Archive for October, 2014

Harris helps harass the Hair.

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

Canada’s prime minister a.k.a. the Hair does not have a large number of friends. And that short list obviously does not include Canadian author and journalist Michael Harris. We hear that Harris’ newly published list of the Hair’s shortcomings is a rather lengthy book. Called Party of One: Stephen Harper and Canada’s Radical Makeover, Harris seems to have done the political job for the Hair’s political detractors. After all, we bloggers were never going to get the job done without some expert help.

The Hair’s attempts at controlling and demeaning parliament are said to be well documented and his smearing of Canada’s international reputation covered in some detail. Released at the same time as Justin Trudeau’s book, Harris’ book might help to relegate Trudeau’s book to the puff piece that it is.

The advantage that Harris had in his endeavour was the ability to spend the time needed to interview those whose lives have been directly affected by the Hair and those who knew him on his way to creating his imperial style of the role of prime minister. People such as mentor former Reform Party Leader Preston Manning and one-time sycophant former Conservative MP Helena Guergis are just side-swipes in the Hair’s blind drive to absolute power.

While it is reported that much of what Harris has to say about the Hair is anecdotal, it might be presumptuous to compare it to Peter Newman’s 1963 Renegade in Power: The Diefenbaker Years wherein Newman assessed the weaknesses of then Prime Minister John Diefenbaker. As the Hair would tell you, John Diefenbaker had human failings. The Hair does not believe he does.

Since there is a great deal more reading still to do before analysing Harris’ entire book, we can only suggest that it is good that it is now available to us. It could be as simple as picking a page at random as food for thought in the current day’s commentary on the Hair. Thank you, Michael Harris.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Meaningless measuring for meaningless media.

Monday, October 20th, 2014

When you take a poll to help sell newspapers, how serious can you be? Does the poll even matter if it restates the obvious? It is giving the entire business of polls a bad name.

Take the Toronto Star. The Star hires Forum Research to take a poll. Last week the poll was on the candidates for the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party leadership. It is a very cheap poll. Since it is so unimportant neither the Star not Forum Research really want to waste much money. They knew the answers before they took the poll.

Would you believe that 60 per cent of the Ontario residents polled have no idea? Mind you a third of those people said ‘None of the above.’ They got better answers when they narrowed the poll down to Conservative supporters.

This is what happens when you use that silly interactive telephone response system. It supposedly dials at random and asks automated questions of whoever answers. The way people talk to those calls, they should have their mouths washed out with a strong soap.

This type of survey is based on quantity of answers, not quality. They answers are suspect before you even start to count. Take another poll the next day and you will find wild swings in the results. And when you just pick the ones who said they voted Conservative, you not only get a much smaller sample but you might get ones who know something of the questions.

So are you surprised that MPP Christine Elliot, Jim Flaherty’s widow from Whitby-Oshawa, got 14 per cent support? MPP Lisa MacLeod of Nepean-Carleton was second with 9 per cent. Two male MPPs in the race and the one MP were at 6 per cent or less.

And if you want to give any credibility at all to any of those figures, they tell you that there is a long way to go before Conservatives in Ontario get to pick a new provincial leader next May. It is far too early to place any bets on this political race or to consider publishing a morning line.

But it just goes to show that the Toronto Star and its faithful pollster are keeping you abreast of the political scene in Ontario.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Justin’s book written by the choir.

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

Nobody expects that Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s puff piece that has just been published is actually written by him. It comes as a shock though when he describes the process as more like a choral arrangement. It sounds like a process that takes out any spontaneity, edge or passion from what is being published. It sounds like a waste of time. We should not be too eager to read the literary reviews. Forget the Geller Prize.

What Trudeau believes is that the book is an opportunity for Canadians to see the differences between his Liberal approach and the present Conservative government’s plans. The only problem with that is that we have little to go on today to really understand where Trudeau and his choir want to take us. Liberal platitudes are readily available but a concrete Liberal future has yet to be articulated.

And we have every reason to be concerned about the Liberal vision of this country. Trudeau cannot continue to curry favour in Alberta by supporting pipelines unless there is clear understanding that there has to be limits to tar sands pollution. Canadians have every right to expect the Liberals to have a plan ready to provide such things as a national drug program and better coordination of Medicare delivery. No doubt we will be trapped into some of the Conservative tax cuts but reality is that Canadians have the right to expect a strong and effective national government and that costs money. That means some truths must be told.

The family tidbits have to be there to promote the book as a biography but that is necessarily thin. Pierre Trudeau was an austere and distant person but at the same time a loving father. Nor are his mother’s issues hidden and Justin deals with them. If you are looking for intimacy though, you best look elsewhere.

The story this writer would like to read is the first campaign for Justin’s riding of Papineau in 2008. That was his real baptism into politics and we wonder about the influences and experiences that took him to Ottawa and eventually to the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada. We expect that period is glossed over.

But there will be a market for the book. It will be required reading for the minions in the Prime Minister’s Office. Know your enemy will be their excuse. They are already convinced they know everything else.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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This is war Ms. Wynne.

Saturday, October 18th, 2014

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and her so-called Liberal Party are having a love in down in Windsor today. They had better enjoy that group hug inside because the town of Windsor is not feeling all that loving. And neither are a lot of liberals in Ontario.

It is a banker problem. It started with asking a banker like Don Drummond to solve Ontario’s financial problems. Drummond was a waste of time. Now you have a report from Ed Clark, another banker. These reports are supposedly to help Wynne’s finance guy, Charles Sousa, another erstwhile banker. And that only proves that we have to stop asking bankers difficult questions.

And did Ms. Wynne really hire former politicians Janet Ecker and Frances Lankin to assist the banker? What kind of political payoff was that? Should she not have hired some people who understood the social impacts and long-term financial consequences of what was being discussed?

If these so-called experts are going to examine rationalization of Ontario hydro distribution or rationalization of alcohol distribution in Ontario, why not give them the types of experts who understand the implications of this rationalization?

It is something of a joke for the panel to report that the Liquor stores should sell 12-packs as well as 6-packs of beer—but not two-fours! That is the kind of incremental crap that Ontario citizens have been fed for years and they are getting damn sick of it. The report’s answers on beer, wine and alcohol distribution fail to address any of the real issues.

And just how the hell is the Ontario government going to get more revenue out of those awful beer stores without the foreign owners of the Beer Store getting more and more unearned profits?

What Ms. Wynne and her sycophants in Windsor this weekend do not realize is that this is not a very important issue in the overall concerns of Ontario citizens. It just happens to be a concern for progressive voters who were very helpful in defeating Timmy Hudak and Andrea Horwath in the last election. Ms. Wynne should pay more attention to who the people are she is pissing off.

By the way, there is one thing the TD Bank executive said in his report that made sense. He said that “The LCBO should build its business around what the consumer wants, instead of what it wants.” That is exactly what privatization would achieve.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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The Hair harvests his hopes.

Friday, October 17th, 2014

Canada’s prime minister must be quite happy these days. There is actually a world-wide glut of oil driving down the price of crude oil. The Hair has taken us to the promised land of the oil economy and Canadians are reaping the rewards. They are also watching stock markets plummet and their eyes are rising skyward and they are saying, ‘Please, this is just a market correction, we hope.’

Who knew—other than the Hair—that fracking and tar sands would save the day for Canada’s economy? It was a brave move to dismiss the manufacturing sector in Ontario and Quebec as inconsequential. At a time when the Canadian dollar is in free fall, we have little left in the way of manufactured goods to offer our American friends. Despite the Hair’s efforts, little has come of the free trade agreements he keeps ballyhooing. Not that we have much other than bitumen and pork to offer.

Just consider the prescience of the Hair. How could he have been more helpful to the tar sands economy? He has allowed the industry years of dithering over what if any environmental standards they would consider. Despite the promises, we have watched for those years as the Alberta landscape vanishes under the black cloud of carbon emissions from the heating and polluting of fresh water to drive the bitumen out of the pristine wilderness. We have watched open pit mining devastate the landscape.

We are also seeing old pipelines rededicated to the push to take bitumen to the seaports to share its pollution with the world. And when a tar sands booster talks about our going from sea to sea to sea, that third sea is the Texas Gulf ports where the Keystone XL pipeline is headed—if President Obama agrees.

We have watched as the Hair has gutted the federal government of scientists who would dare question his direction. His minions have stripped statistics Canada of the ability to analyse the Hair’s influence on the economy. In all, his government has dumped some 20,000 civil servants who might have made a difference. The Hair has stripped the federal government down to the lean and mean with the emphasis on mean. What successor, if any, would dare to take back his tax-cut incentives to vote Conservative?

What we are dealing with here is the legacy of the Hair. He might be proud of that legacy. We have all paid for it.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Entering the end game in municipal politics.

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Political apparatchiks can get into endless arguments about how best to handle the end game in a municipal campaign. The key question is in setting priorities. You will never seem to have enough workers to do the ground job. So what takes precedence? It is a question John Tory, Olivia Chow and the Ford brothers must be asking themselves as their campaigns go into the end game.

What are the chances, for example, for a good roorback? A roorback is an American political invention in that it is something scurrilous about your opponent that you disseminate when is too late for the opponent to respond. It certainly has to be something other than telling voters that John Tory endorsed Doug Ford four years ago. First of all it is true and secondly Olivia Chow’s campaigners have been telling people that for the last couple months.

The other problem is that today’s 24-hour news channels and social media have eliminated the problem of fast response. That can ruin a good roorback.

One of the most interesting aspects of this campaign for mayor is that most of the attacks on John Tory are falling on deaf ears. They are serving more to confirm the individual vote than to change it. It all comes down to transit. Despite all the virulent attacks on Mr. Tory’s transit plan, it is the only one that is connecting with the voters. Olivia Chow is coming across as the downtown champion of bicycles and buses that guarantees congestion for years to come. And the Ford brothers have already proved that their ‘subways, subways, subways’ mantra is going nowhere.

And even if John Tory’s SmartTrack plan is a crock, he will at least leave the city with some dignity as he goes down with his ship. After all, SmartTrack was just an interesting proposal. It only gains credibility in that the Ontario government is already planning electrification of the commuter train lines. It is a very short step from there to expand the number of stations along the way. When you look at Chicago, you see the logic of the train lines that became the elevated lines that served to speed that city’s progress.

During this week and on October 27, the objective of all municipal candidates has to be to get out the vote. By telephone, by door knocking and every way possible, you have to get the voters to the polls. If half the voters stay home, they are likely to be the ones who were thinking of voting for your candidate.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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What price for your vote?

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Step right up folks. The Conservative Party is ready to buy your vote. If you do not worm your way to the head of the line, you might miss out. After all a lot of Canadians have suffered so that the greedy can get their snout in the trough. It is time for the payoff.

There is no pretence here. Prime Minister Stephen Harper made it very clear the other day that there will be a stream of goodies available for Conservative Party supporters over the next year. He will be announcing many of them at carefully staged and managed events across Canada. (God forbid that budget items become lost in the shuffle of a busy budget day in Ottawa.)

But even if you miss the first big announcement of your payoff, never fear, there will be lots more occasions to hear how beneficial it can be to be Tory.

There are some lesser luminaries in the cabinet than the Prime Minister who also get to announce these bribes. Maybe the Prime Minister was a bit leery of the Employment Insurance cuts for small business. Most experts have already written that idea off as a straight payment into the business owners’ pockets. It certainly did next to nothing for job creation. It made Finance Minister Joe Oliver look silly but that seems to be his permanent expression.

It will be interesting to see who does the big announcement for income sharing. The efficacy of this idea was even denied by the late Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. After leaving office, he made it very clear that he thought income sharing for friends of the Conservative Party was a really stupid idea. He said the money was going to all the wrong people—particularly those who did not need the money.

Another expected and most unnecessary move will be the doubling of the annual contribution to tax free savings accounts. That will be most appreciated by people who need more places to put money that they do not need. It needed about 10,000 federal civil servants to lose their jobs to pay for that goodie!

But get in line folks. You will get your turn. And if you have some really good idea that will help you, be sure to mention it to your favourite Tory bagman when you make your next donation. You have to be realistic you know. The real benefits to the rich will only kick in when and if you can get those Conservatives re-elected.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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We need more Irwin Cotler’s Mr. Trudeau.

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Here we are losing one of the few intelligent and thinking parliamentarians left in Ottawa and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau wants nebbishes to replace him. Trudeau is too wet behind the ears to understand that we have to have mavericks in caucus to keep Liberals honest with themselves and their constituents. Irwin Cotler helped keep Liberals honest.

And the Liberal caucus will miss Irwin Cotler after he steps down as a Member of Parliament for Mount Royal next year.

What Justin Trudeau knows is that he cannot tell Irwin Cotler what to think. He has his own ideas. He has principles. And he stands on his principles.

And we need more of that type of candidate next year. As it stands, Trudeau is telling candidates what to think and weeding out the thinkers through the party’s candidate selection process. And he insists on keeping the right to not allow a candidate by not signing the official nomination.

It might seem like a novel idea to Mr. Trudeau but Members of Parliament are supposed to represent their constituents first and their party second. We already know that Prime Minister Stephen Harper thinks that is the wrong approach but look at the quality of what is behind him in Ottawa. And then you might check out some of the accidental MPs appointed by the New Democrats who are backing Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair.

The Liberal Party’s Green Light selection process is still the major barrier to allowing party members in the riding the right to select their candidate without interference. The process takes too long, is too onerous and is too invasive. It fails to serve the ridings.

As the song says, ‘Please come back Mr. Cotler.’


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Going-out-of-business sale at Queen’s Park.

Monday, October 13th, 2014

There is a furniture store north of Toronto that has been holding going-out-of-business sales for at least the past two years. The store buys heavy flights of radio advertising on weekends that force you to find another station to listen to. It seems that the Ontario government is also having one of those sales and you actually wish it was advertised as well as the furniture store. At least the sale could be better run.

It seems that the government is going out of the business of scratch cards and on-line lotteries. You wonder why there is not a lot more interest when you hear that it is a profitable business generating $3.3 billion per year in revenue. It makes you want to go down to Queen’s Park, knock on the Premier’s office door and ask her if she knows what the hell she is doing.

First of all, there are really two businesses here. And maybe there should be three or four. And what has this government got against competition? If you are going to privatize something like lotteries, it is idiotic to not create some competition in the business while you are at it. Giving this to just one company is a guarantee of going nowhere. After all, the only reason to privatize is to increase revenues.

One company is stupid; two companies might compete; and three companies are an open market. If the government wants to earn more revenue, it has to open the market.

But to sell a government monopoly to a business monopoly is about the dumbest idea we have heard in a long, long time. People often accuse civil servants of being bureaucratic simply because they work for government. That is an ignorant assumption. Some of the most bureaucratic people we have ever met work for banks, insurance companies and Bell Canada.

While there are some positives to the bid being made by British-based Camelot Group—that seems to be a holding of the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan—you would sometimes swear that the Brits invented bureaucracy. What we know for sure is that competition works and monopolies can stagnate.

The one thing for sure is that on-line lotteries are a different business than scratch cards. Some of the most serious potential for growth is in the on-line lotteries. The Internet can take this product world-wide and it needs different thinking than new types of scratch cards at Ontario convenience stores.

The guy who is going to make the greatest mess of this is Ontario Treasure Charles Sousa. Charles is a banker for goodness sake. The best bid to a guy like him will come from the bidder with the most money. He wants reliability when we need entrepeneurs!


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Tories work copyright from both sides.

Sunday, October 12th, 2014

It takes a while to get your mind around it. It seems the government party can use copyright material as they wish but the news media are not allowed to censor. That seems to be the gist of what federal Heritage Minister Shelly Glover said the other day. Since the Conservatives routinely steal from the media and the media are always censoring material, people want to know what the argument is really about.

The sticking point seems to be that the news media are in high dudgeon over the Conservative attack ads using news clips from the television networks. For example, last week Justin Trudeau ended a serious discussion on a television interview with a weak and slightly off-colour jest about the size of Canada’s F-18s. By itself, it was a silly comment; in context it was quite understandable. Trudeau was simply making fun of Mr. Harper’s sabre rattling. And if Harper wants to use that in an attack ad, he does so at his own risk.

What has been obvious for some time is that the Conservatives have been shooting blanks at Justin Trudeau. He is certainly not Teflon but the Tory attack ads are too much, too soon and too unbelievable. When the Tories learn something about subtlety and how certain voters react to different stimuli, they might be able to get back to attack ads. Until then, they should concentrate on fixing what they are doing wrong. There is lots of that.

And besides, political parties are not defeated by attack ads. They never have been. While some attack ads inadvertently pick up the reason a party will lose in the long run, it is usually after the fact and the public are already moving in that direction anyway. At best, attack ads are supportive.

But the current confrontation between the media and the Tories is a specious argument. It comes as just another shovel full of dirt for the Conservative grave. It makes the point once again about the arrogance of this government. Even if the argument is taken to the Supreme Court, the Tories will have lost the election long before the Court can rule.

And as for the news media, their argument is just as confused as the government’s. How can you complain about something you have already aired being aired again? What they really want is credit for the original clip. That we can all agree on. Henceforth, stupid politician, if it is copyrighted material, you will give proper credit to the cameraman who recorded the clip, the crew and the media enterprise they work for. If you do not, it is known as plagiarism and more simply: stealing.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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