Bernier’s bonus: “No more political correctness.”

November 15th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

As MP Maxime Bernier continues to build his new party of the far right, he is finding easy hunting in Alberta. The MP from Beauce claims some 30,000 memberships sold to-date and Bernier remains quite confident. The former conservative’s People’s Party of Canada (PPC) is reported to be up and running in eight out of ten Calgary electoral districts.

The political theories that Bernier is espousing are those of a libertarian. He is ultra conservative and preaches a cant of small government and low taxes. He is the same as French President Macron described the other day as a nationalist—the opposite of a patriot. He takes a stand against those who are different. He is opposed to immigration and against foreign aid. Bernier is your basic bigot.

But nobody denies that there is support for a party such as he proposes. He had a good crowd in Vancouver the night before and then again in Calgary the next day. At this stage, he is a novelty but given the funding needed, he could be a force next October. The very fact that he is out looking for acolytes so early, tells us that he is confident of his funding. He will be a thorn for Andrew Scheer and the conservatives.

The novelty for Canadians next year will be having a party supporting the freeing up of restrictions on fire arms. Bernier wants to take us back in time. It will be a strong selling point in the west and in rural Ontario. His biggest problem will be the negatives he will encounter to his wild-west approach in his home province of Quebec.

But people will find that Bernier is most unlike populists such as Doug Ford or Donald Trump. It is hard to stump Bernier with a question. He is an experienced politician. He fully understands the challenges facing him between now and next October.

But, at the same time, Bernier is recognizing the anger and frustration of voters who resent the open liberalism of Canadian society. The very fact that his audiences are mainly male and misogynist tells us where Bernier’s strength might be. Most political pundits are being cautious in assessing Bernier’s chances next year. Given a foothold as a party in the Commons, he could be far more of a problem.

We really do live in interesting times.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Underlining the ignorance of Trump.

November 14th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

U.S. President Donald Trump is but an immature child playing at being the leader of the most powerful nation on earth. The point was so perfectly positioned the other day for all to understand by French President Emmanuel Macron. Vive la France!

It is when as a tourist you stand under the majesty of the Arc de Triomphe, trying to blot out the incessant horns of vehicles caught in the endless route of that traffic circle, that you understand the pride of the French. Macron was destined to say what he did in that setting.

The president named no names but listeners, including Donald Trump, could only add his name to each indictment. Macron told the world leaders in attendance that “patriotism is exactly the opposite of nationalism.” It was his belief that the millions killed in War I fought against the selfishness of nations fighting only in their own interest.

Macron denounced nations who stepped away from their treaties. He denounced those who put their own interests first. He believes it is their moral values that nations are denying in this way.

Mind you, after listening to Trump’s diatribes for the Deplorables during his run-up to the mid-term elections, you would assume those Americans had no moral values anyway. And the mixed results of those elections lead you to question both the common sense of the voters and the morals of the elected.

In an interesting follow-through to the French president’s speech, Canada’s Justin Trudeau took part in a peace forum where he put in a strong defence for the news media in their independent role of defending society’s institutions. He said that attacking the news media only fuels the cynicism that citizens have to all institutions that are there to protect us as citizens.

The world leaders had gathered in Paris to mark the 100 years since the armistice that ended World War I, also known as the Great War and as the War to End All Wars—it did not.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Economists vs Environmentalists.

November 13th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

Welcome to ringside folks. Tonight’s card is a new version of Albert Einstein’s E=MC². Tonight’s main bout is between Canada’s federal liberal economists and its liberal environmentalists.

The prize is prime minister Justin Trudeau’s pipeline. Justin paid $7 billion of our money for that pipeline over the Rockies and for another $6 to $7 billion, he can twin the pipeline, add high pressure pumps and heaters to heat the diluted bitumen to (hopefully) get twice as much of the highly polluting stuff to the ocean-going tankers playing Battleship in Burrard Inlet.

But tonight, Justin Trudeau’s cabinet champions are up against Canada’s leading liberal environmentalists. The first challenge is by a phalanx of cabinet colleagues spreading the word that bitumen is good. They tell us that Canada’s economy can only be sustained and kept growing by making Alberta rich again. They want the wonders of bitumen shipped to the third world where nobody gives a damn about pollution and our endangered planet. “Global warming is a myth you know,” they tell us.

“Not so,” scream the embattled environmentalists concerned that bitumen exploitation is destroying the beauty of Alberta with ugly settling ponds while third-world refining the bitumen is spewing three times the deadly carbon into our ominously darkening skies.

“But we must compete with the Arabs,” the economists claim. “Our petro-dollars must stay at home.”

“And bitumen must stay in the ground,” the environmentalists retort.

And so, the battle rages. It has become an ongoing argument of excesses and deceit. It is a cacophony of greed versus science. It is fortune versus fortitude. It is caution versus calumny. It is province versus province. It is father versus son, mother versus daughter, and also liberal versus liberal.

Do you know why we call MP Andrew Scheer, leader of Canada’s federal conservative party, “Chuckles”? Because he is watching Justin Trudeau tear up his free pass into next year’s election.

Chuckles might be on the same side of the bitumen question as Trudeau, but he knows when to shut up.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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“Wasn’t That a Party?”

November 12th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

The Rovers got it wrong when they wrote a song about the party. It was certainly not the whiskey or the gin that is doing in the liberal party. It was the desperation for leadership. And Trudeau is a magic name to Canadian liberals. At a time when people are questioning the viability of political parties, they reached back into the party’s past.

But Justin Trudeau is not his father and he marches to a different drummer. He was playing the right tunes on his flute to impress the party’s urges for reform. He promised to restore the party’s right to selecting its candidates—and then, inconveniently, forgot.

And he thinks it should be a BYOB party. He got the party to give up the standard $10 memberships. He wanted lots more than that. He added people to the party lists for free, called them liberals and inundates the old and the new with e-mails for funds.

Justin Trudeau does not understand the functioning of a political party. What he failed to do was build the party in the electoral districts. He failed to understand the superior strength of the conservatives in the ground game. My district liberal association is meeting for the first time in two years later today and he expects them to mount a strong campaign next year?

But they have been left with nothing to do for the past two years. The national conventions have been for the party elite and its apparatchiks. The policy discussion has been cursory and carefully controlled. After conventions, policy is filed and forgotten, despite the right intentions. Nobody seems to be complaining about what Justin Trudeau is doing to their party. It is no longer the party it used to be.

We used to have regular meetings and events in the districts, in provincial regions and in the provinces. We used to meet to discuss policy, party structure and constitution. And we used to send experts out to the districts to inform them of the latest thinking on party communications and campaigning techniques. And more than 90 per cent of the work was done by volunteers.

As Pierre Trudeau found out in his second election campaign, the voters are fickle. In the general election of 1972, Pierre Trudeau won a slim majority of only two seats in the House of Commons. We shall see how Justin does next year.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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In the grip of the political vortex.

November 11th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

Friends, foes and the pubic ask: “What the fuck is going on?”

The answer is that nobody really knows. Did you see the polls before the American mid-term elections? You got a lot of words but no answers. The pollsters knew that they had no answers. For years this politico has been producing a morning line that was noted for its accuracy in forecasting results. Not any more. My ability to forecast has disappeared into that vortex.

And it is a vortex. It is a vicious maelstrom, a state of constant confusion, a whirlpool sucking us into its oblivion. Politics has reached its own end of days. It is its time of self destruction. It turns into itself and eats its young. It has become perpetual confusion.

It staggers this apparatchik how the tables have turned. There are no rules of the political road left to ignore. What started out years ago as simply political manipulation has turned into deplorable duplicity. Where people used to just be annoyed at the unkept promises and self aggrandizement of politicians has become a palpable hatred.

The last provincial election in Ontario saw the destruction of a party whose leader quit rather than lead her party into oblivion. Instead of fighting it out to what could have been the obvious end, she cut her party adrift to the vicissitudes of a sea of angry and now confused voters.

Mind you, we used to say that nobody trusts politicians and not mean it. Now, we mean it. Nor do people trust the elites. They are losing confidence in the social safety nets and they are looking askance at the dog-eat-dog politics of today. Trust is gone. The one per cent are out for themselves and you can see the evidence to prove it.

Never, since the world-wide depression of the 1930s, have people been so distrustful. They are grasping at political demigods for surety they know does not exist. They are looking aghast at the money spend on political campaigns and are wary of the politicians and their backers.

And the Tammany Halls of politics stopped looking after their devotees years ago. If your parents were conservatives are you joining the party? And why would you even trust a political party?

There is more on this subject to come.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Clement’s calamity?

November 10th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

It is so easy when you never liked someone to get a little lift from their downfall. It is always best to leave subjects such as this without comment, as the person is gone and will soon be forgotten.

But that used to be the supposition BBB (Before Brampton Brown). Some people are hard to lose. After watching Brown for years in Barrie, why would I be surprised when the wily little putz pulled a fast one in Brampton.

But Tony Clement might have been slipperier than Brown, if he had devoted his lifetime to political manipulation. And who would believe that he might get it off by sending pictures of his genitalia, in full regalia(?) to ladies who might not be from Australia?

I used to think of politician Tony Clement as Ontario’s gift to Stephen Harper. He had apprenticed the fine art of screwing the taxpayers under Ontario’s premiers Mike Harris and Ernie Eaves.

He was the most famous though for his largess in building washrooms and other infrastructure in Huntsville in honour of the G8 in 2010. He spent $50 million of monies that had been earmarked for our border security in a town more than 300 kilometres from the U.S. border.

He did not find money as easy to come by when he tried for the federal conservative leadership after Harper resigned.  He quit the race and left behind the pitiful 13.

Stephen Harper had used Clement to turn the tables and block spending from 2011 to 2015. What was happening was that departments such as Veteran’s Affaires had been allocated funds to help veterans. When voters asked about this, conservative MPs just said that the money had been allocated and everything was fine. What they might not have clued in on was that, as president of the treasury board, Clement could stop the funds from being passed to the department.

One of the most reprehensible of Clement’s restraint of funds was the money allocated for training and supplying the RCMP with carbines to supplement their revolvers. The money came so slowly to the field that Mounted Police personnel were being killed because they did not have adequate fire power against longer range and automatic weapons. (It is only on television programs where pistols win such gun fights.)

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Is it the HOW or the WHO?

November 9th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

If the citizens of British Columbia are formally debating their referendum on voting systems, there is one resolution that needs to be debated. The question is “Be it resolved that it is more important to ensure you have the right people to elect than to worry about the mechanics for electing them.” I would like to debate for the positive.

At a time when fewer eligible voters are going to the polls, in North America, it might be wrong to suggest that it is the voting systems that present the problem.

Going back in history, we could look at what happened in the Weimar Republic in 1932. Hitler and the Brown Shirts gained control of the Reichstag with 33 per cent of the votes under a proportional voting system. That was the last free vote in Germany until after the Second World War. Does it seem fair to blame the voting system?

Is it not also a stretch to suggest that First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) has visited deceit, duplicity, corruption and decay on our wonderful country? It would seem we are using rhetoric instead of logic. People might to do that no matter how they get elected. It is far more likely that our safety net is the control we exercise over the political parties.

And we can control those parties best under a system that allows us to select the people running for election—call it a primary or nomination meeting—it is an opportunity for citizens to examine the qualifications of proposed candidates and make a selection. And citizens should also take part in the development of party policies. To allow a leader to just wing it with his promises through the election process, as has happened in the U.S.A. two years ago and more recently in Ontario, is risky.

If you believe in strong governments that can get the job done, I worry about strong governments that you do not know what they will do next.

To those of you who think you can solve the problem by never electing a majority government. I wish you were right.

Over the years, it has been said many times that the voters get the government that they deserve. It has also been said, more than once, that they did not deserve what they got.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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The Hordes are in the House.

November 8th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

Donald Trump can stop worrying about the hordes heading north in Mexico. They served their purpose during the run-up to the mid-terms. They gave him a target for his bigotry. And it worked for him. It brought out a streak of meanness and uncaring in Americans.

But the mid-term elections also left President Trump with a divided Congress. With no ability to finesse, he is now reliant on others to get his agenda—such as it is—through Congress.

But do not assume this will leave Trump a lame duck president for the next two years. The person who controls the White House can cause a lot of trouble. Pity the soldiers camped on the Mexican border. Pity the news media condemned to reading those maniacal tweets from Trump.

What everyone will be waiting for in the next two years is the sorting out of the leadership of the Democratic Party. This is a party that needs to restore the honour in being liberal. It is a party that has to recast a reform agenda that people can understand. And the party has to lead, not follow.

And a refreshed, renewed and reformed Democratic Party has to defeat Trump’s lies with truth. It is critical that America restore its credibility with the rest of the world. Americans have to be sold on the need to look outward at a complex and concerned world.

And, given the opportunity, they might want to help save that world from global warming. By all of us doing the bit that we can, we can save our world.

It is really too bad that Donald Trump became president of the United States at a time when traditional news media are in decline. Trump is a liar and perpetual prevaricator and this is a problem that needs continual analysis and denial. To give him any freedom because of a weakened news media is license to prevaricate and confuse the deplorables and create serious problems for America and the world.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Why should I apologize to Justin Trudeau?

November 7th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

It was disconcerting the other day to have some readers complain about my insulting prime minister Trudeau. I casually ended a commentary by saying that nobody complains about our prime minister being too smart. Hell, neither one of us is riding that high on the IQ bell curve. And I can honestly state that, to my knowledge, nobody complains about him being too smart.

But what worries me is that I do not think he even likes people who are politically smart. Frankly, I find him elitist. He grew up to wealth and privilege and tends to choose that type of friends. If his father were here, he would be mortified.

He might use some politically savvy people in his cabinet but the smartest politician in the cabinet is Ralph Goodale, the right-wing minister of public safety from Regina. There are no real reformers.

But my criticism of our prime minister does not mean that I might not vote for the liberal candidate in my electoral district. Providing the person is selected by the liberals in the district, I might even see how I can help him or her get elected. I would not give you two cents for the current conservative dolt and I am not very likely to vote for a new democrat or green candidate unless it was a truly exceptional individual.

The problem is that I have been a liberal for the past 60 years and while the party has wandered away from my ideals occasionally, I support the liberal principles of individual rights and social reform.

But there is always hope. I had hopes for Stéphane Dion, but Stéphane was not his father either. His awkward English kept his intelligence from getting through to anglophone voters. Maybe the reverse was true for Michael Ignatief as liberal leader but I think he really had been out of the country much too long.

It was the growing frustration with the Harper years in Ottawa that led us to turn to the young Trudeau. Liberals were ready to forgive a lot to rid us of what Harper was doing to the country.

But it is still frustrating and I am tiring of listing Trudeau’s acts of bad judgement. His leadership is questionable. His liberalism is weak. And I resent his casual destruction of the liberal party.

But Trudeau is still ten times better than the other choices.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

The poisonous potential of populism.

November 6th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

There is little new about populism in North America. Whether on the left, right or centre of the political spectrum is not the concern but whether society can constrain it is the critical question.

Canada only came into its own after the Second World War and the first major populists from that point were prime minister John G, Diefenbaker and new democratic party leader Tommy Douglas. Both came out of Saskatchewan and both were benign. Douglas, the socialist premier and Diefenbaker, the conservative firebrand from Prince Albert.

Despite their intense rhetoric, both stuck to the truth as they saw it. Both served the people. Neither needed the hyperbole of obvious lies to make their point.

Fast forward to 2015 and another populist caught North America off guard. Donald Trump confounded the pundits and the politicos. This was the television-trained pitchman, a bigot, a bully, a liar and a misogynist who revelled in the reaction to his claims of President Obama not being born in America. He reached his notoriety high by default, becoming the Republican candidate for president. He shared his surprise when the failures of the American Electoral College system won him the presidency. He was leader of a badly divided nation. He had only his rhetoric to blame.

Ill-advised, ill-equipped and confused, Donald Trump was sworn in as President of the United States of America.

Canadians looked south of the border and said “Only in America.” They should have looked around.

Canadians had their local populist politicians in the Trump mould. None as dangerous as Ontario’s Doug Ford Junior. Doug Ford saw the soft underbelly of conservative politics in his father—in the Ontario legislature. He saw the impacts of the bombast of his younger brother—the crack smoking mayor of Toronto. He saw the strength of the bumper sticker slogans of Donald Trump in Washington.

It was this mix that he took into the sudden opportunity to tackle the leadership of Ontario’s conservatives. It has been a roller-coaster ride since then as Dougie confused his enemies—as he has no friends. His strengths are in the users who profit from chaos. His future is tenuous.

Like Trump, Dougie yearns for the world stage. He enviously eyes the trappings of a prime minister in Ottawa. He has more wells to poison.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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