Archive for September, 2014

Bobbsey Baird’s baffling bombast.

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

Keeping Canadians in a constant state of embarrassment, Foreign Minister John Baird continues to rack up frequent flier miles and drag Canada’s reputation deeper into disarray. What is diplomatic about baiting the Russian bear? Why does he have to take opposition politicians into harms way in Northern Iraq? Is he really persona non grata for insulting the United Nations in New York?

John Baird is an unusual gentleman. From his quite ordinary beginnings in Nepean, which was then a suburb of Ottawa, Ontario and graduating from Queen’s University down the road in Kingston, he embarked on a career in politics. He became an acolyte of Ontario’s Michael Harris and served in the Harris cabinet. When Harris was defeated, Baird did not like the opposition role and switched to the federal scene. His timing was right to be there for a job in the new Harper Cabinet. The one thing John Baird lacks in his latest job is any training, knowledge or experience in world politics.

In his role as Foreign Affairs Minister, you would expect him to take the lead from his department experts. It seems that he is not interested in what they have to say. The one group he does heed is the Prime Minister’s Office, the ubiquitous PMO. Experts in foreign affairs are ignored. He is the only cabinet member to have both right-wing conservative women’s groups and gay activists mad at him at the same time. The women are still angry about him supporting same-sex marriage. The gay activists are annoyed about him not complaining to the Russians about Putin’s anti-gay laws.

But John Baird seems to like calling out others. He is an equal opportunity insulter. He appears to welcome any opportunity to insult any country that criticizes Israel. He seems to want to face off with the Russians anywhere but across the Arctic Circle. He has set a whole new standard in foreign affairs for Canada. Just do not call it diplomacy.

Mr. Baird and his fellow cabinet member Jason Kenney are often referred to as the Bobbsey twins because of their similarities. Both are portly middle-aged bachelors who seem to be devoting their lives to the far right of the political spectrum. They are zealots and ideologues in their respective quests for political advantage. They relish their roles at the right hand of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

There is meanness and hypocrisy in their political styles that our country would be better off without.

-30-

Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Our democracy is bent, not broken.

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

It is like a whack-a-mole game. Every time you think you have settled the ignorance of one person proposing proportional representation, another pops up like an unwelcome termite in your house. You would think that more of us would want to protect our democracy. It sometimes feels like apathy is winning over democracy.

And where do these foolish people get off saying that proportional representation is more democratic? That is ridiculous. And what special knowledge do these people have to suggest that our first-past-the-post voting is a bankrupt system?

We should always remember that proportional representation is mainly used in countries with high rates of illiteracy. Because Canadians are literate, we get to vote for people, not just parties. We can send the best person to represent us and not have to just vote for a political party. We really do not have to elect the village idiot because he or she represents a certain party leader. Why would you want to give up the right to vote for a person?

What is most confusing about people mouthing slogans for proportional representation is why they think more people would vote under that system. Why? Do they believe that people only need less to think about so that they will be more eager to vote?

It was Edmund Burke back in the 18th Century who said “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” We should certainly try to remember that it was proportional representation that introduced Nazi Brown Shirts into the German Reichstag during the short life of the Weimar Republic. The Brown Shirts were not there to help.

But what is wrong in our electoral system is the control party leaders exert over their party members. The party leaders have far too much control over who can be nominated and who gets what position in parliament. And as for the Prime Minister’s Office, it is currently micro-managing the entire federal government. It is getting so bad that party leaders are telling potential candidates how to think. This is not only wrong but it goes against all the principles of how our government is supposed to function.

And now we have all these nincompoops saying that proportional representation will solve our electoral problems. What we do not need are unelected party officials in back rooms making up lists of people they want in parliament. These would be the people appointed by the parties to fill proportional seats.

Our parliamentary system is not broken. It just needs to have democracy restored.

-30-

Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

The Hair is off to war again. Ta-ta.

Monday, September 8th, 2014

How do you do a trumpet fanfare in a headline? The Hair going to war again certainly deserves a fanfare. The poor schmuck was had. He was alternately included and ignored by the big boys and girls at the NATO meeting in Wales last week. It was Brit David Cameron, France’s François Hollande and Yankee Barack Obama who made the decisions and waved the flags. They hardly want to go to war with Vladimir Putin so they are going to beat up on the ISIS jihadist fanatics in Iraq and Syria instead.

The way that the Hair and his silly Foreign Minister were mouthing off recently about the Ukraine situation was worrying enough for Canadians, let alone our allies. It is one thing to pander for the votes of Canadians of Ukrainian heritage and an entirely different thing to go to war with Russia. Canadians will be far happier to see their troops just shooting up Arab jihadists.

But the Hair is still getting his shorts in a knot. He was slashing the Canadian military budgets to the bone in the next year to allow room for pre-election tax cuts. And here are friend Obama and other NATO heavyweights demanding he pony up more military support in the billions. They have had enough mouth and now they want money.

The best the Hair could come up with was Canada’s over-rated and over-used Joint Task Force Two (JTF2). These guys, with their purported finally-honed killing skills, are to be used as logistics support for the Kurds in Northern Iraq. JTF2 are to be deployed in Kurdistan for 30 days and then their position will be re-evaluated. They might pick up some basic Kurdish language skills in that time. As the Kurds are the only Arab troops in the Middle East to have won some battles with ISIS, this might be the best billet.

But with friends such as Cameron, Hollande and Obama, the Hair needs to re-evaluate his role on the world stage. He and his hairdresser can wing where they want but they can hardly buy friends with continual promises of non-existent financial support. Like in any Ponzi scheme, eventually somebody wants to see some cash.

Maybe the key NATO allies have finally got a clear reading on the Hair. They are treating him as a lame duck. Their people in Ottawa have a fairly accurate read on where the Hair is going after any federal election in 2015 and it will not be as prime minister.

-30-

Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Publicity 101: Make each announcement different.

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

Ontario Infrastructure Minister Brad Duguid must have missed the class on publicity that said change the story line when you make the same announcement for the third time. He got a roasting from the media the other day who had heard it all before. He was trying to make more news out of the sale of the Liquor Control Board’s Queens Quay property in downtown Toronto. He was certainly not the first Liberal minister to try to make something of that story. And the opposition politicians might have a point when they call it ‘smoke and mirrors.’

To sell the land without the LCBO included is, in fact, gross stupidity.

Duguid left out an important figure. He talked about the maybe $200 million that the province would get for the property. What he failed to talk about was what it would cost to move the board’s headquarters, distribution centre and main Toronto store to other locations. The citizens of Ontario could easily end up with a net loss in the transaction. The media should have been asking ‘What is this dumbass idea going to cost us?’

What ever happened to the advice from the farmers of old: If you sell your land, you are nothing but a serf.

If the Ontario government is desperate for money, selling the LCBO itself makes far better sense. It is a sale that pays dividends. It makes more money forever for the province. It will pay more in taxes than the LCBO ever earned. It creates jobs. It offers opportunities for entrepreneurs. It pleases the public. It means that beer and wine and spirits can be sold with food—as they should be. Beer can be available in convenience stores instead of through disgusting beer stores where the profits go to foreign owners.

But, pardon us if we have discussed this before. It simply shows how dumb the Ontario politicians can be. They have been told countless times now that they are losing money and the citizens are losing patience with an outmoded and archaic system of wine and spirits distribution in Ontario. It spells ignorance and inability to really meet the needs of Ontario citizens—and God help us, we just recently decided that they were the best of a bunch of losers.

And poor Minister Duguid still does not know dumb he looks. He was two-for-two last week. His first fumble was complaining about the federal government and the Rouge National Urban Park. He expects the Harper government to do something to protect the environment of the park—in his dreams!

-30-

Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Toronto: A city seeking leadership.

Saturday, September 6th, 2014

The most obvious problem for those trying to put Olivia Chow into the mayor’s chair in Toronto is her inability to lead. Even if she could win, would she sit comfortably? If you analyze left-wing David Miller’s two terms as mayor between right-wing Mel Lastman and right-wing Rob Ford, it becomes very obvious that this political ping-pong is destructive and costly for Toronto.

The city desperately needs a period of positive progress. It needs a mayor who can lead an unwieldy and disparate council to set aside their differences and work to address the needs of the city. The city can ill afford the turmoil and uncertainty of veering sharply from left to right and back to whatever. It needs a mayor who can find the middle ground and sell the benefits to councillors and citizens alike.

Olivia Chow’s plans for bicycles and buses cannot solve the city’s gridlock. The Ford desire to dig subways takes too long and costs too much. Solutions are in flexibility, staging, compromise and working with other levels of government to make things happen. Ontario and Canada both need a liveable, efficient, affluent, smooth-running city that sets a pattern for our province and our country.

Toronto is not an independent city state. It gains from the 905. It draws from the GTA. It attracts tourists and conventioneers from the province, the country, the world. It enriches us as a centre for business and finance, arts, technology and the fruits of learning at its two world-class universities. Toronto continues to build, grow and nurture. The world comes to Toronto with the arts, the cuisine, and languages that build its culture and liveability. And it shares the results of this enrichment.

Toronto is a haven. It is a city that has known peace for the past 200 years. Its quiet streets share the rustle of leaves on the trees with the laughter of children at play. Its main thoroughfares bustle with commerce. Toronto’s subways, iconic streetcars and buses transit millions to work, to play, to shop and to entertainments.

To understand and believe in Toronto is to care about it. It does not need the publicity of buffoonery. It needs caring management. It cannot grow with socialist concerns. Socialism could never create a downtown heated with steam from a central plant or deep lake water cooling. It is a city that has to continue to grow to survive. It has a huge future.

-30-

Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Are Hong Kong activists smarter than Canadians?

Friday, September 5th, 2014

Pay attention politically smart Canadians. The activists in Hong Kong are showing you up. And what makes you think Canada is more democratic than Hong Kong? All the activists in Hong Kong want is open nominations. When was the last time Canadians were allowed open nominations?

Here in Babel the Conservative’s central committee in Ottawa has just announced our Conservative candidate for the election next year in the new Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte electoral district. In Hong Kong such an announcement would be greeted with protests, rallies and sit-ins. In Babel, nobody particularly cared. The local Conservatives are hardly used to having a contested nomination and a vote.

The only vote likely around here will be the public vote in next year’s election. Justin Trudeau and his minions have yet to tell us who our Liberal candidate will be. They are still mulling it over at party headquarters. This was the guy who promised us open nominations when we elected him leader of the Liberal Party. Trudeau is coming for a party fund raising barbeque at Horseshoe Resort on September 18. Maybe he will announce our candidate to the Liberals with a spare $150 to contribute to the party.

We will assume in Hong Kong that when the Communist Party’s Central Committee chooses a candidate, it is someone who thinks the way the Central Committee does. Young Trudeau has done that one better. He tells potential candidates who might not approve of abortion that they need not apply to be a Liberal candidate. As leader, Trudeau will tell them how to think. At least Stephen Harper tells his Conservative lackeys that they can think whatever they want but they will just do as they are told.

The people in Hong Kong who are fighting for democracy are putting their lives on the line. In Canada few are so willing to fight for democracy. They take our democracy for granted without realizing how it has been eroded.

The most interesting of the pro-democracy groups among Hong Kong’s population of more than seven million is Occupy Central with Love and Peace. This group is threatening the Hong Kong government with a mass sit-in of more than 10,000 participants in Hong Kong’s business district. Shutting down the financial heart of the city-state for long will have repercussions from Beijing that few will want to contemplate.

Maybe we can find some brave pro-democracy Liberals who will want to picket young Trudeau’s barbeque at Horseshoe Resort. There have to be more than a few Liberals who still believe in party democracy and the importance of party leaders keeping their word.

-30-

Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Morning Line for Toronto: Tory at 3 – 1.

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

This mayoralty contest is an uphill battle for broadcaster John Tory. His instinct was right last year when it was obvious that he saw no redemption for himself in going after the mayor’s job. The people who convinced him to run were also right.

Toronto needs John Tory more than John Tory needs the city. He is a businessman with typical business strengths and weaknesses. He can make decisions and stick with them. He is a strong leader and has demonstrated the ability to negotiate. He is also a political person. He is a Conservative in the Bill Davis mould. Those long-ago breakfasts with Brampton Bill at the Park Plaza paid off handsomely for the young lawyer and along with his relationship with Ted Rogers got John Tory away from a boring career with the family law firm.

John Tory knows Toronto far better than any competitor in the mayoralty race. He knows what the city needs and he knows how to make it happen. Gridlock and transit needs have kept his campaign focussed on what Toronto most needs at this time. His SmartTrack surface rail solution is the most practical and cost-sensitive answer to keeping the city moving. It is the right direction. It is neither a new nor overly expensive solution and fits in well with the Ontario government’s plan to electrify and speed commuter lines in and around Toronto.

He is the only candidate for mayor who can make this simple solution happen. And it needs to happen as soon as possible.

Another thing Torontonians can count on with Tory is that he will create a working executive committee that will take back the reins of control of the city from the civil servants. It means we will see more actual progress in Toronto in the next four years than we have seen since Toronto’s forced and poorly managed amalgamation 15 years ago.

All John Tory has to do over the time left before the election is articulate his feelings and belief in Toronto as a great city. Despite all the foolish and ill-considered insults from the Chow people, Tory has kept his cool. He has stayed on track.

We wish John Tory well. He has not had an easy time of it and he has a tough job ahead of him as Mayor of Toronto.

-30-

Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Morning Line for Toronto: Ford at 10 – 1.

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

Despite the perverse forecasts of some purported pundits, Rob Ford is hardly likely to be supported for re-election as mayor by any large number of Torontonians. You can clean him up, wash out his mouth with soap and buy him shirts that fit but a klutz is still a klutz. The only thing keeping his faint hope alive is the fact that he has two strong challengers. If there was just one, you would simply write off Ford as just another ‘loser.’

This is not four years ago when people were taking the mayoralty race in Toronto for granted. People believed in the ‘gravy train’ back then and desperately wanted to take back their city from the downtown councillors with their ties to the New Democrats and different priorities. George Smitherman, the former Liberal MPP, never connected with the Toronto suburbs and Ford won them by default. He will have a tough time convincing those people this time out.

Ford made his biggest mistake when he entered rehab in June. His loser supporters heard of his month long holiday in Muskoka. They did not mind the holiday as much as they resented his admission of needing help. He came back refreshed, a bit leaner and a little more fashion conscious.

What is really worrying his sycophants is that he has obviously decided to clean up his act. What’s the fun in a guy that fails to say whatever he wants? His supporters liked it when he fought with Police Chief Bill Blair, made surprise visits on the prowl, acting drunk, incoherent, and spewing racial slurs and do you really think he does not see when people are recording his antics.

But these are not the voters he can count on. The Etobicoke-centred Ford Nation has been shrinking. Ford can no longer sustain the image of returning citizen telephone calls beyond his base vote. He is starting to let down the side. His campaign needs new stimulus and he has nobody to supply him with the easy answers.

Ford is going to continue to struggle with the media and it will be just his pugnacious nature that people are going to continue to see. The media revel in his simplistic diatribes but are not interested in a new, nicer Rob Ford. Besides, the media are not the voters.

Either way, Ford is a loser. Prove the media wrong about him and he will become just another loser. Prove the media right about him and he will go out in flames anyway.

We will discuss the likely winner tomorrow.

-30-

Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Morning Line for Toronto: Chow at 6 – 1.

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Olivia Chow has become something of a long shot in Toronto’s 2014 mayoralty contest. After a strong campaign launch in the spring, it has become clear to the media and the people hearing her speak that she lacks the one key ingredient Torontonians want: leadership. With a fractious, overly self-important council, her voice cannot be heard.

While Chow was a very sympathetic figure at the state funeral for Jack Layton, that is not an image that can be played at this time. Toronto needs cooperation, conciliation and concern. This is a city that needs so desperately to recreate itself in an environment of businesslike attention to detail, development and decency. Toronto needs to build on the strengths that the rest of the world sees in the city.

And Toronto hardly needs Chow to defeat Rob Ford. Rob Ford can defeat himself. Chow’s biggest mistake so far in this campaign was to turn people in her campaign loose on her real competitor, John Tory. They have treated a decent man despicably. They have attacked him without seeming to care for truth or reason.

But Toronto is not buying it. We are entering the real campaign for the mayoralty now and the challenge for the candidates is to articulate their vision for the city. And they have to be able to show that it is vision that can be endorsed by council. Without some broad cooperation on council, the mayor is just another vote.

While municipal candidates try to appear above their political leanings, they need that base vote to be in the race. Olivia Chow is a New Democrat. That is not hidden. While some Conservative and Liberal party members might be in her camp, her trust is in the NDP workers she has known for years. Her base is in downtown Toronto. We saw her base in Trinity-Spadina go down to the Liberals in the by-election to replace her.

While the lack of a strong Liberal in the mayoralty race frees party members to support her, it is not a comfortable alliance. There appears to be limited trust. What we are seeing as the race comes out of the back stretch is a flat line in support for Chow. She has hit a ceiling and is unable to grow support from here.

As more and more voters recognize her spoiler role in this race, her support will actually decline. People will switch from Chow to Tory to ensure the defeat of Rob Ford. She cannot win, she might not even place; she is just a show bet.

-30-

Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

The shifting sands of Quebec federal politics.

Monday, September 1st, 2014

It is important to listen when the Toronto Star’s Chantal Hébert discusses what is happening politically in Quebec. You sometimes get the impression that she is so caught up with the nuances of the Quebec angst that she fails to open her mind to possible results. Take the demise of the Bloc Québécois for example. The writer frets over who will inherit the votes if there is no acceptable separatist option available.

Has Ms. Hébert considered that the first option this small group of malcontents might contemplate is to vote for the Conservatives? They would achieve as much as voting for this heavy-handed new Bloc leader Mario Beaulieu while giving the one-finger Canadian salute to the rest of the country. There is no question but much of the rest of our country is getting fed up with Conservative ideology. It might be embarrassing if the Bloc voters accidently elected a Conservative but since they will not be part of the new government, little harm will be done.

The obvious option is to do more of the same as Bloc voters did in 2011. They could let the Jack Layton legacy live on. Mind you, the New Democrats do need to replace some of their accidental MPs with ones who at least know where the New Democrats stand—or at least supposed to stand when they are not simply trying to win election. Frankly, many Canadians would really like to know where the New Democrats are standing these days.

There is also the option of voting Liberal. Since many of the wandering voters captured by the New Democrats in 2011 were actually unhappy Liberals, this would be a natural. We already know that even Thomas Mulcair’s electoral district will be in jeopardy next year. There will be little of the Greater Montreal region that will not go rouge.

And before you scoff at the thought of Quebeckers flocking to vote for young Trudeau and his team, you should check around. You can start by ignoring the pollsters. People are lying to them in greater numbers all the time. The pollsters have absolutely no idea what is happening. What is really funny is that Justin Trudeau could himself be surprised at the vote in Quebec that is moving toward him.

Trudeau actually has a civil servant running his campaign in Quebec who contributes little in the way of understanding of the voters. The voters will, of course, decide. They just might not have very much choice.

-30-

Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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