Archive for April, 2013

Let’s have a last hurrah for Hudak.

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

Ontario’s Premier Wynne should not be so reluctant to have an election. All she is doing is delaying the departure of Conservative Leader Timmy Hudak. It hardly seems fair. Ontario never deserved Mike Harris as Premier and there is no reason they should have to tolerate a Mike Harris Lite.

Mind you, Timmy told the Toronto Star last week that he is a changed man, a fighter for what he believes. It is what he believes in that has put him so out of touch with the people of Ontario. Hudak seems to consider former American President Ronald Regan and the recently deceased Brit Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as deities. He must think of Mike Harris as their high priest.

What Timmy does not see is that Stephen Harper and crew in Ottawa are on the job and too many people screwing our economy could do lasting damage. The Ontario Liberals are about as far right as the people of Ontario can handle while the Tories are running down the economy in Ottawa.

Premier Wynne should realize that while voter dissatisfaction with her party is high, most of it is based on the foolishness of former Premier Dalton McGuinty. Give Timmy Hudak a month out on the polls, pressing the flesh and saying what he thinks and the Wynne Liberals are going to look pretty damn good to the voters.

The only thing that saved Hudak’s bacon when he was releasing all those ridiculous policy papers recently was that nobody read them. The few people who were paid to read them are convinced that they are a joke and refuse to grade them.

Timmy will promise anything to get elected. That must have been where he was coming from when he proposed that the province use magic money to pay for Toronto’s highway infrastructure and subways. These are things that he will never support as Premier but Timmy is not one to quibble over details.

For Kathleen Wynne, the real concern should be New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath. If Andrea ever got a good speaking coach, speech writer, personal trainer, hairdresser and decent clothes, she would pose something of a challenge.

But the good news is that Tiny Tim Hudak will be toast after this coming election. The Conservatives will not allow him to completely destroy their party.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

What lies at the end of the high road for Justin?

Monday, April 29th, 2013

The high road is a wonderful road for politicians to take. It is blissful. It is fun. It is a pleasant Sunday drive through the Canadian country side. The only problem is that the political high road does not go anywhere. And that means that if Justin Trudeau is going to take the high road in the face of Stephen Harper’s attack ads, he will never get where he is going.

But this is not to suggest that crap should be answered with crap. What we have never understood about the Conservative attack ads is that they lack any production quality. They appear amateurish. They are humourless. They come across as something shot through a keyhole. They insult Canadians.

And the worst part of Conservative attack advertising is that there is no continuity. Every attack ad seems to be its own piece of garbage. There is no family resemblance other than the lack of quality. If these guys spend all their time putting together clips of unrelated statements, you would expect that they also would take time to think. Obviously thinking is not part of their agenda.

Those attack ads used at election time are in-your-face over just a two to three week period. To not spend a few bucks producing a higher quality ad is to say you have little respect for those who see it. Eventually, the voters are on their way to the bathroom as soon as it comes on for repeat hits. And decent quality is not all that expensive. There are always lots of good ideas. Sure, the objective is ridicule. You want to show the voters what a schlemiel your opponent is. You can do that better with humour than vitriol.

Some of the best political attack advertising we have ever seen used humour. Advertising experts worry about the staying power of humour but by its nature, political advertising is supposed to be used as a hit and run play. You really do not want the voters to be saturated with them. You are working just on impressions. You want the voter to see the ad, and agree with you that, yes, Stephen Harper is a klutz!

One of the problems with the current attack ads against Justin Trudeau is that you end the silly ad with a question. The question is “so what?” There is no action you can take. The ad has wasted your time. You also see it as money being wasted by people who claim they know how to manage money. Nothing positive has been said for any politician. We have just lowered the voters’ opinion of politicians some more.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Wynne wavers on winning.

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

Ontario’s Premier Wynne might be desperate. Like most politicians fighting off an election—that they might lose—she is telling voters that an election in this province will cost over $90 million. Strangely enough, that is close to what the Auditor General said shutting down the Mississauga gas-fired power plant cost—over and above the government estimate. Does this mean that it is alright to waste a few hundred million saving some seats in a general election but it is not alright to spend about 100 million letting the voters comment on it?

Sooner or later, Kathleen Wynne has to call an election. This triumvirate at Queen’s Park of Horwath, Hudak and Wynne is not only unappealing, it is appalling. Mind you, with that selection of leaders, is it any wonder that fewer and fewer people in Ontario are bothering to vote?

And the question of an election should not be left to New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath. If she can be bought off by a supposed reduction in auto insurance rates, home care for the elderly and closing some corporate tax concessions, you have to suspect that her vote comes very cheap.

With all the leaks and statements that have been made, poor Charles Souza is not going to have anything new to say when he announces his budget later this week. The announcement of $100 million for northern roads simply does not parse. Does this mean Ontario was not spending more than that on Northern infrastructure? And if the province is not spending more, why is it not?

And speaking of stupid, did you know that the Premier made the announcement of the $100 million for northern infrastructure support at the site where the province is rebuilding a highway rest stop—in the middle of Barrie! There is something like 20 gas stations and at least 50 restaurants grouped within a few kilometres of the five Barrie Highway 400 interchanges. Around Toronto, you can drive over 100 kilometres on 400-series highways without seeing a highway rest stop. Figure that one?

What Horwath, Hudak and Wynne need to realize is that minority governments are becoming a more frequent situation. Politicians need to learn to live with them. Tory Leader Timmy Hudak has to bring his marbles and play nice. Going away and pouting no longer works. Ms. Horwath has to show us what she can do. If she ever wants to be premier, she is going to have to demonstrate some leadership. Ms. Wynne needs to retake her grade-four geography. That used to be when our children first learned about Ontario.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

How Harper Helps Liberal fund raising.

Saturday, April 27th, 2013

That nice Mr. Harper, we always knew he might be good for something. His efforts to help Justin Trudeau raise funds are really paying off. It is helped by that stupid attack ad that the Tories are running ad nausea on their favourite television networks. You know the one, the pixie dust around his name, the sexy underwear, and dialogue that you would expect from eight-year olds in the school yard. And now they are going to send it out in print via taxpayer funded householder mailings by the slavish Conservative MPs. That action alone should raise an extra $5 million for the Liberal Party.

Meanwhile, the NDP’s Thomas Mulcair is having fits because he cannot get any ink from the media because they are all so enamoured with Justin. After all, Stuffy Tommy is supposed to be the Leader of the Opposition, not Justin. He is jealous. He wants to know how he can get the Prime Minister to run attack ads against him.

But Stephen Harper is making a different kind of mistake these days. Two years before an election, he is stiffening his stance as the “law and order guy.” And he is particularly tough on terrorists. That is a position that could be like cutting off the tree branch while sitting on the wrong side of the branch. He fails to understand that he has already won most of the yahoos who will buy into that line. They even believed him when he said he had to build more prisons when crime statistics in Canada showed a decline in crime. (He solved that problem by cutting off funding to the statisticians.)

Harper’s classic comment last week was when he told Canadians that “this is not a time to commit sociology.” It was supposed to be a criticism of Justin for musing about the root causes of home-grown terrorism. It left many Canadians wondering when we are supposed to consider what to do about the problem.

Mr. Harper’s biggest problem with Canadians is too many of them can think. Not everybody will buy the Conservative Party extremist cant. They never have. The only way the Conservatives can hope to maintain a majority government is to help maintain some semblance of balance between the opposition parties. An electorate determined to get rid of the Tories will swing decisively behind the opposition party with the best chance to defeat them. He has to help maintain some balance.

Right now the Liberal Party and Justin Trudeau are basking in Harper’s attention.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Justifying jackboots on Wellington Street.

Friday, April 26th, 2013

Wellington Street in Ottawa, Ontario is where various important buildings are located. These include the Supreme Court, the Bank of Canada, the American Embassy and the Parliament Buildings. A jackboot is a military-style knee height leather boot derived from an earlier cavalry boot. It usually had a steel plate on the heel and when the wearer clicked the heels together, it could sound like a rifle shot. Until yesterday you would never have expected to find someone who might wear such boots on Wellington Street.

To the shame of all Canadians, a law was debated and approved by Parliament this week that was the equivalent of introducing jackboots on Wellington Street. It is a law that ignores citizens’ rights. It is a law that gives police forces in Canada powers that are not needed to keep the peace. It is a despicable and demeaning affront to Canadians.

Not since Billy Blair’s bully-boys ran amok during the G-20 meeting in Toronto in 2010 have Canadians witnessed this type of police activity. And they did not like it then.

What is particularly galling is Mr. Harper’s timing in bringing forward this bill. He moved the bill forward to Monday, moving the Liberal Party day to a day when Justin Trudeau was known to be expected in Labrador to support his candidate in the by-election. The only reason Mr. Harper could have had for his timing was that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had kept him advised about the two suspected terrorists who were believed to be planning something to do with a VIA Train. The police must have told Mr. Harper on which day they would make the arrest. As the arrests did not seem overly urgent, maybe Mr. Harper or his office told the federal police when the arrest would be convenient for the government.

While the arrests were carried out in time for the government MPs to use the arrests as a talking point, no new police action was needed for the surveillance or arrest of the suspects. In effect, the police did not need to violate the rights of the suspected terrorists. They did not need to hold them for up to three days without charge. Nor did the security forces need to hold kangaroo courts where the accused either incriminate themselves or go to jail. These draconian measures in the bill were not needed.

It is also with disgust, we have to report that the Liberal caucus in Parliament supported the bill. All we can say about that is shame, shame, shame.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

In search of Canadian liberalism.

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

If Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau really wants his party to have a serious policy conference next year, we better get to work. It is tough to come up with coherent policies for a party that does not understand where it stands. It is even more difficult for a federal party to be progressive when its provincial counterparts are all on the political right wing. If the Conservatives in Canada were not extremists, there would be little difference between them and the Liberals.

And most Canadians are unaware that there is a difference. They see the Conservatives as more aggressive, harsher on law and order, stingy on social expenditures but willing to offer the voters bribes with their own money. In turn, Liberals are seen as more vacillating, soft on crime, wasteful on social spending and also willing to bribe the voters with their own money. And then there is the New Democratic Party—on the run from socialism.

What these perceptions mean is that if the Liberals and other parties follow the same old-same old patterns in the coming election, we might as well declare Stephen Harper Supreme Ruler for Life.

Alternatively, Liberals can run as Liberals. That is a breed of politician that we have not seen for a while in this country. Liberals are the real reformers—they are the progressives who put individual rights ahead of everything else. Liberals are the true social democrats because they recognize that the fulfilment of individual needs best serves society’s needs.

Justin Trudeau has already indicated that he wants federal support to lower the cost of post-secondary education. This is one of the keys to individual fulfillment. While Trudeau is just talking some financial relief at this point, the objective of a Liberal government should be free higher education for all who can make the grades.

After many years of abuse, the federal role in Medicare has to be reviewed. One of the keys is a national conference of federal and provincial finance and health ministers to assess needs and improve long term funding. We will never have all the solutions but this is moving way ahead of the Harper government attitude.

We also have to address the sham of trades training perpetrated by the Conservatives. Again, a cooperative approach with the provinces to make sure the job is getting done has to be used.

And if we really want to be creative as a federal government, Liberals need to promote the idea of a Canadian constitutional conference by citizens elected in federal electoral districts across Canada. Such a constitutional conference could take a couple years but when the country votes on the proposals in a referendum, they will know what the proposals mean.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

When Justin Trudeau is Prime Minister.

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Yesterday’s blog about the Boston marathon incident and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau drew some very interesting comments. One thoughtful reader suggested that we might have been overly enthusiastic about Justin’s honesty. The reader drew a line between honesty and naïveté. And if Justin were Prime Minister, there is no question that some of what he said in a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation interview was enough to make an old political apparatchik cringe.

But Justin Trudeau is not Prime Minister. Hopefully in just over two years, he will be ready to be Prime Minister. His father never had that luxury of time to prepare himself for the job. Pierre Trudeau made his mistakes as he went. He is no role model for his son in how to handle the news media or in how to measure his statements.

The truth be known, Pierre Trudeau went from phenomenon to bust in just one term as Prime Minister. During that first term from 1968 to 1972, Pierre was arrogant, uncaring, flip, rude and caused constant migraines for the people trying to keep him in office. It was in 1972 that the voters told him, quite empathically, that he was not as smart as he thought he was.

The realization that his arrogance had almost cost the party the 1972 election forced Pierre to become more political. And it was the belief in his leadership that caused people such as Keith Davey to start to work much harder on his behalf. We never did restore the Trudeaumania of 1968 and that was fine. We thought that people should support him for what he was and what he represented. Trudeaumania was a media invention that got him elected in ’68 for all the wrong reasons.

And there is no danger of that with Justin Trudeau. Justin represents something very different. He is more like John Kennedy or Barack Obama than his father. It is a generational thing. He represents hope and change. For a while, he can be a bit naïve. He is actually a straight arrow type and he will eventually get that tendency to honesty under better control. He certainly has enough people telling him how.

In watching Justin over the past three years, we have seen dramatic improvement and changes in a very determined person. His objective is still more than two years away but it becomes more obvious every day that he will be our next Prime Minister.

The person who commented on the blog suggested that Justin and his advisors should study that CBC interview carefully and learn from it. You can count on that.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Is Harper a root cause?

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Boston is a wondrous city and adds an indomitable spirit to the American psyche. That is why, when hearing about the Boston marathon bombing, you stop for a bit, you consider what you have heard and you question what could cause people to do such a thing. That is what Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau did. He wanted to understand the root causes of such an act.

But Prime Minister Harper does not need or want to understand. He took time from the funeral of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to condemn those unknown persons who perpetrated such a thing. It was a knee-jerk political reaction to a sad and disturbing event. His comments were a deliberate feeding of the American paranoia. He wants punishment instead of prevention. His comments were in stark contrast to Justin Trudeau’s humane search for understanding.

The question we really need to ask is if attitudes, such as those expressed by Mr. Harper to politicize the events, are part of the root causes. Do people such as Mr. Harper add to the alienation from society that can produce home-grown terrorism? This is a very serious question.

Did a young Steve Harper maybe find himself alienated from the middle class orientation of his parents in Toronto? Did he find his niche in life with Calgary natives who sometimes put down those they consider effete Easterners? Did the young Harper find his cause with the Reform Party that said “the West wants in”? Did he not serve as the angry president of the extreme right-wing National Citizens Coalition? Does he not represent the one per cent?

And what has Stephen Harper done for Canadians lately? Is he not lying about how his government’s economic action plan is solving all our problems? Is he allowing citizens the right to voice their concerns about their environment? In fact, does he even allow his own party’s backbenchers to speak out for their constituents? This man is an ideologue and does not give a damn about what anybody else thinks. As long as we let him be Prime Minister, he is going to fly around the world telling people how to run their economies while micro-managing a mean and dysfunctional Parliament in Canada. He is going to continue to be part of the problem, instead of part of the solution

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Let NIMBYs pay for cancelled power plants.

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

There needs to be a better solution to this power plant problem in Mississauga and Oakville. These were natural gas powered plants that some people said should not be built where they were planned. It boils down to an argument about location.

And the Not-In-My-Back-Yard people won. These NIMBYs were vociferous and backed by the Conservative Party of Ontario. The NIMBY organization in Mississauga is called the Coalition of Homeowners for Intelligent Power (CHIP) and claims some 10,000 homeowners in Mississauga and Etobicoke as members.

Obviously, there should have been some political oversight of this argument when the Ontario Power Authority had to go to the Ontario Municipal Board to force Mississauga and then Oakville to stop objecting to the plants. It involved a 280 megawatt generating capability, located on Loreland Avenue in Mississauga and a 900 megawatt plant on former Ford property on Royal Windsor Drive in Oakville. These clean-burning gas plants were replacing the old Lakeview coal-fired plant. They were needed to meet the rapidly growing demand for power in the two municipalities.

For some reason, the government dropped the ball but this was hardly the first mistake made by the McGuinty government. The actual decision to cancel the plants was in the heat of the 2011 election campaign. It was a purely political action under the direction of Liberal Campaign Chair Greg Sorbara. As Sorbara acted under the authority of Premier McGuinty, the chickens have to roost on him.

But, to be fair, why should Sorbara, McGuinty or even over-paid Ontario Power Authority executives have to open their piggy banks and cough up whatever all this costs. This CHIP organization should also be willing to pay for the cancellation. They were the people who kept demanding the end of the Mississauga plant. And the Auditor General tells us that the Mississauga plant only cost Ontario $275 million. When you spread it across 10,000 people, it is only $27,500 per homeowner. They said cancel the plant. They got what they wanted. It is now time to pay.

We hope that people in Oakville are richer than people in Mississauga. We hear that the auditor’s report on the Oakville plant costs might be four times as much as Mississauga. They are going to need deep pockets!

What we do not want is for the people throughout the rest of Ontario to pay for this damn foolishness. We need a rule that says if you do not like something such as a wind turbine, you should have the right to buy the property it is on and chop it down. Or how about if you do not like casinos: all you have to do is offer to pay the city the extra taxes the casino would generate and live in a casino-free community. Think about it!

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Seniors worry about hitting the wall.

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

It happens to all of us. All you have to do is live long enough. No matter how well you planned for retirement, there will be a point where your cost of living will exceed what you planned. If you have reserves, you can make adjustments. If you were going to pass something on to the kids or do some more guided tours, you can say the kids have no needs and the guided tours are boring. Very few of us are philosophical about it.

And that children is why today there are a lot of angry grandmas and grandpas. Too many of us have hit the wall. If we had died five years ago, we would not be in this mess. Thanks to genetics or modern medicine, we are still here. We are just a bit crankier and there is no magic solution. And nobody understands because they can tell us that the current annual cost of living rise today is only about one per cent. If you were doing your planning in 1975 buster, would you have believed that a loaf of bread would now be $2.50 and a litre of gasoline about $1.25?

The truth is that none of us really retired voluntarily. The time was never right. That retirement at 55 advertising only works for people making over $150,000 per year. It is this vague middle class that is getting screwed. We listen to the next boomer generation and wonder what the hell they are complaining about. They seem to think that science should have stopped the aging process. Suck it up kids!

The one thing that is crystal clear to Canadians is that Prime Minister Stephen Harper could care less. Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair and his New Democrats are living in some strange world that is trying to transition out of the 1930s. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is speaking out for the so-called middle class but those of us middle class who are left will soon disappear into the pit of poverty.

And, what we really do not comprehend, is that Canadians are supposed to have survived a world-wide financial crisis and we should be proud of it. If the problems are solved, why are the Americans still busy fighting among themselves? They hardly give a damn about the rest of the world.  The European nations are trying to keep the have-nots in line and the Brits want to put a monkey wrench into anything concrete. And on top of all this crap, we are told that free trade with countries with less than half our wage rates can make us richer.

This continuing mess just makes you want to stick around to see how the world turns out.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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