Archive for December, 2018

Ford fast-tracks the slippery slope.

Tuesday, December 11th, 2018

One of the problems with being a bit older is that you have seen it all before. Premier Doug Ford, for example, might be just a reprise of Mike Harris, conservative premier of Ontario from 1995 to 2002. One of the reasons for the longevity of the McGuinty-Wynne liberals after that was the memory of Ontario voters of the mistakes Harris made.

And it looks as though Doug Ford is digging his own grave in the same way as Harris dug his. It is the old story of those who do not learn from the past making the same mistakes. Harris’ mantra was something called ‘the common-sense revolution.’ It was your basic slash and burn conservatism, ‘open for business’ and cutting of taxes.

It would appear that Mike Harris and his provincial ministers gave their changes more consideration than Ford’s people have given their legislation, so far.

Mike Harris gave people lots of time to blow smoke about consolidating Toronto into a supercity. While he had no idea how to fix Toronto’s political problems, Harris let the naysayers vent and then went ahead and put the city into one. It did not save the city any money either.

There were two incidents caused by Harris’ dogmatism that helped speed his downfall. These were at Walkerton and Ipperwash Provincial Park.

In Walkerton, the province—instead of cutting the regulations—cut out the people who oversaw the regulations. These experts, for example, gave technical assistance to people running municipal water treatment plants. It left a lot of people guessing at what to do and, in Walkerton in south-western Ontario, they were about five days to late in finding out that their water supply was contaminated with E. coli bacteria. In an area of 5000 population, more than 2000 people suffered through illness brought on by the contamination and five, six or seven were reported to have died, depending on your source of information.

In the Ipperwash park situation, the local aboriginal population had been displaced from their lands in the area during the Second World War and were still trying to get compensation from the federal government 50 years later. The military had stopped using the federal government area and nobody paid attention to the aboriginals. Since the Ipperwash Provincial Park was popular, the aboriginals occupied that part of the land. It got the wrong attention and a provincial police sharpshooter ended up killing an un-armed protestor.

Since nobody in Ontario expects the provincial police to be told what to do by the premier’s office, premier Harris, so-to-speak, missed a bullet on that one!

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Persons who help themselves get most.

Monday, December 10th, 2018

The headline was supposed to be ‘God helps those who help themselves.’ It did not seem right though to invoke a Deity. Considering how many Deities are promoted around Toronto these days, it could have ended up a three-line headline.

This started out to be about Ontario premier Doug Ford. When the premier reduced the number of councillors in the city of Toronto earlier this year, he promised Torontonians millions in savings. He lied you know. It is becoming more apparent every day that the only people who will profit from having Doug Ford in the premier’s office are lawyers. And what you know for sure is that it will be the province that pays.

And the city has not yet felt the full force of its newly-elected 25 councillors. That gravy train is only now chugging into city hall. Within two days of being sworn into office, the councillors doubled their staffing money, increased their office budgets and told the clerk that they want a raise in pay. These people are not pikers.

But at the same time, it was strange to look down on the council in seating space that used to hold twice as many councillors. The Toronto council chamber needs some redesign. It was as though they wanted to emphasize the change wrought by the vindictive Doug Ford by clustering to one side.

It was obvious that they would claim the need for more staff. They are going to need the help to deal with the concerns of almost twice the constituents. The personal salary increase will be the icing on the cake.

Considering the average number of constituents, the staff to be managed and the hours of dedicated service required, the job is now worth more than $200,000 per year plus expenses. And as that is more than the dilettantes at Queen’s Park are getting, the Toronto politicians can expect a nasty draft from the direction of the Ontario legislature.

It might surprise you to know that in examining the workload of municipal, provincial and federal politicians over the years, the heaviest is municipal, the second heaviest is federal and our provincial guys and gals get the easy end of things. If the provincials are diligent, they are out promoting themselves.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

When the Kingfish rules.

Sunday, December 9th, 2018

While many see him as a Trump-lite, Ontario’s premier Doug Ford is more of a politician in the tradition of Louisiana’s governor Huey P. Long (Born 1893 – Assassinated 1935). Long liked being called “The Kingfish.”

This is unlike American president Donald Trump’s evident nihilism which is mainly a rejection of any moral or religious principles. Huey Long’s populist struggle to political power was more of a contest between the corrupt establishment and the corrupt populist interloper. Long took on powerful interests on behalf of the people of his state while also fulfilling his own objectives, and filling his pockets.

Long was the subject of more than a few books and two movies have been made of “All the King’s Men” by author Robert Penn Warren. I have not seen the 2006 film but the way it was panned by the critics, I would not be likely to see it. It was the 1949 version of the film, starring Broderick Crawford, that won three Oscars.

Though it is quite doubtful that Doug Ford would win any rewards for his performance as premier of Ontario to-date. Ford is to busy preening for his fans and taking his bows for a political win where his opponents (Ontario’s liberals) defeated themselves.

But for him to show his vindictive streak against his former opponents shows no class at all. He is seriously ruling that an increase in members in the legislature is required to recognize the liberals as an official party. Maybe we should have hopes for more of his conservatives deserting the Ford party. His personal vendettas are embarrassing many progressive conservatives. He spent billions as soon as he was in office to end Ontario’s participation in a ‘Cap and Trade’ deal with California and Quebec and then set aside millions to try to stop a federal carbon tax.

And we are still computing the costs for his surprise attack on Toronto city hall councillors—reducing the number of wards—in the middle of the election campaign.

But it is his latest faux pas that is enraging anyone who understands the relationship between our Canadian governments and their police forces. He is reported to have changed the rules to accommodate a personal friend as commissioner of Ontario’s provincial police. His friend Ron Taverner did not have the experience as a deputy chief or a chief, so they changed the rules. Mr. Taverner is now commissioner.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Pompeo’s Rebellion.

Saturday, December 8th, 2018

It makes you wish you were there to see the look of astonishment on the European’s faces as American secretary of state Mike Pompeo explained his version of Donald Trump’s ‘Brave New World.’ It happened last week in Brussels. It might have contradicted the agreement Mr. Trump made with China’s president Xi Jinping a few days before in Argentina but since nobody on the Trump team ever talks from the same play book, why start now?

Pompeo pompously postulated that in Donald Trump’s world, no bilateral or multi-lateral agreement between the U.S. and other nations is sacrosanct. It seems as head of this brave new world order, Mr. Trump can change or jettison agreements with other countries at will. (And he does, as Canadians have discovered.)

Mr. Pompeo explained that this onerous role Mr. Trump has taken on for himself is fitting in a new liberal(?) world order. It seems Mr. Trump can unilaterally decide which agreement or treaty should or should not be honoured.

The Europeans are still mulling over president Trump dumping the Paris climate accord and the Iran nuclear deal made by a Pompeo predecessor, former secretary of state John Kerry. The European Union has strongly supported those two agreements and feel betrayed by the Trump’s cavalier and unilateral decision to end American participation. In a speech in the United States recently, a European Union spokesman said it was more like a “rule of the jungle replacing a rule of law.”

What Pompeo was really doing in his speech which, at best, drew some polite applause, was to criticize the European Union as a supranational body interfering in the wishes of member states. He mentioned the UK’s Brexit as an example of the problem—which surprised the Europeans who knew far more about that situation than did the American.

In Pompeo’s pompous ‘Brave New World of Mr. Trump’ there is one constant impediment to this world of liberal co-operation and vision: Mr. Trump himself.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Bitumen’s Bedfellows.

Friday, December 7th, 2018

Global News and CBC News are both hung up on supporting the politicians and tar sands exploiters who lie to them about tar sands bitumen. The province of Alberta is even running ads on these networks that refer to bitumen as oil. They make false statements about what is being shipped out of the country at discounted prices.

What is ridiculous about the confusion this causes is ‘Chuckles’ Scheer, the conservative leader telling the House of Commons and Canadians that prime minister Justin Trudeau is ‘directly’ responsible for the “cratering” of the price of Western Canadian Select, which is still just bitumen any way you say it. Mr. Scheer blames Mr. Trudeau’s energy policies for the entire mess.

What might be puzzling Canadians amid all this false news and hyperbole is that Mr. Trudeau does not seem to know if he is for the environment or against it? Why, for example, would he buy a pipeline that is about to be expanded to carry bitumen to Burnaby, BC? Why does he not let all those free-enterprise supporters in Alberta solve their own problem.

Did you know, for example, that there is a growing movement in Alberta to process all that bitumen in the province. Nobody would object half as much if all that the pipelines carried was ersatz crude oil.

The only problem with this great idea is that after a few years of all that heavily polluting refining, the environment in Alberta would unlikely be able to support human life.

Despite the polls, that somebody paid for, that say Canadians do not care about the environment, many do.

I know this writer does. Many years ago, when stationed at the air base at Cold Lake in northern Alberta, some of us would go out and rent riding horses from local farmers enabling us to enjoy the beauty of the countryside. It seems very foolish to wantonly destroy that beauty because of greed.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

The woe of women in politics.

Thursday, December 6th, 2018

Last weekend there was a trifecta in political opinions in the Toronto Star that were equally wrong. The paper must be desperate for more knowledgeable opinions other than their usual scribes. To my surprise, I was appalled at the opinion expressed by new democrat Robin V. Sears, concerned at the meandering thoughts of conservative Jaime Watt and then in further disagreement with Professor Penny Collenette, a normally very astute liberal commentator.

One reason I have tended to agree with Ms. Collenette is that I have known her husband since he was in high school and while I stayed away from the Prime Minister’s Office in Ottawa over the Chrétien years, I admired her perseverance there.

But if I had to pick the competent women in critical positions in world politics, I would leave American Nancy Pelosi and Brit Theresa May far down the list. Contrary to Penny Collenette’s opinion, neither is right for the job they are attempting to do.

First of all, Theresa May is trying to do the impossible task of putting through a policy that she never did believe in. She is supporting BREXIT because she wants the job of prime minister, not because she is committed to the cause. She does not have a horse in the race. And people are following her? Where to? What kind of legacy is that? It would be like Winston Churchill being a Nazi sympathizer throughout World War II. May’s predecessor did the honourable thing and resigned. And yet Theresa May is putting her voters and their ancient homelands at risk. The United Kingdom does not have a future as some minor adjunct of the European Union. It has to have a leadership position that can help keep the EU together with the UK in common cause.

And putting Theresa May and representative Nancy Pelosi together is a farce. Pelosi is the wrong generation. She is from the past, a manipulator and a conniver from the old school. What the Democrats need in the House of Representatives is leadership. There has to be a democrat under 50 in that house who knows what the hell it needs in the way of leadership. Let Pelosi do the backroom backstabbing and let the country have some decent leadership for a change

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Singing a sad song for Singh.

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018

What is the world coming to? Here we have a die-hard conservative such as Jaime Watt in Toronto commiserating with the new democrats over the bad choices of NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. Watt was telling us in a Toronto Star opinion piece that he was expecting liberal MP Rag Grewal to actually resign when he said he would last week and thought that might be a better seat for Singh to swing. Which only goes to show us that Watt might not understand liberals or new democrats.

First of all, Mr. Grewal tells us he is a gambler. And obviously, he is not a very lucky one. Almost a year more of drawing an MP’s salary could be a practical consideration for him. He might decide not to resign.

And despite Mr. Watt’s cavalier dismissal of Jagmeet’s commitment to the Burnaby South electoral district out in British Columbia, he might not want to appear fickle. Plus, scurrying back to Brampton would be a sign of weakness.

And, frankly, Jagmeet’s strongest opponent in Burnaby might be the Green Party candidate. The conservatives and the liberals are both committed to the twinning of the Trans Mountain pipeline and Burnaby voters might have some suggestions as to where they can stuff their pipeline and the diluted bitumen it is planned to carry.

Mind you, it is not quite clear why Mr. Watt would be so concerned about the collapse of the new democrat leadership as the 2019 election looms. It would almost seem that he is concerned that without a strong NDP presence next fall, that the liberals will gather to themselves much more of the progressive vote.

Maybe Mr. Watt should be more concerned about the inroads into the far-right vote of the conservatives by Maxime Bernier and his People’s Party of Canada.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Defectors define democracy.

Tuesday, December 4th, 2018

One of the critical strengths of our Canadian democracy is that we elect people in each electoral district to represent us in parliament. While we might choose them because of the party they represent, they have the right to determine at any time whether or not to be a part of that political party. It is a safeguard for us as voters. It is a right that we would lose at our peril.

And yet political commentator Robin V. Sears, writing in the Toronto Star, sees the ability of MPs and MPPs to refute their party allegiance and sit as an independent or to move to another party as hurting our democracy. He knows not of what he writes.

Would Sears have preferred that Sir Winston Churchill remained a liberal throughout his remarkable career in the UK parliament?

It would be a fun game to go down a list of people who have moved to and from Sear’s CCF and NDP parties.

He was complaining about Ontario conservative Amanda Simard leaving her party on principles. He tries to belittle people with principles. He says they betray their voters, when what they are doing is standing up for their voters. Does he really think the largely francophone voters in Simard’s electoral district were standing up cheering what the Ford government is doing? Being one of those rare conservatives with principles, Simard, after thorough discussion and consideration, decided to make a stand. If I was constituent, I would have been cheering.

Frankly, I do not find much in the current Ontario conservative caucus by way of honour, principles or decency. Since taking office, they have been erratic, mean spirited and confused. Doug Ford has proved himself ill-advised and inadequate to the task of governing this province.

We have the advantage in our parliamentary system that if enough of his caucus walked out in disgust, we could have a new election. And now that the voters have had time to think about their June decision, I am sure we could do much better than Mr. Ford.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Complacency is Justin Trudeau’s enemy.

Monday, December 3rd, 2018

With a federal election ten months away, we can ignore all polls. They tell us little. It reminds me of the first party campaign in which I was involved. It was in 1964. My friend Charles Templeton was working for the Toronto Star and agreed when I and others asked him to make the jump into provincial politics to enter the contest to choose a new leader for the Ontario Liberal Party.

Along with the work we were doing at the time on the province-wide leadership campaign, we were advised to show some electoral strength by running in a by-election in Toronto-Broadview. It had been liberal but the main opponent was the new democrat. To this day, I remember the statement an old hand made to the candidate early on election day: “Chuck, you have run a strong, traditional campaign. Now it is up to the voters.” We lost and I made a vow to never again take part in a traditional campaign.

Campaigns are about the images created by candidates and leaders. They are about the concerns and hopes of the voters. The winning campaign in that by-election matched the concerns and hopes of the voters with their party’s direction.

And I think that will be Justin Trudeau’s failure next fall. In 2015, the liberals offered the change that the voters wanted. They can hardly offer the same change in 2019.

What Trudeau desperately needs to run on is a coherent vision of Canada’s future. His feminism has become annoying. His dress-up trip to India was an embarrassment. He has not stood up to Donald Trump. What are the benefits to Canadians of all these meetings with world leaders? And why is an environmentalist buying an old pipeline to move that stuff from the Alberta tar sands to ocean tankers?

Justin Trudeau can hardly count on the weakness of his opposition. Both the conservative’s Andrew Scheer and the new democrat’s Jagmeet Singh might be hard to visualize in the prime minister’s office but we have been surprised before.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

If you cannot confront, confuse.

Sunday, December 2nd, 2018

It is a desperation strategy. As one of the three programs fighting greenhouse gases in Canada, Ontario’s ‘Carbon Trust’ is certainly the zaniest. Where ‘Cap and Trade’ lets industries buy extra carbon emissions from each other and a ‘Carbon Tax’ lets the polluters pay (with a rebate to consumers), this newest strategy from the Ford government just announced by environment minister Rod Phillips will have everybody puzzled.

By all standards this could be considered the cheapest plan. Which is lucky as it is the taxpayers who are paying for it. The plan is to be funded with an initial four hundred million of taxpayers’ money to bribe industry not to pollute. Since we are paying back billions to get out of the previous ‘Cap and Trade’ plan, we are very lucky the new plan is so cheap. Mind you, it is hardly enough to make much of an impression on large industries such as the petrochemical industry, that causes so much pollution.

As the former CEO of Ontario Lottery and Gaming, Phillips seems to have set the entire plan up in the form of the huckster’s game of three card monte. That is the one where the sucker tries to find the higher value card after it has been mixed with two lesser value cards.

But the major problem with the plan is it raises more questions than Minister Phillips is prepared to answer. The thinking seems to be that each industry will negotiate its own standards. It is similar to the tar sands industry in Alberta setting their own standards for the Harper conservatives. Canadians waited for nine years for the standards that were never set.

This ridiculous approach will never satisfy the federal government’s demand for a plan and leaves the province open to having the feds impose a carbon tax on Ontario. It should please many taxpayers as the money charged to polluters will be returned to taxpayers with their income tax refunds.

In the meantime, the Ontario government and the Saskatchewan government are asking the supreme court to rule that the carbon tax by the federal government is unconstitutional. It is too bad that we do not have a court that could rule that the Ford government’s provincial plan is just silly.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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