Archive for June, 2014

The cabinet making of Premier Wynne.

Monday, June 30th, 2014

It is hard to say whether Premier Wynne used delicate chiselling tools or just a Shop Vac to fashion her new cabinet. Either way, it would be wise not to expect all its members to last the four years of her mandate. There is some testing going on in that formula and it will take a while to see how it works.

We all knew that Charles Sousa from Mississauga was going to continue as Finance Minister. That was a no-brainer but the real question is whether he can continue a left of centre budgeting stance and still come to a more balanced budget. The urgency is to continue to raise Ontario out of the doldrums rather than any mythical need to move to the right and balance the books. As a low-tax haven already, we have lots of room for more revenue generation from both old and new sources.

The good news in moving people around was to get Deb Matthews off the firing line in Health. The woman really needs to be able to show her competence without the weights around her neck from previous incompetents. As President of the Treasury Board, her strengths and weaknesses will be more obvious to her fellow cabinet members and less obvious to the public. It gives her a chance to be more useful. The only problem is that Eric Hoskins is in the hot corner of health now and obviously Premier Wynne has more confidence in his abilities than some other people. It is an interesting experiment.

Stalwarts such as Jim Bradley, Michael Gravelle and Ted McMeekin can be expected to perform well in their respective roles as chair of cabinet, northern development and municipal affairs and housing.

The amusing combination of House Leader and Correctional Institutions seems appropriate for the well liked Yasir Naqvi. Considering that almost half the Liberal caucus is in cabinet, he is going to have to ride his cabinet colleagues hard to make them pay attention to the needs in the Legislature.

A couple interesting picks are Brad Duguid returning to economic development, employment and infrastructure and Mitzi Hunter to work with Charles Sousa as an associate minister on the new Ontario pension plan. Both those portfolios have to produce for us and they will be under the gun.

Overall, it looks good. It is a much better selection now that Wynne has fewer debts to pay off. We will watch what happens.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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All Andrea Horwath has is her hubris.

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

When New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath finally came out of hiding after the Ontario election, her pride (hubris) was all she had left. She has a caucus to lead and since they have nobody better, Andrea is still their leader.

But Andrea’s decision to force an election produced no victory. To hold just 21 seats in a general election that saw only a couple per cent over 50 per cent of the voters get to the polls was a sign of weakness for the Ontario New Democrats. Where was their vaunted strength in getting out their vote? Is 12 per cent of the total possible vote all that was there for them? That low a figure speaks volumes.

The losers in this 2014 Ontario General Election were the voters who declined their vote, spoiled their ballot or did not show up at the polls. That is roughly four million people. These people had no person or party on the ballot for who they cared enough to vote.

Andrea Horwath can take no pride in that. Nor can Kathleen Wynn. The party knives were ready for Timmy Hudak as soon as he tried to quell rebellion. Timmy is toast.

So is Andrea. The Ontario New Democrats just have to wait for their next convention. It gives a few possible successors time to build a convention team, source the funds required and plan their attack. They are going to bake the Pillsbury dough girl. Not because of their ambition alone but because the party needs them to survive.

And with this election and the federal tryst next year, the possible future of the New Democrats has to be decided. And the Ontario New Democrats will have to show the way. What New Democrats have to realize is that if they are truly loyal to the cause of socialism, they have to find a more effective means of achieving greater power.

One of the easiest ways to achieve success for the 99 per cent and to right the wrongs of corrupted capitalism is for the New Democrats to join the Liberal Party. Their numbers alone will give them the power and the influence needed to make the long strides in social progress.

And in that step, every New Democrat can join Andrea’s pride. She has proved that the party cannot move to the right of the Liberals and succeed. Federal New Democrat Leader Tommy Mulcair is also going to find that out next year. The Ontario New Democrats can move forward by planning their steps over the next two years.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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We gotta get behind this leadership candidate.

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

The truth is that it was hard to stop laughing when the news was first announced: Patrick Brown MP is considering running for the leadership of the Ontario Conservatives. It is just that the more you think of it, the more you see the irreparable damage it will do to the Conservative movement in Canada. You really need to know Patrick to understand.

Babel-on-the-Bay normally refers to Patrick as the MP for Babel. Barrie already has enough strikes against it. Why should Barrie take the blame for Patrick as well? Mind you it shows just how a-political Barrie can be. This is the only area in Ontario to ever elect a Reform candidate to parliament. It has wandered between Conservatives and Liberals until the Conservatives figured out how to gerrymander the riding in the recent federal distribution.

In charitable terms, Patrick Brown is what is known as a ‘retail politician.’ He plays on people’s ignorance of how Ottawa functions. While what he does in Ottawa remains a mystery to his constituents, he advertises heavily on the taxpayers’ dime and he has never met a charity that he could not use for self aggrandizement. The stock comment by the Barrie hoi-polloi is that he is wonderful in helping Barrie charities—despite all the work actually being done by the political staff we pay for.

In Ottawa, he is a lackey. He makes no contribution on committees or in parliament other than the puff pieces he reads for cabinet members whom he follows like a puppy. When he was caught charging taxpayers for paying his way to the New York Marathon by saying he was going to the United Nations, he quickly repaid the expense. It is like trying to find out what type of lawyer he used to be—other than one who had repeated difficulty with the Bar Admission exams.

In person, Patrick Brown is not someone you would consider having for a dear friend. Nor do many mothers consider him an ideal catch for their aging single daughters. He lacks social graces, personal appeal or any wit to speak of. Brown is barely housebroke.

But Brown thinks he might like Timmy Hudak’s old job. Could he do worse? Could he lead the Ontario Progressive Conservatives to the promised land? The truth is that he would keep the Ontario Progressive Conservatives out of office for another ten years.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Russian recognizes Baird’s botching.

Friday, June 27th, 2014

Georgiy Mamedov, the dean of the diplomatic corps in Ottawa is returning to Moscow. After 11 years in Canada, the Russian Ambassador seems to have become less and less diplomatic. He is calling a spade a spade and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird a sham. On Tom Clark’s West Block on Global Television last week, he appeared to be quite happy to leave Ottawa and the Harper government behind.

Mamedov made no effort to hide his contempt for the posturing of the Harper Conservatives. He makes it very clear that under a person such as John Baird, Canada’s foreign affairs are being mismanaged. He claims that he would be called in to be lectured on what the Russian government was doing wrong in the eyes of the Canadian government. “And that was it. It was just posturing,” the Russian claimed. He explained that normally when there was a serious problem between countries and how they perceived things, it could be discussed. He found that Canada’s foreign affairs minister was not interested in further discussion.

In various media interviews in the past couple weeks, Mamedov has made it very clear that the Harper government strategy in foreign affairs reminded him of how the former Communist Central Committee in Moscow used to handle foreign affairs. Posturing is not productive, the diplomat claims.

While the Putin regime in Russia is proving to be difficult in relation to the situation with Ukraine, Canada seems to be the only country that is not willing to discuss the issues. France, Germany, Great Britain and the United States are undertaking continual talks with the Russians in hopes of keeping the situation from getting out of hand.

Mind you countries such as France and Germany are reliant on the natural gas piped across Ukraine from Russia and they have a lot more at stake than the votes of Canadian-Ukrainians. Pandering for votes at home is not the usual way to fashion foreign affairs but then then Harper and the Conservatives have little subtlety. Mamedov is concerned that the Canadian stance is helping to escalate the problems instead of easing them.

The height of this Conservative foolishness was the very expensive trip to for the Hair and a couple hundred ‘friends’ to Israel earlier this year. What the Hair and his holidayers lacked in tact, they made up for in chutzpah.

Of course, Mamedov would be too diplomatic to mention that. It will just be another great story to entertain his friends with over vodka after retirement in his dacha outside of Moscow.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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In by-elections, you have to be there.

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

No, Babel-on-the-Bay has no morning line or prediction for the current by-elections in Toronto and Alberta. Readers have been asking for a forecast of what will happen in the four federal by-elections called for June 30. What they need to understand is that all by-elections are local. They are decided on the ground in the specific ridings. You have to be there to understand what is happening.

And even if you are there, you can make mistakes. Given what we know from outside the ridings, you might place a bet on the Conservatives keeping their two Alberta seats. The two Toronto ridings are expected to go Liberal but you might want to hold out for some odds in Trinity-Spadina. That riding is under a bit of a cloud. And we hear that the New Democrats are not giving it up without a hell of a fight. It is entirely an exercise in identifying and getting out your vote in the middle of a four-day summer weekend in downtown Toronto.

It is the type of situation where the late Clarence Peterson excelled. Yes, he was the father of a former federal Liberal cabinet minister, two former Ontario MPPs and one of them served as Premier of Ontario. Yet C.M. Peterson had his early political training with M.J. Coldwell and Tommy Douglas in the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, the forerunner of the New Democratic Party. That was before he decided to raise his family in London, Ontario. It is hard to find New democrats in that town.

But the senior Peterson gave us all lessons in identifying and getting out the vote during a by-election in Toronto’s Weston, Mount Dennis area early in the 1980s. He handed out the canvassing kits and debriefed the canvassers. He knew where every vote was and how to get it to the polls. It was a pleasure to work with him. We have also always admired the political work ethic of Clarence’s oldest son and Jim Peterson certainly came by his canvassing skill and drive honestly.

Having once worked on an election in the Trinity-Spadina area, we can report that it is a very complex task to connect with all the ethnic groupings in that riding. Running between meetings with Portuguese-speaking ethnic Chinese from Macoa, to a gay community group, to the Ukrainian-Canadian community, is only a small part of the challenge. The major concern is that the New Democrats are pulling all stops to hold on to the seat of Jack Layton’s widow, Olivia Chow, in the House of Commons. And they have a candidate in place who knows exactly what he is doing and where the priorities lie.

At the same time, Justin Trudeau wrongly rejected an established Liberal candidate who really knows the riding. You would think, he had more important things to do.

So, if you want to call that one, go ahead. Those of us with the experience will wait and watch. We can only hope that we are pleasantly surprised.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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The perfect hair of Stephen Harper.

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

The following blog was first run in August 2012 and it continues to draw visitors. Over the past two years more than 3000 visitors have searched out this specific entry. As we are taking a day off, we decided to run it again for your reading pleasure.

It is amazing what can get readers interested. A story the other day mentioned the Prime Minister’s exquisite hairpiece. Lo and behold, we get e-mails pro and con the idea that the guy wears some hair that might not have his follicles. So what? Only his hairdresser knows what is real and what is not.

Okay, hands up everybody who thinks that is all Stephen’s real hair. Quiet. We are counting here.

Next, can we have hands up by everyone who is sure that Stephen wears a rug.

That settles it. Readers of Babel-on-the-Bay are a pretty knowledgeable bunch. The ‘ayes’ have it. Stephen’s rug appears to be general knowledge.

Having viewed the various iterations of Stephen Harper over the years, it is obvious that the first hairpiece was in place in the 90s. It was lank and lacked the iron-grey strength of today’s more professional pieces. After all, he could only get the cost of his full-time hairdresser covered after becoming Prime Minister back in 2006. With all Stephen Harper’s travels around the world, his hairdresser probably has more air travel time in an Airbus A310 than most Canadian Forces Air Transport Command pilots.

This is probably the same hair and make-up specialist that Harper hired away from CTV back when he defeated Paul Martin and moved into his first minority government. Stephen seems to keep her busy. We hear that she not only does his hair, fixes his make up—you can see the eye-liner when he does a TV bit—uses a lint remover to fix his suits and, we suppose, even does the fast check of his clothes, shoes and makes sure his fly is done up. Hey, maybe that is why he is often late for media and photo sessions.

To really see the scope and placement of his hairpieces, you have to have a camera person shooting tight head and shoulders shots outside on a windy day. You will notice that the straight front of the hair across the forehead will sometimes shift slightly, as a single piece. It happens when she has not used enough glue. It would take a force eight gale to disturb a single strand of that hair with all the lacquer she sprays on it.

Maybe we can have some fun criticizing Stephen’s hairpiece in our blog but it is hardly a subject worthy of the lads and lassies of our nation’s fourth estate. They need to check for substance in the man. And if they ever find any, maybe they could let the rest of us know about it.


Copyright 2012, 2013, 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Justin ‘The Omnipotent’ Trudeau.

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

Did you see the latest poll from Forum Research? While you might be skeptical of the polling technique and its findings, Justin Trudeau must be pleased with being number one. Frankly it is the type of poll that can create arrogance in a neophyte politician. And we all need to remember that the Liberal leader is still a newbie. His inexperience is showing and his gaffes are currently outweighing his successes.

Young Trudeau has put himself in a box in relation to piping Athabasca tar sands product. How can you approve TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline through the American Midwest and then reject Enbridge’s Northern Gateway across British Columbia? Does that mean we do not give a damn about the American environment but will protect our own? There are far too many environmentalists in the Liberal Party to accept that policy. Nor can we accept the lies involved in support of TransCanada’s Energy East or Enbridge’s Line 9 reversal.

And why Trudeau’s friend and key adviser Gerald Butts, former head of World Wildlife Fund, has not pulled him free of the trap is worrisome. It is leading us to examine his other choices and there is major concern growing.

Trudeau’s choice of David MacNaughton as Ontario co-chair of next year’s election campaign looks like an error. It is probably not as colossal an error as having a civil servant such as Dan Gagnier in the national co-chair role but is indicative of the problem.

The simple success of an organizer such as the late Senator Keith Davey was his ability to spend the day on the telephone and at the end of the day, in his tiny cramped handwriting, on one-page, was a picture of the national attitude. Keith was the most effective conduit for feedback that any politician could ever ask for.

Many of Trudeau’s team appear to have come from the leadership club and not enough have worked their way there through the ranks. Some have never been there. There seems to be little understanding or communication by this group into the grass roots of the Liberal Party. Trudeau has to learn that before you drive a train anywhere, you had better lay some rails.

So far, Trudeau and his Ontario guy, David MacNaughton, have screwed up the by-election in Trinity-Spadina. Nobody is interested in their edicts about who will be the candidate after Trudeau rashly promised an open nomination process for the party. That promise was too important to many key Liberal Party organizers.

Justin Trudeau might think he is omnipotent but that brain trust around him is not!


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Harper Hair is perfect, his Cabinet not so good.

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

It seems to be a growing trend in the Conservative Cabinet. Without the human understanding of the late Jim Flaherty, Harper’s hooligans have been running loose. Just one example is Joe Oliver from Toronto. He was a natural disaster as Natural Resources Minister and we are all waiting in anticipation for his first serious gaff as Finance Minister. As luck would have it, you have to do something to be wrong and so far Oliver has luckily done nothing.

But poor Jason Kenney has been in continuing trouble. How is our Employment Minister going to succeed his dear friend Stephen Harper as prime minister if he cannot run a simple foreign workers program? The program was to be used as a warning to Canadians to stifle their ambitions, not a wholesale replacement. When people found there were no low-paying jobs because they were all taken up by lower paid and, more reliable, foreigners some of them started to complain about it.

Long touted as having the ambition to replace Harper, Kenney needed more successes than he has had. This snafu will be costly. Canadians have watched Kenney lose control of the foreign workers program over an extended period. There was not just one blip on the radar, Kenney has been trying to fix this program for some time and the media has made him pay the price.

That is not like former Defence Minister Peter MacKay and now our inept Justice Minister. MacKay is the one who keeps finding cow pads to step in even when he is away from the barnyard. After seeing him show off his ignorance on the subject matter, his proposed bill on prostitution has enraged anyone who has any understanding and empathy for the sex worker. He should also be made to sit in a corner of the cabinet room with a dunce cap for his silly sexist comments on women judges last week. Harper should send MacKay back to Defence where he can play at being a pilot in F-35 mock-ups.

And yet it is people such as Calgary’s Pierre Poilievre, laughingly anointed Minister of State for Democratic Reform, who leave observers completely aghast at how far Harper will sink to achieve his objectives. Poilievre must have been sent back to his kennel after Harper finally conceded some (but not all) ground on the “Fair” Elections Act. We hardly think, Stephen Harper wants to turn that attack dog loose again in what remains of the Conservative’s time in office.

Mind you, the one cabinet incompetent that we also watch with interest is Foreign Minister John Baird. The other half of Harper’s Bobbsey Twins, Baird is a time bomb waiting to ignite. As it is, he is costing us in terms of the respect with which Canada was once held around the world.

Canadians will long rue the fallout from the Harper era.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Justin Trudeau: Saint, saviour or sap?

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

Liberal Leader Justin has two by-elections coming up in Toronto on June 30 and if he does not win both easily, he is going to be in deep weeds. Mind you there is little more that Prime Minister Stephen Harper can do to make it difficult for the Liberals.

Calling a by-election for the Monday of a four-day Canada-Day long weekend in Toronto is probably the most evil thing that Stephen Harper could come up with. He likely had to offer the two Conservative candidates Senate seats to get them to even run. If they are the least bit smart, neither will make an appearance in their respective ridings.

But the entire Conservative effort in Toronto is to try to screw Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. And Justin’s problem is that he has more than Conservatives and New Democrats out to get him. He has some key Liberals who also want to teach him a lesson.

And it all centres in the downtown riding of Trinity-Spadina. It is hard to imagine the docile voters of Scarborough-Agincourt voting anything but Liberal but it was Justin who caused the trouble in Chinatown. It is like the Tom Hanks character in the movie Forrest Gump saying “Stupid is as stupid does.”

Many key Liberals throughout Ontario are appalled at what Justin has done in the run-up for this by-election. And it was more than just breaking his promise of open nominations in the party. He broke his word to the key volunteer organizers throughout the party in Ontario. Those people are a critical resource and Justin simply gave them the finger.

And then he disallowed the candidacy of long-time Liberal apparatchik Christine Innes in Trinity-Spadina. This was not only foolish but it was also spiteful. It was not Christine that some people wanted to stifle. It was her husband Tony Ianno. Many of us know Tony for what he is but, we never put the blame on Christine. To blame her for her husband’s real or imagined transgressions is both sexist and stupid.

But then our own Forrest Gump stuck us with his chosen candidate: Adam Vaughan. The young Vaughan cut his political teeth in that playpen of a City Council chamber in Toronto with his buddy New Democrat Mike Layton. Gee, welcome to the Liberal Party Adam. Why?

It will take a major effort to get out the Liberal vote in Trinity-Spadina on June 30. The New Democratic candidate is an expert at the ground game. He knows what he has to do. Does Justin?


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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The wonderment of Wynne’s winsome ways.

Saturday, June 21st, 2014

Since the basically corrupt and manipulated congress that chose her as leader of Ontario Liberals, Babel-on-the-Bay has not fawned over Premier Kathleen Wynne. It has not been a close relationship.

But this blog recognized early why she would come out on top in this June’s election. There was no way Ontario could throw Timmy Hudak a bone and the Pillsbury Dough girl, Andrea Horwath stumbled at the start of the campaign and never recovered.

Since the May budget from Finance Minister Charles Sousa, there was growing approval of Ms. Wynne and her party. And that budget was a pleasant surprise. It not only made sense but it addressed some basic issues that had needed to be fixed for some time.

In markets where working housewives have to pay $20 an hour to untaxed cleaning ladies, we actually offered to raise hard working home care workers closer to the poverty line. We might not have crossed all the “T’s” but the new pension plan makes for a much better future for today’s young people. And electrifying the GO trains is the only way we will get better efficiency and speed for commuters. We even approve of the more measured expenditure on the Ring of Fire.

Ontario is no easy province to govern and Wynne surprised us by the ease with which she moved into the premier’s chair and struggled with the problems from the McGuinty era. Seeing her survive the gas plants and Ornge and wind turbines was not only educational but impressive. It is a rare politician who can use basic honesty so effectively.

And it defied everything we knew about her politically. She got into politics during Premier Michael Harris’ reign of terror. Her approach was reactionary. She got into politics to fight against Harris’ amalgamation of Metropolitan Toronto. Those who were students of the emergence of Toronto as one of the greater cities of the world knew she was wrong. It was likely the only thing that Mike Harris did right—for all the wrong reasons. His objective was to dump a lot of provincial costs on the new city without giving it the money or taxation methodology to pay the bills. That mess is only now being straightened out.

It was because of her reactionary approach and her quiet presence in the McGuinty cabinet that we tended to dismiss her as a person of interest during the leadership contest. Nor did it help that the political Whigs who run things provincially here in Babel were supporting her.

But we are big enough to forgive her. Her forgiveness is not required.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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