Archive for June, 2015

Scrooge of Port Moody is going home.

Saturday, June 20th, 2015

James Moore, enfant terrible of B.C. politics has quit. He is going home to care for his family. He will be missed. Despite his serious gaff at one time of saying “Is it my job to feed my neighbour’s child? I don’t think so.” he was one of the few less strident Progressive Conservatives in the Harper Cabinet. He has now left a clear path for ‘Minister of Everything Else’ Jason Kenney to assume Harper’s leadership mantle after the Tories fail to win the 2015 election.

Moore, a former radio personality, and one time Minister of Canadian Heritage, was Harper’s point man in hamstringing the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. We once watched some of his staff at work at a Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission hearing. They were so ham-handed in trying to manipulate the hearing that we got the impression that their minister was not that enthusiastic and that the staff had got their instructions from the Prime Minister’s Office. The CRTC commissioners were certainly getting some mixed signals.

Despite the odd misstep, Moore has been the natural successor to Peter MacKay as a middle of the road Conservative. He was the political minister for B.C. and built a strong following in the province.

There were high hopes for some government effort in better employment efforts when Moore took over the Minister of Industry role in mid-2013. In two years, we certainly were not wowed by the progress—close to none.

But Moore remains well liked by some of his cabinet colleagues—those who are left anyway. Neither MacKay nor Moore has been very successful though in influencing the Harper government’s direction in pandering to the rich in Canada.

It will be an interesting experience for Canadians to have someone such as Jason Kenney vying for their political attention. He was the one who showed Ontario Progressive Conservative Party Leader Patrick Brown how to swamp the provincial party memberships with wholesale lots of immigrant members. His Alberta base would probably not allow Kenney to try that federally. Mind you, he has been left with no competition for the Conservative Party of Canada leadership.

Moore will be missed.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

The crowded middle ground.

Friday, June 19th, 2015

Politics is a funny game. If it was not so damn serious, Babel-on-the-Bay would just publish jokes about it. As it is, we just try to make whatever sense we can. It is like the current situation of the three leaders trying to prove to the voters how middle class they are. It is getting sillier every day.

The guy who introduced all this middle class guff is the least middle class of all. Justin Trudeau talks about the middle class as though he has made an archaeological discovery. It is obvious that he has met some middle class people before. He just knew that they were not as rich as his family. He must have been wide-eyed at the goings on when he lived at 24 Sussex Drive in Ottawa. Life was obviously more sanguine as he grew up in Montreal. He saw the deference of the airline people when he, his father and siblings traveled between Montreal and Vancouver.

As a lawyer and provincial Liberal cabinet minister and with his duel citizenship in France, Thomas Mulcair somehow misses the middle-class mould. He must have looked at the New Democrat’s base vote and decided that they would have to spread their wings and bring more Canadians into the fold. And if the middle class is good enough for Justin, it is good enough for Tommy Mulcair

And there might be more than enough middle class Canadians to go around. Stephen Harper likes to call them hard-working Canadians. He seems to be noticing that there might be more Canadians wanting to work hard than the one-per cent he usually panders to. We always assumed that Harper hated the middle class because he is one. Anyone born in Leaside (now part of Toronto) is definitely middle class. That is inescapable.

But as you learn in Toronto schools, when you are in for a pence, you might as well be in for a pound. The Harper government is suddenly coming out with new laws that should please middle-class people. Our retiring Justice Minister brought out a new law the other day to toughen sentences for drunk drivers. That one always hits a high note among the middle class. The fact that the law will not even get to first reading in the current parliament did not seem to phase our Peter. Nor did he seem to care that he would not be in the next parliament to make the bill law.

So there you have it: the three would-be leaders of the middle class. And the frightening thought is that this election campaign has only just begun!

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

There’s an algorithm for that.

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

And you thought apps for your iPhone were big business. It seems that marketing research is the far more volatile business today. Consumer product manufacturers are constantly at their doors asking the gurus to bless or condemn their latest creations. Even established products need to be questioned as to how their products’ life cycles are ordained. Mind you, the polling sages are still hustling political polls to titillate us and promote their brands.

And it is the political polls that the consumers see. These are of course aided and abetted by the news media who find it cheap filler, enabling desk-bound reporters to pontificate on the political scene.

We even have compilations of most available polls seeking consensus in a morass of conflicting techniques, algorithms and queries and timing. Recently this led to the conclusion that the three political parties are in some sort of political dead heat for the fall election. And if you believe that you can also invest in some lovely muskeg land they have available north of Bancroft, Ontario.

Mind you there is considerable creativity that they put into identifying their accuracy in predicting elections. Proving that this is one of those 19 times out of 20 that they claim to be within 3 or 4 percentage points can be quite a stretch. Babel-on-the-Bay will pit its political prognostications against any polling firm anytime. Our only stipulation is that it has to be an election in which we have some experience.

You can be assured that Babel-on-the-Bay’s Morning Line is never based on polls. It is based on analysis of the political situation and how the voters are reacting to the various parties’ propositions. As in horse racing, our Morning Line (due out on the federal election after the writ comes down) is an aid to punters who need opening odds for the upcoming races. It is just handicapping not a definitive analysis of the actual voting. We have seen elections that have been decided the day before the polls were open. We do not make our bets too early in the game.

In today’s polling, you need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the various standard techniques. Automated telephone polling is dirt cheap and about as reliable. Telephone coincidental polling has fallen into disrepute because of the difficulty in getting an accurate sample. Focus groups are useful but cannot be equated to the broader market. Internet panels are becoming a popular tool but incentives for the panelists can override truth sometimes. And nothing is sillier than a pro or con poll based on a media story or program—you create a bias and then wonder why the poll goes that way.

Our advice to all voters is to ignore the polls and vote for how you feel about it.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Welcome to Justin Trudeau’s meritocracy.

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

Thank goodness Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has solved the problems of Canada’s senate. Surely you have been waiting breathlessly for further disclosure of his plans for a non-partisan, merit-based process to choose our senators. He tells us it starts with the appointment of a non-partisan, merit-based body to advise the prime minister on who should be appointed to the Senate of Canada. Presumably this meritorious group will be appointed by the prime minister.

Since the group is appointed because they have merit themselves, it would seem that they might know other people of merit worthy of a role in ruling our nation. And that sounds to us like a fairly simple description of a meritocracy.

This would make sense if the Prime Minister does not retain a final vote in the process. If the prime minister does maintain a veto over who is appointed to the meritorious committee and the senate then we would remain in more of an autocracy than a meritocracy.

And it has been our experience with Justin Trudeau that he promises democracy and then reverts to autocracy as soon as the situation permits. For example, he promised the Liberal Party of Canada that we would have democracy in the party if he became our leader. After we chose him leader, he and his underlings opted to interfere in the choice of candidates by the ridings. For example, he stated that anyone who had qualms about abortion could not be selected as a Liberal candidate. And then he started choosing candidates for us. He seems to prefer being autocratic to democratic.

Maybe that comes from being a school teacher. It is likely that most of us noticed in our younger years that school teachers can sometimes be quite autocratic. Maybe this is because grade school does not offer much of an opportunity to experience democracy.

What is really worrisome in all of this is that Justin Trudeau also wants to change how we vote. He has decided to buy into the glib assessment that our first-past-the-post system is out of date and not democratic. He seems to want proportional representation where the party (read ‘leader’) picks all the party candidates and then appoints them to parliament according to the share of votes. Maybe he can have his meritocracy committee choose them also.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Senate solution requires an open mind.

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

Quebec’s intelligentsia are too often speaking out for a population that they do not seem to read well. They sell their fellow Quebecers short. Take the current media turmoil over Canada’s Senate. We have the foolish promises of New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair to abolish the Senate in defiance of our constitution. We have Quebec Premier Phillippe Couillard saying that there can be no change without a special status for Quebec. And they are both blowing smoke.

It raises the question of what might be accomplished if these so-called leaders came to the table, shut their mouths for a while and listened to all Canadians. It hardly matters if a person is from Chicoutimi or Chilliwack, they have a right to say how their country should be governed. And it might also help if Canada’s news media learned about the need for balance between reporting and commenting.

First of all, we need a forum for discussion. That is a critical question. Ontario once tried to use a lottery to pick participants in solving a question about a democratic method of voting. The result was a disaster as these people did not care. They accepted the seriousness of what they were told but they contributed little. When we really decide to do something about Canada’s future, we should pick people who give a damn.

The suggestion has been made a number of times that the simple solution is to elect people from each federal electoral district across Canada. It is just that we have the mechanisms in place to do that and there are times when you do not want to re-invent the wheel. A constitutional congress would be ideal. And we know what it will cost to bring these people to Ottawa. They could use the Senate chamber. It is not being used for anything important these days.

And before you suggest that Quebec voters might send some separatists to try to block things; they would soon find out that intransigence does not work in a constitutional congress. You are either willing to negotiate or you end up talking to yourself.

And, most important, nobody need agree with the congress in a subsequent referendum. The only thing is you either accept change or you are stuck with a horrendously bad and outdated constitution for the next 150 years.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

A mistake Trudeau can ill-afford.

Monday, June 15th, 2015

Okay Justin, you wanted him. You got him. Now what the hell are you going to do with him? The guy is no liberal. He is your Liberal candidate in Scarborough-Southwest. In case you have forgotten, he is former Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair. He could represent all that is wrong in the Liberal Party of Canada.

Maybe Bill Blair is the perfect successor to Tom Wappel. Wappel was the Campaign Life Member of Parliament from that part of Scarborough from 1997 to 2008. He hid behind the guise of being a Liberal. He is the only educated person we have ever heard of who considered homosexuality a choice and religion genetic.

Blair must have approved of Tom Wappel’s law and order stands. Some of Wappel’s proposals were a bit draconian but he could never match what Blair’s cops were doing during Stephen Harper’s G-20 in Toronto. Blair introduced “kettling” into the Canadian lexicon. And when challenged on his actions on that infamous weekend, he had only the Nuremberg defence.

And thinking about that, Canadians hardly need another cop in parliament after the experience of Julian Fantino. Could you imagine Blair on the committee that a new Prime Minister Trudeau picks to supposedly “fix” Harper’s bitter pill of Security Bill C-51. Blair’s bullies could then turn carding into an advanced science across Canada to develop secret dossiers on all Canadians. Blair would make sure that the Security forces were beefed up and well funded to do their job controlling Canadians.

We need to think long and hard about why Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau had his caucus support Security Bill C-51. This is certainly not the kind of bill his father would have supported. It is certainly not the type of bill real liberals can support. It could likely be the most serious mistake young Trudeau has made since becoming Liberal Party leader.

And a real liberal can only feel sorry for the liberals in Scarborough-Southwest electoral district. They have been sold on a bad candidate by the party leader’s people. While a real liberal sometimes has to hold his or her nose to vote for their local Liberal candidate, there are more serious times when you would rather spoil your ballot. With Bill Blair, this is one of those more serious times.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Bloc’s Duceppe doesn’t feel the love.

Sunday, June 14th, 2015

Is it not awful when you come out of retirement to help the old gang and nobody cares? Former and future Bloc Quèbècois Leader Gilles Duceppe’s second coming is falling a little flat. He is particularly concerned that the national (read ‘English’) media are ignoring him. The problem is that you have to have some understanding of Quebec politics to really appreciate the pratfall that Gilles is heading for in the fall election.

The normally savvy Bloc leader must be getting old. He should realize that he can do little to save the Bloc. Its day is done. The younger Quebecers see the Bloc as a failed experiment. At best Gilles could drain enough votes from Thomas Mulcair’s New Democrats to help Justin Trudeau’s Liberals. That could hardly be Duceppe’s intent.

And yet, he started from day one of his return attacking fellow Quebecer Thomas Mulcair. He complained that Mulcair had not done enough in Ottawa to further Quebec interests. Mulcair is a soft target. Duceppe knows that the Leader of the Opposition has a responsibility to the entire country.

But realistically it was Jack Layton’s Orange Wave that reduced the Bloc to a rump and sent Duceppe into retirement. With the pension Duceppe is drawing from Ottawa as a former party leader, it is hardly likely that he came back because he needs the money.

You always have to laugh at the puzzlement of many national media—particularly those who are bilingual—that Duceppe rarely says the same thing or the same way in English as in French. It is something you get used to around the world meeting people who speak multiple languages. They tend to be freer in what they say in the less familiar language than they are in their mother tongue. While Duceppe is quite facile in English, he actually does not care as much about what he says. It makes him quicker with an off-the cuff response and more humorous in English.

Where Duceppe will shine in the real election in the fall will be if he gets invited to any English-language television debates. (Duceppe and Elizabeth May will both be looking for those possible opportunities.)

Meanwhile in the phony war over the summer, all Duceppe can do in English is lob the occasional verbal grenade over the Quebec-Ontario border to see if he can draw fire.

While Prime Minister Harper will obviously ignore the Bloc, it is Mulcair and Trudeau who will have to do some strategizing. They might be able to ignore much of what he says in French but they will have to hear what he is saying to the rest of the country. They will have to be ready with the right put-downs.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

M’sieur Mulcair’s mistake.

Saturday, June 13th, 2015

There is a television commercial running at this time that is starting to grate. It begins with a totally unconnected part that has something to do with a dry cleaning shop. It abruptly cuts to a shot of New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair in what appears to be a coffee shop. Not a Tim’s! It could be anywhere.

And then this stuffy little man tells us that he was brought up with middle class values. What exactly he means by middle class is not clear.

But if that is the run-up to the fall election by the New Democrats, that gentleman and his party are in trouble. That is worse than the mistake Andrea Horwath made in the 2014 general election in Ontario. The provincial NDP leader forgot about being a New Democrat and tried to directly challenge the Liberals and handed a majority government to Premier Wynne.

First of all for Mulcair to come into the federal election fray using Justin Trudeau’s well worn line about the middle class is nothing but “me too!” You would think he would come out fighting for the 99 Per Cent and one-up the Liberals. For God’s sake, the guy does not even look middle class. He looks like a boring civil servant.

Mulcair’s mistake in the commercial is a classic error in branding. While there are some arguments from researchers at Leger Marketing about this, he is confusing the marketplace. For him to try to slug it out with Justin Trudeau on the Liberal leader’s turf is stupid. His orange party brand still has to be distinctive. It has to have mass appeal and strike a chord with the voters.

And he can hardly assume that the Conservatives are going to destroy Trudeau and leave him alone. He’s next. And Thomas Mulcair is no Jack Layton. Jack was the common man. Maitre Mulcair is a man far to full of himself. You can never forget that Jack Layton won those Quebec seats in the last two weeks of the 2011 federal election. There was no time for either the Conservatives or the Liberals to change the aim of their guns. And it helped the Conservatives win a majority so they did not care.

Thomas Mulcair’s New Democrats have to re-invent themselves. They have to decide what they want to be when they grow up. They cannot continue to stand with one foot in the unions and the other in small business. They come across as conflicted and the voter feels no affinity.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

The Hair’s Farewell Tour?

Friday, June 12th, 2015

You can hardly blame the Hair for not wanting to hurry home. He and his hairdresser are touring Europe in style—and Bavaria is so beautiful this time of year. There is nothing good waiting for him in Ottawa. With the daily bombardment from the Senate, poison pen memos from the Supreme Court, the tanking of the economy and the bad-news polls, he should stay in Europe.

Not that his G7 meetings were all that much fun either. He might be one of the senior citizens of that little club but they were not all that nice to him. President Obama is no buddy of his. Not that the Hair gives a damn about carbon emissions in the year 2100. And maybe that is when he will get that trade deal that the Europeans are stalling him on. Canadians think he is just jerking them around about it. With nothing on paper yet, there is no way he can announce it again before the election.

But he is reaping more than he deserves. The Ukrainians lionized him. Why not? They will kiss up to any western leader who will say publicly that Russia’s Vladimir Putin is a putz. He just might be doing it to play up to Canadian voters of Ukrainian origin. It is the same with the Poles. Stopping off in Poland was a good idea. With more than a million voters in Canada with ties to Poland, the Hair knows how his votes are buttered.

With his stop in Rome to spend ten minutes visiting the Pope, you would think that the Hair had all bases covered. And it is amazing when you do the mathematics. The Hair thinks he has Canada’s Jews, Ukrainians, Poles, Italians and Catholics, sewn up. That combination alone should inflate the base Conservative vote to well over 30 per cent.

But it does not. Most but not all of the pollsters are showing the Conservatives in a minority or losing position. And what must be driving the Hair nuts is that he is supposedly locked in what could be a three-way tie. His pollsters are telling him that the Liberals and New Democrats are doing just as well as he is.

What the pollsters do not seem to be telling him is about the votes who say “None of the above.” They do not tell him about the percentage of voters who have parked their vote and will not tell the truth when asked about it. They pick a party at random to confuse the figures. These people might know who they are going to vote for but they do not tell.

The Hair is going to find that this election will be decided after Labour Day. It will be about where the economy is headed by then and the Hair does not know what to tell them. He does not know.

What will be the mood after Labour Day? Will Canadians be up and positive? The Hair is coming home to a troubling summer.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

You have to admire Toronto’s Mayor Tory.

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

What do you want Toronto? With an unapologetic news media and an unrepentant collection of councillors ganging up on him, the best mayor Toronto has had in almost 50 years is hardly feeling much love. The poor guy has been doing the best job he can. He has been hustling hard now for just six months and he has shown that he can handle that mind-numbing job with class and style.

It is hard to believe that Toronto wants Rob Ford back. And it is for sure that they do not want poor Olivia Chow bicycling down to City Hall every day?

Whether the Toronto Star likes it or not, the voters chose Tory. The newspaper will probably have to put up with him for the next three and a half years. They should heed what our old granny used to tell us: If you can’t push, pull. And it you can’t pull, you best get out of the way.

There was a bunch of has-beens who showed up at city hall recently to tell him what to do with the crumbling Gardiner Expressway. You would think that if those people had any understanding of the kind of mess they left for John Tory, they would just shut up.

The facts are that there are no good solutions to the Gardiner. It is a patchwork covered with band-aids that was never finished. It became a dinosaur when the Spadina and Scarborough Expressways were scrapped. Toronto has suffered enough with bad planning and ignorant municipal politicians. It hardly needs more critics. And you can hardly keep scrapping expressways until you build a decent transit system.

We need to remember that Toronto is saddled with a political system designed for a city of maybe 15,000 people. With more than 2.6 million people, the city is impossible to manage. It is absolutely amazing that anything is ever decided.

Toronto’s political system is best described as a 44-passenger school bus packed with unruly, disobedient street urchins. The mayor is just a temporary driver and he is trying to get the little brats to tell him where the school is so that he can get them there. They have their own ideas about where to go. And there is no fuel in the vehicle anyway.

What Toronto really needs is a dictator such as we elect at Queen’s Park or in Ottawa. Neither the Premier nor the Prime Minister really needs those people who were elected with them. They are an unnecessary expense. And it would be a blessing to dispense with those self-serving councillors in Toronto.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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