Archive for February, 2014

Horwath toe-tests minimum wage.

Friday, February 28th, 2014

It would be great to have a real left-wing political party in Ontario. This is not a promise to support the party but it would be great for voters to just have the option. And if you think Andrea Horwath and her Ontario New Democrats are going to answer the call, you might as well forget it.

After North Toronto’s Premier Kathleen Wynne bravely promised to raise the minimum wage to $11 an hour several weeks ago, we assumed that Horwath and her team were gathering their skirts to wage war. They finally offered the New Democrat alternative and it is not what you might expect. While the Liberal plan was to adjust the rate based on the consumer price index—to make sure the poor stay poor—the New Democrats had to be different. Horwath announced that the $11 an hour would be great but needs to be raised 50 cents per year for the next two years—with or without the agreement of the consumer price index.

And you would be wise not to ask what Conservative Leader Tim Hudak thinks—nobody is sure he can.

What the Liberals and New Democrats are doing is a disgrace. They are thumbing their noses at the experts who suggest that the minimum wage in Ontario should be at least $14 per hour to keep workers above the poverty line. And even then, the experts tell you that the person needs to work full-time. Too many of the minimum wage jobs in Ontario offer just part-time hours.

Politicians will tell you that they are being lobbied by supposed “small business” interests that cannot sustain themselves at a fair wage rate. The politicians are afraid of losing those jobs. They should not be. Any business running that close to the line has a bad business plan, should not be in business and we will be better off without them.

The greatest insult in all of this is that the New Democrats think they will help matters by lowering the small business tax rate further. When the supposed left-wing politicians are more worried about the earnings of small business investors than the wages of the impoverished, we have something topsy-turvy in this province.

Andrea Horwath would have won more plaudits and maybe the premier’s job if she had the guts to demand an immediate increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Now that would make for an interesting election campaign!


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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If the Hair is not there, can it be important?

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

There is confusion across the country. The Hair is sending Foreign Minister John Baird to the Ukraine. Canadians know that if there is an important trip to anywhere, the first people allocated space aboard that big Airbus A310 are the Hair and the hairdresser.

But on this trip, the Hair sends Baird? We all know that the Hair only takes John Baird along sometimes because he asks politely and does not make a scene wanting to get into picture opportunities.

But why send Baird this time? Is there a possibility of some more shooting? Do you think Mr. Putin, Emperor of Russia would need it as an excuse to invade? Would shooting Baird be enough of an excuse? The more you think about it, a simple flesh wound would guarantee Baird’s re-election in his Ontario electoral district. Canada has never had a foreign minister who really deserved to get shot.

There is no question that the Russians are looking at the disorganized rebels in Kyiv and considering a surgical military strike to carve Eastern Ukraine and Crimea away from the troubles. People in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea are mainly of Russian origin and there is considerable precedence for action from the Russian viewpoint.

But even if the shooting has ended, why would the Hair send Baird to Ukraine? What is he going to do there? Is he going to go up and down the streets of Kyiv asking (through an interpreter) who the heck is in charge? And you can hardly ask the first cop you see. Most of them have left town until people cool off. You find it difficult to shoot at people one day and go back to giving out speeding tickets the next.

There is a parliament, of sorts. What the legitimacy of that parliament might be is open to question. Baird can hardly go to them and offer a generous aid package when you have no idea who will endorse the cheque.

The first beneficiary of any cheques Canada or any of the Western countries write will be the Russians. Russia supplies Ukraine with its vital natural gas supplies which provide home heating and electric power. And the more independent Ukraine wants to be from Russian influence, the higher the price of gas might go.

Frankly, the Hair might have made a bit of a mistake here. If you have to deal with all the complex problems related to maintaining peace on the Eurasian Steppe, you best send someone a hell of a lot smarter than Foreign Minister John Baird.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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An apology as requested by Mr. Kinsella.

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

You do not often get shouted at in an e-mail. Mr. Kinsella has requested an apology. He may certainly have it.

Please understand the confusion. A column appeared in the Toronto Sun last Sunday in which Mr. Kinsella was declared to be the author and identified him as with QMI Agency. Since QMI Agency is part of the Quebecor organization, it was assumed that he was either employed or connected in some way with Pierre Karl Péladeau’s business interests. You can therefore understand why someone might be confused.

But there was absolutely no intention to hurt Mr. Kinsella’s feelings. Nor would we wish to defame him by association. If Sun Media or QMI Agency do not make a contribution to Mr. Kinsella’s living costs, we humbly apologize.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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It is not about you Mr. Kinsella.

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

If it were not for the egos involved, political campaigns would be far more fun. Most political apparatchiks get their comeuppance early in the game and learn the hard way that the candidate is always the star, not the hangers-on. It is like the old ventriloquist Edgar Bergen was always the politely bland chap in the background. It was the dummy on his lap who made it all work.

Another lesson learned early in politics is the need to assess the strengths and weaknesses of an opponent’s support team. What types of campaigns have they run? What are their favourite tactics and strategic moves? And why has this candidate selected him or her? If you know them, you know what to expect.

Regrettably we seem to fail sometimes in that analysis with people in the same party. We try to work in a spirit of collegiality. We want to take our allies at face value. That only fails us when we are too late in understanding their objectives. When you can feel the knife slide into your back, it is too late to even be disappointed.

But it makes you a bit stand-offish as you get older. You tend to keep your commerce to your own generation. The Warren Kinsella’s of this world are a later breed. Some of us never did understand the supposed “War Room” and his book “Fight the Right” seemed already out of date when published and was easily forgotten.

Mind you it seems understandable that a liberal who has to make his living working for Pierre Karl Péladeau’s Sun Media might feel bitter. It does not really excuse attacks on Toronto mayoralty candidate John Tory on behalf of an undeclared Olivia Chow. The attacks are not only overblown but are damaging to Chow. Having an attack dog on her campaign team does nothing for her image. She has to sell conciliation from the left, not silly, unjustified personal attacks.

From Mayor Rob Ford, you expect unwarranted and unnecessarily vicious charges. Hell, he is better at it and has earned the sanctions for it.

The only advice to Mr. Kinsella is that maybe he can find better content and add more depth to his blogs. He should also note that a blog should always have more substance than a twit in Twitter and he might be a much more respected writer if he tried not to use as many personal pronouns


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Toronto’s Phoney War begins.

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

The endurance contest in Ontario that has replaced municipal election races has its own challenges and strategies. The Toronto mayoralty race can be considered launched Monday with the official entry of Councillor Karen Stintz and former provincial Conservative Leader John Tory. And like the period from September 1939 to April 1940, it can be described as a “Phoney War.”

But there were many casualties on land and sea in that period of the Second World War and there will be casualties by the time the Toronto mayoralty contest comes down to the basic three. By the end of the summer, the race is expected to consist of the also-rans and Olivia Chow, Rob Ford and John Tory.

Olivia Chow is the only still undeclared candidate but she will have to move fast now as people are already wondering about her obvious expenses—which are illegal if she is not declared. Most of the people working for her must be betting on the Come but she is accumulating far too many political debts for a sensible campaign.

Meanwhile, Rob Ford can spend whatever is necessary to try to hold on to enough of his support in a three-way race. It is simple mathematics to reason that he can win with as little as 35 per cent of the voters who get to the polls. And it is important to note that both Ford and Tory are personally wealthy. One of the loopholes in municipal election law in Ontario is that candidates can spend as much of their own money as they wish. It is the outside funding that is restricted.

This is John Tory’s last political hurrah and he will pull no punches. It is interesting to note that he understands the job of mayor as well if not better than Rob Ford. He does not have Ford’s populist instincts but he sure beats him in sincerity and trustworthiness. He also beats him in management experience, political experience and good manners.

To the chagrin of the Olivia Chow exploiters, she has never even led a pack of Brownies. As a city councillor and as a Member of Parliament, Chow has had a less than spectacular career. While the people around her think that makes them more important to her campaign, watch for the day she believes their propaganda for her and tries to do something on her own. There will be some interesting campaign bloopers in that camp.

But this is a long race. We will save our bets until Labour Day.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Wynne’s policy picks are puzzlers.

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Maybe some of us are a bit slow on the up tick. An e-mail arrived the other day saying that Premier Wynne now had a way forward. It came from a policy input program on the provincial Liberal web site called Common Ground. If this is the best that the Liberal Party in Ontario can produce, the situation in Ontario is far worse that we thought.

In the past four months provincial party supporters made 1700 policy suggestions. These ideas generated about 10,000 comments and then the top(?) 20 ideas were ranked from 1 to 20. The weighting system was not explained but the top three policy proposals were not likely to be very helpful to Premier Wynne.

The number one policy from this process is Properly Funded Transit. The suggestion is to restore government funding to the pre-Harris levels and fund 50 per cent of the operation of public transit in Ontario. Obviously some researcher in the party office needs to do some research to tell Premier Wynne what this would cost and maybe suggest where the money for the proposal could be found. Frankly, this proposal might not register very high on the public applause metre.

The number two proposal is to Keep Our Hospitals Public. You would expect that if someone in the private sector could figure out a way to make a hospital profitable, they would be most welcome in the Minister of Health’s office. They might not be allowed to buy a hospital but they might find a ready market for some of their ideas. The public is very sceptical of private for-profit hospitals and we can count on them to support all efforts to keep Medicare operating for the public. As yet, it does not seem to be a concern on the voters’ horizon.

The third proposal is in regards to Great Lakes Protection/Clean-Up. Since Ontario is part of the International Joint Commission with the federal government, the U.S. federal government and the U.S. States involved, the Great Lakes are already of major concern. If the Commission is not doing its job, we should know about it. Until then, we should encourage the Commission to do its job. We have some concerns about the Harper government carrying its weight here but Ontario should let us know if the job is not being done. Again, there is no need to raise alarms with voters if the processes are working.

Now would someone please show us where one of these proposals is going to create jobs for Ontario workers? We need jobs that pay well. We need jobs that will help build our economy into the future. In this case, Premier Wynne asked her party for some help. They appear to have let her down.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Justin Trudeau: Not his father’s son.

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

It is Justin Trudeau’s political instincts that never cease to amaze the older apparatchiks in the Liberal Party. It is remembering a long argument with the late Senator Keith Davey some 30 years ago over Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau just mentioning his family in a speech. If you had sweated as hard on that speech as this writer, you hardly want to see it spiked because you have ignored some damn taboo of an up-tight prime minister.

But Keith won (it was his job). And the PM gave a bloody lecture on economics to a bored Canadian electorate. It was the beginning of the end for Pierre Trudeau.

It is watching Pierre’s eldest son at work that is a joy. He brings his lovely and very pregnant wife and their darling kids on screen and with him in spirit at the Montreal convention. He is hardly using them. They are a fact of his life and part of him. They are integral to the package. They belong.

Maybe it is his mother’s influence on Justin. Pierre Trudeau could never control her the way he controlled others around him. Those he could not control had to deal with him on an intellectual level. And on that level, Pierre had few equals. Margaret obviously made the effort to work with him but she must have been shut out too often.

Justin grew up seeing that emotional upheaval. It made him his own man. It makes him a better husband, a loving father. And created a strong-willed political leader who knows where he is going and how to get there.

His political instincts are a joy to watch. The Liberal Party has been arguing about legalizing marijuana for the past 50 years. Justin brought it forward and let it sit there. Some might have gulped but his instinct was absolutely right. His support for Keystone XL pipeline is wrong environmentally but that case has still to be made. Justin can accept it either way. It is Harper who is hung by it.

And Justin is the leader that Canada needs at this time in its history. He can restore our nation’s prestige on the world stage. He can take the bold steps into the future. These steps still need to be studied and better defined but it will take his leadership to bring them to being.

What Justin’s father never understood was the emotion of politics. Pierre Trudeau left that to others. Justin understands it. It is what makes him a strong leader.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Tory’s Timmy tempers trades tampering.

Saturday, February 22nd, 2014

The Conservative caucus at Queen’s Park must have got to their Leader Tim Hudak. They made him promise to cool his jets on right-to-work laws. With a broad wink, he is promising not to mention the idea again until after Ontario’s expected spring election. After all there is more than one way to drive down the expectations of the middle class.

And it is the middle class that Tiny Tim seems to despise. The last of the middle class in Ontario are the union classes. They include the teachers, the nurses, the university professors, the plumbers, the firemen and the police. They are Timmy’s target.

Timmy trained as an economist. He knows there is more than one way to lower the expectations of the middle class. His new approach is all bundled up for him in the term “contracting out.” This is just another way to race for the bottom. It is the way that we can all be poor except for Timmy’s elite one per cent.

Contracting out was one of the methods that fellow economist Don Drummond recommended that Ontario use to save money. He actually suggested it just for information technology needs but to Timmy, there is no end of scope for the method of forcing people to work for less.

What neither Drummond nor Timmy would understand about information technology is that the last three per cent of the tasks never get done. The first 97 per cent is easy but the rule is that the job is never complete. Microsoft recognized this reality of information technology many years ago and solved it by letting unsuspecting customers solve the last three per cent of the problems.

But Timmy sees contracting out as the final solution. He thinks Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is a fool to stop at just contracting out some of the city’s garbage collection. There is a long list of work that can be contracted out. In the private sector, people have been known to build a virtual company that had every job contracted out. (It makes it easier to leave town when appropriate.)

But Timmy wants to be in for the long haul. He wants to show his mentor former Premier Michael Harris that he too can drive Ontario into the ground by doing his bidding. Just wait until those members of his caucus who argued against right-to-work want to be in his cabinet. They are in for a surprise.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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The tale of the Hair and the whore.

Friday, February 21st, 2014

As you recall the Supreme Court decided that the Conservatives need sex education. Long overdue, you might add. The only problem was that nobody could agree on who should teach sex education to the Conservative caucus. We are not sure but we think it was Peter Mackay who solved it by suggesting that they would all sit quietly and listen to Laureen Harper, the leader’s wife. They would have no choice.

Laureen was, as you would expect, quite reluctant but is believed to have agreed to it on the condition that her husband does not attend. The caucus seemed to be pleased with Laureen’s instruction and many probably learned things in the process. The only problem left was a teacher for the Leader.

The Cabinet is believed to have turned to Peter Mackay and told to fix that too. That was also easy. It is reported that he got the leader a hooker. It was as though he believed that the Leader needed some first-hand experience, so to speak. You can just imagine the confrontation in that Ottawa hotel room:

The first thing that must have startled the lady was the guys in cheap suits who came in, checked the closet, under the bed and talked up their sleeves. A fair amount of money had to change hands before the gal decided to stick around.

Since she had been paid, she got right down to business, so to speak. “So, how do you want it?” was the obvious question.

The Leader was a bit nonplussed. “Can we just talk about it?” he asked.

“Damn, another Canadian,” she complained. “It’s all talk and no performance. You Canadians are so oppressed by women that you never get a chance to talk dirty.”

“No, no,” the Leader replied, “I just want to talk about being a prostitute.”

She looked at him in amazement. “You’ll never make it,” she told him. “You’re too old and that hairpiece is ridiculous. Besides, to make it as a gigolo, you would need to be 20 and able to satisfy a woman at least ten times a night.”

Somewhat taken back, he weakly explained: “I only need to know something about why you are a prostitute and how this business works?”

“Okay,” she said. “Since you’ve already paid, I’ll explain.

“First of all, I’m a service worker. I perform a service for society. You might not agree but it has panache as the world’s oldest profession. And it is a profession. I bring comfort and relief to people in need.

“The only problem is that for too long, prostitution has been run by the less desirable elements of society. Criminalizing bawdy houses or arresting customers is just another way of driving us into the hands of criminals. These people abuse us, encourage us to use drugs and put us in danger,” she said.

“You must be a politician,” she concluded. “In my business, I do my best work one customer at a time. In your business, you try to screw everybody at once.”


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Second: Ponder positive policies.

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

One of the very first lessons of politics is to understand that the average voter does not relate to discussions involving millions of dollars. What people relate to is coffee money. If Torontonians, for example, could just think of the billions their city needs for an upgraded transit system in terms of the daily cost of their Tim Horton’s coffee, it would all make sense.

And in dealing with national policies at the Liberal Party conference this weekend, we have to know that if we cannot relate costs to coffee money we will only confuse Canadians. That is the challenge we face. We have to put a positive positioning on policy while keeping it simple.

That will not be easy when the party brass is trying to push policy discussions into a straightjacket of centering on the economy. That is akin to determining how many economists can dance on the head of a pin.

But liberals are up to dealing in big solutions. We can start a dialogue on a guaranteed wage for all Canadians. We can have new and better travel options for people and goods to reach all corners of our vast country—from east to west and north to south. And we have to reach out to the world with understanding and concern and a new attitude in foreign relations. We have to bring our own people to a better understanding of each other. We have to be honest with each other about the environment. We have to take Canada and the world’s environmental needs seriously.

That means we cannot just ship tar sands bitumen to countries that do not care about the environment. Nor can we allow any province to pollute for profit. This country belongs to all of us and that is something every province has to recognize. We have to care.

And for those who want to change how our country is governed or how we vote or what to do with unelected Senators, we have to make the big plans. We can elect a constitutional congress and let those matters be debated, resolved and then brought back to the citizens for judgement in a referendum. Canada must be a major world player in the 21st Century but first we need to be proud of how our own house functions.

To run a beautiful and as complex a country as Canada, being a liberal only helps. You need more than being a liberal. You need caring. You have to care about the land and the people and their future. For the future is the country.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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