Archive for the ‘New’ Category

Why does Toronto want ranked ballots?

Saturday, September 19th, 2020

Toronto City Council needs to take a very hard look at ranked ballot voting. It is no panacea. It is a solution for a problem that does not exist. It is a way to choose the least controversial of multiple candidates. And why would you want to do that?

Or maybe people are just tired of the same-old first-past-the-post voting.

To be positive, this system of voting seems to encourage the least likely candidates. It has been used in political parties recently and judging by results there, it has disappointed more people than it has pleased. And why you would want to disappoint the voters is a good question?

We might also consider that ranked balloting is preferred by more candidates because it encourages more of them to run for office. Judging by experience with this system of voting, we know that it tends to sort through the voting process to produce the least controversial result.

The one thing you can count on is that the more candidates in the race for the position, the less likely that you will get the most preferred candidate. The simple reason is that if nobody gets a majority of votes, the choice falls to the second, third, fourth or fifth most favourite—as chosen by the candidates dropped from the race. It becomes a numbers game and you might as well just toss a coin.

The city was authorized to allow ranked balloting back in 2013. In typical Toronto council fashion, the idea was dropped for 2015. It was revived again for 2022 (since the city is on a four-year voting cycle now, instead of two-year).

Mind you, if the city cannot find a supplier that can count ranked ballots for 2026—and carry out all the other requirements for ranked voting that the province requires—then we can wait for 2030. And whether people come to their senses by then, is the responsibility of an entirely new generation.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Trudeau’s circle does it again.

Friday, September 18th, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

“Jack be nimble, Jack be quick…”

Thursday, September 17th, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

It’s all bad news for Jason Kenney.

Wednesday, September 16th, 2020

If you had a Voodoo doll, would you call it Jason Kenney and stick pins in it? Well, somebody must be!

Of all the business indices listed in the Toronto Star yesterday, oil was the only commodity showing its usual downward spiral. It is so bad that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has claimed that the pandemic has impacted the demand for energy harder and for longer than was previously feared.

It is expected that demand for crude oil will fall from last year’s 9.5 per cent by another 9.5 per cent this year.

But what do you expect of a guy like Kenney who puts all his eggs in a basket made with the dregs of the Athabasca and Cold Lake tar sands? This is the guy who fights with the provinces’ doctors instead of protecting the public from the looming pandemic. He pours Alberta tax dollars into pipelines that might never be completed. He vilifies the prime minister who risks his reputation providing just one of the pipeline possibilities.

Jason Kenney came home from Ottawa, where he had been a senior cabinet minister. He came to unite the right. He came to lead that right. He came to show his distain for women. He came for himself—not to help the people of Alberta.

He also came at a time when the United States is increasing its fracking capabilities and oversupplying its home market.

And to top it all, the Alberta premier seems to draw some of his remarks about the coronavirus from Donald Trump in the United States. During a speech to the legislature late in May, Kenney kept referring to covid-19 as a flu. That Voodoo doll must have been working overtime that day.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Who listens to Canada’s bankers?

Tuesday, September 15th, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

The enemy of my enemy…

Sunday, September 13th, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Ties that bond.

Saturday, September 12th, 2020

A friend sent me a copy of a letter he sent to two liberal members of the Ontario Legislature the other day. He was concerned about Ontario’s lack of planning for electrical generation in the next couple of decades. He is particularly concerned that Ontario’s nuclear generation capabilities are well past their ‘best before’ dates and have to be taken off line in that time.

This leaves Ontario few options. I can tell you from a study I did for the Ontario ministry of energy back in the 1980s under the Peterson government that new nuclear plants are not an option. They are too expensive to build, they are not wanted anywhere in the province, and they take too long to run up to full power and too long to shut down.

The only really flexible form of power generation, at present, are gas-fired plants that can be located where needed—when users allow them.

But the negative is that you have no way of knowing what the cost of gas will be 10 to 15 years down the road. This is just another craps shoot.

The other choice for Ontario is to contract with Manitoba and Quebec for our long-term electrical energy needs. Both provinces want to export energy as they have the water power resources for the growth of large-scale hydro plants that can provide low-cost energy for many years to come. And committing to Ontario’s needs is a far better deal for them than selling into the U.S.

In addition, provinces can get support from the federal government for the interprovincial transmission lines. As Canada moves to meet its commitments to reduce global warming, all provinces will want to share in our hydroelectric resources.

High-speed national rail lines, high-efficiency commuter lines and the continued move to electric vehicles all depend on reliable sources of low-cost electricity. It is a resource for all of us.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

This fails the smell test.

Friday, September 11th, 2020

It must have been the final political straw for Bill Morneau. After taking some of the heat off the prime minister in the ‘We charity’ imbroglio, the former finance minister is still being criticized for his naiveté. Not only is he being pilloried by the opposition in parliament and ridiculed by the news media, he is being charged with violating the elections act during last year’s election.

This is an inexcusable situation. Bill Morneau was just one more of Justin Trudeau’s elite choices for a key role in his cabinet. As a lamb to the slaughter, he deserved better. Trudeau used him and tossed him away when he was no longer useful.

The Morneau name meant more in the Toronto business community. It was also useful to have the connection with his wife’s family, the Florenceville, New Brunswick McCain’s.

But when you bring someone into politics like Morneau, you can hardly expect him to be flying solo as soon as his new political career is launched. This guy needed ongoing help and guidance and Trudeau and the prime minister’s office let him down. Morneau needed something more than a service dog to keep him out of trouble.

He needed one or two experienced people in that office to help keep him from the gaffs he made because of his lack of political experience.

But if Trudeau did not think he needed that kind of help, why should he expect his underlings to need it?

Looking at his staff working with him in 2015 election, was disquieting. There were actually two people working with him whom I was aware had as much or more political experience as Justin Trudeau. And one of them had to quit because of a conflict.

Trudeau had gotten rid of the old liberal party workhorses in the Senate and ignored the experienced people out in the ridings. He was running his own campaign. And, as luck had it, that was also what the Canadian voters wanted.

But, how often are you that lucky?

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Ontario’s petulant premier.

Thursday, September 10th, 2020

After more than a year of silly stickers on our gas pumps, Ontario voters have got the message. And the Ontario Court System has finally got around to noting that that the Ontario government’s stickers are in breach of the retailers’ Charter rights. Is this a fair resolution to the foolishness?

If it were not for the surveillance cameras mounted in gas stations across the province, many of us would have liked to make our own comment on Doug Ford’s affrontery. And what is the court going to do to recompense Ontario citizens for this inaccurate and appalling politicizing at the pumps where they go to get fuel for their gasoline-guzzling automobiles?

It looks like the Canadian Civil Liberties Association let us down this time around. We do hope that the court, at least, saw fit to award costs of the action to the association.

It seems appropriate that the court should announce its decision on the same week as we are having an official visit by the premier of Quebec. It was an excellent opportunity for the citizens of both provinces to note how much smarter the premier of Quebec is than the premier of Ontario.

This was the smart premier who stuck with his province’s promises to California in the ‘Cap and Trade’ deal. Cancelling Ontario’s participation probably cost Ontario taxpayers more money than their premier would really like to admit.

But then we never seem to know which Ontario premier we are getting these days. There is the petulant Doug Ford who wants to get even with his old foes at Toronto city hall. And then there is the warm and fuzzy Dougie who refers to Toronto’s mayor as his best friend forever (BFF).

And what about his other BFF, prime minister Trudeau?

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Doing what they do best.

Wednesday, September 9th, 2020

It is time for the conservatives in parliament to return to what they do best: criticize. They are so good at it that they have more people lined up to criticize the liberal cabinet members than there are liberal cabinet members to criticize.

It would be easy to just give you a list but it is important to note that only five of the positions seem important. Obviously, the leader of the opposition gets to criticize the prime minister most of the time. And then you get that nasty Pierre Poilievre taking on the finance minister and deputy prime minister.

The surprise pick was our old nemesis, former conservative leader, Andrew Scheer, who will criticize the liberal infrastructure plan that the liberals promised Canadians.

Because of the importance of health in this time of a pandemic, Alberta MP Michelle Rempel Garner will cover that portfolio.

Another choice that caught us off guard, was Ontario MP Michael Chong as foreign affairs critic. Chong has often been a critic of his own party for its failure to develop policies more in tune with how Canadians are thinking. It will be interesting to see how Chong handles the job.

If there was one standard complaint about Canadian conservatives over the years, is that you always know where they stand. They tend to be knee-jerk reactionaries, with little thinking of benefit to the average Canadian in mind.

What will be uppermost on the conservative mind will be the supposed deficit that Canadians will be faced with for years to come because of the supposedly wanton spending of the liberals. This is basic conservative cant and at to-day’s interest rates, inflation will save us more than we are likely to have to repay.

If the conservatives were really sincere about paying off some of this debt, maybe they would agree to replacing the two-per cent cut that Stephen Harper took from the HST. That would be a good place to find some money in a recovering economy.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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