Archive for the ‘New’ Category

On being bullish on Brown.

Saturday, April 29th, 2017

There is lots of laughter at the current argument among Ontario Conservatives about whether their leader Patrick Brown has policies. Some Conservatives think it would be nice if they knew where their party is headed. Others think policies should be kept secret so that the opposition does not belittle them.

They would if they could but Patrick Brown would not know a good policy talking point if it bit him on the bum. In more than 13 years in politics, this guy has never had a hint of an idea. Watching him over the years, you get the impression that the last person he talked to had the best ideas.

It was amazing in the last provincial election at a meeting at the Barrie Country Club in Brown’s riding, to see him strongly applaud a speech by then leader Tim Hudak. He jumped up after the speech to be the first to congratulate the then provincial leader for his brilliant new policy. It was the promise by Hudak to fire 100,000 Ontario civil servants. It was also the promise that cost Hudak the election and the leadership.

It reminds us of Michael Harris’ style when he was Premier of Ontario. The province endured a litany of bad policy and ill thought-out ideas under Harris. He was like an earlier less-urbane version of President Donald Trump in the United States—incompetent, erratic and dangerous. Harris might have been a golf professional but we always had the impression he might have done his best work on the 19th hole.

Patrick Brown trained as a lawyer. He even managed to pass the bar in Ontario. He is not the type of lawyer you would want representing you in court. He is a backroom schemer. He made his mark in political organization. He is no leader. It is unlikely that he even likes people.

It was amusing recently to read that Deb Hutton has defended Brown’s lack of policies. As former chief of staff for Premier Harris and the wife of former Conservative leader Tim Hudak, she must know a lot about ignoring common sense. She thinks Brown should also ignore policy.

And come to think of it, he has survived this long with never having an idea. If Kathleen Wynne and her Liberals keep screwing up, maybe he will not need any policies.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Kevin O’Leary was never in.

Friday, April 28th, 2017

When TV personality Kevin O’Leary declared himself out of the federal Conservative leadership race the other day, it was a race he had never really been in. He came late to the party and left early. He brought nothing to it, he learned nothing from it and he left nothing behind. It was a was a waste of time and money.

O’Leary was another ill wind in the Conservative campaign. He left behind a bad taste and a kiss-off for candidate Maxime Bernier. He ignored all the party rules governing the race and gave Canadian politics the finger (Known as flipping the bird in his home-town Boston.) His support for libertarian, playboy Maxime Bernier was the ultimate insult.

If O’Leary was impressed with Bernier speaking French, it would be because O’Leary had no idea what was being said. What his advisers should have told him was that as definitely as he was making no traction in Quebec, neither was Bernier. If Bernier cannot win Quebec, what makes O’Leary think his endorsement will help?

And, by the way, O’Leary’s name is still on the ballot. That was just another rule he broke. Nobody is allowed to bow out at this time when voting is technically already in progress. Now he can be doubly embarrassed when the votes are counted. Did he really turn in 35,000 new members of the party? Did the people doing that for him spread that waste of money equally across 338 electoral districts?

Anyway, 35,000 memberships are not going to have much impact on the 250,000 federal Conservative membership. It is not like the provincial party in Ontario that was bought and paid for by Patrick Brown’s supporters. And if you do not think the Ontario Progressive Conservative caucus of MPPs in Ontario do not already hate Brown, wait for the 2018 elections.

If Bernier thinks O’Leary supporters would vote for a candidate such as him, he is more delusional about Canadian politics than the guy he called a “loser” and a “bad candidate” just a month or so ago.

Some of O’Leary’s votes might go to MP Erin O’Toole from Ontario, but they would have to be thinking Conservatives as opposed to the usual thoughtless ballot marking sign-up. And the funny part of this is that those new sign-ups are unlikely to be told how to mark their second, third, etc. votes.

The computer program being used to pick the winner in this confused contest is beginning to look even more questionable when you consider how many people voting who might not even mark a second or subsequent choice.

Maybe Kevin O’Leary will come back when the party announces the winner. He can be loser number 13 in the kick-line.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Donald Trump has a plan?

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

Heard any good conspiracy theories today? It is amazing how many pundits are writing about Trump’s real plans for world-wide dictatorship. They see Trump’s actions in the White House as part of a scheme. They think it is designed to keep outsiders confused.

But it should be obvious to everybody that Trump is the one who is confused. He is erratic, unprepared, unaware and badly advised. And if you can figure the conspiracy in that, good luck!

Just look at those decrees that he so grandiosely pens in the Oval Office. They are a sham. They are window dressing for his supporters to show that he is working for them. He could save time by sending the presidential decrees to the courts for vetting. Most make no sense. The ones that the departments try to implement such as the restrictions on Muslims coming to America are basically racist and cause nothing but problems.

And the promises he made to squash Obamacare were blocked in Congress by his own Republican Tea Party supporters. How he expects to get his budget passed might be the most serious problem he will ever face. He would need a new book on the art of the deal for that.

Judging from what we have seen so far, Trump’s idea of getting things done is to be the bully who shouts the loudest.

His version of foreign affairs is to trade insults with the crazies of North Korea and hold hands with the British Prime Minister. Now the poor lady is facing an election and that interaction with Trump could cost her job.

Justin Trudeau of Canada also had a friendly meeting with Trump and Canada has been dumped on ever since. Trump thinks it is Canada’s fault that the steroid-fed cows of Wisconsin are producing too much milk. Or maybe he thinks supply management is something his wife does when she is mad at him. Anyway, he does not like it and he talks about screwing around with or just dumping the North American Free Trade Agreement to get even.

At least the courts will settle his recent tax on soft wood lumber from Canada. That has become routine. The Americans impose a tax on Canadian lumber. It goes to dispute resolution and gets thrown out. They can hardly expect it to be fourth time lucky. In the meantime, the price of new homes in the U.S. has gone up. And the Canadian lumber barons are missing the peak buying season for home building in the U.S.

Does Trump really think he is the only person who can negotiate better deals. What he does not seem to realize is that the first thing to establish when negotiating between countries is good faith. That might be a novelty for him.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Buck Booking’s Blues.

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

Some wonder how the time of the British Royals to visit the colonies is allocated across the British Commonwealth of Nations and other friendly countries. What if this was all funneled through a call centre at Buckingham Palace in London, England? Imagine a recently recorded call at the North American desk:

“Buck Booking, Harry speaking. This call is being recorded for quality assurance and legal purposes.”

“Hi Harry, this is Eloise at the Prime Minister’s Office in Ottawa. We need to book some royals for the July 1, Canada Day celebrations in front of our parliament buildings.”

“Oh, yes madam, Please excuse the way I answered your call. Most of our calls on the North American desk are from Americans wanting a royal to grace a dinner party or play some polo. They feel honoured for us to be breezy with them.”

“That is no problem Harry. Yet, your voice sounds familiar. What is your last name?”

“It’s Windsor, madam. And to save time I will have to admit that my grandmother insisted I do this job along with my regular duties as a penance. There was this lovely, young American tourist who wanted to make love at Buckingham Palace. I accommodated her on a balcony. If she had not been a screamer, it would not have mattered that it was the balcony off my granny’s bedroom. Mind you, it was worth it to see the expressions on the guards in the courtyard when they figured out where the screaming was coming from.

“But back to business, madam. That was July 1, you said? What year?”

“Well, this year of course. Canada will be celebrating 150 years of being a nation. Most of the bands, singers, entertainers and fireworks were booked by the previous government but they seem to have forgotten to book a royal for the occasion.”

“Au contraire madam. There is a note in the file here that that they booked my dear papa for the occasion. The Prince of Wales and his lovely wife Camilla are flying to Ottawa on May 29. And please do not forget that under the post-BREXIT rules, The Canadian government will be charged 20,000 pounds sterling per day plus expenses for their visit.

“But we want William and Kate.”

“You can’t afford them madam.”

Buck Booking hung up.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The myth of being Liberal.

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

One of our respected progressive bloggers from British Columbia wrote recently something less than a paean (song of praise) about the Liberals in that province. His thesis is that B.C. Liberals are just Conservatives in sheep’s clothing and now the federal sheep have joined them. He insists that the Liberal ideal has vanished from Canada.

His is the logical conclusion. Canada’s three largest provincial governments have governments that are Liberal in name only. The Quebec Liberals are the successors to the right-wing Union Nationale and are interchangeable with the federal Conservatives. Ontario’s Liberals might pose as left wing but are hard-nosed and conservative when it comes to economics. They operate under the direction of Bay Street. The B.C. Liberals are in turn bought and paid for by business interests who see the beauty and majesty of the province only in terms of exploitation.

And each of those provincial governments are crumbling. British Columbia goes to vote soon with signs of switching governing parties. It will, hopefully, be to one that does not exploit the land for business interests and does not constantly leave itself open to possible charges of corruption.

Ontario will be next in the spring of 2018. The problem there is the leadership. Premier Wynne has lost support from voters and from within her party. The premier of Quebec probably thinks he is lucky to have no real opposition at this time but it will come.

The problem with the federal Liberal Party of Canada is that it no longer exists as a viable political party. There is a façade registered as a political party by that name but it has no paid-up membership. Instead it has a list of people across Canada that it can constantly pester for financial support. There is no real hands-on relationship between this list and any rights of party membership. Instead of policy, it uses a cult of personality in the person of the leader. The list has no rights or reasons to meet. Local liberals are denied the selection of their candidate for parliament. They have no real say on party policy. There is no future for federal liberals in Canada.

But the need for liberalism continues. Liberals have to be progressives, they have to support the rights of the individual in society as well as the need for dignity and freedom. Liberals seek cultural, economic and personal growth for all in a non-judgemental society. Life on this beautiful planet is a wonderful gift. We should leave it a better place for our having been here.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Something borrowed, something blue.

Monday, April 24th, 2017

Watching the news conference events last week at Toronto’s Liberty Village, you could not help but note what a modern setting it would be for a wedding. This must have been just a rehearsal though as Premier Kathleen Wynne and Finance Minister Charles Sousa delivered their promises. They even had something borrowed to tell us and they both looked blue.

The premier and her treasurer were there to attempt to cool the rapidly rising prices in the real estate market in the Toronto area. They had a potpourri of solutions ranging from one borrowed from Vancouver and rent controls for income properties. What they did not have was realistic solutions for the Toronto area.

It hardly seemed to matter that the situation in Vancouver was quite different. With as many as 60,000 high-priced properties sitting vacant in the west coast city, these properties had become targets for vandalism and salvage. When a 15 per cent foreign-buyer tax was imposed by the province and the city increased real estate taxes for vacant homes, foreign buyers switched their interest to the Seattle market. And Vancouver is not sure how much home prices will go down, if at all.

The difference is that in Toronto foreign investors might be just under five per cent of the market and are hardly a major problem. The tax will unlikely earn much for the province. Nor would an additional city vacancy tax earn much for Toronto.

In all their plans, these politicians had no comment on the real estate flipping that is a constant headache in the Toronto market. Maybe there are fewer at current prices but the people who can buy cheap, put some lipstick on the property and then sell for a healthy profit are still a major cause of prices going up 33 per cent year over year.

While it would be difficult (and boring) to cover all 16 points of the Ontario government’s proposed program (that have yet to be passed in the Legislature). The only other important change will be the extended rental controls. These have now been extended to all rental properties in the area around Toronto.

These changes will limit landlords to a 2.5 per cent increase in rentals (which can be routinely applied every year). Owners will also be able to pass on the costs of major property improvements.

To allay the usual complaints that rent controls are a disincentive to developers, the province will be passing a number of tax incentives for developers and funding a $125 million worth of incentive payments. How long that will last, we do not know.

What probably makes the politicians blue is that they have caused havoc and confusion to the spring sales for about 45,000 real estate agents during their busiest season. They should have more political smarts.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Is Justin the adult in the school yard?

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

Has Prime Minister Trudeau been getting advice from psychologists on how to handle a bully? It is certainly to his credit that he is keeping his cool. Donald Trump continues to lob his ignorant taunts over the longest undefended border in the world and Canada’s prime minister just says, “We can discuss that.”

As angry as that loudmouth boor Trump makes most Canadians, it is important that our prime minister stay above the fray. As he says, Canadians will be pleased to discuss the problems with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). And to help, we have our own list of problems with the agreement ready for the negotiations.

When dealing with any irrational bully, you have find out what is behind the screaming and yelling. For you to scream and yell back at the irrational juvenile will do you no good.

For example, we really need to find out where this recent mention of the energy market came from. Many Canadians took exception to the American demand for full access to our energy reserves in NAFTA. They thought that was being too generous. And with what we now know about the pollution problems with tar sands oil production, there is growing pressure to leave it in the ground.

What is common knowledge on both sides of the border is that the Canadian milk producers have nothing to do with the disastrous over-production of milk in Wisconsin. When you consider that there are more steroid-fed cows in Wisconsin than there are cows in Canada, nobody but Trump would think to blame Canada. Wisconsin voted for Trump and helped put him in the White House. Now that he is there, he needs to play nice with the other world leaders—whether he likes them or not.

The one thing that we have understood from Trump’s tiresome tirades is the concern for soft-wood lumber on the west coast. That NAFTA argument has been in and out of the courts a number of times. How renegotiation would solve it is anyone’s guess. All we do know about this complaint is that the lumber kings of Oregon and Washington are going to be able to charge a lot more for their products when they do not have to compete with the lumber kings north of the border. Only the American home buyer will get screwed.

We do not always agree with Justin Trudeau but it is nice to see him handle this problem with Trump in an adult manner. He gets his handiwork stuck on the refrigerator for this one!

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

In the politics of vitriol.

Saturday, April 22nd, 2017

The emerging right-wing politics of Europe is spreading like a disease. First we had the self destructive BREXIT from the United Kingdom and now the threatening right in key countries such as France and Germany and even a smaller and usually cooperative Netherlands. Europe still has a way to go though to match the craziness of the current American experience.

And it is crazy. The strongest country in the world has self-destructively put an incompetent in command. And you would think that President Trump’s staunchest enemies would be from the left. They are not. The major block facing off with Trump are a few dozen Tea-Party Republicans in the House of Representatives. They call themselves the House Freedom Caucus.

These men are straight from the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. They actually stopped the cancellation of Obamacare because they did not think the bill was destructive enough. They are challenging Donald Trump’s ownership of America’s right wing crazies.

The real concern though is that as Commander in Chief, Trump has found that he can play with live soldiers and real weapons. If Congress will not let him build his wall on the Rio Grande, he can still trade insults with a lunatic despot on the other side of the Pacific who wants a war. They each brag about the size of their rockets.

You would think that Trump would be smart to play nice with his neighbours when he is new to his job. Instead he insults the Mexicans and patronizes the Canadians. If he thinks he can divide and conquer, he is definitely going about it the wrong way.

In the meantime, Russia’s Vladimir Putin has watched Trump play directly into his game. Putin must be giggling in his sleep and planning his next walk-in take-over.

The travails of the complex Middle East are obviously far above the level of understanding of Trump. A key ally there, Turkey, is falling under the rule of a dictator, the Israelis remain hard-nosed and intransigent, Russia keeps the pot boiling in Syria, the hard-line politicians of Iran are trying to challenge the theocratic rule of the Ayatollahs, Pakistan, when not arguing with India, gives safe haven to Afghan insurgents and the Saudi’s are stirring the pot in Yemen. It is no tourist paradise.

And judging by the Conservatives contesting the current Conservative Party of Canada leadership, some of that hard-right thinking is starting to drift into Canada. It will be interesting when we get a chance to analyse the voting by the new and old members of that party.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

You can call it a ‘Wynne Win.’

Friday, April 21st, 2017

Ontario’s political pundits are all running with scissors these days forecasting the resignation of Premier Kathleen Wynne. Quite properly, she is scoffing at these rumours and promising to carry on. It could be the death knell of the Liberal’s dynasty of the last 14 years.

But is it? In a few days, we will be hearing the final plea of repentance from Charles Sousa in his guise as finance minister. He will balance the budget to please the people who worry about debt. He will offer the goodies for the people whose votes can be bought with their own money. He will bring more sunshine to our spring. He will then have a year to show that his promises are real.

But, is that a winning formula? Do deathbed repentances work? Can you really recover from arrogance? Does it really justify slavishly following the apolitical advice of a retired banker? He told the premier to sell off the hydro distribution system in Ontario. She did and angered voters across the province. He told her to add beer and wine to grocery stores and do it piecemeal to piss off the voters who both wanted it and those who did not.

Nobody denies that Wynne is a poor leader. Her cabinet makes little traction with the voters and the backbenchers are a mix of those who need experience and those who need retirement. (Those speaking up must be those intending to retire anyway.)

Wynne got her job through manipulation and political theatre. She took pride in being the first lesbian premier of Ontario and then found nobody cared. Her cabinet are mostly self-serving retreads who have little to offer. Wynne thinks of herself as some kind of progressive but she has never done anything that was neither reactionary nor manipulative. She seems to think you can replace leadership with panels and studies.

Wynne’s obvious plan for the election next year is to show up her opponents as feckless and incompetent. They are but that does not excuse her shortcomings.

The anomaly in all of this is the Ontario economy that is improving every day. It is hardly to the credit of the Ontario government that Ontario is picking up the slack for the foolish tar sands economy of Alberta.

But it might account for a write-off of the New Democratic Party’s chances next year. And by next year, Ontario voters will have learned that Conservative Leader Brown is a useless putz. It seems to be unfair to offer them three such useless leaders but it says a lot about the state of politics in Ontario today.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Trump’s ‘Milk of Human Kindness.’

Thursday, April 20th, 2017

“Once again unto the breach” (sorry Mr. Shakespeare) President Trump jumps into a situation of which he has absolutely no understanding. He is making a habit of it and this time he is trying to skewer the Canadians. He has pitted the free market, unfettered Wisconsin dairy farmers against what Trump calls the ‘unfair’ position of Canada’s farm marketing boards.

That must be what you get when you do something decent for people. The milk marketing board in Ontario is probably always under fire for its trying to balance the cost of production with the price at the farm gate for milk. What it is trying to do is to keep farmers producing while keeping the price to consumers at a reasonable level.

Americans should not knock it until they try it. Under the Canadian boards, a company that unilaterally cut off 75 farmers because it wanted to switch to lower world milk prices would be out of the milk-related business. A Canadian board would not allow that kind of disruption in the market.

But President Trump is telling the farmers in Wisconsin that we are just unfair. Tell that to the soft-wood lumber people in British Columbia. He really does not understand that you cannot have free trade agreements with other countries and then demand that federal and state governments buy American to the exclusion of your free trade partners.

What Trump does not understand is that the highly integrated North American market demands open borders to speed commerce back and forth. Canada exports far more raw materials to the United States for processing than the U.S. sends to Canada. We are probably America’s most reliable supplier. We are also the best customer that America has ever had.

Cooler heads in Washington had better start thinking seriously about where Trump is taking them. If he really starts building walls between countries that are his neighbours, he is liable to start something he cannot control. His approach to these concerns could throw North America into an economic tailspin that could ultimately create a world-wide recession. Will anyone want to ‘buy America’ then?

Donald Trump should start getting his information straight or shut up.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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