Archive for January, 2018

And Wynne sits in the catbird seat.

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

The ‘catbird seat’ is a wonderful American idiom for that perfect position in politics providing the politician with a position to observe the disarray of his or her foes. As you can imagine, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is currently enjoying that position. Her main opposition, the Ontario Conservatives are totally involved in their own problems.

But not for long, dear friends. This situation is fraught with danger for the long-term hopes of the Liberals in Ontario. No Liberal adherent, who thought it through, would have picked this timing for bringing down Patrick Brown. It needed to be closer to the election and too late for any choice of leader.

Given a choice, Kathleen Wynne would have wanted to go against pompous Vic Fedeli, the Conservative caucus’ choice of leader. He is a known quantity and his platform is a known quantity. With time to think, Fedeli has taken himself out of the running.

But Brown was not irrelevant. Brown was high risk. The only good news for the Liberals lately was that Brown might not have been well known to voters but he was certainly making enemies within the Ontario Conservative Party. Dissidents in his own party were challenging him in court and in the electoral districts and they were winning.

One of the more interesting challenges was over his carbon tax policy. It seems that the PC Party’s lawyers were told to pay Cambridge lawyer Jim Karahalios $110,000 for his legal fees and $33,500 in punitive and special damages. The judge in the case considered the action to be just a strategic lawsuit to stifle dissent. Mr. Karahalios had already had his Conservative Party membership revoked and was barred from the November policy announcement because of his campaigns against Patrick Brown’s leadership and the proposed carbon tax.

Other party members have also been complaining about the party lawyers continuing their efforts to block dissent from Mr. Karaholios and appealing the order to pay him compensation.

What pleases Kathleen Wynne the most is that while the Progressive Conservatives might be getting the bulk of the media attention at the moment, it is not likely to be the type of attention that will do them any good.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

A house divided.

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

The Progressive Conservative Party in Ontario is in turmoil. Since last Wednesday, the party has been playing its own Game of Thrones. Slights—real or imagined—are earning retaliation and factions of the party are preparing for the fights to come.

The Queen’s Park conservative caucus got behind Vic Fedeli from Nipissing as interim leader but the party hierarchy opted for a fast and furious leadership race that could produce a new leader by the end of March. And there is lots of time for more mistakes to be made.

The first reality for the party to face is that there are no 200,000 Tories eager to vote for a new leader in March. It depends entirely on how aggressive and well funded the candidates are and how many come forward. The only ones bringing in new money would be newcomers such as Caroline Mulroney and Rod Phillips. Whether either of these untried conservatives can put together the organization needed, is the question.

The lucky leadership candidates are the ones with an existing organization. This includes social conservatives in Ontario who might have nobody stronger than Monte McNaughton from Southwestern Ontario to support. These people are still smarting from the way they were used by Patrick Brown and they will probably stick with Monte out of spite.

There is no telling what an organization such as the Ontario Landowners Association might do in this situation. Randy Hillier, who was one of their founders, might be up to another fight.

The guy who lacks the credibility with the party is Vic Fedeli, the caucus choice. Even if Toronto Mayor John Tory’s ego got the better of him and he jumped into the race, he would at least beat Interim Leader Fedeli, the former mayor of North Bay.

The Toronto media are always trying to promote former Toronto councillor Doug Ford as an option. While he might be saying, in his mother’s basement, that he is in, he will go nowhere unless he figures a way to pay the memberships for his late brother’s Ford Nation. He could hardly hide it the way Patrick Brown hid his paying for his Indian Sub-Continent members.

Our guess is that the Ontario PC’s are challenging the world of hackers to have fun with their leadership. They will have to use somebody’s software for remote voting. Will it be hacker-proof?

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Report from the front lines of America.

Monday, January 29th, 2018

While Vassy Kapelos of Global Television was interviewing David Frum last Sunday, the wife kept asking me questions. When she asked why a Canadian would write a book about Donald Trump, I explained that he is now an American citizen, a registered Republican and worked in the White House for George W. Bush. She stopped when she heard that, as she rightly guessed that I might not be a fan.

And no, I have not read his book. I figure that in the next several years I will be able to fill a couple bookshelves with Trump tomes—all from the remainders piles at my favourite bookstore .

What intrigues me about a book by a Republican such as Frum are the positive statements as opposed to the complaints. For example; he does not think Donald Trump is stupid. He admits that there are subjects with which Trump might not concern himself and is ignorant about, but he considers him wily. And he says that Trump is more knowledgeable about his powers as President than he reveals.

Frum is very concerned though about the damage that Trump is doing to American institutions. He is worried about the damage already done to the Department of Justice and the immature direction of the military. Americans who think that things could be worse have yet to face their comeuppance.

The essence of Frum’s book is that Donald Trump is doing damage to the American Democracy. Trump, the autocrat, is not what Americans wanted in the White House. Frum blames the ‘appeasers’ and the ‘enablers’ from his own Republican Party who ‘keep Trump afloat.’

It is surprising to see that instead of criticizing Trump’s xenophobia, Frum appears to agree with his fear of people from other countries and his anti-immigration stance. It is hard to believe Frum has said openly that he considers people to be racist by nature.

Trump’s xenophobic view of the world includes close neighbours such as Canada and Mexico. Combine that attitude with a complete lack of understanding of how trade with other countries contributes to the economy and Frum sees Trump pulling the plug on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) at any time.

Frum was positive in the interview that there are forces for balance emerging to offset Trump.  I guess they just need to move more rapidly.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

“Who killed Cock Robin?”

Sunday, January 28th, 2018

“All the birds of the air

fell a-sighing and a-sobbing,

when they heard the bell toll

for poor Cock Robin.”       (English nursery rhyme, author unknown.)

 

Former Barrie councillor, former MP and former leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party, Patrick Brown is not an object of sympathy.  It would be difficult to feel sorry for him. He will be remembered as the first politician to be thrown under the bus in the 2018 provincial election—that has yet to officially start.

But the contest for Ontario certainly has begun. And ‘Who killed Cock Robin?’ is a serious question. Brown was neither charged with a crime nor found guilty and he was dispatched with all the ceremony of empty pizza boxes after a frat house party. Guilty or not, the Tory caucus at Queen’s Park were hardly sorry to see him go. He will not be welcomed back.

When we wrote about his political career being finished last week, we were not talking about the charges against him. His relations with women might be pathetic but it was the news conference at Queen’s Park that did him in.

The staging of that media meeting was terrible, his prepared statement deplorable, his emotional control non-existent and his parting perp-walk pathetic. This is not what the voter wants to see at any level of politics. It is no wonder his campaign staff resigned rather than taking part in it. They had the sense to see where it would lead.

But the jubilant Conservative caucus at Queen’s Park were in a party mood when they picked Vic Fedeli as Interim leader. There is one word for a pompous millionaire and former mayor who is a back-slapping politician: boring. He was no threat to the caucus and a likely loser if he controls the 2018 election campaign for the Tories.

But the party organization belonged to Patrick Brown and the party executive opted for a vote on leadership by the entire party. And if you are wondering about who advised those young ladies to go to CTV with their experiences at Patrick’s place, you might ask who benefits? And bear in mind, the Liberals would want it to happen much closer to the election.

We all want to know who,

Drew the arrow straight and true,

The arrow that slew poor Cock Robin.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

The travels and trials of Trump.

Saturday, January 27th, 2018

President Donald Trump of the U.S.A. went to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland the other day. Few of the attendees at the world convention of capitalism cared. The reigning head of the most powerful nation on earth had nothing to contribute. He did not even ski.

It was the younger world leaders who captured attention. Emmanuel Macron of France had a message on how to live better with capitalism. Justin Trudeau of Canada advised the world to appreciate the strengths and contribution of women.

It was older leaders such as Narendra Modi of India and Donald Trump of the U.S.A. who pitched inward directed messages that tried to sell what their nations offered. Modi gave an impassioned albeit standard pitch to do more business with the Indian Sub-Continent.

And then there was Donald Trump, who consorted with the usual suspects, read a stilted speech from his teleprompter and contributed nothing but out-of-date platitudes and an uncaring view of the world.

And what more trouble could Trump cause by meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel? He has already caused more riots in the Middle East with his promise to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem.

Obviously, Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, needed friends in the cold altitude of Davos but Donald Trump did her no good. It is hard to find friends for either of them.

At least Trump brought his own clack of U.S. government employees to cheer his otherwise stony speech to the assembly. With Africans and attendees from other countries prepared to walk out in protest, Trump made sure that the bulk of his audience was American.

Not that his speech would have annoyed anyone. Nobody was particularly interested in the “America First” theme but he made it in such an out-of-date and hackneyed way that it was nothing new.

The consensus when he left was that most were pleased that he was gone.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Ontario banks on the LCBO.

Friday, January 26th, 2018

That banker is back. Do you remember Ed Clark? He was the guy from TD Bank who advised Premier Kathleen Wynne to sell off Ontario’s Hydro One electricity distribution system. Remember how that got the Wynne government in trouble?

This Clark is the same guy who told Wynne that she could distribute beer and wine through the larger grocery stores. Remember the pain of gradually getting some booze in grocery stores.

The bad news about the few grocery stores selling beer and wine is that they are told how to do it by the LCBO—an organization that does not appear to know anything about pricing, merchandising, convenience, customer service, store design, or giving the customer an even break. If the grocery industry in Ontario had any guts, they would tell the government to take all the rules and regulations laid on them by the LCBO for them to sell beer and wine, roll them up and stick them where the sun does not shine.

And to think that the LCBO has been charged to start retailing marijuana to the gullible Ontario public in less than six months. This is adding insult to injury. It is not connected to the liquor operations and it is no corner store operation. Somehow there are supposed to be 14 pot stores in all of Ontario by July 1, 2018.

And just guess who is going to be running this Keystone Kops operation? None other than Premier Wynne’s good buddy, Ed Clark. He has just been made chair of the LCBO. And he says he is doing the job for a loonie a year—which might be more than he is worth!.

And standing on the sidelines, cheering Mr. Clark on is another former banker, finance minister Charles Sousa. Sousa is quoted as saying that Clark is also a retailer because he comes from TD Bank “that changed the face of banking in (Canada).”

Last year one of our local TD branches moved to a new plaza near Georgian College in Barrie. It started out looking like a nice little bank. We were delighted to see that it lacked the usual cattle pen to line up the retail customers and everybody commented and congratulated the staff. The customers got in line anyway. Last week we saw that a cattle pen had been added. TD Bank changes nothing!

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Brown’s political days are done.

Thursday, January 25th, 2018

When your entire life is politics, the end of your run can be a tragedy. Like the marathon runner, he is, he felt the eagerness for the starter’s gun and the highs of the final stretch. For the rest of his life, Barrie’s Patrick Brown can only say, ‘If only…”

No, there are no regrets for him. He knew the chances he took. He was not a person who attracted women. Making sexual advances on a person who works for you is reprehensible. There is no excuse.

What is also of concern is the cavalier way Patrick Brown could use his position as a Member of Parliament. There have been questions for years now about his involvement with charities such as a hockey event for the Barrie hospital. The claim that one of his accuser’s makes that he hired her to work on this charity event, pressed her to travel with him on his frequent trips to India and gave her a raise after making sexual advances is a sordid story.

Patrick Brown was a sorry sight at the Queen’s Park news conference on Wednesday. He called it to deny the allegations made by CTV News. Emotions on edge, he denied everything. If he had listened to any of his advisers, that would have been a very different event. It is an extremely difficult situation for anyone to handle and he blew it. Even if all the accusers would recant, he cannot recover from those few moments.

Patrick Brown is finished in politics.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Political parties are not private.

Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

There was an interesting question raised last week by Toronto Star columnist Susan Delacourt about political parties. She was questioning whether political parties are public or private entities. Before we get legal minds involved in determining this, it is important to stress that a political party is created by and owned by its membership. It is whatever its membership determines it to be.

That being said though, a political party has to constantly redefine itself and undergo change to meet the needs and opportunities offered by its society. It can also be influenced by its leadership as the party leader, elected by the party, is usually a member of the party’s managing body. The last time a party went head to head with its leader was when Progressive Conservative Party President Dalton Camp decided in the late 1960s that former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker had outlasted his usefulness to his party.

It was at about that time that Prime Minister Lester Pearson agreed to a Liberal Party motion for the party leader to submit to a party vote in the year after an election. His successor, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau also agreed. The clause remains in to-day’s Liberal Party constitution.

But the interesting change pushed through by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the party’s biennial meeting in Winnipeg in 2016 is the designation of party members as Registered Liberals with no membership fees involved. In effect, he created a non-paying membership. Instead, over the past few years, these registered Liberals on the party’s computerized lists have been inundated with constant pleas for funds. Justin Trudeau seems to think of the membership as some sort of sucker list.

The fund-raising has been so intense that as something of a break there was an e-mail recently that admitted that the party might be overdoing it. It was asking for policy suggestions for an up-coming party convention in Halifax that is, in itself, a fund-raising opportunity.

What is wrong though is that there is no filtering of these resolutions through a regional or provincial party structure. Only the party hierarchy in Ottawa will see the proposals and decide which ones to put forward. That is a clear indication that Justin Trudeau does not want a democratic Liberal Party. This is just the Justin Trudeau fan club.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Alberta commits to pollute.

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

It is hard to think of Alberta Premier Rachel Notley as an oil baron but she must be at least an honorary member of the Petroleum Club. Her government has committed to shipping 50,000 barrels a day of what must be diluted bitumen through TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline over the next 20 years. Bitumen, the output of Canada’s oil sands, is the most polluting petroleum product our planet proffers.

Bitumen pollutes at every step in the process. It causes pollution just to be extracted from the land. The effluent of its extraction process pollutes the environment. The conversion of bitumen to ersatz crude oil causes extensive pollution and leaves behind a carbon-rich slag. Further refining it to different grades of fuels causes pollution. And finally, burning it as a fuel causes even more pollution.

But Alberta’s government does not care. Donald Trump’s America wants to be great again and burns more coal. Sharon Notley’s Alberta wants to be rich again and pollute for profit.

This makes the NDP premier of Alberta just as much of a hypocrite as her hero in the U.S. White House. Her government is accepting diluted bitumen from the oil sands exploiters in lieu of royalty payments. Instead of just being the regulator on behalf of all Albertans, the Alberta government is in the game. It is in the oil business.

It is because of this accumulation of output from the tar sands as royalties, that the Alberta government can make a commitment to TransCanada Pipelines. It is guaranteeing use of the line while speculating on the price of bitumen at the Texas Gulf Coast oil ports. From the ports, the bitumen can be shipped to countries around the world who are not concerned about the pollution it causes and the harm to the environment.

This makes the Keystone XL pipeline even more likely as the company has now secured 500,000 barrels a day in commitments. That is 60 per cent of the total of the planned capacity for Keystone XL of 830,000 barrels per day. Those guarantees TransCanada are showing off can be taken to the bank as proof of the financial viability of the pipeline—if it ever gets completed.

The question for the voters of Alberta is can you trust a government to regulate and control an industry if the government is directly involved in the industry?

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Ontario votes in June.

Monday, January 22nd, 2018

While political pundits have obviously thought long and hard on Ontario Premier Wynne’s possible political problems this spring, I doubt her main concern is misogyny. Nobody is mad at her for being a woman and not many voters give a darn about her being in a lesbian relationship. That is not what the provincial vote on June 7 is about.

The vote will be about the Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne and the political hopes of the Progressive Conservative party of Patrick Brown and the New Democratic Party of Andrea Horwath. If you do not like those three options, you might have a Green Party or some independent candidate to consider in your electoral district. And you have the best part of five months to make your decision. Most Ontario citizens will not even think about the election until maybe sometime late in May.

While supposedly neutral, news media pundits wring their hands about the Liberals being in power in Ontario for the past 14 years, that is hardly a record. It was the government that brought the province through the most serious financial crash since the Great Depression while phasing out coal-fired electricity production and introducing all-day kindergarten. And even with the recent uptick in the minimum wage, unemployment is now at an amazingly low number.

When Kathleen Wynne took over as premier, she had already earned this writer’s enmity. I was hardly impressed by the chicanery she pulled in gaining the party leadership. (To be fair, her skulduggery was far less blatant than the underhanded way Patrick Brown used to take over his party’s leadership.)

But, on balance, you have to admit that the Wynne government has done a pretty good job. She should never have listened to that banker who told her to sell off the electrical distribution in the province. Her expansion of beer and wine distribution to large grocery stores became a long-playing joke. And yet, her government deserves a lot of credit for helping improve seniors’ pensions, providing a list of common medicines free to children and young people, and finally getting the minimum wage heading towards a living wage.

In the meantime, the Conservatives are falling all over each other hoping to get some blowback in the election. The worst thing for their hopes would be a strong NDP. If Leader Andrea Horwath continues to bumble along, it will not help the Liberals’ chances. A strong third party could force a minority and it is one of the possibilities we will be looking at as the election gets closer.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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