Archive for the ‘Provincial Politics’ Category

…Now, where were we?

Sunday, September 23rd, 2018

It seems to me that we left off when premier Ford of Ontario pulled a rabbit out of his hat and told Toronto council hopefuls to stop running for 47 council wards in Toronto and just run for 25. Since people had been campaigning for weeks for the 47 wards, many of them were unhappy with their broader horizons. Regrettably Dougie and his crew at Queen’s Park came into some serious criticism for his sudden and unexpected interference.

And then a superior court judge stuck his oar in on behalf of the somewhat indignant city council. In response to this Dougie threatened to use the “Not Withstanding” clause of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He also appealed the judge’s ruling. The appeal was successful, so now it is not necessary to “Not Withstand.”

But this commentator does not consider the number of councillors on council as the most serious question. In fact, the number of councillors has very little to do with their ability to get things done.

In fact, let me suggest to you that there are certain councillors in Toronto who are going to have a friend at Queen’s Park. If you think it is nice to have friends, let me also point out that Dougie has a bone to pick with some of the other long-time councillors on Toronto city council. These people were not friends when the Ford brothers tried to rule Toronto council. And Dougie has only begun to get even.

Now, you might suggest that Doug Ford has more important things to do as premier of Ontario than screw around with Toronto council. If you think that, you do not know him.  Dougie is as small-minded and petty as they come.

Whether there are 26 or 48 members of city council, each of them, mayor and councillors alike, have only one vote. The mayor has some other powers available to him or her to enable the mayor to appoint committees that will work with him or her to move things along.

What is needed is some sort of political structure that enables mayoralty candidates and councillors to run on a platform that says what they will do if elected. If elected, then they will have a responsibility to keep their promises and give the citizens responsible city government.  When you realize that Toronto has a larger population than most provinces, you have to admit that these people deserve the chance to have their city run properly.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Could Quebec go with Legault?

Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

With less than two weeks to go to the Quebec election, it comes across as a spiritless event. At least the Couillard liberals have not laid down their arms and surrendered to François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec. Why would they? Is there any logical reason for Quebecers to vote for the CAQ?

In the Game of Polls running up to this election, it has once more been common sense struggling with bigotry and tribalism. In the on-going rhetoric as to who is more ‘pur laine’ between them, the leaders of the CAQ and the Parti Québécois have spent considerable time telling each other how they are going to make sure immigrants speak French. Legault actually promises to kick immigrants out of the province if they do not meet the right standards. Just how he is going to contravene human rights in this fashion leaves many in the province wondering.

Legault showed how he was talking through his hat the other day when he gave misleading information to reporters on when a landed immigrant can apply for citizenship. With all his promises about reducing the number of immigrants coming to Quebec and making sure they speak good French, he seems to find it convenient to ignore some of the facts.

Jean-François Lisée’s Parti Québécois are enjoying this election the most. They seem to think they will win and get to draw up a new accord with prime minister Trudeau. Lisée tells voters that the PQ are the only ones who can threaten Trudeau with a referendum. I can tell him now, Justin Trudeau does not like to be threatened.

But it is premier Couillard’s liberals who seem to be coasting through the election. You get the impression that it will all come to reality on the eve of the election and there will be peace and tranquility throughout the province for the next four years with Couillard and his team at the helm.

The funny part of all this is that it has happened before in Quebec and will happen again. Time and age have taken some of the connections I have had in the past in Quebec and what I do hear today is a mixed and apathetic attitude. What I cannot give you is a prediction. All I can say is ‘Bonne Chance!’


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Doing doctors a disservice.

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

There is growing disgust with the medical specialists who have a stranglehold on the Ontario Medical Association (OMA). What is really needed is a way for doctors to ensure that their representatives are really representing them. What is sucking all the value out of the OMA these days is the ongoing fight by the specialists to prevent the public from learning how much they are being paid for their services.

After repeated rulings against the specialists by the provincial privacy commissioner and the provincial courts, the specialists are now spending their colleagues’ money on an appeal to the Supreme Court.

The simple facts are that what a doctor bills the province for services rendered to the public under Medicare, is not private and personal information. That is public money and how it is spent must be transparent. Most people have an understanding that a doctor has to pay for his office space, staff and supplies. There are different models of practices today but the young general practitioner who still has to pay off student loans is very lucky to be taking home more than $125,000.

The specialist who has to put in many more years of training certainly deserves more than that but when you find ophthalmologists are easily netting more than $400,000, there seems to be an imbalance in the system.

Part of the obvious problems are the advancing technologies. For the Ontario government to cut back an ophthalmologists’ procedures to save money is a ludicrous solution. For people in the hinterlands of the province having to wait up to two years for cataract solutions is not the answer.

If the OMA wants to be nothing but a union demanding top dollar for their workers, then they better get used to the hard bargaining in return. We certainly have to stop this obduracy of the OMA waiting for a conciliator who is going to give them half of what they demand—which is what they wanted in the first place.

Until the OMA actually cares about the entire body of more than 28,000 doctors in the province, and works with them to improve their daily work in medicine, it is going to build resistance to its tactics. Working together is still a solution that can work for all. The specialists need to try it.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Carpetbagger Brown.

Friday, September 14th, 2018

In politics, the carpetbagger is a figure of derision. The person is considered an unscrupulous opportunist who is seeking to exploit some real or imagined opportunity among local voters. No politician in Ontario better fits this description than Barrie’s Patrick Brown.

Or should we now call him: Brampton Brown?

In the last two years, this fast-moving individual has slipped and slid from being a member of parliament to becoming a provincial party leader, to a member of the legislature, down to provincial pariah, to candidate for Peel County chair and then to candidate for mayor of Brampton. Which is just as well as nobody would expect him to win if he came back and ran against the current mayor of Barrie.

And why should Brampton be so lucky?

But then why would you expect his former conservative friends at Queen’s Park to be so vindictive?

Just the other day, Brown called a news conference in Brampton and told the local media that he has noted that there is a great concern among Brampton voters about a rise in crime. It is not that there has been an overall increase in crime—in fact, there has actually been a decrease. The burghers in Brampton might not have been aware of this concern but Mr. Brown was attuned to this dilemma and had the solution. He was convinced, of course, that the same old solution (Whatever that was?) was not going to work. He was going to have a task force study the problems and report back to him—on the day after the election.

It would have been an appropriate touch for Brown to then close his news conference with a rendition of Meredith Wilson’s song: Seventy-six Trombones Led the Big parade.

Not satisfied with that event, Patrick Brown called another news conference later to announce that he would also promote a multi-use sports complex that would be built around a world-class cricket pitch. This is not surprising when you check Google and find 35 per cent of current Brampton residents come from the Indian Sub-Continent and Brampton already has a rapidly growing roster of more than 30 cricket teams. How he is paying for this new complex was less clear.

Our best advice to the people of Brampton is that they can do better than Patrick Brown.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Not your father’s Tories.

Wednesday, September 12th, 2018

Back in the years when I was a frequent visitor to the legislature at Queen’s Park, the conservatives there were a different breed. There is no way we can compare to-day’s incumbent in the premier’s office to someone such as premier Bill Davis. In relations with Bill and his staff, in those days, the key operating word was mutual respect.

It is absolutely impossible to imagine Bill Davis railing against a superior court judge’s ruling. It is also impossible to imagine him making the errors in fact and in judgement that caused the fiasco.

As expected Monday, Justice Edward Belobaba was critical of the Ford government’s timing. The government had overstepped the rights of citizens in the middle of an election campaign. Changing the number of councillors in mid-campaign was not only arbitrary but made light of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Would the ruling change anything? No. Would it improve city governance? No. Will it save any money. Hard to say.

But Ford has just begun to fight. The entire exercise was a waste of time and public money but Dougie is going to fight on. He has called together the legislature to add the Charter ‘Not Withstanding’ clause to the legislation.

It will be a while until all the expense accounts are recorded but Dougie probably never bothered to ask what it costs to call the legislature together for a special session—and that is the second time since the June election. This is the guy that told us the previous government were spendthrifts.

What this is might be is the perfect example of what happens when the voters decide to get rid of their previous government and fail to look closely at the party for which they are voting. If they had paid any attention during the campaign, they would have realized how ill-equipped Doug Ford and his party were to form a government.

Premier Ford’s reaction to the superior court judge’s ruling was visceral. It was not thought through. Ford made errors in fact that surprised the news media and observers alike. He had decided to utilize the ‘Not Withstanding’ clause in the charter without understanding why it was there. He even had the temerity to threaten to use it again.

That tells us our Ontario premier is both a bully and a fool. His conservative caucus should take heed.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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That train is dead on the tracks.

Sunday, September 9th, 2018

We are talking about a serious problem. A train dead on the tracks is a hazard for following trains. And an idea promoted by the Wynne government is hardly going to appeal to the Ford government. That leaves us with another progressive idea as an orphan.

I have always been enthusiastic about high speed trains. It was with some hope that I welcomed premier Wynne’s appointment of David Collenette, who served as Jean Chrétien’s transport minister, to study some first steps. While I was quite disappointed with Ms. Wynne’s planned train to nowhere, I was optimistic that Collenette could convince her to go in a more realistic direction. Dougie has now nixed any such possibility.

While I am annoyed by all the whining about Sir John A. Macdonald today, that was a guy who believed in this country and in trains. That, to me, is an unbeatable combination. Wynne had commissioned Collenette to do a study of a high-speed train running between Toronto and Kitchener. (Mind you, I could not figure out why anyone would want to go to Kitchener fast.)

Where we desperately need a 300-kph train is between Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. The rail corridors are already there and we can upgrade tracks and have trains ready in just a couple years. The only stipulation is that we keep those damn CN and CP people as far away from it as possible. Those guys move freight and do not understand people. On a high-speed line, people have priority, not the freight.

And Canada must be the last developed country in the world to not have high-speed trains. Would you believe that even Uzbekistan with a population of just over half a million has a high-speed rail line between Samarkand and Tashkent? And that country keeps adding more high-speed service.

Of course, in Canada, some people prefer to spend an hour driving to Pearson Airport and parking, go through the invasive line-ups and demeaning security and wait for their flight for another one and a half hours, and then drive to downtown Montreal—for a total of up to four and a half hours.

If we were sensible people, we would be taking a pleasant, relaxing train that can get us from downtown Toronto to downtown Montreal in about two hours


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Left is the lonely lane.

Saturday, September 8th, 2018

I have never felt so alone in politics. The left, the progressive, the social democrat is a dying breed. Even the federal New Democratic Party is struggling with fund raising and direction as it sluggishly moves to the right. All political parties have felt the shifting of the sands.

But, when you have no idea where you are going, what is the price of a ticket?

Where is Justin Trudeau taking Canadian liberalism? He has traded in his father’s progressivism for a cult of elitism and personality. The younger Trudeau’s worshipful followers allow him carte blanche to turn a party of the ideas and idealism of his patrimony into a willing parade of sycophants.

Where does Trudeau think he is going with his pipeline of pollution from the tar sands? He wants to be the poster boy for environmentalism and yet he betrays all that he has proclaimed.

And why can he not stand up to a person such as Donald Trump? There is no admiration in Canada for Trump Quislings. Trump is but a nascent dictator in a battle to the death with an inept Congress.

Yet, leadership is also in limited supply across Canada these days. The natural alternative party boasts a caretaker leader, struggling with a caustic caucus. ‘Chuckles’ Scheer spells nothing other than missed chances for the country’s real conservatives.

At the same time, the party of Tommy Douglas is crumbling. They dumped a leader whose only fault was he was older than Justin Trudeau. With the help of an influx of Sikh members, they opted for an observant Sikh to lead them. He chose not to enter parliament on the tails of the publicity, and he was soon forgotten. With a leader unable to be noticed and a party unable to raise needed funds, the federal new democrats have failed themselves and failed Canadians.

But nature hates a vacuum of any kind and it is in the provinces we are seeing the real leadership struggles. B.C. teeters with a precarious minority government that is fighting a fellow NDP regime in Alberta and the federal government. Saskatchewan and Ontario have joined to defy a federal carbon tax. And Quebec oddsmakers are touting a provincial regime further to the right than before.

They leave no home or hope for those who deny the corporatism of fascism as vast companies defy the incoherence of mere nations. There is little hope for those of us who put the needs of people ahead of the right-wing populists who say they are “For the People.”


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Gobsmacked by sex education.

Friday, September 7th, 2018

There are a lot of people in Ontario angry and frustrated by the idiocy of our politicians trying to satisfy the wrong people with how we are teaching children about sex. What is wrong with honesty? Have we become a society of hypocrites? Or are the politicians just pandering to the ignorant and repressed among us?

I have a special relationship with Thorncliffe Park in Toronto. I was deeply concerned when it became something of a microcosm of the Middle East in the middle of Toronto. Instead of becoming attuned to Canadian openness and acceptance, this area was becoming isolated, insular and easy pickings for those who would organize against the prized Canadian openness. Recent immigrants find comfort from others from their part of the world and do not understand why children need to become familiar with their sexuality.

But like millions of immigrants to this country over the years, the children adapt faster than the parents. It is hard on the parents coming from more repressed societies but they are certainly made aware of the more open attitudes of the country that is taking them in. They should show their appreciation better.

And rather than be angry at these protestors, Canadians have to direct their anger at those who are using these immigrants for their own political purposes. Who gets them on the buses, who paints the signs and who is behind the megaphone?

Arranging for the ‘spontaneous demonstration’ was one of the first lessons I was ever given in politics. The hypocrisy angered me. I never used those tactics in many years in politics.

But it is going to take a long time to straighten out the mess premier Ford has got us into by catering to objectors. He thought it was an easy promise to make. It was. The promise came out of his mouth just like many others. His problem is that he will be a long time getting free of the stupidity. (He should have taken off his shoes before sticking both feet in his mouth.)

Even teachers’ associations are now getting into the act to protect the rights of teachers in this foolishness.

Maybe Dougie is surprised (gobsmacked) by the controversy he has created. The harder you try to dig yourself out of a problem such as this, the deeper is the hole you are in.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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“And miles to go before I sleep.”

Thursday, September 6th, 2018

It is rare that a politician(?) such as Doug Ford can remind me of a snatch of a poem such as the one published by Robert Frost in 1923. The haunting words are “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.”  

What brought Dougie’s problems with promises to mind was a question posed by a judge the other day about whether the Ontario premier might have checked with his government’s lawyers before passing a law regarding the number of councillors to be elected in Toronto. The problem was this new law came into effect after the election race was already underway.

While we would certainly not question the right of Dougie’s government to make the change, there is some concern about his timing of the change. I suspect that might be where the judge also hangs his hat when making a ruling. And there just might also be a question of liability. Dougie talks a good game about savings but does sometimes tend to be somewhat cavalier with taxpayer money.

But the question of legal advice from the new government’s lawyers had an element of humour to it. You know, of course, that the new attorney general of Ontario has never practiced law in Ontario. I am not sure if Caroline Mulroney ever passed the Bar Admission examination in Ontario? I am not aware of any reciprocal agreements regarding the right to practice between Ontario and the State of New York, where Ms. Mulroney trained in law and worked, briefly, for the State Attorney’s office.

Mind you, it is hard to think kindly of the voters in York-Simcoe who voted for an elitist such as Mulroney. She and her husband bought a $2.5 million country estate in the electoral district after the sitting conservative MPP told her party she was not seeking re-election. It is a bit of a stretch to try to think of Mulroney’s $5.3 million-plus Forest Hill home in Toronto as a pied-à-terre. Though when you consider her children go to private schools, you wonder at her suitability to be a politician.

Now that she has seen Dougie in action as premier, one would also wonder if she has not been rekindling her ambition to be premier of Ontario. These interesting times we live in are fraught with possibilities.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Calamitous cost of change.

Saturday, September 1st, 2018

Talking, the other day, about how lawyers are the only ones happy with the Ford government in Ontario, you have to admit that is our own fault. Did we really have a clue as to what it would cost the voters to throw out the McGinty/Wynne government? This might be the only reason I might consider proportional representation.

We simply cannot afford to have alternative governments throwing out the baby, the bath water and our tax money every time some of us get mad and change governments. If each government is going to spend much of its first year in office throwing out the programs of the previous government, we are in a great deal of trouble—and wasting large amounts of money.

Look at the monies being spend in America today as Trump tries to kill Obamacare. Trump is a child at a fair who wants every prize on the midway. He sure is making America great again—great at spending money that it has to borrow from China.

Doug Ford in Ontario has already proved that he is an idiot. He promised the voters that it would cost them nothing to get rid of the president of Hydro One. I wish he would fire me for a $9 million settlement. And we would only be guessing to estimate the final settlement with the rest of the board.

The most serious cost with Dougie is that he is a global warming denier. He does not give a damn about the environment. In a world of wind turbines, Dougie would rip them all out of the ground in Ontario. He has scrapped the support for electric cars. He is fighting the federal carbon tax in court.

I hate to admit that the best answer to this type of government upset is to move to proportional representation. Under a proportional voting system Dougie and his party would probably be to-day’s official opposition in Ontario. The conservatives might have had 40 per cent of the votes but it would have likely been Andrea Horwath and her new democrats who would have formed the government with the support of the liberals. Neither of these parties would have made a deal with Dougie!

Admittedly, under a proportional system of government, it takes longer to get things done. It can also stop someone like Dougie from screwing things up.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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