Archive for September, 2015

Premier Wynne’s toughest sale: Liberals.

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

The Ontario Legislature is back in session and Premier Kathleen Wynne seems to be having little trouble with the whiny little boy from Barrie now heading the provincial Conservatives or his provincial NDP counterpart Andrea Horwath. Where Wynne is getting the hard shots is from Liberals across Ontario who cannot understand her determination to sell off the bulk of Ontario’s power distribution system Hydro One. This was something that the discredited former Conservative Premier Mike Harris wanted to do, not the Liberals.

Maybe it was Mike Harris who gave the idea to Wynne’s banker, expert in everything, Ed Clark. In setting Clark up as the expert in divesting the province of its golden egg layers, Wynne pretty well told him “hands off the Liquor Control Board (LCBO) stores but anything else can go.” And what she was told by him was that she had to do something about beer and that there was money to be had from Hydro One.

With total equity of about $7 billion, sales of $6 billion and profits on operations of $800 million, Hydro One would supposedly bring a better price than the LCBO. The business of the LCBO has assets of just $120 million, sales of almost $5 billion and profits of $1.66 billion. You hardly need to know much about balance sheets to realize that the LCBO is one of the most profitable businesses in the province.

But the difference between selling each of these assets is the difference in the revenue stream after selling. If you sell 60 per cent of Hydro One, you lose 60 per cent of the revenues. If you sell 100 per cent of the LCBO, you get to continue to collect the provincial booze taxes and related revenues. And if you sell off the LCBO in its individual parts and locations, you will get a heck of a lot more money than the books indicate. This is the only golden goose that can keep on laying golden eggs after a very sumptuous goose dinner.

And what the public gets is more convenient sales locations, better prices and better service when buying booze. It is a win-win situation for everybody concerned. The province could even let grocery stores bid for the right to sell beer, wine and other alcohol products. That way the market can determine what is convenient.

But all you get from the sale of part of Hydro One is constant pressure on the newly privatized company to get approval for rate increases to increase shareholder return. And all the public will get is less transparency from a private company and rising hydro rates.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

The friends of Stephen Harper.

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

Who can you trust? If a giant, well-respected firm such as Germany’s Volkswagen can be found out to be lying to us, is it the only one? When contaminated meats are distributed by some of the largest meat processors in Canada, who is at fault? When an unattended train kills 47 people in the quiet little town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, who do we blame? All these questions are asked and what do we learn from them?

It was Americans who blew the whistle on Volkswagen. The Harper government does not want us to bother checking what industry experts tell us. He also wants the industries to set the pollution standards in Canada. He wants tar sands exploiters to tell us what their standards should be and that is why there are no standards in that highly polluting industry. If the money is not there to hire government meat inspectors in the big meat processing plants in Canada, how can we prevent contaminated meats reaching the market? And if nobody has to attend a train sitting running on a main line, that is a perfect example of industries setting their own standards—being their own inspectors.

But what does Mr. Harper care? The Prime Minister is a conservative ideologue. He believes in laissez-faire economics where industry is allowed to operate free of government regulation, privileges, tariffs or subsidies. He does not believe that government should interfere in business operations.

He reminds Ontario residents of another laissez-faire advocate, a former Premier of Ontario Mike Harris. Mr. Harris cut everything he could to show that regulation and inspection was not necessary. He ended up with an outbreak of E-coli in Walkerton, Ontario because nobody was properly checking the water supply from the town’s wells. His careless ideology and money saving killed seven and made some 2300 people sick. There are still many people in that part of the province reluctant to drink the water.

Maybe some of those people who intend to vote Conservative on October 19 should think a little more about what they are voting for. It is obvious that Mr. Harper is not interested in preventing manufacturers from lying to you. He does not really want to spend too much on food inspectors to assure you safe food. He does not want to protect the environment or have too many regulations for trains.

In fact, Mr. Harper does not give a damn about your concerns.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Mulcair flogs a dead plan for the Senate.

Monday, September 28th, 2015

When you know that you cannot possibly achieve your objective, why try to sell it? Obviously New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair is no salesman. A good sales person knows that when something is impossible, you start investigating possible work-arounds to address the issue. Mulcair is lying to Canadians that he has a solution for the Senate and he does not seem to care that the one lie taints his other promises.

What Mulcair fully understands is that Quebec will never agree to simply abolishing the Senate. Quebec and Ontario are each guaranteed 24 seats in the Senate and any change that is to be made requires the agreement of the provinces. Canada has a bicameral government under a Constitutional Monarchy and its constitution requires the agreement of both the House of Commons and the Senate to pass legislation for Royal Assent.

But there are work-arounds to the Senate problem. The Canadian public has come to despise the Senate because it is seen as a sinecure for party hacks to whom the current Prime Minister is beholden. Its reputation has been seriously tarnished and nobody seems to have a workable solution to the problems. One of the major problems is that few provinces will agree to just changing the Senate. Once the Pandora’s box of constitutional change is brought up, everybody thinks they are a horse trader.

One solution we have been thinking about is having the Senate become a proportional representation of the House of Commons. It could be completely renewed after each federal election. This would involve having proposed Senators selected after each federal election based on the share of vote of their party. In this way the party that won a majority of seats in the House of Commons with 40 per cent of the popular vote would only have 40 per cent of the seats in the Senate.

This would restore the balance while leaving Canadians with their members of parliament responsible to the electors of their ridings. Senators would be tasked to represent their party in the Senate but serving to review and revise legislation as a sober second look. As long as the Prime Minister sponsored the actual appointments on the advice of party leaders and they were eligible to serve for the different provinces, it would not require a constitutional amendment. Having each Senator sign an agreement to resign when a federal election is next called would end the appointment to age 75 problem.

With this system, we can address both the call for Senate reform and proportional representation. Parties would only offer their best and brightest for the Senate and it would become a productive partner to the House of Commons.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Jason Kenney is showing his fear.

Sunday, September 27th, 2015

Any political apparatchik has to handle his or her share of losses. You can keep winning for a while and then you have to take one on the chin. It is how you handle that loss that shows what you are made of. That is why we have come to the conclusion that Calgary Tory candidate Jason Kenney is not made of the right stuff. He is showing fear. He is striking out wildly. He is looking like he is made of Jell-O made with too much water—little flavour, no substance.

Kenney must miss John Baird, the other member of Mr. Harper’s faithful Bobbsey Twins team. Baird left politics and his job as foreign affairs minister earlier this year.

As Mr. Harper’s go-to guy to fix problems, Kenney is not just losing his touch. He seems to have lost all sense of reality. First of all, he called his own news conference to respond to Justin Trudeau’s introduction of the Liberal family reunification plan for immigration. The Liberal plan was to simply speed up the process.

But according to Kenney the Liberals are going to do away with prudent checking of whether people are jihadists or not. He went on to say that in Syria many of the refugee claimants have relatives fighting against the government of Bashar al-Assad. That makes them all jihadists in Kenney’s estimation.

But it got worse. In a rambling answer to a question about the fact that most Canadians are in favour of decriminalising marijuana he claimed that “Unlike Justin Trudeau, we don’t think marijuana should be sold in convenience stores.” That gem came as quite a surprise to those who know about Mr. Trudeau’s stand on decriminalising pot.

But then Kenney went on saying that the Liberal Leader wants to force communities to establish illegal drug injection sites. Since the media were quite sure that the Liberals had never even suggested communities be forced to have legal sites for this purpose, they were sniffing the air wondering what the Tory minister had been smoking.

But Kenney topped it all by saying “He (Trudeau) also wants to force communities to accept brothels.” This silly lie topped them all.

And that was when it started to make sense to the news media. They were watching fear replace reason. Kenney had finally realised that the Conservatives were going to lose the election. The free foreign travel and other perquisites of office were threatened. He was now aware of what John Baird, Peter MacKay, James Moore and others knew when they quit the government early. The Harper government is toast.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

And the Hair in his Niqab.

Saturday, September 26th, 2015

When covering one’s face becomes a pivotal question in an election campaign, you know that Canadian politics has arrived at an all-time low. Thanks to the Prime Minister, we have reached out to include bigotry in the federal election. The Hair had this subject at the ready for the first French-language debate. He wanted to play it to the ingrained racism of the Québécois. He has his wish.

But is the niqab really the point of this argument? The niqab is the face covering effected by Muslim women from some primitive and sexist countries. It is only considered religious garb in the sense that the Prophet Muhammad told women to be modest in their dress and demeanour. The niqab supposedly allows women to go out to the market or the local well for water without being accosted, called to lewdly or otherwise affronted by men wanting sex.

But is there a point to wearing a niqab in Canada? It might be a fashion statement for a woman. It is not like the head scarf a woman might wear to her hairdresser’s.

But there are times in Canada when a niqab is not appropriate. Modesty comes second in a life-saving situation in a hospital trauma centre. It is also assumed that people do not like to see masks in a bank. Courts can sometimes require easy identification. Otherwise, usually nobody cares.

But if you really want to confuse the issue, Canada only needs to offer asylum to tribes of Tuareg Berbers from the Sahara region of North Africa. It is the Tuareg men who wear veils and it is considered to shame them for it to be removed. Their veils are dyed with indigo and the dye turns the lower half of their faces blue.

A mask is a sign of stealth and deception in North America. It certainly is not the sudden rising of a super hero. Yes, opinion polls, as inaccurate as they might be, do suggest that most Canadians would prefer a person not wear a veil at a citizenship ceremony. And please remember that these trumped up ceremonies are just that—a ceremony to honour the people receiving their citizenship. It is a nice touch. It adds a bit of class.

But for the Hair to fight the Supreme Court on this issue is despicable. He is denigrating us. He is saying we support his bigotry. If one foolish woman thinks she is making a point by wearing a veil to her citizenship ceremony, she has a long way to go before becoming a real Canadian.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

The Candidate: What it is all about.

Friday, September 25th, 2015

Part 10 of our series for Canada’s federal candidates.

Do you want the good news or the bad news? The problem is, the news is the same either way. Ready or not, voting starts in two weeks. Advance voting starts on October 9 and you have to be ready for it. All the work of months comes down to a very nerve-wracking few days.

Advance voting is no longer just for those who might be away for the voting on October 19. It is for anybody who wants to vote early. And Elections Canada gives us five days to take advantage of it from October 9 to October 13. You can even vote by snail mail now. (Elections Canada is caught in the past; no e-mails or Internet voting yet!)

What the candidate and his or her team need to realize is that the advance polls give you a good warm-up to the final push on October 19. This is what all those months of work were about. At this stage you had better have many thousands of your voters identified and ready to vote for you. You have to make sure they do and there is nothing wrong with phoning them and suggest they vote early. And that 18-year old first-time voter needs just as much urging and hand-holding as the septuagenarian.

To do this right you need to stand your campaign organization on its head. For the last couple weeks, your office workers have been creating marked lists, the E-day chair has lined up your workers in starting times on each of the election days, located regionally convenient headquarters ordered the lunches for workers and allocated staff to them. Every person who has contributed an hour of their time to the campaign whether on signs or literature drops is assigned a role.

The campaign manager is left with a few key workers to look after E-day problems but everyone else concentrates on making sure of your vote. Everyone contributes their time, gas for their car, cell phone for calls and pitches in. There are no prim donnas on E-day. The candidate is usually given a job as a driver.

At the end of the day, when people gather at victory party central, nobody takes the victory as a given. The sign crew is out taking down the signs and storing them in case there is a next time. The campaign manager is contemplating the dispersal of the detritus of a campaign headquarters. With our first-past-the-post system of voting there is still only one winner. And to the victor goes more hard work.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

If you care about Canada; you hate the Hair.

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

Adding an adhesive strip with just the name Harper to stop signs is defacing the traffic sign but it is a poignant plea to fellow Canadians. It also shows the extent of the anger that is part of this election campaign. It might also show the error made by Toronto Star reporter Susan Delacourt in her book Shopping for Votes: How Politicians Choose Us and We Choose Them. If there is any justice served in this federal election, we will find that the hard work involved in creating consensus among Canadians can be worth it.

Delacourt’s book is about the cynical use of niche marketing by politicians and particularly Canadian Conservatives. It is no new discovery. Over 50 years ago we were determining individual voters’ concerns and addressing them. The Conservatives combined niche marketing with the Big Lie that was used to advantage by Josef Goebbels in Germany in the 1920s and 30s. We know that it still works on the uncaring. When you hear people repeating phrases from attack advertising, you realize the real corruption of our politics is ignorance.

But you can never give up on hope. It is the one ingredient in politics that the Hair and his sycophants cannot deny us. He cannot stop Canadians from standing in front of a climate destroying pipeline. He cannot deny Canadian generosity when masses of refugees are scrabbling across Europe. He cannot create fear of the unknown that scares children but not adults. And we will never let him attack our rights and freedoms.

Delacourt divides us into those who belong to niche markets and those who do not. She says that there are people who will satisfy their wants first at the expense of others. She must believe that the Hair’s pandering to the Israelis will pay off in a few predominantly Jewish ridings in Toronto and Montreal. We will see if that works.

It will be less evident if the Hair’s niche pandering works with the Ukrainian Diaspora across Canada. While they are many, their votes are not as concentrated.

The alternative to this niche marketing is the tough sledding involved in putting together a broad consensus or a national vision. That might just be the hard way but you will be able to live with yourself in the morning sunlight.

So far in this election, we have seen Justin Trudeau break from the pack to say that some deficits can help our young people get decent jobs, kick-start our economy and address the infrastructure deficit in this country. That is a good start. That takes guts. He needs to stay on that track with verve and vision.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

The Hair as a hawk.

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

It could not have been better news from Justin Trudeau. He came out flatly saying that he would stop wasting money on the development and procurement of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 stealth fighter for Canada. It was the kind of decisive statement that you expect from a Trudeau. What is even better; he is absolutely right.

Trudeau drew another firm line between the prime minister and that other guy and himself. For years now, those who understand what Canada’s air force needs have been struggling with the Conservative’s preference for a single-engine stealth fighter. It simply does not make sense.

The F-35 is a short-range attack aircraft when Canada needs long-range reconnaissance aircraft. And why we would need stealth fighters to protect our country is a mystery.

But for the first time, the prime minister has provided his rationale. It seems that the Hair is a hawk. He wants to go to war against other countries. He points to the bombing missions Canada’s F-18 fighters flew in Libya and more recently in Iraq. He wants an aircraft to be part of flying with the Americans in their wars. He does not seem to want to pick his own wars but is happy to fly along with the Americans.

The Hair must think the Americans will reciprocate on this and protect our Arctic for us. That would involve letting American patrol aircraft fly over our Arctic. If we allowed that there might be more questions about whom our Arctic really belongs to.

Mind you, the Hair does seem to forget that the Canadian navy needs boats and the army needs tanks and troop carriers and other equipment. And planes, boats and ground equipment all cost billions and billions of dollars.

But our hawkish Hair is also complaining that the Liberal leader is destroying the chances for Canadian companies to get contracts to supply parts and systems for the F-35. Since most of these companies are American owned, they are only located in Canada to take advantage of the Canada-U.S. defence production agreements. They will get their share of the contracts no matter what company supplies the right aircraft to Canada.

One can only wonder why the Hair is so virulent in his defence of the F-35. He obviously knows little about the needs of Canada’s air force and less about how countries share defence contracts. Other than that, it is fun to see him so shrill about it!

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

The problem is still Quebec, Justin.

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

It was obvious from the beginning of this extra long federal election campaign that the advantage was to Liberal Justin Trudeau. Here we are down to the last four weeks of the campaign and he is the Energizer Bunny—still fresh and eager—while Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair are wilting. There is no time to rest now. The campaign has turned the last curve and the political parties are in the final stretch.

The question now is not whether the Liberals can win a minority. That is obvious. The question is whether the Liberals can turn Quebec around. The Quebec vote is the key to a majority. At the moment Thomas Mulcair’s New Democrats are sitting on the old separatist vote and neither Gilles Duceppe’s Bloc Québécois nor Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are shaking them loose.

Mulcair has promised the old separatists that he will throw out the Liberal Clarity Act that Jean Chrétien ‘imposed’ on them to keep referendum questions fair and the count something more than 50 per cent plus one.

But Mulcair cannot keep this duplicity secret from the voters in Ontario who he thinks do not care about his Quebec strategy. It is costing him the votes he needed in Ontario.

But how Trudeau expects to turn the tide in Quebec is still a mystery. His key campaign strategists are Katie Telford and Gerald Butts. What either of them understands about Quebec is very much open to question. The key campaign guy for the Liberals in Quebec is likely a guy named Dan Gagnier. Dan is basically a civil servant who has worked for the federal government and the governments of Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec. Besides being chair of private sector Alcan, he was most recently chief of staff for Quebec’s Premier Jean Charest.

We will give Dan and Justin this as a freebee: they need a big idea. That is what they need to consolidate the base Liberal strength in Ontario and Quebec. There are two ideas that can be proposed. Number one is the idea of a high-speed electrified rail corridor from Quebec City to Windsor, Ontario. With Quebec engineering and electricity and Ontario’s trains, that could be accomplished over the next dozen years.

The second big idea is free university across Canada. This is a country that can no longer give up on its youth. The simple promise is that if you pass, it is free. The dividends to our country will be endless.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Closer to home: Barrie-Innisfil.

Monday, September 21st, 2015

In checking out the two gerrymandered federal electoral districts in Barrie, we find that one riding is about as badly off as the other. Each riding is about two-thirds urban and one-third rural. Every one thinks those rural voters are all die-hard Conservatives. The surprise is that they might not be. The new riding for the south half of Barrie might surprise the pundits.

This was the part of the Barrie riding that appealed to Ontario Conservative Leader Patrick Brown when he was still a do-nothing federal Conservative. The mistake was made when Brown went to Queen’s Park as a provincial Conservative, the Tories had to quickly fill the slot. They picked a Barrie fire-fighter who is a municipal councillor. That seems to be the tradition here in Barrie. Conservative councillors are expected to go on to better salaries in Ottawa or Queen’s Park. There might be a problem with that though in the Innisfil area.

A few years ago the Ontario government allowed Barrie Council to annex a large area of land that previously belonged to Innisfil. The Innisfil citizens who disliked that land grab now get to meet the Barrie councillor who voted for that land grab ever step of the way. They should have a special welcome for him.

Another problem for him is a special welcome from a community called Sandycove Acres. This area is 300 acres of affordable housing in Innisfil that is a well-established adult type community with prefabricated housing. Many of these home owners can appreciate the anguish of the residents of the Burton Avenue Trailer Park in Barrie when the Barrie councillors voted to evict them from what was effectively the last affordable housing property in Barrie. The Conservative candidate voted for that eviction leaving more than 100 residents with nowhere else to go.

This is the same Conservative candidate who gave a harangue to a seniors’ audience last week about politicians going around offering goodies to Canadians for their vote in the October 19 election. He could have been more specific as at about the same time as he was saying this in Barrie, his Leader Stephen Harper was offering single seniors in Vancouver a tax credit if they elected a Conservative government.

If this guy is so unlucky as to be elected on October 19, He is going to need supplementary oxygen he will be seated so far back in the House of Commons away from his leader.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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