Archive for the ‘Provincial Politics’ Category

Change the future; Not the past.

Sunday, July 23rd, 2017

It seems to be the rage these days to want to tear down icons of the past. Why are we wasting so much time, rhetoric and effort in this pursuit? What can it gain us if we do not look to our future?

There is a framed front page of the Toronto Globe from 1893 hanging over my computer as I write. It features a story about a distant relative, Sir Oliver Mowat, then Premier of Ontario. My old friend Bob Nixon, when he was Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, once referred to old Ollie in a speech as “that myopic little man.” In his day, Sir Oliver worked very hard for Ontario. Why criticize him just because times have changed?

Similarly, I have a picture of Sir. John A. Macdonald prominent on another wall. Sure, Sir John was a drunk and a racist, he was also a damn effective politician in his day and Canada is here to prove it.

But the current contretemps about historic figures Egerton Ryerson in Toronto and Edward Cornwallis in Halifax are ridiculous. As something of a student of Canadian history, I will cheerfully admit that neither of the gentlemen live up to our standards in the 21st century.

When Cornwallis was sent by the British to establish a colony at what is now Halifax, Nova Scotia in the mid-18th century, a standard means of dealing with the local aboriginals was a bounty for scalps. Despite his efforts to make peace with the local bands, he was not knowledgeable enough to deal with the right ones. It was not until he found for himself that the trade in scalps was counterproductive that he again sued for peace with the local Mi’kmaq. Cornwallis was only in Halifax for three years and he can hardly be blamed for everything that went wrong.

And then you have fusty old Egerton Ryerson in Toronto. Yes, he did his best to tell the federal government in the late 1800s what to teach the youngsters in the residential schools but he was neither responsible for the people doing the teaching nor the overall management of the schools.

Ryerson might have been a hide-bound Methodist but he made a major contribution in launching one of the finest public education systems in the world here in Ontario. We should worry more about its future than its past.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Is there any hope for Horwath?

Monday, July 17th, 2017

Every once in a while, we are reminded that there are three parties at play for the right to hold the lease on the Pink Palace looking down University Avenue from Queen’s Park. We know lots about the Liberals that currently hold the lease. We know more than we want to know about the Conservatives and their corrupt leadership. What has us stumped is the lack of direction of Ontario’s New Democratic Party.

It is easy to blame NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. After eight years of her desultory leadership, you really wonder about the death wish of her and her party. If she ever had a good idea, the Liberals have stolen it. And she spends most of her time trying to explain why the Liberals are not going far enough or fast enough. Even when she is right, she does not have the political smarts to take advantage of being right.

Earlier this year, Horwath received a letter signed by 34-longtime party supporters in the Toronto area questioning her leadership. Frankly, they could have asked ‘What leadership?’ The very fact that one of those signatures was that of long-time NDP supporter Michele Landsberg, wife of former party leader Stephen Lewis, was serious enough.

You would think that Horwath would take some of this criticism to heart. She seems to have no understanding of the art of leadership. She almost seems to be apologizing for her concerns. Her policies appear to be borrowed from the right wing rather than developed on the left. She seems to lack any understanding at all for social democratic politics and where those politics could take us.

Given the chance to reprise her almost absent-minded campaign of 2014, Horwath will find herself well behind the political sentiment of the province. People are uneasy about the stability of the recently improved economy. The number of jobs might be growing but how many are part-time, lacking benefits and insecure? They see the political situation in the United States as dangling us over a precipice. They are worried about the chances of bringing the continued turmoil of the Middle East to North America.

What all Ontario parties lack is leadership. There is no trust for any of the three leaders or their parties. Leadership polls at this stage are meaningless. The election is scheduled for next June and somebody has to get serious.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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It’s always controversy for PC leader Brown.

Sunday, July 16th, 2017

The leader of Ontario Conservatives has too many balls in the air. Here he is trying to run the strategy, organize the electoral districts, pick the candidates and run the nomination meetings. The only jobs he has forgotten is to show leadership and to help the party choose policies. Since the party seems to have no policies, that last part is easy.

Without policy direction, the party has become a magnet for unscrupulous political candidates with their own agendas. They are looking at the polls that currently show the Ontario Conservatives with the most support from Ontario voters. They are betting on an easy win.

It is also easy to steal nominations. In a party with an unscrupulous leader who stole his position as leader, who cares about the dirty tricks in individual ridings? It is getting so bad that Brown has charged PriceWaterhouseCoopers with the task of keeping things on the up and up. They seem to have gone downhill instead. This might be a task that is beyond the expertise of the accounting firm.

One of the major problems is that it is often Conservative Party officials who are accused of manipulating nomination meetings in favour of one candidate or another. In a Scarborough electoral district, an ethnic Tamil candidate—who was not even a party member until the month before—showed up with large numbers of recent Tamil newcomers and party officials accepted many questionable party memberships.

The same thing happened in reverse in a Hamilton area riding where the Sikh-Canadian candidate has charged that he was defeated by party officials manipulating the election process and maybe doing some ballot box stuffing.

And if you think this is just smoke, you need to check Conservative Party meetings around Ontario. Nomination meetings in Ottawa, Newmarket, Grimsby, Toronto, Hamilton are all being challenged because people are disrespecting the rules.

What the Conservatives should do is forget the accounting firm and hire some Liberal and New Democrat party members to run their meetings. They might at least know a bit about rigging a nomination meeting.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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On being nice to Premier Wynne.

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

It could be hard to get used to doing this. The problem basically is that as a liberal all my life, it is very difficult to accept Kathleen Wynne as a liberal. She is not a liberal and I do not like the way she has been running Ontario.

But…(life is full of ‘Buts’ isn’t it?) what is the alternative? Our provincial New Democrats cannot find their way across Yonge Street. The NDP in this province has no future and appears to have no plans for one.

And the Ontario Conservatives are something mothers use to frighten disobedient children. The current leader of the Tories stole the leadership a couple years ago and since then has been searching for conservatives.

And Ontario’s Greens have never been in contention for anything.

Which brings us back to Granny Wynne. That woman has a death grip on the door to the Premier’s office. What she is really doing is threatening to take us back to the awful days of Mike Harris as Premier. Only this time, the choice is a political manipulator named Patrick Brown.

Kathleen Wynne tells everyone that she got into politics because of Mike Harris. The only reason she joined the Liberal Party was because Mike Harris was a Conservative. She thought the Liberals had a chance of unseating Harris.

But politically, Wynne is a reactionary. There is nothing progressive about her. She jumped into politics to fight against Harris’ move to amalgamate Metropolitan Toronto into a single city. It was probably the only progressive move he ever made. What Harris did not know to do was to give the politicians at Toronto City Hall the power to do their jobs. Anyone who thinks that city is well run needs to give their head a shake.

And how do you like the way Wynne sells off hydro distribution but leaves the liquor board wallowing in excess profits. If she had sold off the LCBO, the province could have made billions and still kept the revenue.

Not to mention the water torture she is putting us through in gradually introducing grocery store distribution of beer and wines. And have we seen any improvement in our Canada Pension Plan recently?

Yes, the bad news folks is that Granny Wynne might be your only choice in the election next year.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Alberta’s Right, Hard Right and Extreme Right.

Tuesday, July 11th, 2017

Former right-hand man for Stephen Harper, Jason Kenney has his “do or die” vote on July 22. It’s his chance to “unite the right” in Alberta. Conservative Party and Wildrose Party members will vote whether or not to come together as the United Conservative Party of Alberta. There are a few stumbling blocks along the way but the ultimate objective is for Kenney and friends to defeat the New Democrat government of Premier Rachel Notley.

Kenney’s first small problem is that while the Conservatives can decide to unite themselves by a 50 per cent plus one vote, not so for Wildrose. The Wildrose, who are the currently the opposition in the Alberta legislature, will only unite if their vote is 75 per cent or more. To help the Wildrose along, many of Mr. Kenney’s Conservative members are currently buying Wildrose memberships to help the Wildrose vote to see the light.

While we do not know enough Wildrose members to assess their feelings on this, we think some might consider this double vote as dirty pool. If you are concerned about this or other dirty tricks, Mr. Kenney knows lots of them. Just ask the women who wanted to run against him for the Conservative party leadership.

But even if the Conservatives and Wildrose unite, Kenney is going to face some much steeper competition. Brian Jean MLA, who has been captaining the Wildrose bunch for the past two years, has been doing a fine job and is willing to do a bit of arm-wrestling over the leadership of the United Conservative Party—should there be one.

It is also good to hear that there are a few others interested in the leadership possibilities of a new United Conservative Party. Frankly, this new party, if it happens, might be better off if it is not led by a mean-spirited social conservative such as Jason Kenney.

And there are some splinter parties ready to step into the breach in Alberta. The Alberta Party has the potential to take over the fiscal conservative voters who do not like the far-right social conservatism of Kenney. Mind you, there is already talk of a break-away Libertarian group who think Mr. Kenney is not far right enough to be the kind of leader they want.

Alberta has never had a lack of splinter groups to keep politics confusing.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Getting to know Patrick Brown.

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

Thank goodness for Newton’s third law. It is the law of physics that says for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. It also seems to be a law of politics. It just works differently. It is like those commercials being given intense exposure on Ontario television recently to introduce provincial Conservative leader Patrick Brown.

The brain-trust behind Mr. Brown might be wondering why they have spent so much money. The expense has produced a win-one-lose-one effect. It seems for every two people they have introduced to Mr. Brown, one of the two dislikes what they see. What we are starting to hear in many parts of Ontario are negative reactions.

The first mistake the Conservative hierarchy made was the commercial about his speech problems as a child. The close up of him speaking with his lips covering his teeth is designed to draw sympathy. His problem as a child was a stutter—which can be influenced by an overbearing parent or relative but can also be corrected with patience and confidence.

And then there is the ad that says if you are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual/transgender or queer (in case you might have been wondering what LGBTQ means) there is room for you in the Conservative Party. We doubt this commercial is having much impact on the target audience.

But the ad is certainly annoying a much larger group that could have been some of Mr. Brown’s base vote. It reminds the religious (social) conservatives of Patrick Brown giving them the back of his hand once he had their support in stealing the leadership of the Conservative Party. It reminds them that he is quite capable of being a two-faced son of a bitch.

For those of us who have watched Patrick Brown’s uninspiring career in politics over the years, we have little sympathy for him. He is a conniver and a user. His only real supporters in the Conservative Party are people who think they can use him to return Ontario to another Mike Harris type laissez-faire government.

If you had been wondering why the Ontario Liberals have not responded to the Conservative advertising? Why would they need to?


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Are these the summer doldrums?

Tuesday, July 4th, 2017

Why do the talking heads of television shut down for the summer? While we know that it is just our hardcore readers who drop by during these months, we are not going to let them down. There is lots to discuss.

That takeover by Jason Kenney in Alberta has yet to be resolved. The attempt to join the Conservatives and Wildrose parties is causing new splinter groups to emerge. Maybe the idea of uniting the right needed some one other than Jason Kenney to lead it. Judging by his attacks on the Alberta Party, he seems to be more concerned about a united centre.

Frankly, we are intrigued with the on-going drama in British Columbia. It looks as though it is the left there that needs to unite to get the majority needed to keep Clark’s corrupt, right-wing Liberals where they belong. And with the battle over Kinder Morgan’s planned increase in pumping diluted bitumen over the Rockies—the issue will boomerang back to Ottawa.

And it should embarrass and splatter all over our hypocritical Prime Minister. Being the poster boy for the environment and approving pipelines for bitumen are not compatible positions. Bitumen from the oil sands pollutes in the extraction process, is a serious threat of environmental disaster when fed through pipelines, spews carbon into the environment being converted to synthetic oil, leaving tons of bitumen slag to further pollute and then is used in carbon producing internal combustion engines. Bitumen is no-win stuff.

But that cannot be the “Jonny one-note” excuse for Canada’s New Democratic Party. The lackadaisical contest to replace Thomas Mulcair as national leader does not speak well for the party, the contestants or our country.

We are about to go into negotiations to change the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and that is as vital to our economy as it is to the Americans and the Mexicans. There is no excuse for sleeping though any one of those sessions. We have to show up front that we are not going to be bullied. All three countries have to bargain in good faith.

And there is lots more to discuss. We will be coming back to the subjects mentioned and many others. We will wait for September to come up with a morning line for the NDP leadership contest.

For the rest of the summer, you can be assured that politics is never a boring subject.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Duking it out over hydrogen power.

Thursday, June 29th, 2017

Smart politicians stay out of arguments over technology. This was the point we were trying to make in our June 20 comments on the multi-billion-dollar plan to electrify Ontario’s Toronto-area commuter train services. It was never our intent to put down the idea of hydrogen-powered trains.

It is very important to realize that the billions required to upgrade the trains has very little to do with how they are powered. Speedier, two-way service requires that all the commuter rail lines be twinned. We can no longer allow passenger trains to sit on sidings while other trains go by in the opposite direction.

And when you twin those lines, you have to rebuild overpasses and underpasses as required to allow for the two tracks instead of a single track. And making sure there are no level crossings also takes quite a few billions.

The next expense is upgrading stations to improve the service for the all-important passengers. And finally, you are going to change to electrical power to enable the trains to get up to speed faster and to brake quieter. It is this speed requirement that can allow for trains to run as frequently as every 15-minutes.

A small percentage of the billions involved will be needed to electrify the system. That requires overhead wires and connections to the grid. It will be a very efficient use of electrical power.

What is not efficient today would be the proposed use of hydrogen fuel cell power. Proponents of fuel cells always compare the use of hydrogen to that of diesel. Diesel is noisy, polluting, slow to come up to speed and takes a lot of space as part of a train. And that is why we need to have the electrical systems for the trains today.

When the day comes that it is inexpensive, non-polluting and energy-efficient to obtain hydrogen from methane, or by electrolysis from water, and it is inexpensive to store and transport, we will join the chorus of people wanting to switch to hydrogen power. There are just some serious problems with hydrogen that need to be solved first. And those are problems for scientists, not for politicians.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Inviting President Trump.

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

In politics, you are not always able to dine with people you like. All to often you have to deal with the position rather than the person. And in the case of someone such as the President of the United States of America, the position outranks the person. And what would you ever expect to gain from insulting the position?

The truth is that there is nothing to be gained from insult. And it silly to insult Donald Trump. You can make note of your more scathing thoughts about the man and you can save them for your memoires. Nobody gives a darn in memoires and if it makes you feel better, why not.

And if you really want President Trump to honour commitments his country made in regards to the Paris environmental conference, you are not going to make any progress slagging the guy. And it is obvious that he ignores all indications of global warming. Maybe the man has yet to have some learning opportunities and might still see the light.

But you can feel sorry for the Brits. They have already invited President Trump to London where he will be drawn through the streets in a golden carriage and afforded a state dinner with the Queen. Prime Minister May is still paying the price for that foolish invitation. More than 2 million Brits have already signed a petition demanding that this Trump triumph be withdrawn. It is important to note though that while the state dinner and regal trappings were asked to be revoked, there is no objection to Trump coming to the U.K. as a tourist.

I still remember the time Bob Nixon MPP sent me an invitation to a luncheon for then Quebec Premier René Lévesque that was being hosted in Toronto. Bob knew how much I despised what Lévesque stood for. While there was no way the guy could convince me of anything, I had to admit, when listening to him, that he was serious and seeking answers.

But in the case of Donald Trump, it is hard to believe that he believes in anything other than himself. His misogynistic and narcissistic characteristics make him a lampoon of himself.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Spring clean out for Ontario booze.

Monday, June 26th, 2017

Have you got it figured out yet? Every few years, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) thinks it will be a good time to clean its warehouses. To facilitate this house cleaning, it tries to clear all its warehouse shelves. It makes it easier to dust them.

But you never see the LCBO doing any deep discounting. It could never maintain its close to 35 per cent net profit margin if it started offering better prices. It is for this reason that the LCBO periodically gets into an argument with its unionized employees. Management push the union’s buttons threatening their hours and by being hard-nosed over slight increases in pay. In response, the union threatens to strike.

Part of the deal with the union is that it has to give the LCBO lots of warning. When the union issues its warning of a strike, the information is then breathlessly shared with the Ontario public. The concern is that 40 per cent of Canada’s citizens in Ontario are going to be cut off their tot of rum. They had better stock up.

What could be better for overall sales than the warehouse stock being stored in the customers’ pantries instead of the warehouse. Excess profits are safely protected. A small increase to the approximately 15 per cent of unionized full-time staff will hardly dent the board’s earnings. It can be made up by cutting hours for the part-time retail staff who do the bulk of the work for the government-owned booze monopoly. After all, sales will slump for a while because of all those customers who have stocked up.

The real danger to the LCBO will be the changes coming in Ontario employment and labour laws. The equal pay for equal work provisions could put an end to the fiction that the LCBO can have such a high percentage of part-time employees. And having those part-timers eligible to join the union could present serious challenges to a politically appointed board. Ontario tipplers already pay too much for their tipples and they will be paying to try to maintain the outrageous profits the Ontario government extracts from its citizens for their booze.

Okay Ontario, the union and the LCBO settled their differences last night shortly past the strike deadline. How does it feel to be had again?


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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