Archive for September, 2017

Hébert hails the Hair.

Sunday, September 10th, 2017

It is unlikely that many of political commentator Chantal Hébert’s fans read her Toronto Star columns for the humour. It is only occasionally that she writes with her tongue firmly in cheek. If you missed her most recent column, you missed a gem. She actually wrote of how the Hair (Stephen Harper) saved Canada from Quebec separatism. The joke was only softened by her giving credit for the suggestion to Harper’s former aide Carl Vallée, writing in L’actualité magazine.

It is hard to believe that the 2015 federal election was anything more than Quebec making common cause with the rest of Canada to get rid of Harper and his government. Nor was it much other than Tom Mulcair getting all flustered about niqabs and forgetting the NDP had any policies that washed out Quebec’s Orange Wave.

While there is a vestigial bigotry in Quebec that can be annoying at times, it’s use by Pauline Marois backfired on her and the Parti Québécois. Harper might have made note for his future, fictional, autobiography but he made no public comment at the time.

The simple facts are that the Parti Québécois spent the second half of the Hair’s regime in Ottawa finding its own way to perdition. When the separatist party chose Pierre Karl Péladeau as leader in 2015, we figured that was it for the dreams of René Lévesque. A millionaire, a confirmed union buster and a political dilettante, Péladeau was anathema to anything Lévesque had stood for.

At the same time, the Bloc Québécois became a non-party in the House of Commons and of no use to Quebec separatists. That more than anything else has spelled the lack of enthusiasm today for Quebec separatism.

What Vallée is telling us, Hébert says, is that Harper redirected Quebec attention to a left-right dialogue instead of a go-stay argument. While there is merit to that idea, it could hardly benefit Harper. In fact, it is hardly likely that it was deliberate.

When Babel-on-the-Bay saw which way the wind was blowing in Quebec, we put all our bets on a Liberal majority government in 2015. The simple facts were that Harper was the architect of nothing. He was a spent force.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The Globe and Mail’s Ibbitson flunks math?

Saturday, September 9th, 2017

Reading a recent column by the Globe’s John Ibbitson, I was a little confused by his logic but I was even more concerned about his mathematics. He was forecasting a win by Quebec M.P. Guy Caron in the New Democratic Party leadership voting later this month. He very wisely gave all the credit for the logic attached to this to former NDP president Brian Topp. Maybe both gentlemen need to recheck their mathematics.

There is simply very little chance that Guy Caron will be anywhere but last on the first ballot. If there is a second ballot, we can only assume that it is Mr. Caron’s name that will be left off.

The facts are the party has announced more than 80,000 new memberships came in during the six months before the August cut-off for memberships. These memberships, we are told, came mainly from British Columbia and Ontario. And M.P.P. Jagmeet Singh’s campaign claims credit for 47,000 of those memberships. I think they are being modest.

This is the same situation as caused by Ontario Conservative leadership candidate Patrick Brown two years ago when he swamped the Tories’ provincial membership with temporary memberships, mainly from India.

Despite the problems Brown might have created for himself in winning any trust from long-time Ontario Conservatives, Jagmeet Singh has even more difficulties winning over long-time NDPers. With the joint federal provincial memberships in the party and the voting rights of labour, he cannot hope for a truly loyal party at his back across the country.

But the Sikh communities across Canada are very proud of Jagmeet Singh. My childhood in Toronto was something of an advanced course in studying ethnic characteristics among newcomers to Canada. And if there is one thing I learned about Sikhs, it is that their word is something you are inclined to trust. They are consistent and they are determined. If the Singh campaign says that their sign-ups are 47,000, I expect that more than 40,000 votes will be cast for Jagmeet Singh for NDP leader later this month. If his three competitors combined, get as many votes, this long-time political observer will be a bit surprised.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

How’s the kitchen coming Chrystia?

Friday, September 8th, 2017

Though not sure if the analogy of NAFTA negotiations being like renovating a kitchen comes from Canada’s foreign minister, by now she would disown the quote anyway. After meetings in Washington and in Mexico City, it is obvious that the discussions of North America’s trade agreements are going nowhere. By the time the three amigo countries get together in Ottawa there is likely to be a fist fight.

It seems that nobody is in a position to save this screw-up. History is going to have to remember Donald Trump as a master of disaster. He has sent American negotiators on an impossible task. They really cannot win agreement from people by constantly abusing them. The Mexicans are certainly mad as hell and are not going to take it anymore.

Canada is hardly going to allow our dairy farmers to be screwed the same way American dairy farmers are routinely bankrupted. And that fixed smirk on the face of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when people mention Trump is starting to look like a death mask. The Mexicans are already pissed by Trump’s racist insults and his stupid wall.

But the Mexicans are also becoming annoyed with Canada. While the U.S. delegates simply scoff at Freeland’s environmental protection and balanced labour suggestions, the Mexican’s saw it as an attack on their labour-cost advantage. This is a three-way, two against one negotiation, when both Canada and Mexico could use an ally. Instead, they are all talking and nobody is listening.

There is no rule that says we have to resolve these questions this year or even three years from now. It would certainly be nice to find a faster solution to the softwood lumber dispute and Canada might have to apply some tit-for-tat tariffs if Trump thinks he can just ignore the existing treaties.

But an angry American Congress might have something to say if Trump tries to end NAFTA. Congress is confident that only it has the authority to accept or reject country to country treaties when the U.S. is one of the parties.

The one thing the three countries might agree on is that NAFTA needs some adjustments after a quarter century. It just cannot be as one-sided as Mr. Trump thinks it should be.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

By Jingo, by Trump.

Thursday, September 7th, 2017

That little putz with the freaky haircut who fronts for the North Korean generals is likely to lose his idiot smirk. American President Donald Trump seems to have run out of patience, out of diplomatic options, out of allies and out of restraint. He might just do what American General Douglas MacArthur wanted to do—turn that poor, benighted country into a bombed out putting green.

But General MacArthur had the same problem as faces Accidental President Trump. North Korea is tucked into the armpit of Manchuria and the Chinese keep a few armies on alert there. How you keep the dust of war from blowing across the border is a worrisome point with all concerned.

To be fair, Trump did exhort the Chinese President to bring his yappy little dog in North Korea to heel. To make the Chinese President lose face because he cannot get the yappy little dog to heel is not the smart thing to do.

It is even dumber to get the United Nations to sanction any country that continues to trade with North Korea. Since 90 per cent of North Korea’s trade is with the Peoples’ Republic of China, he has again pissed off the Chinese.

And in annoying the Chinese, he has opened a door for the Russians. Vladimir Putin is quite amused by the antics of the North Koreans. President Trump seems to be very adept at keeping his friend Vladimir amused.

But Trump is keeping uncharacteristically quiet about North Korea at the moment. All he is telling the media is that they should wait and see. That is something like waiting for the end of the world and not being sure if it will be Thursday or Friday.

Trump is probably getting all kinds of advice from the Pentagon and Foggy Bottom. Hopefully all of these generals and admirals and senior diplomats have warned him about the consequences of launching world-wide nuclear war. It is easy to start but very hard to stop.

Trump’s problem is that there is only one scenario for him to get that sailor who follows him around with a briefcase to give him the nuclear codes. If the North Koreans send a nuclear-armed missile at Guam, Japan, South Korea or the American west coast, Trump would be justified to remove the threat. Otherwise he should give his little thumbs a rest from Twitter and ignore North Korea. It is not yet his problem.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The Conservative knives are out for Brown.

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

Have you figured out why Ontario Premier Wynne is looking so smug lately? It has finally occurred to her that she not only has a chance to hold on to power in next year’s election but she is even getting help from Conservatives. Rather than support some of the extreme right-wing splinter parties that are forming, such as Trillium, these Tories will give Wynne more time to hang herself while making sure they have an honest choice to replace Tory leader Patrick Brown. And believe us, the political knives are out for Brown.

Those of us in Brown’s Barrie area electoral district could almost form a three-party campaign to ensure that Brown is defeated.

From the first time I met the little weasel 13 years ago, I wondered why anyone would ever want to vote for him. It took a short time to find out that he was a user and he used whatever lie was needed to bring people into his web. There are hundreds of people here in Barrie waiting for the opportunity to turn the tables on him. They are a force.

But like most of Brown’s problems, he brought it on himself. His upbringing is as a right-wing Catholic. He has proved to be anti-abortion and anti-same sex marriage. Not that he has any success with the ladies. What we hear in his home town is that women do not like him. Even the ones on the religious right are just not interested.

That enables Brown to concentrate on politics. That seems to be his primary and only love. He never seems to let the truth stand in the way of a good story. He certainly used dishonest tactics to win the Ontario leadership. When confronted on issues, he tends to consider a nimble turn-around to be the best defence.

Brown is a marathon runner and a mediocre hockey player. He has never contributed any thinking to Conservative party policy and has always avoided getting involved in it. He is desperately hoping that the Conservative Party will come up with some ideas for next year’s election. He is a political organizer, not a thinker.

The preliminary website for the Conservatives creating “I’m Out.ca” for Ontario Conservatives is honest and straightforward. They certainly do not like Mr. Brown. It will be fun to see how that movement grows before next spring and the June 7 election.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

What is the price of one child?

Tuesday, September 5th, 2017

Children are returning to school at this time of year. In our wisdom, we Canadians have two types of school boards. (In most provinces.) We have a Catholic Board and a public board. The Catholic board must be the junior kindergarten of politics. It is where the wannabe politicians go to make their mistakes.

And they made a lulu of a mistake recently. The Catholic Board in Toronto caved in to unreasonable pressure and blocked the police and their school resource officer program from their schools until they get around to discussing the program at their next meeting. They were caving in to the demands of people with a bias a mile wide, using American statistics and who are not interested in the needs of our children.

These people are claiming that “putting police officers in schools puts vulnerable and ‘racialized’ students in danger…” Oh! What about the vulnerable children it helps? And who is really ‘racializing’ these students?

The only people we know who are forcing racial stereotyping are these writers in Toronto who write ‘black’ with a capital ‘B.’ They are the people who go to the Police Services Board to cause trouble and radicalize the proceedings. They are not there for the children. They are there to make a name for themselves. And they might not like the names they are earning.

These writers, who all seem to be black (without a capital ‘B,’ dear editor), are using American statistics to make their case. When they try to import these statistics, their case fails.

What about the kids we hear saying of the program that “That cop is my friend.”? That is the report that makes the case for the program. For every child who is told he or she should feel threatened by the police in schools, there must be two or three who feel safer. Who are we serving in these cases?

Frankly, if at least one child’s life is saved from getting involved with gangs and guns because of the police program, we should feel strongly about supporting it as citizens.

If we err in this, let us err on the side of the children.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

 

Fear of Ford.

Monday, September 4th, 2017

Is he, or isn’t he? Is Doug Ford running for the mayoralty in Toronto next year or for the Progressive Conservatives in the provincial election? And who cares anyway? Oddly enough that is a matter that is mainly of concern to provincial politicians. Incumbent Mayor John Tory, who wants another term, could care less. The fact is that nobody expects Doug Ford to discover a magic elixir for winning in politics.

Doug Ford will let us all know where he is headed at Ford Nation’s annual backyard barbeque later this week. The reality is that Doug Ford reminds us of the old story about the erstwhile fisherman who goes to the fishing hole where his brother could always catch fish. He spends a day fishing with no luck. He is giving up when a fish jumps above the water and calls out: Where’s your brother?

Well Rob Ford is dead and Doug Ford in no fisherman. And Ford Nation is just a bunch of freeloaders.

The reality of the story, as any knowledgeable political apparatchik can tell you, is that Doug Ford is appreciated for his money and his name but he is a political liability. If there is fresh dog poop anywhere within range of the political Doug Ford, you can be sure he will step in it.

Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown is running a fragile campaign into next June’s provincial election and he hardly needs a loose cannon like Ford on his team. The younger Ford brother is a guy who thinks of Donald Trump as his hero. Brown wants the kind of candidates who can slide in under the radar. His campaign will be built on vilifying the Liberals and creating a massive vote against them. It is the only way a putz like him can get elected.

Patrick Brown is the type of candidate whom nobody has ever voted for as an individual. He is a wasted vote. He offers nothing other than a vague support for his party and not being the other guy. He is a user. And he is dishonest. He took the leadership of Ontario’s Conservatives by skulduggery—signing up temporary members of the party and paying for most of their memberships. His hero is former Ontario Premier Mike Harris.

But as much as Doug Ford would worry Patrick Brown, John Tory could care less about him. Lord knows, John Tory is not the perfect mayor. It is that Doug Ford is the kind of candidate who makes John Tory look good.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Onward religious warriors.

Sunday, September 3rd, 2017

A picture said it all. It was of a Buddhist monk, in saffron robes, with his begging bowl, sitting between the cement walls of modern expressway ramps. It makes the point of the problems of the Church of Rome mentioned in yesterday’s commentary. It occurred to me that all religions are facing the same problems. Religion is failing all of us. The religious draw their scripts from previous centuries. And as they continue to resist secularism, they fail their adherents. They waste too much of their strength fighting for the status quo and are blind to the need to build bridges to the future.

Has the oligarchical Church of Rome become a blunt instrument of conservatism in a progressive world? Is Islam facing increasing pressure by trying to maintain its authority against the growing awareness of the pleasures of a secular world? Do Holly Rollers simply try to shout down the pressures of licentious living while the Hassidim just turn a blind eye?

Canadians have a more secular society than the Americans and being a “nation under God” lays an increasingly severe strain on American politics. The current American President is racist and Islamophobic, and he is sending Americans to the Middle East to ‘sow the dragon’s teeth’ for perpetual war.

The world’s largest religion is still Christianity with as many 2.5 billion on the rolls. The difference for the world’s just under two billion Muslims is that Islam demands a way of life that goes beyond the daily prayers. The peer pressure of the Islamic community creates barriers that prevent assimilation in the American style and can even stress the relaxed multiculturalism of Canadian society. There seems to be no simple formula to an environment where Christian and Islamist communities can easily co-exist.

And there are hardly any answers in the growing rejection of religion and religious symbols in an increasingly secular society. There is no benefit to the rejection. We can hardly deny the Sikh, the Hassidic, the Mennonite, the crosses of the Eastern Right or the Roman church, or the coverings of Islamic modesty or their use as a fashion statement by others.

We note that the successful congregations today are the evangelicals that build a feel-good fellowship in their community. The Hell and Damnation that they preach is just colourful background to their cheerful self-approval.

But that Buddhist monk sitting between the two expressway lanes will starve to death as civilization passes him by.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

For love of country.

Saturday, September 2nd, 2017

Travel in Europe, Asia and throughout North America has helped strengthen my love for Canada. When people in other countries tell me how much they admire our country, I rarely try to explain that we are still a work in progress. There is no need to tell them that we could certainly ratchet up our   efforts for our aboriginals, improve the foundations of our democracy, facilitate better communications between provinces and build on the benefits of our two languages. We are a country that needs to concentrate more about what holds us together rather than what can drive us apart.

This was the thinking when reading an op-ed about Quebec secularism by Quebec M.P. Guy Caron yesterday in the Toronto Star. I am not sure whether I was angered the most by his hoary old chestnut about the Church of Rome or his ignorant comment about the rest of Canada’s paternalism towards Quebec Province.

For the last century, the Roman Catholic Church has been in a losing race to catch up with an increasingly secular world. Even religion has to modernize to keep up with a changing world. The problem in Quebec is the same as noted in many church dominated societies. As the church fails, the faithful become more secular and experiment with other leaders.

And Mr. Caron can talk around the subject all he likes but the church fostered much of the bigotry that exists today in Quebec. It is a small step from railing against the ‘blockhead’ English to antisemitism. Bigotry is fed by ignorance and denied opportunity.

Leaders such a Wilfrid Laurier and Pierre Trudeau offered Quebecers a world of opportunity. Yet Caron sees the NDP’s pandering to Quebec with the Sherbrooke Declaration as some sort of answer. It is not. It insults.

Quebecers will have the respect of all when they recognize that their home is Canada. They have the charm of the Atlantic Provinces in their front yard and the strength and scope of Ontario and the west in their back yard. Anything Quebecers want to achieve, they can do better as Canadians. Because Quebec is the keystone that holds the country together.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The Morning Line: Canada’s NDP Leadership

Friday, September 1st, 2017

Our best advice to the New Democratic Party is that they forget the next Federal election and concentrate on finding a modern direction for their party. And we have no idea whose membership numbers we were looking at when we assumed that the NDP had closer to 200,000 members in 2016. With the party growing from about just 40,000 to 124,000 from March to August 2017, with members concentrated in British Columbia and Ontario, there is little need for a Morning Line to tell you the prospects for the current leadership contest. The party could end up wishing it had kept Thomas Mulcair.

Charlie Angus M.P. – 4 to 1

More than any other contestant, Charlie Angus, the M.P. from Northern Ontario typifies the New Democratic Party and its ideals. He could wear the mantles of Tommy Douglas and Jack Layton with the swagger of a union brawler. He is the most in tune with the Canadian voter. He could take the party to its next logical step.

Niki Ashton M.P. – 6 to 1

This Manitoban is a hard-working campaigner and an even stronger feminist. She was the newcomer in the 2012 leadership race that was won by Tom Mulcair. In that race she got less than six per cent of the votes. She was going to do much better this time, until Jagmeet Singh came into the picture.

Guy Caron M.P. – 11 to 1

Every good leadership campaign requires a thinker and in this one, it is Quebec M.P. Guy Caron. His ideas on taxation, his start on a guaranteed income plan and his approach to international trade are all helpful. His party should start listening to his policy ideas. It will not have him as leader though with the small vote base that his Quebec constituency gives him.

Jagmeet Singh M.P.P. – 2 to 1

The NDP has been forced to admit that the party’s membership was at a low of 40,000 until March of this year. It has increased threefold in the past six months and there is only one candidate who could have caused that surge. While a diligent member of the Ontario Legislature, Jagmeet Singh has demonstrated few, if any, leadership qualities. As deputy leader in Ontario, there seems to be a dearth of ideas from him and his leader. There is no doubt though that he is a favourite of the Sikh communities in Ontario and British Columbia.

But before Justin Trudeau and his Liberals think that the NDP’s choice could be a Liberal gain, they could be very wrong. While a Sikh leader might not have the appeal in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan or Chicoutimi, P.Q. he could cut a broad swath of support through the B.C. mainland and the Greater Toronto Area in Ontario. The Conservative’s ‘Chuckles’ Scheer must be chuckling.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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