Archive for the ‘Provincial Politics’ Category

Ford’s flock is fleeting.

Thursday, April 19th, 2018

In analyzing a political situation, you have to weigh many factors. According to the public pollsters, the upcoming Ontario voting seems to be decided. I hate to poop on the pollsters’ parade but you should always check some very pertinent points before buying into the B.S. The questions start with survey technique, sample size, completed interviews, refused and incomplete interviews, qualifying questions, demographic balance, and the percentage who did not have an answer to the basic questions. Without these answers, the pollster might as well have jotted down those percentages on his or her luncheon napkin while asking mother what she thinks.

What we are seeing in the current circumstances is the steady erosion of the Ford share of attention. It is like the small spike likely today for the NDP. They announced some policies and people who normally ignore them felt that they should pay a bit of attention. Changes such as that will continue through to election day. That is the final poll. It is the one that counts.

Ford’s base is not as large as the pollsters are saying. He brought his late brother’s Ford Nation to the party but most already were conservative voters. These are the angry, lower income conservatives in Toronto spread around the inner city in the suburbs. They can do things in municipal elections but can hardly compete with strong, experienced and organized liberal party organizations in the upcoming provincial contest.

Where Ford is showing strength at the moment is in the more determined conservative strongholds in the Greater Toronto Area, with the rural Ontario Landowners Association and the religious right (social conservatives).

But what is floating the Ford bubble are the unsophisticated, new voters either coming of age to vote or recent immigrants gaining their citizenship. These people are naïve about politics and are only hearing the braggadocio of Ford.  There is a continuing and serious imbalance recently in the Ford funnies versus the weary stuff from Wynne. And until Wynne can change those ratios and pull ahead in the social media as well as the traditional media, she will look like a loser.

And the ratios will change. Wynne is not the sort to remain silent. She will be calling out Ford for his lies and obvious ignorance. She will be armed for bear when she debates Ford—if a debate happens. She is going to show those new voters that Ford is a loser.

And nobody loves a loser.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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A Confrontation of Confederation.

Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

Even on a government VIP  Airbus, a flight from Lima, Peru to Ottawa is over 11 hours. I did that type of flight more than once and they were always an awful experience. I was able to reset my watch and I knew what time it was. My problem was that for a week, I kept asking what day it was.

When on a holiday, the jet lag is a minor problem but when you have serious meetings when you arrive, it is a very different matter. That is just one reason there were no great expectations for prime minister Justin Trudeau in his hastily called meeting in Ottawa the other day.

The meeting was the one with premiers Rachel Notley of Alberta and John Horgan of British Columbia. Our prime minister was going to use his super political powers to resolve a dispute they have been having. It was about a pipeline. It was no surprise that nothing was resolved.

Maybe we were not expecting much would come of the meeting but it is still a concern that nothing could be accomplished. If Canadians are lucky, the matter might get tied up at the supreme court. The justices are probably of a mind to throw it out but could do us all a favour by considering it for a year or two. The desperation at this stage is that it does not become a series of serious confrontations. If the army has to be called in to restore ‘order,’ the entire country could react badly.

Even the American Kinder Morgan pipeline people have recognized that they cannot restart their expansion efforts without protests. They have built extensive barricades around their Burrard Inlet port facilities to ensure the safety of their employees and their investment.

The very worst thing the company has done is to announce a deadline of May 31, for the federal or Alberta government to show the confidence to the financial community that this pipeline expansion will happen. That is a red flag to both sides of this confrontation of confederation.

There is a strange irony that Pierre Trudeau did so much to help pull Canada’s confederation together. It is his son who has the nerve to call himself an environmentalist who thinks he can ignore the concerns of those who care. The bad economic choices of Alberta politicians are hardly the stuff of a confident and consensual confederation.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Please come back Patrick Brown.

Tuesday, April 17th, 2018

We will have to take back some of those nasty names we have called Barrie’s Patrick Brown. Sure, he is a sleazebag but he is hardly as ignorant or as frightening as Doug Ford. If we could just have our choice of sleazebag, I guess we would prefer the one we know.

The main difference between the two conservatives is that Brown is a more experienced politician. He would still not know the difference between a good policy idea or a dumb policy idea but he does know some smart people who would. He got those smart people to create a policy booklet for him that was introduced last November as ‘The People’s Guarantee.’ With that booklet in hand, Patrick’s conservatives were running higher in the polls than where Ford is today.

I must have been laughing as hard as other progressives as we watched Doug Ford slag Patrick’s ‘guarantee’ booklet throughout the conservative’s desperation leadership contest. All leadership candidates had signed pledges that they would run on the ‘guarantee’ booklet’s promises but Doug Ford’s word is not very good. In breaking ranks, he forced the other candidates to break their promises. He trashed Patrick’s promise of a having a carbon tax instead of the Wynne government’s Cap and Trade program.

The carbon tax support was an untypically smart move by Brown. He must have been told that Cap and Trade confuses voters and is too secretive, while a carbon tax is very straight forward and transparent. And since the federal government was saying it would impose a carbon tax anyway, why would Brown not support it?

And Brown would have had the political experience to handle Tanya Granic Allen. The social conservatives with their oppressive demands are scaring Doug Ford but Brown would have Tanya toeing the line or out of the contest to be a conservative candidate. As a social conservative himself, Brown learned the lesson the hard way and he would take control.

If I was a really loyal liberal, I guess I would concede that Ford is easier for Wynne to tear apart in a debate. Did he really agree to that one debate? It is my guess that the conservatives will try to keep Doug Ford as far away from Kathleen Wynne as possible.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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A Truth Squad for Doug Ford?

Monday, April 16th, 2018

Here is a million-dollar idea for the Ontario liberals. It came to me as I read the news that the party was going to waste a million dollars on television advertisements to tell Ontario voters that Doug Ford tells lies. I suppose I should charge them, but it was not my idea. It belonged to the late Keith Davey, the master political strategist for the Liberal Party in the last half of the 20th Century.

It was Keith’s idea but he had to get the approval of Walter Gordon who was liberal campaign manager in 1963 and party leader Lester Pearson. Nobody was enthused. The toughest arguments against it were by liberal stalwart Judy LaMarsh, whom Keith wanted to head up the truth squad. I was just a young volunteer at the time but I knew that John Diefenbaker would tear into her.

Judy and her troop were welcomed by prime minister Diefenbaker at the first event and there were seats reserved for them at the front of the hall. It was classic Diefenbaker when he tore into them. Judy and team only needed to take Mr. Diefenbaker’s scorn at two more events before Keith said “That is enough.”  He had made his point.

The strategist’s point was that Mr. Diefenbaker was making free with the truth and the news media did the best job of telling the voters. Everyone was laughing but it was at Mr. Diefenbaker’s expense.

And that is the objective with Doug Ford. The difference was that Mr. Diefenbaker was a wily old Prairie lawyer, skilled at talking around the truth. Doug Ford simply does not know what he is talking about.

A good example is his promise to fire the chief executive of Hydro One. Ford cannot imagine anyone earning six million a year and so he will fire him. The only trouble is to do that he would have to start by firing the entire board of Hydro One. And only then could he fire the chief executive officer. By the time the dust settled on the law suits involved, the company could have another $20 million or more to make up from electricity transmission rates.

If the liberals just keep making the point that Doug Ford does not know what he is doing, they can turn around those ridiculous public opinion polls. The 2018 provincial election in Ontario is far from decided.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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The end of the gas plant affair.

Sunday, April 15th, 2018

The Ontario gas plant affair has ended badly. There are no good guys in the story. It was a sorry tale of misinformation and harangue. It was public participation gone rotten. It was political perfidy. It cost us all.

And David Livingston is the fall guy. He was premier McGuinty’s right-hand man. Nobody should be that loyal. Nobody has the right to tell someone to break the law. Livingston got a token prison sentence. It is still an unfair price for a fall guy to pay.

What price should former premier Dalton McGuinty pay? What price should then campaign chief Greg Sorbara pay?

And we need to remember that the conservatives and the NDP are hardly blameless. They stirred the pot. They incited the local citizens to protest the relatively innocuous gas plants. They loudly demanded they be cancelled. If your local candidate from any party mentions this business on the campaign trail, you will know him or her for a hypocrite.

Sometimes we make decisions in a campaign that are not thought through. We might have had too little time to weigh the pros and cons. When more recently in the midst of a federal election, Justin Trudeau promised that it would be the last election under first-past-the-post rules. He did not lie deliberately. He had simply not given the thought a thorough look. He did not even understand the impact of the promise.

Nor did anyone have any idea what cancelling those gas plants would cost. It was a careless and costly move. It was not a proud day for politicians.

The people who should also be sharing the blame are those who raved against the plants. They were being given an advantage that most Ontario communities could only hope for. They were being provided with local back-up electrical generation for times of extreme heat or cold to keep their air conditioners or furnaces working and their lights turned on. Gas generation plants can come up to speed quickly and meet emergency needs.

And typical of NIMBYs everywhere, the people who complained the most about plants they had never seen, would be the first to complain bitterly in brown outs or electrical system failures. Listen to them about the cost of electrical transmission from back-up plants many miles away.

But now you have your fall guy. Mr. Livingston is carrying that cross for a lot of people. We can all be silent as he goes by.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Standing with BC’s John Horgan.

Saturday, April 14th, 2018

It is a memory from many years ago that sticks with you. It is this time of year. After being awakened by the sweeps rowers training on the harbour, you walk to downtown Vancouver from the Bayshore Inn, along streets lined with cherry blossoms in full bloom.

You drink in the wonderful freshness of the air off the Straits of Georgia. There is the warming sun on your face. You can still see the snow high atop the North Shore Mountains. Is this not a city to love?

British Columbia premier John Horgan would agree with that. We easterners might laughingly refer to it as Canada’s left coast but B.C. is a province of great beauty, industrious people and makes us proud.

And, somehow, there must be an answer to the current argument with Alberta. I suggested recently that we really need someone without a horse in the race to adjudicate between the premiers of Alberta and B.C. My suggestion was that it was about time for recently elected NDP leader Jagmeet Singh to show us what he can do.

Instead, we are expected to get prime minister Trudeau. He is cutting short his meetings in Lima, Peru to get back to Canada and meet with the two warring premiers.

The problem is that this is just two ganging up on one. Premier Sharon Notley of Alberta and the prime minister are equally committed to getting the pipeline expansion completed. There is nobody at the table capable of determining if there is a middle ground. There is no way to equalize. There is no way to compensate any party.

Advantage is obviously to the prime minister and Ms. Notley. And what does B.C. get but the thrills of the spills? And with three times the giant tankers in Burrard Inlet, you ask when, not if.

This is one problem that Justin Trudeau cannot solve with some selfies. There is nobody to charm.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Has anybody seen Jagmeet?

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

This is becoming ridiculous. The New Democratic Party of Canada has to have some leadership. Without leadership, it is going to become the forgotten party and the efforts of many fine people over the last 80 years will be wasted. The party can hardly continue as present with no leadership, no direction and no clear vision of the future for Canada.

No, I am not a party member. It is just that as a progressive, I expect the NDP to play a role in helping develop the critically needed social programs for Canadians. And I hardly want the one-person Green Party to be the only focus for protecting our environment.

We need ongoing dialogue in parliament on serving Canadian needs and the NDP is not playing its part. It has to have leadership to do that. And that same leadership should be inspiring and encouraging the NDP to be making a mark in provincial and district legislatures across the country.

If we had an effective leader of the NDP, there would a sit-down somewhere, but soon, with the federal leader, the premier of Alberta and the premier of British Columbia. Jagmeet Singh cannot consider himself leader of anything until he resolves this problem. There can only be one stand for the NDP on the Trans Mountain pipeline issue. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already shown where hypocrisy takes us.

And the NDP cannot continue to delay by hoping that Kinder Morgan will simply reach its deadline at the end of May and cancel the expansion. The issue is our environment and the environment cannot be trusted to fools.

Jagmeet Singh has to realize that he will soon be accused of leaving the Ontario legislature before the total collapse of the Ontario NDP. There could be nothing left of the Ontario party but one or two seats in Northern Ontario after the June 7 provincial election.

We always assumed there was an intelligent and competent man in those colorful turbans and bespoke suits. Nobody really cares about Jagmeet being a devout Sikh but Canadians cannot accept his religion overshadowing the job he has undertaken. The job comes first. Maybe his fellow Sikhs should have thought about that before they joined the NDP en mass in both B.C. and Ontario. They decided the leadership for the NDP. Are they ready to accept that responsibility?


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Failed Philanthropy.

Tuesday, April 10th, 2018

It was intriguing going through David Callahan’s book The Givers: Wealth, power, and philanthropy in a new gilded age. There has rarely been that much understanding of the failures of North American society. As president of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada back in the 1970s, I could never have written so forcefully of my concerns over the direction that charitable philanthropy was taking.

In those years as volunteer president, I took the Canadian organization into   a new age as a major health agency. I started with a small philanthropy and turned it into a cause. From a total budget of $180,000 a year, I stayed until we past $10 million per year in funding. And that was well before crowd sourcing became an Internet possibility.

But let me say that Callahan’s book is heavy reading until he lets his hair down and states his concerns. Charitable funding, emotional funding or guilty-conscience funding are never the answer to societal problems. We, as fellow humans have to accept our responsibilities. If we leave things for the other guys, they will never get done.

We, all of us, need to be equally and deeply concerned about the needs of our society. I was arguing with a very capable politician a while ago because I wanted him to seek a seat at Queen’s Park in the coming election. Knowing this guy, he could be premier within the next five or six years. But he told me that the major concerns at Queen’s Park were health and education and that was where the bulk of the money went. Those issues just did not turn his crank. He will likely take the federal route next year.

He could not be more wrong. The health and education of our society are the seminal issues as we continue through the 21st century. We are in an era of innovation and progress and here is where we must meet the challenges.

And philanthropy cannot pay for these vital needs. Philanthropists might have made their money from an outrageous risk but they want their legacy to be solid and without risk. People such as Bill Gates of Microsoft and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook are nerds who have no understanding of societal needs and the future. They can waste their money as they wish and as they can but they do little good.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Getting to know Doug Ford.

Monday, April 9th, 2018

It takes time. Over the next six to eight weeks, more and more Ontario voters will start to think seriously about the June 7 provincial election. To many, it will just be a bit of a bother, a minor blip in an otherwise busy life. The actual turnout at the polls will just be a statistic because we will find out the results at the same time. It will be the politicians who rejoice or dispute the results.

Nobody will be noisier in rejoicing or disputing than conservative leader Doug Ford. He is the neophyte at this electoral process. He will ignore the rules. He will ignore the advice of his aides. He will call his errors, innovations. His policies will be spur of the moment ideas. His plans will be, at best, vague and ill-defined.

One of his first decisions about the campaign trail has been to cancel the bus that would have allowed the news media to travel with him. It confused the claim that the conservatives had raised the most campaign funds. That campaign bus will nag Ford from the beginning to the end of the campaign. It made him look cheap (despite the media paying for it) and the result will be poorer coverage of his campaign.

Admittedly most campaign organizations would be delighted to get rid of the media bus. There are always people in the inner circle who consider it like taking you own nest of vipers along with you. They are a pain in the ass and are always trying to screw up your logistics.

But those media are the entire purpose of the travels. They are your heralds, your scribes, your minstrels, your town criers. They are your opportunity. They tell the voters about you. If you just enfold them in your arms and show them the love they deserve, they will still stab you in the back.

Even while failing to explain his decision about the bus, Ford was getting himself in more trouble. There was a question from the media present about why he was not coming to a black community event. He was supposedly going to be in Northern Ontario next week while all the other leaders were discussing black problems in Toronto. Ford was telling the media how much he and his late brother Rob loved black people. He even told them about having taken under-privileged black kids up to his cottage in Muskoka in the summer. He was patronizing.

Doug Ford’s concern on June 7 will be the Ontario voters who will buy into his slash and burn politics. These are the voters he has to have on his side. They will only bother to vote for him if they believe he can win. They will not waste their time voting for a loser. Those polling figures can change a great deal by voting day.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Trump-lite is not Trump.

Sunday, April 8th, 2018

Have you been reading the media pontificators who are comparing Ontario conservative leader Doug Ford with U.S. President Donald Trump? It is a sad comparison. It would annoy Donald Trump, if he cared. Doug Ford is a wannabe. He would dearly love to have as much money as Trump and to have ripped off so many in business. It is hard to compare the ups and downs of a label printing business to the successes and failures of Trump.

And what makes anyone think that a blowhard such as Ford is going to win in Ontario? Ford is a loser. It was his brother who created Ford Nation. It was his brother who won the Toronto mayoralty. It was brother Rob who created the legend. The only political success Doug Ford has ever had was winning his late brother’s council seat in the City of Toronto. That is hardly the route to the premier’s chair in Ontario.

The reason many of us think of Ford as Trump-lite is that he shares the same failure in not being very political. Trump has made a game of being a political fool. Doug Ford just cannot help it. Ford is trying to be political. Trump does not care. Trump is a pig with women while Ford tries to act like his mother taught him manners. Both hate the news media but that is because the honest media tell the truth about them. Trump is simple. Ford is conflicted.

The one thing that we see in both of these pseudo politicians is that they have pushed the boundaries of unsuitable for office into despised. There seems to be absolutely no need to listen to either for the purpose of learning anything.

But to suggest that the political system in Ontario is similar to the corrupted federal situation in the United States shows a lack of understanding of the two systems. Trump, somewhat unwittingly, mixed the losers, the angry, the religious right, the lunatic fringe and the bigots of mid-America into an election day force that worked to give him the electoral college. It was also something like the situation with the errors the Ontario conservatives built into their leadership voting. If we understand this properly, Ford won over Christine Elliott despite the fact she had more votes and more electoral districts supporting her.

Luckily, in Ontario, you need to have more of your party elected in more electoral districts. It is simple. It is one-person, one-vote. It is hard to get confused. You get who you get because that is the way people want it. It is the best safeguard against losers like Doug Ford to be found.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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