Archive for December, 2014

Planning for Fortress America.

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

Watching Tom Clark’s West Block program on Global the other day sent a severe chill up the back. The show had two American guests General David Petraeous, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and Robert Zoellick, former head of the World Bank. The two gentlemen were promoting their study for the United States Council on Foreign Relations entitled, North America: Time for a New Focus. It sounded very much like a blueprint for the takeover of America’s two neighbours.

The study makes the point forcefully that while a great deal of attention is paid to Europe and China, the number one and number two trading partners of America are Canada and Mexico. The report says that this relationship has to be consolidated so that North America will be the dominant trading force in the world.

The study stems from the realization that with the new oil and gas fracking capabilities and the exploitation of tar sands, North America is once again self-sufficient in energy. They see the completion of the Keystone XL pipeline by TransCanada as a no-brainer and essential to ultimate integration of the economies of the three countries.

The two chairs of the North American Task Force danced a bit when Tom Clark asked how open the borders should be between the three countries, They were okay with Canadians but pointed to the Mexican drug cartels and Central American migration as problems to be addressed before there can be greater investment in Mexico’s energy resources—and taking down America’s southern ‘wet-back walls.’

The two chairs also seemed oblivious to the many problems forced on Canada in expediting free trade as it currently exists. Has the U.S. president approved the customs plaza yet so that Canada can go ahead to build and pay for the new bridge at Detroit that is so desperately needed? And that is just one complaint to be voiced over being a junior partner in the American version of free trade.

Further integration of North America is probably going to happen. It is just cannot be all that Americans think it should be. What we have to be wary of is the carte blanche control of our country’s relationships with other parts of the world. The Americans have to realize that their democracy is measured by how it treats the democracies of others. Canada has too much to offer the world as an independent nation.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

A new age of civility for Toronto.

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

Welcome to Toronto of 2015. There is a new chief magistrate, a new regime, a new spirit of cooperation with all levels of government and a mayor who brings a new level of civility to the job at City Hall. It is unseemly for the media buzzards to gather waiting for John Tory to stumble. When someone is the answer to all your prayers, how can the news media start to disrespect him before he is even settled in his new office?

The media must still be lost in the infighting of the last council to complain about the new mayor having to accept the skill sets of those tarnished by the previous regime. Sure there are still knives out for the selection of Denzil Minnan-Wong as deputy mayor. What that appointment and others such as keeping Frances Nunziata on as council chair are doing for John Tory is keeping idle hands occupied while he gets a handle on where this council is headed. Did you think there was really very much choice in many of the appointments?

What Toronto is getting is a new lease on life. It has a chance to regain the respect that makes the city a Mecca for North American conventions, a friendly tourist draw from Gay Pride to a Taste of the Danforth and a Caribbean festival love-in and, this coming year, host of the 2015 Pan-American Games. John Tory is well aware that Toronto is much more than the sum of its peoples, its attractions, its infrastructure and its decency. Toronto is a life experience and it takes a spectrum of attitudes, philosophies, knowledge and understanding to ensure its future.

Did the media really enjoy the vulgarity, bombast and lies of the Ford era? Have they forgotten the pleasure of having a couth and sophisticated mayor? This mayor was the choice of a city with a population of two and a half million. What right do we have to question that choice before the cheering is over?

What we would like to see in the next few years is a more grown-up and responsible city council and a grown-up and responsible news media. The downtown luddites on council have to recognize that bicycles do not replace a solution such as SmartTrack. They also have to recognize that a truly open and exciting city is not always what they prefer. Casinos, for example, are part of life and keeping them out of Toronto is a denial of freedoms.

So please welcome John Tory as mayor. He might not share your political philosophy but you know that he is an urbane and decent person. He will do well for Toronto.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

The difference was in knowing Thumper.

Monday, December 29th, 2014

If you thought of Thumper back in his political days, they were not always warm and fuzzy thoughts. Thumper was better known at that time as Donald S. Macdonald, M.P. for Toronto Rosedale. He always had an itch back then to be the replacement for Pierre Trudeau and those of us on the left of the Liberal Party said, “Over our dead bodies.”

Don had reached his level of incompetence back then as Prime Minister Trudeau’s Minister of Finance. He was hardly a mover and shaker in the role but was a sop to the Toronto elite who never trusted Trudeau. And here Trudeau thought Thumper would be a safe choice to chair the Royal Commission on the Economic Union and Development Prospects for Canada. The commission report, Macdonald signed in late 1985 was a denial of everything that Mr. Trudeau stood for.

There was a definite wind shift during the commission’s study in 1984 when Mr. Trudeau announced that he was leaving office for good this time. This writer had prepared an elaborate brief to the commission but Thumper refused to even listen and it was delivered to lesser commission members. We knew he was under pressure on recommending free trade with the United States and we gave him some helpful arguments against it. He ignored them.

The evidence is there for all to see today that Canada had no way of getting a fair deal with the United States. We will always be the junior partner in American eyes. We needed to build our free trade efforts in Europe and the Orient until we had the volumes of trade to force a fair deal with the Americans. When we let the Americans set the stage, we were guaranteed to be the losers.

Academics today recognize that the Macdonald Commission was responsible in part for the neo-liberalism that replaced Keynesianism in Canada in the late 80s and 90s. In a country that had previously used government to address societal needs, the governments of Mulroney, Chrétien, Martin and Harper used the neo-liberal stance of limited concern for the individual in society, non-interference in business and smaller government.

Canadian writers rarely get into discussions of neo-liberalism because it quickly becomes an academic argument and is of little interest to the average voter. And it is confusing because it has nothing to do with liberalism. Neo-liberalism is the antithesis of how liberalism developed in Canada. It will be far more fun in 2015 discussing the ebb and flow of electoral attitudes leading up to the promised October election. We will leave the labelling of trends to the political science grumps.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Is the Beer Store less boring than bitumen?

Sunday, December 28th, 2014

Bloggers sometimes think of their readers. Google Analytics allows us to analyze readership of our sites on a daily and even hourly basis. It does not tell us if you are naughty or nice but it does tell us where you are from and how long you spend on site. It also allows us to come to conclusions on what interests you and what turns you off.

This blogger also has another barometer in the wife. She thinks bitumen is a snore. She cares about the environment but she simply cannot handle tar sands bitumen day after day. At the same time, she likes our poetry but Google Analytics assures us that poetry is a turn-off for serious readers. We struggle on.

What we were going to write about today was the remarkable feat of provincial affairs writer Martin Regg Cohn in the Toronto Star the other day. It was a prodigious accomplishment—120 column inches of condemnation of the Beer Store. We bow to the master. This is also a serious challenge to Rosie DiManno’s crown as the as the most profuse user of words in the Toronto Star.

One tip we would pass on to Martin is something we have learned from Google Analytics: our readership has more than tripled since we put an average limit of 450 words on any one posting. Maybe we do not explain ourselves all the time but we get better readership.

Mind you, Martin’s tour de force could have been easily boiled down to just a couple hundred words. He found that the Beer barons of Ontario have long known how to use good public and government relations to hold on to their outrageous, outdated monopoly.

There is also the outdated and corrupt election funding in Ontario that allows the Beer barons to give hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to Conservative and Liberal politicians. In Ontario there is better control of municipal political donations than provincial. And there is no complaint from the New Democrats as the brewery unions are big supporters of that party.

But with all his words, Martin Regg Cohn left out the God-awful customer experience in so many of those smelly Beer Store outlets. He writes these diatribes as though he has never had to take a load of empties back to the Beer Store.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

How about gun control that works?

Saturday, December 27th, 2014

Just for a couple minutes, we can assume that the coming federal election will create a government other than that controlled by the Conservative Party. And, if we are finished enjoying the thought after almost 10 years of the Conservatives, we know we have lots of work ahead of us. One area that we need to address is gun control. This problem has to be fixed. And one way to fix it is to look at the past.

The one thing that we know for sure is that there is a serious dichotomy between urban and rural voters on the issue. The argument is that farmers do not want to be bothered with red tape just to keep a varmint rifle. The people who want guns better controlled are the city folk. So why do we not just accommodate everybody? Do you remember the old western movies where the cowboys had to check their six-guns with the town marshal? And that is the answer: make it a municipal option.

Canada should have a gun registry for only those municipalities that want to use it. The people who use these registries are the police. The police could say to the local council, “We want to use the registry and the feds will pay for it.” Can you imagine any municipality east of Regina that would say “No.” And people can fill out the forms and pay a fee on the Internet.

It would only take one serious gun incident to convince municipalities to cooperate. Most would be smart not to wait.

Now there is a deal, nobody can refuse. The signs coming into town say “Welcome to our town, check your gun podner at the nearest police station.” And if you do not and are caught with an unregistered weapon, you can be found guilty of an offence.

There will have to be some adjustments to Public Safety Minister Stephen Blaney’s proposed bill on the transport of firearms. Gun owners moving their licensed gun from one place to another would need to be in the registry rather than run afoul of a municipality that requires guns to be registered.

Mind you the only way this is going to work is if urban voters make it clear to their Members of Parliament that they want better control and registration of guns in their community. All there needs to be are people to speak up.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Tales as told by Tories.

Friday, December 26th, 2014

If you have ever wondered how Canada’s Tories can lie to voters as they do, just remember MP Paul Calandra and former MP Dean Del Mastro. Both these gentlemen have served as parliamentary secretaries to the Prime Minister of Canada. They have salutary stories for future aspirants to be a Conservative Member of Parliament.

Dean Del Mastro from Peterborough, Ontario is better known for his being found guilty of breaches of the Election Act and his teary resignation of his seat in parliament. Yet his answers to questions in the House on behalf of the Prime Minister were often more interesting for their level of bafflegab than anything that might enlighten the subject under discussion.

Paul Calandra from Oak Ridges-Markham, Ontario. at the moment, is still a Member of Parliament. During his tenure as Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, he is expected to be advised of notices of questions to the Prime Minister that he will be required to answer. He is also expected to be given advice by the Prime Minister’s staff on how he might answer the question.

In his tearful apology to the House of Commons for his deliberate obfuscation of answers to straight-forward questions from the Leader of the Opposition, Calandra let the kids in short pants from the Prime Minister’s Office off the hook. He took all the blame.

While Calandra might write the truth in his memoirs, the best guess is that it was fellow MPs from his own party who demanded his retraction of his answers and his apology to the House of Commons. It might have been the same group who convinced Del Mastro to resign after being convicted of breaching the Elections Act.

For the truth of the matter is that not all Conservative MPs are sleazebags. We are unable to name these few members at this time because of the danger of having our comments used as an endorsement in the 2015 federal election.

But it is the lack of truth, sincerity, caring and concern from the top down in the Conservative Party that leaves us appalled. There are just too many of the elected MPs who are making no contribution to the betterment of this country that we love. We simply cannot allow them to continue in office.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

There arose such a clatter…

Thursday, December 25th, 2014

We knew it wasn’t the Hair raising the clatter,

He brought us nothing today that could matter.

His oil economy is destined for intensive care,

He’ll go down to defeat in October, we swear.

 

It is what he has done to Canada’s reputation,

We used to have so much pride in our nation.

We were peacekeepers an’ honest interveners,

An’ we’ve always been the best of neighbours.

 

The Hair has proved he knows little about sex,

With his new law on johns, the court he’ll vex.

The Hair’s never been friendly with the Court,

He’s found he cannot intimidate the legal sort.

 

He gags some federal scientists, fires the rest,

Ones who do as they’re told are never the best.

His spending is not always what we’d expect,

Spent more on advertising than you’d suspect.

 

Our Hair did a year-end interview on CBC TV

It was a very bad hair day for our voters to see.

He tried to explain an Alberta type carbon tax,

It sure would have helped if he had some facts.

 

But we got sidetracked in doing a blog today,

We sat down, with something special to say.

It is Christmas Day, a time of goodwill to all,

We’ll be polite to the Hair, if he makes a call.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Solving Justin’s problems in Quebec.

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

The good news in Quebec this year was that Philippe Couillard’s Quebec Liberals defeated the Parti Québécois. The bad news for federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is that Philippe Couillard’s Liberals defeated the Parti Québécois. Couillard’s Liberals are a noose around Justin’s neck. It is one reason that younger Quebeckers are wary of supporting the federal Liberals in the coming election.

Without a platform to judge him by, Quebec voters are assuming that Justin is just as right wing as Couillard. And it is difficult to be more right wing than the Quebec provincial Liberals. They are definitely more Bleu than Rouge. They are the natural successors to the old paternalistic Union Nationale but without the cynical slurs against the government in Ottawa.

And as things stand at the moment, Thomas Mulcair’s New Democrats are the barrier to the Liberals defeating the Conservatives next October. Quebec has too many votes parked with the NDP for Trudeau’s Liberals to win a majority. It is not that Quebec voters are buying into what Mulcair is offering but at least he is starting to offer something.

There are two political corpses in Quebec. One is the federal Conservative Party. The hatred of Prime Minister Harper is visceral and open and the current five seats in Quebec could be reduced to three. The other moribund party is the Bloc Québécois. The two federal seats currently held by the Bloc will be history by this time next year.

What Trudeau and the Liberals have to do in Quebec is to reach over the New Democrats. They have to be more to the left, be much more conscious of the environment and make their pitch to younger Quebecers. And if they are really smart, they are going to make it clear to the younger people in Quebec that their future is within Canada. The separatists are aging. Quebec is not in itself the be-all for the province’s youth. They seek a broader future with greater opportunity.

Where Quebec youth used to look to the United States, they now see more potential for themselves across Canada. The accommodation that Pierre Trudeau offered Quebeckers 40 years ago is now in vogue. Where others in those days offered parochialism, Trudeau offered opportunity. Today, his son can offer the opportunity and win.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Not likely, David Peterson.

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

Former Liberal Premier David Peterson has been labelled as a left-wing social democrat by the Toronto Star. It is hardly the first time the Star has been wrong but even Peterson denies the label. It was pinned on him after trying the Vox Pox Labs’ political Sentimeter quiz. The quiz divides respondents into four right wing political slots or four left wing political categories. It is an interesting exercise but determining someone’s political stance is much more complex.

What is interesting about the questionnaire is that of the 50,000 people claimed to have participated, roughly half have been labelled as right wing and the other half as left wing. It is only when you do the exercise that you see how easy it is to push your reading one way or the other. This writer found that his hardening views on environmental concerns moved him from the social democrat left to the anti-establishment left. While there are quite a few Liberals who would concur with that assessment, we would be deliriously happy if more people in the Liberal Party just moved to the social democrat left.

And a social democrat, David Peterson is not. As are most Liberals from London, Ontario, David is a fine, caring person but his politics are very definitely right wing. The Vox Pop people could better describe David as Libertarian right in that his views and concerns on social issues are more moderate. He thinks of himself as a centrist.

And that is one of the failures of the Liberal Party in Ontario. It is all these right-wingers in the party who think of themselves as centrist. They try to put down those of us who preach reform. Their attitude is that if the problem does not bite them in the ass, they can ignore it. They spend their political days putting out little fires and get nothing constructive done. This is the party that thinks all-day kindergarten is a reform when it was only about 50 years behind the times.

Based on the Vox Pop Lab’s findings, there are clear differences of opinion among the Toronto population. While only four per cent of the survey’s respondents fell into the anti-establishment left, we hardly write these blogs just for just that segment of the population. In each of us there are elements of the entire political spectrum. And the truth is only what we perceive to be truth each day.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Lead from your strength, Justin.

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

Please Justin, just shut up and listen. The other day, you told Campion-Smith of the Toronto Star’s Ottawa Bureau that the economy will decide the next election. You had better hope not. You have absolutely no credibility in that subject and the majority of the voters could care less. Stephen Harper even studied economics and look at the trouble it has got him into.

Your strength buddy is empathy. You obviously care. Stick to what you are good at.

You need to take a page from Jean Chrétien’s approach to the job of Prime Minister. In ten years as Prime Minister, Mr. Chrétien knew to let Paul Martin take the blame for the hard economic decisions. Of course it helped destroy Paul when he finally got to sit in the Prime Minister’s Office. Paul chose to ignore us left wing Liberals who told him he was a heartless bastard. Guess who ignored Paul when the voters ignored him.

As a politician Justin, you do not work for the banks, for business or for any one province. Nor is it your responsibility to proselytize for any particular religion, economic policy or dress code. Your job is to care. And there is much to care about.

Things have slipped badly in the past ten years in our country. Canada’s international reputation is in the crapper. It has to be repaired. We have to work hard with our friends and even harder with our enemies. We also have to find better ways to encourage our businesses to show better citizenship in all the countries where they do business. If they wear the Canadian flag, we want them to wear it proudly.

As a country, we have to do better by our first nations, our veterans, our seniors, our sex workers, our sick, our students, our medical workers, our researchers and the list goes on. And do not dare to forget affordable daycare!

And please stop saying you are not going to raise taxes. As long as there is a single child in Canada going to bed without a proper supper, we have to be open to fixing the problem. If it means we are all going to pay a bit more in taxes, so be it. Just make sure it is fair.

What this election desperately needs is a new vision of our country. Not the mean, selfish, narrow vision of the conservative right but the caring, promise of a strong future with a liberal interpretation of freedom, life and reform in an open society.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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