Archive for August, 2012

Republicans: Are you ready for Romney?

Friday, August 31st, 2012

Mitt Romney is a politician. He is also an enigma. And that does not auger well for Mitt Romney, the Republican. It cannot help him become President of the United States. His basic problem is that it is taking too long to sell himself to his own political party.

This is not his father’s Republican Party. What used to be a staid Grand Old Party (GOP) made up of the comfortably off and some rednecks is now made up of crazies with everyone from the Tea Party extremists to gun nuts to anti-abortionists to anti-vivisectionists to white supremacists. What is a polite Mormon boy supposed to do with that bunch? When he was governor of Massachusetts, he only had to deal with the moneyed class. They were much more civilized.

Now poor Mitt has to carry along baggage like Paul Ryan. Mitt’s Vice Presidential running mate is one of the crazies. This guy, supposedly backing him up, has never met a fact he could not ignore. Mitt was known as a straight shooter when governor of Massachusetts and now he is forced to work to an unfamiliar script, just to please the extremists of the Republican Party.

Something has got to give in this relationship. Poor Mitt has already made enough gaffs. His trip to Europe and the Middle East over the summer was like a golf game where all you get to see is a long series of sand traps. It was a misspoke disaster from beginning to end. He hopes people forget about it.

But Paul Ryan has no trouble talking about things he seems to know nothing about. International relations is the farthest subject from Ryan’s experience and if he gets into it, he will make Mitt look like a genius by comparison.

And the bad news for the GOP is that neither of their candidates can handle their opponents, Obama and Biden. Obama is not only as intelligent as Romney but has far more political smarts. And Paul Ryan is not even in the same wheelhouse as Joe Biden, Ryan is only slightly smarter than George W. Bush—which moves him into the group that includes 90 per cent of Americans.

The GOP is trying to pussy-foot around Obama by trying to suggest that his is a failed presidency. We should try to remember that Obama managed to get the first black family into the White House only to find the nation had gone into the financial dumper. When you figure, he got in a Medicare plan for millions of Americans, saved General Motors and got the country back on the road to recovery, he bloody well deserves some credit and respect

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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

Flaherty’s friends frustrate our future.

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Who do you think John F. Kennedy was talking to when he said “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” He knew he would be wasting his time if he addressed that to business. Business decision making has little to do with doing the right thing.

That was why many people wondered last week when both Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of Canada and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty asked business to loosen their purse strings. Carney was told by somebody that Canadian business was sitting on $500 billion in profits and not buying anything. Just how they keep that close tabs on business, we have not figured out. It must be right because next thing our ultra-conservative Finance Minister jumps in on the act and also complains about business not doing right with all the money he allows them to keep in profits.

Now, just what is wrong with this scene?

On the spend side is a banker. A Canadian banker, we should add. Canadian bankers rarely tell people or businesses to spend. They are noted for their cautionary advice. They would hardly suggest that there be any rash investing or hiring of more Canadians. Even Scotiabank would rather pay $3 billion to buy ING Direct from the Dutch than to add more employees in Canada.

And then along comes our dour Finance Minister and adds his two nickels (he does not have pennies for two-cent deals anymore). He tells us that the government has given the economy its best shot and now it is business’ turn. He and the government are busy getting people off the government payrolls and saving a buck where they can. He is saying to business “don’t do as I do, do as I say. And I am telling you to dig into your piggy banks and spend, spend, spend.”

Jim Flaherty certainly sets such a fine example for us all. It is enough to make a Keynesian economist puke. When he and Harper decided to do something about the world economic crisis (back when Harper had a minority government) he came up with an infrastructure scheme that is now driving the municipalities that bought into the scheme into bankruptcy. And it got Harper a majority government.

Someone was telling us some time ago that Canada has one of the lowest business tax rates in the G20. What Flaherty and his friends such as the Ontario government do not understand is that business is in business to make money. Business will always support governments that keep their tax rates low. What government needs to do is to only give tax breaks to companies that prove they are good citizens. Those are the ones doing something for the country.

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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

Dalton McGuinty turns on the teachers.

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

There was a gathering at Queen’s Park yesterday. Some of Premier Dalton McGuinty’s former teacher friends came to call. What they called him cannot be printed in a family-friendly blog. It must have had something to do with the reason McGuinty’s government has recalled the Legislature ahead of the fall session. He wants to deny the teachers their right to bargain in good faith or to honour existing contracts.

People ask us why we seem to be so displeased with Dalton. Frankly when Dalton came on the provincial scene, this province was ready to vote for anyone to get rid of the Conservative government. And after the experience with Bob Rae as a New Democrat premier, the Liberal leader could have had two heads and got elected twice.

Regrettably Dalton could have had two heads but he has less than half a brain. The guy always reminds us of a bumbling, skinny and unfunny Mr. Bean. At first, he seemed to know that he was quite inadequate and he went out to gather in some allies. He made very good allies among various unions such as teachers. In a time of economic concerns, those unions stood by him and there was labour peace in Ontario. The unions even stood by him in elections and ran TV commercials on his behalf.

But not any more! You can hardly treat teachers or any union as badly as McGuinty has and ever be forgiven. Some of his most sympathetic teacher supporters had agreed to a no-raise deal. They trusted him to be fair in the future.

But some of the other large groups of teachers had contracts in place and they were due for some increases this September. Dalton told them he would cancel their increases. This, they claimed, was not only unfair but denied them their rights.

And this is why Conservative leader Tiny Tim Hudak is doing a victory dance around his offices these days. The legislation that Dalton’s Liberals will be presenting is even more draconian (with Hudak’s help) and McGuinty gets all the blame.

With the bye-elections on September 6 in Vaughan and Kitchener-Waterloo, McGuinty can kiss any chance of a majority government goodbye. Even voters who do not feel kindly towards teachers will want to know who is next on the McGuinty hit list.

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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

How Harper can be hard on crime.

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

The simple answer as to why Prime Minister Harper keeps bringing up crime and punishment is because it is so easy. Like much of his right-wing ideology, it preys on ignorance. It is rhetoric without reason. It is mindless cant.

And better yet, he knows he can get away with it. At a time when violent crimes against people are greatly reduced, Harper says we have to have harsher sentences for this type of crime. How do you argue against his stand without seeming soft on crime? He wants to build more prisons and it is tough to object—if he would close the dreadful old gaols that should have come under the wrecking ball many years ago.

The problem that Tories have with crime is clearly demonstrated by Harper’s Minister of Public Safety, Vic Toews. He has introduced more than his share of the more than 60 anti-crime bills brought to parliament by the Tories since 2006. The only things these bills share is that they are usually misnamed, misunderstood and mishandled.

Toews should always be pictured with a pitchfork as the quintessential Canadian Gothic. He is the guy who said if you do not support his electronic surveillance bill, you support the pornographers. Vic Toews also repeated former Harper minister of public safety, Stockwell Day’s observation that Canada needs more prisons because of the increase in unreported crimes.

You get the feeling about Toews that he must be convinced that if he keeps screwing up these crime bills, Harper will have no choice but to appoint him to the bench in Manitoba. We sincerely hope, when that happens, that all his cases have to do with business law and nobody ever appears before him for stealing a loaf of bread. Toews might try to have the person hung.

The Conservative attempts to explain their ‘tough on crime’ solutions have been described by some lawyers and academics as political marketing. They also have to note that the Harper Conservatives do not seem to worry about being too rational in their pitch. This is probably because the audience for such claptrap are already Conservative voters. If it is marketing, it would be like the automobile advertisements that are directed at people who have already purchased that model car. The manufacturers want to keep that user sold on the purchase.

There is a solid, but thankfully not large, body of right-wing voters who see people who are not in tune with society, because of poverty or lack of judgement, as a threat to them personally. They never want to have to deal with these people. As Charles Dickens claims Ebenezer Scrooge asked: “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?”

There are still people like Scrooge among us. Conservatives use their ignorance.

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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

Mr. Harper tries to win the North.

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

Does Prime Minister Harper earn Air Miles for all his travels? The answer is ‘no’ when you consider that he uses a VIP A300 military transport jet for those long distance hauls. Some people are concerned about his lack of attention as to what is going on in Ottawa. They know that the Conservative government has little on the agenda for the fall sitting and that the Conservative majority might try to force through some of their more right-wing agenda items.

But it is a mistake to think Harper is out of touch with Ottawa when he is not there. With today’s communications, he has thorough briefings from Ottawa while travelling. Where he is out of touch is with the Canadian people.

You can see that lack of contact and lack of empathy in his announcement of the new national park near Norman Wells in the North West Territories. We might as well call it the new park as few in the south are going to learn to pronounce its aboriginal name. What was immediately obvious about the park is how it had been gerrymandered to allow for mining of known mineral deposits. Many of the native leaders were very disappointed and they had a right to be. Harper had been playing to the natives the opportunity for resource jobs for them but many of their leaders were not buying these temporary opportunities for employment.

The other big event of this trip was the public introduction of the military’s Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2). This heretofore very secret weapon of the Canadian Forces has been around for some time but never on public display. To show how they might go about securing a boat at sea is to allow law breakers to study their techniques and prepare to defend against them.  If you are Prime Minister, you can order it but Defence Minister Peter MacKay standing around in the background had a responsibility to try to talk the Prime Minister out of the foolish idea. It did Canada no good but then Peter MacKay does little of any good either.

Mr. Harper’s visit to the north is supposed to be an annual event. Such visits will be more worthwhile when the government can do more to make life more liveable for people up there. To suggest that people move south is to abandon our north to those countries that have learned to live in colder climates. If any country is in the category of those who know how to live in the north, it should be Canada.

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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

The beatification of Saint Jack.

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

The Roman church has a strict schedule for the creation of saints. It is a long and rigorous process. This process could severely try the patience of the New Democratic Party (NDP). There might also be some dispute between the church and the NDP as to what constitutes a miracle.

The NDP used to think of winning any parliamentary seat in Quebec as a miracle. Yet, there was no divine intervention in what happened in Quebec in the last federal election. Jack Layton happened to be standing at a crossroads in the province and got the advantage of it. The Conservatives were dead in the water and both the Bloc Québécois and the Federal Liberals were running on empty. Those parties had taken Quebec voters for granted for too long. It was the NDP’s turn to take them for granted.

It was also hardly a miracle when the largest circulation paper in Canada, the Toronto Star, stabbed the Liberal Party in the back and told people in Ontario that it was alright to vote NDP. The paper’s political pundits should have told the editorial writers that the net effect of their foolish ploy was to hand Stephen Harper a Conservative majority.

The two most telling moments of the 2011 federal election were in the English-language television debate between the major party leaders. The first was when you saw how Jack Layton responded to Stephen Harper. It was clear for all to see that there was no way an ill Jack Layton could handle Stephen Harper. The second was when Layton tried to knife Ignatieff on his attendance in the House of Commons. What was telling was Ignatieff’s complete surprise and inability to handle such a spurious and unfair attack.

Jack Layton was no saint. That was a straggling ‘Solidarity Forever’ march behind his casket at that public funeral. The oratory at the event was a lament for what might have been. Stephen Lewis’ eulogy was brilliant, in the tradition of Marc Antony for Julius Caesar. It was a similar call to arms for the mob.

Now we find that Layton’s burial place is to be a shrine. That clichéd, trite, over-written letter that was released after his death is supposed to be some sort of civics guide for school children. Thomas Mulcair has yet to wrest the leadership of his party from a ghost.

Those of us in other political parties who worked against Jack Layton in Toronto through various elections knew him as a strong opponent. When we won a tough one against him, it made the win sweeter.

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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

McGuinty is in danger of losing this vote.

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Maybe it is time to declare our independence. We might have been considered a yellow-dog Liberal for too long. That means if the Liberal candidate in our riding is a big yellow dog, we would vote for it. It is now clear that we are somewhat at odds with Dalton McGuinty and his Family Compact.

While often referring to the McGuinty government as Whigs, it is now recognized that the description might be in error. Whigs are Liberals who are only two hundred years out of date. It is possible that Premier McGuinty never has been and never will be a Liberal. Can there be redemption for what he is doing to Ontario?

Did you hear that he has recalled the legislature? He wants to order teachers back to work before they go on strike or get locked out. He wants to cancel terms of existing contracts. Is he unaware that we do not have slavery any more?

There are tens of thousands of people out of work in this province. Even worse, we have even more people who are underemployed. This second group is qualified for much more complex work but are working in lower level or menial levels to feed their families. Instead of being concerned about this Mr. McGuinty says he wants to lower the deficit. We have a deficit because Mr. McGuinty will not tax business appropriately.

Premier McGuinty’s government appears to pay outrageous bonuses to executives working for the government but will freeze the wages of the people working for these overpaid executives. The government seems to prefer fighting with doctors over fees than working with them to ensure citizens have the healthcare professionals they need.

The other day, one of McGuinty’s junior ministers actually told a news conference that the province will sell parkland at Ontario Place for condominiums. Surely Mr. McGuinty was unaware of this outrageous breach of faith with Ontario citizens?

What keeps saving McGuinty’s ass is his opposition. Tiny Tim Hudak, leader of the Conservatives is a bad joke. The guy is a hold-over from the Michael Harris regime and when he gets off script, nobody understands him. The good news is that with McGuinty struggling with a minority government, Hudak hides.

Andrea Horwath is the one who could use a game plan. She could make some headway and get some good ink for her party if she just knew how. The brass ring is there and neither Horwath nor Hudak know enough to reach for it.

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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

If Jean Charest was a Liberal.

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

A very knowledgeable francophone writer wrote today that Jean Charest’s Quebec Liberals were going the way of their federal counterparts. If she meant that the Quebec Liberals are headed for third party status in the Quebec National Assembly after the September 4 election, she could be right. What she should not have done was confuse the Quebec Liberal Party with the Liberal Party of Canada. She must have done that to keep the explanation simple for her Anglo readers.

Charest’s Liberals are the successors of the Quebec governments of Jean Lesage, Robert Bourassa and Maurice Duplessis and any relationship with liberal philosophy is purely coincidental. The only progressive Quebec governments in that time were Parti Québécois and if they had not been so hung up on constant infighting, tribalism, parochialism, elitism and separatism, they would have done a better job. When Charest passed the draconian anti-demonstration laws against the students earlier this year, he lost any connection he had with liberalism and showed his true colours as a Conservative/Union National adherent.

What is happening at the moment is that François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec is draining off some of the Charest Liberal’s right-wing votes and putting Pauline Marois’ Parti Québécois into the lead in the polls. While there is still time for a turn-around by any of the parties involved, it is starting to look like an interesting minority government situation. Making such a government work, will be a fascinating political challenge.

Just to confuse things, Thomas Mulcair leader of the federal New Democrats is speculating that he might want to help get a provincial NDP wing launched in his province. That would bleed off some of the union and left-wing support for the Parti Québécois and ensure a minority government situation in the Quebec National Assembly for the foreseeable future.

What needs to happen is for true liberals to take over the Quebec Liberal Party when Charest quits after this election. That way when Mulcair’s federal NDP merge with the federal Liberal Party, the Liberal/NDP in Quebec will be the strongest possible combination. It could put an end to separatism for a long time. And federally, it could also put an end to Stephen Harper’s reign in Ottawa.

And if Jean Charest was a liberal, it would be so easy!

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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

Liberal leadership hopeful looks for support.

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Montreal Liberal MP Marc Garneau has the various stages of a leadership campaign a bit confused. He is currently looking for the ideal team to run a campaign for him that will win him the leadership of the Liberal party of Canada. Maybe if he can find this ‘dream team,’ he will get around to telling us why he should run.

And it is probably a good story. We just need to hear it first. All we really know about him now is his time as an astronaut. As a naval engineer, he represented Canada while taking part in the U.S.’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) programs. While elected twice in a safe Liberal seat, he has yet to make his mark in the House of Commons. He lost to Bob Rae in the selection of an interim leader when Michael Ignatieff resigned. (It was probably because Rae had much more experience.)

Garneau’s political persona to-date comes across as a bit bland. Not that this is necessarily a problem in taking on Stephen Harper, king of the bland. The good news is that the MP has no difficulty in proving he is smart. What he has to do is show some political smarts. At 63, he has no time for on-the-job training.

But who in the Liberal Party with the expertise he needs for his team is going to buy a pig in a poke? If he does not already have a senior bagman out beating the bushes to see what the fund-raising expectations are, Garneau is wasting his time. And the leader of the team has to be someone, he personally knows and trusts. This person is not going to appear by magic and say, ‘Here I am.,’

Everyone loves to discuss the various strategies but most of the effort needed from a leadership team is the hard work on the telephones. While we all pay lip service to the new electronic media opportunities, the reality is that you build your initial workers at the national and regional levels through networking. And there you have to have personal contact. Politics is still built on IOUs and in a leadership contest you have to call on many of those IOUs and you earn more.

What this leadership contest has to say is that the Liberal Party is the party of Canada’s future. It is the party that can see the future and believe in it. Our new leader has to know where we are going.

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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

Whigs breach a public trust.

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

Just what part of the word ‘park’ is not understood by Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Whigs? In 1971, then Premier John Robarts introduced Ontario Place as a jewel on Toronto’s waterfront—a park extending Exhibition Park. A park is a public trust. It is a place for public recreation. It belongs to the people of that place. It is definitely not a place for residential development or anything else that does not contribute to the public enjoyment of the park.

We hardly expected John Tory and his panel to understand that. This will teach us to not just laugh at John Tory’s recommendations and throw them in the recycle bin. We already knew that John Tory is not the most astute politician in the province. He showed that when he lead the Ontario Conservatives down the garden path back in 2007 with his offer of expanded parochial school funding to ethnic groups. What he did was hand the election on a platter to Dalton McGuinty. Why is McGuinty now listening to John Tory tell him what to do with Ontario Place?

This is serious. How could McGuinty be so foolish as to let a junior minister stand up and tell people that his government is going to allow condominiums there? Can you think of a worse place for people to live? There are no city services handy. There are no convenient shopping areas. How are these condos going to have vehicle access? Ontario Place is a place for people, not cars.

Why would people who understand casinos have already said this would be a very bad place to have a casino? It is because Ontario Place has built its identification as a place for children, a place for families and a place for youth. There is no space for commerce or business that does not provide direct services that contribute to the enjoyment of the park.

This is not to suggest that the province pay public funds to create a more advanced entertainment area at Ontario Place. With the size of the Toronto market and its tourism, no doubt some enterprising entrepreneur with deep pockets could see the profit in something such as a modern year-round water world at the park. And there are many other ideas to be explored. There is nothing wrong with public-private partnerships when they fulfill the objectives of all concerned.

But the Tory report on Ontario Place is wrong and the McGuinty government is absolutely wrong to go along with it.

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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