Archive for the ‘Provincial Politics’ Category

The metrics of higher education.

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020

Ontario premier Doug Ford wants our colleges and universities to earn their way. He wants some measurement on their economic performance. He wants to put a dollar value on that cap and gown. And when the minister of higher education is a lawyer, he seems to believe that such measurement is possible.

It is hardly the first time we have heard this debate. The argument in academe just uses bigger words. We have had the argument in my family. Of five brothers, two have post-graduate degrees and one, who did not finish high school, made quite a few millions.

But when you add it all up, I think it was the brother with the PhD who contributed the most value—as a professor, teaching business students in the U.S. about ethics.

A college drop-out like Doug Ford is probably not overly strong on ethics and he would have benefitted greatly from my brother’s lectures. I even did a guest lecture for my brother on the social responsibility of business when he was teaching at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario.

And this is not the first time there has been an attempt to measure the value of a piece of parchment from a university. I can hardly vouch for the studies, I have heard quoted, that said the average bachelorette in sociology and philosophy returns value to society at about nine or ten to one. It just seems reasonable. It is in accord with the old saying that you do not just give a poor man a fish to eat, you teach him how to fish.

Those ubiquitous ‘soc and phil’ bachelor degrees can simply mean that the recipient has been taught how to think. And just imagine how useful that teaching could have been for premier Ford?


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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“It’s time to give the profile…”

Tuesday, January 21st, 2020

It is likely due to the lack of creativity on American network television that the show Criminal Minds has lasted so long. I thought of it when reviewing the Ontario liberal leadership race the other day. It is a puzzle to figure out why Ontario liberals put up with such an easily manipulated contest. If you think everything is on the up and up with the arrangements for this contest, you will also believe that the FBI has its behavioural analysis people flying around that country chasing killers, with guns blazing.

It looks like the guy who should be the next leader of the Ontario liberals is MPP Michael Coteau from Toronto. As one liberal told me, Michael is the only contender tall enough to be a leader. He has also been running the smartest and most open campaign. He is refreshing in his honesty and openness to innovation.

The only contender who might yet steal the leadership is former MPP Steven Del Duca. Nobody adds 14,000 names to the membership of the party in the period of time indicated. Nor can it be seriously suggested that they are all liberals or necessarily paid for their own membership.

It is also hardly the first time that Del Duca has thrown his weight around to political advantage. As minister of transportation, he was accused of political interference in the independent planning of Metrolinx commuter stations. Adding a station in his riding that independent studies claimed was unnecessary was the type of action that brought down the Wynne liberal government.

The other former minister running is MPP Mitzi Hunter from Scarborough. As I pointed out to the liberal who liked Coteau’s height, Ms. Hunter is about as tall. He pointed out it was only appearance because of her hair-do and her high heels.

The other three candidates can hardly be criticized for the failures of the Wynne government. They have never been elected. It leaves them free to come up with innovative suggestions. It makes the debates more interesting.

But we will not know who the likely winner will be until the local election meetings in February. We should be ready give you a profile and a morning line on the liberal leadership by about the Ides of February.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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‘Unencumbered as I am by experience.’

Thursday, January 16th, 2020

Ontario education minister Stephen Lecce is no mystery. Politics is full of people like him. Their ability as a con artist is far more important than any particular experience or training. They are chameleons.

Lecce was actually prime minister Stephen Harper’s discovery. He gave the handsome young man a job right out of political science at Western University in London, Ontario. The kid had the gift. With absolutely no background or experience, Harper put Lecce on the PMO’s communications staff.

Mind you, the prime minister’s communications staff in those days was something of an oxymoron. They were hardly there to dispense information. They were there to close ranks, to hue to the party line (as directed), lie when necessary and to protect the office and the person of their leader. Their willingness to lay down their bodies to protect their boss, was the essential criteria.

It was the loss of power in 2015 that sent the young Lecce back to Kleinburg, Ontario. He already had his heart set on the provincial nomination in King-Vaughan. It is an area that I have always supposed provided the country estates for retired Toronto mafioso. All Lecce had to do was open a small public relations business with one major client; himself. He obviously had the right connections as he was elected in 2018 to the Doug Ford juggernaut.

But he did not get his real chance until June of 2019 when Ford had to replace Lisa Thompson as education minister. He did not even have to shave properly. He was dumped unceremoniously into negotiations with Ontario’s education unions. And by then, the unions were angry. It was not pretty.

But the only people who are buying the Lecce BS are the news media. All Lecce had to do was start recanting on all the demands of his predecessor. It is absolutely amazing that Premier Ford has an education minister, managing a $23.9 billion budget, who went to St Michael’s College School, reputed to be the most expensive private school for bullies in Ontario. On top of that, his parliamentary secretary, 22-year old Sam Oosterhoff MPP, was home schooled.

This is the Doug Ford conservative government. Nobody with experience need apply.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Being a liberal is tough.

Wednesday, January 15th, 2020

Maybe I am not the only liberal who wonders where my party went. I got a copy of a rather angry e-mail the other day from a liberal in my riding of Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte. The e-mail was to the provincial party president. I know that this letter-writing liberal is a hard-working supporter of both the federal and provincial party and, over the years, has been generous in supporting the party and its candidates, as well as a reliable canvasser during elections.

But he is worried. He is disappointed that his provincial riding association has not held a meeting in the last year and a half. He is worried that the provincial party in our riding is moribund. He is annoyed that he has not had an opportunity to meet or talk to any of the candidates for the job of provincial leader. He does not think that liberal party members are getting a proper opportunity to evaluate the candidates. He complains that the party only seems to want him for his wallet. He wants to be respected by the party for more than the money he contributes.

And would you believe that the federal party is worse than the provincial. In Ontario, the federal and provincial parties share the same electoral district boundaries except in the extreme north. If there was ever a time when the federal and provincial liberals could benefit from working together, it is now. We need the synergy. We need the shared experience. We need to build momentum.

I could add a few things to that liberal’s e-mail. I am outraged that when by a vote of 57 per cent, at its last annual meeting, the party called for a leadership vote for every member of the party, it was refused. This is supposed to be a democratic party and anything other than 50 per cent plus one is an affront to democracy. The party wanted a democratic selection and it cannot be denied. Anything else was to declare any choice undemocratic and subject to corrupt practices.

And I would hardly charge $250 to $600 per delegate to attend the event. That is the most undemocratic aspect of a possibly corrupted convention. The liberal party needs to get with the times.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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The gang that can’t sell pot.

Sunday, January 12th, 2020

It pains us to consider the lengths some cartel bosses would go to if it happened to them. Imagine an outfit that cannot even make a profit selling marijuana. We are talking about the Ontario government here! After a full year in the business of selling the stuff, the government swore that they only lost $42 million. While the private sector is doing the heavy lifting in start-up costs, Doug Ford and his incompetents paid out more for product than they could earn in revenue.

And the problem was simple. They did not have the retail outlets to satisfy the market demand. They had strangled the critical need for distribution. They thought 25 stores plus mail order could satisfy the largest provincial market in Canada. Compare that to Alberta, with a market of less than a third of Ontario, having more than 200 stores in operation at the same time.

It is not as though Ontario consumers did without their pot from the government-licensed dealers first fiscal year. Their friendly neighbourhood dealer—with much lower overheads—was there for them. These unlicensed dealers had better prices, quality and even home delivery, if that was your pleasure. They carry their nickel bags in the left pocket and the dime bags in the right. Just tell your dealer your preference in potency.

What is intriguing is the potential for the illegal market to offer their grandma’s own recipes for brownies and other edibles. Judging by the pricing we are hearing for gummy bears and baked goods from the licensed establishments, the home-made products should have an easy time competing.

If all goes according to the government plan, by the end of 2020, Ontario hopes to have almost as many licensed establishments in business as Alberta does now. And the Ontario government apologists will tell you that with a straight face.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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“Rent-a-Vote” services for political parties.

Thursday, January 9th, 2020

It has been going on for many years. As someone who taught others how to communicate with Canada’s ethnic groups, I have always been disgusted by how the information is being used. Something that started out as an honest effort to bring newer Canadians into the political process has become a rent-a-vote scam.

How do you think Patrick Brown won the Ontario leadership of the conservatives in 2015? He had his friend Jason Kenney, now of Alberta, to thank for arranging for Patrick, when an MP, to be the parliamentary liaison with India and the Sub-Continent. It not only got him free trips to India and recognition in the Indian president’s office but recognition throughout the Sub-Continent diaspora in Canada. And there are more than 100,000 of those immigrants and their progeny in Ontario alone.

All Brown needed to do was hire the key people from the Hindi temples and the Sikh community to get his sign-ups. He swamped the Ontario conservative party’s normal membership with almost 40,000 sign-ups. Even if his backers paid for the party memberships it was a bargain. Brown won the conservative leadership in a complicated counting process by over 60 per cent. It was also why, when he tried to run to replace himself, he was prevented from running.

It was also why when he chose to keep trying to find a place to run municipally, he chose Brampton. That city has the largest Sub-Continent immigrant population in Ontario. It was the key to that city. He would have lost badly if he ran in his home town of Barrie. I am waiting to see if, as Brampton mayor, he keeps his promise to turn most of Brampton’s parks into cricket pitches.

The practice of using large numbers of an ethnic group is common in the larger cities across Canada. It is noted, for example, that Italian immigrants really stick together and they love to support fellow Italian immigrants and their children. Now, just how do you think liberal Steven Del Duca would do among Ontario residents who came to Ontario from Italy? It is something akin to fishing in a barrel. But one of the problems you face is similar to the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh’s problem. After you have used your ethnic group to get you the nomination or the leadership, you had better start appealing to a broader audience of voters.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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The road downhill for Ontario casinos.

Friday, January 3rd, 2020

Being a kid when Bugsy Siegel and organized crime put Las Vegas on the world map, I have always been cautious of people who offer the opportunity to risk your gambling money. I always assume that they are not doing it to be benevolent. You have to be careful of your money. As much as I like to gamble, I am always wary.

That was why when I started going to Las Vegas as a young man, I also started reading books on gambling. I learned that there was much more to it than just keeping an eye on the dealer. When I realized that I was going to lose more often than win, I looked for strategies to minimize losses and improve winnings. The wife and I have our rules when gambling and we stick to them.

For the past 25 years, we have been welcomed at Casino Rama near Orillia. We know the dealers, craps crews, supervisors and staff that used to make it such a friendly and fun place. We would often go for dinner and a show, compliments of the casino. That was until Gateway Casinos and Entertainment took over the management of the largest casino in the province. And to add insult to injury, they also took over the nearby Innisfil Slots operations, as it expanded to add table games.

That was also when Woodbine Entertainment put in its temporary casino at the racetrack. The three casinos have gone downhill together. Woodbine hardly cares. Its temporary casino is ugly, unfriendly, cold and uninterested in its customers. In the largest market in Canada, it can always get more. It doesn’t even think it needs to go the expense of offering proper craps tables—and that shows how little these companies know about casinos. It is the craps tables that are the heart of a casino. They are an important draw. The casinos I have known that excluded craps tables did so for racist reasons.

But what is the main draw at any major casino in Las Vegas and around the world is good food. Woodbine is lucky, it has had good food for many years.

But I would advise people going to Rama or Innisfil casinos these days that they eat first. When the Innisfil Casino offers you a free lunch, that is frankly what I think it is worth. Rama’s popular Cedar restaurant has been turned into a low-class hamburger joint with high prices. Better you get something tasty from Tim Horton’s.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Liberals are not dead in Ontario.

Thursday, January 2nd, 2020

It seems we do have a contest for the leadership of the Ontario liberals. While overshadowed by the Trudeau party in Ottawa, this Ontario group is starting to come together. They do not seem to know much about making good videos but I sat through a streaming video of the candidate’s presentations to learn more about some of them.

I might have recently mentioned that I wanted to hear what motivates Kate Graham, a political science teacher at the University of Western Ontario. She seems very smart but she needs a political speech writer. And after hearing her speak, I am still not sure why she is buying her way into this race.

In comparison, Michael Coteau MPP is aggressively going down the road talking the talk. I like his approach and I have followed his campaign closely. Some smart ass at party headquarters must have moved my name and e-mail address to Don Valley East riding that Michael represents in the legislature. As I am a former candidate from that area, he must wonder that we have never met.

They must have released the party lists to all the candidates now and Steven Del Duca was the next to send me his solicitation for support. Steven is an old-style liberal and, despite his losing his riding in the 2018 election, he reeks of back room support and confidence. The assumption is that he has the contest in the bag but we can always root for the good guys.

Mitzie Hunter MPP also spoke. She said nothing new.

But I really enjoyed hearing from Alvin Tedjo. He was obviously new to politics. He did not know that it is not liberal policy to do away with religious schools–as much as the public would support such a move. Dumping the costs of supporting separate school boards is just not on the liberal agenda, yet.

Maybe the sixth candidate for leader needs another look. All I can say about Brenda Hollingsworth at this stage is that if I ever have to appear in court in Ottawa, I would want this lady working for me. Queen’s Park just might have enough lawyers.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Stiffing Steel City.

Thursday, December 19th, 2019

Why does everyone take a swipe at Hamilton? It was over 100 years ago that STELCO was created and ever since, the city, the province and our country have benefitted by it. Its steel has helped create and defend our nation. Hamilton is a city built by steel.

It was no surprise that premier Ford did not have the nerve to tell the city that the Light Rapid Transit project, on which the city had already spent hundreds of millions, was losing a billion dollars that was promised in provincial funding.

To add insult to denying the funding, the provincial patsy, transport minister, Caroline Mulroney, fed the news media some Mulroney baloney about the full price being more than $5 billion. This amount was later calculated to include inflation, rough estimates and 30 years of operating costs and maintenance.

This fiasco reminds us of the famous one-stop Scarborough subway that Doug Ford was going to build in Toronto. Somebody should have warned the burghers of Hamilton that Doug Ford is famous for his promises and more famous for reneging on his promises.

Any Ontario resident who knows Hamilton knows that the city is in desperate need of good public transportation. The transit job cannot be done with just buses on already congested roads. You simply cannot reduce car and truck traffic in the city without an effective transportation alternative. Buses only add to the problems.

Caroline Mulroney was sent to Hamilton by Doug Ford to sweet talk the news media into believing that Ford had the city’s best interest at heart. Frankly, it is unlikely that Caroline Mulroney, who was educated and worked previously in the United States, would know where Hamilton was located or anything about the city.

If there was one thing her lackies missed in her briefing, Hamilton is home to a very fine university. It was steel that built that university and you should never think of Hamiltonians as stupid. They are not.


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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Bad government begets bad opposition.

Wednesday, December 18th, 2019

They seem to go hand in hand. The more you loath the government of the day, the more you can loath their opposition. You have to admit that the Ontario government of premier Doug Ford is a disaster. So why does his opposition in the legislature have to be so worthless?

It might just be the fault of the voters. They were so pissed with the hypocrisy and perceived errors of the liberals at Queen’s Park that they voted conservative out of spite. I think when the premier of the day, Kathleen Wynne, so amateurishly gave up before the end of the campaign, the voters trooped to the polls to make sure.

Wynne led her disgusted liberals to being less than a rump, not even allowed the designation as a political party.

But this should have been a big day for Andrea Horwath’s new democrats. They had moved up to the role of official opposition. They would get to lead off in question period. They were there to challenge the government. They were there to prevent the excesses of conservatism. They were there to protect the citizens.

And Andrea Horwath and her NDP have blown it.

The problem was that Doug Ford did not like being booed when he went out in public. He could solve this by not taking the blame for every action of his government. He solved the problem we hear by having his cabinet front for him in the legislature. “Your ministry, your problem,” he told his cabinet ministers.

It was also an opportunity for the lesser members of his cabinet to show their stuff. Stephen Lecce, from Vaughan who cut his political teeth doing communications in prime minister Stephen Harper’s office, brought his smooth approach into the troubled education ministry. And Caroline Mulroney once more, showed her incompetence trying to comprehend the transport ministry.

But the NDP have left the teachers’ unions to deal with the government. They will probably do a better job of it.

And we will discuss the Mulroney baloney tomorrow.


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry