Archive for May, 2019

War Rooms from the political past.

Tuesday, May 21st, 2019

It started back in the late 1970s and 80s when Senator Keith Davey, some of us liberal apparatchiks and the marketing communications experts, who volunteered their time, started to look on other parties as enemy combatants. I was even quoting Carl von Clausewitz’ On War when talking about campaigning to groups of party faithful. It was a stretch, but also fun, talking about beating your opponents with a war-like strategy.

The idea became somewhat passé later in the 80s when we were contending with the Mulroney government in Ottawa. It was also when a couple of New York advertising guys, Al Ries and Jack Trout, came out with a book on Marketing Warfare. It was practically Campaigning 101. We had to concede that the opposition could also read.

But the best war rooms in politics or in war are the ones nobody knows about. You can brag afterwards if you really want but in any election campaign I ever ran, the only person allowed in the committee rooms with an ego was the candidate.

This concept of a war room has become so common that PostMedia in Toronto wants to buy in on the action of Alberta premier Jason Kenney’s Energy War Room he is setting up to fight what he considers to be disinformation and lies by special interest groups in the coming election. Just why a newspaper would want to so blatantly support a province and a party in interfering with the federal election, leaves me cold. Mind you, PostMedia gave up all pretentions of neutrality in elections a long time ago.

The only problem is that Jason Kenney is not the type of person with whom you want to share any kind of room, let alone be on the same side in an election. Kenney is misogynistic, a mean-spirited schemer and a generally nasty politician.

He explains his rationale for an Energy War Room is to police the eastern media. He wants to make sure that they never use the word ‘bitumen’ when talking about what Albertans call the highly polluting, high-carbon, ‘heavy oil’ from the tar sands.


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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The Donald loves Conrad.

Monday, May 20th, 2019

This is priceless. After serving just three and a half years of his sentence in the United States for fraud and obstruction of justice, Lord Black of Cross-the Pond (or whatever) has been fulsomely pardoned by the U.S. president. There you have it. All is forgiven. Conrad Black is no longer an ex-con!

Do you think he will now come out of his modest semi-retirement in Toronto’s palatial Post Road area? Will he be lionized once again on the Toronto cocktail circuit? Will his darling wife be once again displaying her magnificent figure in her haute couture gowns for the ogling lenses of Canadian paparazzi?

Or do you think Lord Conrad will hie himself to the Brit consulate in Toronto and get himself a renewed passport to his native England. We Canadians should not forget our intense relief when he gave us all the figurative finger, told us to stuff our Canadian identity and got himself declared a Brit and appointed a British Lord.

You would even hope that the Canadian Border Services people would do their job and make sure he has not overstayed his visitor status. If he was not reputed to have a couple hundred million squirreled away somewhere, premier Doug Ford would probably demand he be sent packing before applying for welfare.

Mind you, Conrad’s pretentions, remind me of a wonderful 1949 British movie from the Ealing studios called Kind Hearts and Coronets. It was a fine example of British black comedy starring Dennis Price and Alec Guinness. Maybe Conrad did not need to use his political pull to become a lord. He could have checked those ancestor sites on the Internet to find if he was just six or seven deaths from a title and fortune.

Mind you, according to the States Attorney in U.S. District Court in Chicago in 2007, Conrad Black got his money the old-fashioned way. He defrauded his companies. The court found him guilty and the judge fined him and sent him to jail. His buddy U.S. president Donald Trump (the real estate developer) found him innocent. Who do you believe?


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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Danger signs of elitism in the Senate.

Sunday, May 19th, 2019

Prime minister Justin Trudeau is facing enough problems without his elitism coming back to bite his ass. We saw in the Senate last week where one of his elite appointees forgot who appointed her to the sinecure of the Senate. Supposedly independent senator Paula Simons from Alberta torpedoed the liberal ban on oil tankers off north-west B.C. on the senate transport committee.

This might be a bit of a sou’easter that will soon blow over but Trudeau’s environmentalism is already skating on thin ice, as it is. He hardly needs to be stabbed in the back by his own elitist choice for the senate. He would much prefer to be showing us sceptics that his elitism is paying off for Canadians as well as these people who act like the senate is their personal playpen and piggy bank.

We used to have some very conscientious senators who liked being part of the liberal caucus and did a good job of reviewing and making recommendations on new legislation.

But school teacher Trudeau did not agree. He thought we should not have liberals in the senate. He wanted them all to be elite. These elites would be chosen by an elite committee to enable the prime minister to select the best elites for service in the senate. They answer to nobody. They are beholden to nobody. They do what they want with legislation sent to them from the commons.

And this is hardly the first time the prime minister got a wake-up call from the senate that some key piece of legislation the liberals wanted was being screwed around by his elite senators. You would hope that the liberals would want to rethink this dumb elitism.

He would certainly get some support if he wanted to make the senate a form of a house of the provinces. This would be something like the American system but with more power ultimately in the hands of the house of commons.

Alternatively, we could just abolish the senate. There might be more of an argument about that but giving Canadians the right to vote on the proposition is the ultimate threat.


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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Fake news on the opioid front?

Saturday, May 18th, 2019

We were reading a poster telling us about a community meeting to discuss a proposed safe injection site in the neighbourhood. It invited anyone who wanted more information or had concerns to come to the meeting. We had barely finished reading when a voice behind us said, “It’s all a lie you know.”

It is very strange to hear that. Sure, we have had people tell us that Donald Trump was really a very fine gentleman, just misunderstood. We have even taken time to hear out climate change deniers to try to understand their reasoning better. This was a new one.

But why would anybody want to suggest that the politicians are lying about the deaths of opioid users? This has been in the news for many months. They are panicking about it on the West Coast. The Medical Office of Health in Toronto is deeply concerned. Our emergency measures people in cities such as Barrie, are frustrated and alarmed. And those fools running the Ontario government are cutting back the funding for safe injection sites needed to help stem the tide.

Do those idiots think they are saving money by letting people die?

I was amazed earlier this year when our local conservative MP wrote an item for the local grocery flier wrap about this. He actually questioned the idea of providing clean needles and a place for addicts to take drugs. I figured it was just his way of demonstrating his general incompetence.

Someone whom he respected must have gotten to him and convinced him that he should support safe injection sites. The really good news came later when he announced he would not run again for MP.

I have always been horrified over the years when seeing people heading down the slippery slide into the world of illicit drugs. It is a terrible waste of human life. I see the safe injection sites as an opportunity for knowledgeable workers to connect and maybe save the lives of some of these people. It is certainly worth the small cost.


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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Scratch the Mark Norman affair.

Friday, May 17th, 2019

If you are looking for something with which to attack the Trudeau government, do not bother with the Mark Norman affair. Norman was the vice-admiral of the Canadian Navy who almost went to trial over something to do with supply ship procurement. If Chuckles Scheer and his federal conservatives think they can make a case of this, they are likely whistling past the graveyard.

Wise politicos do not play in the military’s playgrounds. People in uniform are nothing but an opportunity for publicity pictures, at best.

And before you think that Admiral Norman is going to say anything political, you can forget it. Norman’s lawyer might come across as something such as the wicked witch of the north but he is a loyal Canadian through and through. And besides, those nice liberals are going to pay all his legal fees. They have already voted in the commons to apologize to the admiral.

It is also important to remember that there is another shoe to drop. There is a civil servant also charged with what might be a related offence. That is before the courts and the wise citizen restrains those thoughts of discussing the case.

This writer was a very young air craftsman (AC2) when first venturing away from home but it gave me a very rich appreciation for my country. I must have had that experience in mind later in life when I was on the Ottawa cocktail circuit with the deputy minister of defence and the defence staff. I was reminded one time while chatting with a gentleman who had been casually introduced as a lieutenant-general. He might have been in mufti but when I realized he was an air vice marshal and head of Canada’s air force, I found myself unconsciously stiffening to attention.

Those worlds are far apart and before you think the ranks have any concern for the general staff, think again. They do not even vote in the same ballot boxes.


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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A crying towel for the Beer Store.

Thursday, May 16th, 2019

The Ontario government must be serious about Doug Ford’s promise to open up beer and wine sales in Ontario. We have both the Beer Store management (at Brewers Warehousing) and the Beer Store union paying for TV spots complaining about possible lost jobs. I wonder why? This is an opportunity for more jobs with the company, not less. To suggest that as many as 7000 unionized jobs at the Beer Store are at risk is a flat-out lie.

To begin with, there is the need for practically doubling the current distribution capability of the Beer Store. That means building new distribution nodes and hiring staff and more drivers. Why would any other company be given the right to distribute to as many as another 10,000 convenience stores, large box stores and grocery stores. It would likely make the Beer Store the largest distribution company in Ontario, if not Canada.

Secondly, the Beer Store organization could also become the largest recycling operation in Canada. Sales at all those LCBO, grocery, big box and convenience stores would stream back to the Beer Store for recycling. Some of the stores could keep their two-four business as a side line but could do far more recycling. They might even learn to do a better job of it.

Ontario citizens know that the current government at Queen’s Park would have little understanding of what is required to back up the needs of expanded retail systems. After the thrill of watching the government look stupid trying to get marijuana retailing off the ground in Ontario, we know this will not be the problem with beer and wine. We have a reasonably good distribution system in place and all we have to do is look at doubling it.

Just why the province would be paying some guy from Alberta $1000 per day to tell them how to do this, is a tough question. Maybe he could go back to Alberta and teach that province to do a better job in booze distribution with what he learns in Ontario.


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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The Ford folk play high-speed games.

Wednesday, May 15th, 2019

What is a safe speed on a highway? That is a question that the Ontario government is trying to figure out. And they are wasting their time trying to answer it and they are wasting the public’s time.

Most drivers have an inflated idea of their driving skills and tend to push their limits. What drivers really need to consider are the driving conditions, visibility and condition of the vehicle they are using. The condition of the driver and others on the road are also a factor.

As Highway 400 passes through the city of Barrie, I am very used to turning on to the highway and setting my cruise control for the average speed on the left of the southbound lanes. That setting for many years, under good driving conditions, has been 120 kilometres per hour (74.5 mph). In an average of about 30 trips per year over the past 10 years, I have never been stopped by the provincial police who regularly patrol that highway.

The truth is that the de facto speed limit on all 400 series in Ontario has been 120 kilometres per hour for many years. These are restricted-access, multilane highways with centre dividers between the lanes in each direction. Sure, you will get a ticket for careless or abrupt lane changes and other motoring infractions but someone driving carefully and considerately at 20 clicks over the speed limit does not seem to be committing an offense.

So, what are those geniuses at Queen’s Park doing? They are creating some sections of 400 series highways where the drivers can feel free to drive at 110 kilometres per hour. They tell us that it is a test to see if people really want to drive so fast. I would be more worried if the de facto speed limit went up to 130 kilometres. We have to remember that not all of us have the reaction times of a race car driver.

And remember why many people go to auto races. They are watching for the more spectacular crashes.


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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Mayor Tory asks the rhetorical.

Tuesday, May 14th, 2019

Asking a question rather than making an accusation is another piece of equipment in the politician’s toolbox. Mayor John Tory of Toronto should be an expert at this form of bafflegab. He would have learned it in his years as a disciple of Ontario premier Bill Davis. Bill never publicly confronted his opponents. They were all friends.

This came home to me the other day reading about the letter Toronto’s mayor sent to the sitting conservative MPPs (other than the premier) from Toronto at Queen’s Park. What he was asking the MPPs to do was to speak up on behalf of their constituents. It seems that the provincial government had unilaterally and retroactively cut child care benefits of more than $80 million that subsidized day care spaces for more than 6000 Toronto families.

Tory had a perfect right to be disgusted with these MPPs but he knew their response before he asked. Backbenchers who rock the boat are sent to Purgatory. They become non-entities who do not get any good committee assignments or plum trips or chance of promotion. And if they ask too many questions or otherwise raise Doug Ford’s ire, they get sent to the far corner of the legislature to commiserate with former conservatives, MPPs, Amanda Simard, Jim Wilson and Randy Hillier.

Sure, John Tory would be well aware that conservative MPPs have a right to ask questions in the confines of caucus. The problem is that Doug Ford is not all that knowledgeable about the rights of the MPPs. Nobody wants to take the chance of angering him.

And while it is a long time since I took civics in school, there is little likelihood that any Canadian politician would be running for election solely for the purpose of representing his or her constituents. The road to power today is that you are elected in the sweep of your party, you answer only to your political party and your constituents be damned.


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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Bankrupt Ontario.

Monday, May 13th, 2019

You had no idea that Ontario was bankrupt, did you? We find that conservatives seem to have a very different definition of bankrupt than most bankers and economists. The other day Ontario’s deputy premier and health minister, Christine Elliott was on Global TV’s Focus Ontario, being interviewed by news anchor, Alan Carter. She told him that they have to cut spending on the sick and poor because Ontario was left bankrupt by the last regime.

One of Alan Carter’s weaknesses as an interviewer is that he has his own opinions and is not reluctant to express them. In this case, he was incredulous. He questioned the minister on her statement. He wanted to know on what basis could the province be considered bankrupt. He even asked the widow of a former federal finance minister how bad she considered the debt to provincial gross domestic product (GDP) to be that caused the supposed bankruptcy.

The interview did not end well.

Saying that the former government mishandled the public funds, has become a political mantra in Canada and the provinces for conservatives. The conservatives blanche at any and all deficits and always promise to balance the budget sooner than those other guys.

But what they are reluctant to do is to raise taxes for the wealthy. They are much happier making things more expensive for the middle class. And they consider poor people as something of a bother.

What the conservatives are best at is nickel-diming the public. They download welfare costs to the municipalities. They cut funding to our libraries. They tighten the rules for provincial welfare programs. They will increase fares for GO trains and buses. They are cutting down on the funding for school teachers and eliminating the jobs of teaching assistants. They are increasing the costs for the insufficient number of child care spaces for working parents. And the public suffers from the pains of a thousand cuts.

Christine Elliott is a very capable woman but she will let us down on behalf of this careless, uncaring conservative government.


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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Requiem for the New Democratic Party.

Sunday, May 12th, 2019

After a lingering struggle, with the family in attendance, the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) of Tommy Douglas and the New Democratic Party of the Broadbent and Lewis families has passed into oblivion. Funeral services will be a come as you are event at summer barbeques in each of the provinces.

The federal party is survived by its provincial parties. In British Columbia, the party is only in power with the assistance from the Green party. The passing of B.C.’s estranged sister NDP organization in Alberta earlier this year, left B.C. as the only stand-alone provincial NDP government. Little can be said for Her Majesty’s loyal NDP opposition in the Legislature of Ontario under the dismal command of Andrea Horwath, MPP.

During its lifetime, the party gave up the stridency of the Regina Manifesto from 1933, softening it with the 1956 Winnipeg Declaration of Principles. The Winnipeg declaration relabelled the party in a more democratic socialist stance. The stance was further softened by the Statement of Principles of the party adopted at its 1983 convention in Regina. Each step away from the Regina Manifesto further confused the voters as to what the NDP really did believe. Attempts such as the LEAP Manifesto fell to earth, ignored.

What the New Democratic and its predecessor party did achieve was a third-party alternative for disgruntled conservatives and liberals. It seems they are passing the torch to the Greens, who do know what they want when it comes to the environment.

The failure of the NDP was its problem of being a class-based political party. It had defined its membership as the classic ‘working man’ and his family. It also attracted many academics who saw the party as the fast track to social justice. Some of the reforms that the CCF fought for over the years became reality as other parties came to agree. Canada’s early ‘Baby Bonus,’ unemployment insurance, old age pensions and Medicare were all CCF initiatives.

It was a desperation move for more power in parliament when the CCF made the deal with the Canadian Labour Congress. The new democratic party that was created in 1961 was too little and to late in the faster pace of social development in Canada in the last half of the 20th Century. Despite a brief populist appeal by leader Jack Layton in 2011, the party failed to capture the confidence of Canadians.


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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