Lessons from Simcoe North.

September 4th, 2015 by Peter Lowry

The Ontario Liberals did it to themselves last night. Premier Kathleen Wynne’s minions ran a pathetic campaign to let Ontario’s embarrassment have a seat in the legislature. Last we heard, Conservative Leader Patrick Brown had over 50 per cent of the votes cast in the Simcoe North by-election. It was not Ontario’s finest hour.

It was a foolish decision to have a provincial by-election during the over-stretched federal election. It was a weak and ill-considered campaign in a little understood electoral district. It was a Conservative spare-no-expense campaign versus small-town parsimony. It was a jogging mouth-breather against a jogging granny. It was country mouse versus city mouse.

And it was an “Oops, human error” when the Conservatives contravened the election law and ran a scurrilous attack ad in a local paper after all further advertising was forbidden. Mr. Brown never cared for rules anyway. He appears to think they do not apply to him.

He is believed to have broken the rules by paying for party memberships in the Conservative leadership contest. Nobody seemed to care about that. He won the leadership by signing up thousands of recent immigrants from India. It was just a game to him. It was not politics; it smelled more like fraud. And we have no idea who paid for it.

Visually in the riding, the by-election campaign was a mass of Conservative signs and a few pathetic little Liberal and NDP signs. And then some Queen’s Park Liberal genius decided to run a radio campaign. In a socially conservative area of Ontario, the Liberals ran ads accusing Patrick Brown of being socially conservative.

It was really too bad that the riding did not have the choice of a more dynamic Liberal candidate. Now a three-time loser, the Liberal candidate can enjoy his retirement.

What was really funny in this ill-considered by-election was the transition of the new Conservative leader for Ontario. This small-town boy who did virtually nothing in nine years in Ottawa has always looked small town and nerdy. It looks like someone has taken him in hand. They got the boy a Toronto haircut, burned his old clothes and got him some decent ones. And yet he hardly needed those trappings for this campaign.

And now this boy is coming to Queen’s Park. There, he will have speech writers. There, he will have handlers. There will be a female aide at his elbow to dispel the comments on him being a bachelor. It all means the phony war is over in Ontario. The phony Progressive Conservative leader is in place.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Electoral reform appeals to losers.

September 3rd, 2015 by Peter Lowry

It is hardly a surprise that no Canadian government with a majority supports electoral reform. Why would they? It could make them losers. That is why losers such as the New Democratic Party are such enthusiastic supporters. It is why a Liberal Party that ended up in third place in the last federal election is willing to consider electoral reform. And it is why the Green Party and other fringe parties always favour electoral reform.

But if either of the main opposition parties gets a majority on October 19, electoral reform will drop to a very low priority on its agenda. Given the high probability of a minority government though, the country could be into the thick of arguments about electoral reform for the next two years. The losers in that argument could be the people who will have to use the new voting systems.

Hate it or honour it, our first-past-the-post voting system has withstood the tests of time and constant attempts at reform. It is hardly because it is the preferred system under all circumstances but it is the very simplicity of the system that earns it honours. Whether an elected position has 2 or 20 people contesting for the position, we can all follow the voting process, the count and the decision of a winner as the person with the largest number of votes.

But there is no question that first-past-the-post creates anomalies. Combined with distribution of votes, a party can win a majority of seats in parliament with as few as 35 per cent of the votes. That does leave the losers annoyed. They see it as unfair.

But what is fair? The New Democrats and Greens want some form of proportional representation in parliament. The Greens sometimes get close to five per cent of the vote but only one seat in the House of Commons. They want five per cent of the seats.

To get that though, we would need to have some form of proportional representation. It would mean the parties would appoint people to parliament according to their share of the national vote. And if we did that in Canada, you could probably forget about ever having majority governments.

It also means that we would never again have Member of Parliament, we can call our own. They would represent their parties, not the voters. Recognizing this, the NDP opt for mixed-member proportional representation. This means an elected MP would have a vast area to represent but have to sit with appointees in parliament.

But all this argument can be held after the election. The only further comment necessary is that British Columbia and Ontario have both held referendums on the issue. So far it is First-Past-the-Post – 2; Electoral Reform – 0.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

In a country run by a failed economist.

September 2nd, 2015 by Peter Lowry

What is a political party to do when they find their leader has feet of clay? The mantra of the party was that having an economist running the party, it could survive economic turmoil. What they never considered was that their dear leader could be the cause.

While Prime Minister Stephen Harper defends himself by claiming other sectors are doing well, the fact is that the energy sector is significant but only one of the failing sectors of the Canadian economy. During his time at the helm, Canada has lost a huge swath of manufacturing from ketchup and corn flakes to locomotives and medical isotopes. He has simply failed to lead.

This is the man that made sure there were no environmental impediments to the energy sector while not even meeting with Ontario’s premier when the province was bleeding manufacturing and intellectual property products.

And try if you wish to understand an economist who reviles science. Maybe that is why they call economics the dismal science. Harper and his minions cast the scientists out of Ottawa as though they were zealots casting money changers from the temple. As a country, we are no longer able to even measure our need for button hooks or bath tubs.

Yet this man is leader of the government and he runs it with a heavy hand. He sends our armed forces to make war with people who are not at war with us. He tries to magnify the threat they represent and denies that they are just disorganized brigands cashing in on the wars of others.

But when confronted with the reality of recession, he denies the word. He would not say recession in 2008, when the economy was collapsing in a world-wide melt down. His government survived that crisis by the use of the very economic measures that he constantly derides. The government threw billions into infrastructure for our cities and went heavily into debt to pump up Canada’s economy. With that and the strength of Canada’s banking system, his government was able to come out of that crisis.

But today’s crisis is of his making. He bet Canada’s future on the energy sector and the highly polluting tar sands. You can blame China and Greece for the problems if you wish but it is our country’s ability to overcome those market stresses that he has given away.

There is no question that the real losers in the upcoming election will be those Canadians who do not reject Stephen Harper, failed economist.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

The silence of the pipelines.

September 1st, 2015 by Peter Lowry

There is not too much confrontation across Canada these days about pipelines to the sea. With real crude oil prices bouncing around $40 to $50 a barrel, there is not much interest in synthetics from the tar sands. We miss the railings of people such as our favourite closet environmentalist Finance Minister Joe Oliver. He was natural resources minister when Canadians were wondering about the excessive pollution caused by converting tar sands to synthetic oil. Joe Oliver kept any concern for the environment in the closet then and he has never let it out.

Instead the Finance Minister was giving speeches earlier this year about the disgraceful use of social license to block big business. What the minister was really saying was that ‘minority rights be damned, there is profit to be made here!’ Earlier this year, the minister actually complained to a friendly audience at a Manning Centre for ‘Building Democracy’ conference that “social license was forcing governments and business to obtain public support for undertakings that impact the environment, aboriginal rights or issues around potential pollution.”

That potential pollution is not just a maybe. It is a when. You hardly have to be an environmentalist to question thousands of kilometres of old pipelines being converted to pushing highly corrosive tar sands bitumen at high temperature and under pressure from Alberta to the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans or to the Gulf of Mexico.

But now the silence is deafening. President Obama has probably delayed his condemnation of the Keystone XL pipeline until after the Canadian election. There is no need for him to be accused of interfering in our election.

The Harper cabinet has already passed the Northern Gateway pipeline approval but nothing can happen on that front that will further infuriate B.C. citizens before the election. And besides, the supposedly unbiased opinion of the Calgary-based National Energy Board that has been approving these pipelines has yet to be tested in the courts.

Meanwhile Joe Oliver has gone to ground. He has even had to cancel his planned love-ins at certain Conservative (men-only) clubs around Toronto. They would have been possible if the media had not found out about them. The more reliable minister of everything political as well as Defence, Jason Kenney, is now feeding the news media the Conservative line on deficits. He speaks a form of Newspeak that only fools fall for.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Go home Paul Martin.

August 31st, 2015 by Peter Lowry

Nothing grates a left-leaning liberal more than Paul Martin that skinflint former finance minister and briefly prime minister. Once a friend, Paul became a non-person when Prime Minister Jean Chrétien gave him the finance portfolio. He built his reputation for balanced budgets on the backs of the poor, the unemployed, the sick and the elderly across Canada. He proved to one and all that he was no liberal.

It was an understandable situation. Growing up in the very political environment of his family’s home in Windsor and in Ottawa, Paul got away from left of centre politics and tried his hand at business. He had excellent mentors. Maurice Strong and then Paul Desmarais of Power Corporation were tough and experienced business leaders. Young Paul was more businessman than nationalist when he acquired Canada Steamship Lines from Paul Demarais. Martin made the company successful by using flags of convenience, foreign labour and automated loading and unloading of the ships—now built off-shore.

Those of us in the Liberal Party who had so deeply respected Paul’s father took a long time to realize that the younger Paul had come to prefer the approval of his friends in the business world. It was rumoured that he laughingly told them that all you had to do to win in politics is to campaign on the left and rule on the right.

And he was also proved wrong. As has been said before, why vote for a faux Conservative when you can vote for the real thing. Martin lost to Stephen Harper.

For supposed deficit-killer Martin to come out to Liberal functions today to “authorize” the planned deficits of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals is something of a travesty. It is reminding voters of the wrong Liberals.

Canada’s federal Liberals went into free fall after the Martin fiasco as the party searched for its future. It was almost a relief when Justin Trudeau came forward and offered renewal and change under a younger and more engaging leadership. He has made missteps on the road back to Sussex Drive where he was born but the change he is offering is still real.

Trudeau needed the declaration of these deficits to separate him from the New Democrat’s Thomas Mulcair. The NDP insisting that they would balance Canada’s budgets did not convince anybody of anything. They have already promised more than they can deliver and are losing credibility anyway.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Christine Elliott: Thank you for your service.

August 30th, 2015 by Peter Lowry

The Member of the Ontario Legislature for Whitby-Oshawa has resigned. Christine Elliott has served the riding well for the past nine years. She was a progressive in Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party. For the second time, she had lost the contest for the leadership of the party to an extremist. She was too decent a person to want to again serve under a leader she could neither respect nor support.

And why should any decent person want to serve under a leader who blatantly usurped the party leadership under weak, unthinking and unsupervised rules. Patrick Brown did not win the leadership of the party with a majority of party members. He won the leadership with more people who knew nothing of the honour of a political party that had served Ontario well over the past 148 years as either government or opposition.

The Ontario Conservatives might not always have been progressive but they were a party that believed in a strong public school system, building hospitals, libraries, roads and bridges. They were not a party of ideologues until the unfortunate experience of Premier Michael Harris at the turn of this century. Ideology cannot replace a caring and responsible government and Mr. Harris failed Ontario.

But when the federal Conservative Party was taken over by the Reform/Alliance under Stephen Harper, the party fell on hard times. The federal party was ruled from the top and lost touch with its roots. The Ontario party was among the provincial organizations that withered, lost members and direction. By 2009, the provincial party was reduced to a small remnant of its former strength and an ideologue named Tim Hudak was chosen to lead it back to the government benches.

But the ideology was wasted on Ontario voters. Hudak’s second failed election was guaranteed when he precipitously announced at the Barrie Country Club that he would fire 100,000 civil servants in Ontario. The first to jump up and congratulate him on this brilliant decision was the uninspiring MP for Barrie, Patrick Brown. Hudak not only lost the election with that promise but was forced to resign by his caucus.

And it was the sorry state of the party that allowed Patrick Brown to win the party leadership with close to 40,000 sign-ups who were recent immigrants from India. Most knew nothing of Canadian politics. And most of them were likely not yet citizens.

Maybe Christine Elliott’s legacy to all political parties is that we should restrict voting on candidates and leaders. These critical decisions in our society should only be made by citizens who are eligible voters.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

The Hair: Canada’s boy in the bubble.

August 29th, 2015 by Peter Lowry

In the Imperial Prime Minister’s Office of today, Canada’s Prime Minister is isolated and alone. Protected and guarded by the sycophants of privilege, his minions mind the doors. In this cloistered sanctuary, the Hair rules. There are neither naysayers nor critics allowed where the Hair travels. Audiences are vetted for their loyalty. The people walls behind the microphone are carefully selected for a nice blend of colour. It is a false scene.

And you wonder what will happen when the Hair’s bubble bursts. Can any emperor return to being an ordinary man? Can Calgary serve as a suitable Elba? Could Connie Black put in a good word for him with David Cameron? Then he could leave for old England and titled retirement as did R.B. Bennett?

Or just maybe the Hair will face the future with more positive mien? Would he consider lecturing impressionable, budding right-wing politicians at the Tom Flanagan School of the University of Calgary? Dare he pen the occasional diatribe against the dangers of liberalism for the failing Fraser Institute?

The Hair could retire to a kibbutz in Israel. They once loved him there. And when they clear the Russian land mines, he could farm some land in Eastern Ukraine. There is little question that the Hair’s list of welcoming countries is far shorter than those he would be advised to avoid.

Canadians are also forgiving people. And there is some lovely land in the Athabasca opening up for settlement. The tailings ponds will settle in time and the land can be used for grazing cattle. Calves with two heads and other oddities are to be expected when you consider the mixtures of chemicals found in the tar sands. As long as the same oddities are not prevalent in his progeny, the Hair’s legacy can be the exploitation of those tar sands a thousand years in the future.

But the true legacy of the Hair will be an Ottawa where science can now be recognized and respected. It will be where government can protect our environment instead of protecting the polluters. It can be an open and honest government that respects the rights of our citizens. The Hair’s police state and building of prisons will be something of the past. It will be where Members of Parliament will represent their constituents not an outmoded ideology. And Canadians will have respect for their foreign affairs that earns respect and honour for Canada around the world.

Good bye Hair, we will not miss you.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

As the media Silly Season draws to a close.

August 28th, 2015 by Peter Lowry

Labour Day is now in sight and the real election campaign can begin. Not that we have been bored with August or eager for the clamour of the combatants but it does spell the end of the foolishness of the news media and their tame pollsters. Editors have not been calling August the Silly Season for no reason over the past 100 years.

August has always been the time for “Man bites dog” stories. It has been a time for tall tales and frying eggs on sidewalks. You could blame it all on the heat here in the northern part of the world.

But September is not only back to school, it is back to reality time. It is time to discard those ridiculously warped automated telephone call results that newspapers call polls. It is time to face responsibility and pay for a summer’s fun.

It is hard to tell what the reality is in this country when you have such open biases of the news media. The major Quebec newspapers and French-language television network are owned by the leader of the separatist Parti Québécois. No bias there! Most local newspapers across the country are controlled by a major Conservative Party supporter. And the only truly independent newspapers are in Toronto with its four newspapers where there should just be two. And the largest English-language newspaper in the country has decided to support the New Democrats and the party’s fusty little leader.

Luckily the television networks will now set aside their summer hiatus and start to take a serious look. And they will not like what they find. Their good friend (except for the CBC) the Hair has laid down so many restrictions on their coverage, following his travels and travails hardly seem worthwhile. Hopefully the Hair’s opponents, whom he despises and reviles, might finally get their acts together.

And there is obviously no more of those televised debates to rely on. The Hair is above it. He dislikes being the object of attack. As a reputed front runner, New Democrat Tommy Mulcair has decided he can also be picky and he is sure not giving that kid Justin Trudeau another chance to attack him.

It will now become a typical Canadian election. The media will be less than helpful. The voters will be confused. Decisions made today, will be cast aside tomorrow and we will await the decision of the electorate.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

More with a whimper than a roar.

August 27th, 2015 by Peter Lowry

As the Ottawa trial recesses until after the election, the description of Senator Mike Duffy as a busker is more apt than we thought. A street entertainer such as a busker can hardly save his or her best stunts for the finale. You have to use those better stunts early to capture your audience. And, thinking back over the trial, so far, that connection is clear.

The only thing we are not clear on was the real entertainer Duffy or was it his lawyer Donald Bayne? While Duffy did his thing, Bayne was unrelenting and driven. He earned his fee. It almost makes you wonder, who is paying this bill?

But is Duffy even a bit player in this current election campaign? In the midst of what looks like a developing global recession, does Duffy matter a hill of beans?

Not that Duffy is done. He has just been sent out to play while the court recesses.

And a recess was needed. The Duffy trial has been a distraction. We all know of the intense loyalty of those the Prime Minister anoints as staff. Nigel Wright, the PM’s former chief of staff played the part of the perfect subaltern. He told his story repeatedly and with a straight face. Only a fool would believe him.

And we found out that there are people in the prime minister’s office who sometimes do not read their e-mails. And when the e-mail deals with the most important subject of the day for these sycophants, we might also have a hard time believing that.

What few seem to remember about this trial is that the defendant is a former news reporter, now Senator, who has been charged with being bribed. Nobody is charged with bribing him, but he is charged with accepting a bribe. He is also charged with breaches of trust. It seems that the Senate of Canada is a place operated as a gentlemen’s club and Duffy was in breach of some of those loosely written rules. And to top it off, he has been charged with fraud. And that can be a sticky wicket because the prime minister knew damn well that Duffy made his home in the Ottawa area. Yet it was the prime minister who appointed Duffy to the Senate as coming from Prince Edward Island.

It seems to this commentator that when the trial resumes they can find Nigel Wright guilty of offering a senator a bribe. Then they could find Mr. Harper (no longer prime minister) guilty of fraud. Mr. Harper and Mr. Wright could share a cell.

But, maybe we also need to make the sign bigger: It’s the economy, stupid!

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

It is really about leadership Justin.

August 26th, 2015 by Peter Lowry

Being more of a contemporary of his father than of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, maybe we can be excused for offering him some advice. Yes Justin, you have answered those stupid attack ads on your youth from the Conservatives. You have launched an aggressive campaign against the failing regime of Stephen Harper. Your stand on ‘real change’ is to be applauded. You have addressed the core concerns of Canadian voters with your stand on behalf of the middle class.

But the key ingredient for winning is leadership. It is something that Mr. Mulcair of the New Democrats does not offer.

Canadians are looking for the future you are talking about. They are searching for fairness. They are looking desperately for economic stability. They want to have restored pride in their country. They want the rest of the world to recognize that once again, Canada is taking its rightful place in global affairs. They want to share a better future with that leader.

Leadership is not an endless string of picayune offers of people’s own money. It is not sharing the platform with what is past. It is sharing the platform only with the future.

What this means is that you do not need to be on platforms with provincial premiers. People know when you have their endorsement. The premiers have their own battles to fight with Ottawa. You can promise succour while maintaining your position. You are the next Prime Minister. Look like one.

Nor should you share your platform with has-beens. Former Prime Minister Paul Martin brought no honours to liberalism. He was a mean and belligerent finance minister under Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and he hurt Canadians while alienating liberals. It was hardly just the sponsorship scandal that made his tenure as prime minister so short. When voters had to choose between Martin’s faux conservatism and the real thing, they had no choice but to opt for the real thing.

You have to stand alone on that platform Justin. You hardly need a people wall behind you. It is just you and a microphone. That is what leaders do. You have to lead with the big ideas. Your aides are there to help you not hobble you. A leader uses instinct, caring, concern and vision.

A leader looks into the crowds of supporters but sees the future. A leader takes his audience into that future.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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