Archive for June, 2020

When you can’t press the flesh.

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

Thinking about political leadership campaigns, it occurs to me that the constraints on the candidates today are not only catastrophic for the candidates but impossible for the party faithful to judge. How can you expect the party members to make a reasoned choice? When meetings cannot take place, you have no chance to question the candidate directly and you really do not get a chance to see how the candidate might perform in a general election. What is left?

What you need obviously is a highly creative effort that breaks new ground in political campaigns. And good luck on that!

What amuses me about the current conservative fiasco is that all trails seem to come back to Barrie and Patrick Brown. He is like Marley’s ghost promising conservative spectres of the past, present and future.

One of these spectres is Walied Soliman, a close friend of Brown’s since their days at University of Windsor law school. Soliman is currently chairing MP Erin O’Toole’s national campaign.

Another spectre is Alex Nuttall, the former MP from Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte. Alex spent years as Patrick Brown’s understudy on the conservative farm team at Barrie city council. I always thought he appeared angry when campaigning in 2015 and that might have been one of the reasons Alex won the seat by less than 90 votes. Few were impressed with his performance in Ottawa. He did not run for re-election in 2019.

One of Nuttall’s mistakes while in parliament was publicly supporting MP Maxime Bernier for the conservative leadership that ultimately chose Andrew Scheer.

To-date, the conservative leadership candidates have only seemed to differ on what they might do about climate change and their differences on abortion. While MacKay and O’Toole are considered to be the front runners, the method of balloting and the weighting of the ridings makes it almost impossible to forecast the outcome.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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English is a living language.

Monday, June 29th, 2020

Recently, former Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe appeared on Global Television’s West Block program with interviewer Mercedes Stephenson. While I rarely agree with the Bloc or any of its leaders, Duceppe has always amused me with his sly use of the English language. English might not be his first language but I get the impression he knows exactly what he is saying. The other day, he was having fun with the words ‘systemic’ and ‘systematically.’

Duceppe was talking about the argument new democrat leader Jagmeet Singh was having with the Bloc house leader. It was the one that got Singh thrown out of the house of commons.

I also believe you would have a hard time proving that racism pervades all of our Mounted Police operations. And that is what it means if you accuse the Mounties of systemic racism.

And by the way, the word ‘Systémique’ in French means the same.

But people like to take words and change them to meet their bias. Take the word ‘indigenous.’ It means ‘from here.’ Some people want this to include aboriginal peoples from the American continent. What they are really saying is that if your ancestors came to this continent about 15,000 years ago, you might as well say you are from here. I hardly think there will be a vote on this.

It is regrettable that there is no standard for English in Canada. A few of our universities consider this language important but there is little co-ordination in their efforts. Canadian Press which has been supported by some of our news organizations in the past used to put out handy little guides for the media. With the general decline in support for our news media, there is little help today. English and French are both living languages and they are constantly encompassing new words and changing words.

And what makes you think Google knows everything?


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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That horse has left the barn.

Sunday, June 28th, 2020

It was a presumptuous letter to the prime minister from some of our Canadian enlightened the other day about the Meng Wanzhou extradition case. There was a time when I admired some but not all of those signatories. They were people who added much to Canada’s reputation in law and politics. They appear so far behind the curve now that they have become irrelevant.

First of all, the timeline involved in this case is world’s away from these people’s reasoning. The fiasco goes back to December 1, 2018. That was when Huawei executive, Meng Wanzhou landed in a company plane at Vancouver airport and was arrested by the RCMP on an American arrest warrant. It is routine for Canada to honour a warrant issued by the courts of a country with which we have reciprocal extradition treaties.

Despite prime minister Trudeau’s consistent blather about Canada being a country of laws, it was in the first two to three months of this matter when that letter might have been of some merit. Here it is, a year and a half into the Canadian courts determining the validity of the American case while Meng Wanzhou is enjoying a visit to scenic Vancouver in one of the two mansions her or her company owns there. Meanwhile two Canadians are being held in retribution in durance vile in the cesspool of a Chinese prison.

The one thing for sure in this matter, is that the Chinese tourist industry is going to take another serious hit after this pandemic moves on. The Chinese are getting some serious black marks in human rights. It would hardly bother them to put a bullet into the back of each of the heads of those two Canadians.

But from what we know today is that Canada is not going to earn any brownie points from the American white house over this. The rule of law has never impressed the current American president.

All that Canadians know is that we are being sucker-punched by both sides of this dispute. Even people that you would expect to back the prime minister are bitching at him. This is a no-win situation.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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O’Toole should cool it.

Saturday, June 27th, 2020

It is a pity to waste good political advice on conservatives but MP Erin O’Toole’s current hissy fit with Peter MacKay’s leadership organization could cause irreparable harm in Canadian politics. And rather than being amused by the lack of political smarts of the Erin O’Toole leadership organization, most knowledgeable politicos are appalled by the growing rift.

I am not sure how many times I have given people in the liberal party the lecture about contests between people of the same political party. There is nothing that people in the same party love to do more than to gossip. At political meetings the most important conversations take place in washrooms, hallways and hospitality suites. (Those that take place in convenient beds during gatherings are a subject on its own.)

The point is that, no matter how hotly contested an issue such as the party leadership might be, these are the same people with whom you are going to be working side-by-side in the next election. You should never annoy a fellow party member in any manner that cannot be laughed about or walked back.

And, for heavens sake, never, ever involve Elections Canada or any police. It is only the campaign manager’s responsibility to always be able to lie to any regulatory body with a straight face. And nobody else needs to know everything.

The good news is that Elections Canada and the various police departments in this particular case have a far more sophisticated view of these matters. They are most unlikely to find any wrong doing has taken place. They certainly do not want to charge anyone with what would be a minor offense.

What I would recommend to the conservatives at this time is that they cancel their leadership contest for lack of interest. It might embarrass the party a bit but it is far less embarrassment than having MacKay or O’Toole running the party. In fact, Andrew Scheer is a better interim solution than either of those chuckleheads.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Morneau: the angst of things to come.

Friday, June 26th, 2020

Are you ready for the flip side of the pandemic coin? Finance Minister Bill Morneau has promised Canadians a financial snapshot of what the pandemic has cost. The bad news is to be presented on July 8. I wonder though if he will recognize the value we have been getting for the money spent and what future expenditures can achieve.

A hint of what our more neoliberal finance minister intends is his comment to a Toronto Star reporter that he wants to impose some fiscal discipline going forward. He says there is a need to ‘reset.’

The concern is that the finance minister might be more interested in solving business needs than those of individual Canadians. Despite the Trudeau government’s frequently stated concern for the vaguely described ‘middle class,’ our finance minister appears to lack any knowledge of what that means. Born to wealth and privilege, neither Morneau nor Justin Trudeau seem to know much about the middle class or the strains of poverty.

With a deficit heading toward $250 billion in this pandemic year, we have been in serious danger of the neoliberals taking charge of our finances and cutting the country off from the expenditures needed to get our economy growing again. It is quite unlikely that Canada would suffer any great concerns with doubling that deficit.

What we have proved in building the deficit is that a balanced budget is a myth spread by conservatives and neoliberals. Federal deficits are the same concept as a homeowner having a mortgage. Nobody expects it to be paid off in one year.

If, for example, the federal government decided to fund a cross-Canada high-speed electric train service, that would hardly be paid for in the same year as the expense. It would do wonders for the Canadian economy and it would promote Canadian tourism and cross-country travel as well as speed the transport of goods. It would be important to bringing Canada out of any possible recession after the pandemic has run its course.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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In the Wild—West of Toronto.

Thursday, June 25th, 2020

Who knew? When Barrie’s Patrick Brown, was ejected from Queen’s Park early in 2018, he picked Peel Region for his comeback. Rejected by his fellow conservatives in the legislature, Brown’s instinct was to return to municipal politics. He knows little else. He had no idea though that he had picked a region of lawlessness similar to the American West.

He had little choice. With a strong mayor already in place in Barrie, there was no hope in his home town. Brown needed an open field. His first choice was to run for the newly created elected position of chair of Peel Region. The former Peel County included the area that became the City of Mississauga, the older City of Brampton and the more rural area of Caledon.

Appalled at the idea of someone like Brown running the Peel Region, the new conservative Ontario premier Doug Ford blocked the election. He ruled the regional council would continue to appoint its own chair.

That left Brown with the only alternative of running for the mayoralty in Bampton. His connections with the South Asian community in Brampton gave him a base vote. Plus being a conservative in former premier Bill Davis’ home town did not hurt either.

But Brown had little knowledge of the problems in the region. With an area twice that of Toronto and about half the population, Peel Region has less than half the police to cover it. And about half of the population of the region was born outside of Canada. That statistic is not reflected in the members of the Peel Region police.

The other day in Brampton, Peel Region police broke into a Muslim gentleman’s home shouting in English and with tasers and guns blazing. The family was concerned about the man (who did not speak English) being off his meds and the police killed him.

And now we hear the other day, a female officer in Mississauga pulled out her gun and shot a black woman—who had already been tasered and was lying on the ground.

Things in Peel Region have been going sideways since Brown got there.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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A future built on nostalgia.

Wednesday, June 24th, 2020

The measure of another person’s intelligence is often measured on his or her ability to agree with you. That was why I was delighted the other day to receive a proposal from a regular reader for electric high-speed passenger rail service across Canada. I have always felt confident that I am hardly the only Canadian convinced of the importance of the idea.

In my case, it is partly nostalgia. As a youngster I spent time with my father when he was working on the electrical requirements of manufacturing operations in what is now the Cambridge, Guelph, Kitchener and Waterloo area of Ontario. At the time, Cambridge was known as Galt, Preston and Hespeler. These municipalities were interconnected by highways and the Grand River Street Railway.

First incorporated in 1895, the electric street railway in the area was an efficient conveyance for people and goods between a growing network of municipalities. It lasted until the passenger service was discontinued in 1955, as it was no longer profitable.

But high-speed passenger rail service is profitable in most major countries of the world. Why not in Canada? While there have been many high-speed train proposals, particularly in the Windsor-London-Kitchener-Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal-Quebec City corridor, we have never had politicians with the will to carry the idea forward.

But any politician who really cares about the environment has little choice. Airplanes pollute, diesel trains pollute. And any frequent flyer can tell you that flying any distance less that 500 kilometres is slower and less efficient by airplane. It is the Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal corridor that should be first to have high-speed train service.

As our first prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald knew in 1867, Canada needed a railroad to tie the country together. Today, we need modern trains to continue to bring our country together.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Dougie has “lost the plot.”

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020

A chap from ‘Ole Blighty’ was talking the other day about the United Kingdom’s prime minister Boris Johnson. He said “Bo-Jo has lost the plot.” The description fits too many politicians today. Johnson is just one of many. America’s Trump certainly fits the part. The Donald seems to have never read the script. The point is that there are too many pseudo politicians today who think the play is about them. And it is more serious the closer they are to home.

Consider Ontario premier Doug Ford. He has the news media all excited that they are seeing a new Doug Ford because of the job he appears to be doing on the pandemic.

They seem to forget that this is the candidate who was least qualified for the job of premier in Ontario. He came into the job two years ago in total ignorance of what the position entailed. His first serious action was to get even with the Toronto politicians who ridiculed him when he was a Toronto councillor in the seat of his late brother Rob. In a truly destructive act, he cut the number of Toronto city council seats in half when the election process was already underway.

His first cabinet was a collection of prima donnas and blowhards. They were playing their own games and he soon had to start replacing bad actors. Caroline Mulroney quickly proved that her training and experience in New York was of little use in Ontario. But again, legal experience was hardly the consideration when Dougie replaced Mulroney with a small-town ward healer from Severn, up near Orillia. He put a trusted sycophant in finance and replaced a fumbling education minister with a slick operator who had interned with Stephen Harper.

But what really happened was the coronavirus. Both Dougie and his health minister found they had no choice but follow the lead of Ottawa and the health professionals. The only thing that would keep Dougie from getting into serious trouble in the next two years would be if the pandemic lasted that long.

The point is, Dougie does not know how to be a good premier.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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American Lemmings.

Monday, June 22nd, 2020

American supporters of Donald Trump only act like lemmings. Lemmings are rodents that live in northern tundra areas, are very stupid and have about a 12-month life cycle—even if  they survive their natural predators. They are not necessarily suicidal creatures but have been known to fall off cliffs and into the sea when on one of their frequent migrations. That might help you understand why some people think of Trump supporters as lemmings.

Take the other night in Tulsa, Oklahoma. How smart do you have to be to camp out in rain storms and oppressive heat during the week to get a good seat to see your hero? How smart do you have to be to really want to risk catching covid-19? Hell, just before the event, they found some of Mr. Trump’s workers had caught the virus getting the place ready for the faithful.

Did it not give the attendees a clue when people were taking their temperature on the way in? How could they avoid knowing that this event was not endorsed by the American Medical Association?

And why did the man who promised to make America great again, seem so pissed with the low attendance? He took every one of those empty seats as a personal insult.

It reminded me of back in the days in Toronto when we would fill Maple Leaf Gardens for real politicians such as Pierre Trudeau. The secret was that we always invited three times the number of people needed to fill the place.

But we were kind, we would always have a flatbed truck with a sound system on-board for the candidate to address the overflow. That always caught the attention of the media. And the Toronto cops were good sports about it when we blocked Carlton and Church Streets with the overflow.

In fact, the more I think about how long ago that was in the past, some one should tell Donald Trump how far he is behind times.


A small apology: I got complaints yesterday about my poor arithmetic. I was calculating the CERB payments without tax because the student was going back to school as soon as possible. I am embarrassed but any employer who pays minimum wage, that nobody can live on, should be more embarrassed.

Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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CERB opens the door to a new Canada.

Sunday, June 21st, 2020

For all the weaknesses, errors and misunderstanding of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), the program is the solution to Canada’s future economy. And when the government extended the program the other day, it put the country on the road to build that new economy.

What the government has done with CERB is set a new base level for a minimum wage and opened up opportunities for a healthier, happier society, with better opportunities for higher education.

As one young man told me recently, he never has been better off. He is making more money from the government than he has ever been paid before. No company is going to hire him at minimum wage while the government is paying the equivalent of $20 per hour. This kid is not lazy. He is enjoying his summer, despite the pandemic, and will be heading back to university in the fall with some money in the bank to keep him going. Are there smart businesses that will offer him more?

And by no means do I believe that the government is paying him too much. Though the impact might be more inflationary than intended.

While I have to admit that I was initially shocked at the potential impact of CERB, I recognize it now as genius. It has broken the barriers to the fiction of the ‘middle class.’ It has created options for all. It has opened doors to true democracy. CERB is the first step to an effective guaranteed minimum wage for Canadians.

That does not deny that it creates problems for seniors. These are the people left in the ‘middle class’ economy. They are still waiting to be paid that placebo for seniors of a one-time covid-19 $300 or $500. It is just a prize that seniors are getting for missing the cull of the pandemic. The government will have to seriously address the need for improved old age security (OAS) payments in the future.

We should all tell Justin Trudeau how smart his government is to have come up with CERB.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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