Archive for the ‘Municipal Politics’ Category

Brown bounces back.

Tuesday, January 29th, 2019

This is not a contrite political Patrick Brown bragging about his comeback from being a nobody. This is a brazen Brown bragging that he has bested the best. Comfortably ensconced in the mayor’s chair in Brampton, Ontario, he has four years to choose his next steps. And he expects CTV television network to pay his passage back to power.

A few days back, January 25, was a sort of anniversary for Brown. He not only resigned as leader of the Ontario conservatives a year ago, he gave up a clear shot at becoming premier of Ontario. What was obvious to all of us Brown baiters at the time was that he had to be brought down. It was either his financial manipulations or under-age women that would do the job.

Personally, I preferred the financial questions but the answers to that route were well hidden. Our best guess was that it was some of his conservative enemies who played the under-age girls card with the help of cronies at CTV News. It turned out that the ploy got him to resign as leader of the Ontario PCs. A vindictive caucus of Tories at Queen’s Park finished the job.

But Brown is as slippery as they come. When Doug Ford and the caucus made it clear that they did not want him at Queen’s Park, he looked around for other roads to redemption. The Peel Region chair was a new opportunity—and look where the Toronto Region chair took Paul Godfrey. And the largely undefined job paid well.

Ford slammed that door shut in an oddly vindictive manner. With only hours to go before the deadline, Brown opted for the mayoralty in Brampton. Not only was incumbent Linda Jeffrey vulnerable but he had a major part of his organization that won the Tory leadership for him based there.

Brown could have also vied for the mayoralty in Barrie but he had little confidence in who was loyal back in his home town. He also remembered the trouncing incumbent Jeff Lehman had dealt his uncle Joe Tascona when Lehman first ran for the Barrie mayoralty.

Brown had bought and paid-for connections with the dominant South Asian community in Brampton and it was this faction that gave him the Brampton mayoralty. Down the road further, who knows what challenges he will tackle?

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

“Keep your enemies closer.”

Saturday, January 26th, 2019

Born in Chicago in 1901, my mother never did entirely lose the biases of her upbringing. She was something of a traffic hazard the way she drove her walker in the seniors’ residence in downtown Toronto where she spent her final years.

I remember one time she was proudly telling me how she got her fellow seniors out to vote for our new provincial attorney general in the David Peterson government. While it was common knowledge that Ian Scott was gay, he considered it a personal matter and it was never mentioned publicly when he ran in politics. I will never know what perversely caused me to say to mother that the Toronto gay community would be appreciative of her seeing the light.

The trouble was, she was smart as ever and when she realized what I was telling her, she proved she was as feisty as ever, even in her nineties. And yet she had raised six children and I have never heard a discriminatory or intolerant word from any of my siblings. We lived in the heart of the Church and Wellesley neighbourhood as children and knew at a young age far more about human sexuality and tolerance than many people ever learn as adults.

But my point today is that I am deeply disappointed with the Toronto LGBT community. (And I do not add the ‘Q’ to that because I have never called anyone ‘queer’ in my life and I am not going to start now.)

What I am concerned about is Toronto’s Pride Parade. It is beyond understanding that there are people in the community who are set on destroying the best example of openness and tolerance that we have ever known. I understood it when it was just those ‘Black Lives Matter’ wannabes who were causing trouble just to get attention for themselves. Now you have people denying the inclusiveness of the parade to try to keep uniformed police out of the parade.

Whatever the hell is their complaint about Toronto police, they should take it to the Police Services Board. The Pride Parade is a place for all.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

To Brampton Town with Brown.

Wednesday, December 26th, 2018

Barrie’s sorry excuse for a newspaper, the weekly Advance, has announced that Brampton mayor Patrick Brown is its newsmaker of the year. Coincidently the Barrie library had a copy of Brown’s tell-all book Take Down: The attempted political assassination of Patrick Brown—by none other than Patrick Brown himself. It was my intent to spend some time this week reading it.

It is with some regret that I report that Mr. Brown appears to have had no ghost writer, nor helpful editor beyond the spell check of his computer. You can only stomach so much of a politician’s self pity and whining. I gave up after about 150 pages and skimmed the rest.

The best part of the book is the cover—credited to a Mathew Flute. They should have ripped up the inside story. If Patrick Brown thinks this book is going to inform, convince, proselytize or draw any sympathy, he is deluding himself.

What is deeply concerning is that in 50 years of writing about politics, I would never refer to a politician as “bat-shit crazy.” If Mr. Brown holds anything back in the book, it is modesty and self-control.

One reason to read the book was to see if there were any clues as to the perpetrators of the CTV Television Network’s allegations. All it seems to indicate is how far that once esteemed network has gone down hill with Bell Canada in control. Patrick might have thought he had liberal enemies but he has far more vicious enemies in the conservative party. And a word of advice to him from a liberal is that there are much stronger connections between CTV News and certain well-known conservatives than any liberals.

The most serious errors in this entire fiasco were those by Brown himself. He is a politician who flies in the directions the wind takes him. He is considered a good retail politician because he knows and understand what needs to be done and has the determination to do it. God forbid he should ever have to work for a living.

But watching him at that news conference during the evening of January 25, 2018, I felt sorry for him. Sure, I disliked him as a person and as a politician, but he did not deserve this.

On bad advice, badly prepared, an emotional Patrick Brown read a bad speech and committed political suicide.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Persons who help themselves get most.

Monday, December 10th, 2018

The headline was supposed to be ‘God helps those who help themselves.’ It did not seem right though to invoke a Deity. Considering how many Deities are promoted around Toronto these days, it could have ended up a three-line headline.

This started out to be about Ontario premier Doug Ford. When the premier reduced the number of councillors in the city of Toronto earlier this year, he promised Torontonians millions in savings. He lied you know. It is becoming more apparent every day that the only people who will profit from having Doug Ford in the premier’s office are lawyers. And what you know for sure is that it will be the province that pays.

And the city has not yet felt the full force of its newly-elected 25 councillors. That gravy train is only now chugging into city hall. Within two days of being sworn into office, the councillors doubled their staffing money, increased their office budgets and told the clerk that they want a raise in pay. These people are not pikers.

But at the same time, it was strange to look down on the council in seating space that used to hold twice as many councillors. The Toronto council chamber needs some redesign. It was as though they wanted to emphasize the change wrought by the vindictive Doug Ford by clustering to one side.

It was obvious that they would claim the need for more staff. They are going to need the help to deal with the concerns of almost twice the constituents. The personal salary increase will be the icing on the cake.

Considering the average number of constituents, the staff to be managed and the hours of dedicated service required, the job is now worth more than $200,000 per year plus expenses. And as that is more than the dilettantes at Queen’s Park are getting, the Toronto politicians can expect a nasty draft from the direction of the Ontario legislature.

It might surprise you to know that in examining the workload of municipal, provincial and federal politicians over the years, the heaviest is municipal, the second heaviest is federal and our provincial guys and gals get the easy end of things. If the provincials are diligent, they are out promoting themselves.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

The Gods are busy; you fix it.

Thursday, November 1st, 2018

No doubt you have been reading many of these opinion pieces on how to fix this or that at Toronto city hall. We already know that those nincompoops at Queen’s Park think cutting city council in half will solve the problems. Others are lending their low view of things by suggesting that Toronto mayor John Tory have more powers. We know that is a non-starter. Tory got a strong mandate but it was certainly not for his brilliance. He got to keep his job because he has proved he cares.

It used to be that the liberals and new democrats fought it out for downtown wards and conservatives and liberals fought over the suburban wards. Very occasionally Toronto would end up with a progressive mayor and enough progressive councillors that the city could get a few things done.

But all Doug Ford saw the one term he was there was a dysfunctional council that only agreed on getting rid of an alcohol and drug addicted mayor.

But in my various travels around the world I met with many local politicians. It is the same all over. When you have political parties headed by the mayoralty candidates who are committed to a specific platform, you can often get things done. If you have a bunch of individuals with no common agenda, you have chaos. It is that simple.

Look at Canada. In Montreal, we have parties headed by strong mayors. In Vancouver we have political parties and you never know what will happen. Toronto had an experiment with political parties 50 years ago. It is time to see if the city can ever get it right?

And there is no need for the parties to be the three behind most of the present councillors. Civic parties might do a better job if they are not tied to provincial parties. (This might seem odd to the people who remember I criticized David Crombie’s Civic Action Party. I really did not see it as being representative of the changing face of Toronto at that time. I lampooned it for being too much Lawrence Park and too little Parkdale.)

But you have to start now talking with current members of council. As they become more frustrated with the multiplicity of views and the inability of the council to come to a consensus, you will find they will become more amenable to a party solution. And if you get someone identified with a particular party first, get the next one from a different party. Your strength will be in your candidates’ ability to communicate with their voters.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Let’s have ‘Whack-a-Mole’ voting.

Sunday, October 28th, 2018

Blame Chantal Hébert. The other day she described the voting reform question as a whack-a-mole game. It just keeps popping up and needs to get a whack. The only reason Chantal noted it was because neophyte premier François Legault of the CAQ in Quebec made the same rash promise to reform how Quebec votes before he knew he would win. Now he just needs a way to back out gracefully.

Most Canadians, who have any opinion on this subject, think prime minister Justin Trudeau let them down. He did (foolishly) promise the voters that 2015 would be the last time they would use first-past-the-post voting. While he took the blame, it was really the opposition parties on the special committee of the commons that dumped on Justin’s promise.

Now we learn that Prince Edward Island might ask Islanders what they want. If they are smart they will settle for a reeve and some councillors and give the provincial problems to New Brunswick.

And we hear from the Wet Coast that the question of how to vote is being asked again. Maybe it will be third time lucky! You would think that they would finally understand the problems when the Greens are running their NDP government. Or they might never learn

It seems every time I write about this subject I get inundated by readers across the country claiming I am a Philistine trying to protect first-past-the-post. I even conceded recently that I would be happy to help promote run-off elections so that we could have majority choice voting. That just got me more complaints.

The problem is that people, for some reason, buy into the fiction that if your vote is not for the winner in an election, it is a wasted vote. As silly as that sounds, that is their argument against first-past-the-post.

No vote is ever wasted in a democracy. We can all have our say. And yes, it is very rare that governments are elected by a majority under first-past-the-post. If you really want to have a majority vote, then you have run-off elections. That is carrying your democracy further.

But having local representation—is to me, the very essence of our democracy. You can send the smartest person in town to parliament or the stupidest. It is your choice. Denying you that choice is the road to anarchy.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Kudos to Vancouver’s Kennedy Stewart.

Friday, October 26th, 2018

It took guts. That was no walk in the park for a new democrat to give up his seat in parliament and challenge for the Vancouver mayoralty, as an independent. It was a tough fight with no guarantees. And the remaining problem is that there is now a progressive in the mayoralty with an equally split right and left-wing council.

Stewart might be the first independent mayor in Vancouver in more than 30 years but, if he plays his cards carefully, the right-wingers on council will be reluctant to vote against him. The five are all from the highly partisan ‘non-partisan Association, known as the NPA. With only ten councillors in total, the others are three Greens and one each from two left-leaning parties. (And you thought premier John Horgan had a tenuous situation.)

Stewart defeated the NPA mayoralty candidate by close to 1000 votes. He is definitely the mayor the city needs for the problems ahead. Few will be neutral as the Trudeau government tries to force the expansion of the Trans-Mountain pipeline to Burnaby.

Mind you, Trudeau seems happy to let tempers cool on the pipeline while the judicial demand for reconsideration is taking place. The earliest there will be any construction activity is expected in March or April of 2019. One of Trudeau’s major problems is that there are growing elements from within his own liberal party that are resisting the expansion.

When the pipeline is twinned, equipped with heaters and higher-pressure pumps, it will be capable of bringing close to 900,000 barrels per day across the Rockies to Burrard Inlet. This will be barrels per day, mainly of diluted tar sands bitumen, the most polluting of all oil sources.

Mining bitumen requires heating vast quantities of water and forcing it down to the layers of bitumen strata and bringing it up to the surface. This creates vast settling ponds of greasy water that can kill wild life. Bitumen contains about three times the carbon of normal crude oil and this creates huge piles of what is called bitumen slag in the refining process. This is why the oil companies prefer to send it to third world refineries where nobody cares about the pollution.

With more spokespeople such as Kennedy Stewart, we will be heard.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Follow the money to Brampton Brown.

Wednesday, October 24th, 2018

He used to be Barrie Brown. His best friend, Toronto lawyer Walied Soliman describes him in the Toronto Star as the “hardest working person, I have ever met.” Those of us who have watched Brown manipulate his way through politics over the years are less complimentary. This is not the kind of politician you should trust.

The main concern about Patrick Brown’s career in politics is where the money comes from. It took him two tries to latch onto the Harper bandwagon in 2006, dump his job as a city councillor in Barrie and get elected as the member of parliament for Barrie and area.

He became known as a retail politician. He did what he was told in Ottawa and worked at getting in solid in Barrie. He used local charities as his publicity base and never got involved in political controversy. Studying his financial reports in elections, I found he was creative but there was nothing major to complain about. The main concern was that it was such a waste of time sending him to Ottawa.

But the plan was emerging. His friend Jason Kenney, then minister of ethnic support for prime minister Stephen Harper, suggested that Brown spend some effort getting to know the people from the Indian Sub-Continent. It was the Canadian taxpayers who paid for Patrick Brown’s trips to India. All he had to do was stay out of all the ethnic troubles of that part of the world.

What it enabled Brown to do was build up a large base of support and knowledge of those groups in Canada. That is why his first office to capture the Ontario conservative leadership was in Brampton. With more than 260,000 South Asian immigrants and descendants in Brampton, they represented 44 per cent of the total population.

And that was when we started to seriously question where the money was from? You hardly go over night from raising $100,000 for a federal election campaign to raising over a million for the provincial leadership. His South Asian organizers paid the memberships of close to 40,000 people across Ontario. Where did that money come from?

And where did the money come from at the time for Patrick Brown to acquire a mansion out in Shanty Bay? This is not a guy known for saving his nickels.

And skipping over the problems of January 2018, where did the money come from for a failed attempt to take over as chair of Peel Region? That is not a small area to put up signs.

And finally, where did the money come from for that very expensive campaign in the City of Brampton?

Enquiring minds want to know.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Voting for the future?

Saturday, October 20th, 2018

It has always been my observation that there are fewer ‘Come line’ bettors in municipal voting than ‘No line’ bettors. If you are not a craps player, I should explain that there are fewer civic voters voting positively for the future than there are people expressing themselves with a negative vote. (I should also mention that the ‘No’ side in craps gets slightly better odds.)

Despite this seeming negative advantage in craps, the casino still makes money on the game from what gamblers get hooked on, which are the propositions. These are all those funny markings in the middle of the craps layout that players throw chips at the stick-person to place for them.

But it has always been my observation that municipal politics is far more of a crap shoot than people realize. We elect people in municipal elections on far less information than a McDonalds’ would require from a teenager wanting an after-school job. We use rumour and name recognition to pay someone an outrageous sum and we cannot even fire them for four years.

I mention all this in response to the Toronto Star promoting the paper’s own version of confusion in how they promote candidates for office. I have noticed lately that columnists who might never have been to a city council meeting (or stayed very long) are now telling us how to vote for their candidate.

The best example recently was an op-ed piece by the Toronto Star’s Heather Mallick promoting Jennifer Keesmaat for mayor. Frankly, Keesmaat might not be the super solution that Mallick suggests. She would hardly be the first civic employee who thought she could do a better job than that bunch of elected screw-ups. I would like to know what she could not do as an employee that she could now do in the mayor’s chair?

The reason I say this is because Mallick is impressed with Keesmaat’ s level of planning in her plans for transit. Suggesting that Keesmaat must be better because she has made ten promises in regard to transit and John Tory has only four. Maybe Mallick should realize that Tory has a far better chance to achieve what he promises. Keesmaat has a lot to learn.

And if she had a way to get the downtown relief line for the Toronto subway system built three years sooner, she should have pushed for it back when she worked for the city.

Toronto is a rapidly growing city that needs a better form of governance. We need people who understand the problems and can help. Toronto news media need to fight for better governance—not encourage dilettante reporters to pitch their unqualified favourites.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Dumb ideas for publicity.

Friday, October 12th, 2018

The toughest challenge for municipal candidates is the problem of getting some decent publicity during the campaign. You sometimes get the feeling that all reporters hate you and you are just wasting your time. It always seemed that it was only the really dumb ideas that can break down barriers. What proves that theory is the latest effort by Toronto mayoralty candidate Jennifer Keesmaat.

We hear that the erstwhile candidate wants to shut down three of the city’s public golf courses. It seems that since the three are operated at a loss by the city, she thinks they should be put to other civic use. (That would likely cost us more.)

Reading her suggested uses, it would more likely increase the costs for taxpayers than to save any money. And why does she want to annoy Toronto golfers? Those golfers really appreciate the city providing facilities for many different recreations. And the candidate had better stay away from baseball diamonds. All that would get her would be thousands of little league mothers after her scalp.

I have played the public course in the Don Valley at the 401 and Yonge Street many times over the years. It was less than ten minutes from where I lived. I can also report that reaching par on that course was a fond hope that I never came close to achieving. I always felt that if I just held back a bit on my swing, I could have saved a lot of golf balls. I can assure you it is not just the green fees for golf that cost so much.

Remembering the Dentonia Park course, I always thought of it as a par three course for mountain goats. I think I played the Scarlett Woods course once but it must have been a long time ago. I usually rated courses by how many balls I lost and Scarlett Woods is in the ‘not bad’ category.

But if Keesmaat thinks she is going to get the hoi polloi to revolt against the elite with doing away with a few public golf courses, she must be kidding. If she wants to expropriate the Toronto Hunt, Rosedale, Weston and St. Georges, she might have a point. All those restrictive courses are sitting on prime land for development. I think you even had to have a pedigree as a Torontonian to just get to caddy at those courses.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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