Archive for May, 2014

Horwath harms herself, helps Hudak.

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

Ontario provincial New Democratic Leader Andrea Horwath is on a slippery slope and she keeps trying to increase speed. By next Tuesday’s leaders’ debate on provincial television networks, she should be reaching terminal velocity. The only problem with it is that in her rush to self destruct she is only helping Ontario Conservatives and their Leader Tim Hudak.

Horwath’s problem is that in her desperate search for a theme for her campaign, she is resting her case on what she sees as Liberal corruption. Her thesis is that all Liberals are corrupt and therefore Premier Kathleen Wynne must be corrupt. The problem with that approach is that most of the Ontario voters who will buy that foolishness are people who would never vote Liberal anyway. These are the committed Conservative and New Democratic voters who have no intention of voting Liberal.

There is also a group of voters who are going to expand on her thesis beyond all Liberals being corrupt. They are going to use her argument to claim that all politicians are corrupt. That argument is just as logical as what Ms. Horwath is saying.

But the only recourse for people who believe that all politicians are corrupt is to withhold their vote. And here we thought we had already hit rock bottom in terms of voter participation? Horwath is helping lower the turnout. And a lower turnout will help Hudak.

What is also helping these people to reach their very bad conclusion is the particularly malevolent release of an Ontario Cabinet document suggesting the government spend many millions saving the MARS building in downtown Toronto from having to declare bankruptcy. First of all, this is a confidential document written by some bureaucrat that has not been considered by any provincial government. Why those releasing it thought it could smear the Liberals is an interesting question?

Hopefully all of these questions are going to help get an audience for next Tuesday’s television debate. All we know now is that Premier Wynne will have to face some particularly scurrilous attacks from both sides. Her only comfort will be to know that this is a swan song for Andrea Horwath. The election will be decided between Wynne and Hudak’s parties eight days later. And one of them is likely not be around at the same time next year.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Chow supporters don’t think, they just attack.

Friday, May 30th, 2014

Yes, Babel-on-the-Bay promised not to talk about the Toronto mayoralty until September. So, we lied. When your hobby is politics, you do pick up some political traits. What we did not expect over the summer is the constant attempts to smear John Tory by Olivia Chow’s attack dogs. They should take a day off occasionally. Especially when Tory reintroduces the best solution to Toronto’s downtown subway overcrowding.

Maybe it would be too much of a novelty for a politician to admit that an opponent has a good suggestion. The voters might not be able to comprehend that. So a good solution gets dumped on by people who seem to have no understanding of what is involved.

What mayoralty candidate John Tory showed Torontonians was a low-cost use of existing rail lines to relieve the subway congestion into downtown. That is hardly a new idea. The Ontario Liberals are already promising to electrify those lines to enable the city to have more stops and better service for commuters across the city. Electric trains on already built rights-of-way will be fast, efficient and less expensive than any other solution.

If you have ever wondered why Chicago, also built along a lakefront and with a similar size population, is much more prosperous than Toronto just look at its transportation system. The old rail rights-of-way into that city became what they now call the ‘Els.’ In the downtown Loop, those electrified trains literally loop around the old downtown bringing hundreds of thousands of Chicago workers and visitors downtown every day. Some people think those elevated trains are ugly. Maybe they are; they work.

And maybe that is the reason we respect John Tory. He works. It is not his political stripe that matters in the mayor’s job. He gets behind the good ideas and pushes them. That makes for a good mayor. It is mutual respect that can make a mayor’s job easier. Councillors and the mayor have to work together. Confrontation is no way to run a city.

It is also why the Olivia Chow campaign continues to disappoint. While it is being run by a Conservative, it feels too much like your typical us-against-the-world NDP campaign. They just attack.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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When is the truth a ‘channel-changer’?

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Why would anyone get excited about the Premier of Ontario wanting to keep her job? She likes her job and she has done it better than many of us expected. When a bored Global Television reporter asked a standard question yesterday about forming a coalition to stay in power, she answered honestly. Of course she would consider it—if she had to. She would not be doing the job unless she did.

Why would an honest answer help her opponents? Why should the Global reporter think this answer is a ‘Gotcha’? And why would a blogger bother to take up blogging space with a mention of it that does not come up to the measure of a tweet?

Frankly the public opinion polls on which the media have to rely are currently running well behind the facts. Kathleen Wynne showed a level of restraint yesterday when asked about a minority government. Her party’s insider polls are probably telling her of the likelihood of a Liberal majority. It is just not something she can discuss.

When the pollsters catch up on the facts, she can appear pleased in the confidence shown and be humble. Two weeks before the election is over, she knows that circumstances can change and her job right now is to keep on plugging on the campaign trail.

The major challenge left for Premier Wynne will be the television debate next Tuesday for the three party leaders. It is obvious that, as front runner, she will be under ferocious attack from both Andrea Horwath and Tim Hudak. The truth is, she is getting inured to these attacks and her opponents need fresh material.

When you stop and think about it, Wynne’s opponents are much more vulnerable to attack than her. Andrea Horwath is having interesting problems within her own party and a solicitously asked question about these attacks might just turn the Pillsbury Dough girl purple. And a brief analysis of the facts about unemployment in Ontario could be helpful for Timmy Hudak. This type of tactic has to feel right at the time and it would be interesting to see if Wynne can carry it off.

Alternatively the federal leadership of those parties are also vulnerable to some strategically selected questions. This tactic is best used to throw opponents off their game plan. It also tends to break the tedium of these events that are mostly just bad television.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Death of a political party: Mulcair’s measure.

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Federal New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair has reason to be worried. It is fairly obvious now that he cannot hold half the Quebec seats won by Jack Layton in the Orange Wave in 2011. He needs to win seats in Ontario next year and he sees Ontario’s provincial New Democrats are collapsing. It spells trouble with a capital “T.”

And that “T” stands for Trudeau. Andrea Horwath in Ontario is proving to the New Democrats that trying to swing around the Liberals by going to the political right does not work. That is the strategy Mulcair and the federal New Democrats have been experimenting with and it now looks like a sure loser. There is going to be a lot of rethinking the game plan for Mulcair’s people.

Among Mulcair’s biggest policy problems are the major pipelines being planned across Canada and the Conservative energy policy. Mulcair has taken a firm stand directly in the middle of the issue since he was told that the pipelines impact union jobs. He feels he has to support those jobs but environmental activists in both the Liberal and New Democrat parties are becoming increasingly alarmed at the environmental hazards. There will be a lot of support for whichever leader comes up with the best answer.

But with his provincial support base shattered in Ontario, Mulcair is in a desperate situation. That support base does much more than bring out the crowds with signs for the leader at every whistle stop in the campaign. They are the sign crews and literature distributors. They are the ones who hound supporters to vote on election day. They are the candidates and Members of Parliament that Mulcair needs to even keep his status as a political party in the House of Commons.

What will frustrate Mulcair even more is that smart Liberals in Ontario are going to offer the olive branch to former Ontario New Democrats. They will be offered a home in a new and refurbished, more left-wing Liberal Party. They will find it a party willing to work with the unions for the common good but not be dictated to.

Without a solid base of support in either Ontario or Quebec, Mulcair’s New Democrats might as well pass on the election. The key question will be how federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau will handle the situation. Will he be smart enough to make an offer to Mulcair?


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Death of a political party: Absolving Andrea.

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Maybe we are becoming jaded by politics but what is happening to the Ontario New Democrats might be momentous. We are watching a bastion disintegrate. It is like a news clip of the imploding of old hotels on the Strip in Las Vegas.

Ontario New Democratic Leader Andrea Horwath ran true to form in the Northern Ontario debate yesterday. She came with anger. She only hurt herself. Instead of offering fresh ideas from the left to succour the north, she wasted time and energy on sour grapes. Nobody there wanted to waste time on gas plants. (These are gas plants that both the Conservatives and the New Democrats insisted on cancelling.) And nobody believes that Premier Kathleen Wynne is corrupt.

It is not that some old NDP stalwarts are not rushing their walkers to Andrea’s defence. One-time party strategist Robin Sears came to her aid in the Toronto Star this morning. He would be more credible as an apologist if he had not called his fellow old-time socialists “embittered NDP pensioners.” He better not say that in the hearing of one of those pensioner’s husbands, former party leader Stephen Lewis.

What got everyone laughing though was when he mentioned Andrea Horwath’s “steely” approach to leadership. The only possible steely aspect of Andrea might be her resemblance to a slinky toy that can go down stairs so quickly. It is just that she can never get back up.

The only effective support we have heard so far for Andrea was from a most unlikely source: the wife. This woman is a liberal in every sense. She also gets to read Babel-on-the-Bay posts before they get posted. Her comment the other day when reading about the demise of the New Democrats was “But don’t we need the NDP?”

Yes, we do. If we did not have some New Democrats around, we would have to invent them. In the same sense, we need the Green Party. God help us if they ever got elected to govern but we certainly need people to harp on the subject.

But there are vocal people in the Liberal Party who care deeply about our environment. There are also people in the party with a strong social conscience. We just have to make sure that we are heard. That would involve having somebody remind Justin Trudeau that liberals are free thinkers and he is not in a position to tell anyone what to think.

Robin Sears is old enough to remember the Waffle movement in the NDP and how much the party benefitted from the soul searching it provoked. It was like how Pierre Trudeau used to joke with us about our membership in the Get Off Your Ass (GOYA) group from the Pearson era Liberal Party.

There are also more than a few New Democrats who will be excellent additions to Liberal Party ranks.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Death of a political party: NDP and leadership.

Monday, May 26th, 2014

Looking more closely at what is happening to the Ontario New Democrats you realize that the signs have been there all along. This is a party without the will to exist. It has lost impetus, direction, raison d’etre and is adrift without effective leadership. Maybe, as political apparatchiks, we see this first but it will be clear to all after the vote on June 12.

There was a television clip the other day of Leader Andrea Horwath trying to respond to a question about her leadership. She was challenged in an open letter from a group of long-time New Democratic Party supporters. These people were “deeply distressed by the current campaign.” Andrea Horwath publicly laughed and said that it shows how democratic the party can be.

Only a fool would laugh at long-time supporters such as Michele Landsberg and Judy Rebick. These people are deadly serious. They are threatening to take their vote from the New Democrats and they take many thousands of votes with them. They might relent but the damage has been done. Andrea Horwath is toast.

Mind you, Horwath is no loss. As the Pillsbury Dough girl of the campaign, she only provided a few laughs. Her running to the right of Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals has been a wonder. We all expected her to refuse to support the Liberal Budget but it was her lack of effective response to it that left us confused. She seems to be running this campaign from notes in the back pocket of her jeans. There is no theme, coherency, or any attempt at effective communication.

When Horwath said that she was not supporting the Liberal provincial pension plan because there will be a federal election next year and a new government would fix the Canada Pension Plan, she astounded both Liberals and New Democrats. You wonder if she has that in writing from either Thomas Mulcair or Justin Trudeau.

The only people left in a quandary by these events are the news media. They have to rely on the polling information and the pollsters have been running well behind what is happening. It is far too early to say what impact all this will have on the vote other than to acknowledge that the Liberal Party is heading for a majority. We can assess that better after the debates. Oddly enough the Northern Debate that is only between Andrea Horwath and Kathleen Wynne will take on more importance. Key will be how Wynne acts towards Horwath. The kinder Wynne is to her, the more votes the Liberals will be racking up.

Conversely, the nastier Horwath is towards Wynne in either of the debates, the lower the vote the New Democrats will get. This is why we love politics.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Death of a political party: NDP and the unions.

Sunday, May 25th, 2014

What always divided Canada’s social democrats, be they liberal or socialist, was never dogma or heroes. It was the unions. The liberals saw Canada’s unions as regressive. They were reactionary, self-centred, living in the past and, in too many cases, tied to international unions that worked against this country’s nascent nationalism. When the Canadian Labour Congress wed the old Cooperative Commonwealth Federation and created the New Democratic Party, it was the dominance of the unions that created the depth of divide. This was not the party of Tommy Douglas.

At the same time, the New Democrats saw the Liberals as intellectual snobs and trending more to the right politically. It was the shared dislike and distrust between the two parties that created the phenomenon of working class electoral districts switching between the New Democrats and the Conservatives. Instead of being positioned as an answer to the need for reform, the Liberals were the enemy.

But time heals and necessity accelerates process. Since the Rae Days of the mid 1990s, unions have been drifting away from the Ontario New Democrats. What was once a rare union forming brief alliances with the Liberals has become a flood of support. Leaderless and aimless, Ontario’s New Democrats have crashed. They zigged to the right when they should have zagged to stay on the left of the Liberals.

And all the credit goes to Ontario Conservative Leader Tim Hudak. This is the guy who is promising to create a million jobs if Ontario voters let him fire a hundred thousand civil servants. He honestly believes that if he lowers our business taxes even further than they have been and destroys the union movement in Ontario, it will magically create jobs.

Can you blame the unions for fighting back? They are being disowned by the New Democrats and will be screwed by the Conservatives. In the time honoured tradition of “The enemy of my enemy is my friend…” the unions are lining up with the Liberal Party. The movement started with building trades and teachers and now service workers are crossing the line. What started a few years ago as a squabble between some of the unions has turned into a stampede to the Liberals.

How could any member of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in Ontario support the New Democrats after they pulled the plug on the Liberals just when the union was getting the deal the union had worked for years to get from the Ontario government? They were finally going to have home care workers earning above the poverty line.

So this is strategic voting folks. There is no equivocating on this issue. There are only two choices on June 12. You may vote for Timmy Hudak’s Conservatives if you wish. We will hope you are happy with each other. The other choice is Ms. Wynne’s Liberals. You need not worry if your hand shakes a little marking your “X.” Some liberals have that problem also. Good luck. We are going to need it.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Charles brought the lovely Camilla to tea.

Saturday, May 24th, 2014

It must be a condition of having a broadcast license in Canada: When Royals visit, you have to gush a lot. His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales came for a visit the other day and he brought his lovely wife Camilla to have tea with his Canadian subjects. The Canadian news media gushed appropriately.

To be more precise about it, Charlie dropped in on Halifax, hopped over to the Anne of Green Gables place and then flew over Quebec and Ontario to say a fond ‘Hello’ to the people of Winnipeg. And the whole damn thing was a crashing bore. If the camera shots were kept tight, it looked like Charlie and good old what’s her name were drawing good crowds. Nobody expected Charlie to have Justin Bieber size crowds as we all know he and the Duchess of Cornwall are not rock stars.

The only excitement the trip created was when Charlie was reported to have said to an elderly lady in Nova Scotia that Vladimir Putin of Russia had some of the instincts of Adolf Hitler. It was rather undiplomatic of him but nobody has ever accused him of being a diplomat. And the lady did not seem to mind. In fact, we gather she rather agreed with the prince.

Of course, the Canadian news media had absolutely no intention of reporting this conversation to Canadians. It would have been considered insulting to our esteemed guests. It was the bloody Brit tabloids who blew the whistle. “Charles done it agin!” was the bold headline.

Since it happened here, the Canadian media also had to weigh in on the subject. The consensus of both Brit and Canadian media was that Charlie could have any opinion of Mr. Putin he wished. Nobody seemed to give a damn anyway—other than the obvious outrage expressed by the Russian foreign affairs people. Mind you, nobody seems to have asked Vladimir what he thought about it.

But all of this discussion is in honour of this being 24 May in the year 2014. Today is the official birthday of Queen Victoria. That means that Canada has tolerated almost 148 years of being a monarchy with borrowed Royals from the Brits. As we look around Europe, we must admit that we have done reasonably well by the spawn of Victoria that still wear crowns. The Brit Royals are a mostly civilized lot and they rarely embarrass us.

But damn it all, royalty is really passé and we have to stop this foolishness. In the next several years, we will want to do something about our Senate problem and a few other carry-overs from an old and creaky constitution. Some changes will need to be made. Maybe we can do a better job of it. And say goodbye to the Brit Royals—they can visit any time they wish but no more gushing, please.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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The Ontario NDP has a platform?

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

And here we thought the New Democrats were going to wing it through this election without a platform. They fooled us again! Here we are with three weeks more to go and Leader Andrea Horwath has announced a platform—such as it is.

The New Democrat document seems to be mainly about health care. That is certainly an area of concern for many in Ontario and there is no question that there are those among us who might wish for a better answer than our inadequate Health Minister Deb Matthews. The woman has never gotten ahead of that portfolio and seems to always be playing catch-up.

The New Democrat suggestion of using more nurse practitioners in hospital emergency rooms is a good one. At the same time, the caregiver tax credit would work best with the increased payments for professional caregivers proposed by the Liberals.

What blows everyone away is that the New Democrats have jumped decisively on the balanced budget bandwagon. This must be their way of competing at this stage with the Conservatives. They are sure going to balance those books but just not as fast as those nasty Tories. You would think that any sensible socialist would adamantly say “Jobs and the economy first, deficit second.

The funniest promise the New Democrats are making and have just reiterated in their platform release is that they are going to appoint a cabinet minister of savings and accountability. They have sure one-upped Mayor Rob Ford of Toronto with that one! This new minister is going to be like that paper towel commercial that shows a bunch of fat guys running around soaking up spills.

There is no coherent theme or direction in this platform and it is almost the scrapings from the floor at the last New Democrat policy conference. To not try to give it an overall idea or even an interesting title indicates a hurried and ill-considered approach. It is like telling the voters that “We are here but not serious.” It is no way to win an election. The party will still come third in the election but that is not saying much.

You should get your résumé up to date if you are thinking of applying for the job of leader of the Ontario New Democrats. There will be an opening.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Is Canada supporting racism in India?

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

It can happen. In our eagerness to support democracy, we sometimes get put in a position where we appear to be supporting causes that we would never support back in Canada. This is obvious in the enthusiasm and support Barrie’s Conservative Member of Parliament Patrick Brown has displayed for India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Mr. Modi has been strongly criticized for his support for Hindu extremism.

Possibly it is a nuance of Mr. Modi’s character that Mr. Brown would not recognize. He would certainly be aware of Mr. Modi’s strong support for business interests and smaller government. Those are political positions close to Mr. Brown’s heart. He might not be as well aware of Mr. Modi’s less than stellar record in human rights and his possible ignorance of the unimproved living conditions of most of the 60 million people in the State of Gujarat where he was chief minister for the past 13 years.

But these are not things Canadians can debate without first-hand knowledge. We have to restrict ourselves to the areas we do understand and in which we have direct information. It has always served this writer well to remember a friend who was an industrialist from Bombay. He was always a very friendly and easy-going chap except when the then Prime Minister of India Indira Ghandi was mentioned. His visceral hatred for his country’s leader always muted further discussion of the subject. It only made it a bit easier to understand when the lady was so brutally assassinated in 1984.

Talking to friends in Canada from India, we get mixed messages about Mr. Modi. With some expatriates it is only the perceived need for the country to move on from an old and entrenched Congress Party. There are also those of mixed marriages (widely frowned upon back in India) who came to Canada for the opportunities offered for them and their children and to live in peace.

What we do not need from Mr. Brown is his obvious pandering to the wider Hindi community that has immigrated to Canada and now call it home. You expect that first generation immigrants will always pay close attention to happenings in the old country but we also expect them to learn about their new country. It is by his obviously biased view of the conditions in India that Mr. Brown does them a disservice.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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