Archive for July, 2018

The Patrick Brown legacy lives on.

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018

It is like a bad smell that does not go away. There was some relief in Barrie during the period when Patrick Brown was living the high life in Toronto as leader of the Ontario conservatives. It was the complaints by two young, unidentified Barrie ladies that caused him to resign as conservative leader. And it was the vindictiveness of fellow conservative MPPs that convinced him not to run to replace himself as leader or to contest the Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte provincial electoral district as a conservative.

But like a bad penny, Patrick Brown keeps showing up—recently as a home owner in Mississauga—then as a candidate for Peel Region chair—and then, just as suddenly—candidate for mayor of Brampton.

Patrick Brown of Barrie is a political conniver. Some people think he is a pretty good ‘retail politician’ in the sense that he knows all the angles to work on voters. Yet he abuses those angles. He is slippery and has little respect for truth. He is only in it for himself.

Brown spent years in Ottawa and never made a contribution to his party policy or on behalf of his constituents. On free votes he voted against women’s rights and to re-open abortion arguments.

The old political term for Brown is “carpetbagger.” He little cares for the needs of Peel region voters but he figured to make around $200,000 per year in the newly elected role as regional chair. He took a quick look around when premier Ford slammed close that opportunity and selected mayor Linda Jeffrey of Brampton as the only potential opportunity. He has no personal connection with Brampton but figures, in the current times, his being a conservative and Jeffery being a former provincial liberal cabinet minister gives him a chance at winning. He knew better than to go after Bonnie Crombie in Mississauga (where he now lives) who has done a good job replacing a retired Hazel McCallion.

What reminded me of this was Brown’s acolyte, Alex Nutall MP, who is very proud of taking over Brown’s role at Hockey Night in Barrie this year. I think Royal Victoria Hospital and the other charities getting involved should get a forensic audit of this event in recent years. They might not know the kind of legacy to which they have tied themselves.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Ford-style mathematics and The Kingfish.

Monday, July 30th, 2018

Even health minister Christine Elliott is going along with the mathematics used by the new Ontario premier. Once you accept that two and two add up to zero, you are one of the true believers. The only problem is that when we are so obviously in need of improving mental health services is no time to fool with the mental health funding as planned by the previous provincial regime.

Recent events on Toronto’s Yonge Street and then in Greektown on the Danforth tell us that serious mental health problems are being allowed to escape our notice, our concern and possible action. It is worrisome when the new health minister starts her job denying the allocation of funds needed to address mental health problems.

But can we expect more than summary decisions of this summer session of the Ontario legislature? There was no examination or discussion of the whys and wherefores of the York University strike and how to prevent such a disruption for the students in the future. The process was cursory.

In the same sense, does the conservative government want more than a cursory study of the bill to end “cap and trade” carbon pricing? Will we just see “Ford” mathematics used to qualify his ten-cent drop in the price of gasoline. And will we even notice the drop in the ever-increasing profits for the oil refining companies?

Would that we could have had any warning of changes in Toronto municipal ward boundaries? Should there be 24 city councillors or 47? Are not the voters in Toronto interested parties in that discussion? And do we understand what is the role of a councillor as opposed to a member of parliament or of the legislature? Instead of having dialogue on these issues, we are being ruled autocratically. Elections of regional chairs are being summarily cancelled. And is that a decision that we should discuss? Is it from spite—or some other spurious reason?

Is this the style of public discussion that Dougie is proposing to use to send sex education for Ontario students back in time? Does Dougie think he can now rule Ontario by fiat.

We initially assumed that Doug Ford would be like Donald Trump Lite. We are rethinking that and are starting to see him in more the role of a governor from the past in Louisiana, known as Huey P. Long. The story of Huey Long could be a cautionary tale. He called himself ‘The Kingfish.’

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

 

The Ford Follies fumble forward.

Sunday, July 29th, 2018

To be truthful, I had a hard time controlling my laughter reading the revelations on premier Doug Ford’s plans for Toronto and the municipal elections in Ontario. I am now convinced that Dougie is dumber than former Ontario premier Mike Harris. It was Harris who amalgamated Metro Toronto and left it in deplorable disarray 20-years ago.

If the Ford followers at Queen’s Park were truthful, they would mostly admit that it is high time that the good burghers of Toronto paid the piper. Those from outside the GTA are convinced that it is Toronto that sucks up all the good air (and money) of this province.

And if Dougie has something of a vendetta going with arch enemies such as Patrick Brown and Steven Del Duca, well why not get even? With the two of them looking for easy election as chair of Peel and York regions respectively, they were looking for an easy run at a lucrative job. This was to be the first public election for those positions and they both thought it would be a breeze. Those guys know something that has been kept secret in municipal elections for far too long: name recognition wins. Incompetence hardly matters.

The laugh might be on Dougie though for cancelling the chairs’ elections as Patrick Brown raced to file a nomination for mayor of Brampton. (Brampton is a city of just over a half million above Mississauga and west of Toronto.) Hopefully, the last laugh will be for Brampton mayor Linda Jeffrey, who will be no pushover. If that putz Brown looks like he is giving Linda any trouble, this old liberal apparatchik will be heading down to Brampton, volunteering to help her.

But the Toronto situation is providing the best laughs. Imagine the grin on John Tory’s face when former city planner Jennifer Keesmaat announced she is running against him. She might be the favourite of the bike-riding NDP but those people have their own problems.

Can you imagine those vaunted NDPers, Mike Layton and Joe Cressy, going head to head for a single downtown ward? I can hardly guess who will blink first but someone will have to step in to resolve that one.

No doubt some enterprising lawyer is dashing between already-nominated candidates putting together a lawsuit to cover monies they have already spent in now changed wards. Campaigns have to be completely re-evaluated and some will be abandoned in frustration.

The question is how are the voters going to accept this mess? I think we all need to listen to the voters very carefully.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

 

Horgan pays the price.

Saturday, July 28th, 2018

British Columbia premier John Horgan is paying his debts. He wanted to be premier and it cost him an accord with the BC Green party, headed by MLA John Weaver. One of the conditions is to again offer BC voters an opportunity to vote on changing how they elect their provincial government. John Horgan’s NDP government is calling for this vote later this year. It is a small price to pay for the continued support of the three Green Party members in the B.C. legislature.

But nothing ever runs smoothly. People are taking the government to court over the proposals and regulations for the referendum. In addition, the Green Party MLAs are talking about ending the accord over the NDP offering incentives for a very large Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) proposal. It is easy to understand the eagerness of the NDP for $40-billion LNG project that offers jobs for BC workers and long-term revenues to the province. The Greens are less eager to increase the carbon emissions and potential environmental problems with loading ocean-going LNG tankers.

If the NDP government had announced its proportional representation on FaceBook, it would probably have received more initial dislikes than likes. The government allows for three alternative plans, each more confusing than the previous proposal. The least complicated is the mixed-member proportional system such as was rejected by Ontario voters in 2007 by a vote of about two to one. The second is more like the single-transferable vote that B.C. voters failed to approve twice. And the third choice is a previously untried system of rural voters voting proportional and urban voters voting for a MLA in normal electoral districts. None of the options is truly proportional.

But most of the emerging arguments are over how the NDP government is managing the voting. It will be a mail-in ballot and ignores the Internet availability. The main bone of contention is that the NDP government will select who will be the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ sides and only those two groups will be allowed to advertise and promote their opinion. No ‘Maybe’ or ‘What If’’ options are to be considered.

Mind you, the good news is that after two elections with one of those options, the populace will be allowed an opportunity to vote to return to First Past the Post (FPTP) voting. I guess that opportunity would be better than the only recourse to be an insurrection.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Doug is doubling down.

Friday, July 27th, 2018

Is it fun yet watching our new Ontario premier doubling down with our money? Doug Ford has given the back of his hand to all the efforts in the recent years to protect our environment. He wants to take us back to what was the middle ages of sex education. You would think the damn fool would take it easy at first. After all, he has four years to really screw up.

But Dougie is a man on a mission. He has sent the unions at York University back to their classrooms in anger. His solution was to solve nothing. He left the blame on the university board when it belonged on Queen’s Park He is afraid the people of Ontario will find out he is a fraud.

He has Queen’s park settling in for a rare summer session. He wants to see just how much consternation he can cause. He is a man on a mission. He has a city to consternate and political enemies to obliterate.

This will not be a time of well thought-through improvements. It will be a time of slash and burn. The barbarians have breeched the gates.

Education and health will lead the way in the tumbrils to the public pillories. They account for the bulk of Queen’s Park expenses and must bear the brunt of the cost cutting.

And we already know that there will be little of the truth told as these ideologues struggle with the realities of multi-billion cost overruns. We already saw the truth trampled as Dougie pronounced that there was no cost in getting the Hydro One chair to leave. Some of this conservative government contract cutting will take years to wend its way through a slowed and under-funded court system.

The reality is that Dougie has absolutely no idea what the conservative’s hatred of clean energy efforts will cost to liquidate. Will the occasional wind turbine be left turning in the wind as a nostalgic note from the past?

But where Dougie will really sell his soul is in getting even with his municipal enemies from Toronto. There is more to come than to just reducing the number of councillors and settling old scores.

And then there is that promise of ‘a buck a beer’ and even buying beer in convenience stores. Hopefully that will be resolved in what is left of this simmering hot summer in Ontario.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Patching the health care problems.

Thursday, July 26th, 2018

With former Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins helping the federal government and Doug Ford tearing into the make-do solutions in Ontario, we might be in more trouble in adding pharmacare to health care than we thought possible. We already know that Doug Ford’s argument for a patchwork solution is unworkable but just where Hoskins and the feds are headed also has a question mark on it.

As health minister for Ontario over the past four years, Hoskins has always had a frazzled look about him. He seemed to have no idea what to do about the increasingly onerous demands of the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) specialists who seemed to think their fees should be unlimited. And these demands by the specialists were being made while people outside the large cities in Ontario were increasingly desperate for general practitioners to come and provide coverage in their community.

I always assumed that those speeches the health minister made in support of a national pharmacare program were also being delivered to his Ontario cabinet colleagues. His problem was that former premier Wynne never saw a good program that she could not chop up into chewable chunks.

But Wynne’s stepping-stone steps for Ontario are down the tubes now as Doug Ford is set on teaching us all to pay our own way. Ford is determined even to the extent of taking back pharmaceutical coverage from anyone under 25 who has a health plan on their own or through a parent with coverage through their company, union or organization.

If Ontario’s new premier thinks his plans will save anybody money, he is definitely confused. Unless there is a single buyer of pharmaceuticals for the province (or all of Canada), there will never be any control. And to even suggest that insurance companies selling health plans, with pharmaceutical coverage included, are not motivated by profit, is delusional.

Ontario has had enough of the Doug Ford-Mike Harris approach to health care. Seniors were promised by Wynne that they would have the $100 per year plus the up to $6 co-pay per script ended after January 1, 2019. That will obviously not be happening. Even though the co-pay approach was a serious amount for those taking a range of drugs each day. They will be lucky if the Ford government does not increase it.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Shoring up Alberta’s Energy Exploiters.

Wednesday, July 25th, 2018

For a while there, we were under the impression that the prime minister was the only one allowed to speak for Alberta’s tar sands. It was all on behalf of the almighty buck. Maybe he thought finance minister Bill Morneau would contribute but that guy is weak when trying to explain anything financial.

While Trudeau did not take the opportunity in his recent cabinet shuffle to do anything about Morneau, he did bring in some help for the tar sands apologists. He has moved Edmonton MP, Amarjeet Sohi from infrastructure to natural resources. That is the department that will take responsibility for the now government-owned Trans Mountain pipeline.

As a secular Sikh, Sohi is something of a hero to the Canadian Sikh community because of his incarceration for almost two years by the Indian government for his struggle in Bihar helping poor tenant farmers. On returning to Canada, he supported himself as an Edmonton bus driver until winning a seat on city council and launching his political career.

While some claim that the appointment is to give the MP better exposure and a leg up in the election next year, he seems quite genuine in his conviction that the expanded pipeline over the Rockies is good for Alberta.

Of course, if you only judge the pipeline on its economic value to Alberta, the economy of the province would certainly benefit. Bear in mind that the extremes of environmental damage are there for all to see in Alberta. The vast areas of tailing ponds alone tell the story of the destruction of the environment that is involved in bringing the bitumen to the pipeline head.

But the real hypocrisy of those promoting the exploitation of the tar sands is the pollution of the world environment that is being encouraged by sending the bitumen off shore. Processing of bitumen into ersatz crude oil produces more than three times the carbon footprint of normal crude oil processing. And the tons of bitumen slag left in piles at the refineries is almost pure carbon. If Alberta processed all the bitumen that it has in the tar sands, the province would become unable to sustain life as we know it today.

And how proud are Canadians of all the trouble our government is taking just to ship the pollution problems to third world countries?

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Trump’s Divide and Conquest.

Tuesday, July 24th, 2018

It has been worrisome lately that Justin Trudeau was heading off on a track that would take him too far from the liberalism we shared with his father. It is therefore important to note that he has done something with which a liberal can easily concur.

The younger Trudeau has made it clear to all that he stands for a three-country North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Both Trump and his agriculture secretary have stated that they would prefer to close a deal with Mexico before trying to resolve the remaining problems they say they have with Canada.

It would seem that the Americans are seeing Mexico as more desperate to maintain any level of trade agreement and Canada as the problem. They think they can bully the Mexicans to bring them on side and then, with Mexico locked in, they can strong-arm Canada to roll back some of the terms of the initial auto-pact that predated the Canada-U.S. NAFTA.

But when Donald Trump admits that he dreamed up the supposed deficits in trade with his country’s North American neighbours, he is not helping make his case for changes. His demand for a sunset clause coming every five years in the agreement would cause permanent instability. Companies dealing in major trade deals need to make long-term commitments to trading partners.

As things stand at this time, Mexico has a regime change in process that will take until December 1 to be completed. The incoming president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has already said that he stands with Canada on it being a three-country agreement. What the Trump negotiators are going to offer to change his mind, we will likely learn the seriousness of his commitment on that this coming week.

The strategy was obvious when the Mexican negotiators were invited to Washington this week and Canada’s lead negotiator foreign minister Chrystia Freeland is staying in Ottawa.

It was originally the intent to put NAFTA on the back burner for the three countries during the period of the Mexican presidential election that took place July 1, and then through the American mid-term elections in November. Should the American House of Representatives and the Senate come under the control of the Democratic Party at that time there could be a concerted effort to take control of trade away from President Trump.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Death of the News.

Monday, July 23rd, 2018

Pundits and political scientists will measure the time-of-death and arguments will flare up occasionally but the agreement is that news, as we knew it, is dead. We can celebrate its life but the reality of the death is still there. It is circling the drain of civilization.

We live in a world trying to deal with a vast array of truths. They are only what people believe but who has the right to deny the truths of others? Look at the multiplicity of religions. Are they all to be denied? Are you foolish enough to demand proof of their God? Can you deny what they proselytize?

And what of these old grey guardians of the sanctity of news gathering such as The New York Times, The Guardian and Le Monde? Are there those who consider their opinions infallible? And why is it that ‘what bleeds, leads’ on the six-o’clock television news?

How trustworthy is news radio that tries so hard to fill a 24-hour vacuum?

But with the Internet today, you can have your own news. You can read it as news if you wish but this commentary is only an opinion. And opinions have become, maybe, too much a part of news.

At the same time, print media are struggling with developing Internet formulae. There are more failures than successes. Pity that the makers of computer tablets cannot duplicate the feel of newsprint.

But we should also pity those so shallow as to turn to Twitter for news. There are many arrogant provocateurs ready to turn these fledglings to their own biases. Facebook wants to be a window on your soul, and consumer habits. Linkedin has a job for you, maybe. All you have to do is expose your inner thoughts and hopes.

It seems odd that those who create the most in false news, are the ones who warn you to ignore false news. And what is false news but another take on the news? It can even flip-flop as what was sure news yesterday is declared false news today as the pressure mounts for some better truth.

Will you measure the news by its ‘Likes’ and ‘Dislikes’ to determine its legitimacy? Will we measure the news as to its acceptance?

Will those news junkies among us weigh the news we see, hear and read and swing the pendulum of truth? It comes down to ‘Whom do you trust?’

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Embittered and Embarrassed.

Sunday, July 22nd, 2018

Nobody wants to talk politics anymore. I hear that some people are even refusing to watch television news or (God forbid) read a newspaper. It is like the phenomenon on the left coast years ago when another Social Credit regime would win a majority in the B.C. legislature. The next day you could not find anyone who would admit to voting for them.

Oh well, it only makes life more difficult for us political pontificators. And yet that thin slice of the populace who read and nod sagely or turn red and angry at our musings will occasionally take the trouble to concur or tear into us as an acknowledgement of our pained efforts.

But it is becoming increasingly difficult to take the pulse of voters when the sources are conflicted by their own actions. It seems that otherwise sensible people are embarrassed as all get out about voting for a certifiable idiot.

The problem is that they willingly acknowledge the perfidy of their action. They just do not want to explain it. They know their rationale is specious and they have no excuse.

It was like accepting an invitation to lunch and, after arriving with an appetite, finding out that your hostess is a vegan. This is one situation that you do not want to face. I, for one, consider my position at the head of the food chain to be an honourable rationale to enjoy red meat. You really do not want to hear the hostess’ reasons for her strange behaviour. Nor is it wise for you to try to explain your preferences.

Politics presents the same kind of impasse. You can hardly help it though if someone else keeps bringing up political questions. What can be doubly annoying is that you get blamed. I, honestly, do not put anyone up to it.

What people do not understand is that I am politely interested in their thinking. It is like figuring out just which of the candidate’s incredibly stupid promises, really turned them on? Those words “incredible” and “stupid” should not be used. I have tried to ask politely but then they just look at me with a pained expression.

I guess some people think of politics as a necessary evil like the regular bowel movement. If you just keep on flushing, it will soon go away.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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