Archive for November, 2013

Not all Liberals are liberal.

Saturday, November 30th, 2013

There was a bit of concern watching Wynne’s Whigs turning out to help in the federal by-election in Toronto-Centre recently. It was obvious at that stage that Liberal candidate Chrystia Freeland was a clear winner. The only thing left to do was to make sure the vote turned out on November 25. So why did Wynne and her friends show up to help two days before the vote?

That was a major push to bring out the provincial organization in Toronto and according to reports, there were about 300 people at the Queen Street campaign headquarters early on the Saturday morning before the voting. They were, in a way, marking their territory. Whether they meant a few more votes on Monday was immaterial compared to the psychological value of the show of force.

Federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau was there and Premier Kathleen Wynne hung close to him for the benefit of the photographers and videographers. If he had coattails, she would have just tied herself to them. The quid pro quo will be that he will be expected to support her in the provincial election that could be in the next four or five months.

The exchange would be quite fair if Wynne’s Whigs and Trudeau’s Liberals were from the same political party. We certainly hope not. Wynne’s Whigs are liberals in name only. Their provincial party is anti-democratic, right-wing, reactionary and closed-minded. They only borrow the name Liberal to appear contemporary.

The provincial party is far behind Justin Trudeau who has freed federal riding associations from being controlled by the party. It looks as though he is successfully challenging the party across Canada to come up with policies that can meet the needs of the middle class across Canada instead of just business. He is also taking a pro-active role in issues and showing the party and voters that he can listen and learn.

Premier Wynne and her Treasurer have already proved that they have nothing positive to contribute to the people of Ontario. They close their minds and when pressed will form a commission to look into what they should do. The only reality that keeps the Wynne government in power is the paucity of leadership among the Ontario Tories and New Democrats. Collectively, the three Ontario party leaders could not find a tree in a forest.

Justin Trudeau will just have to justify the Ontario situation with the realization that politics makes for very strange bedfellows.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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The tenacity of troglodytes.

Friday, November 29th, 2013

It is probably disrespectful to our prehistoric ancestors to think of some people arguing about how we vote as cave-dwelling troglodytes. They seem to insist on going backwards instead of forward. They look for solutions in repressive countries instead of the progressive ones. They brutalize statistics and numbers to make their point but prove nothing of substance. To give them their due, they are tenacious.

What makes no sense is the ill-named “Fair Vote” or “Democratic Voting” supporters and others that are suggesting that we vote for people we do not know to represent us. They want us to vote for lists of people proposed by political parties. They believe that is fair?

One of the most important aspects of our political system is that we can meet, question and discuss with the person seeking to represent us. That is not to say that there are not some in our electoral district who will vote for a party leader, irrespective of the village idiot being that party’s candidate. That happens but there is no reason for Canadians to encourage it.

American President Franklin D. Roosevelt had a wonderful observation equating strong leaders to ferry boats. He noted that the larger the ferry coming into dock, the more garbage that was washed into the dock with the ferry.

Over the last couple decades in Canada, we have had the situation wherein federal candidates have had to be approved by the party leader to be identified as a member of the party on the party’s slate of candidates. That system has corrupted Canadian politics to the point that some party leaders are routinely appointing candidates. Progressive leaders such as Justin Trudeau have made it clear that they will only sign for candidates selected democratically in their riding.

But the real answers in correcting some of the problems with our First-Past-the-Post voting system are in developments in technology. Internet voting is now a reality and it opens the door to almost immediate low-cost re-opening of the vote to satisfy ourselves that the selection in each riding meets with the approval of the majority of riding voters. This is far more democratic than preferential voting as citizens will be allowed to re-evaluate their decision based on the actual vote. By dropping off the person with the lowest vote until one candidate has a majority creates true consensus choice.

Canadians in British Columbia and Ontario have voted ‘No’ to electing party lists and preferential voting. Those promoting those ideas need to find a new plan.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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The economic answers in Ontario.

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

It was right there opposite the editorial in the Toronto Star today. It was the answers to all our economic questions. The bold headline read: Keys to unlocking the full force of Ontario’s economy. It was by Roger Martin, chair of the Ontario Task Force on Competitiveness, Productivity and Economic Progress. What became apparent in reading the article was that Toronto Star editors still write headlines without reading the content.

All the article reports is that nothing has changed in Ontario since Michael Harris was Premier. It provides a few insights into the factors causing stagnation in our provincial economy but there are no panaceas offered. A prolific business school writer, Martin spared us from the deeper insights reserved for those in academia.

What he should have noted was that for Ontario to find its way into the 21st Century is going to take leadership. Leadership is not something one normally equates with politics in Ontario. The standard answer to any question in this province is to create a task force to answer it.

Our current Premier learned the approach from her mentor Dalton McGuinty. With the sole exception of all-day kindergarten, McGuinty took us nowhere. His concern in ending coal-fired electrical generation is taking such a long time to resolve that it will end up being credited to his successor Kathleen Wynne.

The Leader of the Opposition in Ontario is usually just negative on anything from the Wynne government. He wants to create his own revolution. He says he wants to take on Ontario’s unions. He seems to look on governing as class warfare. His approach to leadership is to encourage conflict, urban versus rural, north versus south, city versus suburbs, rich versus poor. Luckily, he has a somewhat schizophrenic party behind him—and some of them are falling further and further behind.

Meanwhile Ontario’s New Democrats are acting as though they are leaderless. It is as though Andrea Horwath has to go to the Premier’s office to get the washroom key. It might be the only time she knows where she is going. She has yet to learn how to go about leading her caucus let alone the province.

With the province led by this group of misfits, there is not much point to having Roger Martin’s task force. Oh well, we need a laugh occasionally.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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If you cannot win it, spin it.

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

Can you believe that the Toronto Star paid Robin Sears for an opinion piece on political spin? In it the former NDP stalwart explains that by-elections are a political spin master’s dream. He alibis the New Democrats for failing to win any of the four ridings at play on November 25. He explains that the Liberal wins were simply a triumph of political spin.

We should be so lucky.

By-elections are a lot of damn hard work and for Sears to put it down as spin is to insult the work done by his own party. Toronto Centre was a tough, hard-fought battle between the Liberals and NDP. The New Democrats had an outstanding candidate and were able to draw on the entire city for their best workers. They tried to smear the Liberal candidate at every opportunity. And it did not work.

In Bourassa, a riding next door to NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair’s, the challenge was greater and the access to good workers was not as easy. It was expected to remain Liberal and it did. That is not to say the NDP rolled over and played dead. They fought, and, to their credit, fought hard. For Sears to write off the situation as a “rotten borough” is an insult to every political worker in the riding. Sure, it was a riding that rode out the Orange Wave but that is history.

And, not satisfied with disparaging the work of his own party, Sears takes on the national news media by referring to Brandon-Souris and Provencher in Manitoba as ‘flyover’ communities. He implies that the national media cannot be bothered to learn anything about these ridings. Well, they found out on Monday night how the Conservatives can screw up their own turf when they trample on the local riding association. The Liberals were far more of a challenge in Brandon-Souris than expected and came within 400 votes of a major upset.

And what has spin got to do with that?

If the Liberals in that riding had more workers, Brandon-Souris would now be Liberal red and Justin Trudeau would look like a hero. Mind you, Provencher was much more of a challenge and, to nobody’s surprise, the Tories held on to Vic Toews’ old riding.

But it is always nice to hear from an old political opponent such as Sears. If we can borrow the old army recruiting slogan: Politics; There is no life like it.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Mr. Mulcair, you better not pout.

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

It looks like New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair got an early lump of coal from Santa last night. The orange surge in Quebec came up short and Tommy’s star candidate in Toronto did not make it. And it was the Liberals who benefitted from the anger with Prime Minister Harper in Manitoba.

But Tommy, why were you being such a rotten kid in Toronto? Why the nasty campaign against Freeland? Why not leave that kind of stuff to Harper and his Conservatives? They are much better at being mean and cruel. When they say something nasty about you, you know they mean every bit of it.

You had the best candidate in the Toronto-Centre contest. Linda McQuaig’s credentials on the side of the people are solid. Not to put down Chrystia Freeland but we know Linda far better. And we know her sincerity. Sure, Chrystia is probably just as smart but she has a ways to go in proving her left-of-centre political credentials.

If anything, Tommy, you held Linda back. You fettered a free spirit. You screwed up by approving the Enbridge pipeline through Toronto. It is probably a more dangerous threat to Torontonians than a load of bombs from a B17. It is an ecological disaster just waiting to happen. Linda could have ran with that and guaranteed her win in Toronto-Centre.

But you held her back. You never understood that all your knitty-picky prosecutorial stuff in the House of Commons over the Senate scandal was not reaching the voters. What you thought of as tenacious came through as terribly boring. What you really needed to do in Toronto-Centre was to attack Trudeau’s stance on issues. It was an opportunity for you to be heard. It actually just shows that your campaign people did not understand the demographics of the riding.

Meanwhile back in Bourassa electoral district in Montreal, you proved that you are no Jack Layton. Mind you, it is tough to emulate a myth. As do most myths, the late Leader of the New Democrats does not come out well under close scrutiny. The Orange Wave in Quebec was a one-time event in Quebec because the Bloc was crashing. All Jack Layton really did was hand Stephen Harper and his Conservatives an undeserved majority—and Canada will rue that for many years.

What comes out of the by-elections in Bourassa, Toronto-Centre, Brandon-Souris and Provencher is hope. Justin Trudeau has some growing to do but he has shown us that he can lead. In the upcoming federal policy meeting in Montreal, he has to come up with a strong left-of-centre people’s platform. Canada can ill-afford another right-of-centre government. He has to recognize that the middle class have to have a social agenda.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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With this Ring of Fire, I thee wed…

Monday, November 25th, 2013

It is a wedding of convenience. There seems to be little love lost between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. It is likely she only wants him for his money. She needs it to build an all-season road 500 kilometres north from Thunder Bay to the Ring of Fire. When you add the infrastructure costs, you are only talking a couple billion. Just call it her bride’s price.

Ladies do love their rings! The chromite, nickel, gold, platinum and palladium deposits discovered in the area called the Ring of Fire Belt are estimated to be worth as much as $60 billion. That figure not only rivals the potential of the Athabasca Tar Sands in Alberta but is far less of a pollution problem.

American mining company, Cliffs Natural Resources left the province at the alter last week but this is more likely to be a negotiating tactic than a long-term rift with the province. The company is jealously guarding its already purchased mining rights in the area. Why the government is eager to deal with a company such as Cleveland-based Cliffs is the real question? The province has been ripped off for many years by people stripping resources and shipping them out of the country, providing little opportunity or jobs for the people of Ontario.

One of the strengths seen in the Ring of Fire negotiations is that Former Premier and Member of Parliament Bob Rae is working for native bands in the region. Rae is expected to negotiate upgraded living conditions in the area as well as improved job and educational opportunities.

But first somebody has to build a road. It can be a paved road or a railroad but it has to provide the ability to access the area and bring in the equipment to open the mining opportunities and then to ship out the refined product. The province needs to be reminded of the old axiom that if you build it, people will come.

While not doubting the short-term value to Ontario of opening up the Ring of Fire, it is nowhere near the economic potential of a high-speed electrified rail corridor from Quebec City to Windsor. It is Ontario’s opportunity to partner with Quebec—sure the federal government can add money—to generate continued growth for the provinces and Canada for decades to come. It is one thing to accept the bounty of our land by mining it and it is another thing to build long-term value for future generations.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Welcome to Canada’s new economy.

Sunday, November 24th, 2013

It appears that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is winning. Opposition Leader New Democrat Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau are giving him a free pass. By default, Harper is locking Canada into an economy based on Alberta bitumen and we will rue the day.

We were reminded of it the other day when the local drone of an MP put his name on an editorial page screed in the local Sun Media rag. It was full of misleading information about the agreement to negotiate a free trade deal with the European Union but it implied that Canada’s trade with the Europeans will be largely based on the resource sector and specifically energy—which is bitumen from the Alberta tar sands.

What the MP’s editorial failed to mention is that there is an ongoing problem with the Europeans being opposed to the pollution involved in refining bitumen. Despite Brit Prime Minister David Cameron trying to sell bitumen to the Europeans for Stephen Harper, nobody who understands the problems wants or needs bitumen.

The MP even says that Canadian refineries will want to refine the Canadian product. To-date, no Canadian refinery has been the least bit interested in refining bitumen. The Michigan refinery of Marathon Oil that has refined Alberta bitumen has Windsor, Ontario residents up in arms about the pollution coming from the Detroit side of the river.

But it is the  hypocrisy of the opposition side of our federal parliament that is the most worrisome in regard to this bitumen economy. Thomas Mulcair is your typical lawyer, talking out of both sides of his mouth on the subject. He has damned the Keystone XL pipeline in the American Midwest because he has no union workers to support there. He has questioned the Northern Gateway pipeline in British Columbia but approves of the two West to East pipelines because he thinks they mean jobs.

Justin Trudeau is the guy in the middle of this question because he has tried to skate on all of the pipelines without considering the damage to our climate. If he thinks he can favour these pipelines and keep faith with the younger voters he has been gathering, he is kidding himself. While polls are showing that Canadians are recognizing the economic importance of the pipelines, they have not connected the dots yet to the horror of pollution that is involved.

Canada desperately needs a proper debate on this issue and it has to be sooner than later.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Bye Mr. Ford. See you in the funny papers.

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

There is an unsavoury anger in Toronto these days. It is directed at Mayor Rob Ford. It has to do with the fact that the city appears to be stuck with that guy until the municipal election planned for October next year. He has dragged the city through the muck of world-wide derision. It has caused an anger that might only be alleviated by the police gathering enough evidence to arrest him. And few believe that is going to happen.

But this anger people are expressing is serious. It has to have an outlet. It can drive wedges between families and friends as people take sides. Yes, there are still people who think Ford makes a good mayor. They seem to be simple folk but they can be vocal. They seem to represent a selfish and mean-spirited underbelly of the city. This is not the metropolis in which most of us believe.

Toronto is no small-potatoes backwater. It is no longer hog butcher to the nation. It is a thriving city that is the financial and business headquarters of Canada. It is a cosmopolitan centre that attracts émigrés from around the world. It speaks the manifold languages of factors, faculties, fashion, finance, film, food and fame. It is a centre of liberalism in culture, the arts, in life style, in tolerance and in politics.

It grates on Torontonians to be the butt of jibes by late night entertainers. We are appalled by the innocent questions of contacts in other parts of the world. Why are these troubles the source of questions from afar? How can this gross individual, with his rudeness and vulgarity wear the chain of office of mayor of the city? How can he represent the caring, the diverse, the liberals, the devout and intelligenstia of Toronto?

Toronto is home to two illustrious universities, a prestigious art gallery and a world-renowned museum, a thriving theatre district, world famous hospitals—and to Ford Nation. In our openness and acceptance, we let anybody in.

But even in our pit of despair the pendulum still swings. The laws of physics say that an equal and opposite reaction is possible. The concern is that the Ford debacle does not result in a victory for the downtown left wing of the city council. There is no leadership there. And without fresh, forward looking leadership in Toronto, the city will gridlock into an unmanageable quagmire of old and broken infrastructure. The city will no longer be capable of repairing and renewing itself. And we will deserve the depths of degradation to which Rob Ford has delivered us.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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The time of testing of Trudeau.

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Monday is by-election day. In four federal ridings scattered across Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba, voters will be having their say. It will be a test of their resolve for change and their direction for change. New Democrat leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau will be tested and judged and critiqued according to the showings of their respective party candidates.

The Bourassa electoral district in Montreal is the one under the closest scrutiny. It is a long-time Liberal seat that was held by Denis Coddere until he resigned to run for and win the mayoralty in Montreal. The seat is under attack from the nascent New Democrats. The NDP wants to win to prove the party is not a one-time wonder in Quebec and is pulling out all stops. The Liberals are reasonably confident here but will not uncross their fingers until Monday night.

Toronto-Centre in Ontario is the heart of the Liberal Party strength in Ontario. If Liberal candidate Chrystia Freeland does not win here in former Interim Leader Bob Rae’s riding, there will be problems. Chrystia is up against the darling of the New Democrats, Linda McQuaig, and it has been an intense campaign. If Linda upsets things, it will be Justin who will be criticized for his ill-considered off the cuff remarks that speak of his lack of experience as leader. Again, the Liberals look safe but we will all feel more comfortable after Monday night.

Manitoba has not been a happy hunting ground for Liberals in recent years but there is a statistical chance of a Liberal win in Brandon-Souris due to some infighting among the Conservatives in the riding. Many Liberals thought our best bet in Brandon-Souris was to move from fourth place to second. If we can win it with the work Trudeau has done in the riding, there will be Liberals dancing in the streets.

But we hardly expect a similar situation in the Manitoba riding of Provencher. When you consider that Conservative Vic Toews won this riding with 70 per cent of the vote in 2011, you wonder about the intellectual capacity of the voters. (Just Google the name and you will see what we mean.) If the Liberals can even keep the Conservative vote under 45 per cent, you will know that Harper is toast in the next election.

Of course, Mr. Harper will have his prepared texts ready on Monday evening to slam Trudeau as best he can. Hopefully Justin will be less off the cuff than usual. If Liberals win three out of four, he is in good shape. If we only win two, we might take comfort in closer votes in the Manitoba ridings.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Rob Ford’s evil twin Stephen Harper.

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

It seems appropriate. While the Toronto Police are sniffing around Mayor Rob Ford’s purported dealings with crack houses and drug dealers, the RCM Police are sniffing around Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s dealings with the Senate and expense account fiddlers. Are they not all the same?

Do Canadians have one law for mayors and another law for prime ministers? How many times have we heard that Conrad Black would never have gone to jail in Canada? Does anyone protect the shareholder in this country? Does anyone protect the consumer in this country? Canadians want to know.

We know that nobody protects the poor voter.

And is there even a possible court case against Mayor Ford? The man can say he tried crack cocaine but unless the police have more than his claim, they can hardly charge him with anything more than braggadocio. There is no law against being a buffoon. If we could charge people for lying to us, the Conservative’s jails would be overflowing with politicians. Rob Ford got to be Mayor of Toronto by promising to put an end to the “gravy train” and he ended up wrecking his own choo-choo.

But is Stephen Harper any different? This man, who started as an acolyte of Preston Manning, schemed and worked behind the scenes to rest the Reform movement from him. He then (after the Alliance debacle) absorbed a moribund Conservative Party and made it his. Sure he is smarter than Rob Ford. There must be millions of people smarter than Rob Ford. Do our federal police give dispensation points for IQ?

Anyone who saw the 2008 English-language debate of the party leaders knows that Stephen Harper can lie with an absolutely straight face. Elizabeth May of the Greens was the only leader in that debate that would acknowledge the economic troubles the world was facing. The absolutely flat look on Stephen Harper’s face has become his standard stance for any problem he faces as Prime Minister.

Will he skate on the RCM Police investigation? Can he? Here we have a micro-management freak who claims to have no idea what the underling in the next office was doing. Do you believe that? Do you believe anything Stephen Harper says? If you do, you must also believe that nice Rob Ford.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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