Archive for August, 2015

The last angry Conservative.

Friday, August 21st, 2015

The news media recently recorded a very angry Conservative supporter at a Stephen Harper campaign event. Since the Prime Minister was stonewalling the media anyway,  they were looking for something to bring back to their news editors. The vulgar language the guy used might have indicated that he is no gentleman but he needed to vent his feelings.

That person represented many thousands of Conservative supporters across Canada. And these people are angry. They are having their core beliefs challenged. Their parents might have been Conservative supporters before them. They have a tradition of conservatism to maintain. They feel betrayed by Senator Mike Duffy, battered by the economy, angered at the stories in the news and betrayed by Peter MacKay, John Baird and other losers who have deserted the Good Ship Harper.

These are the people who do buy into the silliness that Trudeau is not ready to be Prime Minister. They realize that, if anything, that campaign against Trudeau is helping the dastardly New Democrats. And it is far too early in a long campaign for all this rancour.

Many of these stalwart Conservative Party supporters are going to end up the campaign doing the unthinkable. Some will spoil their ballot. Others will find some excuse not to vote despite all their good intentions. Very few will switch parties.

It has always been interesting to watch these frustrated Tories handling this type of conundrum. The one thing for sure is that they are not inclined to vote Liberal. These people have reviled liberalism all their lives. It is cant rather than logic. They buy into conservatism in trust the same as they buy into religion. They have little understanding of why they do or the ideology involved.

The fellow the media were trying to interview at Mr. Harper’s meeting could not articulate his feelings. It was his irrational frustration that he spewed at them. It shows just what can happen when you only let supporters near the leader. They are not all as well programmed as Mr. Harper.

But people needed to hear that rant—vulgarities and all. It was the strongest rational you will ever hear to bring people out to vote in this election. Mr. Harper is counting on the fatigue factor. He is counting on young people losing interest. He is counting on people to be confused as to which opposition party can best fix the Conservative mess. He is counting on that angry man’s vote.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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Aesop’s Fables and the Toronto Star.

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

On balance, the Toronto Star is a reasonably responsible newspaper. Its editors do go a little overboard though when attempting to make a point. Take the current election campaign. The Star’s editors expect that a campaign almost three times the length of normal will be dull as dishwater unless a little spice can be thrown in. To this end they are promoting the election as a three-way race.

Canadians are not used to a three way contest in a federal election. They are confused by what it might mean. And that is the opportunity the Toronto Star editors are looking for: they will then explain it for the hoi polloi.

First of all they need a pollster who can tell the story for them. They need a guy like Aesop. This guy was a story teller noted for his moralistic stories for children—more than 2500 years ago. What would be better than have the story told in polls that kept that three-way fiction in play?

Enter Forum Research. This might be just one more research firm that can connect telephone lines to computers and annoy citizens with recorded telephone calls. It is considered likely that a third of those calls are ignored because of call display, another third are answered by children who press buttons at random and another third who press buttons quickly to get rid of the call. The research firm then applies its patented smoothing to the raw data and gives the sponsor the information the sponsor wants.

And the operative words there are ‘the information the sponsor wants.’ As you know there are many ways to avoid telling the truth. Nobody is accusing the Star editors of not telling the truth. It is just that there is selective truth and if you select carefully, the truth can tell just about any story you wish.

A good example of this is the past week was a Forum Research report that said the NDP’s Thomas Mulcair was the favourite for Prime Minister in a recent poll. The editing had carefully left out the information about how people might vote. We expect that this information was left out of the story because many people knew that after the Leader’s Debate on television there was an interesting readjustment in voting intentions. That change was not part of the Toronto Star’s Fables for Canadians.

The point here is not the foolishness of the Toronto Star. Our concern is that Aesop was a moralist. You could always look for a moral in any of his fables. It is just a bit harder to find the moral in some of Torstar’s fables.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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Harper needs to take lessons from the Royals.

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

It is a good bet that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has not thought of this. His friends the Brit Royals also have trouble with the paparazzi. They do hound one so! No matter how much editors might pay for a picture of Harper without his hairpiece, the Royals have it worse.

It is getting so bad over in Old Blighty that Kensington Palace sent a polite note to the news media about it. In typical Brit terms, this letter was supposed to be strongly worded. It took umbrage with the bad habits of photographers in using many different ruses to acquire pictures of the various heirs to the Crown of Westminster. They are particularly concerned about the young and impressionable Prince George.

It is hard to believe that this cute little kid is really only third in line for the throne. His great grandmother Elizabeth is still going strong, thank you. Maybe she is trying to outlive her son with the big ears. Mind you, the old queen would be wise not to accept a cup of tea from the Duchess of Cornwall.

But you will note that Babel-on-the-Bay is the only commentary that bothers to mention the Royals during a Canadian election campaign. Since monarchists are a dying breed in Canada, Mr. Harper has already pandered to that vote. And did he not bring over Charlie and the Duchess recently? They stayed away from main population centres in case nobody noticed them.

But we were talking about the problems the Royals have with paparazzi. Along with the note from Kensington Palace, the Metropolitan Police (the quite inadequate guardians of the Royals whilst at home) also sent a less than friendly note. The Peelers informed the media that their men were armed. And if that did not frighten them off, they also informed the media that their boyos had to make sudden and “split-second” decisions about the use of force. We can of course appreciate their concern but we think that threatening to shoot members of the paparazzi is a bit excessive.

This would never be necessary for them if they bothered to visit Canada more often. The R.C.M. Police will brook no shenanigans with the paparazzi when the Royals are under their care. It is sometimes a puzzler when Royals come to Canada whether people show up at events to see the funny Brits or to see all the Mounties in their red tunics, riding boots and pointy Stetsons.

But when you see how badly Harper is handling his media relations lately, you have to admire the determination of the Royals. God Save the Whatever!


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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The Candidate: “Do you have anything to say?”

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

Part 9 of our series for Canada’s federal candidates.

The sad demise of small town and neighbourhood journalism in Canada has led to a dearth of opportunity for local candidates to be heard during election campaigns. The corollary of that is: do any of the candidates have anything to say? The truth is that the entire sales message for most political candidates is contained in their election signs.

But there are still candidates who need to be heard. To suggest that they will get that opportunity at the voters’ doors, in all-candidate meetings in local church basements, in social media contact and in city media recaps of local campaigns is totally inadequate. It leaves the campaign with recourse only to mailers and campaign literature. And does anyone today know how to use them?

It was 30 and 40 years ago that local campaigns relied heavily on tabloid style literature. These were usually printed on newsprint and gave more space to pictures of the candidate than to ground-breaking copy. To keep costs low, we worked up a standard format where we could insert a couple pages of the local candidate. Then we could spread the cost of the rest over ten or twelve ridings.

Nobody wants to work with that approach today because of those awful ten-percenters that Ottawa has been doing for Members of Parliament for the past ten years. Anything political that looks grey gets a straight trip to the recycle box.

The favoured approach by all parties today is the magazine format on glossy paper. These are typically four-page efforts on a 40 centimetre by 25 centimetre, four-color, single-fold full bleed sheet. (Don’t worry your printer will know what that means.)

There was one of those mailed pre-writ by the Conservative candidate in our riding. You opened it to see what he was saying for himself and you got a shock. It told you nothing. This guy is totally without redemption. He is not old enough to have a biography. He has never held a job long enough to have a career. And if you asked him why you should vote for him, he would tell you something inane about Stephen Harper. There is absolutely no reason to vote for him.

But if you have something to say for yourself, your designer knows the proper use of white space and can do a decent layout, these things can work for you.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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Another NDP with inflated hopes in Toronto.

Monday, August 17th, 2015

There is a probably apocryphal story doing the rounds about the newly appointed New Democrat candidate in Toronto’s Eglinton-Lawrence constituency. This guy is a former member of the legislature and cabinet minister from Saskatchewan.

It seems in this story the chap once visited Scotland and came back with a bolt of cloth of exceptional weave with which he intended to make a suit. There was only one problem. He took the bolt of cloth to various tailors in Regina and all said they could make him a fine jacket but there was simply not enough material for a suit.

When he later moved to Toronto to make some money, he thought he would check the bolt of cloth with Toronto tailors. The first tailor on Spadina Avenue, that he took the cloth to, said that he could not only make him a suit but there was enough material; for two pairs of pants.

The chap was somewhat puzzled by this and asked how it was possible when the tailors in Saskatchewan said there was not enough material. The tailor looked at and said, “Sir, back in Saskatchewan, you were a big man about town. Here in Toronto, you are just another small-town putz.”

And that helps to explain the cow pad in which New Democrat Leader Thomas Muclair has dumped his new candidate. Even if the campaign was three times as long, this guy has no chance of making any impression on the voters other than to say to them, “Yes, there is a NDP candidate.”

If this guy was really the star candidate that Thomas Mulcair makes him out to be, it would only be fair to let him have a riding where he might have a chance. It is a very safe bet to say that this guy has no chance in Eglinton-Lawrence.

And the reasons why are simple. The incumbent, Finance Minister Joe Oliver has probably already outspent him by better than five to one with pre-writ and post-writ spending. Any good NDP workers in the riding have already been press-ganged into working in other ridings where the NDP at least stand a ghost of a chance. The hapless candidate will probably have to hire people to put up his signs.

And the bad news is that the Liberal in the riding is better known already than this newcomer from Saskatchewan will be at the end of the campaign. The voters already know that Liberal Marco Mendicino defeated that Conservative turn-coat Eve Adams for the Liberal nomination. The voters know that Mendicino is the one to rid them of Harper’s worst Finance Minister.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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When is selling a dozen beers news?

Sunday, August 16th, 2015

On a hot day in the summer, a good publicist can sell editors on some very thin stories. Take the other day when the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) introduced 12-packs of beer in some test stores. No longer does the veteran beer drinker in those neighbourhoods have to go to those disgusting Beer Stores to get a cold 12-pack of his or her favourite suds.

And besides, in modern Beer Stores to day, where you have to go into the cold-room to search for the right brand, you can get pneumonia on the side. Walking from a 28 degree (Celsius) day into a warehouse for chilled beer can be a drop of maybe 20 degrees. You can come out severely chilled. You have to work on their sympathy to get one of the properly dressed employees to go in and get your box of beer for you.

And that is why the LCBO thought they could one-up the Beer Store by moving into 12-pack territory. In most liquor stores, you only have to reach into a cooler to get your cold carton of beer. (The LCBO stores that have switched to cold rooms for their beer sales do not get our beer business.)

And beside, the LCBO gives us Air Miles. It might not be by very much but that makes the LCBO cheaper than the rotten Beer Barons’ boutiques.

This all comes up by way of being a bit tired of just talking about the federal election. The province also provides political entertainment. We hear so many derogatory remarks about Premier Wynne these days that we have reached a point where we almost want to defend her. Well almost.

But her position on booze sales in this province is untenable. To make the big grocery chains richer selling booze is an affront to the voters. We could have made convenience stores cleaner, more profitable and better regulated and Wynne ignores the opportunity.

Mind you those clueless union people who work for the LCBO need to smarten up in their advertising. Have you heard the radio ads about all the people who will be leaving the grocery parking lots drunk? Those kinds of scare tactics should embarrass the entire damn union. We always thought well of that union until we heard that silly ad.

Maybe we need to strengthen our campaign to sell the LCBO. Up until now, we wanted the stores to keep the union in place.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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In the heat of the news media.

Saturday, August 15th, 2015

If you have seen carrion birds gather around road kill, you might have a small taste of how people feel in a media scrum. The media in full flight can be frightening, overwhelming and demonize you with their rudeness, intrusiveness, and unreasonable demands. That is how Nigel Wright, former chief of staff for the prime minister must have felt the last few days. Yet, Mr. Wright had his plan, his objective, his strategy and his tactics and that armed him.

And in the heat of the Ottawa summer, the carrion media were fed pap. They were part of the scene, they played but a part and they have been had.

And Mr. Wright smiled while his former boss, Mr. Harper was many miles away from the melee. Canadians will likely never know what the Prime Minister knew of the incident. He just had the convenience of having a chief of staff who could casually write a cheque for $90,000.

And in a blizzard of e-mails released by the court, a different story was told. This was about the concerns of the courtiers in the imperial Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). It was all about optics—how they would tell the story. It was media control. It was about spin. It was the conversion of fact to fiction—palatable to the hoi polloi. Keep the mud splatter off the Prime Minister’s robes of office. It is not a topic that a sensible public relations professional would ever commit to writing.

But what did the Prime Minister know? Mr. Wright says that the Prime Minister knew very little. Mr. Harper’s eyebrows must have gone up at least a millimetre when he was told that Mike Duffy had a home in Prince Edward Island. He wanted Duffy to help elect Conservatives—not languish in a pastoral island when not in the Senate. He had to be party to that part of the sham at least.

As much as Stephen Harper enjoys micro-managing the government and his party, he probably was not aware of Duffy playing fast and loose with his expense accounts—that is too picky even for a control freak!

But when he was told about it, did he say “Can anyone rid me of that troublesome Senator?” No. In his usual unfeeling, uncaring way, Stephen Harper said, “Have the Senator repay it.”

According to Nigel Wright it became a major project of the PMO. It was “Save our ship Duffy.” All hands were ready to bail. And that was when Wright wrote the famous cheque. Mr. Wright is a very loyal soldier. And he has been busy in court this past week proving it.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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Trudeau’s stop-gap Senate solution.

Friday, August 14th, 2015

Babel-on-the-Bay is only giving Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau a conditional pass on his proposed Senate solution. The truth is that Trudeau just does not want the constitutional problems that the Stephen Harper or Thomas Mulcair solutions will cause. He is not his father’s son in that regard. Pierre Trudeau was always ready to fight for Canada.

But Justin does not believe that the Senate is worth fighting over. His is an elitist solution but he feels it can solve the problem on a short-term basis. What he wants to do is create a bi-partisan committee to recommend appointments and that future senators can only be appointed on merit and not their service to their political party. It would be as simple as just another level of Officer of the Order of Canada with a small chore thrown in.

Trudeau’s solution neatly sidesteps the constitutional crisis that Stephen Harper would create. Harper has said that he no longer wants to appoint senators. The last time he tried creating a bunch of Senators, he got some bad apples in the lot. No doubt Canadian voters can help him carry out that promise by not re-electing him.

It is Thomas Mulcair who is proposing a Senate solution that simply will not work. It is unrealistic and guarantees a major constitutional wrangle. Mulcair and his New Democrats want to abolish the Senate of Canada. That would be our ultimate solution as well but Mulcair knows he is lying. He knows that Quebec would never allow that to happen without conditions that the rest of Canada probably would not accept.

Your writer once had a good discussion with Justin Trudeau about the idea of a constitutional conference or parliament. While we were not far apart on the objectives of such a constitutional gathering, it was obvious that any of the ideas brought forward would be a long time coming to the national table.

Mind you the possibility of positive change in Canada becomes even more remote if we change how the country votes. Both Mulcair and Trudeau are unhappy with our first-past-the-post voting system. Trudeau is cautious and wants a thorough study of the voting options available to Canadians and there is little problem with that. Mulcair very incautiously wants to go right to proportional voting. He wants a Mixed Member Proportional parliament such as in the Weimar Republic of the 1920s. Considering that both British Columbia and Ontario have voted against somewhat related changes in the past, Mr. Mulcair might just be sticking his neck out a bit too far.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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Welcome to an urban Canada.

Thursday, August 13th, 2015

In 1851 when they first set out to count people in Canada, they concluded that 86 per cent lived in rural areas and 14 per cent lived in urban villages, towns and cities. It then took 160 years for that to reverse. In the 2011 Census, it was determined that 86 per cent lived in urban Canada and the remaining 14 per cent were rural. What it means is that pandering to the farm vote might get us fed better but it is hardly the key to winning a majority government.

But what the recent redistribution of federal ridings in Ontario did was to add rural and urban votes when possible to take advantage of Ontario’s urban-rural split. In this way, the rural Conservative voters could fight above their weight class by helping the urban Tories. There is a band of rural ridings across the middle of the province that is the stomping grounds of the Ontario Landowners Association. These are Conservative voters. Not that all these rural OLA hotheads are crazies but they do include a lot of gun nuts and people who seriously believe that property rights supersede human rights.

It is not that urban voters are more urbane but the requirements of urban lifestyle do require that you put community standards and civilized living ahead of property rights.

Not that Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives or the federal Conservatives care about the differences. They just want the mindless votes for mindless candidates. There is no attempt on their part to pick intellectual candidates. While the odd populist sneaks into the role of candidate, the majority are just expensive votes for the party leadership. Most just do what they are told.

But Stephen Harper has never understood is that Canada has become an urban nation. Farmers and city-folk alike are better educated, more sophisticated, better read and more aware of current events. They are not dummies. They know when politicians are lying. They turn up their noses at attack advertising. In the current ad campaign against Justin Trudeau, the only point that has been made is that the Liberal leader is younger. Considering the Prime Minister’s age, most Canadians are younger. So what?

Harper has done what he can to shore up his urban votes. He has pandered to the Jews and Ukrainian-Canadians. He gives substantial benefits to the rich. He uses threats of terrorism. He denies the financial trouble he has caused by his oil-centred industry policy. He has failed the young in not creating jobs for them. He has failed our cities by not recognizing their needs. He has failed the country.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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What do Trump, Ford, Harper have in common?

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

If you think the front runner for the Republican Party nomination for American President is a joke, you did not understand Toronto’s former Mayor Rob Ford either. And Stephen Harper has his own place in Hell next to both of them. All three show signs of being misanthropes—which means they really do not like people. These guys are not there for the people they say they care for. They are users, not caregivers.

These are people who care so little for others that it is only their ego that feeds them. Trump and Harper appear to share a hair fetish. Trump’s fluffed-up mane is a joke and those in the know would never dare laugh at Harper’s lacquered hairpiece. You wonder just how many hours a day it takes them to be coifed to their satisfaction. Harper’s staff hairdresser is no secret while Trump can afford as many as he wishes.

And all three are political prim donnas. They are not democratic. It is their way or the highway. And Trump and Ford are boors. They insult women as though they are from a different form of civilization. Harper is the better actor but he is even stiff around his wife. It is obvious that none of the three are really comfortable around forceful women. Not one of them has strong women on their teams.

For Ford, cancer was a minor bump on the road. It set him back but he kept the Ford name in the race for mayor at the time and another Ford in the running for his council seat. When he made it back in time to run for council, he bounced the substitute Ford to just a school trustee. Ford has to wait four years to flog his mayoralty hopes again.

Trump believes his own propaganda. He has the billions needed to fund his campaign for the White House and he will run as either a Republican or as an independent. If he does take the independent route, he is likely to be vilified by Republicans for taking votes from the Republican candidate to the advantage of the Democrats.

Harper probably believes he is better off than Ford or Trump. He is coming from a position of strength. He is an incumbent but there is baggage to that too. He is dragging the country into the second recession on his watch. Most “progressives” on his team have jumped ship. Their replacements are weak and uninspiring. He has been at loggerheads with the Supreme Court because of his disregard for Canadians’ rights and freedoms. He has trashed the Senate and scoffs at the Commons. He has annoyed our friends the Americans and made enemies for Canada in the United Nations.

And yet there are people who will vote for men like Donald Trump, Rob Ford and Stephen Harper. Be gentle with them for they are the angry, the disconsolate, the losers.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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