Archive for May, 2015

It’s not in the cards for Tom Mulcair.

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Whether you prefer to use a crystal ball, tarot cards, automated telephone calls or the entrails of a sheep, forecasting the results of the fall federal election in Canada at this early stage is a waste of time. And making up stories about New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair being the likely game changer is a joke. The recent win by the Alberta NDP was nothing other than good news for Albertans.

The pundits should remember that the Alberta Liberals all but bowed out of the provincial election. Albertans, desperate for a second opinion had no other option. The NDP offered a clear choice for change. The very fact that the Wildrose bunch came second tells you how angry Albertans were with the autocratic Conservatives.

But there is no change offered by the federal New Democrats. Tom Mulcair comes across as dull and methodical. Neither he not his party offer the change Canadians want.

All that is clear about the fall election is that it is the Conservative’s to lose. They know they are in trouble. They would have to hire an army of jihadists to run up and down our main streets to convince Canadians that the government’s fear-mongering over our security makes any sense. And they seem to be in no rush to fund the re-equipping our military, R.C.M. Police or Security Intelligence Agency.

And the one thing that Canadians can agree on is that the Prime Minister is a control freak who is not a good manager of money or people. His economic measures are bankrupting those of us who are not already broke while his choices of appointment for the Senate seem more likely to end up in jail. He is presently toying with the television networks to try to stay away from debates with the other federal party leaders.

The Prime Minister’s biggest worry if he loses this election will be who will pay for his hairdresser.

Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau made his first stab at policy the other day and while the reception was lukewarm, it gave him a base to build on. The approach is simple and easy to understand. We still have to determine if it is credible.

We will hold off posting our morning line selections for this election until after Labour Day. It might be fairly clear at that point but do not count anyone out. This election is going to go down to the wire and it might just be the party that can respond the fastest that can take the roses.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to

Hating the Hair is not enough Mel Hurtig.

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

It was 22 years ago when this writer almost ran as one of Hurtig’s Hooligans. Do you remember when the Edmonton book seller, publisher and Canadian nationalist formed the National Party? A bunch of us Toronto politicos immediately started calling it the National Socialist Party. Mel was horrified but it was too late to change the name.

Mel is a very fine fellow but he knows squat about leading, motivating or running a political party. We would have been much better off if he had convinced Maude Barlow to be party leader. She has the sense to know what she does not know.

Mel picked a guy in Winnipeg as party president because he thought the guy had enough money to fund it. He might have but he knew more about making money than running a political party. He sent each potential candidate for the party a certified cheque for $1000 made out to the Receiver General to cover acceptance as candidates for the party. He was horrified when some of us told him we were going to frame them instead of giving them to our riding returning officer. They had to be used for him to get his money back from the government. Under the election funding rules at the time, he was going to make money off all the losing candidates.

But it was Mel himself who convinced this writer to get as far as possible from his losing cause. You learn a lot about a person you are shepherding around town to all the different media commitments you have made for him. Mel had just released a very thin book about how he was going to save Canada after the Mulroney years of excess. It was nothing but statistics and even nationalist Maude Barlow turned her nose up at it. It was Mel’s confused solutions that day we spent that convinced us that he was going nowhere.

And now he has told us how to save Canada again. You would think at 82 that Mel would be mature enough to reason out the best way to defeat the Hair. Mel’s new book is called The Arrogant Autocrat: Stephen Harper’s Takeover of Canada. He could have had more meat for his book by just copying all the blogs Babel-on-the-Bay has posted about Canada’s Prime Minister. He does not understand why people swallow the bilge fed to them by the Hair and his party. Mel should be tied in a chair and forced to listen to the collected speeches of the Hair’s current chief gunslinger MP Pierre Poilievre.

Mel uses reason and statistics to try to convince people to defeat the Hair. What he has to realize is that to defeat a conman, you need a better con.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to

The Candidate: KISS the web site.

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

Part 5 of our series for Canada’s federal candidates.

Yes, you have to have a web site. Yes, it better look like the party web site. Yes, you have to Keep It Simple Stupid.

What you do not need is a web site that only a systems programmer can love. The more sophisticated, the more complex, the more clicks to take you where you can read what is promised and the more readers you will lose because you have wasted their time. You can hardly afford to lose the people you have brought to your web site. It cost you too much to get them there for them to be frustrated with the complexity of finding their way through the site.

As in communications of any kind, you have to always assume that the reader has never heard of you before. You always have to start from ground zero about you. And you should always assume the reader is no computer expert. You never ever assume the ‘everybody knows that.’

You can never say often enough your full name and the party you are running for. It has to be the same as it is on the ballot or you will cause confusion.

And if someone tells you this approach is user friendly run away from them. Anyone in the computer industry can attest to the fact that ‘User Friendly’ is a ghost that everyone talks about and nobody has ever seen.

Sure the candidate can manoeuvre through his or her web site, but can the candidate’s mother? Always ask someone who will not let their ego get in the way of honesty.

Do not expect your writers to be able to design your web sites. And, sorry-to-say, most web designers can neither spell nor construct a simple sentence.

In putting together your web site always start with what you want to say. Starting with the design is just design for the sake of design.

If you have come up with a logical and simple statement about why the voters in your riding will vote for you, use that information on every page. You cannot tell the voters often enough.

And if we have not mentioned this often enough, consistency pays. Your signs, literature, Facebook page, Twitter feed and web site all have to have the same look and feel. Never confuse the voters.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to

Why is the Hair laughing at the TV Networks?

Monday, May 18th, 2015

Do you really think the Hair is going to debate any of his opponents in this fall’s election? Not if he can help it! It just is not in the Hair’s DNA. After three national elections with debates staged on the major television networks, you have got to understand how the Hair feels. He now knows that he does not have to do it.

Instead of negotiating, the Hair is letting the kids in short pants in his office screw the networks around. He knows that he can let his people dick the television people around until September and he can make the decision then. If he and his brain-trust think a couple debates are necessary, he will agree then—on his terms.

It is plain and simple arrogance. Why should he help create an audience for his opponents? He does not like them. He does not respect them. He barely tolerates them. He thinks it is funny to suggest that the Toronto Globe and Mail conduct a debate. He thinks this would be a more cerebral event. It could be a fiasco as it is hardly likely that the Globe has any people really experienced in that type of theatre.

And why should he tolerate television reporters? He is travelling with his own videographers these days who do what he tells them. He can put their clips out on the Internet for his like-minded sycophants. And they do not have to obey any rules but his.

Why should he cooperate with television people who just want to do gotchas?

And the joke is that the CBC is the only network that is actually fair to him. (Radio-Canada is equally fair as it treats all politicians badly.) CTV is not really fair but it is just equally incompetent in dealing with political material. And nobody seems to be running things at Global.

Just think back to the last television debates in 2011. The Hair stood there and ignored his opponents. Michael Ignitieff waited for some reasoned debate to start. Jack Layton seemed to be looking admiringly at the Hair. Gilles Duceppe attacked everyone. Elizabeth May was not allowed to attend because she asked the Hair the only intelligent questions in the 2008 debate. And the only question that stuck from the 2011 events was the rude question by Jack Layton on attendance in the House by the Liberal Party leader for which Ignatieff’s handlers had not prepared him.

And now the Hair’s people are telling us he wants more sympathetic debates than that. The only way they could be more in his favour would be if he was the only one allowed to ask questions. Though he would probably still bar Elizabeth May.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to

It’s hardly like winning the daily double.

Sunday, May 17th, 2015

Back in March Babel-on-the-Bay commented on how sad it would be if Pierre-Karl Pèladeau won the Parti Quèbècois leadership in Quebec and Patrick Brown won the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership in Ontario. We need be more careful in what we do not wish for.

Both these men are giants only in their own minds. They won their respective prizes by an average of about 60 per cent of the votes. Both are in their party’s driver seat on sufferance. Neither has ever shown any skills in leadership or in political policy direction. And neither of them has ever shown any political personality. That is not charisma that they have shown Canadians.

Both are the antithesis of what their parties really need. At a time when the separatists in Quebec need a patient, methodical person who can rebuild the Parti Quèbècois in its once left-wing strength, they have a right-wing, self-important individual hell-bent to get to another referendum. In Ontario where the Conservatives needed a compromise candidate who could pull the party’s factions together, they had their membership swamped by people new to the province who had no idea who or what they were supporting. They got a right-wing, right to life candidate who has never accomplished anything.

Parti Quèbècois’ Pierre-Karl Pèladeau is also right wing politically and thinks he can pull together Quebec’s disparate separatists from the political left and the right. And besides that on Tuesday he has to face the Quebec National Assembly in Quebec City in the role of Leader of the Opposition.

Patrick Brown has time to think about that as he will also become Leader of the Opposition at Queen’s Park. All he has to do is find a Conservative member who will resign his or her seat for him to run for election. He already resigned as Member of Parliament for Barrie on Wednesday.

(That did not save Barrie residents from full page, four-colour advertisements in the two local papers wherein Brown congratulated himself for his nine years in Ottawa accomplishing nothing. Mind you, who paid for Brown’s $400,000 worth of PC Ontario memberships is still a far more important question than who paid for his self-aggrandizing advertising?)

It is a simpler question in Quebec because Pierre-Karl can pay his own bills while he still has control of the major news media in the province.

At least Pèladeau will have his “grand coalition” to create an independent Quebec to keep him busy. All the Ontario PC leader has is probably some marathons to run.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to

It’s the icing for the ignorant.

Saturday, May 16th, 2015

Canadians do not have to be told how many millions of taxpayer dollars the Conservatives are spending on promoting themselves for re-election this fall. And they are doing it because they can. The same unethical, foolish waste of taxpayer money was going on during previous Liberal governments in Ottawa. Maybe not as well, nor as studied, nor as blatant but only the Conservatives and New Democrats were complaining about it back then.

But you have to face the fact that there is nobody more short-sighted than a politician. What works for you today is what counts. All the rest is theory.

One of the best examples of this short-sightedness was when the McGuinty Liberals at Queen’s Park brought in stringent advertising rules and controls for Ontario. They had just replaced the embarrassment of Mike Harris and his Conservatives in the province and the new law was considered to be fair. It is so fair that the Wynne Liberals of today are trying to sneak through changes in the law to let them do some partisan advertising.

They are jealous of the ability of the Conservatives in Ottawa to promote programs before they have even been approved by parliament. When you use your parliamentary majority to bully the opposition instead of discussing your bills, why would there be any changes? The Conservatives have replaced parliamentary government with arrogance.

But if you recognize that the Government “Action Plan” advertising is just more blatant propaganda for the Conservatives, you are probably not the target audience. You have to realize that there might just be a small percentage of Canadians who are not as smart as you. They might be impressed with the ads and think positively about that government that is doing all these nice things (or going to?)

The cold hard facts of elections are that a surprisingly small number of voters really make the decision for all of us. And they might not be the brightest bulbs on the Canadian Christmas tree. These are people convinced by slogans, led by lies, who think Stephen Harper is a brilliant economist and that the Conservative party has our best interests at heart.

These are voters who are attracted by the rich chocolate icing on the cake. They are not aware that the cake inside is just plain old conservative vanilla.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to

It’s just not that funny.

Friday, May 15th, 2015

The Ottawa Press Gallery felt that Elizabeth May let them down at their annual dinner. They usually just throw stale dinner rolls at the poor performers. They tend to get too many who try but do not measure up. They think the politicians are going to entertain them by being funny.

Elizabeth was sick with a flu. She was exhausted and so would you be if you tried to match her schedule. She is trying so hard to hold things together as the only sitting member for her party in Ottawa. And she could not think of a Goddamn thing funny about her situation or the dreadful Harper government.

Many of us have stood at a microphone before in the wrong place at the wrong time and wished the floor would open up and help us to disappear. It took a compassionate cabinet minister to drag Elizabeth from the podium. All Elizabeth could do was to apologize.

But the time for apologies is now over. Stephen Harper never even goes to that sophomoric media event. He despises the news media anyway. He never has had a sense of humour. Go throw buns at him, you bums. Leave Elizabeth alone.

The other day at the end of another subject, we suggested that Elizabeth May bring her environmental program to the Liberal Party. There is little doubt that the Liberals should unanimously adopt the Green Party’s environmental agenda. It could not be done overnight but Elizabeth would not expect that even if she was Prime Minister.

But she should be the Minister of the Crown who sees to that environmental plan for a Liberal government. She and her party are not going to get proportional representation in Canada to get her party into any position of influence. Yet all she has to do is bring herself and her party into the Liberal fold and the Greens can have plenty of influence.

What the Green Party has to realize is that there are more Liberals ready and willing to support their environmental objectives than there are Green Party members. There is no competition there. There is no objection to many Green Party objectives because they are already Liberal Party objectives.

We all know that Justin Trudeau is conflicted on the Alberta tar sands exploitation. We need Elizabeth May to join the Liberals and explain things to young Trudeau. He has to understand that if Alberta cannot convert that bitumen to synthetic oil without destroying the environment of Alberta and neighbouring provinces, it should not be shipped anywhere. With a Liberal government in Ottawa and an NDP government in Alberta, we can take some major steps to saving this poor old planet.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to

Get your program here for Barrie-Innisfil!

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

You hear the hawkers when going into any major sports event: Get your program here. How else would you know about the players and their statistics? We need the same for political events. The federal Liberals in Barrie-Innisfil electoral district have finally been allowed to call for nominations and the date is set for Saturday, May 30.

The first pages in the program would deal with the creation of Barrie-Innisfil riding from the south half of the city of Barrie and the Town of Innisfil. The riding had been held open by the Conservative Party for MP Patrick Brown who has wandered off to try to lead Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party. This means the Conservatives will reach into their second string candidates and either Councillor John Brassard or former councillor and MPP Rod Jackson is expected to get the official nod to be the candidate.

Another Barrie City Councillor is also vying for the Liberal nomination. The first question from most Liberal Party members is: “Are you sure he is a Liberal?” That is Peter Silveira whose ward is in the north of Barrie which is part of Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte, a riding that has already chosen its Liberal candidate. The unique offer in Mr. Silveira’s candidacy is that he is willing to pay as much as $40,000 for the municipal by-election required in his ward if he is elected as a Member of Parliament.

The problem with a political program is that the players write their own curriculum vitae and tend to leave large gaps in areas that might interest the voter. The second candidate for the Liberals in Barrie-Innisfil is Jane Dewar a school teacher. Judging by some of her other affiliations, it appears that she teaches art. It seems she also lives in North Barrie and teaches in Innisfil, so she certainly drives through the riding frequently.

The third anointed candidate for the Liberals in Barrie-Innisfil is Colin Wilson. The former candidate in the previous Barrie riding and active in the newer Barrie-Innisfil riding, Wilson is a federal government employee who works in support of Canadian industry. A paraplegic since his student years at Georgian College Wilson lives in South Barrie where he is raising his teenage daughter.

The race is likely to be between Dewar and Wilson but it is no slam-dunk for either candidate. Dewar seems to have the support of Barrie’s old-guard Whigs while Wilson has built strong relations throughout the riding and is well-liked by the younger Liberals. Liberals attending the meeting in Stroud at 1 pm at the Innisfil Community Centre might stick a few candy bars in their pocket. It might be a long afternoon with two ballots.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to

Are your 15 minutes of fame finished Mr. Brown?

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

The new leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives must have been saving money on speech writing when he talked to the Ontario Legislature on Monday. If there was ever a time for Patrick Brown to be gracious that was it. It was a courtesy that he was asked to address the members of the legislative assembly. They had Quebec Premier Phillippe Couillard giving a statesman-like address to the legislature and, in a non-partisan gesture, the Liberal government invited Patrick Brown, as a new party leader, to say something.

Premier Kathleen Wynne’s people must have known he would blow it. His party members in the legislature had to be embarrassed. Brown came out with a partisan attack on the Liberal government. It was the same attack as was added on to his speech to the convention on Saturday. It made some sense to the Conservative crowd on Saturday but made no sense under the circumstances on Monday. You could almost feel Couillard looking at him during the speech and thinking the French equivalent of “What a jerk!”

But the problem for voters in Ontario is that what you see with Patrick Brown is what you get. In a lengthy editorial on Tuesday, the Toronto Star told Brown to “Get to it.” Sorry, dear editor, but there is nothing more to get to.

Patrick’s record in Ottawa of doing nothing is not about change. After nine years of watching this young man in political (in)action, questioning those who know him well and others after meeting him, we can tell you he is unlikely to change, grow or mature in his new job.

People think they saw his strength in winning the Tory leadership. What they saw was his weakness. Those ethnic votes from the Indian sub-continent were a one-of event. Those are not votes that will matter in a general election—mainly because many of them are not yet citizens. There is nothing remarkable about his outreach to ethnic groups. That has been going on just as cynically in politics since before he was born. Nor does his false concern for the supposed disadvantaged in the north or rural Ontario come across as anything more than the usual political pandering.

The Toronto Star editorial writers think that Patrick Brown should open up about himself. The editors should be more careful about what they ask for.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to

First-Past-the-Post debate ignites Brits.

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

A sudden influx of hundreds of readers can make any blogger’s heart go pit-a-pat. Since last week, Babel-on-the-Bay’s readership has reached new heights. It was not because of our sage advice on Canadian elections but something written eight years ago at the time of the Ontario referendum on voting reform. Our latest surge of new readers is from Great Britain. Now that they have had their hard fought general election, it seems that some Brits want to change the rules on how they vote.

Admittedly, a Canadian’s knowledge of the British parliamentary system is somewhat coloured by the satire of Gilbert and Sullivan and the comedic commentaries of films by the Boulting Brothers. We have never been too sure of how the British parliament managed to survive after the days of David Lloyd George.

Not that we think the Canadian parliament owes anything to the mother of parliaments beyond a nosegay on Mothers’ Day. The parliament in Ottawa has gone its own way now for almost 150 years and many of the worst aspects of the British parliamentary system are only now besetting its poor occupants.

But it is in the choosing of the denizens of the Commons Chamber that is causing the current controversy. Yes, the Brits invented the first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting system in the days when the villagers met in the town square and shouted out their preferences. The first thing you notice about those demanding change is that they are not proposing any specific system. They are starting by tearing down FPTP.

And, in many ways, they are right. Yes, FPTP is an anachronism. While it is old and creaky, it has served us well. There is not always a relationship between share of votes and share of seats in parliament. Minority governments can happen. A shift of voting patterns by a strategic block of maybe ten per cent of voters can turn parliament on its collective head.

But before counting FPTP out for the count, one really needs to understand what is being posed as a replacement. Does any educated citizen who respects democracy want to vote for a party list? Or would we condone systems of transferable votes or mixed member systems that cannot be understood by all the voters?

Where we are failing in this entire exercise is our miserable performance in developing better voting systems. We are reaching a point today where we can trust the Internet for secure voting and for cost-free instant run-off elections. Why are we not moving in that direction? Why are we not thinking about it?


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to