Archive for April, 2015

The Hair’s ‘Politics of Division’

Monday, April 20th, 2015

Asking a voter why s/he is going to vote for the Conservatives this fall can cause a rising anger. The anger is hardly directed at the voter. This person has been had. They have been duped. The anger can only be directed at the Prime Minister—he of the Hair!

And we watch in this land of inclusion, tolerance, sharing and openness, as the Hair spreads his politics of division.

It was just last week when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in Toronto, we saw how easily the Hair moved into the mode of pandering to the Indo-Canadian vote. It was not the vote of Tamil-Canadians, Kashmir-Canadians, Sikh-Canadians or people locked in low castes throughout the sub-continent. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is predominantly Hindu and seems to be doing nothing about the continuing religious intolerance of India.

It is the same relationship with the Hair and Bibi Netanyahu of Israel. You can just see the Hair coming home and telling the wife, Laureen: “Well, we’ve sewn up the Jewish vote.” And the hatred grows in the Muslim world because Canada has taken sides.

And the list goes on through the Ukrainian-Canadians and the Canadians loyal to the monarchy. The Hair panders for votes wherever he can and he cares little for the consequences of his actions. He does not understand that baiting the Russian bear can cause repercussions of cost to Canadians. He wonders why people hate him in Quebec for his lack of compassion, understanding and kissing up to the British royals.

And more and more of the world feels rejected and ignored by Canada. We used to be a country known for its, fairness, its openness, humanitarian aid in times of trouble and peace keeping. Under the Harper government Canada has become a warrior nation bombing the Algerians, shooting the Taliban in Afghanistan and bombing the insurgent thugs of the new Caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

And not satisfied with the hatred of countries, the Hair has created hatreds within Canada. He divides people of higher incomes from the rest of us with tax savings, income sharing and unnecessary benefits for the children of the rich.

But wait. There is time before the election. The Hair might decide he needs your vote. Maybe he can give some new tax savings to either the young or the old. Maybe he can come up with a way to make women like him. There is no way he can possibly make us all like him.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

The people wall is uncomfortable.

Sunday, April 19th, 2015

It is coming to a point where politicians will need to use videos of the right types of people behind them. It would certainly be better than the uncertainty of dragging in whoever is available to make up the backdrop for political announcements. It is the Prime Minister’s Office in Ottawa that goes overboard in this type of thing. His mixed-race backdrops seem to never miss a skin color to pander to.

What brings this to mind was an announcement in Barrie the other day by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. Desperate for a backdrop for her announcement, she had to settle for Transport Minister Steven Del Duca and Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman. These two were not the best of backdrops. Del Duca looked bored as usual and the Barrie Mayor looked a little antsy as though he was eager for a washroom break. They never said anything on air in the clip that was used.

Premier Wynne took all the credit for her announcement of the not too secret effort to have two-way, all-day GO service to and from Barrie and Toronto in the next five years. While there was specific talk about the problems of twining the tracks in some sections, there was no mention to reporters of converting GO to electricity to provide much faster service for commuters.

The Premier then went on to the Flying Monkeys Brewery here in Barrie where they serve their excellent product and have washrooms suitable for the Mayor. Since the Premier is being so nice to craft brewers these days, she might as well get her free drinks while she can. The Flying Monkeys might not yet be aware of the new tax of a loonie for every two-four that will be part of letting some grocery stores sell their beer. Hopefully one or two of our local grocery stores will be able to sell the product.

There was no people wall needed at the brewery. The Premier has pretty well worn out her welcome with the news media with all her backtracking and backfilling on the subject of beer, wine and spirits.

These people walls for Premier Wynne are usually organized by the local provincial Party association. Mr. Del Duca was there because GO is part of his provincial ministry. At least the premier’s office thought to let the mayor know they were coming.

But the provincial Liberal organization in Barrie seems to be run by a very elite cabal and maybe all of them were busy last Friday.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

The Candidate: Pre-writ canvassing.

Saturday, April 18th, 2015

Part 3 of our series for Canada’s federal candidates.

These spring days are golden times for canvassing. No political candidate worth the name can ever waste a single day without seeking out the opportunity to knock on doors. You can be relaxed, chatty and, above all, listening. This is when you learn what people are thinking, what is going to influence their vote when the election is held and what they think their neighbours will do. They might be reluctant to tell you their thoughts but you will often find what they attribute to neighbours are their own thoughts.

What your team is looking for at this time is balanced sampling. The candidate has to be moved about the electoral district and given an opportunity to hear from all demographics. You have census information and Google Earth that will tell you even more about the demographics street by street, block by block and rural route by rural route. You also want to move the candidate around so that s/he gets to know and is comfortable with people in all parts of the riding.

Always send your candidate with a small team. During this period, you want to send at least one experienced canvasser and one or two newbies. Take advantage of the training time and make sure they enjoy the experience. You will need these people to be working much harder once the writ is issued.

And if you are wondering were all your canvassers are in this period, you are engaging them in training, special events, and team building.

This is also the time when you can find out who among your volunteers can run successful coffee parties, which canvassers should be asked to be team leaders and who should head up election day efforts.

And keep that literature at this time basic. No heavy policy effort is needed. You are introducing your candidate. Keep the candidate the emphasis.

Weekly e-mails to all supporters are critical to keeping the momentum going. Build participation in planning and arranging special events. The dog days of summer are when candidates should be on the barbeque circuit.

And a further tip: keep the talks to these small summer groups to discussing your concerns for the people in your riding and what you, as a Member of Parliament, can do to help. We certainly need more pro-active MPs.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

‘Diplomat’ Brown and his friend Narendra Modi.

Friday, April 17th, 2015

What is wrong with Canada’s foreign relations is more than explained by the friendship of India Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Patrick Brown MP. Yes, that is Patrick Brown, the most useless member of the Conservative back bench and the candidate for the leadership of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party. With probably less than 50 people in his electoral district from India, Patrick Brown must have been left among the final MP draftees for a country on the friendship committee.

Brown got India. The air flights there are gruelling. The food there is, well, foreign. You can imagine that India was nobody’s first choice. Pakistan must have been added because nobody wanted it either. You have to admit though that where others see hardship, Brown must have seen lemonade.

With more than 400,000 newcomers to Ontario from the sub-continent, Brown had no problem swamping the Ontario PCs existing membership. It makes him the frontrunner in the current provincial leadership contest.

But what do you think a wily Indian politician such as Prime Minister Modi would want from a nebbish like Patrick Brown? What Brown can be is a direct connection to Canada’s Prime Minister Harper. Modi needed a reliable source of uranium for India’s nuclear energy and weapons program. He was able to get around the concerns and caution of Canada’s diplomatic corps by using the Brown connection.

With more than 1.2 billion people, India is the most populous democracy in the world. It is a country rife with poverty, political corruption, misogynist attitudes, sectarian violence and religious extremism. And Mr. Modi has been of little help in solving these problems as he drives for continued, strong growth in India’s gross domestic product. His right wing attitudes have been read as condoning ongoing religious intolerance and strife.

India is an extremely complex country with many pressures. It requires the careful analysis of people trained in diplomatic skills, not the heavy-handed wants of a nerdy small-town lawyer from Barrie, Ontario. Nor does it need the Prime Minister of India’s blessing the signing up of some 40,000 immigrants from the sub-continent to help Brown win the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party leadership.

Of course Prime Minister Harper has no objection. MPs such as Brown are a dime a dozen. All he was ever used for was his vote. What the Ontario Tories will use him for is a very good question.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Whining about Premier Wynne and wine.

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

Once again with feelings folks! We just found out from Ontario’s official newspaper the Toronto Star that the Ontario budget will not include selling good wine in grocery stores. We have been betrayed. We have been used. We have been had. This is unforgiveable.

And what’s the excuse?

It seems there are international trade agreements and “other” challenges. Okay, it sounds like the problems are those created by politicians and that means that our present politicians will know how to eliminate them. Nobody expects the grocery stores to be stocking beer and wine until later in the year anyway. There is lots of time to fix the politicians’ problems if they just put their minds to it.

There is no rationale to have beer in grocery stores and not have some decent wines available at the same time. What kind of rubes do they take us Ontarians for?

That plonk that is being sold along with a few Ontario wines in grocery store kiosks today is a disgrace. It is for people who do not normally drink wine—and probably should not when that is what they get. There is absolutely no excuse for those cheap assembled beverages that those kiosks have been foisting on unsuspecting people who do not have time to go to the Liquor Control Board store.

After various trips around Niagara and Prince Edward County, we can tell you that there are actually some very decent wines produced in Ontario today. And we can also report that the Niagara ice wines are liquid gold that should be saved for those who can really appreciate them.

And on the subject of booze—standing at the back of an LCBO store, you realized why all this time we have hated shopping at the big LCBO stores. It is only when standing at the back where you can see the entire store you can see the region of wine you are looking for. These stores had been deliberately designed backward with the aisles on the diagonal. Going into another of the large stores the other day, they were busy changing the store around. When asked, the manager explained that the store was being changed again so that the aisles were at right angles to the cashiers. That grocery store style arrangement will work better.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

No Cap ‘n Gown for Premier Wynne’s Cap ‘n Trade.

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

If you really want to screw something up, you just have to wait long enough for Ontario’s Premier Kathleen Wynne to get involved. When you know that your opponents will be on the attack as soon as you announce a new program, a little preplanning is a good idea. Ontario’s Premier seems to always respond like a deer caught in the headlights.

In this Cap-and-Trade announcement, Ontario could not ask for better partners in the deal than Quebec and California. They are two of the largest jurisdictions in North America with Cap-and-Trade in place. They have a wide breadth of industries and companies that can use the scheme and benefit by it. They know the objections and they have tried some solutions. There is no reason they would not share their experience.

And there is nothing wrong with coming up with some realistic made in Ontario solutions. You have the Ontario Conservatives whining about Cap-and-Trade being nothing more than a new tax and the federal Conservatives telling us they know better how to run it (sic). At least the Ontario New Democrats admitted that they did not understand it. That puts them even with about 90 per cent of the population.

But what were Wynne’s people thinking when they made the announcement with only vague promises of transparency and reinvestment of the money collected in environmental projects? This obviously did not include the suggestion that the Ontario program could be revenue neutral.

But nobody would believe that. What would be smarter would be to move up the electrification of the Greater Toronto Area GO trains. People would still bitch about the price of gas but they were going to do that anyway. What would be really smart would be to buy the electricity for the GO trains from Quebec with Cap-and-Trade money. When you are actually seen to be putting Cap-and-Trade money into elimination of greenhouse gas emissions and keeping the money in Canada, you get a chance at earning a few Brownie points.

And if Ontario really wants to take advantage of this opportunity, it could make a deal with Quebec to create the high-speed electric train corridor from Windsor to Quebec City. This would not only slow the amounts we are spending on fossil fuels for planes to handle more and more passengers on that route but would be a tremendous boon for business and tourism.

As you can see, Cap-and-Trade is an opportunity that smart politicians can take advantage of and stupid politicians can stumble over. We really need to stop electing the stupid ones.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Legislating Ideology.

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

It is when you listen to the federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver that you realize what a breath of fresh air the late Finance Minister Jim Flaherty must have been in Mr. Harper’s Cabinet of Inadequate Ideologues. You can also imagine how he would have laughed at Joe Oliver’s suggestion that there be a law passed against deficit budgets. That would be like passing a law that says Canadians cannot have a mortgage or an auto loan.

The ability for a country to borrow is just one of the many strategies available to a finance minister to level out the peaks and valleys of a country’s capital needs. To even think that he can force future finance ministers to accede to his ideology makes Oliver out a fool. A law against deficits would be ignored.

What is particularly galling about the suggestion is that the Conservatives are coming off many years of deliberate deficits because of the 2008 mortgage collapse in the Unites States that put world finances into a tail spin. Canada came through that period relatively unscathed because the Harper government was forced to agree to deficits.

Maybe Mr. Oliver was not paying attention at the time.

What is also a bitter pill is the way the Conservatives have reached their “Nirvana” of a balanced budget at this time. To force through parliament an ill-considered security bill to show the government as strong against terrorism is a sham when there is no accompanying budget to pay for this supposedly enhanced protection.

A good example of this thinking is the non-delivery of new carbines and training with them for the R.C.M. Police. The delay now stretches over six years and Treasury Board has never released the money for these life-saving weapons. And our federal police will continue to be at risk because many gunmen are better armed.

Treasury Board President Tony Clement should take a bow at budget time. He has single-handedly hamstrung the Canadian government on hiring permanent help while wasting funds on casual help and consultants. The truth be known, the Harper Conservatives are the worst managers of Canadians’ money since John Diefenbaker waited for the AVRO Arrow to prove it could fly before cancelling the project and ending Canada’s leadership in fighter aircraft.

What Mr. Harper should have told his finance minister was that predicting a balanced budget this year was a mistake. It has taken a lot of flim-flammery and the loss of some tax savings for the rich. The really good news is that this coming budget will probably be Joe Oliver’s last.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Wynne works with the Arc of Political Change.

Monday, April 13th, 2015

Political change is never a straight line. No politico ever wants to admit that they were not doing things properly nor do they ever want to make a 90 or, God forbid, 180 degree change. Change must be slow, incremental and loaded with plenty of political plaudits for the politicians in power.

An excellent example of this is the desperate need to modernize how the Province of Ontario retails alcoholic beverages. Booze is a nasty word in staid old Ontario and a Whig politician like Premier Wynne does not rush into change rapidly. She is using the Arc of Political Change principal to fix booze retailing after 90 years. This will be a series of minor changes ranging from one to two degrees each on the arc.

It started with the appointment of former TD Bank president Ed Clark as Change Agent. He headed a committee to tell the government what assets it might sell to find some ready cash for the province. Mr. Clark was told booze was sacrosanct but he could check out opportunities for Hydro sales.

This approach seemed to be working but there were some nagging journalists and bloggers around the province who thought it was long past time to do something about the archaic way booze is sold in Ontario. It was not until the Toronto Star joined the chorus that the politicians realized they were in trouble.

A Toronto Star reporter seemed shocked to learn that the province’s monopoly Beer Store operation was not owned by the province nor even by Canadian-owned beer companies. The paper found a cause. It had story after story on how the Beer Store was mistreating the craft brewers in the province. The newspaper kept the heat on the Wynne Whigs until the Premier capitulated and promised to sell beer and wine in select grocery stores.

The select grocery stores are supposedly those who can easily pay a hefty license fee for the right to sell beer and wine. They are also supposed to be bigger than a football field so that people will actually have to search around to find the beer and wine. Maybe the paternalistic Whigs will arrange it that you can only buy beer and wine if you also buy groceries while you are there.

But when you add everything up when the dust settles, Ontario citizens will find that Ms. Wynne wants their approval for moving the Arc of Change about five degrees. That seems appropriate as the change will please about five per cent of citizens because they shop in those stores anyway and vote Liberal anyway. And Ed Clark will collect his fee from the province and claim: “My work here is done.”

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

The Candidate: That pre-writ lit.

Sunday, April 12th, 2015

Part 2 of our series for Canada’s federal candidates.

There are many arguments about the literature required by candidates in the pre-writ period (the time between being chosen as the candidate and the election call being official). If the Prime Minister decides to wait for the chosen date of October 19, you can expect the writ to be issued, at the latest, shortly after Labour Day, allowing at least 36 days for the election period. There will be new rules in play for this writ period.

Since the rules are lax in the pre-writ period, some people spend a lot on communication. Most of this is a waste of money. The reality is that you only need two printed pieces in this period and the rest of your communication can be concentrated in social media.

The first piece is the candidate’s card. These are handed out and left everywhere by the candidate. They should be of just good enough quality that people will not automatically throw them in the garbage—you want them to read it first. They can be as simple as a two-sided business card and as elaborate as a slightly larger version that is folded.

The key information on the card is 1) the candidate’s name, 2) a contact number that will be operational for the entire campaign, 3) the political party and 4) the name of the electoral district. You might also show a small map of the riding if it has been changed.

Stay away from trying to include any policies or trite slogans. You might start thinking now of seven words or less that explain why people are voting for your candidate instead of any other. Do not hold up producing the card waiting for the answer.

The second piece is a candidate introduction. This is the one time that the literature really is about the candidate. It should never be an eight-and-a-half by 11 two-fold piece. It has to be something of substance. Think light card stock or heavy glossy paper. And be sure to write the copy first. Designers are not always good copywriters. Make sure there is room for all the copy. One of the best designs is like the Time Magazine cover with two inside pages with a grouping of stories about the candidate’s career and community involvement. The back page is all the contact, volunteer, donations, lawn sign, etc. stuff and do not forget to cover all the social media and other Internet sites.

This is also the time to build and promote the candidate in social media. Use it creatively, use it well and keep it lively. Your people have to remember that half your followers will probably be too young to vote but they make great volunteers and have older siblings, parents and friends. The job is to get them interested, including their friends in the novelty of something different, and volunteering—do not be an old fogey!

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Patrick Brown is the ‘same old, same old.’

Saturday, April 11th, 2015

Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party is about to succumb to its worst nightmare. The party people thought they could never do worse than Timmy Hudak as their leader. They had obviously never met Barrie’s own Patrick Brown MP.

Timmy Hudak made his signature promise in last year’s provincial election at the Barrie Country Club. Sitting in the front row for that elite event was Patrick Brown MP. It was Brown who jumped up afterwards and congratulated Leader Hudak for promising to fire 100,000 provincial employees. The Progressive Conservative provincial campaign was all downhill from there.

Maybe Brown was already planning his strategy for the provincial leadership at that time. It was about 35 years ago—when Brown was still in diapers—that a couple young Liberals in Toronto found that you need not add new members to your membership lists one at a time. By finding the brokers, you can add members by the hundreds and even by thousands. They worked with the wholesalers.

The political parties solved the problem this created by insisting that the party leader sign off on all party nominations. Nobody realized that the most vulnerable position was that of the party leader. The fact that Patrick Brown saw that weakness and has acted on it is not to his credit. This was especially galling in that the taxpayers and lobbyists paid for the trips to the sub-continent to put Brown in touch with both ends of the stream of people from there coming to Canada. More than 400,000 settled in Ontario.

It was a slam-dunk for Brown to sign up enough newcomers to Ontario to dominate the very low level of membership in the Ontario party after the Hudak years. Brown’s 40,000 new members represent more than 50 per cent of the total memberships. He hardly needed MPP Monte McNaughton’s Coalition-Life memberships to fatten his numbers.

But there is still the question of who paid as much as $400,000 for Brown’s memberships from the sub-continent. According to Patrick Brown’s own figures, he did not even raise that much for his campaign. While people calling these new members might become a little incredulous about what these new Ontarians tell them, it is proving that there are any improper moves by Mr. Brown that is the difficulty.

But what is particularly outrageous about this is the nerve of Patrick Brown to stand before the party members and talk about a new style of politics. He does not know any.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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