Toronto wants to choose mediocre?

December 3rd, 2019 by Peter Lowry

Toronto councillors are setting things up to enable voters to choose mediocre council candidates in 2022. This was brought on by the previous provincial government allowing municipal councils to opt for ranked balloting as an alternative to first-past-the-post voting for council positions.  The system seems simple but the complications grow with the number of candidates seeking office in each ward.

Proponents of ranked balloting claim it is simple but anyone who has ever faced a ballot with more than ten candidates listed would beg to differ. Even knowing the names of all the candidates is a chore. To rank all of them is next to impossible.

What really happens when there are many names on the ballot is that the least obnoxious candidates get most of the third, fourth, etc. votes because the voter has nothing against them. In effect the voters end up drilling down to the candidates that nobody has anything against. It becomes a contest to elect the least controversial candidate.

Case in point: The conservative party federal leadership that chose Andrew Scheer as national leader was a ranked ballot fiasco. There were 13 candidates and the counting process actually went through 13 counts to arrive at a final tally, just over 50 per cent, for the Saskatchewan MP. And when you realize that Maxime Bernier was a very close second, it is enough to make you shudder.

But there is still time to make sure your favourite councillor in Toronto does not fall into the ranked ballot trap. Council has asked staff to lay the groundwork for the change in 2022. This includes holding multiple open houses and other forms of public consultation. The law does not say what to do if the public reaction is negative. You can only hope.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

 

Running in place.

December 2nd, 2019 by Peter Lowry

The serious jogger does it when blocked by traffic or a stoplight. It is called running in place because your legs keep moving but you are not moving forward. By keeping up the motion, the jogger is not cooling down or loosing that high of a good run.

This is mentioned, because until today, the candidates for the liberal party leadership seem to have been running in place. Fund raising and team building might have absorbed most of their time but the average liberal was not seeing much action.

This lack of build up about the coming delegated convention might be the problem but I got comments from some Ontario readers that they had no idea what I was writing about the other day.

Let me explain: The Ontario Liberal Party is planning to hold a delegated convention at the Mississauga International Centre on March 7, 2020. At time of writing, there are at least five, if not six, approved contenders for the job of leader. Contender number six has yet to be approved by the party. Why the party might reject her is between her and the liberals who run the party—which is just number one of the reasons that I believe this contest is badly run.

What I was commenting on the other day was the ease with which people can manipulate this form of delegated convention. It starts in the electoral districts. There are quite a few ridings across Ontario that have less than seven members. Those are easy pickings if you need a bunch more delegates. Some ridings are also easy for a small group to take over. The only bad news is that the membership in the party closes today, if you wish to vote for delegates to the March 7 event.

What is considered particularly corrupt is the demand by the party hierarchy that all candidates to be a delegate indicate who they are supporting. In effect, the person is no longer a representative from that part of the province but a representative for that leadership candidate. It defeats the purpose of a delegated convention.

Before the delegate elections in February, I hope to provide some handicapping on the leadership race and some observations on the candidates’ credentials.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Building bridges west?

December 1st, 2019 by Peter Lowry

I am not a fan of Toronto member of parliament Chrystia Freeland. While properly impressed by both her CV as a journalist and her books, I do not see her as a politician or deputy prime minister. I do not think she understands Donald Trump, Jason Kenney or Justin Trudeau. She might not be working to her strengths.

Maybe the answer to her is the answer to the question, ‘Why is she in politics?’ The answer could also shed some light on her appointment to be some sort of a go-between for the West. Her bridges seem tenuous.

Jason Kenney has his political agenda and it is fair to ask if Ms. Freeland understands it? If she does, good on her! What is she going to do about it? Kenney is looking for a political answer and neither the prime minister nor his deputy has that political answer. Does Kenney think they would be foolish enough to give in to all he demands? Those demands could destroy Alberta as a liveable part of this country.

And please do not suggest that Ms. Freeland got NAFTA(2) up and ready to run by understanding Donald Trump. She got that job done by working around Trump. Could he even pick her out of a line-up?

And will somebody please tell us where Chrystia Freeland was hiding during that SNC-Lavalin fiasco early this year? She might not have seen it as her place to intervene, but she was a senior cabinet member back then. You cannot tell us that nobody in that cabinet last winter could see where the Wilson-Raybould fiasco was taking them.

And that leaves us with the relationship of Ms. Freeland and her boss. Her appointment was hardly to add a female to his cabinet, we hope. He promised a gender-balanced cabinet and the word is that someone counted and said, ‘Yep, it’s half women.’ And now we know where some of those creative portfolio titles came from.

Anyone who puts gender ahead of competence is headed for trouble. And, there is the rub: Justin Trudeau’s lack of political smarts also spells trouble. It is hard to imagine his government lasting a year before we are into a new election.

We live in interesting times.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Ontario liberals are down but not out.

November 30th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

There are entirely too many media people who think that the Ontario liberals have been shut down. What they do not seem to understand is that a political party is like a very large animal when it has lost a fight. It does not surrender. It might go into a cave somewhere and lick its wounds and think. And some day soon, it is going come out of that cave, ready to fight again.

But before it gets into that fight again, it needs to decide what it wants to be. A political party is not a fixed target. It is made up of an ever-changing mass of people, many with ideas. Some of those ideas are good and some are probably stupid. It is why the party needs to assess its objectives and how it might achieve some of the good ones.

One thing you can be absolutely sure of is that the liberal party cannot win as a top-down organization. It needs a leader who can lead the party where the party wants to go. We certainly do not need another leader who thinks he or she is omnipotent. We need a party that can discuss what liberalism can be in the 21st Century. It needs a leader who can reflect the ambitions of the membership.

And if none of the six current candidates for the leadership can understand the kind of leadership needed, we better shut down this upcoming convention to choose a new leader. Why would anyone want to repeat the errors of the past that chose Kathleen Wynne?

I am not saying the lady did not try hard. She just did not know what she was doing. She never was a liberal. A liberal is a progressive in a hurry. A liberal is a social democrat with compassion.

What do we do here in Ontario? The job of the provincial government is to look after our people. We look after their education and health. We build a safe, caring environment for them with good food from our well-run farms. We build the infrastructure they need to move easily around our cities and province. We do our best to bring them jobs and opportunity. We are a tourism destination for millions from around the world. Always remember: Ontario is liberal.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Objectives other than winning.

November 29th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

Some people scratch their head and ask why someone will enter a political leadership race when there is little chance of winning? The truth is that there are different reasons and we have seen many of them over the years. Just the positioning of the person within the particular party can be sufficient reason. If you cannot be king or queen, be the king or queen maker.

And never forget that the person who makes you king or queen, becomes a key person in your inner circle.

But first of all, these contests to become the leader of a political party are expensive. If you can prove that you can raise sufficient funds for the task, you have won the party’s confidence of being able to raise the funds for elections.

There are also policy positions to consider. Remember Tanya Granic Allen in the last Ontario conservative leadership contest. She was supported by the anti-abortion, social conservatives. She came last on the first ballot and was dropped from the race. If she had done better, Ford would have been forced to put her voice in the cabinet.

Even in opposition, the leader of a political party has power. The leader makes shadow cabinet, house and committee appointments.

If the party wins, it is those contenders who brought their supporters over to the ultimate winner first, who get first consideration in the formation of the winner’s cabinet.

And you should never assume anything in politics. Looking at the current contest for the liberal leadership, you will never know who is going to win until you can examine the results of the delegate elections in the electoral districts. Here you will find the first whiff of the corruption of delegated conventions. Making the prospective delegates tell who they are supporting means that the delegates are chosen not to represent their electoral districts but the candidate—who might be paying for their membership, their convention expenses and their vote.

But it is at the convention itself that you find the deals between candidates, the manipulation of riding delegates and the fun of the all-night hospitality suites. We will discuss that at another time.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Chuckles is doing a listening tour.

November 28th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

He should have listened before the recent election. We heard the other day that Andrew Scheer is on a tour to hear what the conservatives have to say about his election effort. The words he is hearing are not all that positive.

Luckily, he has just fired his chief of staff and communications director. His campaign manager has already headed back to private practice. Chuckles can just blame any of the three of them anytime anyone complains about the recent effort.

And, if you are fair in your analysis of the recent effort, you will admit that Chuckles did a decent job. First of all, he won the popular vote—no mean feat. He booted a few of the traps laid for him by the liberals but he should hardly expect them to play nice when his people were so busy digging up dirt on them.

But it is hard to believe that three such staff experts would be blind-sided on global warming. Surely one of these so-called experts should have been able to see the trap ensnaring them. Quebec alone, was a path straight down hill.

And for another thing, a federal leader who is outflanked by his party’s provincial premiers is a sorry sight. Personally, my money was on Alberta’s Kenney doing more damage to Scheer than Ontario’s Ford.

Scheer is obviously enjoying the thought of all the money he is socking away while living rent free at Stornoway, the leader of the opposition’s residence. And that is not even considering the extra $80 thousand, he is paid, as leader of the opposition.

But the real danger for Scheer is the April 2020 conservative party meeting. His job is on the line and he will not pass the test easily. Between now and then, he has to find a rationale for him to be allowed to keep his job. The conservative party is waiting.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

 

Gunfighter versus Gunfighter.

November 27th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

It’s a classic Hollywood film script. The ‘good’ gunfighter has to buckle on his six-gun just one more time to take on the ‘bad’ gunfighter. Whether the ‘bad’ guy is coming in on the noon train or waiting down behind the livery barn, there is always a lot of worrying and fretting by the town folk.

And all you have to do is substitute billionaire for gunfighter and you have the current situation in the good-old U.S. of A. It is multi-billionaire Michael Bloomberg pitting his billions against Donald Trump’s billions to see who spends the next four years running things from the White House.

It has come to who wants to spend the most money. The expert at this is actually Bloomberg. He spent hundreds of millions on his three self-financed campaigns for the New York mayoralty, while his wealth kept growing by the billions. And when you are among the 15 richest people in the world, what’s another 100 million dollars?

Compared to Bloomberg, Trump might be considered just a petty grifter who bamboozled his way to a few billion.

The serious difference is that Bloomberg built his empire on his skills as a security broker with high technology smarts and a sense of what the business audience really needs: timely news and information.

In practice, Michael Bloomberg is considered more of a right-wing liberal, than a social conservative. He seems to be able to live with abortions and same sex marriages but some of his business-oriented solutions to social issues, while mayor of New York, came to unhappy endings. He has been both Republican and Democratic and is quite independent. And with the money he has to spend, why not?

He is only a year younger than Bernie Sanders but obviously better preserved. You can be sure he would not want Bernie Sanders on the Democratic ticket with him. That would be unless his pollsters told him he needed more credibility on Medicare.

But it has come to this, ladies and gentlemen. One presidency is up for auction. Gone once, gone twice, sold to the gentleman at the back of the room with $58 billion to spend.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Liberals think they won?

November 26th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

There seems to be a new definition of winning. There was a lengthy Insight article in the Toronto Star last weekend on how the liberals think they won the last election. Signed by the Star’s Susan Delacourt, it must have been dictated by the liberal campaign head Jeremy Broadhurst. Even with that amount of bias, the most you can say is that the election was a draw. Nobody won.

Broadhurst (blushingly) gives the credit to the troops doing the grunt work on the ground game. What stunned me of all the figures kicked around in that article was the figure he used to show the liberal ground strength. He talked about 90,000 volunteers across Canada. We used to have more than that just in southern Ontario—and that was back in the day when you paid a membership fee to be considered a liberal.

And then he points to the 250,000 Canadians who signed up to be a free liberal. I would like to know how many got sick of all the pleas for money and hit the ‘unsubscribe’ button?

Maybe the lists needed some culling as there was likely a preponderance of seniors in the previous membership lists. And what have Justin Trudeau and his team ever done for seniors, other than ignore them?

During the campaign, I had a demonstration in the local liberal committee rooms of the smart phone app used in this campaign by liberal workers. I found the system to be too impersonal and too subject to interpretation. As a campaign manager, I often had to chase down canvassers the next day to get their comments on what they were hearing at the door. There were also times I would grab a canvass kit and spot check an area to verify what was being heard.

I am not sure where the party is getting its campaign managers today but building the competence of the party to win elections is a task that begins the day after the previous election. Technical gimmickry aside, you cannot leave team building for after the writ comes down.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Who will rule? Google, Huawei or Microsoft?

November 25th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

Who is kidding who in the high-tech wars? Based on what Google Analytics can tell us about readers of this web site, I think you should all sit up straight and try not to drool as you keyboard. No, it’s not that bad. It’s worse. Big Brother is alive and well and running the World-Wide Web. Why wait for Huawei?

Google’s Sidewalk Labs only wants to take over Toronto. I just found out that Microsoft is making a lunge for the whole country. And I would trust the Peoples’ Republic of China before I would ever trust the evil empire of Bill Gates and Company.

I did not spend 30 years in the computer industry, just learning how to keyboard. I remember a conference sponsored by Gates and Friends in Seattle one time. When the guru from Microsoft finished his presentation, I grabbed a floor microphone and told the audience of over a thousand techies “I might speak with a Canadian accent but when it comes to Microsoft’s promises, I’m from Missouri.” There was a lot of laughter before Microsoft lackies could recapture the mic.

And yet, the other day, Microsoft sent me an e-mail offering me, the Microsoft version of MyAnalytics, for my exclusive use. It seems this small addition to my software could help me improve my focus and wellbeing. Not only that but it promises to improve my networking and collaboration. With Microsoft?  And they tell me this is for my personal use. Oh?

Now, how quickly can you tell me how many of you use Windows? And how often do you accept Microsoft updates to your software? And you do know that information goes both ways when you do, don’t you?

It is certainly not my intent to create any paranoia here but you would be amazed at what Microsoft already knows. It might not be as exciting as the traces of bodily fluids that you and a friend left on the back seat of your daddy’s Chevrolet but almost as embarrassing.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

 

With no respect for the U.S.A.

November 24th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

Every once in a while, it seems necessary to mention Donald John Trump. He is a man who has taken on the presidency in the United States of America. It has been a destructive act. He did it because he could. A corrupt system of governance allowed him to purchase the presidency. And based on his usual business practices, he did it on the skinny, with trickery and malice. If for no other reason, Americans should be embarrassed that they rented out the White House, as a four-year AirBnB, so cheaply.

There is nothing special about this man. His business practices are questionable. His relations with people are deplorable. He buys what he wants from women.

And what kind of president is he? This man has a grade school understanding of economics. He has a comic book understanding of foreign relations. His social skills are limited and crude. Treaties and pacts and agreements between countries are meaningless to him. They are but the thinnest of tissue to be discarded after use.

And his voters hardly understand that he is harming America’s reputation around the world. They do not care. He promises to make America great—just for them.

But what else is he doing for them?

There are the threatening clouds of carbon from oil, coal and gas consumption continuing to darken our earth. The raging fires of forests, the dreaded tornadoes of the wind-swept prairies, the hurricanes sweeping the coasts are but the tempests of a wounded nature. Why should he care if the end of days for our earth is 50 or 100 years from now? He knows it will not be his problem.

That can be the mantra of all Trump supporters. “It’s not our problem” they can chant in unison. It seems to be what America says to the world all the time: ‘It’s not my problem.’

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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