Archive for January, 2012

Ontario doctors discriminate Deb!

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Despite being a long-time fan of Deb Matthews, Ontario’s Minister of Health and Long Term Care, we have to admit that she has failed to solve the key problem in Ontario’s health care system. The problem is the doctors. They discriminate and there are people who cannot get a family doctor.

The people who cannot get a family doctor are elderly. They want too much of a doctor’s time. The poorest served of these elderly people are the chronically ill. The doctor cannot cure them. These people tend to have multiple problems that are difficult to treat.  That can frustrate the doctor. And that is why doctors do not want these elderly patients in their practice. Doctors want young, healthy families as patients who can be treated quickly and easily.

Sure, the Ontario Medical Association tells doctors not to discriminate because of age or health of prospective patients. The Health Ministry tells the doctors not to discriminate. Despite this, Ontario Human Rights has let them discriminate. Hospitals still let them practice in their facilities, even though they know they discriminate.

That leaves the ball entirely in your court Deb. You are the one who pays these doctors. Your Ministry condones this discrimination. Take a look at the offer on your Ministry’s web site to find a family doctor for Ontario residents. Get your Ministry to issue you a health card with a false name and then fill in an honest application for yourself.  You are a grandmother, see how many doctors want to have you as a patient?

When you spoke to the Toronto Board of Trade yesterday (Jan. 30) Deb, you said that the Local Health Integration Network would take more responsibility for local doctors. That was not necessarily good news. From where we sit, in a town that accounts for about a third of the full-time population of the North Simcoe Muskoka LHIN, it is ill-equipped to do anything about the discrimination problem.

While some people hate the LHIN concept in general, we felt that it might work if the centralized bureaucracy at Queen’s Park was proportionally decreased as the health care management was spread across the province. Okay, maybe that was wishful thinking.

But it is still the centralized staff at Queen’s Park that negotiates with the doctors.  Do something about the discrimination. Please.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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Harper’s henchmen harry the unwary

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

It is always informative to catch Tom Clark’s weekly show, The West Block, on Global Television. It would be even more informative if  Tom could get Harper’s Cabinet colleagues to answer some of the questions he asks. They seem to have all been taking uniform attack training in how to stick to their own agenda. There was a good example of that supplied by Harper’s Government House Leader MP Peter Van Loan today. Tom was asking for more depth on questions about the Conservative government’s agenda for the session of Parliament starting this week.

Not only did the questions not get answered but Van Loan seemed stuck in an audio track based only on history, not the future. Maybe the fault was Tom’s. Maybe he was trying to cram too much into a half hour program. If he had taken more time and shown more patience, it is possible he could have got Van Loan past the statement that he wanted to make and take him into uncharted political waters. It might have been embarrassing for Tom though if Van Loan really had nothing else to say.

It is more likely that all Harper’s Cabinet people are required to take specific training in how to handle interviews and ways to turn the tables on interviewers. This is standard training that savvy public relations firms give to clients that are often in the public eye. One of the ways the firms give authenticity to the training is to hire tough minded television interviewers to do sample interviews. It is most likely that Harper’s people would be sure to use Conservative-leaning news people.

On Sunday, Tom seemed a bit disconcerted that the MP from York Simcoe was stone-walling him. It looked as though Van Loan had said one thing before the show and then reneged once he was on air. Tom should be used to that by now.

It is probably a good thing that Tom left CTV after Lisa LaFlamme was selected to replace Lloyd Robertson as the late night anchor for that network.  Tom had certainly earned the job but the choice would have hardly been based on who was the best reporter. There are serious political considerations in that choice and Tom would never have been given free-rein in handling interviews with Harper. CTV is very tuned in to the Harper Conservatives and balanced reporting at that level could hardly be the plan.

Tom’s problem with CTV was likely his fair-minded approach to the political scene.  He has an excellent understanding of what is behind the news. And he certainly knew why Peter Van Loan would not answer his question on Harper’s agenda.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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‘Eye of Newt, toe of Mitt’ in Florida’s cauldron.

Saturday, January 28th, 2012

When Canada’s Liberal Party opted for a primary-type system of choosing leaders at its recent conference, it was not thinking of the American primaries.  Nor did party members envisage a witches’ cauldron from Shakespeare’s MacBeth to which the current Republican primary has descended. Liberals were obviously thinking of a much more civilized process.

It is impossible to ignore the gruesome no-holds-barred cage fighting of the current Republican campaign in Florida. It certainly attracts more interest than the somnambulant trek our New Democrats are taking to a leadership decision in March.  The question in the U.S. is it really possible for the ultimate winner to recover a sliver of dignity with which to apply to American voters for the right to the White House? The Democrats in the U.S. can hardly ignore the ammunition they are being handed with which to demolish whomever might be the Republican presidential contender in November.

In the meantime, the New Democrats in Canada seem to be debating how nice each of their opponents might be. The only NDP candidate running a half-way intelligent campaign is the loser from British Columbia. And he still has a chance if he throws himself to the mercy of the party to help him fight Harper’s Northern Gateway pipeline across Northern B.C.

But we can expect the Liberal Party primary for its next leader will not be as dull as NDP love-ins nor should it be as brutal as the cage fighting of American Republicans.  It will certainly help that all the voting takes place at the same time. Why the Americans have never come up with that simple solution to their primary fiascos is a mystery.  The voters for the Liberal leadership will be anyone who wishes to participate and can swear that they are not a member of any other party. It not only builds your voters’ lists for election day but builds a sense of ownership in the party.

Liberals, of course, have far more scope in their arguments with each other as the political positioning of the party is of major concern to Liberal voters.  If a candidate wants to be to the right of Stephen Harper, that candidate might be better off seeking Harper’s job after he loses the next election. Should a candidate want to appear to be to the left of the NDP, there is lots of room over there.

But the candidate who will receive the most attention will be the candidate who defines the broad scope of social democracy that Liberals can offer Canadians. Liberalism in Canada has never been tied to ideology but it does carry the responsibility and commitment to the individual in our society. You cannot be a right winger and call yourself a Liberal.  They are anathema.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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Mr. Harper is in heady company.

Friday, January 27th, 2012

It must be the rarefied atmosphere in Davos, so high in the Swiss Alps. It could also be the company of so many of the world’s leaders, political, industrial and academe. With his toupee firmly in place, our Prime Minister is ready to read the riot act to the World Economic Forum. He gently chides the world leaders for their economic bungling.  He tells them that in Canada, we know just what to do. Canada can penalize those who cannot fight back.

Why Mr. Harper chose such a remote forum in which to announce that he would take more money from impoverished seniors, was not clear. He was certainly safe from having enraged Canadian seniors rising up and rendering him into a crushed mass on the floor of that august stage. Not many Canadian seniors can afford the lift fees at Davos at its peak season.

But if you think Canadians back home are puzzled at Mr. Harper’s choice of topics for these world leaders, the world leaders are equally puzzled by him. He has no message of interest to them. He barely gets polite applause.

The Prime Minister and his staff seem to have no clear understanding of what the World Economic Forum in Davos is about. That breaks a cardinal rule for people giving speeches and their writers: you have to know your audience. These people have not come to hear the old conservative economic bromides. They are here to be challenged, to hear new ideas, to see if there are solutions.  They are deeply concerned about the world economic situation and have no interest in the same old conservative ideology.

The Davos participants must be shocked by the threat from Mr. Harper to force through the pipeline to Canada’s British Columbia coast from Alberta.  This twinned pipeline is to take oil-sands crude to ocean tankers for shipment to the Far East.  To threaten to ram this pipeline through the Rockies and native lands to the coast, without proper consideration or precautions, comes as a shock to any caring person.

Mr. Harper needs to look out the window of his Davos hotel suite.  He needs to see the majestic beauty of the  Alps, the challenging ski runs on the Junkerboden and the fact there is a world out there where people care about people, not ideology.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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Can America restore its greatness?

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Watching American President Barack Obama deliver the State of Union address the other day, we could not help but relate some of the early part of the speech to Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  FDR was already President of the United States when we were born.  He, more than any other American, was the leader who brought America to greatness in the world. We can only reflect today on how that greatness has been trampled.

Roosevelt said it as far back as May 1932 when addressing a commencement at Oglethorpe University.  Three years before, the greed of Wall Street had taken the nation’s economy into a tail spin and FDR said: We need to correct, by drastic means if necessary, the faults in our economic system from which we now suffer.

FDR was working to correct those faults when interrupted by World War II.  He had to set that work aside to provide the leadership to help win that war.  In the process, he made an imperfect America the strongest nation on earth.

Addressing much the same issues as FDR, Obama laid out a smorgasbord of ideas for Congress the other evening.  He talked about his nation’s military might, America’s ability to solve problems, the need for ideas not ideology and the need for people to work to common goals. Yet you looked at the faces of the Republicans that the cameras scanned throughout the chamber and the feeling of depression grew.

America is a nation that has forgotten humility. It has become a nation without compassion. It is a nation that commits aggression of raw, brutal economic power. It believes it owns the world and lets business abuse it. It stands proud against the evil empire of communism but fails to win in the rice paddies of Vietnam. It treats the Middle East countries as pawns while building their hatreds. America fails as a peacekeeper because it threatens war.

You can only admire the effort that Barack Obama is putting into restoring some of that greatness, restoring the ideal that can be America.  For, in many ways, America has been built on ideals.  In the land of the free, the ‘Occupy’ movement rose against the top one per cent of Americans who controlled 40 per cent of the nation’s income last year. This is a land of spacious skies where people fly on wings of paranoia.  Where people wrap themselves in a brave flag and go to a tea party for the lunatic fringe.

Regrettably, Barack Obama is no black Franklin Roosevelt.  The world has gone through too much since FDR addressed the issues.  Now it is President Obama’s turn.  We can only hope he wins.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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Babel’s MP sends urgent news to the cognitive.

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

While working on a story concerning President Obama’s State of the Union address, we had urgent communication from Babel’s Member of Parliament.  It seems that the young gentleman has claimed the honour of being among one of the first parliamentarians to have cross-platform (software that works on different devices with different operating systems) instant communication with his constituents and twits who follow him. Not content with just Facebook and Twitter and similar social media, Babel’s MP can now instantly harass his faithful and, maybe, respond to their pleas for assistance.

If you are not too sure just how something like this can work on both Apple and Rim products at the same time, it is best you have a smart 12-year old explain it.

The information on the breakthrough was not communicated via our iPod but through the pages of the Babel Backward.  This is the twice-weekly grocery ad wrap published in Babel by an offshoot of the Toronto Star.  The golly-gee-whiz story featured a nicely contrasted black and white photograph of the Babel MP’s special assistant.  (This might be because the MP is somewhere else. It also might be because the special assistant is better looking, speaks more eloquently and is probably smarter than the MP.)

As exciting as this information might be, it is not complete.  The reporter forgot to ask some quite critical questions.  Or, maybe she asked them and forgot to include them in her story.  Excited fans of the Babel MP deserve to know where they can also buy this remarkable bit of software for their own followers. And where can they get someone to do the layout of the application with appropriate pictures and logos. Considering that it needs to work on two different operating systems, it probably involves at least eight lines of well-written code.

The reporter thoughtfully included some of the advertising copy supplied by the special assistant.  This included information such as the number of followers the MP has on Twitter: 2803 and ‘friends’ on Facebook: 4944—some of whom live in Babel.

But to make up for possible limitations in her article, the reporter closes on the promotional line: Pass on the news about how Patrick is making a difference in Ottawa. We would, if we could just stop laughing at the idea.

The important difference will be when he stops spending so much of our taxes on self-promotion.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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Liberal Party is not about who leads but where.

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

In discussing the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada, it is easy to name contenders but the more complex question is to determine where the party and its leader want to go.  The one thing the recent biennial conference proved is that the party is searching for that direction.  Silly resolutions about the monarchy and marijuana are hardly the stuff of resolving direction.

The questions that the party needs to address will hardly be conceived at a policy convention.  Directions require slow and careful development.  These questions need to be tested, vetted and developed before being brought forward for party debate and decisions.  They are questions that will define the party for many years to come. They are questions that will cause Liberal Party members to re-evaluate their beliefs.  They are questions about the future of our country that Canadians have to consider.

The first need is to redefine liberalism for Canadians.  The ongoing myth within the party of “The Big Red Tent” is foolishness. It is defeatist. If liberalism represents the rights of the individual in our society, we have to believe in it.  If we believe in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we have to stand firm against the collective chains of socialism and the stifling oppression of conservatism. We have to recognize that the ultimate freedom of the individual can only be achieved under the aegis of a liberal and social democratic type governance.

Canada’s New Democratic Party has no lock on the left nor does the union-dominated party have any right to claim social democratic status.  That was the positioning of the NDP in the 2011 election that enabled the party to win big in Quebec. It is a position that belongs to the Liberal Party of Canada and the true Quebec Liberals need to claim their right to the position.

The Liberal Party of Canada has to show its colors. It has to be proud of what it represents. It has to show what a truly liberal government can do for Canadians. It has to be a government that cares about national standards for Medicare and can expand Medicare services across Canada as Canadians can afford it. It has to have a national strategy to increase opportunities for education. It has to have rules that bring corporations, foreign-owned or domestic, to act as good corporate citizens. Employer or employee, there has to be equality under the law.

Liberalism is a cause that fights for the rights of the individual in our society. Could we ask for more than that?


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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Mr. Harper’s agenda.

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

We could be so wrong about Stephen Harper. He might not be the devil incarnate.  He could be just a sweet, lovable family guy with a toupee who likes to take his little boy to his hockey games. And, if we let him, he will forever change the nature of our country.  It will be a Canada we might not like.

People worry about his conservative social agenda but that is, hopefully, not the problem.  He has clearly indicated that he wants to stay out of arguments about capital punishment, abortion, same sex marriage and other social issues.  They are not his thing.  He panders to the religious right because he needs their votes but knows that bringing up social concerns will just inflame passions on both sides of the issues.  And when have you seen him passionate about anything?

Stephen Harper is an economic conservative.  He has more empathy with the Libertarians in his party than with the social extremists. He believes in a government reduced in size, restrained from interfering with business, puts property rights ahead of human rights, the rich ahead of the poor and would rather incarcerate malefactors than reform them.

While our Prime Minister basks in the approbation of the G20 countries, he is turning the world against Canada where his foreign affairs approach is bruising our reputation for fairness and for peace keeping.  He reflects the American right-wing’s distain for the United Nations and, to please the religious extremists, denies third-world countries birth-control assistance and the support they need against AIDS.

His most invidious act to-date has been the denial of the taxpayer support for Canadian political parties.  This funding was established by the Chrétien government to try to bring some balance to the political scene and end corruption. By closing this avenue of support, Harper is trying to silence his opponents’ ability to respond to his attack advertising.

He would prefer the American situation where the Republican Congress has opened the doors wide to corporations to fund the politicians and third parties that do what they want.  The political corruption in America has created a sharply divided and vicious political climate that sets no limits on the extremists.  The American Tea Party, for example, is a Looney Tunes faction that feeds on hatred and we will hear more from them in the current American political quagmire.

Harper is so dishonest that he claims those nasty foreign environmentalists are trying to stop Canadian tar-sands oil from reaching the west coast from where the crude oil can be shipped to China.  At the same time, he ignores all the native bands, fighting desperately to stop the pipeline from potentially destroying their traditional lands.

This man does not care for people.  He proves that every day.  He does not care what Canadians think.  He is an ideologue. And that is the devil of it.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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Has the Liberal leadership race started?

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

The news media is panicking.  They are concerned that the Liberal Party of Canada has no contenders for its upcoming leadership convention scheduled for sometime in 2013.  They figure Bob Rae is the logical winner because he is the interim leader. When Rae took on the interim leadership, he promised to not run at the upcoming convention. Do they think the Liberal Party would want someone who did not keep his word?

There is no question but Bob Rae is doing a good job as interim leader.  He is keeping the caucus focused, he is speaking out effectively for the Liberal Party and he has kept the party in a position of de facto opposition while the official NDP opposition fights its own leadership contest.  He has impressed a lot of people with his skill at the interim job.

But that is all it can be. There is a solid core within the Liberal Party who would never accept him as full-time leader.  It is not just the fact that he was NDP Premier in Ontario in the 1990s but he showed a serious lack of political sensitivity back then and it is not something that people can really learn. You have got it or you have not got it.  Bob, nice guy that he is, has not got it. He makes a great interim leader.  That is as good as he gets.

Bob Rae sees himself as a career politician. And he is. In that regard, he is very much like Bob Nixon, Leader of the Ontario Liberals back in the 1960s and 1970s. Bob Nixon was Treasurer in the Peterson Government in the 1980s. He brought the same love of the political scene to his work for the party as Bob Rae. The difference is that Bob Nixon is probably the best Premier of Ontario that we almost had.

When the media think that Bob Rae has some kind of a lock on the Liberal Party leadership, they just show how little they know about the party. Do they really think that Martha Hall Findlay is out for the count? She is one of the smartest and most determined women in Canadian politics and if she ever gets the kind of political management of her campaign that she needs, she could be almost unbeatable for the leadership.

If the media people have never heard of MP Dominic LeBlanc from New Brunswick, their research on up and coming Liberal leadership prospects is sadly lacking.  LeBlanc needs to spread his wings and get out and meet his party more often but he carries large credentials and four winning elections in his party pack.

And we have not even considered MP Justin Trudeau, who is wisely holding himself off from being a contender.  A lot can happen in the next year and many Liberals are waiting for him to answer the call.

We could keep going and come up with five or six good potential candidates.  The leadership of this party is no small prize.  It is a party Bob Rae is helping to rebuild and he will earn our approval for that—just not the leadership.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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Who do you trust?

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

There seems to be a universal inability to trust these days.  We have come a long way from the politics of trust.  We can forget the former grandfatherly images of the sage politicians who would look after our interest. Today we look at politicians as no-holds-barred fighters in a cage.  Politics has become a survival of the fittest contest as the savaged and bleeding winner earns the title by being the last person standing.

As usual it is American politics that leads the way.  Who is Mitt Romney and why is he ordained to lead anyone, anywhere?  And why is President Obama so relaxed and laughing while it is the Republican’s turn in the cage? Is Newt Gingrich that funny? And did Rick Santorum (who?) really win in Idaho?  And does it matter? Can the Tea Party recover in time to win South Carolina and save the nation from Romney?

Stay tuned folks.

The question is not who is going to win, but why. The United States of America is practicing the politics of hate and if you hate, you no longer trust. And that is the growing concern of political observers across North America.

In Canada we are already reaping the fruits of Conservative hatreds.  The formerly docile pet poodles of Stephen Harper’s Conservative caucus are growing fangs and demanding the raw meat of vengeance on their left-wing opponents.  Harper is still looking at the long-haul strategy and is trying to keep them penned.

But enough of their hatred for the liberal left spills through to keep the tensions high.

In Ontario, Premier McGuinty is about to exact his revenge on the electorate for reducing his caucus to a minority government.  When he plotted this, he must have thought he was going to lose.  He hired a banker, Don Drummond, to plan his revenge.  The not very secret Drummond report is soon to be released. The fact that McGuinty is still there to present it presents him with a conundrum. This is not chicken soup he is bringing to the electorate. It is a political expectorant. In bringing up the worst of the detritus of government, he is likely to have coughed himself right out of office.

Meanwhile, back in the United States of Hysteria, the Republicans continue to savage each other to prove who is the most pure, the most religious, the most hate filled—and who can defeat that abominable Obama.  The election is in November.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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