Archive for February, 2015

The bread crumbs of Chantal Hébert.

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

The articles and commentaries of Chantal Hébert in the Toronto Star are always a delight to read. In the same way it would be a shame to miss one of her At Issue dialogues on CBC television with Peter Mansbridge, Andrew Coyne and Bruce Anderson. She delivers her unique perspective on Canadian politics in a blunt and unequivocal style. In her commentaries, it is a wonderful writing trick she uses to spread bread crumbs of possibilities to see which little birds go after them.

The lady also has a whimsical sense of humour. In a recent commentary in the Toronto Star, she actually said that Liberal Party insiders believe that Justin Trudeau’s advisers are seasoned, battle-hardened political strategists. And if you believe that you also believe that former Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is doing an Eve Adams number and running for the Liberal Party in the coming election.

The problem she has probably observed is that the palace guard around the Liberal Party Dauphin are a well-meaning collection of misfits without a collective knowledge of politics in this country. The oldest of the insiders, grey-beard(!) Dan Gagnier, is national campaign co-chair and his experience is as a civil servant. These are insiders’ insiders. Justin Trudeau might find they make him feel good but that feeling will likely be all he gets from them.

Collectively, Trudeau’s insiders do not have a tenth of the experience of former Senator David Smith who was cast aside as national campaign co-chair. David was trained by the late Keith Davey and while he is not good at picking leaders, he does know Canada’s political levers.

But the main contention of the recent commentary was the question Chantal Hébert raised about Dimitri Soudas’ value in regards to Liberal concerns about Conservative attack ads. Because frankly real Liberal Party insiders have more intimate knowledge of political dirty tricks than the Conservative Party apparatchiks have ever conceived. And if you have not figured out yet how to crash the other parties’ voter databases just before election day, you are not even thinking dirty tricks.

And the only way that Soudas is going to tell all to the Liberals is if they use a CIA debriefing team that is experienced in water-boarding techniques. The problem is that he has no idea of what they do or do not know about the Conservative plans. Nor is he likely to know what they really need to know.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Gimme that old time politics.

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

The more we learn about Justin Trudeau’s new politics, the more we yearn for that old time politics. Before the 1990s, candidates were nominated by their local riding association and there was nothing the party leader could do about who the party chose. We ended up getting some mavericks back then. We got the odd Member of Parliament chosen by a single ethnic group. We got a few anti-abortionists. In fact, all parties got some dingbats who marched to their own drummer. And others of whom we were proud.

And we were proud as hell to be liberals. In the 1960s, the Liberal Party thrived on discussion of ideas. We even argued about marijuana back then. We fought for a woman’s rights to her own body. We brought in the concept of the leader being responsible to the party and of periodic revue. We were reformers. We were progressives.

And we were leaving the New Democrats back in the battles of the 1930s. We were relevant. We fought harder in our own party to get Medicare for Canadians. Many of us flocked to Pierre Trudeau’s banner only to lose ground in 1970 with the October Crisis of the FLQ. It was only when Trudeau almost lost the 1972 election that he realized he needed our help.

What people do not seem to realize is that there needs to be a tension between the party and the parliamentary wing. Maybe Stephen Harper can spend the time micromanaging the Conservative Party along with the government but he drops much through the cracks in his planning. The failures become more and more obvious with time.

Harper has his social conservatives seething with discontent after a full term in majority government and no succour to their mores. The nebbishes that he roped into backbench servitude for so long are restless and concerned about the intentions of the voters.

But what is young Justin Trudeau offering? Is this the new type of politics or just a return to the bad old days? He interferes in riding nominations. He entices the rejects from other parties to run as Liberals. He ignores the party’s direction on policies.

The conundrum we Liberals face is what choice do we have? Harper is on his way out the door. Thomas Mulcair of the New Democrats is fighting a rearguard action in Quebec. He and his party are toast. The only party that can win the election is the Liberal Party. And anything but a Liberal majority will be a quagmire.

So let us raise our voices in the choir: Gimme that old time politics.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Blowing the bugles for Blair.

Monday, February 16th, 2015

Scarborough Southwest is old stomping ground for this Liberal. Those are our people the Toronto Star is toying with. Suggesting that (then) former Police Chief Bill Blair will want to run as a Liberal in that electoral district is a declaration of war against them. We are not amused.

First of all, Blair is no Liberal. He is the unindicted felon of the G-20 in Toronto in 2010. He was responsible for one of the most serious infringements on human rights in Canadian history when his police kettled innocent bystanders during a G-20 incident that can only go down in infamy with the events of the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike and the use of the War Measures Act against the FLQ in 1970.

And now we have speculation in the Toronto Star stirring the pot with a worthless survey that probably means nothing. You have to be something of a fool to ever believe one of those interactive voice-response surveys.

What interactive voice-response surveys try to do is substitute volume of calls to overcome the inability to qualify the respondents. When you have no idea who in the household responded, you have no clue as to the demographics, probability of voting and accuracy of your sample. Even back when you could get a decent sample, you still used other identifiers to qualify the response.

If it was not for Bill Blair’s ignoring his responsibility for the G-20 affair as well as his arrogance, his force’s carding, his poor leadership and his handling of the Mayor Ford affair, we would have an open mind on the question of Blair running for the Liberals. Frankly, he would be much more at home with the Conservative Party. His only problem would be that Stephen Harper’s ego might trump Blair’s.

But you also wonder about the Toronto Star editors who are stirring this pot. This type of manipulation goes far beyond an impish attempt to build news stories from nothing. This is a strong desire to cause trouble.

It can even cause more trouble for Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. His deputy flack in Ontario, David MacNaughton, has already got his fingers burned enough interfering in local nominations. Trudeau has enough scars from breaking his promise of open nominations. To suggest that Scarborough Southwest is being held for any star candidate is a red flag to the Scarborough breed of Liberals.

Interfering in that riding would simply mean leaving it to the New Democrats.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

If there was ever a time for leadership.

Sunday, February 15th, 2015

You can only feel a sickening sense of betrayal in Bill C-51 that is now before our parliament. We are betrayed by Stephen Harper’s determination for re-election. It is a bill that begs for abuse. Ill-conceived and ill-defined, it is a reactionary bill better serving a lynch mob than reasoned jurisprudence.

All we can tell you is that this is not the answer to the fear of an enemy within. It is the same feeling we had 45 years ago when Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau used the archaic War Measures Act against le Front de libération du Québec (FLQ). There was no war. And the measures were excessive. Back then, as now, there were no rights, no recourse, no oversight and no answers.

Yet it was a time of the highest approval rating for the Prime Minister and of his infamy. It almost cost him re-election two years later. Sure, the right wing flocked to the flag he carried but they neither stayed the course nor cared.

In their rush to appear firm against terrorism, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals are also tromping hard on Canadian rights and freedoms. Obviously Conservatives do not give a damn but many Liberals do. The really conflicted are Thomas Mulcair’s New Democrats. In a reprise of the split NDP caucus in 1970, the New Democrats are not all buying into Mr. Harper’s draconian measures.

Why should they buy into it? Nothing in this act says that you can always spot and detain an individual who chooses jihad adventures. One sick mind that murders a soldier standing ceremonial guard at a war memorial and then heads for the parliament building to do whatever(?) and is killed in the attempt cannot be anticipated. You hardly need new laws to apprehend fools who plot mayhem.

We have more than enough laws to protect our citizens. If our security services and national police need more powers, let them come before parliament to make their case. For politicians to tell them what they need is not just silly but smacks of what it is: a play for votes.

And what is even more askew is the lack of funding in Bill C-51. Does parliament now give a blank cheque to CSIS and the R.C.M. Police for a sense of safety?

Bill C-51 is grossly flawed. To propose it is foolish. To support it is a disgrace. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau needs to seriously rethink his position.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Ontario beer barons play the price card.

Saturday, February 14th, 2015

This has been on the table since day one. Ontario’s foreign-owned Beer Stores have finally played the price card. Wynne’s Whigs have them cornered and threatening to raise retail beer prices is the only tactic left to our foreign beer barons. Wynne has already said that there will be no change in how Ontario residents get to buy their suds. All the government wants is for the Beer Store proprietors to pay the government more for the right to sell beer in this province.

And it is not as if there are no taxes already paid by the beer barons.

But when the owners cry poor-mouth and say that the Beer Store earns no revenue that is just an accounting trick. When an integrated distribution system such as the Beer Store counts its pennies (to the tune of about $4 billion per year), it can leave the profit where it benefits the owners the most. The only independent study of beer sales in Ontario by the University of Waterloo suggested that there is a profit on 24-bottle cases of about $700 million per year. When you add the money spent through the Ontario government on recycling liquor, wine and beer bottles and other containers, you would think that the government would have a very clear idea of where the profits can be found.

It is the consumers who have no idea of how much they are being ripped off by both the government and our foreign beer barons. We are the last to learn. What we do know is that the same 24-bottle case in Quebec costs at least $14 less than in Ontario. Part of it is a difference in taxes but at least $10 more goes to the Ontario Beer Store monopoly.

Anyone who thinks Ontario citizens are getting a fair deal from these foreign-owned beer barons is an idiot. Wynne and her Whigs are colossally ignorant if they think they can expose this travesty and then save their behinds in the next election.

Why should we put up with the bad smell, the bad merchandising, the inconvenience and the dreadful service of Beer Stores that are a provincial disgrace? And why should we tolerate any longer a system of distributing beer that was conceived in the 1920s and stupid politicians have been afraid to change ever since.

We have to realize that the people of Ontario have come of age even if our politicians have not. There is absolutely no reason for beer and wine not to be sold in convenience stores. And liquor stores should be what consumers want not what politicians’ decree.

It is time for us all to grow up.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

The Adams-Soudas story has legs.

Friday, February 13th, 2015

The news media expect the MP Eve Adams story to be around for a while. The copy is just too good to pass up. The blonde (or brunette, depending on the day) Ms. Adams is an aging Cleopatra and her boy toy Dimitri Soudas is a besotted Marc Antony. Mind you, we are all waiting for the conservative-leaning Sun Media headline that denigrates her as “that bitch with an itch.”

As expected, few if any real Liberals are welcoming her to their party. It is not that they do not want to win Toronto’s Eglinton-Lawrence electoral district. It is just that they would prefer to win it with some shred of dignity left in the process.

While the attack on Finance Minister Joe Oliver was expected, Adams candidacy is over the top. While the immediate and scathing attack on her by local Liberal MPP Mike Colle was a bit ill-advised, it was honest and spoke eloquently for the mores of the riding. While Adams has possible potential in a newer GTA riding with a younger demographic, Eglinton-Lawrence is wrong, wrong, wrong.

First of all with about 25 per cent of the electoral district being Jewish, the old Jewish-Italian coalition that stood by former Liberal MP Joe Volpe can still be a winning combination. It was only 2011 when Oliver finally beat Volpe but it was well past either candidate’s ‘best before date.’ The riding deserves a more energetic and youthful MP.

Frankly the Liberals need to do a better candidate search for that riding. Surely they can find an up and coming candidate with more to offer the voters than what Adams brings to the table. Her record while a Conservative was pathetic and the party had good reason to toss her. They were sorrier to lose Soudas than her.

While Soudas made few friends as Harper’s communications guy and alienated more as executive director of the Conservative Party, he has no friends in the Liberal Party either. One of the rules this writer always followed over the years in political activity was to know your counterpart in the other parties and buy them a drink occasionally. You might be surprised at how many times you found it beneficial to have quick access to another party in a situation critical to both.

But we are all going to be watching to see how the Adams-Soudas affair unfolds. They might deserve each other but does the Liberal Party?

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

The Hair hopes to hit for a homer.

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

And you thought the Hair had already hit the wall in his search for talent in his Conservative caucus. When you have a guy like Pierre Poilievre on your team, the possibilities are endless. He can easily add Employment to his workload. Then there is Rob Nicholson, the Defence Minister who was ready to step into John Baird’s fashionable shoes in Foreign Affairs. And then there is Mr. Fix-It Jason Kenney, ready and able to add another portfolio, Defence, to his task of getting the Conservative Party re-elected in 2015.

And what do you think the Department of Defence and Multiculturalism have in common? When you can use Multiculturalism to pan for votes among the ethnic make-up of Canada’s voters, do you then use the military to convince the rest? It is bad enough that the Conservatives seem to have decided they do not need Muslim votes but that combined with the lack of safeguards on the anti-terrorism laws it is a bit frightening.

And if you thought John Baird was a disaster as Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister, you have not seen anything yet. Rob Nicholson’s only experience in foreign affairs was in meetings with counterparts in Niagara Falls, New York when he was in municipal politics on the Canadian side of the Falls. Luckily the Americans spoke English so Nicholson got away with not speaking the language of diplomacy: French.

Nicholson is one of the few Conservative dinosaurs from the Mulroney era in Ottawa. Mind you he spent eleven years in municipal and school board politics in between.

But it is Pierre Poilievre that best explains Stephen Harper’s genius in making do with what you have got. This is the guy who brought election reform to its knees with his Fair Elections Act of 2014. A year later it is still in parliamentary limbo and everyone hopes it stays there. His intransigence in the face of expert and Elections Canada objections to the act showed a level of ignorance and lack of common sense that stunned opposition and some Conservative colleagues alike. He was obviously following the Hair’s orders to the point that he was embarrassing the government. When the Hair told him to pull back and allow amendments to the act, his eagerness to recant and comply was equally embarrassing.

But for the Hair, it is all in a day’s work. What everyone in Ottawa is waiting for is the American decision on sending troops to Iraq and Syria to deal with the brigands who are posing as the New Caliphate in the Levant. It is clear now that air strikes alone are unable to resolve the problem. Canada has already had specialist troops on the ground directing air strikes and it is a very short step to direct military force. The Hair wants to be a hero.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Justin, beware of Greeks bearing gifts.

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

It could have been a subplot written by Virgil. There was the beautiful temptress, hair blonde and loose for the cameras, and the gullible of Troy, our Justin. There were few  reporters in Ottawa the other day who did not react in surprise when 41-year old MP Eve  Adams from Oakville, Ontario and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau came to talk to them.

The news was that the Conservative member had been rejected by her party but was acceptable to the Liberals.

But the elephant in the room for that news conference was Eve Adams’ live-in 35-year old boy toy, former Conservative Party Executive Director Dimitri Soudas. While  Adams supplied the eye candy behind announcements in the House of Commons by the Prime Minister, it was Soudas who was running the Conservative Party according to instructions from the Prime Minister’s Office.

This has all the earmarks of a Greek tragedy. While we have no idea which electoral district she will choose to cast her wiles, Adams is expected to take on an entrenched Conservative in the GTA. Despite some easy choices in Brampton, Mississauga and Etobicoke areas, many party pundits are pointing her at Finance Minister Joe Oliver in Toronto’s Eglinton-Lawrence. That contest will be the easiest to win of all.

Stephen Harper’s hapless Finance Minister is a pale shadow of the late Jim Flaherty and is expected to go down with the ship in the coming election. Frankly taking out Oliver would be no guarantee of anything for her in a Liberal government as there are far too many longer serving Liberals in Toronto waiting for their cabinet reward.

The guy with the serious career problems is Dimitri Soudas. It will soon be obvious to Adams that he is no long-term benefit to her in the Liberal Party. Taking him to Liberal Party functions will be akin to inviting a Roman Catholic monsignor to a whore house.

He might find it interesting but he would be given a wide berth.

But all of that does not excuse Justin Trudeau in this tableau. He has been suckered. At least it is to his credit that he told Adams that she has to win the seat she chooses in an open nomination. Mind you, she and Soudas will not be able to pull the same dirty tricks on a Liberal Party nomination that she tried in her last attempt in the Oakville North-Burlington electoral district. We would all be watching too carefully.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Netanyahu buys into Harper election tactics.

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

If it was good enough for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to bring his election campaign to Jerusalem, why should Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not try it? The difference is that Jerusalem to the Jewish leader is Washington. With an Israeli election in three weeks, Netanyahu has pulled out all stops.

But even if he wins re-election, he has a pissed off President Obama. Lame duck or not, it really does not pay for a Jewish leader to annoy a sitting American president. Netanyahu accepted Republican House Leader John Boehner’s crassly political invitation to address Congress without doing the proper diplomatic discussion with the U.S. State Department and the President. That is very bad manners.

Not that good manners are a regular part of the right wing code of conduct. In aid of re-election, Stephen Harper brought a load of Canadian Jews to Israel in a re-enactment of the wedding reception scene from the 1969 movie version of Philip Roth’s Goodbye, Columbus. The Israelis politely looked away and dutifully applauded whatever it was that Harper said in addressing the Knesset.

Even as late as a couple weeks ago, when then Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird was in the Levant stirring the pot of hatreds. He seemed to enjoy the shoes and other objects being thrown at him by protesting Arabs. It is really too bad the Arabs do not often play baseball. It would have been nice to see a few sliders hit the mark.

Mind you, Stephen Harper does not have to go far to stir the pot of hatreds, suspicions, distrust and retribution. His current dialogue in the House of Commons is built on the few disturbed people who have reacted to the potential notoriety offered by jihad. His alarms and efforts at revenge are creating more.

And for this, he insults Canadians, ignores rights, ridicules the need for oversight and accuses his naysayers of failing Canadians in a time of fear.

But those who are really failing Canadians are the New Democrat’s Thomas Mulcair and the Liberal’s Justin Trudeau. They are letting the right wing trample rights for cheap political points. It is a time for leaders to lead or to fall by the wayside. As a famous American President once said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Yes, you can fight city hall.

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Local readers of Babel-on-the-Bay have asked occasionally why we do not discuss city politics in Barrie. The honest answer is that city politics in Barrie is boring and is something of a closed shop. Anyone who gets elected because they want to rock the boat is soon subsumed by the system. Trying to shake the cage from the outside is also a formidable task.

There are three classes of people in this city who wear suits and ties to work. They are lawyers, politicians and undertakers. And this is their town. They will all get a piece of you one way or another. And their aides and acolytes are the civil servants who run things their way anyway.

If you take these civil servants a good idea, they smile, they make nice and they do nothing. Nobody has every told them should pay attention to the taxpayers who pay the taxes that pay their salaries.

One of the best ideas put to these uncivil people over the years was the idea of a large wind turbine on the north edge of the valley where the city dump is growing. It would have been a spectacular statement for the city and viewed by millions every year on Highway 400. It took more than six years of pressing for the ruling to be made that the wind turbine would interfere with the purpose of the dump. No discussion was invited as to how this might be.

And it is not that people have not tried to shake things up by suing the city. Why do you think we have so many lawyers? That lovely train station that was so painstakingly and expensively restored down by the bay in the Allandale area still sits empty and going mouldy as disappointed developers take out their angst on the city.

Maybe that is why we are holding off on the suit we were contemplating launching. The delay is whether the suit will be personal or class action. It really should be on behalf of all the senior citizens in the city. Well, at least those who like hockey. We have this excellent Ontario Hockey League team called the Barrie Colts who play in the Barrie Molson Centre.

But seniors and the disabled are putting life and limb in jeopardy in that facility. There are no safety rails on those steep aisles to the seats. Seniors without sturdy grandchildren to help them to and from their seats are in danger of serious injury. Their attendance at Colts games is discouraged.

And this is not to mention the problem of adequate washrooms. The damn place must have been designed by 20 year-olds with 16 year-old bladders. They should stop selling Molson in places without adequate places to pee.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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