Archive for the ‘Federal Politics’ Category

The Actor Within.

Monday, April 19th, 2021

We were puzzling the other day as to what training our current leaders had that prepared them for their political roles. If all you have to base your conclusion on is their set-piece biography, the answers are not all that easy to deduce. It is therefore best to do some deep-dive research and take them one at a time. We started with prime minister Justin Trudeau.

First of all, the assumption that his famous father helped prepare him for the role of prime minister is wrong. Pierre Trudeau made every effort to keep his three sons away from politics. Any communications expert who tried to get him to appear with his sons was usually shot down in flames. We thought appearing with them would help soften his image but he would have none of it. If anything, Justin would have heard his father disparage politics.

And any influence his mother had on him would not help. His mother neither understood nor wanted anything to do with politics.

What the National Post labelled as kitsch in 2019, I had seen when I first met Justin as an adult back in 2010. I saw the actor with the ability to move in and out of character. It was hardly Strasberg’s method acting, where you stay in character. The young Trudeau appeared to have a switch that he can turn on and off. The telltale signs were all there: the family dress-up in India, the black face in Vancouver, the hot reaction of the crowds at the Kielburger’s Me to We shows starring the future prime minister. Justin could sure work a crowd.

Like many Canadians, I watched Justin give the eulogy for his father at Pierre’s funeral. It was poignant. I wish I had seen him also when he played the role of World War One hero Talbot Papineau in the 2007 CBC movie.

I once corrected a fellow blogger who accused Justin of stammering. You often hear it when he is answering a question—off the cuff—in parliament. It is actually thinking noises. It is the noises that people will use while they are thinking about their answer. It is a noise that poor public speakers will use to fill what they consider a void. It is not there when Justin is speaking to a prepared text or a teleprompter. Justin just needs to be scripted.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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Chaos: The Canadian Model.

Thursday, April 15th, 2021

“Throw the scoundrels out” might be the rallying call for elections in Canada but there are too many times when we are not at all sure who the scoundrels might be. Obviously, the scoundrels in the coming federal election are supposed to be Justin Trudeau and the liberals. The only problem is that it is hard to find a replacement.

Who are the good guys? Since confederation, Canadians have been going back and forth from conservatives to liberals and then back to conservatives. Sure, there have been some variations over the years with minority governments, some alliances and compromises.

Compared to our neighbors to the south, Canadians are in a rut. The Trump interregnum of the past four years had the entire world shaking their heads. Canada remained a beacon of sanity.

But we will not continue in this vein. We deserve our chance to shake, rattle and roll. Canadians want out from under the thumb of the attitude that government knows best. Rebellion is brewing. And the weapons of choice are the pollsters and the ballot boxes.

And we are not talking about Quebec here. If anything, Quebec is complacent. Ontario voters are mad at both the federal liberals and the provincial tories. Would you believe that Alberta is seething at their unified conservatives? Moe in Saskatchewan is lost without Larry and Curly.

Blame it on the pandemic if you wish. Canadians are fed up with the missteps of our politicians. They have been selling off our successful companies and technologies for years. We used to make trains in London, Ontario, planes outside of Montreal, gas-guzzling automobiles in Oshawa, Ontario and vaccines in Toronto. Even when one Canadian company wants to buy another, we have to get an American bank to fund the deal. (That last is the Rogers deal for $20 billion from Bank of America to buy Shaw.)

Do you blame Canadians for being pissed with all their politicians?


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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How does Jeff Lehman MP sound?

Wednesday, April 14th, 2021

It is finally likely that Barrie mayor Jeff Lehman will make the move. After being elected to three four-year terms as mayor, he is checking out the federal waters. The first hint of this was a while ago when Jeff’s old campaign manager, Quito Maggi of Mainstreet Research did a survey in Barrie-Springfield-Oro-Medonte electoral district.

Personally, I would not waste the money on that type of survey, at this stage, but I am sure it showed that it would be a tight race between the mayor and the former city councillor who is currently the sitting conservative member. The Tory has been a yawn as a member of parliament but the riding was gerrymandered to accommodate the strongly conservative rural vote.

Based on the mayor’s strengths in voter recognition and his service to Barrie, he is shoo-in with the urban part of the electoral district. Plus, he is a very good door-to-door campaigner.

But he has to get enough votes from the rural area to carry him to the finish line. Much will depend on the liberal positioning on gun control (a hot button with rural voters) and the handling of the environmental issues.

By the way, I always lie to those “press one for Joe” surveys. If Quito saw my name on his survey, he would know not to count my choice.

It is obvious that Lehman is waiting until after the budget speech next week before making his announcement. The one thing that he does not need to worry about is competition for the nomination. I really doubt that there would be any problem getting approval for his candidacy from either Ottawa or the riding.

I wish him the best of luck.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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A potpourri of liberal promises.

Tuesday, April 13th, 2021

Reading the list of 26 resolutions passed at the liberal non-gathering last weekend is frustrating. There are duplications of themes, confusion in intent and cost considerations. And there are a few where you had to be there to know what they were discussing.

It is hard to imagine anything more top of mind for liberals than the need for a national pharmacare program and a universal income program. National standards for long-term care came next but we could be complaining on that subject for the next couple decades.

What impressed me was that high-speed rail came in number four in priority. This is not only a critical need for Canada but can pay its own way, can make a huge dent in greenhouse gas emissions and can improve relations, tourism and trade between provinces. I do not think that people are aware of the carbon cost of all the aircraft flying just the Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City corridor. We are unlikely to replace all the aircraft flying between those cities but high-speed rail can cost less and be just as efficient for those distances.

Being old enough to remember when we had ‘bumper-sticker’ policies, I still believe that a short, catchy title can make a promise work. “No worker left behind” might be a catchy title for the NDP but seems too narrow for liberals. And a ‘New Deal’ is something American Franklin Roosevelt campaigned on back in 1932.

It was good to see that there was a discussion on the post-pandemic economy but without a serious look at the tax base and the adjustments needed, our great-great grandchildren will inherit some of the debt we are accumulating.

And yes, our seniors need a better support structure. If anything, the current pandemic has shown Canadians many of the serious gaps in in the safety nets for Canadian citizens.

When a political party is willing to discuss the serious financial imbalance between the top one per cent of our population and the rest of us, I would be willing to pay the price of being there.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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A liberal performance.

Monday, April 12th, 2021

According to Susan Delacourt of the Toronto Star, Justin Trudeau was invoking the ghosts of liberal past at the weekend policy conference. While I rarely disagree with Ms. Delacourt, those were not spirits to whom Justin was appealing. He needs the living, breathing liberals of past years to come back to the liberal party. Justin’s roughshod treatment of the party has lost it too many experienced and knowledgeable campaigners.

The fact that Justin is attracting a new, younger generation to his liberal lists is one thing. His dumping of the years of experience of the liberals in the senate was not as smart a move. His cancelling membership fees in the party left the party without effective structure or hierarchy. His frequent requests for money are turning off many.

What we have learned about Pierre Trudeau’s son is that he is not his father. Justin is an elitist. He likes to hobnob with the rich and famous. He surrounds himself with like-minded cronies. He is a bit of a control freak. The only reason a few of the resolutions at the convention will be in the coming budget is because these resolutions were included for that reason.

And do not compare the liberal orchestration this past weekend to the problems the opposition conservatives had recently or the NDP had the same weekend. No liberal would dare to challenge the guy with his finger on the switch at Justin Trudeau’s event. And nobody was allowed to ask why Trudeau was continuing to twin the TransMountain pipeline.

It would be like asking when women in the cabinet will be allowed to do their job without running afoul of directions from the prime minister’s office?

The opposition conservatives thought they had contained the problem of social conservatives at their convention but never dreamed that party people would deny that there is a need to protect the environment. The NDP also had their problems this past weekend but that party’s members always like to have something to complain about.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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Is it news or gossip?

Friday, April 9th, 2021

It is a puzzle sometimes. You look to the news media to keep you abreast of politics across Canada. The question you need to ask about the so-called political news is it news or just gossip? It is discouraging to think of some of our favourite pundits of the press as gossip mongers.

What stirred this thought was articles (two days in a row!) in the Toronto Star complaining about Annamie Paul’s experience in her first six months as leader of the green party ranks. And, as is the Star’s custom, Ms. Paul’s race, religion and sex are pitted against the supposedly white-male dominance of the party organization.

When she first won the green party leadership, Ms. Paul reminded me of the bad jokes about Sammy Davis Jr. during his career. In today’s brittle race relations atmosphere, there are no jokes and there should be no recriminations. Her campaign manager was out of line to complain openly. It was amateur of him to complain to the news media. He has burnt his boats with the party.

And if you do not want to “paint this organization as overtly racist,” why would you say it?

Mind you, it is hard to imagine a competent campaign manager who would advise Paul to throw herself on the pyre by deciding to run in the Toronto Centre byelection. It was never her race to win. I can think of at least seven ridings in the Toronto area where she would have had a much better chance. There are also some conservative-held electoral districts where the sitting members need to be challenged on their lack of environmental concern.

Previous green leader Elizabeth May never made it secret that the green party was a difficult party to run. It is badly organized and run by too many prima donnas. The current ambition of the party is to get enough members elected to become a recognized party. Then, they would be able to hire some decent research staff.

The party has an ongoing problem with its rank and file taking some very bad stands on non-green issues.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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Carney: A politician in the making?

Thursday, April 8th, 2021

So far, the speculation about Canadian Mark Carney’s future has been left to the news media. After all, what is left to do when you have been Governor of both the Bank of Canada and the Bank of England? The news media are picking politics for Carney. Judging by the book that he just had published, the pundits need to do some heavy reading before passing on that judgement.

With degrees in economics from both Harvard and Oxford, you can understand why Carney could keep pointing out to the Brits that they are going to be sorry for Brexit. Their sloppy, ill-advised and over-extended negotiations with the European Union of their exit practically guaranteed their regrets.

And with his new job in the private sector and his role in the upcoming climate conference (COP 26) in Glasgow this November, Carney really has little time for Canadian politics.

That being said, he does have much to contribute. This is an economist who has a very clear understanding of the problems related to the concentration of capital in too few hands. One of his academic theses at Oxford was on the need for business to have competition. He is hardly your usual picture of a conservative banker.

Personally, I am going to wait until I hear what he has to say tonight at the liberal policy conference. The question really is whether he can put his ideas in a political context.

And, until he makes whatever decision on politics, he is dabbling his feet in the private sector with a cushy job at Brookfield Asset Management as vice-chairman and he is also a director of Stripe, the American-Irish payment processing company.

It will be very important to see how what he says tonight stacks up along with finance minister Chrystia Freeland’s first federal budget later this month.

Politics is getting interesting again!


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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Trudeau building bridges in Quebec.

Tuesday, April 6th, 2021

It is rare that prime minister Justin Trudeau would be considered best friends with Quebec premier François Legault. It is just that timing is everything in politics. If Trudeau’s liberals want to take back a majority in an election later this year, they have to maximize their seats in Quebec. And it looks like, the Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec, which is a little bit separatist and a little bit right wing can learn to live with the Trudeau liberals.

According to Radio Canada, out of Quebec, the two BFFs are on a first name basis and enjoying making joint announcements of government largess. The first of these was an announcement of government support for electric vehicle production in Saint-Jérôme, Quebec. The second announcement was made in Trois-Rivières, Quebec and announced providing federal funds for the expansion of high-speed Internet in the province. Both projects are also on the agenda for the Legault government.

The Bloc Québécois leader, Yves-François Blanchet, back in Ottawa, considered both announcements to be of benefit to Quebec. He therefore claimed that both initiatives are because of the pressure brought on in Ottawa by the Bloc MPs. He did not speculate about what the announcements might cost the Bloc in terms of seats in the coming federal election.

The real loss will be felt by the federal conservative party. On top of the recent refusal of members of the party to support leader Erin O’Toole’s policy that climate change is a real problem will help ensure that there are no conservative gains likely in that province. It is also likely to limit the possible gains in neighbouring Ontario.

The only other thing that might help the federal conservatives in Ontario would be the dispatch of premier Doug Ford during the election on a trade mission to some country deep in the Himalayan Mountains.

And as to a date for that federal election, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh made a frustrated comment on the West Block the other day. “He (Trudeau) can call the election any time he wants,” he said ruefully.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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The boy from Flemingdon Park.

Saturday, April 3rd, 2021

Flemington Park in Toronto is not a prestige address. I watched the area grow over the years. It was never much in the way of architectural creativity. It was rabbits’ warrens of apartment buildings, second rate office buildings and a small strip plaza. It is in the area just north of where Don Mills Road and the Don Valley Parkway dip into the Don River valley. It is in Don Valley East electoral district. I mention this because it is currently represented provincially by MPP Michael Coteau, He grew up in Flemington Park.

I like this guy. If the last Ontario liberal leadership convention had been based on every liberal having a vote, he would likely have won. He came second to Steven Del Duca. Coteau is the kind of politician who thinks of his constituents’ needs. He spent three terms as a highly productive member of the Toronto District School Board before progressing to Queen’s Park. He has been in the Ontario Legislature for the past ten years. He was one of seven liberals to survive the Wynne rout.

Michael held five very active portfolios during his time in the Wynne cabinet. He is the kind of guy who gets the job done.

I knew about Michael before I met him. When he was running for the Ontario liberal leadership, I met him at a luncheon in Orillia, he spoke at length, He spoke well. No question was too tough. He even impressed some locals who were just having lunch.

Michael likes challenges. He has decided to take on the federal scene by running for the open nomination in the federal electoral district of Don Valley East. He is hardly the only liberal wanting to take on the challenge.

I think he is a good bet to win the riding. The voters know him and trust him.

I do not think the liberals in Don Valley East could do better.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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O’Toole sings of solidarity.

Friday, April 2nd, 2021

Some political pundits seemed surprised the other day that conservative leader Erin O’Toole was trying to build bridges to unions. Not all union members vote for new democratic party politicians. If there has been any drift over the years, it has been to both conservatives and liberals.

It is all about leverage. Who wants to waste time with a bunch of do-gooders that are going nowhere? When the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) joined with the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) in 1962, it sealed the fate of the NDP as belonging to the labour movement. And not all Canadians have a favourable attitude about organized labour. Unions are seen, all too often, as an inconvenience. They picket your favourite store, delay the delivery of your new car, interfere with your travel plans and create other problems for the public to force their will on the manufacturers, dealers or service companies. Without that leverage, strikes and other labour disruptions would have less effect.

We have had the new democrats for almost 60 years. Other than the occasional provincial success, it is a party that fails to gain traction with many Canadians.

Frankly, my advice to that party has always been to dump the CLC, join the liberals, work to make it a truly left-of-centre party, and able to carry out the tasks the early CCF had intended to do. What they would find when they joined the liberals is that most of the more progressive federal and provincial unions are already supporting that party.

Conservative support by unions is usually not as direct. The best example of the type of unions providing support for the conservatives is a police union. It is in the union’s self-interest to support the people who stick with the status quo and support a closed society.

There are also the less democratic unions that tend to put a price on their support. They are available to anyone who meets their price.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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