Archive for the ‘Federal Politics’ Category

Morneau mourns mendacity.

Friday, October 20th, 2017

Having worked with many politicians over the years, you always have to be aware that the higher you climb the political ladder the more prone to attack you become. It is not whether Finance Minister Bill Morneau deserved to be attacked, his position made it likely.

Bear baiting never has been legal in Canada and is never likely to be. We only allow the media and opposition to do it to politicians.

And this current fiasco with Morneau is Justin Trudeau’s fault. He had the professionals available to help his cabinet choices and he disavowed them. They were available to him before the 2015 election and he ignored them. He brought in his friends and sycophants. He bought the gloss but not the substance. He abused and brushed aside the Liberal Party of Canada.

Trudeau promised not to interfere in party nominations and interfered anyway. He wrote off ridings that he could have won. The entire 2015 campaign was ill considered and amateur. Luckily Harper expected to lose, so he lost. Mulcair foolishly expected to win, so he lost also.

The newbies in the Trudeau cabinet needed a support network that could give them strong and knowledgeable staffs. Some of the rookie mistakes by these newbies were an embarrassment to the party. They were rude to party people across the country whom they did not know.

In his determination to have an equal number of men and women in his cabinet, Trudeau made some poor choices. If they had been properly mentored, some would have been saved from foolish errors. Miriam Monsef in democratic reform was an early failure. People are shaking their heads today over Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly.

But the most serious problem is Finance Minister Bill Morneau. We all had high hopes for this patrician Torontonian but we had no idea how he would react to the pressures of the opposition and the media. Morneau is letting down the side.

There is no ambassadorial safe haven for Morneau. He needs to be fired. The problem is that Morneau is just digging himself deeper every time he opens his mouth. He has no understanding that his role is that of Caesar’s wife. Trudeau has to stop getting in the way of Morneau’s questions and responsibilities.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Horse Race Journalism and 2019?

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

It is unlikely that Jaime Watt was talking about Babel-on-the-Bay in a recent op-ed piece. The Conservative political pundit referenced “horse race journalism” as being premature and meaningless in discussing the next federal election. Well, it is too early and he is right about that.

But we like the horse race analogy and we know when to publish our Morning Line for the different electoral contests. You need that time before the contestants are ‘At Post’ to consider your bets and how you can personally influence the outcome.

It is not that you cannot dope out the election race for yourself. Most of the information is usually available by the time the writ comes down. You can assess the parentage, past performances, pole position and possibilities of the leaders and the individual candidates in your electoral district.

And you have to do far more analysis than just the party leaders. You have to view the race in relation to the entire field.

And we should all agree with Watt in regard to polls. There is good polling and bad polling and the news media have never figured out the difference. Individual polls need considerable analysis and to just lump them all together can produce some very misleading prognostications.

Watt claims that the horse race analogy portrays candidates as self-interested and focuses only on winning and losing. Frankly, those are the alternatives. There is no second prize in first-past-the-post elections.

And Watt also complains that as Professor Matthew Nisbet of Northeastern University tells us, horse race journalism leads to coverage that seems to present a false equivalency in the treatment of issues and allows for the creation of so-called “fake news.”

It has always been my belief that voters apply their own (probably unconscious) weighting system to the main issues in elections and have a wide range of tipping points that can persuade some of them to change their vote. It can be a very small percentage of voters in close electoral districts that can decide the next Prime Minister.

Canadians will be facing a growing cacophony of noise about the next election over the next two years. Given each party’s plans and promises, domestic and world problems and our individual concerns, we will have much to sort out. It will make the election a horse race.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Will Singh say something serious?

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

With a new party leader established and MP Charlie Angus taking over the New Democratic Party house leadership, and Thomas Mulcair retiring, the new leader, Jagmeet Singh, is free to roam the country. He can meet Canadians everywhere and press the flesh at local labour halls. The only question is what the heck he is going to talk about?

The media will soon tire of repeated pictures of Singh with school children looking wide-eyed at his turban and beard though he would be unlikely to show off those little knives (kirpan) an observant Sikh carries. He is hardly a missionary for Sihkism and his objective is to be accepted as a Canadian politician and to sell his party and its policies.

The NDP has an extensive songbook of declared policies collected over the years but Singh’s audiences will soon tire of those old chestnuts. He is also unlikely to get very far in relating any of his experience in the Ontario Legislature. He never did very much in his role as an MPP nor did he do much in his role as deputy leader of the provincial party.

But he can hardly stand in front of audiences of local NDP supporters in his expensive suits and tell them he will lead them to the promised land.

He has a party that mostly buys clothes at Mark’s Work Warehouse. They thought the party reached Nirvana when Jack Layton’s French hit it off with Quebec voters. (Why the party thought Tom Mulcair in his three-piece suits could do the same job for them still remains a puzzle,)

Singh is trying to emulate Justin Trudeau’s time spent on the road before the 2015 election,  even though the Liberal leader was already a sitting Member of Parliament. As the third party in the Commons, the party leader has a hard time getting face time with the media anyway.

Trudeau had a stock of crowd pleasing speeches about the middle class that carried him as he swung back and forth across Canada. If he is honest with himself, Singh will be flying back and forth from Toronto and Vancouver to invest the most productive time building on those market bases. The only problem is that those are also Justin Trudeau’s key markets. It promises to be a very interesting election in 2019.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Trump stands steadfast, Justin.

Friday, October 13th, 2017

Prime Minister Trudeau dropped in to the White House to see President Trump the other day. It is likely that two minutes after Trudeau left the Oval Office, Donald Trump had forgotten what they had said. It is not just that the man has a short attention span but he has absolutely no interest in what the Canadian wants. He is stuck in the tangles of his own agenda.

It is like his wall. All he wants to do is build a wall across the southern border of the United States to keep out the Mexicans who, he thinks, want to take the jobs of loyal Americans. And he hardly wants to worry about who is going to pay for the wall at this stage. He wants to build the wall and figure out how to get the Mexicans to pay for it later.

Or take Obamacare. The poor guy cannot even negotiate a deal to get rid of Obamacare. He just cannot understand why these elected politicos in Congress are so reluctant to deprive millions of Americans of their only chance for medical programs?

And, not being a politician, Trump has no understanding of how to weasel out of political promises you cannot keep. Justin Trudeau could tell him how—he is getting some practice at that himself lately.

Trump said on the platform throughout that awful campaign of 2016 that he was going to end the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The people who were supporting Trump were too ignorant to know that the trade deal benefitted America, lowered prices and created jobs. They saw it as a threat to jobs for Americans and moving them off-shore. So, Trump promised to Kill NAFTA for them and they roared their approval.

But Trump has no clear way to end NAFTA, Under the terms of the agreement, there is a six months clause to a cancellation but American law does not make it clear how this can be done. NAFTA was approved by Congress more than 25 years ago and Congress is not about to let Donald Trump usurp their authority. Whether Congress controls the agreement or the American President can unilaterally cancel it could end up being decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Justin Trudeau’s father once made some remarks in Washington about Canada-U.S. relations being similar to sleeping with an elephant. Donald Trump has turned out to be a nightmare.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Does the religious model serve the new politics?

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

Is it religion that we see reflected in the new politics. Maybe it has been there all along. Canadian politics has been slower to wrap itself in vestments but in American politics, religion plays a constant and visceral part in what is happening.

Americans speak of their country as “one nation, under God” and God help them. Even under the hands of Donald Trump, it was the God-forsaken and the holy rollers who combined to usher him into power. Trump mixed the bikers with the Tea Party Republicans, the dispossessed coal miners and frustrated farmers—it was a political coalition conceived in Hell—and they all come to Trump’s revival tents. And that hypocrite continues to revel in the adoration of his multitude.

But who expected political salvation in Canada? For the past year or so, I have been trying to fathom why Justin Trudeau has been so intent on destroying the established Liberal Party of Canada? He took away the tenets of membership, collapsed the policy mechanisms that his father learned to respect and abused the party as just a source of funds. He has left the Liberal party with no mechanisms for change or restructuring. It has become nothing more than your friendly local neighbourhood church where you can go to feel good on Sunday—but do not forget to tithe.

The Conservatives always were the self-satisfied Anglican burghers who worshipped the almighty buck. They are currently awash in mediocrity in the House of Commons while interim pastor ‘Chuckles’ Scheer holds prayer meetings. The real conservative action is in the provinces. The two major efforts are provincial as the Yin and Yang of bachelor leaders Kenney and Brown smell blood in their anti-feminist fights for power in Alberta and Ontario.

Not to be outdone, Canada’s federal New Democrats have been handed a religious symbol of sorts to lead them to the promised land of the Regina Manifesto. Whether a turbaned Sikh can serve that role is hard to say. The party’s problems run much deeper than leadership. Without coming up with a new role for the party, it is not ready be led anywhere.

But I would like to include some of the thinking of other progressive Liberals in this strange mix of religion and politics. Send me an e-mail with your thoughts and whether you want to be identified with them. I am more than willing to share the blame.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Singing Singh’s song.

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

On Thanksgiving, the Toronto Star devoted several thousand well chosen words to welcoming Jagmeet Singh as leader of the federal New Democratic Party. It was generous, surprisingly inaccurate, hopeful and gracious article. Jagmeet Singh could never be such a wonderful Sir Galahad.

Much was made of the firsts Singh’s success represents. As the first turbaned Sikh to lead a major political party, the point is made. To say that Sikhs have come a long way in Canada is to put it mildly. Though we should note that Canada has a long record of racial discrimination and while it embarrasses us today, we cannot hide from history.

The writers point to the 1914 Komagata Maru incident in Burrard Harbour as a major demonstration of the racism involved when the government stopped Sikhs and others from British India from landing in Canada. The fact that 25 years later the Canadian government told the desperate Jewish travellers on the S.S. St. Louis to return to Germany and death under the Nazis shows that we do not end racism all that quickly.

It would be silly to quibble over statistics used by the writers but after a thorough search of on-line information from Statistics Canada, we still cannot figure out where they got the figure of 750,000 Sikhs in Canada. At most there could be about 475,000 from the surges of heavier immigration brought on by the extreme tribal violence in India after the 1984 assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards.

But the two writers are obviously not Sikh. Haroon Siddiqi is Muslim and well known as a Toronto Star writer. Alok Mukherjee is a former chair of the Toronto Police Services Board.

The point that they seem to have missed in this entire exercise was that Jagmeet Singh was not the choice of the New Democratic Party. He swamped the membership of the NDP with more than 45,000 sign-ups, mostly from the Sikh communities across Canada. This is not the act of a person who respects democracy. This is the act of a man with his own agenda.

Why Singh would go the same route as that despicable Patrick Brown who swamped the membership of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives with sign-ups from the Indian Sub-Continent, makes little sense? Singh knows that his turban and beard will be a barrier to easy acceptance. He has a tough road ahead of him.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Who killed Energy East?

Monday, October 9th, 2017

There seems to be a lot of blame going around this weekend. The politicians are roasting each other. The environmentalists are giving heart-felt thanks and the rest of Canadians wonder what the noise is about. There are other pipelines still to fight over.

Killing TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline solves nothing. It was a bad deal from day one. Yes, you can make synthetic crude oil from tar sands’ bitumen. It is economically feasible when crude oil sells for over $100 per barrel. It is not worth it when crude oil is only fetching $50 a barrel. And the environmental harm is outrageous anyway. You can hardly make that omelette without breaking lots of eggs.

When TransCanada put an end to the foolishness last week, it was not just a win for the good guys. It put ‘fini’ to a $15.7 billion project that was surrounded by lies, political pandering and positioning.

TransCanada’s news releases, pamphlets, presentations and submissions referred to shipping crude oil from Hardesty, Alberta to Saint John, New Brunswick. Yes, sending crude was possible but this pipeline was designed with heaters and higher pressures required to force diluted bitumen down the pipe and the entire exercise was to get the bitumen to where it could be shipped to foreign refineries that are without environmental restrictions.

All that changed recently was that the National Energy Board—out from under the thumb of the Harper Conservatives—asked for an assessment of the total green house gas emissions. TransCanada knew that the company would never get approval if they revealed what the true emissions would be: First in retrieving the bitumen from the tar sands; Second in refining the bitumen into synthetic crude oil; and Third in the end products use in automobiles and other carbon emissions-producing uses. Bitumen is a carbon producer like no other.

But MP Lisa Raitt told the Ottawa media that her and the Conservatives want their pound of flesh from the Trudeau Liberals. She claimed that everything Trudeau touches “becomes a nightmare” (for Conservatives).

This is unfair to the Prime Minister when you consider he has approved pipelines to the disgust of many Liberals across Canada. He betrayed his own party and you can see how much love that earned him from the federal Conservatives. And judging by what Premier Notley in Alberta and Premier Wall in Saskatchewan had to say, it sounds like the PM could use some new friends in the provinces.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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“Nice suits and empty slogans.”

Saturday, October 7th, 2017

That comment about suits and slogans was in the last line of the Toronto Star’s pompous editorial on “The challenge for Singh.” The newspaper editorialists want Singh and Trudeau to square off on progressive policy issues in the 2019 federal election. Lot’s of luck on that!

But the problem is that the Star writers think that Jagmeet Singh was selected by the New Democratic Party. That is a mistaken belief. The Ontario MPP was the choice of the Sikh community across Canada. Canada has been welcoming Sikhs to this country since the earliest government records were kept back in the 1800s. StatsCanada tells us there are more than 275,000 adherents to Sikhism in Canada today and the largest numbers are in British Columbia. For the Brampton MPP to sign up over 40,000 Sikhs in a few months was not a very difficult feat.

But why he would want to win the NDP leadership the same way as that putz Patrick Brown took over the Tory leadership in Ontario makes no sense.

As the new leader of the NDP, Singh’s first job is to make nice with the NDP caucus in Ottawa and then he has to get out to small town Canada and prove to Canadians that he and his party have a vision of this country that can be delivered by a guy in a turban.

And it also might be a good idea for Singh to stop dressing as though he is some sort of playboy. He should change from Harry Rosen bespoke suits to buying his clothes at Mark’s Work Warehouse. He needs to show that he is an NDPer, not a Liberal.

When he gets around to working out a program of NDP policies for the coming election, he can forget wrapping the packages in “love and courage.” Whatever theme his brain trust comes up with, it has got to have a lot more bite to it.

‘Chuckles’ Scheer and his Conservatives are all smiles these days because of the vision of Trudeau and Singh in the coming election beating each other up over the same ridings in the greater Toronto and Vancouver areas.

But I got the impression that the Star’s editorial writers might never have seen Jagmeet Singh MPP in inaction at the legislature in Toronto’s Queen’s Park. He is no Benjamin Disraeli.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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It is time to fire Bill Morneau, Justin.

Thursday, October 5th, 2017

Bill Morneau has a straight-forward job. As complex as the Finance Department might appear to the average Canadian, the Member of Parliament for Toronto Centre has the credentials that say he should be capable of handling the finance portfolio. He is also considered to be a generally good guy. It is really too bad that Prime Minister Trudeau needs to fire him.

But Mr. Morneau does not appear to be getting the best efforts from his department. He does not appear to be effective in selling his department’s new programs. Maybe the job requires someone more political by nature. And when you are not even effective in communicating with your party’s back bench, all is lost.

This is not to suggest that the tax reforms Morneau is proposing are not complex and need thorough debate. And that was the intent when the reforms were proposed two months ago. All this accomplished is an opportunity for those who fight any reform to go after these reforms with renewed vigor. They have been sewing discord and confusion. They have deliberately misled Canadians with false information.

This time frame has allowed Conservative MPs to rail constantly against the tax reforms. A local Tory MP published an opinion piece in our local Sun rag the other day saying that Justin Trudeau and Bill Morneau believe that small business owners “are tax cheats and that they are rich people abusing the system to avoid paying their share of taxes.” Talk about false news!

The Conservative caucus in Ottawa under Leader ‘Chuckles’ Scheer is saying that the reforms are going to impact all small business owners and will mean a massive tax hike. This obviously comes as a surprise to Morneau when all he is looking for it to do is close some of the loopholes that have been enabling the wealthy among us to escape paying taxes.

Here Morneau thought he was closing loopholes that benefitted people making over $150,000 a year and the Conservatives are claiming these people are part of the middle class. If he cannot get the justice of his reforms across to Canadians, he is obviously in the wrong cabinet portfolio.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Netflix should be told to “Get Stuffed.”

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

Canada’s heritage minister needs a better understanding of Canada’s heritage. Another of the junior grade ministers in the Trudeau cabinet, Mélanie Joly, defended Netflix last week. It was a betrayal of Canadian actors, production capabilities and our French-speaking citizens as well as a allowing a leach to defy Canadian broadcast and tax rules.

Joly welcomed Netflix’s promise of spending $500,000 over the next five years. The problem with the promise is that if Netflix is really reaching the estimated audience it is purported to have in Canada, the $100,000 per year is just small change.

The ridiculous part of Netflix is that even if it only costs $10 per month, you are paying much more for the bandwidth of your Internet service to provide decent streaming video.

And what do you really get for your $10? Every time I examine Netflix for content of interest, I find little to recommend it. Friends who use it tell me that the first season of “The Crown” was absolutely excellent. That is all very nice for the few monarchists among us who believe in the travesty of royals.

There was some amusement among those who had seen the original “House of Cards” which was British. They say the American model is not quite as good. The wife and I are watching the American product now on commercial television and I find I appreciate the political manipulation techniques the show displays, while the wife is bored by that aspect.

But the more serious problem are the few people who like the French-language “Marseilles” which was made for the market in France. Quebec-based reviewers are turning up their noses.

Maybe people are caught up by the novelty of Netflix but dollar for dollar, we are getting far more bang for our loonie from the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. The Corp gives us believable news, great sports and original Canadian programming. How can you expect anything from Netflix?

And even if there are two or three good shows among the dross offered by Netflix, it does not make sense in a world used to commercial television. The picture quality is still not there. And let’s face it, without commercials, when do you know when it is time to go to the bathroom?


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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