Archive for January, 2013

Provincial Liberal hopefuls are At Post!

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

The federal Liberals must be wishing that their interminable leadership race was as short as in Ontario. With less than three months and time off for Christmas and New Years, the Ontario leadership race feels like your typical stakes race. What is unusual is that all the horses are from the same stable and the real race is to be run over the next two weeks.

And the fix is on. If you seriously believe that this is a democratic exercise, we have some lovely marshland we can sell you up near Bancroft. The Liberal Party is trying desperately to convince you through the news media that this is a legitimate contest and that any of the carefully vetted seven candidates can be Premier of Ontario—no matter how briefly.

While there might be a potential 1700 delegates elected from the 107 electoral districts in the province, these will not necessarily be the best or brightest of Ontario Liberals. The election process to be a delegate to the convention is a crap shoot. The voting process is based on a form of proportional representation according to the choice of candidate by people who know little or nothing about them And, since that type of voting is unlikely to produce an immediate winner with anywhere near 50 per cent of the vote, we get a noisy Saturday afternoon January 26 of ballots for the news media to watch delegates pick the candidate already chosen by the party’s de facto leaders.

The de facto leaders of the party are the more than 800 potential ex officio delegates to the convention. These are the Members of the Legislature, former members, recent Liberal candidates, table officers, riding presidents and other worthies and lowly elected Liberal delegates are expected to listen to them. And these worthies have one common goal: keep the party in power.

There will be much sign waving and chanting at the convention and much to cheer about. It will be an appropriate show. No doubt many of the luncheons and meetings of candidates and the inner members of their campaign teams will be discussing these and other matters in the run up to the January 25 start of the convention.

MPP Kathleen Wynne is supposedly in the lead with reportedly more than 1500 potential delegates pledged to support her on the first ballot. She will be very lucky to have even a third of that number elected. We believe that Sandra Pupatello with a potential of about 1200 delegates will get about 500 of them elected and lead on the first ballot. Seeing the figures that the party has seen fit to release, there is no reason to change any of the figures we published last week under the morning line.

Liberals who bother to show up to vote at their local delegate selection meetings this weekend will be following their own opinions. It is a secret ballot.

-30-

Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Let’s have fresh water for Liberal hopefuls.

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

If you grew up on a farm, there were problems with the Saturday night bath routine that were hard to explain to parents. The youngsters had their baths first and then the older children in reverse order of age. What upset the older children was not the temped temperature but that they were convinced their young siblings were peeing in the bath water. The demand for fresh water became a rallying cry.

It should also be a rallying cry among the candidates for the Liberal Party leadership in Ontario. Somebody should be reining in their former cabinet colleagues before they completely foul the environment for Liberals in Ontario.

Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan’s announcement on this past New Year’s Eve, is a case in point. What does he think will be proved by allowing the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) to operate limited-stock liquor and wine kiosks at less than a dozen large grocery stores across Ontario? And why would he bother?

If Duncan thinks he can head off Ontario Conservative leader Tiny Tim Hudak with such a picayune solution, he is playing in the wrong sand box. Hudak had asked for beer and wine in convenience stores and this move is just helping him make his point. Just because Timmy is a Tea Party type Tory does not mean that all his suggestions are stupid. Selling alcoholic beverages in grocery stores is the best way to merchandise the products. Alcoholic beverages go with food. And selling beer and wine in convenience stores would also be convenient for the consumer.

And what has Duncan got against good merchandising and consumer convenience? All he has ever proved to us is that politically he seems dumber than a dinosaur.

But his moves are nothing compared to Education Minister Laurel Broten. She uses the draconian Bill 115 to impose a settlement on some of the hold-out teachers and says in the same breath that she will have the bill taken off the statutes at the end of the month.

How do you think a judge will rule on the use of an act that others say is illegal that you intend to eliminate because it probably is? Broten might be from Etobicoke but that should not mean that she should take political lessons from Etobicoke’s favourite son Toronto Mayor (at the moment) Rob Ford. At the end of the month, Ms. Broten is not likely to be in the cabinet.

-30-

Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

The Morning Line: Harinder Takhar at 20 – 1.

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

Somebody has to come last. The one thing that stands out about the Mississauga-Erindale MPP’s campaign for the leadership is that it seems to be a parody of everything that is wrong with the McGuinty Liberal government in Ontario. It is as simple as Dalton Mcguinty and his treasurer saying that the provincial deficit must be brought under control. So, good Liberal Harinder makes the deficit his job one!

There is a propaganda sheet e-mailed frequently from the Liberal Party to Liberals across the province called the Daily Wire. You get the impression that Harinder reads it instead of the Globe and Mail.

To be fair, Harinder’s recent suggestion of using provincial bonds to fund infrastructure needs in the province is a better approach to an old problem and it is worth some study.

When the Liberal Party started to have trouble with ethnic groups taking over riding associations back in the late 1980s, the unimaginative solution was to concentrate more power around the party leadership. It has produced a steady downhill slide of the quality of politicians in this country and the highly centralized party structures that are, in turn, destroying the value of parliament and legislatures. It is also close to destroying the last vestiges of democracy in Canada’s political parties.

While Harinder is obviously highly regarded among those with roots in the Indian Sub-continent, he has to realize that is hardly a sufficient base for a try at the Premier’s job. He is going to gather between 100 and 150 votes on the first ballot and then be dropped from the voting.

But that, in itself, is helpful because the first ballot does not often determine the winner in this type of controlled convention. The second ballot is more meaningful as it really shows where the support lies. Harinder’s loyal followers will be welcome in any of the other camps should he be able to take them with him to support one of the other candidates. We suspect that Harinder already knows he is going to advise his supporters to back Sandra Pupatello.

And there you have it: Windsor’s Sandra Pupatello the early favourite at 5 – 2 odds; Gerard Kennedy the favourite of the party progressives at 4 – 1; Kathleen Wynne MPP, surprisingly in the third place money at 6 – 1; Eric Hoskins MPP, a future threat at 9 – 2; Charles Sousa MPP, badly prepared in the race at 9 – 1; an ill-advised Glen Murray MPP, back in the pack at 15 – 1,  and: Harinder Takhar MPP, bringing up the rear at 20 – 1.

With the convoluted voting procedures and the shaky mathematics involved, we have no idea who will be the elected delegates to the convention in Toronto on January 25 and 26. All we know is that the party executive who agreed to this arrangement should be ashamed of themselves. This is not the way to select a leader for a modern political party.

-30-

Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

The Morning Line: Glen Murray at 15 – 1.

Saturday, January 5th, 2013

Before he went to support Gerard Kennedy for Ontario Liberal leader, former MPP George Smitherman could have explained something important to his successor in Toronto Centre, MPP Glen Murray. It is the cause of Toronto having a mayor such as Rob Ford. It is the plain and bitter truth that tells you that the further you move away from Toronto’s intersection of Church and Wellesley, the less tolerance you will find. Glen Murray is a city mouse and he cannot survive north of Highway 7.

Mind you, if he had a decent campaign team, he would not be such a long shot. There seems to be no effort to sell Glen’s activism that has earned him accolades in both Winnipeg and Toronto. He brings a unique skill set to the urban scene and has far more to offer the Liberal party than his campaign geniuses are telling us about.

One thing that the general public is not as aware of in this type of political campaign is that political people look behind the candidate to see who are the team running the campaign and what is their skill set. It is similar to checking on the trainer, jockey and work outs in the Daily Racing Form at the track. Our observations are that this team is tentative, slow to move on opportunities and will not seem to use any newer techniques until after they have been successfully used by opponents.

Glen did the party a service though when he said that this should be the last time the party ever allows a delegated convention that is as controlled as this one. This type of convention makes a mockery of democracy and suppresses party activists who want more say in party policy development. Murray missed the main point though when he failed to mention that the party leader should not be making decisions for local electoral districts. It is the ability of electoral districts to choose their own candidates that is essential to restoring democracy in the party.

While running for the premier’s job might have seemed like a good idea at the time last November, in the light of day of a New Year, Glen might be rethinking his enthusiasm. Regrettably there is really not a graceful way to bow out at this stage. We have already seen how the Toronto Sun reacts to Glen’s candidacy and that is just a small taste of how Conservative leader Tiny Tim Hudak and his friends would react to Glen as Premier.

But that is not going to happen. Glen might gather as many as 200 votes in the first ballot at the January convention but he has no potential for growth in the second ballot and will be forced to drop off the third ballot.

-30-

Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

The Morning Line: Charles Sousa at 9 – 1.

Friday, January 4th, 2013

MPP Charles Sousa from Mississauga South strikes you as the kind of guy who watched Premier Dalton McGuinty in Cabinet for the past year and said, “Hell, I can do that!” The problem with it is that he has not had a very good role model. The bar has to be raised.

But give him credit. Charles is a banker and does well at it. He is personable, friendly and interested in people. He is probably more capable than half of his opponents. And that is where he ends up; in the middle of the pack.

But who wants to come fifth in a field of seven? Sure, he is hard on the heels of Eric Hoskins but beating Eric would only raise him to fourth place. He probably sold a lot of memberships in the Portuguese community throughout the GTA but there are few electoral districts where there are large enough numbers of Portuguese-Canadians to elect many delegates to the January Liberal convention.

Looking at the figures in the 2011 provincial election, Sousa hardly seemed to need to block the Mississauga gas turbine generating plant to win his seat. He does not deserve to be hung with that desperation move in the last election.

The Sousa leadership campaign appears poorly organized and seems to lack professionalism. He has been chasing around the province looking for votes but without good advance work, local media coverage, electoral district support or experienced political assistants travelling with him, it is a lot of hard driving for little results.

It is interesting in analyzing Charles’ campaign that his supporters seem to cast him in a more right-wing stance than he himself takes. In a field of predominantly right wing candidates, the party hardly needs another. Yet the party needs people with his business background and all he needs to do is let people see the warmth of his personality that goes with that background.

It was no mistake that Dalton McGuinty gave Charles responsibility for the Pan American Games in 2015 in addition to his other cabinet duties. You need someone with his level of experience to do a good job at something like that. After all, we already have too many lawyers in politics.

-30-

Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

The Morning Line: Eric Hoskins at 9 – 2.

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

An Eric Hoskins with more experience and a clearer direction could have been a threat in this race. Eric is in something like John Turner’s position in the 1968 federal leadership convention. His youthful appearance, despite being over 50, and his light, self deprecating campaign style have earned Eric a sizeable chunk of the Young Liberal vote. That, and his attractive young family, has set him apart from Toronto competitors, Glen Murray and Kathleen Wynne.

Hoskins wife, Dr. Samantha Nutt, has been used effectively in the campaign and has done a robocall that was a real grabber—if you believe in the effectiveness of those annoyances. This is not to deny though that Eric Hoskins’ campaign is the best of a disjointed and disappointing group. It is a campaign with far more style than substance.

Eric’s most serious problem is that he offers no policy options that are not the same old do-nothing, sound-good cant. He comes across as just another dilettante on the right-wing of a party that already has more right-wingers than it needs or wants. He is also constrained by the fact that he has been in the cabinet through the time of the government’s most glaring errors in judgement. With only the last three years in provincial politics, Eric has had little time to learn the political ropes and less time to make a name for himself. His attempt at moving up to the premier’s job is premature.

With Gerard Kennedy coming in at about 400 votes on the first ballot, Eric Hoskins will likely be about 50 votes behind him. While both will improve their votes on the second ballot, Kennedy will have more second vote support and will increase the distance between them. By the third ballot, Hoskins can expect to continue to pick up a few more votes but a fourth ballot will be useless for him.

The nub of the convention for Hoskins might just be that period between the third and fourth ballot. He can settle the issue for the party by trying to take his support over to Sandra Pupatello or he could gamble on his future with Gerard Kennedy as Premier. That would be better for the party but Hoskins will have to make that decision for himself. When John Turner was in that position between Pierre Trudeau and Bob Winters at the end of the 1968 federal Liberal convention, John pulled a disappearing act and refused to make a decision.

-30-

Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

The Morning Line: Gerard Kennedy at 4 – 1.

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

The reason Gerard Kennedy is third in our morning line analyses is because we expect him to come third on the first ballot, just behind Kathleen Wynne. The difference in the odds is that Kennedy’s numbers can grow on the second ballot and we expect him to pass Wynne at this point. And at four to one odds, we expect Gerard to attract the serious punters among convention attendees.

If a race really does develop under these over-controlled circumstances, expect it to be between Sandra Pupatello and Gerard Kennedy. She will be the darling of the party’s right wing and Gerard will attract the more progressive elements of the party.

It has been obvious to everyone following the debates that Gerard feels the most restricted by the rules. He has to break out of the mould in which the party is trying to lock the candidates into. It will be too late at the convention for him to throw the dice and say what he really thinks about the state of the Ontario Liberal Party.

While his campaign has demonstrated caution so far, this might be the influence of former Health Minister George Smitherman who better understands McGuinty and what has happened at Queen’s Park while Gerard concentrated his attention on Ottawa. Having been both a MPP and a MP, Gerard can offer delegates a broader view of the needs of the party. It is difficult to do that though without coming across as critical of Dalton McGuinty. Gerard is certainly the most credible of the candidates when it comes to discussing the currently strained relations with the teachers and civil servants.

Since the finale of the convention is expected to be the showdown between the right and left wings of the Ontario party, you can expect a bit of drama late Saturday afternoon. It could just go three ballots if Kathleen Wynne throws her support behind one of her competitors before she has to. If she goes to Pupatello, it is game over. If Wynne really does believe in a more progressive party and does the right thing in supporting Kennedy, we would suggest that everyone hold all tickets because we could be in for a surprise.

But it is not the role of the morning line writer to hatch surprises or suggest break outs. We can admire the solid campaign that Gerard and his team are waging. It is not extravagant. It is well-paced and effective. He has done a good job of getting out and meeting party people across the province. He will get good second vote support. He is going to need it.

-30-

Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

The Morning Line: Kathleen Wynne at 6 – 1.

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

When did we get this rule that says a person can publicly announce their sexual preference and then the rest of us do not talk about it? Just imagine how Conservative leader Tiny Tim Hudak and the Ontario Landowners Association are chortling at the prospect of having MPP Kathleen Wynne as Premier. If you think they have built a wall of ignorance across rural Central Ontario, what do you think will happen when they get to attack a Liberal lesbian grandmother? They could potentially move that wall of ignorance south to the GTA.

Dalton McGuinty’s job is up for grabs and it is up to Liberals to decide which person out of a limited field of seven they will select. Each candidate has positives and negatives to consider. In the case of Kathleen Wynne, you can weigh the experience she brings to the job and her skill set against the negatives of bigotry. What people see wrong with being a grandmother, we do not know. It is possible though that, at 60 this year, MPP Kathleen Wynne is just too old to be a legitimate candidate for leader of the Liberal Party in Ontario. With the party facing four to eight years in opposition, age is a consideration.

But with morning line odds of 6 to 1, you do not write off Kathleen Wynne. She has some strong support and needs to be taken seriously on the first ballot. She took first place in signing up new members of the Liberal Party but it will be difficult to translate those numbers into convention delegates when electoral districts choose them on January 12 and 13. Her problem is that on the first ballot, she needs to come within 200 or 300 votes of a majority and we do not see that happening.

If she has less than 500 votes on the first ballot, Wynne can pack it in. Her problem is that she cannot grow. Unless she is close to that magic 50 per cent, her vote is more likely to drop than grow on the second ballot. This will be a reflection of some of the strong arm tactics used to get her delegates. Her campaign was much too aggressive in the beginning and she has had to soften her campaign approach.

Wynne’s most serious strategic error so far is the promise to assume the agriculture portfolio as well as the Premier’s office. The agriculture job is fulltime and while you do not have to be a farmer, you do have to know which end of a cow to admire and you have to have lots of empathy for farmers. She is a negotiator, not an empathizer.

Wynne can probably settle the pain quickly for the party. She has the votes to hang in until the fourth ballot but if she moves to Sandra Pupatello after the second ballot, the whole thing could be settled in time for the six o’clock news.

-30-

Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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