Archive for the ‘New’ Category

In John Tory’s Toronto…

Wednesday, October 10th, 2018

It was fascinating to read the Toronto Star municipal reporter’s opinion on the current mayoralty race in Toronto. It was as though he wanted to go backwards to gain ground forward. He damned Tory for stepping down into the mayor’s role and not growing in the job. What the reporter does not appreciate is that the man is probably the last patrician to take the job. And if he cannot see that John Tory has the patience of Job, he must be in the wrong line of work.

And, frankly, candidate for mayor Keesmaat is a joke. And a sad one at that! We should all worry about this trend of city employees thinking they can casually move into elected positions. This one does not even think she should start at the bottom. Jennifer Keesmaat contributed little as a city planner, she can contribute even less in the mayor’s position.

John Tory brought grace and dignity to the role of mayor. What was remarkable about his last four years was his sensitivity to his city and its needs. That was, in itself, a remarkable job. I do not remember how many times watching some breaking news on television seeing Mayor Tory arriving to bring what help the city could provide to people caught up in the claustrophobia of big city events.

How quickly does premier Ford show up? When did he ever show up at that horror on Yonge Street south from Finch?

The reason John Tory beat Doug Ford and Olivia Chow for mayor four-years ago was because the city needed a civilized mayor such as Tory to bring some order. He cared about the city, not self importance.

And for the Toronto Star reporter to complain about Tory not ranting and roaring at the Queen’s Park Tories brings into question the reporter’s understanding of how things work. The province has full control of the cities in this province and they are never going to let us forget it. The mayor’s strength and effectiveness are built on his or her ability to cajole and convince. Other than that, the mayor is just one more vote on council.

If I was still living in the City of Toronto, I would vote for John Tory one more time. I would certainly not vote for a know-it-all reporter or a know-it-all former city employee such as Jennifer Keesmaat.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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“Never trust anyone over 30.”

Tuesday, October 9th, 2018

Hearing from readers in attendance at the recent Ontario liberal gathering, most were impressed by the numbers of younger attendees. Those are the ones to rebuild and revitalize the party. What they hardly need is us greybeards. We have had our day at the helm. Use us for cannon fodder or what you wish but what this new party needs is youth, energy, enthusiasm and ideas.

And do not worry about a name and descriptors until you have come to common agreement on the political direction. And the last thing you need to worry about is leadership. If you define a party by its leader, you know that your party stands or falls on that human’s strengths and weaknesses. Think of the strong leaders of the past and the parties that sought to do their bidding. Think of what lives longer: an idea or a person?

While the American right wing can make ‘liberal’ a curse word, it has always been an honourable word in Canada. The liberal party of Canada has been tall with the likes of Wilfrid Laurier, MacKenzie King and Pierre Trudeau. Each brought strength and honour and progress to Canada.

Consider first the new party’s objectives. And what type of political future do Canadians want? Do they want the opportunities offered by progressive government? Do they want the concern for individual rights and freedoms that true liberals want? Do they care about green space, protecting our farmlands and the environment? Do they want vibrant, active cities with training and job opportunities for all? Do they want freedom for the arts, expanded challenges for our academics, and an open society to entertainers? Do they want us to keep our word to our aboriginal Canadians?

Many will say that all of these concerns need leadership. If we make them common cause, we are all providing the leadership. A party leader is a pilot who brings you into harbour, a priest or priestess who serves the temple, an industrious sales manager, a chief executive officer and chair who heads the board, a spokes person. The party must define the leader. The leader does not define the party.

“Never trust anyone over 30!” was a slogan attributed to the free-speech movement at American universities in the 1960s. Maybe we need to revive it today to get us out of the same failures of politics in the 21st century.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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In praise of political palaver.

Monday, October 8th, 2018

Blessed with a large family and very interesting siblings and life experience, whenever we get together, we have never been reluctant to have lively discourse about religion or politics. The very range of political leanings in the family is in itself an important part of the dialogues. With many of us in Canada and a large coterie south in the States, there is much to consider. It has the political discussions at family gatherings drawing out the young and old alike.

And if people do not show for the annual gathering, they know they will be talked about. And we freely discuss the religions and politics of all. There are Catholics, Anglicans, Presbyterians, born-agains, agnostics and atheists with whom to argue. They include the left and right of politics and even some Trump supporters from the U.S. with all their religious hang-ups.

While the discussions are often enthusiastic, pro or con, there is never an attempt to convert anybody. What would be the point? Though we did see a lessening of enthusiasm for Donald Trump this year, it seemed that criticism of Ontario’s Doug Ford also drew some strained laughter.

What I particularly look for in these family discussions are any divides between the age groups. With more than an 80-year spread of the four generations at these events, it is important to understand the differing perspectives on life, love, morality and what they want for dinner. (I have trouble understanding vegans—which I think is a factor of age.)

There is a considerable depth of computer expertise present at these gatherings and I wish I could remember half the advice I get on how to fix my various computer problems.

While there are lots of opportunities for water sports on the lake, tennis, all-terrain-vehicle paths and rainy weather games indoors, what these gatherings spend most time on is just talking. There is an eagerness to share. There is open communication. We are all interested in the strengths and achievements of the younger generations. Seeming disorganization can produce a pot-luck feast for 40 to 50 people. They let us seniors be first to save us being trampled by those younger generations.

I am writing this on Canadian Thanksgiving. Our family get-together was over a month ago. Enjoy your family get-togethers now and on American Thanksgiving later. They are an important part of our connection with this world. And life is too short for anything but openness, kindness and love.

Happy Thanksgiving! Nothing shows thanks better than sharing.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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The sinking ship Singh.

Sunday, October 7th, 2018

Taking a positive stance when your chief of staff quits, can be delaying the inevitable. It happened to federal new democrat leader Jagmeet Singh the other day and all he could do was gain a little time. The truth was that the federal NDP needed to keep his chief-of-staff and dump Singh.

But Singh must first understand the difficulty of his position.

Canada has been welcoming to Sikh immigrants since the 1800s. As Canadians, Sikhs have joined professions, academia and created new businesses. They are industrious and care about how we govern ourselves. They know that ‘raghead’ is not a sobriquet but they hear little of that ignorant racism in a society of so many newcomers.

But it does tend to encourage clustering. Living near others who attend the same temple is a reassurance in a land far from that of your childhood. There is a defiance to be seen among the observant of the second and third generations of Canadian Sikhs. Nobody cares very much if the observant and their 5-Ks want to stand out in our secular society. It is their choice and nobody need criticize.

But—and there is always a ‘but’—there are barriers that it can create. Jagmeet Singh has the same opportunity for election as prime minister as a Muslim woman in a burqa or a Hasidic with his dreadlocks. You can hardly expect the bulk of society to understand the why of these differences. They are seen as barriers to wide acceptance.

And that was what Jagmeet Singh did not understand when he encouraged the Sikh communities in Canada to swamp the membership of the NDP and win him the party leadership. What he did not understand was that he could easily count on his fellow Sikh Canadians to support him but it was his acceptance by Canadians of all backgrounds that was the critical test.

There is much to admire in the character of the man who has worked tirelessly over the past year to lead his party forward. The problem is that he has not been in the commons where he could be seen as a leader. Donations to the party have fallen off in a time when reserves are needed.

Fleeing to British Columbia to find a possibly safe seat for a by-election could be the final mistake.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Can Ontario liberals renew their party?

Saturday, October 6th, 2018

You can hardly package a new political party along with decaying fish and hope to win plaudits. And that was what it must have felt like last weekend when the Ontario liberals gathered to lick their wounds and look hopefully into the future. The first task was to understand what went wrong. The second was to find out what type of party was needed in the future.

There are as many viewpoints about what went wrong as there are electoral districts in Ontario. The basic problem though is that a party run from the top down cannot survive. The arrogance of the coterie centered around the leader of the party becomes a weight that the party cannot overcome. The arrogance, privilege and entitlement of the party elite vanquishes the ambitions of people seeking to serve in the lower echelons of the party.

And there is no rule that says there has to be an Ontario liberal party. There is a life cycle in politics as there is in human existence on this fragile world. Neither can survive the constant abuse of those benefitting from its largess.

What was hardest for voters to understand this year was the kind of politics liberals were offering. They were constantly confused by the arrogance, corruption and the meager dispersal of the largess of civilized society. Nothing came from them as a whole. The programs were all piecemeal and with confused labelling of right or left.

The liberals led up to the June election constantly throwing goodies at the wall and hoping something would stick. They found the rot had gone too far. Against an opponent that held them aghast, they collapsed.

Now the question is do they resurrect the liberal ethic in the same-old suit or do they build a new party for modern voters.

The basic problem with the ‘same-old’ suit is there is confusion on whether it is of the left or the right or basically a moving target?

But if you weigh the needs of Ontario, you will agree that there is a strong need for a left of centre liberalism. In a liberal society, we need a party that can build on and assure citizens of the open, classless, society of opportunity that it deserves.

At a time when the new democrats are failing, we need to offer a home to the left of politics. Whether we do that as a Liberal Democratic Party or as social democrats, is incidental. What we must be is progressive, environmentally conscious and caring. This is what Ontario, and Canada deserve.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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How do you like Premier Ford so far?

Friday, October 5th, 2018

When you throw a question such as that into the general chatter today, you can really stop people cold. Recently, I threw the question to a group of fellow poker players in Toronto with whom I have been playing for more than a quarter century. Back at our game in May, the group, whom you would think would be liberal voters, was split and four of the six at that game intended to vote conservative.

They evidenced a combination of anger, disappointment and frustration with the liberal government of the time. There was also some unstated homophobia directed at premier Wynne. This was a group adept at reading each other’s ‘tells.’

The worst happened to Ontario in June. We soon learned the hard way some of the unstated intentions of premier Doug Ford. Almost immediately, Ontario learned of his bitterness towards Toronto council. His own caucus at Queen’s Park were as surprised as the rest of us when he deliberately interfered with a municipal election already in process. It was assuaged for the conservative caucus by extra pay for an unusual summer sitting of the Ontario legislature.

His attention wandered from the spurious to the serious throughout our surprise summer. All attention was on Queen’s Park. If a spiteful Doug Ford could not have his way, he would attack our rights and freedoms.

Ford cruelly smashed the hopes of the lottery winners in the liberal government’s scattered test of minimum wage. His counterpoint was a foolish promise for a dollar a beer. His so-called reduction in the price of gasoline disappeared in the vagaries of American gasoline pricing. All Ontario knew was that the oil company cartels were paying their executives well.

We all learned that Ford was just an ignorant climate-change denier. He cancelled cap and trade measures to control pollution that had started working for us and joined the forces of the extreme right to try to block the federal government’s proposed carbon taxes.

How can anyone pretend to respect a liar and a poser and a cruel bastard who can so casually deny workers their rights to a living wage, to job protection when sick and to paid vacation? What Wynne’s liberals finally did for workers so greatly in need of help, Ford will so casually take away.

My question to my friends was serious. How could any decent person approve of Doug Ford’s actions as premier?


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Legault’s likely legacy?

Thursday, October 4th, 2018

Back in August, Babel-on-the-Bay ran a column discussing the anger of the electors that can result in poor choices in politicians. At the time, only Donald Trump was discussed but it was assumed readers could see how the disease is spreading. A few readers questioned me at the time as to whether we could keep these poor choices under better control with proportional voting.

Under proportional voting, Donald Trump would not be president of the United States. He would have come up short by around three million votes.  Nor would Douglas Ford be premier of Ontario, or would François Legault of the CAQ likely be sworn in as the new premier of Quebec. Both won by about 40 per cent of the total vote and, under proportional voting, would only be entitled to about 40 per cent of the seats in their respective legislatures.

The usual procedure in these minority positions is for the party with the most seats to make a deal with one or more of the smaller parties to give them a majority position and a chance to rule. What you are also doing is giving these small parties an inordinate amount of power to influence legislation.

And that influence is just one of the problems with proportional representation. The facts are that proportional representation encourages fringe parties. Why, for example, do you think Israel, a state that is otherwise secular, is shut down every Sabbath? It is the religious fringe parties that make a repressive Sabbath a standing condition of support.

Another major problem with proportional voting is how hard it is to get anything done in a country where no party can ever win a majority. If you thought Ottawa was slow with all its safe-guards and elitist senate, check out some of the Scandinavian countries with their many political parties.

Mind you promising the voters a proportional form of voting is just one of the mistakes Legault has made. What he needs to realize is that under proportional voting, he would have a hard time forming a government.

And like many autocratic, right-wing politicians, he also thinks he can casually override the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He wants to kick immigrants out of the province if their French skills do not come up to snuff. He needs to understand that abusing human rights is something you do at your peril—even in Quebec!


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Trump’s deniers call for the ‘End of Times.’

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018

And here we thought the Christian Bible was there to forecast the End of Times. The Donald Trump administration in Washington has taken over in the forecasting business. They appear to believe that the End of Times is set for the year 2100. They are so convinced of this date that they are foregoing any further efforts at protecting our environment or efforts at reducing carbon emissions. The advice they give to Americans is ‘live it up and pollute as you wish and forget about the future of our earth.’

Hey, I am serious here! Our only hope is that this announcement was not by anyone at the Environmental Protection Agency. Would you believe it was reported as buried deep in a 500-page environmental impact report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration? The report was likely written to justify President Trump’s order to freeze fuel efficiency requirements for autos and trucks built after 2020.

While it is hard to imagine anyone writing this report in a serious manner, it goes to prove that people will go to some lengths to keep their job.

The report claimed that since the average temperature of the earth will rise by four degrees Celsius by the end of this century anyway, why bother with further savings in carbon emissions? The writer of the report seemed to conclude that any uptick in carbon dioxide by U.S. cars and trucks after 2020 would make no significant difference.

President Trump had decided to take the U.S.A. out of the Paris Agreement on the environment when he first took office. Since then he has opened up unrestricted coal mining and approved highly polluting pipelines such as the Keystone XL from Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast. Mind you, America already had the distinction of being the most polluting country per capita in the world.

But we will solve all of that with the catastrophic coming of the End of Times. Our world will die with many a whimper as the icecaps melt, the seas encroach on our coastal cities and the unleashed storms and other extremes of intemperate weather challenge our ability to grow the food to feed ourselves. It will be too bad that Mr. Trump will not be there to answer for his ignorance.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Donald Trump’s Win?

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018

We might as well let Donald Trump think he won. You hate to give a bully the victory but he would just go away and pout if we did not. What he really got was the right to rename the deal. That way, he can tell his claque that he got rid of NAFTA. It is now called the United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement (USMCA). It sounds like a branch of the United States Marine Corp, but what the heck—as long as it works for everybody involved.

It might be that Canada let the U.S. in on a bit of its milk market but the farmers can easily be compensated for that small encroachment. It leaves the fresh milk market to Canada’s farmers and that is the important part for consumers.

I would say it is a win for Justin Trudeau and his foreign affairs minister. They held the course throughout the negotiations. They did not let Trump’s irresponsible twits rattle them and they held the course to the end when the Americans had to agree to the deal or look terribly stupid.

The best part of the win was Canada sticking to its guns on bringing Mexican auto-worker wages into line. The $16 minimum wage for the Mexicans making autos and trucks is a huge jump and the impact it will have in Mexico will change that country a great deal. It will help drive up the costs of a holiday in Mexico for Americans and Canadians but that is fair too!

The other part of the deal that was vital to Canada was the continuation of the dispute settlement clause as it was in the original deal. The idea of submitting disputes to America’s highly politicized judicial system was a guarantee of constant harassment.

It also looks like Canada came out ahead on the automobile part of the deal. It looks like we have strengthened our position on auto parts and there are fewer concerns about the bleeding off of final assembly.

All in all, we can have the pleasure of looking south and giving Mr. Trump what Americans often refer to as the Canadian salute. Middle finger at the ready…go!


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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“What fools these mortals be…”

Sunday, September 30th, 2018

Just to show how consistent we humans are, we can use the words of William Shakespeare to describe more recent events. What brings this to mind was a recent Ryerson University democracy forum. Chaired by Martin Regg Cohn of the Toronto Star, the debaters were campaign heads for the three major parties in June’s Ontario election. Regg Cohn’s report on the forum struck us as the most political self-aggrandizement, self-pity and foolishness we have heard for a long time.

And the winner was… surprise, surprise, Kory Teneycke of the progressive conservatives. It is just that we do not agree with what he is bragging about. We could have told him he had won before the campaign even started.

But Teneycke (and I still cannot pronounce that name) gives the credit to his supposedly brilliant digital campaign for the conservatives. And, he uses all the current buzz words such as “curating” messages with the right “algorithms” for “target” audiences.

To have a winner, it is also necessary to have a loser and David Herle of the liberal party makes the perfect goat. The only thing I will not criticize him for was the decision by Premier Wynne to forfeit the election before it was over. That was the stupidest act I had seen in an election in more than 50 years of campaigns.

But David was not above reproach for how he handled the campaign. He actually admits that he had no idea how to handle the negatives on social media about Wynne. He said the liberals did not know how to fight it. He also said he was of the impression that digital advertising was “unpersuasive.”

I will quote my favourite campaign slogan for David: If you cannot push, pull. And if you cannot pull, you best get out of the way.

Bringing up the rear, as usual, was the NDP campaign, headed by Michael Balagus. I would not know him, if I tripped over him. He was certainly complimentary about the conservative use of social media and their own news. It is really too bad that his campaign had no focus, no theme and no hope until Ms. Wynne quit and people who hated Ford were conflicted by being told to vote for Ms. Horwath—who ran her own do-nothing campaign.

But what was unimpressive about the report was Teneycke’s insistence that campaigns would soon be 99 per cent digital. That was the attitude of a loser who did not understand people. It sounds more like some of the worried clergy in the middle ages who did not understand that it would take centuries for the anticipated impact of Herr Gutenberg’s invention. We move faster with technology today but not overnight.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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