Archive for the ‘Federal Politics’ Category

It’s the Tory party that is self-destructing.

Thursday, April 2nd, 2020

Last weekend, Chantal Hébert wrote her regular opinion piece for the Toronto Star. She was ruminating on the idea that presumed front-runner Peter MacKay’s campaign for the conservative leadership might be self-destructing. Not that MacKay was heading anywhere in particular anyway. He is hardly the saviour of Canada’s conservatives.

If you are checking with conservatives on the telephone, you can hear an audible gagging sound when you ask them about MacKay’s campaign. And it is hardly a direct reference to the Deity when you hear the person say, “Oh God.”

But Peter MacKay has been in trouble since the turn of the century when he drove the progressive conservative bus into the arms of Stephen Harper and the Alberta cowboys of the reform conservative alliance. It was hardly good intentions that finally united the right across Canada. It was more like desperation.

What is really desperate today is not MacKay. He might be Elmer MacKay’s son but even our friends in Nova Scotia wonder about Peter’s campaign this time around. They have been there before.

If you did not know that Peter is a lightweight, you have not been paying attention over the past 20 years. At least he is a married man today and we can stop making fun of the ways his lady friends embarrassed him.

And he no longer is among the privileged who have military helicopters at their beck and call.

But it is really the party committee that was making the rules for the leadership that did Peter in. They set forth the most ridiculous and short-sighted rules for the leadership campaign that were more suited to the requirements of Vladimir Putin in Russia than a democratic party. The cut-off was just the other day for their proposed $300,000 fee and 3,000 party signatures.

The right leader for the conservatives has not even surfaced yet. It is a good thing the campaign was delayed because of the coronavirus.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Checking with the Cuckoo Clock.

Monday, March 30th, 2020

We have a pattern emerging. Every day at 11 am Eastern, we are now tuning into a news channel or live streaming CPAC on the Internet. The opening shot, is of the front door of Rideau Cottage, on the grounds of Rideau Hall in Ottawa. There is often a wait but the news channels are filling the time with related news about covid-19. We are waiting for the prime minister to pop out of the cottage door to provide us with an update on Canada’s war with the coronavirus.

It is somewhat similar to the news media practice in England of setting up at 10 Downing Street in London for announcements from the prime minister of the United Kingdom. I like to think of it as sort of ‘the mother of all cuckoo clocks.’

Mind you, my wife has taken umbrage at what she considers my rude reference to our prime minister. She is quite in agreement if I choose to suggest Boris Johnson is a cuckoo. As all we have is each other in this time of isolation, I think I will acquiesce.

Besides, in discussing the prime minister’s performance over lunch, she asked me to rate his performance on a scale of one to ten. I gave him an eight. He stuck to the script during his prepared remarks and there was far less grunting as he thought about his words in answer to reporters’ questions.

We were particularly impressed when his remarks were directed to Canadian children. Only a caring father would think of that. It reminded me of the times when there were arguments with his father, Pierre Trudeau, about including some remarks about his children when addressing the Canadian public. He kept his children private. A different era, I guess.

Pierre did allow his children to be included on his Christmas card. When she first met Justin, my wife was telling him about her collection of Trudeau family cards that showed him and his brothers growing up. He had his staff add her to his Christmas card list. At least Pierre sent them to both of us.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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An idea that’s time has come.

Sunday, March 29th, 2020

It has been hard to be one of the few writers harping on the need for a Canadian universal income program. This past week, we got some support in the person of Mike Schreiner, leader of the Ontario green party, and Jo-Ann Roberts interim leader of the federal greens. They drew up a simple little opinion piece for the Toronto Star lauding the concept.

But where were the leaders of the new democrats? Are they unable to get any ink these days? Have the new democrats decided that universality is for peasants? Are they on Bill Morneau’s ‘save the one per cent’s wealth and the trickle down will follow’ bandwagon?

To be fair, I listened to the federal finance minister carefully when they were streaming the media conference with the cabinet luminaries early in the week. I got the feeling from what he was saying (more than doing) was that he did not believe there was a really an effective way to reach all the Canadians in need of support. Anyone who thinks our retail banks can help is suffering from myopia anyway.

What the banks can do is give every person access to a bank account. They have got to stop sending indigents to cheque-cashing store fronts.

I believe that there are fair-minded conservatives and many more liberal-minded Canadians who understand that a universal income program would save a great deal of money that is now spend on inadequate and wasteful support programs.

And there will also be a small percentage of recipients of these funds who will need what is recognized in some courts as a McKenzie Friend to provide advice and assistance in managing their stipend.

But the essential point, as stated in the green party commentary, is that “Our social safety net has been broken for a long time and the covid-19 crisis has only exposed the gaps in our income support programs.” Employment insurance cannot fix it. Payments starting in April are too late. We have to get money to those who need it immediately. And if we can get the wrinkles out of the program, we should keep it.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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A professional is on the job.

Saturday, March 28th, 2020

Kirsten Hillman of Global Affaires Canada has been appointed Canada’s ambassador to the United States of America. She has been in the job in an acting capacity since the departure of political appointee David MacNaughton to take part in the federal election last year. It is certainly a time when we need a professional diplomat on the job.

While Canada has always tended to have a political person in the hyper-intense political environment of Washington, Donald Trump in the presidency has changed that. He leaves those with just some political expertise lost and in the dark. He is not a political animal. He might be a lot of things, but he is no politician. The last three years have been a learning experience for all of us.

The appointment of Hillman as deputy ambassador in 2017 was in recognition of her expertise in international trade agreements. She was our general in the battles over NAFTA 2. While Canada’s foreign affairs was Chrystia Freeland’s bailiwick at the time, Hillman must have been the source of much of the strategy.

As a professional diplomat Hillman must spend hours in Washington just making sure she is retaining her cool visage. She can probably run rings around Trump’s ambassadors to Canada. Both the first appointee, Kelly Craft, and the more recent appointee, Aldona Wos, are best noted for the large amounts they (or a husband) donated to the Trump and republican party campaigns.

These ‘bought and paid for’ ambassadorships go back a long way in American history and the Americans have been roundly criticized for it over the years. I remember back in the mid 1970s the former Hollywood child star Shirley Temple Black had been appointed ambassador to Ghana by president Gerald Ford. The Ghana leadership felt insulted by the appointment. My wife and I met Shirley at a conference in Spain during that time and it was very obvious that she was not happy in that posting. I think she reached her ideal in political appointments for Foggy Bottom later when she was, briefly, chief of protocol for the United States.

But what can you say for a person who reached the peak of her career when she was eight-years old?


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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It’s time to make lemonade.

Thursday, March 26th, 2020

You know the old saw: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. We can all wonder at the colossal stupidity of the republicans in the American congress who fought to ensure that American business gets the bulk of federal government support funds during the covid-19 pandemic. Even in Canada, more than half of the support funds from the federal government are in support of the banks and big business. The primal instincts of bankers and business is to fight for their business survival. Employees, customers and the public are much lower on the totem.

But one thing we can consider guaranteed in all of this is that banks and big business are not the battleground of a pandemic. They might need repairs but they are not broken yet. This is the kind of fight that battlefield logisticians dread. This is fighting street by street, house by house and the enemy wears no distinguishing uniform. It is a battle when, in the middle ages, they sent wagons down the streets calling: “Bring out your dead.”

Our battle is being fought by the medical corps. Give them the cheque book of government. Kill the disease, cure the people. And do it as fast as humanly possible.

It came as a surprise the other day when Ontario’s chief Grinch, premier Ford, announced the availability of $200 million to Ontario’s municipalities to support food banks and other community support services for those in need. Mr. Ford has obviously been listening to people who understand the problems we are facing.

But do not forget that this is the guy who cancelled the liberals attempt at proving that guaranteed incomes can work for us all. It is the federal government that needs to take this opportunity to create a guaranteed income system for all Canadians.

Every citizen and newcomer to this country needs to receive a realistic basic income. If you are earning more than that, the basic fund will simply be taxed back to the government. It is a system that makes sure than nobody is missed. It will amaze people when they realize how much money the system can save us.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Trudeau is in the catbird seat.

Saturday, March 21st, 2020

Canadians have never seen anyone so well positioned at the moment than prime minister Justin Trudeau. Popping in an out of Rideau Cottage like a cuckoo in a clock, the PM has the stage to himself. The news media await him. In his self-imposed isolation and working from home, to care for his wife and family, he is setting the scene for what can be a very long lock-down of our country.

It should be explained that the ‘catbird’ seat is an idiomatic American political expression for being in a position of importance when needed. And Trudeau has full advantage of the situation.

The first challenge to our government is to lower the curve of incidence of the disease while science struggles to find a cure. And next we have to keep the economy from a complete collapse. We will be paying for this pandemic for years to come.

What worries me is the number of my fellow Canadians who are falling through the cracks in what are still elitist solutions. Trudeau, his finance minister Morneau and Ontario premier Ford are all elitists and do not seem to understand the real needs of a varied society. I do not want to keep beating a dying horse here but they do not seem to be aware that there are marginalized people out there who are looking more desperate all the time.

Looking at what detail is available in some of these elitist solutions, is not a pleasing experience. Take the deferral of mortgages. That sure is a nice touch for the couple who were going to be evicted tomorrow. The only problem is that they still have to pay eventually and there will be additional costs for more interest. You do not get the lowest interest rates on mortgages.

At least we are in better shape than Americans. It looks like that jerk Trump has driven the American bus straight into a full-blown depression. The richest country in the world has been felled by a coronavirus.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Caught short in a pandemic.

Friday, March 20th, 2020

We drove several hundred kilometres the other day. At least the gas was cheaper. My wife and I had to take someone some food. It made me realize how bad the planning is by our politicians. They have no idea of the basic nature of our lives.

Prime minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario premier Doug Ford are people raised in privilege and who live in privilege. When would they ever have to worry about the availability of a toilet?

My wife and I stopped in a town for lunch. Ontario has shut down all food facilities other than take out. We had to settle for McDonald’s. I ordered while my wife went in search of a washroom. No luck! The cashier refused to unlock the washroom for my wife. She said it was not available because they were now just a take-out restaurant. We got the same refusal of the washroom key down the street at an Esso gas station. Luckily, a little further along, a grocery supermarket had a handy unadvertised washroom.

But it told us a lot about the bad planning of our leaders. North America has always been stupid about the availability of public washrooms. Nobody needs to be embarrassed about simple bodily functions. And what parent has not had to assist a youngster in this basic exercise at the side of the road?

But what it shows is the basic elitism of our leaders. How much of that $82 billion offered the other day really goes to the people most in need? If you gave the people helping the homeless a few thousand in $50 bills to hand out every day, it would move through the economy like it was greased.

If there was ever a time in Canada to better understand the need for a guaranteed income plan, it is at this critical juncture. Think of this: give everybody, male, female, over 16 years-old, $400 every week in script. If you have not spent the money by the end of the current month, the script expires. And, if you make more than $600 per week at the same time, the money is taxed back to the government.

It is time for innovative solutions.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Our artificial monarchy.

Wednesday, March 18th, 2020

It is well past the point where Canada should be doing something to eliminate the false monarchy in this country. It is not only a sham but it is interfering with serious reform.

And I say this in all seriousness in a country where a kid named ‘Archie’ happens to live. Archie is sixth in line for the British throne. Not only that but his parents have tossed up the role of being royals in coming to this land of opportunity called Canada.

This is a new experience for all concerned. I have met some of the crowned heads of Europe and, in my humble opinion, there were few of them who could hold down the job of bag boy in a supermarket. We can hardly expect Harry and Meghan to start a trend.

But I do worry that we are so generously spending $3 billion on refurbishing of a parliament that we have no idea what it should look like by the time the renovations are finished.

And why are we fixing the senate chamber that will hardly be needed if Canadians ever get a say in the matter? The senate was created as a pseudo House of Lords because the Victorian parliament putting together the proposed parliament in the Canadian colony did not trust Canadian commoners to do the job properly.

And why do our parliamentarians live in fear of re-opening the constitution? They have made it increasingly hard to change. It has reached the point that we need to elect a constitutional conference to address the issues. And even a constitutional conference will need a referendum to seal and delivery the changes we need.

Canada is not a colony. We have not been a colony for a very long time. We need to eliminate the false trappings that say we are. We desperately need to modernize how we are governed. And that includes a heck of a lot more than eliminating the royal image on our coins and the $20 bill.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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When is ‘progressive’ not?

Monday, March 16th, 2020

Are all you ‘progressives’ asleep at the switch? Who let that cretin into who is trying to get us to fight for conversion therapy? A little attention to the curating, please.

(For my readers who access directly, on a regular basis, the daily blogs are also picked up by some collectives, such as This commentary is about a recent blog on that pinboard on March 15 by The Arbourist.)

It is too bad that I do not believe in commenting publicly on other writers’ efforts. We each write our own blogs for our own reasons. I started Babel-on-the-Bay more than 10 years ago for something to do in retirement. There is no more disgusting trait in Canada than kicking people to the curb because of their chronological age.

I peruse ‘Progressive Bloggers’ periodically to see what others are writing about. There are some very good writers in this collection. There are also some hopeless cases that you can easily skip over. It is just that the suggestion that all of us are ‘progressive’ is really stretching it!

When I first noticed that the Trudeau government had a bill banning ‘conversion therapy’ coming up, I was mildly surprised that we had not already done that. I have no direct experience with conversion therapy but I support the professionals who tell us how harmful it can be.

But when I read the blog by some tree service that so blithely asks us to defend conversion therapy, I see red. Conversion therapy can take many forms, many of them damaging to the recipient. The basic idea is to re-educate the individual by wiping out what were considered the undesirable traits in his or her lifestyle. A simple way to describe the process is to call it brain-washing. It is a melange of methods designed by quasi-medical quacks, con artists and religious fanatics who convince the parents of what they consider is best for an under-age recipient.

What they are really doing is assaulting what might be an already fragile mind and often doing serious damage. It should have been banned many years ago.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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A day in the life of Canada.

Sunday, March 15th, 2020

It is not just another day. Canada has reached a new level. It is a day when we can say that this country can work together as one. Lately that has not been the case. We have been carping and complaining to each other for too long. It is time we showed some unity. It is just too bad that it has happened because of a pandemic.

We will have to take the good with the bad. We can do that. Our prime minister can work from home for a couple weeks. He is spending some time with his kids. He has a sick wife to look after. This is better than constant selfies with strangers.

Parliament is shut down. Our MPs are back in their electoral districts until late April. They were unanimous in passing the new North American free trade agreement before leaving. Now the hard work begins on ironing out the details but the American negotiators will not be as bullying.

Our American neighbours were not prepared for the Covid-19 pandemic. Their leadership was scoffing at this ‘foreign’ virus until reality came to call. They are coming from behind.

And we will pay the price for their unpreparedness. It might be the one time we will be less pleased with our porous border. It would be disastrous to the economies of both countries if an attempt was made to close that border.

But travel anywhere will be limited in the weeks to come. I was supposed to be in Ottawa today for a celebration of life for my oldest brother. I am sitting at home with a box of Kleenex at my side. In the time of Covid-19, I have a simple head cold. Just try to go anywhere today with those symptoms and you will still be ostracised.

My wife and I both feel the pain of not being with those we love. Our world is shutting down around us. I do not think we have yet seen the worst of Covid-19.

But Canada will come out of it stronger than before. We are a nation of resourceful and determined people.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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