Archive for July, 2018

A house without manners.

Saturday, July 21st, 2018

You would think their mother would have taught the Ford boys some manners. Maybe she tried but then maybe it just did not take with her sons. You would think that the crack-smoking younger brother, the late Rob Ford, would have prepared us for the lack of manners in brother Doug Ford. You can dress him up but he brings no decency to Queen’s Park. It is now a place without honour.

Of course, he has help in this. Today’s conservatives in Ontario are not the same quality as the conservatives of our youth. They are not your father and mother’s conservative gentry. They lack the concern, conscientiousness and civility of the Bill Davis era.

Those were the days when it was a pleasure to drop by Queen’s Park. You could park in front of the pink palace, run up the steps, stop for a few minutes of chat with the premier’s chief of staff, give a friendly wave to NDP leader Stephen Lewis and then stop by to see opposition leader Bob Nixon. We were dealing with issues in those days that that could be discussed and often resolved.

My role at the time was that of a functionary of the liberal party. We worked hand-in-glove with the party leader’s staff at Queen’s Park and had a good working relationship with the news media who were based there.

And all of these relationships were built on respect. It was not that we did not argue long and strong for our objectives. We could also listen to the other guys and give consideration for their concerns.

It was not that the house could not be raucous but it seemed to be mainly after a somewhat liquid dinner hour. Evening sessions at the Ontario legislature were never very productive back then.

Listening to Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell reading that speech from the throne entitled hypocritically “A Government for the People” recently helped to show how great the gap was with the past. The document was uncompromising, determined and gave no quarter. None of the customary niceties of a civilized legislature were included. There was no French language in it. There were no niceties. It was a cold, take-no-prisoners, approach.

Looking at Doug Ford’s front bench was particularly chilling. The experienced sat there, pleased with themselves, the newcomers seemingly eager for the blood of those across the floor. Times have changed.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

 

What is your party?

Friday, July 20th, 2018

Coming into the dog days of summer is a good time to reflect on what we want in our political party. Speaking from hard won experience, we know starting from scratch with a new type of party is not the best of ideas. People will step boldly into the future but you always have to note that other foot solidly planted in the past. My thinking at this stage is that we need to take over an existing party and change it.

Having been a liberal most of my life, that would be my starting point. Justin Trudeau has been tearing apart the federal party anyway. And the Wynne fiasco in Ontario has taken that party down to a rump in disarray. Both provincial and federal parties have nowhere to go but up.

Both liberal parties have been held back by bad leadership. Wynne expected party support without giving the party the credit for its efforts. Justin Trudeau cancelled the concept of membership in the party and then turned the former membership list into a sucker list to inundate with pleas for money. There used to be some pride in being a member of the liberal party. Not today.

This new party has to build a relationship between the elected and non-elected members of the party. It has to be a grass-roots party with its core and strength in the electoral districts. Membership must have meaning.

I believe that real liberals want a progressive party, a left of centre party. It has to be a party of the people. I think it should be a party that stops talking about the environment and does something about it. I hope it is a party that believes in the universality of higher education, medical care and prescription drugs and dental care—a society that puts the health of its people first.

We might want to change the name to demonstrate that it is a new party ready to face new challenges. That is up to the membership. Regional and provincial bodies need to be made up of electoral district executives.

The wife thinks this subject is dull. I agree. The problem is though that we have been skating around the subject for years while intent on scoring goals. We need to recognize that building anything starts with a foundation. The better the foundation, the higher and better you can build.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Division in the Land of Lincoln.

Thursday, July 19th, 2018

Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves:

Donald Trump freed the truth.

America is a nation divided as never before. It is increasingly vulnerable to its enemies. It has heaped scorn on its friends. Its inner anger is spilling over its borders to the north and south.

Those betrayed are its own people. They have been used. They been told egregious lies. They have brought a spoiled man-child into the White House and he has betrayed all of what America once stood for.

Donald Trump has turned the welcome of Miss Liberty in New York Harbor into hatred. He authorizes the destruction of the mountains of Appalachia for the coal to choke an uncaring nation. He builds walls that discriminate. He cheats the disadvantaged of health care. He robs the poor to please the rich.

He is a willing tool of the wealthy, a foil of America’s enemies, golfs while the gullible go to Mass, postures and preens for his followers and twits confusion.

In a time of #MeToo, he grabs women by their privates and displays his trophy wife and in vanity uses his progeny.

Trump’s triumph is power. Would that he knew how to use it.

Trump trails trouble wherever he goes. He confounds other world leaders with his combination of confusion and lack of concern or knowledge. He says one thing and tweets another. He is busy destroying the Internet tools that could have meant much to the world and to understanding.

Donald Trump fails the great leaders of America who came before. He is without the intellect of a Coolidge or the energy of a Teddy Roosevelt, he besmirches the honours earned by an FDR, JFK or LBJ. He stands so insignificant in comparison to a giant of an advocate such as Abraham Lincoln or a statesman such as James Monroe.

And an economist, he is not. His arguments on trade are based on lies and false premises. He hurts America more each day he remains at the helm of state. He continues to tear down the belief in America that others before him gave their all to build.

We know that Mr. Trump can never make America great again. While posing as a builder, we find he is a destroyer.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

When “anti-social sewer rats” are black.

Wednesday, July 18th, 2018

Only the Toronto Star would pay good money for a resident reporter as an apologist for Toronto’s black community. When an angry Toronto mayor John Tory recently called some thugs “anti-social sewer rats” for shooting two young girls, it was hardly a racist comment. Nor do you expect the Star to defend the shooters as just “disadvantaged and misunderstood” black kids.

And why should we have to point out to the Toronto Star editors that the “B” in black community is not normally capitalized?

I grew up on those same streets in downtown Toronto. Your origins do not define you and do not give us that crap that being black is being over policed. Just be a skinny little kid in hand-me-down clothes and you will find out what over policing is all about.

The star’s resident black apologist is a great admirer of those people calling themselves after the American organization “Black Lives Matter.” It seems she does not think they should have to do anything to help the black community but stick to their own agenda. Well if I thought for one minute that those people gave a damn about the problems faced by disadvantaged Toronto blacks, I would be on their side.

But their agenda is power. Their interference in the LGBT community’s Pride Parade was inexcusable. And as incompetent as I might consider Toronto’s police chief, I do not see their complaints as being constructive.

It is like the Star apologist’s statement about the “sweeping anti-blackness in society.” She thinks these black activists are “provocative, courageous, (and) profoundly committed to anti-racism.”

In my humble opinion, I think these people are racist. I think they are using color to build barriers instead of bridges. I think they are trouble makers. And the Toronto Star writer seems to suffer from the same delusions.

While the Star writer denies being a member of this black activist group, she seems to go out of her way to praise them.

But her rants are opinion. She is obviously paid for her opinion. It is just that it is misleading and not in the interests of the community she believes she is supporting—and the community the Toronto Star believes it is supporting.

We all need to worry more about the marginalized in our society. They come in all colors, they come in a wide range of mental capabilities and they are all ages. They are all human.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Trump versus Trump-Lite.

Tuesday, July 17th, 2018

It seems that we have spent enough time by now to have taken off our sackcloth over Doug Ford and the conservatives winning the Ontario election in June. Yes, I pooh-poohed the outrageous idea that Doug Ford could lead anybody anywhere. And we have certainly had enough recriminations about Kathleen Wynne handing the conservatives the election on a platter.

But the hardest part of this has been the realization that we had learned so little from the Trump fiasco in the United States. We were still in denial when Doug Ford won the Surprise Follies—otherwise known as the unexpected Ontario conservative leadership race of 2018. In denying Ford his due as Trump-Lite, we were whistling past the graveyard.

I admit that we were terrified that Doug Ford was likely to win. And he really is Trump-Lite, despite our earlier denials.

There is no longer any reason to deny it: Canadian voters can be just as stupid as American voters. The same frustrations and anger that fueled the Trump win in the United States were present in Ontario.

Our boy Ford might not be as rich as Trump but you do not buy Canadian elections the same way you buy elections in America. And you can be sure that there was no way that Trump intended to spend much of his own money. People who manage to accumulate a lot of money are usually very reluctant to part with any of it. It is after they die that the money starts to flow back into the economy.

Donald Trump’s real skill is in typing with his little thumbs. He is best when twitting. This all started by dumbing down what you want to say to less than 140 characters and then convincing people to read what you said. The most effective way to do this is to say more outrageous things about people than the next guy. Donald Trump is the winner. Trump-Lite still has to learn how to do that.

But other than that, our pony in Ontario is just as incompetent as the horse in the White House. Both are busy tearing down the accomplishments of their predecessors. Both are embarrassing us over their ignorance about global warming. Both recharge themselves with the adoration of their acolytes. Both tell us outrageous lies. Both are accumulating anger against them.

Damn, we really do live in interesting times.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

For love of money.

Monday, July 16th, 2018

Never having met Mayo Schmidt of Hydro One, I really cannot pass judgement on the six million dollars he was reportedly being paid. Not that I think anyone is worth that much, unless he can also guarantee that the Toronto Maple Leaf hockey club will win the Stanley Cup.

But Schmidt is not a hockey player and I have no idea of what the going rate is for CEOs of electrical distribution companies. Besides, it seems like there would be a rather small pool of talent from which to choose.

That being said, my sense is that executive salaries have gotten out of hand. Not to the extent that politicians such as Doug Ford should be allowed to ridicule the man for his high salary. At the same time, there seems to be a rather vulgar stretch from less than $20 per hour for factory help to more than two million a year for the presidents of too many companies.

And please do not get me going about executive perks, corporate performance bonuses, stock options and golden parachutes.

I will make an exception though for those who persevere in starting and developing new businesses into successful enterprises. A friend of mine has worked long and hard to develop a successful enterprise and should have retired several years back. He kept on going to make sure the company had a good potential for continued success. His employees encouraged him to treat himself and he listened and is now driving a Rolls Royce.

The other side of the coin is how some of these entrepreneurial billionaires spend their winnings in the corporate game of chance. Thinking of people such as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, I wish more of their profits could go into the tax pot that is controlled by the people through their elected representatives. Charity starts at home and education and health care can always use more funds and at the same time public infrastructure needs constant updating.

But it smacks of greed when we find CEOs making millions while our premiers and prime ministers make much less. We pay our politicians at a rate that is carefully studied and that they feel the public will accept as fair. That makes sense. Maybe our corporate executives can learn something from this political approach.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

 

The Trumps do Europe this summer.

Sunday, July 15th, 2018

Donald Trump and his lovely wife Melania are doing Europe this summer. Distaining the very pedestrian bus tours, the Trumps are using Air Force One and helicopters to speed their European journey. God forbid that they should have to meet and communicate with any of the lower classes.

It was bad enough in Brussels when Donald got into it with the Germans. In his typical ignorance of anything economic, he accused the Germans of supporting Russian natural gas sales. He could not understand the Germans buying natural gas from Russia. Maybe he can get his friend Vladimir Putin to explain it when they meet in Helsinki. The gas sales to Germany are the main source of hard currency to Russia. It would be crazy for the Europeans to cut off this critical trade with Russia.

Back aboard Air Force One, the Trump’s rested during their 30-minute trip to London. Nobody else would come to the airport to meet them in London so they were met by the American Ambassador. The London streets were already crowded with protestors, so they helicoptered to the American Embassy. The Trumps missed the fun in the streets. You really must admit that the Brits do good protests.

The Trump baby balloon was a big hit with the news media in London but they were throwing a party for the Trumps at Blenheim Palace out in Oxfordshire. It was a chance for the Brits to show that they also do good ceremony. Donald was not allowed to hold hands with PM Theresa May.

He held her hand the next day when he tried to explain an American reporter had got it wrong about what he said. He had complained that there would be no deal with the U.S. because May was trying to negotiate a soft Brexit instead of a clear cut off.

Later in the day, he was met formally by the Queen and 400 red-coated Grenadier Guards—complete with brass bands and pomp and ceremony. And if he could not get it right that, as a commoner, he was to walk behind the queen, they were going to load those Grenadiers’ rifles.

But before he got into any more trouble, the Trumps left for a weekend in Scotland playing at Trump golf courses. Donald would feel at home there.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Trump-Lite’s Triumph.

Saturday, July 14th, 2018

On returning to Rome after winning wars, Roman generals were customarily awarded a triumph. This was a parade through the streets showing off the slaves and other booty of war. In Ontario, this triumph takes the form of a ritual parade through the legislature to the chambers where the lieutenant governor tells us what the government hopes to bring into law in the coming legislative session.

There was something terribly appropriate about Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell reading about a so-called ‘government for the people.’ It was the past and future coming together in an horrendous scene of chaos. She was gamely reading words that had no meaning to an audience of sceptics. She was describing a past without a future, a future without hope.

There was the shallowness of a commission of inquiry into past government spending while making no clear promises of where the government is headed other than its assumed restraint. It is a government that rejects change. It disavows the need to protect our environment. It rejects updated sex education for children when it is adults who need the lessons. It says we can neither dither nor delay and does both.

The most serious delay in the speech is in decommissioning the Pickering Nuclear generating station. Against all the best scientific advice, the Ford government thinks it knows better.

This writer was delighted to hear that the government will be adding convenience and big box stores to those who can sell beer. There was no mention though of the ‘buck a beer’ promise that was made during the more desperate days of the campaign.

Like his hero Donald Trump, Doug Ford is more charged by large crowds than by the realities of public office.

Nor does Doug Ford seem particularly worried about the potential lawsuits over some of his less well-researched promises. It appears that there has been a limit imposed on the number of outlets for beer in Ontario. This is in an agreement with the Beer Store retail outlets owned by the brewers.

Maybe the Ontario premier will just ignore the real costs as he did when Hydro One CEO Schmidt retired rather than letting Ford fire him. Ford gleefully told the news media that this cost the taxpayers nothing. Premier Ford’s idea of nothing seems to be about $8 million.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Catching the auto called Brexit.

Friday, July 13th, 2018

Have you ever wondered what dogs do if they catch the car? It seems that dogs have fun chasing cars but they really have little idea what they might do with one if they ever catch it. We have an excellent example of the problem for you: it is called Brexit.

Watching the horror of the Brexit build up over the campaign of two years ago was an exercise in disbelief and shock. Canadians have their own image of the stoic, stiff-upper-lip Brits and it is a mixture of both admiration and distain. We have seen it too often. Our history books are full of it. It is a combination of a cavalry charge against cannons; it is Florence Nightingale soothing the wretched wounded.

But Brexit was a tanged web of bigotry, frustration and opportunism and Brit pride and prejudice. The hordes were at the gates in Europe and the Brits wanted to slam the door many years too late. It scared the hell out of the Northern Irish and the Scots but there was little they could do about it. (Their time will come.)

Whatever kind of false pride caused PM Theresa May to think she could steer her ship of state through the shoals out of the safe harbour of the European Union, she was obviously suffering delusions. And thinking she had bought off Boris Johnson with the foreign secretary job was the worst delusion.

From day one as mayor of London, Johnson has had one objective. He is an egomaniac in the Donald Trump tradition. He wants May’s job. To him, Brexit is just a means to an end.

Like Trump, Johnson has no understanding of the economic consequences of his actions. He thinks a pyrrhic victory is just another of the Peloponnesian wars. He has made it clear from the beginning that he wants a ‘hard’ Brexit, with no side deals with the European Union. He has no understanding of the pain and suffering he will cause for the working men and women who voted for Brexit because of his rhetoric.

Johnson’s jealousies of the French and German dominated European Union will leave the United Kingdom a quaint tax haven for the rich, a money laundering facility for the unscrupulous and an island-wide sweat shop with low wages for the workers.

And like the yelping dogs who caught the automobile, they go around to each tire, lift their leg and then go home to lie in wait for the next.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Changing politics in Toronto.

Thursday, July 12th, 2018

We are seeing increased efforts in Toronto to end the frustrations and lack of direction for the city. What we are seeing though is a mishmash of solutions that are counterproductive and going nowhere. Most of the action is coming from interest groups that in themselves have nowhere near enough muscle or organization to win a single one of the 47 individual wards in the city. What is needed is political parties.

As it stands today, the new democratic party has a strong base in downtown wards and the conservatives and the liberals fight it out for footholds in the suburbs. The fact that all three parties disavow their winners as well as losers, leaves the city without realistic programs, inadequate direction and confused management. The city is in a permanent come-from-behind position.

And it is in the traditional political parties’ interest to keep it that way. The city is a creature of the provincial government. Conservative mayor John Tory was at Queen’s Park the other day laughing it up with the new conservative premier of Ontario and it is not going to do the city the least bit of good. In fact, if Doug Ford does what he really wants to do with Toronto, the city is facing a very sad situation over the next four years.

Anything Ford can download on Ontario cities, he will. The former Harris conservatives were amateurs. Ford will download everything but money. We really have no idea what Ford has on his hit lists—but we are going to find out, the hard way.

And those dumb downtown NDPers might as well get on their bicycles and get the hell out of ground zero. And if you thought the one-stop subway to Scarborough was the ultimate disaster in urban infrastructure ignorance, you should prepare yourself for fresh enlightenment. Premier Ford has some nascent thoughts about taking over the Toronto subways and interconnecting them with regional networks in Peel, York and Durham. They will probably tie in well with his new green belt housing developments.

It is too late for this coming election but if people in Toronto started organizing now and building a positive platform, a good mayoralty candidate could probably get your party elected in the 2022 municipal election. Name the party after William Lyon Mackenzie if you like. Just remember you have to build a big tent party. Make sure you have a good balance of promises and solid candidates for both downtown and suburban wards.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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