Archive for February, 2019

The ties of Trump and Toad.

Monday, February 18th, 2019

It is doubtful that American president Donald Trump, has ever bothered to read Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows. Published in 1908 in the United Kingdom, it is a book that has delighted children everywhere for more than a century. What would surprise Mr. Trump today is how much he is like Mr. Toad of Toad Hall.

Take this one line from the Wikipedia description of the character: “Toad is intelligent, creative and resourceful; however, he is also narcissistic, self-centred almost to the point of sociopathy, and completely lacking in even the most basic common sense.”

Now, change the name to Trump. Can you tell the difference? Now I know why I often think of Mr. Trump as a big orange toad.

It is not that I particularly care about Mr. Toad or Mr. Trump. In fact, my favourite character in the book was called Mole. I saw him as the more thoughtful of the characters created by Mr. Grahame.

But Mr. Trump really needs a Mole to help him get over the hissy-fit he is having over his damn wall. He has to have someone explain to him that there is no national emergency to be perceived.

You would swear that the damn fool is proud that he shut down the U.S. government for the amount of time he did. He had no concern nor care for the people he hurt in the process. He seems to think he made the point and his claque of clowns approves.

Now that he has declared his emergency, only Trump would create the story that the barbarians are at the southern border of the United States of America plotting to assail the United States to rape and plunder. That statue lighting the way into the New York harbour with her lamp must be weeping while Mr. Trump affronts the entire world.

It can be expected that 100 years from now, American mothers will call on the spectre of a big orange toad to get their children to behave.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

A Corrected Convention.

Sunday, February 17th, 2019

The seven liberal MPPs remaining at Queen’s Park are going to carry a lot of weight in deciding the when and how of the convention to replace Kathleen Wynne as leader of the party. Not only are there possible candidates among them but they will also want to ensure that the process passes the smell test.

The last convention, that chose Wynne, did not. It has to be the last time the old guard will have had control. It has to be the last time the old guard was allowed to make the decision.

And at a time when it is very easy to give the entire membership a vote, it is hard to argue ‘why not.’ We have the membership lists. We can provide members with unique codes for access and we can have live voting across the province. We can also stop people from paying the memberships fees for large blocks of voters. We can have a real ‘One member: one vote’ leadership race.

But the one thing that the new leader must make clear is that a political party in a democracy has to be democratic itself. The party must choose its candidates in the electoral districts without interference from the leader or the central party organization.

The party members must have a full and public say in the policy direction of the party. Party platforms have to be developed in the open. No more surprise announcements by the party leader from somewhere in left or right field.

A political party is not a local service club. It is a cause. It has to be something that people can believe in. Party policy is something that party members need to discuss and get involved in developing. Training members to knock on doors during elections and getting out the vote is a critical part of getting your party’s views and programs understood and supported by the public.

You do not have a real democracy until you put some work into it.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

The Pathetic Pretenders.

Saturday, February 16th, 2019

Gilets jaunes (yellow vests) protestors are a particularly French phenomenon, as French law requires all automobiles be equipped one of those fluorescent vests in case of emergency. It made for a rather colourful, beehive-like mob scenes across France, when the emergency was determined to be the increase in taxes on gasoline and other real or imagined errors of the Macron government. The French do tend to take to the barricades when annoyed with their government.

But that does not suggest that they would want to franchise their form of protest to North Americans. Attempts to emulate the French passion for protest in Canada, have, so far, proved pathetic and immaterial.

The main difference is that the French right and left on the political spectrum can find themselves fending off ‘les flics’ (cops) together. In Canada, the fight would be between the right and left, and the cops would be trying to keep them apart.

Canadians might be better at picking up American themes when looking for a cause. The least successful in this regard were the wannabes in Toronto who picked up the American “Black Lives Matter” name but not the cause and tried to use it on this side of the border. They managed to dishonour what the name means in the U.S.

All they really managed to do here was annoy the local black community and then, ultimately, piss off the police and the Pride parade organizers. They were annoying, self-serving, trouble-makers who needed to find something useful to do.

And while you would expect that the Trump name would not travel well north of the U.S. border, he does have support here. There are the occasional covens that worship him, but so far, they have wisely kept their admiration to themselves.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Busted.

Friday, February 15th, 2019

Oh, the shame of it. My last contribution to the Liberal Party of Canada was June 16, 2016. And the party has asked me if this is a mistake? Hopefully nobody has told Justin. He would be so disappointed with me.

Luckily, I expect that only the computer knows that I made my last contribution to the party the month after its meeting in Winnipeg that canceled all memberships to the party. I had been faithfully making the same contribution every month but my membership was canceled. We were all supposed to be happy liberal supporters. I disagreed and canceled my payments.

That was a bold move for the guy who did the first fund-raising effort among the party faithful in the 1960s. I remember having 70,000 letters sitting on the boardroom table at the party’s Toronto office ready for mailing in Ontario. The party treasurer stopped in and looked at the huge stacks. He clucked, shook his head and said, “This is not going to work, Peter.” were his kind words.

The truth is my letter did not get much money but it was a start. The party had to become more self-supporting or always be beholden to its corporate benefactors.

Of course, the Internet helped. The ability to beg and plead with hundreds of thousands of people for peanut prices was first realized by the federal conservatives. And their members seem to have more money than liberal supporters. The conservatives either write better begging letters or have richer retainers. Luckily, it does not necessarily translate to votes.

But today’s liberal supporters are no slouches. They seem to respond to the pitiful pleas of the liberal party. They always tell you that a few more loonies from everyone will make all the difference.

I remember one time the president of the party and I were setting up chairs for a meeting. (Somebody has to do it!) We sat down to rest for a minute and he admitted to me that it would be easier for him to just send money but it is getting more and more people involved that helps us get out our vote during elections. I wish he had told Justin Trudeau about that involvement.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Ford Follies.

Thursday, February 14th, 2019

This entertainment is settling in for a long run. Ontario premier Doug Ford and his ensemble are enjoying their reviews. You cannot help but compare the show to the old 19th Century minstrel shows—without blackened faces, though Doug Ford does seem pleased in playing the role of Mr. Interlocutor.

In this minstrel show, the Ontario cabinet is seated in a row with Mr. Interlocutor in the middle. Each routine is a chance for another member of the troop to do his or her stuff. When the minister of colleges and universities announced cuts in student funding in Ontario, Mr. Interlocutor added that there would be no more crazy Marxist nonsense promoted.

That is the way that these routines run. The minister of health will say that big changes are coming in health care. Doug Ford has already hired his pal Reuben Devlin at $348,000 per year to tell him what those big changes will be.

Ford even tried to hire long-time Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion to tell his minister of municipalities what to do about the housing needs in Ontario. Mind you Hazel, being a wise person, said she would prefer to do it for free. At 97, Hazel has stopped saving money for her old age. And then, when she thought a little further about it, she decided she did not have the time. (There is a lot of humour in these minstrel shows.)

The funniest routine that the show came up with last week was the announcement by environment minister Rod Phillips that the province intended to give taxpayers’ money to the polluters to get them to try to stop their polluting ways. Even Doug Ford could not top that one.

Mind you, the environmental stuff is a rolling situation. Phillips changed his mind and is now saying polluters will pay but not as much as the federal government wants. Ontario will now have a carbon tax but want to call it something else because they are still suing the federal government over the carbon tax.

But I am going to have to stop this comparison to minstrel shows. It will get me in trouble.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

‘Chuckles’ checks campaign conditions.

Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

With the new democratic leader Jagmeet Singh tied up in a do-or-die by-election in Vancouver and the prime minister under steady fire on the SNC-Lavalin debacle, the conservative leader is out testing fault-lines for the coming election in the Fall. While Andrew ‘Chuckles’ Scheer is not particularly glib, he seems to have hired some better writers.

In a test flight of fancy in Fredericton the other night, he got off the line that a liberal carbon tax is “a tax on commuters and a free pass for polluters.” For pure, lyrical political B.S., you have to put a mark on the wall for ‘Chuckles’ on that one.

The liberal plan, as this writer understands it, is that the federal government is collecting money from people who make carbon producing products such as gas for your automobile and they will give you a credit on your income tax for your share of this bonanza. Of course, Imperial Oil et al will promptly charge the bill from the government to you at the gas pump. If you are lucky, the government gives you your money back.

This money that has gone on the merry-go-round of carbon tax to taxpayers’ dividend will also improve the volumes and velocity of the money supply. Economists like to analyze things like that.

Mind you, ‘Chuckles’ says that job number one, if he ends up in the prime minister’s office, is to cancel such carbon pricing. For some reason, he thinks it is an imposition on “hard-working families.”

It was at this point that he gave a shout-out to New Brunswick’s new conservative premier Blaine Higgs, who was in the audience. He welcomed the premier to the good fight against carbon taxes.

‘Chuckles’ also tried a few lines on Trudeau and the new NAFTA. Other than failing the dairy farmers, it was not all that clear what he was complaining about. He needs to work on that one. Maybe one of his aides could read both versions for him and tell him what has changed.

It was a good start for ‘Chuckles’ in New Brunswick. He has no MPs from the province in his caucus and prospects are not that great for this Fall. He started there because he needs the practice.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Trump and Trudeau fail Venezuela.

Tuesday, February 12th, 2019

Venezuela’s oil-based economy continues to collapse. The Americans are helping it collapse. And what the Canadian interest is, defies imagination. The corrupt and destructive Nicolás Maduro regime in the country, after the incompetence of the Hugo Chavez era, has created economic chaos. The world watches as China and the Russians pay lip service to supporting the Maduro regime.

One in ten of Venezuelans has already fled from their once stable country to neighbouring countries. The Americans keep imposing more sanctions that are causing increased suffering for the people. Millions are starving. Medicines are scarce or non-existent. The streets are full of hungry and angry people. The country is a powder keg ready to explode. And what the hell is Canada doing to really help?

Frankly the American interest in Venezuela is easier to understand. Venezuela has the world’s largest reserve of bitumen-based heavy crude oil that is far less polluting to refine into synthetic crude oil than Canada’s dirty tar sands bitumen. And the Venezuelan product is readily available to the Americans, being conveniently located on the south side of the Gulf of Mexico. The Americans would be crazy not to ensure their easy access to that cheap oil. Many of their Texas gulf coast refineries are set up to handle the Venezuelan bitumen. So, what do they use as sanctions? They refuse to buy or pay for the Venezuelan heavy crude!

While Maduro might have been busy stealing billions from the country, he has obviously been generous with his generals. Their continued loyalty to his regime is making new elections or a reasonable transition to the self-proclaimed president Juan Guaidó more difficult as the turmoil continues. You can hardly solve problems caused by undemocratic actions by encouraging undemocratic actions on your behalf. The people appear to be more and more desperate and it would likely take some very small events in Venezuela to light the tinder of civil war.

If it comes to an armed conflict, neither Canada nor the United States have a role to play beyond providing humanitarian aid. The two northern countries would not be welcomed by either side.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

The snake to the right.

Monday, February 11th, 2019

There are times when we have compared politics to the game of Snakes and Ladders. The political edition is deadlier than the children’s game you remember. Just ask former liberal justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould about the ride when you slide down one of those snakes?

But right now, we are looking to the right of the game board where former conservative MP Maxime Bernier is trying to get into the game. To the consternation of conservative leader ‘Chuckles’ Scheer, Bernier is sucking the crazies from the conservative play list. The alt-right in Canada have been looking for a political home. They are not among your more lovable next-door neighbours but they do get out to vote.

Bernier might deny that he wants their vote but it was his obvious starting point when he blew off the foolishness of supporting ‘Chuckles’ as conservative leader. His People’s Party of Canada has to be built from the extremist libertarians, neo-Nazis, bigots, white supremist, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and anti-multicultural dissidents. If Donald Trump can put together a winning coalition among similar such groups in the United States of America, Maxime Bernier figures he can do it in Canada.

Mind you, Bernier is a product of the fading bigotry and tribalism that is the last stronghold of the Catholic Church and the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society in Quebec. The occasional pseudo nationalist outburst in the West is just a reaction to the parochial nature of disagreements with Ottawa over the years, promoted by mean and small-minded western politicians.

But it is in Quebec and the West where the core of Bernier’s party is being built. It is amusing to watch ‘Chuckles’ gnash his teeth over it. It is not the seats in parliament that Bernier might win, but the seats in parliament that Bernier can keep the conservatives from winning, that is concerning for ‘Chuckles’ and his conservatives.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

A shadow from the right.

Sunday, February 10th, 2019

On behalf of the Right Honourable Clarence Decatur Howe, I object. There were many assumptions made about the man when he was alive and many more after his passing. My problem is with what the C.D. Howe Institute does in his name. He does not deserve the presentations of the political right wing that bear his name today.

Howe was never a true politician. He was a man of his times. He was from neither the left or right of the political spectrum. In many ways, he failed as a politician and achieved as a great Canadian.

C.D., as he was known, came into politics in the Great Depression as he needed a job and the country needed a businessman to help correct the problems the depression had created. He was a bull in a china shop in parliament. He just got the job done.

This is the man who got Canadian National Railways back on track. He established the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC-Radio Canada). This is the guy who gave the country a national airline, Air Canada (as Trans-Canada Airlines at the time).

Where C.D. really proved his worth to Canada was in the Second World War. They called him ‘Minister of Everything.’ He put the country on a war footing and never looked back. He organized business people who knew production into dollar-per-year volunteers in the war effort. He might have tread on a few toes during the war but he and the Mackenzie King government did the job required and changed Canada forever.

But there was also the assumption that C.D. was doing this as a businessman. That is a misconception. At no time, in the years C.D. served his adopted country, did he do it for just business reasons. He did it for the country. He always acknowledged the supremacy of parliament. He was a liberal of his day. He was probably more of a neoliberal than we would tolerate today

C.D. Howe was talented and tenacious, tough and thorough. I hardly think he would be pleased that his shadow of effectiveness lives on in the hands of the right wing in the institute named after him. Reading the recent shadow budget for Canada produced for the Institute, it reads as though written by careless conservative ideologues. It lacks compassion, it lacks vision and it is a disservice to a great Canadian.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

‘Super-agencies,’ been there; done that.

Saturday, February 9th, 2019

Health care in Ontario is a machine of many parts. It seems the Ford government wants to start collecting those parts into one super agency. The only problem with this is that there once was a super agency responsible for health care in the province. It was called the Ministry of Health. And it was the ministry itself that created all the disparate parts of the system with which the public is faced today.

Do the parts work well? Not really. Would a super agency work well? Not really. Would a super agency save money? Not in the long run.

But the mystical theory of all conservatives is that the fewer the agencies involved, efficiencies will follow. In theory, they are right. The only problem is that when you make a mistake in health care, you are mistreating people. It gets noticed faster.

When the 14 local health integration networks (LHINs) were established in Ontario, it was an attempt to take critical local decisions down to where they could be made closer to the needs of the patient. This localized arrangement was further structured more recently when local services such as home health services were taken over by the LHINs. If the idea was to reduce the heat on the Ministry of Health, it failed. And if the idea was to cut down on the size of the Ministry of Health, it failed.

The best guess of the Ford government’s intentions is that the 14 LHINs might be reduced to five regional oversight bodies. How this is supposed to save money is not clear to people who know how governments add and subtract. It is definitely not as simple as dividing by 14 and multiplying by five.

The danger that is obvious in this mathematical exercise is that many of the local services could be orphaned again. And woe to the local politician who gets caught in the cross fire. All I know is that for every act of kindness for a patient in Toronto, some sick soul is getting screwed out in the boonies.

It is disconcerting that health minister Christine Elliott—who was supposed to be one of the adults at the cabinet table—keeps talking about some sort of health care transformational policy that is coming.

It is even more disturbing that we hear that premier Ford has appointed his crony Rueben Devlin, former CEO of Humber River Hospital, to come up with this transformational policy at an annual stipend of $348,000 per year.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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