Archive for January, 2018

Shilling for the politicos.

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

Full disclosure requires me to admit that I was a political spin doctor before I knew what a spin doctor was. I am not as proud of it as I should be. Maybe it is because I always felt embarrassed for people who claimed such expertise.

Case in point is Barbara and Murray Frum’s son David. He could never find anyone right-wing enough for him in Toronto, so David headed for the U.S. where he could be a spin doctor for President George W. Bush. The junior Bush was probably the dumbest president the U.S. had ever produced before Donald Trump. Frum proudly told anyone that he was the one who wrote the “Axis of Evil” line in George W’s State of the Union address in 2002. He even wrote a book calling George W ‘The Right Man.’

Sure, George W might have gone to Harvard and Yale, he still did the stupidest thing he could have done in going to war over some mythical weapons of mass destruction. One thing you learn early in politics is that a candidate’s education does not guarantee s/he will not do something stupid.

And being a spin doctor does not mean that you will always give the incident the right spin. I remember one evening, a Toronto Star reporter entertaining half the passengers on a full Air Canada DC9 from Ottawa lampooning a statement from me, trying to rescue the Liberal Party from embarrassment. My effort was caught on national television. Luckily, it was the unintended but amusing twist on the story that saved the day.

The problem with Frum is that he is not in the fawning clack around Donald Trump. He made it clear from the beginning that he would prefer to vote for a real politico such as Hillary Clinton.

But that sorry bunch around Donald Trump are hardly spin doctors. They are users. They are using Trump for their own agenda. They would turn on him in a second. Even the Trump progeny are referred to in the Wolff’s Fire and Fury as dim and spoiled. Trump treats his wife as arm candy and it is obvious she despises him for it.

And yet an obviously intelligent person such as Rex Tillerson remains as Secretary of State in a cabinet made up of a cluster of clowns. Is it a sense of duty to the nation that keeps him on the job? I would spin it that way.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

You can vote if you want.

Monday, January 15th, 2018

There is nothing more annoying in politics than listening to some chowder-head radio disc jockey on election day admonishing people to get out and vote. I always want to append that with the qualifier ‘If you know what you are doing, get out and vote.” And add to that, ‘If you do not know what you are doing, don’t.’

Can you imagine voting for a person because you like the way they comb their hair? Have you ever heard a young person new to voting who calls out to a parent using the next voting screen “Who am I supposed to vote for? And you would not believe some of the questions asked of you because you are wearing identification as a voting official. Many of the questions you cannot legally answer. What you would really like to say sometimes is ‘Go away, you are too dumb to vote.’ That would get you in trouble.

But understand me here. I will fight to the death for your right to vote. You just need to get a clue before you do. If nothing else, read that awful and often unhelpful literature that comes to your home. They usually spell the name of the candidate correctly. Watch some television news programs about the election. Go to a local debate between candidates. Read a daily newspaper—if there are any left. And if you are curious, go to the local candidate’s campaign offices—they are the ones with all the signs. Ask questions!

What I can assure you, is that Twitter and Facebook are very poor sources of information about an election. When the stupid only follow the ignorant, you end up with people like Donald Trump running your country.

It came as a surprise the other day that there are people who want to make sure you have the right to decline your ballot. In some provinces (including Ontario) there is a line in the returning officers’ report for “Declined Ballots.” This is usually interpreted as a way of voting for “None of the above.” While I will admit that it can sound like a viable option sometimes, it is meaningless in terms of the overall election.

The fact that none of the candidates in your electoral district appeals to you is your problem, not the process. You have the opportunity to join a political party, participate in policy discussions and help choose the candidate. If you do not like any of the candidates, take a look in a mirror. There is where the fault lies.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

In Trump land, I’ll make my stand.

Sunday, January 14th, 2018

For some reason, the tune for “Dixie” was running through my mind this morning as I read of the latest exploits of U.S. President Donald Trump. We did know he was a racist—did we not? We did know he was not fit to appear in polite company—did we not? So why is everyone surprised at his latest outburst about other countries? Can he even spell ‘diplomacy’?

Maybe the Brits have the better idea. No, not the idea of lines of proper Englishmen and their ladies mooning Mr. Trump. You simply withdraw the invitation to visit the Queen. The lady has enough problems without having to put up with a clod such as Trump.

And just how many lines of copy can the writers come up with about the American President referring to some struggling countries as “shit holes”? And he sure embarrassed the Norwegians. They could not have liked the racial slur with its comparison of them.

Donald Trump could be the first American President to be declared ‘personna non grata’ in both the United Kingdom and half of Africa. Just wait until he tries to plan a holiday off-shore and the Secret Service explains that there is no place safe for him. I was thinking of the Aga Khan’s private island in the Bahamas but you have to remember that Ismaili leader is a Muslim. Good luck on that!

The most disturbing after-shock of Mr. Trump’s racist rants are the mentally ill who consider his words as license for random attacks on people who might be Muslim. It must have been a very slow news day the other day when it was reported that man took after a child’s hijab with a pair of scissors. It turned out that the incident was just a child’s cry to not be seen as different. Yet, the attack made it all the way to  national and international news feeds. We now hear it was fake news

And we are blaming it all on Trump. He is telling his ignorant mob that it is alright to act out your racist tendencies. He is playing to the dregs of North American society with his ongoing racism. His Mexican wall continues to enrage Latinos as well as other clear-thinking Americans.

Next thing we know, Mr. Trump will have removed the New Colossus plaque from the Statue of Liberty. Trump has perverted the sonnet by Emma Lazarus for all the world to ridicule. He has extinguished “the lamp beside the golden door.”

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Welcome to our Gripes of Wrath.

Saturday, January 13th, 2018

It makes sense to save up our complaints and just share them periodically. There is no need to write too much about them. We should see if we can give them the quick shot in the head they deserve.

It is like that guy Desmond Cole who is playing coy about running for mayor in Toronto. And you thought the late Rob Ford was a problem?

It is highly unlikely that anyone in the offing is a challenge for incumbent Toronto Mayor John Tory. The problem with John is that I imagine all Toronto’s streets converted to a version of his silly King Street solution. Why are the burghers of Toronto allowing this business-destroying foolishness?

Did you hear that Peel Region really appreciates its School Resource Officer (SRO) program? So why did Toronto cancel its program of police involvement in schools before the results of the Toronto study were known? If a minority of students felt threatened by the program, it might pay to find out why.

And speaking of civic stupidity. Did you hear that a Kingston, Ontario pub has changed its name from “Sir John’s.” It seems that some local First Nations dilettantes feel that Sir John A. Macdonald did not respect our First Nations peoples. And in Sir John’s time, few did! What Sir John had was an idea called Canada. And I will raise a glass in his pub to that anytime!

While always admiring Toronto Star columnist Bob Hepburn’s political insight, I think he is losing it. He wrote the other day that Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is going to lose the June election because she is a woman. First of all, he knows full well that it is far too early to say which party might win. And to say her party will lose because she is a woman is sexist and silly. Wynne is a lesbian and she is proud of it. If Patrick Brown makes the mistake of trying to debate directly with her, he will get lessons in politics he never expected.

And have we all heard enough about the Trudeau family vacation with the Iman of the world’s 25 million Ismaili Shiite Muslims? The prime minister probably should not have to resign over this incident of bad judgement. He will probably make more errors in judgement and we can weigh them all at the next federal election.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

No, no Oprah!

Friday, January 12th, 2018

The people advising Oprah Winfrey about going into politics seem to have as little knowledge about politics as does Donald Trump. We have seen many of these dilettantes over the years and experience says that no good comes of it.

And at this stage, Donald Trump can supply most of the reasons why not. A campaign for the American Democrat or Republican nomination for president is a year out of your life that you will always want back. And since Trump never believed he would win, it was a shallow and frustrating year that culminated in the shock of winning.

The only pleasure gained in that year was the adulation of the Trump camp followers. It was hard to tell if Trump found his voters or they found him. We laughed at his bikers. We made jokes about his holy rollers, the Tea Party and the American Gothic farmers. He gathered all those losers around him like a Messiah preaching to the multitude.

He had few delusions of their adjustment to the realities of life—but they loved him. He still goes back to that campaigning mode with those lumpen proletariat. They are so suited to each other.

The point is Ms. Winfrey, you lack the right followers. The housewives who watched you on daytime television are not all Democrats. Some of them are just lazy Republicans. You might have spoken well to the feelings of your peers in Hollywood last weekend. You might have dazzled your audience across the nation but your most important audience had more important things to do than tuning in to a self-congratulatory Hollywood love fest.

The people you need to be talking to today are the political apparatchiks who saw clips the next day and smiled knowingly. Nobody is saying that your heart is not in the right place or that you are dreaming in technicolour. Sure, it is doable. You can overcome the baggage you carry. You can likely raise the millions needed. You still have time to get out on the backroads of America and win the support needed. You are able to study the questions and develop the strategies. The remaining question is; are you ready to give up the life with which you are comfortable?

A campaign requires tireless dedication. You forego privacy and personal life. You learn to say what the listener wants to hear. Unlike Mr. Trump, you would learn the words of diplomacy. You would come into the job, still eager and vital. You would leave four or eight years later grey and drawn. You go into the job to do what is right and proper. When you leave, you can be proud to have kept the peace.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Change Canada’s Senate: ‘There’s the rub.’

Thursday, January 11th, 2018

Some of our readers thought that was a got-cha. “Aha,” they exclaimed in their e-mails, “How do you think we are going to get rid of the senate?”

Obviously, they have never heard of my idea of a constitutional conference. I suggested it once in a conversation with Justin Trudeau. His eyes rolled in his head and the only answer I got was “Never.” For a school teacher, our prime minister is not all that amenable to new thinking.

And, he should never say never. Maybe it is not in our lifetime, but Canada has to have a constitution that makes sense for our nation. We can hardly continue to carry the baggage of centuries past.

And the best way to effect the change is through a constitutional conference. This body would be elected using the most recent of federal electoral boundaries across Canada. I would suggest at least three people per district. This would give us a deliberative body of over 1000. To make sure of the balance of views, I would suggest that each voter only be allowed to vote for two citizen participants.

The deliberations of the constitutional conference will need to be brought forward to the provincial legislatures and to a subsequent national referendum. And I would suggest to you that it would be a most foolish provincial legislature that tried to stand in the way of a decision of the people. It is the decision of the subsequent referendum that determines the acceptance or rejection of the constitutional conference recommendations.

That final referendum could be for an entirely new package of a constitution or a cafeteria of changes that could be made with the approval of a majority of Canadians. That is for the constitutional conference to decide.

The important aspect of this is that the final decision rests with all Canadians. It is not a decision to be made elsewhere. It is not a decision to be made by provincial legislatures. It is a decision to be made by both the aboriginal Canadian and the newcomer who recently gained citizenship. It needs to be brought to us by an honest attempt to take our country forward to the future. It should honour those who came before and be passed on with pride to future generations.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

In a land where greed beats need.

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

The last time Canada took a systematic look into its tax system was at the instigation of a Prairie populist, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker. The royal commission headed by Bay Street accountant Kenneth Carter was famous for determining “A buck is a buck.” Here we are more than 50 years later and no finance minister of any stripe seems to have understood what Carter meant.

Yet it was so simple. All Carter really said was that no matter how a dollar was earned, it should be treated as a dollar. What Canada has instead is a complex taxation system wherein a dollar is taxed according to its origin and how it is gained.

Where the dollar came from is at the centre of an unfair tax system where the wage earner remains the easiest target. The system encourages the vulgar accumulation of wealth for the already rich. It encourages perquisites for the oligarchs of business. It benefits the rich investor over the small investor. It drives the elderly who are now living longer into poverty.

And we might never know if finance minister Bill Morneau was trying to help the middle class or seeking to benefit his fellow millionaires last year. The Conservatives threw accusations, barbs and challenges in the path of his tax reform proposals as he showed his inexperience and naïveté in his portfolio. And instead of helping, the prime minister just pushed him to the side.

Both Morneau and his prime minister spend a lot of their time saying that they want to do more for the middle class. If there were more results for the middle class instead of the steadily increasing profits for the already rich, we would all be better off.

Bill Morneau has backed so far away from the grandiose reforms he presented early last year, he has an even longer way back to our trust.

In Canada, where we put our trust in a self-filed income tax system, it seems amazing that we should have a tax system so laden with exceptions. The basic fact that the rich have tax accountants and the rest of us do our best, puts our best at a disadvantage.

It would pay for both the prime minister and his finance minister to dig out and read what Kenneth Carter said over a half century ago. A loonie is still just a buck but inflation has sure eaten into its buying power.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

First-past-the-post vote still wins.

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018

For all the arguments that people put up, you would suspect that first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting was on its last legs. It is not. It survives not because so many of us love it. It survives because there is no adequate alternative.

What seems most annoying about the effort put into our switching to some form of proportional voting is the assumption that people want to vote just for a party instead of a candidate. They might like the party’s leader, they might like the party’s philosophy and they might just be lazy and do not bother to check out the individual candidates.

Those involved in politics always assume that as many as half the voters in an electoral district will vote for their party of preference. Of the other half, most are not likely to vote. It means that the most effort of a candidate is to reach the 10 to 15 per cent of the voters open to being convinced to support a worthwhile candidate.

This effort benefits all voters. These non-government candidates who can win give us a strong and effective opposition in our parliament and legislatures. They might be the leaders of tomorrow. They need the experience of being our representative. We are gaining while they are learning.

The smart voter also checks on what the person elected in his or her electoral district is doing while elected. Is the person contributing? Is the person serving his or her constituents? Or is the person just doing what the party leader says to do and to vote? And does this person reflect your values?

It pays to pay attention. You can hardly wait for the next election to read some self-serving literature and make a decision. This elected person is involved in the creation of the laws under which we live. This is a live person you know. You have the right to ask questions. It is your taxes that pay for that office in the electoral district. It is there for your benefit. It is to facilitate communication with your MP or MLA.

Why anyone would want to exchange the current system for one where we just vote for a party and a faceless name on a list makes little sense. If you feel that we need to save the cost of printing ballots for each electoral district, we would be a poor nation indeed.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Forget Beyak, dump Canada’s Senate.

Monday, January 8th, 2018

Why just dump Senator Lynn Beyak? You do not have to like what she says or posts on the Internet? We have all heard it before. Bigotry is hardly new. The problem is that there is not much you can do about it. She was appointed to the Senate of Canada by Prime Minister Stephen Harper until she is 75. She is going to be around for a while yet. It would be easier to dump the entire senate rather than just her.

‘Chuckles’ Scheer, Conservative Party leader and leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition decided to dump her. She is an embarrassment to the Conservative caucus. He tossed her out of the caucus. That was all he could do. He left her sitting in the senate. He made matters worse. He left a pissed-off party stalwart sitting in the senate as an independent.

You can be assured that not all non-first nations’ people from the Thunder Bay region of Ontario are bigots. There are many people there who are well aware of the problems faced by our first nations’ people and are sympathetic. For all we know Senator Beyak might be posting some of those bigoted letters thinking that it can help the situation. Obviously, it does not.

But this is just another of the long lists of embarrassments by our appointed senate. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thinks he is getting around the problem by having an elite committee pick elite applicants for him to appoint supposedly elite senators. He gets no guarantees.

One of the problems for the ‘Lynch Beyak’ mob is that Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations has jumped into the fray and is calling for a ‘review’ of the senator’s actions by the senate ethics committee. To give her yet another platform for racism is not going to help.

The Senate of Canada was created more than 150 years ago to give the land-owning gentry of the Canadian colonies a chance to review and, if they wish, stall the laws passed by our elected parliament. It is not needed today. In fact, its continuance is an embarrassment to our country. It should have been abolished a long time ago.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

We will call that a Wynne Win.

Sunday, January 7th, 2018

Did nobody at the Tim Horton’s head office know about the change in minimum wage for Ontario scheduled for the first of January? Did all those franchisees fail to tell them? And would you not wonder about a major franchiser who dominates the product line in Ontario, not being in control of the situation?

Somebody should send a note to the new owners of the Tim Horton’s brand that they blew it. Did they not realize that a rise in the Ontario minimum wage would have an impact on their franchisers? We will assume that not all employees are still earning minimum wage but obviously there will be some franchises trying to maximize their profit at the expense of their employees.

But there is little percentage to trying to squeeze more profit from employees. Customers have watched the size of their cups reduced and prices of their double-double increased over the years. And having fewer employees is just going to slow the service and increase customer impatience. There has to be some balance.

And it is very foolish to take on the Ontario government in this situation. First of all, the government had resisted increasing the minimum wage for too long as it was. With the steady growth in the cost of living, there was no reason not to increase the minimum wage. The economics were barely tracking as it was. Ontario should have been at a $15 minimum hourly rate more than two years ago.

It was not as though the government did not give any warning. There was plenty of time for the Tim Horton’s franchise to consider computer models of the impact of the new minimum wage. The results of the models might cause a slowing of new hires in the short term but are unlikely to seriously impact earnings for either the franchiser or the franchisee.

And people should be very wary of blaming Premier Wynne for any of the problems that might be created in adjusting to the higher minimum wage. She might be slow but she is on the side of the angels in this argument. And she seems to be much better at public relations than these new Tim Horton’s franchise people

It was only when listening to an expert on Tim Horton’s operations the other day that I learned what a franchise can gross over a year. He was talking of earning of between $300,000 and $400,000 per franchise. Nobody need worry about the franchisers.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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