Archive for April, 2013

Meet your emancipated Member.

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

It is long overdue. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is attempting to free the slaves. These are not your traditional type of slaves. After all, they are paid $160,000 plus per year as Members of Parliament. They are the ones controlled and directed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. They are Harper’s Conservative backbenchers in Parliament. Justin wants these poor downtrodden Members to have a voice in Parliament.

It is all very Machiavellian. The Liberal Leader thinks Canadians should hear how Members think and how they represent them in Parliament. He has proposed a motion that will ensure that every MP will be given time in Parliament to speak out about the concerns of their constituents. Trudeau is defying Harper to stand up in the House of Commons and say to his backbenchers that he will not let them speak out. Harper and Trudeau both know that it will open Pandora’s Box for the different factions within the Conservative Members.

Principal among these freed factions will be the religious zealots who make up a strong group in Harper’s backbenchers and some of his Cabinet. The first issue that this group will bring up, when freed, is abortion. Harper has prevented this until now by refusing to let some of the louder Right-to-Life Members to speak. Maybe they will also speak out to return capital punishment.

Another group will be the Libertarians in the Conservative Party. These people are extremists who demand small government, small taxation, and an every man for himself business environment. This group includes those who convinced Harper to put an end to the long-gun registry, so they are not without some influence.

And then there are the few old-fashioned, socially conscious Conservatives who are appalled at Harper’s cut and slash approach to the federal civil service and social programs. They could do serious damage to the Harper government if they were allowed to speak out.

That leaves another major category of Conservative MPs. They are the ones like Babel’s MP. How they got to Ottawa is an embarrassment for all concerned. They have nothing to contribute and nothing to say. To stand to read prepared texts on behalf of different Ministers is not representing your constituents. Trudeau thinks that voters should also have an opportunity to hear and assess these MPs.

The Conservatives have stalled any debate on this motion until next Wednesday. It will be interesting to see how Mr. Harper weasels his way out of this possibility.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Sousa needs all the help he can get.

Friday, April 19th, 2013

How smart do you think you have to be to forecast an Ontario provincial election in the next two months? The reason is that opposition leaders Horwath and Hudak smell blood. They have Wynne’s Liberals on the run with the cancelled gas generating plants. It is not so much the couple hundred million involved as it is the bad accounting. Losing another $85 million is not just a mission to the moon for Ontario voters.

But the key will be Ontario Treasurer Charles Sousa’s budget. Charles is a nice guy who has never done anything like this before in his life. It is the creative political stuff that the Minister directs. And this is where he needs help.

But turning to former Prime Minister Paul Martin is no answer. If Charles has ever wondered why Paul is a former Prime Minister, it is because he was the Finance Minister in the Chrétien Cabinet of the 90s that balanced Canada’s budget. He took money from the unemployed. He impoverished Medicare. You might recall what the voters thought of dear old Paul as Prime Minister.

It would be like seeking advice from Dwight Duncan, Charles’ predecessor as Treasurer. Dwight even brought in a banker named Don Drummond to help him cut the deficit. Drummond was a big help. He wrote a budget plan for old Dwight that even made Timmy Hudak smile. What is frightening about it is that Charles is also a former banker. We have to hope he never liked Don Drummond over in that other bank.

Mind you, this is the time to say ‘to hell with the banks,’ we’ve got a political party to save. Charles needs a budget theme that Timmy Hudak cannot rail against and has enough good news for Andrea Horwath to have to support. It requires a new era of privatization and entrepreneurship for the province.

We will start by selling off the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. You can sell off the old headquarters as a wholesale operation and make a pot of money on that. Then you start auctioning off the stores. And do not forget, you can get as much revenue from liquor taxes as you ever earned from staid and stuffy LCBO.

Then you kiss off that foreign-owned Brewers Retail operation. Let it bid on doing the recycling operation if they like but sell annual licenses to convenience and grocery stores to sell beer. They will do a much better merchandising job and produce far more tax revenue from smaller lighter packaging.

Now think of the opportunities you can add to this. How about bidding to operate provincial camp sites? And if the NDP get antsy about all this privatization, just point out how many unionized inspectors the province is going to need to police all this action?

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Worry about lies, not attacks.

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

The kids in the school yard are at the name-calling stage. It is a long way from anyone getting a bloody nose. And as attack advertising goes, these Conservative commercials saying Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is in way over his head are a waste of time and money. The Tories should have taken the time to do some focus group analyses with the target audiences.

This first advertisement says more about Stephen Harper and his party than it says about Justin Trudeau and the Liberals. The Tories are getting sloppy. They are overconfident, arrogant and lazy. And there is no mileage to be had in saying that Trudeau is young. If you were under 40, a person without too much interest in politics, what would your response be to greybeards like Stephen Harper putting down a younger and vital challenger? If those Conservatives (men obviously) had just checked their proposed ad with more women, they would have scrapped it unaired. They are causing women to be defensive of their opponent.

Justin Trudeau is not Stéphane Dion or Michael Ignatieff. The attack ads on Dion were cruel. They caught Canadians off guard but his failure to fight back was the reason they were so effective. With Michael Ignatieff, it was the snowball effect. He not only failed to address the scurrilous attacks on his “visiting” but he seemed nonplussed by it. It was like when the late Jack Layton used that rude attack in the English leaders’ debate about Ignatieff’s attendance in parliament. It was a simple attack to put off but he failed to say anything in response.

The guy who should be concerned about these attack ads is New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair. He has a complaint that the Conservatives are ignoring him. You have to at least give the Tories credit to realize that their problem in the upcoming election in 2015 is not any resurgent NDP but a well-led, strong Liberal Party under Justin Trudeau.

But the major concern for all Canadians is the current advertising for this mythical “Economic Action Plan” being paid for with taxpayers’ money. The quickly slurred words at the end of the commercial “Subject to parliamentary approval” do not justify or correct the impression that the Conservative government is doing something about the economy. This is the “Big Lie” of Stephen Harper. It is why polls are consistently showing that Canadians might hate Harper but they think he is doing something about the economy. He is not.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Justin’s on the job: Let’s get to work.

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

That was no barnburner speech last Sunday. That was the real Justin Trudeau speaking. He was gracious. He was humble. And he appreciated the phenomenal level of support he received from across Canada. His point was well taken: now the real work begins.

Later this year, the new electoral districts will be proclaimed and the party will proceed to restructure itself to contest 338 seats across Canada in the next election. The most extensive change will be in Ontario with 16 new electoral districts. Those 16 new ridings will be among the most hotly contested in the election expected in October of 2015. They will also be among the most hotly contested by Liberals seeking the nominations to be the candidate.

Most of those electoral districts are going to need lots of help. We need a much stronger provincial and regional party organization to help get that job done. The federal party organization in Toronto has to start asserting itself and provide the support to assist every riding to do its job. In Ontario, we also need strong regional executives to share that workload and make sure no opportunities are lost. And it means an entirely different mindset than before as the riding organizations take responsibility for candidates, policy development, fund raising, supporter identification and local public education efforts.

It has been more than 20 years since local ridings have had the responsibilities they are now undertaking. Most executive members have no concept of how to get the work done. They not only need to know how it was done 30 years ago but they also need to understand new technologies and new opportunities that can make the job easier.

But we have to start with the basics. If you have no idea of how the ground game works in politics, every member of your riding executive and every key member of the electoral district has to go to school. You need to be out on the streets of your electoral district tomorrow, practicing effective door-knocking techniques, identifying and recruiting supporters, opening up avenues for fund-raising. Ready or not, we have to get to work.

Justin’s job today is in Ottawa. Your job is here in your riding. And after you have done canvassing for the day, you can start to think about the policy issues Justin and Liberal candidates need to articulate for us in the run up to that 2015 election. Where should the Liberal Party lead Canadians in the 21st Century? We know how bad the Harper government is but what can we do better? Platitudes are what you use when you have had no time to think. We have two years before we need to publish a policy book. With all that time to plan it, it should be a fantastic Liberal policy book.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

You have gotta hand it to Rosie.

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

There is a saying that the true measure of a person’s intelligence is how much they agree with you. That makes Rosie DiManno at the Toronto Star a very intelligent person. We had frankly given up any hope of any writer at the Toronto Star telling the truth about the current casino controversy in the city. Just read her page two story today (April 16, 2013). It is bang on the target!

Mind you, Rosie is a superb writer. It is obvious in everything she writes that she really enjoys writing. And not since the days of Pierre Burton and Gordon Sinclair writing columns has the Toronto Star given a writer the same freedom. Rosie writes what she sees. If anyone dares to edit her copy, it is done with care and respect.

Rosie reminds you of Pierre Burton in one way. Pierre tended to be overly fond of his own wordsmithing. He could always write a thousand words when 200 words could do the job. In the modern 140-character world of Twitter, Pierre Burton would be a dinosaur. Rosie must also be paid by the word. Her columns are typically over 1000 words. You tend to use various speed reading techniques to quickly grasp what she is going on about.

But every word of Rosie’s column today is another gem. She could get into trouble with the Star’s lawyers for referring to one petitioner before city council executive as a “whack-job.”  It is unlikely there is a judge who would fine her more than a loonie for that bit of slander. On the Internet, nobody cares.

Rosie gets you laughing by telling you about the petitioner who gives the politicians the raspberry. Here you have some 200 people having their three minutes of fame, making fools of themselves in front of the executive committee. This is high humour. The more she tells you about what they said, the less you understand about the basic question.

But Rosie helps. She recognizes that somewhere in the GTA, there will be a casino. ((She might not be aware of the illegal ones that have been thriving under the radar.)  Rosie figures that what the Ontario government wants, the Ontario government gets. And it wants the easy money that a casino offers the proprietors.

Rosie says that the Exhibition grounds or Woodbine would be the best location for the Toronto casino. And that was Babel-on-the-Bay’s stand when this entire dialogue started. Welcome to common sense Rosie!

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Marketing Mr. Mulcair.

Monday, April 15th, 2013

Will many Canadians notice that the New Democrats renounced their socialist origins over the weekend? Will they realize that the party of Tommy Douglas is no more? The party has decided that it wants to move to the mythical middle of the political spectrum. Despite the Liberal Party having dibs on that part of the political playpen, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair says it is just a marketing position.

Mr. Mulcair must have learned his political marketing from Stephen Harper. Harper has two methods of handling his political opponents. He either trashes them or ignores them. And, as many of his opponents have learned, trashing means you are worrying him.

Todate, Mr. Mulcair has not seemed to worry Stephen Harper. In fact, as long as Mr. Mulcair wants to attack the Liberals, Mr. Harper can sit back and enjoy the show. If anyone knows the problems and rewards of a split opposition, Mr. Harper is the expert.

But it is now Mr. Mulcair who has the marketing problem. He said to Tom Clark of Global news the other day that he will win in 2015 because of Stephen Harper’s disrespect for the institutions of government in our country. Canadians knew all about that disrespect in 2011 and it produced a Conservative majority. Mr. Mulcair will have to do better than that issue.

The key question for him is whether he can even hold a majority of seats in Quebec? While the laughing description of voters in Quebec as ‘flash mobs’ is popular with the media, it is a volatility that needs to be understood.  Jack Layton caught the attention of Quebecers in 2011 because of his understanding of the problems they faced. They hated Harper, they despised the old Liberals and were tired of the Bloc Québécois. Voting Orange was their version of the Canadian one-finger salute to all politicians.

And Mulcair and his crew of kids think they can hold that position in Quebec? Mulcair was part of the former Charest Liberal regime that fought with students. Just how he is going to be marketed as young and vital in a centre-left party will take a lot more than a diet, a shave and foregoing the three-piece suits.

And that leaves the problems of the rest of the country. Traditional strongholds of NDP support in the Atlantic, Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia are isolated and have their own regional concerns. It was the old socialist origins of the NDP that knitted the party together across Canada and gave it the purity of purpose. Mr. Mulcair is going to miss that strength.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Titillating with crime, casinos and corruption

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

The Toronto Star’s war on casinos has gone far beyond silly. It makes you wish you were old enough to remember if the Star fought as hard in the last century to keep the swings locked in Toronto’s parks on Sundays. It is hard to get used to the Toronto Star in such a regressive and foolish stance. Now they have the anti-casino faction evoking images of a supposedly corrupt and evil Macau to frighten Torontonians. It seems that when you have nothing else negative to say on the issue, you might as well lie.

Anti-casino Councillor Adam Vaughan has added his name to an opinion piece written by a Sandy Garossino entitled “Three of a kind: Crime, casinos and corruption. While the article seems to flirt with slander, it has editing scars that indicate some of the more scurrilous content has likely been exorcised. What is left is an ill-conceived, poorly-executed trash piece that would embarrass Toronto Sun editors.

To say that American gambling resort developers such as Las Vegas Sands Corp., MGM and Wynne are involved in money laundering in Macau is an ignorant accusation. Any supposed wrongdoing in Macau is entirely a matter between the People’s Republic of China and its citizens. Many Chinese not only like to gamble but they are also very resourceful when heavy-handed rules by a totalitarian government need to be bent a bit.

To say that The Macau model is what casino operators would recommend for Toronto is ridiculous. The truth is that Macau only brought in the Las Vegas operators in the last ten years to attract gamblers from around the world with North American opulence and games such as blackjack and craps. The timing is such that the new emerging capitalism of China is creating the players who can afford to gamble there.

The American Macau casinos are very much like the Las Vegas model. Casinos dominate the Macau Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. With at least 40 per cent of revenues in the former Portuguese Colony derived from gambling, Macau is now a substantial money maker for the People’s Republic. If they know about corruption there, Councillor Vaughan and his co-writer should advise the Chinese authorities. Some American agencies might speculate on whether rules might be overlooked but speculation is not proof.

Toronto’s Executive Council will be discussing casinos at its meeting Monday or Tuesday. That committee will then determine if they wish to refer the question to the full council next month. It would certainly be a unique experience if people would just keep their comments to facts they know about. It would keep discussion very brief.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Wynne ignores elections chief at her peril.

Saturday, April 13th, 2013

If Premier Kathleen Wynne thinks she can ignore Ontario’s chief electoral officer, it could be her last act as premier. Greg Essensa, has asked for an end to third-party advertising in provincial elections and Wynne would be smart to make sure it happens this year. Without controls, Ontario Liberals could find themselves on the receiving end of some particularly savage third-party advertising.

It was something of a surprise two years ago that the ultra-right wing Ontario Landowners did not launch their own campaign to counter the so-called “Working Families” advertising that was savaging Conservative leader Timmy Hudak. The Landowners’ error at that time was believing polls showing Hudak with a comfortable lead going into the election. He proceeded to lose the election from there.

Whether the Working Families advertising had a major impact on the Hudak Conservative campaign is a theoretical discussion. It certainly gave aid and comfort to the McGuinty Liberals. And even if the Working Families material was or was not approved by the Liberals, there was no question in anyone’s mind that it was attempting to help them to defeat Hudak. You would have to be kidding yourself to suggest that this was not deliberate interference in the election process.

And it is this interference that the chief electoral officer is trying to stop. For teachers’ unions to put out $6 million to interfere in the last Ontario election was morally and ethically wrong. And Ontario is one of the few jurisdictions where it is not illegal.

What was actually of more value to the Ontario Liberals in the last election were the teachers whom the union reps pulled together to help canvas for their Liberal candidates. If a major portion of that $6 million had been put towards this activity, it would have been far more productive than the Working Families advertising.

What the Working Families lack in the coming election is a family patriarch (or Premier) to get behind and promote. The unions will still want to savage Tiny Tim Hudak but they might be very reluctant to put their faith in Liberals again. That means the only candidate who might earn their generous support is Andrea Horwath and her New Democrats.

Mind you, Horwath and the other party leaders are all paying lip service to the electoral officer’s report. It is action that is needed.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Babel’s Brown discovers new challenges.

Friday, April 12th, 2013

It was an article in Babel Backward (or Barrie Advance, if you wish) that caused ruminations about Mr. Brown’s service to Barrie. The article was entitled Brown defends private trips. It was written by Laurie Watt. It does not say who complained about MP Patrick Brown’s extensive travels but provides a so-so defence.

Having also traveled the world when Mr. Brown’s age, the writer can appreciate that travel can be a wonderful learning experience as well as an opportunity to help others. Of course, members of Canada’s parliament are offered many opportunities to travel to countries seeking material or other aid from this country. An MP has to carefully consider his objectives in parliament, on parliamentary committees and the needs of constituents before flying off thither and yon around the world.

It is not as though our MP is Minister of Foreign Affairs or Prime Minister, who regularly fly to many parts of the world. When the Prime Minister took MP Brown to India last year, we assumed that it was to help carry the Prime Minister’s luggage. The many problems one runs into in keeping diplomatic luggage secure have become something of an international disgrace.

The good news is that we have always noted that the MPs who do the most travel—leaving parliamentary duties and constituents behind—are the ones who do not intend to run for office in the next election. And, frankly, not having Mr. Brown under foot, so to speak, in Ottawa and Babel could be something of a blessing. He is hardly the most useful of the Conservative’s back-bench contingent in Ottawa. It has been noted though that some of the Ministers of the Crown have appreciated his willingness to ask them the questions they write for him to help use up Question Period.

His travels have also been appreciated by many of his constituents as they have helped keep him from interfering in the fund-raising activities of many of our charities to give him more publicity. He did make it home last year for the annual skating show at the Molson Centre. Many in Babel would certainly like to see that show turned into a proper fund raiser instead of a Conservative Party rally—just think about how much more could be raised for Royal Victoria Hospital if that event was run properly.

One item we are reluctant to query in Ms. Watt’s defence of Mr. Brown is the part of the article that quotes him as saying: “I travelled to Tanzania last year to work in rural health clinics…” We have a problem with the concept of him “working” in rural clinics. The only work, Mr. Brown might seem qualified for at a clinic would be on bed-pan patrol. Did we recently give MPs a raise to $160,000 per year for him to empty bed pans?

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Hudak the Hun hardens his heart.

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Neither age nor adversity nor the perspective of parenthood has softened the heart of Ontario Conservative Leader Tiny Tim Hudak. As he explained to his followers the other night, he knows what is right, far right. At the annual Ontario Conservative Party fund raiser, he promised to stay the course of Michael Harris-style cut and slash conservatism.

Hudak is like an old damaged vinyl record of the past, stuck in a groove repeating his mentor’s mantra. He is going to crush unions on our behalf. He is going to get rid of palatial public pensions. He would put an end to the Rand Formula to goad the hated unions. And his business supporters get to keep more of their profits.

What is amazing about this discourse is that companies paid over $2 million dollars into the Conservative Party in Ontario coffers to listen to this bilge. In offering them a return to the ideology of Michael Harris’ Ontario, Hudak is asking them to accept the discord, the anger and the union strife of the time that was so unnecessary.

What is particularly galling is the sham of Hudak’s position on the growing gridlock in Toronto. He thinks the Ontario government can produce magic money. Hudak was part of a government that saved money on testing municipal water supplies and killed people. It had a simple solution to health costs: it fired nurses. It downloaded highways on municipalities. And yet, Tiny Tim is promising to build subways and highways for us and save us money at the same time.

But we are not to worry about the cost. According to Timmy, Ontario can rest assured that his government would be vigilant in its quest for new investors in Ontario. He would “upload” the Toronto Transit Commission and regional highways such as the Don Valley Parkway, Gardiner and ‘400’ series highways to be looked after by the province. By working with the new investors, Timmy can see new highways being built and new subways serving Toronto.

What is puzzling about all this is that Timmy’s little girl might be getting a bit too old for fairytales but Ontario business leaders can attend a dinner and listen quietly to this guff. You would think in a province of over 12 million, reasonably well-educated Canadians, they could find a provincial Conservative leader with a little more on the ball.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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