Archive for the ‘Provincial Politics’ Category

The auditor versus the label salesman.

Friday, November 27th, 2020

It might not be a fair fight but Ontario voters are enjoying it. The ups and downs and the tantrums of former label salesman and now premier Doug Ford are generally entertaining but when he and the province’s auditor general cross swords, the province can see the problems with better clarity.

The problem might be that both of the protagonists are out of their depth. The problem is that Doug Ford’s limited education and political experience, ill prepared him to do battle with both a coronavirus and an experienced auditor general.

You can also make the claim that, once again, auditor general Bonnie Lysyk has overstepped the bounds of her job. That does not make her wrong in telling us that Ford and his Tories are doing a lousy job on the pandemic. When the conservative premiers have made it very clear to Ottawa that the federal role is to do nothing but send money, we have to hope they know what they are doing.

And we agree that Bonnie Lysyk continues to exceed her financial accountability role to point out the lousy job the politicians are doing. She has also pointed out that the province’s medical officer of health is also not doing his job.

But why should that matter when the Ford government is not listening to him either.

What this all boils down to is that once again, the auditor general of Ontario has pointed out the deep pile of do-do that the Ontario government is driving us into. That is her job. How she does it is another matter. She did the same things to the liberals when they were in power.

But we know for a fact now that Ford and his Tories are doing a lousy job. And we have also learned that Ford’s minister of health is no better at her job than the premier is at his.

We hear a retired army general will be reporting in at Queen’s Park to take over distribution logistics for coming vaccines. Let’s hope that he does a better job at that than the politicians have done so far.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Back to the Bully Pulpit.

Monday, November 23rd, 2020

It might have been a term coined by U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt but our prime minister Justin Trudeau did the bully pulpit one better. It was living in Rideau Cottage while the official residence at 21 Sussex was under repair. Trudeau did a cuckoo clock single out the front door of the cottage to address the latest news of the coronavirus.

Where lesser Luminoso would need support by technical experts or henchmen, our prime minister does it alone.

It actually seems more crowded all the time at the Ontario political updates. Despite the team effort, Doug Ford is losing traction with his voters as he rants on. His problem is that he little understands the experts and leans heavily on his own solutions. People are questioning the science behind some of his answers. The largest puzzle he presented recently is closing virtually all small business in the most populous cities in the province while leaving the schools in operation. And it will not help to look to education minister Stephen Lecce for answers.

But even from his bully pulpit, Justin Trudeau knows better than to challenge how some conservative premiers are handling the pandemic problems. Health care is in the hands of the provinces and the feds would be crazy to intervene. All Trudeau can really do is support the provincial efforts and plead for public cooperation in these serious times.

Even when we have some vaccines in the offing, the rapidly escalating case loads of pandemic sufferers is of growing concern. Hospitals in some provinces are reaching capacity and there are fewer and fewer healthy health care workers to fill the gaps.

But what Trudeau can do is throw more aid money into the maw of the coronavirus. In some provinces we are looking at disaster as more and more of our small businesses are ordered to shut their doors, never able to re-open. We will suffer the sores of this pandemic for years to come.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Doug Ford buys Ontario.

Sunday, November 22nd, 2020

Listening to premier Doug Ford blow on about his Buy Ontario pitch brings back memories. After all I go back to the days when the province used to promote doing home renovation jobs in winter “When men and materials are available.”

But Doug’s objective is to compete with president-elect Joe Biden’s ‘Buy America’ speech fillers. You have probably noted that American politicians usually include this idea when their speech seems to be lacking substance. It is just a filler, easily said, soon forgotten.

Doug should listen to a very experienced politician he knows by the name of Hazel McCallion, the former mayor of Mississauga. Hazel spent most of her life building her city and she still has words to the wise for political newbie’s such as Ford.

I remember years ago when I was working in Mississauga and one of the division heads wandered into my office. He wanted to know why the City of Mississauga was not buying his product. He wanted me to talk to the mayor and city council about this. Since some of his division’s products were made in the area, he thought they should have more consideration.

I explained that I did not have time for such a presentation myself but it would probably be better if he made the presentation himself. I fed his ego a bit, told him how to arrange to make the presentation and sent him on his way.  I already knew exactly what Hazel would do to him.

She had a stock answer for companies with their local-source product presentations. She would give them a lecture about how Mississauga attracted industry such as his because the city provided excellent services at the lowest tax rate of any city in Ontario. And one of the ways that they could offer the lowest tax rate was that they always bought at the lowest price.

My only addendum to that is that we need to challenge our local companies to innovate, to add value and to be good corporate citizens. It is hard not to want do business with those companies.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Colour coding Doug Ford.

Thursday, November 5th, 2020

A month ago, Ontario premier Doug Ford turned thumbs down on colour coding the severity of the pandemic. Now he tells us the doctors have talked him into doing it. In among the much more interesting American election news the other evening there was an item about the new color coding.

If you are not from Ontario, you might never have seen Dougie in action talking about the pandemic. It really is a treat. It has none of the chutzpah of Justin Trudeau’s cuckoo clock single at Rideau Cottage, but it suits his style. Ford brings three or four cabinet ministers or senior civil servants along to give the session some gravitas. He lets them talk occasionally but it is, without question, the Dougie Ford show and tell.

He has been hard-put to convince the news media to stick to the pandemic when it is about the only chance they get to ask him about other provincial subjects.

It does not appear that the premier gets any briefings on these other subjects but he bravely takes them on. It is fun when some of these questions are prepared to embarrass him. A good example was the recent covid-19 bill that had been introduced in the legislature that had a little gift hidden in it for the premier’s friend Charles McVety. The Whitby-based Canada Christian College that McVety runs was being given university status so that it could grant degrees.

The questions from the news media became interesting after it became known that the bible school had not been approved for granting degrees by any senior educational body.

This leaves the premier with the question if he should stay out of trouble and just send lesser ministers and senior health experts to do these briefings.

But it looks like he loves the limelight too much. There he was, hogging the spotlight, and digging a hole for himself. After shrugging off colour coding the various levels of covid-19 seriousness, here he was really confusing people with his new codes. He missed the mark on that one.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

The ground game has gone south?

Saturday, October 31st, 2020

In my years in politics, I have taught thousands of people how the political ground game is played. It is basic to politics throughout North America. It takes lots of experience and determination to learn. You have to win some and lose some.

This comes to mind because the wife’s book club is reading a book supposedly on democracy by a guy named Dave Meslin from Toronto. She was chortling as she read me some bits from the book about his ideas on ranked ballots. She knows how that subject will get to me every time.

But I know her attitude toward the ground game and when the writer disparaged its importance today, she lost interest in his book. Seasoned politicos across the United States are in the midst of the strongest ground game they have ever played—and in the face of a virulent pandemic. The formula is the same everywhere: you identify your vote and you get out your vote. Techniques have to change to suit the times and the demographics of the constituency, the basics are the same.

The first by-election I was part of was Charles Templeton’s run as a liberal for a provincial seat in an East End Toronto riding in the Riverdale area. The new democrats handed us our heads. It was the only by-election where I personally felt the loss.

The next by-election I was part of was on George Ben’s team, another provincial liberal in the Queen and Ossington area of West Toronto. I asked George to give me the toughest NDP poll in the riding and keep out any other workers. The poll had less than 100 voters and something like 52 had voted NDP in the previous election. I spent a couple weeks walking that poll, talking to the people. On election day, the NDP were so confident, the guy pulling their vote was the leader of their party. I took a special delight in delivering that poll, that was supposed to be NDP, quite convincingly, for the liberal.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

The kid who couldn’t.

Thursday, October 29th, 2020

Sam Oosterhoff MPP, is the youngest person, at 19, to be elected to the Ontario legislature. He might also be the MPP with the most to learn. The member for Niagara West received a more dubious first when he was made parliamentary assistant to the minister of education. It must have amused premier Doug Ford to appoint someone with less than a full semester of experience in the Ontario education system to the job.

But boys will be boys and the kid might be determined to embarrass the premier. The other day, he posted pictures on the Internet of himself and more than 35 fellow citizens without masks, crowded together at a Niagara area restaurant.

It is not that the kid was home schooled and was taught religious conservativism. Ford has publicly pleaded with the citizens of Ontario to wear masks and practice social distancing during the current surge in the coronavirus pandemic. And that request is supposedly meant to include the legislature’s enfant terrable.

And it is not as though Doug Ford was not looking after the province’s social conservatives. His government has been trying to slip through an omnibus bill that includes Charles McVety’s Canada Christian College that would give the Whitby-based college the rights of a degree-granting university. Mr. McVety has a well publicized reputation for being anti-gay rights and for his Islamophobia.

It is assumed that Doug Ford has learned from president Donald Trump in the United States that hypocrisy in regard to religion can pay off at the polls for conservative-minded politicians.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Foregone Conclusions.

Wednesday, October 28th, 2020

A reader asked me recently why I was paying so little attention to the two by-elections in Toronto Centre and York Centre in Toronto. Knowing the two ridings like the back of your hand does not make them more interesting. It just makes the process more boring.

But if you want to read the entrails, those are, at least, more interesting. If you wanted further assurances of the death knell of the federal new democrats, this vote gave it to you. Without new leadership and stronger policy positions, the NDP are lost in the doldrums of politics.

Nobody should expect a by-election to provide as strong a liberal showing—by-elections rarely do. It was enough. Sure, the media push for the new leader of the green party was strong but she had also picked the wrong riding to contest.

The people who really understood the lesson of the two by-elections were the conservatives. The Tories had a small chance in York Centre but failed to pull it off. They are going to have to concentrate their efforts in the suburban ridings around Toronto in the next election if they are going to make more inroads in Ontario.

My guess is that there is going to be some serious study of where the votes came from for the new green leader in Toronto Centre. Without some expensive polling in the riding, my guess is that close to half of those votes came from disgruntled, younger liberals. The bulk were likely NDP votes searching for a new home.

My guess is that our two new MPs will be back on the hustings in less than a year. Incumbency will be their key to re-election.

What is more important is what has happened in the provincial elections in British Columbia and Saskatchewan. In the case of the conservatives in Saskatchewan who pose as the Saskatchewan Party and are supposed to combine conservatives and liberals are all conservatives. And those people who pose as provincial liberals in B.C. are all a bunch of conservatives also. The provincial new democrats won a majority in B.C. and that is the good news.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Understanding ranked ballots.

Monday, October 26th, 2020

It looks as though we need to be sure we are on the same side when it comes to understanding ranked ballots in voting. Some people think they are a good idea. I would like to question that.

Start with how ranked ballots are designed: you have a sheet of paper listing the names of all the candidates and there is a box beside each name in which the voter can mark their preference. If there are ten names, there should be ten boxes in which the voter can number their selections from one to ten.

In the first counting run, the number of choices numbered one are counted. If any candidate wins more than 50 per cent of the votes, that candidate wins, the same as in first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting.

If no candidate receives more than 50 per cent of the votes, you are now going to eliminate the candidate with the least number of votes. And you are going to add the second choice of that losing candidate’s votes to the remaining candidates. This process of adding the losers’ votes to those left standing continues until somebody gets 50 per cent or you simply run out of votes.

But think about that voter, whose first choice has been eliminated. Was this a mainstream choice? Obviously not. That person’s first choice of candidate was a loser. Why would their second choice be any better? In fact, the entire process of counting ranked ballots is a process of adding losers’ choices to the front running candidates.

This is why in selecting from large numbers of candidates, a ranked ballot system is really a process of diving down in the group to find the least contentious candidates.

The civility that proponents of ranked balloting claim can be very phony as candidates work their opponents for that precious second vote.

The increased diversity that ranked ballots are supposed to enable is happening anyway as more and more of us see how the inclusion of racialized and diverse backgrounds strengthens our political process.

There are many claims for different types of voting. No system is perfect nor is there any ideal solution. Open minds can look at alternatives and closed minds will get nowhere.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

Dougie Dumps Ranked Ballots.

Thursday, October 22nd, 2020

You have to hand it to Ontario premier Doug Ford. He rarely gets much right. He just knows what he hates about municipal politics—anything that the downtown Toronto councillors like. This includes changing the voting from first-past-the-post (FPTP) to ranked ballots.

The change had been allowed under provincial legislation but to-date only Cambridge and London, Ontario had taken the step away from FPTP voting. Some Toronto councillors were hoping the city could make the change to ranked ballots as early as in the upcoming 2022 municipal elections.

The provincial government explained their decision with the curt statement that “Now is not the time for municipalities to experiment with costly changes to how municipal elections are conducted.”

While some of the proponents of the change were claiming this was an anti-democratic move by the Ontario conservatives, nobody other than the legislature had ever voted for it. Ontario voters took a look at what is called mixed member proportional voting in a referendum linked to the provincial election of 2007 and defeated the suggestion by a vote of about two to one.

The problem with changing how we vote is that FPTP is a known and trusted system that has been used for hundreds of years. It would take extensive, and probably expensive, selling of any alternative system before voters would accept it.

In the view of this writer what people seemed to be asking for in discussing the subject of change is that they want to be able to be sure candidates have a majority of their voters supporting them. This can best be achieved with run-off elections. In these circumstances, when no candidate receives more than 50 per cent of the vote, the top two vote getters have a run-off and a second vote is held.

With the growing interest in Internet voting, run-off elections would be inexpensive and easily run.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

The Temptation to be Tory.

Friday, October 16th, 2020

It appears that the leopard is still unable to change his spots. At least conservatives such as Ontario’s Doug Ford and Alberta’s Jason Kenney fail to stray long from their expected courses. Mean buggers, both of them. They are conservative to the core.

Take Jason Kenney. Since college in San Francisco, Jason Kenney has been a misogynist and an in-it-for-himself politician. This is the Kenney who has devoted his life to manipulative politics. This is a petty politician who blames the federal government for all the ills of the Alberta economy. This is a politician who blames the federal government for the problems of the Alberta health care system. And yet he fights with the doctors over billings and fires hundreds of nurses and healthcare technicians. It appears that he thinks the covid-19 epidemic is just a federal problem.

This is a petty politician who puts Alberta taxpayers’ money into failing pipelines and pipe-dreams about Alaska railroads. Kenney seems to have no understanding of how a better economic future of Alberta needs to be built.

At least Kenney can cater to the greed of some Alberta voters for a resource economy while Doug Ford, in Ontario has the problem of keeping and building on a once robust industrial-financial-resource based economy. Ford sees his role as putting up a fight against those promoting a carbon-free environment and better land-use planning. It is hard for him to say ‘no’ to developers who want to build on the Oak Ridges Moraine. In the meantime, he is squeezing teachers and healthcare staff who take up so much of the attention of the Ontario government.

There is no question but that Ford and Kenney have very different objectives than the federal government. They are conservatives.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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