Archive for the ‘Federal Politics’ Category

Why should I apologize to Justin Trudeau?

Wednesday, November 7th, 2018

It was disconcerting the other day to have some readers complain about my insulting prime minister Trudeau. I casually ended a commentary by saying that nobody complains about our prime minister being too smart. Hell, neither one of us is riding that high on the IQ bell curve. And I can honestly state that, to my knowledge, nobody complains about him being too smart.

But what worries me is that I do not think he even likes people who are politically smart. Frankly, I find him elitist. He grew up to wealth and privilege and tends to choose that type of friends. If his father were here, he would be mortified.

He might use some politically savvy people in his cabinet but the smartest politician in the cabinet is Ralph Goodale, the right-wing minister of public safety from Regina. There are no real reformers.

But my criticism of our prime minister does not mean that I might not vote for the liberal candidate in my electoral district. Providing the person is selected by the liberals in the district, I might even see how I can help him or her get elected. I would not give you two cents for the current conservative dolt and I am not very likely to vote for a new democrat or green candidate unless it was a truly exceptional individual.

The problem is that I have been a liberal for the past 60 years and while the party has wandered away from my ideals occasionally, I support the liberal principles of individual rights and social reform.

But there is always hope. I had hopes for Stéphane Dion, but Stéphane was not his father either. His awkward English kept his intelligence from getting through to anglophone voters. Maybe the reverse was true for Michael Ignatief as liberal leader but I think he really had been out of the country much too long.

It was the growing frustration with the Harper years in Ottawa that led us to turn to the young Trudeau. Liberals were ready to forgive a lot to rid us of what Harper was doing to the country.

But it is still frustrating and I am tiring of listing Trudeau’s acts of bad judgement. His leadership is questionable. His liberalism is weak. And I resent his casual destruction of the liberal party.

But Trudeau is still ten times better than the other choices.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

It started with Kennedy and Nixon.

Sunday, November 4th, 2018

As a Canadian, I had no dog chasing a rabbit in the race but it has impacted my attitude about politics for the rest of my life. Being there in 1960 to watch the first ever television debate between presidential candidates John Kennedy and Richard Nixon was not just a casual event. We were watching a permanent change in how North American elections were conducted.

What is very important about these debates is to consider that, while they rarely solve anything, they do help set the stage. They often highlight opportunities gained and lost. For example: Two years ago, Hillary Clinton might have gained some ground if she had stopped Trump from upstaging her by telling him to get back in his cage.

The next such debate we will be seeing will be the single leadership debate that is to be arranged for the Canadian 2019 federal election. In his usual elitist style, Trudeau has appointed former Governor General David Johnston to make all the arrangements. With his only experience in this field as an emcee of a couple such debates, the vice-regal Johnson might have bitten off more than he can chew.

It will be particularly interesting to see how he gets along with the television networks to ensure that there is as wide an audience as possible for a debate in each official language.

The first problem Johnston faces is that everyone goes into these events with entirely different objectives. He will want the television people to give up the revenue from the most lucrative time of their day. If he would just settle for 3 am on a Sunday morning, he would have as much time as he wanted.

But his most serious problem is that political parties are, as the words imply, political. They are always looking for ways to have a political advantage. That is not Johnston’s strong suit. If it looks like he is getting his advice from the guy who appointed him to this job, he is going to find what it is like to be vilified.

Frankly, Trudeau would have been far smarter to meet with ‘Chuckles’ Scheer, Elizabeth May and a representative from the NDP and appoint someone whom they also trust.

But then, we have never heard anyone complain that Mr. Trudeau is too smart.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Singh sings a sorrowful song.

Friday, November 2nd, 2018

New democrat leader Jagmeet Singh is not getting too much respect these days. And when he is not getting much respect from his own party; there is no reason for him to expect more from Justin Trudeau. The liberal prime minister had to call a by-election in Ontario the other day because time had run out. He did not call any of the three upcoming by-elections that he can leave to March.

But, for whatever reason Singh is now feeling pressured to get into the House of Commons, Trudeau is in no hurry to accommodate him.

When Singh swamped his party’s membership in 2017 with Sikh memberships to take the leadership, he seemed in no hurry to win a seat in the House. His agenda seemed to be a leisurely series of travels across the country to press the flesh and introduce himself—and also to get married. His only action of note in Ottawa was to remove one of his MPs, Erin Weir of Saskatchewan, from the party caucus for accusations of harassment.

Instead of looking like a fair and determined leader, Singh came out of it looking like he had been used.

The MP has claimed that the harassment charges were used against him as a form of political retaliation.

This leaves sad-sack Singh sitting on the sidelines in Ottawa and not feeling the love from his own party let alone the government party and Her Majesty’s loyal opposition.

At best, if he could get elected in the Spring, Singh could anticipate only as much as four to six weeks in the House before the summer recess. The phony election campaign will sputter along at the summer barbeques before the real election being called in September.

And if Singh is worried about any more problems being caused by the liberal prime minister, he should worry about there not being a liberal running against him in the by-election in Burnaby South. If the liberals bow out of that by-election, the conservatives will slice and dice Singh and he will be a lame duck trying to save the party from a complete wipe-out in all but a few electoral districts in the fall.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Exxonneration?

Tuesday, October 30th, 2018

Help is on the way. It was wonderful to read that ExxonMobil is being sued by the New York Attorney General’s office in the United States for the lies to investors about the pollution caused by producing oil from Alberta tar sands. After three years of investigating, it is claimed that ExxonMobil (through its Canadian subsidiary Imperial Oil) has been understating its carbon emissions taxation exposure to the tune of US$30 billion.

With carbon taxes expected to reach $50 per ton in at least 10 U.S. states as well as across Canada by 2023, this $30 billion oversight is going to cost ExxonMobil much more than $30 billion in catching up and in possible court penalties.

The charge is that Imperial Oil and its parent company ExxonMobil have been lying to investors and the public for many years. Those of us who knew about some of their lies were not surprised. To a company created by American John D. Rockefeller, the lies were just as to be expected and the US$30 billion and fines will be paid out of petty cash.

The lies about the tar sands go back to the beginnings of Alberta as a province of Canada. It was the lie told to every Canadian school child that the Athabasca and Cold Lake tar sands were the largest reserve of ‘oil’ in the world. The bitumen-like heavy oil of Venezuela is probably the larger reserve but political problems there are currently preventing that country from increasing production.

But it was more insidious to rename the tar sands as ‘oil sands’ and to pretend that Canadian bitumen was just another form of heavy oil. The problem is that bitumen has to first be converted to synthetic crude oil before it can be further refined into oil products. That initial refinery step produces three times the carbon pollution of normal crude oil refining. It produces huge quantities of what is called bitumen slag.

While none of the ExxonMobil lies to investors has yet been discussed in court, it will be very interesting to see what ExxonMobil’s lawyers say in the company’s defence.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Let’s have ‘Whack-a-Mole’ voting.

Sunday, October 28th, 2018

Blame Chantal Hébert. The other day she described the voting reform question as a whack-a-mole game. It just keeps popping up and needs to get a whack. The only reason Chantal noted it was because neophyte premier François Legault of the CAQ in Quebec made the same rash promise to reform how Quebec votes before he knew he would win. Now he just needs a way to back out gracefully.

Most Canadians, who have any opinion on this subject, think prime minister Justin Trudeau let them down. He did (foolishly) promise the voters that 2015 would be the last time they would use first-past-the-post voting. While he took the blame, it was really the opposition parties on the special committee of the commons that dumped on Justin’s promise.

Now we learn that Prince Edward Island might ask Islanders what they want. If they are smart they will settle for a reeve and some councillors and give the provincial problems to New Brunswick.

And we hear from the Wet Coast that the question of how to vote is being asked again. Maybe it will be third time lucky! You would think that they would finally understand the problems when the Greens are running their NDP government. Or they might never learn

It seems every time I write about this subject I get inundated by readers across the country claiming I am a Philistine trying to protect first-past-the-post. I even conceded recently that I would be happy to help promote run-off elections so that we could have majority choice voting. That just got me more complaints.

The problem is that people, for some reason, buy into the fiction that if your vote is not for the winner in an election, it is a wasted vote. As silly as that sounds, that is their argument against first-past-the-post.

No vote is ever wasted in a democracy. We can all have our say. And yes, it is very rare that governments are elected by a majority under first-past-the-post. If you really want to have a majority vote, then you have run-off elections. That is carrying your democracy further.

But having local representation—is to me, the very essence of our democracy. You can send the smartest person in town to parliament or the stupidest. It is your choice. Denying you that choice is the road to anarchy.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

A government built on falsehoods.

Saturday, October 27th, 2018

Martin Regg Cohn of the Toronto Star described the Ontario conservatives as ageist the other day. He believes that Doug Ford’s Tories are the party of only the old people. He comes to this conclusion apparently because the inordinate number of dumb moves the Ford government is making that are having a serious impact on young people.

Regg Cohn should be more patient. Dougie and the gang will get around to his age group soon enough.

Because “Government for the people” is just a meaningless slogan. Ford obviously felt that a slogan such as “Make Ontario Great Again” would be too easily recognized as copied from Donald Trump’s campaign in the United States.

But, the same as Donald Trump found out south of the border, lies work today. All you have to do is tell lies that fit the bias of the target group. You have to find people who are fed up with politics anyway. With fewer and fewer people voting these days, those people are not hard to find. They will vote if you just give them a cause—the nastier the cause, the better.

The favourite cause of the ignorant today is anti-environmentalism. They see the greenies and tree-huggers as being against job creation and adding more taxes for gas for your pickup. They hate newcomers for taking jobs nobody really wants anyway. They resent automation because they do not understand it. And they resent people who find computers easy to use.

One of Dougie’s problems is that he thinks the only people working for a minimum wage are high school-aged kids at Tims or McDonalds. They are not. We could show you the problem in a half-block walk on Spadina Avenue in Toronto were immigrant women with families are working for minimum wage in sweat shops above the restaurants and grocery stores. And they only wish the employer did not steal some of that minimum pay back from them.

The only age problem Dougie and his ‘Deplorables’ have is that they are mostly middle-aged men who think all university students live in their parents’ basements.

Just think of all the fun next year when Dougie lines up with Larry (Alberta conservative leader Jason Kenney), Curly (federal conservative leader ‘Chuckles’ Scheer) and Moe (premier of Saskatchewan). That comedy trio are going to take on Justin Trudeau. And Canadians can sit on the sidelines and cheer on our favourite team.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Kudos to Vancouver’s Kennedy Stewart.

Friday, October 26th, 2018

It took guts. That was no walk in the park for a new democrat to give up his seat in parliament and challenge for the Vancouver mayoralty, as an independent. It was a tough fight with no guarantees. And the remaining problem is that there is now a progressive in the mayoralty with an equally split right and left-wing council.

Stewart might be the first independent mayor in Vancouver in more than 30 years but, if he plays his cards carefully, the right-wingers on council will be reluctant to vote against him. The five are all from the highly partisan ‘non-partisan Association, known as the NPA. With only ten councillors in total, the others are three Greens and one each from two left-leaning parties. (And you thought premier John Horgan had a tenuous situation.)

Stewart defeated the NPA mayoralty candidate by close to 1000 votes. He is definitely the mayor the city needs for the problems ahead. Few will be neutral as the Trudeau government tries to force the expansion of the Trans-Mountain pipeline to Burnaby.

Mind you, Trudeau seems happy to let tempers cool on the pipeline while the judicial demand for reconsideration is taking place. The earliest there will be any construction activity is expected in March or April of 2019. One of Trudeau’s major problems is that there are growing elements from within his own liberal party that are resisting the expansion.

When the pipeline is twinned, equipped with heaters and higher-pressure pumps, it will be capable of bringing close to 900,000 barrels per day across the Rockies to Burrard Inlet. This will be barrels per day, mainly of diluted tar sands bitumen, the most polluting of all oil sources.

Mining bitumen requires heating vast quantities of water and forcing it down to the layers of bitumen strata and bringing it up to the surface. This creates vast settling ponds of greasy water that can kill wild life. Bitumen contains about three times the carbon of normal crude oil and this creates huge piles of what is called bitumen slag in the refining process. This is why the oil companies prefer to send it to third world refineries where nobody cares about the pollution.

With more spokespeople such as Kennedy Stewart, we will be heard.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Brown’s boy continues to disappoint.

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018

It was always amusing to see how aspiring politician Alex Nuttall fawned on Patrick Brown as heir apparent to Patrick’s seat in parliament. It did not seem to be a sure thing with their respective ages being so close. All became clear though when Patrick jumped on the provincial leadership bandwagon. My neighbours and I got the dirty end of the stick when Mr. Nuttall told us he was our new conservative candidate in Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte.

The fact of his slim win by 89 votes out of the rural area of the electoral district was a clear indication of the city folks’ opinion of Mr. Nuttall. We knew Mr. Nuttall best. And he has certainly not done anything important for anybody, city or rural, since.

At a time when Barrie residents are increasingly concerned about the late-night disturbances downtown, the drunkenness, the open prostitution, as well as growing drug problems and deaths, our MP, Alex Nuttall has turned a blind eye to our concerns.

The weekly grocery ad wrap that passes for a newspaper now in Barrie, found out that Nuttall thinks federally approved safe injection sites for drug addicts are illegal. The Simcoe County health unit considers a safe injection site as a ‘harm prevention’ priority for Barrie that can save many lives. The city has to wait for the provincial government’s approval of it but nobody knows what that government will do from one day to the next. (Health minister Christine Elliott said the other day that we will keep some sites but did not say where.)

Mr. Nuttall has absolutely no idea what to do about drug addiction but does not think safe injection sites are the answer. He would probably appear a lot smarter if he just shut up.

All we know is that safe injection sites can save lives. They build rapport with the addicts to the point where the professionals can start to communicate and can help them. It works and is a solution that does not leave people on the street to die.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

A relentless push for change.

Sunday, October 21st, 2018

As best as I can follow the Google Analytics information about readership, there is a consistent and steady stream of world wide web users visiting the Democracy Papers. I wrote these papers in 2007 for the provincial referendum on voting in Ontario. It looks like more than 30,000 individual readers from around the world have accessed those papers in the years following. I think my words are ending up on political science tests around the world. Yet, they are not academic efforts. They are for anyone who is curious about voting systems.

In addition to those archived materials, I periodically comment in Babel-on-the-Bay on people’s strange ideas about voting systems. This seems to always provide me with fresh rants from people who dislike our first-past-the-post system of voting.

I quite understand the complaints. To paraphrase Winston Churchill as he once said about democracy. “It is not all that good a system; it is just better than the alternatives.”

But I will always defend the concept of having our local candidate who goes to the government for us. That is a key to our democracy and I will always defend it.

At the same time, I do understand the concerns of those who want change.

My only solution, for those who will take any improvement, is run-off elections. Many try to convince me of alternative voting as an inexpensive approach to this but it is really not the same. Alternative voting is where you can number your choices as 1, 2, 3, etc. and if you have ten candidates in your district, you can number all ten.

What bothers me the most about numbering the choices is that it is difficult for the voter to find out enough about some candidates to rank them. It has to be explained to voters that they only need to rank those candidates they would find acceptable.

And while there are those who think it is a bumper-sticker answer, alternative voting systems can make the losers the choosers. Run-off elections keep everyone in the same driver’s seat. It gives every voter the chance to make their choice anew. And in an era when we will all be switching to Internet voting, the costs of making up your mind again will be minimal. I expect it will be initially resisted by the politicians to the right of the political spectrum but they are natural pessimists and it might surprise them that this system can work for them too. It is better than the alternatives.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Thumper: 1932 to 2018

Thursday, October 18th, 2018

The Hon. Donald S. Macdonald has died. We were never friends. He might have served in Pierre Trudeau’s cabinet and we were both Torontonians but we never exchanged much more than the odd slight. I found him very elitist, right-wing and the kind of Rosedale warrior that was a pain in the ass. To be fair, he mainly ignored me.

But, he is dead and I should think of something nice to say about him. The good news is I do not intend to go to his funeral.

Surprisingly I got my early push in politics from Rosedale residents who were close to Don. My late friend Joe Potts and I managed to get ourselves into and out of trouble until Joe got his appointment to the bench and he was no longer allowed to play with political riff-raff.

But this story is about Thumper. And, by the way, I called him “Thumper” after that rabbit in the story of Disney’s Bambi. I never looked at his feet. Thumper was always raising alarms.

The final straw was Don’s acceptance in 1982 of the the chair of the Royal Commission on the Economic Union and Development Prospects for Canada. He had quit politics four years earlier to return to law but accepted Pierre Trudeau’s appointment for a reputed $800 per day.

I hope he was docked for the $800 on the day I was making my presentation to the commission. No reason was given, he never showed up. With a pitch entitled ‘Towards A New Capitalism’ I should not have expected any special treatment.

I hardly think it was just my lack of enthusiasm for free trade with the U.S.A. that led Don to suggest that “leap of faith” in free trade in his report. I saw it as a give-away to a country that did not even believe in fair trade. I felt we were setting ourselves up to be bullied.

I thought Don was pleased that he did not have to hand his report to the much smarter Pierre Trudeau. Instead, Brian Mulroney, the patsy PM for the Americans, was the ideal recipient of his inelegant tome.

But I still need something positive. I was going to mention the bow ties but the first time I saw Don in a bow tie was after the 1962 election when he was first elected. It was at a function for prime minister Lester Pearson. I though Don was kissing up to the boss and his traditional bow tie.

I can apologize now because I found out later that Don really liked bow ties. I hope he is wearing one for the funeral.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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