Archive for June, 2012

We are in the ‘Not Interested’ phase

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

A leadership contest has several phases to go through before knowledgeable observers start to evaluate the potential winners. Not being knowledgeable, the news media do not wait. They start everything off with the ‘not interested’ phase. It can combine fun with fright, relief with resignation, and false hopes with foolishness.

Leading this ‘not interested’ phase in the upcoming Liberal Party leadership was interim Liberal leader Bob Rae. He caught some of us off-guard with how fast he announced he would not be running. Maybe he was really annoyed with the media questions and their pestering. The man was entitled to his dignity and that is something Canadian news media tend to forget. He got out fast.

Next in line was Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney. That a right-wing banker would even be considered a possible candidate is something of a wonder. Mr. Carney quickly put these dreamers out of their misery.

The next target for the right wing Liberals will likely be John Manley, former Liberal cabinet minister and now president and CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, one of the few lobby groups to which Stephen Harper will listen. We hardly expect that Manley is going to give up his self-aggrandizing position with the lords of industry for the vicissitudes of the Liberal leadership.

Another mistake made by the news media in this phase is to report public polling as to whom the public would like to see running a political party. The public have little to do with the choice. The leader will be chosen by Liberal Party supporters and while this will be a very large number by April 2013, because of the addition of non-paying ‘supporters,’ it still does not reflect the total population.

During this phase, there is the emergence of the faux contestants. These are people who have about as much chance as the ghost of Mackenzie King’s mother. Some of them are quite sincere and in most cases just want to share the platform with the real contestants so that they can tell people what they think. It is kind of like writing a blog but really embarrassing yourself. It is expected that the Liberal Party executive will ask for some kind of good faith deposit that will eliminate these people from the race.

The real candidates for this race are sitting in somebody’s recreation room or kitchen somewhere talking to people that they trust. These are the inner circle that will not blab what they know about their candidate’s intentions to anyone, especially the news media.

These small groups are discussing the strategy of entering the race. They are discussing the when, the format, the stance, the issues, whether it should be low key or at top volume, timing of the social media activities, and on and on, into the night. It will be fun.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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Ms. May makes her mark.

Monday, June 18th, 2012

It was not the headline interview on Tom Clark’s West Block show on Sunday but it was by far the most interesting. Tom took time on his show to talk to the woman of the day at the recent parliamentary sleepover. She saw the event as a critical step in showing Canadians what is wrong with parliament as it currently operates.

Bill C-38 will soon be only of historical significance. It will be passed by Parliament, as is, and sent to the Senate for Harper’s marionettes to rubberstamp into law.

Ms. May asked the simple question: What is the purpose of Parliament? She pointed out that Mr. Harper might as well shut it down if this is how he wants to pass laws for Canadians. She sees the top-down party structure of today as not needing more than 300 Members of Parliament with nothing to do but what they are told to do by party leadership. As the only member for the Green Party, she had to do the entire job herself.

But she found she was up to the job. Hell, she revelled in it. We have not seen the statistics on the voting but she was probably the only Member of Parliament who voted on every single amendment. She proved herself a leader. And she has the stamina for it. When this blog suggested her as a possible Liberal Party leadership candidate last week, we were not necessarily thinking of her as winning the contest. It was what she could add to the race was the original thought.

She could also win. She can win because throughout that boring interminable New Democratic leadership race last year, nobody talked honestly about our democracy and its sorry state. Elizabeth May not only talks about it; she wants to do something about it.

One of the reasons given last week for Bob Rae not getting into the Liberal leadership contest was because he did not see the Liberals returning to power until he was 70 years old. Bob Rae always was a pessimist.

Does anyone doubt that Elizabeth May is an optimist? As the only MP for her party, she is more than willing to take on Stephen Harper. She was a breath of fresh air in the 2008 English language federal election leaders’ debate when she was the only leader to keep hammering Stephen Harper on the financial situation that he did not admit existed until after the election. She knew what the problem was that was coming and she was the only party leader who would talk about it.

What do you need Elizabeth, an engraved invitation?


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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Getting your royal reward.

Sunday, June 17th, 2012

It was difficult. Not being a monarchist, you are not inclined to boisterously sing along to God Save the Queen. The problem was that a number of very good people were being honoured and you are hardly going to be churlish about it. It was a well attended event and the council chamber at Babel City Hall was standing room only.

The conundrum with which you are faced is that honouring Canadians who make a substantive contribution to the community is too often a political event. You have got to figure that, when the federal government is involved, you can expect those klutz Tories in Ottawa are going to shove the royals in your face and promote their local Member of Parliament. It is hard to say which is worse. At least the MP was elected!

There was a quite excellent suggestion back in Mr. Trudeau’s day that we have an Order of Canada to celebrate Canadians who make a special contribution to our country. It worked rather well until the Order was politicized back in the late 1980s. And if you do not think the Order was politicized, how do you explain Conrad Black being named to the Order? Honours only work if they are fair, rare, earned and respected.

When the honours become so politicized that people lose respect for them, you are forced to come up with new ways to honour those who really do make a contribution to your community. The Ottawa Conservatives, with their majority this year, decided to regress to using the Queen. In honour of her diamond jubilee event this year, the Tories minted a Diamond Jubilee Medal in the Queen’s name. This medal is supposed to be used to honour Canadians who make a special contribution to their community.

We assume that the Conservative Member of Parliament had some involvement in the selection because we know that he was telephoning recipients back in April and May to tell them they had been selected for the honour. (With a target of 60,000 Canadian receiving the medal, we expect even Opposition MPs are helping nominate winners.) The Conservative MP was very much front and centre for the awards ceremony.

The 20-page, self-cover, four-color program booklet said on the front that the event was presented by the MP. Luckily the picture on the front was of the Queen, not the MP. He got three mentions on the agenda page as he brought greetings, made the medal presentations and had closing remarks. Which is somewhat more of our MP than most from Babel can stomach.

Listening to him, one could not help to wonder why his parents had not had that boy’s adenoids removed as a child. His nasal tone becomes grating very quickly. And if he said “without further ado” just one more time, there might have been a contest among the crowd to see who got to strangle him.

It was annoying that in their enthusiasm organizing the event, the MP’s staff provided the MP with a microphone, when most did not care to hear him, but left the award recipients, who had something to say, the option of shouting.

It should also be noted that the RCMP constable who provided the color backdrop for the pictures did a good job cutting the medal cake. Mind you, the cake tasted terrible.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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Meet two potential Liberal leaders.

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

While meaningless in the long term, the arguments in Canada’s Parliament over the omnibus budget bill have benefitted parliament and the opposition parties. First of all, it has clearly pointed out–once again–to Canadians that they might have erred in giving Mr. Harper and his sycophants a majority government. Secondly, it brought the NDP’s Nathan Cullen into the fore as the Opposition House Leader, where he is doing a solid job. And third, it displayed the tenacity, brains and aggressiveness of the Green Party’s only MP, Elizabeth May. Both Cullen and May could add much to the upcoming Liberal Party leadership.

While the Liberals are hardly without viable candidates who are already members of the Liberal Party, Cullen and May could bring many side benefits to the Liberal race. While the turning in of their respective New Democrat and Green credentials when they take out Liberal membership cards could be a bit wrenching, it would be a solid career choice.

Nathan Cullen has already stated his case for cooperation with the Liberals to defeat the Harper Conservatives. He campaigned on it during the NDP leadership race and gained considerable credibility for being forward thinking. While Cullen did not win in his NDP bid, he knows that the younger people agree with him that the future of the NDP is in some accommodation with the other parties of the left. What better way to lead the movement.

Elizabeth May already has strong credentials with many Liberal Party members. She has made it clear to Green Party adherents across Canada that there are issues that have to be addressed beyond the Green Party agenda. And she hardly needs to revoke her environmentalist standing to work within the Liberal Party. The party is in critical need of her level headed environmental approach in dealing with the Harper pipeline agenda for the Alberta tar sands crude oil.

The adding of these two candidates might seem an extreme approach but you can hardly hold a Liberal Party leadership contest at this time without addressing how you intend to defeat the Harper Conservatives. And nobody is going to buy a right wing answer.

Only the news media are convinced that Interim Leader Bob Rae will be in the Liberal race. We expect that strategically, he will keep his own counsel until the field starts to develop. His only hope of winning is by offering himself as someone who can help rebuild the party. Nobody will expect him to defeat Harper. Nor would his former NDP ties indicate any likelihood of him leading a combined Liberal-NDP party.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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Class war in America.

Monday, June 11th, 2012

Canadians are interested spectators in things American. Americans, in turn, do not care as much about what is happening north of their border. As a former Canadian ambassador to Washington put it: there appears to be a one-way mirror along the border. Canadians look into it and see America; Americans look into it from their side and see America. With five months to go before the U.S. elections, both sides of the border are becoming more concerned about the winners and losers in November.

What is distinctive about this coming American election is it becoming class warfare.  It is that intense, it is that all or nothing, visceral type of hatred in America that has not been seen since the War Between the States. The Obama versus Romney campaigns are splitting America down the middle. It is the capitalist billionaires against the hordes at the gates. It is unions taking a final stand. It is religious fanatics against the antichrist. It is the abortionists against purity. It is ghettos against gated communities.

This will also be the most corrupt election Americans have ever endured. No state is safe in the blue or red camp. The election will be mixed martial arts at its bloodiest, as all controls are removed from spending by ‘person or persons unknown.’ President Obama will remain guileless as Romney talks down to the masses and neither will address or take responsibility for the depths to which America is sinking.

This is Barack Obama’s election to lose. Even if by some strange happenstance that the Democrats win a majority in the House of Representatives, he cannot win a 60 per cent majority in the Senate. The American government will remain deadlocked. It will thwart Obama’s every attempt at solutions. It will be a government of revenge and animosities. It will offer no solace for America.

Mitt Romney can only lose in November. Even by winning the election, he can only lose in office. Sure, he is smarter than George W. Bush but most Americans are smarter than George W. Bush. What he cannot resolve is the conflicting wants of his supporters. He cannot combine the fanatical religious right with those who would destroy the environment for monetary gain. He cannot convince the right-wing landowners associations that oil and gas fracking is safe. He would force through the Keystone XL pipeline for Alberta tar sands crude and find there is no profit in it for America.

All Canadians can do is watch in horror as our neighbours work to destroy a country built on ideals of liberty, opportunity and justice for all.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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The blundering burghers of Babel.

Friday, June 8th, 2012

In medieval Europe, burghers were a class of people from whom city officials could be drawn. They contributed the aldermen, the councillors and the reeves and lord mayors of the fortified cities of the times. They were the priests of the temple. They were not the elite, the dukes and earls of the realm, but the servants of the elite. And in that capacity, they were in a position to control the morals of the day.

The custom continues to this day in Babel. East Babel is home to many of the burghers. They cohabit and procreate in Ward 1, north of the bay. They contribute winning candidates for federal and provincial parliaments. Their progeny dominate city council. And their outdated and oppressive moral codes keep the city chained to the past.

This is why the first time we suggested our train station to nowhere be given life as part of a casino on the bay, there was a chill wind felt from city hall. That was probably the attitude back in the 1990s that closed Barrie Raceway to make way for Georgian Downs. Innisfil has enjoyed revenues of some $4 million a year from Georgian Downs while Babel realty taxes continue to climb.

But Babel‘s burghers are blind to the benefits. Here, in the middle of Babel, on our beautiful bay, we have the ideal location for a convention hotel and a casino-entertainment complex—creating hundreds of permanent jobs with year-round tourism. And with GO Train transportation to the front door, you could not ask for a better location, or a more attractive lake view.

Still, the blue-stocking burghers of Babel cannot see beyond their up-turned noses. They react by saying they cannot compete with Georgian Downs or Casino Rama. That is utter foolishness. It is competition that built Las Vegas into the entertainment capital of the world. The GO trains will enable Babel to compete with a major casino complex in Toronto and both sites will be better for the competition.

What the burghers of Babel do not understand is that it is no longer the right of the majority in a democracy to decide what other people can do. People who want to gamble at a casino have that right. It is not for others to decide for them. Casinos are legal in Ontario. The burghers of Babel should catch up with the times!


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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Stephen Harper is doing Europe.

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

After going to London to fete Her Majesty in her Diamond Jubilee, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has climbed back aboard his military Airbus A310 and headed for the next capital on his European tour. Paris can be quite lovely in June, before the summer invasion of tourists. It is also a good time this year to get a reading on the new French President François Hollande.

The bad news is that Harper has his work cut out for him in trying to convince François Hollande of anything. Hollande is a socialist—which says it all as far as Stephen Harper is concerned. The first socialist in power in 17 years, in his first month in the Elysée Palace, Holland has already stated that his government will lower the retirement age for some French workers from 62 to 60. This is at a time when Mr. Harper is telling older Canadians that they better suck it up as they will not be able to draw old-age security until they are 67.

Mr. Harper brings a message to Hollande that has already been stated by German Chancellor Angela Merkel: Both leaders have said that Europe requires a strong political union to function effectively. Merkel made the point as early as this Thursday morning in Europe that the Eurozone countries have to give up more power. “We need not just a currency union; we also need a so-called fiscal union, more common budget policies. And we need above all a political union,” she said.

Mr. Harper said that the European members of the Eurozone will have to come up with a plan to make this happen. It is his opinion that Europe is a ‘half-done project’ that lacks the tools to get the job done. He said that he told Hollande that there needs to be quick action when the two met for breakfast. The French President was probably too much of a gentleman to tell the media what he said in return.

The only problem with the Harper-Merkel scheme is that many in Europe are contemplating that what the German armies could not accomplish in two world wars is now supposed to be as simple as a signature on a piece of paper.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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‘It’s fragile, Mr. Mansbridge, it’s fragile.’

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

It was so very kind of Prime Minister Stephen Harper to take a little of his time from feting Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee. After all, it was Her Majesty’s time in the sun. (Or, since this was London, it was her time in the rain.) Why Mr. Harper was there seemed vague until he explained that Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier attended Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee 115 years ago and Mr. Harper could do no less. This was all while being interviewed by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Peter Mansbridge.

We lost count of the number of times that Mr. Harper told the CBC news reader that the world economy is fragile. That was the key word of the evening: ‘fragile.’ The word also applied to the health of the Queen’s Consort, the Duke of Edinburgh. At 91, the old Duke was watching most of the Diamond Jubilee spectacle from a hospital bed because of enduring the chill off the Thames during the great flotilla.

After gushing appropriately over the Diamond Jubilee events, the Prime Minister and the news reader switched to the more mundane. “The world economy is fragile,” Mr. Harper informed us. He shared with the CBC viewers back home that whilst the Canadian economy remains strong—and well managed, under his regime—there are warning signals from the European community. Mind you, the economist in Mr. Harper did not see the Greek elections as a particular watershed in world economics. He delivered a (luckily brief) discourse on the stability of the Euro currency and its weakness in not being backed by a single national government. He felt that the Canadian dollar was in particularly good shape but believed Canada might get caught in the spatter if the poop hits the fan in Europe.

But as part of his much-promoted, multi-faceted ‘Economic Action Plan’ Mr. Harper and his government are ready to put the Canadian taxpayers’ money to work to stem the tide of recession. He assured Canadians that he will leave no street unpaved, nor Conservative MP without oversized cheques, to stem the tide of economic disaster.

With the world economy in such good hands, the news reader and the prime minister returned to the subject of the Queen, God Bless Her.

But our favourite part of the whole Diamond Jubilee was the wonderful fireworks after the concert down in the Mall.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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Taking a chance on Canada’s future.

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

It was a planned move. It was simple. We are now a member of the Liberal Party of Canada for the next two years. Last time we did that nothing worked properly. It created a series of telephone calls to the Ottawa headquarters of the party. It was a programming error at their end. It was fixed but the party never did collect the monthly support payments that they were offered.

This time, we kept it simple. Here is a credit card number, take $20 for a two-year renewal. The confirmation was in our e-mail within seconds. We can now look people in the eye and confirm that we continue to be a card-carrying Liberal Party member. After all, everyone deserves a second chance.

There is a leadership decision to be made in the coming year. That is a major event for the party. It will decide its direction for quite a few years into the future. We intend to comment on it, mix in the dialogue, question the candidates, influence policy and vote for the leader of our choice.

And it will not be an easy choice. There is no indication at this time of who will be candidates and that leaves us little opportunity to speculate on winners. Neither of the candidates most discussed by the news media are likely winners. By this, we mean Bob Rae, M.P. and Justin Trudeau, M.P. When you consider the age spread between these two, you can see the room there is between them. Neither is really in the running.

Bob Rae has earned the party’s debt and appreciation for the excellent job he has done as interim leader. He has worked hard and did what was asked of him. He has kept the Liberal Party caucus in line and kept them in a viable position. Nobody in Ottawa has thought of the Liberal Members as a third party.

Justin Trudeau is glib and hard working. He has said that he is not in the running at this time and he should stick to that decision. He will have plenty of opportunity in the years to come. First, he needs to be tested in government and to gain the maturity he needs. We can expect much from him in the future.

This leadership has to be the watershed for the party over whether it is of the right or the left. It is the time to decide. Leadership candidates will have to state whether they will offer to merge with the New Democrats or fight Stephen Harper for the position on the right. There will be no middle ground. It never really existed.

We paid our membership for a party of the left. That is where our vote will go.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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Protecting bigotry?

Monday, June 4th, 2012

The argument, as we understand it, is that under our Canadian Constitution, we have the right to ensure that any school teaching or activity is consistent with our philosophical and religious values. It takes a while for that claim to digest. What is frightening about it are the bigotries, the hatreds, the teachings of vitriol and the misconceptions of ages past that can be interlaced in those religious values. Times change, attitudes change but the larger the religious ship, the longer it takes to turn it from the perceptions of its past.

This argument is creating conflict. It challenges Canada as a secular society. That is a value our country offers and attracts the world beyond our borders. We host the world’s religions without challenge other than our protection of individual rights. When those rights are challenged on religious grounds, our society demands that the state must win.

It does no good for any religion to ignore the realities of society. The Anglican Synod, for example, can never heal the schism in its church by ignoring the rights of same sex partners. There is considerable doubt that ignoring the question will do much to change the patterns in human sexuality in this country or anywhere else.

If the Catholic bishops really want to take on the Ontario government over anti-bullying measures, they will do more harm to themselves. It has all the characteristics of a battle between balloons and pincushions, each armed with pins. It is not a battle that the Catholic bishops can be allowed to win. They can take the supposed moral ground if they want but it is the government that holds the purse strings.

At this time of ill-advised austerity, government and economists are taking a hard look at the millions spent each year on the duplication of a Catholic school system. When you look back at the 2007 provincial election, you can consider John Tory’s religious schools offer as a referendum on separate school systems in the province. The decision was clear.

You can claim that the Canadian Constitution enables the Separate School system in Ontario but the constitution was written 145 years ago. It is out of date. It dealt with different times. It dealt with different sets of prejudices.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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