cows of Wisconsin are producing too much milk. Or maybe he thinks supply management is something his wife does when she is mad at him. Anyway, he does not like it and he talks about screwing around with or just dumping the North American Free Trade Agreement to get even.

At least the courts will settle his recent tax on soft wood lumber from Canada. That has become routine. The Americans impose a tax on Canadian lumber. It goes to dispute resolution and gets thrown out. They can hardly expect it to be fourth time lucky. In the meantime, the price of new homes in the U.S. has gone up. And the Canadian lumber barons are missing the peak buying season for home building in the U.S.

Does Trump really think he is the only person who can negotiate better deals. What he does not seem to realize is that the first thing to establish when negotiating between countries is good faith. That might be a novelty for him.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Buck Booking’s Blues.

April 26th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

Some wonder how the time of the British Royals to visit the colonies is allocated across the British Commonwealth of Nations and other friendly countries. What if this was all funneled through a call centre at Buckingham Palace in London, England? Imagine a recently recorded call at the North American desk:

“Buck Booking, Harry speaking. This call is being recorded for quality assurance and legal purposes.”

“Hi Harry, this is Eloise at the Prime Minister’s Office in Ottawa. We need to book some royals for the July 1, Canada Day celebrations in front of our parliament buildings.”

“Oh, yes madam, Please excuse the way I answered your call. Most of our calls on the North American desk are from Americans wanting a royal to grace a dinner party or play some polo. They feel honoured for us to be breezy with them.”

“That is no problem Harry. Yet, your voice sounds familiar. What is your last name?”

“It’s Windsor, madam. And to save time I will have to admit that my grandmother insisted I do this job along with my regular duties as a penance. There was this lovely, young American tourist who wanted to make love at Buckingham Palace. I accommodated her on a balcony. If she had not been a screamer, it would not have mattered that it was the balcony off my granny’s bedroom. Mind you, it was worth it to see the expressions on the guards in the courtyard when they figured out where the screaming was coming from.

“But back to business, madam. That was July 1, you said? What year?”

“Well, this year of course. Canada will be celebrating 150 years of being a nation. Most of the bands, singers, entertainers and fireworks were booked by the previous government but they seem to have forgotten to book a royal for the occasion.”

“Au contraire madam. There is a note in the file here that that they booked my dear papa for the occasion. The Prince of Wales and his lovely wife Camilla are flying to Ottawa on May 29. And please do not forget that under the post-BREXIT rules, The Canadian government will be charged 20,000 pounds sterling per day plus expenses for their visit.

“But we want William and Kate.”

“You can’t afford them madam.”

Buck Booking hung up.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The myth of being Liberal.

April 25th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

One of our respected progressive bloggers from British Columbia wrote recently something less than a paean (song of praise) about the Liberals in that province. His thesis is that B.C. Liberals are just Conservatives in sheep’s clothing and now the federal sheep have joined them. He insists that the Liberal ideal has vanished from Canada.

His is the logical conclusion. Canada’s three largest provincial governments have governments that are Liberal in name only. The Quebec Liberals are the successors to the right-wing Union Nationale and are interchangeable with the federal Conservatives. Ontario’s Liberals might pose as left wing but are hard-nosed and conservative when it comes to economics. They operate under the direction of Bay Street. The B.C. Liberals are in turn bought and paid for by business interests who see the beauty and majesty of the province only in terms of exploitation.

And each of those provincial governments are crumbling. British Columbia goes to vote soon with signs of switching governing parties. It will, hopefully, be to one that does not exploit the land for business interests and does not constantly leave itself open to possible charges of corruption.

Ontario will be next in the spring of 2018. The problem there is the leadership. Premier Wynne has lost support from voters and from within her party. The premier of Quebec probably thinks he is lucky to have no real opposition at this time but it will come.

The problem with the federal Liberal Party of Canada is that it no longer exists as a viable political party. There is a façade registered as a political party by that name but it has no paid-up membership. Instead it has a list of people across Canada that it can constantly pester for financial support. There is no real hands-on relationship between this list and any rights of party membership. Instead of policy, it uses a cult of personality in the person of the leader. The list has no rights or reasons to meet. Local liberals are denied the selection of their candidate for parliament. They have no real say on party policy. There is no future for federal liberals in Canada.

But the need for liberalism continues. Liberals have to be progressives, they have to support the rights of the individual in society as well as the need for dignity and freedom. Liberals seek cultural, economic and personal growth for all in a non-judgemental society. Life on this beautiful planet is a wonderful gift. We should leave it a better place for our having been here.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Something borrowed, something blue.

April 24th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

Watching the news conference events last week at Toronto’s Liberty Village, you could not help but note what a modern setting it would be for a wedding. This must have been just a rehearsal though as Premier Kathleen Wynne and Finance Minister Charles Sousa delivered their promises. They even had something borrowed to tell us and they both looked blue.

The premier and her treasurer were there to attempt to cool the rapidly rising prices in the real estate market in the Toronto area. They had a potpourri of solutions ranging from one borrowed from Vancouver and rent controls for income properties. What they did not have was realistic solutions for the Toronto area.

It hardly seemed to matter that the situation in Vancouver was quite different. With as many as 60,000 high-priced properties sitting vacant in the west coast city, these properties had become targets for vandalism and salvage. When a 15 per cent foreign-buyer tax was imposed by the province and the city increased real estate taxes for vacant homes, foreign buyers switched their interest to the Seattle market. And Vancouver is not sure how much home prices will go down, if at all.

The difference is that in Toronto foreign investors might be just under five per cent of the market and are hardly a major problem. The tax will unlikely earn much for the province. Nor would an additional city vacancy tax earn much for Toronto.

In all their plans, these politicians had no comment on the real estate flipping that is a constant headache in the Toronto market. Maybe there are fewer at current prices but the people who can buy cheap, put some lipstick on the property and then sell for a healthy profit are still a major cause of prices going up 33 per cent year over year.

While it would be difficult (and boring) to cover all 16 points of the Ontario government’s proposed program (that have yet to be passed in the Legislature). The only other important change will be the extended rental controls. These have now been extended to all rental properties in the area around Toronto.

These changes will limit landlords to a 2.5 per cent increase in rentals (which can be routinely applied every year). Owners will also be able to pass on the costs of major property improvements.

To allay the usual complaints that rent controls are a disincentive to developers, the province will be passing a number of tax incentives for developers and funding a $125 million worth of incentive payments. How long that will last, we do not know.

What probably makes the politicians blue is that they have caused havoc and confusion to the spring sales for about 45,000 real estate agents during their busiest season. They should have more political smarts.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Is Justin the adult in the school yard?

April 23rd, 2017 by Peter Lowry

Has Prime Minister Trudeau been getting advice from psychologists on how to handle a bully? It is certainly to his credit that he is keeping his cool. Donald Trump continues to lob his ignorant taunts over the longest undefended border in the world and Canada’s prime minister just says, “We can discuss that.”

As angry as that loudmouth boor Trump makes most Canadians, it is important that our prime minister stay above the fray. As he says, Canadians will be pleased to discuss the problems with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). And to help, we have our own list of problems with the agreement ready for the negotiations.

When dealing with any irrational bully, you have find out what is behind the screaming and yelling. For you to scream and yell back at the irrational juvenile will do you no good.

For example, we really need to find out where this recent mention of the energy market came from. Many Canadians took exception to the American demand for full access to our energy reserves in NAFTA. They thought that was being too generous. And with what we now know about the pollution problems with tar sands oil production, there is growing pressure to leave it in the ground.

What is common knowledge on both sides of the border is that the Canadian milk producers have nothing to do with the disastrous over-production of milk in Wisconsin. When you consider that there are more steroid-fed cows in Wisconsin than there are cows in Canada, nobody but Trump would think to blame Canada. Wisconsin voted for Trump and helped put him in the White House. Now that he is there, he needs to play nice with the other world leaders—whether he likes them or not.

The one thing that we have understood from Trump’s tiresome tirades is the concern for soft-wood lumber on the west coast. That NAFTA argument has been in and out of the courts a number of times. How renegotiation would solve it is anyone’s guess. All we do know about this complaint is that the lumber kings of Oregon and Washington are going to be able to charge a lot more for their products when they do not have to compete with the lumber kings north of the border. Only the American home buyer will get screwed.

We do not always agree with Justin Trudeau but it is nice to see him handle this problem with Trump in an adult manner. He gets his handiwork stuck on the refrigerator for this one!

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

In the politics of vitriol.

April 22nd, 2017 by Peter Lowry

The emerging right-wing politics of Europe is spreading like a disease. First we had the self destructive BREXIT from the United Kingdom and now the threatening right in key countries such as France and Germany and even a smaller and usually cooperative Netherlands. Europe still has a way to go though to match the craziness of the current American experience.

And it is crazy. The strongest country in the world has self-destructively put an incompetent in command. And you would think that President Trump’s staunchest enemies would be from the left. They are not. The major block facing off with Trump are a few dozen Tea-Party Republicans in the House of Representatives. They call themselves the House Freedom Caucus.

These men are straight from the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. They actually stopped the cancellation of Obamacare because they did not think the bill was destructive enough. They are challenging Donald Trump’s ownership of America’s right wing crazies.

The real concern though is that as Commander in Chief, Trump has found that he can play with live soldiers and real weapons. If Congress will not let him build his wall on the Rio Grande, he can still trade insults with a lunatic despot on the other side of the Pacific who wants a war. They each brag about the size of their rockets.

You would think that Trump would be smart to play nice with his neighbours when he is new to his job. Instead he insults the Mexicans and patronizes the Canadians. If he thinks he can divide and conquer, he is definitely going about it the wrong way.

In the meantime, Russia’s Vladimir Putin has watched Trump play directly into his game. Putin must be giggling in his sleep and planning his next walk-in take-over.

The travails of the complex Middle East are obviously far above the level of understanding of Trump. A key ally there, Turkey, is falling under the rule of a dictator, the Israelis remain hard-nosed and intransigent, Russia keeps the pot boiling in Syria, the hard-line politicians of Iran are trying to challenge the theocratic rule of the Ayatollahs, Pakistan, when not arguing with India, gives safe haven to Afghan insurgents and the Saudi’s are stirring the pot in Yemen. It is no tourist paradise.

And judging by the Conservatives contesting the current Conservative Party of Canada leadership, some of that hard-right thinking is starting to drift into Canada. It will be interesting when we get a chance to analyse the voting by the new and old members of that party.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

You can call it a ‘Wynne Win.’

April 21st, 2017 by Peter Lowry

Ontario’s political pundits are all running with scissors these days forecasting the resignation of Premier Kathleen Wynne. Quite properly, she is scoffing at these rumours and promising to carry on. It could be the death knell of the Liberal’s dynasty of the last 14 years.

But is it? In a few days, we will be hearing the final plea of repentance from Charles Sousa in his guise as finance minister. He will balance the budget to please the people who worry about debt. He will offer the goodies for the people whose votes can be bought with their own money. He will bring more sunshine to our spring. He will then have a year to show that his promises are real.

But, is that a winning formula? Do deathbed repentances work? Can you really recover from arrogance? Does it really justify slavishly following the apolitical advice of a retired banker? He told the premier to sell off the hydro distribution system in Ontario. She did and angered voters across the province. He told her to add beer and wine to grocery stores and do it piecemeal to piss off the voters who both wanted it and those who did not.

Nobody denies that Wynne is a poor leader. Her cabinet makes little traction with the voters and the backbenchers are a mix of those who need experience and those who need retirement. (Those speaking up must be those intending to retire anyway.)

Wynne got her job through manipulation and political theatre. She took pride in being the first lesbian premier of Ontario and then found nobody cared. Her cabinet are mostly self-serving retreads who have little to offer. Wynne thinks of herself as some kind of progressive but she has never done anything that was neither reactionary nor manipulative. She seems to think you can replace leadership with panels and studies.

Wynne’s obvious plan for the election next year is to show up her opponents as feckless and incompetent. They are but that does not excuse her shortcomings.

The anomaly in all of this is the Ontario economy that is improving every day. It is hardly to the credit of the Ontario government that Ontario is picking up the slack for the foolish tar sands economy of Alberta.

But it might account for a write-off of the New Democratic Party’s chances next year. And by next year, Ontario voters will have learned that Conservative Leader Brown is a useless putz. It seems to be unfair to offer them three such useless leaders but it says a lot about the state of politics in Ontario today.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Trump’s ‘Milk of Human Kindness.’

April 20th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

“Once again unto the breach” (sorry Mr. Shakespeare) President Trump jumps into a situation of which he has absolutely no understanding. He is making a habit of it and this time he is trying to skewer the Canadians. He has pitted the free market, unfettered Wisconsin dairy farmers against what Trump calls the ‘unfair’ position of Canada’s farm marketing boards.

That must be what you get when you do something decent for people. The milk marketing board in Ontario is probably always under fire for its trying to balance the cost of production with the price at the farm gate for milk. What it is trying to do is to keep farmers producing while keeping the price to consumers at a reasonable level.

Americans should not knock it until they try it. Under the Canadian boards, a company that unilaterally cut off 75 farmers because it wanted to switch to lower world milk prices would be out of the milk-related business. A Canadian board would not allow that kind of disruption in the market.

But President Trump is telling the farmers in Wisconsin that we are just unfair. Tell that to the soft-wood lumber people in British Columbia. He really does not understand that you cannot have free trade agreements with other countries and then demand that federal and state governments buy American to the exclusion of your free trade partners.

What Trump does not understand is that the highly integrated North American market demands open borders to speed commerce back and forth. Canada exports far more raw materials to the United States for processing than the U.S. sends to Canada. We are probably America’s most reliable supplier. We are also the best customer that America has ever had.

Cooler heads in Washington had better start thinking seriously about where Trump is taking them. If he really starts building walls between countries that are his neighbours, he is liable to start something he cannot control. His approach to these concerns could throw North America into an economic tailspin that could ultimately create a world-wide recession. Will anyone want to ‘buy America’ then?

Donald Trump should start getting his information straight or shut up.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The saccharine sweetness of Andrew Scheer.

April 19th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

After watching Conservative Party leadership contender Andrew Scheer M.P. on Global’s West Block program last Sunday, it felt like you were coming down from a sugar high. You wonder if that guy can ever rid himself of that grin. The wife liked him at first but after a full six minutes of it, she had tired of him. She realized that he had nothing to say.

This writer used to talk about the Bobbsey Twins of the Harper government. They were the cabinet twins of John Baird and Jason Kenney. The Bobbsey Twins of the post-Harper era are MPs Erin O’Toole from Ontario and Andrew Scheer from Saskatchewan. Both are from the far right of the party. Both would be equally at home among libertarians.

But in the current leadership race, they are cancelling each other out. Scheer is the darling of the Conservative caucus and Alberta and Saskatchewan Conservatives. O’Toole might be from Ontario but he has mined the easier ore bodies in Atlantic Canada and even won Peter Mackay’s blessing.

Neither is a leader. The reason they are in the top seven in the race is their blandness. While neither has to talk for long to position themselves, they are offering a short-term solution to the party. They are both more or less promising to do a balanced job through the next election, lose gracefully and then fall on their sword to make room for a real leader.

While both might have a substantial number of votes among people filling out their ballot down to the tenth choice, the counting might not get that far. This race should be decided by the time the computerized count gets down to dropping off the eighth losing candidate. Do not forget that this decision will be made by the accumulated second, third and fourth choices of the people who first voted for a loser.

And when you figure that the first four almost sure to be eliminated in the counting will be Rick Peterson, Andrew Saxton, Deepak Obrai and Brad Trost, you realize that they will not have many second and third votes to distribute to the remainder. It might not be until maybe nine of the original 14 have been eliminated that a winner emerges.

But before you do any more mathematics, you have to remember that each of 338 electoral districts has 100 points to share among its party membership. This is one of those “fair” voting systems that the special parliamentary committee rejected last year. And how much trust do you have in it?

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

“Lord, what fools these mortals be!”

April 18th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

William Shakespeare is a writer for most human experience. You could not help but think of that line from A Midsummer Night’s Dream the other day reading a commentary on guaranteed basic income. Who the writer was is not important. The approach was serious. He wrote of a guaranteed basic income as being charity. That is the most destructive statement he could make. Should the attitude fester, a critical step forward for our society could suffer further delay.

But in the article, the commentator goes on to talk about another subject. It was a hatchet job. The article offered no insight into the subject of guaranteed income. There was no argument pro or con. There was no proof offered. It was as though a passer-by suddenly threw a brick through a large window and calmly continued to enjoy his otherwise uneventful stroll.

You could test the concept of guaranteed income forever and you will never know until you do it what it will really cost. And similarly, you will never know just how much it will save.

We are talking considerable savings in healthcare, education, support as well as welfare. Guaranteed income payment replaces many piecemeal programs run by government that always left the recipients scrambling for more. These programs were never charity—they were a necessity.

We live in a society that demands compassion and understanding. We live among some of the most charitable people in the world. They are educated and caring. They welcome the newcomers who contribute so much to our society. They are demanding of government to do the job for which it is elected. They contribute their time and money to charity and make a fairly clear distinction between the role of government and the role of charity.

In health for example, it is the government that provides facilities and funding for basic research. It is the charities that seek the funds to direct the researchers to specific health concerns of our society.

A guaranteed basic income is exactly what the words imply. It is to keep the recipient fed, clothed and provide adequate shelter. That looks after the needs of the body. There are also the needs of the mind and spirit of the individual. They are part of our society and need to be able to partake in what our society offers. To assume that bare necessities will suffice is wrong and cruel. We have to make the individual part of our society.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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