The blatant bigotry of the Hair.

October 6th, 2015 by Peter Lowry

The Hair had the support of the Bloc’s Gilles Duceppe in promoting bigotry the other evening. In the last of the badly arranged debate sessions of the 2015 election, Canadians saw their prime minister backed by a separatist asking for votes from bigots. It was probably the most tragic display of the election and nothing was solved by it only being in French and on the ATV television network controlled by Péquiste Leader Pierre-Karl Péladeau’s Quebecor.

And the Hair could not find a more fertile audience for his bigotry. When you spend the longest political campaign in recent Canadian history pandering to this group or that group, the Hair could hardly forget the bigots. He must believe that they are all Conservative voters at heart.

He knows a bigot is basically a self-centred person, uncaring and opinionated. Bigots vote for whatever party offers them the most and panders to their prejudices.

The source of this in Quebec has been the long-held resentment by some less educated Quebeckers of the English speaking majority in the rest of Canada. Quebec politicians play on this anguish like a piano. They will say that this attitude or that statement puts down Quebeckers. More imagined than real, the provincial migraine mounts.

The Bloc Québécois took these attitudeds to the Canadian Parliament where they only served to hurt Quebec. Quebeckers almost shook off the Bloc in the last election by voting for Jack Layton’s Orange Wave. It was their bad luck that a traditional Quebec politician took over as the new leader of the NDP soon afterwards.

And now we have prejudice running rampant over a Muslim woman’s niqab. This is one of the most puerile arguments in Canadian political history. The fact that only two women out of the hundreds of thousands taking part in Canadian citizenship ceremonies recently have been so foolish as to want to cover their face makes the argument childish.

But the Hair and his ally Gilles Duceppe can make hay of it in Quebec. If the Hair cannot win Conservative seats in Quebec, he prefers the Bloc get them rather than the Liberals or New Democrats.

The only hope left in this election is that Quebeckers recognize that the greatest need is to get rid of the Hair and his Conservatives. With the rest of the country lining up with the Liberals to help rid us of the Hair, we could do with more Liberals elected in Quebec. There are good people to choose from.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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Nostalgia for the era of the monster rally.

October 5th, 2015 by Peter Lowry

As the ground game became more important in Canadian politics during the second half of the 20th Century, the monster rallies for the major parties lost their importance. The work involved in mounting the rallies took too much away from the ridings that needed the workers at the voters’ doors. There was a time though when we thought the rallies were worth it.

It was always risky but Liberals kept filling Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto through the sixties and the seventies. No precise information was ever given out but it was between 35 and 45 thousand tickets that were printed to fill the 16,000 seat arena. In the capacity of head of communications for the party in those years, a great deal of the time was taken up with reassuring party officials that there would be a good crowd. (And 40 years ago, we never would have dreamed of how inexpensive it is now to use the Internet and automated telephone calls to bring out the troops!)

The key to the attendance is still the busses that every riding within 200 kilometres is expected to fill to deliver the thousands of supporters. (Did you see the helicopter shots of the traffic jam with all those buses on Highway 410 on Sunday?) A great deal of pressure was put on the campaign managers to turn out every live body they could. That last rally the Liberal Party held for Mike Pearson in 1965 was moved from the Gardens to the Yorkdale Shopping Centre. As the largest mall in Canada at the time, it presented an interesting challenge. It was planned chaos.

You could not tell the Liberals from the shoppers unless they were carrying a sign. And you could only feel pity for the innocent shopper caught up in the tightly jammed throng. One of the organizers told us afterwards that Mr. Pearson was at his best trying to shout with a bullhorn from a stairway to the uncountable thousands of people.

Even at Maple Leaf Gardens, we always had a flatbed truck and bullhorns on standby for the leader to address the people we had to shut out of the event and blamed it on the Fire Marshall regulations.

But you will never see the Conservatives trying to showcase Stephen Harper in such an open event. They would be unable to keep out the riff-raff and there would be guaranteed protests and interruptions in the proceedings.

And we assume you could never put together one of Harper’s classic backdrops of the colours and cultures of Canada without an RCM Police and Security Investigation Service vetting them first. Mind you, the few times Harper’s organizers included children, he was obviously boring the poor kids. (Mind you the Trudeau children seemed fascinated by the Liberal bedlam in Brampton.)


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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What editing standards at the Toronto Star?

October 4th, 2015 by Peter Lowry

It has always been an understood thing that the editing standards in the sports section of a large newspaper are often more relaxed than those of the general news. The editors tended to give the jocks in sports a looser rein. And it now seems that the Toronto Star—touted as Canada’s largest newspaper—has decided that simple decency is not needed on the city hall beat.

To describe a faction of councillors at Toronto City Hall as a den of snakes is an affront to the democratic process. It is the right of councillors to make up or change their minds about issues that is being challenged.

And when does an editor allow the city hall bureau chief to refer to an individual councillor as leader of “a flip-flopping band of turncoat councillors”? It seems that this councillor changed his mind on a pet project of the Toronto Star’s editorial board.

This kerfuffle is about rethinking the two-year old motion by council to ask for legalization of ranked balloting for Ontario municipal elections. The Star thinks that councillors have no right to change their minds. And thank God they do. Just because some people at the Star are for something does not necessarily mean that they know anything about it.

As we have written before, ranked balloting is a system where the losers are choosers.   This is where voters are asked to rank their first, second and third choice on a ballot for a position with three or more persons running. If no candidate has more than 50 per cent of the vote, the candidate who came last has his or her second votes added to the other candidates. If this still does not put a candidate over the 50 per cent mark, another loser is eliminated and their third choices are added to those still standing. What happens if there is still no 50 per cent plus winner after all the preferences have been counted is never properly explained.

But what we do know is that a preferential ballot is not the answer. What people need to realize is that as more and more municipalities are moving to Internet voting, the cost of having run-off elections becomes very reasonable. And where there are more than 10 candidates in a race, any candidate with less than 10 per cent of the vote needs to be dropped off the ballot to speed the process.

But there seems to be nothing we can do about the rudeness of the Toronto Star editors when things do not go their way. Maybe they are just failed bloggers who think they can say anything they wish.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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They say all politics are local.

October 3rd, 2015 by Peter Lowry

That might not be the way Americans say it but Americans do not worry much about syntax (such as the use of a plural verb with a plural subject). This thought occurred to us the other evening while sitting in a very uncomfortable students’ chair in a lecture hall at Georgian College here in Barrie. If we had known how uncomfortable those seats could be, we would never have agreed years ago to giving back-to-back lectures to business and commerce students delivered over two 50-minute periods.

But we were there on the students’ side because the City Hall Council Chambers are being renovated and the Barrie Chamber of Commerce all-candidate meeting for Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte had been moved to the college this year. These are usually rowdy meetings in Barrie and politicos from all parties consider the event to be great fun. Nobody was disappointed.

For comic relief, you could not beat the bookends of the six candidates who were respectively the Libertarian and an independent. The Libertarian has run in every election we have noted over the past ten years. It is always a question if he can beat the number of spoiled ballots. The kindest thing to say about the independent is that he does have more opinions than the Libertarian—sometimes not in tune with his audience.

But of the four remaining candidates who might be considered as somewhat serious, the best speakers were the losers from the Green Party and the New Democratic Party. The Green candidate is a school teacher and sounds like it. He is also on the local council in the rural part of the riding and was able to read from his party’s song book with ease.

The NDP lady was feisty and showed why she is in the radio business. She talked fast and furiously while reading from the federal NDP song book. She also had a claque of about 10 or a dozen raucous supporters who let you know they were there.

The strongest support was for the Liberal candidate who had about 100 supporters willing to show their approval of what he said. This part of the crowd—along with the NDP claque–vocally showed their disapproval of the Conservative candidate. He got even by taking some scurrilous digs at the Liberal. One dig did not make sense so few even caught it and another was so rude that the audience strongly voiced their disapproval.

The Liberal candidate, who speaks with a bit of a self-effacing drawl, tended to stick to his knitting and tried to ignore the digs. He knew that this event was hardly going to decide the election in this riding.

This local campaign seems to be a direct conflict between knowledge and ignorance. As we have written before, the Liberal candidate is President Emeritus of Georgian College and has had a 30-year career in the administration of education and in service to his community. The Conservative candidate is too young to have a biography and has never held a job long enough to have a career. The decision is for the voters in the riding.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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That kinder, gentler Canada is bunk.

October 2nd, 2015 by Peter Lowry

It used to be amusing that Americans thought of Canadians as being more liberal and more polite. They would puzzle over our accents and did not pretend to understand how we are governed. Lately they have been considering having a northern wall across the top of their country to keep our jihadists out. Times have changed Prime Minister Harper tells us. He should know he helped change them.

But what the U.S. and the rest of the world knew of Canada was already askew because we had proved to be some of the toughest soldiers in two world wars. And when our soldiers put on the blue berets of the United Nations, they proved to be even tougher when facing down problems without using guns.

Some thought Canadians foolish when they opened their country to the displaced and the fleeing and the frightened. Yet we need those people. We need them to bring their families. We need them to contribute their labour, their skills, their industry and their entrepreneurship. They add to our markets, our knowledge and our nation’s vitality.

With the Harper government closing embassies, reducing staff and discouraging family re-unification, what chance did we have to meet even more modest immigration targets? Times are changed, we are told again. The Conservatives shrugged when Europe was inundated with those fleeing the violence of the Middle East and the unrest and poverty of North Africa. It’s a European problem the Conservatives told us. And when did Canadians stop caring we ask?

But we have to be careful and do security checks the Conservatives tell us. And how do you do security checks on people who are in danger of being murdered by their own government we ask? It takes longer we are told.

For the past decade, Canadians have had a government that does not understand or welcome diplomacy. It cares not for the many years of Canada building an identity in the world. It was not really a kinder, gentler Canada that they knew. The world saw Canada as offering leadership, understanding, openness, fairness and assistance when needed. That is not something that you offer and then take away at whim.

Canada has always been supportive of Israel. That does not mean we support Israel right or wrong just to pander to the Jewish vote in Canada. That is crass and despicable.

We can show our support for the Ukraine without shoving it as Conservative propaganda in the face of people in Canada of Ukrainian heritage. That is just as crass as you can get. And nobody needs to forget diplomacy when dealing with Russia. There is a great difference between maintaining diplomatic relations and rudeness. Times have not changed that much.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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Turning the corner on the 2015 election.

October 1st, 2015 by Peter Lowry

There are many wonderful readers of Babel-on-the-Bay. The other day one of our stalwarts sent an e-mail saying how warming it was to read that the Harper government is toast. Obviously some of the Conservative readers caught a bit of a chill in the words but so far nobody has argued. The best news is that Babel-on-the-Bay’s Morning Line forecast is falling into place. With just eight days until voters can start to give their opinion, the election is about to produce the expected result.

Despite the statistical possibility that the Conservatives could win the largest number of seats on October 20, it certainly could not be a majority. And without a majority, the opposition parties would never allow a Stephen Harper government to survive. The Governor General, sooner or later, would have to call on the largest opposition party to see if that party could win the confidence of the House of Commons. While Stephen Harper would probably have the funds left over to face another election, the two major opposition parties would call for a respite of at least a couple years.

The Liberal Party is on the up-swing. Even without the huge national television audience and the technical problems with the translations at Roy Thomson Hall, Justin Trudeau was the clear winner in the foreign affairs debate. He not only held his own but he made a strong pitch to Canada’s progressives that he knows where Canada wants to go and he knows how to get there. Anyone who has not seen a video clip of his argument with Harper that a Canadian is a Canadian is probably not a voter.

But that foreign affairs debate was New Democrat Thomas Mulcair’s to lose and he did. He was beset by his two opponents and lost to them. He came across as stuffy and belligerent. That is not the Prime Minister that Canadian’s want.

And to make matters worse for him in Quebec, the previous Montreal French-language debate did not do Mulcair any good. That debate allowed Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc Québécois to take on the New Democrats who had ravaged his party in 2011. Duceppe targeted Mulcair and by the end of the debate, the orange wave seemed barely a trickle.

If Justin Trudeau’s stock continues to rise with Canada’s progressive voters, the Liberals are within range of 150 seats in the next House of Commons. The Conservatives may be showing some life still and will reach for straws in the final weeks. They staged this terribly long election. They tried to wear Canadians down. It did not work.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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Premier Wynne’s toughest sale: Liberals.

September 30th, 2015 by Peter Lowry

The Ontario Legislature is back in session and Premier Kathleen Wynne seems to be having little trouble with the whiny little boy from Barrie now heading the provincial Conservatives or his provincial NDP counterpart Andrea Horwath. Where Wynne is getting the hard shots is from Liberals across Ontario who cannot understand her determination to sell off the bulk of Ontario’s power distribution system Hydro One. This was something that the discredited former Conservative Premier Mike Harris wanted to do, not the Liberals.

Maybe it was Mike Harris who gave the idea to Wynne’s banker, expert in everything, Ed Clark. In setting Clark up as the expert in divesting the province of its golden egg layers, Wynne pretty well told him “hands off the Liquor Control Board (LCBO) stores but anything else can go.” And what she was told by him was that she had to do something about beer and that there was money to be had from Hydro One.

With total equity of about $7 billion, sales of $6 billion and profits on operations of $800 million, Hydro One would supposedly bring a better price than the LCBO. The business of the LCBO has assets of just $120 million, sales of almost $5 billion and profits of $1.66 billion. You hardly need to know much about balance sheets to realize that the LCBO is one of the most profitable businesses in the province.

But the difference between selling each of these assets is the difference in the revenue stream after selling. If you sell 60 per cent of Hydro One, you lose 60 per cent of the revenues. If you sell 100 per cent of the LCBO, you get to continue to collect the provincial booze taxes and related revenues. And if you sell off the LCBO in its individual parts and locations, you will get a heck of a lot more money than the books indicate. This is the only golden goose that can keep on laying golden eggs after a very sumptuous goose dinner.

And what the public gets is more convenient sales locations, better prices and better service when buying booze. It is a win-win situation for everybody concerned. The province could even let grocery stores bid for the right to sell beer, wine and other alcohol products. That way the market can determine what is convenient.

But all you get from the sale of part of Hydro One is constant pressure on the newly privatized company to get approval for rate increases to increase shareholder return. And all the public will get is less transparency from a private company and rising hydro rates.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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The friends of Stephen Harper.

September 29th, 2015 by Peter Lowry

Who can you trust? If a giant, well-respected firm such as Germany’s Volkswagen can be found out to be lying to us, is it the only one? When contaminated meats are distributed by some of the largest meat processors in Canada, who is at fault? When an unattended train kills 47 people in the quiet little town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, who do we blame? All these questions are asked and what do we learn from them?

It was Americans who blew the whistle on Volkswagen. The Harper government does not want us to bother checking what industry experts tell us. He also wants the industries to set the pollution standards in Canada. He wants tar sands exploiters to tell us what their standards should be and that is why there are no standards in that highly polluting industry. If the money is not there to hire government meat inspectors in the big meat processing plants in Canada, how can we prevent contaminated meats reaching the market? And if nobody has to attend a train sitting running on a main line, that is a perfect example of industries setting their own standards—being their own inspectors.

But what does Mr. Harper care? The Prime Minister is a conservative ideologue. He believes in laissez-faire economics where industry is allowed to operate free of government regulation, privileges, tariffs or subsidies. He does not believe that government should interfere in business operations.

He reminds Ontario residents of another laissez-faire advocate, a former Premier of Ontario Mike Harris. Mr. Harris cut everything he could to show that regulation and inspection was not necessary. He ended up with an outbreak of E-coli in Walkerton, Ontario because nobody was properly checking the water supply from the town’s wells. His careless ideology and money saving killed seven and made some 2300 people sick. There are still many people in that part of the province reluctant to drink the water.

Maybe some of those people who intend to vote Conservative on October 19 should think a little more about what they are voting for. It is obvious that Mr. Harper is not interested in preventing manufacturers from lying to you. He does not really want to spend too much on food inspectors to assure you safe food. He does not want to protect the environment or have too many regulations for trains.

In fact, Mr. Harper does not give a damn about your concerns.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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Mulcair flogs a dead plan for the Senate.

September 28th, 2015 by Peter Lowry

When you know that you cannot possibly achieve your objective, why try to sell it? Obviously New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair is no salesman. A good sales person knows that when something is impossible, you start investigating possible work-arounds to address the issue. Mulcair is lying to Canadians that he has a solution for the Senate and he does not seem to care that the one lie taints his other promises.

What Mulcair fully understands is that Quebec will never agree to simply abolishing the Senate. Quebec and Ontario are each guaranteed 24 seats in the Senate and any change that is to be made requires the agreement of the provinces. Canada has a bicameral government under a Constitutional Monarchy and its constitution requires the agreement of both the House of Commons and the Senate to pass legislation for Royal Assent.

But there are work-arounds to the Senate problem. The Canadian public has come to despise the Senate because it is seen as a sinecure for party hacks to whom the current Prime Minister is beholden. Its reputation has been seriously tarnished and nobody seems to have a workable solution to the problems. One of the major problems is that few provinces will agree to just changing the Senate. Once the Pandora’s box of constitutional change is brought up, everybody thinks they are a horse trader.

One solution we have been thinking about is having the Senate become a proportional representation of the House of Commons. It could be completely renewed after each federal election. This would involve having proposed Senators selected after each federal election based on the share of vote of their party. In this way the party that won a majority of seats in the House of Commons with 40 per cent of the popular vote would only have 40 per cent of the seats in the Senate.

This would restore the balance while leaving Canadians with their members of parliament responsible to the electors of their ridings. Senators would be tasked to represent their party in the Senate but serving to review and revise legislation as a sober second look. As long as the Prime Minister sponsored the actual appointments on the advice of party leaders and they were eligible to serve for the different provinces, it would not require a constitutional amendment. Having each Senator sign an agreement to resign when a federal election is next called would end the appointment to age 75 problem.

With this system, we can address both the call for Senate reform and proportional representation. Parties would only offer their best and brightest for the Senate and it would become a productive partner to the House of Commons.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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Jason Kenney is showing his fear.

September 27th, 2015 by Peter Lowry

Any political apparatchik has to handle his or her share of losses. You can keep winning for a while and then you have to take one on the chin. It is how you handle that loss that shows what you are made of. That is why we have come to the conclusion that Calgary Tory candidate Jason Kenney is not made of the right stuff. He is showing fear. He is striking out wildly. He is looking like he is made of Jell-O made with too much water—little flavour, no substance.

Kenney must miss John Baird, the other member of Mr. Harper’s faithful Bobbsey Twins team. Baird left politics and his job as foreign affairs minister earlier this year.

As Mr. Harper’s go-to guy to fix problems, Kenney is not just losing his touch. He seems to have lost all sense of reality. First of all, he called his own news conference to respond to Justin Trudeau’s introduction of the Liberal family reunification plan for immigration. The Liberal plan was to simply speed up the process.

But according to Kenney the Liberals are going to do away with prudent checking of whether people are jihadists or not. He went on to say that in Syria many of the refugee claimants have relatives fighting against the government of Bashar al-Assad. That makes them all jihadists in Kenney’s estimation.

But it got worse. In a rambling answer to a question about the fact that most Canadians are in favour of decriminalising marijuana he claimed that “Unlike Justin Trudeau, we don’t think marijuana should be sold in convenience stores.” That gem came as quite a surprise to those who know about Mr. Trudeau’s stand on decriminalising pot.

But then Kenney went on saying that the Liberal Leader wants to force communities to establish illegal drug injection sites. Since the media were quite sure that the Liberals had never even suggested communities be forced to have legal sites for this purpose, they were sniffing the air wondering what the Tory minister had been smoking.

But Kenney topped it all by saying “He (Trudeau) also wants to force communities to accept brothels.” This silly lie topped them all.

And that was when it started to make sense to the news media. They were watching fear replace reason. Kenney had finally realised that the Conservatives were going to lose the election. The free foreign travel and other perquisites of office were threatened. He was now aware of what John Baird, Peter MacKay, James Moore and others knew when they quit the government early. The Harper government is toast.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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