Archive for November, 2012

Kathleen Wynne wins key endorsement.

Friday, November 30th, 2012

David Peterson is still enough of a politician to not show his preference among the leadership candidates for the provincial party. He can let his sister-in-law do it for him. That is the import of Health Minister Bev Mathews announcing her support for Don Valley West MPP Kathleen Wynne. Nobody doubts that the former Premier Peterson wants to maintain his influence at Queen’s Park.

Frankly, David might have done better for the province and himself by giving retiring Premier Dalton McGuinty better advice over the past year. Figuratively stabbing Liberal friends the teachers in the back and arguing with the Ontario Medical Association did Dalton no good. If Peterson is really behind getting his sister-in-law to support Wynne, it makes Peterson a lesser person.

What it looks like is that Peterson must be worried about how well Sandra Pupatello is doing in her very aggressive campaign. It also might explain what is going on with Babel’s provincial Liberals. If Peterson asked them to get behind Wynne, they would do it. They never seem to have a positive idea of their own.

The importance of public opinion polls is not particularly high in this type of race. The fact that Gerard Kennedy came first in recent polling shows that he has the best name recognition among the general public. The people with the clout in a delegated convention such as the Ontario Liberals are holding are the ex-officio MPPs, former candidates, former premiers and party officials. It is this coterie of about 800 people who hold the most clout with the party members elected in each electoral district.

The only problem is many of these ex-officio delegates to the convention have their ties to the past, not the future of the party. If there were a common theme to their desires it would be for control. As one of the first among these equals, David Peterson can trade on his influence with the party. If he can help keep it in power, his influence is far greater than if the party descends into the back benches of opposition. His conundrum is that he can measure his degree of influence with each of the candidates, The candidate who is best for the Liberal Party might not be the candidate who is best for David Peterson.

We have no idea how Kathleen Wynne is going to play with Liberals across the province. This exercise is one in choosing a leader. People who wish to lead, have an obligation to tell us where they want to go.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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Is Marc Garneau leadership Plan B?

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

It seemed redundant when MP Marc Garneau announced his candidacy for the leadership of the Liberal Party yesterday. It felt like the return of Michael Ignatieff. It also told Canadians there are now misgivings about crowning young Trudeau. Well, nobody ever told you that all Liberals in Canada are of a like mind.

You hardly need to be savant to know that young Trudeau’s campaign is already running on empty. It lacks careful planning and a strong, experienced organization and the people writing for him are putting him into an awkward box. He is being cast on the extreme right of the party, he is pandering to the West and he caused a train wreck with his support for the Chinese buying Nexen. His leadership campaign is a Quebec-centric and amateur effort. It lacks a balanced understanding of Canada.

And it is not as though we have a lot of choice here. MP Joyce Murray from Vancouver Quadra is definitely a breath of fresh air but she has a long and difficult climb to get herself into a position where the Conservatives will bother to attack her. Martha Hall Findlay shot herself in the head when she posed as a westerner and advocate from the Fraser Institute. Professor Deborah Coyne also has lots of promise but she should have been our candidate in Durham but seems to prefer to be a critic on the sidelines.

We will have to wait until next year when the candidates have paid their $75,000 entrance fees to know who is really in the race. At that stage, we will know if there is going to be a choice.

It looks as though those of us who care should all have a serious talk with MP Dominic LeBlanc from New Brunswick. While he bowed out to his friend Justin Trudeau, he is free of young Trudeau’s baggage and he seems to have more political savvy. As the son of the late and much respected Roméo LeBlanc, you would expect him to have a strong sense of duty and it is obvious that he has a better understanding of our great country.

The Liberal Party is at a crossroads and half-assed campaigns for the leadership are not the answer. We need serious thinking about the nature and future of the Liberal Party and Canada. Canadians owe nothing to the Liberal Party but the party owes very much to Canadians. We bloody well better recognize our responsibility,


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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Joyce Murray: Our kind of Liberal.

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

A thousand welcomes to B.C. MP Joyce Murray. She has declared herself in on the Liberal Party leadership race. She will be a breath of fresh air in a leadership campaign that has been running straight downhill. Joyce is the first left of centre Liberal in the race. She is a proud environmentalist and a person who understands cooperation.

Joyce was first elected in 2008 in Vancouver Quadra. Most people, who have seen it, agree that it is the most beautiful electoral district in Canada. It deserves to have a representative such as Joyce Murray.

Joyce opened her leadership campaign by taking a step towards cooperation with the New Democrats and Greens to dump the Tories in the next election. She believes this strategy can best be carried out at the electoral district level and she would give the authority to the local association executives to carry out the negotiations. While she is cautious about formal collaboration, she sees the local cooperation as a good start.

At the same time, she wants to change how Canadians vote. She believes that our electoral system is not very representative. While disagreeing with her on the purported weaknesses of the first-past-the-post system, she welcomes open discussion and that is what is needed.

She has taken positive steps to end discussion of a tar-sands pipeline across northern British Columbia by bringing forward an act banning oil tankers from that area of British Columbia’s environmentally sensitive coastline.

There will be many opportunities for Joyce to lay out her thoughts on leadership for the Liberal Party and for Canada before the convention and voting next April. Her advocacy of legalizing marijuana and her belief in some kind of carbon tax will be controversial but her advocacy of reform is pure liberalism.

She refused to say anything against opponents in the leadership race because she says that she will not help the Conservatives with their next set of attack ads.

Joyce Murray is proud to be a westerner and she brings much to the Liberal Party and to the current leadership campaign.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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Dumping Durham.

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

By-elections are an opportunity for protest. While governments try to call them for the most opportune times, they know that it is the voter, inclined to vote against the government, who is most motivated to go to the polls. It means it is an opportunity for opposition campaign managers to look good.

That being said, the three by-elections this week were not the best opportunities for the opposition. Victoria in B.C. was an NDP riding before and the only strong competition was from the Green Party because of Green Leader Elizabeth May representing a B.C. riding. The discredited right-wing B.C. provincial Liberals were of absolutely no help to the federal Liberals.

Calgary Centre was more fun because a strong Liberal candidate was threatening a lamentable Conservative throughout the campaign. The Conservative made rooky mistakes of arrogance and extremism but still won in the end. Having another rabid Wildrose Conservative in his caucus is not going to bother Stephen Harper too much. He seems to have learned the secret of keeping them muzzled, most of the time.

But as bad as the Conservative was in her home turf of Calgary, it was hard to match the Liberal blunders in Ontario’s Durham. To be fair, Durham has never been a hotbed of liberalism. While there have been Liberal MPs there in the past, the riding dynamics have changed as the area became a bedroom for the Greater Toronto Area.

The Liberal campaign broke with every sensible approach known by putting up election signs without the candidate’s name to cash in on Remembrance Day. The move became a target for the opposition and the campaign went downhill from there. Instead of fighting a by-election on the arrogance of the Harper Conservatives, the argument was over the stupidity of the Liberal campaign.

What the Liberals did not need was to come third in Durham. The federal party had an obligation to send in help with clear directions to make the campaign a genuine protest against the Harper Conservatives. They also needed to make better use of the current popularity of MP Justin Trudeau.

The party needs to chalk it up as another lesson learned. One of these days, hopefully, we will look like we know what we should be doing.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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Some Babel Liberals are more equal than others.

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Provincial Liberal leadership candidate Kathleen Wynne came to Babel last Friday. If we followed her on Facebook, we would have known she was coming and changed our plans. Maybe. And maybe we would have yawned and checked the television schedule. The one thing for sure was that the provincial Liberals were not going to send an invite.

Our provincial Liberals here in Babel—all six of them—are an example of what is wrong with the Ontario Liberal Party. To say they are mean spirited is to put it mildly. They certainly do not like criticism. They want to rule and everyone else is to do as they are told. When they tried to take over the local federal party, they made themselves a laughing stock.

The last time we attended one of their functions was during the last provincial election campaign. One of the smarter members of the group insisted that I go on a tour of the campaign headquarters. This saved us from the embarrassment of having to speak to any of the provincial members who were studiously trying to ignore us. Returning to the gathering after the tour, the guest of honour had arrived with his wife. The rest of the time we were there was spent speaking with these two guests who were friends of many years fromToronto.

Being obviously friendly with the powers that be of the party is not an immediate guarantee of acceptance by Babel’s provincial Liberals. Even being hopeful for their candidate—including voting for him—did not really impress them. It was only after the election that we postulated that his seeming arrogance might just have had a bit of a negative effect on our Babel voters.

But there seems to be no way to redeem ourselves with the provincial Liberals. Despite being a paid-up member of both the federal and provincial party, we never seem to hear a word from the local provincial party. To them, we do not exist. We have a mind of our own. We believe in a strange concept to them that has to do with freedom of speech. We have made every effort to give them assistance. They certainly seem to need it.

Just wait until it comes to the election of delegates to the Ontario leadership convention. With just six members that they control, where are Babel’s provincial Liberals going to find another ten delegates to take to the Toronto convention on January 25?


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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News on the provincial campaign: boring.

Sunday, November 25th, 2012

With the seven Liberal candidates for the job of Premier of Ontario ranging in age from 50 to 61, you are forgiven if you do not expect too much excitement. The fact that all of them have the McGuinty seal of approval—in that each had at one time or another served in a McGuinty cabinet—is a measure of their acceptability to party establishment. And now the party has to figure out which of them is the least boring.

You might want to bypass the Toronto Star if you are looking for help in sorting out the candidates. A news section of the Saturday Star had questions asked of the seven candidates. Anyone who faithfully read all 21 paragraphs of drivel from the candidates deserves a medal. And then the Star’s editors chose a headline saying: Economy the focus as Liberal campaign heats up. While that newspaper was being delivered, the temperature across Ontario fell more than 10 degrees and here in Babel we had more than 10 centimetres of white stuff to shovel.

And to think that these contenders paid the Liberal Party of Ontario a collective $350,000 just for the privilege of boring Ontario Liberals. That fee certainly kept out the riff-raff. And that is not all. The candidates are allowed to raise $625,000 each to spend on their campaign—provided they give 20 per cent of the money they raise to the party. It begs the question as to whether this is a leadership contest or a fund-raising campaign?

Somehow, Sandra Pupatello came first in the Toronto Star’s list but having read just her answers to the Star’s questions, does not mean you are enlightened. All you will end up with is that she is going to hit the ground running. (You have never heard that expression before, have you?)

The other front runner is Gerard Kennedy. He makes the interesting comment that this leadership contest gives all parties in the Legislature an opportunity to start again. It would, if both the other parties were to also replace their leaders.

The other five candidates also do their best with the Star’s narrow questions. Everyone seems to want to sit down with Tim Hudak and Andrea Horwath to solve problems. What makes them think that those two have any answers is a mystery.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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Tory senators do something right for MS.

Saturday, November 24th, 2012

If this blog format allowed for a bigger headline, it would be bigger. Just because the writer of this blog is a known liberal does not mean he does not recognize people doing the right thing. And the Liberal senators who complained about the killing of Senate Bill S-204 should clam up. They do not know what they are talking about.

The politicizing of the Zamboni treatment for multiple sclerosis for the past three years has been a disgrace for both sides of the House and Senate. It is the increasing evidence that chronic cerebral venous insufficiency (CCVSI) has nothing to do with the incidence of MS is what convinced the Tory Senators to kill the bill. The Liberal senators were just not paying attention.

It all started with an over-blown CTV television report of discovery of a possible cure for MS being tried in Buffalo, New York. It was based on treatment developed by Dr. Paolo Zamboni of Ferrara, Italy. Dr. Zamboni, a vascular surgeon, had postulated that it was the impaired drainage of blood from the brain because of restricted flow through the neck veins that caused a build-up of iron in the patient’s brain. He reasoned that if he could improve blood flow from the brain, the symptoms of multiple sclerosis might be relieved.

The practice of CTV news to promote its other programs by running clips from them as news helped sensationalize the story. When it then ran on CTV’s W5 program, it had large numbers of MS patients watching to see this miracle they were being promised. There was soon a major controversy over Zamboni’s supposed cure and the MS Society of Canada was accused of suppressing the treatment.

Members of Parliament such as Barrie MP Patrick Brown used the Zamboni theory unmercifully to promote themselves. They promoted the people trying to get the Zamboni treatment immediately—and themselves, as people working to help the sick.

What they really did was cause fewer funds to go to the MS Society to pay for its legitimate research while forcing the society to redirect funds to properly test the Zamboni theories.

People heard little from these CCVSI advocates of those who died or were in worse shape after getting stents put in their veins by off-shore “clinics.” This bill working its way through the Senate was to authorize a national strategy to deal with the therapy and for a national registry of MS patients.

But, thankfully, it was stopped in the Senate. By this time, the overwhelming conclusion of the official studies is that people with MS have the same veins in their necks as people without MS. Dr. Zamboni does not have the answer. The search for the cure for multiple sclerosis continues.

(Note:  The author of this article is a past president of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada and served on the management committee and as chair of public education for the International Federation of Multiple Sclerosis Societies.)


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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The provincial candidate is a traveller.

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

One of our first experiences in party leadership activities was driving the candidate to riding meetings around Ontario. At first we spent the time on these journeys discussing policies and people. The candidate’s wife, who we had to take along, quickly tired of our discussions and, to keep her happy, we sometimes invited Bob Nixon and his wife to join us. The candidate was Charles Templeton and this was the 1964 provincial leadership.

The point of this is the emphasis on candidates getting out to meet potential voters. That has not changed in the past 50 years. Facebook does not replace physically meeting the candidates. In this Ontario race we find that Sandra Pupatello has been to Kitchener and Ottawa and that seems to indicate that she is serious about the race. Most agree that she is one of the leading candidates but Toronto Star writer Bob Hepburn thinks that she will win the contest anyway because she is not from Toronto or the GTA.

Meanwhile, the other leading candidate, former Toronto MPP and MP Gerard Kennedy, announced his candidacy in London, Ontario and has shown that he knows the way to St. Catharines and Niagara Falls to press the flesh and win some endorsements. It was good to see that he picked up the endorsement of Niagara Falls MPP Kim Craitor. An MPP since 2003, Craitor was frank about how he wanted more say for members in the Legislature and in decisions that are supposedly made by the Liberal government.

We have five also-rans in the race as the nominations close. The early birds, MPP’s Kathleen Wynne and Glenn Murray are fighting for the same votes in downtown Toronto. They are probably wasting their time. MPP Eric Hoskin’s seems out of his depth in the race and maybe needs more time in the Legislature to be taken seriously. MPP Charles Sousa from Mississauga is likely to be mistaken for a Torontonian but will also carry the can for the cancelled gas plant in Mississauga. He can also forget it. Last but not least is MPP Harinder Takhar, also from Mississauga. He is probably the best educated member of the Legislature and should know better than to go after McGuinty’s job.

Our advice to all these candidates is to rent a bus, paste some signs on it, get a few good advance people ahead of you and start driving this province. If you work really hard, you can take Christmas Day off to visit the family. If the family complains, tell them to get used to it!


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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It’s not Justin’s father’s CRAP.

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

It seems Justin Trudeau missed a few lessons at his father’s knee. He must have been in the bathroom when Pierre Trudeau explained to his sons the reasons for a National Energy Policy. He also must have missed the lecture on why Canada had a Foreign Investment Review Agency. The young Trudeau was probably teaching school when the Conservatives quietly erased the National Energy Policy from the national memory and when diligent foreign investment review became a thing of the past. The younger Trudeau’s recent example of Consolidated Reports on Approved Policy (CRAP) in the National Post this week was not only stupid but an insult to his father’s memory.

Who would have believed that at a time when even Stephen Harper was reconsidering the wisdom of approving China’s national oil company CNOOC’s acquisition of Calgary-based Nexen, young Trudeau would ride up on his white horse, both pistols at the ready, and say the CNOOC-Nexen deal is good for Canada. And he goes on from there to prove that he has absolutely no idea what he is talking about.

Young Trudeau says that the CNOOC-Nexen deal will create middle-class Canadian jobs. Oh? How does this happen when you allow a foreign government to dictate the decisions of a multi-billion dollar international oil company? More important, he tells us, this will enable us to “broaden and deepen our relationship with the world’s second largest economy:” China. We already have one of those deep and broad relationships with the world’s largest economy: the United States of America. Maybe we should learn how to handle that relationship before we take on one that speaks Chinese.

Young Trudeau thinks we can sell the Chinese on our expertise in building cities. While I also love Toronto, he has obviously not tried to drive anywhere there recently.

Can you imagine young Trudeau telling us that Canada’s Conservatives are missing the boat with China because of the Harper government’s erratic approach and secretive behaviour? He just proved how little he knows about the erratic and secretive approach of the people in Bejing.

What Trudeau’s CRAP boils down to is blatant encouragement for Calgary Centre voters to vote Liberal next Monday. The naïveté of this attempt is laughable. Even if the western voters did elect a Liberal in that by-election, it would be because of the ongoing fight between the Wildrose Conservatives and the provincial Conservatives. There is no credit there for young Trudeau’s campaign.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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Who said Harper is an economist?

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

When Canada’s premiers meet later this week to discuss Canada’s economic problems, they can do it without Stephen Harper. The Prime Minister rejected their invitation. He is letting Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney fill in for him. After all, Harper flies around the world giving economic advice, why should he waste his wisdom on Canada?

And besides, Stephen Harper might have trained as an economist but he has never shown any desire to practice that obscure science. From the time when he travelled west to join with Preston Manning’s Reform Party, Stephen Harper has remained aloof from sharing any expertise on economic matters. Even after leaving Manning to become head of the National Citizen’s Coalition, he has dealt in demagoguery and economics be damned.

What Canadians need to recognize is that all that expensive taxpayer-funded government advertising for an Economic Action Plan has absolutely nothing to do with economics. It is a name for a lame government program that squeezes money out of municipal taxpayers for infrastructure renewal programs. It has left gullible municipal councils across Canada locked into heavy debt with only the local taxpayers to pay off the long-term costs. And if the Bank of Canada ever turns loose the interest rate screws, there will be more than a few bankrupt municipalities wondering what happened.

It appears recently that both Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Stephen Harper need to get their act together on the financial direction of the Canadian government. It seems their plan to rid Canadians of the deficit of some $26 billion before the next election is not going to work. Hell, it never had a chance. Canada is far too vulnerable to American and world economic problems and ridding Canadians of the deficit by firing thousands of federal civil servants is about as stupid a solution as we can imagine.

What really bugs us on a daily basis is Harper’s friend Premier Dalton McGuinty of Ontario who also wants to wrestle the provincial deficit to the mat. He is doing it by stabbing his former friends, the teachers in the back. He thinks he can pass legislation making them work for less. Maybe somebody told him that would not work and he decided to quit in a fit of pique. At least something good came out of the mess.

But that leaves us with a premiers’ meeting in Halifax later this week with a lame-duck guy from Ontario, an already discredited PQ Premier from Quebec, people nobody knows in the East and pugnacious premiers from the West who have their own battles.

There might be some posturing in Halifax but overall, the meeting is a waste of time. We could easily end up with a couple vitriolic elections in Ontario and Quebec next year but they will hardly be a substitute for the voters getting their teeth into Harper and his crew. We have to blame somebody.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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