Archive for the ‘Federal Politics’ Category

The problem for political pundits.

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

While waiting to hear the New Democratic Party leadership tallies yesterday, I was reading what Mainstreet Technology’s Quito Magi had to say about the race. Having worked with Quito in the past, I have often had the feeling that he should forego all this technology and make an arrangement with a healthy young groundhog, to help him with his political forecasts.

To his obvious embarrassment, I once got Quito to pay off an election bet in front of witnesses. He had all his company’s automated telephone calls responses and analysis and all I had was some doors I had knocked on with the candidate. We both agreed that our candidate would win easily but Quito made a rookie mistake about the fringe candidates in the race. When I gave him an estimate of their vote, he bet I was wrong. It cost him ten bucks.

And if he had checked with me recently, I could have saved him some embarrassment on forecasting that it could take three ballots for MPP Jagmeet Singh to win the federal NDP leadership. That was an interesting scenario he forecast but it showed a lack of experience with the Sikh communities in Canada. When Sikh voters offer their support for a candidate, they usually prove to be more reliable than the average voter.

The member of the Ontario Legislature had swamped the membership of the NDP with about 47,000 new sign-ups, mainly among the Sikh communities across Canada. It resulted in more than 35,000 winning votes to a combined total vote for his three opponents of just over 30,000.

It was particularly important once the results were announced on Sunday, to see the Ontario MPP go into full political mode to try to repair some of the disappointment of his opponents and their supporters. MP Charlie Angus looked particularly pained by his showing. He really thought he could do better than 12,700 votes. MP Niki Ashton was about 1400 votes behind and MP Guy Caron came last at just over 6100 votes.

The results of this race speak volumes about the state of politics in Canada. It is cynical and sad that people so disrespect our political process that they will attempt to crush opposition to the honours and position they think they deserve by mass sign ups of groups of ethnic supporters.

This was not a contest of ideas and suitability to the task ahead. This is the decision of a single community—a single ethnic group. Singh offered no new ideas, no new style of leadership. He was the choice of his own community. It was not a win for Canada.

Maybe we are heading down a similar antidemocratic path as our American neighbours.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Singh misreads Canadian acceptance.

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

Ontario MPP Jagmeet Singh is heading for some disappointment. It would really be better if he faced it this weekend instead of in the next federal election. As the obvious frontrunner in the announcement this weekend of the first vote in the New Democratic Party leadership race, it would be better if he did not win.

As much as Singh might believe in the easy acceptance by Canadians of Sikhs in their society, they are not about to make a turbaned Sikh politician prime minister.

And there is very little or no bigotry involved. Canadians would also not be likely to vote for a Muslim woman in a burka, nor a Jewish Hasidic, nor a Mennonite prepared to take horse and buggy to Ottawa, nor an ordained Catholic priest in vestments, nor an aboriginal holy person in tribal costume. You simply cannot put any of the values attributed to those various religious statements ahead of the neutrality of the office of prime minister. The prime minister represents everybody.

Canadians want to be very accepting, tolerant and welcoming people. They take pride in the mix of their society, yet do not intermix very much in social relations.

It always amused me that back in the days when I looked after media relations for the Liberal Party in Toronto that I would routinely look after contacting the ethnic media for meet-and-greets with party leaders. Yet, when it came to appointing someone to a paid position, it had to be someone with a more ethnic-sounding name.

It is the ethnic strength of the constant growth and change in Canada that is helping to destroy the nature of our political parties. There is nothing new to the wholesale enrolling of an ethnic group to support this or that cause or this or that politician. It has served to both build and destroy causes and people.

Patrick Brown swamped the Progressive Conservative membership in Ontario by signing up and paying for Hindu, Sikh and Muslim groups from the Indian sub-continent. Jagmeet Singh did not even have to pay for the Sikh communities across Canada who delighted in buying more than 40,000 New Democratic memberships. All that means is that, if he is leader of the New Democrats, he will do well in a couple ridings in Montreal, in the greater Toronto area and around Vancouver in B.C. He needs to realize that all he can win is a mirage.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Is NAFTA circling the drain?

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

You always assume there is hope as long as negotiations continue—as they are for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) this week in Ottawa. The only problem is that the negotiators are not the decision makers. The final solution rests with an incompetent occupant in the White House. And you should not try to confront that gentleman with facts.

Mr. Trump promised his voting claque that he would dump NAFTA. While economists might reason that pulling out of NAFTA could destroy the American economy, his claque does not understand that. And many, if they did comprehend, would not care. To them, a pyrrhic victory is still a victory.

It is the same attitude as led to the self-destructive BREXIT in the United Kingdom. People who vote in anger often live to regret it.

But those NAFTA negotiators continue to pontificate as they enjoy the fine cuisine in Ottawa. The least involved are the Mexican participants who have serious concerns about the conditions they left behind in and around Mexico City. As the world comes to their aid after the devastating earthquake, one wonders when the American and Canadian aid is coming?

And we can really be puzzled at Canadian cabinet members who naively think this negotiation can be about environmental issues. Do they really think that Mr. Trump gives a damn? This is the climate-change denier who reopened the Appalachian coal mines to make his billionaire friends richer.

You have to hand it to the American negotiators. These people are going through the motions as though they mean it. There will be no complaints from Congress and the Washington clique over their efforts. One of the surprises is they might really drive a wedge between the Canadians and the Mexicans. If they can keep the Canadians on-side in forcing the Mexicans to equalize wages (with the southern U.S. at least), it could go a long way to stopping the steady drain of labour-intensive production south to Mexico.

The problem though dear friends is that the entire exercise is nothing but an interesting review of the concerns. We can hardly deny that some changes are needed but Mr. Trump does not care what we think. None of the changes proposed by Canada or Mexico will happen. The American negotiators are more interested in what they can possibly bully the other two countries into.

And the future of NAFTA will only be decided around the Resolute desk in the Oval Office.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Trudeau’s terrific travels!

Sunday, September 24th, 2017

Canadians sure get full measure when they send their prime minister on a personal appearance tour. He did more in two days in New York than most rock stars can do in a week.  The British prime minister and that New Yorker who currently occupies the Washington White House were also in town but the young guy from Canada got the star treatment.

Trudeau must have planned to arrive after Trump’s speech which was smart. Nobody could have matched the hyperbole and B.S. of that Donald Trump classic. It was over the top, overdone, over dramatic and dreadful diplomacy. Trump took the U.S. to depths of dishonour not seen in the United Nations forum since Nikita Khrushchev took off his shoe and banged it on his desk to show his displeasure.

But after a day of special appearances and being lionized, Trudeau showed up at the United Nations. This is the world’s forum. He had this golden opportunity to tell the world of his thoughts and dreams. He could have followed the American president and the British prime minister with a balance of logic and reason, peace and temperance, love and understanding.

Instead, our nit-wit PM blew it!

What egotistical brain fart led him to devote his speech to Canadians’ historical crapping on their own indigenous peoples? What made our rock-star prime minister think these world diplomats give a damn? Most of them have a rooms in their palaces for their own shames. They hardly need to hear chapter and verse on our failings.

What you do, Mr. Prime Minister, is admit your failings and move on. Nor do you try to hide those failings and let them be used against you.

But there are problems in the world that need to be addressed in this world forum. Are we to leave the North Korean problem to a sabre-rattling incompetent in Washington? Cannot Canada take a role in helping the people in the Caribbean who have had the ground washed out from under them? Where is the promised plan for Canada to help with world peacekeeping? World trade is being endangered by a nincompoop in the White House and someone has to take a stand for reason.

Are you not afraid Mr. Prime Minister that those screaming kids at the We Meeting the day before will find out you are a coward?

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

‘Chuckles’ cheers the cheaters.

Saturday, September 23rd, 2017

There are two types of people who take advantage of Canada’s tax laws and form private corporations. There are those who legitimately pay family members (and others) for their work and there are those who sprinkle the income among family to avoid taxes. It is this second group that is so delighted that Conservative Opposition Leader Andrew ‘Chuckles’ Scheer has taken up their cause. Cheating on your taxes seems to be a game for some people and they welcome politicians foolish enough to try to help them.

But cheating on taxes is not a game and Canadians have put up with a system that panders to the rich for too long.

I will never forget a comment by my late brother the first time he made more than a few million dollars. He was a convinced capitalist but he admitted to me that he was actually embarrassed by the small amount of money he had to pay, once one of the large accounting firms had done his taxes.

Canada’s tax system relies heavily on the honesty of its citizens in reporting their income. When the loopholes in the system are mainly used by those who can afford expert help in preparing their taxes, the system is wrong. What the tax avoidance schemes of the very wealthy tell us is that it is alright to cheat on your taxes. As this attitude trickles down, the response is to build the underground economy. The tax system is being attacked at both ends.

What we must do is convince Canadians of the fairness of the system again. We can only do that by proving that it is fair.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau has his work cut out for him. His problem is that his department has built up a fiction over the years that there are different types of dollars. There are earned dollars and capital gains dollars, there are dividend dollars and wage dollars, there are dollars earned in Canada and there are off-shore dollars. To add more confusion there are expense accounts that help companies make money and there are expense accounts that are purely benefits. And why do employees who earn the most have the most benefits?

When every dollar is recognized for what it is—taxable—we will have a tax system that everybody can trust. Politicians who rant over perceived unfairness to their friends are not very smart politicians.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

What ‘New’ Democratic Party?

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

We are hearing that ‘Love is in the air’ and the New Democratic Party of Canada is facing the future to the beat of new drums. Everyone anticipates that this new day will start with the election of the new leader of the party. And if you believe all this guff, I have a fine piece of swampland in the Ontario north in which you might want to invest.

The first part of all this B.S. is the news media believing the NDP is a social democratic party. That is further from the facts that any human can throw. When the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) was founded by Tommy Douglas and J.S. Woodsworth in 1932, it was a socialist party with agrarian roots.

In 1961, the CCF became the base of the New Democratic Party (NDP). It was a deal made with the Canadian Labour Congress and the party structure was committed to organized labour. It was and still is a party of labour. That is not the basis for social democracy. Labour can best be described as organized collectivism. It is a mutual protective society. It is rarely interested in the overall concerns of its society—other than when it affects them.

Social democrats are people who can work within a democratic structure to effect reforms. They are progressives who want to build a better future for their society. They recognize the rights of the individual ahead of the collective. They build on human excellence.

But who among the four candidates really understands this need for a social democratic party? Who is the progressive? And who can lead?

Listening to the four candidates on Sunday in Hamilton it was obvious that Guy Caron was the thinker. The Quebec MP had the positions that he felt the party should take. What he could not demonstrate was the leadership the party needs.

Charlie Angus was up to the challenge. The Northern Ontario MP showed his empathy for the long-time party members who want to help define where the party is going. He was the only one to note the need to keep the faith with seniors and promised to advocate for them.

Niki Ashton was also in good form. The Manitoba MP showed that she was the last true prairie socialist and she stuck to her guns.

The newcomer Jagmeet Singh showed up with his drummers. The Ontario MPP brought some showmanship to the event.

What nobody brought was a future for Canada’s New Democrats.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Canada’s NDP: In the eye of the storm.

Friday, September 15th, 2017

It is that period of calm before all hell breaks loose. Everything you could have done, has been done. Everything you have set in motion is now in motion. You are waiting for the results. You cannot sleep. All possible scenarios seem to slip unwished for into your mind. You are waiting for the decision of the voters.

Everyone in politics has been there but never as serious as the candidates for the leadership of a political party. This month it is the New Democratic Party’s turn. Voting starts in a few days. The answer will likely be announced on October 1.

This is one of those simple votes. One member is one vote. Easy to understand and easy to do and easy to count.

Well, maybe.

The only thing that confuses people is the ballot. It follows the recent Conservative Party ballot that caused a lot of questions afterwards. They tell us that the printed ballot allows people to show their first, second, third and fourth choice. And, in theory, people can change their mind between ballots—if they are voting on line.

But whether a second vote will be needed is debateable. When you have reason to expect Jagmeet Singh could have over 50 per cent of the votes on the first ballot, there might be no reason for any further counting.

It could certainly produce a lot of Google searches on Sikhism. It is not a well-known religion and frankly there is not that much to go on unless you can read Punjabi. Sikhs have ten gurus, quite a few saints and five centuries of history. It does make for interesting reading.

While Charlie Angus M.P. will make a very good showing, his total vote combined with the votes of Niki Ashton M.P. and Guy Caron M.P. might not be able to match the total vote for Singh.

And whether Jagmeet Singh can be expected to lead Canada’s NDP anywhere is a question best answered after the ballots are counted.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

 

Frum, from hunger!

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation news used to have balanced panels to help Canadians understand issues. That idea seems to be gone along with Peter Mansbridge. Instead we can now get a biased, neo-conservative David Frum being lobbed soft-ball questions by an admiring news reader. And who trusts that?

What is even more annoying, Barbara Frum’s kid told us nothing we did not already know about his friend Donald Trump. After all, how many times do you have to hear about Trump’s narcissism before you start to understand it?

You almost feel relieved these days when a deadly hurricane can replace the daily ‘Fear of Trump’ newscasts.

Not that Frum can replace anything. His great claim to fame is that he wrote the “axis of evil” line for former U.S. President George W. Bush. As a political speech writer, he had obviously never learned that you do not claim credit for what you have written for others. The copyright belongs to those who pay you to write for them.

Even the times when I wrote speeches for free for my M.P. or for friends in politics, it was never revealed to the media who had written the speech. There was the odd time that it was obvious who had written it but the media would go along.

This has got me thinking back over my political career and maybe I was wrong to never personally publicize my political involvement. I was a ‘spin doctor’ long before they called the role ‘spin doctor.’ And I never called campaign operations a ‘war room.’ While I used to train campaign workers with quotes from von Clausewitz’ On War, I never believed in a War Room. It sounded too confining. The only way you can stay current with what is happening in a campaign is to constantly listen to the voters and feel the mood. If you are cloistered or only listening to sycophants, you are what is called ‘drinking your own bath water.’ You will delude yourself.

That is why I am concerned about the CBC failing its audience of people who want to not only hear the news but also to hear why. People like Frum hardly provide balance. We expect balanced news from the CBC.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The water of life.

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

A handful of snow melting on a peak in the Rockies can become part of a torrent by the time it reaches the ocean. It is the water of life for the creatures of both land and sea. It is a place for salmon to spawn, the creatures of the forest to drink and humans to take their waters. It feeds the green of our forests, the growth of our cash crops and the needs of our towns, cities and farms.

And it is so fragile. The disgrace is if we spill the contents of a pipeline loaded with diluted bitumen into those waters. From the tiny babbling brooks to the mightiest of rivers, diluted bitumen is the threat of death. It floats down river to when its diluent is washed away and then it sinks, there on the bottom to conflict with the ecosystem.

Diluted bitumen is not crude oil. It is enabled to go through a pipeline by heating that pipeline and forcing it through the pipeline at greater pressure. It is not a question as to will the pipeline fail but when?

Ask the 70,000 people who live along the North Saskatchewan River. The Husky spill of bitumen on that river travelled 370 kilometres before it was just an oil slick that continued to contaminate. The bitumen had settled along the river bottom. And that was less than 250,000 litres of diluted bitumen that denied potable water to humans and animals alike.

Ask the people of Michigan along the Kalamazoo River and its tributaries. The Enbridge bitumen spill in Michigan cost more than US$2 billion and will never really be cleaned up. That bitumen that settled in the rivers has just become part of Michigan’s ecosystem.

And when Prime Minister Trudeau broke faith with the ecology and allowed the expansion of the Kinder-Morgan Trans-mountain pipeline, he was not just saying “go ahead and double the pipeline.” He was changing the old pipeline (built in the 1950s) to heat it and to increase the pressure. Along with the new pipeline being added, Kinder-Morgan will be able to triple the amount of diluted bitumen, it can send to the ocean port. This will greatly increase the tanker traffic around the B.C. coast.

As the aboriginal tribes of our west coast remind us, we are endangering the water of life. Is it worth it?

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The reluctant reformers!

Monday, September 11th, 2017

It must have confused Justin Trudeau’s campaign team in the 2015 federal election when they realized that Thomas Mulcair and his New Democratic Party were running to the political right of them. Their first problem in that overly long election campaign was how to stretch out their planned promises. And obviously more supposed reform promises had to be added.

But promising reform and delivering on the promises are different things. Policies that are proposed just to make the party look like reformers are often hard to deliver.

The most obvious slip from cup to lip was Justin Trudeau’s promise of voting reform. Whomever came up with that idea without thinking it through is no genius. And giving responsibility for the file to a political newbie was a disaster. For those who took the time to follow the special parliamentary committee’s hearings and carefully read its comprehensive report, would have found a wealth of information. The solution will be there when Canada finally corrects its out of date constitution.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau seems to be in the hot seat more than anyone else in cabinet but Canadians are still waiting for him to produce more than an update on the old-fashioned Baby Bonus. He let us all down by not ending the stock option payments for the one per cent and now he is under fire for wanting to do something about our privileged private corporations.

It warms the cockles of our hearts when those earning vulgar incomes are told they might not be able to sprinkle money around the family just to lower their taxes. If a convenience store really pays family members for their work, they deserve it. You can hardly suggest that a brain surgeon’s family are helping out in the operating room.

The Trudeau government’s most serious failures as reformers are in the environmental and the marijuana files. Justin Trudeau blew away all his credentials as an environmentalist when he approved pipelines for diluted bitumen from the tar sands.

And our sense is that it was a bad idea to rely on a retired cop to figure out how to legalize marijuana. The involvement has gone a long way beyond the original intent to simply decriminalize weed. And turning the individual provinces loose to make money on pot does not make the federal government less culpable. Judging by the Ontario government’s planned role out of legal Mary Jane, this looks like a marketing disaster.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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