Archive for the ‘Federal Politics’ Category

If there is a wrong way?

Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

The Trudeau government seems to be fated to find the wrong way to do things. Whether it is just a contrariness or a strange quirk is still something we have not figured out. It is probably the reason that we say so little about the coming legalization of marijuana in Canada. Legal or illegal, whatever their involvement, cannabis brings out the least appealing characteristics of the people involved in its distribution and use.

And while I have always been in favour of decriminalizing cannabis, I must admit the smell of it being smoked repulses me. I will never be a customer for marijuana, legal or otherwise. It is still smoking and that is deadly.

But I would never have believed that a cop could be heading up that convoy bent on making pot socially acceptable. Only a cop would take two years to figure it out.

And, it hardly helps that I have absolutely no respect for the cop involved for the Trudeau Liberals. Former Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair could be just as useless as a Member of Parliament as he was in his City of Toronto job. We should never forget that he was the cop-in-charge in June 2010 at Harper’s G-20. It was Blair who wrongly jailed people under disgusting conditions, allowed police to attack citizens who were lawfully gathered, kettled citizens who were lawfully on the streets and yet allowed havoc by out-of-town anarchists.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thinks Blair is the perfect person to plan our upcoming pot party on July 1 this year.

But do not suppose that the feds are the only ones pimping for ‘Mary-Jane.’ The provincial governments get pot revenue too. Each province to their own custom will be selling marijuana for fun and profit. With its usual snails-pace for making things happen, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) promises to have special stores open in 14 municipalities in July of this year to sell pot but not booze.

There will be a lot of publicity telling people not to toke and drive. That is a very good suggestion if there really was a legal way to tell if someone is high on THC (the main hallucinogenic ingredient in cannabis).

But do not expect to get high to celebrate Canada’s 151st birthday. The pot stores run by the provinces are most likely to be closed for the holiday. This will just have to be a ‘bring-your-own’ party.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Shilling for the politicos.

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

Full disclosure requires me to admit that I was a political spin doctor before I knew what a spin doctor was. I am not as proud of it as I should be. Maybe it is because I always felt embarrassed for people who claimed such expertise.

Case in point is Barbara and Murray Frum’s son David. He could never find anyone right-wing enough for him in Toronto, so David headed for the U.S. where he could be a spin doctor for President George W. Bush. The junior Bush was probably the dumbest president the U.S. had ever produced before Donald Trump. Frum proudly told anyone that he was the one who wrote the “Axis of Evil” line in George W’s State of the Union address in 2002. He even wrote a book calling George W ‘The Right Man.’

Sure, George W might have gone to Harvard and Yale, he still did the stupidest thing he could have done in going to war over some mythical weapons of mass destruction. One thing you learn early in politics is that a candidate’s education does not guarantee s/he will not do something stupid.

And being a spin doctor does not mean that you will always give the incident the right spin. I remember one evening, a Toronto Star reporter entertaining half the passengers on a full Air Canada DC9 from Ottawa lampooning a statement from me, trying to rescue the Liberal Party from embarrassment. My effort was caught on national television. Luckily, it was the unintended but amusing twist on the story that saved the day.

The problem with Frum is that he is not in the fawning clack around Donald Trump. He made it clear from the beginning that he would prefer to vote for a real politico such as Hillary Clinton.

But that sorry bunch around Donald Trump are hardly spin doctors. They are users. They are using Trump for their own agenda. They would turn on him in a second. Even the Trump progeny are referred to in the Wolff’s Fire and Fury as dim and spoiled. Trump treats his wife as arm candy and it is obvious she despises him for it.

And yet an obviously intelligent person such as Rex Tillerson remains as Secretary of State in a cabinet made up of a cluster of clowns. Is it a sense of duty to the nation that keeps him on the job? I would spin it that way.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

You can vote if you want.

Monday, January 15th, 2018

There is nothing more annoying in politics than listening to some chowder-head radio disc jockey on election day admonishing people to get out and vote. I always want to append that with the qualifier ‘If you know what you are doing, get out and vote.” And add to that, ‘If you do not know what you are doing, don’t.’

Can you imagine voting for a person because you like the way they comb their hair? Have you ever heard a young person new to voting who calls out to a parent using the next voting screen “Who am I supposed to vote for? And you would not believe some of the questions asked of you because you are wearing identification as a voting official. Many of the questions you cannot legally answer. What you would really like to say sometimes is ‘Go away, you are too dumb to vote.’ That would get you in trouble.

But understand me here. I will fight to the death for your right to vote. You just need to get a clue before you do. If nothing else, read that awful and often unhelpful literature that comes to your home. They usually spell the name of the candidate correctly. Watch some television news programs about the election. Go to a local debate between candidates. Read a daily newspaper—if there are any left. And if you are curious, go to the local candidate’s campaign offices—they are the ones with all the signs. Ask questions!

What I can assure you, is that Twitter and Facebook are very poor sources of information about an election. When the stupid only follow the ignorant, you end up with people like Donald Trump running your country.

It came as a surprise the other day that there are people who want to make sure you have the right to decline your ballot. In some provinces (including Ontario) there is a line in the returning officers’ report for “Declined Ballots.” This is usually interpreted as a way of voting for “None of the above.” While I will admit that it can sound like a viable option sometimes, it is meaningless in terms of the overall election.

The fact that none of the candidates in your electoral district appeals to you is your problem, not the process. You have the opportunity to join a political party, participate in policy discussions and help choose the candidate. If you do not like any of the candidates, take a look in a mirror. There is where the fault lies.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Change Canada’s Senate: ‘There’s the rub.’

Thursday, January 11th, 2018

Some of our readers thought that was a got-cha. “Aha,” they exclaimed in their e-mails, “How do you think we are going to get rid of the senate?”

Obviously, they have never heard of my idea of a constitutional conference. I suggested it once in a conversation with Justin Trudeau. His eyes rolled in his head and the only answer I got was “Never.” For a school teacher, our prime minister is not all that amenable to new thinking.

And, he should never say never. Maybe it is not in our lifetime, but Canada has to have a constitution that makes sense for our nation. We can hardly continue to carry the baggage of centuries past.

And the best way to effect the change is through a constitutional conference. This body would be elected using the most recent of federal electoral boundaries across Canada. I would suggest at least three people per district. This would give us a deliberative body of over 1000. To make sure of the balance of views, I would suggest that each voter only be allowed to vote for two citizen participants.

The deliberations of the constitutional conference will need to be brought forward to the provincial legislatures and to a subsequent national referendum. And I would suggest to you that it would be a most foolish provincial legislature that tried to stand in the way of a decision of the people. It is the decision of the subsequent referendum that determines the acceptance or rejection of the constitutional conference recommendations.

That final referendum could be for an entirely new package of a constitution or a cafeteria of changes that could be made with the approval of a majority of Canadians. That is for the constitutional conference to decide.

The important aspect of this is that the final decision rests with all Canadians. It is not a decision to be made elsewhere. It is not a decision to be made by provincial legislatures. It is a decision to be made by both the aboriginal Canadian and the newcomer who recently gained citizenship. It needs to be brought to us by an honest attempt to take our country forward to the future. It should honour those who came before and be passed on with pride to future generations.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

In a land where greed beats need.

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

The last time Canada took a systematic look into its tax system was at the instigation of a Prairie populist, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker. The royal commission headed by Bay Street accountant Kenneth Carter was famous for determining “A buck is a buck.” Here we are more than 50 years later and no finance minister of any stripe seems to have understood what Carter meant.

Yet it was so simple. All Carter really said was that no matter how a dollar was earned, it should be treated as a dollar. What Canada has instead is a complex taxation system wherein a dollar is taxed according to its origin and how it is gained.

Where the dollar came from is at the centre of an unfair tax system where the wage earner remains the easiest target. The system encourages the vulgar accumulation of wealth for the already rich. It encourages perquisites for the oligarchs of business. It benefits the rich investor over the small investor. It drives the elderly who are now living longer into poverty.

And we might never know if finance minister Bill Morneau was trying to help the middle class or seeking to benefit his fellow millionaires last year. The Conservatives threw accusations, barbs and challenges in the path of his tax reform proposals as he showed his inexperience and naïveté in his portfolio. And instead of helping, the prime minister just pushed him to the side.

Both Morneau and his prime minister spend a lot of their time saying that they want to do more for the middle class. If there were more results for the middle class instead of the steadily increasing profits for the already rich, we would all be better off.

Bill Morneau has backed so far away from the grandiose reforms he presented early last year, he has an even longer way back to our trust.

In Canada, where we put our trust in a self-filed income tax system, it seems amazing that we should have a tax system so laden with exceptions. The basic fact that the rich have tax accountants and the rest of us do our best, puts our best at a disadvantage.

It would pay for both the prime minister and his finance minister to dig out and read what Kenneth Carter said over a half century ago. A loonie is still just a buck but inflation has sure eaten into its buying power.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

First-past-the-post vote still wins.

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018

For all the arguments that people put up, you would suspect that first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting was on its last legs. It is not. It survives not because so many of us love it. It survives because there is no adequate alternative.

What seems most annoying about the effort put into our switching to some form of proportional voting is the assumption that people want to vote just for a party instead of a candidate. They might like the party’s leader, they might like the party’s philosophy and they might just be lazy and do not bother to check out the individual candidates.

Those involved in politics always assume that as many as half the voters in an electoral district will vote for their party of preference. Of the other half, most are not likely to vote. It means that the most effort of a candidate is to reach the 10 to 15 per cent of the voters open to being convinced to support a worthwhile candidate.

This effort benefits all voters. These non-government candidates who can win give us a strong and effective opposition in our parliament and legislatures. They might be the leaders of tomorrow. They need the experience of being our representative. We are gaining while they are learning.

The smart voter also checks on what the person elected in his or her electoral district is doing while elected. Is the person contributing? Is the person serving his or her constituents? Or is the person just doing what the party leader says to do and to vote? And does this person reflect your values?

It pays to pay attention. You can hardly wait for the next election to read some self-serving literature and make a decision. This elected person is involved in the creation of the laws under which we live. This is a live person you know. You have the right to ask questions. It is your taxes that pay for that office in the electoral district. It is there for your benefit. It is to facilitate communication with your MP or MLA.

Why anyone would want to exchange the current system for one where we just vote for a party and a faceless name on a list makes little sense. If you feel that we need to save the cost of printing ballots for each electoral district, we would be a poor nation indeed.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Forget Beyak, dump Canada’s Senate.

Monday, January 8th, 2018

Why just dump Senator Lynn Beyak? You do not have to like what she says or posts on the Internet? We have all heard it before. Bigotry is hardly new. The problem is that there is not much you can do about it. She was appointed to the Senate of Canada by Prime Minister Stephen Harper until she is 75. She is going to be around for a while yet. It would be easier to dump the entire senate rather than just her.

‘Chuckles’ Scheer, Conservative Party leader and leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition decided to dump her. She is an embarrassment to the Conservative caucus. He tossed her out of the caucus. That was all he could do. He left her sitting in the senate. He made matters worse. He left a pissed-off party stalwart sitting in the senate as an independent.

You can be assured that not all non-first nations’ people from the Thunder Bay region of Ontario are bigots. There are many people there who are well aware of the problems faced by our first nations’ people and are sympathetic. For all we know Senator Beyak might be posting some of those bigoted letters thinking that it can help the situation. Obviously, it does not.

But this is just another of the long lists of embarrassments by our appointed senate. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thinks he is getting around the problem by having an elite committee pick elite applicants for him to appoint supposedly elite senators. He gets no guarantees.

One of the problems for the ‘Lynch Beyak’ mob is that Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations has jumped into the fray and is calling for a ‘review’ of the senator’s actions by the senate ethics committee. To give her yet another platform for racism is not going to help.

The Senate of Canada was created more than 150 years ago to give the land-owning gentry of the Canadian colonies a chance to review and, if they wish, stall the laws passed by our elected parliament. It is not needed today. In fact, its continuance is an embarrassment to our country. It should have been abolished a long time ago.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Democracy denied.

Saturday, January 6th, 2018

To many people, democracy is too much bother. Can you just imagine how much it annoys Donald Trump? Democracy requires openness and honesty, effort and consideration, rights and freedoms. And democracy continues to grow and evolve and expand. It recognizes the equality of the sexes. It recognizes our shared responsibility for our country, our environment, our peace and good government. It recognizes that the person who pushes a broom has the same rights as the person in the corner office. They have the same opportunities to education, to health care, the same public services, and access to their politicians.

And yet in Canada we proclaim this democracy, our equality, our feminism, fairness, and our rights and then set the royals of another part of the world above us. It is a sham, perpetrated by those afraid of change.

But democracy should be accepting of tearing down the barriers to change.

Should Canada have a handsomely paid and housed Governor General as nothing more than a ceremonial figurehead? Why are we continuing such an archaic and outdated practice? And should we continue to countenance the provincial Lieutenant Governors? Are they not just carry-ons from a long-forgotten colonial past?

Canadians want to remember their country’s past. They want to remember it, honour it but be able to change it. It is like the gated homes of the rich and their footmen guards that are no longer needed in this day and age that we continue in our vertical condominium castles for the very rich.

The news media continue to titillate the impoverished with the vulgar consumption of the very rich and to what ends, we do not fathom? Are we to pull a forelock as they are chauffeured by in their limousines?

The danger of public elitism is ever with us. From the Prime Minister we have his elitist choices for the useless and annoying Senate of Canada. It is an useless appendage to our parliament. And do we have to be told to whom to bow through the elitist Order of Canada? We can have their deeds speak for them not by a selection of the elite.

Democracy ignored is democracy denied. Democracy left to the elites, promotes elitism. Democracy neglected is in support of tyranny. We have choices in this life. We should choose them well.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Democracy destroyed.

Thursday, January 4th, 2018

The years of Pierre Trudeau’s leadership seem to be backing into the mists of time. It was the strength of a democratic Liberal Party in Canada that back stopped him in those years. He thought of the party at first as similar to the top-down managed situation in Quebec. He almost lost the 1972 election because he considered the party unimportant. He had the grace to acknowledge his error.

Trudeau brought some key party apparatchiks into his office and set out on the rocky road with them that took him into the eighties.

It was in the eighties that the incidence of ethnic swamping of riding associations became a major problem for the political parties. While we had the occasional maverick win in riding nomination contests, we had rarely had the outright public fight by a large ethnic group to take over a riding. We were particularly vulnerable to this in the larger cities across Canada.

The problem was finally straightened out by the combination of parties vetting candidates as suitable to run for the party and the party leader signing off on all candidates for Elections Canada—so they could run under the party banner.

But what happened was that party leaders started putting preferred candidates wherever they wanted and bypassing whatever the party was doing about a proper vetting. The worst offender has been Justin Trudeau—after promising in his campaign for the leadership to never do it. The best examples have been his appointing of key cabinet members Chrystia Freeland and Bill Morneau to key ridings in Toronto.

That in itself was not as serious as his dictating to the Liberal Party on its fund-raising and memberships. As something of an experiment, Trudeau asked that the party forego membership fees from people who wanted to support the party in the coming leadership and election. Since it was already obvious who would win the leadership, nobody raised serious objections. It was also appreciated that this would supply the party with lists of possible workers to help elect Liberal candidates.

It was not until Justin Trudeau asked to abolish membership fees after the election that we realized he was destroying the democracy of the Liberal Party of Canada. The old joke has come true: I am not a member of an organized political party; I am a Liberal.

We will discuss where this is taking us in a later commentary.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Defending Democracy.

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018

You would think in all the many years of human social development that democracy should have gained support and growing wide-spread usage around the world. We certainly agree that it is not perfect but we do agree that it is better than any alternatives. Yet tell it to the Russians and they want the oligarchy of Putin. Tell it to the Turks and they will support the autocracy of Erdogan. Tell it to the Iranians and you will find that not all support the theocracy of the Ayatollahs.

Think of the military juntas around the world that have usurped power from their citizens. Burma (Myanmar) is run by butchers. Countries such as the Philippines and Venezuela are on the slippery slope. China’s oligarchy will countenance no change. North Korea is a junta fronted by a farce of a dictator. And the supposed heart of democracy, the United States of America is led today by a would-be tyrant.

And why is this? Why has democracy fallen into disrepair? And how do we shore up our democracy? No doubt the political science people can bring out tables and statistics to explain. All I can do is reflect on the attitudes of voters across many years of observation at all levels of government.

After the Second World War, Canada saw rapid growth in jobs, incomes and newcomers. There was an excitement then to politics and at all levels there was an expectation by the new and younger people seeking to bring their ideas and energy to the political scene. In Ontario, in particular, there was a surge of fresh thinking and younger people getting involved at the riding and regional level. In the Liberal Party, there was a new energy and a new era was introduced.

The Diefenbaker years in Ottawa had underlined the need for change and the Liberals got ahead of the curve. While Prime Minister Lester Pearson was highly regarded by his party, he represented the old guard. Yet Pearson accepted the changes recommended by the envigored new guard. As a highly skilled diplomat, Pearson recognized that the party could do even more with new thinking in Ottawa. To this end he went around the Liberal establishment in Quebec and brought in new thinkers such as Pierre Trudeau, Jean Marchand and Gerard Pelletier. It was Pierre Trudeau who allied himself with the  Liberal thinkers in Toronto and changed Canada forever.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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