Archive for the ‘Federal Politics’ Category

Big tents are hard to move.

Sunday, January 19th, 2020

If only we had a nickel for every time someone told us that Canada’s conservative and liberal parties are ‘big tent’ parties. Big tent parties are, as the name implies, large enough to accommodate many different views, as opposed to smaller, narrow interest parties. You can think of the big tent parties as being big enough to include the three rings of a circus tent. And, I can assure you, what goes on inside those parties has all the earmarks of being a circus.

But where all the clowns, aerialists, lion tamers and elephants get together is when the tent has to be moved. It requires all hands.

The federal conservatives are in the throws of one of those moves. With political parties, you never know where these moves are going to end up. Which segment of the party will dominate? Will it be the old school such as Peter MacKay from the Mulroney years, Pierre Poilievre of the Harper legions from the turn of the century or some one from the social conservatives, who have always felt left out?

We are not sure if there are really any Red Tories left? Or is there a populist with the bombast of a Doug Ford out there, ready to declare? We have yet to be introduced to all the potential players. Not that the rules permit casual inclusion in this soiree. The price of entry is stiff to keep out the adventure seekers and other riffraff who just want the notoriety. The voting rules will winnow the candidates down to the bland and acceptable.

The party learned nothing from its adventure with Chuckles Scheer. They have the history of their party to teach them the foolishness of how they are voting. The rules are clear. You either win on the first ballot or the party goes down to defeat with another loser.

The theme for the convention in June should be the haunting lyrics of Stephen Sondheim’s Send In the Clowns. Oh well, Maybe next year!

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

“Enter Laughing.”

Saturday, January 18th, 2020

So, you want to be an actor? And Canada is the theatre. Nova Scotian Peter MacKay, once more wants to be conservative leader. It reminds us of the semi-autobiographical novel by American humourist Carl Reiner. He turned the book into a successful movie in 1967 and launched his career in Hollywood. Frankly, MacKay might be better off in Hollywood than in Canada’s conservative politics.

This is not the first time Peter MacKay has made the effort. He seems to have forgotten how Stephen Harper handed his head last time around. Once more, he is heading into the buzz saw of Western Reform politics. MacKay is a ‘progressive’ among conservatives and that spells ‘wimp’ to westerners.

And anyone who thinks Peter MacKay means competence, could not know the man. He is a light-weight, an egoist and is only impressed by money. He is Brian Mulroney redux. He is an old-time progressive conservative, astray and lost in the 21st Century.

I say this when I am not even a conservative. The guy is a waste of our time. He is just another lawyer obfuscating life.

But he is welcome to join the downhill race to the conservative leadership. He could hardly do worse than Chuckles Scheer.

Can you imagine the temerity of the damn fool to make his announcement that he is running on Twitter? How shallow and inconsequential could he make the contest? He’s a twit.

You would think that MacKay would have matured somewhat since he was last in politics. It hardly sounds like it!

But back to Carl Reiner’s talents: There is a man who can stand tall while laughing at life. What he could teach Peter MacKay about life is that the high points of your life are when you enter and when you exit. If you do those two well, you’ve aced it.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

When do we get back to the environment?

Friday, January 17th, 2020

Between Mr. Trump’s tantrums, the concerns over Meghan and Harry and the disaster in Iran, the prime minister is not getting much done about the environment. And why would we ever be satisfied with just getting to a net-zero emissions target?

Net-zero emissions is not a target, it is a starting point. Net zero is the point when we are adding no new large-scale carbon emissions to our environment. We should have been there years ago.

But back when we became more aware of the dangers our earth was facing, we had the Harper conservatives in power. The environment is famously number 101 on the list of 100 conservative concerns. Harper was a hypocrite who would savage the environment for another nickel. He was always, famously, ‘working on it.’

But Trudeau might be the same. Where is he headed when he buys the Trans Mountain pipeline to speed its twinning and conversion for sending the output of the tar sands to world markets? Does he think we are not responsible for all that pollution?

The supreme court has just given the Trudeau cabinet the green light on the disastrous Trans Mountain pipeline. I guess it is not their problem.

And the cabinet is currently talking about approving the new Frontier open pit mine north of Fort McMurray that will add four million tonnes of carbon to the environment each year. This addition to the carbon pollution is accompanied by the Frontier plan to destroy boreal forests and wetlands the size of a city that could have helped to absorb some of that pollution.

Before the prime minister and his environment minister fly off to another world conference to make irresponsible promises, they need to weigh their progress at home. They have to get our friends in Alberta to back off the bitumen. That is not a move that will endear you to Albertans. Though they might forgive you if your government can find find another base for their economy.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Politics of Oligarchs.

Saturday, January 11th, 2020

In an interesting opinion piece, recently, the Toronto Star’s Susan Delacourt said that both Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau had to reinvent their respective parties to win election. Neither liked the parties they were taking over in their search for power.

Similar to Donald Trump in the United States, they changed the parties to their needs. Trump now has a slavish republican party to do his bidding. It would appear that Stephen Harper forgot to leave the keys for Andrew Scheer. Justin Trudeau is already reaping the results of his errors with the liberals.

Harper’s process of changing the conservatives was slower and more methodical. You can be sure that Harper wanted nothing to do with the former Mulroney party but he first had to be confident he had wrested the Reform Party from Preston Manning. He got his top-down party off the ground but still only won a minority in 2006. It took until 2011 for Harper to get the party he wanted and he was the oligarch. Power only went to those selected by Harper.

In the meantime, Justin Trudeau cashed in on the sentiments for his father in the liberal party—winning a seat in parliament in a tough Quebec riding and going on the road with his ‘Selfie’ tour. He found that a picture with him was more important to party members than the obligatory speech.

But after the party chose him leader in 2013, he started to put his seal on the party. He did away with party memberships and started the stream of e-mails requesting money from his followers. He also declared that there were no longer any liberal senators, cutting himself off from a depth of knowledge into the party, its fund raising, its functions and its history. He just milked his flock for money.

While Trudeau had to play catch-up with Harper’s conservatives, he made sure that the liberals also had the modern marketing plans, the technology and the more sophisticated ground game that was essential in a party that was losing adherents.

Harper paved the way for the power of the oligarchy based in the prime minister’s office. Trudeau showed how to abuse it. It works for a while, but leaves a bitter taste in the ridings.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Where is the vision?

Friday, January 10th, 2020

In a recent commentary we complained about the lack of leadership of all Canadian political parties. What Canadians want from their leaders is vision. It is like the vision of Sir John A. Macdonald that ribbons of steel could bind this country together. It is our flag and the international role as a peace keeper envisioned by Lester B. Pearson. It is the concept of rights and freedoms of Pierre E. Trudeau. Nobody can lead unless they know where they are going.

And how good do you feel when you consider the current leaders of Canada’s political parties? Who convinces you of the better world we can gain? You do not have to look far ahead. You only vote for your MP every four years or so. What can they accomplish for you in that term of office?  How much do you trust the leader the MP follows?

Maybe you have to start with what you want for you and for your family. In your lifetime, you might only get to help choose your federal government about 20 times. You really need to make each vote count.

And what do you want? Is it the selfish wish for lower taxes without understanding what federal funds do for you, your family, your friends and your fellow Canadians? Is it the pledge of smaller government when you have no idea what those people in federal offices are doing for you and your fellow Canadians?

Are the politicians offering you slogans instead of a more solid future? Are they really capable of fighting global warming? Are our airplanes as safe as they should be? Are our roads safe?

And why do we not have high-speed electric trains riding Sir John A’s bands of steel? It saves the environment. It saves money. It brings our country together.

If we are lucky, we should be seeing leadership contests for all parties over the next couple years. Would that only people with vision apply.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Ontario offers the bland and the pit bull.

Tuesday, January 7th, 2020

We are still a while from knowing the slate of candidates for the federal conservative party leadership, but there are two Ontario MPs lining up their teams. They are Erin O’Toole from Durham and Pierre Poilievre from Carleton. I think of them as the bland and the pit bull.

Erin O’Toole is so bland that he came third behind Andrew Scheer and Maxime Bernier in the last conservative leadership race. As the party is going to repeat the foolishness of a preferential ballot, he has to figure that he has a good shot at the leadership this time. You do that in preferential voting by being the second, third or fourth choice of most of the voters.

He is obviously good at mathematics and that must have been why the Canadian air force trained him as a navigator. As a lawyer, he seems to have had little interest in pleading cases and most of his time as a lawyer was spent advising corporate clients.

Between O’Toole and Poilievre, it will be the Ottawa-area based Poilievre who will get most of the media attention. I am hardly the first person to equate him to a pit bull but I feel that comparing him to a pit bull is giving pit bulls a bum rap.

When Ontario tried to ban pit bulls in 2005 (the law is still on the books), it found that pit bulls are not just a single breed. When you have a bad-tempered dog, the first thing you should do is check the owner. Ask whether the dog has been trained, at all? Is it used to being around young people? Should it be muzzled when out in public?

Poilievre was former PM Stephen Harper’s pit bull. He was as nasty as his master. He often seemed to have neither respect for the truth nor any respect for parliament. I think the conservatives would be better off if the party kept him muzzled when out in public.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Defeating democracy, drilling down to dismal.

Sunday, January 5th, 2020

Are Canada’s conservatives making the same mistakes in their June, 2020 leadership contest as gave them Andrew Scheer last time? Some people never seem to learn. We are hearing that they are trying to defeat democracy again.

In what should be a one-member-one-vote contest, we understand that they have declared all electoral districts to be equal. It means that, as in the last contest, each riding is allotted the same weight. It means that a city riding with over a thousand members has the same weight as a rural riding with fewer than a hundred members.

Add to this imbalance a preferential ballot and you have doubled down on what caused the problems in choosing ‘Chuckles’ Scheer. A preferential ballot is a poor substitute for sequential balloting. You are asking people to number all the candidates. If there are ten candidates, you have to number them one to ten. Your last three or four choices might be based on very shallow opinions.

And, don’t forget, in the last contest there were 13 candidates and the voting went down to the 13th ballot. Andrew Scheer won by being the 13th choice of some of the voters. How is that for a consolation prize?

But please do not consider preferential voting as democratic. It is the lazy thinkers’ solution. You would be amazed how simple and secure it could be to have national voting over the Internet. You can vote over a smart phone or at a school or library.

And you will never beat the one-person-one-vote approach. It is definitely democratic. The voting results are easy to count and easy to verify. If you believe in democracy, you will demand it.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

All federal parties need new leaders.

Saturday, January 4th, 2020

Canadians are going to be seeing a number of national political party leadership contests in the coming year. The conservatives are blowing smoke and fire as they warm up to their winner-takes-all contest in June. The greens are having another cup of green tea and considering who might replace the wonderful Elizabeth May. Jagmeet Singh is foolishly waiting for the 2020 meeting of the NDP that will fire him. Meanwhile the federal liberals are drinking Mr. Trudeau’s Kool-Ade while he tells them how great it is going to be.

I was laughing at an editorial cartoon in the Toronto Star the other day that suggested that the conservatives were debating whether to go with a social conservative or a progressive conservative leader. Our Canadian conservatives obviously consider progressives passé. They are looking for a populist like Doug Ford but with the management style of Stephen Harper.

I think the greens have the toughest problem in they might have to clone Elizabeth May.

The new democrats have an entirely different problem in that their form of socialism really is dead. All they are sure of is that Jagmeet Singh is not going to lead them anywhere. The NDP have to make the move to be seen as social democrats and that could be awkward with so many liberals already occupying that ground.

Mind you, I would never include Justin Trudeau among the social democrats. He is an elitist and is barely a liberal. He lied to liberals when he ran for the leadership saying that he was going to restore the party’s roll in policy and candidate choice. Instead, he has interfered in riding’s candidate choices and ignores policy input.

Trudeau has treated the lists of party faithful as a piggy bank that he inundates with e-mails asking for money. He has no understanding of the role of the party between elections and ignores the need for party development in the electoral districts. He fails to understand that you govern from Ottawa; you win elections in the ridings.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Trudeau hears from Harder.

Tuesday, December 31st, 2019

Former government leader of the senate, Peter Harder had some advice for Justin Trudeau as he retired from the senate. He expressed the hope that the prime minister might consider more people with political experience be appointed to the senate. That is the point I have been making for the past five years.

But I would hardly have included someone such as Frances Lankin from Ontario, who was in the cabinet of NDP premier Bob Rae in the 1990s. In my experience, she ran the most politicized and worst ministries in the Rae government. Her presence in Canada’s senate might not be a plus.

And for an elitist such as Justin Trudeau, her appointment might not be the smartest thing he has ever done.

What Harder was complaining about in his farewell to the senate was that there were already too many senators with their own agendas. He thinks the PM should consider adding more people with some political experience. The former senator thinks they would better understand just why the senate exists and what they are expected to do there.

Of course, there are millions of Canadians who also wonder why the senate exists and why we should be wasting tax money on it. After all, why did we elect all those people to the house of commons if an elitist senate is going to pass judgement on what they do?

Even if Justin Trudeau might agree with that, he has absolutely no intention of opening up the Canadian constitution to make any changes. He is hardly his father’s son. He has neither the wisdom nor the intestinal fortitude to tackle the task of updating our constitution.

The younger Trudeau has seemed to be more of a political dilettante and an elitist. His elitist committee that chooses people from which Trudeau can choose independent senators probably does not know of any particularly deserving politicians.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Kenney warns “Canada oil, gas sector has no future.”

Sunday, December 29th, 2019

The Canadian Press quoted Alberta premier Jason Kenney recently on his pessimism about federal approval of the proposed Frontier mine in Northern Alberta. The proposed open-pit mine, north of Fort McMurray, would be Canada’s largest and could produce 260,000 barrels of bitumen per day for processing into synthetic oil.  It would also produce more than four million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year for the next forty years.

The choice for the federal government is considered quite simple. The feds can blow their way past any hope of meeting any “Net Zero by 2050” emissions standards. What makes the decision even tougher is the giving up of $12 billion in federal tax revenues and another $55 billion in Alberta tax and royalty revenues.

Mind you, Jason Kenney doesn’t give a damn about the federal government’s problem. Just pass him the money.

This new Teck Frontier mine will eventually take up 292 square kilometres (112 square miles) of wetlands and boreal forest. It will require 7000 employees to get it up and running and then 2500 employees for the 40-year life projected for the mine.

The only approvals awaited are those of the federal-provincial task force studying the deal and then the federal cabinet.

The only question mark that remains unanswered is when is Kenney going to tell us that he could do a better job for Alberta in the house of commons in Ottawa. The guy seems to spend more time polishing his federal profile than taking his job as premier seriously. With some 18 years of experience in the house of commons, he was not only Stephen Harper’s go-to guy but he built a strong campaign base for himself in that time.

The Trudeau government has until late February to make a decision about the Teck proposal. That also might be the logical time for the cut-off on candidates for the federal conservative party leader. An experienced campaigner such as Kenney could handle that.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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