Archive for the ‘Provincial Politics’ Category

We can blame Cousin Oliver.

Friday, May 26th, 2017

It is all Oliver Mowat’s fault. The myopic Father of Confederation had a mainly rural and agrarian Ontario to oversee in the early years of confederation. His picture hangs over our desk today, not as a distant relation but in the form of a preserved and framed, full front-page of a Saturday Globe published in 1893.  The lead story recognizes Sir Oliver’s then 21-year tenure as Ontario’s premier.

But Ontario is a very different place today than the Province of Upper Canada that came into the Canadian confederation 150 years ago this July 1. Cousin Oliver would probably have something snarky to say about the picture of his one-time colleague Canada’s first Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald on the same wall. The two of them had very different views of confederation. Our preference is the country as foreseen by Sir John.

Yet, it was Sir Oliver who won those early battles taken to London that defined this country. He saw Canada as an outrider to the British ship of state. He saw us as a supplier of raw materials to English industry. He wanted strong provinces that could dictate to a national government of convenience. The British adjudicators of the time agreed with Sir Oliver.

But Sir John had his revenge. He built the national links of steel that drew Canada into one. His Canada was from sea to sea.

Give Oliver the credit he deserves in building Ontario into the powerhouse of confederation. It was his short-sightedness that left us with a constricting constitution that is so unsuited to the needs of our modern Canada.

Who knew in 1867 that Canada would outgrow the concept of the Commonwealth? Who knew in those early years of confederation that Canada could become a production powerhouse to help change the course of European and World Wars?

Let’s give Oliver the credit he deserves. He was a wily politician. He took George Brown and Edward Blake’s early Liberals and led them for 24 years as Premier of Ontario. He put together a voting coalition that included Catholics and working class voters. It was said about him that he was supported strongly by both the liquor interests and the prohibitionists. Cousin Oliver was a Liberal.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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The anger is real Ms. Wynne.

Sunday, May 21st, 2017

It is the time of year when Canadians come out of their winter refuges. We travel. We talk to each other. And if we are smart, we listen. What we are hearing here in Ontario is the strong desire for change. That is not necessarily bad if Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is also listening.

What we are hearing might be a surprise to her. Her notoriety has gained momentum over the winter. We are hearing her being blamed for many things, even some for which she has no responsibility. It is hard to argue with the anger.

If something is worth doing, she does it by half measures and for optimal political benefit. We understand she was in London, Ontario yesterday to announce a high-speed train plan for the Toronto-Windsor corridor. While we understand the political choice to starting with that section, we are appalled at the political hutzpah behind it.

Of course, we all know that the Windsor-Toronto leg will be the cheapest and there are more Liberal seats to be won in that part of southern Ontario. We will also concede that it is the leg that can be moved along with some alacrity.

But Wynne really needs to wait and announce this when they can say something more definite about costs than it will cost between $4 billion and $12 billion. We will soon be referring to Kathleen Wynne as the $8 billion-dollar woman.

What is particularly disappointing with this is that she is appointing David Collenette, former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s Minister of Transport, to drive this train through the years it will take to complete building the line. The only money really allocated at this time is $15 million for the environmental studies. It is the thought that David might be expendable after next June’s provincial election that concerns us. And we would also hate to see this vital project turned into a political football.

But it is just the latest cynical political move by a sorry politician with an ego that is bigger than her sense of duty to this province.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Fixing Ontario’s out-of-date work laws.

Friday, May 19th, 2017

Ontario Labour Minister Kevin Flynn has a tough road to travel with the Wynne Cabinet. He is seeking to address the antiquated labour laws in Ontario. He wants to restore balance to the rights of part-time workers. He wants to guarantee a minimum wage on which someone can live. What will be interesting in these deliberations will be the blocks the Wynne government puts in the way.

The full package is just too much to expect of a cautious and conservative government such as Wynne runs. She will probably agree to the raising of the minimum wage except it will be piecemeal and behind the poverty curve.

She will likely agree to making it easier to unionize rather than to really digging into the wrongs of the workplace. Her cabinet would have little understanding of the pride of place in the working environment and the need for individual rights in employment. Unions are not the only answer and addressing those rights under collective agreements cannot necessarily enable individual rights in the workplace.

While Kevin Flynn might want to overcome some of the problems in unionizing widely dispersed workers, he seems to be ignoring what can be done in labour law to improve their lot. He seems to also be unaware that the federal and provincial governments are both guilty of having massive numbers of employees under contract that treat them as contractors without benefits or many rights.

Moving temporary workers to an improved vacation pay—allowing for a minimum of three-weeks actual time off with pay is a minor step. Ensuring temporary workers of the same benefits as full-time employees is key to sorting out what is temporary work and what is full-time employment.

But the minimum wage question is still the key question that Flynn has to fight on. The Wynne Cabinet has already dug a line that can also bury them after the election next June. All they have to do is leave the minimum wage behind the poverty line.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Take it to heart Ms. Wynne.

Monday, May 15th, 2017

Yes, there is a lesson to be learned from the B.C. provincial election by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. The lesson is that when voters are mad, you best get out of the way.

Take a page from former Premier Dalton McGuinty’s book: he knew when to get out of the way. Except for the gas-powered electrical generation plants, he gave Kathleen Wynne a fairly clean slate.

But few were impressed. If it had not been for the very bad campaigns of Tim Hudak’s Conservatives and Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats in 2014, Wynne might not have scraped through that last election. And we can hardly count on Brown and Horwath to be so careless this time around.

Brown is not likely to be such an easy target as Hudak next spring. This guy will never be where you expect him to be and he will be a fast-moving target. He is currently attacking Yasir Naqvi Ontario’s Attorney General over inadequacies in Ontario’s parole system but it is more the man he is attacking than the parole needs. Undermining strong cabinet members at any opportunity is just a strategic move rather than any concern.

Brown and his people would also recognize Naqvi as a strong possibility to replace Wynne and they are trying for two birds with one stone.

But there are some even stronger Liberals ready for the top job in Ontario and Wynne is in their way at the moment. She needs to resign before the end of June so that the party can set up a convention by November. If we can get an every-member votes race without artificial constrictions, we have the chance of choosing a younger, more progressive Liberal leader than we have had for many a year. What we have to make sure of is that the supposed powers-that-be are kept from manipulating the convention.

What we need to hear from liberal candidates for Wynne’s job is their ideas of about where Ontario is headed. As the industrial and financial heart of Canada, we have to take the lead. A small step towards Pharmacare based on looking after our young people has to show a path for full Pharmacare across Canada. This would contribute considerably to lowering and controlling healthcare costs for the entire country.

Ontario need never take pride in just where we are but has to have a vision of the future. That takes leadership.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Those tree-hugging Greenies did it!

Saturday, May 13th, 2017

When we wrote our Morning Line for the British Columbia provincial election, we admitted the weakness to our assessment. Here it is four days after the election and we still know very little. Blame the Greens!

With the B.C. Liberals one short of a majority, the absentee ballots and the recounts will be critical.

The B.C. Green Party won three seats in an 87-seat legislature and you would swear they just won the Battle of the Bulge. Green leader Andrew Weaver is acting like he just won a lottery. If the ruling Liberals do not regain one more seat in the final counts, Weaver’s three Green Party MLAs will hold the balance of power.

That balance of power would be good to kill the Kinder Morgan Trans-mountain pipeline and take away the Liberal’s unfair business financing. B.C. could have a more honest and fair election next time around—probably in less than two years.

Mind you, it can go the other way too. The absentee ballots for the riding of Courtenay-Comox could easily change that 9-vote lead of the NDP candidate to a win for Christie Clark’s Liberals. And that would be the status quo all over again with a statistical majority for the Liberals.

That outcome would not be enough to make Clark’s friend Justin Trudeau happy. Getting the Kinder Morgan pipeline completed under those circumstances would be tenuous at best. A simple flu bug going through the government ranks in the Legislature could upset that apple cart.

The situation reminds us all that politics is a blood sport and there is no quarter given to those on their way out.

Mind you, B.C. voters need to learn something about strategic voting. Putting your resources where they will do the most good is a basic of war and politics.

We will all be watching as B.C. plays out this fascinating battle over the next couple weeks.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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A politico posits on Patrick Brown.

Friday, May 12th, 2017

One of the more interesting aspects of some politicians is the effort they will take to make sure you do not know them. It is like Ontario voters should be less worried about Ontario Conservative leader Patrick Brown’s lack of policies than his lack of personality.

Having moved to Barrie 13 years ago, we were still unpacking when the 2004 federal election was called. The first election worker at our door was calling to promote the local Liberal candidate. The second was the Conservative candidate in person.

Patrick Brown is not an impressive person. This anaemic-looking little man was at our door with his hand out offering to shake hands. He introduced himself in that whiny adenoidal voice and that was when we found out who he was. It convinced us to make sure we were on the voters’ list to vote Liberal. Brown lost that election. He won in 2006.

For more than 12 years now, we have watched Patrick Brown in action (and in in-action) here in Barrie and when in Ottawa. He has never really represented Barrie. He never did anything in Ottawa other than what Stephen Harper’s people told him. And when they did not instruct him, he voted against women’s rights on the Conservative religious right.

Once when this writer was in the nation’s capital to make a presentation to the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), one of the speakers earlier on the agenda was Patrick Brown M.P. It was very obvious in his remarks that he was not speaking on behalf of his voters. When he sat down beside a young man in front of where we were sitting, he did not recognize us. The young man was quite effusive about the MP’s speech and we got the impression he had written it. That made sense when seeing his badge that identified him as a Bell Canada employee.

Brown was known as the king of parliamentary mailers in Ottawa—using his free mailing privileges to voters—usually to support charities because he had nothing to say for himself. We used to hate meeting voters who told us what a wonderful job he did for the charities. They had no clue what he was elected to do in Ottawa.

Patrick Brown lives and breathes politics. When he saw the hand-writing on the wall for the Harper regime a couple years ago, he flipped to the provincial scene. He looked at how small the Ontario Progressive Conservative membership was and swamped it with 40,000 mainly Hindu and Muslim temporary membership sign-ups from the sub-continent. He appeared to defy the rules of the party and nobody called him on it.

Brown is relying on the party to provide him with some polices for next year. He might also lack principles but nobody can help him there.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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Is Andrea Horwath circling the drain?

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

There had to be some confusion in Ontario New Democratic Party ranks last week. It was caused by an unfortunate story about the NDP getting a second wind “With Horwath at the helm.” This was after the party had the wind taken out of its sails by the Liberals announcing Pharmacare for all Ontario residents under 25. The only t-shirt that Horwath can wear says: ‘Loser.’

Written by the Star’s provincial political pundit Martin Regg Cohn, the story lauds Horwath for supposedly pre-empting the governing Liberals announcement before their budget. What seems more obvious is that the NDP had bad intelligence about the budget. Their plan was ridiculed for only providing for just the most frequently prescribed drugs instead of the entire government list.

But maybe the Star writer was feeling sorry for the NDP leader. After all, her only solace in the budget was that the NDP had asked the government to extend rent controls. The only problem with rent controls is that the government has to implement incentives to build rental properties or the program can result in a lack of sufficient new rentals being made available. That was done.

Maybe the reason for good cheer after eight years of running Ontario’s NDP, is that Horwath is finally showing better on the personal polls. The serious dissatisfaction with the Wynne way of running things and growing realization that the new Progressive Conservative leader might be a conniving putz, has pushed her profile forward. She has the dubious honour of being the best of a bad lot.

As any progressive can tell you, Ontario NDPers’ hearts are usually in the right place. It is their brains that are addled. They are giving Horwath no serious help in developing policy toward next year’s election. And this is certainly the area in which Horwath needs the most help. She went through the 2014 election as though she had lost her service dog. She had absolutely no adult help in struggling through that election. Lately she has had nothing more than a shallow LEAP Manifesto from her Toronto brain trust.

It is long past the time when Canada’s federal and provincial New Democrats need to realize that they have to leave the era of socialism and self-centred unions and look to a social democrat future. Tomorrow’s workplace needs a political party that can think differently on workers and their needs. They have to realize that work is no longer a sinecure but a journey. It is there to bring us personal fulfilment.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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A rookie mistake in Don Valley North.

Saturday, May 6th, 2017

In October last year we wrote some personal comments about the area of Don Valley North electoral district in Toronto. The wife and I had our home there in that part of North York for more than 20 years. It was just down the street and around the corner from the historic home of former Conservative Premier George S. Henry. We raised our children. We made many lasting friendships. We were active in politics. In the story, I even used the personal pronoun “I” in writing about those years.

But times change. The Caplan’s—mother and son—came and went. Ethnic rivalries became dominant and were foolishly used instead of contained. The Liberal Party in the area lacked the leadership it needed. Like any organization, the party needed to be maintained by people who cared.

The Ontario Liberal Party hit its lowest point the other day when Premier Kathleen Wynne announced the appointment of a candidate in Don Valley North for the provincial election to be held next year. There was no pretense at democratic process. The liberals of the electoral district were denied their right to choose their candidate. This is the way the Liberal Party now denies the intent and strengths of its origins.

It is really too bad that Premier Wynne lacks any understanding of this area of the old municipality of North York. It was the area in 1837 that gave support to the Upper Canada Rebellion. It was a gathering area for the march down Young Street. They wanted to fight the undemocratic Family Compact and the British troops.

Upper Canada’s problems today are even more egregious. We are faced with an election in a year. It will be a contest between the failing family compact of Premier Wynne, the incompetence of a Conservative putz named Brown and a New Democratic leader who is going nowhere. With a combination such as that, we might all end up at the first tavern on our way to vote.

While we have absolutely no idea why Kathleen Wynne’s friend Shelley Carroll thinks she can be helpful at Queen’s Park, she should learn about that electoral district first. Those are the people she thinks she can represent. First, she has to earn their respect. Starting as a candidate appointed by Kathleen Wynne is not exactly an encouraging endorsement.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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Creating conflict for city and province.

Friday, May 5th, 2017

They really cannot be doing it to ‘sell’ newspapers in this day and age. The Toronto Star has been busy building a supposed conflict between Mayor John Tory of Toronto and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. It is based on the recent Ontario budget that did not mention more funds for Toronto’s subways and other infrastructure needs.

This is a sadly silly scenario. We have seen photo opportunities, television appearances and headline stories of the mayor and the premier and even with prime ministers assuring Toronto that they will have funds. So much has been promised over the past ten years, you would expect that Toronto would have about three more subways besides that light rail line it has been digging across town on Eglinton Avenue for the past four years.

Frankly the Toronto Star is not helping people understand what is going on in their city. You would think the paper could keep a tally of all of these offers of money by the feds and province and remind the various treasurers that some funds are due. The poor mayor should hardly have to always be going around with a tin cup.

And he could hardly be expecting to do any better with that putz Patrick Brown in the premier’s chair. That is the same guy who tried to convince Wynne not to let the mayor charge tolls on the city’s portion of the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway. It was only when Wynne was convinced of the heat she would take from the Greater Toronto Area voters that she told Tory to forget road tolls.

And based on the average selling price of Toronto homes these days, Toronto could be collecting far more taxes. It might be tough to get a third more but when the average house can be sold for about $900,000, we know the city is getting a cut.

Mind you the unwieldy structure of city council makes it extremely difficult for the mayor to build any kind of consensus or consistency of direction. No provincial party has ever brought forward a workable plan for the city and would hardly ask for any suggestions. Keeping the city in short pants and under the provincial thumb is key to many seats in provincial elections.

The Toronto Star always seems to ignore this issue. Why? We will leave that discussion for another time.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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The piecemeal processes of Premier Wynne.

Sunday, April 30th, 2017

“Ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages: Let me draw your attention to the left ring of our three-ring circus. Here for your entertainment and edification is our finance minister who has just passed the miracle of a balanced budget. Charles Sousa will now amaze you further by proposing a new pharmacare program to swamp the proposal of the NDP.”

And he did. In his geared-for-election budget, the Ontario finance minister proposed a piecemeal pharmacare program for Ontario residents under the age of 25. It is the same drug benefit program that applies to seniors and people receiving provincial support. The difference from what the New Democrats proposed is that it applies to the gamut of 4400 listed drugs as opposed to the more restrictive list of the most commonly used 125 prescription drugs as proposed by the NDP.

All it does though is remind Ontario voters of the penchant of the Liberal government for doing things piecemeal. When their banker advised them to sell off the electricity distribution system in Ontario, they broke it into small lots and started selling off a bit at a time. It helped remind Ontario voters each time that they will end up contributing to the profits for those buyers.

It was the same when the province’s banker advised them to sell wine and beer in grocery stores. They thought that was such a great idea that they announced it several times, added hard ciders for another couple media events and spaced the selection of stores over a couple years so that they could have lots more media events. And in the meantime, nobody knows which grocer is selling beer and which is not.

It is as though the Wynne Liberals have decided that if anything is worth doing, it can best be done many times. That will leave the final stage of having pharmacare for those between 25 and 64—that we should have had since the beginning of Medicare in Canada.

Since Ontario has 40 per cent of Canada’s population, the federal government will get into the act at some stage and make it universal in Canada.

Mind you, that genius Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown complained about this program needing a means test. It will be interesting to see how he will apply a means test to children. He should hardly be concerned about the parents paying for them. They will anyway in their taxes but it will be much less because of the buying power of the government and the fact we will have healthier kids, more likely taking their prescribed medicines.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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