Archive for the ‘Federal Politics’ Category

A Commonwealth at bargain price.

Friday, April 20th, 2018

Our prime minister Justin Trudeau has been in London this past week, pressing the flesh with the long-running Commonwealth of Nations. The Commonwealth, as we usually call it is the fallout of the old British Commonwealth and is made up of former colonies and protectorates of times past when Great Britain ruled the seas.

This bit of tourism lore is only noted because an usually astute Toronto Star columnist was complaining yesterday about the $12 million per year that he thinks Canada wastes on this pretentiousness.

To the contrary mon frère, the Commonwealth is ours at a bargain price and if our country ever comes of age, the Commonwealth will welcome our leadership. And that is a very substantial block to have backing you up in the halls of the United Nations.

Regrettably, our prime minister is going to waste our friends’ time at this year’s meeting. He is going to give the same old-same old lecture on human rights, LGBT rights and gender equality. It is not that these subjects are not worthy of attention but the prime minister fails to give the recalcitrant little nations who ignore these basic human rights concrete reason as to why they should listen.

Better research and attention to these backward countries’ needs might solve the problems they are having in understanding the subject. Because leadership is what this group needs. The crown can provide the platitudes at these meetings. Canada can supply the meat and potatoes facts that make the need clearer.

What the organisation could be is a listening post in world affairs helping all of the countries in their foreign affairs, trade and tourism interests. These are the dollars and pence issues that can make the organisation more worthwhile. What nation would fail to pay its dues when the organisation is adding to its gross domestic product.

Since four of the five members the ‘Five Eyes’ Intelligence community are Commonwealth countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and United Kingdom) there is also a briefing taking place for that group of four, without the presence of Donald Trump of the United States. This will include an intense look at the Russian interference in elections on the Internet. I am sure this will be the most important and productive session at the Commonwealth meeting.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

A Confrontation of Confederation.

Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

Even on a government VIP  Airbus, a flight from Lima, Peru to Ottawa is over 11 hours. I did that type of flight more than once and they were always an awful experience. I was able to reset my watch and I knew what time it was. My problem was that for a week, I kept asking what day it was.

When on a holiday, the jet lag is a minor problem but when you have serious meetings when you arrive, it is a very different matter. That is just one reason there were no great expectations for prime minister Justin Trudeau in his hastily called meeting in Ottawa the other day.

The meeting was the one with premiers Rachel Notley of Alberta and John Horgan of British Columbia. Our prime minister was going to use his super political powers to resolve a dispute they have been having. It was about a pipeline. It was no surprise that nothing was resolved.

Maybe we were not expecting much would come of the meeting but it is still a concern that nothing could be accomplished. If Canadians are lucky, the matter might get tied up at the supreme court. The justices are probably of a mind to throw it out but could do us all a favour by considering it for a year or two. The desperation at this stage is that it does not become a series of serious confrontations. If the army has to be called in to restore ‘order,’ the entire country could react badly.

Even the American Kinder Morgan pipeline people have recognized that they cannot restart their expansion efforts without protests. They have built extensive barricades around their Burrard Inlet port facilities to ensure the safety of their employees and their investment.

The very worst thing the company has done is to announce a deadline of May 31, for the federal or Alberta government to show the confidence to the financial community that this pipeline expansion will happen. That is a red flag to both sides of this confrontation of confederation.

There is a strange irony that Pierre Trudeau did so much to help pull Canada’s confederation together. It is his son who has the nerve to call himself an environmentalist who thinks he can ignore the concerns of those who care. The bad economic choices of Alberta politicians are hardly the stuff of a confident and consensual confederation.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Standing with BC’s John Horgan.

Saturday, April 14th, 2018

It is a memory from many years ago that sticks with you. It is this time of year. After being awakened by the sweeps rowers training on the harbour, you walk to downtown Vancouver from the Bayshore Inn, along streets lined with cherry blossoms in full bloom.

You drink in the wonderful freshness of the air off the Straits of Georgia. There is the warming sun on your face. You can still see the snow high atop the North Shore Mountains. Is this not a city to love?

British Columbia premier John Horgan would agree with that. We easterners might laughingly refer to it as Canada’s left coast but B.C. is a province of great beauty, industrious people and makes us proud.

And, somehow, there must be an answer to the current argument with Alberta. I suggested recently that we really need someone without a horse in the race to adjudicate between the premiers of Alberta and B.C. My suggestion was that it was about time for recently elected NDP leader Jagmeet Singh to show us what he can do.

Instead, we are expected to get prime minister Trudeau. He is cutting short his meetings in Lima, Peru to get back to Canada and meet with the two warring premiers.

The problem is that this is just two ganging up on one. Premier Sharon Notley of Alberta and the prime minister are equally committed to getting the pipeline expansion completed. There is nobody at the table capable of determining if there is a middle ground. There is no way to equalize. There is no way to compensate any party.

Advantage is obviously to the prime minister and Ms. Notley. And what does B.C. get but the thrills of the spills? And with three times the giant tankers in Burrard Inlet, you ask when, not if.

This is one problem that Justin Trudeau cannot solve with some selfies. There is nobody to charm.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

The environmental crimes of Justin Trudeau.

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

Our prime minister might not appreciate the charges but he needs to understand what is involved. Whether he likes it or not, he needs to be reminded of the five basic environmental crimes of the proposed Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Number one: While the stock shots of bitumen mining in Alberta show open-pit mining, the reality is that by far the bulk of the extensive bitumen deposits in the Athabasca and Cold Lake tar sands are deep underground. The standard procedure to retrieve these layers of bitumen is to drill and pipe down hot water and force up the bitumen. The only problem is you need vast settling tanks for all that contaminated, greasy water that endangers wildlife. And another problem is that you are never completely sure just where the bitumen and contaminated water might come up.

Number two: The existing 1150-kilometre Trans Mountain pipeline has operated since 1953 and is capable of transporting 300,000 barrels of crude oil or diluted bitumen per day. The expansion project is to add heaters and a high-pressure capability to the original pipe and build an additional high-pressure pipe with heaters to triple the daily capacity. It is hard to ignore the repeated incidence of spills from bitumen pipelines. When diluted bitumen gets into fresh water eco-systems, it can never be completely cleaned up.

Number three: The increased tanker traffic in Burrard Inlet and in the Straits is a hazard that even the federal government acknowledges but the government’s willingness to take responsibility is a serious potential cost for all Canadians.

Number four: Refining bitumen into ersatz crude oil is a highly polluting process. The bitumen slag produced is almost pure carbon and while it can be burned in high temperature applications, the carbon footprint continues. And there is no free pass on this from Mother Nature because the polluting is carried on in some third world country. Canada owns that carbon.

Number five: The end product of processed bitumen is some form of petroleum product. Whether burned in an internal combustion engine or as heating oil for a home, it adds to the carbon pollution of our world. The fact that bitumen creates more than three times the carbon footprint of natural crude oil is the problem. It is why Alberta does not want the responsibility for converting the bitumen to ersatz crude oil before shipping it out of the province.

It seems pointless for the Trudeau government to have an environment minister when it promotes pollution of this magnitude.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Has anybody seen Jagmeet?

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

This is becoming ridiculous. The New Democratic Party of Canada has to have some leadership. Without leadership, it is going to become the forgotten party and the efforts of many fine people over the last 80 years will be wasted. The party can hardly continue as present with no leadership, no direction and no clear vision of the future for Canada.

No, I am not a party member. It is just that as a progressive, I expect the NDP to play a role in helping develop the critically needed social programs for Canadians. And I hardly want the one-person Green Party to be the only focus for protecting our environment.

We need ongoing dialogue in parliament on serving Canadian needs and the NDP is not playing its part. It has to have leadership to do that. And that same leadership should be inspiring and encouraging the NDP to be making a mark in provincial and district legislatures across the country.

If we had an effective leader of the NDP, there would a sit-down somewhere, but soon, with the federal leader, the premier of Alberta and the premier of British Columbia. Jagmeet Singh cannot consider himself leader of anything until he resolves this problem. There can only be one stand for the NDP on the Trans Mountain pipeline issue. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already shown where hypocrisy takes us.

And the NDP cannot continue to delay by hoping that Kinder Morgan will simply reach its deadline at the end of May and cancel the expansion. The issue is our environment and the environment cannot be trusted to fools.

Jagmeet Singh has to realize that he will soon be accused of leaving the Ontario legislature before the total collapse of the Ontario NDP. There could be nothing left of the Ontario party but one or two seats in Northern Ontario after the June 7 provincial election.

We always assumed there was an intelligent and competent man in those colorful turbans and bespoke suits. Nobody really cares about Jagmeet being a devout Sikh but Canadians cannot accept his religion overshadowing the job he has undertaken. The job comes first. Maybe his fellow Sikhs should have thought about that before they joined the NDP en mass in both B.C. and Ontario. They decided the leadership for the NDP. Are they ready to accept that responsibility?

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Ceding Civility in Canada.

Thursday, April 5th, 2018

Writing about civility in politics the other day, we never got to the situation here in Canada. Despite our Canadian reputation for civility, things have lately gone to hell in a basket. Federal and provincial politics in Canada have become noisy arguments between spoiled children. Our politicians are not working together to meet the needs of those who elected them.

At the federal level, our parliament has continued to lose sight of the ‘sunny days’ that greeted the defeat of the Harper conservatives. Our poster boy prime minister is losing his lustre both at home and abroad as he missteps his way into new ground in Ottawa and in world politics.

The opposition party in Ottawa chose a nobody to hold the fort as leader and now ‘Chuckles’ Scheer is leading the wolf pack with a ferocity that surprises those who know him. Attacking the liberal government and its ministers has become a blood sport as the façade of competence falls away.

But Ottawa’s problems also come from surprising sources. The American White House is challenging Justin Trudeau’s attempts at bonhomie. Trump alternately patronizes and berates the Canadian prime minister. He tells Trudeau one thing and then tweets something else.

Even long-standing provincial politicians are falling in an onslaught of meanness. No party is safe anywhere. The west coast is a war zone as Alberta and British Columbia’s two New Democrat governments hurl insults and law suit arguments at each other. And you wonder what things are coming to when you have to count on the Saskatchewan government to stand up for that dreary Prairie ultra conservatism.

And yet it is Canada’s two most established and long-running governments of Ontario and Quebec that stand threatened. The pollsters tell us that in Quebec it is the liberal government of Phillippe Couillard that stands on shaky ground as another unknown, unexpected coalition of the right tries to usurp the liberal trust.

It is a Trump-lite wannabe named Doug Ford who is attempting to destroy the liberal dynasty in Ontario. As more and more of the province’s voters come to realize how shallow are his promises, the less the credibility.

But whatever the outcome, the vaunted myth of the civility of Canadians appears to be in jeopardy.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Keep the Russians, Kick out the Yankees.

Saturday, March 31st, 2018

Public safety minister Ralph Goodale got some television coverage the other day. He was enjoying himself. He was being asked about the Russian spies being told to leave the country. In his usual enigmatic style Goodale was explaining that he could not say anything about what these spies were doing in Canada. He was implying that he knew everything and all the while you were thinking neither he nor the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) had any idea what the Russians were doing.

Igor Gouzenko, a Russian cypher clerk who defected after the Second World War, made every effort to make spying exciting. He was never as imaginative though as his contemporary Ian Fleming, who wrote the Bond 007 books after working for the United Kingdom’s Secret Intelligence Service. Spying never has been much of the cloak and dagger machinations in the shadows. The reality is that it is dull, dreary work and most spies end their days with liver failure from too much vodka rather than bullets.

I remember one time at a break in a business conference in Quebec City chatting with the station head of the Central Intelligence Agency (the American CIA). Yes, he was real and we had an amusing conversation. It started out with him asking what a spook should look like. We answered that the spy should look like any business person in the room. And that was where he did his work. He admitted that most of his reports to Langley, Virginia were gleaned from our daily newspapers.

Frankly, I do not think we have any secrets from the Americans anyway. Our manufacturing is so integrated with the U.S., there are no trade secrets left. We manufacture aircraft parts and assemblies for each other, firing controllers for tanks, armoured scout cars and a myriad of other defence items under our cooperative defence production sharing.

What we really need in these current North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations is some secrets. And the only way we can keep those secrets is to keep the Americans from reading our newspapers.

We need something other than water and other natural resources to sweeten the NAFTA deal. We need to have some trade secrets—something more than how you get the caramel into the candy bar.

We really should let more Russians come here at the expense of their government. They can read our newspapers and learn about the good life in Canada. If they are doing anything serious, someone will tell us.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

The Beatification of Bill Blair?

Thursday, March 29th, 2018

It took the questionable memory of Toronto Police Services Board chair Alok Mukherjee to relate it and the writing skills of Toronto Star writer Tim Harper to forge it. And it took them over seven years to prepare it for publication. It purports to be an explanation of what took the G20 Summit in Toronto in 2010 off the rails. The book is titled Excessive Force.

But any farmer could tell them that when you play road hockey with frozen horse droppings in the barnyard, you end up splattered as the puck melts. And those pucks sure get warmed as this team spins their tale.

First of all, they can hardly suggest that former police chief Bill Blair is a saint because, as he reports, he thinks he was responsible for nothing. The first question we would ask, if we were foolish enough to believe him, is what new communications systems did he acquire for that $14 million he supposedly got from Toronto taxpayers? And why did the police communications fail at times when communications were really needed?

What is very strange in this book is the reported arrangement between the chief of police and the police services board. It seems the board is not allowed to ask questions regarding operational matters. We are told operations matters are the purview of the chief. If you follow that thinking, the board, who hires him or her, is at the mercy of the chief of police. The board is therefore a sham that hires gunfighters to keep their town safe according to some ancient code.

What makes absolutely no sense in this story is the operational hierarchy in place for the Toronto summit. Mukherjee tells us that Blair was not responsible but his underlings were. Blair is reported to have told him that all orders originated from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Integrated Security Unit in Barrie. This operational centre had been established in Barrie to cover the earlier G7 near Huntsville, Ontario as well as the G20 in Toronto. From a technical communications view, Barrie made a lot of sense. From a street view, it was idiotic.

Good security systems for international events are built in rings. Typically, the inner ring of an event such as the G20 is covered by highly trained federal representatives such as the RCMP. The surrounding ring is handled by local people who know the site and its surroundings. Mukherjee and Harper make it sound like many of the police borrowed from other parts of Canada spent most of their time in Toronto learning their way about.

Mukherjee tells us that Blair’s preparations for the G20 were ridiculous and quickly found to be hollow. Blair sniped at his underlings instead of leading them. The tactics of the anarchist group the Black Bloc had been studied but not prepared for. Blair goaded his troops into retaliating on the innocent. He broke all the rules of effective policing.

Why should Toronto take pride in that?

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Teaching our youth to hate.

Sunday, March 25th, 2018

Conservative MP John Brassard from Barrie-Innisfil has a problem. He thinks it is alright to teach our youth to hate and to work against our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The people in his electoral district might like to ask him about this before mistakenly re-electing him next year.

John Brassard used to be a fireman, not a lawyer nor any kind of expert on Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He has a right to his opinion on the subject of abortions, as we all do. What we do not have is the right to confront women who might be seeking an abortion and to harass them. Neither should our youth be paid with government money to distribute hate literature in the form of purported pictures of aborted human embryos.

It seems John Brassard is objecting to the large number of faith-based organizations that are being refused funding under the Canada Summer Jobs program. As I understand it, the government wants an attestation from these organizations that they will respect the reproductive rights of Canadians as per Canadian law. If they are not willing to promise not to use government funds to work against the legal rights of Canadians, they will not be given government funds.

John Brassard says this is in conflict with the Canadian Charter rights of Rights and Freedoms. Mr. Brassard has it backwards. The charter protects his co-religionists in their right to their beliefs. The only thing they are being asked is for them to respect the rights of others.

He is adding further insult to this situation by suggesting that the attestation being asked for is in effect the Liberal party’s position. He should check the various votes in the House of Commons for years back and he will find our present reproductive rights in this country are there because of the votes of fair-minded people of all parties, who helped make Canada a more liveable and open society, where everyone’s rights are respected.

If Mr. Brassard was running next year in my electoral district, I would make it a personal project to help ensure that he and his mean-spirited political attitude are defeated.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

To be murdered in Mali.

Saturday, March 24th, 2018

Our government wants us to send some Canadians in harms way in Mali in West Africa. As the country with the highest mortality rate for peace keepers, we are not going to enjoy Mali. “Don’t worry” our defence minister tells us, “We are only going to send a few helicopters, pilots, ground crews and people to do training.” We have time to get some fresh flags for the Highway of Heroes before the casualties start arriving.

You do know that being one of the larger countries in Africa does not make Mali any more hospitable? The French deserted the country after the Second World War and it has been in turmoil since. Between the isolation of the Tuaregs, the radicalism of the Islamists and the total incompetence of the southern tribes to run things, the country goes back and forth from totalitarianism to chaos quite quickly.

The poorly trained and ill-equipped West African troops trying to keep the peace in Mali have already had some 162 of their people killed by heavily armed brigands, Islamist terrorists and an alphabet soup of causes.

And do not be surprised when the Islamic extremists suddenly have ground-to-air missiles to welcome the Canadian helicopters. Thankfully, it is hard to find good cover in the Sahara north of Timbuktu.

The basic problem with Mali is that there is no peace keeping involved. First you have to have some peace to keep. And even in a country where our troops who speak French will have an immediate advantage, it is very difficult to tell a friend from an enemy. The land is the enemy.

And we are not making the task any easier when Canada and the U.S.A. are throwing billions of dollars every year into the Mali economy. Everyone wants their turn at being a politician so that they can rip off some of this money for themselves.  Meanwhile, the cotton economy of the south is dwindling, the fundamentalist Islamists of the north are funded by the middle-east supporters if ISIL and Al-Quaeda and the Tuaregs just keep working their salt mines.

Why Canada’s government feels it has to make a statement of support to the United Nations this way is beyond us. A seat on the Security Council for our dead is not worth it.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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