Archive for December, 2017

A New Year rich in political opportunity.

Sunday, December 31st, 2017

This political junkie is looking forward to 2018. Starting with the Ontario election in June, Quebec scheduled for October 1 and then the American mid-term elections in November, there will be much on which to comment. The only recommendation we can make at this stage is to ignore the pollsters.

And one other suggestion at this stage is that you should be cautious about what you wish for. Much can happen over the year. Our moods and our priorities can easily change. Even our well-read Morning Line, issued five to six weeks before the vote, can see sea change.

While pollsters gain accuracy as the final polls get closer, it is their lack of people on the ground feeling the changes that jeopardize their accuracy. You have to be able to feel what voters are thinking.

The ups and downs of the Trudeau Liberal government in Ottawa is impacting the positions of both the Wynne Liberals in Ontario and the Couillard Liberals in Quebec. Both provincial parties are philosophically to the right of the federal party and yet each is being challenged by a more right wing party.

The mistake the Ontario Tories are making is that they are trying to prove they are at the political middle. Frankly, Ontario voters would be more inclined to vote for them if they were honest about being right wing.

But my neighbours and I in the riding of Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte would dearly love to have a good Liberal candidate to support and defeat a puffed-up Patrick Brown who needs to be beaten—and can be beaten.

The situation in Quebec is quite different. Quebec Francophone voters tend to park their vote when asked by pollsters and the Coalition Avenir Québec seems to be the current parking choice. The thought of this right-wing bunch of separatists making it to the top spot next October is a sad comment on the condition of Quebec politics. It would be ideal if the threat gets Premier Couillard off his butt and into action.

The fun stuff south of the border will be in full swing after the Quebec election and U.S. politics will get most of our attention until the November vote. Change in the House in Washington is possible but just three additional Democrats in the Senate will do wonders in controlling Trump for the last two years of his Reign of Terror.

We are all looking forward to that!

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The trying times of Trump.

Saturday, December 30th, 2017

Canada’s prime minister told Global News the other day that there is “a level of unpredictability” to the current trade talks with the Americans and Mexicans. What is really amazing is that one man, on a whim, can be allowed to jeopardize US$17 trillion in annual trade between the three countries. And yet, he might. U.S. President Donald Trump could order an end to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) within the next couple months.

Trump will explain that it is because of the intransigence of the Canadians and the Mexicans that cancellation is the only option. That is likely true. The problem will really be that the unreasonable demands of the Trump administration made it impossible to agree.

To date, the NAFTA negotiations have been a charade. Proposal and counter-proposal have been met with a stone wall. Instead of a give and take of an honest deal between friends, this has been the sham of a real estate developer’s deal, attempting to maximize the potential for one party’s profit.

How can the Mexicans take it seriously with the continued threat of a wall of discrimination and hate between their country and America?

Canadians entered these negotiations as neighbours and friends and find themselves vilified as abusers and users.

But that light we are seeing at the end of Trump’s tunnel vision is the realization that he can do far more harm to the United States than he can do to Canada. While the U.S. administration has been busy alienating the rest of the world, Canada has been out there making friends. We can never entirely end our cross-border trade with the U.S. but we can certainly reduce our dependency on it.

But Trump is doing that for us. We read the other day that his next target before ending NAFTA itself is Canadian newsprint. Along with driving up the cost of new homes in the U.S. with Trump tariffs on soft-wood lumber, he wants to drive the marginal daily newspapers in the U.S. out of business. Then more of his followers will have to rely on Trump tweets for news.

Canada’s most serious failing in this Trumpian trade fiasco is to look like we care. The end of NAFTA is hardly the end of the world. We are an industrious and creative society. There is a six-month transition to the end of NAFTA and the only industry likely to be completely screwed is the automotive. That will take years to sort out and you can figure that General Motors will have more clout than foreign minister Chrystia Freeland—so let GM solve it! And they had better remember that Canada helped the company survive the last time the American economy collapsed.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Isn’t it supposed to get easier?

Friday, December 29th, 2017

With two years in office behind him, you would expect Justin Trudeau to be getting more adept at his job. He is not. This has been a year for criticisms, errors, lectures, let-downs and too many apologies. Were he with us, Justin’s father would not be pleased with his son’s performance. He would likely agree with us that the arrogance and elitism, his son has been exhibiting is hurting his performance.

If the fiasco with visiting the Aga Khan’s island last Christmas was limited to accepting a ride in the host’s helicopter, we could have laughed it off. It was Conflict Commissioner Mary Dawson who pointed out that Justin Trudeau had last seen the Ismaili Leader at his father’s funeral and their friendship had only become rekindled when the Aga Khan had a project in Canada that needed another $15 million in support that could be provided by the government. That had a bad smell.

What is also serious is Trudeau letting his finance minister take the opposition heat for his attempts at tax reform. If this is important enough to do, then you do it properly. Trudeau either had to fire Morneau or defend him. He did neither. He pushed him aside.

This writer has yet to forgive the prime minister for his support for pipelines that are proposed to transport diluted bitumen from the Athabasca and Cold Lake tar sands exploitation. That is in direct conflict to all his claims to protecting the world environment. He cannot have it both ways.

Our prime minister might think he is invulnerable but he cannot say he is standing up for Canada around the world and then abstain from the U.N. vote condemning the U.S. president’s promise to move the American embassy to Jerusalem. He just blew any chance of Canada taking its rightful seat on the United Nations Security Council in the next few years.

Trudeau’s excuse is probably that he did not want to annoy Donald Trump. Why not? That bastard does not respect people who will not stand up to him. We already know how Trump is trying to destroy any vestige of fair trade between our countries. Look what he did to Bombardier and our soft-wood lumber exports. You hardly use diplomatic language with a bully who does not use it himself.

To be fair to the prime minister, there are some programs of his government that have my approval. I’ll try to mention them sometime.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Let’s call it Scheer willpower.

Thursday, December 28th, 2017

You may have been wondering what Andrew Scheer has been doing since winning the leadership lottery run by the Conservative Party of Canada? Our guess is that he has been spending time on his knees thanking the powers above for the gifts he keeps getting from an indulgent Liberal Prime Minister. There are so many attack possibilities opened for Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.

After serving as the tame Speaker during the last of the Harper regime, Scheer, was the logical choice for an interim place holder for the party. It only took him until the last of 13 ballots to win by 50.95 per cent. He is showing no new drive or enthusiasm and will make his replacement look that much better. In the meantime, his job is being made easier by a generous Prime Minister who keeps making rookie mistakes.

The main problems Scheer faces are in maintaining discipline in his caucus. The raucous and undisciplined rowdiness of the Conservative side of the House would never have been countenanced when Scheer was the Speaker. It serves its purpose in bracketing his and his colleague’s attacks on some of the Liberals less experienced or adept ministers. Nobody on the opposition side of the House cares about the government responses in any event.

Considered a version of Stephen Harper ‘Light’ but with a smile, Scheer always looks to us like a deer caught in the headlights. We call him ‘Chuckles’ for lack of a respectful nom de guerre.

He will probably serve in the role of leader until he is blamed for the party’s loss in the 2019 federal election. Then he is expected to fall on his sword and move over for a more dynamic leader.

We could tell you more about Andrew Scheer but this guy is boring and we do not like boring our readers.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Brought to you by Bollywood?

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

In reviewing the three leaders of the major political parties in Canada, we came up with what we consider the key question for Jagmeet Singh: Why? What is the new leader of the New Democratic Party out to prove? Was his taking the leadership of the National NDP just a Bollywood production?

First of all, he did not win the leadership. He took it. It was there to take and he did. He watched the contest for a while and picked his time to jump in. He won the leadership by simply swamping the existing membership of the New Democrats in British Columbia and Ontario. He did not want to discuss policy with the more knowledgeable leadership hopefuls and did not bother. Jagmeet Singh took the leadership by saying the least.

In a party bereft of leadership, Jagmeet offers none. In a party lacking direction, he has no idea of where it should head. He knows that the LEAP Manifesto is a formula for controversy. And the Regina Manifesto only mirrors the past. The NDP have nowhere to go and, frankly, nobody to take the party there, anyway.

But can a leader, selected by the Sikh communities across Canada, offer Canadians a future? The Sikh community has come late to this party. In the 1980s and 1990s there were many swamped party riding associations that put a steady series of back benchers from various ethnic groups in parliament and provincial legislatures. It not only did not work but it hurt our democracy. The answer to the problem arrived at in Ottawa was to break with democratic practice and have the party leader sign-off on who could be candidates for the party.

But there is no one to sign off on the selection of party leaders. That is why Jagmeet Singh, then a member of the legislature, was able to watch an Ontario Member of Parliament use some of Jagmeet’s fellow Sikhs to win the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership in 2015. Patrick Brown had made many trips at taxpayer expense to the Indian sub-continent to establish connections for the attempt. He found the paths to signing-up thousands of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims who have immigrated to Ontario. Who paid the memberships for as many as 40,000 of these people so new to Ontario is still in question?

For Jagmeet to use the same connivance as a putz such as Conservative Patrick Brown should embarrass his party. It does not seem to embarrass Jagmeet Singh.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Trump trends to tyranny.

Tuesday, December 26th, 2017

No American President in living history has earned the thoroughness of study and the resulting derision as has Donald Trump. Soon to celebrate his first year in office, he has earned the enmity that he himself heaped on his opponents for that high office. He has let down the American people. He has lost the respect for that office earned by his predecessors. He has betrayed the American trust in democracy. Luckily Trump is still a tyrant in training.

It was the role he chose. His was a bitter campaign, based in his belief that he could only lose. He lacked the ground organization of the classy Clintons. He lacked the savvy political advisors and would not have listened to them anyway. He was damned as a womanizer. His lack of ethics was exposed. He flaunted his wealth and let nobody in on its details. He had none of the credentials considered needed for the highest office in the land. The news media hated him and he screamed ‘false news’ back at them. He was as shocked as everyone else when he won.

His transition to the White House reflected Trump’s lack of understanding or concern for the customs, rituals and exigencies of democracy. His rush to serve his base brought him in conflict with the courts and the limitations of the the checks and balances imposed on presidential power. He tried to rule by edict. He tried to use the powers of his office as though he was a tyrant with unlimited possibilities.

Those first months of his administration were a constant war with the news media and a truculent Congress. All it proved was that as much as he despised those Republicans in the House and Senate, he needed them to have his way. It was an imposition on his tyranny.

His solution was to give the Republicans what they wanted. He broke new ceilings on American debt, his tax cuts were extreme for business and the rich while offering short term cuts as a sop to the middle class. Myopic Republican politicos stuck their riders to the bill, adding further pain and suffering to those that their ideology leaves behind. Millions will suffer to enable the millionaire funders of Republicanism to add to their wealth.

Donald Trump signed with a flourish a flawed tax bill he had never read. As a tyrant, need he care?

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

What Santa left under the tree.

Monday, December 25th, 2017

Whether you believe in Santa Claus or not, the Province of Ontario and the rest of Canada have been treated pretty well by the cheery old elf. Before we dig into a sumptuous Christmas dinner later on today, we will raise a glass to our bounty and the quality of life in this country.

We Canadians live in a land rich in treasures. Our forests provide our shelters. Our mines produce the metals in those shelters. Our electrical resources power our factories and light our cities. Our farms cannot naturally grow bananas but they can grow wheat and other grains to help feed the world. We can grow what we need for a healthy diet and trade with the world for the exotic foods to intrigue our taste buds. Our quality beef, pork and poultry products are regular fare in many countries.

Canada has always grown to meet our needs. We build so that we can accommodate peoples from other lands. We want them. We want their energy, creativity, ambition and toil. They can help us build. We have become a successful multi-cultural country. We have built it with our resources, we have built it with our democracy and we have built it with the promise of a shared future.

Here in Ontario, as we have in other provinces, we have built a superb education system that is open to all. The technologies learned are becoming a larger and larger share of our country’s gross domestic product. Our advances in health care are noted worldwide.

Nobody claims Canada is perfect. We only know that we have a basic formula under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and we have to keep improving it. We want our recent immigrants from Syria, for example, to write home and tell their friends that Muslims can live in peace with Jews and Christians and agnostics in a permissive, yet respectful, society. Just think of what that idea could produce across the Middle East.

Maybe we know something about democracy that even Americans have failed to discover. Democracy serves people first, not the politicians. And caring comes before ideology. We also know that protecting our environment is a shared responsibility. We take this beautiful land from our forebears and we owe it to future generations.

I do hope you also raise your glass later today to recognize your province and your country at this family time of year. It is a wonderful land in which we live. Take a moment to give your thanks, in your own way.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Naughty or Nice: Ontario’s Kathleen Wynne.

Sunday, December 24th, 2017

It is hard to say where Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne would be on Santa Claus’ ‘naughty or nice’ list. I expect Santa to give her a pass into the ‘nice’ category but he should be warned that this person is one tough cookie! If he does not bring her something she asked for, he might have her arm wrestle him back up the chimney.

The leader of the Liberal Party in Ontario, Wynne is a fighter and that is probably a good thing now that the voters have shown their impatience with her. According to the pollsters she has certainly not been high on the voters’ preferred premiers list. The reality is that the voters either select the least objectionable of the three and vote or let others decide. They might not like that option.

Wynne is not warm and cuddly, but she is still somebody’s grandmother. Despite the agonizing and delays, she has been implementing some reforms. Is she fast? No. Does she get there eventually? Yes.

Yes, she was stupid to buy that dumb banker’s suggestion to sell part of Hydro One that does the electrical distribution for the province. That was a deal that could never please anybody. Yet she has made baby steps on freeing up beer and wine sales. She has proposed some good ideas that can move us eventually to a proper Pharmacare program. She will get there, we hope. She also needs to move faster on more day care spaces. And she had better provide that reasonable minimum wage when she promised.

But she needs to do something for seniors too. More and more they are feeling the pressure of rising costs—just living longer is causing them problems.

On a scale of one to ten, she probably rates a six. Neither of the other two have any potential to get that high. Horwath would be a national joke and Brown would be worse than Mike Harris. He would take Ontario back to the 19th century.

If we elected Andrea Horwath, we might like it for a while. At least until the province had to file for bankruptcy. Under a Brown government, we would like a cold and heartless Ontario less and less every day.

And that leaves us stuck with Granny Wynne. Maybe Santa can leave her a new butter churner under the Christmas tree.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Naughty or Nice: Ontario’s Patrick Brown.

Saturday, December 23rd, 2017

As more and more Ontario voters get to see Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown in action, the more his voting preference plummets. He is just not the type of person people can imagine as premier of Canada’s largest province. And neither can Santa as he keeps Patrick on his “Naughty” list.

If we had to pin it down to a one-word description for Patrick and his handlers, we would have to say it is “cynicism.” Patrick Brown lacks any vestige of integrity or sincerity.

Somebody must have spent some time teaching him how to read a teleprompter and his stilted performance at that show introducing his party’s guaranteed policies was the most cynical of all. If you thought Brown was going to bring his small-town thinking to Queen’s Park, guess again. It was Bay Street lawyers calling the shots on that show.

In three terms in Ottawa as an obscure backbencher, Brown never had an original idea. He is what some political people call a “retail politician.” He services his community but does nothing in office. He tells the voter whatever he thinks the voter wants to hear. He uses the slogan that ‘the customer is always right.’ What he gives you, is another matter. The only free votes Brown ever voted on in Ottawa were when he voted against same-sex marriage and to open up an anti-abortion debate.

I might have to revise my opinion of Kathleen Wynne for taking too long to carry out some recent reforms. How can I complain about Wynne taking two years to get to a proper minimum wage in Ontario? Here is Brown offering the same thing in three years. Maybe.

What probably puzzles Santa in making his list is that nobody in the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario has filed any objection to how Patrick Brown stole the leadership of the party. Swamping the existing membership of a political party to take the leadership is not ‘winning.” It is blatant theft of the leadership without any semblance of democratic choice. Whether people paid or did not pay for their membership in the party seems to be of little matter.

But it tells everyone about the lack of character of the new leader of Ontario’s Tories. Santa has an especially large lump of coal for him.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Naughty or Nice: Ontario’s Andrea Horwath.

Friday, December 22nd, 2017

Not many of us in Ontario feel we know Andrea Horwath. After 12 years in the Ontario Legislature, eight-years as leader of the Ontario New Democrats and through two general elections since becoming leader, you would expect to know her better. It is a sign of the ennui of the NDP that she has not been replaced. She is the best they have got.

But she still makes Santa’s “Nice” list. Her only likely replacement decamped to become leader of the federal party this year and he has hardly been missed. We will cover Jagmeet Singh next week with the federal leaders.

Hamilton-born Andrea is 55 and it looks like our suggestions of her getting a gym membership and a personal trainer are still being ignored. It is not that Andrea and her caucus do not come up with the odd good policy idea now and then but, if it makes sense at all, the Liberals in the legislature adopt the idea as their own. There will be no greater waste of breath in the election campaign this coming spring than arguing over who thought up a version of PharmaCare first.

There is no question that Ontario has to immediately boost its minimum wage. No society should have people trying to live on a wage that is less than needed to properly cloth, feed and house themselves. For the Liberals to say wait another year is pathetic. For the Conservatives to say wait two years is disgusting. The NDP win this argument.

As you can expect of New Democrats, their platform for the spring election will be loaded with goodies for the wage earners. Equal pay for part-time workers would certainly go a long way to stabilize working conditions and resolve some of the less savoury labour practices in the province.

But for all their high-minded efforts to improve things for workers, the NDP have little hope for even standing pat with their present contingent in the legislature. With battle lines already drawn between the Conservatives and Liberals, the NDP’s only hope is for the balance of power to work with a possible minority Liberal government.

We expect another lacklustre effort by the NDP in 2018. Not even Santa can bring them the ideas and the drive needed for a winning campaign.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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