Archive for the ‘Provincial Politics’ Category

Give Ford the credit he deserves.

Wednesday, April 29th, 2020

Premier Doug Ford of Ontario had two choices. He could continue the bombast and bluff of his usual approach to politics, or he could learn from his mistakes and tone down the rhetoric. His new approach is far from perfect but it shows that unlike his first year as premier, he can learn. It is good to see, but is it a smoke screen or reform?

In the provincial briefings that he learned to do from Justin Trudeau, you get the feeling that he would prefer to do the act as a single. Maybe it was from watching Trudeau that he realized he had neither the glibness nor the experience. He always has some experienced political people at those briefings, to try to keep him out of trouble.

It was like the experience with the teachers. When Lisa Thompson MPP fumbled the 25-plus billion education budget in Ontario, she was just doing what she was told. She was told to save money. Thompson followed her conservative instincts, fired teachers and increased class sizes.

But what neither Thompson nor Ford seemed to understand was that it was the teachers and their unions that had been keeping the liberals in power until the 2018 election. They had awoken a sleeping giant. They reminded the teachers’ unions of their strengths. The unions savaged Thompson. They drew more attention to the Ford government’s ineptness in power.

Ford had to bring in the A-team. He had kept the smooth-talking Stephen Lecce, a young conservative who was trained by auto dealer Al Palladini and impressed Stephen Harper, in reserve.

When Lecce, in his sharp suits and sophisticated tonsorial style, appeared to settle down the teachers, the battle was joined. To Doug Ford’s disappointment, the battle was won by the teachers. Lecce, in a creased suit and badly in need of a barber has signed armistices with the major teachers’ unions.

But it was minor news compared to the pandemic. That is the ongoing battle that consumes us all. Doug Ford has learned some lessons. It will be interesting to see if he remembers them after Ontario gets back to work.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Ontario NDP: A party of survivors.

Sunday, April 26th, 2020

If you came to Ontario recently, you would have a problem figuring out what goes on at the provincial parliament at Queen’s Park. With that big blowhard who seems to be running things, this seems to be a one-party government. And you are even more convinced when you are told that the Pollyanna with the dimples is leader of the opposition.

This is Andrea Horwath’s eleventh year as leader of the Ontario new democratic party and everyone seems to wonder why? It is because she is not a leader. At best, you can say she is a survivor.

It was in the 2018 provincial election that the incumbent premier, liberal Kathleen Wynne, disgraced herself and her party by resigning before the election was over. It not only allowed Doug Ford and the conservatives to win a majority government but it left the new democrats as official opposition.

And it should be clarified that the NDP did not win the right to be the official opposition. They got the position by default. This was an election where nobody won. It was an election where everybody lost. And the voters lost the most. They were not all that sure what they were voting for. They were only sure as to who they were voting against.

It hardly helped the liberals that premier Wynne ran a campaign of seemingly more and more spending while lacking a rational reason for the voters to consider the party. The conservatives ran a consistent attack campaign on the liberals with promises of lower costs for gasoline, hydro and the unusual promise of $1 beer. When they actually carried out those promises, few noticed.

The first year and a half of the conservative government became chaotic as the government tried to lower expenditures on education, for example, by reducing the number of teachers and increasing class sizes. The biggest problem though was that they were picking on people who were willing to fight back. There was turmoil and there was only a small voice from the leader of the opposition. Nobody paid much attention to her.

And now we have a pandemic for the Ontario government to fight. Who needs an opposition at that time?

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Blame Alberta’s Jason Kenney.

Friday, April 24th, 2020

You would think that one of these days, the people of Alberta are going to catch on to their premier Jason Kenney. Those of us who consider him something of a snake have known about it for years. We watched him in Ottawa. We watched him when he returned to Alberta. He is smart. He knows what he is doing. He looks after one person, himself.

But when the price of beef—if you can find any—goes out of sight in the coming weeks; blame Jason Kenney.

While covid-19 cases run rampant through Alberta long-term care facilities in the coming weeks; blame Jason Kenney. When workers, flown into the province to work at tar sands extraction plants take home covid-19, blame Jason Kenney.

Kenney was former prime minister Stephen Harper’s go-to guy. He was supposed to keep the Harper dynasty in power. He showed conservatives how to use ethnic groups for their own ends. He showed the party how to manipulate them. Patrick Brown of Barrie was one of his acolytes. He gave Brown the Indian Sub-Continent. He gave Brown the key to the Ontario conservative party.

But the Harper conservatives met their Waterloo. Not even Kenney could keep his party in power. He tucked his tail between his legs and went home to Alberta. There he struck a deal with the Devil to unite the right wing in Alberta. He proved himself an user and a chauvinist, a schemer, a manipulator and duplicitous. It was what he needed to get the job done.

And now where is the real Jason Kenney? He is sitting in the premier’s chair in Edmonton. He has driven his chosen province into the triple threat of the coronavirus, the world-wide crashing of the oil industry and conservative mismanagement of the province’s remaining economy. We wish our friends in Alberta well. They did not deserve this combination of ills.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Jason Kenney puts on his black hat.

Friday, April 17th, 2020

Just when you start to think Alberta premier Jason Kenney is not such a bad guy, he drops a political stink bomb. He says his province can ignore our federal health professionals and do whatever they want. And just the other day, I was saying how good the cooperation is between our federal and provincial leaders. Kenney’s old self took over.

If that blowhard Ford in Ontario can get along with the feds these days, what is sticking in Kenney’s craw? We were thinking he was a good Joe the other day when he shared some surplus personal protective gear with other provinces. The Alberta health care people had seen what was coming and had the good sense to stock up. They have also done a better job on testing for the coronavirus. Albertans are in nowhere near the mess we are in here in Ontario and Quebec.

So why does Kenney have to go back to being a noisy schmuck? The last thing our health care experts, for the feds or provinces, need is someone on the sidelines dissing their efforts. These people are being stretched to the limit these days and they really need our encouragement and cooperation.

Who does Kenney think he is? Donald Trump!

What Kenney does not realize is that many millions are being spend around the world today on possible solutions to the virus. Other health conditions are being set aside as the pandemic takes precedence. You can be very sure if there is a breakthrough on any aspect of covid-19, the federal health people will be informed and they will pass it on to all the provincial ministries. And just as soon as it is available, your health people will have what they need.

All Jason Kenney is doing by what he is saying is setting up Alberta’s health agency to be inundated with every crackpot idea and unfunded research proposal. They really have more important things to do.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

A phony Ford forges forward.

Saturday, April 11th, 2020

It is hard to believe that it is so easy to con Martin Regg Cohn of the Toronto Star. The provincial affairs specialist wrote a piece the other day admiring the new version of premier Doug Ford he is seeing at Queen’s Park. What Regg Cohn is missing is that at a time when the rest of the world is fighting the war against the novel coronavirus, Ontario premier Doug Ford is campaigning as though the next provincial election is less than a month away.

The truth is that Doug Ford despises reporters such as Regg Cohn. I can hear the voice of his late brother Rob Ford at Doug’s ear telling him, “Do not abuse; Use.”

Rob Ford might have been a crack-cocaine smoking doper and a hard-drinker but he was also a very savvy politician. He took along his brother to do a radio program in Toronto and taught him what he needed to know. And Doug Ford, despite being a bellicose boor, learned his lessons. He is hardly a one trick pony today, with the false news on his Twitter feed with its highly biased version of ‘Ontario News Now.’ He is also offering to make special appearances (via telephone) on local radio stations around the province.

But, even if the station has any personnel left who are trained in newsgathering, Doug prefers to be interviewed by the scheduled disc jockeys. These used to be trained professionals years ago but where these ones were trained, or if they were, is a mystery to me. Doug is in control of these appearances. It is some of the worst political BS, I have heard in recent years. To listen to the premier talk so rapturously about our MPP—the less than adequate attorney general, our local member of the legislature. It is enough to get you to do a visual review of your breakfast.

And these amateur disc jockeys love it. Ford flatters them. His histrionics over covid-19 are embarrassing. His ignorance is relatively well hidden. He just follows the advice from the last century by author Dale Carnegie, to flatter fools fulsomely.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Kenney dives into pipeline financing.

Friday, April 3rd, 2020

In a time when the rest of the world is expending all energy and funds into the war against the novel coronavirus, Alberta premier Jason Kenney is following his own drummer. In a time when you cannot get $5 a barrel for the bitumen from the tar sands, Kenney is investing over a billion dollars of taxpayers’ money into a bitumen pipeline that is never likely to be completed.

We are talking here about the long-running drama known as the Keystone XL pipeline. It has been stalled, stopped, rerouted and fought through the courts in the U.S., since the beginning of the Obama administration. It was one of his final acts as president that Barack Obama turned thumbs down on the completion of the pipeline to get Alberta bitumen to America’s Gulf Coast refineries in Texas.

But it took the environmentally ignorant Donald Trump little time as president to tell the coal people to dig more coal, the pipeline people to carry on regardless and the auto manufacturers to forget emission standards. With this latest stimulus, the outraged environmentalists in the United States will soon have Keystone’s more contentious pipeline segments, that are still to be built, back in court.

But what is going to happen in November of 2020? Would you be so stupid as to bet more than a billion dollars on the outcome of that election? Even if you were as environmentally challenged as Jason Kenney, would you really risk that much?

Just who he is trying to impress with the gamble? It can hardly be Albertans. They have suffered enough. Not only is he betting with Albertans’ money, but this is at the same time as Kenney’s conservatives have laid off 25,000 teachers. These were the people who were going to help Alberta children, on the phone, with their computerized programs, while schools were closed during the pandemic.

Jason Kenney has strange priorities.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Dougie dumbs it down.

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

You get the impression that our Ontario premier goes to the office each day hoping to find new things to screw up for Ontario residents. Despite the tantrum he threw the other day over a high-priced grocery store overcharging for sanitary wipes, I never get the impression that he is on our side. He is not.

I do not believe of making lists of peoples’ failings and in Doug Ford’s case I have probably forgotten half of them anyway. I think the reason is the lack of logic in what he and his troop of clowns decide to tackle. For some reason, he had taken aim at price gouging this past week.

It was Dougie’s ‘whim of the week.’ He is proposing fines of as much as a $100,000 for price-gouging convictions and up to a year in jail. If he could go after a federally incorporated company such as Bell Canada, I would settle for just the board of Bell going to jail for a year. Bell just raised the price of already over-priced Internet services by another $7 a month. Add that up for close to three million customers and you are talking about a billion dollars in annual cash flow. Bell could pay a $100,000 fine from petty cash.

But the most serious problem is that Dougie and the rest of his troop do not think things through. The gang heard that some people might be stock piling their meds. The government’s solution was to stupidly cut back on certain meds that are for long-term conditions such as with heart and diabetes. These drugs are usually supplied on a three-month schedule. I really doubt anyone would over-dose on any of them. There is certainly no black market for them. Nor are they in danger of being in short supply. All this incompetent government did was increase the costs for private drug plans and seniors. Instead of one co-pay for these prescriptions every three months, we now have to pay the co-pay three times. I really do not think my local Shoppers Drug Mart needs that extra $12 per prescription every three months from seniors!

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Measuring social separation.

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020

We should all applaud the ingenuity of cashiers and others in their efforts to maintain social separation at this difficult time.

The prize for the most ingenious solution should go to a clerk in an Ontario Beer Store. (Yes, that’s what we call them here: The Beer Store.) Frankly, not one of these 450 or so stores in Ontario will ever win a design award. This is a recently built store and they actually have one cash directly behind another. The clerk was standing at the first cash directing customers to the second cash. There were lines on the floor there that were two metres apart going all the way back into the refrigerated warehouse, where you had (hopefully?) found your beer. The clerk had rigged a cardboard tray on a pulley system so that he could operate the first cash while serving the customer at the second cash—payment by credit or debit card only.

I think this is the hardest part of the covid-19 pandemic. Canadians do not trust their plastic five, ten, twenty and fifty-dollar bills to be free of the virus. It is just that when our circulated 100-dollar bills often test positive for traces of cocaine, it is no wonder we are suspicious.

But how can a business refuse to accept cash for what is normally a cash transaction? They always used to be delighted with cash. It lacks the stigma of the charges for using cards. Even if you have to dip the bills in a disinfectant, the savings are worth it.

And what is the big deal with returns? Nobody wants returns anymore. Even the Beer Store tells you to keep your booze bottles and cans until some unknown date. And all other stores are also telling you to keep your returns until some unknown date in the future. My wife, who spends almost as much time on returning as she does on shopping, is going to crowd us out of our home, if this lasts too long.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Leadership is in the eyes of the followers.

Sunday, March 22nd, 2020

Bob Hepburn of the Toronto Star wrote an opinion piece last week that commented on Doug Ford of Ontario looking “downright ‘leaderly’.” I rarely argue with Hepburn, but in this case, I sense some wishful thinking. True, Ford is running a notch or two ahead of Trump but nobody ever saw that as a high bar.

I don’t think anyone convinced Ford of anything. I think they simply scared him into acting the way he is. He didn’t need a visit from Marley’s ghost to warn him of the coming visitations. He simply left behind the childish traits of bluster and braggadocio that have been his trademark in politics. It was time to act grown up.

I must have seen some of the same news clips as Mr. Hepburn. I agree that Ford acted as he believed a real leader might. None of the usual bombast was a treat in itself. The guy felt he had to stick with the prepared script. He has no ad libs for a coronavirus.

Let’s face it, Doug Ford is no Donald Trump. He is not rich enough. He is not a good enough con man. He does not have as much ego. He got much of his political training from his late brother Rob. As mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford knew how to pull the mantle over himself for the rough spots. Their mother was watching.

But when he got to Queen’s Park and the corner office, Doug had no idea how to act. His bluster was real. He really did not know what he was doing. He launched a vendetta against anything those liberals had done and got himself in lots of trouble. He fired and hired and made a mess of it. He cut budgets he should not have and missed the low-hanging fruit. He thought he could look like the big-man on campus and made himself look stupid.

And he is probably not any smarter today. He has not learned much but he might not be as easy to catch. We will watch him.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Caught short in a pandemic.

Friday, March 20th, 2020

We drove several hundred kilometres the other day. At least the gas was cheaper. My wife and I had to take someone some food. It made me realize how bad the planning is by our politicians. They have no idea of the basic nature of our lives.

Prime minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario premier Doug Ford are people raised in privilege and who live in privilege. When would they ever have to worry about the availability of a toilet?

My wife and I stopped in a town for lunch. Ontario has shut down all food facilities other than take out. We had to settle for McDonald’s. I ordered while my wife went in search of a washroom. No luck! The cashier refused to unlock the washroom for my wife. She said it was not available because they were now just a take-out restaurant. We got the same refusal of the washroom key down the street at an Esso gas station. Luckily, a little further along, a grocery supermarket had a handy unadvertised washroom.

But it told us a lot about the bad planning of our leaders. North America has always been stupid about the availability of public washrooms. Nobody needs to be embarrassed about simple bodily functions. And what parent has not had to assist a youngster in this basic exercise at the side of the road?

But what it shows is the basic elitism of our leaders. How much of that $82 billion offered the other day really goes to the people most in need? If you gave the people helping the homeless a few thousand in $50 bills to hand out every day, it would move through the economy like it was greased.

If there was ever a time in Canada to better understand the need for a guaranteed income plan, it is at this critical juncture. Think of this: give everybody, male, female, over 16 years-old, $400 every week in script. If you have not spent the money by the end of the current month, the script expires. And, if you make more than $600 per week at the same time, the money is taxed back to the government.

It is time for innovative solutions.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me