Archive for June, 2018

Let’s settle this silly supposition.

Saturday, June 30th, 2018

According to Toronto Star columnist Bob Hepburn, political guru David Herle says the results for the liberals would have been worse if Wynne had not announced that they would lose. I must be missing some common sense. Since most of my Canadian readers are fairly knowledgeable about politics, I would like their help here.

Those of us that follow such things closely know that towards the end of the campaign, Kathleen Wynne and the Ontario liberals were going downhill. It was not the time to capitulate. It was a time to get smart.

As campaign manager for the party, it is supposed that Mr. Herle has to bear some of the blame for the loss. That campaign was not his finest hour. He spent more than a million dollars each to get seven liberal members elected. This is not cost-efficient campaigning.

But only now does Herle admit that he had no idea of how to fight Ford. He should have asked some of us old has-beens! We knew Ford from when he was on Toronto council. We watched the blow-hard lose to fellow conservative John Tory in the mayoralty race four years ago. We followed him closely in that farce of a conservative leadership contest. Beating him is as simple as you take one hard run at the son-of-a-bitch and then you ignore him. He was not the reason that the voters should have chosen Wynne.

Herle never gave the voters a convincing reason to vote liberal. Out of a ten-million-dollar campaign budget, you would think he could at least come up with a decent slogan!

Doug Ford’s “For the People” sucked but it was a hell of a lot better than nothing. Nobody ever gave us a reason to vote for Wynne. All we wanted was a single compelling statement on her behalf.

I guess Mr. Herle was counting on the more intellectual voters who preferred not to have a Trump-Lite such as Doug Ford in Ontario. We got news for you campaign manager: There seem to be only enough intellectuals in Ontario to elect seven liberals. The rest of us hoi polloi had to fend for ourselves.

Kathleen Wynne drove the campaign bus that transported loyal liberal voters to the NDP. Wynne should have been slicing and dicing Andrea Horwath from the beginning. That do-nothing blob was sucking up all the hot air and sailed through the campaign to plaudits and to Her Majesty’s loyal opposition.

Mr. Herle, I guess you are fired.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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“A tale of two cities.”

Friday, June 29th, 2018

The words of Charles Dickens are ageless: ”It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity…” He wrote those words 60 years after the worst of the French Revolution was over and yet they are as timeless today as they were then.

Dickens words came to mind as I considered the campaigns for re-election of two mayors, in two of my favourite cities. The first is John Tory of Toronto and the second is Jeff Lehman of Barrie. Both mayors have declared their candidacy in their respective cities and neither, as of now, has had any serious challenge.

John Tory is one of my favourite conservatives. He is a lawyer by profession, a part of the firm of the family name. He learned his conservatism over years of volunteering and working with conservative icon, and former Ontario premier, Bill Davis.

In his first run at being mayor of Canada’s largest city, John defeated former city counselor Doug Ford and the new democratic party’s dowager Olivia Chow (Jack Layton’s widow). It was a tough fight for the job and John Tory has spent the past four years showing that it was a good choice.

If you think Jeff Lehman had it easier the first time he ran in Barrie, he had to defeat a former mayor and a former MPP for the job. The size of the problems might be smaller (less than 150,000 population versus Toronto’s 2,500,000) but the job is just as complex and demanding.

Jeff Lehman bats over 300 in terms of his job as he is also a director of the largest municipally-owned public utility in the province and chairs a caucus of the mayors of 27 of Ontario’s largest cities. His advantage is that he has his post-graduate degree from the London School of Economics and previously made his living advising municipal bodies on maximizing their infrastructure planning and financing.

As most experts can tell you, economists are what are most needed in municipal politics. If property owners want their taxes kept under control, they need municipal politicians who know how to control spending.

I will run a few more comments on these two cities by you as the municipal campaign in Ontario moves toward the October 22 vote.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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From Penny Dreadful to false news.

Thursday, June 28th, 2018

If you think false news is new news, you are only about 300 years behind the news. Watching the efforts of past politician Patrick Brown to communicate with his constituents during his time in Ottawa, I used to think of his efforts in terms of the penny dreadful publications that originated in England in the early 1800s. They had the same lack of accuracy and quality and the same misleading enticements to want to read the following edition.

Most of the early penny dreadful material was fictional about highwaymen or vampires and so was much of Patrick Brown’s efforts. He seemed to accept anything without question from the party offices or as quoted from questionable sources. What was most annoying was his use of local charities to promote himself. He was doing a disservice to the charities but they could hardly say ‘no’ to him.

He used to make fanciful claims about what he did for charities in Barrie. He even used to take the credit for the Royal Victoria Hospital summer hockey event, saying he thought of it and started it, until enough people said “No, he did not.” He used to politicize the event to the point of needlessly polarizing the community.

But this is not to say that all of Patrick Brown’s schemes were not effective. He was easily re-elected for three terms as member of parliament for Barrie. When Brown saw the handwriting on the wall on the conservatives’ chances in 2015, he made the jump for the brass ring in Ontario. By signing up close to 40,000 immigrants from the Indian sub-continent (with or without payment), he swamped the then low membership of the Ontario conservatives and took the leadership—for a while anyway.

But we should hardly be surprised that the two city councillors—acolytes of Patrick Brown—who were there to fill in for him in the new electoral districts for the 2015 federal election, are following in his footsteps.

Messrs. Brassard and Nutall, both MPs for different halves of Barrie, sent out a penny dreadful the other day to announce that they are playing hockey down at the cenotaph on July 1. I, for one, just have better things to do than sit in the hot sun watching a mediocre game of shinny by people who are supposed to be adults.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Do polls prove their point?

Wednesday, June 27th, 2018

Reading a recent newspaper article about the pollsters congratulating themselves on their accuracy in the last provincial election was enough to make me ill. The more serious question on that provincial election was whether the polls followed the voters or did the voters follow the polls?

Opinion polls, focus groups and voter profiling used to be handy tools for campaign management but in the hands of the news media, they have been weaponized. Various media outlets seem to have their own tame pollsters to support their editorial stance. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) even has its own compiler who takes all the polls and comes up with an average. This brave soul also tries to forecast the number of seats in an imaginary legislature.

The problem with this is that 19 times out of 20, the pollsters manage to get certain things wrong. They say they are adjusting their algorithms to compensate for some of the errors. In that case, I suspect the errors must be growing faster than their corrections.

We have always known, for example, that the NDP vote will be exaggerated. Early in the campaign, it is the parked votes of people who are not sure of how they will ultimately vote. Later in the campaign, people just lie.

And they never have been able to determine who among our young people are likely to vote. The campaign manager that fails to develop a strong youth movement for the candidate is not very good at the job.

But who is likely to vote by election day is always the key question. And when you are dealing with 40 per cent or more non-voters, what can any opinion poll really tell you?

The guys who do surprise me are the interactive voice response (IVR) pollsters who use high volumes of calls to try to correct their built-in errors. Who do you think answers the hard-wired phone in a household replete with children and youths? If I was a four-year old picking up an IVR call, I would have just as much fun as an adult playing with the phone buttons.

Campaigns keep changing. You can never judge by what happened in the last election. As I always found as a campaign manager was that three or four afternoons with carefully selected poll sheets could give me the best idea of what was happening. It gave you direction.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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The Prince of Pot.

Tuesday, June 26th, 2018

Are you looking forward to the Prince of Pot’s coronation on October 17? That will be the day when you can legally buy and use cannabis in Canada for purely recreational purposes. Maybe. It depends on whether your province has got its proprietary pot shops in place. It has taken a long three years for this particular pot promise to happen.

It was the promise that got a lot of the younger voters out and working to help elect Justin Trudeau and his liberals in 2015.

Unlike Trudeau’s ill-considered promise to make that election the last time we would use first-past-the-post voting, the pot promise will now happen.

Maybe one of the reasons that the pot promise took so long was that Trudeau put a one-time policeman in charge of the file. This was the cop who trashed our civil rights during the ill-fated G-20 in Toronto in 2010. It should go down in history on a par with the federal conservative government reaction to the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919.

But there was no smooth sailing for the pot act all the way through parliament. It is reputed by some to be a deeply flawed bill and was rejected when studied by Canada’s elitist senate. Flawed or not, the bill was sent back to the senate by parliament for passing. In as much as most of the senators really like the sinecure of their high-paid jobs, the bill was passed.

There are still some provincial governments concerned about the allowance for some home-grown pot and that argument could become the stuff of which the Supreme Court has to consider. Frankly, the court should throw any complaint out as soon as it shows up on its docket.

But how are the pot partakers to participate in the 2019 election? Their Prince of Pot will need them again. He needs their contributions. He needs their participation. Will they all be so stoned that they will forget all about it?


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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LDP 03: A favour from Ford.

Monday, June 25th, 2018

If a stronger, more democratic political party is to rise from the ashes of the Ontario liberal party, we can thank premier-designate Ford for one bit of help. Ford has refused to fund the liberal MPPs in Queen’s Park as a political party. It means those who want to have a new and invigorated replacement party can make more of the decisions with less confusion for the public.

Without the funding, staff, the right to ask questions in question period and the trappings of a party in the legislature, the grassroots of the party are on a more equal footing to say what the party should be. We want the elected members to have a say but not to drown out the grassroots.

This is a far cry from the situation under Kathleen Wynne. The Ontario liberal party was a top-down, one-boss organization. It allowed Wynne to get the party into the mess of charges in Sudbury over her manipulation of a bye-election. If the party had been allowed to conduct an open and democratic election of their candidate, there would have been no such charges.

But even more serious was the lack of party input on policy. Nobody listened to the people who supported the candidates and stood ready to work hard to elect them. The only person that Wynne was listening to was that former TD Bank head who told her to sell off part of Hydro One. It was one of her stupider moves and helped build voter antipathy towards her.

We probably have a year for this new party to get organized and register it before there might be a bye-election in Ontario. That would be our first chance to show some muscle. Our objective would be to get that eighth MPP to enable our new party to have full rights as a party in the legislature and for us to elect a party leader.

The difference I would suggest is that the leader’s role be better defined than in the past. The leader would be elected by an every-member vote and should be directly responsible for managing the elected wing of the party. The party president and executive might be responsible for the party at large and the vetting of candidates. The party members in each electoral district should be responsible for choosing the candidate.

While the policy directions for the party passed by the members have to be treated as possible directions for the party, the party leader needs to report to the party each year on the progress on party resolutions.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Checking Chuckles’ Challenges.

Sunday, June 24th, 2018

Maybe it is just the pundits in Ottawa who are challenged to understand the leader of the conservative party. While some tend to treat him as the Joker character from the Batman comics, Andrew Scheer M.P. has a little more depth than that. At least, his leadership of the federal conservatives is not going to frighten little children.

Chuckles has been wending his smiley way with the conservative caucus and seems to have them mainly under control. They might not be ready to resume power on the government benches but they do seem to know what they are there to do.

But if prime minister Trudeau and the liberals keep fumbling the ball, nobody expects Chuckles and his team of cheer leaders to know what to do with it.

On something such as the acquisition of the Trans Mountain pipeline, Scheer and the gang are caught between a rock and a hard place—and both are named Jason Kenney, leader of the united conservatives in Alberta. Jason Kenney could not have asked for a better solution to shipping bitumen to Burnaby, B.C. than Trudeau has offered. Trudeau and the feds take the blame for spills and Alberta gets the revenue.

Ergo, Chuckles also has to be in favour of Justin’s folly. It hardly matters that the government has offered to pay too much. They hardly care that Justin has put billions of public money at risk.

And nobody gives a damn what Jagmeet Singh, seat-less leader of the NDP, has to say about it. He is caught between NDP premier Notley of Alberta and NDP premier Horgan of B.C. and has been effectively silenced.

Chuckles can try to bask in the glory of the conservative win in the bye-election in Chicoutimi-Le Fjord. He would first have to thank the Bloc and the NDP for collapsing to less than ten per cent of the vote. And he should be more aware that Quebec bye-elections are intensely local events and meaningless on a national scale.

But despite a relatively positive performance on the opposition benches of parliament, Chuckles remains a relatively unknown quantity among the public. I would never say “never” but Chuckles would have to have a surprising amount of luck going with him to pose any major threat to Trudeau and his team’s re-election next year.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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The Ego Has Landed.

Saturday, June 23rd, 2018

Premier designate Doug Ford is in Queen’s Park. His reign of terror in Ontario is moving into gear. Before he has even unpacked, he is terrorizing the civil servants and attacking some of the better programs of his predecessors. Why he is being allowed to do this before being sworn into office will probably become the stuff of lawsuits.

Why the Green Ontario fund has replaced its website with a notice that all its Green ON programs are closed is serious. Since when can a premier designate issue an executive order such as that? You would think he would at least have the courtesy to be premier before issuing orders. This guy is only Trump lite. You would at least expect him to have lists of ‘Things to do—after taking office.’

A friend has a house used by her two adult boys who are somewhat challenged and help in looking after it. Lately, she has been installing better windows to improve the insulation and lower the heating costs. Imagine her surprise in trying to apply for the Green ON rebate.

The Green On funds were obtained by the government as part of the cap and trade program that served as a carbon tax in Ontario. Instead of taxing carbon emissions, Ontario had joined with California and Quebec to cap industrial carbon emissions and have industries that met their targets sell any excess allowance to others who were exceeding the limits. This program produced about $3 billion in the first few years and this provided the funds for the Green ON program of incentives and rebates on energy saving products.

But Dougie thinks he is going to save us Ontario taxpayers lots of money. Just the other day he also ordered the extension of use of the Pickering Nuclear plant until 2024. The best advice of our scientists was that the plant should be decommissioned sooner. They know that there is more to shutting down a nuclear plant than turning off the lights and locking the door.

Pickering was slated for decommissioning before that. It is one of the oldest operating nuclear plants in North America. It will take years to shut down the facility safely and cost a great deal.

But Dougie thinks he knows better. He was bragging to people east of Toronto around the Pickering area of all the jobs he was saving them.

When I lived in Toronto, we sometimes used to make bad jokes about the day that could be coming when the city has two sunrises.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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LDP 02: What is in a name?

Friday, June 22nd, 2018

One of the responses we received about a proposed new liberal democratic party (LDP) was from a reader who thought we could just join the Green party and be done with it. As much as I have admired green leader Elizabeth May’s hard work and leadership of the Green Party, I see no reason for liberals to join her party.

Just one of the problems is the name of the party. By calling itself the Green Party, it narrows its purpose, if not focus. It tells people that the party is about the environment and tells us nothing else.

The NDP is also very keen on the environment and takes an equally strong stance. Its problem is that much of its rhetoric is still based on the socialism of the 1930s. The party has failed to build an image for the 21st century.

Despite May’s intelligent and well-researched positions on many aspects of governance, she cannot be all-knowing. As a one-person party, May is stretched beyond reason in parliament. Many MPs over the years have admitted to me that it is about all you can do in parliament is keep up to date on one department as well as do your constituency work

Even the liberal party has taken positive stands on protecting the environment—until prime minister Justin Trudeau’s recent offer to buy and ship highly polluting Alberta bitumen through an expanded Trans Mountain pipeline. Not only is government participation in shipping bitumen bad economics but it is enraging a core of environmentally concerned liberals. Justin Trudeau and the liberals will need all of their mobs for re-election next year and will not find all of them.

But the liberal mobs had already felt themselves adrift. For some inexplicable reason, Trudeau had decided much earlier that he did not like his father’s party. As useful as the party had been to him, he wanted a top-down structure that he could manipulate to his choosing. He went from no party membership fee (and no membership) to a large group of e-mail addresses for people to harangue for help in campaigning and to provide the campaign funds. Those of us who think of ourselves as liberals have been cast aside for the gullible and the monied.

After next year, we will need a new federal liberal party as well as provincial.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Some truths for Jagmeet Singh.

Thursday, June 21st, 2018

New democratic party leader Jagmeet Singh learned some truths in a federal bye-election this week. It was in Quebec and political truths can be particularly brutal in that province. It was the truth that the Orange Wave in Quebec in 2011 was a one-time thing. It was the truth that religion does matter. It was the truth that an observent Sikh might not be a popular choice to lead a political party in Canada.

And the most serious truth of all is that Jagmeet Singh misjudged Canadians. In the cultural mosaics of Ontario and British Columbia, in the liberal polyglot of cultures and in the concentrations of a few electoral districts with large numbers of Sikhs, Jagmeet Singh thought he saw acceptance.

He was wrong. There are differences between tolerance and acceptance. It is the tolerance that allows for acceptance. Acceptance is a long-term goal. It sometimes takes generations. It is in the understanding of other’s customs, the melding of ideas, of setting objectives. It is in the promotion of similarities and the gradual fading of differences. There is no fixed Canadian ideal. There are just shared values.

Even in Quebec, which some try to keep different, the shared values are there. All Canadians have a level of pride in the French and English heritage of the dominion. We can all have pride in our particular heritage as well as our collective heritage.

What it comes down to is that Jagmeet Singh was wrong to swamp the NDP provincial organizations in B.C. and Ontario with Sikh sign-ups. As proud as the Sikh communities in Canada are of the accomplishments of fellow Sikh Jagmeet, they were also wrong to assume that their choice would be readily accepted by all party members or by the voters.

Jagmeet’s failure to seek election to the House of Commons and his failure to show strong leadership has left him in limbo. How does he expect voters to accept him?

This is not a country that uses proportional representation to divide people and where Hassidim vote for Hassidim and Baptists vote for Baptists. A member of parliament has to represent all the voters in a given electoral district. An MP’s religion has to be irrelevant to his or her voters. It is the experience, party, ideas, services, loyalty, understanding and leadership that they want. Jagmeet’s Five Ks of Sikhism are little understood and unimportant to his non-Sikh voters.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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