Archive for January, 2021

Understanding Basic Income.

Sunday, January 31st, 2021

There are three sides to this argument. The idea of a basic income for all Canadians is an idea championed by progressive politicos. And then there are the regressive politicos (usually conservatives) who think it is a terrible idea and that what all those lazybones need is a little encouragement. And then there are those academics who start out saying: “But on the other hand…”

The idea of a basic income program got new impetus when the federal government finally got around to the concept of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). It caused a rush to the pay windows of the government and a response that sounded like the slamming of government doors and pay windows. While many of us appeared to be ignoring the small print, it was the first time we actually thought the government was turning on the spigots where needed.

But it was good to hear from one dubious recipient of the liberal largess: “I have to give the money back, but they were nice about it.”

What was sad but amusing about the government’s reneging on CERB was that to be a recipient, you had to have some earned income in the past year.

Dammit all, who the hell is going to worry about Canadians who are too old, too sick, or disabled, infirm, or incoherent, or simply unmotivated? The world is not a perfect place and we do have to deal in reality sometimes.

In 2015, Trudeau and his cabinet danced through a sunlit Rideau Park and, according to Justin Trudeau, all was supposed to be perfect.

To be fair, he did not expect a pandemic either. I think he has done good trying to deal with covid-19. He is no genius. He is his mother’s son. He has done his best. He might not be leading us to a land of milk and honey but he has probably done as good a job on the pandemic as we can expect.

But, for goodness sake, let’s keep the academics out of the implementation of a basic income. We expect to make mistakes. That is when we will know it is working. We will fix things as we go. Start by doing the honourable thing.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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You can’t do one without the other.

Saturday, January 30th, 2021

It was an amusing op-ed the other morning in the Toronto Star by Bob Hepburn. Not only is Bob late to the lists but his suggestion regarding our governor general would complicate more than it resolved. I certainly agree with him that the role of governor general is something to be relegated to the past. The only problem is that Bob’s solution leaves us with fewer safeguards on our already challenged democracy.

As our Canadian constitution stands, when we elect a majority government, we are giving the leader of that government almost unlimited power. You might note that the supreme court is a potential barrier to unlimited power—but who do you think appoints members to that supreme court?

And don’t be so sure that Canadians might not elect a Trump-type leader? Yes, it took a lot of stupid Americans to elect Trump president—but since when did Americans have the sole franchise on stupidity?

I have heard it said that Americans have too many roadblocks to getting things done politically. With the complexities of a bicameral congress, a supreme court and a separate administration under a president, it is amazing what has been accomplished south of Canada sometimes.

But it is the undemocratic nature of the senates in both countries that cause the most problems. In Canada, the fact that the prime minister in the House of Commons appoints the senators, usually alleviates the problem. In the United States, the brazenly undemocratic nature of the Senate has a smell that indicates it is well past its date with updating.

The puzzle with the Canadian Senate is; why bother? It seems redundant for the senate to the examine the legislation coming from the commons when they are always controlled by the party in power. It seems that the people who wrote our constitution had their doubts about the trust-worthiness of our elected commoners as parliamentarians.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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Is it cruel to fool O’Toole?

Friday, January 29th, 2021

Is finance minister Chrystia Freeland deliberately fooling conservative leader Erin O’Toole? It seems like she has more important tasks ahead of her. Maybe she is forging ahead with her plans and ignoring what O’Toole has to say. He accuses her of ideological and a reckless budgeting. She might be one of the first liberal finance ministers to ever do that.

Her problem is that she has far too many claimants wanting a piece of the finance action. First, she has to budget for ending the pandemic with foreign-made vaccines and then she has to build a better country for the survivors.

The main difference between Freeland and O’Toole is that he thinks we should rebuild the country to where it was before the pandemic. Freeland believes we should build better.

We all seem to have our own idea of what this means. I am sure many of us would put the emphasis on raising our peoples to greater heights of achievement. We need to ensure each and every one of us of sufficient funds and opportunity to learn and to work at what brings us fulfilment.

But I also believe that if we have a few billions left over in this budget, we need high-speed trains to reach from sea to sea. High-speed electric trains are an ecological solution to the heavy pollution of planes and road transport. It means building new track beds and overpasses in every province of Canada.

And finance minister Freeland should make a point of talking about this to president Biden’s treasury secretary Janet Yellen. The U.S. is currently on the brink of building more high-speed electrified train service—if Biden can stop the political interference by those who want to continue the use of fossil fuels.

It looks like the use of fossil fuels is the main challenge to both Biden and Trudeau. They have strong and well-funded opposition. Alberta remains Trudeau’s nemesis and it will take a while for the average Albertan to realize that the future is in thermal energy from the earth not in tar sands that pollute so much. Biden made a good start by cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline. All Trudeau has to do is cancel the twinning of the TransMountain pipeline.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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Our failing democracy.

Thursday, January 28th, 2021

We are all responsible. We are failing to support democracy. We are making bad choices in leaders, bad choices in who represents us and failing to demand that they protect our democratic institutions and customs. And we can only blame ourselves.

We need to face the facts: our political parties are failing us. Bad leaders speak volumes about the parties they are chosen to lead. Do you think the Ontario conservatives are pleased with their choice of a blowhard such as Doug Ford as leader? Do you think rank and file new democrats across Canada are pleased with the leadership of Jagmeet Singh? He has no idea where that party needs to go. And I would say harsh words for the federal conservative leader but sometimes the parties do not get much of a choice.

But the real challenge is in the court of the federal liberals. We laughed with Justin Trudeau in 2015. We were so pleased to be rid of the Harper conservatives at the time that we did not pay enough attention. Trudeau lied to the liberal party and we let him get away with it. He promised us a new era of party resurgence. The only problem was the party could only go where he wanted it to go. And today, the liberal party is powerless to bring him to heel.

Trudeau has proved himself an elitist. He only lets the party go where he wants it to go. He and his circle rule from the prime minister’s office and never a negative word is heard.

We wondered when he holidayed with the Aga Khan. We cringed when a trip to India was a family dress-up occasion. He seemed forgetful with the We charity. He saw no problem in trying to corrupt his justice minister. He demoted and fired ministers who said ‘no,’ Gender equality seemed difficult.

And when he told us that 2015 was the last time Canadians would use first-past-the-post voting to choose a parliament, many believed him. He failed to democratize the Senate. He chose the selections of elitist committees. He burnt himself in his selection of a governor general.

Canadians want and have the right to demand truth, honesty and integrity in their prime ministers. We need to get back to that.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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Where are you Jagmeet Singh?

Wednesday, January 27th, 2021

Jagmeet Singh has a job as leader of the federal new democratic party. With parliament shut down, he has virtually disappeared. Canadians have forgotten about him. Only voters in Brampton, Ontario remember what he looks like. Mind you, he represents Burnaby South in B.C. these days. Maybe somebody there has seen him.

You would think that as leader of the third party in parliament, Jagmeet would get a little ink. Yet that lady from the greens has been getting it. Annamie Paul, the new leader of the green party of Canada appears to have replaced Jagmeet in the affection of the news media.

You should not forget thought that Sikhs are a war-like people and Jagmeet might have spent some of his early life in law school but it was his early martial arts notoriety that earned him fame among Canada’s large and growing Sikh communities. (Representing about two per cent of Canada’s population.)

It is also doubtful that he is visiting his family’s historic home in the Punjab in support of the farmers fighting India’s Modi government. The Modi government has made it clear in the past that Jagmeet is not welcome in his ancestral state in the sub-continent. Mind you, being persona non grata with that radical Hindu leader is not exactly bad news for the Canadian politician.

But where Jagmeet is losing ground badly is with Canadian NDP supporters. The socialist party hardly wants to be known as a party that changes its leader every couple of years. Yet, there is growing concern. The problem is that, under Jagmeet, the NDP appears to have no program, no policy and little concern. It used to be the party of the little guy but every other party wants its share of that demographic.

The party has to face the fact that socialism is not a cause for the 21st century. The challenge at this time is in defeating the pandemic and rebuilding the economy of Canada. What has the NDP contributed to that dialogue?


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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Canadians are on to O’Toole.

Tuesday, January 26th, 2021

Every time I look at conservative leader Erin O’Toole, he reminds me of cartoons of the bloated English capitalist.  What makes me laugh though are his on-going attempts to create a conservative party more acceptable to the mainstream of Canadian voters. And I hardly think tossing Derek Sloan out of the party caucus will achieve much.

But it was obvious that something more than confusion, over the name of a donor to Sloan’s leadership campaign, was behind the attitude of the conservative caucus. The very fact of O’Toole trusting the caucus to oust Sloan, said there was more.

The last time, we looked at O’Toole in Babel-on-the-Bay, our opinion was that he was going nowhere. He will have a hard time convincing people that he is fit to follow Stephen Harper. He has neither the smarts, the experience nor the understanding of his party to pull that mishmash together.

And no, he is not as apolitical as Trump but nor is he as dictatorial as Harper. Harper ran the party with an iron hand. He silenced the social conservatives, dominated the extreme right and held those such as O’Toole up for ridicule.

To be fair, O’Toole is smarter than conservative premiers Ford in Ontario, Kenney in Alberta, Moe in Saskatchewan and Pallister in Manitoba, even if they do set a fairly low bar. The only problem is that those are the four provinces that O’Toole needs to have securely in his pocket to leave him free to work the east and the west to have any hope of defeating Trudeau’s liberals. The day that they can deliver the kind of help that O’Toole is going to need will depend on what they had for breakfast. Ford is the least political, Kenney has his own agenda, Pallister would rather be in Costa Rica and Moe seems to prefer to serve as second banana to Kenney.

If O’Toole wants to consider the conservative party as his own, he should have at it. He will only be disillusioning himself.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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Trudeau’s chance to kill TransMountain!

Monday, January 25th, 2021

It’s no secret. If U.S. president Joe Biden can cancel the Keystone XL pipeline, why cannot Justin Trudeau cancel twinning of the TransMountain pipeline? The single line can still be used to ship fully refined petroleum products to the U.S. west coast states and to Vancouver.

We should face the facts that TransMountain has been a serious threat to the environment since it has been proposed that it be twinned to carry diluted bitumen from Edmonton to the Burrard Inlet. It is hardly worth it for Trudeau to think it would gain him up to two parliamentary seats in Edmonton. Canceling it, might just help him to keep some seats in British Columbia.

As I see it, a topping off ceremony for the twinned TransMountain pipeline will leave Trudeau unable to win a seat west of the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border. That seems like a damn silly waste of taxpayers’ money and bad politics, to boot.

And Trudeau should hardly worry about pleasing Albertans. Those voters already have a bone to pick with their premier over wasting $1.5 billion of their money on the Keystone XL pipeline.

Cancelling the TransMountain pipeline will also go a long way to helping ensure the survival of the Orcas and Humpback whales that summer around Vancouver Island. The first bitumen spill in the Straits of Georgia could spell the political suicide of Trudeau and the liberal party.

I keep wishing that there was someone in the cabinet who could talk some sense into Trudeau. It is just that finance minister Chrystia Freeland and privy council president Dominic LeBlanc are the only two members who appear secure in their seats at the table. I do not recall any time Freeland has spoken out on the environment. And maybe LeBlanc knows his friend too well to argue out about the environment. As it is, TransMountain remains the proof of the hypocrisy of Justin Trudeau about the environment.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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What’s a billion Jason Kenney?

Sunday, January 24th, 2021

It was actually a billion and a half. It was the money from Alberta taxpayers that Jason Kenney put into the Keystone XL pipeline. It was not just a stupid move but one that he can spend the rest of his life regretting. I was hardly the only writer who criticized the bravado the Alberta premier exhibited in supporting a losing cause.

Joe Biden said very early in his campaign to defeat Donald Trump that he would cancel the Keystone XL pipeline. Large numbers of Canadians cheered that promise. We knew that a man like Biden would keep his word. We were also confident that, as a savvy politician, he would know the impact of his action. He was showing that what Trump could build, he could tear down.

And surely, Jason Kenney must have realized that Biden would keep his word. He also knew that the majority of Canadians were eager to see the end of Donald Trump’s reign of terror in Washington. He also knew that Joe Biden needed to take some concrete action along with saying he was rejoining the Paris Climate Accord. He needed to show the world that he would stop threats that could increase pollution and global warming. It hardly cost Biden anything to stop Keystone.

Kenney is hardly going to sue the United States government in hopes of getting his billion and a half of Alberta taxpayers’ money back. A fly can hardly bring charges against the wielder of a fly swatter for bodily harm.

Nor is Kenney going to sue Justin Trudeau for not doing anything about Biden’s move. If he could get away with it, Kenney would sue Trudeau for letting it snow in Calgary.

And for him to demand trade sanctions against the Americans from Trudeau is ridiculous. That was Donald Trump’s signature solution. Canadians were hardly likely to go along with that from our side of the border.

Canadians are looking for a return to normal relations with America. Kenney should shut up.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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Payette is Trudeau’s mistake.

Saturday, January 23rd, 2021

It was ten years ago when I made the argument with Justin Trudeau that the governor general was an anachronism that we no longer needed. It was like he brought down a wall between us. I realised too late that he was afraid of questioning the constitution. Justin saw it as a larger part of his father’s problems when the younger Trudeau was a teenager.

Justin’s solution to prime ministerial appointments is an elitist solution. He supposedly hands the problem off to elite committees. He has often been burnt by his elite selections for crown corporations, judgeships, the Senate, and now the role of governor general—the most senior appointment that the prime minister can decide.

While we all admit that the governor general’s job is largely ceremonial, its continuance speaks volumes about the country that Canada has become. It sends all the wrong signals to other countries. It ties us to those bigots in England who besmirch the European Union for its openness. It promotes birth as a mark of privilege. It equates wealth with privilege. It puts Canadians in subservience to the past instead of offering the open challenge of a great future.

Canadians are many peoples, building a nation together. The richness of our country is the amalgam of cultures, the wealth of languages, the love of the land of our aboriginals and those who came later.

There is no question that engineer Payette did nor understand the job of governor general as did her predecessors, an academic such as David Johnston, or politicians such as Jeanne Sauvé, Ray Hnatyshyn and Roméo Leblanc, or people who saw so much joy in the position such as journalists Adrienne Clarkson and Michaëlle Jean. These people at least saw the job as a chance to serve their fellow Canadians. They brought honour to the role.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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Quebec racism is no surprise.

Friday, January 22nd, 2021

When people grow up with incipient racism, it is no surprise that they slip into it occasionally. This happened the other week when a news release from Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet was claimed by liberals to be racist. It should come as no surprise that someone born in Quebec and part of the separatist movement can be so easily accused of racism or at least tribalism.

As an Anglo, raised in Toronto, I have seen the racism in Quebec over the years. It despairs me that it exists but it is easy to understand the origin. You can trace the roots in many aspects of Quebec society. It is rooted in the misinterpretations of the Papineau Rebellion. It is rooted in the early attitudes of Anglos whose English army had defeated the French army on the Plains of Abraham. It is the understandable jealousies in Montreal for the Golden Square Mile which once included the palatial homes of upper-class Anglos. And do not francophone politicians take note of these feelings?

It hardly creates an alibi for Blanchet, but it does explain the anti-Semitism that one still finds in Quebec. (And can find by digging deep elsewhere in Canada, to be fair.)

But when you grow up with this kind of racism and tribalism, it is hard to suppress. The very fact that you know it is wrong, makes the need to suppress it more difficult.

At one time in my life, I was giving speeches in Quebec that I had a person fluent in French record for me. I would practice delivering it while listening to the recording. It worked because, at the end of the speech, the questions came in French. I was always embarrassed that I had to answer most of the questions in English. I have spent a great deal of time over the years trying to improve my French but every time I try to practice it on friends in Quebec, they switch to English.

The one time I really embarrassed myself was when the Multiple Sclerosis Society was opening a new head office for New Brunswick in Moncton. I thought my little speech of congratulations would be better in French and I wrote it myself. I thought I got away with it until the city’s chief medical officer came up to me and, in English with a Montreal-French accent, asked me where I had ever learned to speak French like that?


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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