Archive for the ‘Provincial Politics’ Category

Where are Ontario politics headed?

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

There have been some political polls in Ontario recently that have caused a buzz in the news media. If the media had just checked back to before the last provincial election, they would have seen a similar pattern in the public preferences a year before that election. It certainly supports the claim that the only polls that matter are the ones on election day.

But polls can be useful indicators for politicians. There is no question that the current Conservative figures are inflated. The Tories have a leader who is an unknown quantity and every effort is expected to be made to create an acceptable persona for him before the 2018 provincial election.

The current polls are particularly disquieting for the governing Liberals. It is becoming obvious that Premier Wynne’s poor performance just might have dragged the party down to unrecoverable levels. If she had any respect for her party, she would have called for a leadership convention by May of this year to give her replacement time to gain traction with the voters.

It is hard to ignore the New Democrat leader but until she joins a gym and gets the party interested in a future, it has none.

The leader needing the most scrutiny by the voters is the Conservative leader. After using dishonest tactics to steal the party leadership last year, Patrick Brown is still an unknown quantity even to members of the Conservative Party, let alone the voters. Most of the people his organizers signed up as temporary Conservative Party members never knew him.

Brown is a 38-year old bachelor who has spent his entire adult life in politics. His answer to most questions is to tell you what he thinks you want to hear. He has no small talk. He bores women. They are not interested. He is a social conservative and voted against women’s rights when an MP in Ottawa. He has since earned the enmity of social conservatives in Ontario for not openly supporting them.

For people who do care about this province and its citizens, the provincial election coming on June 7, 2018 is worrisome. There is no category appearing on the ballot for ‘None of the above.’ We have to make choices. We need to send the very best person on our ballot to Queen’s Park. We need people who will speak for their constituents. We need people we can respect and who respect us.

Ontario voters will need to think long and hard on this one.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Docs are rabblerousing with Patrick Brown.

Saturday, February 11th, 2017

Conservative Leader Patrick Brown will do anything to get himself elected premier in the next Ontario election. Making blatant use of Ontario’s doctors is just another sleazy tactic for an unprincipled political manipulator. And he is appealing to their greed.

Truth and honesty be damned. Brown wants to use a radicalized Ontario Medical Association (OMA) as a surgical scalpel to emasculate the Ontario Liberals. He has always used doctors in his political gamesmanship and now he has the entire profession locked in battle. They are playing his game.

It started last summer when, after three years of inaction, the Ontario government offered the OMA negotiators a settlement. Brown immediately announced that he would have offered arbitration. That was what his supporters among the doctors wanted. It was the easy route for politicians as they had to go through middleman negotiators anyway. And Brown knew it was an easy solution to load on the taxpayers. His organizers urged the doctors to reject the Liberal government’s offer. And they did.

That was when the archaic and unwieldy structure of the OMA started to come apart. It finally resulted in the six-member executive deciding to step down. While still serving on the Board, they have left the doctor’s organization without management control and direction until a new board is elected this month. This vote has the potential to radicalize the board and bring a more demanding (read greedier) executive into office.

This all fits the behind-the-scenes strategy of Patrick Brown and his close friend Walied Soliman who is the lawyer for a group of radicalized doctors. It is working. It is pitting medical specialties against other specialties as each fight to increase or maintain unrealistic fees for their services. The Ontario government has hardly helped in this as it has had to arbitrarily reduce fees for some specialties to reflect changes in technology.

This action by Ontario doctors is not only going to dig much deeper into the taxpayers’ pockets but it is going to end the farce of the OMA being anything other than a union. It has put doctor dissatisfaction with their payment ahead of the quality of service that Ontario patients have come to expect.

While your doctor bills the province for his or her fees, it is unfair to suggest that it is all income. The assumption is that even a family doctor with an average staff to pay and reasonable office costs is going to be in the $200,000 per year tax bracket. Those years of medical training and their cost are soon compensated.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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For whom the Tolls Toll.

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

The premier’s office at Queen’s Park in Toronto has many roles. One of those is as a woodshed wherein one disciplines recalcitrant municipal minions who fail to realize that the provincial party in power makes all the rules.

There was an awkward bit on a news clip last week of the Premier of Ontario and the Mayor of Toronto both trying to get out the premier’s office door at the same time. It would have been funnier if the mayor had not been so angry. He had not only been woodshedded in the traditional manner but he felt he had been treated as a little boy in short pants. And he did not like it.

The waiting news media observed the mayor and premier doing the ritual handshake before following the mayor down the hall to get the lowdown on the spanking. To put it simply, the mayor felt he had been betrayed.

Mayor John Tory was still in the provincial legislature when he gave the news guys and gals an earful on what he considered the duplicity of the premier. He had obviously wasted a lot of political capital in promoting the idea and getting the support needed on city council. He had been told originally that the premier was on side.

The entire fiasco was about the city wanting to impose road tolls on the two provincial highways that still go to downtown Toronto. The Don Valley Parkway (Highway 404) and the Gardiner Expressway (Queen Elizabeth Way) are maintained by the city. While it might not have been as dumb an idea as the province wanting to charge tolls for less congested highway lanes running around the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), it still got heavy static from the surrounding municipalities.

The governing Ontario Liberals are quite concerned about the electoral districts around the GTA being wooed with some success by the desperate Conservatives. With an election looming in the next year, these concerns are being taken seriously. This is not the time to annoy those voters any more than they might already be.

Frankly, Mayor Tory should be pilloried for the entire idea. If the foolish idea caught on with Toronto, the province would be forced to allow tolls on provincial highways running through cities and towns across the province. Thinking of the Queensway (Highway 417) in Ottawa, there would be a strong possibility of causing another Upper Canada Rebellion.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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The more things change…

Friday, February 3rd, 2017

There has been a reluctance here to comment on the current leadership race for the Alberta Conservatives. It is not as though the outcome does not seem obvious but our best insight into Alberta Conservatism died last year and she is irreplaceable. It has left a serious sinkhole in our understanding of the Alberta political landscape.

But we still dislike, distrust and detest all that front-runner leadership candidate Jason Kenney stands for. We actually have more respect for Brian Jean and his Wildrose Party. It is just hard to believe there are people further to the right than Kenney. How a fat and fortyish bachelor can sell his questionable sexuality to religious extremists is the wonder of it all?

Kenney survived in Ottawa over the years under the umbrella of Stephen Harper. He was hardly the more flamboyant of the Bobbsey Twins but he must have chosen Alberta for his political future for a reason. Anyone who believes that pumping bitumen out of the Alberta tar sands is good for the environment has got to be gullible as hell. Or is that just simple greed?

That is what Kenney really understands: human weaknesses. He must have exhausted every argument with Stephen Harper to get him to see the value to kissing up to newcomers to our country. This had too long been a strength of the Liberal Party. Liberals were welcoming; Conservatives were less so.

His best student during those Conservative years in Ottawa was the new leader of the Ontario Conservatives Patrick Brown. That putz had less of a challenge to win the Ontario leadership than Kenney is facing in Alberta.

But the sleazy tactics and sneaky tricks of the Kenney campaign are decimating the field of candidates. Here we are six weeks from the leadership decision and he is still forcing out challengers. His tactics are not only driving Conservatives out of the race but even to other parties.

Someone asked how to stop him? What they need to remember is that sincerity can counter sleaze. Truth can overcome fiction. Decency is more acceptable than deceit.

And what people need to better understand is that God or nature gave Alberta lots of oil, gas, coal and tar sands. Those highly polluting natural elements are there as a challenge. If you build your economy on them, you will eventually come to the curb on empty. If you build your economy on renewable resources, you will build a future.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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The proud pomposity of the Toronto Star.

Friday, January 27th, 2017

There are few things funnier than a Toronto Star editorial that lambastes the Ontario government for all the wrong reasons. And nothing deflates the pomposity better than getting their facts wrong. We are looking at the Star editorial demanding an end to the proposed increases in community college presidents’ salaries. What would really help here would be if the Star could just contain its mock outrage.

First of all, the Star should check and it is quite possible that our community college presidents have had their salaries frozen since 2010. That would be seven years, not five. And what is pertinent is how their jobs have been changing throughout that period.

What also strikes us as we look at this situation is that not all community colleges are equal. The Toronto-centred interests of the Toronto Star are well understood but the Toronto-centred focus of the Ontario government is an absolute disgrace.

The critical lack of a university base in central Ontario, for example, has put a serious onus on Georgian College to work with multiple universities to bring degree courses to its wide-flung geography. Nobody would have believed you if you had said that was part of the job 20-years ago.

What we know today—and what Minister Deb Matthews knows—is that Ontario’s community colleges are terribly underfunded and not all can count on international students to fill the gap. Major adjustments have to be made in funding based on the need to look after our Ontario students. If the disparities continue, the province will have to pay some of the presidents three times the salary just to take the job.

In recruiting these people, they need to understand that a big part of the job today is revenue generation. You cannot do what needs to be done if you are not out beating the bushes for money. You have to negotiate every day with your communities, universities, industries and expanded international opportunities. And then you have to get back to the office to keep the home fires burning. People who can do that do not come cheap.

This is not a nine-to-five job and any college president who does not agree should be immediately fired. Nobody should be getting a free ride here—especially Minister Deb Matthews.

But all this being said, our college presidents are generally doing a great job. They deserve an increase of some sort after so many years of penny-pinching governments. Maybe they will get decent raises over the next few years but nobody is so dumb as to expect the figures the Toronto Star is talking about. We should wait until the boards act. We should leave our muskets over the mantel until we have something real to shoot at.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Myths of Ontario’s cap-and-trade system.

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

An associate professor at McGill wrote an interesting op-ed last week in the Toronto Star seeking to answer the four major myths about the Ontario-Quebec cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse gasses. The only problem with Christopher Ragan’s column is that most of the myths he attempts to debunk are answered with arguments for a straight carbon tax.

The first myth and the easiest to debunk is that it will raise hydro rates. That is wrong because Ontario has phased out its coal-fired generation plants and has only a small percentage of gas-fired plants for back-up. Professor Ragan’s bias is showing though when he refers to the Ontario subsidies for its small percentage of renewable energy sources as “massive.”

The second myth and the most crucial is that business will want to move to jurisdictions without taxes on greenhouse gas emissions. Yet he tells us that his Ecofiscal Commission has studied this question and he finds that less than two per cent of the Ontario’s gross domestic product is at risk of this.

The third myth he mentions is that the provincial government can undermine its cap-and-trade system by the distribution of free passes for some of their carbon emissions. While this is not the case in a straight carbon tax, it illustrates the major weakness of cap-and-trade in that these “get-out-of-jail-free” passes can be handed out behind the scenes without public knowledge.

The fourth myth applies to both cap-and-trade and a carbon tax—that carbon pricing might not work. Ragan uses the old argument from Wealth of Nations guru Adam Smith that “a large collection of small responses to price movements is what makes our market economy work.”

Ragan insists that there is ample evidence from around the world that carbon pricing works. He says though that we should not expect results right away and it will likely only happen as carbon costs rise.

But Ragan leaves us with no clear understanding of where he stands on the differences between cap-and-trade and carbon taxes. We have a right to expect more from academics.

The Ontario-Quebec cap-and-trade system that they have linked with California is the least understood system. It is carried on between industry and politicians and the public is largely left out. Some vague taxes showing up at our gas station on January 1 was a bad idea and the governments involved have done little to clarify the situation.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Sometimes the answer is in plain sight.

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

Writing about the problems the Barrie Liberals face in the 2018 provincial election recently, we should have stated the obvious answer. It has been there for the past seven years.

The problem is that there will be two electoral districts covering Barrie for the 2018 provincial election. These are identical to the federal electoral districts and were gerrymandered by the federal Conservatives to ensure that at least a third of the voters would be rural (mainly Conservative) voters. The Conservatives won both federal electoral districts despite the Trudeau sweep in 2015.

In the 2014 provincial election (under the old boundaries) a Liberal won the Barrie electoral district. We have never met our MPP and we can only assume that, if she runs again, she will run in the Barrie—Innisfil electoral district. The new Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte electoral district has been claimed by Provincial Conservative Leader Patrick Brown.

And that will be our opportunity to remove Patrick Brown from Ontario politics. The man has never been anything but a politician and we see him as two-faced, hypocritical, dishonest and unsuited to lead any party. And if you have ever practiced keyboarding by the rhythmic typing of “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their party,” now you can believe it.

The person so obviously able to defeat Patrick Brown in Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte is Barrie’s current Mayor Jeff Lehman. Jeff is a Liberal who has held together a very Conservative council for the past seven years. He is an economist with an extensive understanding of electrical generation and distribution—one of the thorniest problems facing Ontario. He is one of the best natural political campaigners we have ever seen in action. (Disclosure Note: The writer ran Jeff Lehman’s ground game when he first ran for mayor in the 2010 municipal election.) Lehman is chair of the caucus of municipalities in Ontario with more than 100,000 population. He is not only the best choice for voters as their MPP but he would be an ideal successor as Liberal leader when Kathleen Wynne leaves office.

But we need to take one step at a time. Lehman needs to defeat Brown first. That is not going to happen overnight. We need to overcome the core of organization that has been put together by the Conservatives. Today there is time to plan. Tomorrow will be too late.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Who is worried about Patrick Brown?

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

This advice is just for Ontario Progressive Conservatives. They are the ones who need to worry. The reason for this is the statement made last week by Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown’s good friend and campaign chair Walied Soliman. He is reported as saying, “We know that the Liberals are going to unleash a campaign of unprecedented ferocity against Patrick.”

That is the best news we have heard in a while. It is good to hear that those of us in Patrick Brown’s electoral district are not the only ones to know what a disaster Brown would be in the premier’s office. Walied, a Toronto lawyer, seems to think that the only path for Ontario Liberals is advertising that is a “negative, misleading and personal campaign against Patrick.”

To help stay this effort by the Liberals, Walied has had the Tory advertising agency create their own “negative, misleading and personal” ads featuring Patrick Brown.

One of the ads is not only negative in that it criticizes the ruling Liberals but it is misleading because the facts are wrong. He says that Toronto hydro prices are the highest in North America. That is not only ridiculously inaccurate but it is as though they never bothered to check.

Another of these digital (Internet) ads is about Brown’s support for an autistic child. During his years in politics, Brown has been hypocritically using charities to promote himself. He spent more money when in Ottawa than any other MP on mailings paid for by taxpayers but promoting himself and this or that charity. People thought he was helping the charities but it was Patrick who got the benefit. His advertising could often alienate supporters of the charity while creating a false impression of support. There are advertising experts who believe this could be doing the charities more harm than good.

It is lucky for the Ontario Tories that these digital ads are so cheap to make. (People are already familiar with the quality of ads like these from YouTube.)

One of the ads is a personal explanation by Patrick of overcoming his childhood stuttering. Having a brother who also had a problem with a childhood stutter, we also know that it takes the full support of family and friends to help the youngster get over the problem.

You would have thought though that having corrected the problem, Patrick would have had something worthwhile to say. As he has always been a politician, he continues to tell his audiences what they want him to say. This tends to confuse people though and nobody really knows what he stands for. Maybe he thinks that people will elect him and worry about where he wants to go later.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Premier Wynne: Colour her gone.

Monday, January 16th, 2017

It seems more and more likely that Premier Kathleen Wynne and her Ontario Liberals are on the slippery side of the slope. Nothing says it more emphatically than the situation in which we find ourselves here in Babel. (You know Babel as Barrie, Ontario.)

We are less than two years from a tough election situation here in Barrie and there has been no sign of provincial Liberal activity. Normally you would expect some evidence of action. Especially since there needs to be new provincial electoral district associations created by the political parties, you would have expected that to happen by now. You would have expected a candidate search committee to be activated by the Liberals to talk to potential candidates and be sure they are aware of what is required of them.

What makes this doubly important is that this is the riding that PC Leader Patrick Brown has chosen to contest. It is hard to imagine there are many Conservatives with any common sense wanting that nerd representing them at Queen’s Park. He is not a leader. He has nothing to offer the party or the voters. He flip-flops on issues trying to convince people he is on their side—whatever that is. He is incapable of leading the fractious Conservative caucus. He has no direction and would be a serious embarrassment to Ontario if he accidently became Premier.

But the good news is that we can defeat him here in Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte. And when we defeat him, the Ontario Conservatives would have an opportunity to call a new leadership convention—one where Brown and others would not be allowed to cheat. Just think of it: an honest political leadership convention.

And if the election just produced a Liberal minority government, maybe Kathleen Wynne would also take the opportunity to resign. She has not led the Liberals into anything but trouble.

There is no reason that the New Democrats could not take the opportunity to also dump their inept leader Andrea Horwath. She is not leading them anywhere anyway.

Ontario is in a very unusual political situation. It has three major party leaders who all need to be replaced. And then, after getting a chance to assess the results of some new leadership, we could vote again. We might have a chance to get it right.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Not everyone hates Premier Wynne.

Friday, January 6th, 2017

It is too bad that Ontario Premier Wynne has no politically smart advisors or staff. Here it is the first week of 2017 and the foolish lady is deep in the do-do of her own making.

By selecting the beginning of January to launch her ill-fated cap and trade program, she has been ripped off by the oil companies who multiplied her increases by four to five times. Wynne’s average of 4.4 cents per litre on cap and trade might not have caused a ruckus but 16 to 20 cents per litre was the increase the voters saw at the pumps.

And Ontario residents are complaining about Wynne and her Liberals instead of the rapacious oil companies. How politically astute is that?

Obviously, Wynne’s timing sucks. The oil companies can come up with all kinds of reasons for their increases. Wynne should have dumped the cap and trade deal with Quebec and California and supported the Trudeau government’s carbon tax. That would have let Prime Minister Trudeau take the blame for the increase. He has some goodwill to spare; Wynne does not.

The basic problem is that the voters do not understand cap and trade. To voters a tax is a tax. Most can understand a carbon tax. And even more voters understand global warming. There might be a cause and effect confusion here but most can understand that gasoline and diesel engines pollute our air.

But cap and trade is a system based on industry wide negotiations with politicians to set caps on emissions. If you come under the cap, you might have some emissions to trade with a company that cannot meet its commitments. This trade goes on between companies. The public is not advised of what is going on between companies but pays for it in retail prices.

In simple terms a carbon tax is an open and easy to understand system. Cap and trade is a largely hidden and hard to understand system. And with Ontario and Quebec firms trading with California companies, who knows what is going on?

Quite frankly, it is our opinion that Kathleen Wynne is not suited to politics. Her only reason for winning the 2014 provincial election was that the she had no opposition. Timmy Hudak of the Conservatives and Andrea Horwath of the New Democrats handed her that election on a platter.

And we are heading for a situation where history can repeat itself. The New Democrats cannot find a replacement for loser Horwath. And that putz Patrick Brown who stole the Conservative leadership does not have a clue as to how to get his caucus behind him. People are finally figuring out that he has no direction for the Conservative Party and he is incapable of leading a boy scout troop.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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