Archive for the ‘Federal Politics’ Category

The anger factor.

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

A reader on the west coast asked the other day if we are seeing anger in Liberal ranks directed at Prime Minister Trudeau’s disrespect for the party? What was strange about the question was that most of that anger is building on the west coast. The flash point will be the funding and tooling up of the of the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion over the Rockies.

Anger is the emotion you look for in politics. We saw it in the United States over the last election. We knew that Americans of all political leanings were angry at the stalemates and infighting of their congress. In Canada, we were angry at the arrogance of the Harper government. In England, it was the feeling of helplessness as a member of the European Union: enter Brexit.

And now that same English anger is re-directed at Prime Minister May. The French took out their angst on their right wing. Anger in itself is not political; reaction becomes political.

No doubt many psychologists have published learned papers on this anger. There is really mothing new about it in politics. Anger is a blunt instrument used by politicians at their peril. The key is to lead, to direct the mob against a person, party, race, religion, tribe or nation. Blowback is when the mob knows they have been used.

But you can never tell a mob that they are being used. Just think of the last time you tried to convert a Donald Trump supporter? That person has all their hopes and fears wrapped up in the promises of a professional con-man. Deprogramming the true believer is no easy task.

And what is really frustrating is the rejection of logic. You can use the simplest of easy to understand logic and your argument will be rejected. The true Trump supporter does not care. They want their pound of flesh at any price. They do not care what the cost is to them.

Given time, people such as Donald Trump destroy themselves. He is already showing his distaste for the job he thought he wanted. It is not offering him the satisfaction he expected. He is still hitting out at supposed enemies. He needs to spend more time playing golf.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Trudeau: Poster Boy or Action Figure?

Sunday, June 18th, 2017

Goodness! Is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau being criticized for not living up to his promises? Is he just a poster boy? Why is he not living up to his billing? He will have two years as prime minister in his pocket this October and some people are starting to have doubts.

What is the problem? Is he marching to a different drummer than what he promised Canadians? The transparency in parliament and the collegial atmosphere he promised there seem to be forgotten. His purported feminist support—because it is 2015—seems more like using neophytes as cannon fodder. He seems to have no urge to solve his cabinet problems.

What ties this liberal in knots is the why of his continued abuse of the Liberal Party. Today’s Liberals are not his father’s party. All the party is allowed to be is a mailing list for pleas for money. It is a propaganda mechanism and a source of suckers for fund-raising. The party that was has been gutted. The party executive are just yes-men and women. There is no policy discussion. The Leader is in control.

Justin Trudeau seems to live in some elite world of a monied aristocracy that only communicates with other elites. The only problem is that they seem to be running out of elites and nothing is happening on some serious appointments. He can hardly promise impartiality and then throw a Liberal hack on the table for an impartial position. Nobody tries hard to keep their word.

It is not like a promise that the 2015 election would be the last under first-past-the-post voting. That was a foolish promise that was proved impractical by parliamentarians giving up their summer last year to study it.

And, sorry Justin, you are not allowed to change the rules in parliament to suit your own wishes. Parliament belongs to the people. It has to be open and be fair to all parties.

Justin also needs to understand that he cannot suck and blow at the same time. If you are going to be the poster boy for the environment, you cannot send three times the amount of diluted bitumen over the Rockies on the Kinder Morgan pipeline. It makes you look like a hypocrite.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Chasing ghosts with Chantal Hébert.

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

In the pile of books set aside for summer reading was Chantal Hébert and Jean Lapierre’s analysis of The Morning After.  It is supposedly their take on the 1995 Quebec Referendum.  By starting with their book, this might become a long hot summer.

The book had come to the pile as a gift. It had been there for a while. The author(s) had waited almost 20 years to produce the book, so a few years on my must-read-sometime pile would hardly matter.

After reading half and skimming the rest, finishing it is questionable. It is only mildly interesting. It is like reading a review of a Shakespearean play in which you were a spear carrier. You have your own view of the actors and their gaffs.

And, not to speak ill of the dead, I cannot figure out what Jean Lapierre contributed to this book other than his name and access to some other story tellers. If he was the one who got the titular ‘No’ leader, Daniel Johnson, to agree to an interview, he was wasting his time. The only question I ever wanted to hear answered by Johnson was what the hell he was doing in politics? His chapter was a waste of everybody’s time.

And we already knew that then Premier Jacques Parizeau was a mean-spirited, pig-headed, ‘Colonel Blimp’ caricature. He said it all on that final night, slamming ‘money and the ethnic vote.’ We should all be thankful it was his political swan song.

Lucien Bouchard was by far the most convoluted character on the referendum stage. And to think he had been our ambassador to France before joining the Mulroney cabinet. His falling out with Mulroney over the Meech Lake Accord never did make sense. Nobody’s loyalties should teeter on that sharp an edge. And his staged sophistry on separation came across as hollow.

But as much as I have always admired Chantal Hébert’s ease in explaining the Quebec scene, this is not her best effort. Maybe what we really need is writers who can explain Canada to Quebecers. They need to understand the intense love for this entire country that people have whether their family came last year or in the last century. It is not wise to test such love.

And as for Chantal’s book The Morning After. There is a pill for that.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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How would Harper have handled Trump?

Sunday, June 11th, 2017

When listening to Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland give her very important speech on the new world order, there was one disturbing thought. It was a silly question as to how would our previous prime minister have handled the situation? The one thing for sure was that Stephen Harper would never have allowed his foreign affairs minister to make such an important speech. It could have only been Harper himself in the spotlight.

And the more you think of it, you realize that the speech lost something by being delivered in the House of Commons. Harper would have taken it far from the Hill. He might have even taken the speech to New York or Philadelphia. That would have guaranteed world-wide attention.

Mind you it has been most of a century since anyone gave a truly momentous speech in our House of Commons. And that speaker was a Brit by the name of Winston Churchill.

Freeland’s speech was in essence a proposed walk-around to the situation with American President Trump. And it never needed to mention his name. (The only insult the son of a bitch recognizes is being ignored.)

And Freeland’s proposed solutions are long overdue. Canadians have really had enough of being treated as two-legged pets by the Americans.

We might have counted on their protecting us under the North American Air Defence Agreement (NORAD) but who the hell is protecting us from Trump? (Are we hoping he will invade Mexico first?)

But it would sure be nice to have a real Canadian military again. Trump will be long gone before we get our military up to snuff but it will be the effort made that counts. We might even get fighter aircraft to meet Canada’s needs.

Harper would not have liked the spending part of the speech. It would be more his style to only threaten to have a real Canadian military. Yet he would have agreed to going after more bi-lateral trade deals to try to keep Canada on its feet if Trump continues to destroy the American economy with his ignorance.

But would Harper have really stood up to what is going on in the Disturbed States of America? Probably not.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Tasking Tenuous Think Tanks.

Saturday, June 10th, 2017

A friend sent an e-mail recently, attaching a 25-page report from the Broadbent Institute. This study supposedly refutes other think tank reports that say Canadians are overtaxed. He says that I am (inexplicably, he claims) adverse to Ed Broadbent and his institute but I should read the report anyway.

In defence, I should explain that I like to see the qualifications of the researchers and check the bias of the those commissioning the study before accepting its findings. In this writer’s estimation, the left-wing Broadbent Institute and the right-wing Fraser Institute are both frauds. Why would either of them bother to publish a study that did not fit their bias? The academics doing so many of these so-called studies seem to be biases for hire.

And there is just too much of this biased material being issued these days. The Americans have taken to calling it all false news. Soon, we will have difficulty sorting it all out.

The pity is that we used to respect the better news media that could afford to have the proper research done and give us balanced reporting. As the media lose advertising support and have to downsize, it seems to be this research capability that is the first to go. We end up with the dominant media in Quebec being controlled by a millionaire separatist and the rest of Canada being fed a diet rich in right-wing propaganda.

All this being said, there are some truths in the Broadbent Institute report. The basic thought is that you get what you pay for. Canada is not the highest taxed country nor the lowest taxed.

I found it very funny years ago when one of my brothers first made a few million dollars. He was normally quite right-wing in his attitude but he honestly admitted to me that he was embarrassed that Canada’s tax laws allowed him to keep more of the money than he expected. And was it not American billionaire Warren Buffett who complained a few years ago that his secretary paid a higher U.S. tax rate than he did?

Rich people who want to pay more taxes, should be encouraged to pay more.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Planes and Trains and…

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

Flying used to be glamorous. Not any more. It has become a demeaning and uncomfortable experience. Those people in line for security in their smelly stocking feet should bleat like sheep as they are fleeced by money-grubbing airlines. They are shoved into uncomfortable seats only to be abused by airline employees. There is no fun allowed in the air.

But trains are different. There is hope for trains. Trains are for the kinder classes. Trains rarely crash. They have excellent safety records. Nobody seriously tries to hijack a train. Trains have roomy, comfortable seating. You can have a refreshing drink, dine at your leisure, actually see the country-side. Trains can travel very fast and arrive on time.

Except in Canada. Our trains are never on time for passengers because the train people in Canada put freight ahead of passengers. Our travels are interrupted to give us lengthy views of sidings. There are no dedicated rail lines for high-speed passenger service.

If you are old enough to remember the TurboTrain by Canadian National Railways (CNR) that was introduced in 1968, you remember a world-first in high-speed rail. The introduction was of a train capable of winding up its gas turbine engines to a speed of 274 kilometres per hour. The design of the cars allowed the train to lean into curves. The design of the brakes was regrettably for warmer climates. CNR never did solve the problem of the brakes freezing. They also failed to realize that high-speed trains and level crossings are a very bad combination.

As determined as I could be in wanting to use the train, the Turbo never did get me to Montreal or back home at the promised time. Anecdotally, I can still remember the luncheon speech I was scheduled to give in Montreal at a time when Air Canada was not flying. CNR employees promised me the Turbo would be on time. They lied.

But I will not give up hope that eventually we will have high-speed rail service in Canada. And please, for goodness sake, do not let CNR or Ontario Premier Wynne screw it up.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Choosing a Conservative caretaker.

Thursday, June 1st, 2017

The Conservative Party hierarchy could not have the better fall guy for the next federal election. Whomever came up with the convoluted voting system that was used to choose this poor guy last weekend might have saved the party years in the wilderness.

It will likely be 2023 before the Conservative Party comes roaring out of the west again. Caretaker Andrew Scheer will be expected to fall on his sword after the 2019 election and make room for a more dynamic leader.

The party’s real leader, to be chosen in 2021, could be young enough today to just be completing a dissertation at the right school. There is still much planning to be done to define the challenges and words of this new leader.

In the meantime, caretaker Scheer has his job defined. He has a caucus to cull. Lacking the tools that the job of Prime Minister offers, he has to make sure that the right MPs get the right opportunities to speak for the party. You need to watch and see who the key shadow ministers are that he selects. He has the experience as speaker and in caucus since the loss in 2015 to make the right selections.

In the background, he has to help build the team that will take the party through the cleansing cauldron of the next election in 2019. Knowing how unlikely it is to squeak through a win, it is the selection and placement of candidates that will create the strong base for the next leader. One of these new candidates is likely to be the pre-selected next leader. This leader will need a stronger, more determined and directed caucus.

The only danger for the backroom politicos pulling the strings on this scenario is that caretaker ‘Chuckles’ Scheer gets the bit in his teeth and goes for the long-shot win in 2019. It is unlikely because it is not his style nor is he ready to defy the odds or the party.

And, when you think about it, the only reason Scheer won the Conservative Party leadership was the strength of the social conservative members of the party combined with the anger Maxime Bernier earned from his province’s dairy farmers. Those farmers came close to defeating Bernier in his own riding. It was only Kevin O’Leary’s unwelcome interference in the race that gave Bernier the early impetuous in the voting.

In the meantime, Justin Trudeau can look forward to the 2019 election as a free pass. We should only hope that he makes good use of the time.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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The Infrastructure Bank Conundrum.

Monday, May 29th, 2017

It has been surprising just how many writers are interpreting the Liberal Government’s Infrastructure Bank as a prop for public-private partnerships (P3). It has also not helped that the government included the legislation in the larger budget bill and that finance minister Bill Morneau has been slow to defend his proposal.  When you are seeding it with $35 billion of taxpayers’ money, this is not a corner store operation.

While taxpayers can expect that some of the propositions brought to the bank will be P3-type projects, we have to remember that the political partner in these projects takes the heat for the public value and the private partner takes the heat for the business case. The Infrastructure Bank takes the heat if neither of the partners nor the public are satisfied with the result.

There have certainly been some bad P3 projects in the past. It has been mostly caused by uncaring government’s selling out the public share at fire-sale prices. In Ontario you need only look as far as Toll-highway 407 and Toronto’s SkyDome to see what poor government control of P3 assets can cost.

We can hardly expect someone such as Bill Morneau, with his background, to be a very progressive finance minister. He has been to all the right schools in Canada as well as the dutiful stint at the London School of Economics and he is obviously neoliberal in his thinking.

And he will make sure that Justin Trudeau appoints all the same sort to control his Infrastructure Bank. You can hardly expect them to be dreamers or progressives. The only pressure on them will be to get the money working for us. You can be sure that like all Canadian bankers, they will act as skinflints and curmudgeons. Unlike their private sector banking brothers, they will have to address Canadian-only projects—of benefit to Canadians. That will be the novelty that will pay off for us.

Canadians can expect that the new Infrastructure Bank can attract four to five times its seed funds in foreign and domestic money in the first couple years. That $140 billion to $175 billion is going to make a huge difference in catching up our infrastructure deficit and getting us moving stronger into the future. So get off Bill’s back and help him build this bank for our future.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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The parade of the Conservative losers.

Sunday, May 28th, 2017

A political movement died out near the Toronto airport yesterday. It was the once powerful Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. The new Conservative Party of Canada, heir to the Reform Party, struggles on. It was a time of bad television and bad politics as the surviving party chose a new leader. By a margin of less than two per cent, in complex voting, the social conservatives beat out the libertarians for the leadership.

The convention hall had seen better times. The Canadian Broadcasting Corp tried desperately to make a television event of a fiasco. The presentation of the ballots was stretched past credibility for a computerized count. Political pundits were perplexed and pollsters were puzzled.

As a television personality, Kevin O’Leary again proved that he has no knowledge of politics to pass on to future generations. His choice for leader, Quebec MP Maxime Bernier, led in voting until the final count. The perpetually smiling Andrew Scheer MP is the new leader of the Conservative Party, heir to the lost legacy of Stephen Harper.

Bernier and Scheer were Babel-on-the-Bay Morning Line’s fourth and fifth likely possibilities as leader—which is not bad considering the complexity of the strange voting method and the field of 13. Lisa Raitt and Michael Chong would have been far better choices politically but they could not produce as many new party members as the social conservative candidates. Michael Chong was the only candidate for leader who could have given Justin Trudeau a hard race in 2019. He was the only candidate who actually thought about where the party is headed.

Instead, the Conservatives now have Andrew Scheer to lead them. At least he has more of his own hair than Stephen Harper.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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We can blame Cousin Oliver.

Friday, May 26th, 2017

It is all Oliver Mowat’s fault. The myopic Father of Confederation had a mainly rural and agrarian Ontario to oversee in the early years of confederation. His picture hangs over our desk today, not as a distant relation but in the form of a preserved and framed, full front-page of a Saturday Globe published in 1893.  The lead story recognizes Sir Oliver’s then 21-year tenure as Ontario’s premier.

But Ontario is a very different place today than the Province of Upper Canada that came into the Canadian confederation 150 years ago this July 1. Cousin Oliver would probably have something snarky to say about the picture of his one-time colleague Canada’s first Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald on the same wall. The two of them had very different views of confederation. Our preference is the country as foreseen by Sir John.

Yet, it was Sir Oliver who won those early battles taken to London that defined this country. He saw Canada as an outrider to the British ship of state. He saw us as a supplier of raw materials to English industry. He wanted strong provinces that could dictate to a national government of convenience. The British adjudicators of the time agreed with Sir Oliver.

But Sir John had his revenge. He built the national links of steel that drew Canada into one. His Canada was from sea to sea.

Give Oliver the credit he deserves in building Ontario into the powerhouse of confederation. It was his short-sightedness that left us with a constricting constitution that is so unsuited to the needs of our modern Canada.

Who knew in 1867 that Canada would outgrow the concept of the Commonwealth? Who knew in those early years of confederation that Canada could become a production powerhouse to help change the course of European and World Wars?

Let’s give Oliver the credit he deserves. He was a wily politician. He took George Brown and Edward Blake’s early Liberals and led them for 24 years as Premier of Ontario. He put together a voting coalition that included Catholics and working class voters. It was said about him that he was supported strongly by both the liquor interests and the prohibitionists. Cousin Oliver was a Liberal.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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