Archive for the ‘Federal Politics’ Category

And you want their names spelled right too?

Saturday, April 8th, 2017

Henceforth it is resolved that we will post our commentaries after our second cup of coffee. Despite how much we try to ignore the Conservative M.P. for our neighbouring electoral district of Simcoe-Grey, we really should spell her name right. And you would think one of our loyal readers would point out the gaff to us. Would you believe that the last five or six times we mentioned her over the past month, we have spelled her name three different ways—none correct.

It is not as though Kellie Leitch M.P. is ever going to be particularly important. There are not enough bigots in the Conservative Party of Canada to consider her as a possible leader for the party. It is just that you wonder how accurate could a morning line assessment be when you cannot spell the name of one of the 14 Conservative leadership contestants. And no, we have not checked the rest. We can only hope we are not that careless!

But the race is now in the back stretch and the Conservatives (if nobody else) are starting to get excited. It is hard to imagine how the track announcer would handle some of the goings-on in this horse race. Would a horse wander off to Florida at this time—when there was an invitation to press the flesh at a Toronto party session? This is hardly the proper behaviour for a horse, a leadership contestant or a television star such as Kevin O’Leary.

The major problem with assessing this race politically, when you are not a member of that party, is that you have to rely on second and third-hand information. You are dealing with it more in the form of snapshots than in the form of video clips.

The word from the back stretch in this race is that the track is muddy and the contestants (less O’Leary) seem bunched more for the shared warmth than any similarity in stride or positioning. Maybe we will be able to see the horses more clearly when they go into the final turn later this month.

What we are starting to see more clearly at this time is the growing dissatisfaction of the ‘progressives’ in the Conservative Party. There are many Conservatives who are fiscal conservatives but progressive socially. They are increasingly concerned about the dominance of the party by the old Reform/Alliance movement. There is a growing feeling among them that a new Progressive Party might be needed. There will be more coming on this.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Teaching Trump ‘The Art of the Deal.’

Friday, April 7th, 2017

The first thing Canadians should do is stop sweating over renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It has never been a really fair deal and it became overly complicated when Mexico joined. Given the opportunity to renegotiate, Canada could improve its position. The only problem is that we would never get to negotiate with Donald Trump. He has shown often enough that he has no understanding of the deal.

Where we erred in the first negotiation of NAFTA was when Prime Minister Brian Mulroney pulled our civil servant negotiators. Mulroney was frustrated by the delays and replaced the experienced negotiators with politicians who lacked the background and negotiating skills. Since then, we have spent enough time just arguing over soft-wood lumber to renegotiate the NAFTA deal three times over.

To suggest that Trump knows about negotiating because he has a book out over his name called ‘The Art of the Deal’ is a laugh in itself. Anyone who believes that should be forced to read the book. The reality is that Trump’s style of negotiating is nothing more than bullying, braggadocio and B.S.

What Trump and maybe Trudeau seem to fail to understand is that since the Auto Pact in the 1960s and the two versions of NAFTA, North America has become a single, tightly integrated economy. Nobody should be so stupid as to suggest closing any borders. Any precipitous action by any of the three countries could actually bankrupt one or several major automobile makers. They are hardly kidding when they say that many auto parts and assemblies cross borders multiple times in the manufacturing process.

Those states in America that are following Trump’s lead and proposing Buy America laws are in for a surprise when they find their laws in conflict with federal laws to the contrary. It would take Congress a long time to change the country into the bellicose backwater it will become if it does not take America’s world role more seriously.

We are constantly amazed by the utter ignorance of President Donald Trump. He might not be quite as stupid as former president George W. Bush and we do appreciate that sometimes ignorance can be cured. Stupid, as displayed in the 1994 movie, Forrest Gump, usually lasts a lifetime. And is rarely funny.

But we can assure you that in terms of NAFTA, it would take at least two lifetimes to disassemble.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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They are by-elections for goodness sake!

Thursday, April 6th, 2017

You just love it when the government has to call some by-elections for seats in parliament that have become vacant and people want to analyze the results. Why? We knew the likely results when the by-elections were called. If you want to see hotly contested by-elections, come back when there is something to contest.

The biggest battles in a situation such as this are the nominations for the party that held the seat last. When you are having by-elections in electoral districts that were won by majorities in the last general election, it gives you a clue as to the eventual winner.

If we mentioned that the previous seat-holders for the two Calgary seats were Conservatives, the Right Hon. Stephen Harper and the Hon. Jason Kenney, which party do you think won those seats? You are right! It is the status quo all over again.

It was a similar story in the three eastern seats in Montreal, Ottawa and the Toronto area. The turn-out to vote was a disgrace but no party was working very hard—or very smart. Reading into the voting totals is a waste of time.

We are not suggesting by any means that a change is not possible. Turn-overs happen. It is just when they do, you hear it first at the doors. Your canvassers are your campaign’s listening posts. They are not there to talk but to listen. Given a possible turn-over in a by-election, the parties can draw on people resources from surrounding ridings. More of the party stars show up in the area. It all depends on the stakes at risk.

Back when we had responsibilities across multiple electoral districts in general elections, we used to swear you could smell defeat or victory when dropping in on a campaign office. You can see it in the activity and the smiles. You can hear it in the ringing telephones.

Today, by-elections are just an excuse for the parties to raise money. They provide an opportunity to get new talent into government. They are opportunities for the chosen of the leader—sometimes.

That was the only good news in these by-elections. The nomination meeting in Montreal’s Saint-Laurent electoral district did not pick Justin Trudeau’s choice. The local Liberals liked the hard-working local gal with the long Greek name. As did the voters in the electoral district. We wish her well.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Elizabeth May: The last liberal.

Wednesday, April 5th, 2017

Elizabeth May M.P. is the leader of a party that never was. She is the only Green Party member in parliament and therefore is deprived of real recognition of that leadership status. She also appears to be the only real liberal in the House of Commons.

That must be the secret of Elizabeth May’s success. We know for sure that she would toe the line on environmental promises and would never compromise her standards. She would never have approved the doubling of the Kinder Morgan pipeline over the Rockies. She would never have agreed to President Trump’s go-ahead for the Keystone XL pipeline. She is certainly not cheering on the cross-Canada Energy East pipeline to Saint John.

But the noose around Ms. May’s neck is the Green Party of Canada. It is a party with nowhere to grow. It is why the Green leader gave up her summer in 2016 to be part of the special commons committee on electoral reform. It was the Green Party’s one chance to grow by pushing hard for proportional representation. It was the only hope for a party that had never received much more than five per cent of the total vote.

Proportional representation has been the bonanza for green parties in Europe where a small party can often get into a coalition amenable to their green conditions. They are wedge parties, not governmental parties.

And Elizabeth May seems constantly uncomfortable with her wedge role. She has far more to offer than saving the occasional waterway. Sure, it is important that we save waterways but it should be part of a balanced governance for a country.

To make matters worse, Ms. May has been dumped on by her own party taking positions that conflict with her values. Listening to her over the years and particularly during the special committee hearings last summer and fall, it becomes quite clear that she is instinctively a liberal. And she is also more open minded and more consistent in her political direction than our poster boy prime minister.

It should be obvious to Elizabeth May that the Liberal Party of Canada needs a conscience. She should be able to supply that direction while also lending the prime minister some gender balance with knowledge and political experience. She might be the last liberal but somebody has to point the Liberal government back to the proper directions.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Alibiing elitism 150 years later.

Tuesday, April 4th, 2017

If there was just one institution in Canada that could be changed this year, many Canadians would choose the Senate. They are tired of the elitism shown by the prime minister and his elitist friends in choosing Canadians to serve in this anachronistic reminder of Canada’s British beginnings.

The Senate of Canada is this country’s House of Lords. It is just that we do not have the royalty and nobles required, so we create them.

It was the ‘something borrowed’ when the British Parliament passed the Statute of Westminster that married Canada’s provinces to create a country.

Rookie Senator Tony Dean tells us in a recent Toronto Star op-ed that there is some disenchantment with the Senate. He calls it one of Canada’s most important democratic institutions. And that was only his first error.

There is nothing democratic about the Senate of Canada.

He thinks there is a brighter future for the Senate—especially with him in it. He actually points to the physician-assisted dying legislation last year as a win for an independent Senate. And all along we had resigned ourselves to waiting for the (also elitist) Supreme Court to weigh in and re-open that bad piece of legislation after both Commons and Senate had let us down.

Nor do we blame anyone for the odd bad apples we have found occupying Senate seats. Even elites can make mistakes. And it is good to see these days that we are paying attention to what is taking place in the Red Chamber.

But what Dean fails to understand is that it is the people of Canada who are being governed. Does he not think they deserve a say in this? While politicians can come and go, the Senate is a fixture until age 75. It is a sinecure that needs to be modernized and it cannot and will not be fixed from within. That would be the equivalent to a doctor doing his own heart transplant.

Senator Dean might respect the Senate as an institution but Canadians deserve better. They have to have a say through some open process of review such as a constitutional parliament, elected to that purpose and a deciding referendum by all Canadians as to the solution. It took years of thinking and arguing to create this country. Changes in how we are governed deserve that same intensity of examination.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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When in doubt do nothing.

Monday, April 3rd, 2017

Is this the new political mantra? At all levels of government, we are seeing variations of stalactites and stalagmites frozen in their political positions as the world revolves around their caves.

From their superior position hanging down from above, the stalactites in Ottawa are the most obvious. With the government digging into a ‘wait and see’ attitude with Donald Trump. Will he swing right or left in his journey of mayhem in the American presidency?

Or is that an excuse that adds nothing to this game of musical chairs that is politics? It must be the case in Ontario. In that province, we have three political mice eying the cheese of victory at the polls. The first mouse will be the one to spring the trap and then the other two will feast on cheese and fresh meat.

Even at the lowly level of beginner stalagmites hugging the floors of the long-ago etched caverns of politics, cities such as Toronto are calling for attention. Will the Scarborough area ever get its foolish subway to nowhere? Or will it reach out with properly distributed transit across its urban sprawl?

And all of these spurious promises deal in the billions. What is a few billion in promises? They are all just echoes in the caverns of political shouting.

There are four more years for our federal ball boys (and girls) to quiver in anticipation of Mr. Trump’s next serve—hopefully another net ball. Will he insist on changes in our trade agreement? Or will we just watch while he expends his careless bigotry south of the Rio Grande?

By the end of this year we should see some more focussed and longer term opposition in Ottawa. The attention will not be as dominated by our poster-boy prime minister.

Next spring will bring more than flowers to Ontario. Expect a cat fight and you will get a cat fight. We can only hope that it is not just between the Conservatives and the New Democrats.

There is also a political event in British Columbia as our fun-loving citizens of the setting sun go to the polls. They have a government of pipeline hypocrites to defeat.

Come to think of it: was it not our environmentalist hero, our prime minister who approved that twinned pipeline abomination across the Rockies?


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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The constipated Conservative contest.

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

Back on March 11 and 12, Babel-on-the-Bay published its morning line for the current Conservative Party of Canada leadership. We are somewhat surprised that nothing has changed. With two more months to go at the time, candidates’ teams needed to assess their strategy and make their changes for the home stretch. April is the home stretch in this race and half the candidates seem unaware.

With ballots being sent to all members of the party by the end of April, that will be the end of the game. The announcement of the winner will take place in Toronto at the end of May.

Of the possible winners, only the top seven will be of interest. They are the ‘possibles’ as described in the morning line:

Kevin O’Leary, no change at 20 to 1. He has proved himself short-tempered, apolitical and out of his depth. It is probably just as well that O’Leary is in the race. He is taking some of the publicity away from Kellie Leitch and that can only be a good thing. Even if he is number one on the first ballot because of name recognition, he is nobody’s second choice. And it is second and third choice votes that will count in this race.

Kellie Leitch, it is possible that her vote odds have dropped from 15 to 1 to 30 to 1. It hardly matters though as she is in the same boat as O’Leary with nowhere to grow.

Andrew Scheer, we gave him 12 to 1 because of his second vote possibilities. He is a safe candidate in the caucus’ opinion but he is no leader. Frankly, he might be the favourite of the Liberal’s in Ottawa because there is nowhere he will take the Conservative Party. He would be a stop-gap leader.

Maxime Bernier, is a mixed bag. His 10 to 1 odds reflect his rejection by the Quebec caucus. They see Bernier as a Libertarian who is hurting them in Quebec rather than helping. He has failed to convince the rest of the country that he is anything but a playboy. If money talks, it could win him a few second votes but not enough.

Erin O’Toole, at 9 to 1, might be the only candidate to have improved his odds. Peter MacKay’s endorsement will help solidify his strength in the Atlantic provinces. We are just not seeing the potential in Ontario and the West. He could be the sleeper.

Lisa Raitt, at 6 to 1, we still like Lisa Raitt’s chances. She has got to be second choice for lots of Conservative members. The rules are working for this lady. Given a lead out of Ontario, she can win with just second votes from the West.

Michael Chong, at 5 to 1, we are seeing the M.P. as a bit of an enigma. It all depends on how party members are perceiving his concerns about how the party functions. And the other factor is membership sales by his opponents. There are still questions to be answered.

Under the rules of this leadership race, no candidate can back out past this point in time. Does that rule out the stalking horse who can send his votes to another candidate? And would it be worth it?


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Pot is coming. Pot is coming.

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

How come the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation gets the best media leaks? We have been informed by the People’s Network that we will be able to celebrate Canada Day 2018 with legal marijuana from sea to sea to sea. Wow!

The plans—skillfully guided for the federal Liberals by former Toronto police chief Bill Blair—are to split the profits with the provinces. The feds will regulate the growers and set the standards while the provinces will get to run the retail end of things.

Mind you this loyal Canadian will have to give a pass on Canada Day festivities next year—who needs to get stoned on second-hand smoke?

What puzzles us though is how the feds are going to restrict households to just four plants for home consumption? Drones can check our backyard endeavours but hydroponics are harder to track.

The one person as yet unheard from on this subject is M.P. Bill Blair. The Scarborough Liberal has not been very forthcoming. He was always willing to sound off for the media back when his police were terrorizing Torontonians at events such as the G-20 in Toronto in 2010.

The one thing we are sure of though is that we are hardly going to have a Colorado-type sales approach in any of our provinces. The anal-retentive Ontario Liberals are expected to keep sales in-house at the Liquor Control Board of Ontario stores and licensees. What might change their mind is the medical advice that the combination of pot and booze produces a really dumb drunk. The alternative might be to give the franchise to their friends the Weston family who now own Shoppers Drug Marts.

Quebec will, of course, try to be more avant garde. Saskatchewan will look down their premier’s nose at the whole business but take the money. Which pretty well covers it for the rest of the country.

It is not as though we need marijuana for recreational use. It will be good to see it removed from police restrictions. We can expect a difficult time of adjustment.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Budgets and other eulogies.

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

Seeing finance minister Bill Morneau finally get to his budget last week produced a measure of disappointment and nostalgia. He brought back distant memories of the clean-cut young Anglican priest who came to our grade six class at Rosedale Public School in Toronto to try to entice us wayward kids back to Sunday School. The problem with that priest and with Bill Morneau is that you have heard all that B.S. before.

Can you imagine a budget in this day and age that makes a big deal of increases in the sin taxes on alcohol and cigarettes? Can you imagine a budget talking about innovation and innovates nothing? It was a sad occasion for Canadians.

On Vassy Kapelos’ West Block show on Sunday, you were hard-pressed to understand why Morneau had come out of hiding. His explanations were pathetic. You were just as in the dark as you were before he explained it.

It might have helped if Bill Morneau had an inkling as to what is meant by innovation. He certainly used the word enough. You got the impression that the innovation centres across Canada were what he was counting on to bring about innovation for Canada.

But we can hardly rely on places where you develop new apps for your Apple phone to move Canada forward. Every once in a while, one of these centres will come up with a new type of lightbulb but they rarely astound Bay Street.

If this was 150 years ago, we had a John Macdonald who said maybe we could bind this new nation together with a railroad from sea to sea. And that old drunk did it. He might not have looked as good in his selfies as the present prime minister but he came up with ideas and he got them done. Just think what a modern 350-kph railroad could do for this country. And that would take innovation. Bombardier could actually be helpful.

And think about guys like Banting and Best who did some useful innovation in medicine. There are all kinds of opportunities for innovation. And you never know where the opportunities will arise. Our late brother watched the early shadowy pictures of the men on the moon many years ago and said, “I can fix that.”

He went into the Houston offices of NASA a short time later and showed the people running the American space program sharp clear pictures of what came from the moon. Today we get superior pictures from around the world and beyond because of John Lowry’s innovation.

Maybe Bill Morneau needs to learn more about innovation.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Lies. And Trudeau-Trump lies.

Sunday, March 26th, 2017

You have come to expect it in the daily reports from the American White House. You know that the man in the White House tells lies. You just do not expect it from the guy in charge in Ottawa.

And you already knew that the guy in charge at the White House does not give a damn about the environment. You are more conflicted by the guy in Ottawa. This guy says he wants to save the environment and makes a big show of it. And then he approves doubling the Kinder Morgan pipeline over the Rockies to pump diluted bitumen to an ocean port. And he is a cheerleader for President Trump approving TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline to the Texas Gulf.

Of course, there is nothing new about the guff that Trump spews for the American news media. He even believes there are American jobs to be had. He had Russ Sperling, president of TransCanada Corporation in his office for the announcement. Sperling would have tripled the number of jobs created by that pipeline to get more bitumen to that Texas port. Hell, he might consider putting Trump’s grandmother on the payroll if that would help.

But it is not going to pave the way past all those environmentalists in the American Midwest who are digging their own trenches for the coming Keystone Wars. This question is not resolved by a long shot. Trump can try to call out the Nebraska National Guard if he likes but Keystone is going to have to run over a lot of environmentalist barricades on its way to the sea.

Trump appears to be drinking his own bath water though when he uses the usual untruths about Keystone. The American jobs Trump was going on about will be fleeting and if the entire line from Alberta to Texas involves as many as 400 maintenance jobs, it will be generous.

But by no stretch of the imagination will Alberta tar sands bitumen make North America self sufficient in ersatz oil. Nor will bitumen-based synthetic oil be cheaper. The greedy bastards who want to pipe the bitumen down the line will hardly be happy until the price of crude oil again hits the US$80 mark. And if we really tried to use bitumen-based oil to supply North America, we would all be knee deep in bitumen slag from trying to refine so much bitumen into synthetic oil.

It seems to be common knowledge now that Donald Trump usually does not know what he is talking about. What is Justin Trudeau’s excuse?


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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