Archive for March, 2014

The Morning Line: Quebec Election 2014.

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Every election should have a morning line. As the polls are already open for advance voting in Quebec, this is a bit late but the situation in Quebec is still fluid. While the polls are showing the Quebec Liberal Party in the lead it is only marginal. As happens in any horse race, things change. And there is always that extra juice caused by momentum. It is what makes the race interesting.

Quebec Liberal Party – 2 to 1

Phillippe Couillard and the Quebec Liberals are currently favourites. Couillard has been shaking off the increasing attacks on him and his party since Quebecers deduced that he came out ahead on the first debate. In the second debate, he held out against increasingly desperate attempts at smearing him with past concerns both real and imagined. His opponents were hurting themselves with some of these attempts.

Parti Québécois – 3 to 1

Pauline Marois and the Parti Québécois have dropped to second place because of the mistakes they have been making with their campaign focus. It has become less clear as the campaign goes on who might lead Quebec into a referendum and the ultimate role of Pierre Karl Péladeau. He could be more of a liability than anyone expected.

Coalition Avenir Québec – 10 to 1

Coalition Avenir Québec and Leader François Legault are losing votes steadily to the Quebec Liberals. It is these votes that are increasing the likelihood of a Liberal majority.

Québec Solidaire – 50 to 1

Québec Solidaire with its collective leadership has actually stayed the course through this election and might hold on to its two seats. The only value to the party is if Pauline Marois needs just two seats to keep the Liberals from taking over. It would make for a very volatile few years in Quebec politics.

Liberal majority government – Even money

While the Quebec Liberal Party is far too right wing for Babel-on-the-Bay to support, there is no question that the economic benefits of a stable majority government are critical to the wellbeing of Quebec citizens at this time. There is no question also that the simple plurality of Quebec votes will favour the Liberals. It will not necessarily translate into a majority of seats in the Quebec Legislature. Bonne chance!

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

He lies, you know.

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

It was a critical moment. It was not quite an epiphany. It was the realization that the much acclaimed panel on CBC late night news is not as smart as we thought it was. This is the panel with the Toronto Star’s Chantal Hébert, Post Media’s Andrew Coyne and pollster Bruce Anderson. And if news reader Peter Mansbridge would just shut up and let the panellists talk, many think this would be a consistently excellent bit of television.

But not when the panel buys into the lies of Stephen Harper. These people are supposed to be smarter than that. Can you imagine trying to go to sleep last Thursday night with images of the three pundits bowing low before Emperor Stephen Harper? The three of them actually said they believed Mr. Harper was acting like a world leader and doing some good for the Ukraine.

And if they believe that maybe they would like to go salmon fishing in Mr. Harper’s favourite tar sands tailing ponds in Athabasca. If they honestly believe Harper is a world leader, they should explain to us what Harper and friends were doing in Israel recently.

If they do not realize that Stephen Harper is flagrantly flying where and when he pleases to win votes back in Canada, these pundits have been smoking too many of Justin Trudeau’s favourite after-dinner toke up.

The only thing that we can say in their defence is that foreign excursions have never won a Canadian Prime Minister re-election before. Both Pierre Trudeau and Brian Mulroney made world tours before losing office. Even Lester Pearson won a Nobel Peace Prize and could never win a majority government.

These pundits are just promoting another stupid lie on Stephen Harper’s behalf. He hardly needs the help. Stephen Harper is a master at lying. He was spending Canadian taxpayers’ money advertising the success of his job action plan before the provinces agreed or one person was trained. If that is not an expert liar, you must have a new definition of lying.

Harper is the guy who wants the Americans to tell us how to protect the environment. Hell, they have already done enough damage to their own country. We hardly need their help to screw up ours.

Maybe the CBC’s brilliant panel should explain to Canadians what good this new Fair Elections Act is going to do. They had better be quick or too many Canadians are going to get the impression that it is just another way to help elect Conservatives.

But most Canadians have their own answer to the question, “When has Mr. Harper lied to you before?”  Ask any veteran.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Is the White House burning?

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

The last time Canada and the United States went to war on some pretext, our British troops went to Washington and set fire to the White House. That was 200 years ago. The current campaign against the American capitol is being run by the Ottawa office of a communications company called Fleishman-Hilliard. In a time of false austerity in Ottawa, this company has a pot of Canadian gold to win the hearts and minds of U.S. law-makers to the side of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Why Canadian taxpayers are funding this campaign is a question for another time. The Harper Conservatives have been pouring Canadian money into the Keystone XL money pit for quite some time. And everything tells us that the TransCanada Pipelines project will lose. The intense pressure from U.S. environmental lobby groups has been unabated. The attempts by Stephen Harper to cajole, threaten, convince and plead with President Obama have been a wasted effort.

Obama has identified the Canadian Prime Minister for what he is. And Obama does not like what he sees. Harper is a stuffed-shirt, right-wing ideologue and Obama has met and fought with that type of people during all his adult years. He is surrounded by generations of right-wing Republicans and loony-tunes Tea Party activists in his nation’s capitol and he knows how they think, how they react and just how useless they are to humanity.

President Obama must have been appalled at that G7 minus Russia meeting in The Hague recently. Here was the Canadian Prime Minister with his war sabre at the ready leading the charge of the light-minded brigade against Vladimir Putin across the Eurasian Steppe.

It could not have been more pointed in Obama’s speech to the European Community after the meeting in The Hague that he did not agree with the Canadian Prime Minister. During the, as usual, eloquent speech, he talked about America and the EU—he never once mentioned Canada.

Obama could do that because he knows Harper’s Achilles heel. Harper does not have Canadians onside. As much as Harper postures and pretends, he has built an animosity to his energy plan for Canada. Canadians distrust his pipeline plans to the East and West coasts. They are coming to understand his destruction of the manufacturing economy of the eastern half of the country. They are seeing what he is allowing to happen to the environment. Obama knows that Harper is in trouble.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Please do not leave it to Timmy.

Friday, March 28th, 2014

For years in the 1900s when the Ontario Liberals were out of office and during the few years they were in, they refused to consider certain moves. The first of these moves was to amalgamate the City of Toronto. Right or wrong, that was done by former Premier Mike Harris. Now we have the argument about the antiquated Liquor Control Board of Ontario and the Beer Store. Premier Wynne and her cabinet are ignoring these long overdue issues. It could cost them the election.

The problem is that their pollsters are telling them that these are not hot issues with Ontario voters. They will become issues if they are made an issue. What Wynne and Company fail to understand that many of those who do care about this sort of issue are soft Liberal votes. These are voters the Liberals cannot afford to lose.

As matters stand today, the Liberals are counting on Horwath’s New Democrats and Hudak’s Conservatives running true to form and delivering a minority government to the Liberals.  Even a minority could give then at least three to four years of relative peace to get their act together. At the same time, it could give the Conservatives and the New Democrats time to put new leaders in place.

But what if the Conservative’s Timmy does not screw up? What if he got his act together and stopped shooting himself in the foot every time he opens his mouth?

Nobody cares about the computers in the Premier’s office. Nobody cares about gas plant waste. What if Timmy actually stuck to talking about things people care about?  What if he promised lower energy costs? What if he promised Ontario lower gasoline prices? What if he promised a smart sale of the LCBO to pay for the Ring of Fire and Toronto subways? What if he kept his word about having beer in convenience stores?

There is no question that Kathleen Wynne’s concern for pensions is striking a responsive cord but you can hardly run an election on just the Boomer generation. She has to take a hard look at the Liberal demographics and broaden her reach. If Timmy beats her to her own voters, she is in trouble.

Sure, she knows that Timmy would be a disaster as Premier—worse than Mike Harris and not as street smart as Rob Ford—but if he got the proper management for his campaign, a lot could be forgiven and forgotten in the time for the election. And Timmy wants it bad enough to do it.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Crockatt competes for CRAP crown.

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Calgary Centre Member of Parliament Joan Crockatt has taken an early lead in this year’s CRAP Awards. In an award category usually dominated by party leaders and cabinet ministers, this year’s winner could easily be the Conservative backbencher from Calgary.

Fondly referred to as Crappies, CRAP awards are named for the political penchant for speeches and news releases that are nothing more than Consolidated Reports on Approved Policies (CRAP). These are the pre-approved positions taken by political parties to expedite the production of speeches and news releases. This provides material to fill the gaps between anything that might be meant to be meaningful. All parties participate in this as it facilitates rapid response to requests for speeches and information.

Crockatt’s entry in the March sweepstakes is on behalf of TransCanada Pipelines’ proposed Energy-East pipeline. It came as a news release to blogs identified as discussing pipelines. The distribution list would likely be provided by TransCanada Pipelines. It gives the imprimatur of the Canadian government to the information contained.

And the information contained is CRAP at its best. Despite the obvious error in the first paragraph describing the whining of New Brunswick Mayor Mel Norton, he is actually Mayor of Saint John, New Brunswick. Nowhere in the release did it explain how the proposed West-to-East pipeline to Saint-John could do anything for the economy of the entire province.

A pipeline to the new bitumen loading port that Irving Oil has offered to build at Saint John might contribute a few dollars to the provincial economy but it is certainly no game changer. It is hardly going to bring New Brunswick into the “new” oil and gas economy.

It is the broad range of hyperbole and direct falsehoods that make Crockatt’s release eligible for the top crappie. The release was supposedly based on a hearing by the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources. It is hard to imagine the reaction of opposition members of the committee to such ridiculous statements as she reports in the news release.

Crockatt has set a new standard in news releases that will be hard to match in the months to come. She might have a lock on the best CRAP of the year.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

 

The Péquistes are in panic mode.

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois seems to be losing her overconfident grip on things political in her province. She picked the timing. She picked the star candidate. She set the agenda. She screwed up.

It started with Marois’ Charter of Values. That was the most bigoted, ill-conceived, corruption of secular values, we had seen for a long time. And yet it was planned for failure. Marois was using the ingrained bigotry of Quebec’s Roman Catholic heritage to create a spurious fight to take to Canada’s Supreme Court. Knowing that she would lose there was to be her conditions to favour a referendum on sovereignty.

But you can hardly run an election in a hijab. Marois needed more. The weakness in her campaign was that Quebec voters are worried about jobs. She needed some way of showing that she had people on side that can create jobs. It was for this purpose that she introduced her star candidate Pierre Karl Péladeau. That was mistake number two.

Since he had no economic credentials anyway, Péladeau pumping his fist in the air and calling for sovereignty became the poster-boy picture of the campaign. There was a rival picture of her pushing him out of the way when she did not want him giving the wrong answer to the news media. It makes you wonder if Marois has ever considered doing better preplanning.

And then there was the first leaders’ debate. She would not allow one in English but instead is having two in French. If the first one is typical, she should not have agreed to any. Her opponents were hardly reluctant to gang up on her in that first debate. They had her on the ropes in no time. They were obviously better prepared. What she will do better in the next debate is just speculation.

With the last two weeks of the campaign to go, the péquistes have gone into the panic mode. They are adopting the standard mode of politicians everywhere: when in doubt, run and shout. Their funniest attempt at circling the wagons was the claim that McGill students from outside Quebec were registering to vote and were attempting to steal the election from the pur laine Quebecers.

It must have come as a surprise to them that Quebec election law allows Canadians residing in Quebec to vote in provincial elections. In a few ridings in Montreal, that could add a few hundred or so voters to the voters’ lists. It was nice of the separatists to remind the students to register but their numbers are hardly about to win the election for any particular political party.

What we should all care about is that bigotry and divisiveness does not win.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

On a play date with the Hair in Holland.

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

The Hair and friends are not going to let that kid Vladimir play in the G8 sandbox this time. The newly described G7 are meeting in The Hague this week and all the talk is about the member who is not there. It is all about Vladimir the Victor: He corrected history and easily won the Crimean War.

And the emasculated G7 are sitting around asking each other what to do. If they would just let Old Vladimir play, he would certainly be the one to tell them what they can do with themselves.

Now the G7 can understand Neville Chamberlain’s historical return to England from the Munich Conference with his claim of “Peace for our time”!

But the key question all countries should be raising at this point is: What is the objective of this play date? Are the kids really learning to play nice? Why do we pay for this? Is it just a place to posture? Is it necessary to have a place to say this important leader or that important leader is my friend?

The reality is that these meetings are to improve understanding. The ground work has hopefully all been done by underlings. This is a venue to come to conclusions and sign the deals. If you have nothing to decide or sign, is it just a very expensive social event?

Nobody at that social event in The Hague is going to suggest going to war. And that is not just because Putin can fight back. Russia might be the only relatively civilized country in the world that still thinks might is right. The only country capable of decimating the Russian population is the United States of America and President Obama will tell you that he has his own problems.

And for the rest of those kids, France and Germany have historical reality to face in that they know invading Russia is a lost cause before you start. They know that between the size of the Russian army and the cold of the Russian winter, nobody can win. Why waste your time and money?

But the Hair is still posturing. Nobody seems to have the heart to tell him that while they are willing to have their picture taken with him it is the only help they can give him for next year’s election. Canadians already know what a mess the Hair has already made of Canada’s foreign relations and it is going to take years to restore our country to its former good reputation.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

 

Making a ‘do-nothing’ look good.

Monday, March 24th, 2014

This is embarrassing. The Ontario Liberal government has a cabinet minister responsible for next year’s Pan Am Games who makes the Conservative MPP from Barrie look good.

The Liberal cabinet minister is the MPP for Markham-Unionville Michael Chan. English is obviously not his first language. To add the usual rudeness and lack of decorum in the Ontario Legislature to the Minister’s difficulty with public speaking makes it very hard for him to deal with the questions in the House. And unlike many politicians, he has difficulty speaking easily on subjects with which he has no familiarity.

But this all plays into the soft hands of the MPP from Barrie. We rarely speak of this person because we do not hold him in particularly high esteem. This is a guy who came from the human relations side of business who yearned for a life of living off the avails of politics. His first attempt at being on Barrie’s city council came a cropper because the voters decided against returning him to office after his first term. It was not so much what he did wrong as he did not do much. At least the voters seemed to think so.

Still wanting a political career, he threw his hat into the ring to become a candidate for the Conservatives in Barrie for the 2011 provincial election. The front runner in that nomination race made a mistake that left the failed councillor as the accidental provincial Conservative candidate. This then lead to a lack-lustre campaign by a lack-lustre candidate. And if it had not been for the seemingly unlimited ego and over-confidence of the Liberal candidate, the Conservative would not have stood a chance.

To the surprise and consternation of many in Barrie, the Conservative won. As the election produced a minority government, we were confident that we would soon be able to fix the problem.

Being very short of talent in the Conservative caucus, Conservative Leader Timmy Hudak told the Barrie guy that he might as well be the Conservative’s critic of tourism, culture and sport as well as the upcoming Pan Am Games. Little did Barrie’s boy know that he had fallen into a bonanza of publicity. He had poor Michael Chan doing his work for him. All he had to do was look owlishly into the television cameras and spread alarm about anything connected to the Pan Am Games. This was shooting fish in a barrel.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Popularity versus notoriety in Quebec.

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

In a news conference the other day, Quebec Premier Pauline Marois was accompanied by her star candidate Pierre Karl Péladeau. She was quoted as saying to the news media that nobody is perfect. Those are likely to be the definitive words of the current Quebec election campaign—along with the visual of her pushing Péladeau away from the microphone earlier in the campaign.

Halfway through her attempt to win a majority government, Premier Marois is already eating crow. She made the point by bringing the crow with her in the form of her Saint-Jérȏme candidate. What she was apologizing for was the use of a picture of Justice France Charbonneau in promoting her party but after her poor showing in the leaders’debate the night before Marois also needed to apologize for that.

But her biggest problem is Pierre Karl Péladeau’s bringing a sovereignty referendum to the fore instead of appearing to be the financial stability that Quebec needs. What caused the problem was Péladeau being himself. Trying to position him as a successful businessman is ignoring the fact that he inherited his late father’s business empire. His stewardship of that wealth has been tumultuous, marked by the failure of Quebecor World, heavy losses in his nascent English-language TV network and worsening labour relations. And Pauline Marois thinks this guy’s business acumen can help her party?

Péladeau was like a little boy with a new toy when Marois announced his candidacy and his fist-pumping declaration for sovereignty was the beginning of the end for Marois’ electoral hopes. “A referendum if necessary but not necessarily a referendum” is not going to fly with the voters in English or French.

It is something of a surprise that Marois does not understand the difference between popularity and notoriety. Péladeau has certainly been notorious in Quebec for some time. Whether you approve or disapprove of his choice of bed mates, there are still a few cantankerous older Quebecers who believe the sanctity of marriage is important for the children. There are even more Quebecers who understand that successful negotiations between labour and management require an open and honest approach. And that does not appear to be the Péladeau approach. Pierre Karl Péladeau might have lots of notoriety in Quebec but he does not seem to have the popularity that Pauline Marois is looking for.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

You can do better Justin.

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

Now the kids are fighting. Ontario Liberal campaign organizer David MacNaughton is rejecting potential candidates. You get the bellicose complaints of Zach Paikin in Hamilton who is obviously trying to make a name for himself (other than his father’s). And you show up in Trinity-Spadina to try to smooth the waters and nobody is happy. You do not get many chances to do this right Justin, so listen up.

As Leader of the Liberal Party, you promised open nominations in the ridings. You have not done much else but, we took you at your word. Now you have gone back on your word. You are letting your appointee David MacNaughton make you look bad. It is not only poor timing but it only portends stupider moves in the future.

We have about 19 months before election day and here you are screwing up early. If you let MacNaughton off the hook this time, what is he going to pull later? We are all for second chances but someone has to assume the mea culpa position and it cannot be the party leader. As Prime Minister Harper has proved many times, the purpose of having underlings is to have someone to blame when things do not work.

Former campaign co-chair Senator David Smith would never let it come to this. The late Senator Keith Davey trained him for years before he finally let David take over the party’s electoral reins. While a new broom is often the answer, Justin, there is also something to be said for experience.

Both Davey and Smith could have told you that the problem could be solved with a few telephone calls. They could work those phones like magicians. And you always wanted to be called because you could offer a solution, not because you were the problem.

A five minute conversation with Christine Innes about Trinity-Spadina and the future is all that was needed. It had to be with someone she trusts. She is a savvy Liberal Party supporter and she knows what she wants. And she does not have to take any crap from MacNaughton. She soldiered against the New Democrat’s Olivia Chow through two elections in tough times. Now the tide is changing and this is when she can win.

MacNaughton has to understand that a political party is not a business operation. Nothing is in private and it takes more than a news release to solve problems. As for young Paikin, you might just give him MacNaughton’s job. That would shut him up fast.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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