Archive for January, 2016

Postmedia should axe Paul Godfrey.

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

Watching Postmedia bleed red ink is a Canadian pastime on the scale of the vanishing tar sands and those perennial losers, Toronto’s hockey team. The difference is that the tar sands were done in by the Saudis and the Maple Leaf team owners do not care because the fans pay anyway. It is Paul Godfrey’s failed temple of debt that is helping destroy the last vestiges of newspaper readership in Canada.

It is those who let CEO Godfrey acquire the Sun Media chain last year who accelerated the demise. Adding debt on debt is never a wise move. Maybe he thought if he created something that no sensible business person would want to touch, he would be safe.

But Godfrey is taking down the better with the worse. Last time this household tried to end the Toronto Star’s ownership of our breakfast table, we tried the National Post. In a week, the Star was back where it belonged.

Yet we have always liked Postmedia’s Ottawa Citizen. Its editors and writers understand Ottawa. Conversely the Ottawa Sun seems to understand nothing and shares that understanding with the hoi polloi. It is like most other Sun papers that are produced for those who move their lips as they read—the newsprint absorbs the slobber.

And Godfrey announces that he is combining these newsrooms in Ottawa and elsewhere where he can. It is typical right-wing thinking. If he can just get rid of enough of the workers, profit is just around the corner. If they just got rid of Godfrey profit might even be possible.

In all the years that Paul was in the newspaper business you would think he would have understood some of the trends. There is lots of competition for attention out there. There are new generations who would rather exchange information through Facebook and Twitter. Their attention span is measured in seconds not a half hour of paging through a newspaper. And tabloids are more fun to read than metros.

Competition today is not a better social app. It is attention, need, educating, societal need and advancing our society. Are you growing our society or are you pandering to it?

Give it up Paul. It is time you took the millions you have taken out of the newspaper business, shut up shop, retire to that gated community in Florida and leave the business of communications to those who care.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

A path for New Democrat Mulcair.

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

This might generate more sour e-mails from annoyed socialists but it needs to be said: New Democrat Leader Tom Mulcair does have a role to play in Canadian politics. While Babel-on-the-Bay knew his mission to keep the NDP in second place in parliament was doomed throughout 2015, we hold to our suggestion of the time. He has a role to play in bringing the social democrats of his party into the Liberal Party of Canada.

And that can be done with pride. As a federal Liberal, Tom Mulcair has much to offer the Liberals and the Liberal government. He has much to offer our country.

The very fact that Mulcair’s New Democrats held on to 16 of the seats in Quebec that were at risk in the October election shows a strength that was unexpected. While holding those seats was more because of the four-way vote split, that also tells you something.

While this writer might be identified by some writers as a “promiscuous progressive” we do not consider Liberals and New Democrats to be interchangeable. They bring different strengths to the table. It is the combination of NDP social activism and Liberal individual rights that will create a powerful social democrat or liberal democratic party.

The public perception that the New Democrats are going nowhere is one created by the NDP itself. It was almost impossible for the Canadian voter to follow the meanderings of NDP federal campaign of 2015. In trying to move to the middle of the political spectrum, the party lost touch with its base. It was hardly the party Canadians have respected since the days of Tommy Douglas.

In many ways, the Trudeau campaign ran to the political left of the New Democrats. It was a replay of the fiasco in Ontario the year before when the provincial New Democrats lost direction and the election to Ontario’s so-called Liberals.

You would think that political people across Canada would have learned the basics of political strategy from Stephen Harper. Whether right or wrong, the voters clearly understood what they were getting from Harper’s Conservatives. The NDP confused us.

It was the same pattern as we saw earlier last year when Notley’s Alberta NDP defeated a split right wing. The provincial Liberals were missing in action and Alberta voters had a clear choice.

The reason there was no strategic voting on October 19 was because it had already happened. The voters had picked the Trudeau Liberals. Those moveable votes had already moved.

The next step is to bring the social democratic New Democrats into the Liberal tent.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Rosie jumps in where soldiers fear to tread.

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016

The Toronto Star’s Rosie DiManno has all the answers about the war against the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Her advice to the new Trudeau government ran Monday in the Star. Keep our F-18s in the Mid-East she advises. She has little understanding of what that costs and the small amount of success we achieve.

In her usual 800-plus words of turgid prose, Rosie actually demonstrates how little she understands her subject. She uses Department of Defence news release statistics to further the fiction that Canada is performing above its weight class. She makes the obvious point that air power does not win wars unless you have boots on the ground.

But then she gives the air strikes the credit for the Iraqi and Kurdish gains against ISIL. Despite the propaganda from ISIL, its troops are not trained in traditional warfare. They are pick-up squads of ill-trained religious fanatics fighting a holy war that they little understand. They rarely collect in sizeable mobs to be bombed unless there is opportunity for rape and pillage or they are listening to the exhortations of their warped imans.

A troop movement for ISIL is whomever can pile on to the back of an old pickup truck and drive the fastest to where their erratic leaders think they might be needed. While you should never underestimate your enemy, you can look just as stupid if you overestimate them. When you say that ISIL has a conventional command-and-control structure, you should add from which century. Frankly the ancient Romans might have had better command-and-control structures than these braggarts from ISIL.

Despite the examples of expensive guided bombs successfully killing a few people on the ground, the entire exercise in Iraq and the Levant is overkill. The amount of ground support required just to maintain those aging F-18s cannot be justified. We would be far better off fighting ISIL with World War II aircraft that were slower and better designed for ground support. We can always bring in the modern stuff when ISIL shows up with jet fighters.

The point of this is that whether he was shooting from the hip, or not, Trudeau’s election promise to end the use of our F-18s against ISIL makes sense. He should make good on his promise.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

In defence of our nation’s capital.

Monday, January 18th, 2016

Ottawa is a wonderful city. No it is not Paris. Paris is a city in its own right. France needs Paris because that is where the action is. It creates the culture. To most Parisians the location of France’s seat of government is irrelevant to their daily lives. And in some ways, you could say the same about many capital cities of the world–other than Washington. Without the federal government, Washington would be a backwater on the American east coast.

Ottawa is different again. As much as the choice of Bytown on the Ottawa River was considered Queen Victoria’s mistake, she was actually following some good advice. Those promoting the site of Ottawa knew that Canada’s capital should be the country’s face to its citizens, not the world. The world sees Canada through Halifax and Calgary, Vancouver and Quebec City, Montreal and Toronto—for this is the diversity of Canada.

And our nation’s capital is not just the federal properties in Ottawa but also the departments across the river in Gatineau. We are not all introduced to our government under the piles of dirty snow of an overly long and harsh winter. Nor is there anything wrong with touting the length of the public skating rink on the Rideau Canal every winter. Ottawa is also the masses of tulips in the Spring, the Summer crowds in the Byward Market or a hockey game out in Kanata between rivals like the Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

While the concentration of museums in the area might be a mistake, Canadians have not demanded the mausoleums that dominate the scene in Washington. Ottawa looks to the future and that is the Canadian way. The Houses of Parliament are mausoleum enough to satisfy the need for historical identity.

What Ottawa does well is provide excellent hotels and good eating establishments. From hotdog vendors to fine restaurants, you can always find something good to eat.

While the town does not just cater to the business of government, tourists are well advised to stay away from the Queensway when civil servants are heading to work or home at the end of their day.

And if you can get in to see the Parliament Buildings when you are there, you can feel the history of Canada.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Sub-Continent votes won’t help Brown.

Sunday, January 17th, 2016

He must be joking. Toronto Star writer Martin Regg Cohn tells us that there is some sort of contest going on for the votes of the Sub-Continent Diaspora in Ontario. If Opposition Leader Patrick Brown and Premier Kathleen Wynn are really in this contest, it seems like a foolish expense for a larger portion of less than four per cent of the voters in Ontario. While former federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney thinks the Conservatives discovered ethnic voters in Canada, the truth is that all major parties have strong roots in the major New Canadian communities.

Looking back over the past 50 years, the Toronto base of the Liberal Party kept in touch with the ethnic media, analyzed readership and viewers in the various ethnic groups and helped candidates communicate with substantive groups in their electoral districts. As early as possible in each election we would arrange a meeting with the ethnic media for the party leader and made sure that candidates met the people from ethnic media with concentrations of that ethnic group in their riding.

Even today, Patrick Brown has no deep connections with the Hindu, Sikh or Muslim communities from the Sub-Continent. His relationship with Indian President Narendra Modi goes back to when the fundamentalist Hindi Modi was chief minister in Gujarat (an industrialized Indian state with almost twice the population of Canada). And for the Star’s Regg Cohn to oversimplify the extremely complex religious infighting in India to say that Modi has been rehabilitated is like saying the Pope will be welcomed as the new chief rabbi of Jerusalem.

Brown bought the Progressive Conservative Party leadership in Ontario by the simple expedient of hiring organizers from the Sikh and Hindi temples in Ontario and having them go out and sign up members of the party. The feedback from the Sub-continent émigrés was that payment of the party’s ten dollar fee was optional.

It was obvious to any knowledgeable political apparatchik who was not born yesterday that Brown used the immigrants to win the position at the lowest ebb in membership for the Conservatives in Ontario. These are hardly going to be active supporters.

And for Regg Cohn to appear to be so gullible as to be impressed by Brown’s accomplishments is a bit frightening. Brown hardly made a brilliant move in finding out about Wynne’s planned trade mission to India and getting ahead of her with a few of his caucus members. India has the largest population of any democracy in the world and it is an immense market. If Ontario was not sending trade missions, the voters should be asking why not. Wynne will also get her few moments of fame in India.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

O’Leary is out of his league.

Saturday, January 16th, 2016

If there was any redemption for the Dragons’ Den show on CBC television it was not financier Kevin O’Leary. He represented what we have always seen as the weakness of Canadian venture capitalists. He always seemed to represent the type of venture fund that demands to put their own face on the ideas of others.

But then it might have been the simplicity of the show and the implied ease of raising venture capital that was vulgar. The program might be improved without O’Leary’s presence. He is now debating a run at the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada. He admits he got the idea from Donald Trump.

But it is hardly that simple Mr. O’Leary. Setting aside the fact that you do not speak French and have no idea what is involved in becoming leader of a political party, you obviously do not have the temperament for the job.

You started with the foolish gaffe of insulting the Premier of Alberta. You can hardly throw money at Albertans and say their premier has to resign. That was crude.

There is a long list of rich and supposedly powerful people from all parts of Canada who thought they could buy their way into power. There are a lot of failures on that list. They were all out of their depth.

And you should never confuse American with Canadian politics. There are some similarities but the differences are what count. The American primary system is a marathon. In comparison, Canadian party leadership races are a sprint.

But it took Brian Mulroney two tries to beat Joe Clark. Even then, there was a tremendous amount of back-stabbing done in between.

And if you think meeting a payroll is the measure of someone who wants to run the country you are absolutely wrong. The most effective politicians are the ones who can identify with their target audiences in the same way as the most effective business leaders are the ones who can identify with their target markets.

The thing you need to consider Mr. O’Leary is that Donald Trump must pay a great deal for the political advice that he so obviously ignores. The reason is that he is not really running to be President. He is running to be Donald Trump. What are you running for?

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

The charmed life of Justin Trudeau.

Friday, January 15th, 2016

It started over morning coffee. The wife was lamenting the price of cauliflower. Frankly, she was the only one at the table who gave a damn about cauliflower. We had to listen anyway. And somehow the conversation got around to Prime Minister Trudeau. There was a front-page picture of him at Toronto City Hall. The wife wants him to do something about the price of cauliflower.

Who would dare confront our rock-star prime minister and demand he do something about the price of cauliflower? Just the wife it seems. She would get the selfie with him and then demand he do something about the loonie versus the American dollar and the cost of American vegetables.

But here he is getting away free and clear. Nobody can logically blame him for the diving stock market and the disappearing loonie.

The problem is that he is expected to do something about it. There has to be a finite amount of time for him to show that the situation is being corrected.

The next problem is that he might be waiting for those experts in the Finance Department to produce their standard approach to spending federal money. They want to stimulate the economy by spending money on building more community hockey rinks that the communities were going to build anyway. With the feds providing half the money, the communities grab at the deal and go into debt to pay their half.

But Canadians end up with lots of community hockey rinks and higher municipal taxes to try to pay down the municipal debt. And with a cyclical economy such as we have been experiencing, we just keep doing the same stupid thing.

Trudeau and his bunch in Ottawa need to do some fresh thinking. Maybe we should restrict our federal support money to projects that are going to put something into the economy. We need projects that can pay for themselves. We need the federal money as a loan against the projects’ long-term return on investment. That way the federal government carries the expense as an asset which makes everyone more comfortable.

Take the idea Toronto is promoting for surface subway system using existing rail right-of-ways. The province has already assured people that it is going to electrify the lines so that GO Trains can also use the rails to improve commuter service.

The feds can think even bigger. Electrifying the rail right-of-way from Windsor to Quebec City would pay off handsomely if the rails could also handle high-speed trains. And if the job is done right it is going to reduce carbon, improve tourism, enhance business travel and greatly improve trade between provinces and into the United States. Maybe we can also find similar opportunities out west and in the Atlantic.

And if we do this right, we will even be able to afford cauliflower in winter.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

What? Ontario politics corrupt?

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

The reason this writer has retained a membership in the Ontario Liberal Party for many years has nothing to do with approving what is going on. It is the belief that the change that is so desperately needed has to come from within the party. Nobody can effect the reforms needed from outside.

Any long-term reader of this commentary can tell you that we are not pleased with many of the politicians at Queen’s Park. Why would we approve of hypocrites? Why would we condone corruption? It is not that there are not a few good people in the three parties represented in the Legislature. They are just not the ones running the asylum.

There is not a party leader at Queen’s Park that does not deserve to be impeached by their party. Nobody has brought more dishonour to the Ontario Liberals than Ms. Wynne. She has used corrupt practices to manipulate her party and the political system in Ontario. She has let underlings and hanger-ons take the blame for her transgressions. She refuses to reform the system where parties can sell out to the highest bidders.

Leader of the Opposition Patrick Brown bought the leadership of his party from the Sub-Continent Diaspora in Ontario. Most of his supposed new Conservatives have no understanding of his party or what it stands for. And when has he ever spoken out about the corrupt practices of Ontario politics?

And as for New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath, does she even know what is wrong? Why are her supposed union supporters making deals with the Liberals to run advertising during elections to support the Liberals?

For agencies created by the Ontario government to be giving political donations to the government that created them is by any definition a corruption of the intent. For any third party political advertising to be allowed during election campaigns is blatant interference in the election process. For businesses and unions to be allowed to make donations to political parties implies corruption.

Ontario voters need to take a long hard look at how politics has become so corrupted in their province. Political party members particularly have to understand that we can no longer support the status quo. Unless the demand for reform comes from within the political parties, it will only get casual lip service. It is up to party members to put some teeth to change

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

There’s more to electoral reform than voting.

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016

Before you get to vote for a candidate or a political party in a general election much needs to happen. There are various aspects of our political system involved and they all have an impact on the quality of our democracy. And, on a scale of one to ten, our democracy has been at about four for the past 20 years.

The only reason that our democracy scores a four is that nobody has been successful in taking our right to vote from us. We have been allowed to vote. We saw where Stephen Harper’s Conservatives tried to manipulate the voting in their last-ditch voting rights bill near the end of their last term in office. They failed in their objective but there is still much to correct in that bill.

We even saw how the Conservatives manipulated the election period in hopes of gaining financial advantage. The extended election period worked against them.

But where we really fail is in keeping our political parties democratic is in citizen participation in determining the party’s basic principles and policies, the choice of party leaders and the selection of individual candidates. When we can solve these questions, we will be ready to consider how we should vote for who represents us. And First-Past-the-Post, proportional voting or ranked ballots are only some of the options to be discussed.

Our level of democracy has been seriously weakened over the past couple decades mainly by the control of the party exercised by the party leader. When we allowed party leaders to sign off on the individual candidates for the party, we took away one of the reasons why party membership was important.

And when we took away meaningful participation in party policy development, we said that party membership is not important. What we ended up with was lists of party supporters to constantly harass for donations to the party.

As things stand with the political parties, Members of Parliament find it more important to report to their party leader’s office than to their constituents. Where many MPs used to take time each month to hold an open meeting to talk to constituents, today they take part in some charity work in their electoral district if they are worried about getting re-elected.

Our MPs are somewhere between being elected because of who they are and what party they represent. We have some strong MPs and we have some nebbishes. We will have to decide what we want them to be before we vote on how we will vote.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Time for Republicans to act grown-up.

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

Sitting here in Canada and looking south gives us an overview of American politics. It is only recently that there has been a lot of cringing from what we are seeing. Republican candidate Donald Trump brings an entirely new depth of despair to the race for the U.S. Presidency. He seems to have too few restraints on what he will say during his attempt to get to sleep in the American White House for the next four years.

Trump comes on as the bully in the school yard. There is little that he says about his Republican opponents that is fit to repeat. He says Mexicans are rapists. He distrusts Muslims. He thinks the Chinese leaders are smarter than the American leadership. And considering that his current hero is Kim Jong Un the North Korean dictator, there are serious questions being asked about the man’s state of mind.

While there is no question about Trump’s ability to make money, he does not seem in the mood to share with anyone. And no, he does not have enough to pay off the national debt of America.

Trump has absolutely no intention of making America Great Again. His only objective is to make Donald Trump great. He seems to want to be the modern day Alexander the Great and rule the world. You should always bear in mind that people who want to rule the world tend to leave a serious trail of dead bodies and impoverished nations behind them.

The real problem with Trump is not the guy’s ego as much as those who support him. Why would Republicans want to support the school yard bully? How could there possibly be sufficient Americans gullible enough to support him? It is time the grown-ups took charge of the GOP. They might give us some hope when we start to see the real results of the delegate selection for the Republican Convention. The mesmerized media are not keeping us well enough informed.

The funniest part of the entire Trump fiasco is the Rodney Dangerfield act that he pulls that he cannot get any respect. His entire campaign is built on the man’s extreme ego. He is in the race because he can afford to be in the race. He buys all the respect he wants.

But the saddest part of the Trump campaign is what it generates. When he talks about the respect that he could have as President, it is not respect. It is fear.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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