Archive for September, 2018

Could Quebec go with Legault?

Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

With less than two weeks to go to the Quebec election, it comes across as a spiritless event. At least the Couillard liberals have not laid down their arms and surrendered to François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec. Why would they? Is there any logical reason for Quebecers to vote for the CAQ?

In the Game of Polls running up to this election, it has once more been common sense struggling with bigotry and tribalism. In the on-going rhetoric as to who is more ‘pur laine’ between them, the leaders of the CAQ and the Parti Québécois have spent considerable time telling each other how they are going to make sure immigrants speak French. Legault actually promises to kick immigrants out of the province if they do not meet the right standards. Just how he is going to contravene human rights in this fashion leaves many in the province wondering.

Legault showed how he was talking through his hat the other day when he gave misleading information to reporters on when a landed immigrant can apply for citizenship. With all his promises about reducing the number of immigrants coming to Quebec and making sure they speak good French, he seems to find it convenient to ignore some of the facts.

Jean-François Lisée’s Parti Québécois are enjoying this election the most. They seem to think they will win and get to draw up a new accord with prime minister Trudeau. Lisée tells voters that the PQ are the only ones who can threaten Trudeau with a referendum. I can tell him now, Justin Trudeau does not like to be threatened.

But it is premier Couillard’s liberals who seem to be coasting through the election. You get the impression that it will all come to reality on the eve of the election and there will be peace and tranquility throughout the province for the next four years with Couillard and his team at the helm.

The funny part of all this is that it has happened before in Quebec and will happen again. Time and age have taken some of the connections I have had in the past in Quebec and what I do hear today is a mixed and apathetic attitude. What I cannot give you is a prediction. All I can say is ‘Bonne Chance!’


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Doing doctors a disservice.

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

There is growing disgust with the medical specialists who have a stranglehold on the Ontario Medical Association (OMA). What is really needed is a way for doctors to ensure that their representatives are really representing them. What is sucking all the value out of the OMA these days is the ongoing fight by the specialists to prevent the public from learning how much they are being paid for their services.

After repeated rulings against the specialists by the provincial privacy commissioner and the provincial courts, the specialists are now spending their colleagues’ money on an appeal to the Supreme Court.

The simple facts are that what a doctor bills the province for services rendered to the public under Medicare, is not private and personal information. That is public money and how it is spent must be transparent. Most people have an understanding that a doctor has to pay for his office space, staff and supplies. There are different models of practices today but the young general practitioner who still has to pay off student loans is very lucky to be taking home more than $125,000.

The specialist who has to put in many more years of training certainly deserves more than that but when you find ophthalmologists are easily netting more than $400,000, there seems to be an imbalance in the system.

Part of the obvious problems are the advancing technologies. For the Ontario government to cut back an ophthalmologists’ procedures to save money is a ludicrous solution. For people in the hinterlands of the province having to wait up to two years for cataract solutions is not the answer.

If the OMA wants to be nothing but a union demanding top dollar for their workers, then they better get used to the hard bargaining in return. We certainly have to stop this obduracy of the OMA waiting for a conciliator who is going to give them half of what they demand—which is what they wanted in the first place.

Until the OMA actually cares about the entire body of more than 28,000 doctors in the province, and works with them to improve their daily work in medicine, it is going to build resistance to its tactics. Working together is still a solution that can work for all. The specialists need to try it.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Bernier bids from the Beauce.

Monday, September 17th, 2018

The beauty and tranquility of La Beauce makes the region a must for tourists seeking the essence of Quebec’s joie de vivre. Each season in La Beauce offers its special attractions. This year, a new season has been added: it is political, it is the ‘silly season.’ It is Maxime Bernier’s introduction of his new political party: The People’s Party of Canada.

The party name tells it all. The name is classic in its hypocrisy. Think of all the contemporary politicians who talk about being for the people—are they really? Do they not just use people?

Is Mr. Bernier a people’s politician? Or is he just a libertarian? He looks down on Canada’s conservatives. He calls them “morally corrupt.” He has always represented the extremist right wing of the conservatives.

Last year Bernier was the second last choice of almost half of Canada’s conservatives voting for a new party leader. That was not an impressive accomplishment. It meant that in a preferential ballot, he was among the 13 candidates in a count of 141,000 ballots cast. To further complicate the counting, all electoral districts were allocated up to 100 votes. Where more than 100 votes were obtained, the vote percentage applied. Who really won hardly matters as the ballots were destroyed after the count.

Preferential voting tends to drill down among the candidates. If you do not have a winner on the first count, you count the losing candidates’ second choice and so on until someone has more than 50 per cent. In this way, the losers get to choose the winners and usually nobody is happy.

Bernier was certainly not happy playing second fiddle to Andrew ‘Chuckles’ Scheer. Their honeymoon only lasted a year while Bernier made plans. It was in this time that he came up with the idea of the peoples’ party. Which only proves that Maxime Bernier only has a vague idea of what it takes to launch a new political party.

He knows it takes money so he proudly announced that he had raised $140,000 to fund his party when he announced its name. Where he will get the $5 to 6 million required in just the coming year, he might not know. You would think if he checked with people such as Preston Manning of the former Reform Party or Lucien Bouchard of the Bloc Québécois, they would have told him the real needs. Bernier needs to get real.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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The whitewash wears on the White House.

Sunday, September 16th, 2018

It was two years ago when that jaw dropping campaign saw a braggart and a bully win the White House. It was obvious that politicos, both in America and abroad where dumbfounded by the brashness, ignorance and foolhardiness. It was a campaign that collected the angry, the bigots, the jealous, the lawless, the self-entitled, and gave them justification. It gave succor and a savior to self-destructive lemmings.

To this Canadian commentator, America was clearly a nation divided. It failed as a democracy. It failed in its aspirations. It failed to produce the leadership it needed. With the weakness of the electoral system, the voters opted for autocracy.

What is important for Americans to understand is that this is not an internal matter. Their opting for Donald Trump has impacted the world. We all have a stake in America’s choices.

And it has taken the subsequent two years for us to understand America’s dilemma. The deplorables are not the voters but the elected. Congress is in the hands of the Huns. And they have Mr. Trump to thank for their transcendence.

The key question though is how can Trump continue? Can the con-man continue to con the voters? Or has the sheen worn off his shining?

How far has Trump come? How long is the journey that lies ahead of him?

Trump has proved he is a bigot. Muslims beware. He has fought Obamacare and seems to be losing. He wanted to build a wall and has hardly drawn a line in the sand against the Mexicans. He says he wanted to Make America Great Again but first he must tear the country down. He offered tax cuts and is starting by giving cuts to the wealthy.

Trump said the Canadians were taking advantage of the North American trade agreement. His solution is to sign a separate deal with the Mexicans and then try to bully the Canadians to accept his terms. He is destroying relationships that have stood America well over time.

Donald Trump is a man conflicted. He reaches out to his claque for approval. His paranoia becomes a more dominant trait. He is so obviously fearful of the probe of his relations with Moscow. America’s foreign relations are in tatters.

The world has not seen the last nor has it seen the best of Donald Trump. God help us if we see the worst.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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On second thought Mr. Singh.

Saturday, September 15th, 2018

He has no other to blame than himself. Jagmeet Singh sought to lead the federal new democrats and where has he taken them? Has the party advanced during his tenure of the past year? Are more Canadians offering dues, fealty, funds and support to the party? What new programs, policies, promises has the party proposed? What is nirvana for Singh’s socialists?

And where do you go from here Mr. Singh?

Will a by-election in Burnaby South save Singh? Despite the electoral district being held last by new democrat MP Kennedy Stewart, who has resigned to run for Mayor of Vancouver, it is by no means a safe NDP seat. There are probably many there who thought Singh sat too long on the fence between the Alberta and B.C. NDP parties’ pipeline battles.

One thing for sure, neither the conservatives not liberals are about to give Singh a free pass. It has been a long-established custom for the major parties to not contest a party leader seeking a seat in the Commons. It is a courtesy that has been forgotten in the heat of the arguments about the Kinder Morgan pipeline from Alberta. Only the Green’s have given Singh a pass since his new-found resolve to fight the pipeline.

But that is a single issue and nobody knows where else the NDP stand today. Past leader Tom Mulcair took the party to the right in the last federal election and nobody knows much about Singh’s philosophy. Where Singh wants to take the party is still a mystery.

Part of the problem is that Singh won the NDP leadership vote because of all the Sikhs in B.C. and Ontario who joined the party. Whether the immigrant sign-ups swamped the existing sign ups, we were not told. All we got was the announcement that Singh won on the first ballot.

That win might be a cautionary tale as Ontario leader (briefly) Brown was himself able to swamp the low-tide membership of the Ontario progressive conservatives. With his links to Indian sub-continent immigrants in Ontario, his 40,000 sign-ups were able to swamp the dismal membership of the Tories.

On top of the open rebellion by MPs and MLAs in Saskatchewan over the Weir ouster, there could be a party-wide call for Jagmeet Singh’s scalp if he loses the by-election in Burnaby South. It probably would not help but they might feel better after dumping Singh.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Carpetbagger Brown.

Friday, September 14th, 2018

In politics, the carpetbagger is a figure of derision. The person is considered an unscrupulous opportunist who is seeking to exploit some real or imagined opportunity among local voters. No politician in Ontario better fits this description than Barrie’s Patrick Brown.

Or should we now call him: Brampton Brown?

In the last two years, this fast-moving individual has slipped and slid from being a member of parliament to becoming a provincial party leader, to a member of the legislature, down to provincial pariah, to candidate for Peel County chair and then to candidate for mayor of Brampton. Which is just as well as nobody would expect him to win if he came back and ran against the current mayor of Barrie.

And why should Brampton be so lucky?

But then why would you expect his former conservative friends at Queen’s Park to be so vindictive?

Just the other day, Brown called a news conference in Brampton and told the local media that he has noted that there is a great concern among Brampton voters about a rise in crime. It is not that there has been an overall increase in crime—in fact, there has actually been a decrease. The burghers in Brampton might not have been aware of this concern but Mr. Brown was attuned to this dilemma and had the solution. He was convinced, of course, that the same old solution (Whatever that was?) was not going to work. He was going to have a task force study the problems and report back to him—on the day after the election.

It would have been an appropriate touch for Brown to then close his news conference with a rendition of Meredith Wilson’s song: Seventy-six Trombones Led the Big parade.

Not satisfied with that event, Patrick Brown called another news conference later to announce that he would also promote a multi-use sports complex that would be built around a world-class cricket pitch. This is not surprising when you check Google and find 35 per cent of current Brampton residents come from the Indian Sub-Continent and Brampton already has a rapidly growing roster of more than 30 cricket teams. How he is paying for this new complex was less clear.

Our best advice to the people of Brampton is that they can do better than Patrick Brown.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Is ‘Lyin Brian’ Trump’s Judas goat?

Thursday, September 13th, 2018

We saw how former prime minister Brian Mulroney negotiated the original NAFTA. When the public service negotiators hit an impasse, Mulroney sent in finance minister Michael Wilson to replace the professionals and close the deal. Canadians ended up with free trade with the United States of America. Whether it was fair trade was a subject for debates.

But there was no debate until now that both countries did well by the agreement. With the inclusion of Mexico, the three countries economies became closely intertwined. And they shared the benefits of being a highly successful trading group.

Enter Trump. Donald Trump decided to run to be president of the United States of America on a whim. He campaigned on hollow slogans and obvious falsehoods. One of those many falsehoods was the claim that Canada was given unfair advantage under NAFTA. He said it so often to his claque and to his mirror that he came to believe it.

But Donald Trump has been given a lot of static from his political allies and supporters that he should not end the deal with the Canadians. He has determined that he needs some sort of a win over the Canadians to show his claque that he is a good negotiator. His problem is that he is a bully and a bad negotiator. He thinks he can threaten the Canadians on social media and get his way. He wants to negotiate in public. All he is doing is turning Canadians against him.

Mind you, he has the odd friend. And speaking of odd friends, one of Trump’s friends is Brian Mulroney. The former prime minister has been advising prime minister Trudeau on how to handle Trump. His advice, we are told, is to give up on some part of the supply management Canadians have with its dairy industry. If Donald Trump can take some win on dairy products to his supporters, he can claim it is a win for America and spare NAFTA.

This proposal is about the worst advice that Mulroney can give to Trudeau. First of all it would cost the prime minister seats in parliament from both Quebec and Ontario. It would make his government a single term event.

Trudeau would be far better off to tell Mulroney and Trump to stick their suggestion where the sun does not shine. Win or lose on NAFTA, Trudeau would still be in better shape for the election next year.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Not your father’s Tories.

Wednesday, September 12th, 2018

Back in the years when I was a frequent visitor to the legislature at Queen’s Park, the conservatives there were a different breed. There is no way we can compare to-day’s incumbent in the premier’s office to someone such as premier Bill Davis. In relations with Bill and his staff, in those days, the key operating word was mutual respect.

It is absolutely impossible to imagine Bill Davis railing against a superior court judge’s ruling. It is also impossible to imagine him making the errors in fact and in judgement that caused the fiasco.

As expected Monday, Justice Edward Belobaba was critical of the Ford government’s timing. The government had overstepped the rights of citizens in the middle of an election campaign. Changing the number of councillors in mid-campaign was not only arbitrary but made light of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Would the ruling change anything? No. Would it improve city governance? No. Will it save any money. Hard to say.

But Ford has just begun to fight. The entire exercise was a waste of time and public money but Dougie is going to fight on. He has called together the legislature to add the Charter ‘Not Withstanding’ clause to the legislation.

It will be a while until all the expense accounts are recorded but Dougie probably never bothered to ask what it costs to call the legislature together for a special session—and that is the second time since the June election. This is the guy that told us the previous government were spendthrifts.

What this is might be is the perfect example of what happens when the voters decide to get rid of their previous government and fail to look closely at the party for which they are voting. If they had paid any attention during the campaign, they would have realized how ill-equipped Doug Ford and his party were to form a government.

Premier Ford’s reaction to the superior court judge’s ruling was visceral. It was not thought through. Ford made errors in fact that surprised the news media and observers alike. He had decided to utilize the ‘Not Withstanding’ clause in the charter without understanding why it was there. He even had the temerity to threaten to use it again.

That tells us our Ontario premier is both a bully and a fool. His conservative caucus should take heed.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Obama’s Oratory Opens Opportunity.

Tuesday, September 11th, 2018

That is how it is done! The former American president has finally directed his skilled oratory at that disgusting Donald Trump. Obama brought honour to the office of president now held by Trump. Somebody had to say it. Mr. Trump dishonours the office. Enough is enough.

But so what? What good does it do? The bigots in Trump’s claque of voters never liked Obama anyway. He was not even talking to them.

Trump tried to brush off what Obama said. There is nothing he can do to Barack Obama and nothing Obama can do about him—except tell it like it is.

Obama was talking to students at Illinois State University at Urbana-Champaign. He was also speaking to the wider audience of democrat voters across America. Somebody has to bring that disorganized rabble to their feet and to the polls in November. The prospect of a republican senate and house after November would lose America any credibility it has left. It could spell the bitter end of what is left of American democracy.

Maybe that is why Obama launched his campaign in Illinois—the Land of Lincoln. America can no longer afford to have less than a third of its potential voters make decisions for the country. He held back little in an erudite and scathing denunciation of the Trump presidency.

He sees the Trump situation as more of a symptom of the problem though than as a result. He delivered a scathing indictment of republican politics in Washington. He pointed out that republicans have been fanning the flames of resentment in America for many years. This is how the right wing redirects the anger that rightfully belongs to the very rich who control Washington to their own benefit.

What America needs now is for other opinion leaders across the U.S. to join in the chorus of condemnation. Even leaders of concerned neighbouring countries such as Canada and Mexico could express their concern for the directions American politics have been taking. For Donald Trump to lie constantly about the supposed benefits of the North American Free Trade Agreement for others was hurting American efforts to expand trade and denying jobs to Americans. His wall of bigotry across the south has disgusted fair-minded people around the world.

Trump’s arguments about NAFTA are based on ignorance. Trade agreements can only work when they satisfy the mutual needs of the countries involved—not the foolish demands of a person who does not understand the objectives.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Keeping calm in chaos.

Monday, September 10th, 2018

Not being a big fan of Canada’s foreign minister Chrystia Freeland, I must admit that she is very good at handling the news media. Being a former journalist certainly helps. And you have to admit that she is under a great deal of pressure from the media to tell it like it is about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations.

For her not to admit that some of the chaos created by president Trump has to be impacting the negotiations is just not credible. It is like when you are in the eye of a hurricane, it might feel calm but you can see the surrounding mayhem of the storm.

Nor can Freeland and her team not feel the tensions of the people on the other side of the table. Their work is compromised daily by the irresponsible carrying-on of their commander-in-chief. Nobody is capable of negotiating in good faith in such an atmosphere.

In the same way, it is impossible for prime minister Trudeau’s team to give in on any of the key issues that Trump is demanding. Boiling it down to supply management of dairy products, fair dispute resolution and protection of Canadian culture makes resolution even harder as there is really nothing left with which to negotiate.

It is almost as though the U.S. negotiators are complicit with Freeland in the role of Ulysses’ wife, Penelope, unraveling her daily stint of weaving the shroud for Ulysses father. That is great but it makes us all wonder about the end game when the Canadians flip Trump the bird. (That is also known as the Canadian salute.)

It is hardly possible that they could be hoping it would cause the American president to have a stroke. That child-man has been practicing tantrums for 70 years and it is just a daily exercise for him. If anything would cause him a stroke, it would be finding out who on his staff wrote the recent anonymous opinion piece for the New York Times. America’s better media are bent on destroying Trump and lately have been showing some muscle.

But Freeland’s problems are in the here and now. She needs to understand that she might have to fall on her sword and take the blame if the entire negotiation fails. It is what the good soldier does.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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