Archive for March, 2014

Premier Wynne aspires to be aspirational.

Friday, March 21st, 2014

We are not entirely sure whether Ontario Premier Wynne is just breathing hard or seeking to achieve new heights. She told reporters the other day that the Liberals are going to have an aspirational budget. And just because Microsoft’s Canadian spell checker does not recognize the word, the Oxford dictionary does. It simply means it is something earnestly desired.

The next Ontario budget is now expected at the beginning of May and that will likely trigger a June provincial election. Whether the budget plan will be something that Ontario voters want to earnestly desire is going to be the main question. Opposition Leader Timmy Hudak is nothing if not consistent and he promises to condemn it before he even hears what is in it. As far as Tiny Tim is concerned the budget could be ghost written by the late guru of the right Milton Freidman and Timmy would still reject it.

Meanwhile Andrea Horwath of the New Democrats stays noncommittal but knows she will do herself no good by continuing to support the Liberals. This will be her one chance at the Premier’s chair in the Legislature and she does not intend to mess it up.

That leaves the heavy slugging to Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa. He is expected to fix the Liberal government’s budgeting problems. This could include expediencies such as to reprofiling taxes into new revenue streams. One of those new streams will be money for items such as Toronto subways. Since this is money that would have normally been earmarked for requirements in mundane areas such as education or healthcare, Charles is going to have to very creative as to how he makes the budget work.

One obvious suggestion is to expand the surtax currently imposed on citizens making over $500,000 per year. It is now expected to include people who make over $150,000 per year. (That last figure might be adjusted as the politicians figure out where it is that incomes move from middle class to wealthy.)

Since Canadian politicians have got into the shell game of not taxing voters and not paying for anything that the voters might not notice, they have discovered that borrowing is also an option. They figure that if the voters can max out their credit cards, why not have the government join them?

Maybe, if we are lucky, our great-great grandchildren will get the bills and wonder about the stupidity of their ancestors.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Fighting the good fight against the Beer Store.

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Martin Regg Cohn of the Toronto Star knows how it feels. He has been on the front lines for the Toronto Star long enough that he is showing the tedium of fighting the Beer Store. It is like punching your pillow. It just surrounds your fist and nothing happens. And if you chew at it, you will just end up with a mouthful of feathers.

But Martin marches on. A reliable journeyman journalist, he heads in the direction prescribed by his editor. The Toronto Star editorial direction is to crucify the Beer Store and it shall be done. Martin is the instrument to do the job.

Obviously the Beer Store and its owners at Brewers’ Warehousing are a bit concerned about Canada’s largest circulation newspaper calling for the company’s scalp (figuratively). They still have a lock on the most popular beers in the province and nobody will call for a tag day to protect their profits.

But the Beer Stores’ ace in the hole is Ontario’s ignorant and out-of-date politicians. They have those idiots by the short hairs. For close to 100 years, these dumb politicians have been running scared of the long-dead Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). The beer monopoly goes back to the arrangement with those abolitionists to control the sale of beer through that anachronistic system. It is a system that is not only out of date today but was annoying Ontario voters back in the 1920s. It was only accepted then as being better than prohibition.

To be fair to Martin Regg Conn though, we should admit that the Beer Store is resisting his complaints. They have designated speakers now who are often managers of local Beer Stores who will tell you of the evils of letting convenience stores sell beer. They will cheerfully tell you of the evils of convenience stores selling beer and cigarettes to 16-year olds. The only thing they fail to explain is why a minimum wage Beer Store employee is harder to dupe than a minimum wage convenience store employee.

Martin takes pains to note that while Ontario Beer Stores are often smelly, uncouth, disreputable, disgusting establishments, that is not the problem. He is most perturbed to find that the Beer Stores are owned by companies in Belgium, Brazil, Japan and the United States. While that might just be catering to the Toronto Star’s xenophobia, it is not working as a call to arms.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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There’s a hard-ass on the lily-pad.

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

It would be better to note the resignation of Prime Minister Harper but a change of guard at Finance is a small start. At least we will not have Jim Flaherty croaking from the lily pond any more. Flaherty has been on divergent paths with the big frog Stephen Harper for the past several months and his abrupt resignation was not unexpected.

A cabinet position in government is very much like the frogs in a lily pond. If you croak too loudly, you draw attention from predators. If you are quiet, others jump on your lily-pad and you are in danger of drowning. And if you all croak too loud in unison, you are liable to annoy the neighbouring homeowners and they will end up draining the lily pond.

But how long a hard-ass such as Joe Oliver can sit on the Finance lily-pad, we have no idea? All we know is that he has none of the leprechaun instincts of Jim Flaherty and there is no pot of gold waiting for Oliver. All Joe Oliver has proved in the Environment portfolio is that there are great gaps between him and the truth and his loyalty to the chief frog is unquestioned.

All of this means that you are most unlikely to hear of Joe Oliver fighting with that nice cabinet colleague Jason Kenney from Calgary. Mind you, Joe Oliver might not be a close friend of Mr. Harper’s fishing buddy, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford either but that might not be a problem for long. The one thing for sure is that Oliver is not going to question Stephen Harper’s commitment to income splitting promised for next year’s election.

It would be unfair to say that Joe Oliver has done nothing in his past three years as Natural Resources Minister. He actually believes that Canadians are wonderful hewers of wood. He has made speeches commending Canadians for cutting down trees. It is only when wondering what else he has accomplished for Canadians that you begin to question.

We are all looking forward to learning what Joe Oliver will want to do in his new job. He has done just about nothing in his old job and some of us might not be surprised if he does nothing but what he is told in his new job.

But how a hard-ass like Oliver can sit on a lily pad for long is the real question.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Whose robocall are you?

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

A small change in a robocall the other day was an announcement of the name of a company responsible for the call and a toll-free number to verify the call. And even if you were able to write down the number and you called it, was it real? The truth is that the call could have been from a legitimate survey company or from any of the political parties. There will be a tremendous growth in those automated calls over the months to come and the numbers you press at your end will be recorded and added to growing political databases.

But similar to the households where a four-year old is allowed to answer the telephone, when you call this household, you get random numbers pressed to hopefully mess up the system. Robotic telephone calls are a disgrace allowed for some reason by Prime Minister Harper’s appointees on the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). The calls are intrusive, unappreciated and annoying to most Canadians. And if the callers do not want to spend the time and effort to have a human call, they get the answers they deserve.

Yet, to some extent, they work. The cheapness of robocalls allows real survey companies to greatly extend the number of calls and the size of the respondent pool can hide some of the inaccuracies. By dealing in larger respondent pools and a higher frequency of calls, survey companies can develop trends and patterns that can be mathematically translated into potential vote results.

But it is the political party databases that are of much greater concern today. They not only contain your household’s answers to voting intention but they also note what you said to canvassers, if you had a political sign and if you voted or not in the past couple elections. It can include information that will cause one party to hound you to go to the polls while another will try to misdirect you to the wrong voting place.

It is hardly surprising in the age of social media that so much information about us is so readily available. Maybe it is not the data but how it is used, we should question. If you are a member or contributor to any political party, you are going to be constantly spammed for more contributions. It is a matter of only being able to cut off the spam if you also cut off the party information.

But if you are foolish enough to tell these automated calls how you expect to vote, you get what you deserve. If you have ever wondered why the Green Party and the NDP have such high figures in opinion polls and then lower results in the actual vote, it is smart voters who consider their voting intention confidential. They effectively park their vote with another party until the election.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Canadians exit the Khyber Pass.

Monday, March 17th, 2014

To the lament of a single bagpiper, Canadians took leave of Afghanistan this past week. We have been aware of being involved since the winter of 2001 when then Defence Minister Art Eggleton admitted that there were Canadian troops fighting in Kandahar Province. For 12 years, Canadian military fought in a war that they could not win.

And that was why there were no politicians to honour the small cadre of Canadian military and RCMP who lowered the Canadian flag in Kandahar for the last time. There is no popularity for this war left in Canada. World events are passing Afghanistan by and only the Canadian Ambassador was there to take the flag .

The regret is that for every Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorist Canadian soldiers killed, more were recruited in the extremist madrasa schools of Pakistan. And Canadians killed or wounded left their blood soaking into the ground that still grows opium poppies for the world. Canada’s shame was not that we did not try—oh, how we tried—but we made no difference. Along with our NATO allies, Canadians searched fruitlessly for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. All the time, he was doing his evil while comfortably housed across the border in Pakistan.

At least Canadians made more friends than the British did in 1842 when some 16,000 British and Indians that had marched so bravely up the Khyber Pass were slaughtered coming back down the pass in their attempt to escape from Kabul. Afghanistan history tells us that Afghans have been feasting on foreign armies rations for thousands of years.

We can only hope the Afghan soldiers Canadians trained will live longer for that training. The schools we built will probably just deteriorate with time. Hopefully, the friendships Canadians made will live on in the oral history of the time.

But Canada’s history will give our uniformed men and women short shrift. By shutting down veteran’s support offices, trying to get rid of the problems with buy-outs and their lack of interest, the Conservative government has once again shown their ruthless edge.

As an aide worker left behind in Afghanistan noted on Tom Clark’s West Block show on Global, Sunday. The government is cutting up the armoured troop carriers for scrap. Canada is not coming back.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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But the Hair heads for the unknown in Ukraine.

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

There seems to be no limits to what the Hair will do to win votes next year. Like penguins shoving one of their number into the sea to see if he gets eaten, he sent Foreign Minister John Baird to Ukraine first and now he can go. Whatever he thinks he is going to achieve there is very much open to question.

We have no idea who he is taking on that Airbus A310 besides the hairdresser. Maybe he will include some heavily armed members of the Canadian Military’s elite Joint Task Force 2 for protection. They might even be helpful when he gets back to Ottawa.

This is all part of an extended spring holiday in Europe. One of his stops is in Germany where someone might give him some insight into what is really happening in Crimea. Why he would still be curious after he has been in Ukraine is because there are well over a million Canadian voters of Ukranian extraction.

One of those Canadians of Ukrainian heritage is the Member of Parliament for Toronto-Centre, Chrystia Freeland. As an experienced journalist she has spent time writing and reporting on Ukraine, Freeland should have waited to fly to Ukraine with the Hair. Well, she would have if she had been a Conservative MP instead of a Liberal.

But while Freeland was able to stay with an uncle’s family in Kyiv, the Hair will just have to stay at the best hotel the city has to offer. Where Freeland would have been able to question people in Kyiv about what is really going on, the Hair will only hear what the current government wants him to hear.

Whether the current government of Ukraine set off the events in Crimea is something that the Hair is not going to hear in Kyiv. Maybe Chancellor Merkel in Germany can tell him the background. Germany would have fairly good intelligence in that area. Whether the knowledge would help the Hair win votes next year is questionable. He might not find it important.

Of all the visits in this trip, the Hair probably wishes he had the opportunity to drop in on Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Mr. Putin is busy tallying the take on his Olympics and adding territory to his Russian empire. Maybe a visit with Putin might be bad optics back home but the Hair would surely like to hear Vladimirovitch’s thoughts on getting around these inconvenient elections.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Comments: We are told we still don’t get it.

Saturday, March 15th, 2014

The argument continues. People seem to think that federalists will help Quebec Premier Pauline Marois if they involve themselves in the provincial election. If these federalists are from outside Quebec, that might be right. Politicians love to take on bogeymen from some other place that cannot fight back. It is the federalist who is also a Quebecer that has to stand up to the separatists.

This commentator is sick and tired of the mealy-mouthed defence of Canada from Quebec politicians. We do not need to wait for another referendum to learn if you like being a Canadian. There is no specific time set aside for you to say you love this country.

Enough said about this argument.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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The Hair is hands-off Quebec.

Saturday, March 15th, 2014

The Globe and Mail reports the Hair is urging federal opposition leaders and premiers to adopt a policy of non-interference in the Quebec provincial election. As a staffer reported, the Prime Minister is obviously trying to rise above the fray and wants the federal side to speak with one voice. Good luck to him.

When a Quebecer recently complained to this writer that Anglophones have no understanding of Quebec politics, we assumed that the comment was directed at the Prime Minister. This anglo has been studying Quebec politics for many years and the worst advice we have ever heard is for federal politicians to have a policy of non-interference in Quebec elections.

If Canadians are so stupid as to allow Quebec to be a closed society, what the hell is the point of keeping Quebec in Canada? Someone has to point out that Premier Pauline Marois’ Charter of Values is nothing but bigotry. It is not acceptable under Quebec law or Canadian law. And to vote for the Pequistes is to vote for separation.

The reality is that Quebec is economically tied to the rest of Canada and we have always believed it is worth it. A bilingual Canada is a prize beyond measure. And nobody is going to be allowed to cut this country in half so that they can oppress their own people. And why we continue to allow language laws that are designed to chase the non-pur laine from the province is beyond understanding.

And how can we be so stupid as to allow the news media in Quebec to be so dominated by separatists that the people outside of the main cities are denied the truth. The electoral maps of Quebec provincial politics tell the propagandists’ story. Honest media would decimate support for the separatists.

And then there is the hypocrisy of New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair that makes him an ally of the Hair and Marois. He will, of course, stay away from comment on the Quebec election. It would cost him too many votes next year.

There is no question but the provincial Liberals in Quebec are much more right wing than their federal counterparts but this is a case where the enemy of my enemy is my friend. They deserve full bench press support from the federal Liberals in Quebec. Let’s put an end now to the separatist plans for another referendum. We must defeat Marois. We must defeat her scurrilous Charter of Values. We must defeat her propagandist Péladeau.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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When Liberal infighting is out.

Friday, March 14th, 2014

Campaign co-chair for the federal Liberals in Ontario David MacNaughton has made his first blunder. When somebody gives you their authority to do a job, you have to do it right. When he told Liberal Christine Innes she cannot contest the nomination in Trinity-Spadina, it made a mockery of Justin Trudeau’s promise of open nominations. Whether MacNaughton was right or wrong is irrelevant. He moved a party problem into the public view and needlessly embarrassed the party leader.

MacNaughton walked into a party problem that has been simmering for more than 25 years. It was in the 1980s that overt organization of ethnic groups in ridings became the norm for nomination fights in Toronto rather than the exception. Experts at this type of organizational fight at the time were two young organizers named Joe Volpe and Tony Ianno. Tony Ianno subsequently organized his own nomination in Trinity-Spadina, losing to Dan Heap in 1988 and then winning in the Liberal sweep of 1993.

Since losing Trinty-Spadina to Olivia Chow in 2006, Tony Ianno has concentrated on making a living and left the open political activities to his wife—long-time Liberal Party activist Christine Innes. It was Christine who carried the Liberal banner in Trinity-Spadina in 2008 and 2011, losing both times. She has been actively campaigning for another try in the by-election that has to be called in Trinity-Spadina this year.

The problem of taking over ridings with ethnic organization had ended with Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s less than democratic solution. He simply imposed a system whereby the party leader had to approve all party candidates. He then proceeded to destroy the validity of his solution by appointing candidates when and where he wanted. It greatly weakened the Liberal Party and there was little strength or enthusiasm left in the ridings when Paul Martin took over the party.

Recognizing the problem, Justin Trudeau endeared himself to activist Liberals by declaring that he would not interfere in open nominations. MacNaughton has now made Trudeau a fool.

The one thing for sure is that MacNaughton does not have the on-the-ground experience in the party to involve himself in the Trinity-Spadina situation. It is a problem that only the party can solve. MacNaughton and the leader have to butt out.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Rushing to claim victory—in seven months!

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Torontonians now have the main contenders for the Toronto mayoralty in October. You hardly need public opinion polls to tell you who are the serious three and the lesser two. With Olivia Chow, Rob Ford and John Tory in the race and Karen Stintz and David Soknacki looking on, the city is settling in for a long political summer. If you know now who is going to win in October, you are much smarter than the rest of us.

But there is not one of those campaigns that could not change the odds by running a better thought out and better organized operation.

The Rob Ford campaign is running on a wing and a prayer. With titular campaign manager Doug Ford’s inexperience, the only people propping up Rob Ford’s candidacy are the news media. They follow him like puppies waiting for the next vulgarity. The strength of his campaign is in his ability to titillate.

The smartest campaign to-date seems to be Olivia Chow’s. The credit will have to go to John Laschinger, the Conservative gun-for-hire who is running her campaign. While the campaign needs more than a crafted biography to win votes, Laschinger might want to rein in Liberal Warren Kinsella who seems to be positioning himself as Olivia’s attack specialist.

This is no time for attacks on opponents. The mud comes later—when you are desperate.

The strangest attack was the young Barbie Doll with real hair who showed up on television as a spokesperson for John Tory. We did not catch her name but she did a one-liner on Olivia Chow that seems to be the right-wing answer to left-wing Chow. Somebody on John Tory’s campaign bus had better rethink that attack. And if a slander is worth doing, it should be done by the candidate—otherwise there is no benefit.

The only proper answer to Olivia Chow’s announcement was offered by David Soknacki (whomever he is) who politely welcomed her to the mayoralty campaign. He knows he can attack her more effectively later.

And nobody is above attack. Everybody is vulnerable.

But this campaign is about one of the most difficult political jobs in Canada. It requires leadership without power. There is no party discipline and there are not many perquisites for a mayor to distribute. It is not the same as in Calgary or New York City but Toronto candidates could learn some things from those mayors.

The candidates have to start talking about where they want to take Toronto. And you need to use the KISS principle: keep it simple stupid!


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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