How do we pay the mortgage?

July 14th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

It would have helped last week if finance minister Bill Morneau had paid some attention to the deficit side of our financial snapshot. The problem is that to many Canadians the figures he was discussing were unfathomable. The average citizen does not think of money in billions and trillions. Reality to most of us is the cost of a coffee at Tim’s or a loaf of bread at Loblaws. And politicians need to remember it.

Mr. Morneau and the liberal government have taken out a sizeable mortgage on Canada to get us through this pandemic and we are still in the woods on this situation. There will be more debt piled on before this is over. We will need more backstopping to keep our economy from collapsing. We will need fresh funds to replace old economic activities and kick start new activities.

And nobody is fooling themselves that some of our old economic segments are going to bounce back soon. Air travel is not going to suddenly take off. The oil sector is last year. Cars are going electric. Canada needs non-polluting, high-speed electric trains. Our spending will continue.

In this new era, we are not only going to be paying down this hefty mortgage, we are going to have to make sure the payments are a shared responsibility. We need to put back the two per cent Stephen Harper took from our GST. As long as we rebate it to those on a low income and not charge it on food, it is fair.

But we also have to tax the rich more efficiently. There are too many tax loopholes for the wealthy and too much money being hidden off-shore. Canadians have to demand that taxation is fair.

Luckily, nobody need be in a rush to pay. The low cost of borrowing is working for us at this time. We need to remember though that there is no free lunch. Canada is a great country and it is worth every penny it costs us.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Please do not label me.

July 13th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

While this is not about me, I admit that I do not like being labelled by people who do not know me. It matters not what my racial origin might be. It has no matter how my skin colour might be described. I am not racist. And I am becoming more and more annoyed with those who claim that our society is systemically racist.

I am starting to wonder just who might be the racists here? I can only speak for myself. I was not brought up in a household that defined people by the colour of their skin or their choice of deity. Discovering racism and tribalism as a young person came as a surprise.

And the racism that existed when I was young was open and crude. Few people give vent to their racism today. As a writer, I pay special attention to gender issues, words with racial connotation. Criticism of an individual only deals with actions or words, not their race, religion, sex or sexual orientation.

But I keep hearing from so-called spokespersons for racial groups and I do not like what I am hearing.

We are told, for example, that our Royal Canadian Mounted Police are systemically racist. That is a stupid statement from people who do not seem to understand the meaning of the word ‘systemic.’ The RCMP has more important tasks. I also believe that any words or actions that are determined to be racist from a member should be immediate grounds for dismissal from the force.

If we go back to those times when humans defined each other by their race, we will be the poorer for it. When you define everyone by their race and their actions as racist or not racist, you are falling into the trap of being racist yourself. Is not the very name of the Canadian Black Lives Matter organization racist?

We Canadians have a marvelous advantage. Ours is a land of opportunity for all. The more we live harmoniously with each other, the more we can accomplish. Our country should be a beacon to humanity that says ‘Look at what people from all parts of the world can achieve by working together.’


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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And a sneer from Scheer.

July 12th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

It was difficult to assess all sides of the discussion last week to the finance minister’s snapshot of Canada’s financial position. To be fair, minister Morneau is not a dynamic speaker. You needed time as he droned on to grasp the dimension of the how far this pandemic has taken Canada into debt. And it is not even over!

What is to be appreciated though is that Canada is doing the job that has to be done. Canada is working to save lives. Canada is working to save jobs and businesses that can assure us a strong recovery.

But instead of recognizing the efforts from the government benches of parliament, acting opposition leader Andrew Scheer sneers. He nit picks the programs. He tells us that the government is just wrong. He tells us that the government is slow to fix gaps. Mr. Scheer and his conservatives carp a lot.

Conversely, Jagmeet Singh and his NDP want more. When a bit helps, they want more. He claimed that much of the help being delivered to Canadians was at the bequest of the NDP. He is concerned about the negativism of the conservatives. He is concerned that the liberals will start to back down.

Singh and other NDP spokespeople believe the weakness in the liberal efforts has been in the lack of special programs for the handicapped in our society. It is no surprise that liberals agree with them. These programs were created in haste and they are still being adjusted to ensure all segments of society are helped.

I thought the best comments were by former green party leader Elizabeth May. She agreed with the weakness pointed out by the NDP but made a fulsome defence of the government efforts. She also agrees with this writer that the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) makes an excellent start towards a basic guaranteed income for all Canadians. It is amazing how much such a program can really save us.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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The naiveté of Justin Trudeau.

July 11th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

It is easy to criticize the prime minister. If the prime minister’s office just had a few experienced people to advise Mr. Trudeau, he might not get into some of these awkward situations that plague him. The current kerfuffle over payments to his family by a charity to which he wanted to give a large government contract, is a case in point.

The first questions we should be asking is how can a charity accept such a contract? There have been many questions raised about this charity and the Kielburgers who run it. These are questions that should have raised flags in Ottawa. The brothers Kielburger are reputed to be millionaires today. Why?

It has often been said that the simplest ideas can make the most money. It is like starting with a hamburger and creating McDonald’s.

The initial launch in the 1990s of what started as Free the Children and became the We Charity was accompanied by a book purportedly written by younger brother Craig Kielburger. It was accompanied by a very successful publicity effort.

Since then, we have seen the programs for school children that gather them in large arenas and gets them to shout a lot. It is hard to tell when the Kielburgers’ personal propaganda ends and the We Charity takes over. It is this super hero stuff that kids seem to eat up but leaves charity professionals puzzled.

And in all my years of working with charities, I have never paid a guest speaker. Yes, charities do pick up expenses when necessary. I have always found that the best guest speakers are those who understand the value of what you are doing and want to contribute.

I also know how the federal government has struggled over the years, with programs to get Canadian students summer jobs, I can well understand that, at a time like this, the civil servants would like to download the task.

But I really do not know how a charity could switch to managing such huge task without the time to plan and staff-up. This is very much a mystery. It would be worth looking into.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Bob Rae is PM’s Pick for UN.

July 10th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

Former Ontario NDP premier and former interim leader of the federal liberals, Bob Rae, finally got his father’s old job as ambassador to the United Nations. It is hard to say if this appointment is a slap in the face to the U.N. for not electing Canada to one of the open security council seats recently or a compliment in sending a proven foreign diplomat for the job.

You have to admit that Rae did a good job for Canada in his recent appointments of assistance to the Canadian government. His report to the government on the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh was reputed to be an excellent analysis of a serious situation. He also had some very good advice for the prime minister on the problems related to the airliner shot down in Ukraine.

I think the best work that Rae ever did politically was as interim liberal leader leading up to the election of Justin Trudeau in 2013. It was not the finest period for the party but Rae brought it new life in its secondary role in opposition.

I was less impressed when Rae was premier of Ontario. I was around Queen’s Park during the Davis conservative, Peterson liberal and Rae NDP years. my impression was that the Rae government was the most politicized and almost impossible with which to negotiate. As for Rae’s performance as premier, I would consider it indifferent. After he bought into the right-wing ideas of Tom d’Aquino and his business council on national issues and launched his infamous Rae Days, I have not been back to the pink palace on Queen’s Park Crescent.

There were some quiet moves among a few liberals back in 2012 to get Rae to resign as interim leader and to run against Justin Trudeau for the party leadership. I could not see the point.

The United Nations is a fine retirement for Rae.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Black thoughts on a hot day.

July 9th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

This pandemic is not over until I get to shoot craps at a local casino. Our backlog of celebrations of lives lost to us is daunting. And I have no idea how the air-conditioning can handle another day of over 30°C.  Besides, the local liquor stores are out of my favourite wines.

The best suggestion for a commentary was a series of pictures sent by a reader. He visited a park in Lithuania some time ago and he found it was where the Lithuanians parked the statues of defrocked heroes.

The idea seemed to be that history teachers could bring their students to the park to learn about their country’s cast-aside heroes. It struck me as a pleasant outing to visit with Lenin, Stalin and that ilk. Maybe Canadians have some park space for some of our rejected heroes.

I don’t suppose that the Americans will have any statues of Donald Trump any time soon. Imagine finding space beside the other four presidents on Mount Rushmore for him!

It reminds me of the statue of King Edward VII at Queen’s Park in Toronto. The statue was brought to Toronto when rejected by the government of India. Everyone agrees that it is a very fine horse that what’s-his-name is riding. It is like some of the statues of General Robert E. Lee in the American south. They often put him on a well-crafted horse. The South might not rise again but we will always have a liking for fine horses.

The Japanese have a better answer to this problem of fallen heroes. I was once given a tour around the beautiful grounds of the imperial palace in Tokyo. We came across a statue of a very formidable Samurai warrior and I asked the guide what the characters on the plaque under the statue meant. She said she did not have a clue as the characters were in the old Japanese language, before they adopted the Chinese Kanji. It was just another fine piece of the sculptor’s art.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Trump’s ‘Far-Left’ Fascism.

July 8th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

Donald Trump is obviously testing ideas for the November election. One of his claims in the recent Mount Rushmore speech was to complain about the “new far-left fascism” that is intent on “wiping out” American history. While it is obvious that he has never studied political science, to erroneously mix left-wing politics with the right-wing extremism of fascism, he does paint an interesting picture.

Fascism, as launched in 1922 Italy by Benito Mussolini, is really more Mr. Trump’s style. I do not like to say it, but if he wants to rule by decree, hates liberalism, lies a lot and has no coherent program, other than helping his fellow millionaires, he just might lean that way!

But the problem is that ‘fascist’ is a slur you use against people in politics you dislike. It was used after the Second World War by communists to describe anyone who disagreed with their politics.

Before his July 3 speech, Trump was repeatedly using the term “far-left” to describe the democratic party. That was not resonating with his audiences. At best, you might describe the democrats as a middle-of-the-road party but far-left (socialism) would be a stretch.

The last time there were complaints about how far left the democrats had gone was in the New Deal years of Franklin Roosevelt. He is among the most revered of American presidents. He used to laugh at the claims that he was a socialist. He would explain that his wife Eleanor was the socialist in the family.

As for Trump’s complaint that today’s protesters are trying to wipe out American history, he has only himself to blame. From the Women’s March that took place the day after his inauguration, to today, America is seeing a growing unrest.

The country is seething. Protests against police brutality and lack of accountability are growing. The confusion and lack of leadership during the pandemic is targeting the incompetence of the man in the white house. Change is in the political air of America.


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Jason Kenney is ‘All In’ on Keystone XL.

July 7th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

Alberta premier Jason Kenney just went ‘all in’ against a stacked deck. Most of us thought Jason Kenney was smarter than that. He seems to be betting that Donald Trump will win a second term as president of the U.S. in November. It would be the only way that the Keystone XL pipeline will ever be completed.

But Kenney gets to gamble with Albertan’s money. So, what is another billion? He is paying down $1.5 billion of treasury money and offering a $6 billion loan guarantee to connect the pieces of the pipeline running from Hardisty, Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska. From there, it can connect to existing networks and reach Texas Gulf shipping points.

He watched the kick-off of building the Alberta leg of the pipeline, from Oyen, Alberta, to the U.S. border last week. He was like a proud papa peering into the nursery. This is his baby.

But he lies.

He told the media that his people were already hectoring the American democratic party leaders to make sure the pipeline gets built, no matter who wins the November election.

Jason Kenney conveniently forgets that the presumptive democratic candidate in November is former Obama vice-president Joe Biden. Biden has already made it very clear that he will cancel the Canadian pipeline. It was denied repeatedly by president Obama and Biden will finish the job.

The Keystone XL project has been under repeatedly-delayed, piece-by-piece construction, for the past decade. It has been fought by environmental groups and by American Indian tribes. President Obama cancelled it a couple times. The courts have delayed it. Donald Trump gave it the go-ahead.

And the simple truth is that the Americans neither need nor want the pipeline. It is needed by Alberta to help get diluted bitumen from the Alberta tar sands to Texas Gulf ports for shipping to world markets. Americans have more than enough fracked oil and bitumen of their own. They do not need the Alberta product.

Jason Kenney has gone all in and Alberta is the loser.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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The options for Mr. Trump.

July 6th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

Donald Trump has the media guessing. As America heads towards its November election, president Trump is watching his options narrow. As he just plays more and more golf, you cannot assume that he is not doing some thinking. In fact, with the way he plays golf, he has lots of time for thinking.

It is unlikely he will do a Nixon. It is just not his style that he would want to be the second president after Richard Nixon to manipulate the succession and leave Washington in disgrace. This man has never admitted to a fault in his life.

Brazen defiance is more his style. ‘Lie, cheat and steal’ is his mantra.

After all, he never believed he would win the presidency four years ago. He was just as surprised as the rest of us. I think the better you knew the man, the less likely you thought he would win.

It is most likely that his basic problem with re-election today is the pandemic. He has yet to find a comfortable way to handle it. None of the rest of us know how to handle it but to Trump it represents a special challenge. He desperately wanted to ignore it. He knows he kicked that can down the road and now he cannot catch up with it. It is too late to look sympathetic. It is too late to take charge. He can no longer deny it.

But there is nothing like a good lie to solve Mr. Trump’s problem. He is probably scheming on how to accuse democrat candidate Joe Biden of launching covid-19 on America to help him win the presidency. That will be fun, listening to the remaining Trump supporters screaming ‘Lock him up’.

Trump’s most serious mistake is that he seems to be taking the early public opinion polls to heart. To take his loss of support as anything other than an early warning sign, is a waste of good time for scheming.

It is quite likely that the rumblings of civil war if Trump is not re-elected are something of an exaggeration. The likelihood can be measured in the average age of those overweight Trump supporters who think he can make America great again.

Maybe Trump just needs to keep thinking, out on his golf links.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Del Duca Dumbs Down.

July 5th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

It should have been obvious. Ontario liberal leader Steven Del Duca does not know how to run a political party. So, he copies Justin Trudeau, who has no idea either.

Remember back when Justin Trudeau introduced a 50 per cent female cabinet in 2015. He told the media that it was because it was 2015. Has anyone asked him about that recently?

And here is Del Duca, five years later, getting the Ontario liberal provincial council to bribe female and youth candidates to run in the next provincial election. He also got the council to follow Trudeau’s error in eliminating party membership fees. I am a paid-up member. He owes me some money back. I paid for two years in 2019 so I could vote for someone other than Del Duca to run the party.

Del Duca also got the party council to lower registration fees for women and candidates under 30. What is not clear is why the party should demand money from anyone who wants to be a candidate? It should be the local riding association that decides on who will be their candidate. They get out a lot more supporters that way.

And what was not clear was why male candidates over 30 should pay the party $2500, female candidates over 30 should pay $1250 and candidates under 30 should only pay $500. Whether female candidates under 30 should only pay $250, was not stated. Frankly, with all the crap the party puts candidates through these days, the party should pay the candidates.

When I ran for the party some 50 years ago, I had a great crowd out to the uncontested nomination meeting. I was not required to pay the party for the ‘honour’ of running. The party never sent me any money either. I had good riding support but it still took me the next year to pay off my bills.

I think the way that Trudeau and now Del Duca run things for liberals is attracting the wrong candidates.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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