Archive for February, 2017

Does anyone trust Trump?

Saturday, February 18th, 2017

It seems that the only thing we can count on U.S. President Trump to do is the wrong thing. Some people accuse his supporters of believing what he tells them. Yet the only thing they seem to believe is that he will annoy everybody else. It is something like taking an angry rattlesnake to a Saturday night hoedown. You really have no idea what that rattler is going to do but you are going to enjoy the resulting chaos.

And honestly, would you let this guy arrange your news conferences? Cannot you just see the laughter of Trump’s supporters as he gets even with the liberal news media for them? It is not that they really believe that the news media feeds them false news; they just want to believe it. It makes them feel better about their own prejudices.

There is really no solace in thinking of Trump’s supporters as being stupid. These are the people who feed Donald Trump’s ego. They reinforce him. He is having another rally this weekend to remind him of the halcyon days of his campaign. It was those large crowds who stimulated and boosted him. It was a better high than cocaine could give him. He could tell them anything and they would scream for more.

It is a symbiotic relationship. It has always been the same for dictators and their followers. Adolf Hitler could scream invective at Jews, Gypsies, bankers and communists and his followers would scream back their concurrence. Fidel Castro could go on for hours railing against the Americans and their Mafia and his followers in the thousands could keep him orating.

What was wrong at that news conference at the White House recently was that it was a whim of the President. He wanted to pull himself out of a funk and thought he would feel better if he could abuse the media. It failed to work. The President had his direction and the media had something of an equal and opposite direction and both sides failed. The media had no idea what to make of it. They think they will look silly if they come down to his level to play.

But the answer to all the media’s questions will be at the rally in Florida this weekend. People will come thousands of miles to give Trump their unqualified support. He is their President. He will tell them whatever he feels like telling them. The media will take notes. The media will fact check. And Trump’s supporters will not give a damn. They ignore the mainstream media anyway.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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One man’s tweak.

Friday, February 17th, 2017

Maybe we can just tweak this situation while discussing the twits who Twitter. And why does Donald Trump’s White House menagerie remind us of that awful daytime TV serial, The Young and the Restless?

Quickly though, before the next episode in this ongoing saga, did you cotton on to Donald Trump’s strategy with Prime Minister Trudeau? Trump was actually suggesting that since he and Trudeau were the good guys, the two white men could gang up on the smaller Mexican. Trump is an old hand at ‘divide and conquer.’ It is one of the oldest ploys in the developers’ book.

And if Trudeau was foolish enough to go along with Trump, the one thing he can count on: Canada would be next! Trudeau has to ensure that any so-called ‘tweaking’ of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is done with three parties at the table. It will not really be two against one. You have to remember that the U.S. has about three times the population of Mexico and Mexico has about three times the population of Canada. It is only in gross domestic product that Canada becomes the second step.

And while Canada does considerable trade with Mexico, the substantial deficit in payments in pesos for Canada would be better balanced if Canadians stopped taking winter vacations in Mexico—or a lot more Mexicans visited Canada.

The real problem with the trade between Mexico and the U.S. is not the lack of a wall between the two countries but the barriers that do exist. The extremes of the income disparities in Mexico and the mean-spirited deals of American manufacturers are seriously suppressing Mexican labour rates. Today, they are forcing Mexican labour to accept a much lower wage rate than that to which they are really entitled. If the drug cartels in Mexico, for example, could turn their attention to labour organization in their own country, they could potentially become rich, legitimate, perform a worthwhile service and raise the average income to living wages.

Alternatively, if Donald Trump was the least bit sincere about his pledge to make America great again, all he would have to do is refuse to import any product into the U.S.A. that used any labour that is paid less than 60 per cent of that paid to the average American manufacturing employee.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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More fallout from voting reform.

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

This subject would have been ignored if another commentary on it had not run in the Washington Post. The writer accused the Canadian prime minister of looking “both incompetent and cynical in abandoning the promise of (voting) reform.” It would have become an international incident but we have reason to think the writer is Canadian.

There was also the national day of protest last Saturday organized by Fair Vote Canada. It looked like a couple dozen people turned out in Nathan Philips Square in Toronto with their signs saying Justin Trudeau let them down. There were similar efforts in a few other cities—everyone gets together with their homemade signs, their bluster and their tired arguments and then head for the nearest pub to get warm, quaff a few and argue some more.

It is hardly that Prime Minister Trudeau was being cavalier about the subject. He was obviously sincere—though wrong—when he said in the last election campaign that 2015 was the last election under first-past-the-post. He got the Fair Vote people excited and Canada’s New Democrats and Greens on side fast enough. It proved that he had not read the entrails on that election very well. He seemed to have no idea how well he was going to do.

And it was not as though he did not try to keep his word. He might not have given the file to the smartest member of his cabinet but she seemed to be doing as she was told. After a false start with a Liberal majority committee, he agreed to having a more balanced special committee created to investigate the best route to follow.

That committee certainly worked hard. They listened to so-called experts from across Canada and from selected countries. They even listened—grudgingly—to some non-expert citizens. They spent the summer of 2016 in cloisters in Ottawa doing their duty. They did marathon travelling around the country in the fall. And they filed their report.

They were insulted by Prime Minister Trudeau’s minister for not providing an answer. They did the best job they could. They reported that there is no perfect answer. They reported that Canadians were either divided on the issue, happy with first-past-the-post or possibly just not interested. It was obvious that a great deal more work needed to be done.

So what did anyone expect Prime Minister Trudeau to do? As a politician, he listened to his cabinet, his caucus and to parliament and to the citizens of his country. After due deliberation, he admitted that we will just have to use first-past-the-post again in the next election.

He is not the first politician to break a promise to the voters. He will not be the last. He admitted he made a boo-boo.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Where are Ontario politics headed?

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

There have been some political polls in Ontario recently that have caused a buzz in the news media. If the media had just checked back to before the last provincial election, they would have seen a similar pattern in the public preferences a year before that election. It certainly supports the claim that the only polls that matter are the ones on election day.

But polls can be useful indicators for politicians. There is no question that the current Conservative figures are inflated. The Tories have a leader who is an unknown quantity and every effort is expected to be made to create an acceptable persona for him before the 2018 provincial election.

The current polls are particularly disquieting for the governing Liberals. It is becoming obvious that Premier Wynne’s poor performance just might have dragged the party down to unrecoverable levels. If she had any respect for her party, she would have called for a leadership convention by May of this year to give her replacement time to gain traction with the voters.

It is hard to ignore the New Democrat leader but until she joins a gym and gets the party interested in a future, it has none.

The leader needing the most scrutiny by the voters is the Conservative leader. After using dishonest tactics to steal the party leadership last year, Patrick Brown is still an unknown quantity even to members of the Conservative Party, let alone the voters. Most of the people his organizers signed up as temporary Conservative Party members never knew him.

Brown is a 38-year old bachelor who has spent his entire adult life in politics. His answer to most questions is to tell you what he thinks you want to hear. He has no small talk. He bores women. They are not interested. He is a social conservative and voted against women’s rights when an MP in Ottawa. He has since earned the enmity of social conservatives in Ontario for not openly supporting them.

For people who do care about this province and its citizens, the provincial election coming on June 7, 2018 is worrisome. There is no category appearing on the ballot for ‘None of the above.’ We have to make choices. We need to send the very best person on our ballot to Queen’s Park. We need people who will speak for their constituents. We need people we can respect and who respect us.

Ontario voters will need to think long and hard on this one.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Wasted hours in Washington.

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

Did you think President Trump was going to slice and dice our prime minister for lunch the other day? First of all, Donald Trump seemed to like Justin Trudeau. He would think of Trudeau as a younger version of himself. This young guy was manor born. It is all so easy for him. He was polite and always seemed to say the right things.

If he even thought about it, Trump would seek Trudeau’s approval. More likely it was just some down time to stay out of trouble.

Whoever dreamed up that stunt of the meeting with the female business executives was lucky Trump did not recognize he had been had. It was an effective piece of manipulation.

It is also lucky the current U.S. President is no student of history. He is too young to remember when U.S. President Johnson grabbed Canadian Prime Minister Pearson by the lapels in the Oval Office and told him not to piss on his rug. He would not understand that informality in the relationship between the two countries.

And it is certainly not Trump’s style to put his arms around Trudeau and hug him as President Obama could. Nor would Trump understand President Ronald Regan and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney singing Irish ballads to each other on a stage in Quebec City.

Mind you this could be the reverse of John Kennedy’s relationship with Prime Minister Diefenbaker. Diefenbaker gave Kennedy the creeps.

The worst president-prime minister relationship between the two countries was President Richard Nixon and Justin Trudeau’s father. Nixon was reported to have called the elder Trudeau an asshole. Trudeau later responded that he had been called worse things by better people.

It will probably be a long time before Trudeau writes a memoir and admits how he felt about Trump. It will probably not be flattering.

It was probably just as well that Trudeau brought a lot of back-up from his cabinet. It would have been a waste of time for what Trudeau and Trump got out of that meeting.

Trump looked bored; Trudeau looked wary. Neither could get on to their normal way of doing things soon enough.

The obligatory invitation to Trump to come to Ottawa will be some time in future. Trump is certainly in no rush. He will not be getting an invitation to address Parliament.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Pride Falls.

Monday, February 13th, 2017

Torontonians of all stripes and types have always been proud of their Pride Parade. Originating in 1981, the parade has cheerfully acknowledged the growing acceptance of diversity in a polyglot city. Today it is one of the largest events of its kind in the world and brings more than a million visitors to the city each summer.

But there has been a hitch. We have seen a single faction put their wants ahead of the community. We have seen a hunger for power overcome the principles of inclusion. We have seen how one group can pit themselves against the needs of their own community.

We are talking about a small group of people who have taken the name of an American movement called ‘Black Lives Matter.’ The name means little as these people have taken it to mean that ‘Only Black Lives Matter.’ It is an insult to the entire community and an embarrassment for the large Toronto black community.

What annoys their own community is their assertions that Toronto cops are racist. Their grandstanding at the Pride Parade last year was an insult to Toronto, the Toronto police and the Pride events organizers. To hold up the parade with their irresponsible demands was an outrage. They were playing to the cheap seats, to the bigots who shared their shallow views and to the media for their attention. The parade marshal who signed off on their silly demands did it to get the massive parade moving again. The media gave them the attention they wanted.

But now the Pride Parade organizers are creating their own monsters. They are letting this militant group with their own agenda dictate to them. They are dividing their community into ‘us’ and ‘them.’ And how dare they do that when the overall community was so accepting?

Nobody is foolish enough to believe that there is no homophobia in the city. It has been the successful Pride events that were helping silence that ignorance. The growing success of the events made people proud. The inclusiveness made people feel good about their community.

But what did people expect the Chief of Police to do about that idiotic vote denying their participation? Nobody wants their people where they are not wanted. He appears to regret that decision more than the people benefitting the most from the inclusiveness.

Frankly, by letting those people dictate to the parade marshal last year, Pride has told the entire parade that they can do whatever they want. You have to be able to manage your parade or get out of the business.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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A cri de coeur for Canada’s Conservatives.

Sunday, February 12th, 2017

For the benefit of M.P. Kelly Leitch and that O’Leary person we should translate: a ‘cri de coeur’ is an impassioned plea from the heart. And that is what this is. Sometime in the next month, Babel-on-the-Bay will publish its morning line on the current Conservative Party of Canada leadership contest. This is a public service to assist conservatives, reporters and other political punters to establish a base line when analyzing the statistics for the rather large field of candidates.

And we respectfully ask that readers be aware that a morning line is not a prediction of a race’s outcome. It is an assessment of the political potential of the various candidates by a politico who has some expertise to share.

But by no stretch of the imagination would we try to forecast the moods and frustrations and motivations of the voting members of the Conservative Party of Canada. Whether an individual is a religious conservative, a financial conservative or just mean spirited is not something that you can easily tell at a glance.

And just because we gave Donald Trump longer odds than Hillary Clinton in the recent American fiasco, it hardly meant that he could not win.

The reason for our cri de coeur today is that there is a growing concern that the Conservative Party is letting all of us down. Maybe the party was just in power too long under that guy with the funny hairpiece. And that lady you have as interim leader is hardly showing the attention to detail that could keep the current prime minister’s nose to the grindstone, so to speak.

This is a call for Canada’s Conservatives to smarten up. You can hardly let the current mess in Alberta throw you off your game. And if the Conservatives there give that trouble-maker Kenney license to lead their provincial party, good luck! He has made it very clear that he intends to destroy the provincial party and replace it with the Wildrose Party.

The facts are that we have a situation in Ottawa today where we have a lame-duck opposition. We have a prime minister learning his job with limited critiquing. And there is very little time left to find which one of those no-name candidates has the potential to make the right kind of name for himself or herself.

The only good news for you today is that the federal New Democrats are in far worse shape. They do not even have any real candidates.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Docs are rabblerousing with Patrick Brown.

Saturday, February 11th, 2017

Conservative Leader Patrick Brown will do anything to get himself elected premier in the next Ontario election. Making blatant use of Ontario’s doctors is just another sleazy tactic for an unprincipled political manipulator. And he is appealing to their greed.

Truth and honesty be damned. Brown wants to use a radicalized Ontario Medical Association (OMA) as a surgical scalpel to emasculate the Ontario Liberals. He has always used doctors in his political gamesmanship and now he has the entire profession locked in battle. They are playing his game.

It started last summer when, after three years of inaction, the Ontario government offered the OMA negotiators a settlement. Brown immediately announced that he would have offered arbitration. That was what his supporters among the doctors wanted. It was the easy route for politicians as they had to go through middleman negotiators anyway. And Brown knew it was an easy solution to load on the taxpayers. His organizers urged the doctors to reject the Liberal government’s offer. And they did.

That was when the archaic and unwieldy structure of the OMA started to come apart. It finally resulted in the six-member executive deciding to step down. While still serving on the Board, they have left the doctor’s organization without management control and direction until a new board is elected this month. This vote has the potential to radicalize the board and bring a more demanding (read greedier) executive into office.

This all fits the behind-the-scenes strategy of Patrick Brown and his close friend Walied Soliman who is the lawyer for a group of radicalized doctors. It is working. It is pitting medical specialties against other specialties as each fight to increase or maintain unrealistic fees for their services. The Ontario government has hardly helped in this as it has had to arbitrarily reduce fees for some specialties to reflect changes in technology.

This action by Ontario doctors is not only going to dig much deeper into the taxpayers’ pockets but it is going to end the farce of the OMA being anything other than a union. It has put doctor dissatisfaction with their payment ahead of the quality of service that Ontario patients have come to expect.

While your doctor bills the province for his or her fees, it is unfair to suggest that it is all income. The assumption is that even a family doctor with an average staff to pay and reasonable office costs is going to be in the $200,000 per year tax bracket. Those years of medical training and their cost are soon compensated.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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We all need editors.

Friday, February 10th, 2017

Wandering through the web site called Progressive Bloggers the other day, we found a writer who inadvertently referred to a clique as a ‘click.’ That is one way to get noticed! It happens to all of us though as we keyboard our frustrations without the aid of that second look.

That particular blog needed more than just an editor. It would have been more merciful to spike it. It called for an insurrection because Prime Minister Trudeau put an end to possible change in how we elect our members of parliament. Luckily, Canadians are more peaceful than that and his call is being ignored.

But it was read. He also wanted a People’s Reform Referendum—whatever that might be? This was also where the ‘click’ was noticed. He asked if Canadians should “let a small click (sic) of gutless politicians decide their political future?” Since that is what we elect them to do, there is an obvious answer to that question.

Are you still trying to get your mind around the idea of a People’s Reform Referendum? The writer thinks individuals across Canada would be willing to donate to pay for this idea. He thinks they should trust the Fair Vote Canada organization to run the referendum. And he even thinks that the New Democratic Party and the Greens would help launch the effort.

And who would be foolish enough to think Fair Vote Canada would be fair? It is hardly in that organization’s interest to be fair. It has been a lobby for proportional representation for the past sixteen years. It is a ‘Johnny-one-note’ group since it is modelled on the American organization.

Fair Vote’s claims for proportional representation border on the ludicrous. The organization claims that when parties supply their lists for appointment to a legislative body, they make sure that minorities are well represented. What really happens is that many pressure groups form their own parties in hopes a larger party, trying to form a government, will make a deal with them. The proportional system actually works against good government.

What people do not notice in their scurry to change how we vote is that Canadians have one of the best developed voting systems in the world. First-Past-the-Post is easy for everyone to understand, makes it easy to vote, easy to verify and we trust it. No system is perfect but we have been unable to find one better.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Hand-wringing in academia.

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

You would have thought that Edward Greenspon had covered the subject. He released his Public Policy Forum report on Canada’s news media recently and we thought that was it. We all hung some crepe for a dying industry, maybe shed a tear and the report was consigned to the recycle bin for things we will not solve.

But now the academics are weighing in. The first were the researchers from the University of British Columbia and University of Ottawa who did Greenspon’s research for his study.

These people should have left all the writing to Greenspon. In the first chapter, they referred to a lack of “VC funding.” After finally concluding that they meant venture capital funding, it was obvious that they had little experience with that breed of vulture.

Despite the limitations of their journalistic skills, they went on to explain why they believe that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation/Radio Canada should be refocussed on municipal news across the country. And they wanted it provided under “Creative Commons license.” Since that means free, they want the federal government to pay for it.

What is very annoying in their assessment is that they want the CBC out of digital advertising despite the fact that the CBC has been doing the best job of all its competitors in digital news. Bell, Rogers and Shaw have made a sham of self-promoting news coverage on their major newscasts to the point that they are turning off their viewers and their promotion is bleeding into their digital coverage. The bar is set so low, they make the CBC look good.

It must be only academics who promote Creative Commons licensing. They think that individual citizens and organizations will honour the license conditions and help spread the word. They have never seen the party trick of passing a complex story down a line of people and comparing the changes from the beginning to the end of the line.

It also pays to remember the time in the Ontario Legislature when there would be a lone reporter in the gallery over the speaker’s chair. It was the Canadian Press who covered for all the others. The bar was open.

And the most annoying comment of these academics was that many people they interviewed for the media study referred to the CBC as a “predator.” Everyone becomes a predator when you are fighting to exist.

(Note: As they were research principals for the Public Policy Forum Report, they should be mentioned: Taylor Owen is an Asst. Prof. of Digital Media and Global Affairs at the Univ. of British Columbia and Elizabeth Dubois is an Asst. Prof. in the Dept. of Communications at the Univ. of Ottawa.)


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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