Archive for the ‘New’ Category

Horse Race Journalism and 2019?

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

It is unlikely that Jaime Watt was talking about Babel-on-the-Bay in a recent op-ed piece. The Conservative political pundit referenced “horse race journalism” as being premature and meaningless in discussing the next federal election. Well, it is too early and he is right about that.

But we like the horse race analogy and we know when to publish our Morning Line for the different electoral contests. You need that time before the contestants are ‘At Post’ to consider your bets and how you can personally influence the outcome.

It is not that you cannot dope out the election race for yourself. Most of the information is usually available by the time the writ comes down. You can assess the parentage, past performances, pole position and possibilities of the leaders and the individual candidates in your electoral district.

And you have to do far more analysis than just the party leaders. You have to view the race in relation to the entire field.

And we should all agree with Watt in regard to polls. There is good polling and bad polling and the news media have never figured out the difference. Individual polls need considerable analysis and to just lump them all together can produce some very misleading prognostications.

Watt claims that the horse race analogy portrays candidates as self-interested and focuses only on winning and losing. Frankly, those are the alternatives. There is no second prize in first-past-the-post elections.

And Watt also complains that as Professor Matthew Nisbet of Northeastern University tells us, horse race journalism leads to coverage that seems to present a false equivalency in the treatment of issues and allows for the creation of so-called “fake news.”

It has always been my belief that voters apply their own (probably unconscious) weighting system to the main issues in elections and have a wide range of tipping points that can persuade some of them to change their vote. It can be a very small percentage of voters in close electoral districts that can decide the next Prime Minister.

Canadians will be facing a growing cacophony of noise about the next election over the next two years. Given each party’s plans and promises, domestic and world problems and our individual concerns, we will have much to sort out. It will make the election a horse race.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Does blogging have purpose?

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

After working on this blog for the past nine years, I am starting to wonder what the hell is the objective. As much as I call it a commentary, it is what it is: a vanity blog. It is just a hobby. It is an opportunity to vent and to titillate a few hundred readers. I like my readers. I respect them. They come and go but they come back in droves at election time. They have found out that there is someone who understands this crazy political scene.

But that guy Trump in the U.S. is the exception. He is not a politician. He is not even a nice person. I only write about him because he is unlike any politician I have ever known. No doubt America will survive but we are in for a few more tough years. Wish us all luck with that.

I got on to this topic today because my blog gets included with the progressivebloggers.ca collection and I check it occasionally to see that the blog is there and to see what everyone else is writing about. I find the collection is very eclectic. It reminds me sometimes of the problem with citizens’ band radio when it was adopted by North American truckers: it performed a service until it started having people on air who would never stop talking.

Last time I checked the various blogs, I noticed that Warren Kinsella was honouring his readers with his ten political rules. That intrigued me, so I took a look. I was surprised that I actually agreed with two of the rules.

What surprised me more was that he had changed his web site. He even changed the name: It is now the “war room.” That was funny as some time ago, I had commented on the “war room” term as lacking the feeling of openness I believe is needed in campaign management.

But that was not the only surprise. The site no longer has any advertising. Instead, the blog now accepts donations. That really surprised me. I had never thought of crowd funding “babelonthebay.com”. To be honest with you, it is a very inexpensive hobby. All in, this site, the servers it is on and its name cost me less than $200 per year.

But if crowd funding is what everyone else is doing, I will go along with it. I accept cash and cheques.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

 

Will Singh say something serious?

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

With a new party leader established and MP Charlie Angus taking over the New Democratic Party house leadership, and Thomas Mulcair retiring, the new leader, Jagmeet Singh, is free to roam the country. He can meet Canadians everywhere and press the flesh at local labour halls. The only question is what the heck he is going to talk about?

The media will soon tire of repeated pictures of Singh with school children looking wide-eyed at his turban and beard though he would be unlikely to show off those little knives (kirpan) an observant Sikh carries. He is hardly a missionary for Sihkism and his objective is to be accepted as a Canadian politician and to sell his party and its policies.

The NDP has an extensive songbook of declared policies collected over the years but Singh’s audiences will soon tire of those old chestnuts. He is also unlikely to get very far in relating any of his experience in the Ontario Legislature. He never did very much in his role as an MPP nor did he do much in his role as deputy leader of the provincial party.

But he can hardly stand in front of audiences of local NDP supporters in his expensive suits and tell them he will lead them to the promised land.

He has a party that mostly buys clothes at Mark’s Work Warehouse. They thought the party reached Nirvana when Jack Layton’s French hit it off with Quebec voters. (Why the party thought Tom Mulcair in his three-piece suits could do the same job for them still remains a puzzle,)

Singh is trying to emulate Justin Trudeau’s time spent on the road before the 2015 election,  even though the Liberal leader was already a sitting Member of Parliament. As the third party in the Commons, the party leader has a hard time getting face time with the media anyway.

Trudeau had a stock of crowd pleasing speeches about the middle class that carried him as he swung back and forth across Canada. If he is honest with himself, Singh will be flying back and forth from Toronto and Vancouver to invest the most productive time building on those market bases. The only problem is that those are also Justin Trudeau’s key markets. It promises to be a very interesting election in 2019.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

It’s like a long race on turf.

Monday, October 16th, 2017

The next Ontario general election is scheduled to be held June 7, 2018. This race will be like a mile and a half on the turf track and requires horses with great endurance and energy. That makes it the time for the old and tired to retire. And that is what is happening with all parties at Queen’s Park.

As the largest party among the incumbents, the Liberals are expected to have the highest turnover.  The noisiest of the changes are among the contested nominations for the Progressive Conservative Party. The quiet changes are among the New Democratic Party which has already lost its deputy leader because he knew this branch of the party is going nowhere.

There is no question that the Queen’s Park Liberals need turnover. After 14 years in power, the party has promises to keep, legacies to earn. Neither Toronto’s Brad Duguid nor Glen Murray will be missed in cabinet or in Ontario politics. Nor do the Liberals need to keep dragging the anchor of Deb Matthews from London. The older Liz Sandals will be missed though for the calming and knowledge she brought to the education portfolio.

The conflict for Premier Wynne is that she needs to hold on to every MPP in her caucus who looks like he or she can hold their riding. There are no guarantees with the shake up in electoral district boundaries. And there is always lots of time after an election for recriminations.

Sure, Wynne should have resigned in the past year and given a new, younger leader a chance. There is no more time for that speculation. Win or lose, Wynne is what the Liberals have to offer. Hopefully there will be a comer among the younger Liberal MPPs.

But like the last election, Wynne’s strengths are experience, position and the lack of effective opposition. Not that the Conservatives are not going to continue to tear at her like a pack of wild dogs. She is no fool and she is street smart. They have no idea of what will bring her down.

If this were a turf contest at Woodbine Racetrack, none of the party leaders would be leading the pack. None of the three are good for the distance. The voters want better and deserve better.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Cole considers claiming the mayor’s chair.

Sunday, October 15th, 2017

The Toronto Star’s columnist on city issues, Edward Keenan, thinks black activist Desmond Cole would bring some excitement to the race for mayor next year. He thinks that the race would be a bit of a snooze without Cole. When you consider that the main contenders so far are incumbent Mayor John Tory and wannabe politician Doug Ford, the race certainly needs something to bring it to life.

Keenan reports that Cole is actively considering the possibility of mounting a campaign. He tells Keenan that he has been approached a lot by people urging him to run. He is also asking his friends what they think and he has yet to make up his mind.

Keenan feels that the city can use the “injection of energy, charisma, honesty and ideas” that he believes Cole could bring to what could otherwise be an underwhelming race.

Keenan referenced a recent poll that brought forward Cole’s name as a possible candidate. Keenan was a bit ambiguous as to whether the poll respondents preferred Cole to Ford. The poll also supplied the logical answer that some 65 per cent of people polled said that John Tory deserved to be re-elected. That figure can change given some strong competition.

As you can imagine, the Maple Leaf’s star hockey player would be an odds-on favourite to win the mayoralty if he would just bring the city a Stanley Cup next spring.

But as any politico can tell you, with a year to go before election day in Toronto, anything can happen. There is no denying that a well-planned, well-funded, dramatic campaign could set the city on fire. It is simply too early to pick your winner.

Keenan was basing his forecast on the questions the poll asked about possible names of candidates that voters would or would not consider supporting. Cole was only rejected by 30 per cent while Doug Ford was rejected by 53 per cent.

Keenan says that Cole complains that we have stopped “dreaming in this city.” He also assumes that Ford and Tory would both concentrate on the right-wing vote while Cole could ignite the dreams of the political left.

This writer’s advice is that Toronto voters best wait until next September to place their bets.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Two NDPers on bicycles.

Saturday, October 14th, 2017

Reading a fatuous op-ed in the Toronto Star the other morning was funnier than the comics. It was signed by two city councillors who are New Democratic party supporters. And it was not just the superficial treatment of the subject and the bad editing that was funny. This was a highly biased opinion piece by downtown Toronto councillors, Joe Cressy and Mike Layton.

What they were writing about was a test on 2.4 kilometres of Bloor Street in Toronto between Avenue Road and Shaw Street. It now has protected lanes for bicycles. It cost half a million to put in the lane dividers and paint the road. They ignored the loss of about a half a million in city revenue foregone from the on-street parking. This entire exercise is being treated as a skirmish between automobiles and bicycles. It has become a contest between the narrow minded and reality.

The people being left out of the statistics here are the tens of thousands of subway riders who have taken their cars off Bloor Street and chosen the “Better Way.” The ones who are left are the those who likely need their cars for their work and the many thousands of necessary delivery and service vehicles that keep the city going.

And before analyzing this study, you really need a breakdown of the monthly use of these bicycle lanes. In a city with five months of lousy cycling every year, why would you give up valuable road space for 12 months? And how do you clear snow at no cost from bicycle lanes?

I think this test lane should have been on Avenue Road between Davenport Road and St. Clair Avenue. The drivers on that road have been used to constant delays and construction for many years anyway. I would want to see what percentage of northbound cyclists are still in the saddle when they reach the top of the Avenue Road hill?

The study claims that more than a thousand new cyclists actually started using the bicycle lanes every day. Yet, it occurs to me that people going one way would be likely to come back on the other side of the street—doubling the figures. This seems to a sizeable expense for less than 2500 cyclists.

They should have counted the vehicles that needed to use the road.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Trump stands steadfast, Justin.

Friday, October 13th, 2017

Prime Minister Trudeau dropped in to the White House to see President Trump the other day. It is likely that two minutes after Trudeau left the Oval Office, Donald Trump had forgotten what they had said. It is not just that the man has a short attention span but he has absolutely no interest in what the Canadian wants. He is stuck in the tangles of his own agenda.

It is like his wall. All he wants to do is build a wall across the southern border of the United States to keep out the Mexicans who, he thinks, want to take the jobs of loyal Americans. And he hardly wants to worry about who is going to pay for the wall at this stage. He wants to build the wall and figure out how to get the Mexicans to pay for it later.

Or take Obamacare. The poor guy cannot even negotiate a deal to get rid of Obamacare. He just cannot understand why these elected politicos in Congress are so reluctant to deprive millions of Americans of their only chance for medical programs?

And, not being a politician, Trump has no understanding of how to weasel out of political promises you cannot keep. Justin Trudeau could tell him how—he is getting some practice at that himself lately.

Trump said on the platform throughout that awful campaign of 2016 that he was going to end the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The people who were supporting Trump were too ignorant to know that the trade deal benefitted America, lowered prices and created jobs. They saw it as a threat to jobs for Americans and moving them off-shore. So, Trump promised to Kill NAFTA for them and they roared their approval.

But Trump has no clear way to end NAFTA, Under the terms of the agreement, there is a six months clause to a cancellation but American law does not make it clear how this can be done. NAFTA was approved by Congress more than 25 years ago and Congress is not about to let Donald Trump usurp their authority. Whether Congress controls the agreement or the American President can unilaterally cancel it could end up being decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Justin Trudeau’s father once made some remarks in Washington about Canada-U.S. relations being similar to sleeping with an elephant. Donald Trump has turned out to be a nightmare.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Does the religious model serve the new politics?

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

Is it religion that we see reflected in the new politics. Maybe it has been there all along. Canadian politics has been slower to wrap itself in vestments but in American politics, religion plays a constant and visceral part in what is happening.

Americans speak of their country as “one nation, under God” and God help them. Even under the hands of Donald Trump, it was the God-forsaken and the holy rollers who combined to usher him into power. Trump mixed the bikers with the Tea Party Republicans, the dispossessed coal miners and frustrated farmers—it was a political coalition conceived in Hell—and they all come to Trump’s revival tents. And that hypocrite continues to revel in the adoration of his multitude.

But who expected political salvation in Canada? For the past year or so, I have been trying to fathom why Justin Trudeau has been so intent on destroying the established Liberal Party of Canada? He took away the tenets of membership, collapsed the policy mechanisms that his father learned to respect and abused the party as just a source of funds. He has left the Liberal party with no mechanisms for change or restructuring. It has become nothing more than your friendly local neighbourhood church where you can go to feel good on Sunday—but do not forget to tithe.

The Conservatives always were the self-satisfied Anglican burghers who worshipped the almighty buck. They are currently awash in mediocrity in the House of Commons while interim pastor ‘Chuckles’ Scheer holds prayer meetings. The real conservative action is in the provinces. The two major efforts are provincial as the Yin and Yang of bachelor leaders Kenney and Brown smell blood in their anti-feminist fights for power in Alberta and Ontario.

Not to be outdone, Canada’s federal New Democrats have been handed a religious symbol of sorts to lead them to the promised land of the Regina Manifesto. Whether a turbaned Sikh can serve that role is hard to say. The party’s problems run much deeper than leadership. Without coming up with a new role for the party, it is not ready be led anywhere.

But I would like to include some of the thinking of other progressive Liberals in this strange mix of religion and politics. Send me an e-mail with your thoughts and whether you want to be identified with them. I am more than willing to share the blame.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Singing Singh’s song.

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

On Thanksgiving, the Toronto Star devoted several thousand well chosen words to welcoming Jagmeet Singh as leader of the federal New Democratic Party. It was generous, surprisingly inaccurate, hopeful and gracious article. Jagmeet Singh could never be such a wonderful Sir Galahad.

Much was made of the firsts Singh’s success represents. As the first turbaned Sikh to lead a major political party, the point is made. To say that Sikhs have come a long way in Canada is to put it mildly. Though we should note that Canada has a long record of racial discrimination and while it embarrasses us today, we cannot hide from history.

The writers point to the 1914 Komagata Maru incident in Burrard Harbour as a major demonstration of the racism involved when the government stopped Sikhs and others from British India from landing in Canada. The fact that 25 years later the Canadian government told the desperate Jewish travellers on the S.S. St. Louis to return to Germany and death under the Nazis shows that we do not end racism all that quickly.

It would be silly to quibble over statistics used by the writers but after a thorough search of on-line information from Statistics Canada, we still cannot figure out where they got the figure of 750,000 Sikhs in Canada. At most there could be about 475,000 from the surges of heavier immigration brought on by the extreme tribal violence in India after the 1984 assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards.

But the two writers are obviously not Sikh. Haroon Siddiqi is Muslim and well known as a Toronto Star writer. Alok Mukherjee is a former chair of the Toronto Police Services Board.

The point that they seem to have missed in this entire exercise was that Jagmeet Singh was not the choice of the New Democratic Party. He swamped the membership of the NDP with more than 45,000 sign-ups, mostly from the Sikh communities across Canada. This is not the act of a person who respects democracy. This is the act of a man with his own agenda.

Why Singh would go the same route as that despicable Patrick Brown who swamped the membership of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives with sign-ups from the Indian Sub-Continent, makes little sense? Singh knows that his turban and beard will be a barrier to easy acceptance. He has a tough road ahead of him.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Brown: No more Mr. Nice Guy.

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017

Ontario Conservative Leader Patrick Brown does not have a problem. He is the problem. His handlers are not sure how to present him to provincial voters. They are concerned that the more people they introduce him to, the fewer people like him. It is not supposed to work that way.

At first, they thought they could show him in a sympathetic light because of a speech problem as a child. They found that now people can listen to him, they are not interested. They showed him as a marathon runner just like Premier Kathleen Wynne. More people edged away from him.

It is not as if the poor schmuck is not trying. When people wanted him to be a Right to Life supporter, he was there. When they wanted him to support abortion, he was there for that. Whatever you want him to be, he is there for you. All he wants is your vote.

Those of us who have watched Patrick Brown here in Barrie since he was young have found him to be very flexible. We have never heard an original idea from him nor a reasonable reason to vote for him.

But now Brown is under the direction of his friend Walied Soliman, Chair of Norton Rose Fulbright Canada Ltd. Soliman is the guy who looks after the problems for the international law firm. You can think of him as the guy who might have helped throw the Ontario Medical Association into a tizzy over the past year. Somebody must have shown the greedy specialists how to oust the more reasonable old guard.

But Patrick Brown could be Soliman’s biggest challenge. There is a large province to be won here. Since Patrick Brown stole the leadership of the Progressive Conservatives two years ago, he has been marking time. The Liberals have been ragging Brown unmercilessly as Opposition Leader but since he has no policy positions, he simply takes a position that he sees to his advantage. It might keep the media people in the legislature amused but it promises us a very nasty election next year.

The most recent attack ads on the Wynne Liberals are straight out of the Donald Trump songbook. It forecasts a disgusting campaign to come. When you launch an attack this early that says the Wynne Liberals are “corrupt” and “untrustworthy,” the road can only be downhill from there.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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