Archive for May, 2016

“This is Justin Trudeau’s Party.”

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

Those were the wrap-up words from Toronto Star reporter Susan Delacourt from the Winnipeg Liberal convention to Global reporter Tom Clark whose weekly show was originating in Vancouver at the Conservative convention. Delacourt had told viewers that Justin had arrived from the G-7 in Japan during the convention and seemed to be everywhere dominating his convention for his party. It had even surprised us that more than 65 delegates had dared to publicly vote against Trudeau’s new Liberal Party constitution.

Justin seems to have no idea of the seeds of defeat he is sowing with this controversial constitution. If he had looked around more often, he would have seen the mistake he was making. Those young party delegates with the money to come from across Canada, dominated the convention and were hardly representative of the Liberal Party as a whole.

The party has always recognized the need to refresh itself and to encourage young people to participate in the party activities. To do that you want to have a party that provides challenges in organization, communications, policy, leadership development, campaign planning and management, Instead, this new party of Justin Trudeau is a top-down party structure that takes away these opportunities. It is to be a cult centred on the party leader.

Frankly, the concept is appalling.

Liberalism is an ideal based on the gaining of greater rights and opportunities for the individual in society. Canadians have an expectation of civil freedom and Canada is considered to be a relatively free society but it still has a long way to go to achieve the freedoms possible in an open and democratic society. We can only create this society by having democratic and open political parties. Allowing the Liberal Party to become a cult of personality is taking the party backwards and contradicting its hopes and objectives.

But the worst thing progressive liberals can do is to walk away. The party desperately needs the academics, the greybeards, the apparatchiks, the party workers, the believers in what the party should be to hold on.

The one thing we can do though is to call Trudeau’s bluff that he does not need our membership money. Since he says he does not need it, we should withhold it. This greybeard for one is cancelling the monthly stipend he gives willingly to the party. The Justin Trudeau Party does not need my money.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

The Liberal Party is not computer competent yet.

Monday, May 30th, 2016

Before you think the writer is a computer Luddite, it should be mentioned that we spent a lengthy business career explaining computers and computer software through the media. Our last company was a pioneer in database development that helped usher in the excesses of the Internet era. It was only when Katie Telford told the Liberal Party meeting in Winnipeg how the last campaign was won because of computer competence that we knew the party needed a reality check.

Computer programs can never be a sole solution to campaigning but are an important aid in analysing information on voters. You just have to remember that a database is only as good as the data that has been input. It is like we would still like to talk to the wise-ass at party headquarters who switched our records from our home electoral district of Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte to Toronto’s Beaches—East York. Frankly the Beaches riding information was far more interesting and more plentiful than that from our riding. We would have been more aware of what was wrong in our riding if we had all the information.

And that is the bone we would pick with Katie Telford and her team’s compilations of the Liberal database information. The problems in our riding should have stuck out like a sore thumb. There were a lot of local Liberals who believed we would win this riding. When the recount showed that we were less than 90 votes off the mark, they felt betrayed.

The people running the central campaign would not send Trudeau to Barrie during the campaign for the wrong reasons. Their data was corrupted and they had no intelligence on what was wrong. There are algorithms to help correct database errors but as many people have figured out with Google, they can go much to far and you end up with garbage.

You can never replace humint—human intelligence gathering. The late Keith Davey, who never had the Internet to help him win elections, always started his day with a fresh sheet of 8.5 by 14-inch paper. By the end of the day, Keith had it filled with very tiny notes from talking to his contacts from coast to coast. Those sheets of paper told the story of every day of that particular election campaign.

What was most obvious about the campaign in 2015 was that announcement timing was not under the control of people with good political instincts. While Telford gave the credit for the campaign to the computer edge, she was also laying blame. It seems that actions that instinct told you should have happened a week earlier, would have to wait for a computer program to make it happen.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Selling Mr. Brown to Ontario.

Sunday, May 29th, 2016

Early in a career as a political advisor, we were on the way to a meeting about a new candidate when we bumped into another, much more experienced apparatchik, on his way to the same meeting. “Good news,” he said, “I interviewed my cab driver about the new guy. He hadn’t heard of him. That means we can make him anything we want him to be.”

Luckily our guy had some positive things going for him and we were able to emphasise them to make him a success as a politician.

But what do you do with a nebbish like MPP Patrick Brown who stole the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership from far better prospects in last year’s leadership race. It took almost a year before his Tory handlers would turn him loose on the news media and public in Ontario.

This guy is a challenge. In eight years as a Member of Parliament, he did nothing, said nothing and in two free votes voted against women’s rights. He is a mouth breather with a whiny voice and dressed like a small town undertaker. He lacks social skills and has no small talk. Women listen to him for about two minutes and then shut him out. They generally do not like him.

But he is a hard worker. He is a marathon runner. And he has some wealthy supporters, if not friends.

These supporters have obviously paid for a total makeover of Patrick Brown. He now has a Toronto salon hairstyle. He has been taking speaking lessons and has dropped his voice an octave for radio and television interviews. He has been provided with an entirely new wardrobe from head to foot.  He has been given simplistic speaking notes that pander to popular misconceptions.

Even an experienced political reporter such as Tom Clark of Global Television did a double take when he was asked to interview the Ontario leader and met a very different person than the callow backbencher that everyone had ignored in Ottawa.

Mind you Brown’s speaking notes will catch up to him if he does not get better ideas than Huxley’s Brave New World. He was complaining to the local media here in Barrie that some students were taking training for jobs that do not exist. He did not say whether the students should be forced to change their training.

What has the media agog is that there are some pollsters who are saying that Brown is more popular that Premier Wynne. The polls will correct in time as more voters get to know the real Patrick Brown.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Trudeau misspending his capital.

Saturday, May 28th, 2016

In Winnipeg this weekend, Justin Trudeau is misspending his capital with liberals and the Liberal Party. Mind you, he fully deserves the plaudits for his remarkable determination that took his party from third place to a majority last October. It is his follow through by trying to change the nature of the Liberal Party that will sow the seeds of his future failure.

Call it arrogance, ego, brashness or just wrong direction, it looks like the Prime Minister is misreading his strengths. He is hardly the first leader to abuse his followers and he will hardly be the last. He has no comprehension that they will do what he asks and then quietly fade from the scene.

Justin Trudeau fails to understand that people have an investment in being a capital ‘L’ Liberal. It can be a badge they wear with pride. And it costs them far more than just the token membership fee. It costs them in time from earning money. It costs them in time from their families. People make sacrifices to be at local meetings and conventions. They take their commitment to the party seriously.

His father never really understood the Liberal Party either. He had to learn that it was not his mob right or wrong. You are wise to only lead the beast where the beast wants to go. Given no more function than to follow, the individual member often wanders off in new directions. They lose the motivation that brought them there in the first place.

What Trudeau the Younger fails to understand is that a top down Liberal Party can only be expected to fail. You cannot whip affection. You cannot demand trust. And that is the capital that he puts at risk by letting the so-called elite of the party deny democracy in the party.

A political party is only as committed as the canvasser who comes to the voter’s door. And without the strength of the party’s ground game, give Justin a term or two and he will be gone. His Liberal Leadership could be as ephemeral as that of Paul Martin, Stèphane Dion and Michael Ignatieff before him.

In a truly democratic Liberal Party, the real strength of the organization is in the electoral districts. It is the rank and file who give muscle to the local leaders. It is the local leaders who push up on the regional and national organization and stand ready as replacements. It is also the local leaders who demand accountability of the parliamentary wing of the party. And it is the local leaders who stimulate the policies, the developing candidates and the future leaders of the party.

You have to let the Liberal Party be democratic and liberal, Justin Trudeau. It is as it is.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Harper goes “quietly into the night.”

Friday, May 27th, 2016

That line from Shakespeare’s Henry V is a haunting phrase that can give deep meaning to a legacy. The only problem for Canada’s failed and former Prime Minister Stephen Harper is his lack of a legacy. He united the right and rode that tiger into power. Yet he could never dismount. He ruled firmly from atop the beast. He rode it into a legacy of failure.

Harper’s was not a proud sojourn of power. Compared to Pierre Trudeau’s patriating of the Constitution and Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Harper is a sorry figure. He denied global warming, he ignored science and refused the long-form census, he prorogued parliament to keep his grip on power, he used foreign affairs to win electoral districts and he insulted the President of the United States. He was hardly an innovative leader.

But he micro-managed the government from a barricaded Prime Minister’s Office. It was from there that he cast his edicts, appointments, publicly paid advertising and attacks on the opposition alike. He rejected friendships, confidants and well-meaning advice with the same dismissiveness. He stood alone for almost ten years as prime minister.

To us, he was always ‘The Hair.’ His perfectly positioned hair piece was kept carefully lacquered in place. He is probably the only world leader who showed up at G-7 and G-20 meetings with his own hairdresser. It was likely also why he earned a reputation for always being late for the group photo.

And what will he do in this quiet time to come? He did not speak of the future in addressing the Conservative Party at its meeting in Vancouver. It was nothing more than platitudes. It will be his swan song. It is part of going quietly. He has nobody to blame but himself.

He can hardly disclaim his choices for the Senate of Canada. He never liked or respected the ‘other place’ anyway. His manipulative appointments caused the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party over expenses and claimed residences. Canada is hardly the type of country that would allow the R.C.M. Police to charge the real guilty party in that fiasco.

He will not be best known for fighting with the Supreme Court either as that was just one more battle he could not win. And yet he was in many ways one of the best political strategists we have ever seen operate. As time went on, he picked his battles with less care. His efforts are already turning to dust.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

A Richler’s epiphany on Toronto.

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

In a somewhat rambling op-ed for the Toronto Star the other day, Noah Richler tells us of his experience as a sacrificial lamb (candidate) for the New Democrats last year. He also explains (sort of) why Bombardier cannot seem to deliver Toronto’s streetcars.

Being a Montrealer by birth, Richler’s decision to run in Toronto-St.Paul’s was fuel for a Babel-on-the-Bay commentary last July. Our concern was that the NDP were just using him and his father’s name in a meaningless cause. There was just no way Mordecai Richler’s fame would help his son defeat the Liberal’s Caroline Bennett.

And it turns out the son really did not understand Toronto. He says he thought Toronto—St. Paul’s was just like all other Toronto electoral districts. He was actually surprised that people at their door accused him of being a parachute candidate.

Now he tells us this entire political business was to research a book he has written on being a candidate. We doubt that it could ever be turned into a movie starring someone like Robert Redford as “The Candidate.” That movie has already been made.

But what ticks us off about this article is that Richler accuses the Toronto MPs—who are all Liberals—of being unable to articulate the city’s needs in Ottawa. Frankly there are some that do a poor job of that but overall, there are some very good representatives for the city in Ottawa today.

In the negative, is the example of MP Adam Vaughan from Spadina—Fort York who thinks he can speak for all Toronto by getting Transport Minister Marc Garneau to end all speculation about Bombardier whisper jets flying out of the Island Airport. To get Garneau to blatantly interfere in that way with a city council decision is not representing the city.

But what Richler really does not realize that among the people guilty of not taking a unified approach in supporting the city are his fellow NDP. All he had to do was look around and see who the best supported candidates were. They were the downtown clique of NDP candidates in Toronto who neither understand nor want to understand the needs of the suburbs.

And anyone who thinks that you can beat up on Quebec-based Bombardier over late delivery of Toronto streetcars is not very political. Toronto is trying to help Bombardier solve their problems. Richler just wants to stir up trouble for the company.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Experience needed to do a Morning Line.

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

Just like the racing experts who produce a morning line for the day’s racing card, a morning line for a political race requires considerable experience. And nobody would be so foolish as to try to create one without knowing and studying the performance of the horses in the race. That is why we are a long way from producing a morning line for the upcoming Conservative Party of Canada and New Democratic Party leadership contests.

By March of 2017, a line on the Conservative race is likely. Mind you if the contestants were only from the eleven possible candidates we discussed recently, we could probably give you a fairly accurate reading now. What cannot be foreseen though is the foul at the three-quarter pole, the contestant who drops out from illness or injury or the unexpected case of doping.

That was one of the reasons that Babel-on-the-Bay did not produce a morning line on the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party leadership contest in May, 2015. We knew the contestants too well. And we had no trust in Patrick Brown. We expected chicanery and we had a pretty good idea of what Brown was up to in the race. We knew he would get lots of sign-ups from the Sikh, Hindu and Muslim communities but we had no idea how deep his supporters’ pockets were. His $400,000 worth of sign-ups were lined up by paid organizers from those communities and probably cost him well over a million dollars. The paid organizers’ attitude at their parties for immigrants that payment of the $10 party membership fee was optional said it all.

In typical Conservative fashion, the federal Conservatives closed the barn door on the Brown tactics in their upcoming race. They have raised the membership fee to $25 to block that method. It is also quite unlikely that anyone could swamp the party membership with ethnic sign-ups on a national scale.

But there are other things to watch for in this Conservative race and in the NDP leadership to follow. Leadership candidates in both parties in 2017 will be far more cognizant of the possible weaknesses in Justin Trudeau’s leadership style by that time. The question each candidate has to answer is how best to position themselves to take advantage of the opportunities offered. It is the credibility of their answers that will sway the party voters.

What the morning line cannot forecast though is the behind the scenes manoeuvering that is part of any political race. You have to make your guesses based on what you can see.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Bumper sticker solutions still work.

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

A fellow progressive once accused Babel-on-the-Bay of using bumper sticker solutions. What he did not realize is that the era of the bumper sticker is long gone. Maybe he had failed to note that automobiles no longer have real bumpers. Getting adhesive off a painted surface can be expensive.

But what he was really complaining about was the simplicity of words used to make our point. We have always been a strong believer in the adage that if you cannot write your proposal on the back of your business card, you need to rethink your proposal.

It is why in a career of writing business and political material there was always a demand for our services. If you are allowed a little pride in your accomplishments, we could always reduce the complex to something easy to understand. It was why when heading up the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada our medical director always joked that he wanted to do the fund raising while we explained the disease and prospects for a cure.

But the point is that while bumper stickers still work, the problem is the closest thing to bumper stickers today is called Twitter. As we have noted at times: Twitter must be for twits. Like the rest of the Internet, you always have to consider the source. Just like blogs, any idiot can write them and they often do. Sometimes you think the Internet was invented for the dumbing down of the human race.

It is amusing to note that the blog repeatedly chosen as best in an accumulation of Canadian progressives continues to be by a chap who likely spends more time using Adobe PhotoShop than MicroSoft Word. His cartoons can be quite funny.

Mind you, the current situation in the United States might also be proving the point. When our morning line called Donald Trump at 25 to 1 on the American presidency, it was because he is a longshot and far from a good bet. It is just frightening to think of.

Trump has reduced the race to the lowest common denominator. It is a race to the bottom of the barrel. He has no interest in the truth or reason. He is nothing but a massive, self aggrandizing ego who appeals to the angry, the bigots and other losers. The only problem is there are quite a few.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

An appropriate salute to Queen Victoria.

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

The following is a repeat of our 2013 salute to Queen Victoria. Nothing has changed. Enjoy your long weekend.

Happy birthday Your Majesty! As children in Ontario, we used to set off fireworks to celebrate your birthday. It was a joyous occasion. It was wonderful to know that the sun never set on your empire. We were all British subjects. You were the image of our strength. You were a moral compass. We all got passing grades in our loyalty.

But times have changed lady! You have been dead for some 113 years. The children that you spawned to repopulate the palaces of Europe are long gone. Your great-great granddaughter, Elizabeth II is fast coming up on your length of service to your people as one of the few reigning monarchs left in the world. When she joins you in history, there are no bets on where the English royals are headed.

Elizabeth II has certainly done a fine job on shoring up the monarchy but her own son, the Prince of Wales is one of the stumbling blocks. There is just no respect for a man who was provided with a story-book princess. She gave him a couple of nice kids but he was too busy boffing an old flame. The demise of the princess almost turned into a public relations disaster for the Brit royalty.

So how do we honour you Victoria? What is appropriate in Canada to recognize the sovereign who was the midwife of our Confederation? In a few more years, Canada will celebrate 150 years. It is way past time to release us from your apron strings. Canada has proved its loyalty in the blood of wars and support in times of need. We should, in your honour, write a new constitution for this country, this Canada.

Canada has surpassed its origins. We have welcomed the peoples of the world. We are not just English or French anymore. We are all languages, all races, all religions and our perspective is of peace and hope and progress and compassion. Sorry Madam but a country such as this must stand on its own.

And it is also past time when we need to recognize our needs as a country. We tried to import your Parliament of Westminster to this new land and failed. We have the weaknesses in our parliamentary structure that Oliver Cromwell noted hundreds of years ago. We have been unable to patch them with the customs evolved over time as has Westminster. Our version of a House of Lords is a sham. Outdated, misused and misunderstood, the Canadian Senate has failed. It needs modern thinking.

Canadians pride themselves on their democracy. Yet we need checks and balances to the power of our Prime Minister’s Office. We need to distance our court and administrative agency appointments from politics of the day. We have much to rethink. And even if we reason that the time is long past for a royal head of state, in Ontario at least, we will be sure to keep our Victoria Day long weekend holiday.

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Copyright 2013 and 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

My Green is greener than your Green.

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

You sometimes get the impression from Canada’s Green Party candidates that they want us to keep them as pets. They are too nice and they are always trying to prove how green they are. You would think they would check to see what other parties are offering to do for our environment. Maybe they would cut out some of their holier-than-thou attitude.

But most of the time, we take a live and let live approach. At least that was the case until our local Greenie-weenie here in Barrie used his free advertising space in the local Postmedia newspaper to promote his version of electoral reform. Since Liberals are never given the time of day by Paul Godfrey’s newspapers, we are unlikely to send a letter-to-the-editor to correct the misinformation that was being spread.

He makes the point in his unpaid column that almost two-thirds of federal voters last year voted for a party supporting reform of how we vote. The assumption he makes is that we all support all of our favoured party’s promises. Even if we did, there are many forms of voting reform and there is no agreement between political parties on which reforms are preferred.

And he goes on to tell us that we have no need for a plebiscite on any voting change as we extended the franchise to women and indigenous peoples without a vote other than in parliament. It is strange that three provinces have said in this century that they would only change the voting system if it was approved in a referendum. Extending the franchise is a decision for parliament; changing how we vote is a decision for voters.

We might be lucky that this frequent Green candidate with his reliance on surveys has not been elected to parliament. He believes that the majority of Canadians are dissatisfied with our current system and would accept a change without due consideration and discussion. Provincial referenda have found that Canadians will turn down voting system changes that they do not clearly understand because of the limited discussion or a lack of clarification. There is also the possibility that we really do like the easy to understand system that is now in use.

There is no question but that any changes to the simplicity of our present first-past-the-post system of voting will need careful thought. And we could be headed for trouble if we try to make any changes with which most Canadians might disagree.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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