Archive for the ‘Provincial Politics’ Category

In the confessional of Québec.

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019

When Alfred Hitchcock directed his 1953 film I Confess in Québec City, he had problems getting cooperation from the Archdiocese of Québec, until he had the ending of the movie rewritten. The church officials did not want it to end with the hanging of a priest. Hitchcock’s rewrite spoiled the movie. And the performance he got from method actor Montgomery Clift did not win him many kudos.

What was fascinating about the movie was Hitchcock’s trademark use of the historic narrow streets of Lower Town to build suspense. It was almost a dance as you saw people walking on those cobblestones. Also, what you saw was the end of an era. Many of the extras filmed by Hitchcock were wearing ecclesiastical garments.

It took until 1960 for the start of Québec’s Quiet Revolution. Maurice Duplessis and his Union National had played out a rearguard action in support of the Catholic hierarchy and the Jean Lesage liberals brought in the revolution. It spelled the end of the power of the Roman church in the province but not the bigotry it had built up over many years. The Anglos were still the bad guys, even though the church was the past. And the nastiness to Jews and ‘Others’ continued. If it were not for the youth of the province and their forcing more openness, the province would be a moribund backwater on the North American scene.

Over the years, I have come to think of Québec politically as four distinct regions. The fastest growing and most progressive is Montreal/ Laval. That is the future of Québec. The past is represented by the Québec City region, but let me tell you, it has wonderful restaurants and a great night-life. I do not know Chicoutimi, Jonquiére and Trois Riviére as well but I think of that region as the real Québec. The fourth area is the Outaouais (and I always load my car trunk with inexpensive French wines when visiting Gatineau). The Outaouais enjoys the reality of being part of Canada and the federal government jobs. The region has done very well by it.

But the most serious myopia in Québec is in the National Assembly in Québec City. The assembly, under François Legault’s right-wing CAQ, forced through their bigoted Bill 21, forbidding religious symbolism in dress for many people in positions of authority, just before they shut down for the summer. They are thumbing their noses at Quebecer Justin Trudeau and his liberals in Ottawa, defying them to overrule the crude gesture so close on an election.


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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The Star soldiers on with Regg Cohn.

Friday, June 28th, 2019

The Toronto Star must have made its provincial affairs writer Martin Regg Cohn point man for the newspaper’s war against demon rum. Ontario used to have the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union to fight the good fight but the WCTU of today lacks the funds and caring. And, frankly, the Star might have taken its current position because Ontario premier Doug Ford is on the other side.

There seems to be a consensus today that premier Ford is the guy to boo. Regg Cohn must have searched long and hard to find the purported Ford Nation supporter, he told us about the other day. This guy, who thinks Doug’s late crack-cocaine smoking brother Rob was “Friggin’ great,” is supposedly from Barrie. His ride is supposed to be a Yamaha motor bike. This guy, who sounds as though he could not count to a dozen with his shoes on, says he sent an e-mail to Doug Ford asking him not to spend money on breaking a contract with the big Ontario brewers.

Regg Cohn seems to think this guy is so dumb, he would worry about the Ontario government having to pay money to foreign-owned brewers to let convenience stores sell beer. It makes you wonder who is the dumber? Does nobody understand what the three large brewers would be risking in suing the Ontario government? This is about a four billion-dollar beer market and I have no idea what the recycling nets the Beer Store but that might not be peanuts either.

All that needs to happen is for someone (hopefully not the premier) to sit down with the beer barons and have a pleasant chat about what is needed to add convenience stores to their distribution system. This is a business proposition. Brewers’ Warehousing is going to need some new facilities and more trucks and drivers. There is no need for price fixing nor a lot of needless regulations. Beer is a commodity as are the potato chips those convenience stores sell. In fact, when selling beer, they will probably sell more potato chips.

The point is that no jobs are in jeopardy. The big breweries and the craft beer people are all going to make a little more money. Convenience stores will be a little more respectable. Everybody will be happy—well, maybe not the Toronto Star!


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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Keep your enemies close.

Sunday, June 23rd, 2019

Ontario premier Doug Ford has found out that shuffling cabinet members is more difficult than the original creation of the cabinet. He not only has to deal with broken promises and damaged egos but he has to evaluate the anger generated by demotion and the ability of those wounded to get even. It is even more of a problem when the major change really needs to be made at the head of the cabinet table.

This is a game that the Fordster cannot win. For every problem solved, two or three are created. Dumping North Bay’s Vic Fedelli as minister of finance was something akin to pissing off a python. The best-dressed guy in Northern Ontario might have a vicious streak. (Just ask former conservative leader Patrick Brown.)

It is really a question as to who makes the first move to get even. One of the two Lisa’s might be the more dangerous. Lisa MacLeod could be angry as Ford punted her from social services to tourism and sport.

But then, Lisa Thompson was all set to go to war with the teachers’ unions when she was yanked from education and dumped into government and consumer services. It is likely it will take her a while to understand the differences between the two ministries.

But speaking of being sidelined, what do you think of what Doug did to Brian Mulroney’s kid? He took an axe to her dreams of fame and fortune in Canadian politics, in daddy’s footsteps. Mind you, Ford replaced her with a ward healer from Orillia who had been airlifted into Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte by the Ford brain-trust in the election last year. Neither of those failures to launch is ready for the heavy duty of being chief law officer for the Ontario government. Now who is going to keep our Dougie out of the courts of justice?

With seven new faces in the cabinet, Mr. Ford hardly wanted any of the ministers he dumped, turned loose to do him harm. It is getting a bit crowded around the cabinet table.

And we should mention Rod Phillips, Ontario’s new finance minister. Maybe minister Phillips will bring some of his magic from when he was head of Ontario Lottery and Gaming to the job. I have always thought of him as Paul Godfrey’s errand boy. My, they grow up so fast!


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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The bothersome business of booze.

Wednesday, June 19th, 2019

Assumptions, B.S., chicanery, deceit, the evils of demon rum and beer’s contribution to flatulence are all mixed in to the current dialogue on who can sell booze in Ontario. And politics is somewhere down the list. It is definitely not an issue that drills down party lines.

The attempted modernizing of booze sales, by gradually adding large grocery stores by the Wynne government, was an embarrassment. It made the liberals look like fools and the opposition look like blue stockings. They took two steps forward and three steps back. It was a dance that took them out the back door of the legislature.

Now, with conservative Doug Ford in the driver’s seat, we have no idea where this bus is headed. We are all being made to look stupid. Are the people who manage how we sell booze supposed to be incompetents?

Ontario started out almost 100 years ago with solutions on selling booze that were designed to appease the then powerful Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. To nobody’s surprise, the arrangement streamed unconscionable profits to the bottlers and the government. Drinkers of alcoholic beverages can soon mark 100 years of being screwed by all Ontario governments of all postures and philosophies.

The only thing we have proved is that taxes are far more addictive for politicians than any booze they might consume. And what right has any government to guarantee a continued monopoly on beer distribution to foreign-owned breweries?

For many years, this writer has been complaining about the disgraceful condition of many of the Beer Stores in this province. This company has a lock on whatever it seems to think recycling means. When, someday, the public gets a proper accounting of the process to which we have to contribute, I am sure we will find some outrageous profits involved.

What I am sure of is that there will be no silly lawsuit by the brewers against the province for any billion dollars. As soon as the judge asks for proof of harm, the jig would be up. Neither the province nor the brewers want the real figures exposed.


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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Ontario NDP: “We the Green”?

Monday, June 17th, 2019

Ontario’s lacklustre new democratic party partied in Hamilton last weekend. While most of the province was celebrating the Raptors winning the championship title of America’s National Basketball Association, Ontario’s NDP was celebrating being the official opposition in Ontario. They were also reviewing their leadership and asking where their party was headed.

Since nobody else seemed to want the job, they voted to keep Andrea Horwath on as leader. Only about 15 per cent of those voting thought she should be tossed. She has now held the job of leader of the Ontario NDP since 2009. Her only accomplishment was to be there when Kathleen Wynne tried to take the entire liberal caucus out of politics with her last June. They kept Horwath on despite her weak performance in the legislature as leader of the opposition. There certainly has been ample cause to attack the Ford government’s many errors in judgement, its careless approach to tightening Ontario’s purse strings and its destructive approach to the environment.

Where the Ontario opposition has been missing from action has been in raising awareness in the province about the lack of environmental concern by this government and its fighting with the federal government over environmental issues. The Ford government is even spending taxpayers’ money on false advertising about the federal government carbon tax, when it has no real plan of its own.

And speaking of false advertising, the Ford government has actually printed stickers for gas station pumps complaining about the federal 4.4 cent per litre carbon tax when the basic Ontario tax (before GST) is 29.1 cents per litre.

Ontario’s Green party leader was cheerful about the NDP using the Green party name for their environmental plans. The 28-page booklet released has neither costing nor much in the way of specifics but Mike Schreiner the sole Green party MPP in Ontario gave the ‘green light’ to the NDP wanting to discuss the environment He sees it as a positive that more parties want to address the environmental issues.


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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“Once more unto the breach, dear friends…”

Sunday, June 16th, 2019

And once more Ontario liberals found that they were not masters of their own destiny. Ontario liberalism is a fiefdom and the serfs were told once more last weekend what will be. Whatever you might wish to call it, it is not democratic. It is not run by or for the people.

The call for a one-member-one-vote leadership convention by these provincial liberals drew 57 per cent support and so was denied as it did not have a super-majority of 66 per cent. The hands of past manipulators denied freedom to the present.

The federal liberal party had broken down the old feudal system of ministers being in charge of their fiefs in the 1960s under Lester Pearson. It was why the Ontario provincial party broke away—to return to the old ways with a party run from the board rooms of the larger law firms.

It worked well enough, producing the subsequent governments of Dalton McGuinty and then Kathleen Wynne. Whether they were particularly liberal was always a question.

But now the challenge is to find a progressive liberal who can capture the imagination of the liberal party and then the voters. Whomever the new party leader will be, he or she will need to overcome the conservatism of the rulers of the provincial liberal fiefs.

I think the smartest candidate for leader of the party, so far, has been Michael Coteau, MPP for Don Valley East. He worked hard to get the change to one-member-one-vote while I understand another possible candidate, Steven Del Duca, kept out of the discussion and did not even vote. That tells us volumes about Del Duca.

What I admire most about Michael Coteau’s campaign is that it is built on what he has been hearing from liberal party members across Ontario. I find it is a bit of a novelty to find someone who really wants to listen. The campaign will not get intense until January next year when the delegated convention is slated for March 7.


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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Mixing ignorance and ideology in Ontario.

Sunday, June 9th, 2019

It’s a bad combination. Ignorance in itself is bad enough but in a mix with an ideology as strident as conservatism, it is simply bad government. It is a colonic that the people of Ontario do not need.

It is hardly surprising that today you listen to the quiet admissions of the loudest and angriest voters in the last Ontario election. They told you bluntly to shut up last year when you tried to explain the dangers of a blow-hard fool of a leader and a get-even attitude.

Maybe it is not as dangerous as the situation in the United States. Donald Trump has no ideology and governs on ignorant whims. At least Doug Ford is not allowed to declare war. Mind you, it was similar that as soon as coming into office, he ripped into the Toronto politicians who disrespected him and his late brother. Premier Ford and his cadre of cronies were on a vindictive rampage.

And in the manner of tyrants everywhere, Ford claims the enemy is the budgetary shortfall and failings of the previous government. And here, in a time of high employment, he claims bad times have come and austerity the only answer. Rather than solving any problems, we have elected Ford to create problems.

Ford not only creates problems but he creates them as he ‘supposedly’ solves others. He fires the ‘six-million-dollar man’ and creates costs of many millions more. He reduces critical funding to cities and is forced to recant by the hue and cry of the citizens.

And even he can find out he is wrong. He tries to implement a ‘buck-a-beer’ promise and finds that Ontario alcohol taxes have driven the cost of a single beer far over a dollar.

Ford’s latest gambit is legislation to freeze the public service wages. This is a direct ideological attack on unions and it will likely end up before the courts. There is no economic rationale for such a freeze.

Ontario went through eight years of ideological stupidity with former conservative premier Mike Harris 16 years ago. This is far too soon for another economic enema.


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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No Intervention for Doug Ford.

Wednesday, June 5th, 2019

Those people who are promoting an intervention for premier Doug Ford’s beer bonanza are missing a few clues. First of all, an intervention is normally conducted by people who give a damn about the person who has strayed. Secondly, we figure that an intervention over beer and wine is for someone who is addicted to beer and wine. Dougie does not drink!

But I do. And I am sick and tired of the stupid, greedy, corrupted politicians of all parties in Ontario who have been playing footsie with the beer barons for more than 90 years. The real addiction is with the unconscionably high alcohol taxes inflicted on beer drinkers that Ontario drinkers have been paying over the century.

And we know that these people proposing an intervention do not give a damn for Dougie. He is simply no kind of lovable bastard. Maybe his wife and kids tolerate him because of the family money but nobody loves a pompous ass. It is just in this case, he has done something right. He has freed the peasants. And that is from the way the prohibition politicians have been treating us.

And why the hell do we only have interventions for something that the blue-stocking crowd thinks is bad for us? Why do they think having a beer at 9 a.m. is a sign of alcoholism? And why does a gentleman never send his lady friend to that smelly, disreputable Beer Store to get him a two-four?

And why does Costco not sell two-fours? The questions roll on.

But one thing for sure is that Doug Ford is not pandering to the alcoholics among us. Hell, Dougie has never cared for anyone else in his life other than maybe his mother and his deceased brother.

His brother Rob taught him that as soon as you are elected, you start campaigning for the next election. It is party time in Ford Nation.


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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It’s Bullshit over Beer in Ontario.

Friday, May 31st, 2019

The international owners of Labatt, Molson and Sleeman breweries have to be sleeping on the job. The Ontario government is seriously planning to expand their business for them and they are talking about suing the government. If I was the judge for that case, I would laugh the idiots out of my court.

What the government is proposing is that beer and wine sales in Ontario be expanded through convenience stores, grocery stores and big box stores. You can think of it as the peasants in Ontario being freed to buy their beer where it is convenient for them instead of where the Brewers’ Warehousing Beer Stores find it convenient to sell beer.

And besides, serving a market of 13 million people takes more that 450 beer stores, 660 liquor control board stores, 150 large grocery stores and some agencies in out of the way parts of the province. Even with another 300 grocery stores to be added, that is not enough distribution to meet the market need.

For comparison, Quebec has most of its 8000 convenience stores selling beer to a population of 8 million and Alberta has close to 2000 privately owned alcohol outlets and many hotels with off-premises sales, selling suds to 4.3 million. There is no question but there is a need in Ontario for a greatly expanded retailing of beer and wine.

Some skeptics of the government plan point to a specious agreement signed five years ago by a banker on behalf of the province. In the agreement the brewers promised to spend $100 million per year for four years to upgrade stores and build some new ones. What does not make sense of this is that it is a normal cost of doing business in a business worth many billions. New stores need to be built in growing communities and many of the ill-kept Beer Store properties in Ontario desperately need repair and improvements. Why would this be subject to litigation?

Frankly, Ontario has colluded with and coddled the foreign brewers for long enough. After 90 years of unconscionable profits for the breweries own delivery system, they can no longer expect a monopoly. They can make a lot more money with the expanded distribution of their products. If they do not like what the government is doing, they should remember that it is the government that calls the shots.

A rule of international trade is ‘Never piss off the local politicians.’


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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Professionalism in Politics.

Thursday, May 30th, 2019

Interesting argument the other day with a reader who likes keeping up with the political scene and who supports the liberals. He was stating his objection to professional politicians. Since his major experience with a professional politician was when Patrick Brown was the MP in Barrie and then the leader of the Ontario conservatives, I can understand his objection. Brown just might be one of the worst examples of a professional politician.

But that is why politicos refer to Brown as a retail politician. He knows how politics work and he works the system. Last year in the chaos created by the new Ford government in Queen’s Park, Brown was ricocheting around Peel Region trying to find a place on the dance card for the civic election. He knew he could run somewhere in Peel Region. Ford cut him off from the regional chair position—easy job, good pay. He landed in Brampton instead, where the incumbent mayor was vulnerable.

He had moved to Mississauga because he knew he could not defeat the incumbent mayor in Barrie. It was not his shallow personal connections in Peel but the ethnic mix that attracted him. Multi-culturalism minister for Stephen Harper, Jason Kenney, had set Brown up with free trips to India in those years when he was an MP in the Harper government. Brown had not only become buddies with Indian President Narendra Modi but had become a key contact with the many people in the very large sub-continent community in Canada.

Brown had already used these ethnic contacts in the Peel region to swamp the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party membership and delivered him the leadership of that party. (Brampton resident Jagmeet Singh noted that there were thousands of Sikh immigrants involved and obviously used many of the same group to swamp the NDP party membership in the same way as Brown swamped the Tories.)

In as much as the sub-continent community represents 30 per cent of the population of Brampton, Brown won the mayoralty by the simple promise to the Sikh and Hindu immigrant population in Brampton that there would be more cricket pitches in the city parks. The sub-continent people do love their cricket.

And that is what professional politicians do. They know how to win elections. They become expert. The professionals are the ones who stick around. The amateurs come and go.

But they can be good people who care about the voters. They can also be users. That is up to the voters to decide.


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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