Archive for January, 2018

The Walls of NAFTA.

Sunday, January 21st, 2018

There is more than one wall to consider when the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiators meet in Montreal this week. The wall that the negotiations is creating between Canada and the United States of America is just as serious as the wall of ignorance President Trump wants to build against Mexico. The difference is that Trump thinks he is manipulating Canada and all he is doing is creating a lasting ill will between countries long known for their friendship.

In a situation as serious as NAFTA, we started with denial. We launched into the negotiations with a Pollyanna perspective. We thought that the wannabe President in Washington would talk tough but negotiate. He seems to have no intention of that. He is threatening to take his ball and his bat home and the game is over.

The clauses we felt could be improved in the agreement where brought up. We thought it would show our willingness to negotiate. We were pointedly ignored. Instead, clauses were proposed by the Trump minions that gave America the clear edge and all the power. They included a ridiculous leverage on a high percentage of automobile assembly and an automatic five-year cancellation—unless stayed. This is not negotiation, this is demanding.

The feeling is that the U.S. negotiators might not make it through a winter week in Montreal. For that matter, the Mexicans would not really want the experience either. We could have a situation where the Americans might beat the Mexicans out the door. In as much as it is Canada’s meeting, it would be awkward for us to walk out first.

But the anger Canadians have been feeling is as cold as that Arctic Vortex we have felt this winter. When that bastard Trump is not belittling Canadians and our participation in NAFTA, he is patronizing us.

Trump has been told by now to stop pushing the Canadians. He might think he can jerk the Mexicans around but they obviously need NAFTA more than the Canadians. When Trudeau did not show up in that meeting in the Philippines recently to sign off on an Asia-Pacific pact, it was obvious that he wanted it held until the NAFTA meetings either folded or were clearer.

Trudeau’s problem is that he will have lost the respect of his own people if he caves in to Trump. He is working on Plan B.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

The Lion proposes to his Princess.

Saturday, January 20th, 2018

We read that it was the Tenth Sikh Guru Gobind Singh, who determined that Sikh men could identify as Singh (lion) and Sikh women as Kaur (princess). This happened more than 300 years ago and was all in aid of getting rid of the caste system for Sikhs and asserting the equality of women. It is why, with the upcoming marriage of Jagmeet Singh to Girkiran Kaur Sidhu, the leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party and his wife will probably want to keep their own names.

But despite it being a Sikh ceremony, it is all very political. There are just too many problems with an unmarried political party leader. If you do not have to face the rumours and innuendoes about a politician’s sexuality, you can concentrate on the more important issues.

When you consider the provincial Conservative leaders in Alberta and Ontario, you can understand the problem. Nobody really cares about the sexual choices of Jason Kenney, who is now the leader of Alberta’s United Conservatives. His record is clear as a social Conservative and there have been enough claims about the misogyny of him and his circle that it is hard to understand why any woman would want to support him.

Observing Ontario Conservative Leader Patrick Brown while he was in Ottawa and representing us here in Barrie, I think his problem is that women do not seem to like him. He is also a social conservative and has voted to re-open arguments about abortion and against same-sex marriage. He does not appear comfortable talking to women and they seem to rapidly lose interest in him.

Jagmeet Singh is quite different. With an outgoing personality and as a devout Sikh, he would probably be considered a very good catch for a Sikh lady. His ‘princess’ also looks like the perfect spouse for a politician. She is a successful fashion designer and appears to wear her designs well.

Jagmeet is already a hero to younger Sikhs because of his days as an extreme wrestler as well as being a successful lawyer before going into provincial politics in Ontario. He has yet to win election though to the House of Commons and take his place in parliament as NDP leader.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Democracy, behind closed doors?

Friday, January 19th, 2018

There is some puzzlement here with Canada’s democratic institutions minister. She asks for public input on political leaders’ debates for the next federal election but meets with those her department chooses to talk with behind closed doors. For all the problems we experienced with Maryam Monsef, the first minister of democratic institutions, she was at least open about her limitations and her department’s deliberations. Regrettably, it left her inexperience exposed.

The new minister, Karina Gould, must be trying to play it safe. We have no way to really know how much she knows or what she wants to know. Only the news media will have a chance to find out. Her office seems to want to go out and gather the usual suspects every time there is a question to explore. The usual suspects are the political scientists with their theories, the Elections Canada people with their rules and the elected MPs who think they know how they got elected.

It seems though that the people who could really supply her with the answers are people with extensive experience in political campaigns. I refer to them as political apparatchiks.

Many of us who have this type of political experience, have sat in meetings over the years discussing the pros, the cons and the realities of leaders’ debates. And as much as it was discussed, the leaders still wanted to cherry-pick the debates with a potential for individual advantage.

And if one of the party leaders has nothing to prove or win in a leaders’ debate, why do it? Sometimes, the discussion can be around a strategy to get leaders to cooperate.

The point is that leaders’ debates have to be handled in a flexible environment. No two elections are the same. Leaders change, campaign strategies change and everyone has to understand that debates are for the voters, not the politicians. A debate is part of the democratic process.

And also understand you are taking a serious risk if you start rolling today’s technology into the rules of the game. Technology evolves too fast. Facebook might be yesterday’s technology. And has Donald Trump in the United States discredited Twitter as a political soapbox? You have no way of knowing what will be the technological solutions two years from now. With all due respect to the academics and officials with which she is talking, the minister needs to learn from people who understand the political problems.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Politics is a numbers racket.

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

It is time to admit it: I used to be a numbers runner. Different from the numbers racket in the United States, in Canada, it is a political game. I used to announce numbers provided by my political party to see if we could draw out numbers from the other parties. It was usually a fun game where nobody got hurt or really won.

This subject occurred to me the other day when reading about the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party having (maybe) 200,000 members. The Tory’s were so proud of that figure that they let that silly ass Patrick Brown announce it. There is absolutely nothing surprising about that figure.

When you consider what has happened since its last leader Timmy Hudak embarrassed the provincial Conservatives back in 2014, the party was at its lowest membership. Nobody will provide precise figures but the paid-up membership ($10 per year, please) was likely to have been less than 20,000 die-hard Tories.

And you should note that just because you have not paid for the current year, you are not immediately removed from the lists. It is easy for you to come out to some party event and pay to bring your membership current. In the 2015 leadership there were candidates for leader signing up new members in wholesale numbers and probably increased the membership to more than 80,000. Since about half of those new sign-ups were newcomers to Ontario from the Indian Sub-Continent signed-up by organizers for Patrick Brown, it really was no contest. (Who paid for those memberships is a good question?)

What causes the real boost to the party’s numbers is the upcoming election in June of this year. With questionable polls showing a supposed walk in the park for the Tories to win, there is a lot of interest in the new, redrawn or existing 124 electoral districts. This has sent out an army of people supporting this or that Conservative candidate to sign up people who might support their candidate. A candidate signing up 3000 to 4000 new members in an electoral district is not an unknown occurrence. These contests leading up to the 2018 election have also produced more than the average number of claims of fraud, malfeasance, chicanery and even some serious lawsuits.

Mind you as more and more people find out more about Tory Leader Patrick Brown, his chances of winning are diminishing. We will supply you with a Morning Line on the contest at the end of April.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

If there is a wrong way?

Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

The Trudeau government seems to be fated to find the wrong way to do things. Whether it is just a contrariness or a strange quirk is still something we have not figured out. It is probably the reason that we say so little about the coming legalization of marijuana in Canada. Legal or illegal, whatever their involvement, cannabis brings out the least appealing characteristics of the people involved in its distribution and use.

And while I have always been in favour of decriminalizing cannabis, I must admit the smell of it being smoked repulses me. I will never be a customer for marijuana, legal or otherwise. It is still smoking and that is deadly.

But I would never have believed that a cop could be heading up that convoy bent on making pot socially acceptable. Only a cop would take two years to figure it out.

And, it hardly helps that I have absolutely no respect for the cop involved for the Trudeau Liberals. Former Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair could be just as useless as a Member of Parliament as he was in his City of Toronto job. We should never forget that he was the cop-in-charge in June 2010 at Harper’s G-20. It was Blair who wrongly jailed people under disgusting conditions, allowed police to attack citizens who were lawfully gathered, kettled citizens who were lawfully on the streets and yet allowed havoc by out-of-town anarchists.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thinks Blair is the perfect person to plan our upcoming pot party on July 1 this year.

But do not suppose that the feds are the only ones pimping for ‘Mary-Jane.’ The provincial governments get pot revenue too. Each province to their own custom will be selling marijuana for fun and profit. With its usual snails-pace for making things happen, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) promises to have special stores open in 14 municipalities in July of this year to sell pot but not booze.

There will be a lot of publicity telling people not to toke and drive. That is a very good suggestion if there really was a legal way to tell if someone is high on THC (the main hallucinogenic ingredient in cannabis).

But do not expect to get high to celebrate Canada’s 151st birthday. The pot stores run by the provinces are most likely to be closed for the holiday. This will just have to be a ‘bring-your-own’ party.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

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