Archive for May, 2014

Making common cause with the voters.

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

This should be a standard lesson in Politics 101. Have we all forgotten it? Why have we stopped making common cause with voters? Looking at the municipal, provincial and federal political scene lately, the only common cause we see is ‘Screw the voter!’

And common cause can exist. Look at the recent election in India—the largest democracy in the world and the voters made common cause with their new prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi. The voters in that country were tired of being taken for granted by the Congress Party.

But in Canada we have politicians such as Ontario Provincial Conservative Leader Tim Hudak who stand up and say, I’m going to fire ten per cent of the people working for the province. And then he says that he is going to create a million jobs—not good jobs necessarily, nor paying very well, probably with no benefits, no pension, no union, just a job that you might be happy to have.

Timmy and other Conservative ideologues think this is the way to treat Canadians. Look at that Employment Minister Jason Kenney. He is presently scurrying to fix the loopholes in the foreign workers program that the federal government thought would help lower expectations for Canadians. They were allowing companies to pay the foreign workers less than they pay Canadians and the companies thought this was a license to exploit foreign workers and not hire Canadians. (It certainly seemed that it was.)

Demagogues such as Hudak and Kenney think being elected gives them the right to mistreat people. Why are none of the politicians in other parties making common cause with Canadians against this type of treatment? It is as though these politicians are saying, ‘Shut up and do what you are told. We know best.’

It is the same in microcosm with Mayor Ford of Toronto. Rob Ford will be coming back from rehab soon, healthy (he will say) and ready to derail the fictional gravy train again. And the bad news is that there will be idiot voters who will support him. The really bad news is that Rob Ford can win if nobody can make common cause against Ford’s style of unruly municipal government.

And we have Ontario Provincial Conservative Leader Tim Hudak trying to make common cause against Ontario’s civil servants. He obviously thinks they are fat cats because they have jobs. He hardly cares how vital the job might be or whether the worker does a good job—just fire 100,000 of them. What kind of common cause is that? What makes him think the voters are mad at the civil servants? Or that they are jealous?

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Hudak had the answer and blew it.

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

All along, we were assuming that Ontario Conservative Leader Timmy Hudak was saving his ace in the hole for late in his campaign. He would have had it as his clincher. It was allowing the sale of beer and wine in convenience stores. It was assumed that he intended to show that Premier Wynne is living in the past and that New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath is afraid of the Brewers’ Warehousing union. All for naught!

Would you believe that Timmy has dropped his plan for revolutionizing beer and wine sales in Ontario? He says the plan has been put on the back burner. He has been told by too many of his base Conservative vote that freedom for beer and wine sales is a no-no. The poor schmuck has been screwed by his own myopic church-going supporters.

It could have taken up the entire last week of the campaign. Timmy wanted to visit every one of the 7500 convenience stores in Ontario and sew up the votes there. It was a no brainer. Timmy wanted every purchaser of a lottery ticket to be told to vote for his local Conservative. It was the way the voter was going to be able to buy beer conveniently.

It would have meant that the Toronto Star would have its editorial hands tied for the last week of the campaign. If the Toronto Star wants convenience stores to sell beer and wine, the newspaper would have had to back Timmy. (The Toronto Star is capable of that.)

For once in the campaign, the Toronto Star would have to point out that Premier Wynne and her dinosaur provincial Whigs are blocking progress. The Whigs are letting a foreign monopoly make all the profits from Ontario’s favourite suds. The one-time Ontario-owned Brewers’ Warehousing and its ubiquitous In-and-Out beer stores have fallen into the evil grasp of foreign-owned brewers.

The only politician tied in a pretzel over this convenience store issue was the Pillsbury Dough girl, New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath. Her and her caucus had flatly refused to discuss the sale of wine and beer by convenience stores. It is hardly that the party is stuck in the past but it is trapped by some of the unions. While fewer Beer Store employees are actually union members today, they still hold sway over the New Democrats. The party can hardly afford to lose much more union support.

But it was too hard to believe that such a badly misled party as the Ontario Conservatives might have been the only party willing to free the province from its archaic approach to beer and wine sales. It would have made sense when you consider that the Tories are desperate, the Liberals living in the past and the New Democrats frightened. And Timmy Hudak’s supporters told him to drop it? What the hell have politics come to in this province?

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Learning Timmy Hudak’s ‘rithmatic.

Monday, May 19th, 2014

One of the problems politicians face is that voters often take you literally. If you are stupid enough to tell voters that you are going to create a million jobs by firing another 100,000 people who are working, you leave them struggling with the mathematics. The key to this is to explain the mathematics first.

We point this out as something of a public service for the million or so voters in Ontario who are impressed with Ontario Conservative Leader Tim Hudak’s forcefulness. These folks were going to vote Conservative anyway but they like to mention Timmy’s forcefulness. And besides, he’s a family man and he represents all those family values that the good ole boys appreciate.

And besides, Timmy is going to get rid of all those damn windmills that are wasting our money trying to find a wind to generate some expensive electricity. Timmy is covering all the bases in this election. He and his friend Mayor Rob Ford are going to cancel all that fluffy light rail transit in the Toronto area and just build subways. They know that if they build them, the riders will come. And Timmy is not going to bother electrifying the GO trains as he is just going to run more trains, faster and give two-way service all day. This is despite the fact that the trains have to be electrified to run faster and provide better service—which is the entire point.

But we are still working on Timmy’s Three “R’s.” What is confusing people is that Timmy’s million jobs hardly add up. At this time, there are less than 600,000 people looking or interested in working in Ontario. Even if he could fire 100,000 civil servants, Timmy has a shortfall of at least 300,000 people to fill all his jobs.

But if Timmy fires the number of teachers he is promising, we are going to have some quite crowded classrooms. Timmy can solve both problems by allowing more child labour. Instead of bringing in foreign workers to do the dirty jobs, we can use school dropouts. With the new enlarged class sizes, nobody will notice that some of the kids are being left behind.

But we should bear in mind that Timmy will also be lowering the minimum wage. Most of us will need two jobs to make ends meet anyway.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

The pollsters also need to get real.

Sunday, May 18th, 2014

Here we are less than half way into the Ontario provincial election and the pollsters are getting more attention than the politicians. Get a life folks. This is far from over.

Where does this election stand when as many as half the voters are not even aware of when the vote will be held? Sure there are lots of active, knowledgeable voters who would love to stick it to the arrogant Liberals but they know there is no alternative. What do you expect them to tell the pollsters? They want to get even.

But Ontario voters are not stupid. They are savvy voters with deep concerns about the economy in this province. They agree that the Liberals under McGuinty did lots of things that did not like. They see nothing new or relevant about Kathleen Wynne as premier. They know that Timmy Hudak is just a cheap clone of former Premier Mike Harris. He is not even as bright or as interesting a person. How do you even equate that guy to federal Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper?

Do you know why the pollsters can claim any accuracy in their reading of the entrails? They do rolling polls throughout the campaigns and at the end they are often right.

But less than halfway into a campaign, the pollsters have no idea what is happening. It is like a camp counsellor going around a large dormitory of kids to wake them up for breakfast. You have to go back and check on half of them just to see if they made it out of bed. It is like about half the voters at this stage will ask: ‘What election?’

When many pollsters are using automated telephone calls to households where three-year olds answer the phone, you expect accuracy? And they are just as bad as the Internet survey panels that ask about your favourite douches and then ask: ‘And how are you going to vote, sir?’

As a politician, what you really want from the pollsters at this stage of the campaign is to see how voters are responding to key policies and some early trend analysis. How people are going to vote is more a reflection of how they might normally vote. You do not get much thinking in the answers.

What you would dearly love to know at this stage of the campaign is how about ten per cent of the voters might vote—if they get to the polls. These are the voters who will really decide the election and the pollsters have absolutely no idea who they are.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Rosie vs. Justin: seems like a fair fight.

Saturday, May 17th, 2014

While we rarely waste time reading much of Rosie DiManno’s columns in the Toronto Star, her piece Friday on Justin Trudeau was a rare treat. Maybe it is because they were both brought up Catholic, that it seemed to be a fair fight. Man, did she skewer him!

But Justin’s naiveté is the least of his problems. While we do not see his vanity in the same way Rosie can, we will take her word for it that he is vain. Whether Justin is callow though is a matter of debate. He is not unfledged or immature. People can appear that way in politics sometimes as they get beyond their depth of thinking on a subject. It happens to all of us. As a journalist, Rosie is a good researcher and before taking a position has the opportunity to research a subject to a level with which she can be comfortable. You hardly get that opportunity in politics in the middle of a scrum.

Pierre Trudeau felt the same frustration Justin must feel at the nagging of the news media—much of which is unfair. Justin has yet to learn the trick of turning the stupid questions to his advantage—not that his father ever did. While Justin keeps his cool with the media, he tends to go too far with his answers. In a scrum, it pays to be brief.

Frankly, Cardinal Collins had some very bad advice on his comments about the Pope and Justin’s ill-considered screening of new Liberal candidates. The Cardinal would have been more appropriate quoting Abraham Lincoln about the rights of man. Justin is way out of line with his party in what he is doing. His dictates about what Liberals can and cannot believe in is beyond the pale.

What parliament needs so desperately is people who can think for themselves, who can contribute to solutions, who are not ideologues but free thinkers, and, yes Rosie, can make sure that women’s rights are protected.

But people should never be restricted in our willingness to listen, to hear new ideas and new thinking on old problems. Yes, the current services to women in this country are unfettered and unequal. And that is wrong and needs to be repaired. The Conservatives are soon going to present their solution to open prostitution in this country and just wait until we get into those arguments.

But what Rosie DiManno does not admit is that Justin Trudeau can mature as a politician. His imperiousness can be softened. He can become a better leader. We might get annoyed with him but have not given up on him yet.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Let’s give the voters a time-out.

Friday, May 16th, 2014

The City of Toronto is in the most trouble. It really needs a break. The city and even the province are suffering from hyper-politicossis. It is a rare disease that can happen when too much political activity drives the voters to distraction. Even worse, they take out their frustrations on politicians. With a provincial election, federal by-elections and the longest running municipal election in history, the voters are starting to fray around the edges. After all, if Mayor Ford can take time out to go to rehab, the citizens should also be able to take a few days off.

Even those of us who make a hobby out of the political scene are starting to feel the strain. We have a wealth of material. We no longer plod along hoping that there will be something new to write about tomorrow. We keep writing and find that we have three entries scheduled for two days from now. Some will even publish all three—greatly confusing their readers. Those of us more considerate of our readers try to pick the most pertinent and, hopefully, best written.

But credit for the prolific writing really should go to the politicians—bless them. On the provincial scene, Conservative Leader Timmy Hudak is a goldmine for the progressive writer. He is Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman and Josef Stalin, comfortably rolled into a ball for your easy reading. Ayn Rand was the rabid adventurer of the right who confused millions with her best selling fiction. Milton Friedman was the pragmatist from the right-wing Chicago School and Josef Stalin was the hard case dictator who knew just what was best for you. You might think Timmy is an idiot but he is really those three, comfortably packaged for your derision.

And then there is provincial New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath. You never know whether that woman is from the left or the right or coming straight for you. She defies labels—other than being the giggling Pillsbury Dough girl. The only problem is you need her for more than laughs. Without a strong vote for Andrea, you end up with a Liberal majority government and what fun is there in that?

Can you imagine four more years of Kathleen Wynne as Premier of Ontario? That is enough to make any truly progressive liberal heave. You would swear that all the silly running that woman is doing is addling her brain. She is the most convoluted image of a premier this province has ever seen.

What was that old commercial: You deserve a break today? All voters should take four really deep breaths and not think about anything political for the next ten minutes. Betcha you cannot do it!

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

We’re waiting for the slowpokes in Babel.

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Members of the provincial Liberal Party in Babel are watching their e-mail in-boxes. We are waiting for news of our Liberal candidate for the June 12 election. You would think that with all the support Kathleen Wynne got from this riding in her run for the Liberal leadership, it would be ready with a candidate for her first date with Ontario voters.

That seems to be a problem in electoral districts that are run by the old guard. They scare off anyone who might have ideas or gumption and stick to the old tried and true. That is why there is a schism between the federal and provincial Liberals in Babel. It is also why we so rarely write about Babel in this blog. Nobody really cares.

But in microcosm, it reflects much of the Liberal Party’s problems in Ontario. There are not just two widely divergent liberal parties in this province, there are about seven. Understanding the problems this causes also gives you an understanding of politics in Ontario. And there are foolish people who think just Quebec is conflicted!

First and foremost, there are two sort-of related parties in Toronto and area. The reason there is any similarity between them was the cost savings of former Premier Mike Harris. He made the province use the same riding boundaries as used for federal elections. It reduced the number of people being elected to the legislature and saved the bother of periodically realigning riding boundaries provincially—let the feds do it. As Toronto is very much the heart of liberalism in Canada, it was the federal organization that became the dominant force in most Toronto and area ridings. It kept things simple.

But the parties are more insular in rural areas. The Liberals tended to become separate entities with segregated memberships. Northern Ontario is a special needs area for both federal and provincial parties. Windsor and South-western Ontario are way out in left field, so to speak. Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo, London and Ottawa are urban orphans with minds of their own.

But the news media treat Ontario as a cash cow and do not bother trying to understand its needs and directions. Radio and television are just commodities today that serve no needs but their own. Print media outside of the major urban areas are dying from neglect.

But knowing this does not produce a candidate for the Whigs of Babel. The powers that be will get around to telling us—eventually.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

And the best of luck to Adam Vaughan.

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

But just a minute! Is this the Adam Vaughan who was handed the nomination in the federal riding of Trinity-Spadina by Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau? Is it not the riding of Trinity-Spadina where Justin said Christine Innes cannot run because her husband Tony Ianno was accused of doing something wrong? And just who decided that Adam Vaughan is a Liberal?

Something smells in Trinity-Spadina and it is not just the salt air at the fishmonger’s on Augusta in Kensington Market. Is there anything else to be done to hand the riding to the New Democrats on a platter? Joe Cressy, the apparatchik running for the New Democrats, is having a good laugh at this situation. Cressy has the entire downtown corps of New Democrat supporters ready to knock on every door and drive out every possible New Democrat vote on June 30. It is just a preview of what the entire city will see for Olivia Chow when the city elects mayor and councillors on October 27. The difference is that on June 30, Liberals will be enjoying a long Canada Day weekend in Muskoka or Haliburton at their cottages.

And why would a real Liberal support Adam Vaughan? Is this not the good buddy of Mike Layton, son of the late New Democrat leader? The two councillors had to apologize for their wild accusations against city staff when they thought senior staff members were supporting a casino for Toronto. The two of them try to tell people that they are left wingers but the truth is they are nothing but reactionaries. They lead the city hall downtown clique of councillors that stop, stall and frustrate anything progressive in Toronto. They think Torontonians should all ride a bicycle to work every day. Is that the kind of people liberals need in Ottawa?

The last time this liberal worked for the provincial party in the Trinity-Spadina riding area was back in 1985. Jack Layton was campaign manager for the New Democrat candidate and Olivia Chow was working with the Conservative appointed returning officer. The Liberal team ran rings around both of them and the Liberal candidate won.

At least in the Scarborough-Agincourt by-election, candidate Arnold Chan was chosen by the Liberal riding association. Chan sounds like an excellent candidate and his degrees from the University of British Columbia and University of Toronto are quite impressive. We are told he has a long and highly regarded record in the community and with the Liberal Party. This is the type of candidate open nominations can produce for the party.

Justin Trudeau should pay attention.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

How the Hair will save Whitby-Oshawa.

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

We all know him now. He is not Stephen Harper, mystical leader from the nether world. He is the Hair, the only Prime Minister of Canada to keep a hairdresser on staff. In fact, the hairdresser is the only member of the Hair’s staff with tenure. The Hair is the guy with his personal A310 VIP aircraft for when he feels like visiting some new part of the world. He is the PM with the most frequent flyer miles to his credit. And we now know how he is going to save Whitby-Oshawa for the Conservative Party.

The Hair is so transparent! He did not call the Whitby-Oshawa by-election for June 30 when he wants two Toronto and two Alberta by-elections to be decided. Calling by-elections in the middle of a long Canada Day weekend is not a friendly gesture. It is more like raising your middle finger to the voters in Toronto. It is also more of a laugh to discomfit the Liberals and New Democrats who will be duking it out for the Toronto seats. (He is hardly worried about the two safe Conservative seats in Alberta.)

The only satisfaction that the Hair might gain is if Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau does not stop interfering in his party’s candidate selection in by-elections. By insisting on having Toronto Councillor Adam Vaughan run for the Liberal Party, Justin Trudeau is greatly reducing the number of Liberals eager to work in that riding. The Hair would dearly love to see Trudeau’s image weakened by the loss of Trinity-Spadina.

But he could not have the Whitby-Oshawa by-election at the same time. He wants all Conservative hands on deck for that one. He is going to try to win it. All he has to do is wait until after the Ontario provincial election on June 12. He is hoping that Christine Elliott will be left standing in the ruins of the Ontario Conservatives. The Hair wants her to replace her husband Jim Flaherty on the Conservative benches in Ottawa.

It is a no-brainer for the Hair. Whitby-Oshawa has been in the Flaherty-Elliott family since Christine took the provincial riding—previously held by her husband—in the 2006 by-election. She won handily. And she had another easy win provincially in 2011. And the Hair realizes how uncomfortable she is acting as Ontario Conservative Leader Timmy Hudak’s second-in-command.

The only thing that might interfere with the Hair’s planning is if Christine is still interested in taking on Tim Hudak’s job. She will know where she stands in that race by mid June. Watch for the federal Whitby-Oshawa by-election announcement later in the summer.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Hudak’s odds are now 100,000:1.

Monday, May 12th, 2014

There must be a rule for Conservative Party leaders in Ontario that, during an election campaign, they have to commit some form of political suicide. Ontario Conservative Leader Timmy Hudak came to Barrie last Friday and did the deed.

Timmy not only proved he is a failure in economics but that he must have also failed basic mathematics. Here he is promising 1,000,000 jobs for Ontario—without any plan to make it happen—but he wants to start by firing 100,000 provincial employees. While it might have been a bravura performance, it did not make any sense. Why he thinks 1,100,000 jobs will appear by magic instead of just 1,000,000 was never explained.

Timmy’s vision for Ontario really is a wonder. He never has made use of his degree in economics. In politics, he was an acolyte of former Premier Mike Harris. That should have been a lesson in what not to do but Timmy believes in the Harris way.

In 2009 when Timmy became leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, the party saw him as a new broom. They hoped he would be able to bring change and renewal to a stumbling political party. What they got was an ideologue in a time warp of an old and disproved economic theory. Timmy wants Ontario to be a right-to-work area as a bottom feeder in North America. He wants us to compete with Mexico with the lowest wages, the lowest business taxes and the least in worker rights.

His promises of plentiful jobs, lower taxes and a new broom hit a cord with many people when he went into the 2011 provincial election as the frontrunner in the polls. He was confident. All Timmy had to do was maintain the momentum for a five week campaign.

But Timmy could not do it. People began to question his promises and they found he could not explain them. He not only stumbled in responding to questions but he went too far with some of his answers and people realized that he was just copying promises that Mike Harris could never keep either. His promises were hollow, he had no concrete plan and his party lost that election.

And for the last two years, Tim Hudak has cheated the voters of Ontario. He was Leader of the Opposition in the Legislature yet he left the job to the New Democrat’s Andrea Horwath. He condemned budgets before he knew what was in them. He was always negative and never constructive. He presented policy documents that lacked research, reason or a future for the province. He railed against unions. He has turned off more voters than any previous Conservative leader in Ontario.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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