Archive for January, 2019

Out in the open with ‘Chuckles’ Scheer.

Thursday, January 31st, 2019

It’s time. Canada’s conservatives can no longer keep their leader a secret. Bloggers and broadcasters, reporters and speech writers are all digging into his history to find something to say about MP Andrew Scheer. He has been hiding in plain sight in Ottawa for the past year and a half. It is just that by keeping him secret, the Tory fund raisers brought in twice as much as the liberal party last year.

‘Chuckles,’ as we like to call him, is really the Tin Woodman who will be travelling down the Yellow Brick Road to the October 21 election this year. And, as you probably know, the Tin Woodman wants the Wizard of Oz to provide him with a heart. He wants to be seen as aware and caring.

The problem is that Chuckles is an uninspiring, uninteresting and boring western conservative.

Chuckles is also an excellent example of the last-man-standing of preferential balloting. In that type of voting, the voters drill down on the ballot to effectively select the least obnoxious of the candidates. It took 13 ballots in the conservative party counting to find that Chuckles was the least obnoxious of the 13 conservative party candidates. He finally got 51 per cent of the votes, narrowly beating out fellow Tory MP Maxime Bernier who had 49 per cent.

Chuckles’ claim to fame in the conservative party is his longevity as a Saskatchewan MP and serving as the tame Speaker in the House of Commons for the last term of the Harper government. That was when the conservative government had a majority and passed most of its undemocratic legislation. Chuckles was not known for his fairness while wearing the black robes of Speaker.

Chuckles ran a desultory campaign for the conservative leadership under the slogan “Real conservative, Real leader.” He was considered a front runner because of the 32 members of the conservative caucus who supported his campaign. His continued allegiance to prior party leader Stephen Harper has earned him the sobriquet, ‘Stephen Harper Lite.’

And to add to that is to imagine someone even more boring than former PM Stephen Harper.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

 

Politics in anxious times.

Wednesday, January 30th, 2019

If prime minister Justin Trudeau had his druthers, he would not want an election this year. It is simply bad timing. Canadians are anxious. It is not any one thing. The world is just not behaving as it should. Not even the weather is acting as normal. People are concerned. There is that clown in the White House in Washington. You can hardly blame everything on him, even if you would like to.

And what can you count on? The stock market is just perverse. The Brits are stupidly leaving the European Union and do not admit why. The rich are getting richer and the rest of us are getting poorer. And have you seen the price of bread recently?

People are pissed. They are looking for scapegoats. They hardly need another stupid politician to get in their way. Justin Trudeau and his little friends have worked their hearts out for our approval. Sure, they blew a few promises. Yes, you will be using first-past-the-post voting in October. Maybe they did save the North American trade agreement from that terror Trump. Who knows?

But do not ask for the right to die in a frivolous manner. There is more than one way to default on a promise.

The liberals are going to spend the election telling us how well the economy is doing and how much they love the middle class. The opposition are going to tell us, it can be better. The liberals will tell us what a great job they are doing for the environment. The opposition will tell us the environment is just fine, thank you. The liberals want a price on carbon. The opposition will tell you it is just a tax grab.

But why did the liberals buy the Trans Mountain pipeline to ship highly polluting bitumen from Alberta to countries that do not care about pollution?

The liberal cabinet spent an expensive weekend retreat in Quebec recently planning their messaging for the campaign. The message is ‘vote for us and take another selfie with Justin.’

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Brown bounces back.

Tuesday, January 29th, 2019

This is not a contrite political Patrick Brown bragging about his comeback from being a nobody. This is a brazen Brown bragging that he has bested the best. Comfortably ensconced in the mayor’s chair in Brampton, Ontario, he has four years to choose his next steps. And he expects CTV television network to pay his passage back to power.

A few days back, January 25, was a sort of anniversary for Brown. He not only resigned as leader of the Ontario conservatives a year ago, he gave up a clear shot at becoming premier of Ontario. What was obvious to all of us Brown baiters at the time was that he had to be brought down. It was either his financial manipulations or under-age women that would do the job.

Personally, I preferred the financial questions but the answers to that route were well hidden. Our best guess was that it was some of his conservative enemies who played the under-age girls card with the help of cronies at CTV News. It turned out that the ploy got him to resign as leader of the Ontario PCs. A vindictive caucus of Tories at Queen’s Park finished the job.

But Brown is as slippery as they come. When Doug Ford and the caucus made it clear that they did not want him at Queen’s Park, he looked around for other roads to redemption. The Peel Region chair was a new opportunity—and look where the Toronto Region chair took Paul Godfrey. And the largely undefined job paid well.

Ford slammed that door shut in an oddly vindictive manner. With only hours to go before the deadline, Brown opted for the mayoralty in Brampton. Not only was incumbent Linda Jeffrey vulnerable but he had a major part of his organization that won the Tory leadership for him based there.

Brown could have also vied for the mayoralty in Barrie but he had little confidence in who was loyal back in his home town. He also remembered the trouncing incumbent Jeff Lehman had dealt his uncle Joe Tascona when Lehman first ran for the Barrie mayoralty.

Brown had bought and paid-for connections with the dominant South Asian community in Brampton and it was this faction that gave him the Brampton mayoralty. Down the road further, who knows what challenges he will tackle?

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Potholes on the Yellow Brick Road.

Monday, January 28th, 2019

While the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and the Cowardly Lion are still planning their trip with Dorothy to the Emerald City and the October election in Canada, it is best to check for potholes. Peering into one of these potholes the other day, I saw Canada’s former ambassador to China sitting in it and wondering how he got there.

This is a serious hazard for the Cowardly Lion. It took Justin Trudeau almost a week to fire our politico-cum-ambassador. The arguments must have raged at the Prime Minister’s Office but it took a second attempt to put foot in mouth that got McCallum bounced. And nobody ever said McCallum was wrong—wrong to tell the truth, maybe.

It is against this news background that author Jonathan Manthorpe is making hay selling his new book on China, Claws of the Panda. I have not read it yet but I am still waiting for Jon to autograph my copy of his first book, The Power and the Tories about the Bill Davis government in Ontario.

Interestingly, while Jon was in China trying to fathom the depth of the country’s communist government, I was watching Beijing extend its influence into Canadian-Chinese news media. I had the impression that those people understood more about the future of newspaper publishing than Conrad Black, Paul Godfrey and Torstar’s John Honderich, combined.

My best source of information at the time were the many delegations from Beijing that I took on tours and entertained for a computer company. They usually assumed I was a fellow technologist and they always enjoyed their visit. It earned me many invitations from other high level visits from Beijing.

But it is Hauwei’s inscrutable technologies and the extradition of Hauwei executive Meng Wanzhou affair that has the Canadian public wondering. First of all, explaining 5G networks is a tough job and how this technology can give Hauwei access to state secrets is not an easy subject for politicians to digest.

But then you also need to understand Canada’s relationship in the Five Eyes which allows us to listen in on everybody else. Which begs the question, how the hell is any of this explained to a dolt such as Donald Trump? And that clown has someone with all the nuclear codes sitting outside his door?

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

First pick a direction.

Sunday, January 27th, 2019

It is ridiculous that people are speculating about the possible leaders of the Ontario liberal party so soon. We do have a choice. And the old adage says, we can decide now and repent at leisure. As we have mentioned before, we first want to figure out where the party is going.

Looking back at the provincial scene, it is hard to say what direction the party was choosing when it chose the leader first. Kathleen Wynne’s background was touted as left wing but quickly proved that, if she had any direction in mind at all, it was liberal socially and conservative economically. The exception was in her last campaign when she opened the left-wing floodgates and confused the voters.

Her predecessor, Dalton McGuinty was an old-time middle-of-the-road liberal who did a good job on schools and protecting the environment but he was very bad in managing people—particularly those in his government’s cabinet.

The only recent liberal premier before that was David Peterson—basically a nice guy who proved to be a neoliberal. While the province was ready for what he offered, he failed to build any rapport with Ontario voters.

What Ontario voters are really looking for in Queen’s Park is a to have a party in power that really is there for the people. This is a government responsible for the delivery of effective Medicare in the province, as well as ensuring that we have schools, colleges and universities that meet our needs for today and tomorrow. It is the level of government that deals with our daily living, our municipalities, our infrastructure (roads and bridges and public transit), our environment and a myriad of services that contribute to our quality of life.

These services require a government that understands that we are individuals with individual needs. We are not a collective. Nor are we necessarily competitive. We are not satisfied with minimal cost services. We want the best services at a reasonable cost. We want to be respected in the delivery of the services in a friendly society.

Real liberals believe in that type of society.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

“Keep your enemies closer.”

Saturday, January 26th, 2019

Born in Chicago in 1901, my mother never did entirely lose the biases of her upbringing. She was something of a traffic hazard the way she drove her walker in the seniors’ residence in downtown Toronto where she spent her final years.

I remember one time she was proudly telling me how she got her fellow seniors out to vote for our new provincial attorney general in the David Peterson government. While it was common knowledge that Ian Scott was gay, he considered it a personal matter and it was never mentioned publicly when he ran in politics. I will never know what perversely caused me to say to mother that the Toronto gay community would be appreciative of her seeing the light.

The trouble was, she was smart as ever and when she realized what I was telling her, she proved she was as feisty as ever, even in her nineties. And yet she had raised six children and I have never heard a discriminatory or intolerant word from any of my siblings. We lived in the heart of the Church and Wellesley neighbourhood as children and knew at a young age far more about human sexuality and tolerance than many people ever learn as adults.

But my point today is that I am deeply disappointed with the Toronto LGBT community. (And I do not add the ‘Q’ to that because I have never called anyone ‘queer’ in my life and I am not going to start now.)

What I am concerned about is Toronto’s Pride Parade. It is beyond understanding that there are people in the community who are set on destroying the best example of openness and tolerance that we have ever known. I understood it when it was just those ‘Black Lives Matter’ wannabes who were causing trouble just to get attention for themselves. Now you have people denying the inclusiveness of the parade to try to keep uniformed police out of the parade.

Whatever the hell is their complaint about Toronto police, they should take it to the Police Services Board. The Pride Parade is a place for all.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

John McCallum is no diplomat.

Friday, January 25th, 2019

Canada’s ambassador to China never was a diplomat. He is a politician. Maybe he has always been too much of a neoliberal to my taste but he finally did what Justin Trudeau could not. He told the truth about the situation of chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou of Huawei. And he made it public.

As much as it might have been an error to appoint the Markham, Ontario, politician to the ambassadorial post, it certainly paid off when Justin Trudeau and his staff did not seem to understand the political implications of the Huawei executive’s detention and possible extradition to the U.S.

Trudeau was wrong to simply use the argument that Canada is a country of law, conflicting with the Chinese oligarchical system of governance. U.S. president Donald Trump opened a door by saying that the U.S. could use the charge against Weng as leverage in the current China-U.S. trade dispute. For the U.S. to use the case as leverage in a trade dispute could be grounds for a Canadian judge to deny the extradition.

Also, ambassador McCallum mentioned the extraterritorial factors, without elaborating. It is assumed that he was referring to the U.S. lawmakers’ penchant for creating laws that pertain to actions in countries other than the U.S. These are rarely recognized in Canada.

And that is the third factor the ambassador mentioned. He noted that the Iran sanctions on which the case against Huawei is based are not recognized in Canada. John McCallum is not a lawyer but it sounds like he had some good advice from some lawyers before he made his comments.

McCallum can even say he was out of line, later. He is unlikely to want to put that genie back in the bottle.

And when the prime minister goes out of his way to not criticize his former cabinet colleague for going off the approved (?) talking points, one wonders if the entire scenario was not planned carefully? It is certainly possible but I do not think the denizens of the Prime Minister’s Office are that smart.

Bravo John McCallum.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Ford follows Forrest.

Thursday, January 24th, 2019

Remember the famous line from the blockbuster film: Forrest Gump?   It was “Stupid is as stupid does.” The point was that stupid people keep on doing stupid things because that is what they are.

But if the Economic Club of Canada audience gave Ontario premier Doug Ford a standing ovation for his speech the other day, who is stupid now?

Mind you, there are those of us who recognize the private company, known as the Economic Club, as offering events that are nothing more than profit-making entertainment for egos. You should hardly confuse the company’s ‘pop-up’ audiences for its events as necessarily having anything to do with the study of economics.

And for the premier of Ontario to stand up before the news media and that audience and encourage the belief that a carbon tax would take Ontario into a recession is irresponsible. The man has absolutely no credibility in the field of economics nor a realistic basis for his claim. At the same time, there are media companies that delight in scandalously using such claims for shock headlines.

What real economists consider the minor impact of any carbon taxes, is premier Ford’s bogey man. He was there to create fear. He is looking for public support for him to wage a war with prime minister Trudeau. Luckily, to-date, Mr. Trudeau has mainly ignored his claims.

As it is now, Mr. Ford has launched a storm on social media with economists and others who recognized the ridiculous nature of his claims. Social media do tend to remind you of the old joke on the t-shirt that have an arrow pointing right or left and say, “I’m with stupid.”

But for the citizens of Ontario, Ford reminds them almost every day of the adage of Forrest Gump’s momma who always said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

The dynamics are different.

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019

When talking about dynamics in politics, we are talking about what will influence the political outcome. And in looking at the upcoming by-elections in three federal electoral districts on February 25, we have to deal with each district as a separate entity.

Reading the tea leaves for the three by-elections is especially important because these will be the last federal by-elections before the general election scheduled for October, this year.

The complexity starts in Burnaby South. The electoral district in Vancouver, B.C. was previously held by Kennedy Stewart of the NDP. Mr. Stewart resigned to run successfully as an independent candidate for Vancouver mayor. He strongly opposes having the Trans Mountain pipeline expanded and coming through the city to transfer diluted bitumen from the Athabasca and Cold Lake tar sands to ocean tankers in Burrard Inlet.

Despite the resignation of the initial liberal candidate, her replacement is a former Speaker of the B.C. Legislature, also of Chinese heritage. With 38 per cent of the district population of Chinese descent, he has the same base as the previous candidate.

If the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh can get out the word forcefully that he opposes the Trans Mountain, he will likely get a lot of help in getting out his vote. Mind you he will have the prime minister and lots of cabinet ministers in the riding smothering the voters with kindness.

Pipelines are of nowhere near the importance in Montreal’s Outremont electoral district. The NDP consider this riding important in that it was former NDP leader Tom Mulcair’s seat. It is also a must-win seat in October for the liberals if they are to hold their majority in parliament.

The third by-election is in Ontario’s York-Simcoe electoral district. The fiefdom of federal conservative Peter Van Loan for the past 14 years, York-Simcoe was a cake-walk for conservative Caroline Mulroney in the recent provincial election. The conservatives could be too confident.

Like all by-elections, the key in all three districts is identifying your voters and getting them out to vote. To do that in February takes far more volunteers than the areas can produce. They will need help from other electoral districts. In by-elections, it is the party with the best ground game that wins.

If the liberals win none of the by-elections, they are in trouble.

If the liberals win just one of the by-elections, it will mean the October election will be hard fought.

If the liberals win two of the by-elections, it means the status quo in October.

And if the liberals win all three of the by-elections, the Toronto Maple Leaf hockey team is also likely to win the Stanley Cup.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Wishy-washy on the Wall.

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019

It is beginning to look like there is some daylight between president Donald Trump and a faction of his Republican followers. It happened last Saturday during Trump’s speech to save his wall. He was using people already in the U.S. to trade for the $5.7 billion he needs for the initial parts of his wall. He was offering a stay of deportation for the DACA people (Dreamers) who know no other home than in America.

And, as expected, the Democratic leadership in Congress told Trump to ‘Get stuffed.’ Not that anyone can be proud of their stance while hundreds of thousands of American government employees continue to be unpaid. Mr. Trump continues to hold these people up as hostages.

But that is Mr. Trump’s choice. He has chosen to make the government employees suffer while he petulantly demands that the American taxpayers pay for his ill-considered wall. He promised that wall to his claque of followers in the 2016 election. He even promised them that it would be at no cost to Americans. He, somewhat stupidly, promised those people that the Mexicans would want to pay for the wall. Since then, the Mexican government has made it very clear that they do not pay for obscenities such as walls.

In this current Trump fiasco, he is going tit-for-tat with a very experienced politician in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She has even disinvited him to make the customary State of the Union address to congress at the end of the month. His only response, so far, is to cancel the Air Force jet that was going to take Pelosi and a House of Representatives delegation to the Middle East.

And so, it continues: Mr. Trump would rather play childish games. He would rather have close to a million government workers and their dependants angry with him for keeping their paychecks from them. At one time, he had almost 63 million Americans vote for him. He keeps finding ways to cut down that number of supporters.

And, even worse for Trump, he is angering his extremist supporters who want him to start deporting the DACA people right away. They think he is going soft on them.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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