Archive for November, 2017

The Surrender of Socialism.

Monday, November 20th, 2017

For what began as a socialist dream on the Prairies during the Great Depression, the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) and its successor New Democratic Party (NDP) have seen little success on the federal sphere in Canada. The party might now be moving into its twilight.

Unlike the pattern of the Conservative and Liberal parties, the CCF/NDP have been based on the party’s provincial organizations. (We will stick with the federal situation today and discuss the rifts between the provincial organizations at another time.)

The major problems the federal party is faced with today are the related problems of policies and leadership. This is a party without direction. From the extremes of the LEAP Manifesto to the environmental blindfold of the party leadership in Alberta, the party tears itself apart daily. The overly long election period of the 2015 election exposed the party and its leadership as lacking direction and policies. That election was a down-hill slide.

The party then worked at cross purposes to itself at the Edmonton convention that fired Tom Mulcair as leader. The very fact that the man would honor his commitment to leading the party in the House of Commons spoke volumes for his character.

It is the character of Jagmeet Singh that is the most serious question mark today. It makes you seriously wonder about a man who would use his religious group to take over his political party. There is a big difference between using that affinity for support and using it to swamp the ‘others’ in the party organization.

And how much better is Jagmeet Singh than Ontario Conservative Leader Patrick Brown who used Sub-Continent immigrants to swamp the existing membership of his provincial party?

Sikh names have been prominent in Canadian immigration since records started being kept in the 1800s. Today, there are more than 450,000 people in Canada identifying themselves as Sikh. There are large numbers of Sikhs in British Columbia and Ontario. They are free to support a fellow Sikh but you have to question if Jagmeet Singh could possibly have won without them?

What Jagmeet did not prove in taking over his party is that he has broad appeal outside his religious community. And why would you trust it? I have been told that a Sikh does not have to leave his hair uncut and wear a turban to be a Sikh. Is Jagmeet testing Canadian tolerance?

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Watt’s ugly leopard doesn’t wash.

Sunday, November 19th, 2017

We might be mangling some metaphors here but Jaime Watt can never wash the spots off that ugly leopard. The head of Navigator Ltd., Mr. Watt has spent many years advising Conservatives in the fine art of winning votes. He might be taking on too much of a challenge to try to sell us on Ontario Conservative Leader Patrick Brown.

Watt tells us in a recent op-ed in the Toronto Star that he believes that the Ontario Liberals have been the government in Ontario for the past 14 years because they are keen political operators and they connected with Ontarians. I think he jests!

The truth is that after the experience of being pissed on by Conservative Premier Mike Harris, the Tories have taken a long time making any comeback with Ontario voters. They had even endured three terms of ‘Premier Dad’ McGuinty and then seemed prepared to replace his replacement with a Conservative.

It almost happened but someone advised then Conservative Leader Timmy Hudak that he should promise to fire a hundred thousand Ontario civil servants. He did not understand that he was threatening the jobs and family stability of more than a million Ontario voters.

Coincidentally, Timmy made that promise to an audience at the Barrie Country Club. Patrick Brown (then a backbencher in Stephen Harper’s government) was the first person to jump up and congratulate Timmy on his brilliant idea. He probably realized then that Timmy would be vacating the leadership job soon.

And contrary to Jaime Watt’s view, Brown’s taking the leadership of the Ontario Conservatives was no accident. It was a carefully planned and executed con job. And in taking the leadership by less than fair means, Brown has turned loose all that is mean, unscrupulous and disgusting about Conservative activists in Ontario. Lawsuits and even a charge of fraud are being made over how people have been trying to win nominations.

Watt wisely concludes that the Liberal brand is struggling these days and that Brown is there to take advantage of it. Watt says this is why Brown is trying to shed all his former extremist positions that could offend voters.

Watt seems to think it is mean to suggest that Brown acts as a weather vane on policies and yet uses Trump’s strategies of vilifying his opponent.

Frankly, Mr. Watt’s reasoning does not appear to be a particularly good sample of Navigator Ltd.’s strategic thinking.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The late lamented Liberals.

Saturday, November 18th, 2017

When discussing the sorry state of the Liberal Party of Canada the other day, we never did mention the provincial Liberals. It is actually an interesting subject. Would you believe I am old enough to have met the last surviving Father of Confederation?

Okay, that is a joke, but Joey Smallwood loved that introduction. My favourite Newfie was always the late Don Jamieson. He might have resisted Newfoundland and Labrador coming into Confederation but once there, he did an outstanding job in Pierre Trudeau’s cabinets and finally as High Commissioner to London.

The four Atlantic Provinces are the core of progressive liberalism in Canada. They just need more leaders such as Don Jamieson, Alex Campbell, Bob Winters and Louis Robichaud to bring that progressivism further west.

The Rouge of Quebec are not the progressives Quebec voters keep expecting. The Quebec Liberals are a closed-shop, top-down oligarchy who are oddly out of step with the left of centre voters who have few alternatives. It is a situation very much in need of democratization.

And the same applies to Ontario. I could name names here but I would not want some of those people to know how powerful they really are. Toronto’s Bay Street lawyers wield a heavy stick over Queen’s Park. At least Dalton McGuinty knew when to quit. Premier Kathleen Wynne does not have the political smarts or sensitivity. She should have resigned over the summer. Her only saviours are the hopeless leadership of the opponents.

At one time the core of progressive liberalism in Canada, Toronto Liberals have been frustrated, put down and bypassed. They have been fed baby spoon-sized portions of reform over long periods. Freeing up liquor distribution, pension improvement and minimum wage boosts are just samples of the achingly slow steps in reform. Instead of real action, you get lullabies.

I think there is a Liberal Party in Manitoba, I have just never seen it in action.

There is no Liberal Party in Saskatchewan. They joined the Conservatives in the Saskatchewan Party and everyone lived happily?

I have more respect for the Alberta Liberals. They do exist and they have made their presence felt.

We know about the B.C. Liberals but they are not the most progressive people we have ever met. That last bunch of Liberals in the legislature had us wondering how far to the right liberalism could go?

Summing it up, we can only say that liberalism has fallen on hard times. It needs a healthy infusion of young people, new ideas and energy. The winners can be the people.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Trudeau tries to tip-toe through the tulips.

Friday, November 17th, 2017

Canada’s prime minister always looks good. With or without his shirt on, he can always draw an admiring crowd. In Manilla the other day, he even looked good in that traditional Filipino shirt they gave him to wear while his suits were being pressed.

And did you see how friendly the Duterte’s were when they greeted him. His reputation for selfies must have preceded him. It seems the advance people must have told them the Canadian PM was coming to talk trade. That is always a safe topic at foreign gatherings. Even that American Mr. Trump came to talk trade and they were all smiles for him too.

Mind you Trump could only be jealous of Trudeau when a group of young ladies of Manilla got all giggly and flustered when Trudeau joined them for a group photo. That seems to be becoming routine on Trudeau’s travels. He loves being treated as some sort of rock star. His guard’s all seemed to be resigned to it.

Where he was when everyone else was waiting for him at the Da Nang APEC meeting, never was explained. The other countries had gathered to sign the Trans Pacific Pact Version 2 (without the U.S.A.) and Mr. Trudeau had a conundrum. It was obvious he was trying to stall the signing by asking for environmental and labor considerations. To his surprise everyone agreed to the suggestions and they expected him to sign along with them.

The Canadian prime minister and his foreign affairs minister were concerned that Canada signing of the TPP-2 documents would annoy President Trump and speed his decision to cancel NAFTA. It makes you wonder though if Donald Trump had even noticed. He has had his own problems with the trip. We should not forget that Trump is in his seventies and has nowhere near the stamina of Trudeau who is still in his forties. It looked like Trump was out of gas by the time he got to Manilla and he just stuck to his script.

But even Trudeau can tire and he blew it on his last day in Manilla. The do-gooders on his staff were obviously pushing him to bring up the human rights concerns with the Duterte regime. The police there have been turned into a Murder Incorporated approach to law enforcement. Thousands of addicts and minor drug dealers have been killed.

No other leader made comment on the situation but Trudeau stuck his oar in. Obviously, President Duterte did no like it. He said that he “did not answer to bullshit from foreigners.” Trudeau must have kicked the tulips.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Diminished democracy of Justin’s Liberals.

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

In George Orwell’s 1984, new history was written and old history incinerated. The old think and the new think were not allowed to co-exist. Nowhere is that thinking more obvious today than in Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party of Canada. It is not his father’s Liberal Party.

After his overwhelming victory in 1968, Pierre Trudeau felt omnipotent and laughed at the pretentions of the party organization. It was that party and those of us who rose to the cause in 1972, who saved him from inglorious defeat. His deal with David Lewis and the New Democrats kept his minority in power. The senior Trudeau admitted that the party was necessary.

But it could be too late to help Justin Trudeau. We die-hards all had our selfies with him when we handed the leadership to him on a platter. He promised us much and delivered little. The first promise he broke was to respect the democracy of the party and to not interfere in electoral district nominations. He knew that his leadership of the party entitled him to accept or reject nominations. He wielded that power as a blunt instrument.

Like a pig getting the scent of apples in the mud, Trudeau dove into the party fight in the old Toronto-Spadina area. His choice of campaign chief in Ontario had no experience at this type of party tempest and Trudeau less. What the resulting law suit cost to buy off potential candidate Christine Innes and her husband Tony Ianno, we might never learn. You can be sure though that any costs will be borne by the public purse.

That was the mind set that took the party into the 2015 federal election. It was amateur night across Canada. Young Trudeau was surrounded by elites who had little of the hardened experience needed for a hard-fought election.

Luckily for Trudeau and his elites, the 2015 federal election was a walk in the park. It was Stephen Harper’s last hurrah. The Orange Wave in Quebec was proved a one-time phenomenon. The Liberals had some electoral seats gifted to them and they carelessly lost some clearly winnable.

The Liberal Party was supplying money and manpower to the election but none of the direction. The party became irrelevant and after the election Justin Trudeau set about destroying it. He had dispensed with the membership fees and anyone could say they were Liberal and nobody cared. Do not send ideas. Do not develop policy. You will be told whom you will have for your local candidate. And for goodness sake, do not bother to  meet. Your role is only to send money. Send some now!

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The Indignity to Indigenous.

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

People struggled for many years with the error attributed to Christopher Columbus in thinking native peoples he found in the Americas were from India. That name stuck for a few centuries. It was either sensitive aboriginals or well-meaning non-aboriginals who then started playing the name game.

For a while we were happy to be calling the various tribes, bands, Metis, Dene and Inuit Native Americans, Native Canadians, Native Mexicans and so on. And then someone, somewhere thought it would be better to use the word aboriginal.

Frankly, aboriginal was a relatively poor choice. It fit the need but had connotations of the Australian name for their native people. While aboriginal and indigenous are treated as synonyms, aboriginal does not have quite the same connotation as to origin. Indigenous means ‘something or someone who originated here.’ That means it did not come from somewhere else.

And DNA science tells us that is wrong. It is likely that the first wave of peoples from Asia crossed from one continent to the other over an ice bridge during the last ice age, about 15,000 years ago. It was revealed about five years ago that DNA shows that there were two later waves of tourism by water that added to the DNA mix in the Americas. What that means is that we might have plants that are indigenous to this western continent but the peoples came from away.

But nobody denies the claims of the North American natives to their lands. There is lots of room for everybody. Maybe my ancestors came two centuries ago. Others are even more recent. We all share the same rights and privileges of a democratic country. We all share the same concern for equal treatment and protection under the law. We all share a very serious concern for any segment of our society that is disproportionately missing or murdered. We want to know why and what the police and politicians and people are doing about it. We want to share fairness and empathy and understanding.

Maybe some of our ancestors were less understanding than we are today. There have been long learning curves for everybody. What is critical today and for tomorrow is our respect for each other. We have much to share as citizens of this land.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Chuckles’ Canned Conservatism.

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

In discussing the ebbing strength of the democracy of Canada’s Conservative parties yesterday, we never got to the major problem faced by the federal Conservatives. Their problem is one of leadership. If there ever was a good example of the mediocrity produced by preferential voting, the Conservative party faces that problem today in its leadership.

Andrew ‘Chuckles’ Scheer’s leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada should have come in a can—marked ‘Open in an emergency only.’ The former Speaker in the only majority Conservative Parliament under Stephen Harper, Scheer was the leadership candidate with the least to offer the party. He was simply the second, third or fourth choice of too many Conservative members.

A social conservative from Saskatchewan, Scheer has the perpetually surprised look of a deer caught in the headlights. You just know that he will stay there awaiting the impact.

But he got lucky lately. While the Trudeau Liberals are on a death watch for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Tories found their bonanza in Provence. And Bill Morneau’s French villa was only part of his problems. While the rest of the cabinet was distracted, Trudeau’s finance minister found himself engulfed in charges of conflict of interest and being rich. And the charge of being rich became incendiary.

It seems that neither Morneau nor the Parliamentary Ethics Commissioner had the political smarts to realize she had hung the finance minister out as a target for the opposition parties. At this late stage the ethics commissioner has had to open an investigation into the possible conflict of interest between the minister’s business interests, that deal in pension programs, and his changes in tax positions of pension funds.

Few voters will have the understanding of what any investigation will find. Guilt or innocence will be irrelevant.

When ‘Chuckles’ and his pack in the House of Commons first started baying after the finance minister, we carefully explained that the finance minister was in the position of Caesar’s wife. It was not a question of guilt or innocence. It was the very inference of wrong-doing. Bill Morneau should have been asked for his resignation then.

And do you not bet that the Conservatives, with a target in their sights, are sorry now that they opened the can labelled ‘Scheer.’

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Diminished democracy of Canada’s Conservatives.

Monday, November 13th, 2017

In looking at the major political parties in Canada in their headlong dash for irrelevancy, we might as well start with the Conservatives. Since the end of the 90s and the machinations of Stephen Harper to finally achieve the promise to ‘unite the right’ across Canada, the separated federal and provincial conservative parties have been struggling.

Harper was very much a top-down leader. His new Conservative Party of Canada was dominated by the Reform-Alliance members that swamped the older progressive conservative base across the country. The party became his piggy bank and his mob. He used the federal party when needed for appearances and forgot about it most of the time.

During the Harper years in Ottawa, the provincial Conservative parties became something of a ghost in the Atlantic. Everyone assumes they exist but sightings are rare. The Quebec Liberals are more Conservative than Liberal as is the Saskatchewan Party that represents the right-wing Tories and right-wing Liberals of that province. Jason Kenney’s reverse take-over of the Alberta right wing with his new United Party was a classic in manipulation and he is now mounting a relentless attack on the NDP government from outside the legislature. The Conservatives are the government in Manitoba and the NDP has a very thin hold on things in B.C.

The malaise in Ontario is symptomatic. After the careless spree of the Mike Harris Conservative government at the turn of the century, the party there fell on hard times. With Membership below 20,000 in Canada’s largest province, the party was easy pickings for an opportunist who had worked out a scheme to sign up about 40,000 new immigrants from the Asian sub-continent. Nobody called Patrick brown for paying most of the registration fees and he took the reins of a party that used to have some principles.

For someone with the ability to lead akin to that of a gerbil, Brown has used vicious attack ads on the Internet and TV in a helter-skelter manner to try to defame the Premier and create a “Corrupt Hillary” aura around her. The only researched result of the ads so far is to lower both him and the Premier in the estimation of Ontario voters.

To add insult in Ontario, the erratic governance of Conservative candidate nominations for next year’s election has created questionable results, angered riding executives and led to lawsuits

The farce continues with the upcoming policy convention of the Ontario Conservatives later in November. As Brown has no idea of where to lead the party, he is using this convention to provide some carefully directed policy stands that he thinks the voters will respond to in the June vote. The response at this convention by the older, more progressive, Conservatives from the Bill Davis era to this sham of a conference will tell us much.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The despotism of First-Past-the-Post?

Sunday, November 12th, 2017

One of our favourite political bloggers wrote a desperate ‘cri de Coeur’ the other day against what he perceives as the despotism of first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting. He lives on Canada’s Left Coast and writes under the pseudonym ‘The Mound of Sound.’ Rather than simply refuting his assertions, I think it is important to find the source of his anguish.

To begin, there is his suggestion that 40 per cent support in FPTP voting can make any leader a despot. (Even Donald Trump needed the undemocratic Electoral College system to win the U.S. presidency.) We Canadians had a special House committee on electoral reform brought forward by the Trudeau Liberals. It was made up from all parties and spent a summer listening to submissions and writing a report on alternatives to FPTP voting. You know their conclusion. No change was made.

FPTP is not evil. It has worked for the people for hundreds of years. And if you want a real headache, check out how the Roman Republic elected its tribunes. One of the reasons to appreciate FPTP is that it is one of the most difficult systems of voting to cheat.

Maybe it is the simplicity of FPTP that turns off some intellectuals. If it is that simple, it has got to be wrong?

If your objection to FPTP is based on the ability of someone to win with less than 50.1 per cent of the vote—then fight for run-off elections. That is still much simpler and more democratic than other suggestions. You should not be enticed by preferential voting—it is not the same.

But before you demand change in how we vote, do you not think we should widen our outlook? Should we not take a look at the basics of our democracy—our political parties? Is it right for the Sikh community in Canada to swamp the membership of the federal New Democrats on behalf of that party’s new leader? Was that misogynistic and corrupted campaign in Alberta the way to choose a new Conservative leader for Alberta? Was it right for Brown in Ontario to buy the memberships for tens of thousands of immigrants to be the choice of Ontario Conservatives?

And does it surprise you to learn that the federal Conservatives and Liberals are funded from the same purses? What makes you think either party is run in a democratic fashion?

Before we have a liberal democracy in Canada we need liberal democratic parties. We have much work to do.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The Koi Keepers of Quebec.

Saturday, November 11th, 2017

Reading Chantal Hébert’s national affairs column recently, she referred to the tectonic plates of Quebec politics. I was unsure of the analogy. I tend to think of Quebec politics as a series of koi ponds. These ponds are not necessarily linked. The lesser regional ponds revolve around the axis of Quebec’s National Assembly in Quebec City and at City Hall in Montreal.

It is important to remember that koi tend to be colorful and interesting in their carefully tended and protected ponds. Outside their well tended environment, these fish are just bottom-feeding carp.

(And you do not feed koi by carelessly dumping their food in the pond. By careful scattering of the food, you get to see the beauty and enjoy the movement of all the koi. Obviously at the recent fish-feeding frenzy at Tokyo’s Akasaka Palace, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump had bigger fish to fry.)

While properly tended koi can live up to 200 years, Quebec political koi often become koi sushi after only a single term in office. Quebec voters tend to live by a “Fool me once…” rule. What the pundits puzzle over about Quebecer’s voting confusion is basically an impatience with fools. Good leadership is rare and even the best leaders can outlive their usefulness.

Like their distant cousins in France, Quebecers have a political creativity. If you are dissatisfied with the political party choices available on the ballot today, just wait until you see tomorrow’s offerings.

It is this creativity that solved the problems in running Montreal many years ago. This was when people such as Montreal’s famous Jean Drapeau put Montreal on the map with Expo 67. It sometimes seems that Drapeau was the last Montreal mayor to get anything done but that is not the case. The job gets done in Montreal because mayoral candidates bring a party with him or her to be elected on a unified platform of promises.

While Mayor Denis Coderre and his team seemed the best bet four years ago, he must have run out of gas this time around.

It will be interesting to see who will hold the provincial mantle next year after the Quebec National Assembly faces the voters. Will the movement be to a slight shift of the tectonic plates of Premier Philippe Couillard’s Liberals or to the flashy, flitting koi of the opposition parties?

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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