Archive for the ‘Provincial Politics’ Category

Jason Kenney’s Quest.

Saturday, March 23rd, 2019

There is something about being the big dog in a small kennel. It brings the walls to you and it feels all warm and snuggly. It must be what Jason Kenney thought of when he saw that the years of posing as heir apparent to former prime minister Stephen Harper held hollow promise. Jason Kenny is a person of large ambition and his quest is not to be denied.

But what turns the crank for a pudgy, misogynistic bachelor politician? It’s the power trip. Since he fought against co-eds at his Catholic college in San Francisco being allowed access to birth control information, Kenney’s quest has been for power.

It was this quest that sent Kenney back home to Calgary after the conservatives lost to the Justin Trudeau liberals. He told his supporters he was there to unite the right-wing conservatives and Wildrose parties. And he did it with little concern for any Marquis of Queensbury rules.

Kenney is on the extreme right of the social conservative spectrum. His first hero was Stockwell Day of the Canadian Alliance. Yet he was politically astute enough to recognize that the conservatives were well behind the liberals who were already taking the support of Canada’s ethnic groups for granted. When Stephen Harper came out on top as leader of the combined Canadian conservatives, he saw the work Kenney was doing in the ethnic communities and bought into what he was doing. It was a winner.

This apparatchik choked the first time I saw one of Kenney’s carefully constructed ethnic walls of people behind candidate Stephen Harper. I called it pandering at the time, even if I had to admit that it worked. Harper’s conservatives did not always win majorities but they won three federal elections in a row.

But like anything that works in politics, it ends up being overdone. Even today, Kenney gives the small percentage of ethnic communities in Alberta a little extra attention. He knows that all votes matter.

But if I were a betting person, I would check out the odds being offered by the Alberta bookies and maybe risk a looney or two on Rachel Notley and her team.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Ford Forestalls Hillier’s Hussars.

Thursday, March 21st, 2019

It might not be up to the standards of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Charge of the Light Brigade but somebody should have warned Ontario premier Doug Ford before he got into a squabble with the caucus bad boy of the Ontario Tories. Oh well, Ford is due for a drubbing anyway.

Ford and his lackies have no idea of what kind of a fight they are in for when they get Randy Hellier pissed. Randy is to the extreme of the right wing of the Tory caucus at Queen’s Park. Hell, this is the guy who launched the Ontario Landowners. And any MPP from Queen’s Park who does not know the Landowners, had better not turn their back when those people start tearing down Ontario’s wind turbines. And they think Randy is irrational?

Ford’s problem with Hillier is that most of the people who know them both are betting on Randy. Compared to Ford, the Eastern Ontario MPP from Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston is a staunch conservative. The premier is just a conservative when it benefits him. He is a populist who colours way outside the party line.

And Randy does not like it that he and the rest of the back-bench sheep are supposed to stand and applaud every time Ford or one of his cabinet ministers makes a statement in the House. Why would you applaud someone who just proved they can read simple and probably less than truthful words?

Ford is also furious with Randy for telling people that his friends and advisers are lobbying illegally. This has caused the hopeless NDP caucus to ask for the Ontario Provincial Police to investigate.

It is also likely, but unproven, that Hillier was turfed from caucus for not showing the right attitude in caucus meetings. It seems that the time-honoured tradition of MPPs telling their leader what constituents’ really think of the government’s efforts is not welcomed by Mr. Ford.

But for all of Randy’s failings, nobody should have accused him of saying ‘Yada, yada, yada,’ to parents of Autistic children. He is something of a trouble maker but he is not unfeeling. With the way the NDP do go on about their concerns, he would be much more likely to say it to their members.

I always liked Pierre Trudeau’s solution to some of the trouble makers in caucus. He would put them in cabinet.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Nothing New about a Stalking Horse.

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019

Oh, to be in Alberta when the politicos are running! Have you heard the latest about that sleaze Jason Kenney of the united conservatives? With premier Rachel Notley about to pull the plug on the provincial election, UCP leader Kenney has got his jeans in a twist. It seems people can actually document how he made sure of beating Brian Jean for the provincial party leadership.

Not, I hasten point out, that there is anything illegal about using a stalking horse campaign. It is just desperation in a tough fight.

But if another candidate pays for the stalking horse campaign, in whole or in part, there is reason to look at the financing to determine if there was a fraud perpetrated. Mind you, I also think it is a fraud to have one politico pay off another with a plum cabinet position.

A good example of that was the sleazy way former premier Kathleen Wynne won the Ontario liberal leadership in January 2013. By quitting the race to support Wynne, two weeks before the convention, stalking horse, Glen Murray, blocked a realignment of liberals being elected delegates. By forcing his supporters into the independent category, Murray blocked many of the truly independent liberals from getting elected. That sewed it up for Wynne.

A stalking horse can be a very effective strategy in campaigns but the more people who know about it, the less chance it has of working. No doubt Jason Kenney forgot that part when he used the tactic against former Wildrose leader Brian Jean. Kenny’s problem seems to have been that he had too many balls in the air at a time. His misogynistic attitude with women was causing him constant trouble throughout his leadership effort and made it difficult to control some of his supporters who were just following his lead.

The 2019 provincial election in Alberta is not necessarily a foregone conclusion. Premier Rachel Notley is not the same person as won Alberta against a split conservative vote in 2015.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Peaking early; Peaking late, in politics.

Monday, March 18th, 2019

It is something like a fertility cycle. If you are too early or too late, that little sperm has lost an opportunity. It is like that time in a political campaign when unfertilized minds can be receptive to a particular message. It is only the entire costly campaign that is at risk.

It has always seemed to me that there is a point in campaigns when there is a peak of receptivity. It is that point when a maximum number of the uncommitted voters minds close around a particular political failure or inspiration. (Though inspirations are rare.)

Sorting out the last federal election, I think the receptors shut down prematurely. Canadians were tired of the arrogance of Stephen Harper’s conservatives and the last half of that tedious campaign became just so much blather.

And what us politicos need to always keep in mind is that, non-political people have little tolerance for discussing politics at most times. To actually catch them at the right moment is rare.

It is probably the reason some historical figure came up with that silly warning to never discuss politics or religion with strangers. Mind you, I love encouraging strangers to talk politics. If the person does not know you, nor think you can do anything for them, you can get an honest opinion. Honesty is a rare and precious commodity in politics.

Though what you usually find out from strangers are rather superficial views of political events and trends. It most often reflects the recent items heard or seen on You Tube or Facebook as well as the evening news. It might not always pay for you to argue with a person’s opinion but it can become part of your memory bank on the subject. The strongest arguments that voters get to help convince them are the ones that trigger their own experience and knowledge.

Reading a review of a book by a political scientist the other day, he makes the astute observation that if we want to make better political decisions, we first have to want to. Since the solution would involve going beyond their comfort zone for many people, he is not optimistic.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Did they forget to tell Jagmeet?

Saturday, March 16th, 2019

It seems strange that the NDP apparatchiks around their leader Jagmeet Singh have forgotten to tell him something important. He certainly has enough French to understand that Québec Solidaire is a separatist party based in Quebec. It might share the orange party color and the left of centre politics of the NDP but from that point they go their separate ways.

The confusion with this started when newly elected MP and party leader Jagmeet Singh announced that Alexandre Boulerice would be the party’s deputy leader for Quebec. Boulerice is the MP for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie and was first elected in the Orange Wave of 2011.

Boulerice followed up on Wednesday by announcing that Nima Machouf will be the NDP standard bearer in the riding of Laurier—Saint-Marie in October. The riding is currently represented by NDP MP Hélène Lavadière, who is stepping down after holding the riding since 2011.

The only problem with this is that Nima Machouf is also a member of Québec Solidaire. She is not only a member but her husband, Amir Kadir, was a member of the National Assembly for Québec Solidaire from 2008 to 2018.

My guess is that the rest of Canada would be caught off guard if it had to deal with a group as left of centre politically as Québec Solidaire—if they were ever in a position to call the shots in Quebec. As unlikely as it might be that they might win, I see an appeal to their proposal of calling for a constitutional assembly to plan the future of the province. I believe they would have to agree if the rest of the country asked to join with them in planning an improved country—conditional on a national referendum afterward to approve of the proposed plan.

Just think of what could be done!

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Fighting the Beer Store fight.

Friday, March 15th, 2019

Have you seen the opinion pieces running in what is left of Ontario’s small-town papers? These are warnings forecasting higher prices for beer if we change the way it is sold? This is old-fashioned protectionism for the beer store’s unionized employees. Frankly, with some grocery stores already offering beer, that horse has left the stable.

What this public relations effort is telling us is that the beer workers union is assuming the recent on-line survey by the government is telling them to go ahead with a broader array of sales outlets for beer. As a populist premier, Doug Ford would be inclined to support sales through convenience stores.

What should accompany this decision is a better direction for the present beer stores. There is a strong movement to separate the recycling efforts of the beer store from case sales. It would serve the public better if the Beer Store management decided what business it is going to emphasize. By a better divide between the two businesses, the merchandising and sales of beer could be greatly improved.

Ontario beer drinkers are frankly tired of the poor merchandising and bad smells of recycling depots doing a part-time job of selling beer. It would hardly surprise me if many of the 447 stores in Ontario need to be condemned as unsanitary.

Is it just part of their bad service that they challenged 3.7 million customers last year? If the company’s employees can only guess that somebody is underage or drunk once in every 34 tries, they should get out of the age and sobriety guessing business. It would certainly improve their service for the other customers.

And while we should never constrain the choices people can make as to their favourite suds, most customers come to the store to get a specific brand in a specific quantity. There are lots of ways to improve the service for them.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

‘Take that, John Horgan.’

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

The Toronto Star’s Calgary apologist, Gillian Steward, thinks maybe Alberta premier Rachel Notley can frighten her former ally, B.C. premier John Horgan, into approving the Trans Mountain pipeline. It seems that the Alberta premier has committed $3.7 billion to lease 4,400 rail tanker cars to carry diluted bitumen to Burrard Inlet. The objective is not just to carry the tar sands output but to show the B.C. premier that rail is not as safe as pipelines.

And if there is a serious derailment of bitumen-loaded tanker cars, it will be John Horgan’s fault. While the logic of this might confuse some readers, Steward goes on to list some of the recent accidents that might or might not have involved bitumen. She takes special note of the run-a-way freight train near Lake Louise that headed west with nobody at the controls. The killing of three Canadian Pacific employees and the derailment of 99 cars and two locomotives was horrific enough but if I was on the Transportation Safety Board, I would be having loud discussions with CP management about what the hell they think they are running?

What is just the icing on the cake, among all the failings of the CPR, is the ridiculous sight recently of two CP Rail trains colliding in the rail yards in Calgary. What were they doing? Practicing?

With hundreds of thousands of barrels of diluted bitumen being shipped south, east and west from Alberta every day, people are soon going to learn the difference between bitumen and crude oil. Crude can be cleaned up. Bitumen becomes part of the environment.

It sometimes appears that John Horgan and his NDP government in B.C. are the only adults in Western Canada. They have stood with the aboriginal groups, they have approved liquified natural gas shipping that can be done safely and they have shown their concern for the remaining Orcas in the Salish Sea. They are doing their job in a responsible manner. Others should do likewise.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Reefer Madness in Ontario?

Saturday, March 9th, 2019

It is too bad premier Doug Ford’s younger brother died. The late Rob Ford might have been a wealth of information about the marketing of street drugs. As it is, it will take years to straighten out the mess the Ontario conservatives are making of legal retailing of cannabis.

But then, almost any street person in Ontario can easily explain the problems. It is the same as any successful retailer knows. It all comes down to location, location and location. In any city, the most important locations (other than around high schools) are where you find the highest traffic from local universities and colleges.

For example, there are three shops in the planning for London. The best guess is that the lucky retailer midway between Fanshawe College and the University of Western Ontario will get more than 60 per cent of the business in the city.

What boggles the mind though is that Toronto—with seven times the population of London—will also have just three legal outlets besides the Ontario on-line store.

This mess is a combination of the conservative’s political interference in the earlier planning for government-only stores, the lottery system for selecting privatized outlets and the rules and regulations set up by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO).

But now we learn that this great system for Ontario cannot get enough product to supply the few stores they will have by this summer. You can be assured though that the private, unlicensed and less controlled market will be making plenty of product available while the government- controlled retailers struggle with unreasonable government regulation and constraints on production.

And the entrepreneurial, less-publicized, private market should give daily thanks to the politicians who legalized marijuana in Canada and are building a market for them. While the legal stores are setting a lower retail price point, the ‘free’ market can make far more money on the increased volumes.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

How great is it going to be?

Sunday, March 3rd, 2019

Do you really want to trust a politician who insists on telling you how great it is going to be? When the Ontario government announced its health care reforms this week, everyone was left wondering just how they were going to accomplish these great results. That was all we got, no details, just the objective.

Ontario was promised a new super agency called Ontario Health and other than the superlatives, that is about what there is to know about it. Many years ago, we had a super agency and it was called the Ontario Ministry of Health. It was also a super agency. It found though that it needed to keep creating other agencies to do the things that the ministry did not have the people, nor the expertise to do. It even created what were called Local Health Integration Networks (LHIN) to make the service more assessible. Now the LHINs are being absorbed into the super agency—probably because they spend too much.

Frankly, the Ontario government might have been smarter if it had delayed the announcement until it knew better what it was doing. I expect there would be a long wait for that.

What is particularly disappointing in all of this B.S. being washed through the corridors of Queen’s Park is the role of super MPP Christine Elliott. As minister of health, hers is not an enviable position. She has been handed her talking points about this new super agency and come hell or high water, she is going to read them through.

Every time reporters ask her about some problem in health care, she goes into a lengthy discussion of how bad the situation is now and the promise that the Tories are going to fix it. She has absolutely no idea how it will be fixed but, according to Ms. Elliott, you can be sure that the Tories will fix it.

And at the same time, the Tories are going to save money. Everything will be paid for with money saved by the wily Tories.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

When compromise is the problem.

Saturday, February 23rd, 2019

Nobody should celebrate too soon about the compromise solution to paying Ontario’s doctors. After more than four years of arguments, back-stabbing and threats, nobody is particularly happy. The three-member arbitration board did not have to find the money, so they could be generous. And they were. The doctors got what they wanted and they can go back to fighting among themselves for the spoils.

But why does it feel like there is still another shoe to drop?

Oh yah, I really do not think that Dougie and the gang at Queen’s Park are going to take this solution lying down. They are hardly about to bleed another few billions into the doctors’ pockets. Do the math for yourself. There are some 23,000 doctors in Ontario set to making a rather generous $12 billion plus per year—requiring almost a quarter of our health care costs.

And you were wondering why Dougie and the gang were putting the screws to families with autistic children? These purported politicians who told you that they were going to save the taxpayers money have been bleeding money since getting into office after that rout of the liberals. Dougie puts the president of partially-public Hydro One on a strict diet and yet pays his friends more than they ask for. And the government is now faced with open-ended payment for the doctors.

We will probably hear from the health minister soon that a new bill is coming to put a cap on doctors’ earnings. That could start another round of arguments with the doctors. And to complicate the situation further, it could cause more rifts between the specialists and the general practitioners. It would almost be a blessing to see the Ontario Medical Association become something of an amoeba and start splitting into multiple versions of itself.

And the politicians thought just one OMA was a problem?

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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