Archive for May, 2017

The anger is real Ms. Wynne.

Sunday, May 21st, 2017

It is the time of year when Canadians come out of their winter refuges. We travel. We talk to each other. And if we are smart, we listen. What we are hearing here in Ontario is the strong desire for change. That is not necessarily bad if Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is also listening.

What we are hearing might be a surprise to her. Her notoriety has gained momentum over the winter. We are hearing her being blamed for many things, even some for which she has no responsibility. It is hard to argue with the anger.

If something is worth doing, she does it by half measures and for optimal political benefit. We understand she was in London, Ontario yesterday to announce a high-speed train plan for the Toronto-Windsor corridor. While we understand the political choice to starting with that section, we are appalled at the political hutzpah behind it.

Of course, we all know that the Windsor-Toronto leg will be the cheapest and there are more Liberal seats to be won in that part of southern Ontario. We will also concede that it is the leg that can be moved along with some alacrity.

But Wynne really needs to wait and announce this when they can say something more definite about costs than it will cost between $4 billion and $12 billion. We will soon be referring to Kathleen Wynne as the $8 billion-dollar woman.

What is particularly disappointing with this is that she is appointing David Collenette, former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s Minister of Transport, to drive this train through the years it will take to complete building the line. The only money really allocated at this time is $15 million for the environmental studies. It is the thought that David might be expendable after next June’s provincial election that concerns us. And we would also hate to see this vital project turned into a political football.

But it is just the latest cynical political move by a sorry politician with an ego that is bigger than her sense of duty to this province.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The darkening clouds of the Trump presidency.

Saturday, May 20th, 2017

President Donald Trump took his case to the graduating cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy the other day. They did not rise up in support. They were surprisingly polite. And probably dumbfounded. Trump’s problems are not their concern.

When you are commissioned as a junior officer of the United States Coast Guard, your interests are in the right billet and career growth. You expect very little of America’s current, erratic and incompetent President.

But as he heads down the road to an inevitable attempt at impeachment, Trump grasps at any and all straws. No matter how many wiser and more knowledgeable advisors told him not to talk as he did to the cadets, he was steadfast in his determination to follow his path to destruction.

This is not a man to be humbled. He would neither understand the feeling nor has he the capacity to act humbled. He believes he can brazen out all they can pitch at him.

But his detractors should also weigh carefully their cause. Would they really prefer the ultra-conservative Mike Pence as president? Why trade a fool who does not know what he is doing for a fool who does?

The prospect of having President Pence dancing to the Koch Brothers tunes is both sad and frightening. If you thought Trump was ignorant about the environment, the Koch Brothers’ businesses make billions out of defiling the environment.

If you were not aware, the Koch Brothers of New York are the principal donors of the Republican Party in the United States. They spend hundreds of millions on Republican politicians and virtually own the extreme right-wing Tea Party. If Mike Pence becomes president, the Koch Brothers would own the White House, the Congress and the United States of America. God help America then!

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Fixing Ontario’s out-of-date work laws.

Friday, May 19th, 2017

Ontario Labour Minister Kevin Flynn has a tough road to travel with the Wynne Cabinet. He is seeking to address the antiquated labour laws in Ontario. He wants to restore balance to the rights of part-time workers. He wants to guarantee a minimum wage on which someone can live. What will be interesting in these deliberations will be the blocks the Wynne government puts in the way.

The full package is just too much to expect of a cautious and conservative government such as Wynne runs. She will probably agree to the raising of the minimum wage except it will be piecemeal and behind the poverty curve.

She will likely agree to making it easier to unionize rather than to really digging into the wrongs of the workplace. Her cabinet would have little understanding of the pride of place in the working environment and the need for individual rights in employment. Unions are not the only answer and addressing those rights under collective agreements cannot necessarily enable individual rights in the workplace.

While Kevin Flynn might want to overcome some of the problems in unionizing widely dispersed workers, he seems to be ignoring what can be done in labour law to improve their lot. He seems to also be unaware that the federal and provincial governments are both guilty of having massive numbers of employees under contract that treat them as contractors without benefits or many rights.

Moving temporary workers to an improved vacation pay—allowing for a minimum of three-weeks actual time off with pay is a minor step. Ensuring temporary workers of the same benefits as full-time employees is key to sorting out what is temporary work and what is full-time employment.

But the minimum wage question is still the key question that Flynn has to fight on. The Wynne Cabinet has already dug a line that can also bury them after the election next June. All they have to do is leave the minimum wage behind the poverty line.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

On the road to mediocrity.

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

Do you know who will be the new leader of the Conservative Party of Canada on May 27? With a third of the votes already in and more trickling in every day, it is a very frustrating guessing game to determine who will win. The problem you are facing is that the people who preferred the losers are choosing the winner. It seems as though the party contest is designed to choose the mediocre.

If you are a CPC member you can vote for one of 14 candidates—even for one who has already withdrawn from the race. Never fear though, on the second series of voting, withdrawn candidates as well as the one with the fewest votes will have their second choices credited with the vote.

There are a number of candidates who will also have their votes quickly lost and their second choices will earn the support. If a voter’s second choice is dropped, their third choice will be credited with the vote. It is something like the spiral that develops around a drain. This system will continue until we have someone with more votes than everyone else combined.

But, hold fast, there is another factor to consider. Not all votes in this system are created equal. The simple way to explain this is that if there are 300 members voting in an electoral district, each membership will be worth 33.3 per cent of a vote. If there are only 50 members, each vote will be worth 200 percent of a vote. It is mind boggling. The weakest electoral districts will have more say per member than the strongest. Does that seem backward to you?

But this is how our Conservatives are choosing their new leader. If you know a Conservative Party member, you might send them a sympathy card.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The poster boy and the NDP.

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

Charlie Angus meet Jagmeet Singh. No doubt Charlie Angus MP, candidate for the New Democratic Party leadership has met Jagmeet Singh MPP, the newest candidate for the NDP leadership, before, but not likely as a competitor. The only surprise about this meeting is that both these gentlemen are in the same political party.

What is also obvious is that the 38-year old turbaned Sikh is in the wrong party. This is also the problem he has as deputy leader of the Ontario NDP and it will follow him into the leadership race for the federal party. Jagmeet Singh is not a union man. He seems to have had little or no experience with unions. With the ongoing role of unions in the NDP, that could be a liability.

That lack of understanding of the New Democrats and their socialist past by Jagmeet Singh has been obvious for some time. All you have to do is read back through the bills he has presented to the Ontario Legislature during his six years there representing Bramalea-Gore-Malton. You will see a person who is concerned with individual rights more than the collective rights of unions. Jagmeet Singh would probably be comfortable in a more progressive Liberal Party.

It is easier for a guy like Charlie Angus to deal with the problems that the unions present. He stood up to his Catholic church on the question of same-sex marriage and he is used to the rough and tumble of Northern Ontario union activists.

But the double problem for Ontario is that the union movement has been losing ground as well as seeing some key unions (temporarily, maybe) shifting over to support the Liberals. The New Democrats have not handled these problems well and both federal and provincial parties have been losing in the polls. Thomas Mulcair federally and Andrea Horwath provincially have been feeling the shifting ground that they stand on and you could see in recent elections the problems they faced in trying to tell us where their party is going.

While Jagmeet might already have the notoriety as one of the best dressed New Democrats or Sikhs in Canada, most interest will be in what he will say in the leadership about where the NDP is headed. This is a party that is desperately in need of some direction—and the contestants so far, Ashton, Angus, Caron and Julian, have come across as an anemic barbershop quartet.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Infrastructure bank belongs in Toronto.

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

The good news is that Canada’s new infrastructure bank will be in operation by the end of this year. Despite the complaints of other centres, Toronto is the city where it belongs. The bank will be launched with $35 billion in capital from the federal government and will seek Canadian and foreign investors looking for productive investments in Canadian infrastructure needs.

And that makes a great deal of economic sense. Any objections to it being in Toronto are nothing but sour grapes. And any objections some have to where the government is getting advice are way off base.

It was no surprise that the Chamber of Commerce in Montreal was disappointed the bank was not located there. If the bank was set up to just fund infrastructure projects in Quebec, that would make a lot of sense but since the project covers the entire country, Toronto is the truly international financial centre for it.

And for the Conservative opposition in Ottawa to complain about the influence the world’s largest investment management firm telling the government what is needed is silly. If you want to attract investment capital, who would you want to talk to, a tiddly-winks manufacturer or an organization that already does large capital investment.

An infrastructure bank such as is proposed has to have people who can talk to investors in all parts of the world. It has to attract some of their capital to Canada where it can help meet infrastructure needs. It has to create the kind of revenue streams that will interest these investors. If you are going to invest in electrifying the commuter trains in southern Ontario, you want to be sure that your money will produce a reliable return.

The good news is that people do want to invest in Canada. It is no surprise that a Spanish consortium bought Ontario’s Highway 407, an electronic toll road that constantly earns money for their investors. Drivers have a choice, they can pay the toll and drive relatively quickly across the top of Toronto. They can refuse to pay the toll and sit in grid lock.

Commuter trains, subways, light rail tramways, bus tramways and streetcars all deal in funds for use. We can wait for your taxes to pay for these services or we can have them sooner with the aid of a properly functioning infrastructure bank. What is your choice.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Take it to heart Ms. Wynne.

Monday, May 15th, 2017

Yes, there is a lesson to be learned from the B.C. provincial election by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. The lesson is that when voters are mad, you best get out of the way.

Take a page from former Premier Dalton McGuinty’s book: he knew when to get out of the way. Except for the gas-powered electrical generation plants, he gave Kathleen Wynne a fairly clean slate.

But few were impressed. If it had not been for the very bad campaigns of Tim Hudak’s Conservatives and Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats in 2014, Wynne might not have scraped through that last election. And we can hardly count on Brown and Horwath to be so careless this time around.

Brown is not likely to be such an easy target as Hudak next spring. This guy will never be where you expect him to be and he will be a fast-moving target. He is currently attacking Yasir Naqvi Ontario’s Attorney General over inadequacies in Ontario’s parole system but it is more the man he is attacking than the parole needs. Undermining strong cabinet members at any opportunity is just a strategic move rather than any concern.

Brown and his people would also recognize Naqvi as a strong possibility to replace Wynne and they are trying for two birds with one stone.

But there are some even stronger Liberals ready for the top job in Ontario and Wynne is in their way at the moment. She needs to resign before the end of June so that the party can set up a convention by November. If we can get an every-member votes race without artificial constrictions, we have the chance of choosing a younger, more progressive Liberal leader than we have had for many a year. What we have to make sure of is that the supposed powers-that-be are kept from manipulating the convention.

What we need to hear from liberal candidates for Wynne’s job is their ideas of about where Ontario is headed. As the industrial and financial heart of Canada, we have to take the lead. A small step towards Pharmacare based on looking after our young people has to show a path for full Pharmacare across Canada. This would contribute considerably to lowering and controlling healthcare costs for the entire country.

Ontario need never take pride in just where we are but has to have a vision of the future. That takes leadership.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Spicer embarrasses all press secretaries.

Sunday, May 14th, 2017

Donald Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer is earning press secretaries a bad name. You would like to think it is not because he is totally incompetent. He might just have an impossible task for an impossible client. President Trump does not make the job any easier.

We used to refer to President George W. Bush as Bush-league but Donald Trump has brought forward an entirely new perspective.

Can you imagine the White House news media hounds finding the president’s press secretary hiding in the White House bushes?

He said if they would turn out the lights, he would talk to them. We understand imparting deep cover stories but we never insisted that they be imparted in the dark.

But what we are finding out now is that President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey might not have been as non-partisan as it was originally reported. (Is anything Trump does non-partisan?) It seems President Trump was in a pique about Comey wanting to dig into Trump’s relations with his friend Vladimir Putin of Russia. He just wanted to end Comey’s tenure before Comey could interfere with Trump’s tenure in the White House.

Which is surprising. Judging by what Trump has been saying, he does not even seem to like the White House. It probably is less significant to a guy who likes building great phallic towers.

Nor does Trump seem to like the job of president. He would rather play golf. All these interminable briefings and meetings are starting to bore him.

Luckily, he is going to travel shortly. He is ignoring the tradition of visiting Canada first. Some 33 million Canadians are pleased.

But he will visit the Pope in Rome. The Pope is known for his calm and patience. Trump will try that.

And then he will be off to visit Prime Minister “Bibi” Netanyahu in Israel. On his trip, he will also get to be lionized by the Royal House of Saud. Then he can come back and tell Americans how tough the job of president can be.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Those tree-hugging Greenies did it!

Saturday, May 13th, 2017

When we wrote our Morning Line for the British Columbia provincial election, we admitted the weakness to our assessment. Here it is four days after the election and we still know very little. Blame the Greens!

With the B.C. Liberals one short of a majority, the absentee ballots and the recounts will be critical.

The B.C. Green Party won three seats in an 87-seat legislature and you would swear they just won the Battle of the Bulge. Green leader Andrew Weaver is acting like he just won a lottery. If the ruling Liberals do not regain one more seat in the final counts, Weaver’s three Green Party MLAs will hold the balance of power.

That balance of power would be good to kill the Kinder Morgan Trans-mountain pipeline and take away the Liberal’s unfair business financing. B.C. could have a more honest and fair election next time around—probably in less than two years.

Mind you, it can go the other way too. The absentee ballots for the riding of Courtenay-Comox could easily change that 9-vote lead of the NDP candidate to a win for Christie Clark’s Liberals. And that would be the status quo all over again with a statistical majority for the Liberals.

That outcome would not be enough to make Clark’s friend Justin Trudeau happy. Getting the Kinder Morgan pipeline completed under those circumstances would be tenuous at best. A simple flu bug going through the government ranks in the Legislature could upset that apple cart.

The situation reminds us all that politics is a blood sport and there is no quarter given to those on their way out.

Mind you, B.C. voters need to learn something about strategic voting. Putting your resources where they will do the most good is a basic of war and politics.

We will all be watching as B.C. plays out this fascinating battle over the next couple weeks.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

A politico posits on Patrick Brown.

Friday, May 12th, 2017

One of the more interesting aspects of some politicians is the effort they will take to make sure you do not know them. It is like Ontario voters should be less worried about Ontario Conservative leader Patrick Brown’s lack of policies than his lack of personality.

Having moved to Barrie 13 years ago, we were still unpacking when the 2004 federal election was called. The first election worker at our door was calling to promote the local Liberal candidate. The second was the Conservative candidate in person.

Patrick Brown is not an impressive person. This anaemic-looking little man was at our door with his hand out offering to shake hands. He introduced himself in that whiny adenoidal voice and that was when we found out who he was. It convinced us to make sure we were on the voters’ list to vote Liberal. Brown lost that election. He won in 2006.

For more than 12 years now, we have watched Patrick Brown in action (and in in-action) here in Barrie and when in Ottawa. He has never really represented Barrie. He never did anything in Ottawa other than what Stephen Harper’s people told him. And when they did not instruct him, he voted against women’s rights on the Conservative religious right.

Once when this writer was in the nation’s capital to make a presentation to the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), one of the speakers earlier on the agenda was Patrick Brown M.P. It was very obvious in his remarks that he was not speaking on behalf of his voters. When he sat down beside a young man in front of where we were sitting, he did not recognize us. The young man was quite effusive about the MP’s speech and we got the impression he had written it. That made sense when seeing his badge that identified him as a Bell Canada employee.

Brown was known as the king of parliamentary mailers in Ottawa—using his free mailing privileges to voters—usually to support charities because he had nothing to say for himself. We used to hate meeting voters who told us what a wonderful job he did for the charities. They had no clue what he was elected to do in Ottawa.

Patrick Brown lives and breathes politics. When he saw the hand-writing on the wall for the Harper regime a couple years ago, he flipped to the provincial scene. He looked at how small the Ontario Progressive Conservative membership was and swamped it with 40,000 mainly Hindu and Muslim temporary membership sign-ups from the sub-continent. He appeared to defy the rules of the party and nobody called him on it.

Brown is relying on the party to provide him with some polices for next year. He might also lack principles but nobody can help him there.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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