Archive for the ‘Federal Politics’ Category

Justin’s ‘Turn to Bow’.

Friday, July 31st, 2020

Yesterday’s show from Ottawa reminded me of a small book produced by Maclean’s magazine for the 1972 federal election: Their turn to curtsy – Your turn to bow. It told you all the magazine thought you needed to know to be a knowledgeable voter. Maybe that was the intent of the latest episode of the finance committee hearings.

As usual, the Zoom technology proved its strengths and weaknesses. It is dependent on the individual participant’s Internet service—and that is a mixed bag across the country. Mind you the different ‘sets’ for each of the politicians also told a story. I felt sorry for liberal MP Julie Dzerowicz. We know the cost of real estate in Toronto is horrendous but the poor girl looked like she was in somebody’s closet.

New democrat Charley Angus’ background was the clutter of a mind occupied with other things. Yet, conservative Pierre Poilievre was regally presented with a perfectly lit set (until his back flood failed) and full make-up. Chairman Wayne Easter, MP from Prince Edward Island, had a power failure during a storm and it looked like Pierre Poilievre, deputy chair, would take over. Luckily, the power came back quickly in Malpeque.

Whomever set up the studious office setting for the prime minister should have demanded his subject get a shave and a haircut. Maybe he kept the beard because it aged him but the hair looked like a four-year old who screamed when taken to a barber. And not having a teleprompter for his opening remarks was a mistake.

But some would argue that what was said was most important. You could only wish something new was said. As one of the most experienced politicians, the NDP’s Charlie Angus used the ‘more in sorrow than in anger’ approach and it earned him a lecture from the PM who was probably among the least experienced.

The people who needed better balance were the conservatives. Michael Barrett, the newby from Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes was trying to out-nasty Pierre Poilievre. His angle of attack was whether the PM would fire the civil servants who where supposed to vet the WE charity.

Like the book from Maclean’s, I am not sure I ever read the entire content. You had to be a political person to really stick with the drama yesterday. Will it matter? Not much. Will finance minister Bill Morneau be fired? I think he should be.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Liberals whistle past the graveyard.

Thursday, July 30th, 2020

While it might be foolish to buy stock in Trudeau and Company in Ottawa, you have to ask who is going to gain in an election? It is a serious question. It would be necessary for the opposition to get together and bring down the minority liberal government in late September. We could be into an election in November.

But I think not.

There is no doubt that Canadians are displeased with the Justin Trudeau’s gaffes and the We Charity fiasco. And the conservatives would see it as the ideal time to strike with a new leader.

The problem is that there is little reason for the Bloc Québécois to go along with them. Without a new leader, the new democrats have even less reason to get on board.

My guess is that, in such election, the liberals might lose, at most, five or six marginal seats. Would the Bloc or the new democrats gain? Not likely. A few more conservatives would be a slap on the wrist for the liberals and life, such as it is in a pandemic, would go on.

But Canadians are concerned. New voters are the ones likely to be most angry at the liberals. Sure, the liberal government was generous in trying to protect them from the coronavirus and its impact on the economy. The prime minister also won Brownie points for his briefings out of Rideau Cottage. The voters just know now that he will never be perfect. Let another national party get a half-decent leader and Justin Trudeau might be history.

We know that neither Peter MacKay nor Erin O’Toole are going to take the conservatives anywhere. The taste of Harper-style economics will keep either from reaching the brass ring. New democrat leader Jagmeet Singh is also last year’s loser. He fails to promote money, loyalty or effective policies for his party.

And one can only wonder at how the greens are doing in their search for new leadership.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

The ‘WE’ boys go to the show.

Wednesday, July 29th, 2020

After months of nothing but bad television, we finally got a taste of drama on Tuesday afternoon. It was politics at its best and its worst. It was a success and failure of technology. And it was sad.

The We charity will never recover. And as it is run, it should not. The Save the Children charity, created in 1995, hardly passed the smell test. In today’s version, as We Charity, there were questions the operators did not answer. They should have brought their lawyers with them. They were under oath and skating on some thin ice.

The questions that they had the most trouble answering were predictable. Charlie Angus of the NDP ripped into them for not registering as lobbyists. Pierre Poilievre, the cowboy francophone from Calgary, pounded them. And he had reason.

After 25 years at the helm of a charity the Kielburger boys are purported to be millionaires. Their mix of charities, for-profit companies and activities are a confused conglomerate, over which, they seem to have complete control. They have come a long way for a couple kids from Thornhill, just north of Toronto.

My surprise was that it was the younger Craig who took the lead in answering the question from the parliamentarians. He has grown glib over the years.

But did he really write that book that pushed him into prominence 25-years ago? It was hardly his public relations skills that got him there.

It was like shooting fish in a barrel for the opposition MP’s to ridicule the hiring of the prime minister’s mother as a speaker for We Days.

The show was another bad example of Zoom technology. Yet, you had to admire the careful staging, make-up and lighting of that weasel Pierre Poilievre and the extra time given to him by his conservative colleagues, in recognition of his tenacity.

The liberals gave this episode a touching ending, but too late.

I can hardly wait for part two of this show. Do you think our prime minister will get a shave and a haircut before his appearance on Thursday?

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Maybe we have the economic answer.

Tuesday, July 28th, 2020

Not being an economist, I got into some heavy sledding this last week trying to find out more about modern monetary theory (MMT). The fascination was in seeing how this theory could move us into the future, once we defeat the coronavirus. It was certainly a delight to move forward from the awkward balancing act economist John Maynard Keynes left us with or the sour rigidity of a Milton Friedman.

And who can forget today, the disastrous laissez-faire economics of libertarian Alan Greenspan. It was said, after he left as head of the U.S. Federal Reserve, that he claimed he did not know that financial firms could not regulate themselves. Greenspan was just one more reason why they describe economics as the dismal science.

But my concern is where we are headed. Our problem is not just the pandemic. I think the cost of buying our way out of economic collapse because the disease is scaring the average citizen. Considering the number of unthinking conservatives in our society, there are going to be stupid demands for paying down debt much too soon.

But in a time of extremely low interest rates, we have a window of opportunity. We can work towards the ideal of full employment. We can invest money in the high-speed rail that Canada needs. We can accelerate the building of subways for our cities. We can develop a guaranteed annual income from the CERB program. Nobody needs to work for less than the government provides. It sets an easily established minimum wage.

A fellow commentator on the Left Coast was complaining to me recently that returning Canada to a true liberal democracy might just be a dream. I try not to be quite so pessimistic. I guess I dream harder.

All I know is that Justin Trudeau and other neoliberals such as finance minister Bill Morneau are not inclined to get us where we need to go. The new democrats are a yesterday party. We need change. Canada needs real progressives in office.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

MP’s paid too much for too little.

Monday, July 27th, 2020

In talking with other liberals a few days ago, the question was raised; Why are we paying these liberal MPs so much just to vote as they are told? They have serious questions to ask Justin Trudeau. They have to demand the resignation of finance minister Bill Morneau. Our MPs have to get off their asses and do the job for which Canadians are paying them.

The chap who asked the question about pay, worked damn hard to elect a liberal in our riding last election. I also know he contributed generously to the liberal campaign. And what are the thanks he gets?

The rank and file liberals across Canada appear to be just as gutless as their members of parliament. These people have been denied their right to vote on Justin Trudeau’s custodianship of the job of leader. They are sent endless e-mails asking for more money. They are constantly embarrassed by the PM’s elitism and his faux pas.

As liberals, we have the right to ask for more. We do not get out and work for our liberal candidate at election time just to be ignored for the next four years. (Asking us for money does not qualify as communication, thank you.)

Liberals are not people who are just happy with the status quo. Party workers include large numbers of progressives. These are people who are eager for new initiatives, forward thinking, social justice, concern for the disadvantaged and the advancement of Canada among world nations.

Our members of parliament are paid more than $150,000 a year in basic salary. This is equivalent to the salary of a vice-president of a medium sized firm or, at least, a senior manager. It is not what you pay for people to vote as they are told. Caucus solidarity does not mean everyone has to act stupid.

Caucus meetings are where MPs can raise their concerns. Acting like sheep just means they are going to get shorn.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Liberal MPs not doing their job.

Saturday, July 25th, 2020

When the mail box notification dinged the other morning with another e-mail from the liberal party, I thought it might be news of finance minister Bill Morneau’s resignation. No such luck, the party just wanted more money. I am not sure why. The MPs in the liberal caucus must be sheep to allow what is happening to continue.

The party caucus has rights, you know. It would be a good time to exercise them. Or not, if they do not care what happens next time Canada elects a government. Their voters will blame them for the shortcomings of their leader and the cabinet. They will lose with Trudeau.

The sheep are allowed to ask questions in caucus. Why are we not hearing about it? They have the power to ask for the resignation of the leader or from members of the cabinet. In a situation as extreme as the current situation, they can even move a vote of non-confidence in the house of commons.

It is not like in Ontario where the leader of the party in power has a large enough majority to silence a malcontent in caucus. Liberal MPs need not worry about being kicked out of caucus. They have a problem and it is their responsibility to solve it.

Hell, they have a leader who does not have the common sense to get a shave and a haircut when he really needs it. The twit does not have the smarts to recuse himself in cabinet when discussing giving money to an organization paying his mother hundreds of thousands of dollars.

This guy puts selfies ahead of easy rules to follow. He does not seem to understand that Canadians so not need his choice of finance minister, his elitism, his self indulgence or his cockiness.

These are serious times in Canada and around the world. The public has awaited his cuckoo clock appearances from Rideau Cottage but often the plans that were announced have needed more thought and long-term consideration. Those briefings at the cottage could have been better served by a media secretary.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Morneau’s meandering memory.

Friday, July 24th, 2020

Fool us once Mr. Morneau, shame on you. Fool us twice, shame on us.

Finance minister Bill Morneau has the amazing ability to remember between breakfast and lunch more than $40,000 in expenses he should have paid. I am sorry those harpies in the conservative caucus are making his life difficult at the moment but it is one of the few times that they have been known to be right. Morneau’s ‘mea culpa’ is not acceptable. It can only come with his resignation.

As someone who has travelled to many parts of the world on behalf of a charity, I find the finance minister’s expenses are unconscionable. Those times my wife could come with me on some of my trips, her expenses were always separated and the wife and I paid them. That is the way it is done sir; not sometime in the future when you are appearing before a concerned parliamentary committee.

It is to be hoped that Mr. Morneau has a smart accountant. People in his financial category would often file an expense account for their expenses when travelling and working for the charity. What we would issue them in return was a charitable receipt for the donation. That was legal and above board. They got back some of their costs in the form of a tax refund.

While the Kielburgers might think their published salaries of $125,000 each from the WE charity are modest, I would really like to know what they get from the for-profit part of the their organizations and book royalties. As they are purported to be millionaires today, that should not be the purpose of a charity. That is not what the phrase “charity begins at home” means.

As for Bill Morneau, he has proved that he is neither suited nor worthy of the post of finance minister. His apologies are not accepted.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Longing for leadership.

Tuesday, July 21st, 2020

Sometime, after August 21, the conservative party hopes to announce the winner of the party’s national leadership. The big question though is does anybody care?

What possible difference would it make if Erin O’Toole beat Peter MacKay? It is the same old, same old conservative dogma. It would mean promising Canadians the squeezing of the size of government, tax loopholes for the rich, ignoring global warming and maybe more concessions to the radical Christian right. There are no new ideas coming from this party.

Nor do we have any expectations from the new democrats. If the party fails to get itself a new leader and new ideas, what hope is there for a party that is supposed to be the conscience of parliament?

The NDP did not even respond when outgoing leader of the green party, Elizabeth May, suggested that the NDP join with the greens. Without Ms. May, both parties are currently leaderless.

That leaves us with the liberals. Since the liberal party has been effectively neutered by Justin Trudeau, we have to look to the liberal caucus. Despite the yeoman service of the prime minister popping out of the cuckoo clock at Rideau Cottage on the pandemic file, it is his leadership we really have to question.

We have all seen it now. When things are swinging his way, the Trudeau scion gets cocky. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) seems to have no one capable of looking ahead at the prime minister’s proposed actions. Nobody is giving the files the smell test. There is no political prospective being taken. Trudeau is free wheeling it, as though drunk. He is embarrassing liberals across Canada. He has put the Trans Mountain pipeline ahead of the environment. He ignores obvious conflicts of interest. He has no conscience.

And the solution can only be resolved by the liberal caucus. It is up to our liberal members of parliament to stand on their hind legs and bring the prime minister to heel. When the party leader loses the confidence of the caucus, it is time for action.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Finance Minister Morneau has to go.

Saturday, July 18th, 2020

(Before warming to today’s topic, I would like to thank the readers who sent their comments on yesterday’s topic. I thought at least five per cent of Canadians could name our last five prime ministers. I now think it might be only two per cent who can name Kim Campbell, Jean Chrétien, Paul Martin, Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau—without checking with Google.)

 

But today, we are trying to make the case for prime minister Justin Trudeau to fire his finance minister. Bill Morneau does not seem to realize that, as finance minister, he is in the position of Caesar’s wife. A finance minister is not only required to be above suspicion but an error in judgement cannot be tolerated.

Nor can the credibility of a finance minister be salvaged with an apology. He can hardly forget that one of his daughters works for the We Charity. His other daughter got Craig Kielburger co-founder of the charity to say something nice about her book. The ages of your children hardly matter, you never stop worrying about them or wanting to be proud of them.

But this was a conflict of interest that Morneau took into cabinet and did not recuse himself. How can Canadians ever trust him again? Finance is a game without mulligans.

This does not apply to the prime minister. Justin Trudeau has had more ‘gotcha’s’ than the previous four prime ministers. Between the visit to the Aga Khan, the embarrassing boondoggle in India, the blackface in Vancouver, the SNC Lavalin affair and his mother’s retirement fund from the We Charity, Justin is teetering on the knife edge. While he gets us through the pandemic, that decision remains with the voters.

If any other political party had a half-respectable leader that the voters could get behind, Justin Trudeau and his apologies might be history.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Leadership and legacies.

Friday, July 17th, 2020

This was prodded by a reader. He asked me to search my mind for leaders of Canada’s federal parties and determine what I would consider their legacy to the country.

It was a somewhat disappointing search. While hardly a recent leader, I started with Sir John A. Macdonald. It is a rare person who can believe in a country and then make it happen. Sir John was hardly perfect and he left many problems for future generations. He gave our country a kick start.

The legacy of Sir Wilfrid Laurier is the essential difference between Canada and the United States. Sir Wilfrid was a thinker and he gave us the basis of the liberalism of Canada. He also established Canada as a country in its own right and the working relationship between Quebec and the rest of the country.

It was William Lyon Mackenzie King who established the basics of the country’s social welfare system. He might have been the quirkiest prime minister but he brought us through the Second World War.

I have a special place for Lester B. Pearson. The Auto Agreement that he put together with the United States was the forerunner of the Canada/U.S. free trade. And his two liberal minority governments were the hardest working and passed Canada’s Medicare, the Student Loan program, the Canada Pension Plan, our distinctive maple leaf flag and effectively abolished capital punishment.

I should also note that Mr. Pearson picked the man who followed him: Pierre Trudeau. Pierre’s legacy was his humour, his intellect and his honesty in office, as well as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. His son Justin is not much like him.

The last prime minister on the list was handed his legacy by Pierre Trudeau’s Royal Commission on the Economic Union and Economic Prospects for Canada. It fell on Brian Mulroney to carry out free trade with the United States.

We have had five prime ministers since then. Can you name them all?

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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