Archive for February, 2015

Chong’s changes that change nothing.

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

Congratulations to Conservative MP Michael Chong. He actually got his reform bill passed by the House of Commons. Too bad it passed because he watered it down to almost nothing. Voters are unlikely to ever see the effects of his changes. The original bill was designed to take some of the power away from the party leaders and give it to their party caucuses. It would have been better if the bill had redistributed political power to where it really belongs.

First of all, we have to recognize that the party leader has to have the ability to maintain a reasonable level of control over the party’s parliamentary wing without them having to enter the PMO or Leader’s office on their knees. The party leader therefore has to have enough leverage to get the elected members attention. This can be through some of the appointments that the current leaders have been abusing. It can be a simple as the seating plan for the party in the House.

What Chong’s bill has ended up doing is returning the power to the caucus members to elect caucus chairs, expel or readmit caucus members and choose interim leaders. In addition to these traditional powers, the bill allows caucus to trigger leadership reviews and remove a leader.

Since leadership reviews and a removal are traditionally a political party’s responsibility in Canada, these items are in serious conflict with what the party views as its power. A political party would lose its final role beyond being election-time grunts if it agreed to those changes.

A caucus member who can no longer support the leader always has the option of resigning or “crossing the floor.”

Back in the 1960s in Canada it was both the Conservatives of the time and the Liberal Party that addressed the need for the party to review party leadership. The reasoning was that as long as the party was responsible for choosing the leader, it should be able to periodically review that leadership. Both parties established party control of leadership at that time. (Who can forget the claim by Conservative Leader Joe Clark in 1983 that “66.9 per cent was not enough”? It cost him the subsequent leadership convention.)

Sure Chong’s bill passed with the support of both Liberal and New Democrat MPs. Only the Green’s Elizabeth May saw it as a sop to foolish backbenchers. She will wait for something worth voting for.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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Meet the Don Quixote of Chatham-Kent—Essex.

Friday, February 27th, 2015

This guy could only be from South-Western Ontario. Richard (Rick) Nicholls is the Progressive Conservative MPP for Chatham-Kent—Essex in the Ontario Legislature. He also claims to be an evolution denier and is opposed to wind turbines in Chatham-Kent County. He does not think they are good for us.

It has been noted that there are lots of wind turbines in Chatham-Kent but it is an area that can remind you of the wind-swept low countries of Europe. In the Netherlands, for example, they probably have more windmills per hectare than there are wind turbines in Chatham-Kent. They make a very similar and pleasant whoosh as they move in the wind. The Dutch have enjoyed the services of those windmills for hundreds of years and they are something of a tourist attraction.

But Mr. Nicholls is hardly the first Ontario Conservative who has tried to make an issue of wind turbines. He might just be the first in this century to deride Darwinism to his faithful Sancho Panza as he seeks more wind turbines with which to joust.

As an acclaimed supporter of lost causes, MPP Nicholls is one of the few past or present members of the Ontario Legislature to support Barrie MP Patrick Brown for the leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. Mr. Brown was one of the 300 members of the public demonstrating against sex education in front of the Ontario Legislature the other day.

Mr. Brown already had the worst record among Conservative MPs for his attendance in the House of Commons but his absence is rarely noted as he has nothing in particular to contribute anyway. What he might contribute to the Ontario party has even more people puzzled. Late this week membership figures will be announced and that will give everyone a fairly good idea of how Mr. Brown hopes to win.

What Patrick Brown has been doing is working among specific ethnic groups in Ontario to try to swamp the party membership. At the beginning of the campaign, he established headquarters in Brampton and Scarborough as bases for his ethnic effort. With Ontario PC membership at its lowest ebb in years, he was attempting to sign ethnic groups in low membership electoral districts throughout Toronto city and the Greater Toronto Area. If his sign-ups can dominate in enough of the districts, he could, in theory, win the leadership. Depending on the detail provided in the membership announcement this coming weekend, we will see how he has done.

But do not worry about the raw numbers. There is a maximum 100 members allowed for each of the 107 ridings. If more than 100 members vote in any one electoral district, the percentages for each candidate will be allocated to the final tally for the three contenders still in the race. Mr. Brown would have had to swamp the membership in more than 54 electoral districts to win this race. That prospect must be scaring hell out of the many progressive Conservatives in Ontario.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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Will the Hair delay death and dying?

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

Obviously the Prime Minister is not a fatalist. He has been low key in response to the Supreme Court giving his government a year to do something about the current legal position of medical specialists assisting terminally ill patients to die. The time has come to take a stand on the issue and it is just not in his playbook. It looks like the Supreme Court judges will be asked for a stay of execution.

But bear in mind, the only thing the Hair has said on the issue is that Canadians have strong opinions on both sides of the question. Unlike his Justice Minister Peter MacKay who said that the government was unlikely to use the notwithstanding clause to continue to prohibit medically assisted death, he has said nothing substantive.

While the Hair has dithered, an emboldened Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau pushed the issue forward. He wanted the House to vote on an order paper request to have a vote on getting a committee established to examine the issue. This is the normal procedure other than the government party usually puts such motions forward. It was one of the Hair’s back bench flunkies who responded with the notion of asking for a six month delay—until after the coming election.

And while the New Democrats are likely to back the Liberals on the issue, they have also been strangely silent. This is surprising as the Quebec government has used its responsibility for health care to get ahead of the Supreme Court and pass an assisted suicide bill that will come into effect at the end of 2015 in Quebec. The question is whether a Conservative federal government would go as far in relaxing the restrictions as the Quebec bill has done.

In any event, New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair will not have his English-French schizophrenia to contend with on this issue. This is an issue where some of his MPs would normally want to be in the vanguard.

But it is a Liberal issue. The right to die at a time of your choosing is an individual right. It is not something you really want the state to decide. In Canada the state is out of the business of capital punishment. While the occasional cantankerous bugger wants to restore the death penalty, it is hard to imagine Canadians returning to retribution.

And what the Hair knows—and keeps him awake nights—is that Canada is a basically liberal country. This country is not only live and let live but it also recognizes the right of a terminally ill person to end their suffering.

But the question has come down to convenience for the Hair. If he had turned loose the social conservative portion of his party in the past four years he would not run in the coming election because his party’s chances would already be toast. Will Justin Trudeau be able to back him into a corner on this issue? Methinks the Hair wants to pass.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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But can we educate the news media?

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

It was interesting comparing how different news media announced the new sex education material issued by the Ontario Ministry of Education. For all the hoopla, it seems to be very tame stuff. It told us more about the maturity of the reporters, news directors and editors than it did about sex education. Global Television’s Queen’s Park reporter Alan Carter was by far the least mature. He insisted on referring to it as the Liberal government’s sex education program and promised large crowds of people objecting to the explicit words and sexual practices being discussed.

Carter’s poster boy for the Queen’s Park protestors was Monte McNaughton MPP for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex who appears to speak for the social conservative side of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives in the current party leadership race. McNaughton’s answer is sex should be left to parents to discuss with their children.

Carter’s obvious bias against the Ontario Liberals is in sharp contrast to the more balanced coverage of Ottawa politics by the Global team based there. Carter has already wasted the goodwill that former senior news reporter Leslie Roberts and co-host John Tory built for the Focus Ontario program that Carter took over. We were hoping the very able Toronto City Hall reporter Jackson Proskow would move to that show but he was promoted to Washington.

The perception of Alan Carter’s reporting can best be described as snide. He has a seemingly sneering attitude in discussing subjects particularly related to the governing Liberals. This writer also tends to disagree with some of the things they do but we are writing commentary not news. And we use our political expertise to question and analyze the actions of politicians. We also encourage (signed) comment from readers.

It must be a knee-jerk thing. Over the years of arranging “spontaneous” demonstrations for this or that, you get to be a quick study of crowds, their numbers and their origins. The demonstration at Queen’s Park in the cold yesterday was a bit pathetic. Carter told listeners on Monday that there would be thousands at the demonstration. Early radio coverage placed the number at 200. The CBC and Toronto Star pegged it more accurately at 300. Carter admitted to 400 on the 6 pm news and also said that it was far short of the promised numbers.

The presence of Conservative provincial leadership hopefuls MPP Monte McNaughton and MP Patrick Brown told you what anti-abortion social conservative groups the people came from. It was actually more raucous during the question period in the Legislature than it was in the demonstration out front.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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ISIL: the cancer on contemporary Islam.

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

They call themselves the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. What they are is vultures tearing at the heart of modern Islam. They are brigands and murderers, thieves and cowards, fools and braggarts. They promise a new Caliphate but their membership is drawn from the scum of those who only profess to follow the teachings of the Prophet. And they encourage the West to treat them as the bogeymen of the next Crusade?

Our politicians have sent our planes to bomb anthills. They have been railing against atrocities that we cannot comprehend. We have been told tales of these cretins to frighten, appal, oppress and maybe return the price of crude oil to more than $100 per barrel.

Stop! The Crusades are long over. Westerners bring no new expertise to the sands of the Middle East? The Bedouin have traversed these lands for centuries. This is the home of the Semites. These are where there are the vast reserves of oil to provide a carbon economy for the West and opulence for a very few.

We have made the Saudi, the Emirate and the Kuwaiti leaders rich and their people oppressed. We have kept religious fanatics supplied with funds. We buy the opium of Afghanistan and the cotton goods of the sweat shops of Pakistan. And the monies we pay out come back at us in the pockets of fanatics.

In exchange for our condemnation these same fanatics continue to threaten us and since 9/11 we have believed them. Oil money buys destruction. Are we not satisfied with the slow death of the melting icecaps?

And why are we letting politicians use these tensions to subjugate us? Why let them pass unnecessary laws to ward off the supposed jihadists within? Are we fools to believe the propaganda of our own technology? Is the pervasiveness of the Internet that persuasive?

Why is the West spending money on solving the problems that the Prophet addressed more than a 1000 years ago. Islam is a way of life and it is the leadership of Islamic countries who have to realize that Islam either has to accommodate change or to seek isolation. Yet there is no hope for isolation in a global economy.

It is an increasingly smaller world and accommodation is the challenge to all.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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Gretzky should stick to hockey.

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

One of the lessons learned in the communications business is that endorsements are an attention getter but need substance to last. Take the recent endorsement of an Ontario politician by hockey great Wayne Gretzky. Does it say to you that if the great Gretzky likes this guy, you should too? Or does it say Mr. Gretzky might know how to play hockey but he knows squat about Ontario politics?

For someone who spends most of his time living in California, Gretzky’s opinion on the leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party hardly seems germane. Most of us were probably not even aware that he also likes Stephen Harper. And did we care?

One of the things we often sought out in seeking endorsements was if the person had some relationship with what we were talking about. For example in communicating about a specific disease you would seek out someone who had a close relative with the disease. Then you would try to strike the right balance of concern and hope. That kind of endorsement can be very effective.

Not that being a political wannabe is necessarily the same as a serious illness. Wayne Gretzky would not have a clue as to the probabilities of his endorsee ever becoming leader of the Ontario Conservatives. If this guy won the leadership in May of this year, we would have a hard time stopping laughing by September.

But we have an advantage in that we live in Barrie and this guy is the Member of Parliament for Barrie. He is one of the most useless MPs that we have ever had the bad luck to meet. We have seen how he handles the job from Barrie and we have seen him in (in)action in Ottawa. He already knows that he will not be returning to Ottawa from the new Barrie-Innisfil electoral district this fall. It is just not in the cards. Winning the Ontario provincial leadership is his last desperate effort.

What he has had going for him in Barrie was a perception that he did some good for the community by lending his office staff to various charitable activities. While the charities chosen could hardly refuse the aid, the facts are that they could have done better on their own. The Member of Parliament was tainting the effort.

And what was of special concern was the hockey night effort for Barrie’s Royal Victoria Hospital. The Conservative city council has gone along with this fiasco long enough. To allow the use of the city’s Molson Centre for an unaudited, fund-raising event should have been stopped at the beginning. That has become a major Conservative Party event and we should all be concerned that it is harming RVH’s regular fund-raising efforts.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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Here’s the way it works Ms. Wynne.

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

The bad news is that the buck stops at your desk, Premier Wynne. Many politicians have gone down over the years because of the same arrogance. It can happen to you. You are not above the law. And if your partner Jane bakes you a cake, tell her not to put a file in it. Sell the book when you get out.

Someone should have warned you that kicking a quadriplegic to the curb was not a good idea. They play their politics tough in Sudbury. And the entire business of that by-election cost you too many IOUs. You blew it. You could have sat back, let the locals have their democracy, made the obligatory appearances and come out a hero.

Why do you think some people refer to your party as Whigs? The Whigs were the predecessors to the English Liberals that died off without Prime Minister David Lloyd George almost 100 years ago. Being called a Whig is not as much an insult as it is pointing out that you are terribly out-of-date. You are living in the wrong century.

If you wanted to buy off the former candidate with some appointment or other, you use someone like the local fund-raiser. He is deniable. Of course you did not tell him to bribe the guy. People like that are expected to be self-important.

But that does not work with your deputy chief-of-staff. Pat Sorbara is not deniable. Her job was to advise you not to do it, not to do your bidding. Is she as arrogant as you? Does she think your office can cover for her when she breaks the law? We do not have many protections for democracy in Ontario but we should respect the ones we do.

And Sorbara’s role in this makes you culpable. She said she was working under your instructions. She has hung you out. You best have your resignations to the Lieutenant-Governor and the Ontario Liberal Party written and signed before the Ontario Provincial Police come knocking at your office door.

But do not feel badly about this. You have lasted two years that Dalton McGuinty could never have delivered to the Liberals. From the corrupt convention that gave you the premier’s job that cold day two years ago until now you have failed to recognize what this province really needs. (Sure, the voters rejected your opponents last year but that was hardly to your credit.)

Ontario and the rest of this great country of ours need a new kind of politics, a renewed democracy and a forward-thinking approach to living in the Twenty-first Century. It is as simple as politicians thinking “what do people need?” They have to forget ideology and make sure people are free. They need to give up the past and concentrate on the future. Our time is far too short on this earth so let’s make life here better.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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The temptation of triumphant terrorism.

Saturday, February 21st, 2015

You can see the Hair savouring the thought. Sitting quietly in the Prime Minister’s Office, he is exhorting, “Terrorists unite, you can only save my job for me.” He is hardly the first imperialist who tried to use the bogeyman enemy to cling to office.

And yet the discomfort grows daily with the Conservative anti-terrorism Bill C-51. Does this flawed legislation have the staying power to influence an October election? Why is the Hair so adamant that no amendments will be made? It is hardly the first bad legislation to be brought before Canada’s Parliament. Citizens will hardly stay awake for a clause by clause discussion and analysis of what the bill contains and, more important, what the bill does not contain.

Is the Hair counting on the world’s terrorist community to keep a regular series of atrocities in the news into the spring and summer? He should realize that these are not the most reliable people. Even if the Boko Haram bunch were plotting another attack on a Nigerian girls’ school today, it would just take a couple of the guys shooting some wild boar yesterday and they will put the raid off to have a pig roast. And the New Caliphate guys in the Levant with their black masks are quickly running out of people to murder on the Internet.

The Hair has to realize that even home-grown crazies are doubly unreliable. You can hardly count on the R.C.M. Police breaking up suspected cells of potential terrorists with anything like the fine timing you need to influence an election.

And who is going to pay for the additional police and CSIS boys and girls to search out and arrest these crazed conservationists who want to block pipelines and save the planet from tar sands exploitation. Paying for the police and government spies is just something else you forgot to include in your fine anti-terrorism bill. Is it like everything else you advertise incessantly on television that you have never done? How about the money you took from the police so that they have a huge backlog of child pornography cases to follow up?

Unless the Hair thinks he can ram this bill through the House and just as quickly through what is left of his Senate, he needs time to bring this bill to fruition. Mind you, just the arguing that is going on now might accomplish his objectives. Maybe he is checking the polls every other day and as soon as it is warm enough in April or May and the polls are positive for him, we can have a federal election then.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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It’s too early to bet on the federal election.

Friday, February 20th, 2015

There are lots of questions about the coming national election but very few answers. That means speculation is a waste of time. That is not to say that speculation cannot be fun. The only problem is that the list of what we do know is too short for a good blog and the list of what we do not know is far too long.

One of the questions that puzzle people is the wonderment about what is going on in the mind of the Prime Minister. If that man had a friend, he or she would be just as lost as the rest of us about what Harper is thinking. Thinking is not something that he does out loud.

It is best to imagine Harper’s mind as kind of a vacant wasteland with little signs scattered here and there. The signs are just simple reminders. They would say things like “Putin bad – Ukraine good” or “See Obama – talk XL pipeline.”

Thomas Mulcair on the other hand has a head totally stuffed with Post-It notes. Whenever he sneezes, he loses a couple days’ worth of briefings. His main problem is schizophrenia in that the ones in French say one thing and the ones in English say something completely different. He still cannot comprehend the accident of the Orange Wave nor can he realistically expect to hold many of those Quebec seats.

Justin Trudeau is more of a stuffed shirt than a stuffed head. All he has going for him at the moment is the exhaustion the voters are feeling with Harper, the lack of a strong image for Mulcair and the Trudeau name. Sure, he is a fresh face but voters are starting to wonder about his ‘best before’ date. He has to do something more than run around taking selfies with Canadians.

The most fun political apparatchiks are having is with the bit players. Why did Foreign Minister John Baird take a walk in the snow and then visit with the Queen in London? Is Jason Kenney ready for the big step up to the Prime Minister’s Office? What will come out at the Senator Mike Duffy trial? Will he really tell all? Are we going to the polls in May instead of October? Will Stephen Harper want to stay on as party leader after he loses the election? Will MP Eve Adams set her sights higher in the bedroom stakes? Will Justice Minister Peter MacKay find something more interesting to do in Nova Scotia?

It helps to remember the old adage your mother used to quote: something about the devil finding things for idle hands to do.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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What is to be done about terrorist bloggers?

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

The Conservative’s Bill C-51 anti-terrorism act has us worried. Pass it as it is and this blogger will always be wondering when the R.C.M. Police will be breaking down the door. Can we live in limbo?

It is just not fair. The Mounties have already determined that those of us who oppose the exploitation of tar sands are a danger to the country. We are obviously terrorists for opposing the oil economy. Why should we be allowed to object to the destruction of our environment and the melting of the polar icecaps? In fact, we are doubly dangerous as we also oppose the one per cent and income splitting for the rich. This is a definitely dangerous liberal.

While we are at it, we should admit that we have been behind the scenes supporting the concept of a guaranteed national income for many years. That goes hand in glove with a national drug plan, a national dental plan and a national chiropractic plan.

And imagine the treason involved in disparaging the Conservatives’ Bill C-51. We tell people that it is a bill that begs for abuse. We call it ill-conceived and ill-defined. It is written for reactionaries and better serves lynch mobs than courts.

Bill C-51 is a stupid bill. It deals in fear, not in reason. It tells you what you should not think, say or write. It is oppressive. It is not the answer to the fear of inciting mayhem. It is written by people who do not want to admit the failures of our society. Ours is a society that wants to walk out on the edge. We do not want to encourage too much discipline or conformity.

And rather than appear soft on terrorism, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals are supporting the Conservative Bill C-51 while promising to fix it later. Mind you, to fix it later they would need to be in power to do so. Does that seem to make young Trudeau more of an opportunist or an optimist?

At least the New Democrats have weighed the positives and negatives and decided not to be hypocrites. They will oppose the bill.

What a lucky day for Stephen Harper when the more mayhem committed around the world, the easier it is to get re-elected.

Bill C-51 is bad legislation. To propose it is foolish. To support it is a disgrace. No fair-minded Member of Parliament can honestly support it.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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