Archive for November, 2020

See no; Hear no; Speak no solutions.

Friday, November 20th, 2020

The three wise monkeys are alive and well and hiding from reality in Ottawa. At a time when a recent Environics poll shows that 64 per cent of Canadians support a guaranteed annual income program is a time for action. It is not a time to procrastinate, to put off solutions. It is not a time for our politicians to look like monkeys.

The first thing is to stop looking at a guaranteed income program as a massive support program. What we already have is a massive support program providing for our children, our seniors, our Medicare, Canadians out of work, our education and our programs for people living with disabilities.

What we need is a proper assessment by our politicians of what Canadians need and how to get the help they need to them. And what better time than when our country is torn by the rigours of a pandemic.

Our economy is a just as much at risk is our health. The two are too interdependent. At a time when our economy is in turmoil is the time to launch a guaranteed system. It addresses the immediate problems and builds strength for the future.

What we need to understand is that there are many benefits included in a guaranteed annual program. And there will be many adjustments to make as it proceeds. There will be the immediate impact on minimum wages. We can hardly pay people not to work. Incentives, benefits and self-worth are important considerations.

Raising the goods and services taxes a few percentage points will be an important step in balancing the costs of the program. The need for the money paid out to flow quickly back into the economy is also obvious. Giving it to people who will just put it in the bank is somewhat less effective but ensuring it eventually flows back to the government in a growing tax base is an important objective.

And just think of the good use all those civil servants in Ottawa could be put to when we no longer have a myriad of programs to run. We are quite likely going to benefit greatly from a guaranteed income.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Searching for the real Canada.

Wednesday, November 18th, 2020

There is a Canada out there somewhere that we want to build on. It is a Canada led by those who can really lead. It is a Canada created willingly by our collective inspiration. It is a Canada built on equality and freedoms.

It is a country that inspires. It is leadership that you trust. It rejects the elitism and naiveté of a Justin Trudeau. It laughs at the conservative sham of Erin O’Toole, the desperate search for rationale of the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh and the foolishness of the Bloc’s Yves-François Blanchet. Real leaders mirror the aspirations of their followers. They present a path that we can follow.

It is not a country that ties itself to the concerns of 150 years ago. It is a country that concerns itself with a strong future. At the present, we have no leadership that can handle the changes that are needed. We are locked in the sham of royalty. We are appointing elites to positions of power. We are borrowing our security from the vagaries of the United States of America. We are living a fiction.

Instead of our industry working for us, it wants to reign over us. We sell it off to the highest bidder and think the wealth gained gives us strength. We are bought and paid for by the one per cent—the self-absorbed, who suck our blood, who seek to dictate an unequal future.

Instead of realizing a collective future, we are building walls between urban and rural. We are divided on religions, separated by skin colour, labelled by education, clinging to possessions, marked by professions, separating on languages, in wonder of wealth and defining ourselves by east and west.

Can we not understand that just being Canadian is a gift of immeasurable proportion? Tell that to the downtrodden of Africa. Tell that to the war-torn of the Middle East. Tell that to those torn by the religious turmoil of the subcontinent. Tell that to the down-trodden masses of Asia.

Yes, we need to bring our own house to order before we can address the rest of the world. The solutions are not in political ideology. They are in our humanity.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

How about a modern royalty?

Tuesday, November 17th, 2020

It must be the damn pandemic. The wife and I have these occasional short arguments. They come from frustration with the restrictions and need for more interaction with others.

But what does come out of these brief squabbles are ideas. Today’s was the idea that she is a closet monarchist and I am an overly opinionated republican. It is hard to fathom where these ideas come from but this one, might be useful. I needed a subject for today’s blog.

Modernizing the monarchy is hardly a new idea. There have been many variations on this theme since Mark Twain wrote The Prince and the Pauper. It was one of my favourite books as a youngster.

The point was that being in pandemic lockdown hardly seems boring if you have a house with all the rooms of Buckingham Palace in which to wander. And that is not to mention the servants.

Some people are impressed with Harry, Meghan and young Archie. They think the ex-royals are the modern version of royalty. “Sure,” I tell them, “They move to Hollywood where Americans have been creating their own pseudo royalty for many years. Harry, Meghan and their son are just trading one form of royalty for another. I’m not sure what they are giving up.”

I will admit there is a stuffiness to real royalty that is hard to crack. I have met some of the crowned heads of Europe and I have never been impressed. These people seem so bored with their responsibilities and cutting this or that ribbon at this or that opening is not a life that everyone would want.

No doubt, Harry’s Meghan quickly bored of the ceremonial aspects of life among the royals of England. It is not a future anyone would seek if they wanted to make anything of their life. I think she saw it as more boring than meaningful. Being part of the support group for a person as strong as Queen Elizabeth II, would just not be a very challenging career.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Turkey or turmoil for Christmas.

Monday, November 16th, 2020

Do you ever get a feeling that something is off and you are not entirely sure what it is? It has been bothering me for a while. There is a feeling coming out of Ottawa that does not bode well. Conservative leader Erin O’Toole is salivating for an election. Federal cabinet members are going around talking to the news media as though they have something else on their minds.

A part of it might be the situation south of the border. Who trusts Trump? We might be wishing that we had are own border wall. That petulant child-man in the White House is cooking something in his mind that might just interfere with everyone’s wish for a smooth transition of power in Washington on January 20. We keep wondering what part Mr. Trump will play.

But Canadians have their own problems. We have legislation backing up in Ottawa as the pandemic takes precedence. The Trudeau government is starting to baulk at the mounting costs of mitigating the economic disaster we are facing. The prime minister is nowhere near as cocky as he was over the summer. The days are darker. The storm clouds are gathering. And the pandemic numbers are mounting.

What could Erin O’Toole possibly be thinking in wanting to take the government out of Trudeau’s hands? Has he any better idea than the liberals? What possible incentives could he be thinking of to get both the NDP’s Singh and the Bloc’s Blanchet on side? He is wasting his time if he cannot get them to help defeat the government.

An election at this time of year is not unprecedented. The last time Canadians had an election over Christmas, we ended up with what some of us thought of as the Mulroney effect. When Joe Clarke’s conservative government was defeated by the resurgent Pierre Trudeau and the liberals, Clarke was, in turn, defeated two years later by Brian Mulroney for the conservative party leadership.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

The perils of pandemics.

Sunday, November 15th, 2020

Pandemics kill. Pandemics are economic disasters. Pandemics can be the great equalizer. Pandemics can be a bonanza for the unscrupulous. Pandemics can trap the unwary. Pandemics can destroy plans in process. Pandemics can offer opportunity.

But in opportunity comes failure. The failure of Donald Trump in the United States will go down in history. He put his political future on the line while seeking a second term. He failed his country. He failed in his quest. His blunder cost hundreds of thousands of American lives.

Pandemic: 1. Donald Trump: 0.

Alberta premier Jason Kenney also failed to see the dangers in not recognizing the possibilities of the pandemic. He needed the health professionals as allies. He needed them on side. He fought with them instead of making them his frontline in the battle against the pandemic.

Pandemic: 1. Jason Kenney: 0.

Even those who see the opportunity can stumble. They become overconfident. Take premier Doug Ford in Ontario. He had the formula working for him. He had the health professionals on side. Until one day, he cut them out of his planning. It was his urge to colour-code. He coded himself out of cooperation with the professionals.

Pandemic: 1. Doug Ford: 0.

There are even those who think they can do better than the politicians. Take the fat cats at Loblaw, for example. They saw opportunity in the pandemic. They were going to profit from the pandemic. They were going to convince the public they were the good guys. They stayed open in adversity. They bribed their employees to defy the pandemic with a pay raise. When they felt their point was made, they canceled the pay raise and started raising prices. They launched an industry move to capitalize on the pandemic.

Pandemic: 1. Loblaw 0.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

A Capital Idea.

Saturday, November 14th, 2020

It is fun to remember that, as a youngster, I was looking forward to a career as a writer. Writing an unedited blog can have serious consequences for those hopes. Nothing cuts deeper than the e-mails I get from readers about an occasional grammatical or spelling error. I even had a blistering comeuppance from a reader the other day on my errant ways of using capitalization.

In defence (or defense) let me remind you that there is no authority on the English language in Canada. No doubt William Shakespeare received harangues on his sonnets in his time. What might be an errant use of the language today might be common usage tomorrow. English is a living language, subject to constant change, new words and evolutionary pressures.

Have you noticed, for example, in the Toronto Star, certain writers are allowed to capitalize the skin colour black with a capital ‘B.’ Aboriginal friends, whom I have asked, really do not give a damn if indigenous is spelled with or without a capital ”I.”

I, for one, have been trying to join the trend to fewer capital letters. There is still a need for capitals when you mention the White House in Washington as opposed to a white house. Though the current resident president in that white house is hardly deserving of capitalization.

I find that capitalization in headlines is a matter of choice. The use of all caps is still a form of shouting—quite unnecessary. Recently I have been experimenting with lower case for political parties. People seem only to use capitals to differentiate between a person who might be liberal and the Liberal Party—and that should be obvious by context. I must admit that I could be causing confusion between the colour ‘green’ and the ‘green’ party. I might also be abusing some rules in French grammar if I write about a Quebec block party instead of the Bloc Québécois.

It comes down to a very simple rule. You can use capitals where and when you want but their purpose is to avoid ambiguity for the reader.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

O’Toole’s Big Tent Dreams.

Friday, November 13th, 2020

Federal conservative leader Erin O’Toole is making his intentions clear and prime minister Justin Trudeau can ignore the intent and lose everything. O’Toole is attempting to mix the Harper base, the Jason Kenney ethnic strategy, the liberal union strategy and the frustrations of Donald Trump’s base.

There is no question but O’Toole is the natural to inherit the Stephen Harper base of Western conservatism. He is working hard at being the nice guy with the nasty friends. Being from Ontario, he can use his blandness to set him apart from the gaucheness of Ontario premier Doug Ford and the stridency and misogyny of Alberta’s Jason Kenney.

Yet it is the ethnic group inroads that Kenney made for the Harper government that O’Toole is trying to work to his party’s advantage. Did you think that all those walls of ethnic groups behind Harper appeared by magic? I thought the funniest one I ever saw was the group of boy scouts that Harper used once for a backdrop.

O’Toole is also taking a direct shot at the union support that the liberals had attracted away from the new democrats. It has long been a wonder why some of our more controlling unions did not recognize their affinity for conservatism. These are unions that will fight for the status quo to their last surviving member. There are many unions that consider ‘Solidarity Forever’ to be a conservative camp song.

The most recent lesson in building a big tent was the supposed aberration of Donald Trump as president of the United States. That should not have been as much of a surprise in 2016 as we made out. Even the most conservative of polling firms are still trying to find out where some of those Trump supporters originated. While the born-again Christians who formed so solidly behind Trump are more prominent in the U.S., they are also a strong element in Canada.

Another item O’Toole has outstanding in his big-tent mix is how to sell some environmentalism to the Prairie provinces?

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

The NDP want voting reform.

Wednesday, November 11th, 2020

In a letter to Justin Trudeau last week, Jagmeet Singh, leader of the federal new democrats, laid out his plan for the minority government. It seems to be the best time to try to manipulate the liberals into changing the way Canadians vote. All the liberals have to do is go along with a change to proportional voting and it would likely change Canadian parliaments for all time.

Singh uses the argument in his letter that our first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting system produces parliaments that do not reflect Canadian voters’ wishes. What he also should have mentioned is that alternative methods of voting can deny the winning political party the ability to enact some of its election promises.

And who wants to go to political rallies in an election where politicians say they will try to do this, or try to do that—if only one or more of the other parties allows them to make the change.

What Singh and his NDP caucus want is proportional representation in voting. This might give the NDP as many as 20 per cent of the seats of the members of parliament. That would mean, under proportional representation, almost 70 seats. What it would probably also mean is that we might never again have a majority government.

With FPTP voting, our conservative and liberal parties have been what are called ‘big tent’ parties. That means that they accommodate a broad range of voters wishes though maybe not all of them. What would happen over time with proportional voting is that these large parties would tend to split into smaller voting blocks. The negotiations and compromises people made before the election under FPTP will now have to be negotiated after the election. You not only get more parties but they spend much of their time arguing about which party gets this or that promise delivered to the voters.

In Mr. Singh’s letter, he tells the prime minister that 80 per cent of Canadians want this change. That might surprise Justin Trudeau but I hardly think Canadians would want to make such a change if they stopped and thought about it.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

The perplexed pollsters.

Tuesday, November 10th, 2020

How would you feel if the three times out of 20 you are wrong in your forecasts, and it all happened in the same election? That was the pollsters’ dilemma with last week’s election in the United States. They were just flat out wrong.

But you have got to have some sympathy for them.  Historical data did not mean much. They only experienced one other election such as this for president and they got it wrong then. In the largest turnout in American history, the republican voter turnout set records. Luckily, so did the democratic voters.

But some states that were expected to be won by democrats were often won by the republicans and visa-versa. The Senate ended in the hands of the republicans and the democrats kept the house majority by a slim margin. It all took four days of concern and counting.

What surprised us Canadian political watchers that the pollsters had no way of verifying their polls. I think I was studying polling before I ran my first political campaign. I enjoyed politics more than working for the news media but I had always been fascinated by the studies that told you what publication readers read some or most of advertisements and editorial content.

And then I met a federal politician who used telephone calls to determine how voters intended to vote. This was back in the day when he had to use a card index for each voter. He used those cards to tell his workers who to get to the polls on election day. What we are so routinely doing today with computer programs, he was doing the hard way almost 60 years ago.

But I think his card system relied on better input. Today’s smart phones do not always get answered with blocked numbers. Those automated Robocalls calls might be cheap but they are less and less effective. Political parties might just have to revive the science of knocking on doors with what we call the ground game.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

A note to a busy Joe Biden.

Monday, November 9th, 2020

It was an impressive speech the other night from Delaware. It was the right tone to take with the Trump supporters.  You offered them the olive branch and left it to them to accept. It was a class act.

No doubt, you have a lengthy ‘to-do’ list already but many Canadians want you to know that it will be okay with us if you want to put an end to the Keystone XL pipeline controversy. Yes, we are well aware that our government will be pressuring you to let the pipeline be completed but that is just an act. Our prime minister Justin Trudeau is just trying to mollify the schmuck who is premier of Alberta. The premier there is spending $1.5 billion of Alberta taxpayers’ money to get that pipeline to the U.S. border. From there it runs down to the Texas gulf ports for shipping that highly polluting, poor quality bitumen to Europe and Asia.

Your American refineries do not need Canadian bitumen from the tar sands. Refineries only take that stuff when it is discounted well below crude oil. Anybody with any concern for the environment refuses to have anything to do with the stuff.

Besides, with fracking, the Unites States is self sufficient in oil for many years to come. And the bitumen your refineries can get from Venezuela is of far better quality and cheaper to refine into ersatz crude, than the bitumen you can get from Canada.

We appreciate that you would like to do that nice prime minister of ours a favour but he really has a different problem. We have a lot of people out in Alberta who would rather keep polluting the environment than paying taxes like real Canadians. They are like Donald Trump supporters and they think that their premier is going to make life easier for them.

Think of it this way: you can help Justin Trudeau to be a better environmentalist by telling him where to stick his Keystone XL pipeline.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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