Archive for October, 2020

The ground game has gone south?

Saturday, October 31st, 2020

In my years in politics, I have taught thousands of people how the political ground game is played. It is basic to politics throughout North America. It takes lots of experience and determination to learn. You have to win some and lose some.

This comes to mind because the wife’s book club is reading a book supposedly on democracy by a guy named Dave Meslin from Toronto. She was chortling as she read me some bits from the book about his ideas on ranked ballots. She knows how that subject will get to me every time.

But I know her attitude toward the ground game and when the writer disparaged its importance today, she lost interest in his book. Seasoned politicos across the United States are in the midst of the strongest ground game they have ever played—and in the face of a virulent pandemic. The formula is the same everywhere: you identify your vote and you get out your vote. Techniques have to change to suit the times and the demographics of the constituency, the basics are the same.

The first by-election I was part of was Charles Templeton’s run as a liberal for a provincial seat in an East End Toronto riding in the Riverdale area. The new democrats handed us our heads. It was the only by-election where I personally felt the loss.

The next by-election I was part of was on George Ben’s team, another provincial liberal in the Queen and Ossington area of West Toronto. I asked George to give me the toughest NDP poll in the riding and keep out any other workers. The poll had less than 100 voters and something like 52 had voted NDP in the previous election. I spent a couple weeks walking that poll, talking to the people. On election day, the NDP were so confident, the guy pulling their vote was the leader of their party. I took a special delight in delivering that poll, that was supposed to be NDP, quite convincingly, for the liberal.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

The Good Government.

Friday, October 30th, 2020

While Americans remain mired in arguing the seriousness of the rapidly spreading novel coronavirus, Canadians are basking in the benevolence of government largess to help fight it. Seeing finance minister Chrystia Freeland reassure Canadians the other day was a dose of covid-19 medicine that we all need to understand. Even though we might have just dipped a toe in the flow of money, this government will see us through the storm.

It was Freeland’s first big speech in her finance portfolio. And yes, she had no problem with the jargon of finance ministers. And she, very wisely, set no limits, parameters, or warning signs on whatever monetary requirements are appropriate to see Canadians through the pandemic. She was discussing principles of handling the run of the coronavirus. She said simply that as long as it takes and as much as it takes, this government was committing to bringing Canadians through the contagion.

And I sincerely doubt that Freeland’s motivation is that she is a bleeding-heart liberal, keen to spend, spend, spend. She was just emphasizing the moral responsibility of government to do “whatever it takes.” It did not hurt to also include the fact that borrowing costs are currently at their lowest. And yet, it did not matter.

Freeland spoke with the strength of support from most of the world’s leading financial experts that this was a time to open the financial floodgates in the face of the global crisis.

It is too bad in a way that we only see a global pandemic such as the coronavirus about once every 100 years. It is a time to set aside restraints and fiscal discipline. The very fact that governments can set aside these supposed restraints call for us to question whether they are part of good government.

Is not good government anything more than always meeting the needs of the people being governed?

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

The kid who couldn’t.

Thursday, October 29th, 2020

Sam Oosterhoff MPP, is the youngest person, at 19, to be elected to the Ontario legislature. He might also be the MPP with the most to learn. The member for Niagara West received a more dubious first when he was made parliamentary assistant to the minister of education. It must have amused premier Doug Ford to appoint someone with less than a full semester of experience in the Ontario education system to the job.

But boys will be boys and the kid might be determined to embarrass the premier. The other day, he posted pictures on the Internet of himself and more than 35 fellow citizens without masks, crowded together at a Niagara area restaurant.

It is not that the kid was home schooled and was taught religious conservativism. Ford has publicly pleaded with the citizens of Ontario to wear masks and practice social distancing during the current surge in the coronavirus pandemic. And that request is supposedly meant to include the legislature’s enfant terrable.

And it is not as though Doug Ford was not looking after the province’s social conservatives. His government has been trying to slip through an omnibus bill that includes Charles McVety’s Canada Christian College that would give the Whitby-based college the rights of a degree-granting university. Mr. McVety has a well publicized reputation for being anti-gay rights and for his Islamophobia.

It is assumed that Doug Ford has learned from president Donald Trump in the United States that hypocrisy in regard to religion can pay off at the polls for conservative-minded politicians.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Foregone Conclusions.

Wednesday, October 28th, 2020

A reader asked me recently why I was paying so little attention to the two by-elections in Toronto Centre and York Centre in Toronto. Knowing the two ridings like the back of your hand does not make them more interesting. It just makes the process more boring.

But if you want to read the entrails, those are, at least, more interesting. If you wanted further assurances of the death knell of the federal new democrats, this vote gave it to you. Without new leadership and stronger policy positions, the NDP are lost in the doldrums of politics.

Nobody should expect a by-election to provide as strong a liberal showing—by-elections rarely do. It was enough. Sure, the media push for the new leader of the green party was strong but she had also picked the wrong riding to contest.

The people who really understood the lesson of the two by-elections were the conservatives. The Tories had a small chance in York Centre but failed to pull it off. They are going to have to concentrate their efforts in the suburban ridings around Toronto in the next election if they are going to make more inroads in Ontario.

My guess is that there is going to be some serious study of where the votes came from for the new green leader in Toronto Centre. Without some expensive polling in the riding, my guess is that close to half of those votes came from disgruntled, younger liberals. The bulk were likely NDP votes searching for a new home.

My guess is that our two new MPs will be back on the hustings in less than a year. Incumbency will be their key to re-election.

What is more important is what has happened in the provincial elections in British Columbia and Saskatchewan. In the case of the conservatives in Saskatchewan who pose as the Saskatchewan Party and are supposed to combine conservatives and liberals are all conservatives. And those people who pose as provincial liberals in B.C. are all a bunch of conservatives also. The provincial new democrats won a majority in B.C. and that is the good news.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Will there be a Trump library?

Tuesday, October 27th, 2020

We all know that Donald Trump has not been your traditional president for the United States. Despite his oddities, we should still mark his single-term presidency with more than the thousands of tombstones from the novel coronavirus or the hundreds of children still searching for their parents after being incarcerated in cages to show off his stopping of illegal border crossings.

What is being suggested is something more than a triumphal arch to mark his winning the battle of Lafayette Square. We must never forget the image of Trump and his generals sallying across the cleared-out park by the white house. What will amaze scholars in the future is that it was all in aid of Mr. Trump wanting to show off his religious hypocrisy.

But the objective of a library is to promote knowledge and learning. What would be better for little Harold than to be taken to a library of the greatest liar America has ever had as president. “You see Harold, you could never come up with as many lies in four years. Why would you want to be known as the second biggest liar as president?

While there were few presidential papers produced during the Trump presidency, there must be a substantial number of presidential briefing papers that he proudly said he never read.

And then where else would American golfers go to see the world’s largest collection of creative golf scores. Maybe the library could be at the Mar-a-Lago Resort, president Trump’s weekend retreat in Florida.

Mind you there is a plan rumoured for Mar-A-Largo to be headquarters for the Trump International Green Earth Society. This would be a monument to president Trump’s concern for the environment. The Green Earth Society is planned to launch right after Mr. Trump makes America great again.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Understanding ranked ballots.

Monday, October 26th, 2020

It looks as though we need to be sure we are on the same side when it comes to understanding ranked ballots in voting. Some people think they are a good idea. I would like to question that.

Start with how ranked ballots are designed: you have a sheet of paper listing the names of all the candidates and there is a box beside each name in which the voter can mark their preference. If there are ten names, there should be ten boxes in which the voter can number their selections from one to ten.

In the first counting run, the number of choices numbered one are counted. If any candidate wins more than 50 per cent of the votes, that candidate wins, the same as in first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting.

If no candidate receives more than 50 per cent of the votes, you are now going to eliminate the candidate with the least number of votes. And you are going to add the second choice of that losing candidate’s votes to the remaining candidates. This process of adding the losers’ votes to those left standing continues until somebody gets 50 per cent or you simply run out of votes.

But think about that voter, whose first choice has been eliminated. Was this a mainstream choice? Obviously not. That person’s first choice of candidate was a loser. Why would their second choice be any better? In fact, the entire process of counting ranked ballots is a process of adding losers’ choices to the front running candidates.

This is why in selecting from large numbers of candidates, a ranked ballot system is really a process of diving down in the group to find the least contentious candidates.

The civility that proponents of ranked balloting claim can be very phony as candidates work their opponents for that precious second vote.

The increased diversity that ranked ballots are supposed to enable is happening anyway as more and more of us see how the inclusion of racialized and diverse backgrounds strengthens our political process.

There are many claims for different types of voting. No system is perfect nor is there any ideal solution. Open minds can look at alternatives and closed minds will get nowhere.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Don’t blame Singh.

Sunday, October 25th, 2020

If there was ever a guy on the wrong side of the parliamentary ledger, it is Jagmeet Singh of the new democrats. While the rest of the opposition thought they were driving more nails into liberal coffins, this week, there was Jagmeet and the NDP caucus keeping their word and supporting the liberals.

Singh and his losers in the NDP knew what this support was costing them. They stopped an election that Canadians did not want at this time but there is no reward for their keeping their word or their honesty.

And when the election does take place, it will likely be Jagmeet’s last as leader of the new democrats. There will be no reward from the voters for keeping his word. Whether the next election is next week or next year, Jagmeet’s tenure in office is on a short string.

The only time that the NDP improved their position in trashing a minority government was under Jack Layton in 2006. They might have gained a few seats in parliament at the time because of the liberal sponsorship scandal. The new democrats’ lack of support, at that time, for the Paul Martin government, also helped open the door to Stephen Harper’s ten years as prime minister of Canada.

It might be a very different situation for Singh and the liberals if tomorrow or a few months from now he and his caucus support another motion of non-confidence. The reality is that the public does not see the WE scandal in the same way as the Quebec-based sponsorship scandal.

Also, a lot of Canadians admired Justin Trudeau for his cuckoo-like popping in and out of the Rideau Cottage throughout the pandemic ups and downs of 2020. They felt a kinship with him that could transcend the usual political relationships. He and his party could see an edge there that the opposition were not recognizing. The liberals were willing to bet on it.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Looking for the “kinder, gentler Tories”?

Saturday, October 24th, 2020

It seemed like such an interesting idea. Erin O’Toole, the new conservative leader, was going to impress the voters with his reason and patience in handling the liberal minority government. He was going to offer a new, more cooperative form of opposition in Ottawa. It looked like he was going to allow some of his pit bull nasties to attack occasionally but appear to be restraining them.

But it did not seem to work. When you start using words such as ‘corrupt’ about your political opponents, you are pushing the envelope. Next thing you know, we would be into an American style election.

Besides, Justin Trudeau and his boy scout and girl scout caucus are hardly in the ‘corrupt’ category. I have heard the Trudeau family called naïve, Pollyanna, and occasionally stupid, but it would be rude and quite unjustified to refer to them, collectively, as corrupt. I know the liberals quite well and my only complaint with them is their elitism.

And I can enthusiastically assure you that Trudeau and his clique of advisors in the PMO are not God’s gift to Canadian politics. I would question how they think they can walk around some ethical considerations in doing their jobs but I would tend to think of their errors as more careless than venal.

The more serious problem with the Trudeau Class of 2015 is finding out if they are liberals, neoliberals, Red Tories, pseudo environmentalists or helpless do-gooders who have absolutely no idea how to run a government. Thank goodness that they took the professionals’ advice on the pandemic. I used to respect Justin’s father because whether I agreed with him or not, he always enjoyed arguing his case. Justin just does not have the intellect.

But we have needed a more civilized form of politics in this country for quite a few years now. There are some serious differences between doing the political thing and doing the right thing. And knowing those differences counts for something with the voters.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

The old guy won.

Friday, October 23rd, 2020

Did I miss anything? I fell asleep late in last night’s debate. The only thing I feel confident about is that the old guy won. From what I saw, it was questionable as to whether anybody cared?

What was really questionable was who was behind those cameras last night? Why was Donald Trump better lit and slightly larger in that fixed double shot? He certainly had better make-up. He always has better make-up. Does he ever go anywhere today with out full make-up and his hair colored and lacquered to his head?

But does everybody really understand just what those guys were arguing about?  Donald Trump looked slightly healthier while opponent Joe Biden looked a little washed out. He looked more amused than confused when Donald Trump was trying to talk over the moderator.

Just once I wanted to hear a moderator tell the president of the United States of America to shut-up. It did not happen.

What puzzled me the most was the arcane arguments these guys were having over something to do with money. Is it okay to suggest someone is a thief if they are running for president?

With 40 million Americans having already voted, we know few of those people will want to change their vote.

With less that two weeks to election day, there is more to come. We know that whomever loses, there will be long-winded claims of cheating, voter suppression, foreign interference and multiple voting. It would hardly be an American election without these claims.

Though this is one American election where you really wish the majority of the public opinion polls were right. And, as they used to say at the end of a Star Trek episode: “Make it so.”

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Dougie Dumps Ranked Ballots.

Thursday, October 22nd, 2020

You have to hand it to Ontario premier Doug Ford. He rarely gets much right. He just knows what he hates about municipal politics—anything that the downtown Toronto councillors like. This includes changing the voting from first-past-the-post (FPTP) to ranked ballots.

The change had been allowed under provincial legislation but to-date only Cambridge and London, Ontario had taken the step away from FPTP voting. Some Toronto councillors were hoping the city could make the change to ranked ballots as early as in the upcoming 2022 municipal elections.

The provincial government explained their decision with the curt statement that “Now is not the time for municipalities to experiment with costly changes to how municipal elections are conducted.”

While some of the proponents of the change were claiming this was an anti-democratic move by the Ontario conservatives, nobody other than the legislature had ever voted for it. Ontario voters took a look at what is called mixed member proportional voting in a referendum linked to the provincial election of 2007 and defeated the suggestion by a vote of about two to one.

The problem with changing how we vote is that FPTP is a known and trusted system that has been used for hundreds of years. It would take extensive, and probably expensive, selling of any alternative system before voters would accept it.

In the view of this writer what people seemed to be asking for in discussing the subject of change is that they want to be able to be sure candidates have a majority of their voters supporting them. This can best be achieved with run-off elections. In these circumstances, when no candidate receives more than 50 per cent of the vote, the top two vote getters have a run-off and a second vote is held.

With the growing interest in Internet voting, run-off elections would be inexpensive and easily run.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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