Archive for the ‘Federal Politics’ Category

Dredging Down in Green.

Sunday, October 4th, 2020

Congratulations to the new leader of the Green Party of Canada. The party has selected a Torontonian named Annamie Paul to be its new leader. The party leader is a 47-year old lawyer.

As in the recent conservative party election, it took considerable counting to arrive at a majority choice. Ms. Paul was selected after eight counts of the ballots to arrive at a choice by over 50 per cent of the voters.

As the mathematics works in a preferential ballot, it is not necessarily the primary choice of candidate who wins when there is a large number of candidates in the running. In each subsequent count, the last candidate in the count is dropped off the ballot and that candidate’s second votes go to the indicated candidates. One of the possibilities in that form of balloting is the election of the candidate known as ‘None of the Above.’ It is when none of the multiple candidates achieves a count in excess of 50 per cent.

Without a rule to cover this situation, a secondary balloting process becomes necessary—less the candidate who came last in the first ballot, of course.

While there is, at least one candidate challenging the correctness of the Green Party vote, there is little likelihood of the count being declared invalid. Paul led in many of the ballots and ended up with just over 12,000 of the 24,000 votes cast.

Ms. Paul succeeds Elizabeth May who led the Greens for the past 13 years and was the first Green Party candidate elected to the House of Commons. The Toronto native has already been nominated to contest the upcoming bye-election for the Toronto Centre electoral district.

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Please Note: If you intend to castigate me for criticizing the preferential voting, please come up with some better arguments.

Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

This business of news.

Friday, October 2nd, 2020

From an early age, I was always fascinated by this business of news. Understanding news as a commodity is an essential background for people in the business. It helps if you are a fisherman. It is best you get the value for your product before it ripens.

One of my first jobs was with the Toronto Globe and Mail. It was experience in every department. While a titular national advertising sales person, I found myself in meetings with the publisher, getting banned again from the strictly union composing room, chatting with reporters, writing editorial for travel and trouble-shooting with annoyed advertising agencies.

This was all on top of some very good early training in broadcast reporting and production. I never liked my performance on radio or television but the experience was helpful to others. It provided an easy segue into a later role in the computer industry. I was an early adopter.

One of the most annoying aspects of news has been how computer services such as Google and Facebook think they know about news—and use it at their will, without payment or understanding of the product.

One of the best examples of the bad use of news has been by Microsoft. The computer company takes a mishmash of news, Hollywood pandering and hard advertising, mixes it for the opening pages of Internet services and might forget to pay the news companies that paid reporters to produce the news content.

What I have failed to understand was the unwillingness of politicians and regulators to recognize copyright on that news content. Even in the freely distributed product of the Hollywood gossip mills, there is an inherent copyright to the name of the personality being plugged. After all, how do the Kardashians make any money if their name is left out?

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

What if we had switched the speeches?

Sunday, September 27th, 2020

Justin Trudeau short changed us. It was so obvious. The speech read by the governor general should have been for the United Nations (UN). It was dull and obvious but better suited to the world body as it lacked enthusiasm, adventure, inspiration or drive. It was boring and so much of it was just a rereading of promises of the past.

The attendees at the UN headquarters in New York last Friday got the gist of what a real throne speech should be. They could enjoy their speech. Presented on giant screens in the main hall, their speech had gravitas and credibility.

Mr. Trudeau delivered the speech to the UN and he put an effort into it. His words were important. His premise was that the pandemic has exposed the failures of humans to make the systems they had created for the UN to work. They are not working for the countries of the UN.

Trudeau might as well have said to Canadians that the systems to make the Canadian Federation work more that 150 years ago have also failed us. And it is our politicians who are to blame. They fear the need to modernize. They fear change.

The Canadian prime minister told the United Nations members that the world is in crisis. He did not admit that to Canadians two days earlier.

But facing facts, how many politicians do we know who will admit they do not have a clue on how to fix the world’s problems.

Mr. Trudeau called for a new way of thinking “on climate, inequality and health.”

He complained that “to often, concerted action is blocked—the needs of our citizens are denied.” He said this was because there are few consequences for countries that ignore international rules.

He made direct reference to countries that find few consequences when opposition figures are being poisoned “while cyber tools and disinformation are being used to destabilize democracies.”

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

But all we got was business, as usual.

Thursday, September 24th, 2020

It was supposed to be a reset. We were waiting for the grand scheme. Frankly, the Governor General’s speech was boring and really nothing we had not heard before. It took too long to read. It took little time to critique. And the prime minister wasted our time with his recap.

If this stance was chosen as a chance to sucker the opposition into an election, it might make some sense. Neither the leader of the conservatives nor the leader of the bloc québécois seemed sick enough to get any sympathy votes for having caught covid-19. It comes down to the new democrats.  And it is really hard to believe that Jagmeet Singh has the intestinal fortitude to want to force an election.

Nor do we see the new democrat caucus forcing Jagmeet to make the call for an election.

And what would it prove? A few more seats in Ontario for the conservatives would be the only upside for the Tories. A few more losses for the NDP to the liberals. And you end up with the status quo. That would hardly be to anyone’s advantage.

The weasel words on the environment and the oil industry were less that pleasing. It simply meant that the status quo applies which pleases neither Alberta politicians nor environmentalists. Jason Kenney and friends will continue to demand more pipeline support and Justin Trudeau will continue to say he is an environmentalist.

The major promise will be the day-care support from the federal government. This has to happen.

The only other promise of interest was the promise to address the needs of those incapable of earning a living. We will watch that one closely.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

The ‘Right’ advice for Freeland.

Monday, September 21st, 2020

It seems guaranteed that the liberals will introduce an extensive plan for child care on Wednesday. There are two factors pushing Chrystia Freeland in this direction. The first is the growing concern about a second wave of the pandemic and then the right-wing advice that she has been getting from previous liberal finance ministers. If she is listening to them, she will be shrugging off her chance to make a bold mark as Canada’s first female finance minister.

But what would you expect by way of advice by three of the most right-wing liberal finance ministers in the past 30 years?

Paul Martin set the stage in the 1990s with his draconian effort to produce a balanced budget by getting the money from Medicare. His right-wing style made Stephen Harper much more acceptable as prime minister but not to the extent then of giving him a majority government.

Former MP Paul Manley was another of the right-wing finance ministers consulted. He gave the advice that it was fun to spend money but less fun to have to shut something down (to pay the bills).

Long-serving Ralph Goodale did not divulge his advice but told the news media that Freeland is a highly consultative person. He did agree that child care spending adds both economic and social benefits. He sees this funding as contributing to gender equality and gender fairness.

The upshot of all this advice is that we are expecting a less innovative speech from the Governor General. It looks as though Jagmeet Singh and his NDP will have to settle for promises we have all heard before.

There will be less innovation and less greening of our environment. Be prepared to be disappointed.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Where does the Toronto Star get off?

Sunday, September 20th, 2020

What? The Toronto Star threw a grenade at the idea of a guaranteed basic income the other day. The paper had me choking over my morning coffee. It had to be one of their senior female writers.

Toronto Star writer Heather Scoffield thinks the silver bullet needed today is more emphasis on high quality day care. Her premise seems to be that since, she thinks, we cannot look after all the needs of society, we should not.

I would not only question her judgement on the matter. I would challenge her mathematics. When discussing a guaranteed basic income, we need to stop adding on supplements for this and that. We need to understand that one size does not fit all and have a flexible management system that accommodates the needs of individuals.

And I have a hard time understanding why Scoffield thinks it would be legally difficult to replace the multiplicity of programs we have today with one basic program. There is highly likely to be some serious push back from the provinces when they see hundreds of their programs being wiped out.

But if this is a program that can really define this country for years to come—then it is worth the time and effort to implement it.

It is not that I disagree with the obvious need for good quality before and after school day care as well as affordable and high-quality day care. We can have those as well.

The liberals opened the door with the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB). It was a guaranteed income in all but name. It made the mistake though of pointing out how many Canadians were left out. It is when you realize how many are left out by all the previous programs that you realize the need to finally make this step into the future. We can do it.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Trudeau’s circle does it again.

Friday, September 18th, 2020

It seems as though Justin Trudeau and his circle of friends are immune to learning from past mistakes. They no sooner manage to bury one of their gaffs and they come up with another. Now it is Justin’s good buddy, David MacNaughton, who has blotted his copy book.

McNaughton was Justin’s choice as Ontario campaign chair for the 2015 election. I expect I could have named four of five liberal apparatchiks who could have done a better job but Justin was pleased enough with MacNaughton’s effort to make him ambassador to Washington.

But, like his father before him, Justin tried for a repeat in the 2019 effort. It was when he tried to show how smart he was in his second campaign as leader that he ended up with a minority government.

When that happened to Pierre Trudeau in 1972, he brought in senior liberals and asked them for advice. On the advice of the party, Pierre brought knowledgeable party people into the prime minister’s office (PMO) and appointed Senator Keith Davey as the liberal party campaign manager.

Justin Trudeau did not ask for any advice and was soon enmired in the ‘WE Charity’ fiasco.

And what (temporary) civil servant does not carefully read his or her conditions of employment? MacNaughton has had more than enough temporary jobs in his career not to read the fine print. And yet, by not understanding the ‘conflict of interest’ law and by taking “improper advantage” of his position, he ran afoul of Mario Dion, the federal ethics commissioner.

MacNaughton was named Canadian president of U.S.-based spook-firm Palantir Technologies Canada just two weeks after officially leaving his position of ambassador. He had to wait a year before he could be selling the Canadian government the products of his new firm. It was just seven months later that he was in Ottawa offering their software capabilities for military planning and strategic analysis. (This is despite his claim that he was only offering a pro bono sample of the software to help with covid-19 planning.)

And anyone interested in computer analysis, planning and U.S. politics should read up on Palantir. It is fascinating reading.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

“Jack be nimble, Jack be quick…”

Thursday, September 17th, 2020

“We understand the value of wise and prudent fiscal management,” she told the news media and bankers last week. In telling them what they wanted to hear, our new finance minister, reminded me of the old English custom of newlyweds jumping over a candlestick to see if their first year will be successful. Chrystia Freeland even made a point of telling them she had talked to former prime minister Paul Martin who was Jean Chrétien’s finance minister in the troubled times of the 90s.

Coincidently I talked to Paul Martin when he was appointed finance minister and pleaded with him to have more faith in the Canadian people. I lost the argument and have never talked to him since. In my opinion, Paul did more to disrupt Medicare in Canada than Stephen Harper could ever have done.

But looking at Chrystia Freeland’s situation, I must admit that I have no idea what strengths she brings to her new role in finance. I have often wondered what someone would do in that job, who only had experience with a household budget? I have written on many subjects, as has Freeland. It hardly means that I am expert in any of them.

I was reading in the Toronto Star the other day where one of our chartered banks advised Freeland to keep her government’s borrowing to less than 65 per cent of our gross domestic product (GDP). It makes me wonder what that bank says to customers who need a mortgage for a home in Toronto or Vancouver. Would they tell the customer that they have to keep the mortgage to 65 per cent of annual income?

I have absolutely no idea what the outer limit of the Canadian government borrowing might be. I am quite confident that it would be considerably more than 65 per cent of our GDP.

All I know is that I am tired of bankers and financial experts in this country trying to attract foreign investment. I would like to see more Canadians investing in our country’s future—and keeping that investment here.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Who listens to Canada’s bankers?

Tuesday, September 15th, 2020

Canada’s bankers admit that there is no fixed limit to Canada’s debt to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio but they think everyone should follow them in their customary caution. It is probably why more and more cash-rich businesses are eyeing aspects of the banking field for future expansion.

It is certainly why Canadian retailer Loblaw is clearing the way to expanding its banking activities. The food giant has announced that it has ended the relationship with Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce in its PC Financial operations and is coming out with a self-funded version of PC Money to replace PC Financial. These on-line accounts will include the ability to accumulate loyalty points through Loblaw stores and Shoppers Drug Mart.

Loblaw is expected to gradually expand the banking offerings. This will likely include financial products such as mortgages and insurance.

The one thing that the new Loblaw-based bank might restrain itself from doing is giving our governments advice on handling money. The latest from Canada’s major banks has been to tell the Trudeau government that it has to set a finite limit on budget deficits.

This was a direct challenge to the liberal government as it is trying to plan for new investment to drive pandemic recovery and plan the bolder investments needed for Canada’s future.

The best the banks could come up with was the suggestion that the government should help families pay for child care. This is an old chestnut that most political parties parade through election campaigns and promptly forget once elected. (I certainly agree that there is the need but it is hardly innovative.)

What our Canadian banks tend to ignore is that Canada has the lowest debt to GDP of any of the Group of Seven countries. The real authorities on debt ratios are the bond rating companies. And Canada is doing just fine with those people.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

The enemy of my enemy…

Sunday, September 13th, 2020

It came as a shock. I just found out that Toronto writer Tiffany Gooch and I agree on something. Neither of us is a fan of Mr. Trudeau’s public safety and emergency preparedness minister Bill Blair. This came as a surprise as I had written her off as a ‘black is beautiful booster’ who assumed that all white men are racists.

Gooch’s antipathy with MP Blair connects with her primary assumption that policing in Canada is built on being systemically racist. Despite her seeming inability to explain what ‘systemic racism’ means, she builds on this assumption. She sees former Toronto police chief Blair as unable to do anything more than support the status quo.

If she had quit there, I would have been in agreement.

But Gooch seems to blame Blair for any and all events that happened over his career in policing. She uses the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) as a case-in-point. She blames Blair for this provincial strategy that she says “blurred lines between protecting and terrorizing black communities.”

What Ms. Gooch seems to forget is that just because I am Caucasian racially, does not mean I speak for the white community. Being black, in itself, does not entitle her to speak for the black community.

And just because some of the children were frightened by the big police people with guns is not a substantive reason to withdraw the police from schools where they were getting mixed reviews. She should be aware that children are sometimes frightened by clowns with balloons. That is no reason to ban clowns from our schools.

It might be that neither Ms. Gooch nor I consider Mr. Blair to be the ideal person for the prime minister to choose as a point person on police reform in Canada. That might not be much but it is a start.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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