Archive for March, 2013

Trudeau is Quebec; Cauchon is the past.

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

Former MP Martin Cauchon was (figuratively) kicked off the Liberal leadership train because we do  not believe he represents modern Quebec. Like many of his contemporary provincial and federal Liberals, Cauchon is right of centre and fails to recognize the vibrant and growing legions of Quebecers who want to be part of a greater world.

That is why it is wrong to assume that Pauline Marois’ Parti Québècois won the government in the 2011 provincial election because they are separatists. It is safe though to assume they only won a minority because they are separatists. They won because they were the only social democrats in the race.

But Marois and the PQ are part of the past in much the same way as the union-dominated New Democrats hold onto attitudes out of the 1930s. In the same way, Charest’s Liberals were more in the image of the Union Nationale out of Quebec’s past. His government’s clash with the university students over tuition fees was classic Maurice Duplessis style obstinacy. Marois, at least, knew to bang pots with the students.

Why Quebec politics is tied so tightly to the past seems to be part of the insularity of Quebec. By tightening the noose on their own people, Quebec politicians think they can keep them docile. By allowing only the elite to be bilingual, they can try to keep les habitants down on the farm. The language police of Quebec are really only amusing to people from France.

But they are threatened by Justin Trudeau as federal Liberal leader. Cauchon explained it as Justin’s failure to try to appease Quebec. Cauchon sees that as the old Ottawa-knows-best attitude of when Pierre Trudeau was Prime Minister.

On the other side of the argument is Justin Trudeau’s claim that people in Quebec want to be more involved in their country. He says creating the opportunity for involvement is the real challenge. He rejects the demand that Ottawa constantly come up with gestures to placate Quebec politicians. He says it does not work.

Only time and a federal election will prove who is right. Justin Trudeau has a long hard struggle ahead of him over the next two years to win the hearts and minds of all Canadians. We bet he can do it.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Here are two votes for Justin Trudeau.

Saturday, March 30th, 2013

It is hardly a secret. The wife also likes Justin Trudeau. He is the same age as our daughter. The wife thinks that, in many ways, Justin is more like his mother than his father. He is certainly not the overpowering intellect of Pierre Trudeau. Nor does he show the same impatience as his father. He has far more empathy with people and, wow, does he ever know how to work a crowd.

We helped organize a fund-raising dinner three years ago with Justin as the guest speaker. He made it a highly memorable event. He kept smiling and had his picture taken with every paying guest. His speech was one that made everyone feel good about themselves as Canadians and as Liberal supporters. It was a class event and everyone got their money’s worth.

What a difference from his father. First time we met Pierre Trudeau, he had just been elected an MP from Quebec in the Pearson minority government and we had recently been made communications chief for the Liberal Party in Ontario. And we got into a very loud argument. The argument included some very rude words on both sides about his being part of a media interview. He shouted. We shouted. And somehow we won. The interview landed Pierre on the front page of the next issue of the Globe and Mail and the rest was history.

Pierre would laugh about that argument whenever we met during his career in Ottawa. It helped him to learn about the Canadian news media. He never did like them but that was probably for the best. They are not all that likeable and they have a job to do.

Justin seems to know about the news media already. He has been learning to choose his words better during this leadership contest. And if the media do not like his lack of policy specifics, the party and Liberal supporters are listening and liking what he says to them. Sure, we all gave him a bit of a push on his positions but he would be crazy to keep announcing positions without listening carefully to the party. With over a 100,000 Canadians choosing the leader, they are today’s audience.

It is supposed that MP Marc Garneau had to cut his losses and leave the leadership race but he added to the quality of leadership debate. He will be a hard working part of Justin’s team. So will MP Joyce Murray. We just hope that she will continue to question and challenge the status quo. The party needs to be constantly reminded that it is the party of real reform in Canada.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

There’s trouble among Harper’s happy helpers.

Friday, March 29th, 2013

Why should Prime Minister Stephen Harper have all the fun? If you had worked hard for good-ole Stephen in the 2011 federal election, would you think he is being fair? When do the Conservative MPs from the religious right get their licks in? And it is not as though Stephen is delivering on everything he promised these people. They are complaining that he is doing lots of stuff to please those damn libertarians in the party but ignoring the religious right? They certainly did their part in getting Stephen his majority? Hell, the Conservative Party would never have gotten close to a majority without those who have been washed in the blood of the lamb!

Canadians are starting to hear more and more from these malcontent Conservative MPs. They are people of principle you know. They are there in Ottawa to protect the rights of the unborn. They also want to get back to hanging, they tell us. Mind you, there is the matter of protecting the sanctity of marriage. They will have none of that same-sex marriage business. These people have an agenda and that dictatorial Stephen Harper is not cooperating.

It is alright for Stephen Harper and his hairdresser to fly around the world like they are important or something. It is just that these people think the Lord’s work needs to be done in Ottawa. And it is not just those libertarians with their tax cuts and small government demands that are getting in the way. There are also those nebbishes who got elected on Stephen Harper’s coat tails and have no idea what they are supposed to be doing in Ottawa—other than what Mr. Harper tells them.

If Citizenship Minister Jason Kenney was Prime Minister, the priorities would sure get changed. There is a movement among the religious right Conservative MPs to make Kenney Mr. Harper’s replacement sooner rather than later. There is no telling just what Canadian voters would make of that nice Jason Kenney.

Until, they get their own leader, the religious right is using guerrilla tactics to show that they are still alive and complaining in Ottawa. They sneak in motions on abortion in Parliament, take their complaints about not being allowed to speak to the House Speaker and rail on other issues at committee meetings. It gets them noticed if not reviled.

The problem for the religious right is that they are not strong enough by themselves to take control of the House of Commons. They have to have a coalition. They need the grab bag of populists, libertarians and regional greed to cobble together a Conservative party such as Stephen Harper’s. They need to understand the last three Conservative Prime Ministers: John Diefenbaker, the populist (forget Joe Clark),  Brian Mulroney, with his regional base and Mr. Harper’s libertarians. Thankfully, it does not happen very often.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Chief Blair opposes arrogance and entitlement?

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

It seems that Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair wants his police officers to work to a higher standard. We hear he has made a video for his officers to complain about their culture of arrogance and entitlement. He is reported to have said in the video that “you don’t get to be an idiot in our uniform. You don’t get to be an idiot diminishing our organization…”

But what Blair seems to have failed to do was identify the chief idiot.

Who can forget the events of the summer of 2010? If there had been a proper judicial enquiry into the actions of police during the G20, Chief Bill Blair would have been fired. His police can hide their name tags, they can brutalize citizens, they can run rampant but there is a point when you find the person in charge and hold that person responsible. And that person is the Toronto Chief of Police.

He started by doing the right thing. He asked. He asked the Ontario government what law allowed him to keep citizens away from the zone being created—and fenced off—around the G20 meeting area. He was hardly given some secret law. He was given a hastily drafted regulation related to the Public Works Protection Act. All it offered was a description of the area being reserved for the G20 Summit. It allowed his police to restrict entry to the area.

The rest was pretence and sham. Bill Blair lied about his police authority that weekend. He had not been told to keep citizens away from the G20 area—only to keep them out. He had no special authority to chase peaceful crowds meeting in the area around Queen’s Park. He had no right at all to kettle peaceful citizens many city blocks away from the G20 meeting. He had no right to imprison anyone without charges.

And where he was irresponsibly derelict was in standing back and allowing a group of anarchists to create mayhem on normally peaceful streets in Toronto. He deliberately used the actions of a few to oppress the majority of citizens. It is a tactic of despots from the beginning of time.

Mr. Blair is probably very proud of himself for how he handled the G20 event in Toronto. His actions were not those of someone with the moral backbone to lecture others on their responsibilities to the citizens of Toronto. He owes Torontonians and Canadians his deepest apologies and his resignation as chief of police.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Disharmony on the trades bandwagon.

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

When the McGuinty Liberals decided to do something about trades training and standards in Ontario, we wished them ‘Good luck.’ There are some 190 skilled trades that initially need support on behalf of Ontario trades people, employers and consumers. To do the job properly will take time, good will and input from all levels of the trades. What it does not need as it travels down the road is to be run over by other levels of government and to be waylaid by mean-spirited political parties spreading dissention.

The first question asked last week when the federal Conservatives announced their budget was how the proposed federal trades plan would work with the Ontario program. You would assume in a normal country that the federal government would discuss such a plan with the provinces. It was when Quebec angrily told Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to blow his new program in his ear that you got a hint that preplanning is not part of the Conservative strategy. And it is obvious that Ontario has absolutely no idea how to fit the federal plan in with its approach. (Nor do the feds appear to want them to!)

And to make matters worse, the provincial Conservatives in Ontario have their own strategy. Here in Babel, we see the MPP from Orillia and the junior MPP from Barrie signing petitions to stop the purported trades tax. They seem to be opposed to the Ontario Trades College. Since the college has yet to do anything, the Ontario Conservatives are busy saying that anything they do will be bad for Ontario. They are building a bogeyman.

The Conservatives insist, up front, that the majority of Ontario trades people do not want to be members of the Ontario Trades College. The only questions that come to mind are whether the trades people have evaluated the benefits of membership and do they know anything about it? Mind you, if the College proponents have announced a fee structure before deciding what they will do for it, they will deserve all the slander they get.

The most interesting aspect of the Conservative vilification campaign is the threat that the College is going to bar your favourite handyman from building your backyard deck while putting new tile in your bathroom. They are shedding crocodile tears for the famous jack of all trades. Frankly that guy used to be called a ‘homeowner’ and it is about time someone saved him from himself.

What it boils down to is the cost of home renovations. Nobody is going to stop you from hiring the kid from down the street to paint your house. You will get what you pay for. And if you want something that says the tradesperson is qualified for the job, you are going to pay more. And it is most often worth it.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Lib-NDP bedfellows make strange computations.

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

There was the strangest blog yesterday about some professor computing that an agreement between the Liberals and New Democrats would elect 130 NDP MPs and 70 Liberals in the next federal election. No wonder some Liberals have their nose out of joint about the proposal. There needs to be some clarification of the ground rules before everyone goes off half-cocked.

First and foremost, this one-time non-competitive deal can only be made at the electoral district level. Second, it can only be made in an electoral district held by a sitting Conservative. That means that for the next 338-seat house, we are only dealing with, at the most, 165 electoral districts. These are the ridings that we are addressing—no others.

If you think that the NDP have any chance of holding all 57 seats currently held in Quebec, you must be smoking something that is not yet legal. Those seats are fair game for Liberals who are seeking redemption in Quebec. And they are going to win a bunch of them.

And nobody said there is a safe NDP seat elsewhere. Frankly, the NDP has much to answer for after this current Parliament reaches the end of its rope. The NDP has been a weak and ineffective official opposition. Under Leader Thomas Mulcair, the NDP has lacked a game plan and has shown no sign of a strategy heading into the next election.

Looking at the figures from the 2011 federal election, you would not expect more than 100 or so electoral districts to reach agreement on selecting a single candidate to run under the Liberal-NDP banner. In some cases the nomination process could be a disaster with highly partisan candidates from each side not accepting the joint decision. You could then end up with just 80 or so ridings running a candidate under the combined Liberal-NDP banner.

For the sake of argument, suppose that the outcome of the election was 100 Conservatives, 100 Liberals and 100 New Democrats with just 38 Lib-NDP. Those 38 MPs would have the power to choose the next Prime Minister and to write the conditions of their support. They would be fools to just return to their normal party.

It would be wonderful. Parliament would be able to return to the original concept. It would be the party leader who could gather the most support who would go to the Governor General and claim the job of Prime Minister. It would return the real power in Parliament to the Members of the House of Commons—where it is supposed to be.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Is it the malaise of Canadian liberalism?

Monday, March 25th, 2013

An Ottawa Citizen sponsored event presented by the Macdonald Laurier Institute last week debated the resolution: The Liberal Party has no future in Canadian politics. Frankly, it seems silly to try to eulogize a corpse that keeps complaining about what people are saying about him.

The proposition should not be about the future of the Liberal Party but the future of Canada. This country is liberal. Canadians from coast to coast have constantly proved themselves to be more liberal than their politicians. The political sands that shift with time in this country are the positions of the parties. Not since the days of Pierre Trudeau has the Liberal Party of Canada kept truly abreast of the needs of Canadians.

Positions that should have been those of the Liberal Party have been usurped by others. True liberalism has been discarded for expediency in short term political needs. There is little traffic on the intellectual highroad. Dishonesty has become the political norm in a country in need of solutions. Lies have replaced reason. Propaganda is the new dialogue.

Historian Michael Bliss proposed in the debate that the work of the Liberal Party is done. He thinks that the party has completed its mandate. That is untenable. Canada is a country in name but with a different reality. It has no checks and balances on its government other than the courts. It uses a foreign monarch for head of state. It has constant tensions between the state and its provinces. The present government uses those tensions to confound and control rather than attempting to build consensus.

What kind of a government should even be allowed to pit West against East in establishing a resource-based economy against a technological and intellectual future? The politics of division so blatantly used are undermining Canada’s peace-making identity and turning the world against us.

Taking the other side of the debate, former Liberal Party advisor John Duffy points to the consistently strong Liberal showing in opinion polls as proof that the Liberal Party has a heartbeat. He likes Prof. André Turcotte’s description of the “nagging resilience of the Liberal brand.”

But as with all such debates, the protagonists deal in the past and not the future. While Liberals owe much to MP Bob Rae for keeping the party afloat during the recent doldrums, it is the new leader who will carry the party forward into the next election. If our new leader can tie the individual rights of Canadians into a more progressive future for all, liberalism will live on.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Nobody is off the island. It sank.

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

You would think that by the time of the fifth debate in the federal Liberal Party leadership race, the party would get something right. They did not. Before we could declare the last unlucky candidate off the island, the party sank the Island of Montreal.

In an obviously unscripted and ill-considered argument during the debate between MP Joyce Murray and MP Justin Trudeau, you had to ask which one of these two people is a Liberal. The answer is not apparent. The argument was over Elizabeth May’s offer to both of them to not run a Green Party candidate in the Labrador by-election that has to be called to replace Conservative Peter Penashue. Trudeau treated the offer with derision that it did not deserve and Murray responded in obvious anger.

This was not pretty. Nor was it appropriate on either side. Justin Trudeau needed to soften his comments to explain his view. Even if he disagrees with Joyce Murray’s idea of unheld electoral district associations getting together with the local New Democrats to produce a single candidate, it hardly guarantees that Thomas Mulcair would become Prime Minister. That is the most singularly defeatist attitude we have heard in some time.

And there was no need for the MP from Vancouver-Quadra to fly off the handle. The other candidates have obviously been hard on her for her views on voting reform but she needs to lighten up. It was great in the beginning that we had a legitimate candidate willing to question the status quo on such issues. We expected that she would expand on the issues and be more open to input on them.

But she seems to believe the clap-trap spread by the Fair Vote Canada group and is spouting their opinion instead of treating it as just another possibility.

And we know that Justin Trudeau is more open to reform than he was letting on. Besides, there are only 34 other Liberal MPs in Parliament and we have to look after every one of them. You hardly start a fight over an issue of that sort.

All we could say at the end of the debate was “thank goodness.” The party might not be able to survive more debates where people spend 90 per cent of the time agreeing with each other for a bored audience and the other 10 per cent fighting over something that might have nothing to do with what they are ostensibly talking about.

And there is no point kicking anyone off the island, we all know who has won.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Working for the next Toronto mayor.

Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

Political apparatchik John Laschinger must be looking for business. It is never too early to line up possible contenders for the next mayoralty race in Toronto. It is the best political gig of all. You can get paid for up to nine months of work. John’s only problem though is that he needs to find a better candidate than MP Olivia Chow. John needs to make a comeback after his dismal showing in Toronto’s last municipal election with former Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone.

And it hardly matters that Olivia Chow gets higher recognition than Rob Ford in theoretical polling for mayoralty candidates. While the left wing of council would rally around her as a candidate, the right wing would zero in on her weaknesses in very short order. Her first short coming for the job is her lack of any leadership ability.

But Laschinger should be familiar with that weakness from his experience campaigning with Joe Pantalone. He might have also seen that shallow CBC-TV bio-pic “Jack.” While we all realize how the Harper government has strangled CBC funding, you would think the corporation still had some writing standards. And please do not say there is no such thing as bad publicity.

Maybe John’s problem is that he is just not cut out for left-wing campaigns. He is just too right-wing to understand the needs of such a campaign. It is the same as those of us who have always worked the centre-left. We would have a hard time running a campaign for someone like Rob Ford.

Mind you, as things stand, Rob Ford has an easy ride into the mayor’s chair in October, 2014. There is just no candidate ready in the wings who can take him out. There is no other candidate with the easy access to the news media. There is no city councillor ready to challenge him. There is nobody eager to trade the drive to Queen’s Park for the prime parking spot under Toronto City Hall. And only a very foolish Member of Parliament would resign a federal seat early to take a run at Ford.

And it is important to remember that leadership is not just popularity numbers. A potential mayor of Toronto has to do more than clearly demonstrate leadership. You also have to know where the voters of Toronto want to go. Then you have to take them by the hand and lead them there.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Flaherty’s gravy-train wreck.

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty does not seem to care where he steals his ideas. Struggling through the smoke and mirrors of this most recent federal budget, you wonder where he got some of those ideas. And then it dawns on you that the gravy train might have ended for tax evaders but the nightmare has just begun for the Conservatives. They have just climbed aboard Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s gravy train.

Surely you remember Rob Ford’s gravy train. It was the one that got him elected and then got him vilified. We all found out that Rob Ford was the guy driving the train. It only existed in his imagination.

That is like the $550 million that Jim Flaherty is going to recover for us by ending the federal gravy train. He is going to get this money from people who move their money off-shore or from bogus charities and the list goes on. There are many urban legends of where the money is hiding. Heck, we all know where the Irving money is located. Jim Flaherty should just ask nicely for the Bahamas to send it back to Canada.

But what Flaherty forgets to mention is that for every loonie that is returned to Canada, it will probably cost us $1.10 in legal fees. This is not to say that we should not close loopholes in the federal tax structure. After all, the money the Irving’s have taken out of New Brunswick was done with all observances to Canadian law. We allowed the late K.C. Irving to rip us off. Closing loopholes like that is something that is long overdue.

Tax cheats in the name of charity are also a serious problem. Solving that problem will not only take time but will cost far more than what will be recovered. The objective has to be to save us money in the future. Today’s Canada Revenue Agency hardly has the staff or power to check for all the phony tax receipts issued or to stop the exorbitant salaries being paid to people running supposed charities.

What is obvious about this most recent budget is that it is only a warm-up to the election year budget of 2015. By then, Stephen Harper will probably have a new, more credible Finance Minister in place. The promises of that year’s budget will make poor Jim Flaherty look like a piker. The deficit will, of course, be defeated and Canada’s future in selling resources will be assured by all the pipelines to the seas.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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