Archive for April, 2016

Not by half Premier Wynne.

Saturday, April 30th, 2016

Once again Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has taken small steps when big steps were needed. She has failed us. She promises much and delivers little. She said she would release the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) report on the Andrew Loku death. What her government has released is just going to cause more distrust of our police services. This has satisfied nobody.

Whenever you see a government report released late on a Friday, you know it will not bear close scrutiny. It used to be that government or business news released at that time would receive the least scrutiny. That is no longer the case in a twenty-four-seven news environment.

But it fits the pattern of the Wynne approach to governing. Wynne’s is a government that promises the voter a sumptuous dinner and then hands the voter a bologna sandwich. It is a government that promises beer in grocery stores. And it did, if you can find one? It promises fund-raising reform—for the opposition parties. It promises lower automobile insurance rates—if you will settle for far less coverage?

And the list of failures goes on. The time of reckoning is two years away.

But who is the government serving with releasing a heavily edited sham of an SIU report. Do you want to believe a man with a hammer is a danger to armed police officers? Was drunkenness why they shot him? Who was he endangering? And why was there an ‘improper’ attempt at securing of surveillance video of the event? Are the police beyond our control?

Premier Wynne seems to have forgotten that the Ontario government is responsible for regulating police services throughout the province. It is the government that makes the rules on behalf of the citizens. If the people lose confidence in their police services, they are also going to lose confidence in the government.

You can read what the Ministry of the Attorney General has released for yourself. It is not worth commenting on. All we know is that a man was shot to death last July in a confrontation in a Toronto apartment building. Was he attacking someone with a hammer? We do not know that. We do not know why he was shot. We do not know who is to blame. It is as though we knew more before the report was released.

Premier Wynne should know the difference between a report that tells you nothing and a report that explains the circumstances. It is something that you should know if you want to be premier.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Donald Trump is still a long-shot.

Friday, April 29th, 2016

When Babel-on-the-Bay put out a morning line on Donald Trump’s run for the Roses of the American Presidency, 25 to 1 odds was the best we could predict. Nothing has changed to improve his position.

Donald Trump is still an out-of-control egoist. As any farmer can tell you, you can paint a pig any color you wish but, he is still a pig.

It was like the other day when Trump introduced his foreign affairs program in a Washington hotel. It probably would have been smart not to invite the news media to what was obviously a trial run. They made every effort for him. They got him a teleprompter just like the big kids use to keep them on subject. The audience was subdued and they listened.

But what they listened to was a waste of time. You can hardly call a long series of platitudes a foreign policy. And sure, he wants to do something about the brigands from the so-called Islamic State, but so do many other countries. He just forgot to tell us how. And then he implies that he wants to surprise them. He might also surprise us.

Trump’s next problem in this presidential race is to get a speech writer that he can live with for the next six months. And, be advised, a speech writer is not just someone who can put the words together for you. The best speech writers listen very carefully to how their subject speaks, what words they use, when they take a breath and when a break for applause is natural.

And Trump has to learn that foreign policy is not a pool everyone can wade in. Foreign affairs have more depth, they deal with other cultures, different morals and unfamiliar customs. Trump’s approach throughout his speech was naïve, childish and nothing more than braggadocio. It made little sense. Most of what he said could be catastrophic in implementation and could even end in armed conflict. And that is just with the Mexicans. You can imagine how his policies would go down with countries that do not like Americans?

Take Vladimir Putin and the situation with Russia. Mr. Putin achieves his objectives by pushing the envelope. He takes neighbouring countries over one piece at a time. He sells arms to tyrants so that they can use them to kill their own people. Donald Trump says he will negotiate with Mr. Putin. What is he going to offer him, a Trump hotel in Moscow?

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Donald Trump’s evolution.

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

The Donald is supposed to be evolving as he emerges from the sewers of the Republican Party primary race. He has invested some money in an old-time political spin doctor who now explains that Trump is in the process of evolving into a persona more suitable to America’s highest office. And if you buy into that, you are as gullible as the people who are already buying into the Trump fiasco.

It is easy to believe that at the beginning of the campaign Trump listened to the political two-step that Republican contestants were dancing to and knew that approach would never work for him. This guy has been selling pie in the sky for too many years to believe they were on the right track. How could he be believed if he joined that chorus line spouting that religion, the National Rifle Association, and an anti-liberal stance was all that was needed to defeat the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton?

Trump started out with a slogan.  As a long-time marketer, he knew that was needed. He settled on Make America Strong Again and he just keeps saying it. It is a hell of a slogan. Nobody would dare suggest that America was already strong enough. That would be anti-American.

Trump also knew that the mob of Republicans already in the race needed to be divided. They all despised him, so he had to take out the ones smart enough to do him any damage. The strongest seems to be this guy Ted Cruz from Texas. He might seem to be a smarmy bastard but he has his weak points. Trump has kept reminding people that Cruz was born in Canada. That probably made him a closet Liberal like all those wishy-washy Canucks.

But the most fun was Trump vilifying the Mexicans. He really knew how to appeal to American bigotry. He was going to build a wall to keep those despicable people out of the Good Ole U.S. of A. It is going to run all the way from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. And to handle any concerns about this idea, he said he was going to make the Mexicans pay for it. And would you believe that lots of bikers, bigots, holly rollers and Tea Party crazies were stupid enough to think he was presidential material?

But his crusade went on. He said he was going to stop all Muslims from entering America.  His only really dumb bit of bluster was to ridicule Hillary for being a woman. And in the process he denigrated women. He has actually pissed off half the population of America.

But there is still a lot of hot air coming out of the Trump campaign and very little of it is in the realm of reason. And this hot shot spin doctor he has hired to make him acceptable to the Republican establishment is just more hot air.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Meeting ordinary Canadians at Kananaskis.

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

You have to hand it to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He really knows how to get out there and meet with ordinary Canadians. And when your cabinet needs to discuss further fixes in Employment Insurance, what better place than another luxury resort.

Nestled in a cradle of the Canadian Rockies, Kananaskis is the jewel of Marriott’s Delta hotels. With rates between $150 and $300 Canadian per day, you can be assured that our federal cabinet will have all the luxury and pampering they desire during their ‘meet the hoi polloi’ trip west.

While waiting for ordinary Canadians to show up, they had a Welcome Wagon arrive driven by the local premier, Rachel Notley. The lady wanted these visitors to know that the province is having a tag day for the executives at Enbridge, Kinder Morgan and TransCanada Pipelines. And she wanted a lot of loonies in her collection box for them.

This improbable socialist, told the cabinet members that she is as green as the next person but pollution hardly matters when all of Canada has to get behind the cause of getting the output of those Alberta tar sands to tide water. She wants to blame the foreigners who process the bitumen into synthetic oil for the pollution it will cause.

But Premier Notley was just a one-day wonder. The cabinet came for some of that brisk mountain air, fine dining and the pampering of the spa.

And, yes, there will also be some discussion of some of those very silly promises made by the Prime Minister when he still did not think he would win the election last year. Luckily nobody can really define what it means to be middle class so he does not have to worry about those people too much. He is already getting a taste of what is going to happen with his right-to-die law and he is starting to realize that everyone might just have their prayers answered when his elite Senate sits on it instead of passing it.

And he did very foolishly say that 2015 would be the last time Canadians use first-past-the-post voting to choose their MPs. His improbable choice of minister to look after this portfolio must be wondering if she should use an Ouija board to find an answer that might work.

But what the hey? What other job would take you to the best resorts the country has to offer?

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Doors still open to municipal corruption.

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

If virtue is its own reward, what is the reward for hypocrisy? And what does it mean when municipal politicians tell you that there will be no more corruption when they ban corporate and union donations? What problems does that solve?

What is the point when the most important contributions to campaigns are not recognized as being of value? These contributions can create literature, develop campaign strategies, plan and prepare speeches and create a persona for a candidate that might be far from reality. When companies, unions, and community organizations decide to support a candidate, how does the voter separate the truth from the image that has been created? And what is the value of the campaign work ‘contributed’ at the urging of the employer or union? That is the hypocrisy of municipal politicians not accepting money from corporations and unions.

What is more serious is continuing to allow candidates to self-finance their campaigns? Why have no limits been set in Ontario on what municipal candidates can spend? Do we only want the rich to control our municipalities?

But there are still so many ways around the rules. Developers who really want the support of city councillors can find many routes for their donations to reach the intended candidate. There are many pressure points.

And yet the Ontario government keeps polishing their buttons on their pledges to end possible corruption in provincial and municipal politics. The only problem is that the people who really know how the system works are never asked to help solve the problems. It is the people skilled in running political campaigns who know the work-arounds, the loopholes, the opportunities to make things happen.

Instead it is the politicians themselves who make the decisions and it is the academics who pontificate on the process. The apparatchiks who make things happen are kept hidden from the light of day.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

All the Honourable Persons.

Monday, April 25th, 2016

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau must be looking at the Senate of Canada and wishing he had taken a different approach. There is no guarantee that the honourable persons that he appoints to the Senate will have any more restraint than the returning Senator Mike Duffy.

A judge has declared that Duffy’s sense of entitlement was neither illegal nor improper and that he was not guilty of all 31 charges laid by the RCM Police. Since Duffy did not believe he was doing anything wrong, he was therefore doing nothing wrong. It was a ringing endorsement of entitlement. Duffy actually believed that he was entitled to reap the rewards of the out-dated honour system. Prime Minister Harper told him to.

The quandary for Mr. Trudeau is that most elites such as Duffy are known to have a strong sense of entitlement. Elites seem to share that sense of entitlement. They are used to finest foods, luxury accommodation and others paying their bills. If the prime minister wants senators who will work cheap, travel cheap, eat fast food, and skimp on the expenses, he should only appoint poor people. Poor people break into a sweat if they take home a few paper clips from the office.

But he has a committee out there trying to find elite potential senators for him. If he tells this committee that he only wants poor but elite senator possibilities, the committee is going to quit on him. Being from the elite themselves, they probably only know elite people. They are unlikely to know any poor people.

Having been around many Senators during years of working in political environs, we have known many very fine senators who have served this country well. They had the right to be called honourable.

But many of the senate appointments made by Stephen harper showed the contempt that he had for the senate. The judge at the Duffy trial made a point of commenting on the way Mr. Harper treated his senatorial appointments. He appointed some of the worst and he therefore got the worst from them.

While Mr. Trudeau’s approach attempts to distance him from the selection process, as Prime Minister, he is responsible for the final choice.

If he needs help with the new standards, we would be happy to do a cross country tour to find him senate candidates. We would go to the most likely Walmart’s in each province. If you are looking for poor people, that is the ideal place to start.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

The Left’s lost moment in time.

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

Why do so many political writers believe that groupthink is achieved by constantly rewriting history? Never a fan of Ed Broadbent or the Broadbent Institute, it was still dismaying the other day to read a puff-piece in the Toronto Star about the so-called institute. It was promoting itself for activities planned for the next year.

But why launch self-congratulatory puffery with being excited about the publicity for the New Democratic Party in recent months. Much of that media attention was drawn by the controversy over NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair. While few could have predicted the measure of his downfall at the recent party convention, it was hardly positive attention for the NDP.

Even the publicity at the convention that featured an impassioned plea by Alberta Premier Rachel Notley for support of pipelines for the products of Alberta’s tar sands was far from being in line with core progressive policies of the NDP or anyone else.

And yet the Broadbent Institute writers give the back of their hand to the Leap Manifesto, the first really progressive material from the national NDP in many years. The creators of the manifesto hardly need to be patronized or put down by Broadbent and company.

For the writers of this puff-piece to point at fundraising tactics of the Liberal governments in Ontario and Quebec is a gratuitous smear that reflects badly on provincial NDP efforts in Ontario.

And when they laud the federal government for considering reforming the Canadian voting system, it is nothing more than a plug for proportional voting. To commend proportionality as an effective electoral system for democracies is farcical. It is also an effective system around the world for despots and police state tyrants. It gives all the power to centralized political parties and little to the people. It is a system designed for illiterate voters and separates the politicians from the people who elected them.

And can you imagine these people being proud of the claim that the word ‘socialism’ is the most looked up word in the Miriam-Webster on-line dictionary? All that means is that fewer people are aware today of what socialism really means.

While there is both good and bad among the issues promoted by the Broadbent Institute, the people there seem less and less in tune with the progressive side of Canadian politics. There is definitely little future for people who spend their time trying to rewrite history. Their moment in time might be long past.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Democracy begins on our street.

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

It is impossible to sum 50 years of membership in the Liberal Party of Canada in less than 500 words. The problem is that in today’s world if you cannot make your point in fewer words, you are not communicating.

But there is little excuse for the pique we have been in lately. One thing that contributes to this annoyance is the current rewrite of the Liberal party’s federal constitution. That has really left us in the dumps. This constitution fails to understand what liberalism is all about. It fails all the tests of democracy. It is an oppressive and top-down edict that betrays the trust we have placed in Justin Trudeau.

Liberalism begins on our street, in our neighbourhood, in our community and in our town. It does not come down from on high in Ottawa. This is because liberalism involves principles. It is based on the freedom of the individual to learn, to grow, to accomplish and who know their rights. Liberals are caring people who share a love of country without regard for heritage.

Liberalism is built on a strong past but looks to the future. It builds, it invests, it promotes a vibrant land of opportunity for all.

Liberal policy has to have its origins in the electoral districts. It should be brought to regional conclaves and then on to national attention. And nobody should have the right to censor. Bring your objections to the floor.

Liberal candidates have to come from the community. They have to be the choice of the liberals in the electoral district. That is the core of our democratic process. And MPs have to report back to their constituents.

And while Liberalist is a resource of names and information about Liberal Party supporters, it is supported by and the ultimate property of the electoral districts. Please stop abusing it with a constant barrage of fundraising. We certainly need the funds for the party but the party headquarters has to work with the electoral districts on this task.

We should also deal with the question of party membership fees. After many years, on many riding executives, we have never seen a person who was denied membership in the party for lack of a ten-dollar fee. The fee is a minor offset for normal expenses of keeping the party alive in the community. It also signifies a commitment. That means something.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Happiness at Queen’s Park is…

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

…is whatever makes the press gallery happy. The other day they had pictures of three opposing party leaders in Ontario all taking shots at their nemesis Premier Kathleen Wynne. No need for separate interviews. They wanted to show solidarity.

Mind you there was a lot of hypocrisy in that threesome but it is hard to get away from hypocrisy when political parties talk about fundraising in Ontario. You might have thought of the province being in the east but when it comes to money for politics, Ontario is the wild, wild west.

It was not until the recent major annual dinner of Ontario’s ruling Liberals that a Toronto Star reporter looked around, did some basic mathematics and said “Holy crap!” The newspaper decided to do an exposé. They found out nothing new but made a big deal of the targets that cabinet ministers were expected to earn for the party coffers.

What is wrong with politics in Ontario starts with moribund political parties. The Ontario Liberals are a closed shop. They have a permanent ‘No help wanted’ sign on provincial party headquarters in Toronto. While federal party numbers grow, provincial numbers in Ontario continue to shrink. Candidate decisions and policy are strictly the purview of the party leader and her aides.

If you think the parties have not collapsed from lack of interest in Ontario how do you think someone as useless as Patrick Brown was able to swamp the Conservative party membership with sign-ups from India and Pakistan? He broke the rules of their leadership contest and nobody cared.

Politics in Ontario has been fouling the septic systems in the province since Mike Harris, the old inflation fighter, took us all for idiots back at the end of the nineties. Political parties in this province are past their best-before dates.

Dalton McGuinty was a pathetic premier. And it tells you all you need to know when you realize that Andrea Horwath is the best the NDP can put forward. It was a fine gesture when Timmy Hudak had the good grace to resign after the last provincial election. It might not be helpful though as the only people who might vote Progressive Conservative today are people who have never met Patrick Brown.

But as we said happiness at Queen’s Park is when the press gallery is fed and ‘watered’ and put down for the night. All they need is some stories to keep their editors and news directors happy. It can be another small step on booze reform, a baby step towards fundraising reform or an offer of a highly redacted Special Investigations Unit report. Just keep them away from the real concerns about how this province is being run.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Kathleen Wynne’s plan: An Incompetent Cabinet.

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne seems to have figured it out. The more incompetent her cabinet, the better she looks. Take Madeleine Meilleur, Ontario’s new attorney general. She was a disaster as minister of community safety and correctional services and was recently promoted to attorney general. She must have fit right in with the premier’s plan: incompetence works!

But what everyone has now noticed is that Meilleur has been playing coy with the media because they think she should release the report from the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) into the police killing of Andrew Loku last July. She finally admitted to the media that her office has had the report for a month and she had not yet read it. And despite not having bothered to read it, she will not be releasing it.

The biggest question of all is: who told her not to release the report?

While SIU reports are always confidential, Ontario has changed since the Sammy Yatim incident. When the constable in that case repeatedly shot that troubled teenager, there were too many citizens recording the event on their cell phones. We are spoiled by the truth.

Meilleur told us by her admission that she had not read the report on the Loku shooting but that someone else had. It would seem logical that whomever read the report told her not to release it. This is a critical admission of dereliction of duty.

You can be as sympathetic with her as you wish about her workload but the job of the attorney general is to read such reports and make the critical decisions required. She cannot delegate that responsibility. She can have staff discuss it with her but she should chair that discussion. You can hardly chair the discussion without reading the report.

It reminds us of the awful job Deb Matthews did in the health ministry. We often thought of putting a wig on a Rob Ford bobble-head and naming it after her. While Eric Hoskins might be doing just as bad a job in the portfolio, at least you get the feeling that he cares.

What Meilleur is doing is playing directly into the hands of the Black Lives Matter bunch. While it is hard to read their long-term objective, this pressure group is disciplined and smart. They know where the pressure points are and they know when to pull back. They could teach all those young, supposed media experts at Queen’s Park a lot about getting the media onside.

But there is little hope for Premier Kathleen Wynne. She reminds us more and more all the time of Baroness Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. It was never her mind that was sharp; it was her teeth.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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