Archive for October, 2013

Stephen Harper is counting coup in Calgary.

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

It is Halloween and the Conservative Party of Canada is gathering in its spiritual home of Calgary to pay obeisance to its liege lord and to drink of the wine of power. The keynote speech will now be Friday evening. Prime Minister Stephen Harper will take the floor sometime after five pm MDT. It will be his role to continue the tradition of the plains Indians to count coup against the Conservatives’ enemies.

Harper will put the troubles of the last two weeks behind him. He is there to revel in his victory in the possibility of European free trade. And besides, Senators Brazeau, Duffy and Wallin are not really expected to attend the convention.

The speech will be a fulsome report on the excellence of his stewardship of the Canadian economy. He will probably forget to mention the hit Hamilton just took as the once proud Stelco Hilton Works closes its blast furnace forever. Mr. Harper does not interfere with business decisions or even their promises, he will tell you.

But he still has his work cut out for him in helping TransCanada Pipelines get the Keystone XL pipeline through the American Midwest to the Texas Gulf coast. He will, hopefully, not take credit for the Enbridge Line 9B pipeline solution to moving Alberta tar sands product through Toronto before the National Energy Board announces it. And if those solutions do not come about, there are still the pipelines across the Rockies and another eastern pipeline to promote.

Some of the wheat farmers in his audience will be of mixed emotions when he takes the credit for killing the Canada Wheat Board. The farmers know that the Wheat Board will be sorely missed.

The cheers will be genuine when he tells the gun enthusiasts in the crowd that he got rid of the gun registry. Maybe they can go out and celebrate later by shooting somebody.

But Stephen Harper should not be smiling when he tells his audience how he has wrestled the lavish spending in Ottawa to the ground. If he thinks he can end the deficit by not spending monies that Parliament had approved to be spent, it is a far more serious lie to Canadians than the cover up in his office on his favourite Senators’ expenses.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Voters hardly deserve our governments.

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

It is a mindless statement of politics that the voters get the government they deserve. That is such a false statement that it should be declared illegal to even say it. What we most often get across Canada at all levels of government is the government that is the least offensive under the circumstances. And sometimes there is just no choice at all.

An interesting sample of this at the municipal level is the Mayor Rob Ford fiasco in Toronto. Against the usual suspects in an open mayoralty race, Rob Ford was the easy first choice. He stood for something—such as it was and the yahoos running for nothing but their own egos quickly collapsed or got out of his way. Ford did not win the job of mayor as much as everyone else surrendered.

It is why municipal elections are such excellent training grounds for politicians. The challenge to every neophyte is to become known. Municipal election campaigns are run on name recognition.

Ontario and Quebec provincial elections recently are excellent examples of the wrong people winning election for the wrong reasons. Jean Charest the Liberal Premier of Quebec had run out of gas, allies and support in Quebec and the only left of centre party came out ahead of a bunch of right of centre parties. It was simple mathematics but Quebec Premier Pauline Marois is making good use of her play time in office to make points for separatism.

Meanwhile in Ontario, Premier Dalton McGuinty had run out of gas, allies and support with the Conservatives poised to take over. The only problem was that the Conservative leader was so inept and the New Democrat leader such a loser, the election ended up as a stalemate with a minority Liberal Government. Ontario voters really do not deserve everything that has happened since.

But then there is the federal government. Canada’s voters wear the Harper government as their hair shirt. Nobody deserves having these people in power. For too long now, the Conservatives have been giving Ottawa an enema designed to reduce spending on everything except the government in the House and Senate. They have stripped the civil service of everything, including its dignity. There is not a department in Ottawa that is not limping along barely able to do its job. If Finance Minister Jim Flaherty can meet his deficit targets in the next year, there will be a lot of blood lost from those program cuts.

The only spending this government does is on itself and its propaganda. It is a government of ideologues and sycophants. It is a government of privilege and entitlement. It is anti-democratic and uses the procedures of government to hide truths from the voters. The only facts are their propaganda. It is a government with no empathy for people. It rules. It does not care.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Choosing challengers for Ford’s job.

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

It is far too early for a morning line forecast on the race for the Toronto mayoralty but the key apparatchiks are in play. While nobody can legally be campaigning until they formally file early next year, there is a lot for the teams to do. The Toronto Star City Hall Bureau is trying to keep track as the teams form to challenge for the mayoralty in the October 27, 2014 election. The following are the Star’s guess at who might be candidates and who might be their key supporters—the comments are ours!

The only campaign that is already out there openly campaigning is incumbent Rob Ford. Legal or not, he uses his radio show to put forward his agenda and the news media are going along with his pumping his candidacy. His brother Doug will probably be his de facto campaign manager despite having a provincial campaign of his own to try to win. This next campaign is Rob Ford’s to lose and he has been working hard at that.

MP Olivia Chow is a desperate choice for mayor but could win given no other strong opponent than Rob Ford. If the mayor’s job was purely ceremonial, she might be able to pull it off. If you are looking for someone who can exhibit leadership and political savvy, you best look elsewhere. Conservative John Laschinger who is supposed to already be aboard the good ship Chow is a very able campaign manager and knows what needs to be done. The addition of NDPer Joe Cressy and Liberal Warren Kinsella spells confrontation and trouble. Cressy could run the ground game that the campaign needs but will not be too happy with taking orders from Laschinger. Kinsella has always seemed to us to be the ego that walks and he could bring the campaign the wrong kind of exposure.

Radio personality John Tory might have to settle for being the best mayor Toronto never had. You cannot get him elected against Rob Ford unless everyone else quits the race and gets behind him.

Karen Stintz has yet to show that she has the political drive to be mayor. It sounds as though she is playing Rob Ford’s game with subways and somebody has to convince people that his stand is irresponsible. With former MPP Greg Sorbara and Liberal apparatchik Don Guy behind Stintz’ campaign, she needs to check to see if she has some gas plants for them to cancel.

The Toronto Star staff person thinks former Councillor David Soknacki and Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong are also likely contenders. The Star writer must have a very vivid imagination.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Will Harper weather his winter?

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Calgary, at this time of year, already tastes of winter. And as the Conservative Party gathers for its Halloween convention, there is a bite in the air. The real question of the convention is not whether the Prime Minister can handle the chill but what the convention foretells for his future.

Oh, he will be cheered in the hallways. There will be the appropriate ovations to his speech. He is still Prime Minister of Canada for goodness sake!

But the signs will be clear behind the scenes. What are the party apparatchiks quietly saying to each other? Are they lining up their choices for Harper’s replacement? Who are the people being listened to more for their speaking style than the speech content? Which ministers are making the more obvious moves?

What is a hopeful such as James Moore from Port Moody, B.C. quietly saying in the hallways and more eloquently in his hospitality suite? He has to work this convention for all it is worth—and without pissing off the boss. He knows that Harper might be on his knees but there is no way he is out for the count.

Will the Bobbsey Twins (Calgary’s Hon. Jason Kenney and Ottawa’s Hon. John Baird) flip a coin to see which one will go for the brass ring or will both just continue to sniff the air? Both want to be the heir but they need some encouragement.

And to the rank and file in Calgary, there is concern but not a sense of impending doom. Because, let us face facts, the rank and file of the Conservative Party are not that observant. They carry their ideology like a proud pennant. They are more worried about Liberal Justin Trudeau than they let on.

Their quibble, if any, with their leader is not that he has not done them proud but they know in their hearts that he could have done much more. If you scratch the itch of one of these party adherents, you will find that they want to bring back hanging. They want the baby killer abortionists castrated. They do not like having immigrants. They do not like paying taxes either.

If Stephen Harper were an honourable person, he would use the opportunity of this convention to resign as Conservative leader and ask the party to call for a leadership convention. His only problem is that he might not be that honourable.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Ontario, Quebec can do it better together.

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

Two provinces with the resources are better than one. Two provinces with the ideas are better than one. And two provinces working together can rebuild Canada’s economy to make the country the most dynamic in the world. People have talked about this idea for many years but ignorance and caution have been the cause of continued inaction. It is time to force the change.

This came out of a discussion with a friend who is an expert on the business needs of Ontario. The question asked was: What is the one basic ingredient to restoring our economic viability?” He spoke without hesitation: “A high-speed rail corridor from Windsor to Quebec City. It is essential to the long-term economic health of Ontario, Quebec and Canada.”

And he is right, with one proviso: The trains must be high-speed electric!

Quebec is currently studying electrifying rail in that province. It has the low-cost hydro electric power to spare. If those Quebec City to Montreal trains continue west to Toronto and Windsor, it means year-round boosts to tourism and commerce for both provinces. It means easing the congestion of inter-city airline flights. It is the infusion of billions of dollars of upgrading in the rail corridor. It offers same day city-to-city rail freight. It creates tens of thousands of jobs for both provinces. We can build the 250 to 300 kilometres per hour trains. We can build the infrastructure.

Clean, efficient, fast electric trains will change the dynamics of commuter travel to the major cities in both provinces. Commuters will have their travel times cut by at least a third. More stations can be added because of the ease of electric trains in coming up to full speed.

And then we can look north because that is the future.

Both provinces need low cost transportation for goods and people to their resource rich north country. And they need the transportation for the output of the mines to processing.

The initial changeover and infrastructure cost will be in the range of many billions. It will take years of planning and construction. It will take new arrangements in energy distribution and costing. It will take people with daring, foresight, intelligence and guts to make it happen. Quebec has already launched the idea. We need to tell Quebec that Ontario wants on board. Because, together, we can get it done.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

A $100,000 dinner not part of democracy.

Saturday, October 26th, 2013

The other day, Premier Kathleen Wynne defended a $100,000 fund-raising dinner for the Ontario Liberal government. She said that fundraising such as this is all part of democracy. What it is, in fact, is a corruption of democracy and should never be allowed. It is indefensible. The money should be returned to the dozen or so energy industry suppliers by the Liberal Party in Ontario with a polite, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

This type of politics has gone on for far too long in Ontario and it goes against every tenet of democracy. It perverts the basis of one-person, one-vote. It cries out of possible corruption. And it perverts the very core of our political system. Without proper controls on political donations, democracy is pushed aside.

We really do not want to live in a province ruled by money instead of the people. Yet we allow unelected hangers-on at Queen’s Park to dictate to the politicians and to set and control the political agenda. Since the days of Premier Oliver Mowat, Ontario seems to have been enslaved to a Family Compact that concentrates the power in a few. With the exception of one-term regimes such as the 1919 to 1923 stewardship of Premier E.C. Drury, Ontario Premiers appear to have had to be approved by that Compact.

The Family Compact started out as major landowners and gradually transitioned to major resources, financial and industrial interests through their surrogate lawyers. These interests had lost control of the federal parties prior to the present Conservatives because of federal election funding reforms in the latter half of the 20th Century.

In Ontario, funding by corporations and unions continues to be excessive and leaves politicians open to questionable relationships. Also the very fact of allowing third party interference in elections is of questionable legality and this has been a sham and disgrace.

All three major parties understand the weaknesses of the Ontario election and funding rules and each, for their own benefit, fail to bring it forward. We need pressure from the ranks of the political parties for the problems to be fixed. A good time is in the dying days of a government that knows it cannot win re-election. Then, why not fix it? Why leave the advantages for others? The Wynne government should take note.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Justin Trudeau on the fence.

Friday, October 25th, 2013

One of the fun aspects of politics is watching the dance of a politician trying desperately to stay on both sides of an issue. It would have been especially interesting yesterday to watch Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau try to balance himself on the Keystone XL pipeline in front of an environmental lobby group in Washington. You have to give him marks. He almost pulled it off.

When you consider that Trudeau was talking to a meeting of the Center for American Progress which opposes the Keystone XL pipeline, his was a brave stand. He told the audience that he supports the pipeline because he believes it is an important energy infrastructure piece for both countries. What was wrong with that was that he demonstrated a lack of understanding of the objectives of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Whether Trudeau understands the role of the pipeline or not needs to be clarified with him. If he is just supporting it to win a few votes in Alberta, it is a waste of time. The problem is that Keystone XL has no bearing on the energy infrastructure of America. The intent of the pipeline is to put Alberta tar sands bitumen on board tankers off the coast of Texas and ship it to countries that do not care as much about pollution.

Trudeau is right that pipelines can be made even safer and need not threaten the environment. Alberta bitumen is a drastic threat to the environment though when you convert it to synthetic oil. The refining process puts a very serious amount of carbon directly into the air and creates vast piles of what is known as carbon coke—which, while it can be burned as a fuel, adds even more carbon to the air. If Trudeau is not aware, someone needs to catch him up on the physics involved in tar sands bitumen.

But Trudeau can learn. Prime Minister Stephen Harper just demonstrates his hypocrisy by reassuring people that the pollution problem will be solved. Thomas Mulcair of the New Democrats leaves himself even further up a tree on the issue. Mulcair has told the Americans that he is against Keystone XL but is in favour of East-West pipelines in Canada. Since these pipelines also have the same purpose of shipping the bitumen to countries that do not care as much about pollution, Mulcair’s position is more hypocritical than Harper’s.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

A lame duck Harper limps home.

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

If you have been wondering what Prime Minister Harper is planning for the Conservative Party’s Halloween Convention in Calgary, here is a suggestion. The keynote address is currently scheduled for five pm, Calgary time, on the Saturday. In the East, that means we will miss some of Hockey Night in Canada to watch him. It might just be worth it. One of the more interesting options is Stephen Harper announcing his resignation as Prime Minister.

What are Stephen Harper’s choices? He is now the Richard Nixon of Canadian politics. He is accused of being one of the Plumbers in the Canadian Watergate. It is not the act of perverting the purpose and membership of the Senate of Canada that he stands accused of but the cover-up, the lies, the stonewalling.

This is not to suggest that he might not try to continue with his claims of innocence. He is good at that. He usually just ignores the questions. In his mind, he is innocent. His concern at this stage is for his legacy. He will protect his legacy at any cost. If he destroys the Conservative Party in the process, so be it.

Sure there will be a lot of cheering Conservatives spending Halloween in Calgary but this Senate thing could cost him a majority government. The Tories will be lucky not to lose seats in Alberta.

Harper can hardly keep throwing his key people under the bus and expect to have lots of friends left. Sometimes you have to take the blame. You have to respect Toronto Mayor Rob Ford more. Look how he sticks with his friends—even the convicted criminals.

It certainly looks like Senator Mike Duffy has made his bones. In one inelegant speech to his fellow Senators, Duffy has destroyed a Prime Minister. He called the man for lying. Whether you believe Duffy or not, the Conservatives have lost the next federal election. There are simply too many Canadians who heard about what Duffy told the Senate. He was credible, believable and the entire scenario snapped together like a set of Legos.

The problem with the Calgary speech is that it will not just be the resignation. There is still some bragging to be done. There are years of stewardship of his party to talk about. There are his supposed accomplishments as Prime Minister. There is also a potential free trade with the European Union to crow over.

Whoever wants the Prime Minister job—and there are more than just James Moore and the Bobbsey Twins (John Baird and Jason Kenney)—might have a leadership convention next May or June. And until then, Harper will continue to micromanage everything.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

What is Wynne doing in politics?

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

Did you see the announcement of Kathleen Wynne’s new super committee to solve all her problems as Premier? If you wait long enough, you too might find yourself on one of her growing lists of committees. The only membership requirement appears to be that you should not be mistaken for a Liberal.

But it is this latest committee that leaves us flabbergasted. It is supposed to tell the government how to find information about their own government, how to understand the information obtained about their government, and then tell her and her government how they can use the information to do a better job of governing. The only question left is what are Wynne and her government to do?

Admittedly, the less glamorous aspects of politics are the endless hours of reading and research that are needed to keep informed, to understand issues and to consider alternatives for action. It appears that Ms. Wynne considers this work onerous and she has created this committee to tell her how to relieve her workload.

Frankly, it would serve the citizens of Ontario better if Ms. Wynne just quit and turned the Premier’s position over to a Liberal who understands the job.

Remember President Harry Truman’s famous sign in his office: The buck stops here. In our Ontario Premier’s office, there should be a sign saying: Stop Stupid.

If you think you need a committee of apolitical nerds, political has beens, people who live off political ineptness and the usual suspects to tell you how to be a politician, you have a serious problem.

What has never made sense has been the claim of the news media that Premier Wynne is some kind of left-wing politician. Her entire career in politics has been based on reactionary politics, starting with her objecting to Premier Michael Harris’ amalgamating Toronto into a single city. It was a move that was long overdue and done badly but there was Kathleen Wynne standing as some female King Canute of conservatism, fighting the inevitable.

And as a school trustee in North Toronto, Wynne was reactionary and a loser. She switched to provincial politics.

And that seems to sum up Kathleen Wynne’s career. The woman is behind the trends, playing catch-up and has no understanding of where she is going. She is a disaster as Premier and no liberal. The sooner Ontario is rid of her, the better.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

The Hair hypes his legacy.

Monday, October 21st, 2013

Is the door to the Airbus A310 wide enough? Is it high enough? Did that inflated head of perfect hair find an easier way to get on the airplane for the trip back to Canada from Brussels? You could see the glee and the pride when he said at the announcement that it “is not just a good deal, it is an excellent deal.” Only time will determine the truth of that statement but you could see that he was treating it as his legacy.

The media are calling this the Hair’s signature move as Prime Minister. It seems to lack the flair of Pierre Trudeau’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the novelty of Brian Mulroney’s attempt at a free trade deal with the United States but in the long term these trading arrangements are starting to fall in place around the world. As the kids say, you have to be there or be square. Trade is the way.

What is embarrassing is that the flood of hype is coming not from the joint announcement in Brussels, nor from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development but from the Prime Minister’s Office. Everything has the Hair’s DNA on it.

What Canadians are not getting is facts. There are none. Nobody can forecast the number of jobs this deal might or might not create. Nobody can forecast the net worth of the deal. Sure, billions can be bandied but that possibility is years from now and more can go wrong than right in those years.

We can alarm the cheese processors and scare the makers of Eau de Welland Canal but the smart ones will see opportunity. It will also demand that they keep improving the quality of their product. They could even reach a point where they can compete.

And if you are worried about Canadians losing on this deal, you might be needlessly pessimistic. We have already had the guts ripped out of our manufacturing by the Americans and their right to work states. There is little more that the Europeans can do to us in that regard.

What we can expect now is for the Hair to start to measure what is left for him to accomplish. The bravado that he has used to-date with Justin Trudeau is just that. The few Canadians who saw Trudeau’s speech on Friday in response to the Throne Speech will agree that the Hair cannot meet the Liberal challenger head to head. What are the Hair’s options now?

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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