Archive for the ‘Federal Politics’ Category

A travesty of travellers.

Friday, November 10th, 2017

The dynamic duo of Trump and Trudeau are meeting in south-east Asia this weekend. Neither has the other on their agenda. And neither has a similar agenda. They have different needs and different objectives.

U.S. President Donald Trump has the shortest list to match his short memory. His top-of-mind concern is North Korea. He is looking for answers and he is seeking support. He has already pressed the critical players such as the Chinese, Japanese and South Koreans. At the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit in Da Nang, he will have all the side players including Vladimir Putin of Russia.

Trump will use his heavy-handed approach to try to get the lesser players in the Asia-Pacific area to strengthen their resolve to sanction North Korea. We will hope he gets more co-operation there than he seems to have gotten from China’s Xi Jinping. If we got one impression from the footage sent back from the meetings between the two leaders in China, we would say that Mr. Xi’s expression was not inscrutable: it bordered on boredom. If we have noted one thing about the Chinese leader over the years, it is that he does not suffer fools. Putting up with Trump is a lot to ask of a guy.

And since President Trump has already given APEC the finger in rejecting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), it is not on his agenda. That is despite the TPP having the possible geopolitical effect of drawing the signatories away from China’s influence and into the American sphere,

Nor is TPP seemingly on Prime Minister Trudeau’s agenda. He is stalling. Trudeau is trying to influence a more environmentally friendly and human rights based agreement. He will sign fast enough if and when Trump dumps the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) but until then Trudeau can play to the bleachers.

Just where the East Asia Summit in the Philippines fits into everyone’s agenda is not clear. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will have a special request for President Trump to return of the Balangiga Bells to the Catholic church in the Philippines. And if you want to know what the heck that is about, you can look it up on the Internet. (And if you believe what you read, remember that history is written by the victors.)


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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The ‘Who’ of colonization?

Thursday, November 9th, 2017

When struggling through the Interim Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, it became confusing as to who was supposedly doing the colonizing? The confusion was taken even further after watching Chief Commissioner Marion Buller on Vassy Kapelos’ West Block program on Global Television last week.

Leaving aside Commissioner Buller’s re-assuring words, I was surprised at her insensitivity to the origin, purpose and placement of the November 11 poppy.  She was wearing what looked like a ceramic poppy on her left shoulder. Without explanation, it appeared to be a piece of costume jewelry. It was, we found, to be a hand-made poppy made to recognize Canada’s indigenous peoples who also served and died for this country.

And that might be emblematic of what is wrong with this inquiry.

What these commissioners and the politicians who appointed them do not seem to understand is that the commission is headed in a direction that will solve nothing. It needs to be an opportunity for healing between our disparate societies. It is understanding and empathy that breed respect, not separation.

The basic problem with this inquiry today is that our indigenous people want to rely on an oral history that honours and recognizes the missing and murdered persons.

But for them to share this understanding with the rest of Canada, they have to recognize the communication needs of the non-indigenous. They have to allow cameras to record their oral presentations. It goes against all they believe but it is the reality. Truth will be known and real reconciliation will be possible as we all come together in understanding. And if that is not the purpose of this inquiry, tell us now and stop wasting our money.

In the interim report, I kept stumbling over the concept that the non-indigenous were in some manner trying to colonize these people who came so much earlier to this continent. We share this beautiful and bounteous land and we bring in more people every day to share with us. Nobody wants to deny the indigenous their lifestyles, their choices. Nor should we fail to offer them the opportunity of today’s technology or education or medicine or better living conditions.

Canada is a country enriched by the knowledge, the customs, the lore that people have brought here from many lands. We are richer for it. It is important that we all can share in it.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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The Hair harasses NAFTA hopefuls.

Monday, November 6th, 2017

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is still on life support. The end of his first year in office and President Donald Trump has not yet ended the more than US$ one trillion in trade between the three countries. Maybe he was waiting for some help from critics of the Canadian Prime Minister to help him make his case for canceling.

The ally, he must have been waiting for was The Hair: Former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Not that we would recommend the Hair for successful trade negotiations. His help in these circumstances is to pour oil on an already tense situation. The Americans are making outrageous demands on our negotiators and Harper tells clients of his consulting firm that the Trudeau Liberals are too quick to reject some of the demands. It should be noted that Harper never completed a successful free trade agreement—he kept claiming the European Community Agreement was completed but it was only finalized after the Liberals took over in Ottawa.

The Hair actually complains that Canada is aligning itself too closely to Mexico to the consternation of the Americans. (Maybe he has never heard the old adage about divide and conquer.)

And true to his extremist right-wing principles, Harper claims that Canada is wrong to put labour rights on the table along with such subjects as gender equality and Indigenous rights and concerns for environmental protection. Obviously, he seems to consider these unimportant matters.

A commentator such as myself is expected to take pot shots at those negotiating NAFTA for us but it is considered very bad manners for a previous Prime Minister. And when you consider that Trudeau even hired former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to help out with the negotiations, it gives you an idea of the seriousness with which the situation is being handled.

Mind you, it is obvious that nobody thought of calling on Harper to help with the current negotiations. This is the guy who bickered with President Obama over the Keystone XL pipeline through the United States. As soon as Trump was in office, he put out an executive order telling TransCanada to build its Keystone pipeline. Mind you, it is likely that it will never be completed under today’s oil economics.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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‘Chuckles’ chooses chaos.

Sunday, November 5th, 2017

Have you ever wondered at how Members of Parliament can keep on speaking while being constantly heckled? It seems it is all part of the theatre that parliament provides and is a big part of the daily question period. There will always be exceptions but the chaos heckling creates can be easily quieted if just three of the players in the House said “Enough is enough.”

The guy with the most power to quiet things does not have the largest problem. Prime Minister Trudeau, through his Liberal House Leader, MP Bardish Chagger, can easily insist on bringing the Liberal side of the House’s noise levels down to reasonable. The question is whether they would want to—given the heavy heckling to which they are under every day?

Smaller parties such as the New Democrats have to really speak up if they want their heckling to be heard. These MPs tend to be the most vocal when they feel they are being mislead or not being given an answer they consider truthful. During the recent leadership race, there was little attention paid to the NDP’s performance in the House and it will take MP Guy Caron, new party leader Jagmeet Singh’s choice as house leader, time to assert some authority.

The largest problem in the heckling chorus are the 96 Conservatives who are the official opposition in the House of Commons. With their new leader this year, Andrew ‘Chuckles’ Scheer MP and his shrill house leader, MP Candice Bergen from Manitoba, we are certainly hearing from the pack.

And when you consider that “Chuckles’ has served as Speaker of the House, he knows very well the chaos that heckling creates for the House and the spectators. He also knows how the television cameras are directed to focus only on the speaker and people watching on the parliamentary channel across Canada have no idea which party is creating the noise behind the camera.

While the majority of parliamentarians feel that the heckling in the House is out of control, it is these opposition members who keep the practice alive.

Part of the shame is that even female members of Scheer’s party have complained about the sexist and inappropriate heckling. The truth is that this party has no intention of giving up on heckling. They seem to believe that: when in doubt, you should shout.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Fleeing to Florida.

Saturday, November 4th, 2017

We are in November and many Canadians are contemplating their trip to Florida for the winter. Why, we do not know. Are you not aware that Floridians hate Canadians? They voted for Trump you know. And why Canadians think they have some God-given right to go waste our Canadian loonies on the soft life at the buffet tables of that state is beyond reason.

And who wants to play golf in a muggy climate on alligator and snake infested fairways? There is damn little else to do in that state. It is hardly a haven of intellectualism.

All you so-called snow bunnies or snow birds need to suck it up and keep those loonies in Canada. Learn to enjoy our winters. Stay and contribute to the collective warmth. You must be aware that the only reason we do not all freeze to death in our hockey arenas is all the shouting and screaming and jumping up and down. And why would you give up all that fun for vegging out in Florida? And, if you did mention your trip when you get home, one of your neighbours might punch you in the mouth.

Besides, what these turncoats do not realize is that every penny spent on cheap Mexican-made clothes in Florida is credited to the U.S. trade account, not ours. The loonies you are leaving in Florida are the reason the loonie is only worth 80 cents on the American dollar.

And how are you supposed to get to this purported land of milk and honey and sunshine? If you go by plane, you are putting yourself in a long aluminum tube with thin, less oxygenated air so your heart can do extra duty all the way there and all the way back. And in that uncomfortable aluminum tube, for hours, you can exchange your germs and microbes with all those other snow birds.

You can always drive of course but then you get to help pay for the questionable law enforcement in all those quaint byways and towns between your home and Florida. And if you think this is just southern hospitality, you should never be caught short around Carrolton, New York. This town near Buffalo has been clipping Canadians for $200 and $300 tolls per trip for years and the state legal community thinks it is amusing.

The closest I ever want to get to Florida for the rest of my life is to drink some orange juice.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Does Donald Trump even like America?

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

If President Donald Trump takes any pride in the United States of America, he has a funny way of showing it. Did he run for the presidency as a joke or to get even? Maybe he was tired of being considered a joke? In his ignorance, Trump is giving the bird (as only a New Yorker can) to America’s two best customers and friends. You might think that is stupid. I might think it is stupid. What it can be is also a long-delayed reality for America’s friends.

Trump is trying to bully America’s two best customers over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The two countries combine to buy more than a third of America’s exports. If Trump thinks this is a bad deal, nobody has explained to him what it means in terms of the balance of payments. He is setting a phenomenal record as the first person in the world to gamble US$500 billion. And that is just the goods sold each year.

He insults the intelligence of Canadians. To Mexicans, he adds racial slurs. It will take a long time for Americans to repair the harm Trump is doing in race relations with many peoples.

Trump seems to be oblivious to the trade deal Canada has already arranged with the European Union, the ongoing relationship with the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth and the ease with which Canada can make deals in Asia.

And if Trump starts to play fast and loose with the automotive sector, he will find himself in more trouble with the automobile companies and their unions than he has ever expected. It would be very interesting to know what those companies intend to do if they are faced with drawing back all manufacturing to the U.S. Would Americans stand back and be quiet as Trump bankrupts General Motors?

But for Canadians, this is not only a wake-up call but a new-found freedom. Up-front, Canada can save a billion dollars in not twinning that bridge at Detroit. Niagara Falls, Ontario can have its own outlet malls for price cutting on European and Canadian goods that Americans cannot resist. The best price winter holidays for Canadians will be in the south of France and Spain and for a little more, there are the Greek Islands.

While Canada could take a hit as hard as 2.5 per cent of gross domestic product in the first year without NAFTA, there would be a long line of American manufacturers wanting to bring some of their manufacturing plants back to Canada to take advantage of relations with markets in Asia and Europe. Trump can have his introverted Buy America, Canadians can sell to the world.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Caesar’s wife must be beyond suspicion.

Sunday, October 29th, 2017

Recently we wrote that federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau is in the role of Caesar’s wife. The simple point of that is what Julius Caesar said when he divorced his wife Pompeia: “My wife ought not even be under suspicion.” That statement has meant for centuries that those who seek to be leaders can have no blemish of scandal on themselves or those who share in their trust. It is why Prime Minister Trudeau has an ongoing problem with Bill Morneau.

The Liberal finance minister can no longer be retained in that trusted position. He has failed to rise above the criticisms of detractors.  He has failed to allay suspicions of impropriety. He has failed to hear the baying of the media wolf pack seeking his downfall. He has failed to quiet the catcalls of the political opposition in parliament.

And why does Morneau think that donating to charity the earnings of his stocks since coming to parliament are a panacea? Whether the net difference was $5 or more than $5 million, it comes across as an admission of guilt. The flunky in his office who dreamed up that gambit should be wearing the dunce cap of the apolitical.

But then the dunce cap belongs to Morneau. He has proved to be without political understanding or depth. I have been pleased to hear that voters in his riding seem to like him. They see him as a nice guy. Maybe he just needed time to learn something about the political realities. You cannot do that in the action chair of finance minister.

To use a baseball analogy, he needs to be sent to the minors for some conditioning and experience. His earned run average is abysmal. His runs batted in stats are below average.

We should also realize that Morneau has done some good. He was a fresh and friendly face in the largely inexperienced team presented by Justin Trudeau at Rideau Hall two years ago.

Trudeau did not dump John McCallum from cabinet for doing a poor job for the Syrian refugees. He did not dump Stéphane Dion because of inexperience in foreign affairs. We can only speculate on his reasons. We know he cannot go on trying to protect Morneau in the finance portfolio.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Curating the consensus of the crowd.

Saturday, October 28th, 2017

It is most unlikely that Maude Barlow and the membership of the Council of Canadians see Canada’s future as being a pastoral society. It just appears by the collective’s recent policy consensus that this is what they want. What it might be telling us is that Maude’s days as curator for the Council could be numbered. It needs more of the strength and determination she brought to the movement back in the 1980s and 90s.

It is hardly that I disagree with any of the priorities selected by the membership. The problem is that they have selected principles over actions. Of the five top priorities of the membership there was only one pro-active item. National Pharmacare is long overdue and we should have pushed it through in the 1960s when our national politicians were still listening to us.

But the rest are platitudes. The care of our lakes and rivers is automatic and motherhood. You can get that from the Green Party, and nothing much else. Deals such as the Nestlé water grab are a matter of some serious talk with the politicians. Pipelines for bitumen from the tar sands are anathema to anyone who gives a damn about the environment.

But then you have to clear the collective’s head on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). To fix NAFTA, you have to know what clauses and how you are going to fix them. You cannot just say you are going to protect people’s jobs. Why would you do that? Free trade is designed to get around that old, out-dated attitude. The way to handle that problem is to save the other guy’s workers. You do not tell him to get rid of child workers, you make him send them to school. You make sure nobody is being exploited. You have to be assured that all workers’ rights are safe-guarded. Then you have a level ground for your trade agreement.

Think about it: who is President Trump really protecting when he talks about an unfair NAFTA? Is he speaking of protecting the hourly-wage worker or the profits of his corporate cronies?

In a business career working with computer companies, I never saw computer automation replace a human worker that did not open up two better, more challenging jobs. The attitude should always be: if your job can be done better by a machine, it should be.

But you hardly need to worry about automation and trade deals in a pastoral society. Our Council of Canadians need to get out and tend their sheep.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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There’s more to life than apples.

Friday, October 27th, 2017

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s main man Finance Minister Bill Morneau is still playing the role of Johnny Appleseed. He seems to have the sole role of a single program like the character in American folk lore who introduced apple horticulture to a large swath of North America.

There is nothing wrong with sticking to what you know but I always thought Appleseed could have added the occasional orchard of peach or cherry trees to his planting. Similarly, Morneau could have added other segments of society to helping families with children. How about helping our seniors to get by?

Not that there is anything wrong with child support programs. It is just that people with children are not the only members of Canadian society who feel the pinch of inflation. And we were pleased to hear from Mr. Morneau that when you give money to people who might need the money, they will spend it. That helps the economy grow. If you keep giving money to millionaires like Mr. Morneau, they will keep looking for vacation villa’s to purchase in Provence. That does nothing for the Canadian economy.

It was good to hear from Mr. Morneau that the Canadian economy was doing better than expected. Would he have told us, were it not?

And I was also pleased that he tried to ignore the reporters’ rudely shouted questions about balancing books. I suspect that none of those rude people were economists and had little knowledge of what they meant by such a meaningless question. Frankly, Canadians as a whole probably would never give a damn as to whether the books were balanced or not. It is just a silly idea promoted by block-headed conservatives that a country should be run as though it is a household—and not spend more than its income.

But any smart business person can tell you that you have to invest to build. Those damn risk-adverse Tories are a drag on our society. This country was built by the people who accepted challenges, made the investments, showed the good faith and the willingness to pitch in. We should take some time to appreciate what some of those old fogies of the past did for us. They built a hell of a country—and we should keep it going and growing.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Joly jilts journalism.

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

Every government for the past 50 years in Canada has wrung its collective hands over the state of Canadian journalism. We have had studies, expert reports, editorials, analyses, speeches and diatribes over the news media and its state of disrepair. What we have failed to do is come to any answers. We have left it to the marketplace to resolve.

And to put a firm closure on it, Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly said last week that the Liberal government “has no plan to bail out industry models that are no longer viable.”

Joly wants to show how modern she is by touting Facebook, Twitter and Google. What her and her advisers do not understand is that we have had a stock explanation for that type of news service since the beginning of the computer era. It is called garbage in: garbage out.

Where the state of journalism is really suffering in Canada is in the quality of the output that is trying to compete with the fake news of the Internet. Maybe PostMedia is going downhill faster than the Globe and Mail. With PostMedia really owned by the people in the U.S. responsible for the digital version of the old supermarket tabloid the National Enquirer, we are not expecting much.

But even the over-rated Toronto Star is showing the signs of deteriorating standards as less and less effort goes into the quality of the journalism. An interesting example the other day was a column by national affairs writer Chantal Hébert. It was a seemingly tongue-in-cheek report on the foolishness of Quebec Bill 62 covering face coverings. At the beginning of the second paragraph, Chantal actually wrote that “to declare war on sunglasses is pretty unique in the history of Canada.” Chantal knows you do not qualify “unique.” All it really proves is that the Toronto Star can no longer afford copy editors. And if we wanted to discuss the state of broadcast news media, we would need buckets for the tears.

But Minister Joly needs to be aware of the words of the late Senator Keith Davey when he decided to do a study of Canada’s news media in the late 1960s (The Uncertain Mirror). Keith’s words were that “No reporter can ignore it when their publishers and station owners are coming here to talk about themselves.”


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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