Archive for April, 2015

Lessons to be learned in Alberta.

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

The May 5 provincial election in Alberta is unfolding as anticipated. With pundits panicking, reporters rebelling, it will only be the final poll next Tuesday that will tell the real story. And in this cautionary tale of political progress there are entrails to be read that can foretell the political future of other provinces if not the country.

The funniest stories of the current campaign are the ones that have editors’ lower jaws hitting their desks as they read of the possibility of a New Democrat majority in the Alberta Legislature. Before there is a serious up-tic in heart failure in Alberta, it is important to remember that when reporters are unable to report, they speculate. The only good stories these days from the province are of all the fun New Democrat Leader Rachel Notley is having at the other parties’ expense.

And, you have to face the fact that Jim Prentice’s campaign style is like dull piled on dull. The guy tries to act suave without necessarily being able to pronounce the word. Rachel Notley is dancing rings around him. Could you imagine what Ontario New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath could do to Premier Kathleen Wynne if Horwath just had a sense of humour?

If you have any serious concerns about the continuing dynasty of the Alberta Conservatives, you might take heed to the recent Alberta Conservative budget. Prentice let ideology supplant good sense when he left Alberta with the lowest business tax in Canada. He is being seriously criticized for that in Alberta of all places. It goes to show you how times are changing.

There are some salutary thoughts in this criticism. The only cheerleaders for Joe Oliver’s recent federal budget are the advertisements that use taxpayer money to promote the Conservative Party. What those ads are buying is a great deal of cynicism. The blowback is hurting Conservatives first and all politicians second.

It is far too early to forecast anything other than the Alberta election at this time but all parties need to pay heed.

The Alberta Liberals could easily be cleared entirely from the provincial slate. That is a poor start on this fall’s federal election.

Wildrose has no justification other than to embarrass the Conservatives. They are losers.

It will be good to have Rachel Notley as Leader of the Opposition in the Alberta Legislature. It is like choosing a life-mate. If you have to have someone to nag you, it can be a better experience if the person is good looking and smart.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Building a better Bill Blair?

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

It seems that Bill Blair hopes to be forgiven almost everything. The former Toronto police chief is now a politician. And federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has officially welcomed Blair to the Liberal fold. Trudeau was actually reported by the media as saying: “I’m not going to Monday-morning-quarterback decisions made five years ago by the chief of police.”

It makes you wonder how time has relieved Chief Bill Blair of responsibility for his failure in leadership, control and responsibility on that infamous G-20 weekend?

And just how does the racist carding by his police qualify him for Canada’s parliament? As chief of police, he failed the black community in Toronto. Is that some new measure of being a liberal?

When we heard Sunday morning that Blair wants the federal nomination as Liberal candidate in Scarborough Southwest, we choked on our oatmeal. There was a very special role the old York Scarborough Liberals from the 1960s played in the Liberal Party of Canada. It was not only the largest riding in Canada at that time but we lead the party in developing policies, in democratizing the party, building bridges with other provinces and winning elections. As the late Pierre Trudeau could have told his oldest son, those Scarborough Liberals do not take any crap from anybody.

Scarborough Southwest might not be the wealthiest part of the old borough. It is always a tough battle in elections with the New Democrats. If you know what you are doing, the riding is winnable for a Liberal.

But these are not people who always think cops are tops. There is respect for the job they do but they like firefighters more. There is more of a kinship. Blair can pander to the ethnic factors in the riding if he thinks it will help but he is unlikely to win.

In 1988, when the Liberal Party was trying to transition, social conservative Tom Wappel used the organizational muscle of Campaign Life’s anti-abortion forces to swamp the riding’s weakened Liberal membership. He won the riding and fought off all comers for the next 20 years. When he quit in 2008, the riding went to the New Democrats.

This electoral district does not deserve to be a stepping stone for an arrogant, egotistical, stuffed shirt like Bill Blair. It needs solid representation by someone who knows and cares about the people. And Justin Trudeau should butt out!

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Bearing bad news for NDP’s Tom Mulcair.

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

George Lakoff is an American who thinks. The UCLA Berkeley professor was in Toronto last week. We missed a chance to meet him. He is reported to have told his audience there is no such thing as the political centre. That must have been bad news for the New Democrats who came to see him. Their federal Leader Tom Mulcair has been busy trying to find the political centre and in the process he has lost touch with the left. Lakoff could have told him that the centre is just a hypothetical point on a bell curve, drawn by statisticians.

In the same way, maybe Babel-on-the-Bay is just a hypothetical place. It stands on a lonely island where we are constantly besieged by the insufferable Whigs of Canada’s right-wing liberalism. Alone, we have to take on the harsh reality show known as Stephen Harper’s Conservatism while observing the wanderings in the wilderness of Tommy Douglas’ child-like socialists.

What do you have to do around here to get the system working for Canadians? Do we have to copy Preston Manning and start our own political party? Manning did that and his Reform Party turned around and ate the Conservative Party’s lunch. In response to that the Liberals and New Democrats should have merged into the Canadian Social Democratic Party. It was just neither party had the leadership, the will nor the smarts and Canadians have suffered ever since.

Maybe Lakoff would have known how to solve that. He might have sent the muddled moderates off to fornicate and produce offspring that could appreciate the necessity for more and more intrusive government and more taxes. Just not in our lifetime.

He thinks the basic difference between Democrats (progressives) and Republicans (Neanderthals) is that the Democrats went to college and the Republicans went to church. They are both mislead and confused.

Lakoff gives the right-wing full marks for marketing their product. He says they frame their proposition better because more of them must have gone to business schools. Moderates might understand philosophy but they seem to know squat about selling. Lakoff laughs at them for thinking reason will win.

What, regretfully, Lakoff cannot explain is the growing intransigence of the right and left of the United States of America. There is hatred in Washington that you can smell from the Beltway. Let us fervently hope this political vehemence does not spread into Canada.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

With Patrick Brown you get bupkis.

Monday, April 27th, 2015

It seems we are supposed to do some sort of mea culpa in regards to Barrie’s MP Patrick Brown. Yes Babel-on-the-Bay originates in Barrie but we thought we had that covered by calling the place Babel. It just would not remain hidden.

In writing the other day about the relative voting strength of the two remaining Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership candidates, we used only the raw figures. How those votes are going to be counted by the provincial Tories is the only reason Christine Elliott MPP for Oshawa is still in the race. Barrie’s Brown might be ahead by more than 5000 basic votes but if they are not distributed properly, he can still lose.

There are 107 provincial electoral districts in Ontario. If there are less than 100 votes in any districts, all those votes are counted. If there are more than 100 votes, they are converted to a percentage and it is the percentage that is counted. It means that the maximum votes that will be counted are something less than 10,700.

If the party officials counting the ballots have a collective brain, they will do the right thing and lie. Losing seven or eight thousand Brown votes would be about right. It would be the honourable thing to do. It could save the Ontario Tories from oblivion.

And by the way, ‘bupkis’ is a very simple Yiddish word that derives from an expression that something is worth less than goat turds. (Growing up in downtown Toronto can do wonders for your vocabulary.)

And while we are talking about Bupkis and Brown, we should explain some other confusion in that recent blog. We have a number of readers who check us on spelling and other errors. And we really do appreciate their notes. Not that we err very often but we had a number of serious distractions last week.

The concern of these readers was that in the same article about Brown, they thought we had misspelled the American term ‘ward heeler.’ We wrote it as ‘ward healer’ because that is what we meant. The original concept back in the heyday of Tammany Hall in New York City was that these people were assigned to wards to heal the problems. It was a big part of the almost two centuries of success for Tammany Hall–even if they could not spell.

Patrick Brown and many MPs like him in the Conservative Party of Canada are tolerated because they win their riding. They betray their constituents because they make absolutely no contribution in Ottawa. They are just ward healers.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Two Tory budgets for the price of one.

Sunday, April 26th, 2015

It was Ontario’s turn this past week. How often do we get two Tory budgets at a time? On Tuesday, we had a laugh at federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver’s expense. And then, right on the heels, Thursday we had a budget redux from Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa. There was a new beer tax in Charles’ budget so he must be one of those tax-and-spend Liberals we hear about. Frankly, this liberal would not give you two cents for either budget.

Sousa betrayed Ontario Liberals when he agreed with Ed Clark of TD Bank to raise money on Hydro One—and on the backs of hydro users. Mind you Premier Wynne told Clark to do that and who complains when a banker does what he is told? What Wynne, Clark and Sousa failed to do was put beer in convenience stores where it would be more convenient for the purchaser. They also failed to sell off the Liquor Control Board that would have made much more money for the province than Hydro ever could.

But to follow on the federal budget’s long-term proposals, Sousa had his own ten-year plan for infrastructure. If it had been a 20-year plan, it could have been the most expensive ever. The only problem is that the voters are getting weary of the same-old, same-old promises. The Queen’s image on all those bills is fading badly.

In neither budget was there any help to get our young people working. Promises on the never-never plan are just not winners. What Joe Oliver and his friend Stephen Harper do not understand is that you need to have income to get benefits from tax credits and cuts. Now that Joe and Charles have told us what they are doing for the one per cent, maybe they can give some consideration to the rest of us.

And why the hell, would Charles Sousa decide that the only tax he wanted us to impose was on us beer drinkers? How much tax did he levy on himself and the rest of the Scotch drinkers? This is discriminatory and unfair and we still have to put up with those rotten, smelly, over-priced Beer Stores. Oh sure, now we can pick up a six pack along with the weekly groceries but who is going to take the time to go into a huge grocery store just to get a case of beer? It shows how little the Ontario Liberals know about merchandising.

What we have are two levels of government so out of touch with reality that they fail to pay attention to our real needs. They are offering us nothing but ideology in budgets that are supposed to be about the current tax year. Sure a ten-year plan helps the big plans but if it is vague enough, who knows what they are really doing?

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Discovering Barrie’s Patrick Brown.

Saturday, April 25th, 2015

It has taken on all the elements of a farce. The Ontario news media are discovering Patrick Brown MP for Barrie. They are running lengthy, laudatory articles about him with flattering pictures. (And getting a flattering picture of Brown is no easy task.) The media think he has a lock on the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party leadership.

This is not good news for the Ontario Tories. Turning a ward healer into a party leader is a tough challenge. It has all the earmarks of changing a toad into a prince. Nobody has the stomach to kiss the toad.

Brown is a member of the Jason Kenney school of ethnic pandering. By being both minister of defence as well as multiculturalism, Kenney can make war on the newcomers who fail to vote Conservative. He taught Brown well. As a ward healer (Brown likes to refer to it as being a retail politician) he turned the sub-continent into a bank of new party members. He has somehow enticed a large number of new comers from there to take out party memberships and to maybe even support him in next month’s party leadership vote.

We would still like to know who paid for these instant Tory memberships. This question, may be mute when we find out May 9 how many each of the two candidates turn out to vote. Best guess, we expect that Brown will win by something like 25,000 votes to less than 20,000 for Christine Elliott, Jim Flaherty’s widow.

The first beneficiary of this outrage will be federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. After the initial shock of Brown as Ontario leader, the Conservatives will want him to be hidden somewhere until after this year’s federal election. His loss is certainly no skin off Prime Minister Harper’s nose. Brown was never going to go anywhere in the Conservative caucus anyway.

But the absolute paucity of plans for where he wants to lead the Ontario Conservatives has to be discovered at some stage. With the news media today, he is already in constant denial. The facts are that Brown is very much a social conservative. He is strongly anti abortion, anti same sex marriage, anti sex education in our schools and completely out of step with the majority of Ontario citizens.

And that is why the secondary beneficiaries of him being chosen Conservative leader are the Ontario Liberals. Brown with his lack of appeal to women could even erode the Ontario Tories rural base. As they say: This guy ain’t going to do no good for nobody!

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Doing without the politicians.

Friday, April 24th, 2015

This Ontario resident missed Treasurer Charles Sousa’s budget yesterday. Not that we shunned his budget. The day involved 12 hours at the local hospital. Given a choice we would have preferred to be strapped down and forced to listen to Charles’ budget.

Do not get all excited out there: it was the wife who needed the special attention. What started out as routine imaging tests—hoping to find the source of the problems—turned into a frantic rush back to the hospital to hurry up and wait. And we found out the difference between ‘acute’ and ‘trauma.’ The trauma patient gets looked after to prevent more bleeding. The acute patient can wait until you get around to them.

We spent about eight hours in total with a group of people in the Acute Waiting Room. We are not going to form a club. There were six patients and their assorted caregivers. Some were funny and some were sad. It got a bit rowdy at times. Most words were spoken with care. Some comments were regretted.

Charles, you would have been most interested in the political comments. And you think this blog is hard on you? Hah! These people lacked political knowledge and expectations. They frankly despised all politicians and their friends, the bureaucrats. Your O.P. Police guards would have had to search everybody for sharp instruments before allowing you to join us. We were cast adrift on this sea of budgets and bureaucracy. We gradually caused enough ruckus to be rescued by some very warm hearted staff who realized we were becoming rebellious.

Over the time we were together we broke many stupid rules. The rules of no food and drink were nixed at about hour five. We had a picnic dinner. If you can find out when to switch from the blue line on the corridors to the red line, you can actually find the food court in the bowels of that building. The place is like Toronto’s underground PATH easing pedestrians around downtown. It is just not as well planned. In Barrie’s Royal Victoria Hospital, it is a very friendly staff that turns you around and sends you on the right route.

All we can really tell you Charles is that your name came up a few times. It was more as an expletive than laudatory. What we can now confirm is that we need more fine staff such as we have at RVH and far fewer bureaucrats making rules. All your government has done with this regional health centred philosophy is double the bureaucracy and make it more difficult for the medical people to do their jobs.

Despite all the experts who tell you health care is science centred, the truth is it has to be people centred. That is the only way it works.

And the wife is a bit better now. No thanks to our politicians.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

The Morning Line: Alberta 2015.

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

The May 5 provincial election in Alberta is something of a wake up call as Albertans shake themselves from the Tar Sands dream. It was probably the recent Prentice austerity budget more than anything else that told people that times are changing. There is no question but Albertans need to adapt to reality. There is just is no way they will like it.

In producing a Morning Line for this election you start by ignoring all the polls. Albertans lie to pollsters. They have been lying to them since the days of Bible Bill Aberhart. And if you had voted for Aberhart and his funny-money Social Credit, you would also have lied about it.

The only reality in this election is the 40-year record of the Longest Continuing Progressive Conservative dynasty. Prentice will not win the election with any rhetoric, he will just quietly accept the honour. The facts are that Albertans feel they have no choice. And they are hardly the type of people to take chances.

Progressive Conservative Party – 3 to 2

The only interesting question in the Alberta election is which party will come second. Rachel Notley and her New Democrats could be the comers. Notley has the political credentials and the trust that can make her the opposition leader. The provincial Liberals are lying low, waiting for the federal election and leaving the field open.

New Democratic Party – 5 to 1

And that leaves ‘what’s his name’ and the Wildrose Party. This situation is probably the hardest to read. The Wildrose is in disarray, lacking strong leadership or rational platform. It is difficult, even in Alberta, to be more right-wing than the Progressive Conservatives. It is too easy to think of Wildrose as a pale copy of the American Tea Party or the radical right of the federal Conservatives. Frankly, it looks like Jim Prentice’s strategy has hurt Wildrose more than him. It will be interesting to see the size of the rump that Wildrose will have in the Legislature after the election.

Wildrose Party – 12 to 1

To be fair, we should give a figure on the Alberta Liberal Party. The problem is we have never seen a situation where a mainstream party fails to nominate candidates in virtually every riding. A partial list is tantamount to surrender.

Alberta Liberal Party – 20 to 1

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Back to the Future with Joe Oliver

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

Finance Minister Joe Oliver brought Canadians his first budget yesterday. Instead of it being a budget for the coming fiscal year of our government, he tried to line things up for the next ten years. It was a very Conservative view of our future. And we can only hope that it is Joe Oliver’s final budget and the final Conservative budget.

It was more of a manifesto than a budget. Yet, it lacked a clear direction. It lacked compassion. It was in many cases blatant bribery. The continuing reductions in business taxes makes you wonder when it will cost more to collect them than the Treasury gains.

And if you have an extra $10,000 to put into a tax free savings account, do you need the tax break?

You certainly have to admit that the Conservatives are very kind to rich families. That leaves the rest of us on the outside looking in.

This seems to be a uniquely Conservative style of budget. It’s like the cheque is in the mail—two years from now. It is delayed gratification—only for those who vote properly.

And that is all this budget is designed for. Vote Conservative, vote often.

Only a government that knows it is going down the tubes would be so blatant about it.

What was really wrong with the document Oliver read was that there was nothing to succour our young people looking for work and careers. There were no instant jobs. There were no jobs in the future either. There was nothing to address the needs of Canada’s aboriginal peoples.

If you were looking for creativity, imagination, nation building simple kindness or fairness, you were tuned to the wrong channel. Joe Oliver does not do that stuff.

Frankly, Joe Oliver was a bad choice for finance minister. Harper could have done much better with someone in the role who does not look like the mad scientist in that children’s movie starring Michael J. Fox. The better choice would have been someone in a more Santa Clause style such as Conservative Senator Mike Duffy.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Goodbye Bill Blair: You failed us.

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

Toronto has not lost a police chief. It has gained freedom. It has left an era of bad policing behind. It has new opportunities for better policing. It has new opportunities for discouraging crime, fewer gangs, fewer guns, easing of trouble spots and better relations between the police and the people they serve and protect.

Bill Blair has left police headquarters. He no longer held sway with the police services board. His services were no longer needed. He remained unindicted for the fiasco of the G-8. He remained intransigent on carding. That fancy uniform is committed to the closet of yesterday’s failures.

There is no basking in the glories and hopes of early years. His day is done. He can hardly follow in the path of his predecessor Julian Fantino. No more bombast and posturing is needed thank you. Fantino is no politician and Blair is less.

There was some talk of an electoral district in Toronto being held for the civilian Mr. Blair. It is hard to imagine why. There is not a seat in the city that would be likely to elect him for any party. The New Democrats would laugh at the idea of him running for that party. He lacks any connection with the workers of our society. The Conservatives are of course shy in this case after that party’s experience with Julian Fantino. What party would want to make that mistake twice?

And that just leaves the Liberals. It is not that Leader Justin Trudeau has not made some bad decisions in the past but he keeps telling us that the riding associations are free to decide. That is why many Liberals expect to defeat Eve Adams with a better candidate in Elinton-Lawrence. There are easy guesses on where Justin Trudeau’s organizational geniuses might want to stick Blair but why cause unnecessary upset.

Trudeau would create a serious revolt among the party if he insisted on having Blair. It would hardly be worth the trouble. Real Liberals pride themselves on their support for individual rights and Blair is no poster boy for any kind of human rights. It would be a serious rift in the party in an area that Trudeau has to count on for solid support.

As for Mr. Blair: if he is not going to be charged for his abuse of human rights during the G-8 summit, then he would be smart to fade away. Maybe there is a need for a night-watchman somewhere. Night work would keep him out of the public eye.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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