Archive for the ‘Provincial Politics’ Category

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

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

“Lord, what fools these mortals be!”

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

William Shakespeare is a writer for most human experience. You could not help but think of that line from A Midsummer Night’s Dream the other day reading a commentary on guaranteed basic income. Who the writer was is not important. The approach was serious. He wrote of a guaranteed basic income as being charity. That is the most destructive statement he could make. Should the attitude fester, a critical step forward for our society could suffer further delay.

But in the article, the commentator goes on to talk about another subject. It was a hatchet job. The article offered no insight into the subject of guaranteed income. There was no argument pro or con. There was no proof offered. It was as though a passer-by suddenly threw a brick through a large window and calmly continued to enjoy his otherwise uneventful stroll.

You could test the concept of guaranteed income forever and you will never know until you do it what it will really cost. And similarly, you will never know just how much it will save.

We are talking considerable savings in healthcare, education, support as well as welfare. Guaranteed income payment replaces many piecemeal programs run by government that always left the recipients scrambling for more. These programs were never charity—they were a necessity.

We live in a society that demands compassion and understanding. We live among some of the most charitable people in the world. They are educated and caring. They welcome the newcomers who contribute so much to our society. They are demanding of government to do the job for which it is elected. They contribute their time and money to charity and make a fairly clear distinction between the role of government and the role of charity.

In health for example, it is the government that provides facilities and funding for basic research. It is the charities that seek the funds to direct the researchers to specific health concerns of our society.

A guaranteed basic income is exactly what the words imply. It is to keep the recipient fed, clothed and provide adequate shelter. That looks after the needs of the body. There are also the needs of the mind and spirit of the individual. They are part of our society and need to be able to partake in what our society offers. To assume that bare necessities will suffice is wrong and cruel. We have to make the individual part of our society.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The bafflement of blow-hard Brown.

Thursday, April 13th, 2017

It is probably for the best that the Ontario Progressive Conservatives have a schlemiel such as Patrick Brown as their leader. They will be relieved when he goes. And here is the poor guy trying to explain the difference between carbon taxes and Cap and Trade to a political party that is determined to tolerate neither.

Brown is Ontario’s political poster boy for “Loser.”

We once wasted one of our commentaries on explaining the difference between a carbon tax and Cap and Trade. The simple answer is they are what they say. A carbon tax relates to taxing the amount of carbon you are spewing into our environment. As a tax, it is open to audit and to explanation as to where the money went. It is a system that is easy to follow.

Cap and Trade is not. And that is why Patrick Brown—after flip-flopping as usual—came down on the side of the more hidden money trail. And that is where Ontario and Quebec are anyway. Canada’s two largest provinces are linked to California with a population almost as large as Canada in keeping their supposed Cap and Trade system obscure and under wraps.

And that seems to suit Ontario Opposition Leader Brown as well. What good the federal carbon reduction targets and taxes will be when Ontario and Quebec are tied to some vague promises in California, is a good question.

It is regrettable (for Brown) that he is not old enough to even be aware of the abilities of previous Ontario Conservative Premiers such as Leslie Frost, John Robarts and Bill Davis. He could have learned so much.

The problem is he would have to be in his 80s to remember Leslie Frost. That man never met a political problem that he could not obfuscate while sweeping it under the rug. John Robarts was the chairman of the board and he brought in a new era of industrialized Ontario. And then there was that smoothie Bill Davis. Everybody likes Bill. And the guy actually has a conscience. How can you compare any one of those Conservative gentlemen to a klutz like Brown? His heroes are former Premier Mike Harris and former Leader Tim Hudak.

And Brown has absolutely no idea how he would do anything better.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Morning Line: B.C. Provincial Election – May 2017.

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

This morning line is not up to our usual standards. We simply lack the complete information needed to assess the public mood. All we can do is provide a baseline for betting based on what stats and performances are available. And there is no getting around the fact that B.C. voters have fooled us all at one time or another.

BC New Democrats: 4 to 1

With an untried leader and the current situation, we would not bet the farm on this one. John Horgan and his team need 44 seats in the legislature for a majority and that might be hard to do with the way the votes might split. It all depends on the support for the Greens. A strong Green Party showing will hurt the NDP—and keep the Liberals in power.

BC Liberals: 6 to 1

A minority would not work for Christy Clark and her business-oriented Liberals. For them it is 44 seats or bust. Most of the advice we are hearing is that Clark and team have run out of rabbits to pull from the hat this time.

BC Green: 15 to 1

With only one seat in the legislature, we are wondering why all the optimism from our Green friends. While we have been seeing some drift of NDP support to the Greens, we think they might drift back when push comes to shove. If Ms. Clark sees enough of them wandering off from the NDP, she’ll be dancing a jig through the election.

BC Progressive Conservatives: 50 to 1

We know they are out there. The problem in B.C. is that nobody can tell the difference between a provincial Liberal and a provincial Conservative. And as of this date there are more Libertarians nominated than Conservatives. It does not look good for either party.

Corruption: 2 to 1

This is a special category of the Morning Line. Our readers across the rest of Canada will be surprised to hear that there are virtually no limits on political contributions in British Columbia. Last year, in a non-election year, Christy Clark’s government is reported to have raised over $12 million, two-thirds of that from business and about 10 per cent from outside B.C.

It is reports that Clark not only gets her premier’s pay from the legislature but also takes additional payment from these donations that amazes this politico. If the premier of any other province in Canada did that there would be serious calls for impeachment and/or criminal charges

Here we thought we were aware of most possibly corrupt practices in politics and this one blew us away.

We are pleased to note that the provincial NDP has promised to put an end to this practice. It might help bring B.C. politics out of the middle ages.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

When in doubt do nothing.

Monday, April 3rd, 2017

Is this the new political mantra? At all levels of government, we are seeing variations of stalactites and stalagmites frozen in their political positions as the world revolves around their caves.

From their superior position hanging down from above, the stalactites in Ottawa are the most obvious. With the government digging into a ‘wait and see’ attitude with Donald Trump. Will he swing right or left in his journey of mayhem in the American presidency?

Or is that an excuse that adds nothing to this game of musical chairs that is politics? It must be the case in Ontario. In that province, we have three political mice eying the cheese of victory at the polls. The first mouse will be the one to spring the trap and then the other two will feast on cheese and fresh meat.

Even at the lowly level of beginner stalagmites hugging the floors of the long-ago etched caverns of politics, cities such as Toronto are calling for attention. Will the Scarborough area ever get its foolish subway to nowhere? Or will it reach out with properly distributed transit across its urban sprawl?

And all of these spurious promises deal in the billions. What is a few billion in promises? They are all just echoes in the caverns of political shouting.

There are four more years for our federal ball boys (and girls) to quiver in anticipation of Mr. Trump’s next serve—hopefully another net ball. Will he insist on changes in our trade agreement? Or will we just watch while he expends his careless bigotry south of the Rio Grande?

By the end of this year we should see some more focussed and longer term opposition in Ottawa. The attention will not be as dominated by our poster-boy prime minister.

Next spring will bring more than flowers to Ontario. Expect a cat fight and you will get a cat fight. We can only hope that it is not just between the Conservatives and the New Democrats.

There is also a political event in British Columbia as our fun-loving citizens of the setting sun go to the polls. They have a government of pipeline hypocrites to defeat.

Come to think of it: was it not our environmentalist hero, our prime minister who approved that twinned pipeline abomination across the Rockies?

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Did April Fool come early this year?

Saturday, April 1st, 2017

We read in the Toronto Star the other day about some ‘go-bold’ re-election strategy being used by Premier Kathleen Wynne. We practically wet our pants laughing until we realized the item was written by Bob Hepburn. Bob has always been a quite astute observer of things political for the Star over the years, so we read it carefully.

He confirms the sagacity of his views when he says up front that Kathleen Wynne has a snow-ball’s chance in Hell of winning re-election in 2018.

But. And it is always in the ‘But’ isn’t it? Bob believes that Wynne is going to brave it out, stick around, and lead a dispirited party into its Armageddon in 2018. And that is just about the stupidest advice we have ever seen given to a sitting politician in all our years in politics.

To make matters worse, Bob thinks Wynne is considering a bold and aggressive and even ‘progressive’ strategy. He thinks she has been told to ‘Go bold, or go home.’ That would certainly be a novelty for her. It is a strategy of winning the ‘middle class.’ It worked for Justin Trudeau, we are told..

Bob thinks the first sign of this strategy will be in the budget this April. He believes the Wynne Liberals will announce an increase in the minimum wage for Ontario to $15 per hour. That will probably be scheduled to start at the same time that we find that pigs can fly.

We already knew about the mock test of a guaranteed annual income in Ontario that is being proposed but we have heard of those fantasies before. They come and go at the whim of desperate governments. They are only mentioned when the party in power is in serious trouble.

But Bob says that the Wynne Liberals will also attempt a sweeping modernization of Ontario’s labour and workplace laws. Since these are only about 75 years out of date, we might have to wait a bit. It is quite likely they will have to wait until those damn flying pigs agree to either potty training or to wearing diapers.

By the by, all of this business of pigs and pie in the sky planning is part of Charles Sousa’s first balanced budget. And we all know how determined Charles is to do this, do we not?

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The silliness of slagging Sorbara.

Saturday, March 25th, 2017

This could have run Wednesday but there is really no point in running more than one commentary per day. The problem here is that it does not matter if someone has managed war rooms or washrooms there is absolutely no point to slagging former Liberal MPP Greg Sorbara for telling the truth.

This writer has never been a fan of Greg Sorbara. To us, Greg always seemed autocratic, right-wing and elitist. That is a tough mix for a guy who calls himself a liberal.

But never knowing him that well, we have kept our feelings muted.

After listening very carefully to what Greg said on TVO’s The Agenda show last Tuesday, we could not understand the fuss. He lauded the Wynne government for the growing Ontario economy, its accomplishments in governing and what he saw as good government. Frankly, it came across as apple polishing. Yet what he is being criticized for is suggesting that there is some dissatisfaction with Kathleen Wynne. Her service does not seem to be overly appreciated.

Well, we are certainly pleased that some other scapegoat has noticed. This commentator has been calling for her resignation for quite a while now. It was bad enough that she won the Ontario leadership through deceit and duplicity but she is entirely the wrong kind of premier for this time in this province. Ontario does not need a grandmother. It needs a leader. It hardly needs to rejig failed Conservative plans like selling off Hydro One. It does not need the water torture method of bringing beer and wine to grocery stores.

The province definitely does not need a premier who governs by moving from one mea culpa to the next. She has apologized far more often than she has been pro-active.

A year ago, the Ontario Liberals needed to take stock. They needed to look at their position and what this province needed. They needed to realize that the inadequacies of their opponents are no justification. There is no excuse for providing bad government just because your opponents would give worse.

But if Greg Sorbara was as honest as he could be, he should have advised Kathleen Wynne a year ago to go. She needed to be told that when you are no longer doing anybody any good and your time as premier has expired.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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