Archive for the ‘Provincial Politics’ Category

Doug is doubling down.

Friday, July 27th, 2018

Is it fun yet watching our new Ontario premier doubling down with our money? Doug Ford has given the back of his hand to all the efforts in the recent years to protect our environment. He wants to take us back to what was the middle ages of sex education. You would think the damn fool would take it easy at first. After all, he has four years to really screw up.

But Dougie is a man on a mission. He has sent the unions at York University back to their classrooms in anger. His solution was to solve nothing. He left the blame on the university board when it belonged on Queen’s Park He is afraid the people of Ontario will find out he is a fraud.

He has Queen’s park settling in for a rare summer session. He wants to see just how much consternation he can cause. He is a man on a mission. He has a city to consternate and political enemies to obliterate.

This will not be a time of well thought-through improvements. It will be a time of slash and burn. The barbarians have breeched the gates.

Education and health will lead the way in the tumbrils to the public pillories. They account for the bulk of Queen’s Park expenses and must bear the brunt of the cost cutting.

And we already know that there will be little of the truth told as these ideologues struggle with the realities of multi-billion cost overruns. We already saw the truth trampled as Dougie pronounced that there was no cost in getting the Hydro One chair to leave. Some of this conservative government contract cutting will take years to wend its way through a slowed and under-funded court system.

The reality is that Dougie has absolutely no idea what the conservative’s hatred of clean energy efforts will cost to liquidate. Will the occasional wind turbine be left turning in the wind as a nostalgic note from the past?

But where Dougie will really sell his soul is in getting even with his municipal enemies from Toronto. There is more to come than to just reducing the number of councillors and settling old scores.

And then there is that promise of ‘a buck a beer’ and even buying beer in convenience stores. Hopefully that will be resolved in what is left of this simmering hot summer in Ontario.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Patching the health care problems.

Thursday, July 26th, 2018

With former Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins helping the federal government and Doug Ford tearing into the make-do solutions in Ontario, we might be in more trouble in adding pharmacare to health care than we thought possible. We already know that Doug Ford’s argument for a patchwork solution is unworkable but just where Hoskins and the feds are headed also has a question mark on it.

As health minister for Ontario over the past four years, Hoskins has always had a frazzled look about him. He seemed to have no idea what to do about the increasingly onerous demands of the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) specialists who seemed to think their fees should be unlimited. And these demands by the specialists were being made while people outside the large cities in Ontario were increasingly desperate for general practitioners to come and provide coverage in their community.

I always assumed that those speeches the health minister made in support of a national pharmacare program were also being delivered to his Ontario cabinet colleagues. His problem was that former premier Wynne never saw a good program that she could not chop up into chewable chunks.

But Wynne’s stepping-stone steps for Ontario are down the tubes now as Doug Ford is set on teaching us all to pay our own way. Ford is determined even to the extent of taking back pharmaceutical coverage from anyone under 25 who has a health plan on their own or through a parent with coverage through their company, union or organization.

If Ontario’s new premier thinks his plans will save anybody money, he is definitely confused. Unless there is a single buyer of pharmaceuticals for the province (or all of Canada), there will never be any control. And to even suggest that insurance companies selling health plans, with pharmaceutical coverage included, are not motivated by profit, is delusional.

Ontario has had enough of the Doug Ford-Mike Harris approach to health care. Seniors were promised by Wynne that they would have the $100 per year plus the up to $6 co-pay per script ended after January 1, 2019. That will obviously not be happening. Even though the co-pay approach was a serious amount for those taking a range of drugs each day. They will be lucky if the Ford government does not increase it.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Embittered and Embarrassed.

Sunday, July 22nd, 2018

Nobody wants to talk politics anymore. I hear that some people are even refusing to watch television news or (God forbid) read a newspaper. It is like the phenomenon on the left coast years ago when another Social Credit regime would win a majority in the B.C. legislature. The next day you could not find anyone who would admit to voting for them.

Oh well, it only makes life more difficult for us political pontificators. And yet that thin slice of the populace who read and nod sagely or turn red and angry at our musings will occasionally take the trouble to concur or tear into us as an acknowledgement of our pained efforts.

But it is becoming increasingly difficult to take the pulse of voters when the sources are conflicted by their own actions. It seems that otherwise sensible people are embarrassed as all get out about voting for a certifiable idiot.

The problem is that they willingly acknowledge the perfidy of their action. They just do not want to explain it. They know their rationale is specious and they have no excuse.

It was like accepting an invitation to lunch and, after arriving with an appetite, finding out that your hostess is a vegan. This is one situation that you do not want to face. I, for one, consider my position at the head of the food chain to be an honourable rationale to enjoy red meat. You really do not want to hear the hostess’ reasons for her strange behaviour. Nor is it wise for you to try to explain your preferences.

Politics presents the same kind of impasse. You can hardly help it though if someone else keeps bringing up political questions. What can be doubly annoying is that you get blamed. I, honestly, do not put anyone up to it.

What people do not understand is that I am politely interested in their thinking. It is like figuring out just which of the candidate’s incredibly stupid promises, really turned them on? Those words “incredible” and “stupid” should not be used. I have tried to ask politely but then they just look at me with a pained expression.

I guess some people think of politics as a necessary evil like the regular bowel movement. If you just keep on flushing, it will soon go away.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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A house without manners.

Saturday, July 21st, 2018

You would think their mother would have taught the Ford boys some manners. Maybe she tried but then maybe it just did not take with her sons. You would think that the crack-smoking younger brother, the late Rob Ford, would have prepared us for the lack of manners in brother Doug Ford. You can dress him up but he brings no decency to Queen’s Park. It is now a place without honour.

Of course, he has help in this. Today’s conservatives in Ontario are not the same quality as the conservatives of our youth. They are not your father and mother’s conservative gentry. They lack the concern, conscientiousness and civility of the Bill Davis era.

Those were the days when it was a pleasure to drop by Queen’s Park. You could park in front of the pink palace, run up the steps, stop for a few minutes of chat with the premier’s chief of staff, give a friendly wave to NDP leader Stephen Lewis and then stop by to see opposition leader Bob Nixon. We were dealing with issues in those days that that could be discussed and often resolved.

My role at the time was that of a functionary of the liberal party. We worked hand-in-glove with the party leader’s staff at Queen’s Park and had a good working relationship with the news media who were based there.

And all of these relationships were built on respect. It was not that we did not argue long and strong for our objectives. We could also listen to the other guys and give consideration for their concerns.

It was not that the house could not be raucous but it seemed to be mainly after a somewhat liquid dinner hour. Evening sessions at the Ontario legislature were never very productive back then.

Listening to Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell reading that speech from the throne entitled hypocritically “A Government for the People” recently helped to show how great the gap was with the past. The document was uncompromising, determined and gave no quarter. None of the customary niceties of a civilized legislature were included. There was no French language in it. There were no niceties. It was a cold, take-no-prisoners, approach.

Looking at Doug Ford’s front bench was particularly chilling. The experienced sat there, pleased with themselves, the newcomers seemingly eager for the blood of those across the floor. Times have changed.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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What is your party?

Friday, July 20th, 2018

Coming into the dog days of summer is a good time to reflect on what we want in our political party. Speaking from hard won experience, we know starting from scratch with a new type of party is not the best of ideas. People will step boldly into the future but you always have to note that other foot solidly planted in the past. My thinking at this stage is that we need to take over an existing party and change it.

Having been a liberal most of my life, that would be my starting point. Justin Trudeau has been tearing apart the federal party anyway. And the Wynne fiasco in Ontario has taken that party down to a rump in disarray. Both provincial and federal parties have nowhere to go but up.

Both liberal parties have been held back by bad leadership. Wynne expected party support without giving the party the credit for its efforts. Justin Trudeau cancelled the concept of membership in the party and then turned the former membership list into a sucker list to inundate with pleas for money. There used to be some pride in being a member of the liberal party. Not today.

This new party has to build a relationship between the elected and non-elected members of the party. It has to be a grass-roots party with its core and strength in the electoral districts. Membership must have meaning.

I believe that real liberals want a progressive party, a left of centre party. It has to be a party of the people. I think it should be a party that stops talking about the environment and does something about it. I hope it is a party that believes in the universality of higher education, medical care and prescription drugs and dental care—a society that puts the health of its people first.

We might want to change the name to demonstrate that it is a new party ready to face new challenges. That is up to the membership. Regional and provincial bodies need to be made up of electoral district executives.

The wife thinks this subject is dull. I agree. The problem is though that we have been skating around the subject for years while intent on scoring goals. We need to recognize that building anything starts with a foundation. The better the foundation, the higher and better you can build.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Trump versus Trump-Lite.

Tuesday, July 17th, 2018

It seems that we have spent enough time by now to have taken off our sackcloth over Doug Ford and the conservatives winning the Ontario election in June. Yes, I pooh-poohed the outrageous idea that Doug Ford could lead anybody anywhere. And we have certainly had enough recriminations about Kathleen Wynne handing the conservatives the election on a platter.

But the hardest part of this has been the realization that we had learned so little from the Trump fiasco in the United States. We were still in denial when Doug Ford won the Surprise Follies—otherwise known as the unexpected Ontario conservative leadership race of 2018. In denying Ford his due as Trump-Lite, we were whistling past the graveyard.

I admit that we were terrified that Doug Ford was likely to win. And he really is Trump-Lite, despite our earlier denials.

There is no longer any reason to deny it: Canadian voters can be just as stupid as American voters. The same frustrations and anger that fueled the Trump win in the United States were present in Ontario.

Our boy Ford might not be as rich as Trump but you do not buy Canadian elections the same way you buy elections in America. And you can be sure that there was no way that Trump intended to spend much of his own money. People who manage to accumulate a lot of money are usually very reluctant to part with any of it. It is after they die that the money starts to flow back into the economy.

Donald Trump’s real skill is in typing with his little thumbs. He is best when twitting. This all started by dumbing down what you want to say to less than 140 characters and then convincing people to read what you said. The most effective way to do this is to say more outrageous things about people than the next guy. Donald Trump is the winner. Trump-Lite still has to learn how to do that.

But other than that, our pony in Ontario is just as incompetent as the horse in the White House. Both are busy tearing down the accomplishments of their predecessors. Both are embarrassing us over their ignorance about global warming. Both recharge themselves with the adoration of their acolytes. Both tell us outrageous lies. Both are accumulating anger against them.

Damn, we really do live in interesting times.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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For love of money.

Monday, July 16th, 2018

Never having met Mayo Schmidt of Hydro One, I really cannot pass judgement on the six million dollars he was reportedly being paid. Not that I think anyone is worth that much, unless he can also guarantee that the Toronto Maple Leaf hockey club will win the Stanley Cup.

But Schmidt is not a hockey player and I have no idea of what the going rate is for CEOs of electrical distribution companies. Besides, it seems like there would be a rather small pool of talent from which to choose.

That being said, my sense is that executive salaries have gotten out of hand. Not to the extent that politicians such as Doug Ford should be allowed to ridicule the man for his high salary. At the same time, there seems to be a rather vulgar stretch from less than $20 per hour for factory help to more than two million a year for the presidents of too many companies.

And please do not get me going about executive perks, corporate performance bonuses, stock options and golden parachutes.

I will make an exception though for those who persevere in starting and developing new businesses into successful enterprises. A friend of mine has worked long and hard to develop a successful enterprise and should have retired several years back. He kept on going to make sure the company had a good potential for continued success. His employees encouraged him to treat himself and he listened and is now driving a Rolls Royce.

The other side of the coin is how some of these entrepreneurial billionaires spend their winnings in the corporate game of chance. Thinking of people such as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, I wish more of their profits could go into the tax pot that is controlled by the people through their elected representatives. Charity starts at home and education and health care can always use more funds and at the same time public infrastructure needs constant updating.

But it smacks of greed when we find CEOs making millions while our premiers and prime ministers make much less. We pay our politicians at a rate that is carefully studied and that they feel the public will accept as fair. That makes sense. Maybe our corporate executives can learn something from this political approach.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Trump-Lite’s Triumph.

Saturday, July 14th, 2018

On returning to Rome after winning wars, Roman generals were customarily awarded a triumph. This was a parade through the streets showing off the slaves and other booty of war. In Ontario, this triumph takes the form of a ritual parade through the legislature to the chambers where the lieutenant governor tells us what the government hopes to bring into law in the coming legislative session.

There was something terribly appropriate about Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell reading about a so-called ‘government for the people.’ It was the past and future coming together in an horrendous scene of chaos. She was gamely reading words that had no meaning to an audience of sceptics. She was describing a past without a future, a future without hope.

There was the shallowness of a commission of inquiry into past government spending while making no clear promises of where the government is headed other than its assumed restraint. It is a government that rejects change. It disavows the need to protect our environment. It rejects updated sex education for children when it is adults who need the lessons. It says we can neither dither nor delay and does both.

The most serious delay in the speech is in decommissioning the Pickering Nuclear generating station. Against all the best scientific advice, the Ford government thinks it knows better.

This writer was delighted to hear that the government will be adding convenience and big box stores to those who can sell beer. There was no mention though of the ‘buck a beer’ promise that was made during the more desperate days of the campaign.

Like his hero Donald Trump, Doug Ford is more charged by large crowds than by the realities of public office.

Nor does Doug Ford seem particularly worried about the potential lawsuits over some of his less well-researched promises. It appears that there has been a limit imposed on the number of outlets for beer in Ontario. This is in an agreement with the Beer Store retail outlets owned by the brewers.

Maybe the Ontario premier will just ignore the real costs as he did when Hydro One CEO Schmidt retired rather than letting Ford fire him. Ford gleefully told the news media that this cost the taxpayers nothing. Premier Ford’s idea of nothing seems to be about $8 million.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Changing politics in Toronto.

Thursday, July 12th, 2018

We are seeing increased efforts in Toronto to end the frustrations and lack of direction for the city. What we are seeing though is a mishmash of solutions that are counterproductive and going nowhere. Most of the action is coming from interest groups that in themselves have nowhere near enough muscle or organization to win a single one of the 47 individual wards in the city. What is needed is political parties.

As it stands today, the new democratic party has a strong base in downtown wards and the conservatives and the liberals fight it out for footholds in the suburbs. The fact that all three parties disavow their winners as well as losers, leaves the city without realistic programs, inadequate direction and confused management. The city is in a permanent come-from-behind position.

And it is in the traditional political parties’ interest to keep it that way. The city is a creature of the provincial government. Conservative mayor John Tory was at Queen’s Park the other day laughing it up with the new conservative premier of Ontario and it is not going to do the city the least bit of good. In fact, if Doug Ford does what he really wants to do with Toronto, the city is facing a very sad situation over the next four years.

Anything Ford can download on Ontario cities, he will. The former Harris conservatives were amateurs. Ford will download everything but money. We really have no idea what Ford has on his hit lists—but we are going to find out, the hard way.

And those dumb downtown NDPers might as well get on their bicycles and get the hell out of ground zero. And if you thought the one-stop subway to Scarborough was the ultimate disaster in urban infrastructure ignorance, you should prepare yourself for fresh enlightenment. Premier Ford has some nascent thoughts about taking over the Toronto subways and interconnecting them with regional networks in Peel, York and Durham. They will probably tie in well with his new green belt housing developments.

It is too late for this coming election but if people in Toronto started organizing now and building a positive platform, a good mayoralty candidate could probably get your party elected in the 2022 municipal election. Name the party after William Lyon Mackenzie if you like. Just remember you have to build a big tent party. Make sure you have a good balance of promises and solid candidates for both downtown and suburban wards.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Sales people can be the easiest sale.

Monday, July 9th, 2018

Justin Trudeau blew it the other day. His task was simple. He was to sell Premier Ford of Ontario on helping to save the environment. And while he was at it, he also needed to help Ford understand that Canadians try their best to help refugees. At the same time, Ford needed to help preserve a common front with the feds on the ongoing North American Free Trade (NAFTA) negotiations.

But we are not sure that the third item even made it into the discussion.

Instead of pitching his product, the prime minister set out to lecture the premier. It would be hard to choose a bigger waste of time. Doug Ford was there to prove that he was now the premier and the prime minister had come to him for something. Ford was feeling like top dog in that kennel.

Next time, Trudeau should remember to send for Ford. He should have had the meeting in the more impressive prime minister’s office. Turf is everything to a guy like that.

And what right does Trudeau have to get miffed at the obduracy of Ford? Did he expect instant understanding? Those guys do not speak the same language. And I hardly mean French and English.

Ford is not an environmentally friendly kind of person. He is the type who doesn’t care about plastic straws and probably throws his empty Tim’s cup out the SUV window at a stoplight. He seems to see environmentalism as something for wusses.

And his attitude on refugees is straight out of the Donald Trump Handbook. He sees them all as mad rapists and criminals who want our free medical care and housing who will take the bread from Canadians. Mind you, if Trudeau thinks it is a complex subject, he obviously is not going to enlighten the likes of Ontario’s Doug Ford.

Despite Trudeau’s background as a teacher, Ford is probably a special needs case when it comes to this subject. Ontario’s bombastic new social services minister, Lisa MacLeod has also indicated to her federal counterpart that the province was no longer interested in doing anything for asylum seekers who are shifting their focus from the United States.

Be warned you tired and poor and huddled masses, the signs at the borders of Ontario are no longer going to say ‘welcome’ either.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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