Archive for the ‘Federal Politics’ Category

Is Trudeau’s elitism working?

Thursday, December 7th, 2017

It is getting to the point where even the Conservative opposition in parliament is noticing. They are starting to take verbal jabs at the prime minister’s elitist nature. It is starting small but it will grow. Canada’s poster boy prime minister can ill afford to have his elitist tendencies to become common knowledge.

But even when out of the country, his elitism is noticed in appointments announced by his office.

Just before leaving for China, to supposedly lecture the Chinese on their human rights, his elitist appointment was announced for the Supreme Court. The candidate chosen has a varied background in business law and in supporting Canada’s aboriginal peoples. She will be the second Supreme Court Justice from Alberta.

While in China—and with things not going as well as expected—Trudeau’s office announced his latest selections for Canada’s beleaguered Senate. It was a daily double as two women from aboriginal backgrounds were appointed as independent senators.

These are the types of appointments where you are a bit of a curmudgeon if you are critical of the applicants. These are people who have worked hard in their chosen fields and have earned the plaudits of their peers for their many accomplishments.

But this goes far beyond peer approval. Justin Trudeau has given these people a sinecure. The annual salary is well above the Canadian average and the mandatory retirement at 75 can be quite comfortable.

Senator number one is Mary Coyle, from Nova Scotia, an advocate for women’s rights and aboriginal people. Senator number two is Mary Jane McCallum, a dentist from Manitoba who has worked hard to bring health and dental services to people in the north.

As far as I am concerned, I do not believe that judges should be appointed by the Prime Minister alone—even with the aid of these elitist committees that help him. I believe that senior judges should be chosen by parliament after all the applicants have been vetted by a parliamentary committee.

As for the Senate of Canada, I firmly believe there is no need in a truly democratic country for an unelected house of parliament. The only problem is that the prime minister would rather be seen as elitist than to open up the constitution of Canada for review and changes.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Chuckles needs to change gears.

Sunday, December 3rd, 2017

It is a rare time that we give serious advice to the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. It is that ‘Chuckles’ Scheer is going to have to learn the difference between legitimate political criticism and harassment. Watching Finance Minister Bill Morneau in the House of Commons it seemed to me that the poor man was distraught. This baiting has gone too far.

Chuckles and the rest of the Conservative caucus have to understand that if you are unwilling to ask your question outside the House of Commons—where you have no parliamentary immunity—then you are impugning the man’s honour. And if you have no basis for the truth of your claims, then you have no honour.

What all MPs need to understand is that Canadians are embarrassed and annoyed by the depth of the juvenile antics in the House. It is dishonourable. Do you go home and scream invective across the living room at the spouse? That is not a benefit of being elected either.

Why Bill Morneau should be hounded about selling his shares in the family company, when it was the only smart thing for him to do, makes no sense. He had been criticized for not putting the shares in a blind trust but he was doing the next best thing: divesting. Everyone knew that the earnings would be taxed at a higher rate in the next year, so why would he not tell his advisor to sell before the end of the year? And why would his father not do the same?

And all this being said, we should turn our attention to the prime minister who should have fired Bill Morneau at the beginning of this contretemps. As much as Morneau claims to have been assured by ethics commissioner Mary Dawson that he did not need to have a blind trust, she probably had no idea how much his holdings would be impacted by changing rules.

If Justin Trudeau had the discussions needed with the man chosen to be his finance minister, he should have advised him to use the same type of blind trust as the Trudeau family.

As I have already stated a couple times in these commentaries, the role of the finance minister is that of Caesar’s wife. He must be above suspicion. While Canada has lost a few good finance ministers over the years, the government of the day cannot invite suspicion of any sort. Morneau is no longer tenable.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

A Deal with the Devil for our heritage.

Thursday, November 30th, 2017

The Toronto Star owners have made a deal with PostMedia to divide Ontario between them. Talk about a deal with the devil! Did they think that the Competition Bureau in Ottawa would fail to notice? Is this what heritage minister Mélanie Joly meant when she said the government was not interested in aiding newspapers because they were an industry model that is no longer viable?

PostMedia has not been viable since it was cobbled together by CEO Paul Godfrey. The newspaper company is a nightmare of fire sale accumulations of small community media. Godfrey has been well funded by American investors who wanted to gain a foothold in the Canadian media market. The last we heard, they were adding the American executive responsible for the electronic version of the National Enquirer to the PostMedia board.

You should try to imagine Paul Godfrey in a toga standing on a soap box on the spit by the east channel to the Toronto harbour holding up a flashlight. He could say: Give me your tired, unprofitable papers, your befuddled editors yearning to promote the Conservatives, the wretched refuse of unwanted reporters. Send all those rags to me. (With apologies to Emma Lazarus, author of The New Colossus.)

Of course, Paul Godfrey knew what he was doing as he assembled this list of losers. He made millions while his American investors paid the piper. As time went on, he just kept adding more losing papers.

TorStar, owners of the Toronto Star, paid heed to his wishes and assembled all their losers and cut them loose in a swap for some of the PostMedia stable. Of the local papers they got in return, TorStar will only keep three of them in business. I checked the lists and I find our town’s ancient Barrie Examiner is ‘Gone baby gone.’ TorStar has a competitive paper here that serves as the weekly grocery flyer wrap.

The two chains have effectively divided the province between them except for the largest markets. And what Minister Joly should worry about is the number of single newspaper markets in Ontario now served by the strongly Conservative leaning PostMedia newspapers.

What the heritage minister needs to realize is that those small dailies and weeklies serving us across the hinterland are the lasting record of the communities and their citizens. TorStar has just flushed down the drain a huge chunk of Ontario’s heritage. They are a critical part of what makes our communities, our towns and cities work. They cannot be replaced by electronic media. Those local papers were never just a business.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Longingly looking for liberalism.

Friday, November 24th, 2017

A correspondent from British Columbia recently asked “What is a Liberal party bereft of liberalism?” He was, of course, describing the situation today where the Conservative parties are moving farther and farther to the harshest right, Liberals are the new Conservative-Light and the New Democrats are lost in a confused and undetermined world of the centre-left.

It is a situation desperately in need of new definition and new alliances. What we appear to have is our political structures moving further and further away from their mobs. And contrary to the limited perceptions of our putative leaders, they are driving their natural supporters away.

Look around the world or even here at home. There is political insecurity as voters wrestle with their frustrations. They want something different but are finding it difficult to articulate. Some leaders are connecting; We are thinking of Emmanuel Macron in France, Bernie Sanders in the U.S.A. while on the other hand we have Trump in the U.S. and the rise of the far right in Europe.

The resilience of Donald Trump’s support is surprising pundits. Valérie Plante’s mayoral victory in Montreal and the ability of Naheed Nenshi to fight off a strong attack from the right in Calgary are catching us all by surprise. You can no longer trust political logic.

Stephen Harper swore he would move Canada permanently to the right of the political spectrum. All he moved us to was that final distaste for his oppressive form of right-wing libertarianism. He made a mantra of balanced budgets and the voters moved to a braver, deficit promoting Liberal Party.

But where is Justin Trudeau in this political turmoil? He talks the talk of saving an environmentally threatened world and approves the senseless pollution extremes of pipelines for bitumen. He makes promises to his party for power and then betrays the party. He promises voting reform without understanding the options. He promises new peacekeeping without understanding the realities of the world’s needs. He bemoans the privileged attitude of the Senate while creating a new privileged class of elites to continue the cost to Canadians for a Senate that is unwanted and unneeded.

What Canada needs is a new social democratic party of the centre-left. The New Democrats need to drop their ties to “me-first” unions and move along with real liberals to this new party. The Conservatives can fade into a futile future with their mean and selfish attitudes. Liberals will find their future as progressives challenged from the left. And voters will have new options, better government and, in time, a modern constitution for their country.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Writing Off NAFTA.

Tuesday, November 21st, 2017

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is still on the operating table. While it appears that the gurus at Canada’s banks are giving poor odds, that seems to be what banks always do. They do appear to like spreading doom and gloom. Despite their predictions, nobody is willing to announce time of death at this stage.

If any party is about to walk out on the negotiations, it is the Mexicans. They have suffered the most insults and the most scurrilous pressure. They are also the country that cannot afford to lose NAFTA. It has become a critical factor in the country’s economy.

Mexico also has the growing concern that Canada might just be a fair-weather friend. There is just too much talk to be heard about Canada and the United States going back to the NAFTA that existed before Mexico was brought on board. And then Trump really would need that wall to keep angry Mexicans seeking redress from coming to Washington to visit him.

Mexico needs those automotive plants and the easy access to American markets for their farm products. Tourism in ‘olde’ Mexico does not cut it.

The next round of the negotiations takes place in Mexico starting this week. All the signals at this time are that the American negotiators are passed the negotiating stage. They are expected to get tough.

Canada’s quest for labor law equalization and environmental concerns have fallen on deaf ears. Neither the Americans nor Mexicans are interested. It seems nobody has any conditions to trade to make the deal.

The essential ingredients of any trade negotiation seem to be missing from this series of trade talks. Those ingredients are good will and an eagerness for success by all parties. With the good will down the tubes as signalled beforehand by Donald Trump, the resentment of the Mexicans and the obvious preparation for failure by the Canadians, we hardly want to be the odds maker in this situation.

But the key question is whether the American President can unilaterally cancel or change NAFTA without the concurrence of Congress? (And do not bet on help from the U.S. Supreme Court.) The Canadians have been working the system hard across the U.S. with governors, representatives and senators, seeking support for NAFTA. It takes six months to cancel NAFTA and Canada might just have to find out how many American legislators really are friends.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The Surrender of Socialism.

Monday, November 20th, 2017

For what began as a socialist dream on the Prairies during the Great Depression, the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) and its successor New Democratic Party (NDP) have seen little success on the federal sphere in Canada. The party might now be moving into its twilight.

Unlike the pattern of the Conservative and Liberal parties, the CCF/NDP have been based on the party’s provincial organizations. (We will stick with the federal situation today and discuss the rifts between the provincial organizations at another time.)

The major problems the federal party is faced with today are the related problems of policies and leadership. This is a party without direction. From the extremes of the LEAP Manifesto to the environmental blindfold of the party leadership in Alberta, the party tears itself apart daily. The overly long election period of the 2015 election exposed the party and its leadership as lacking direction and policies. That election was a down-hill slide.

The party then worked at cross purposes to itself at the Edmonton convention that fired Tom Mulcair as leader. The very fact that the man would honor his commitment to leading the party in the House of Commons spoke volumes for his character.

It is the character of Jagmeet Singh that is the most serious question mark today. It makes you seriously wonder about a man who would use his religious group to take over his political party. There is a big difference between using that affinity for support and using it to swamp the ‘others’ in the party organization.

And how much better is Jagmeet Singh than Ontario Conservative Leader Patrick Brown who used Sub-Continent immigrants to swamp the existing membership of his provincial party?

Sikh names have been prominent in Canadian immigration since records started being kept in the 1800s. Today, there are more than 450,000 people in Canada identifying themselves as Sikh. There are large numbers of Sikhs in British Columbia and Ontario. They are free to support a fellow Sikh but you have to question if Jagmeet Singh could possibly have won without them?

What Jagmeet did not prove in taking over his party is that he has broad appeal outside his religious community. And why would you trust it? I have been told that a Sikh does not have to leave his hair uncut and wear a turban to be a Sikh. Is Jagmeet testing Canadian tolerance?

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Diminished democracy of Justin’s Liberals.

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

In George Orwell’s 1984, new history was written and old history incinerated. The old think and the new think were not allowed to co-exist. Nowhere is that thinking more obvious today than in Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party of Canada. It is not his father’s Liberal Party.

After his overwhelming victory in 1968, Pierre Trudeau felt omnipotent and laughed at the pretentions of the party organization. It was that party and those of us who rose to the cause in 1972, who saved him from inglorious defeat. His deal with David Lewis and the New Democrats kept his minority in power. The senior Trudeau admitted that the party was necessary.

But it could be too late to help Justin Trudeau. We die-hards all had our selfies with him when we handed the leadership to him on a platter. He promised us much and delivered little. The first promise he broke was to respect the democracy of the party and to not interfere in electoral district nominations. He knew that his leadership of the party entitled him to accept or reject nominations. He wielded that power as a blunt instrument.

Like a pig getting the scent of apples in the mud, Trudeau dove into the party fight in the old Toronto-Spadina area. His choice of campaign chief in Ontario had no experience at this type of party tempest and Trudeau less. What the resulting law suit cost to buy off potential candidate Christine Innes and her husband Tony Ianno, we might never learn. You can be sure though that any costs will be borne by the public purse.

That was the mind set that took the party into the 2015 federal election. It was amateur night across Canada. Young Trudeau was surrounded by elites who had little of the hardened experience needed for a hard-fought election.

Luckily for Trudeau and his elites, the 2015 federal election was a walk in the park. It was Stephen Harper’s last hurrah. The Orange Wave in Quebec was proved a one-time phenomenon. The Liberals had some electoral seats gifted to them and they carelessly lost some clearly winnable.

The Liberal Party was supplying money and manpower to the election but none of the direction. The party became irrelevant and after the election Justin Trudeau set about destroying it. He had dispensed with the membership fees and anyone could say they were Liberal and nobody cared. Do not send ideas. Do not develop policy. You will be told whom you will have for your local candidate. And for goodness sake, do not bother to  meet. Your role is only to send money. Send some now!

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Chuckles’ Canned Conservatism.

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

In discussing the ebbing strength of the democracy of Canada’s Conservative parties yesterday, we never got to the major problem faced by the federal Conservatives. Their problem is one of leadership. If there ever was a good example of the mediocrity produced by preferential voting, the Conservative party faces that problem today in its leadership.

Andrew ‘Chuckles’ Scheer’s leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada should have come in a can—marked ‘Open in an emergency only.’ The former Speaker in the only majority Conservative Parliament under Stephen Harper, Scheer was the leadership candidate with the least to offer the party. He was simply the second, third or fourth choice of too many Conservative members.

A social conservative from Saskatchewan, Scheer has the perpetually surprised look of a deer caught in the headlights. You just know that he will stay there awaiting the impact.

But he got lucky lately. While the Trudeau Liberals are on a death watch for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Tories found their bonanza in Provence. And Bill Morneau’s French villa was only part of his problems. While the rest of the cabinet was distracted, Trudeau’s finance minister found himself engulfed in charges of conflict of interest and being rich. And the charge of being rich became incendiary.

It seems that neither Morneau nor the Parliamentary Ethics Commissioner had the political smarts to realize she had hung the finance minister out as a target for the opposition parties. At this late stage the ethics commissioner has had to open an investigation into the possible conflict of interest between the minister’s business interests, that deal in pension programs, and his changes in tax positions of pension funds.

Few voters will have the understanding of what any investigation will find. Guilt or innocence will be irrelevant.

When ‘Chuckles’ and his pack in the House of Commons first started baying after the finance minister, we carefully explained that the finance minister was in the position of Caesar’s wife. It was not a question of guilt or innocence. It was the very inference of wrong-doing. Bill Morneau should have been asked for his resignation then.

And do you not bet that the Conservatives, with a target in their sights, are sorry now that they opened the can labelled ‘Scheer.’

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Diminished democracy of Canada’s Conservatives.

Monday, November 13th, 2017

In looking at the major political parties in Canada in their headlong dash for irrelevancy, we might as well start with the Conservatives. Since the end of the 90s and the machinations of Stephen Harper to finally achieve the promise to ‘unite the right’ across Canada, the separated federal and provincial conservative parties have been struggling.

Harper was very much a top-down leader. His new Conservative Party of Canada was dominated by the Reform-Alliance members that swamped the older progressive conservative base across the country. The party became his piggy bank and his mob. He used the federal party when needed for appearances and forgot about it most of the time.

During the Harper years in Ottawa, the provincial Conservative parties became something of a ghost in the Atlantic. Everyone assumes they exist but sightings are rare. The Quebec Liberals are more Conservative than Liberal as is the Saskatchewan Party that represents the right-wing Tories and right-wing Liberals of that province. Jason Kenney’s reverse take-over of the Alberta right wing with his new United Party was a classic in manipulation and he is now mounting a relentless attack on the NDP government from outside the legislature. The Conservatives are the government in Manitoba and the NDP has a very thin hold on things in B.C.

The malaise in Ontario is symptomatic. After the careless spree of the Mike Harris Conservative government at the turn of the century, the party there fell on hard times. With Membership below 20,000 in Canada’s largest province, the party was easy pickings for an opportunist who had worked out a scheme to sign up about 40,000 new immigrants from the Asian sub-continent. Nobody called Patrick brown for paying most of the registration fees and he took the reins of a party that used to have some principles.

For someone with the ability to lead akin to that of a gerbil, Brown has used vicious attack ads on the Internet and TV in a helter-skelter manner to try to defame the Premier and create a “Corrupt Hillary” aura around her. The only researched result of the ads so far is to lower both him and the Premier in the estimation of Ontario voters.

To add insult in Ontario, the erratic governance of Conservative candidate nominations for next year’s election has created questionable results, angered riding executives and led to lawsuits

The farce continues with the upcoming policy convention of the Ontario Conservatives later in November. As Brown has no idea of where to lead the party, he is using this convention to provide some carefully directed policy stands that he thinks the voters will respond to in the June vote. The response at this convention by the older, more progressive, Conservatives from the Bill Davis era to this sham of a conference will tell us much.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The despotism of First-Past-the-Post?

Sunday, November 12th, 2017

One of our favourite political bloggers wrote a desperate ‘cri de Coeur’ the other day against what he perceives as the despotism of first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting. He lives on Canada’s Left Coast and writes under the pseudonym ‘The Mound of Sound.’ Rather than simply refuting his assertions, I think it is important to find the source of his anguish.

To begin, there is his suggestion that 40 per cent support in FPTP voting can make any leader a despot. (Even Donald Trump needed the undemocratic Electoral College system to win the U.S. presidency.) We Canadians had a special House committee on electoral reform brought forward by the Trudeau Liberals. It was made up from all parties and spent a summer listening to submissions and writing a report on alternatives to FPTP voting. You know their conclusion. No change was made.

FPTP is not evil. It has worked for the people for hundreds of years. And if you want a real headache, check out how the Roman Republic elected its tribunes. One of the reasons to appreciate FPTP is that it is one of the most difficult systems of voting to cheat.

Maybe it is the simplicity of FPTP that turns off some intellectuals. If it is that simple, it has got to be wrong?

If your objection to FPTP is based on the ability of someone to win with less than 50.1 per cent of the vote—then fight for run-off elections. That is still much simpler and more democratic than other suggestions. You should not be enticed by preferential voting—it is not the same.

But before you demand change in how we vote, do you not think we should widen our outlook? Should we not take a look at the basics of our democracy—our political parties? Is it right for the Sikh community in Canada to swamp the membership of the federal New Democrats on behalf of that party’s new leader? Was that misogynistic and corrupted campaign in Alberta the way to choose a new Conservative leader for Alberta? Was it right for Brown in Ontario to buy the memberships for tens of thousands of immigrants to be the choice of Ontario Conservatives?

And does it surprise you to learn that the federal Conservatives and Liberals are funded from the same purses? What makes you think either party is run in a democratic fashion?

Before we have a liberal democracy in Canada we need liberal democratic parties. We have much work to do.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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