Archive for March, 2018

The conflicts of Jagmeet Singh.

Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

New Democratic leader Jagmeet Singh has a problem. He appears to want to be a separatist in India but a nationalist in Canada. Perhaps it is his devout Sikhism and his seeming lack of understanding of what ties Canada together. It is hardly an enviable position for a national party leader.

It seems to me that Jagmeet Singh did not think through all his loyalties before entering politics through the Ontario legislature and then leaving it for the national scene in Ottawa. As an observant (Khalsa) Sikh, Jagmeet has not really transitioned well into Canadian culture. Wearing a bespoke suit from Harry Rosen with his colorful turbans and his Kirpan knives and the rest of his five Ks, does not, in itself, make him a contemporary Canadian.

It is also annoying to read that he thinks many Canadians are unaware of the events in India in 1984 and are equally in the dark about the Air India bombing in 1985. Those of us who followed those events with considerable concern where horrified with the Indian Army using tanks to subdue radicals at the Sikh’s Golden Temple in Amritsar in June of 1984. The Sikhs could always be critical of the workmanship but they really should have let the Indian government pay for the repairs to the temple.

Sikhs are very proud people but they had a responsibility to restrain retaliation for that affront by the Indian government. The assassination of Prime Minister Indira Ghandi by her Sikh bodyguards was uncivilized and disgraced the entire country. The uncontrolled race riots that ensued left thousands dead and many observers worried about the political maturity of India among the world’s nations.

What particularly angered Canadians was the attack on Air India that originated in Canada. Those 329 people killed on flight 182 were mostly Canadians and they were innocent of any involvement to any repression of the Sikhs. This was an unforgiveable act of terrorism on innocent people.

Jagmeet Singh, as a leader in the Sikh community must realize that Canada has been open to people from troubled lands around the world. All we ask is that each newcomer sets his or her sights on making a successful life among us and leaves the troubles of the old country in the old country. Ours is an open and caring society. What makes our society work is being open with others. Let us always listen and share. For only by working together can we all be Canadians.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Ageism and Justin Trudeau.

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018

There was an opinion piece in the paper the other day by a favourite commentator. She was writing about the Liberal government not trusting anyone older than the prime minister. That leaves a very large number of Canadians to be disposed of on the ice floes by this uncaring government.

I had always been under the impression that Justin Trudeau thought seniors would all be happy to have a selfie with him and he has been working hard on that project. It seems he thinks that will satisfy the old buggers.

Well it will not satisfy this one. As a long-time party member (before Justin was born) this Liberal expects more of him. I do not brush off easy.

I quickly learned what this government thinks of old Liberal apparatchiks when I offered some help to newly-appointed democratic reform minister Maryam Monsef. As something of an expert on voting systems—from pencil and paper to computers—and a Liberal who knows the ropes in Ottawa, I was pleased to offer her some help. She did not just turn me down, she ignored me. Watching how she handled the special committee on voting reform, I was not the least surprised when she was bounced from the portfolio to minister of status of women, where she is getting in less trouble.

The most direct problem Justin Trudeau has with seniors are the ones in the senate. He has disowned and antagonized the former liberal senators who are now supposed to consider themselves independent. They are cut off from the Liberal caucus and they really do not feel much love. Newly appointed senators are selected by an elitist committee and are thrust into a disorganized and confused senate. And when they just try to do their job, everyone complains about them holding up legislation.

But the Liberal cabinet member most responsible for the growing alienation of seniors is finance minister Bill Morneau. This minister has been salting away millions from selling off the company he inherited from his father. He is well looked after for his ‘golden years’ but the inflation he is encouraging is eating the heart out of current senior’s pensions.

The finance minister has to direct his department to come up with a better deal for pensioners with old age security and the guaranteed income supplement. They are also voters and they do not miss an opportunity to show you what they think.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

The redemption of Patrick Brown?

Monday, March 19th, 2018

How do you like those phone calls you get from automated polling systems? The worst of them are the ones that want you to press one if you intend to vote conservative and two if liberal. I always have lots of fun with them by pressing numbers at random.

But I had to pause and think about a series of those calls last week. After two calls on subsequent evenings, I thought it might be the local mayor testing the waters for his political future. I sent him an e-mail kidding him about the surveys and suggesting that his party needs him at Queen’s Park.

But when the third automated polling call came that evening, I had an even better idea. What if it is former conservative leader Patrick Brown checking out his options? He has been told that he is not getting a pass from the conservatives to run for them in my electoral district of Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte. The only path for redemption left for him would be the mayor’s chair in Barrie.

He could hardly come back as a councillor. That was where he started 14 years ago. He did not seem to like practicing law or whatever he was doing after finally passing bar admission. He only stayed a councillor until, on a second try, he finally won a federal seat for the conservatives.

The mayoralty could be the ideal route back. He can hardly disprove somehow that he prefers younger girls. From now on he should solemnly promise to check their driver’s licences before inviting any of them to his Shanty Bay home to admire his hockey memorabilia.

And he never has been mayor of Barrie. The job pays well. It is an easy job. You get your picture in the local media all the time. You get to cut a lot of ribbons and greet visiting dignitaries. It is not as though you are expected to really run things. The toughest part of the job is getting the ward councillors to maintain some decorum at open council meetings.

And it would free up the incumbent mayor to do something useful. Having a guy who graduated from the London School of Economics worrying about the high householder taxes in Barrie is a terrible waste of talent. The city staff will continue making all the decisions anyway. The mayor is just for show.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Keep to the left Ms. Wynne.

Sunday, March 18th, 2018

Not that she would necessarily listen to this writer but Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne needs advice on dealing with Doug Ford. There is always the hope that someone who reads Babel-on-the-Bay will mention it to her. We, of course, are expecting her and her Liberal government to continue to discuss left-of-centre initiatives in the run-up to the June election. It is just in one of the first salvoes by the new conservative leader Ford across her bow, Kathleen Wynne veered to the right.

And of all subjects, it was regarding the sale of cannabis in Ontario! Kathleen Wynne had to take the grandmother approach. That was not only bad but it took her completely off message.

Wynne ignored all we already know about cannabis. Who does she think really gives a damn about buying weed? Not many of them are grandmothers. Yet in responding, she referred to herself as a grandmother. She can talk grandmother to grandmothers when talking about something grandmothers care about.

Admittedly, it was a set-up. The news media is going to keep feeding questions such as that to Doug Ford and then run to her to ask her for her response. It is to fill the ongoing need of the news media to have something between the advertisements.

The beauty of it is that Ford does not understand many of the questions and he gives little thought to his answers. Premier Wynne does understand it and has to use the opportunities provided to define the political differences between herself and the conservative leader.

She was careless to suggest that Doug Ford was looking to sell cannabis in convenience stores. Nobody suggested that. And to say that Ford was ‘reckless’ by suggesting privatization was silly. It is only pointing out to those who want to be able to buy legal cannabis that the government-run stores will be few and far between. Why push those potential pot purchasers to vote for Ford?

All this particular incident shows is that Wynne does not know why she has to make sure she stays to the left politically. To allow Doug Ford to look more progressive is a tough task, but somehow, Premier Kathleen Wynne managed to make it happen in this instance. She really needs to smarten up.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

In defence of populism.

Saturday, March 17th, 2018

From the first time I met John George Diefenbaker, I have admired populist politicians. For the benefit of our younger folk, John Diefenbaker was a Prairie populist politician who served as prime minister of Canada from 1957 to 1963. As a young liberal, I did not agree with much of ‘Dief the Chief’s politics but some of what he did changed this country forever.

Conservatives considered John Diefenbaker a radical. He did crazy things like appointing the first Canadian woman to the federal cabinet. His government passed the first Canadian Bill of Rights. He gave Canada’s aboriginal peoples the vote. He appointed the first aboriginal person to the senate. These were not the actions of your typical conservative.

Mind you, as a former member of Canada’s air force, I was royally pissed with Dief when he cancelled the spectacularly advanced Avro Arrow. He caved in to the Americans and left Canada as perpetual water boy to the Yankees.

I got to thinking about populism recently when reading a very misleading column by Chantal Hébert in the Toronto Star. She was saying that one-member-one-vote selection in political party leadership benefits populists. That is B.S. from an usually more knowledgeable reporter.

Her problem was that the examples she used were hardly populists. Doug Ford is not a populist. His late brother Rob was a populist and the difference could not have been more obvious. Rob Ford believed in Ford Nation, he was part of it. Doug Ford wants to use Ford Nation but he is hardly part of it. He is a dilettante. He talks the talk but hardly walks the walk. I will put money on him crashing and burning before the Ontario election. He is just another embarrassing Premier Mike Harris in waiting.

And Hébert mentioning Patrick Brown as an example of populism is a sad joke. Patrick Brown is a sleazy political manipulator and user who finally got his comeuppance.

Brown and Jagmeet Singh both swamped their party memberships with ethnic sign-ups from the Indian sub-continent. The only difference was that the Sikhs have been proud of Jagmeet Singh and would have insisted in paying for their own memberships.

Populism is a rare feature of Canadian politics and we need more of it. It is that ability to be part of the masses, articulate their needs, motivate them and rise to lead those masses. It is a combination of empathy and vision and communication. When you see it; you will recognize it.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Doug Ford is just Trump Lite.

Friday, March 16th, 2018

It was made clear when we announced the winner that the new Conservative leader in Ontario was just Trump Lite. There are some interesting similarities between the two men and their many failings but there the similarity ends.

To start with both men came into their wealth the old-fashioned way: they inherited it. They have no rags to riches stories. Nobody doubts that Trump turned his father’s development business into a billion-dollar enterprise but there were many complaints of chicanery and quite a few bankruptcies over the years. Doug Ford kept his company’s presses printing labels.

Trump started out disliking politicians and never really changed his mind. His ego finally drove him into the midst of politics and he wasted no time heading for the top. Doug Ford never did anything political until his younger brother headed for the Toronto mayoralty from his council seat—which he gave to his older brother.

Doug Ford’s entire political career as a one-term city councillor was spent alibiing his brother the mayor and trying to keep him sober, on the job and off crack cocaine.

When Doug Ford jumped into the mayoralty race four years later to replace his sick brother, he got the nod from what was left of the Ford Nation followers but lost to a real politician.

You could argue with Donald Trump as to whether the development business or politics requires the most lying, cheating and stealing but those traits took him to the American presidency. He is at his happiest when addressing a rally of his lumpen proletariat who think his B.S. is the word of God.

The difference with Doug Ford is that he thinks he is a politician. It was his late brother who was the populist who excited his followers with a plain-spoken, campaign that said he would listen. And it was true that Rob Ford listened. He returned telephone calls from voters who called in to complain. The two brothers even had a radio show for a while where they listened to voters who called.

But compared to his brother, Doug Ford is no listener, no politician and no populist. And in that, he and Donald Trump are alike. Both would rather moon the media than deal honestly with it. Many in the U.S. await the time that the American Democratic Party gets its act together. It would foretell the demise of the Trump presidency.

Doug Ford is hardly getting the free ride into office in Ontario that Trump had in the U.S. The difference is that Ford will be facing off against and experienced and wily politician. She is not going to buy into his crap.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

The last adult has left the White House.

Thursday, March 15th, 2018

President Donald Trump has fired secretary of state Rex Tillerson. He fired him on that children’s program Twitter. And, in case Tillerson might not have checked Twitter, Trump phoned him from Airforce One and made sure he knew he was fired.

Tillerson will, regrettably, go down in history as the least effective American secretary of state in the history of the office. He could not win his arguments with Donald Trump and was resented by the experts at Foggy Bottom—as the area of Washington is called where the Department of State Headquarters is located.

He came into office with the high hopes that he could bring some good management to an administration that was shaping up as a total screw-up. His efforts were wasted.

The one area where it was expected he could help was with the Russia file. He faced too much interference by the alphabet soup of U.S. government agencies starting with the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. as well as a special counsel appointed to dig into the external interference in the election that resulted in Trump winning.

In the neighbouring countries of North America, Canada and Mexico, Trump was making enemies while Tillerson was trying to make friends.

But the major obstacle between Tillerson and Trump was the North Korea file. Tillerson wanted to use diplomacy and the support of allies. Trump wanted to call the North Korean leader names and ridicule him. Trump wanted to use threats.

It was North Korea that broke with all diplomatic protocols and invited President Trump to visit that country. It was a schoolyard dare and Trump grabbed at it. He must have realized at that point that secretary of state Tillerson would never agree to such a meeting without all the diplomatic niceties of preparation and protocols. For Trump to be the ‘Big Man on Campus’ in this situation, he needed to get rid of his secretary of state.

And he had the perfect fall guy and spook to take on the job. Trump has nominated Mike Pompeo, currently director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), to replace Tillerson. Pompeo is best known as a pit-bull representative of the fourth district of Kansas, where he was considered a Tea Party adherent. His one endearing quality to Trump is that he does not like the news media and does not talk to them.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

There are some real royals.

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

It is too bad that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was too busy to meet with the King and Queen of Belgium when they were in Ottawa the other day. These are a somewhat different type of royal. They are useful. They are not just figureheads and dilettantes. The Belgian royals brought 150 business leaders and others with them to help build stronger ties with Canada.

While trade between Belgium and Canada was $6.5 billion last year, Canada does that much bilateral trade with the United States in three days. The Belgians are hoping to see a substantial increase in their trade with Canada as the new Canada-European Union trade deal comes into effect.

The Belgians were greeted according to protocol by the Governor General and with all the correct ceremonies. It was obvious that they had hoped for a few words with Canada’s Prime Minister.

Belgium, as a sovereign country, is only about six years older than Canada. It is also a constitutional monarchy and has two major language groups. Part of the role of the royalty is to help hold the country together despite ongoing tensions between the Flemish (about 60 per cent of the population) and Walloons (close to 40 per cent).

In the United Kingdom, the Queen has a periodic briefing from her prime minister as to the affairs of the nation. In Belgium, the monarch is much more involved and he maintains direct contact with his cabinet ministers as to the progress of their bills and programs. He supplies the ministers with highly knowledgeable and apolitical advice.

Having visited Belgium and seen first hand the animosity between the Flemish and Walloons, I can only feel admiration for how the Belgian monarch helps to smooth relations between the two groups. Compared to the concern Prince Harry has with the guest list for his upcoming wedding to an American, it does seem to make our royals quite redundant.

But Canada will never be able to ameliorate its borrowed monarchy from England that does this country no favours. It might be a convenience for our politicians who think they know best about our needs but the refusal of our government to address concerns about the un-elected and undemocratic senate, supreme court appointments and the myriad of concerns about our need to update our democracy are not being solved.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

See what preferential voting gets you?

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018

Will they ever learn? The Ontario conservatives used preferential voting in their recent leadership race. Yes, they were rushed and used the same foolish system that gave them Patrick Brown as leader two years before. They used a system that fails to produce a leader. They end up with the lowest common denominator. And those people think they should form a government?

Political parties have been using computers to manage membership lists for more than 30 years. Elections Canada and provincial counterparts have become proficient in producing voters lists for electoral districts and for candidates. Political parties have embraced this capability and have little trouble using these extensive lists for distributing information to electoral districts and asking their members and supporters for money.

It was typical that the first e-mail sent to Ontario Tories by the party after the Saturday fiasco was, in effect, “Doug Ford won, send money.”

Like their federal counterparts last year, the provincial conservatives major mistake was to use preferential balloting. In both cases, the party let the losers be the choosers and regretted the result.

The problem with preferential voting is that the voters are concentrating on voting for their preferred candidate. Asking them to make a second and even third and fourth choice at this time is a serious mistake. They have probably given little thought to their second choice and this becomes a quick and not well thought through decision. The greater the number of candidates to select from, the less the thought given. (Only 21 per cent of federal conservative voters made Andrew ‘Chuckles’ Scheer their first choice in last year’s federal leadership race.)

And then the vote counting system only counts the next choice available on the ballot cast originally for losing candidates. Unlike a run-off election, voters are not given the opportunity to re-evaluate their first ballot. (Candidates who receive the most votes in the first round of a run-off election do not always win the final vote.)

The Ontario conservatives added to the confusion in their counting when they tried to make each electoral district equal. The truth is that they are not all equal. To penalize the districts with the largest and most aggressive party memberships is not only a serious mistake but provides inadequate leadership and little opportunity to those members elected by these successful electoral districts. And it is not even democratic.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

“What the world needs now…”

Monday, March 12th, 2018

Got an interesting e-mail the other day from a fellow commentator on Canada’s left coast. He had an excellent suggestion on what Canada should do about the currently growing estrangement from a badly run United States of America. He sees it as an opportunity for an independent Canada to become an honest broker for our world.

He wants us to create peace rather than be failed peace keepers. He sees our newfound freedom from the Americans as an opportunity for Canada to not only offer to broker but to enforce the peace. He sees us as taking Canada to a new level in world affairs.

He sees Canada as having been used as something of a foreign Legion by the Americans. The best example of this is when the Americans dumped their failed Afghanistan campaign on us.

I thought of it as Art Eggleton’s war. He and Prime Minister Paul Martin were duped by the Americans and their own military experts. It was the only war Canada ever lost. We were just another bunch of foreigners feeding our rations to the Pashtuns. They have been killing foreign soldiers for centuries and are getting very practiced at it.

He and I both agree that it was shameful that Canada never had enough troops in Afghanistan to make a difference. Thankfully we got out and those left came home to mourn our dead.

The problem I see to this plan for enforced peace is that we need a larger and better equipped military capability to undertake the role. We need ground support aircraft and aircraft that can give us control of the sky in troubled areas. We need rapid mobility and better intelligence in likely areas of need. We never want to go in blind. And it has to be clear up-front that decisions on the ground take precedence over the armchair experts at the United Nations.

We could be the world’s problem solvers. It would take commitment. The biggest problem is that these small police type actions often create more problems than were there in the first place. The Middle East for example is like a wack-a-mole game that nobody is allowed to win. We got rid of that dictator in Libya and have done worse in the long run.

Our advantage in this are the people from those troubled countries, who came to us for refuge and a better life. We need to interview and study what these people have to say about their former home and its needs. It can help come up with solutions.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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