Archive for January, 2013

A liberal review of the Vancouver debate.

Monday, January 21st, 2013

This should have been written last night after watching the debate but you would not want to read a diatribe. Do these people have any idea of the etymology of the word “debate”? On a scale of one to ten, this event got a minus-two.

And the persons running the sound system should leave Vancouver tarred, feathered and tied to a pole. Not only was the system echoing the voices but the translations were running at almost the same levels as the original sound and it was extremely difficult to sort them. Seniors trying to listen would have been the first to leave in disgust. Now this was the CBC feed we are talking about. Was any other feed better?

The people in the audience in Vancouver looked very crowded and uncomfortable. It would have been appreciated if viewers could have seen as well as we could only vaguely hear their reactions. And it would have been better if their questions had had some helpful editing.

And do not even ask about the camera work! Where those camera people last-minute volunteers from the audience?

What we really need is for each of these debates is for the audience to vote one of the candidates off the stage at each event. That way, in April, we will be down to a reasonable number and we will have saved some very foolish people from wasting a lot of money. Yesterday would have been a toss-up between lawyers David Bertschi and George Takach being the dumpee. Mind you, the fact that either is in the race shows the breadth of tolerance of liberalism in this country.

Karen McCrimmon could also have served her country better by staying in the military. She seems weary from the trials of this campaign already. Maybe next time, she will give us a better reason for her being in the race.

Deborah Coyne reminds us of when Prime Minister Jean Chrétien first came to Ottawa. He did not speak English then and was much more likeable. Maybe Coyne should never have tried to learn French.

Let’s try to keep Martha Hall Findlay in the race for a while. She adds a certain element to the race. It is called sex appeal. Just do not try to understand her platform.

But Martin Cauchon is no Maurice Chevalier. We can dump him anytime.

While Marc Garneau is still hung up on being an astronaut, he did have more to say for himself than we have heard before. He is probably too right wing but that problem affects most of the field.

Justin Trudeau is sure no Pierre. And his remark about left wingers not being fiscally responsible is going to come back and bite him in the rear one day. The kid needs more practice at this debate business.

He missed it completely when Joyce Murray tried to bring up her stand on legalizing cannabis but it did not seem to go over with the audience either. She obviously had supporters there for her stand on cooperation with the NDP but her opponents were of closed minds. The disappointment with the Vancouver Quadra MP was that the translators were having trouble figuring out what she was saying in French. She has little time left to fix that.

Oh well, there is more to come on these people.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Wynne’s no winner at party reform.

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

This person is a progressive? It is more likely, we have met rocks that are more progressive than Ontario Liberal leadership contender MPP Kathleen Wynne. The person who wrote her seven-point plan for party renewal and reform should be ashamed. Mind you, Wynne must have signed off on it, so you can put all the blame on her.

If you do not believe how silly this document is, just read item three. The first point is that Kathleen supports a strong and independent Executive Council which will be responsible for party staff. Does this mean that she thinks the party staff are reporting somewhere else? We wonder where?

It then says that regional vice-presidents will be empowered to bring riding issues forward. It makes you wonder just what the hell she thinks the regional vice-presidents have been doing?

The document concludes item three by saying the party must always have in place a full-time executive director. How interesting! Has somebody proposed an alternative?

And the document goes on like that. Did you know that Kathleen—as leader—will appoint a five-person commission to review the party’s nomination process. She is not just going to accept the fact that the top-down process now in place is destroying the Liberal Party in Ontario.

It is particularly interesting when you recognize the distinction Kathleen makes between held and unheld ridings. It speaks volumes. It appears to give the party’s sitting members of the legislature inordinate control of their riding through the party leader’s office. As long as the leader likes the sitting member, this person can do no wrong. Welcome to boss politics.

The biggest joke of the document is item number six. It is a one-liner saying that Kathleen will increase the involvement of party members in policy discussions. She will let them discuss it but she does not seem too interested in letting them have any authority over the process or implementation or review.

But give the lady credit. She adds at the end that she is committed to increased accessibility and accountability. Whatever that means! She adds that she will be available in new ways such as telephone town-hall meetings. The first time we tried that technique we realized that it gives the people running it total control of the process. Telephone town halls are not an open form of communication.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Struggling for the news story.

Friday, January 18th, 2013

Reporters do not just have bad hair days. They also have days when it is tough to dredge up a story. On a day when your editor or news director is counting on you for 1500 words or a two-minute video clip, you sometimes get this hollow feeling in your stomach. There is absolutely nothing new for you to report. It is time for you to become creative.

Take this speculation about NDP leader Andrea Horwath and Liberal leadership contender Kathleen Wynne. Will they or will they not? Would it be a match made in heaven? It is all fairly silly speculation.

First of all, to suggest there is some compatibility between Horwath and Wynne is quite a reach. Anyone who has tried to follow a speech by Wynne, knows that she is a long way from having any socialist tendencies. This is a person who got into politics because she objected to Premier Michael Harris consolidating Metropolitan Toronto into a single city back in the 1990s. This was something that had always been fought by the right wing politicos because it would make Toronto too powerful. Harris did it because he could not figure out Toronto’s problems—nor did he care.

But Wynne was the ideal provincial candidate for Don Valley West. They vote right wing there. New Democrats who live in the district prefer to run somewhere else. Voters there could care less about Wynne being a lesbian. Life style choices are the last thing people in Don Valley West worry about. They will complain though if you do not mow your postage-stamp lawn carefully.

But Kathleen Wynne is probably becoming quite miffed at the media for suggesting that she is left wing. Sure, compared to leadership opponent Sandra Pupatello, England’s Margaret Thatcher might have seemed left wing. And if Sandra grabs the brass ring at the Liberal leadership convention next week, she is not going to cooperate with anybody. Sandra not only wants to be Premier of Ontario but she wants to rub opponents such as Andrea Horwath and Timmy Hudak’s noses in it. Sandra takes no prisoners.

That does not give delegates to the Liberal gathering much choice. With at least a third of the ex officio delegates to the convention in her pocket, Sandra Pupatello is safe in first place on the first ballot. If just Eric Hoskins is off on the second ballot, look for Wynne to fall off and Gerard Kennedy to have a good increase. It will be the only chance for anything interesting to happen.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Is it plagiarism or research?

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

The wife wants to stop delivery of the Toronto Star. The truth is that The Star costs us almost four times as much each year as it costs us to maintain this web site. And then we see an opinion piece this morning by our old friend Bob Hepburn that follows our Morning Line stories of early this month. Bob knows the difference between plagiarism and research but he should have also researched what a morning line is with his sports page buddies.

A morning line is prepared by a knowledgeable track person who can establish a reasonable basis for opening the betting for the race. Obviously Bob Hepburn is no handicapper.  And, obviously, if you are going to propose odds on a race, you hardly wait until the horses are at post and, in this case, you need to know a lot more about the politics and people involved.

But even Babel-on-the-Bay is not perfect. We wrote our morning line in the hiatus between Christmas and New Years. And we lost our only bet. We bet ten bucks with a computer-savvy person that MPP Eric Hoskins would beat MPP Harinder Takhar. You would have thought that was a safe bet. We lost.

We overestimated the influence of social media with the younger Liberals. We really hate Facebook and Twitter and all the rest of them. They are shallow, intrusive and people who follow them usually need to get a life. We should have guessed that smart young Liberals might feel the same.

It was only just before the electoral district voting last week that Eric Hoskins came to Babel and we had a chance to see how young people reacted to him. We asked Eric a loaded question and then watched the young people especially as he answered. He was boring them. He never answered the question. He deserved to come last. From a positive and interesting start to his campaign, he became dull and desperate.

But we were right about the rest. Sandra Pupatello came first, as expected. And she has the potential to grow. MPP Kathleen Wynne might be a close second but she has little growth potential. And posing Wynne as progressive is a joke. All that people are doing with that line is trying to keep Gerard Kennedy from moving up to be a real contender. Gerard is the only political progressive in the race and that was where Babel’s young people went.

MPP Charles Sousa can relax, as his position in the party is secured. You might think the same for MPP Harinder Takhar but being a go-between with a specific ethnic group is not always the key to a political future.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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“A Liberal is a Liberal, is a Liberal.”

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath made that trite statement to the news media at Queen’s Park yesterday. It points out why Andrea is not Premier of Ontario today. And if she is sincerely trying to shore up the failing Liberal regime in Ontario to prevent an election, her own party will soon have the knives out for her.

If Andrea was really Machiavellian—which she is not—you would think that she was promoting MPP Kathleen Wynne for leadership of the Liberals. With the Liberal leadership convention less than two weeks away, the opposition leaders at Queen’s Park take every shot at publicity the media will give them. And Andrea must know how much easier it would be for her to defeat Wynne in an election than it would be to take on Sandra Pupatello as Liberal leader.

Pupatello is everything that Horwath is not. Pupatello not only looks good but she is smart, fiscally credible and can run rings around Conservative leader Tiny Tim Hudak. With Wynne as Liberal leader, Horwath could sit back in an election, let Timmy do all the bigotry things, play nice and reap the reward of the Premier’s job. Mind you, Horwath would make a worse Premier than McGuinty—if you could imagine it.

Frankly, any politico who believes all adherents to a political party should think or act alike is guilty of wishful thinking. The real strength of any political party is its ability to encompass a wide range of political philosophies and ideals. A political party without some dissension and cross talk will eventually die of boredom. It is the party that can welcome dialogue and ideas, that has a future.

And what the future holds for a Liberal Party of Ontario led by Sandra Pupatello, is hard to say. You have to admit that the lady has bombast but then so did Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom. What both of them have, in spades, is self-confidence, arrogance, fiscal conservatism and a mind of their own. Where that will take a Premier Sandra Pupatello, nobody knows.

Frankly, the Liberal Party in Ontario would be far better off with Gerard Kennedy at the helm. He has promised to return democracy to the party and that is worth a great deal. He also knows and understands the mentality of the New Democrats and could work a good deal with Andrea Horwath. He is certainly the only candidate who has a chance of healing the rift with the school teachers.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Premier McGuinty certainly leaves a legacy

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

It must have been an inside joke at the Toronto Star. An opinion piece this morning lauded Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty for his contribution to education in Ontario. It even compared McGuinty favourably with former Ontario Premier Bill Davis. Frankly, Bill Davis might have grounds to sue everyone involved for defamation.

This is not to say that Bill did not make his own mistakes as Premier. The fact that the writer of the Star opinion piece is a professor connected to The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto speaks volumes. We all hope that when OISE ever figures out what it is supposed to do, it does not come as a surprise to Bill. Of course, he really deserves the credit for creating TVOntario—an outstanding educational channel—and for the development of Ontario’s community college system which has constantly proved of major economic benefit to the province. We might be a little less forgiving for the straightjacket Bill put us in by expanding the funding to Catholic schools.

But full-day kindergarten is not a legacy. It is like forcing earlier potty training. It might be a trauma that can come back to haunt you as an adult.

Where McGuinty is like Bill Davis is in being right wing. While Bill has always prided himself on his being a staunch Conservative, his heart is in the right place and he is a compassionate person. McGuinty is not. For him to blame the Liberal’s former friends, the teachers, for Ontario’s deficit is a guarantee of the party losing the next provincial election.  And yet he backed off on his fight with the doctors. He lost with them.

Where we in Ontario benefitted from McGuinty was that the repairs needed to correct the often dangerous cutbacks of the Harris Conservative regime had to be put in place cautiously. To just restore the cutbacks without that caution could have lead to serious financial problems.

But, in the long run, the caution and conservatism were overdone. Poor Tiny Tim Hudak, the Conservative leader, must have felt redundant at times with McGuinty outdoing him on the political right. Even in Mike Harris’ heyday, nobody in the Conservative caucus would have dreamed up a bill as draconian as Bill 115. The fact that the bill has been used against some of the teachers seems to be Dalton McGuinty’s real legacy.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Age, sex and the loss of democracy.

Monday, January 14th, 2013

There was an argument started the other day when Babel-on-the-Bay took exception to the ridiculous and undemocratic voting system devised to choose delegates for the upcoming Ontario Liberal leadership convention. The system is seriously flawed. It presents a false portrait of the Ontario Liberal Party to the news media and through them to the voters of Ontario.

It is a travesty to show the party as one-third young people (25 years or less) and 50 per cent female. To attempt to force that perception for every electoral district in the province is a lie and a deception on the part of the party hierarchy.

There are far too many electoral districts in Ontario where the local provincial party consists of 10 to 12 people who meet every month or so to talk politics. Conservative, Liberal or NDP, they are all about the same. The fringe parties are just smaller numbers and can meet at the local Tim’s over coffee. And yes, the numbers are much higher for the party with the elected Member of the Legislature—everybody likes a winner.

But behind these small groups, there are another 20 to 100 party members and financial supporters. There are also 200 or more people they have on their computer lists who provide sign locations, support for fund raising activities and can become temporary party members for those occasions such as when there is an election of delegates. By choosing who to sign up, the core group can control the entire process.

It is even easier to control the process for internal party matters when there are large numbers of a single ethnic group living in an electoral district. In Toronto, some ridings could go from a few hundred members to many thousands, practically overnight. It is knowing the who and the why of these ethnic conclaves that can determine that riding’s results. This is why MPP Harinder Takhar, produced so many delegates from those ridings with large numbers of people from the Indian Sub-Continent. It is also why we should have warned Charles Sousa that his Portuguese community sign-ups are notorious for not showing up to vote.

And have you ever heard of a contest for anything where you have no idea, until you see a ballot, who you are running against? Have you ever heard of an election where people running to support a candidate are lumped in with another group at the last moment? Have you ever heard of an election for anything where the news media are given the figures before the people running to be elected are told anything?


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Indians are also Canadians.

Saturday, January 12th, 2013

The continuing embarrassment of how Canada treats its aboriginal population seems to have hit a Conservative wall. As luck would have it for our Indians, Prime Minister Harper wants something. The chiefs have a chance in the next while to pull off the deal of a lifetime. It will probably enrage those who think fairness should run both ways but Harper has no time to do things properly.

And Harper will make sure that all the blame for the outrageous settlements involved will rest at the doorstep of the current crop of chiefs. And the Indians will play right into his game. This “Idle No More” movement, for example, is the latest in a long line of aboriginal based movements that think they can get the attention they want by inconveniencing and pissing off other Canadians. What they fail to realize is that it might produce steps to stop their antics but will never get anyone to address the very real problems among our indigenous population.

The main problem is that the tribal chiefs and the elected leaders among the aboriginal groups make it a power game wherein they can squabble over their shares of the Indian Affairs pie. Many of these people are actually well meaning but the system is designed to defeat the altruistic.

It is like the carefully leaked audit reports of Deloitte & Touche. Who would be under the impression that Chief Spence of Attawapiskat has a chartered accountant at her right hand to make sure that all transactions meet Canadian accounting standards? They do not and she will not and nothing will be resolved until all sides deal in the real world.

But Harper realizes that at both ends of the country, he needs to deal with Indians to get pipelines pumping tar sands bitumen to ports for foreign markets. Luckily he has the resources of Canadian taxpayers to buy some Indian cooperation and he will not be shy to make the commitments.

But, just to confuse an already confused scenario, the federal courts have finally ruled that non-status Indians and Metis also have status—probably doubling the numbers that Harper has to buy off.

Meanwhile Harper and friends are making a shambles of proper negotiation with our indigenous peoples by disrespecting Shawn Atleo the elected chief of of the Assembly of First Nations. By doing that the government is helping create more “Idle No More” movements and making resolutions of Indian problems even harder to reach.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Murray an early scratch in the Liberal Stakes.

Friday, January 11th, 2013

You sure know that MPP Glen Murray is from another province. He upset everything by dropping out of the Ontario Liberal leadership. When this blog reported his standing in the morning line last week, we lamented that he did not have an easy way to drop out.

But he dropped out anyway. And why he would think that his support would help Kathleen Wynne’s campaign is a good question. The reality is that he has shortened the balloting on January 26 and turned what might have been an interesting road race between Gerard Kennedy and Sandra Pupatello into a hit and run. There are no longer enough ballots for Kennedy to accumulate a majority.

MPP Charles Sousa can pretty well decide the race when he now has to drop off after the second ballot. MPP Harinder Takhar will have been dropped after the first ballot and his support will hardly put Sandra Pupatello over the top. It is Sousa’s support for Pupatello that can help her win.

Even if Gerard Kennedy could get ahead of Wynne by the third ballot, the field will have lost the ability to shift enough votes to him to turn it into a Kennedy vs. Pupatello race. It was Murray’s position on the second ballot that was going to let Kennedy pass Wynne. Her support would have split leading to an interesting Kennedy-Pupatello fourth ballot.

But Murray failed to understand that. There is no protocol that says a gay guy should support a lesbian. Wynne has no better chance of winning the province than he did. For the Ontario Liberals to make a statement such as that would be bold. It would also be futile. Murray and Wynne were just window dressing in this campaign.

And why, after spending time making Murray look bad, has his campaign chair now gone to Sandra Pupatello? What has Sandra done to deserve another millstone? Is Dwight Duncan not enough of a handicap for her?

We can no longer refer to the candidates as the magnificent seven. They are now the silly six. All the wheels are greased for Pupatello and there are few obstacles. There is no fourth ballot resurrection for anybody else. Gerard Kennedy failed to grab the brass ring when it came by for the last time. Kathleen Wynne is no progressive and too old. Eric Hoskins went from a self-deprecating humour to desperation. Charles Sousa has learned that nice guys finish last. And Harinder Takhar was playing a different game.

But, most annoying of all, in this fiasco, Glen Murray’s supporters will now be lumped in with independent candidates for delegate positions. Where does that leave those liberals who really are independent and are worried about the party?


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Lament for democracy in Ontario.

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

This is not to initiate an academic debate on the nature of democracy. We all know democracy is ill defined but we certainly know what it is not. It is not, for example, a form of government where all the decisions are made by Big Brother. It is not a form of government where the princes of the church choose the anointed one from among them to be leader. It is not one that makes a mockery of leadership by the people through orchestrating a pseudo democratic election of delegates to a convention designed entirely for the purpose of titillating the gawking, squawking news media.

The only vestige of democracy in the process of choosing delegates to the Ontario Liberal leadership convention is that there is a secret ballot. It is the choices offered on the ballot that are antidemocratic. Voting for a delegate who has listed their choice of leader for the first ballot is a violation of the concept of a delegated convention. Delegated conventions are a hold-over from days when it was technically impossible for all members to vote at the convention. At that time, you chose your representatives based on their representing your values and concerns and not necessarily your selection of possible candidates. Despite the ready availability of technology today to allow all party members to vote for their choice of leader, the party has opted for this out-of-date, antidemocratic solution.

But, in this case, the party has further controlled the outcome by using antidemocratic representational voting. Instead of those with the most votes, the representatives are forced to comply with a matrix based on age and sex. And, even if you reluctantly agreed with the age and sex requirement, you are further constrained by fitting into a matrix of candidate preference. Good luck in being the right age, the right sex and liking the right candidate. There is an option of choosing “independent’ for the candidate but no place to mark yourself as “confused.”

And good luck to Big Sister when she is chosen on January 26. The lame duck Big Brother and his cabinet are busy fouling the nest for her. The Minister of Health has promised every senior in Ontario a family doctor. The Minister of Finance has promised LCBO kiosks in some super markets. The Minister of Education has promised retribution for teachers who go on a one-day strike. You would think the bunch of them would know to shut up when a leadership race is nearing completion.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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