Archive for September, 2018

“What fools these mortals be…”

Sunday, September 30th, 2018

Just to show how consistent we humans are, we can use the words of William Shakespeare to describe more recent events. What brings this to mind was a recent Ryerson University democracy forum. Chaired by Martin Regg Cohn of the Toronto Star, the debaters were campaign heads for the three major parties in June’s Ontario election. Regg Cohn’s report on the forum struck us as the most political self-aggrandizement, self-pity and foolishness we have heard for a long time.

And the winner was… surprise, surprise, Kory Teneycke of the progressive conservatives. It is just that we do not agree with what he is bragging about. We could have told him he had won before the campaign even started.

But Teneycke (and I still cannot pronounce that name) gives the credit to his supposedly brilliant digital campaign for the conservatives. And, he uses all the current buzz words such as “curating” messages with the right “algorithms” for “target” audiences.

To have a winner, it is also necessary to have a loser and David Herle of the liberal party makes the perfect goat. The only thing I will not criticize him for was the decision by Premier Wynne to forfeit the election before it was over. That was the stupidest act I had seen in an election in more than 50 years of campaigns.

But David was not above reproach for how he handled the campaign. He actually admits that he had no idea how to handle the negatives on social media about Wynne. He said the liberals did not know how to fight it. He also said he was of the impression that digital advertising was “unpersuasive.”

I will quote my favourite campaign slogan for David: If you cannot push, pull. And if you cannot pull, you best get out of the way.

Bringing up the rear, as usual, was the NDP campaign, headed by Michael Balagus. I would not know him, if I tripped over him. He was certainly complimentary about the conservative use of social media and their own news. It is really too bad that his campaign had no focus, no theme and no hope until Ms. Wynne quit and people who hated Ford were conflicted by being told to vote for Ms. Horwath—who ran her own do-nothing campaign.

But what was unimpressive about the report was Teneycke’s insistence that campaigns would soon be 99 per cent digital. That was the attitude of a loser who did not understand people. It sounds more like some of the worried clergy in the middle ages who did not understand that it would take centuries for the anticipated impact of Herr Gutenberg’s invention. We move faster with technology today but not overnight.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Perchance, a prophet’s pipeline pays profits?

Saturday, September 29th, 2018

If there is bad news among the brochures delivered in the post this day, is the bad news to be blamed on Canada Post? And should a government encourage the building of a pipeline for the transmission of natural gas to replace more seriously polluting coal-fired plants to produce electricity? Do the politicians get plaudits? Or are we, as a caring society, conflicted by these moves?

Listening to Ontario environmental commissioner Dianne Saxe the other day, did not help. It was, without direct accusation, a serious indictment of Ontario’s current conservative government.

But was it, at the same time, an indictment of the Trudeau government in Ottawa? Was it an indirect challenge to the climate change potential of the government’s recently purchased Kinder Morgan pipeline across the Canadian Rockies? Could it be that the expanded pipeline is to be just a blameless delivery mechanism such as Canada Post? Or is it political one-upmanship?

The conservatives and liberals in Ottawa these days are arguing about who is the biggest friend of the pipeline business. Conservative leader Andrew ‘Chuckles’ Scheer and liberal leader Justin Trudeau are arguing about who has created the most pipelines to take the pollution of Canada’s tar sands to tidewater. These are not just pipelines for crude oil but pipelines for diluted bitumen—that creates more than three times the carbon pollution in being processed to synthetic crude oil products.

And besides, Trudeau must be a prophet—as he can so easily brush aside all the concerns about a high-pressure, dual pipeline spilling bitumen into the ecosystem of the Rockies and the fragile fisheries of the west coast.

Does the liberal government in Ottawa have the right to say “We won” because of the use of taxpayer billions to buy the Kinder Morgan pipeline? Does it make Justin Trudeau the prophet, loved of Alberta admirers? Or does it make him the dupe of Albertan greed? And is Alberta premier Rachel Notely but a stalking horse for the greed and ambitions of united conservative party leader Jason Kenney?

And can the prophetic Justin Trudeau profit not from his perfidy? Is there not a federal election in 2019?

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Dragging down the dialogue.

Friday, September 28th, 2018

That Donald Trump is at it again. The diplomats laughed at him in the United Nations in New York the other day. Prime minister Justin Trudeau of Canada was walking by in the U.N. building the next day and did not want add to the American president’s discomfort and stopped to commiserate. Trump brushed him off.

It could have been left at that. It is just that Donald Trump never knows when it is best to shut up. In a no-holds-barred bear baiting with the news media the next day, where the media was the bear, Trump insulted the chief Canadian negotiator on the NAFTA file, lied about and maligned Canada’s prime minister and made it almost impossible for America’s chief negotiator to bring anything positive to the NAFTA table in future negotiations.

It begs the question as to whether there is any point to further discussion of the North American Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the United States?

The point of this is that Mr. Trump knows that the Canadians are not going to tell him to ‘Get Stuffed.’ They, of course, know they have a right to tell him to but they are also being diplomatic and it is inappropriate for prime ministers and foreign ministers to tell the head of another nation to ‘Get Stuffed.’ No nation has gone to war over the head of the nation being told to ‘Get Stuffed,’ though there could always be a first time.

In all my years in politics and communications, this is the first time I have seriously felt that it is time to break with the diplomatic protocols and call a spade a spade.

There is no question but that Donald Trump is enjoying spewing all this garbage because he knows he can get away with it.

It is to Canada’s credit that our negotiators and prime minister have put up with this crap from Trump without responding in kind. Never let it be said that Canada walked away from NAFTA because of that disgusting Donald Trump.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Getting elected in Toronto.

Thursday, September 27th, 2018

The ‘Hey Rube’ at Toronto city hall is over, for now. Candidates for the 25 wards are busy candidating. The next big event will be municipal election day on October 22. Similar to Halloween, it will be a scary time. And they have the nerve to call it democracy.

It will be the same old, same old. Other than a few scores settled in this ward or that one, look for the return of familiar faces. The only good news is there are fewer wards and fewer old faces. Nobody will be particularly surprised when John Tory continues to occupy the mayor’s chair.

Democracy is supposed to be government ‘by the people.’ In truth, it is government ‘for the people’ and we sometimes wonder what they did to deserve it?

The people who get elected in municipal politics are the ones who can convince the most voters what they can do for them. They are often helped in this by having a reasonably recognizable name and some decent promotion by the news media. Also having an Italian name with a voting population heavily weighted by people from that part of the world can work wonders.

It also helps to make friends with developers who have pushy projects to propose and need friends on council. You need their money to buy signs that show you are a serious candidate. One or two decent brochures would also be most helpful.

It also helps if you have a couple hundred pleasant looking volunteers who are going to help you knock on every door to identify your vote. The candidate that gets his or her voters to the polls is the one who will win the election. You should never underestimate the value of another 50 or 100 votes.

You should also set a target of morning coffee parties. They have a multiplier effect and even five housewives at one of these events can add up to 15 votes.

Hard work, smart material, and lots of volunteers can be a winning formula. It will be after you win that you will wonder if it is all worth it?

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Climate Action hits a wall in Ontario.

Wednesday, September 26th, 2018

To our chagrin and horror the Province of Ontario has turned its back on climate action. In a to-the-point report, environmental commissioner Dianne Saxe made her report to the legislature at Queen’s Park on Tuesday morning. We hear that nobody from the conservative caucus attended.

In the afternoon, the environmental commissioner went to Barrie, in the heart of conservative Ontario and gave her report to a full house. Their provincial government might not care but the people do.

In an open plea to the citizens, the commissioner talked of the environmental challenge facing the province and the ability of citizens to take action. “At a time when Ontario has a huge climate challenge, we are no longer able to have a safe, predictable climate.”

Saxe called on citizens to work around the government to meet the challenge. At a time when the government casts aspersions on the climate challenge, it is business, municipalities, citizens groups, universities that can give direction and do more.

The report makes it clear that climate disruption is already affecting Ontario and there is no doubt of its impact. The report states flatly that “what used to be normal weather is gone.”

The report states that when the government will not do its job, business and citizens have to step forward. This is despite the essential roles that government can play.

Saxe was very positive about the role government has played in Ontario over the past 15 years. She feels that Ontario can only achieve emission reductions with a combination of making polluters pay, developing new solutions and regulating polluters.

The commissioner was critical of the lack of clarity in the cap and trade system of the previous government but felt that it was working. She feels that by dispensing with cap and trade, the current government has not given it time to work and laid itself open to expense for the taxpayers.

She feels that the current government needs to make a commitment, a plan and take action that can continue to be improved. At least the Barrie audience was with her.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

No, Dougie isn’t done.

Tuesday, September 25th, 2018

One of the Toronto Star’s better political writers wrote last week that Doug Ford’s motive (for interfering in Toronto’s civic election) might not be pique. That could be right. Doug Ford’s vendetta with certain people in Toronto politics goes way beyond ‘pique’ or even annoyed.

And is Dougie done? Not by a long shot. Doug and Rob Ford had plans for Toronto and Dougie is the guy committed to carrying them out. He is in the prefect position to make Toronto kow-tow to him and he is going to enjoy it.

What was that he said during the recent election campaign about the province taking over Toronto’s subways? He might as well take over the streetcars and buses at the same time. He probably wants to privatize the transit commission. He might not understand why the GO trains have to be electrified but it would make privatization an option for that system because of the capital funds needed.

The pundits always said it was a dictatorial bastard like Benito Mussolini who was able to get the trains to run on time in Italy. Maybe Doug Ford wants that distinction in Ontario.

One thing for sure is that the time of the bicycle in downtown Toronto is soon to end. Dougie will return the streets to trucks, SUVs and family automobiles as God must have intended it. He will declare that open season on cyclists who do not even know the rules of the road is over!

And you need to remember that the Ford brothers never made small plans. Dougie will want the biggest ferris wheel in the world down at Ontario Place. That would bring the crowds, he would crow. (I know where he can get a great deal on some of the ferris wheel parts at Staten Island in New York.)

We better also save some space for a casino along the waterfront. Dougie has not got his nose into that subject yet. Despite Woodbine’s weak toe-dipping approach to its casino, Doug will want more casinos—all the more funds for our benevolent conservative government.

But I must admit that the best advice we can give to people today is that you have to remember that Doug Ford is an accidental politician. Do not expect him to act as a normal politician. He will tell you himself that he is just standing in for his dear departed brother Rob. The smart city politician will have already picked out that prominent spot on City Hall Square for that statue honoring Toronto’s crack-smoking mayor.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

“Some animals are more equal…”

Monday, September 24th, 2018

George Orwell’s Animal Farm told us more about humans than about animals and why some pigs are more equal than others. This subject came readily to mind the other day when reading about our liberal government’s attitude regarding protecting political party databases. Having worked with some of the earlier and cruder database efforts by the liberals, I find their attitude concerning.

Despite the recommendation of an all-party committee of the house of commons, the liberal government has refused to have any oversight or privacy rules applied to party databases. Their obduracy goes so far as to refuse to advise liberal adherents if their data has been hacked.

For myself, I would prefer that the liberal party’s present version of Liberalist knows less about me until the party’s system security takes a quantum leap forward.

The last time I had easy access to liberal party data, I had offered to do some back-up data entry of canvassing results. An ulterior motive was that it gave me entry to correct my own data. With the unrestricted use of automated calling to ostensively poll the voters, I had taken lying to pollsters to new levels. I always told automated systems that I was voting for a party or candidate at random.

The problem was that since the days when we kept the data about voters on ‘3 by 5’ cards, data collected by supposedly ‘independent’ pollsters was often the parties calling to find out how you would vote. Back when we actually talked to a human pollster, I had always engaged the caller in conversation and, usually, had determined who was behind the poll before answering anything. I could follow the effectiveness of this on voting day when all three major parties would call to remind me to vote.

It was even funnier when voting and seeing all three inside scrutineers check me off as a vote for their party.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

…Now, where were we?

Sunday, September 23rd, 2018

It seems to me that we left off when premier Ford of Ontario pulled a rabbit out of his hat and told Toronto council hopefuls to stop running for 47 council wards in Toronto and just run for 25. Since people had been campaigning for weeks for the 47 wards, many of them were unhappy with their broader horizons. Regrettably Dougie and his crew at Queen’s Park came into some serious criticism for his sudden and unexpected interference.

And then a superior court judge stuck his oar in on behalf of the somewhat indignant city council. In response to this Dougie threatened to use the “Not Withstanding” clause of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He also appealed the judge’s ruling. The appeal was successful, so now it is not necessary to “Not Withstand.”

But this commentator does not consider the number of councillors on council as the most serious question. In fact, the number of councillors has very little to do with their ability to get things done.

In fact, let me suggest to you that there are certain councillors in Toronto who are going to have a friend at Queen’s Park. If you think it is nice to have friends, let me also point out that Dougie has a bone to pick with some of the other long-time councillors on Toronto city council. These people were not friends when the Ford brothers tried to rule Toronto council. And Dougie has only begun to get even.

Now, you might suggest that Doug Ford has more important things to do as premier of Ontario than screw around with Toronto council. If you think that, you do not know him.  Dougie is as small-minded and petty as they come.

Whether there are 26 or 48 members of city council, each of them, mayor and councillors alike, have only one vote. The mayor has some other powers available to him or her to enable the mayor to appoint committees that will work with him or her to move things along.

What is needed is some sort of political structure that enables mayoralty candidates and councillors to run on a platform that says what they will do if elected. If elected, then they will have a responsibility to keep their promises and give the citizens responsible city government.  When you realize that Toronto has a larger population than most provinces, you have to admit that these people deserve the chance to have their city run properly.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

The con of the carnival barker.

Saturday, September 22nd, 2018

I remember as a child listening with awe to carnival barkers. I had learned young that the bearded lady and world’s tallest man were just hot air to impress the gullible. What impressed me even then was the glibness and ease with which the con man lied to the public. It is the likely reason I have for continuing to come back to writing about that bastard Donald Trump.

Listening to him and his sycophant the other day trying to bully Canada’s negotiators into signing on to their NAFTA terms, left me cold and angry. And I would hardly be the only Canadian to feel that way. We never know from day to day or week to week as Canada’s negotiators refuse to negotiate in public and Mr. Trump does not know when to stop tweeting.

While P.T. Barnum might or might not have said there is a sucker born every minute, Mr. Trump seems to have no problem finding lots of them to listen to his rants, his lies, and his crudity. This man-child and his tantrums might confound the diplomat confronted by the irrational but anyone who has any experience with a wayward child knows some ways to handle it.

First of all, somebody has to be the adult in the room. You can hardly send Trump for a time-out if you cannot take his smart phone away from him. He is certainly too big to spank—and he might like it. He needs to be told in plain language what will happen if he carries through with his foolish threats. He has to realize what will happen if he kills NAFTA.

Trump could leave a legacy as the guy who bankrupted General Motors. Ford would just be a footnote as another casualty in that scenario.

But the best guess is that Trump needs a win of some sort to show his supporters before the mid-term elections. He is obviously concerned that without something going his way, he could lose the House to the democrats—and maybe even the Senate. Without the republican support, Trump can do little and he would face the next two years in the White Hose as a lame duck.

The thing for our negotiators is to remember that it is Trump’s deadline that is closing in on him. Our people can take their time, be thorough, be fair and be firm. We cannot let the carnival barker con us.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

“Once more unto the breach, my friends…”

Friday, September 21st, 2018

The Hordes are at the gates of Castle Liberal on the Rideau and William Shakespeare, once more has appropriate words at the ready. With a year left of his tattered mandate, prime minister Justin Trudeau had best take the advice of Henry V and plug the breach with his dead and soldier on.

And speaking of soldering, you might be wondering how soon we will be dusting-off the Highway of Heroes for the casualties of his ill-considered and ill-fated peace-keeping expedition to the Sahara Desert?

Like most of his political problems, Justin creates them for himself. A good example was his promise in 2015 hat it would be the last time voters would use first-past-the-post voting. He disappointed a few people with that one.

He did the same with assisted dying. The bill was so watered down by the time it passed, that not even many of the dying were pleased.

And while he might have helped some families and the theoretical middle class over his term, he has ignored seniors. They vote too.

And while some people think he has stood firm with U.S. president Trump, his stance is really something more like petrified. He has absolutely no understanding of how to handle that child-man. Judging by their relative ages, he might hope to outlast him.

There are two things that really griped this commentator: In Trudeau’s desperate attempt to feel some love from Alberta, he has spent $4.7 billion of public money on a pipeline to serve the greed of one province.

And by completing the planned twinning of the line, he will be making a farce of all his promises and all our hopes for the world environment.

At the same time, Trudeau has been destroying the federal liberal party. There are no memberships in to-day’s liberal party. He has turned the party lists into an unequivocal sucker list. This list is held above the law and nobody has any guarantee of its privacy. Can you believe that you get better protection on Facebook?

But, it should be pointed out that Justin Trudeau has help going into next year’s trials. They are Andrew ‘Chuckles’ Scheer and Jagmeet Singh. They are the leaders of Canada’s conservative and new democratic parties respectively. They have both shown themselves inadequate to the task before them. Their parties need leadership.

Justin Trudeau needs to be challenged.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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