Archive for the ‘Federal Politics’ Category

Who Knew?

Wednesday, May 6th, 2020

Politics can be full of strange happenings. Canada had an election seven months ago. The guy who was prime minister is still prime minister and doing very well, thank you. He lost 20 members of his party caucus and his party came second in popular vote. You would think he would have something about which he might be embarrassed.

But no. It was the poor schmuck whose party won the popular vote and who led an additional 26 members of his party to Ottawa, who saw the handwriting on the wall. Party leader Andrew Scheer resigned before the party took a vote to tell him to get lost. Scheer resigned as conservative party leader and, it turns out, few want the job.

And yet there were other strange things that happened last October. The guy who more than doubled his number of MPs in the house of commons was the leader of the Bloc Québécois. The Bloc vote alone, handled carefully, could keep the liberals in power for the full four years of this parliament.

The guy who lost the most in the election was the leader of the new democratic party. Jagmeet Singh dropped 15 members of his caucus and did not seem to even consider it a bad-hair day. What? Him resign? I guess nobody in his party thought of it.

The person who really won big was green party leader, Elizabeth May. She not only won her own seat but she doubled the size of her caucus. She went from one MP to two. With this accomplishment under her belt, May promptly resigned as leader. She had had enough. She might have been the only smart party leader left.

I would dearly love to report that peace, order and good government prevailed after the election. And then along came a novel coronavirus pandemic and everything went to Hell. I am sitting here in my den, drinking my morning coffee, doing nothing, looking out at the world and wondering what I will feel like writing about tomorrow?


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Same-old, same-old Tory party.

Tuesday, May 5th, 2020

This conservative leadership contest is a disaster. What started out to be dull and boring has been made doubly dull and boring. We are now advised that we will know who has won the conservative party leadership on August 27. Surprise, surprise, Peter MacKay will likely be crowned. Boring wins again!

This commentary could probably end with that one paragraph. That is all it is worth.

But it seems that likely loser, Erin O’Toole, has a strategy. He is supposing that, for some reason, a slim majority of party voters decide that Peter Mackay is the most boring of all candidates. There are four candidates and O’Toole’s strategy is to try to be every conservative voter’s second choice. That way, in a tighter race, he could win on the second or third count. That is the beauty of the conservative ranked-choice balloting: It elects the most acceptable, not the most preferred.

What it means is that O’Toole needs to run a campaign savaging Peter MacKay and building up the confidence of the two other also-rans. He has to keep those other two in the running.

Mind you, it might be tough to keep social-conservative Derek Sloan in the race. When the MP made the gaffe of attacking Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief medical office of health, last week, many of his fellow conservative caucus members were calling for his head.

There might be other reasons to keep Leslyn Lewis in the race. It seems that $200,000 is a lot to spend on proving that the conservative party is not the white-bread party of old. When you listen to her social-conservative views, it is hard to think of her as a popular member of Toronto’s black community.

But even if Peter MacKay’s campaign never does shake its doldrums, O’Toole is almost as boring. He reminds us of the Porky Pig character that used to break through the drum at the end of Looney Tunes cartoons, saying, “Th-Th-That’s all folks.”


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Trudeau’s triumph.

Saturday, May 2nd, 2020

Fess up, guys, prime minister Justin Trudeau has won. The wonder kid has changed his spots and been exactly what Canadians have needed. Santa Claus came early this year. Even Bob Hepburn of the Toronto Star says that the Trudeau haters have been proved wrong.

While I pointed out a while ago that Trudeau lucked into his ideal positioning, I have had to admit that he has handled it well. He might still be an elitist but even an elitist can accept his good luck.

But I must admit that his appearances out of the cuckoo clock at Rideau Cottage have worn thin. There is no need for him to continue in his singles showcase and he can join with the hoi polloi from the cabinet and senior civil servants for briefings. Almost daily briefings make sense as long as the covid-19 scene keeps fulminating.

What Bob Hepburn is ignoring is that those Trudeau haters who blame Justin for everything, including the flooding in Fort McMurray, Alberta, will still hate him after the battle against covid-19 is over.

What I am hoping is what he has learned throughout this experience sticks with him. What has annoyed me about Justin in the past has been his unabashed elitism. You cannot remain elitist though when you are forced to understand the serious neglect our society has shown for those less fortunate. What he has seen so many times now that programs designed in Ottawa to reach these people are very hard to create and very difficult to manage.

What he has to understand is that the one-per cent with whom he has hobnobbed all his life are the ones who are out-of-step with being Canadian. I always got the feeling that the middle class to which he was always referring when campaigning existed only in his own mind.

I keep getting the feeling that this country is going to be very different after we shut the door on covid-19. I think we have learned too much about our short-comings through this first half of 2020, to ever want to be the same country again.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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On this day in May.

Friday, May 1st, 2020

Before we send out more distress signals, we need to take stock of our situation. We have been hiding in our homes for less than two months while essential workers carry on the battle of the pandemic. The coming battles will be to restore a battered and in-debt economy. And what, if anything, will be the same?

Anything close to ‘normal’ is months away from now. We still have to beat covid-19. We are not there yet. And how can we complain if this self-isolation is saving lives?

But what worries us is how we are penning up our most vulnerable in long-term care facilities, seniors’ residences and assisted living. It reminds me of the pens at the stockyards.

I have an older brother living in a classy residence in a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts. He is a virtual prisoner in his apartment, while very caring building managers keep him well fed and informed. My brother tells us that he wants for nothing but the one thing the managers cannot hide is their fear of this disease.

He was one of the brothers who joined a dozen family members yesterday in a meeting on the Internet program Zoom. It was noisy, disjointed and confusing, as is any meeting of members of my family. It was fun.

But it showed me that it is absolutely amazing that they could make a similar meeting for about 300 members of our Canadian parliament work—after a fashion. As I think I said the other day: they might learn how to do it if they had more professional help and would listen to those experts. To get it right, will probably take them until the next scheduled federal election in three years—or the end of the coronavirus pandemic, whichever comes first.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Justin’s magic bag of money.

Saturday, April 25th, 2020

Watching the daily news conference by the prime minister the other morning, I lost track of how much money he was promising. No doubt our news media people are keeping track. I was struck by the similarity to an election campaign without the opposition critics jumping on every announcement—to either better the offer or denounce it. It was as though the prime minister had a magic bag of money from which to draw the funds to solve all our problems.

This particular day was promises for our university students to keep them going through a summer when jobs will be scarce. The amounts were not all that generous, but by the time he had finished, some $9 billion had been lavished on Canada’s students.

As with all the aggressive spending to compensate people for the ravages of the coronavirus, there was the provision that the amounts had to be approved by parliament. Whether the opposition in the house of commons would suggest less than the government offered would be quite unlikely.

As it is, the government is constantly discovering people who have been missed by this program or that. The solution has been to simply add these people to the program and to worry later if the payment was really warranted.

This ‘by guess or by golly’ attitude is particularly applicable to the emergency response benefit package. Run through the Canada revenue agency, this is a very generous package. If you lost your job or even a potential job because of the coronavirus, you can apply for $500 per week for up to 16 weeks. To catch up with the program, this past week, people were receiving cheques for as much as $2000.

This just happens to be the amount that people who support the idea of a guaranteed minimum wage, think should be the starting amount for a national guaranteed minimum income program.

There is lots more money in Justin’s magic bag. At the end of his answering questions he was asked about what he intended to do for seniors. He said that is still to come!


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Is Chuckles shooting blanks?

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020

The lame duck conservative leader and leader of the opposition in parliament, Andrew Scheer, has a problem. Is nobody paying him any attention? Is it that difficult for him to squeeze past all the articles about the coronavirus and covid-19? Is the pandemic more important?

The answer to all three questions is ‘Yes.’

A lame duck leader, who is nothing but a place holder, until the party choses his replacement, is often ignored. Remember. he resigned to escape the ignominy of being voted out of office by the conservative party. It was the right thing to do. He should have known that the media would no longer come running to hear his words of wisdom.

And the current pandemic makes his situation even more difficult. Scheer’s comfort area is the house of commons. He knows this turf. He has had his best years there as an MP, as speaker and as leader of the opposition in parliament. He wants to keep this alive.

But in a pandemic, parliament is but a shadow of itself. Social spacing would force parliament to be a parliament of about 30 representatives of the people at a time. The other 308 members would be anxiously awaiting their turn.

And arranging for a virtual parliament with connections for all MPs is not an easy matter. Until adequate telecommunications can be made available for all members, some remote MPs would have to come into larger population centres to participate, until the high-speed, two-way connections can be completed in their ridings. Even then the management of sight and sound connections for more than 300 individuals, in isolation from each other, is a monumental task. It would require hundreds of technicians across the country and several hundred more in Ottawa. And do not forget that the parties have to be able to hold private caucuses.

Our parliamentarians are already learning from virtual committee meetings. No doubt they will be ready for a virtual parliament by the time the coronavirus has run its course.

And as for Chuckles, he is the forgotten man.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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In a half-full Canada.

Tuesday, April 21st, 2020

How many attractive countries are there to help alleviate the overcrowding, the poverty and the tensions of so many countries of this world? And of one of the more desirable outlets is Canada. The truth is that Canada needs at least three times its present population.

In the next 60 to 80 years, Canada needs to aggressively bring to our shores those who can adopt our freedoms, appreciate our rights and grow and prosper in a dynamic and progressive country. We need these people to claim and utilize our northern lands. We need their enterprise and imagination. We need new technologies and high-speed, green transportation.

We have the resources. We have the will. We can no longer hold our position in the world as a land half-full.

If we are going to keep our claim to those islands of the Arctic Circle, we need to use them. We need land access to the mineral wealth of our north. It could be a case of use it or lose it.

We hardly need military might to prove our claims, we need our people to be there. We need their loyalties.

Thinking back to a hearing on Canada’s constitution by MPs and senators in the early 1990s, I remember hearing from a person who had obviously been a citizen for just a short while. The gentleman was telling the parliamentarians of what Canada had done for him. He was an emotional person and he spoke from the heart. There were tears rolling down the man’s face as he told them what being Canadian meant to him. It was not easy for this man and his family. For in learning about their new country, there was much to unlearn from the old. It was not an easy experience for them.

But he saw the future for his children and their children. Maybe in those future generations, some would be taking this wonderful country for granted. Others might be looking south for the warmer climate. Yet, it is those who recognize the challenges, who will build Canada’s future greatness.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Learning to love your local MP.

Monday, April 20th, 2020

In our time of need, do you not love the attention we are getting from our local politicians? I am thinking here of your federal member of parliament. This person is your lifeline to the decision makers in Ottawa. No matter what party they might represent, they also represent you. That is their job.

And this dual role is particularly important at this time of need. This is not a time of ‘politics as usual.’ No politician is going around shaking hands and kissing babies. When was the last time, he or she washed that hand? And try to kiss a baby at your peril.

Anything you want to do has to be at least two meters away.

This might be a good time for a serious talk. After all, do you really know why this person wanted to represent you in Ottawa? And you hardly want the usual B.S. about that. Do you know what committees your local member is sitting on and what they hope to achieve in those committees? There is a lot more to being a member of parliament than voting with your party.

If you want to talk about his or her politics, you could lead into it by asking what they think of the leadership position of their party. Even Justin Trudeau needs to be replaced some day. Canadians do not like elitists and they might catch up with the liberal leader soon.

But the most serious leadership problem is owned by the conservatives. These people drove away possible candidates when they made conditions for candidates to compete quite untenable. Their good ship Andrew Scheer is dead in the water and there is nobody left to steer the boat. As soon as there is a light at the end of the covid-19 tunnel, these people have to arrange for a fair fight for leadership.

And then there is the NDP. If you have one of those representing you and your neighbours, this could be fun. Ask what the heck they are going to do for leadership. If he or she tries to sell you Jagmeet Singh, you should vote for some one else next time out.

As for the greens, they might as well sell their services to another party that needs some environmentalists. It would not only make them more useful but it might do some good.

I think if more people took the trouble to meet and talk with their MP, we would have a very different parliament next time.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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The good and the ugly in tough times.

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020

It has been more than a few years since I was traveling around Ontario lecturing business students at our universities. At the time, the subject of my lectures was the rarely discussed social responsibility of business. I got the feeling on those journeys that the professors really appreciated some one else handling the subject.

But the subject is bandied around much more today and the argument still continues as to whether it is just good public relations or a genuine desire of business leaders wanting to be a contributing party in their community or communities.

We are certainly seeing some very interesting examples of both good and ugly at this time. Of the good examples, Tim Hortons stands out in doing whatever is necessary to be a good corporate citizen. As it is now foreign-owned Tim’s has had to be very fast on its feet to meet the coronavirus needs head on. Much of what the corporate staff and its franchisees are doing is not visible to the customer at the drive-through window. It is a joint effort and it is paying off.

The critically important steps Tim’s has taken is for truck drivers. They are not only encouraging their walking up to the drive-through window for their double-double but Tim’s have said they are opening their washrooms for the truck drivers. No doubt readers have other examples of good corporate citizens doing what’s right in these times.

But it is also easy to identify the ugly in these times. The example I prefer is Bell Canada. Maybe I have learned to expect the ‘screw you’ attitude from Bell but what is our lifeline today while we are trapped in our homes? The answer is the Internet. Those bastards at Bell have chosen this special time to raise their rates on the Internet. I would call them to complain but for some reason Bell’s business telephone lines are all busy.

Years ago, I visited a friend who had joined Bell Canada in their government relations office. He gave me the tour and I was amazed at the number of people involved. Yet I got the impression that their idea of social responsibility was to make selective political donations.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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The validity of vision.

Friday, April 10th, 2020

It is an old-fashioned view of leadership, but it is still valid. You have to have vision. Without it, where are you going? A leader understands people and shares with them views of what is to come. A leader understands detail and shares the steps to the future. A leader also shares the pain and the glory of this future.

In recent years, Canada has been bereft of leadership. We have been substituting political populism for vision. Conservatives have been relying on the political ranting of the right. Liberals have been caught in the trap of trying to win over soft conservatives with right-wing solutions. The new democrats have been trying to reinvent a modern socialism. The greens have made the mistake of putting environmentalism ahead of a political future. Canada’s collective strength has been left in the grasping hands of the provinces.

But the question is what do Canadians want their country to be in the near future, maybe 20 to 30 years from now. I think the first thing they want to be is masters in their own house. We must shake the vestiges of colonialism that have smothered our ability to be the people we want to be and the people we believe ourselves to be.

We cannot be the true partners to our friends to the south if we persist in being the junior member of the relationship. We cannot work on equal footing with the European Union if we wear the trappings of a vassal of an out-dated British empire. We must show a strong face to our trading partners in Asia.

Canada cannot continue as a cauldron half full of the peoples it needs to build and defend our changing country. We need to further accelerate the welcoming of people from the crowded nations of the world and offer them a new future as Canadians. Our land can offer millions more of us a wonderful life. Our aboriginal peoples must choose between a full life as Canadians or an existence in isolation from the main stream. We know that a foot on each of two paths does not lead us anywhere.

We must address our political structures and rebalance the provinces from the colonial past. Multiple languages were never the problem but tribalism is a threat to our nation.

The rest of the world will only respect our country if we respect ourselves. We need to build our future with pride.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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