Archive for April, 2016

I can think for myself Justin Trudeau.

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

Having helped rewrite many constitutions over the years, Justin Trudeau’s proposed constitution for the Liberal Party comes as something of a surprise. Becoming a Registered Liberal—as members are to be described—will require no membership fee, no particular principles and no responsibility other than to support the leader and his Liberal candidates.

No thanks.

That is not why this writer became a member of the Liberal Party of Canada over 50 years ago. We joined to make a contribution. Furthering liberal objectives requires more than slavishly following the party leader. Nor should the rules the party now works under be set by a remote national executive. Liberalism is not a top-down experience.

Why do we not leave that kind of approach to the Conservative Party of Canada? You see where top-down management got that party lately. It angered millions of Canadians.

And neither you, Justin, nor your campaign staff nor the national executive are going to tell us who the candidate will be in our electoral district. We are the best judge of the credentials of Liberal candidates in our town and how they will be accepted by the voters. We know the type of candidate we want to have represent us in Ottawa. You can butt out.

And while you are at it, you can stop straining your mind to come up with changes in how Canadians vote. You seem to lack any knowledge or experience with the issues. You should not make promises to do something without thinking it through.

That is almost as bad as your terrible solution to the Senate. That elitist answer to the problems is surely going to bite you in the ass.

But you also have a lot to learn about running a political party. The best followers are the ones with minds of their own. As any general can tell you, the successful army has smart lieutenants.

It is absolutely ridiculous how this proposed constitution for the Liberal Party gives so much space to the leadership question and a by-the-way mention of Liberal principles. And you hardly leave important questions to be determined by the party’s national executive.

Justin, leaders lead. Leave the details to the smart lieutenants. And one further point: you get what you pay for. If your party membership is free, what is it worth?


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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No honours for Elizabeth at 90.

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

If the Brits really get lucky, Queen Elizabeth might outlive her son Charles. It seems that the British monarchy is holding up better than the country’s membership in the European Union. Mind you if that green little island gets cut adrift from Europe, there is no telling what will happen.

One of the worst-case scenarios for ‘Brexit’ (England’s shorthand for ending ties to the EU) would be the Brits trying to get Australia, Canada and New Zealand to help pay for the excessive cost of the Royals. This is well covered today by England’s tourism but by the time the French and Germans get even for deserting them, the British Pound would not be worth 16 ounces of anything. And the French would feel justified in turning their half of the Chunnel into a hostel for homeless Syrians.

We can hardly speak for the Aussies and New Zealanders but Canada would not be inclined to help fund England’s then impoverished Royals. Bill and Kate could bring the kids for a visit but if they wanted to stay Bill would have to get himself a proper job. Nobody can be pretender to the Throne of Westminster forever.

But what use are ties to England when the Brits have thoroughly pissed off the rest of Europe? Brexit would not be a friendly divorce. The country would be able to turn Heathrow Airport into an English Maquiladora to make cheap knock-offs of American products for the EU.

Canada would have no choice but to open up its constitution to changes. We could get rid of the Senate of Canada and the Monarchy at the same time. No more cartoon Governors General. It would open a new day for Canada with a constitution that serves us all.

But could Queen Elizabeth carry on regardless under this scenario? Could her and the old Duke face the torture of travelling tourist class on Air Canada for a royal visit to the Canadian colony? Even if the Monarchist League had a fundraiser, all they could probably be able to afford would be a first-class upgrade for her but the old Duke would be left to his own devices back with the hoi polio.

We will have to face the facts that at 90, Queen Elizabeth is very set in her ways. The Brits should leave her alone. That ignorant Mayor of London who is leading this Brexit fiasco needs to exit the Court of St. James by a window for a date with the guy who chops off heads. It might be the first decent haircut the jerk has ever had.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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Yes, you can bet the rent money on Leap.

Monday, April 18th, 2016

One of our favourite bloggers insists that you should not bet the rent money on the Leap Manifesto. While agreeing that no gambler should ever bet the rent money, we will take that bet. Despite the naysayer being one of the best read and erudite of left of centre Canadian bloggers, he might lack our insight into the New Democratic Party activists behind the Leap Manifesto.

Leap has its roots deep in the Toronto NDP environment. It is a reasoned and rational answer to where the party was being lead in last year’s election. They held their indignation in check. There are no sour grapes or grapes of wrath. It rejects recriminations and looks only to the party’s future. It is positive and trusting in its direction to handling our country’s needs.

These are the same people who wanted to rebel against Andrea Horwath in the last Ontario election but eased up in sympathy for her weaknesses and lack of an adequate claim on power.

It was not until they saw Thomas Mulcair make the same mistakes in 2015 that they knew something had to be done. Mulcair put power ahead of principles and destroyed the base that the party had built with Jack layton. And they set out to annunciate the party’s needed direction.

As we have mentioned before, the Leap Manifesto does away with the bitterness and anger of the last century’s Regina Manifesto. It posits objectives instead of demands.

It is easy to picture Avi Lewis and his wife Naomi Klein sitting in his mother’s kitchen discussing the manifesto. It is not obvious what encouragement she gave but Michele Landsberg would have been with them every step of the way. The journalist, author would have had excellent suggestions and, along with husband Stephen Lewis, would have had excellent strategic advice.

The manifesto was already available on the Internet and well supported when brought to the recent Edmonton NDP Convention. The strategy was just to propose study by ridings and discussion over the next two years. This is no Trotskyite or Waffle strategy. It forces a decision on the manifesto on every candidate for the party leadership at the time and you can expect that the new party leader, whomever he or she is, will already be totally committed to the Leap Manifesto and its implications for the party.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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Rainy days on those Sunny Ways.

Sunday, April 17th, 2016

You hate to tell this to our optimistic Prime Minister but occasionally it rains. We were thinking of that when we noted that in the past week, few people really appreciated the government’s feeble, last-minute attempt to manage assisted dying and the Senate was having trouble making the PM’s silly Senate solution functional. The combination was sad but amusing.

The Supreme Court wants a law in place by June that will satisfy the need for control of physician-assisted dying. It does not mean it is a fair law when it seems half of Canadians think it is too restrictive and the other half think it does not go far enough. It just means the people writing the law are too wishy-washy by half!

The only people to benefit from this assisted dying law will be the opposition parties. They will have a field day ripping this piece of legislation to shreds. They can hardly block it but the Senate just might do that for them.

The physician-assisted dying law will have little chance of being passed in a hurry by our dysfunctional Senate. They are too busy arguing whether Justin Trudeau’s selection of an ‘independent’ Senate Leader should have an office budget. Mind you, he and whatever staff he will have are hardly worth close to a million dollars.

Leave it to a bureaucrat such as Peter Harder to get into a fight over his budget. He knows that in Ottawa, if your office budget is less than a million, you are practically a nobody. Where is Harder’s authority if he has no minions to carry out his wishes and bring him coffee?

It just goes to show you how much thought our dear Justin has put into his elitist scheme of things in the Senate. His sad solution is a joke just waiting to implode on him. It is among the stupidest of his promises in last year’s election. (Mind you, promising that the 2015 election will be the last use of first-past-the-post voting in federal elections might also be a mountain too high to leap.)

Without party discipline in the Senate, Trudeau has little hope of any laws moving through that body with any responsible amount of speed. The Conservatives are currently the only caucus left in the Senate and they are hardly in the mood to cooperate with anybody.

Sunny Ways are great but Justin needs to understand: If you play in that barnyard of Ottawa long enough, you will eventually step into some warm and squishy ones.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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Toronto’s organized hypocrisy.

Saturday, April 16th, 2016

Would someone please explain to Professor Patrice Dutil at Toronto’s Ryerson University that the city already has party politics at City Hall. Of course—wink, wink, nudge, nudge—it is all kept quiet because we never want anyone to be held accountable. And if the Ryerson prof wants confirmation, he should ask our old friend from Ryerson, David Crombie.

When David’s Civic Action Party (CIVAC) put together a motley group of mostly Conservatives by another name in 1969, the late Senator Keith Davey spearheaded our openly Liberal attack on City Hall and the New Democrats profited from our mistakes. It gave the New Democrats the stronger base they wanted in city politics, Crombie became the ‘Tiny Perfect Mayor’ and a thoroughly chastened group of Liberals went back to their day jobs.

We had walked into a trap. Professor Dutil should appreciate it. It is taught as Hypocrisy 101 in politics and city administration. Almost to a person, the aldermen, controllers and mayors throughout the various parts of Toronto at the time wrapped themselves in the cloak of purity and their devotion to representing their constituents. The Liberals were made out as the bad guys. And the choice of Professor Stephen Clarkson from the University of Toronto as leader of the loosely aligned Liberal mob was a disaster.

It would be nice to say that we learned from our mistakes but no such luck. Using Professor Dutil’s check list we can report that nothing was gained.

First the professor tells us that parties can educate. Hell, it is almost impossible to educate parties. Just look at the mess the Conservatives and New Democrats are in today. And the day that a party label means any consistency in programs, promises or actions, check the number of blue moons in the skies.

He thinks that parties do a good job of screening the individuals they recruit. Tell that to the Senate of Canada! And tell that to the voters in Peterborough where the former MP is still appealing his prison sentence.

The political scientist professor thinks parties can punish the miscreants in their midst. Holding MPs and MPPs accountable seems hard enough. Despite parties being behind most individual municipal representatives, they are responsible to nobody but themselves.

The prof also thinks parties can be held accountable for their promises to the voters. Good grief, we can only hope he is not telling that to impressionable young Ryerson students.

The simple answer to the professor’s ambitious ideas is that the city is a creature of the province. The provincial parties will never allow Toronto to be run by any party other than the party in charge at Queen’s Park.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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It looks good on the NDP.

Friday, April 15th, 2016

It is the way an Aussie friend says, “It looks good on them.” It is not said in a mean way but it implies that they deserve their quandary. And the current condition of the New Democrats is not only well deserved but about time. There are no more political virgins for them to sacrifice.

Tom Mulcair is still with them but as a lame duck. How long he will suffer the indignity is for him to decide.

Premier Rachel Notley of Alberta was emasculated by her own federal party. Her opposition is rattling sabres but that is ever thus in that province.

Robin Sears pontificated in the Toronto Star recently that the New Democrats have a penchant for lofty thoughts on environmental issues and socialist values. If that were the case, the only party that would worry about them is the Green Party.

But Sears tells us that it was all about power. Sears believes Mulcair was the natural successor to Saint Jack. Sears believed that Mulcair just had to be there to win the Prime Minister’s job. He does not seem aware that all Layton did while leading the NDP nowhere was luck into the collapse of the Bloc Québécois. The Orange Wave was nothing more than the Quebec one-finger salute to Ottawa and Mr. Harper. The truth be known, Mulcair did rather well in the last election given the circumstances he faced.

But the party, very rudely, dumped him. It was hardly a planned event. His frosty treatment of delegates and a bad speech on Sunday did not help. Muclair was out for the count. The figures were irrelevant.

Sears goes on to insult the Birkenstock Left of the NDP whose faith in the NDP has never waivered. He had this wet dream of Layton-Mulcair in the Prime Minister’s Office and believed it. And then he goes on to complain about the way the convention treated Alberta Premier Rachel Notley.

Actually, Rachel Notley was doing nothing but whining on behalf of the tar sands interests. The convention treated her very politely, rationalized that she had to say what she did, and then ignored her.

And then this so-called NDP pundit, Sears, has the nerve to suggest that the Leap Manifesto is a loony leap. It sounds like he has never read the document. As an ideal, the manifesto would be mild to a Green, a worthy objective to a left-wing Liberal and anathema to the right-wing Conservative. Read it for yourself, before you condemn it.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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Third-Party ads: Democracy or Interference.

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

It reminds us of the 1957 Grey Cup game in Toronto. ‘Bibbles’ Bawel had intercepted the ball for the Hamilton Tiger Cats and was heading down the sidelines for another touchdown. At least he was until a Toronto lawyer stuck out his foot and Bibbles went flying out of bounds.

Well folks that is exactly the same thing as third-party advertising in an election campaign. And yet there are people who think that third-party advertising in an election campaign helps democracy. In a pig’s eye!

When the laughable ‘Working Families’ was crucifying poor Timmy Hudak, leader of the PC Party in the last Ontario election, was that democracy?

Working Families was an affront to every decent thinking citizen in Ontario. It was blatant support for the Wynne Liberals and set Hudak up for his final gaff in threatening the jobs of Ontario civil servants. A lot of Liberals thought the ads were humorous but this liberal was appalled.

Besides, Working Families was a serious waste of those teachers’ union dues. The point of the commercials was going over the heads of many of the voters the ads were trying to reach. And we are not sure how those unions feel about their substantial investment in the Wynne Liberals today.

And despite those who support the silly suggestion that we no longer need paid up members of political parties, the teachers should have been encouraged to join the provincial Liberal Party and work within it to affect change. They would have far more clout from that position today than they have as sidelines quarterbacks.

We should certainly not be deluded by those who suggest that third-party interference costs us nothing. And if you think that there is no cost, you should be more aware of the damage that can be done. The best current example is the way that Donald Trump is mangling democracy in the United States of America and the damage he is doing to the GOP.

This is not to suggest that there are not legitimate issues that politicians prefer not to discuss. Watch any political affairs show and watch politicians weasel. Yet even in their weaseling, we are getting an answer. Why should a third-party be less evasive?

And nobody expects a third-party to be unbiased. The news media today are biased enough to serve most interests. And hopefully nobody believes that our news media are not biased.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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Wynne: Master of all she surveys.

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne seems to have a God complex. Instead of spending a pleasant weekend at home watching the Blue Jays on TV, she hunkered down and penned a plan to reform the province’s rules for political fundraising. She came down to Queen’s Park on Monday and delivered her ten tablets.

Wynne even called in those slow-learners Patrick Brown and Andrea Horwath, leaders of the opposition parties, to give them early remedial training in her plan. For some reason, neither opposition leader appreciated the summons nor the instruction. They obviously did not appreciate the tea and crumpets she served.

And so much for us foolish Ontario citizens who thought we might be allowed to make a rare suggestion. She asked for help a while ago and then she ignored us as usual.

So what is this great plan from the Burning Bush?

First of all, it will not happen until next year. And then it is going to look surprisingly like the federal plan as last screwed around with by the Harper government. There seems to be no plan for input from experts such as the province’s chief electoral officer. There does not seem to be input from political apparatchiks who have to work with these laws or lack thereof.

Wynne’s excuse for this presumptive behaviour is that the laws have to be written and passed by the Ontario legislature this year. That needs to happen, we are told, so that we can have the new laws in place for the next election. It also seems the news media were baying at her heels and she thinks that is a good excuse for her to act. She is seeking approval.

Mind you the details are always in the final wording of the law and we still have no idea what it will look like. When you say that third party advertising will be curtailed to some degree, that sounds like a loophole you can drive a truck through.

What Wynne also seems to want but did not specify is a plan for the government to subsidize political parties. This would ease the pain of parties becoming honest in their fundraising. And if they can agree on a plan for about $2 for each vote in the previous election, the political parties will be pleased with the bonanza.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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The Knives are out for Notley.

Tuesday, April 12th, 2016

After the shoot-out at the Edmonton Corral last weekend, one of the participants was left bleeding in the dust. After the NDP delegates left town, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is in critical condition and the wolves of the province’s right and further right wing parties are baying for her corpse.

But that seems so unfair! She did her best. She set aside all her better instincts and tried to sell pipelines. And the consensus on Saturday was that she did a fine job. It was hardly her fault that the federal New Democratic Party convention had other fish to fry.

Not that Notley’s position in her speech was tenable. She was trying to commit doublespeak in a manner that the human tongue was never designed to handle. She was lying to herself.

When she spoke of sending Alberta oil sands output to tidewater, she was admitting that the pollution caused by turning it into synthetic oil was too much for Alberta to handle. And how could she justify the seismic damage being done by pumping hot water underground to bring up the deep layers of bitumen sand? The steady growth of settling ponds in Northern Alberta must be outpacing the growth in provincial agriculture.

Actually, Notley might have one small win. She can take solace that the twinning of the American-owned Kinder-Morgan pipeline over the Rockies might still happen. While the environmentalists will fight it every step of the way, they could be fighting the Alberta and B.C. governments as well as the Trudeau government in Ottawa. Trudeau might be better at doublespeak than Notley. And B.C. politicians will sell their souls for a loonie.

But in all of this, nobody seems willing to sell Premier Notley insurance on the longevity of her NDP government. There could even be a shotgun marriage between the province’s Conservatives and the ultra-conservative Wildrose Party.

It seems to this writer that Rachel Notley deserves at least a ‘thank you’ from those Albertans whom she tried to help. Her ranting at the Leap Manifesto will do no good. A manifesto is an ideal, not reality. Notley is training her guns on a puff of smoke.

But frankly folks, bitumen is disgusting stuff that pollutes every step of the way to polluting more when it is used. Our warming world needs to have tar sands left in the ground. It will still take decades more to wean the world off the need for real oil.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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The NDP Gunfight at the Edmonton Corral.

Monday, April 11th, 2016

Who knew? Premier Rachel Notley in her Annie Oakley role had no choice but play to the home town crowd. Now former New Democrat Leader Tom Mulcair probably wished he was anywhere else.

But the gunfight at the Edmonton Corral was a three-way fight and you had to be careful not to turn your back on anyone. It was the carefully orchestrated Leap Manifesto versus Rachel Notley’s pipelines and Tom Mulcair was caught in the crossfire.

Nobody was making book on the situation with Mulcair. Sure, he let the party down in the election but the New Democrats are a party that gives a leader a second chance. The only question was how could they give a second chance to the guy who wasted the legacy of Saint Jack? Mulcair saw what happened to Andrea Horwath in Ontario when she tried to take the Ontario NDP down the same confused path.

Mulcair’s pathetic efforts to save his job did not reflect well on him. He knew that Notley had no choice but to support the pipelines. She played well to Albertans and to convention attendees with a carefully crafted speech that could have been written by the oil sands people. When Mulcair failed to call her out on the sham while trying to stay on the fence, he sealed his fate.

But they were both out of step with the Leap Manifesto. The manifesto was developed and strategized by the best in the party. It has the signatures of the Lewis clan and is a remarkable read. The NDP is a party built on manifestos. From the days of the Regina Manifesto, with its bitter and inflammatory language, the CCF and successor NDP have searched for the balance between a moral base and power.

The Leap Manifesto weaves a story. It starts with our responsibility to indigenous peoples and gently segues to the environment and then to social issues. There is nothing new or overreaching. It is a manifesto of nothing more than left of centre hopes.

When the manifesto comes to the floor for debate in the party’s 2018 policy and (likely) leadership convention, it could define the party for years to come. The new leader will have no choice but to make the manifesto his or hers.

While examining the forensic evidence around the shoot-out at the Edmonton Corral, another observation comes to mind. It looks as though we are seeing the end of union domination of the New Democrats. The party brain-trust is starting to see the future in social democrat colors.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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