Archive for December, 2018

Would a gold piano sound tinny?

Monday, December 31st, 2018

Most commentators write a recap about the preceding year on New Year’s Eve but I only thought back a week to an ‘oops.’ I realized that this Canadian missed the Monarch’s message to the Commonwealth. It is with fond memories I note that mother used to always insist that her brood gather round the radio for it on Christmas morning.

My first recollections of this go back to King George VI struggling with his stammer. You could hear his consort, Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother), in the background helping him.

Googling Queen Elizabeth II and her speech this year was a bit of a disappointment. It seems that many of the ungrateful in the United Kingdom complained about the opulence of the gold piano behind her. They thought it was incongruent with a speech about the struggles of the poor and despondent around the world.

But I am sure there were some positive parts to the speech. Queen Elizabeth has had a good deal of time to perfect the genre over the years. She records the speech weeks ahead though as she has other duties on Christmas and Boxing Day. On Christmas there was the traditional sighting of royals as the young ones traipsed down the road to the local church while the 92-year old Queen came in one of the royal limousines.

It seems as though the young ones have already taken over the public interest in the Brit royals. Kate and William, along with Meghan and Harry have become the Brit version of the American Kardashians. Would you believe there is an entire industry built around the royal gossip produced for people who really need to get a life.

But all this silly gossip passes and becomes of less interest in Canada and other Commonwealth countries. It is of dying interest in Canada particularly as more and more we have to pay attention to what is happening to the south.

When Pierre Trudeau compared Canada’s position as sleeping with an elephant, he had obviously never met someone such as Donald Trump. We are beset today in trying to sleep with an insomniac who is the Twitter King and who plays at his own fantasy Game of Thrones.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Dictators Don’t Debate.

Sunday, December 30th, 2018

A mainstay of our parliamentary democracy in Canada is the tradition of question period. This is when the opposition parties have a chance to tackle the premier or prime minister and the cabinet to ask what is going on. Over the years we have seen premiers and prime ministers who enjoyed talking in this forum, some who hated it but only rarely one who did not show up.

It looks like Doug Ford does not like to debate. He seems to think he is above this approach to democracy. He just does not want to attend. We expect it is all because he does not want to be made to look stupid.

Many thought prime minister Stephen Harper had the best strategy on this because he often sent his parliamentary assistant to Question Period. There was one of these who would stand there and talk endlessly about something else but he had to be replaced when he went to jail for something else. There was another who broke down and cried and said he could not do it anymore. It’s a tough job.

But Dougie is different. He is more like the loquacious con man who is struck dumb when the judge gives him a chance to apologize for his misdeeds. His reasoning must be that if you do not know what to say, why say it?

I think what really annoys Dougie on this is that there would be no questioning of him about getting his friend Ron Taverner appointed head of the Ontario Provincial police, if he had not brought the legislature back into session to send the electrical generation people back to work. Maybe Dougie thinks he should be omnipotent.

Mind you, there are not too many Ontario voters eager to let Dougie have any more power. There is no telling how long that list is that he consults to see how much trouble he should cause each day. He is certainly not finished getting even with his old enemies at Toronto City Hall and cutting them down to size. And he is nowhere close to letting his builder friends pave over the Toronto Greenbelt. Dougie is a man with a plan.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Mr. and Mrs. Trump go to war.

Saturday, December 29th, 2018

In the last half of the 20th Century, Hollywood star Bob Hope was famous for his Christmas shows for American military. These shows took place in areas of conflict where Americans where deployed around the world. Hope’s compensation was that he could edit the recordings of the shows and run them as television specials.

His formula was a variety type show of musicians, dancers, comics and always a particularly voluptuous Hollywood star. My favourite was when he took Rachel Welch, a lady who could just stand there and you could appreciate her. It was Hope’s contribution to the American service men’s morale.

It was obvious the other day that Donald Trump was also aware of Hope’s formula. He took his wife Melania to Iraq to meet the troops. It guaranteed him a positive response from the men. He might be on the outs with his generals but he was appreciated by the rank and file who got selfies with Melania.

Trump might have got a mixed reaction to his speech though when he told the troops that he intended to bring them all home. His line was that “We’re no longer the suckers, folks.” And he told them that he is committed to bringing them all home despite the advice of the experts.

To placate the service people he was talking with, he told them he had no plans to leave Iraq. He told them Iraq was a good staging point if at some later date, America went to war with Syria or Iran.

He told the troops that the United States cannot continue to be “the policemen of the world.” Trump said, “It is not fair when the burden is all on us.”

You have to figure that Mr. Trump’s words were annoying to the Arab countries as well as allies who have backed up the United States over the years.

The Trumps’ visit to the Iraq airbase was kept secret until Air Force One returned to the relative safety of Washington.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Down the Yellow Brick Road in 2019.

Friday, December 28th, 2018

We have a long journey before we arrive at the Land of Oz. We have much to ask of just one small wizard. When L. Frank Baum wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (published in 1900), he had no idea how appropriate it is to the Canadian election slated for October 2019.

Canadians will have Dorothy and Toto to lead the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and Cowardly Lion in their journey down the Yellow Brick Road to the Land of Oz. You might know them by other names but the Scarecrow is new democratic leader Jagmeet Singh, the Tin Woodman is conservative leader Andrew Scheer and the Cowardly Lion is liberal prime minister Justin Trudeau.

At the Land of Oz, they hope to ask the Wizard to send Dorothy and Toto back home to Kansas, to provide Jagmeet Singh with ‘bran-new’ brains, Andrew Scheer with a ’heart’ and the prime minister with a potion of ‘courage.’

There is no question but Jagmeet Singh needs additional brains to reconsider his foolish way of winning the leadership of his party. He has proved that the Sikh community in Canada will support him but he has a long way to go to convince the rest of Canada to follow him.

Andrew Scheer needs to understand that conservatism can have a ‘heart.’ He tries so hard to show conservatives that he is on their side that he fails to lead and to show them that conservatism can also have the empathy that makes for effective leadership.

And then there is the prime minister who only needs the courage to do the job even better than the way his father did it. Justin Trudeau has to have the courage to stand up to world leaders and represent Canada as its people deserve to be represented. Visits to foreign lands are not a dress-up event but an important opportunity to carry Canada’s messages of world peace, of environmental concern and of acceptance of all peoples.

In a country yearning for leadership, all political parties are failing us if they do not see where we want them to lead. We are not a country of ideologues but a country of caring. We have family ties around the world and we fail those peoples if we do not show the world leadership of which our country is capable.

We will see how our politicians handle themselves in the coming year as we travel with them down the Yellow Brick Road.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

All are visitors at Stornoway.

Thursday, December 27th, 2018

Welcome to Stornoway. May your visit here be brief. Think of it as a stopover on the road to success or on the road to oblivion. It is a 34-room house built in the colonial revival style in 1913/14 in Ottawa’s Rockcliffe Park area. Stornoway is owned by the Crown and is designated as the official residence of the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition in the House of Commons.

It is considered second prize.

The current occupants of Stornoway are Andrew Scheer M.P. from Saskatchewan, his wife and family. He won the right to live there when he won a strangely orchestrated conservative party leadership contest against 13 opponents. The voting was by a preferential ballot that, in effect, worked down to the lowest common denominator. Scheer won on the 13th counting of the ballots by 50.95 per cent. And that is only one of the reasons that we call him ‘Chuckles.’

The only thing that ‘Chuckles’ is noted for is that he was Stephen Harper’s Speaker of the House of Commons for the last term of the Harper conservatives. His campaign slogan in the leadership contest was “Real Conservative, Real Leader.” He has yet to prove that second part. He is not an inspiring orator. He does not suggest creative solutions. He is a boring, western conservative.

But one thing Chuckles has proved as leader of the opposition is that he can be a nag. Many Canadians see him on television clips from question period in the House of Commons. All he is doing is nagging the government. There are also many Canadians who would not know him if they tripped over him.

But they will come to know him in the coming year. This will be the time that he leads his conservatives into the breach. He will make politician’s promises, smile for the videographers and photographers, kiss babies and promise Canadians a conservative nirvana.

Chuckles will not be chuckling too much about playing second fiddle next year to two provincial politicians in Ontario and Alberta. At best, Chuckles is expected the retain his lease on Stornoway.

We encourage readers to stay tuned.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

To Brampton Town with Brown.

Wednesday, December 26th, 2018

Barrie’s sorry excuse for a newspaper, the weekly Advance, has announced that Brampton mayor Patrick Brown is its newsmaker of the year. Coincidently the Barrie library had a copy of Brown’s tell-all book Take Down: The attempted political assassination of Patrick Brown—by none other than Patrick Brown himself. It was my intent to spend some time this week reading it.

It is with some regret that I report that Mr. Brown appears to have had no ghost writer, nor helpful editor beyond the spell check of his computer. You can only stomach so much of a politician’s self pity and whining. I gave up after about 150 pages and skimmed the rest.

The best part of the book is the cover—credited to a Mathew Flute. They should have ripped up the inside story. If Patrick Brown thinks this book is going to inform, convince, proselytize or draw any sympathy, he is deluding himself.

What is deeply concerning is that in 50 years of writing about politics, I would never refer to a politician as “bat-shit crazy.” If Mr. Brown holds anything back in the book, it is modesty and self-control.

One reason to read the book was to see if there were any clues as to the perpetrators of the CTV Television Network’s allegations. All it seems to indicate is how far that once esteemed network has gone down hill with Bell Canada in control. Patrick might have thought he had liberal enemies but he has far more vicious enemies in the conservative party. And a word of advice to him from a liberal is that there are much stronger connections between CTV News and certain well-known conservatives than any liberals.

The most serious errors in this entire fiasco were those by Brown himself. He is a politician who flies in the directions the wind takes him. He is considered a good retail politician because he knows and understand what needs to be done and has the determination to do it. God forbid he should ever have to work for a living.

But watching him at that news conference during the evening of January 25, 2018, I felt sorry for him. Sure, I disliked him as a person and as a politician, but he did not deserve this.

On bad advice, badly prepared, an emotional Patrick Brown read a bad speech and committed political suicide.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

A Christmas Tale for Doug Ford.

Tuesday, December 25th, 2018

Doug Ford tells us he is something of a Christian and that might mean he has been looking forward to this Christmas. He has been on a roll since January this year when the gates to the premier’s job opened up to him. He was even anointed by the controversial Prayer Palace Church to become leader of Ontario’s progressive conservatives. Until then, he had nothing more exciting to look forward to this year than another attempt to defeat John Tory for the Toronto mayoralty.

But he won the conservative leadership instead. The world was his oyster, so to speak. He was launched into the June election with little time to prepare and less time to think. Mind you, thinking is not something that Doug Ford does well.

Ford is better with salesman’s slogans. No thinking involved there, He was going to ‘Axe the Tax,’ Fire the ‘Six-million Dollar Man,’ have ‘Buck a Beer’ and be ‘For the People.’ It is the populist style of people such as Donald Trump and it also works for Doug Ford.

Maybe there were slogans he forgot. There must have been one about cutting Toronto Council to small town size. He needed to work on that one but he did not forget to do it. Unfortunately, the election campaign had already started for 47 council seats when Dougie arbitrarily cut the number of councillors back to 25. “Damn the expense,” said Dougie.

The consummate populist, Dougie has been full of surprises for the people of Ontario. Like the salesman, he is, he sure knows how to run up the bills. He fired the ‘six-million dollar man’ at Hydro One and costs to-date are estimated at more than $150 million. Much of that cost was in penalties for a failed takeover of an American hydro company in the State of Washington.

And then there is the attempt to compromise the Ontario Provincial Police. That blunder is ongoing and we will have to wait to see the outcome.

But today’s story is special. It has something to do with the ghost of his late brother Rob Ford visiting Dougie on Christmas Eve. It seems there will be three more ghosts coming to visit Dougie. They will be the ghosts of Christmas’ past, present and future. It can only portend something good if Dougie comes running out of his house on Christmas morning looking for a place to buy a goose.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

For want of a wall.

Monday, December 24th, 2018

About a quarter million Americans can now be classified as slaves. They are not being paid for their work. They have to do their jobs anyway. You will understand this better when you realize that they work for an organization that has Donald Trump as its chief executive officer. These people all work for the Trump Administration.

Mind you it takes more than one party to create an impasse. The Senate had a money bill to pass and then for president Trump to sign. Mr. Trump said he would only sign it if it included $5 billion for his wall to keep the Spanish-speaking hordes away from the purity of the United States of America.

The Bigot-in-Chief had promised his ignorant followers that he would build a wall across the south of the country. It was the cornerstone, so to speak, of his campaign for the presidency. At his rallies, he would have them all screaming “Build the wall!”

This type of impasse could not happen in Canada. In Canada the supply of money to the government administration is provided by what are called supply bills. If one of these bills is defeated in parliament, the government that proposed it is considered defeated and the problem of money is handed to the Governor General (representing the Queen). This worthy then makes the payments to the civil servants and either calls on someone else to try to form a government or calls for a general election.

Regrettably, the people who wrote the American constitution did not think of this. Since many of them were slave owners anyway, they did not worry very much about people being paid. And they only allowed the administration to be changed every four years. They did allow for impeachment but they hardly made it easy.

And that is why for want of a wall, a presidency can be lost. The question is though, can those American government employees afford to wait two years for their paycheques? (Translation note: Americans call them ‘paychecks.’)

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Who’s left at the Trump White House?

Sunday, December 23rd, 2018

OK, so it is hard to get good help these days. The problem is that the revolving door they put on the employee’s entrance at the White House is getting far more traffic than even president Donald Trump’s detractors expected. The question is, is the atmosphere just getting more toxic or has that ship of state sprung too many leaks. Is that ship sinking?

And it is not just rats that are deboarding. The one group that the Incompetent-in-Chief had shown some respect for was the military. Even these people are going AWOL. When the secretary of defence says something akin to “I’m out of here,” you know that president Trump is in trouble. General Jim Mattis was about the last guy left who gave any touch of class or sanity to the Trump board of directors.

General Mattis had the good grace to resign with time for president Trump to choose a successor and (maybe) have the candidate confirmed by the Senate. He made it clear in his resignation letter that he disagreed with Donald Trump and his version of the truth.

He told the president that America’s strength was based on its relationships with its allies. He said the allies should be treated with respect and the country’s leadership has to be clear-eyed about the threats to America. While he was obviously very concerned about the president over-riding the concerns of his advisors and pulling America’s 2000 troops out of Syria, those concerns could also apply to allies such as Canada and Mexico.

America’s military leaders were very concerned about their troops who were supporting the Kurds in the battles with Daesh in Syria. There was no confirmation whatsoever of Trump’s claim that Daesh was defeated. It also left the Kurds at the mercy of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and his friends in Russia. The military analysts and many others believe that al-Assad will retaliate against the Kurds in an outright attempt at genocide. Without the Americans there, it will be without witnesses.

With the departure of General Mattis, it is felt that there will be no adults left in the administration. This will become clearer as Trump tries to find a credible replacement for Mattis.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

And a Very Merry to B.C.

Saturday, December 22nd, 2018

And here we were worried that our friends out on the Left Coast were being had! They got a really nice pre-Christmas present the other day. They got rid of one of the worst suggestions we had seen for a form of proportional voting. The citizens wisely said “No” in the referendum.

And if you expected more than 42.6 per cent of those eligible to mail in a ballot (on time), you had delusions about the interest in the subject. Admittedly there is a small core group who are agitating for proportional voting but it is very likely that they have not considered all the ramifications.

It would the same as Justin Trudeau in the 2015 election, standing there saying it was the last time we would use first-past-the-post voting. It was not his decision to make and he had obviously not given the promise the thought it needed.

We were also lucky that the elitist parliamentary committee established by the Trudeau government that studied voting did not find an answer either. The committee only listened to political scientists who had never gotten out the vote. They listened to academics who only understood the theories. They did not listen to very many people who understood communicating with the voters.

And that seemed to be the major failing of the people who put together the voting questions on the B.C. referendum. The three proposed voting systems were overly complex. And saying that the questions that went unanswered would be handled later by the politicians was a guaranteed turn-off.

It is obvious that Canadian voters are used to our first-past-the-post voting and while it is not perfect, it works for us. Like any system though, it needs frequent review and updating. We need to develop a secure Internet voting system to speed the voting process and reduce overall costs. We also need to consider the complaint that too often we are electing people by less than a majority and we need to consider some run-off election techniques.

But the obvious answer is that first-past-the-post voting works and Canadians have shown that they prefer it.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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