Archive for January, 2020

When NIMBY’s win, we all lose.

Friday, January 31st, 2020

It has been almost a year since Barrie city council decided to do further research on a safe injection site in their town. Some of my neighbours were there to tell the councillors that they did not want it in their neighbourhood. I am sorry I was not there. I would have forgiven the neighbours who did not know better. I would not have forgiven the councillors who had a moral responsibility to lead and failed us.

The location chosen by an expert group lead by the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, the Gilbert Centre and Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) was at the CMHA district centre just a few doors up Mulcaster Street from Barrie City Hall. It is across the street from the Ontario courts. That is why most of the larger homes in the area have been converted to lawyers’ offices. The experts had researched the question for about a year before deciding on this location.

And yet they were told that is not enough. The detractors claimed that the year of work was “fundamentally flawed.” They failed to explain how they also thought it was something that could “devastate a neighbourhood.”

Another complaint from the NIMBY’s was that it was too close to the David Busby Centre that deals with outreach to the homeless. The fact it is nearby seems irrelevant when you realize the difference in clientele. It also seems a puzzle as to just how big these people think Barrie’s downtown might be?

As important as it is that these people be heard, you have to wonder how nine people can convince council to bend to their will. Barrie has a critical situation in connection to the consumption of opioids. It is reputed to have the second worst problem among large cities in Ontario. Councillor Keenan Aylwin claimed that further delay in approving a site will lead to “dozens more deaths.”

It is hard for anyone to justify the unnecessary deaths caused by this further delay in what is an urgent need. Barrie council had a responsibility to its citizens and it should have done its job. For a bunch of NIMBY’s to come to council to delay this further is a disgrace for the entire city.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

The newest ‘persecuted class.’

Thursday, January 30th, 2020

It has always been amusing that the news media make a point of having reporters on hand who represent this persecuted class or that one. They are always at the ready to claim that the racial group or demographic they represent is being persecuted by the presumed powers who are running things. What is amusing about this is what I have always thought of as the Pogo Effect. This is cartoonist Walt Kelly’s creation from the Okefenokee Swamp. Pogo is a possum who has met the enemy and discovered that ‘It is us.’

But we saw the ultimate conclusion of this thinking the other day. It was in a detailed explanation of the quandary facing the republican senators in the Trump trial. A senior Washington bureau chief of a Canadian newspaper was saying that the newest persecuted class in the United States is republicans. Standing in the vanguard of this class is the much-pilloried Donald Trump.

And now tell that to a kid from a hardscrabble childhood in downtown Toronto. Please do not tell me about the vagaries of life and the feeling of rejection. Ill-fitting, hand-me-down clothes and a bad haircut are just as identifying as skin colour and the shape of your eyes.

But we hardly need a tag day for American republicans. The republican senators in Washington are a self-serving lot. Their masters are the real climate-change deniers. They are the spawn of John D. Rockefeller’s oil barons, the coal exploiters who are destroying the Appalachian Mountains, and the military-industrial complex who thrive on the rumours of war. And more to be pitied are the adherents to this warped and dying concept of right-wing politics spreading like a disease across the continent.

History will not be kind to the Trump presidency. It will be a dark blob on the story of a once-envied nation. A nation that is being reduced to a ‘could have been.’

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

The politician and the poser.

Wednesday, January 29th, 2020

We met with one of the Ontario liberal leadership candidates the other day. He is Michael Coteau, MPP for Don Valley East. His pitch to the liberals present was impressive. He has style, he is progressive, he is articulate and he is relaxed. Listening to his talk I saw an interesting counterpoint to the efforts of education minister Stephen Lecce.

The biggest difference was that Coteau had spent two terms in office as a school trustee in Toronto before becoming a member of the legislature. He could discuss the current strife between the conservatives and the school boards without notes, without a teleprompter and with obvious candour. In fact, he had some good advice for Mr. Lecce.

Lecce’s problem is that he lacks the depth in his portfolio. He was thrown into it to try to rescue the conservative government’s heavy-handed approach to change—which, in their terms, is known as ‘Our way or the highway.’

He had no way of knowing the history of the class-size wars between government and the teachers’ unions. He obviously was not aware of the resistance from educators over the last forty years to academic courses being taught on computers. And firing supposedly excess teachers across the province in preparation for these changes, got more than the teachers’ backs up.

As Michael Coteau said to the liberals, the premier and the minister had obviously not done their homework.

In balance to the Coteau presentation (which was in Orillia), education minister Lecce was in Barrie for a photo opportunity with Barrie-Springwater—Oro-Medonte MPP Doug Downey (from Severn, Ontario) and the other local conservative member of the legislature.  The subject of the day was bullying. Now this is a subject with which Lecce should be familiar, as he is a graduate of St. Michael’s College School, a private school for boys in Toronto that is famous for high annual fees and its bullying experience.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Who do you trust?

Tuesday, January 28th, 2020

Trust seems to be on a sliding scale throughout your life. Trust is as simple as giving your baby a small toss and the loving feeling as the child squeals with laughter as you catch and hold the little tyke to you. Trust is family. Trust is in holding the child’s hand as you teach him or her how to safely cross a street. And trust transfers over the years as the young adult steadies the elder as you also journey through life.

Trust is earned. Trust is learned. Trust is what helps sustain us through our years. The retailer wants our trust in the products and services offered. The police, fire and emergency services want our trust should their services be needed. The news media want our trust that their reporting is fair and balanced. Our teachers and educators want our trust of their lessons. Our neighbours want our trust in exchange for theirs. Communities live and thrive in trust.

And yet, how can we trust politicians? Do they all speak the language of ambiguity? Do they speak through a smoke-screen of ‘ifs’? Do they consider their knowledge and logic superior to ours? Do they offer a future or are they locked into the fixed tenets of their ideology?

It would pay us well to consider. Are we seeking Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ or are we enjoining other locked-in visions of long-dead philosophers? Since Marx and Engels did not envision a vibrant, educated middle class, who then represent today’s proletariat?

What we have to face today is the growing dissatisfaction with our politicians. The reality is that we need politicians who can prove they have earned our trust. We want to be represented by the person who grew up next door. We want them to be tireless in negotiating a better life for all.

We want to be able to trust them.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

 

 

The conservative leadership is no prize.

Monday, January 27th, 2020

The problem most people seem to be having with taking on the leadership of the conservative party is the party itself. Jean Charest said it best when he said that the party had changed much since he was involved federally back in the 90s. He was too much of a gentleman to note that the conservative party has become the playground of a nasty bunch of self-obsessed ideologues.

It was Stephen Harper who drove that truck downhill in Canada. And his lead disciples are Jason Kenney in Alberta and Doug Ford in Ontario. The crazies are in command. Look at Donald Trump in the United States. He is using the Republican’s Grand Old Party as cannon fodder in his battle against impeachment.

Back in the 1970s and 80s, I used to laughingly say some of my best friends were conservatives. But I was serious that in that time frame that there were conservatives who had some good ideas and cared about people other than themselves. I admired many of them.

In fact, my problem today is that too many of the liberals we are hearing from are more like the conservatives of 50 years ago. They have stopped being progressive. They are using conservative excuses. They take a baby step and call it a stride forward. And when it comes to the environment, I am very much worried about where today’s liberals are headed.

The other day a political commentator compared turning down a chance at being prime minister to Prince Harry and his duchess wanting to dump the trappings of royalty. I think that was reaching but there are some similarities in the feeling of uselessness of being royal and in the life of a back-bench member of parliament.

I have no idea who could have got to Pierre Poilievre. Maybe the pit bull had a revelation and stepped out of the race. Or maybe, it was that the pit bull realized that he did not have the stuff of a leader. He has to stay in the role, he does best.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

The smart ones fight on.

Sunday, January 26th, 2020

Former Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne could learn something from MPP Michael Coteau. He is no quitter. Wynne did irreparable harm to Ontario liberals in the 2018 election when she conceded the election before the voters made their decision known. All her mistakes as premier could not top that one amateur act.

Before she made that gaff, the liberals looked like they were down to 15 or 20 seats in the legislature. She ended up as part of a rump group that were not even recognized as a party. It makes the challenge for the next leader all that more difficult.

But I made the mistake yesterday of saying that Steven Del Duca had effectively won the leadership with his 14,000 membership sales. Michael Coteau, very wisely, challenges that assumption. We will not have the basis for these assumptions until after the ridings elect their delegates. It will be the number of first-vote commitments that will tell the tale. We will not have the detailed analysis before mid February.

The wild cards in this game are the ex officio voters such a federal MPs, provincial candidates and party office holders. Over 400 potential votes fall into this category. With a likely turnout of 1600 to 1800 voting delegates at the convention, Coteau and his supporters are hoping for a second ballot. Del Duca and his people will be hoping for a first ballot win. It all seems to come down to who can give a real barn-burner of a speech to the crowd that morning.

The one thing that is obvious about this campaign is that Steven Del Duca represents the past of the Ontario party and Michael Coteau represents the future. He is aggressive, welcoming to change and recognizes that the future offers a new type of politics.

A lot of what we have heard so far in this leadership contest has to do with getting rid of Doug Ford. I think we need to hear more about the type of politics that would end the possibilities for electing people like Doug Ford.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

The greed that breeds corruption.

Saturday, January 25th, 2020

It was never a secret that the political parties make a profit on conferences and leadership elections. They need the money for operating costs. It is that simple. In organizing an event such as the upcoming leadership races, provincially in Ontario for the liberals and federally for the conservatives, involves long hours, a myriad of expenses and the long-term financial needs of the party. The only problem is at what point have you killed the goose providing the money and corrupted the outcome?

In my opinion, that point has already been passed by the Ontario liberals. While the provincial fee for candidates is $100,000 ($25,000 refundable), the delegated convention charges are between $250 (seniors and youth) to a maximum of $600 for what is, in effect, a one-day convention.

The only problem is former MPP and cabinet minister Steven Del Duca has, effectively, already won. The convention looks bought and paid for. No honest sign-up of liberals could account for the signing up of over 14,000 maybe liberals nor would he be able to find the 16 people from each riding across the province willing to pay such a high price for the convention. If I was in my old position with the Ontario liberals, there would be a demand that the party executive does some serious checking into the bona fides of some of Del Duca’s delegates.

It looks like the federal conservatives have the reverse problem. Their leadership entry fee is too high. An entry fee of $300,000 (the $100,000 compliance portion is refundable) is the highest ever. Combined with the demand for 3,000 party signatures across 30 ridings and 7 provinces, it is designed to keep out the publicity seekers. So far it appears to have caused the withdrawal of some would-be serious candidates.

A candidate with his strength based in Quebec, such as Jean Charest, would have had concerns about getting signatures in six more provinces. But the mistake that the conservatives have made, despite enabling every party member to vote, is to continue to use a preferential vote system. Unless the leader wins on the first ballot, the voting method drills down to the least contentious, same as what happened when Andrew Scheer was chosen.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

NDP closes ranks around Singh.

Friday, January 24th, 2020

‘Better the problem we understand’ seems to be the thinking of the leaders of Canada’s new democratic party. They are closing ranks around the leader who cost them almost half the seats they held in the last parliament. Unlike the conservatives whose leader actually grew their seats by 22, they are not launching a new leadership race.

The NDP obviously rued their impetuous dumping of Thomas Mulcair just because he was run over by the 2015 liberal campaign bus of Justin Trudeau. Mulcair certainly left the NDP in better shape than Jagmeet Singh did, just four years later.

But the truth was that Singh wasted time in finding a safe seat to get into parliament, fell way behind in fund raising for the party and made little impact on voters before a small boost during the election period.

The truth is that Singh would have been far better to have fallen on his sword as soon as the election was over. He had to admit that his efforts were a strategic failure. He was neither an effective leader nor was he articulating a clear and understandable platform. He spent the campaign apologizing for taking the NDP nowhere.

For lack of anyone else to be an apologist for Singh, the news media have been interviewing NDP national director Anne McGrath. She tells them she would have preferred to hold the convention sooner as she is impressed with the personal popularity of Singh after his failures in last fall’s election.  It makes you wonder about the quality of political journalism in this country.

By pushing out the convention to 2021, the urgency of a possible election will be even greater than of a snap (but probably accidental) election this year. In addition, the new conservative leader with the second largest caucus in parliament, will be much more eager to launch an election before the liberals have a chance to become even better established in office.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Trump’s guilt is not the question.

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020

What kind of trial is this in the U.S. senate chamber, where the rules are controlled by the jurors? Does a trial matter if people have already made up their minds? Can ordinary citizens be satisfied with a moral victory? Can the voters be satisfied with a sham? Maybe it is a question of whose strategy you buy into.

The Democratic party senators and representatives are going for the high ground. The house of representatives has already impeached the president. It is now in the hands of the higher court in the senate. Very few have to be convinced to make history.

But is not the real jury the American people? The more the republicans obfuscate, the greater the swing in the vote in November. There are republican senators on the knife edge. A democratic majority in the senate will also be a game changer.

The constant quandary for the republicans is how far they dare go. How short can they keep this show trial? How much can they deny? Is there no point where enough is enough? Is there no point where the evidence convinces?

Sure, the defendant will continue to deny. Everyone knows he lies. His followers admire him for it. They will take the Trump denier over the democratic reality any day.

The defendant is not at his trial. He is not facing his accusers. U.S. president Donald Trump is at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Just what he could contribute to the discussions of world economics is a puzzle. What he might gain in understanding from the conference, to the benefit of America is open to question. He contributes not. He learns nothing.

It is no surprise that he keeps telling the world news media at Davos of his displeasure with the proceedings back in Washington. He is petulant and self obsessed.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

The metrics of higher education.

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020

Ontario premier Doug Ford wants our colleges and universities to earn their way. He wants some measurement on their economic performance. He wants to put a dollar value on that cap and gown. And when the minister of higher education is a lawyer, he seems to believe that such measurement is possible.

It is hardly the first time we have heard this debate. The argument in academe just uses bigger words. We have had the argument in my family. Of five brothers, two have post-graduate degrees and one, who did not finish high school, made quite a few millions.

But when you add it all up, I think it was the brother with the PhD who contributed the most value—as a professor, teaching business students in the U.S. about ethics.

A college drop-out like Doug Ford is probably not overly strong on ethics and he would have benefitted greatly from my brother’s lectures. I even did a guest lecture for my brother on the social responsibility of business when he was teaching at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario.

And this is not the first time there has been an attempt to measure the value of a piece of parchment from a university. I can hardly vouch for the studies, I have heard quoted, that said the average bachelorette in sociology and philosophy returns value to society at about nine or ten to one. It just seems reasonable. It is in accord with the old saying that you do not just give a poor man a fish to eat, you teach him how to fish.

Those ubiquitous ‘soc and phil’ bachelor degrees can simply mean that the recipient has been taught how to think. And just imagine how useful that teaching could have been for premier Ford?

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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