Archive for June, 2015

Is Mulcair peaking too soon?

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

Gosh, reading and listening to some political pundits, you would think that the coming federal election is already decided. It is all over but the shouting. It is one of those times when you wish you could take all those bets from the suckers. Frankly, this political apparatchik would not bet on New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair for prime minister.

It is certainly interesting to try to imagine Thomas Mulcair as prime minister but reality keeps getting in the way. Recently we wrote about the New Democrat leader that Canada needs a prime minister, not a prosecutor. And it is easy to imagine him as a crown attorney. His style and focus in the House of Commons since becoming Leader of the Opposition has been precisely that. He goes after the Conservative government with a prosecutorial style that many crowns must envy. He is relentless, pains-taking, eloquent and thrusts deeply in revealing the error of the Tory ways.

But a prime minister has to be a leader. A person who wants to be prime minister can ill afford to get into a mud-wrestling contest with Conservative Party hatchet men. To allow himself to be accused of mismanaging funds provided by the taxpayers for the operation of MP’s constituency offices had to be handled firmly and immediately. It is an accusation that cannot be allowed to fester over an election.

He put his party policies out for all to see early. He was trying for political advantage but it was hardly an advantage when he stumbled in explaining his own plans. You have to do the simple arithmetic. You have to have the impact of new taxation at the tip of the tongue. You have to know where you are taking your party. It is hardly the role of the news media to try to explain your program.

And what is all this talk about being middle-class? The escape clause must be when he calls it his “middle class values.” That must be a person who is above being middle class but wants to be just plain “Tom.”

There must be a middle-class ghost somewhere in this on-going campaign. Everyone talks about the middle class but none of them are sure they have ever met anyone from Canada’s middle class.

Thomas Mulcair might think he has won. He might as well stay home.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Quebec’s edge of the wedge.

Monday, June 29th, 2015

You have got to watch those guys! There is nobody slipperier than a Quebec provincial politician. If they cannot get you coming, they get you going. They have the God complex. They are so sure of themselves. They even think they can control the Internet. They already know they can control free speech—all that is left is a minor jurisdictional dispute with Ottawa.

Since the Internet is provided by companies controlled by the federal government, Quebec might have a few problems with this fight. The province wants to block all web sites offering on-line gambling other than the web-site owned by Lotto-Quèbec. It is alright for them to rip off Quebec citizens but everyone else is verboten.

They actually think they can keep the interlopers out and enable Lotto-Quèbec to make another $10 million to $20 million per year of profits for the Quebec treasury. What some of the Quebec politicians might be thinking is that if it is easy to bar certain web sites why not start making lists of web sites that oppose Quebec’s separatists. Maybe it is easier to just ban any web site that is not in an acceptable language? There are so many possibilities.

But start with the easy targets. These first sites to be barred are just interlopers. No one cares about their rights.

But is that not where it always starts? And there had better be those who care. The very strength of the Internet is the borders it breaches. It is worrisome though when you realize that Quebec has never had a strong ethos of rights and freedoms. Last year’s Charter of Values was a good example of the problem. It was just one more example of how Quebec politicians were willing to take away freedoms from their own.

It suits the tribalism—the overriding emphasis on language and insularity. It encourages the petty would-be tyrants such as Pierre-Karl Pèladeau. Quebec is not an island. It is not an entity by itself. It has a vital role to play in the future of Canada. To isolate and build barriers is to attempt to deny destiny.

Nobody who understands the Internet will disagree that it lacks discipline. It is that very lack of discipline that enables it to work. It shouts of freedom. And it must remain free. It is for all who would want to use it.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

They also vote who don’t.

Sunday, June 28th, 2015

Reading another editorial the other day by a writer who did not understand the subject tends to lower one’s opinion of editorial writers. We might be better off if we just stop reading those fillers. Imagine if you will an editor shouting out to a writer who he thinks has nothing to do: “Harry, give me 800 words on why the numbers of people voting in elections is falling off.”

Harry, who normally writes obituaries, is challenged. He can look up the subject on the Internet and Google will turn up 500,000 citations in a couple seconds. He is fascinated by the people who blame the first-past-the-post voting system. The stories tell him that people feel cheated by the present system and he builds his story on that premise.

And another editorial writer takes the easy way out and fails to challenge, check and critique. It is all hokum. People who do not vote in elections always have plausible excuses. And they are not all uncaring or stupid. A brain surgeon in the midst of a delicate 12-hour operation can hardly take some time off to go vote. There are many distractions in today’s society and voting is not high on some peoples’ to-do list.

And, at the same time, you wish that radio personalities and editorial writers would stop telling people it does not matter how they vote but they should vote. Frankly there is no need for stupid people to vote for stupid politicians. We will get enough of those elected in any event.

With the distractions of today, we should consider ourselves lucky to get a turnout over 60 per cent of eligible voters. These voters also had other things to do. They came to vote because they have an objective. They came to elect someone. We hardly want people coming out to vote who are going to stand behind that tiny screen and go “eeny, meeny, miny, moe” down the list of candidates on the ballot.

You best leave sleeping dogs and reluctant voters lie. The fact that we do get as high a vote as we do in Canadian elections is to the credit of the political parties. Identifying and getting out your vote has become an advanced science in this country. And it is often the party with the most, best organized workers that carries the day.

The only thing that is not the case is the stupid suggestion that people do not vote because of the first-past-the-post voting system. The problem all the so-called ‘experts’ have with this premise is that they have never come up with a system that is better. The only way you can really make sure that the winner is the majority choice is with run-off elections.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Toronto Star doesn’t know diddley.

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

Got up a bit late the other morning and found the wife grumbling over her coffee and the Toronto Star. She had read an editorial that annoyed her. Her complaint—on which she was quite voluble—was about the Star’s new stand on a casino at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto. Since she has always been in favour of having a full blown casino resort operation at that location, her complaint needed explanation. It turned out her complaint was about how little the writer knew about the subject.

Her first complaint was that the Star editorial writer suggested that blackjack and roulette tables could be added to Woodbine’s slots operation and it would be a full fledged casino. She considered that an insult to her and her fellow craps players. She does not consider a casino to be legitimate without at least one full-size craps table and a crew of at least four to keep it running smoothly. She is a purist: after trying the one-sided craps tables with their single croupier at the Casino de Montrèal, she has never been interested in going back to that casino.

But there is a strong possibility that her real complaint was the foolish suggestion in the Star that the casino at Woodbine should only operate 18-hours per day. The writer had the audacity to suggest that the casino close between 4 am and 10 am. That proves it: the writer is not knowledgeable and has probably never been to a casino in his or her life.

This is the kind of thinking that has hamstrung Atlantic City and cost it big in becoming a gambling destination. The wife and yours truly were once simultaneously ejected from an Atlantic City casino at 4 am. We had never been told that the casinos in that town closed every night. We were outraged. We were both on a roll. The wife was leading the riot at the craps tables and we were racking up some major loot at blackjack. And you never, ever interrupt a gambler on a roll. Atlantic City is also off the list.

And we could be dealing with similar problems in Ontario. We have newspaper editorial writers and politicians in this province ignorant about gambling and thinking they should make the rules. Few people really understand gambling. Not everybody wants to go to casinos. Yet they want to say ‘no’ to casinos for others. They say they are worried about people becoming addicted to gambling. Our society has far more serious problems with alcohol, drugs and tobacco.

Ignorant politicians who think they are protecting people from gambling addiction by saying ‘No’ to casinos are helping criminal elements to take gamblers’ money. Society can deal more easily with addictions that are out in the open. It is those that hide in back alleys that threaten us.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Pedal fast, pedal hard, death lurks.

Friday, June 26th, 2015

As a youngster, exploring the City of Toronto by bicycle on bright summer days was a wonderful option and a great learning experience. Those were gentler times and traffic was not too congested in a city of less than a million people. Add another one and a half million people in the same area and you have an entirely different situation. Cycling in the same traffic lanes as automobiles on major arteries today means that cyclists are going to get injured and killed.

There are very good reasons for this inevitability. They are a temperate climate, topography and traffic congestion.

To start with, Toronto is in a temperate zone. With an average of about 121 centimetres (47 inches) of snow each year, over six and seven months, there are just too many days of bad biking. There are also quite a few days of rain that that can also make cycling less than pleasant. The problem this creates is that over the winter auto drivers forget about cyclists. After a really tough winter, they have had their own problems with traffic and cyclists’ sudden appearance in nice weather creates a new hazard.

This is not to say that it is not pleasant when some good weather shows itself to take your bike to work downtown. It is hardly a problem that first time after the winter because going downtown in Toronto can be mostly downhill. Coming back home up those hills is something else. And no cyclist wants a boost up the hill on someone’s front bumper.

But the main problem is that Toronto has been tied in political knots for too many years. The city has fallen behind in meeting its transit and transportation needs. With crumbling infrastructure and senior levels of government playing cat and mouse with their responsibilities, the city is a mess. City streets hardly need an additional challenge from bicycle enthusiasts. Toronto cannot move people. It cannot move goods. And the only solution we hear from the biking nuts is we should have stiffer fines for killing cyclists and pedestrians.

The facts are that these so-called ‘vulnerable’ cycling people are turned loose on city streets without any requirement for training whatsoever. Many are unaware of the dangers that await them on busy streets. Too many are unaware of even the basic rules of the road. They are just another statistic on their way to happen.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

The media feel the excitement.

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

Just about four months to the federal election and the news media can barely contain their excitement. Not since John Diefenbaker came out of the West like an avenging angel has an election been so fraught with possibilities. They have so many scenarios to write about. Change is in the air. Change is in all the Liberal and New Democrat speaking notes. The Conservatives just look worried.

And well they should. With two serious and challenging opposition parties poised to unseat them, the Conservatives should be questioning their strategy. They know that if the balance is maintained between the opposition parties, their majority could be safe. They can ill-afford any imbalance.

And, as for the media excitement, it is all a lot of B.S.

If you want to believe the media-instigated opinion polls, you can enjoy the delusions. They are not only wrong but they would be more accurate if done with Ouija boards. The only thing that can be determined by polling today is that the ill-considered Harper government is fading fast from the Canadian conscience.

The hand writing on the wall at their final feast in Ottawa says that the Conservatives have been found both wanting and wanton. They have taken Canadians for their last ride on the Tory tugboat. The smarter rats are deserting the ship. The lesser ones are clinging to the ship’s rail as it goes down. They have left Stephen Harper alone at the helm of a doomed ship.

And yet the media see this election as some type of weird dance—a sort of stand-up ménage-a-trois. They want to breathlessly announce which leader has assumed the Alpha male position for the week.

Yet the media all recognize that Stephen Harper is heading for a fall. His stony visage is better suited to a carving on a mountain than that of a living, breathing, warm person.

And what of that fusty little man who is so bravely leading the late Jack Layton’s Orange Wave back to oblivion? Canadians want a prime minister, not a prosecutor.

And that leaves the door open for young Justin Trudeau. And even if you do not think he is ready, he is still the best we have got.

But do you think the news media will be gracious about it when Justin is prime minister?

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

One of Justin Trudeau’s better moves.

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

It makes sense to make nice with the United States. It is surprising for many Canadians when that becomes necessary. Not since Prime Minister John Diefenbaker pissed off President John Kennedy have relations with the Americans been more in the dumpster. Not only has Prime Minister Stephen Harper been a nag about the Keystone XL pipeline but his open admiration for President Obama’s Republican opponents in Congress has hardly gone unnoticed.

The phony bonhomie played out between Harper and Obama at G-8/G-7 meetings has been shallow and forced for some time. Sure there have been other tiffs between the two countries’ leaders (Lester Pearson versus Lyndon Johnson and Pierre Trudeau versus Dick Nixon are good examples) but these tended to be quickly patched over and cordial relations continued. Fights with a neighbour are rarely productive.

Justin Trudeau noted all of this with more restraint than you would have expected. While he called Harper’s a belligerent brand of partisan politics, he used it as an example of the need for real change. He told his audience that Harper has been hectoring the Americans throughout the past decade. He explained that “Canada’s special relationship with the United States is not automatic. Like any strong relationship,” he said, “you have to put a lot of work into it.”

But Trudeau also suggested that better relations with Mexico can be a back door to relations with the U.S.A. He noted what he referred to as Harper’s “churlish” approach to Mexico. Trudeau promised to lift the visa restrictions on Mexican visitors to Canada and to work more cooperatively with Mexico. He sees Mexico as a better trade opportunity than Mr. Harper obviously has. It also makes good sense to build relations with the other smaller member of the North American Free Trade Agreement. There are times when Canada could use an ally in dealing with the United States about some aspects of the three countries’ free trade deal.

It was also good to notice that the Liberal leader had no comment on any merits of the Keystone XL pipeline. The Obama administration is well aware that the true purpose of that pipeline is to access ocean shipping capabilities on the Texas Gulf coast to send Alberta bitumen to countries around the world that do not care about the environmental damage of converting tar sands material into synthetic oil. Maybe it’s been explained to the Justin Trudeau that no matter where in the world it’s processed, it causes global warming and Canada shares the blame.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

NDP changing times, changing directions.

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

The CCF—the party of Tommy Douglas—represented the working man, the farmer and the socially conscious in an era of rapid growth and acquisition after the Second World War. We had little time for CCF concerns or socialism in those exciting years but the party was respected as a political conscience. It was only when the Canadian Labour Congress was formed that the combination of the CCF and labour became a reality.

The problem many of us young left wingers had against the labour involvement was that we did not see labour as having a social conscience. We saw labour involvement as an “I’m alright Jack” attitude. We saw the use of labour’s muscle to benefit its members but not the average working stiff. It was union people who became the strong-arm organizers for the NDP in our urban centres and produced the highly effective canvassers that dominated elections in the less affluent areas until other parties learned how to do the same job.

Now more than 50 years after the CCF was dissolved into the successor New Democrats, the party has again reached a crossroads of conscience. The old socialists are gone. The experiment in governance such as the Bob Rae NDP Government in Ontario in the 1990s was a failure. The party is again seeking to re-invent itself. Its partnership with labour is crumbling. Individual unions are cutting their own deals with the Liberals. They are trying to exchange confrontation for reason and relationships. Labour has been leaving the Labour temple. There is no longer a “forever” in solidarity.

But the breakdown has left the New Democrat politicians floundering. The example of what happened to Ontario New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath last year was a cautionary tale. Her policy pronouncements sometimes fell on the political right of the Liberals. She confused her candidates and she confused the electorate.

And if you think it was a shame what happened to Andrea last year you should pay attention to the current troubles of federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair. Does he have policies? He has all kinds of policies. He might not explain them well. He might get confused on his statistics.

But does Thomas Mulcair have direction? No, his only purpose is power.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Working bigotry with Stephen Harper.

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

You have to wonder at what is coming out of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) these days. It might be desperation but defying the Supreme Court with the same foolishness as has already been put down is just a waste of our time and credulity. And having the Harper Cabinet’s Edmonton MP Tim Uppal, a Sikh, make the announcement was an act of bigotry in itself.

This particular foolishness has to do with the difference between a hijab and a niqab. A hijab is a head scarf and a niqab is a head covering that includes a veil covering all but the eyes. These coverings are worn in many Muslim countries to conform to religious dictates for female modesty. It is also to save women from being rudely accosted on their way to and from the marketplace. The more backward the country, the more likely females will also hide their faces. As for the head scarf, it occupies about the same space in Muslim countries as the babushka in Russia.

When Conservative Minister of Everything Jason Kenney tried to block the wearing of a veil in Conservative citizenship ceremonies, the Supreme Court ruled against the government. The court rightly pointed out that there is no requirement in law to ban the practice. In fact, in Canada, why should there be?

It seems there is nowhere in law that says you have to receive your citizenship in a public ceremony. Many people like this and that is fine. The feds can provide a RCMP officer in red tunic to add to the event. You can also get your citizenship certificate mailed to you.

But here in Canada there are bigots and they are easy for manipulative people to put in play. This particular game started with Quebec where the tribalism of separatism can easily segue into bigotry such as the proposed Charter of Values of the Parti Quèbècois. While the charter helped defeat the separatists last year, it appealed to Jason Kenney. There are extremists of the right who think it is wrong to be different. And Canadians are not all that comfortable with people wearing masks.

And that is what this proposed law is all about. It is a bogeyman for the bigot in us. We all might have a little. That bigot in us will say “Good on the Tories. They have ruled out the veil.”

But before we get swept off our feet, we should realize that this bill will never be presented in parliament. It will not even get first reading. It is just to prove to the bigot in us that the Tories have our interests at heart. It lets bigots know that Stephen cares for them.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

First reform the parties, then voting.

Sunday, June 21st, 2015

It is great to see the Liberals and New Democrats beating the drum on a similar issue. It is because both parties have recognized that the harder they fight each other, the harder Stephen Harper laughs. As long as they go after each other, the easier it is for the Conservatives to win. And the more Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau push for electoral reform instead of party reform, the longer Harper will remain prime minister.

Party reform only requires the agreement of the political parties. Voting reform needs the agreement of voters. While both Mulcair and Trudeau have indicated that they think parliament can decide on how Canadians will vote, they need to remember that both British Columbia and Ontario have proposed voting reform that has been turned down by the voters. And saying a change is easy to understand does not make it so.

But a merger of the Liberal Party of Canada and the New Democratic Party is a no-brainer. Call it the Liberal Democrats, the Social Democrats or just the New Party. It would put the Conservative Party of Canada out of office for many years to come.

And what will we tell the few Liberals and New Democrats who say “Hell no, we won’t go.” We could tell them to get stuffed. The point boys and girls is to give Canadians what they want, not what ideologues want. We have had enough ideology from the Conservatives. Have you not noticed that the New Democrats have been dumping ideology like last year’s fashions since before the Jack Layton era? Liberals tend to be reformers but their only ideology has to do with individual rights. Our rights and freedoms seem to be the only concepts that Liberals agree on. New Democrats have no problem with that.

Yet, neither Thomas Mulcair nor Justin Trudeau seems terribly enamoured with this idea. Maybe it is time that they thought more about the needs of Canadians. Frankly we could have a situation in October where the one who steps aside from the leadership is the one that will be remembered as a great Canadian.

Maybe the move to merge will start in electoral districts here and there across Canada. We do not need to accept the dictates of Ottawa based parties you know. We slaves have been freed. Liberals can stand up and say we will meet with New Democrats and decide things for our riding. We might even run a Liberal-New Democratic candidate. Sure the Ottawa people will try to appoint a candidate and then the voters will decide.

It all comes back to the voters. Canada’s Conservatives consider voters an inconvenience but we are still free in this country to choose for ourselves. We should try it.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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