Archive for December, 2016

The arrogance of Justin Trudeau.

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016

Weighing the pluses and minuses of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first year in office was a tough job. He got off to a good start. How many refugees can claim they were welcomed to their new country by its Prime Minister? In person! And he kept his promise to fix what we used to call the Baby Bonus. Efforts such as that are worthwhile.

But he does not have to be so damn arrogant about it? Just the other day he told the Toronto Star’s editorial board that he was still going to do something about the way Canadians vote. Give us a break! Why should he also insult the special commons committee (including five Liberal MPs) who gave up their summer to study the question? They did an excellent job. They told him that his time frames were unrealistic. And they are. There is as much as two-years work needed by an expert committee to come up with anything that Canadians might buy. And then it will take more years to sell the idea to Canadians. Trudeau needs to listen to reason.

For him to crow about his success with the doctor-assisted dying file is also an embarrassment. He will deserve every word of criticism when the Supreme Court dumps that legislation back in his lap.

For many Canadians, it is his duplicity in regards to pipelines that sticks in their craw. Trudeau’s first problem is not the laissez-faire economics he is promoting but that he lies about the nature of these pipelines. They are not pumping oil. They are pumping diluted bitumen and that breaks every promise he has made about the environment.

Nobody can wash their hands of dangers of a spill or the extent of global warming that can be caused by sending that bitumen to be refined into ersatz oil in third world countries who cannot afford to worry about global warming. That is arrogant, And it is a sham. It is a serious insult to all Canadians who really care about our environment.

But what really annoys us is the changes he has made in the Liberal Party of Canada. It was never his party to screw around. He leads it. It is not his to abuse.  It belongs to those who believed in it, tended it through the fallow years and kept it strong. He made promises to the party in his quest for the leadership. He promised not to interfere with riding nominations—and he immediately broke his word. He cancelled our memberships in the party and turned it into his crowd funding vehicle. He removed any controls party members used to have over the leader.

And you thought Donald Trump was arrogant. He should be taking lessons from Justin Trudeau.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Lament for the CRTC’s Skinny Basic.

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

It was over three years ago that we last travelled to the nation’s capital to talk with the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). When there, we faced the enemy and their henchmen. We saw Bell Canada and Rogers in action. We talked to the commissioners about ‘skinny basic’ service for cable, fiber and satellite television customers. All the while, the telecoms glared at us intervenors and said ‘no.’

It was a bravura performance by Canada’s telecoms. They knew they were destined to lose. They had resisted reason as long as they could. Their arguments were based on greed. They had used up their political clout. Their arguments were hollow. Their bags of tricks had been wasted. The fight was winding down.

We have certainly lived in interesting time. We were there for the establishment of the CRTC back in the 1970s. It was an argument many of us urged on the Pearson and Trudeau governments. We young turks had taken on the famed Hon. Jack Pickerskill when he tried to tell us not to abandon the out-of-date Board of Broadcast Governors. We wanted regulators with teeth to regulate broadcasting and the rapidly growing telecommunications empires. We wanted the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to just be one of the regulated. We wanted all to have equal footing.

The industry has changed dramatically since those times. We have watched the carriers gobble up the broadcasters. We have allowed broadcast news to become nothing more than promotion for more profitable products. The news talent has gone from mentor to huckster. Today we rally to CBC News and Radio Canada for something to hold on to.

To get to the point, the other day we called Bell Canada and asked for the ‘skinny basic’ package for our Fibe TV service. “Of course sir,” was the immediate response. And then came the ‘buts.’

It seems that the $24.99 ‘Starter’ package is really a $34.99 (plus tax) package. So much for truth in advertising! Until we asked for the lower priced package, our Fibe TV was bundled with our Internet service. It seems that Bell penalizes customers for asking for the ‘skinny basic’ by taking back the bundle discounts. Oh well, if they do not have the bundle for us, we can always shop around for a better deal on the Internet.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

The rocky road to electoral reform.

Monday, December 19th, 2016

It seems obvious at this stage that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has still not gained any conviction on electoral reform. He hardly understood what he was promising when he said that the 2015 election would be the last federal election using first-past-the-post. He seemed to have no understanding of the alternatives. As the expression goes, he was shooting from the lip.

He compounded the confusion on the file when he appointed a naïve, newly elected MP as minister of democratic reform. They were a great combination; he knew little and she knew less. And there did not appear to be any knowledgeable staff to help her out.

Reviewing the principles Minister Monsef stipulated to the special commons committee, it was a wonder that they could do the job at all. When you ask people to advise on restoring the legitimacy and effectiveness of the voting process, you need to pose a benchmark for them to target. Encouraging engagement and participation by underrepresented groups is a completely different subject. Ensuring the accessibility and inclusiveness of an uncomplicated process while safeguarding the integrity of the process might tie some people in knots. Throw in preserving local representation and the task is impossible. And those are just the principles.

The mandate required the committee to identify and study viable reform options while getting experts to tell them all the constitutional, legal and implementation parameters. In their spare time, while calling on all these experts, they were to travel over the length and breadth of Canada to see what the people might want. And they were not to forget to include anyone who might feel left out!

Did we mention that the committee was to spend the summer—and were paid extra—so they were also asked to study such things as mandatory voting and on-line voting.

It was amazing that the committee actually did a reasonable job of what they were asked to do. It was when Minister Monsef stood up in the House of Commons saying that the committee had not done its job that the fecal matter hit the fan blades. It would have made more sense for the Prime Minister to fire her immediately but she got up in the House the next day and apologized for what she said.

Despite the Minister being so obviously unsuited to the job and the Prime Minister’s lack of understanding of voting reform, we are going to hear more on this subject. We might not all like what we hear,

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

You told a pollster the truth?

Sunday, December 18th, 2016

It seems that the privacy watchdog in Ottawa is investigating the Liberal government’s survey on electoral reform. The privacy commissioner’s office is concerned that the Liberals should not have included collecting demographic information in the survey. It might be an invasion of privacy.

But since you decided not to give them accurate information, what is the problem? Does anyone give accurate demographic information on surveys anymore? It would probably be important to someone who rarely responds to surveys but anyone who knows surveys usually knows what is required for that survey.

Of course, answering the demographic questions was claimed to be optional. Mind you, your answers were not considered unless you did.

And think of it this way: you are not being all that helpful if you provide the truth. For example, even if you are over 65, you should tell the survey you are under 25. If you get lucky, your response will count double. (All surveys have a formula to account for lack of response from the under-25 age group.)

And you would never want to admit that you live in poverty. It is hard to get millionaires to do surveys. You can help by selecting the highest-level income.

A trick question is the provision of a postal code. If you are answering the same questionnaire multiple times, you should have a stock of interesting postal codes from across the country. Pick the ones that are most remote.

The wife sometimes gets annoyed when we have put the TV on pause to answer an automated telephone co-incidental survey. She knows what we are doing when she sees us hitting buttons on the phone at seeming random. It is always interesting to see who is surveying for what and you can usually figure it out. It also means we have to check Liberalist occasionally to find if we have misread a Liberal party call and make sure they do not have us down as a Green Party supporter.

It is also fun to do the mydemocracy.ca test a number of times to have the conclusion that you are each of the types they define. What the survey is apparently designed to do is provide the democratic reform ministry with a pattern of possible avenues of voting reform that might be accepted by Canadians. Good luck to them on that.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Who chose who?

Saturday, December 17th, 2016

It is grating when we read about Ontario politics and a careless reporter refers to Patrick Brown as ‘winning’ the leadership of Ontario’s Conservatives. He hardly won it. It would be the same as saying Donald Trump won the most votes on November 8, 2016. He did not win the most votes; he won the United States’ Electoral College.

But there is little anyone can do about it now. Despite the questionable circumstances in both cases, it is too late for change.

You can have recounts for Clinton in Wisconsin, Michigan or Ohio and what are the chances? Sure, the FBI made improper allegations about Clinton and the CIA held back their allegations about the Russians helping Trump until after the election. Would it have made a difference? Who knows? The saddest part of it was Donald Trump claiming the election was rigged before hand, because he thought he was going to lose.

But Brown in Ontario is small potatoes compared to manipulations south of the border. All he did was steal the leadership of his Conservative Party. He dumped more than 40,000 new memberships on a party with less than 25,000 members. How did he do it? He cheated. He beat the popular choice of the Ontario PCs by his massive sign-ups of thousands of immigrants—mainly from the sub-continent of India.

Did all these newcomers to Ontario pay their own memberships? No. Obviously not! Were not some of them the same as those who were signed up to support Kathleen Wynne win the Liberal leadership two years earlier? Yes. The same organizers signed up the same people. It is so routine!

And do they pay their own membership fee? No. Payment is optional and most often ignored. Who cares?

Some of us care. Honestly still has to count for something in politics. Voters just assume both sides cheat and consider it part of the game.

But politics is not a game. Politics has a purpose to serve people. Political office is a position of trust. To give the finger to that trust is despicable.

Americans do not really deserve the turmoil of the next four years. They have chosen a President who is not political. He is not even democratic. He will make mistakes and he will cause problems—hopefully nothing that cannot be repaired.

Conversely, Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party leader is a politician. He is a conniver and a sleaze. He is dishonest. He does not think he needs follow the rules. Think back to Michael Harris’ Ontario at the turn of the century. Mr. Brown could be far worse.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

You only know what Donald Trump is not.

Friday, December 16th, 2016

You can never accuse President-Elect Donald Trump of being a politician. He is the antithesis of that. He despises politicians. You saw how he treats both Democrats and Republicans. He is neither. At best, he is an oligarchist. It is a system he knows from business. It would suit a despot.

But he will continue to defy description. His current challenge is to find a way to work within a system loaded with checks and balances. He will either make nice with the Republicans again or his administration will be strangled by the road blocks of an obstreperous Congress.

Trump can be nothing more than an unfettered ego. He is like a gas-filled balloon character from the Macy’s parade in New York City. He wants to pull loose his ropes and float over America—master of his domain.

He is a denier. He wants to free the coal miners to breathe the dust of death. He wants to approve pipelines to speed the melting of the world’s icecaps. He sees the needs and concerns of the world in the simplistic reasoning of a child. Diplomacy is not in his lexicon.

And yet it will be the people who supported him—who went boldly to the polls and voted for him—who will reap reprisal for their foolish perfidy. They chose anger over reason. The chose self-love over love of country. He told them they could lose nothing more by voting for him. He gave them a pyrrhic victory.

It will be a traumatic four years. It will be a roller-coaster ride of false steps and errors. As any experienced business-person can tell you, trying to run a country as a company is a formula for disaster. A cabinet is not a management board. To build a cabinet of brigadiers, business leaders and billionaires is a guarantee of trouble.

And what will be left in four years? What will be left of the reputation of America? How many allies will Trump alienate? What will be left of NATO after Trump and pal Putin make their deals? Will there be any free trade or even fair trade left for America? How far will Trump go in alienating major trading partners such as Canada and Mexico?

But what Americans cannot do is let Trump destroy what is good about America. There is freedom of thought in most universities. There are skilled medical practitioners and researchers addressing world-wide needs. There are people deeply concerned about global warming. There are entrepreneurs and inventors. And there are decent people who want to build a more successful country. We wish them well.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

The empty chair of Tom Mulcair.

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

In a much condemned political schtick by actor-director Clint Eastwood at the Republican National Convention in 2012, he talked to an empty chair. The chair was supposed to represent President Barack Obama. We always thought it helped get Obama elected to his second term.

We were reminded of it recently when reading an op-ed piece by New Democrat stalwart Robin Sears. Sears was writing about failed promises of Justin Trudeau such as how Canadians vote. Sears would be far more productive at this time if he directed his supposed political smarts on the empty chair of NDP Leader Tom Mulcair.

New Democrat Leader Tom Mulcair is a lame duck. He has been found wanting by his political party and is serving out his term of office. It shows he has more intestinal fortitude and honour than Stephen Harper who could not wait to get out of Ottawa once the voters past judgement.

Unlike the temporary leader of the Conservatives, Rona Ambrose, Mulcair has been doing the opposition job with continued verve and flair. Ambrose only follows the Tory Book. Nobody really listens to her.

But when his time expires, will Tom Mulcair’s chair remain empty? Are there no believers left? Is Canada’s left bereft? Does nobody believe in the LEAP Manifesto? Does it matter?

Canada desperately needs a political party of the left. It hardly needs three on the right. It has always been our hope that the Liberals and New Democrats would combine into a social democratic party. That does not seem to be on Justin Trudeau’s agenda. While such an event would drive many so-called Liberals into the Conservative camp, our betting is that the social democrats would prevail at least through to 2050. And, as the expression goes, we should all live so long!

It was fascinating this past summer watching the New Democrats on the special commons committee on voting reform trying to manoeuver the other parties into supporting a proportional voting system. If they see that as their only hope to get more power in this country, they will be disappointed.

And while there are those who do not like our questioning of the Liberal party and its leadership, it is a small attempt to keep them honest. Robin Sears should direct some of his questioning inward to his own party. New Democrats also need to examine their future.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Forecasting what President Trump will do.

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

It was Franklin Roosevelt who showed us how a politician can get around the news media. His fireside chats on radio were his direct connection with the American voters and they loved him for it. It was a lesson we noted early in our career as a political apparatchik. Some of our most successful campaigns were built on personalized communication. Injecting that personal connection into a campaign was key to some surprise wins.

But it has become so much easier with the aid of the Internet. The example of President Elect Donald Trump is what immediately comes to mind today. This guy thinks he owns Twitter. And he might as well own it. And what he is going to do for a press secretary when he moves into the White House is anyone’s guess.

Can you imagine the White House Press Gallery members sitting around waiting for the President’s next tweet to find out what is going on? The reporters will first have to verify the tweet. “Is the President serious or is he funning us?” Will there even be any responsible press briefings? We all know that Mr. Trump really does not like the news media. Why should he want to help them do their job?

And with all the guff he has been feeding Americans on Twitter about his cabinet appointments, it is a wonder that any of it is being believed? And what is the point of even discussing some of his proposed appointments. Congress gets to advise and consent and Trump has no idea if the Senate is about to make nice on some important ones? It could be the first reality check in the Trump Presidency.

And they will have to install a revolving door on the White House to accommodate all the changes Trump will make in speech writers over the next four years. He reminds us so much of a client we once had; briefly. The client told us what he wanted in great detail. We thought it was easy. He fired us because we wrote what he asked. He actually said that he might as well have written it himself. We thought we had done a great job of organizing, correcting syntax and grammar, and keyboarding it for him.

Judging by his tweets, Trump appears to think in less than 140-character gulps. He really does need someone to at least get them in order, smooth out the syntax, make some sense and give continuity to them.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Andrea Horwath, where are you?

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

We were starting to think of our naughty or nice list for the holiday and realized that we had written nothing about Andrea Horwath for many months. We are talking about the leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party. She has simply been missing from the news.

How do you decide if she is naughty or nice if she only communicates with her followers on Facebook and Twitter? Seriously, this is a breach of the politician’s oath! And if you ask Siri “Where’s Andrea?” the stupid voice will ask you “Andrea what?”

What did the Ontario NDP do? Did they take a page from the federal party’s book and fire their leader? And then forget to tell anyone? When is the leadership convention? Is anyone interested in running? Are things so bad that Andrea will have to run to succeed herself because nobody else wants the job? That looks like the situation with their federal friends. Tom Mulcair might just have to run to succeed himself.

Was this not supposed to be the time when everybody was to study the LEAP Manifesto? This document written by some Toronto intelligentsia was supposed to save the New Democratic Party? Is it forgotten? Was it overtaken by Justin Trudeau’s Sunny Days? Sunny days are so much easier to understand than some intellectual old manifesto.

Funny thing is that quite a bit of Trudeau’s Sunny Days is almost lifted from the LEAP Manifesto. The only clinker is that the NDP Leader in Alberta and Justin Trudeau went off script supporting a couple pipelines to get Alberta tar sands to the oceans so that Albertans can pay their carbon taxes.

And what are the Ontario New Democrats going to do about Kathleen Wynne’s Cap and Trade taxes and Justin Trudeau’s carbon taxes? Does Andrea even understand the difference and did you hear anything of interest from Andrea Horwath in the Legislature about that? And all we hear from is that putz Brown, Leader of the Ontario PCs, making hay with the voters while Andrea seems to be sitting on her hands.

All we are trying to say is that Andrea and the NDP seem to be keeping a low profile. While Premier Wynne is leading her Liberals lemming-like to the sea and Brown is trying to convince the voters that he is the Second Coming, Andrea Horwath does not even seem in the game. What is going on here?

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

The impoverishment of Sir John, eh?

Monday, December 12th, 2016

There is a very old saying that people who forget the past will probably screw up the future. It has always been very annoying to us that Canadians can be disinterested in the past. They fail to be aware of or appreciate the people who have given so much of themselves to create and build this country.

Case in point: Our first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. This is the man who in many ways brought this country through the birthing process. It is hardly his fault that in those times, he swore a lot, drank even more and was somewhat high-handed with the country’s treasury.

But he got the job done and he earned his place in history. And it was nice to see a picture of where he was buried recently and it was obvious somebody had taken a weed-wacker to the family plot and repainted the little wrought-iron fence.

But to take Sir John off the ten-dollar bill is an insult to all Canadians. It denies our country and its origins. Our currency should be reserved for honouring those who have served our country and helped to make it great. We have waited long enough for the replacement of the Queen on the twenty-dollar bill. Mind you that honour should go to Pierre E. Trudeau, Lester B. Pearson or maybe even John G. Diefenbaker.

This is not to discourage the feminists. They can find another way to honour Viola Desmond. She was obviously a lady of great principles and we should all appreciate what she endured for Nova Scotia. When they get around to amalgamating the four Atlantic provinces into two viable provinces, they could name one after Ms. Desmond.

And if you really have to have a woman on a Canadian bill, we could do a run of three-dollar bills displaying the face of Kim Campbell, Canada’s first female Prime Minister. It might be best though to wait until after Ms. Campbell is deceased.

As we had to explain once to a politician who was outraged when we suggested that a new trail through one our parks not be named after his mother. We agreed with him that his mother had helped plan the trail and was instrumental in its development. In our opinion, it was just inappropriate to name it after her while she was still alive. Just think of the cost of repainting all the signs if she decided to augment her puny Canada Pension Plan payments by robbing a bank.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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