Archive for March, 2015

Brown and Pèladeau, a political pair.

Saturday, March 21st, 2015

You really have to wonder at people in Quebec thinking of Pierre-Karl Pèladeau as being the person to lead the Parti Quèbècois. That is like the prospect of Barrie MP Patrick Brown becoming leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. It is a very bad choice but for entirely different reasons.

The main difference between the two men is that at least Pèladeau is smart enough to know—or at least find out—that he is a square peg in a round hole. Brown might not be that smart. And that is despite Brown’s more extensive knowledge of politics. In fact, you sometimes get the impression that compared to Brown, Pèladeau might have the political instincts of a gerbil.

The latest gaffe by Pèladeau was something of a replay of the famous quote by an angry Jacques Parizeau at the end of the 1995 Quebec Referendum when he said that money and ethnics had cost the separatists their victory. Pèladeau put it even simpler that because immigration is controlled by the federal government that the Quebec separatists are losing ground. He explained that it was the immigration demographics that were causing the separatists to lose ground at the rate of a riding every year. He gave that as his reason for rushing the next referendum.

Besides being a square peg politically, Pèladeau also faces the problem of his attitude towards unions. He does not like them. This is a bit of a problem for him if he wants to lead the left of centre Parti Quèbècois. The party needs that union support.

Luckily for Brown, his party is ambivalent towards unions. With his enthusiastic endorsement of Timmy Hudak’s suggestion of firing 100,000 Ontario civil servants last year, Brown has obviously never been on the side of people who work for a living. In fact, that might be the main difference between Brown and Pèladeau. Brown has a very limited amount of experience with working at anything. Pèladeau started at the top and he won some and lost some—it was his late daddy’s company.

The basic problem is that Pierre-Karl has far too much to learn about politics and Patrick has too much to learn about real life. Nobody is particularly concerned about their prospect of winning their respective party leaderships. Either will be a disaster. They would do irreparable harm.

It is not that we care very much about what happens to the separatist Parti Quèbècois but in Ontario, the Wynne Whigs need some intelligent opposition.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Lessons for Canada in Israel’s elector impotence.

Friday, March 20th, 2015

It looks like Benjamin Netanyahu has once again used the Israeli form of proportional representation to cling to power in the Israeli Knesset. Israel uses proportional representation that only allows the voter to select a political party. The representatives are then appointed according to each party’s closed lists. What it means is that ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu, with only 25 per cent of the popular vote, can now put together the coalition he wants to control the Israeli government.

The difference in Canada is that our major parties have to reach for a plurality of the votes. That forces them to put their coalitions together before the election, not afterward. Canadians can see what they are getting.

When Netanyahu took a hard swing to the political right during the election campaign, it was mainly posturing to get as many right wing votes as possible. Those he could not win over were the parties that he is now negotiating with to form a coalition. He has to get the support of the extreme right wing as well as adding the ultra orthodox religious parties to his coalition.

If Canada used proportional representation, we would also have more than a dozen parties. Whichever party won the most seats would then be given an opportunity to form a government that could win support in parliament.

It is because of our first-past-the-post system of voting that our fewer parties are broader in their coverage of voters. The Conservative Party of Canada, for example, was created by Stephen Harper from the Canadian Alliance which had replaced the Reform Party of Canada and the older Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.

The new Conservative Party was made up of the right wing of Canadian politics that included the religious right’s anti-abortionists, the social conservatives such as the pro-death penalty supporters and the business supporters.

The Liberal Party of Canada also covers a broad spectrum of both left and right wing as its philosophy is based more on individual rights. It attracts intellectuals as well as some of the more progressive unions and has dominated much of the last 100 years of Canada as a country.

The third party, the New Democrats, are still mired in the unionism of the early 20th Century and have been trying hard to move toward the middle of the political spectrum.

This is why Canadian parties spend so much effort in campaigning in defining where they might like to go if elected. Voters always need to know: What is the emphasis this time?

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(And that is about as much as you can simplify Canadian politics in less than 500 words!)

Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Why Photoshop Brother Brown?

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

It is hardly going to work. Artfully enhancing his photographs is not going to solve the problem. Patrick Brown looks like he looks. We have always considered his appearance to be a mixture of somewhere between adenoidal and nerdy. Adenoids can be fixed but we have to assume that being a nerd is a permanent condition.

But here we are seeing pictures of a very dapper young man in MP Patrick Brown’s favourite papers that make you do a double take. It will cause him trouble in the long run. He will try to introduce himself to somebody and the person will take a look at him and tell him: “Take off kid. I’m waiting for the real Patrick Brown.”

To clarify, we are using the term ‘nerd’ as defined as an irritating, ineffectual or unattractive person. That seems to fit, in our opinion. And while the person can be either intelligent or stupid, they can be obsessed with a non-social hobby or pursuit. That also seems to fit. It would never do for us to say anything inappropriate about the young gentleman that others have chosen to send to Ottawa.

The problem is that Patrick Brown has been our Member of Parliament for Barrie for the past eight years. This was the year that we were going to see the end of him. Who would have dreamed that he was going to try to sidestep into Ontario politics?

We have been wracking our brain over recent weeks trying to determine what a retail politician such as Brown can bring to Ontario’s Tories. He has done nothing in Ottawa other than curry favour with certain cabinet members. He has courted the anti-abortion organizations but his first love is still marathon running and playing pick-up hockey. He contributes nothing of substance. He inundates his constituents with badly produced, cheap mailings that are nothing but federal Conservative propaganda.

Have the Ontario Progressive Conservatives not had enough troubles in recent years? They had a guy like John Tory shoot himself in the foot and leave. Then they had a disaster named Timmy Hudak. And now they could end up with Brother Brown who has absolutely nothing to contribute. It certainly has been a long slippery slope for Bill Davis’ Grand Old Party.

If the vote in May actually does go his way, maybe the Photoshop experts could add a party behind that retouched picture of Brown. Not many people in the Barrie area would want to be in the picture. They know him.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

The NDP’s Mulcair discovers Toronto.

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

If there had not been so much ice in the harbour last week, they could have got some great shots of the New Democrats’ Tommy Mulcair arriving in Toronto. He could have been dressed in buckskins, cradling a musket and standing in the prow of a Voyageur canoe. He could have invoked the memories of the arrival in Toronto of Samuel de Champlain. The only difference was that de Champlain brought real trade goods and Mulcair brought his typically hollow political promises.

There will be much of the same foolishness by all parties over the coming months leading up to the federal election. When you have three major political parties, you know you will get many promises—and little reality.

As the least likely politician to win the coming election, Tommy Mulcair can make the easiest of promises. He can make them sound good. He can wrap them in the finest BS with lots of sugar to make them easier to swallow.

Mulcair can force himself to unbend enough to talk the talk and walk the walk as though he might even give a damn. He can stand beside his failed cohorts from Toronto ridings and offer them victory under his banner but with the sure knowledge of many defeats.

His is a campaign of hope. He is hoping to salvage some of the Orange Wave in Quebec from 2011 that Jack Layton left him. He knows how difficult that will be. He also knows that Toronto’s New Democrats are on a losing streak. Nothing says that more poignantly than a picture of Tom Mulcair with Layton’s widow Olivia Chow.

But all he can do is hope. He must have spent a great deal of time in front of a mirror practising his smile for this trip. His handlers knew he would need it.

Tommy Mulcair does not know Toronto. Nevertheless, his speech to the party faithful on Sunday was sprinkled with dialogue about Toronto neighbourhoods. The speech actually reported to have included the statement that “Only when Toronto is strong is Canada strong. He was also well briefed for a meeting with Toronto’s new Conservative mayor.

We already know that the Conservatives and Liberals have no choice in this election but to offer Toronto new guarantees of partnership in funding infrastructure, transit, housing and jobs. How memorable will be their promises and how credible have yet to be seen. All parties have to fight over Toronto votes.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Bowing to Brother Brown’s bluff.

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

The only conclusion that seems to make sense is that Barrie’s own MP Patrick Brown is running a bluff. He is working far too hard at winning over long-time Ontario Progressive Conservative members to be ahead in the provincial leadership race as much as he claims. He might have acquired his new sign-ups on the wholesale market back in January and February but will they remember him in May?

Brother Brown must be enjoying his 15 minutes of fame. And where he got the money for that many sign-ups is the question of the year? He is claiming sign-ups costing over $400,000 in membership fees alone. (These do not seem like people who would want to pay for the right to vote for Brown.)

Brown’s biggest problem is that he is a nebbish. He has a record as an absolute nonentity in eight years in Canada’s Parliament. He spends more than any other MP in his party mailing disgustingly cheap mailers to his constituents that support local charities and Conservative propaganda. He has absolutely nothing to say for himself.

So where did the money suddenly come from for a speech writer? He is finally saying something and he does not use words like that in normal conversation. He is saying that provincial politics matter. It is though he has just discovered that the province is responsible for things that affect our day to day life. He talks about health care and education as though they are something of a wonder. Maybe his speech writer is boning up on provincial responsibilities but Brown is still playing the numbers game.

Why he continues to harp on the membership numbers makes no sense if he really has the votes of his claimed 41,000 sign-ups. Maybe he does not trust them. What can he do if half those people never vote? Can he sue the people who sold him those members? Is he really going to start telephoning 41,000 people to see if they exist? And, if they are real, are they going to be around in May to vote as they are told?

Liberal Party members might laugh at the prospect of Brother Brown as the next Timmy Hudak. The only problem is that it can just as easily happen in their party. People in the Liberal Party have been known to buy memberships on the wholesale market. They might even be dealing with the same wholesalers as Brother Brown.

It was like when voting a couple years ago for the Ontario Liberal Party delegates to that party’s last provincial leadership contest. There were a large number of ladies in line to vote at the time we got there. Judging by their dress and as some were speaking Hindi, they were assumed to be from the subcontinent. It was just surprising later to learn from the 2011 census that there were only 35 women with Hindi as their first language in the entire Barrie census area. There were even fewer who spoke any of India’s regional languages. And chatting with the ladies as we waited to vote, it was disappointing to learn that none of those who spoke English knew the name of Barrie’s recently elected Liberal mayor.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

The word is “convenience” stupid!

Monday, March 16th, 2015

Ontario beer drinkers are foiled again. Now the Ontario government wants to sell beer and wine in large grocery stores. It should have been easy to predict an outcome such as that. After all, everyone knows how much the Liberal’s friends, the Weston family, owners of Loblaw Companies, need the money. Here we have been trying so hard to make it easy for someone to pick up a six-pack of beer and the Wynne government wants to do the opposite. They are just not very bright.

There would be no convenience at all to having about one in seven of the football-field size combined grocery and dry goods and pharmacy super stores selling beer. Even if the coolers were near the door, you would still have to contend with that one-to-eight item line-up for people who cannot count to pay for your little six-pack.

And how are you to know if that mega-store sells beer? It can never be as well signed as Ontario’s famous “In and Out” stores. The Beer Store might have been the destination but the “In and Out” was the identifier.

And yet the stupid Wynne Whigs are going to shout about the new convenience. In discussions with the Retail Council of Canada, it was disclosed that the government wants to “enhance choice and enhance convenience.” How do you do that if your obvious aim is to add the beer and wine to the week’s grocery purchases? There is nothing wrong with selling beer, wine and liquors with food. That is certainly one way to do it. It is just not the only way. To restrict it in this way is just further unwanted and unwarranted paternalism by out-of-date, ignorant politicians.

And, at the same time, these politicians are going to force the foreign-owned Beer Store owners to kick in a new $100 million tax for the right to sell beer in Ontario. These owners are going to be quite unhappy with that and are going to raise their prices to pay the government’s new tax. The consumers always pay for the government’s greed.

We have got to free Ontario’s slaves folks. We have waited too many decades for the sale of beer, wine and booze to reflect our progress as a society. We are not making progress in this province. We are stalled somewhere in the early 20th Century. And the really bad news is that these stupid politicians are charging us more than other people pay for booze. After all, they do not want the poor working man or woman to drink.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Common-sense thinking at Toronto City Hall.

Sunday, March 15th, 2015

What is this we hear about an upgrade of Woodbine Entertainment Group to a full-fledged casino? The operation deserves it. It was a bad move when Woodbine got caught in the battle between former Mayor Ford and the downtown cyclists. It was almost as though those downtown councillors had never been to Woodbine Race Track. They had no concept of the services Woodbine offers and the excellence of the operations.

First of all Woodbine is Canada’s premier race facility. It hosts the richest horse races on turf or dirt in Canada. Even if you have never punted a $2 bet, the sheer pleasure of watching those beautiful thoroughbreds pounding around the track is something that even a child can understand. And, yes, there is gambling. It supports the purses and the track. There is a reasonable rake.

But to leave the track just with slots to help support its operations today is woefully ignorant. Horses and slots are really not related. And people who bet on horses are people who like a challenge in their gaming. Slots are mindless. You stick money in and hope some comes back. Whoopee.

Since day one of the slots at Woodbine, Ontario race fans have been waiting to welcome table games. We have always felt that betting on the ponies was the closest thing to the game of craps. Maybe that is why we always see craps as such a challenge.

It is table games that are of interest to most race track people and the combination of a full casino, racing, fine dining and entertainment can make Woodbine an outstanding attraction and an even more major employer in an area of the city that is well suited to accommodating the thousands of visitors. Woodbine knows how to do it.

And what right does any councillor who does not know that part of the city have to deny the facility the business to which it is so well suited? A casino is a legal operation in Ontario. It is run under the control of the province. It is not a concern of the municipality other than the taxes it pays and the services it requires. Considering the scope of the Woodbine property and its environment, it poses no problem for the municipality. The casino resort complex at Woodbine Entertainment is to be run by a well funded, well run and respected organization.

The city has been asked for its approval as a courtesy. The city should return the courtesy to the province with a speedy vote and approval of a good business venture and major taxpayer in the interest of the people of Toronto.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

If this is not corruption, what is?

Saturday, March 14th, 2015

It seems that the foreign-owned big breweries took a pass on purchasing tables at the Ontario Liberal Party’s major fund-raiser this year. Of course, they tell us that it is not corrupt nor payment for services rendered for those breweries to always step readily up to the bar for tickets to these events.

But now that they are displeased with the Liberal government for threatening their sales monopoly, why are they no longer such good corporate citizens? Should this not be taken as withholding payment for services not rendered? Is this a new definition of corruption?

And why are we in Ontario tolerating such corruption?

And why is Ontario’s chief elections officer trying to do something about third-party political advertising during elections? The man’s job is to get us to clean up our act and we have got to listen to him. He blew the whistle last month about the Liberal fiasco in Sudbury and we are still waiting for someone to do something about it. You can use weasel words if you like but a bribe is still a bribe.

And please do not think it is just Wynne’s Whigs who are corrupt. In our opinion, Ontario politics are corrupt. You have the example of an Ontario federal Conservative politician buying his way towards the provincial party leadership with over $400,000 worth of memberships. And if you really believe each one of those people paid their own membership, we have some muskeg near Bancroft in which you can invest.

And there is no reason to let Ontario’s New Democrats off the hook. They take their cut from the brewers’ unions to protect those unionized jobs. That makes them hypocrites in protecting the Beer Store monopoly. They should answer to their own membership for the way they are helping artificially force up the price of beer in this province.

What is even more embarrassing is that Ontario lags behind all other provinces in Canada in controlling all aspects of election expenditures. Special interest groups spent almost $9 million in the last Ontario election and most Ontario residents have no idea who the “Working Families” were who spent $2.5 million hammering Conservative Leader Timmy Hudak. The point was not whether Hudak deserved such treatment or not but the fact that it was in support of Premier Wynne in her bid for re-election.

When the Liberal Party holds a fund-raiser at a price of $15,500 per table, it has taken the event well beyond the ability of most voters to participate. That alone lays the event open to charges of corruption.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Principled politics are hardly passé.

Friday, March 13th, 2015

Bad legislation is bad legislation and to approve bad legislation even temporarily is a denial of principles. The Harper government’s Bill C-51 supposedly to end terrorism is bad legislation beyond any possibility of repair or amendment. It is time for Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau to get up and speak for principles.

No real Liberal can support legislation that denies any Canadians their rights. This bill against terrorism is also a denial of free speech. And the bill is unnecessary. No Canadian police force or organization has said that the extreme provisions of the act are needed. The extra security and police measures in the bill are unfunded and unsupported. It is a bill with little thought or planning other than as a platform for posturing.

And that is all that Bill C-51 is designed to be. It is posturing as being strong against the bogeymen of terrorism. It is part of being strong against crime. It is part of building more prisons to find Canadians to fill. And when the Harper government is busy posturing, you can look for truth elsewhere.

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney was invoking the Holocaust the other day in support of Bill C-51. While Blaney might not know much about the Weimar Republic, he posited that the Holocaust started because of words. He followed up that brilliant statement with the further observation that the real threat today is from “radical jihadists.” What else jihadists might be beyond “radical” he left to the imagination.

Even in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister has invoked the image of crazed Muslims wearing Niqabs (veils) supposedly murdering us in our beds. He sees the use of veils as a put-down of women in misogynistic societies. For a guy who by now must be our most traveled Prime Minister, he shows very little understanding of customs of different societies in our world.

But the major concern in this confusion of postures is the Liberal position. At one point, Justin Trudeau seemed to be afraid that he had been out-postured by Stephen Harper and therefore he should support the bill and change it later. It appears now that the weaknesses of the bill have been exposed and there would be no harm if the Liberals told the Harper Conservatives to stick their bill where the sun does not shine.

Frankly Canadians would probably think more of Justin Trudeau if he and the Liberals in Parliament voted against Bill C-51. Canadians smart enough to find their way to the voting booth will understand that does not mean he is in favour of terrorism. Far from it. It is easy to understand that you can be down on terrorism without blowing away Canadians’ hard won freedoms.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Redefining the Dauphin.

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

It was about time. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau prides himself on his ability as a stump speaker. With no notes and no prompts, he can keep a Liberal audience enthralled. And if all he had to talk to was Liberal Party members, no change was needed.

But with the oncoming federal election it is time for broader audiences. There can be no more off-the-cuff remarks and no more gaffs. It means Trudeau must be provided with carefully crafted scripts that he can stick to. It means he must become as one with his teleprompter. He has to join the big kids in this big time game of politics. There is no shame in being in tune with your teleprompter.

The best English language speaker we see on television today is U.S. President Barack Obama. You also never see him making a major speech without a teleprompter. It simply goes with the territory. It is no grocery list he is reading. The man feels what he is saying.

And for any of his announcements from the Greater Toronto Area to Nunavut, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is never without his staged presentation and his teleprompter. His reading might be stony and pedantic, the people making up his backdrop irritating and bored and, for that matter, he seems bored with himself.

The surprise of the last federal election back in 2011 was seeing the late New Democrat Leader Jack Layton using a teleprompter. We saw it as a crutch because of his health problems but it also freed him to animate and mug with his words. He came through that election well ahead of his rightful place.

Mind you it was in part Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff’s professorial approach more than his political shortcomings that cost him the election and any political future.

Young Trudeau with a teleprompter has great potential. He can appear guileless. He can take time to smile. He can convince and he can win.

But no teleprompter is better than the prepared script. You have to use words that connect with the target audiences. You need to use the power phrases that motivate. You need to present ideas that stimulate and you have to close the deal.

It was a great warm-up the other day at Toronto’s Royal York Hotel speaking to the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada. Trudeau spoke of the differences between himself and Prime Minister Harper. He reminded his listeners that the Liberal Party is by far the best champion of Canada’s vaunted liberties, freedoms and inclusiveness. And it is only a beginning.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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