Archive for October, 2015

What Wynne machine?

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

Giving Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne any credit for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s win in Ontario the other day is like suggesting that a windmill helped create the wind. There is little question but that politically Ontario’s premier needs Justin Trudeau far more than he needs her.

In the appearances the Ontario premier made in support of the federal Liberals during the campaign, the people were there to support the candidates. The premier was not even window dressing. She was just another huckster.

In the coming month, the new Prime Minister will be asking the premiers from across the country to meet with him to plan a joint approach to the Paris meeting of the United Nations Climate Change Conference at the end of November. If he can achieve unanimity with the premiers, the world will see a surprisingly different Canada at the conference.

What Wynne wants mostly from Trudeau is for the federal government to take over the file on an improved Canada Pension Plan. While any change will require the approval of the other provinces, Trudeau and Wynne can double team to make the sale. Despite the Ontario-only version of this being much further along than any federal involvement, Wynne will have had more thorough analysis of costs and will want to bow out.

Wynne’s government is also counting on relief from the federal government on infrastructure spending. The other premiers will be competing with her for the money. As much as she might think that Ontario should get to the head of the line, there is really little Wynne can offer Trudeau politically. She has her own problems.

The honeymoon is long over between Ontario voters and Wynne’s Whigs. While the opposition will continue to scratch the scabs of the gas plant fiasco, inflame the rural arguments against clean energy, Wynne’s people are doing more harm to themselves with the wrong turn on Hydro One. Privatizing and selling off part of Hydro One will be the Sword of Damocles hanging over the Ontario Liberals.

We need to separate Wynne and Trudeau in our minds. They are not the same kind of Liberals. There is always the doubt that Wynne is liberal. We know for sure that she is no leader.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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Win some; lose some.

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

It is the morning after the federal election and there are a series of thoughts to share. They are somewhat disconnected. They range from Peter Mansbridge’s tennis shoes to John Tory’s toupee. Maybe the excitement last night was too much for us.

John Tory’s toupee was new last year for his run for the Toronto mayoralty. It looked much better than the old one. His problem is that as mayor he does too many outdoor events and without a staff hairdresser, he is taking serious chances. There is nowhere near the interest in John Tory’s hair piece as there was in Stephen Harper’s. Since first writing about the famous Harper Hair in the summer of 2012, more than 15,000 first time visitors have come to Babel-on-the-Bay to check out the Hair.

The original comment about the Staten Island ferry and machine politics is somehow credited to Franklin Roosevelt. It was about the amount of floating garbage that washes into the shore when a large ferry docks. The point is that when you have a turnaround such as October 19, you get the bad mixed with the good. It is like getting a problem such as Bill Blair calling himself a Liberal and winning in Scarborough.

At the same time, an out-of-touch Olivia Chow had no concept of the difference all those condominiums made in Spadina-Fort York. Liberal Adam Vaughan had no problem beating the New Democrat icon.

Watching the sweep of the Atlantic Provinces last night gave us just a small taste of the evening to come. We expected the win, not the crushing of the vanquished.

But reality was our home riding. The carefully gerrymandered Barrie ridings did what the Conservatives wanted. In this writer’s new electoral district a highly qualified Liberal candidate was defeated by 110 votes out of more than 40,000 cast. The voters in Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte sent a non-entity to Ottawa to support a Conservative machine that no longer exists.

From the Ontario-Manitoba border on west, the election unfolded much more as we expected. It is nice to see a few Liberal seats in Alberta and Saskatchewan. And British Columbia did us proud with about half the seats going Liberal.

A reader sent an e-mail yesterday saying she expected a majority. So did Babel-on-the-Bay. We just did not want to appear pushy.

Flipping channels last night did not lead us to praise any network. We did notice the day before, when they were practicing for the big night, that the CBC’s Peter Mansbridge was wearing white tennis shoes behind that desk.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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Cheer tonight: the real work starts tomorrow.

Monday, October 19th, 2015

Everything seems to say we were right in our morning line. The odds in early September on which party will win were 3 to one in favour of the Trudeau Liberals and we have never had reason to doubt that prediction. The unbroken streak of predicted wins for Babel-on-the-Bay appears to be continuing. Rather than feeling tired from this long election period, we feel invigorated. There will be lots of work for a new government.

Mind you, there is little expectation of a majority. A turnaround on that scale in both Quebec and British Columbia seems unlikely. And it would take a major shift in either or both those provinces to give the Liberals more than 170 seats. With a majority government the objectives would be the same but more leisurely. The following priority items are likely to be crammed into two years rather than four:

First there is the question about how we vote. With a minority, the New Democrats will make a change in voting one of their demands. They want to change the first-past-the-post to some form of preferential or proportional voting. Since the Trudeau Liberals have also promised to study this, there will be some action. While it might not be a constitutional question, both Ontario and British Columbia have asked their voters if they want to make a change and both proposals have been rejected. It would be foolish to make a change federally without asking the voters’ opinion.

Bill C-36 was the Conservative answer to the Supreme Court on the sex trade and few expect the judges to agree with it. It is an act that says the buyer is the bad person and it solves nothing. It leaves the sex worker in jeopardy. This needs to be fixed fast.

Similarly there is a deadline on the Supreme Court’s request for clarification on physician-assisted suicide. This will require extensive committee hearings to get the wording right. While the court might allow some more time for a new government, it will hardly be longer than two years.

Just as urgent politically is the Senate problem. The New Democrats want it simply abolished and that cannot happen without a constitutional change. The Liberal solution is an elitist committee to recommend elitist senators and that will please nobody but a few elite senators. We have an idea that might just fix this and we will spend some time talking about it over the next couple months.

The Liberals also have to fix that awful Bill-C51 terrorism act that they voted for. If they do not give it priority there will be as many Liberals shouting at them as New Democrats. It will be a busy time in Ottawa.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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But the Hair is the Conservative Party.

Sunday, October 18th, 2015

Nobody expects humour on the editorial pages of Toronto’s Globe and Mail. The old and creaky building on Front Street has never had time for humour while reporting on the financial health of the nation. And it will never do to set the nabobs of Bay Street laughing. And that was what happened last Friday when the lead editorial suggested that the Conservative Party could rule if they just got rid of the incumbent prime minister.

Every time you spend a minute or so contemplating that piece of wisdom, you end up confused. The problem is not in removing the Hair. We absolutely agree with that. The problem is contemplating what is left.

Is there any other substance to the party left if the Hair is removed? Where we live there are new candidates for the Conservative Party. They are non-entities and only running to support the Hair’s program. They are neither thinkers nor doers. They are zombies. What kind of a party is that to vote for?

Look at the Hair’s cabinet. His Finance Minister will not even win his Toronto riding. The guy who delivered the Progressive Conservatives to the Hair’s Alliance/Reform was Elmer MacKay’s son Peter. He betrayed the soft heart of the Conservative Party and has quit politics as of this election.

And where are John Baird, James Moore and others who might be capable of a coherent thought? There is no potential cabinet in that novitiate of nobodies.

You simply cannot re-elect the Hair and you can hardly give the Conservatives another mandate without the Hair. And if the Globe and Mail is thinking Minister of Everything-Else Jason Kenney can fill the breach, we have a serious problem.

The Globe and Mail is building this silly house of cards based on the supposed strength of the Conservatives in managing Canada’s economy. This is a strange appeal they find in lying, cheating and stealing. The Hair has been managing our way to the poorhouse. You cannot seriously say that a Canadian economy based on exploiting the Athabasca tar sands is an effective long-term strategy.

And as much as the Globe and Mail espouses laissez-faire economics, it is not working worth a damn for Canadians. After nine years of watching the Hair at work, the Globe and Mail needs to understand that leadership of a nation has to include caring about the citizens. We do not live well just on supposed economic success.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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Running for the Roses.

Saturday, October 17th, 2015

The horses have rounded the final curve and it is a straight run to the finish line. It is a time when jockeys whisper, whip or whine to encourage their mount. It is when the handicappers close their eyes and shudder at the possible outcomes of their folly. That damn horse is running as hard as he or she can and cannot hear your prayers.

Nor can God. The late Senator Keith Davey used to tell us though that if your numbers are above 35 per cent and rising just before election day, you were heading for a majority win. And that is where Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is heading. He has the wind at his back and it might all come down to good weather on October 19. He has added hundreds of thousands of volunteers to the Liberal teams across Canada whose hard work is needed to get out the vote.

We have been kidding throughout this campaign that Justin is going to win this campaign all by himself—one selfie at a time. He has been indefatigable.

But a majority is only something of hopes. Justin is the campaigner that we all wanted his father to be. Pierre Trudeau was austere, intellectual and aloof when his son can simply turn on the charm and work a room like he loves and needs the support of every person there. He was the only leader in this election who could fill an arena with thousands of supporters and have them screaming for more. Pierre Trudeau should have seen how his three grandchildren calmly handled the hysteria when they were brought to the stage with their mother and father.

The ignorance and scurrilous lies of the Conservatives in this past week as they see their control falling to another party have not really been directed at Trudeau’s voters. The Conservatives are desperately trying to shore up their own vote to try to hold to at least a minority position. The niqab seems forgotten as the ludicrous proposal of a new government mandating whore houses is being threatened at the door step. There has been no discussion in this campaign of the Supreme Court’s demand for the government to take a clearer view of the rights of women in the sex trade. The solution is obviously being left to the new government but it will take a lot of good will and modern thinking to bring about an acceptable resolution.

Some pollsters are already making predictions of a Liberal majority on October 20. That would rate as one of the most dramatic turnarounds in Canadian political history but it would hardly displease us.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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Dan Gagnier did nothing wrong.

Friday, October 16th, 2015

As was explained by Babel-on-the-Bay a few times, Trudeau campaign co-chair Dan Gagnier was an unusual choice for a campaign management team. Yet we regret that he has chosen to leave the Liberal campaign under suspicion of a conflict of interest. He has always seemed to be an honourable person. He is just one of the least political people we have ever met in politics.

Dan is a civil servant. He has had senior civil service experience in Saskatchewan, Ontario, Ottawa and Quebec City as well as having served in foreign service positions for External Affairs. In the private sector he has been a vice-president for Alcan and is currently the board chair. Dan serves on many prestigious boards and among them he is president of the Energy Policy Institute of Canada.

It is his role on the Energy Policy Institute that caused his departure from the Liberal campaign team. This institute is considered by many environmentally concerned people to be a front for the various companies involved in exploiting Canada’s tar sands. It is certainly well funded by them.

But Dan was criticized for doing nothing other than what any well-placed and conscientious civil servant would do. He advised TransCanada Corp.—the people behind the Energy East pipeline and the Keystone XL pipeline—on how to lobby any new federal government. He told them nothing other than any knowledgeable government lobbyist could tell them. He just said it with more authority.

When meeting Dan almost 30 years ago, he was an activist deputy minister in Ontario. He was not one of those who waited for the world to come to them. Dan took an interest in his job, worked to get things done and took an interest in things political even back then. Before leaving Ontario, he had risen to be chief of staff of the premier.

Chief of staff is a highly political position. You are expected to be able to advise your boss with both a logistical and political viewpoint. And while few would be privy to what was happening in the premier’s office, it was a time when Premier David Peterson made the mistakes that ended his time as premier. He obviously took very bad advice on the Meech Lake Accord and his role in the constitutional talks at the time were contrary to the attitudes of English-speaking Ontario. When he called a snap election in 1990, just three years into his mandate, it seemed arrogant to the voters and Peterson was tossed.

That was also when Dan Gagnier headed off to Ottawa. Working in both Ottawa and Quebec City since then, you can get very good advice from him on government relations. Mind you, political advice might not be his strong suit!


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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The Hair needs the Fords?

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

Recently we were writing about bumper-sticker campaigning. Nothing seems to say this better when six days before the election, the Ford brothers come out to help the Hair campaign in Toronto’s Etobicoke. And it is hard to say who is joining who at the bottom of the dumpster?

There is no question that Torontonian’s know Rob and Doug Ford better than they know the prime minister. The former mayor and present councillor and his brother the former councillor are still considered to be power house politicos in Etobicoke. They call their followers ‘Ford Nation.’ It is a rag-tag collection of suburbanites kept angry and on edge by the antics of their heroes, the Fords.

Rob Ford actually made it all the way to the mayor’s chair in Canada’s largest city. He is loud; he is crude; he told the media that he used crack cocaine; and he is an embarrassment to the city. He is also one of the best ward-healer politicians we have ever seen in action.

Rob Ford’s claim to fame is that his father left him and his brother with a company and lots of money. It bought Rob Ford a career at the low-end of politics. He became noted for always calling a constituent back. He was responsive and people bought into that. It was not that he was more effective—he was just bombastic. He brought a lot of notoriety to Toronto as mayor. Not much of it was good for the city.

It was a bout with cancer that took Rob Ford out of the mayoralty race for a second term and it was his brother Doug who tried to succeed him. Doug Ford has all the political savvy of bulldozer and his campaign went nowhere. He wanted to run as a Conservative in the last provincial election and found they did not want him.

But the bugle call went out to the Fords the other day. Their friend the prime minister is in a losing campaign—could they rally their troops in Etobicoke? It was one of those staged rallies with just party faithful admitted, to cheer on cue and wave party signs for the media. The best cheers were when the Ford boys were introduced. It was a lacklustre event. The Fords are last year’s players.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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They promise to be interesting times.

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015

The supposed Chinese curse “May you live in interesting times” is neither Chinese nor really a curse. Many of us revel in a hectic and exciting life and we would have it no other way. And we are quite likely to get our wish in the next few years as Canada’s parliament heads for a time of transition and turmoil.

What we know for sure about next Monday’s election is that there appears to be no way that the Conservatives can hang on to power. We will have stopped Stephen Harper. He has bruised and twisted our national psyche to the point that there is a palpable hatred for him in many parts of the country. And never has there been a more pleasant task for civil servants in Ottawa than preparing the ministerial briefing books for the possibility of a new government.

For the Conservative party, there will be a time of renewal. Mr. Harper will fade into history. Mind you, unless the progressives who remain in that party do not recognize the need for a more enlightened conservatism, the party will continue to wallow in the maelstrom of extremism. And many have serious reason to choke at the thought of Jason Kenney driving the Conservative bus into a failing future.

The only regret we might have is that the New Democrats will be once again relegated to the ranks of the third party. It is a well worn rut for them. And they do handle it well.

But it would be a shame for Thomas Mulcair not to ensure a lasting legacy for himself in bringing the NDP into a union as a social democratic party with the Liberals. It has to be understood that Canada does not seem to handle a three-party system well. The sight of grown-ups racing around the country in this overly long election bribing Canadians with their own money has left a bad taste that could last for a long time.

And the opportunity is now. Mr. Mulcair is not long for federal politics. He was a fine leader of the opposition but a poor campaigner. A minority Liberal government needs his support and we will have at least two years to make the changes that are needed. We can look at re-orientating our politics in Canada—our political parties, how we vote and how our government functions.

We particularly have to restore democracy in our political parties. The power of the prime minister’s office alone is a very serious threat to a democratic future. We have to re-engage Canadians in the political process so that they can participate more often than just going to the polls every few years.

We should all be looking forward to these interesting times!


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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The only poll that matters.

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

The rollercoaster ride in this federal election has been the provided by the pollsters. They are guilty of creating more confusion, consternation, calculation crises and constipation than at any time in history. The only consolation seems to be that as their polls get wilder, they are also cheaper and frankly you get what you are paying for. It all goes to prove that the only poll that matters is the one on election day.

In times gone by we could get some reasonably accurate results from randomly selected home telephones. It was also a time when we used trained interviewers. And yet it was still the analysis that made the difference. Raw data from the calls were useless until you had balanced the demographics and weighed them against the analysis of previous voting. It was this analysis that we argued over and spent the most time on confirming.

It is amazing the times though when you picked up some literature and a clip board and went out to prove the conclusions. We would pick representative demographics in a riding and knock on the door for the candidate to confirm the polling. That was in the day when we were within a two per cent margin of error.

Today’s margin of error seems to be exceeding ten per cent (ten times out of ten). Cell phones have created an abyss of information from the younger generations. Some polls read as though they are just hoping nobody under 30 votes. And when they do, all bets are off.

And this is hardly helped by people pushing strategic voting. They think the time for strategic voting has come. The only problem is who do you trust to be able to vote strategically with confidence? Who is second, who is third and whose vote can help?

In Ontario has our local riding right. If as much as 20 per cent of possible NDP voters switched to the Liberal, the Liberal win would be guaranteed. As things stand, we are calling it an even money bet between the Conservative and the Liberal. There is no chance for the Green, NDP, Libertarian or independent candidates.

It helps locally that anyone who knows the Conservative and Liberal candidates realize that there is no comparison as to what they can do for the riding. The Liberal is the highly regarded president emeritus of the local community college who has an outstanding record of work for the community. The Conservative has only served with little notice on City council and has had a series of private sector jobs.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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With thanks to the Hair.

Monday, October 12th, 2015

This has been the weekend for firming up the opinions and decisions on our federal election in Canada. We are in the last week of a long and exhausting campaign. And it is all thanks to the Hair. He set the election date. He called for the writ early in an attempt to beggar the other parties. He put his ideology ahead of the concerns of Canadians. It is all contributing to the downfall of the Hair. We can thank the perpetrator for the outcome.

From a position of almost total control of the campaign two months ago, the Hair is on his knees. And for him, that is not a position of prayer. He has exhausted his repertoire, he has failed in his rhetoric, he has wasted his resources and he has been found wanting.

Talking to many Canadians over this weekend, the young at a family wedding, friends in the city, friends here in Barrie, the air seems to becoming cleaner already. We all know why the lines are long at the advance polls over this weekend.

If it takes a foolish woman with her niqab to bring down the Hair, so be it. It is not an argument of any merit. He has already been exposed for what he is by a picture of a child lying dead on a far-away beach.

A lot of confidence is being shown in Justin Trudeau. The Liberals chose him in desperation. The Hair raised him to stardom. If you slander an opponent, you have to understand how your own supporters will react. You embarrass your supporters at your peril. And the more you sling mud, the more that splatters on you.

And as predicted, Trudeau has proved he is the Energizer Bunny of the 2015 campaign. He is still beating that Liberal drum that few were listening to at the beginning of the campaign. Now he is drumming in the stragglers. He wants to keep drumming for a majority government. It is in sight.

The vaunted Orange Wave has crashed on the rocky reality of Quebec politics. Thomas Mulcair does not want to come third. And nobody wants the Bloc to once again obstruct the working of parliament for narrow objectives.

There will be no Hallelujah pass for the Hair in this political season. His time is over.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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