Trudeau: Poster Boy or Action Figure?

June 18th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

Goodness! Is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau being criticized for not living up to his promises? Is he just a poster boy? Why is he not living up to his billing? He will have two years as prime minister in his pocket this October and some people are starting to have doubts.

What is the problem? Is he marching to a different drummer than what he promised Canadians? The transparency in parliament and the collegial atmosphere he promised there seem to be forgotten. His purported feminist support—because it is 2015—seems more like using neophytes as cannon fodder. He seems to have no urge to solve his cabinet problems.

What ties this liberal in knots is the why of his continued abuse of the Liberal Party. Today’s Liberals are not his father’s party. All the party is allowed to be is a mailing list for pleas for money. It is a propaganda mechanism and a source of suckers for fund-raising. The party that was has been gutted. The party executive are just yes-men and women. There is no policy discussion. The Leader is in control.

Justin Trudeau seems to live in some elite world of a monied aristocracy that only communicates with other elites. The only problem is that they seem to be running out of elites and nothing is happening on some serious appointments. He can hardly promise impartiality and then throw a Liberal hack on the table for an impartial position. Nobody tries hard to keep their word.

It is not like a promise that the 2015 election would be the last under first-past-the-post voting. That was a foolish promise that was proved impractical by parliamentarians giving up their summer last year to study it.

And, sorry Justin, you are not allowed to change the rules in parliament to suit your own wishes. Parliament belongs to the people. It has to be open and be fair to all parties.

Justin also needs to understand that he cannot suck and blow at the same time. If you are going to be the poster boy for the environment, you cannot send three times the amount of diluted bitumen over the Rockies on the Kinder Morgan pipeline. It makes you look like a hypocrite.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Lament for Liberalism.

June 17th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

This is not Diogenes searching for honesty. It is just a poor liberal searching in vain for the true meaning of liberalism. Has liberalism eluded us all? Is liberalism just an ideal?

It has always been our belief that a true liberal is a progressive. It is a denial of liberalism to say you are a financial conservative. And how can anyone deny individual rights? It is akin to the denial of fresh, pure air to breath and clear, cool water to drink. And yet we allow people to pay to pollute our air and defile our water. To buy the right to pollute through politicians’ ‘cap and trade’ offer is an abomination.

Liberalism has its core in the Rights of Man. Written by Thomas Paine more than 200 years ago, he believed human rights have their origin in nature. As such, we should not need charters or laws to protect those rights nor judges to argue over them. And our rights must never be subjected to any government’s ’Notwithstandiing’ clause.

But liberalism without progressivism is also a travesty. Our politics might be based on yesterday but the needs of people must be addressed today and solved for tomorrow. To live in the past is a denial of there being a tomorrow. Yesterday must always accommodate tomorrow.

Humans are sentient creatures. We have the ability to care. To deny that ability is to deny life itself. We are all as equal in birth as we are in death. By caring, we enhance our own life. Life is but a short period between birth and death to make a mark: Let it be kind.

There is no greater calling than that of leadership. It is not something that can be bequeathed, bestowed, borrowed nor bought. It is always easier to lead the lazy and uncaring than those who want to achieve. The true leader is the one who sets the greater challenges and works tirelessly to complete the journey.

Check it out Canadians. Look around you in Ottawa, at our provincial legislatures and our municipal councils. Seek out the true liberals. And you wonder why we despair?

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Exorcising the errata of ego.

June 16th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

There can be no excuse for slovenly writing. There is that rude awakening when your e-mails include comments on your careless errors. Some days you get more than others.

One reader was particularly incensed the other day over my rude and inaccurate remarks in discussing the United Kingdom and Brexit. While I admit the mea culpa for not noting that the UK never did accept the Euro, I always thought they should.

And there is a story to that. Back when my bride and I first arrived in London as tourists, the UK was still undergoing the change from shillings and crowns to a decimal pound. I would end up each day with a pocketful of strange mixed coins, fewer five pound notes and the feeling that I was being taken for a patsy. They probably thought we were Americans but we were surprised by the occasional rudeness we encountered. (Mind you, at the time, we had not tested our Ontario French on Parisians.)

As a professional writer, it is obviously ego that gets me to comment on subjects where others fear to tread. It is also the confidence that as a writer, I take pride in being able to research many subjects. I know too much about the Internet and the egregious errors that it can promote to trust any one source there.

But qualifying comments suffers sometimes with the continuing effort to find an interesting daily topic and to reduce the Babel-on-the-Bay word count. We found that our number of regular readers doubled every time we cut another 100 words from our comments. We will never compete with Donald Trump’s dominance of the 140 character Twitterverse, but we are very comfortable today at averaging less than 400 words on any posting. It just does not leave much room for qualifying every comment.

So, yes, we do know the difference between the free movement of labour and immigration in the EU. We erred. There are other (albeit smaller) EU countries not accepting refugees but that is no excuse for bigoted Brits to vote Brexit to avoid doing the humanitarian thing. They deserve shaming.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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En Marche Macron!

June 15th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

Did you know that French President Emmanuel Macron’s political party has only existed for a little more than a year? More than 66 per cent of French voters gave 39-year old Macron their support in the run-off election against right-wing candidate Marine La Pen. The party is reported to be fielding a full slate of candidates in the legislative elections under the banner of La République En Marche from its En Marche members, the Social Democrats and dissidents from the Socialist, Republican and minor parties. The Macron story has a cautionary tale in it for the Liberal Party of Canada.

En Marche is described as both socially and economically liberal. In France, that is thought of as being of the radical centre. It has much of the promise of the UK’s Tony Blair and American Bill Clinton’s previously proposed Third Way and it is the kind of social democratic party promised by Bernie Sanders in the United States last year. It is also the kind of party Justin Trudeau promised Canadians but so far has failed to deliver.

While one gets the impression that his predecessor President François Hollande considers him something of an ‘Enfant Terrible,’ Macron described himself as a centrist even when a member of the socialists. Based on his published economic promises and speeches, academics also consider him a centrist. Mind you, French politicians have a reputation of being Bolsheviks at breakfast, liberals over lunch and dogmatic conservatives by dinner time.

President Macron and Prime Minister Trudeau should get on well. With Trump replacing Obama on the international scene, Macron and Trudeau should be natural allies. And along with Germany’s Angela Merkle, they can dominate the G-20 countries and speak as one to Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

There is also no question that Macron and Trudeau will be the strong force in the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie.

Now if some of Macron’s thirst for action just rubs off on Trudeau!

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Chasing ghosts with Chantal Hébert.

June 14th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

In the pile of books set aside for summer reading was Chantal Hébert and Jean Lapierre’s analysis of The Morning After.  It is supposedly their take on the 1995 Quebec Referendum.  By starting with their book, this might become a long hot summer.

The book had come to the pile as a gift. It had been there for a while. The author(s) had waited almost 20 years to produce the book, so a few years on my must-read-sometime pile would hardly matter.

After reading half and skimming the rest, finishing it is questionable. It is only mildly interesting. It is like reading a review of a Shakespearean play in which you were a spear carrier. You have your own view of the actors and their gaffs.

And, not to speak ill of the dead, I cannot figure out what Jean Lapierre contributed to this book other than his name and access to some other story tellers. If he was the one who got the titular ‘No’ leader, Daniel Johnson, to agree to an interview, he was wasting his time. The only question I ever wanted to hear answered by Johnson was what the hell he was doing in politics? His chapter was a waste of everybody’s time.

And we already knew that then Premier Jacques Parizeau was a mean-spirited, pig-headed, ‘Colonel Blimp’ caricature. He said it all on that final night, slamming ‘money and the ethnic vote.’ We should all be thankful it was his political swan song.

Lucien Bouchard was by far the most convoluted character on the referendum stage. And to think he had been our ambassador to France before joining the Mulroney cabinet. His falling out with Mulroney over the Meech Lake Accord never did make sense. Nobody’s loyalties should teeter on that sharp an edge. And his staged sophistry on separation came across as hollow.

But as much as I have always admired Chantal Hébert’s ease in explaining the Quebec scene, this is not her best effort. Maybe what we really need is writers who can explain Canada to Quebecers. They need to understand the intense love for this entire country that people have whether their family came last year or in the last century. It is not wise to test such love.

And as for Chantal’s book The Morning After. There is a pill for that.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Concern for the United(?) Kingdom.

June 13th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

The mood in the United Kingdom today is concerning. It is the sort of sad mood caused by a relative that might need mental health assistance. You are despairing of just how you can help.

We can hardly lay blame. Is it Prime Minister Elizabeth May’s fault? We knew she was in trouble when she called that ill-conceived election. We could not even publish a morning line on the possible results because the situation was too fluid and too chaotic. May seems to lack proper political instincts. And despite the centuries of those lovely isles usually finding the leadership needed, they are at a loss today.

Brexit is the final straw. It spells the end of the UK as a world power. The Scots will have to rebuild that old Roman wall. Ireland will need to re-unite. England and Wales will be left with their quaint royals, hopefully attracting tourists.

Could May admit to the inadvisability of holding hands with Trump? And would it be at all wise for her to accept the political support of the party of Ulster’s late Ian Paisley?

Wiser heads than ours will determine if May is getting a bum rap. She does pale though, in comparison to the gutsiness of the late Baroness Thatcher.

The real question for May is that the Brexit negotiations are up next and we have no idea what the hell she is negotiating. Is a good deal possible when leaving the European Union? Can she keep the UK half in or half out? Could she return from negotiating in Brussels and wave a piece of paper from the top of the steps from the plane and shout; “Peace in our time’? Or is she simply asking to return the UK to the confused conditions as they were before the EU?

Is Ms. May really so confused that she does not realize that these are negotiations that nobody wins? What is there for the EU to win from the UK’s departure? Why would anyone be so stupid as to think that the UK would be better off without the EU?

There is no way that the EU countries would let some bigoted Brits win the right to stay in the EU and still fail to assist in the refugee problems? That seems the main bloody reason for Brexit and it has shamed the UK.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Did he say ‘Premier’ Brown?

June 12th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

It was the kind of chill that our granny used to say was caused by someone walking on her grave. It is the combination of cold and a sad premonition. It was the feeling left the other day when noting Bob Hepburn’s column in the Toronto Star about getting cosy saying ‘Premier Brown.’

There was a problem reading the article after spewing morning coffee all over that page. Bob Hepburn really knows how to upset a guy. We were both there when Mike Harris tramped to victory in Ontario with his ‘Common Sense Revolution.’ Patrick Brown could be a far more serious problem for Ontario than Mike Harris.

First of all, Patrick Brown is smarter than Harris. He studied Harris closely as president of the Conservative youth wing from 1998 to 2002 and as a vice-president of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. This is a guy who eats, sleeps and is totally absorbed in politics.

But his weakness is that he has no public persona nor does he have any particular concern for people. That TV commercial that makes an issue of his speech impediment as a child is a thinly disguised attempt to alibi him. After all, if Ontario could elect a lesbian as premier, how far do you have to go to elect a nerd?

But Brown’s problems run deeper than that. His early religious training would have helped prepare him to be a Catholic priest, not a politician. His flip-flops on abortion, same sex marriage and gay rights might have annoyed social conservatives in Ontario but that is the politician speaking. He has never really taken a stand on anything else.

In his time as an MP in Ottawa, Brown never made a contribution. He said what he was told to say. In his riding, he spent inordinate amounts of taxpayers’ money promoting different charities. The gullible among the voters were heard to say, “Isn’t it marvelous what he does for charity?” It was all in aid of keeping his name in front of the voters. The charities could have done better without him.

But the question unanswered in Bob Hepburn’s op-ed piece is about Brown’s relations with women. We know where the Premier stands. Why is it, over years of seeing this guy in action, do we get the impression that he does not like women? They certainly do not seem to take to him.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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How would Harper have handled Trump?

June 11th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

When listening to Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland give her very important speech on the new world order, there was one disturbing thought. It was a silly question as to how would our previous prime minister have handled the situation? The one thing for sure was that Stephen Harper would never have allowed his foreign affairs minister to make such an important speech. It could have only been Harper himself in the spotlight.

And the more you think of it, you realize that the speech lost something by being delivered in the House of Commons. Harper would have taken it far from the Hill. He might have even taken the speech to New York or Philadelphia. That would have guaranteed world-wide attention.

Mind you it has been most of a century since anyone gave a truly momentous speech in our House of Commons. And that speaker was a Brit by the name of Winston Churchill.

Freeland’s speech was in essence a proposed walk-around to the situation with American President Trump. And it never needed to mention his name. (The only insult the son of a bitch recognizes is being ignored.)

And Freeland’s proposed solutions are long overdue. Canadians have really had enough of being treated as two-legged pets by the Americans.

We might have counted on their protecting us under the North American Air Defence Agreement (NORAD) but who the hell is protecting us from Trump? (Are we hoping he will invade Mexico first?)

But it would sure be nice to have a real Canadian military again. Trump will be long gone before we get our military up to snuff but it will be the effort made that counts. We might even get fighter aircraft to meet Canada’s needs.

Harper would not have liked the spending part of the speech. It would be more his style to only threaten to have a real Canadian military. Yet he would have agreed to going after more bi-lateral trade deals to try to keep Canada on its feet if Trump continues to destroy the American economy with his ignorance.

But would Harper have really stood up to what is going on in the Disturbed States of America? Probably not.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Tasking Tenuous Think Tanks.

June 10th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

A friend sent an e-mail recently, attaching a 25-page report from the Broadbent Institute. This study supposedly refutes other think tank reports that say Canadians are overtaxed. He says that I am (inexplicably, he claims) adverse to Ed Broadbent and his institute but I should read the report anyway.

In defence, I should explain that I like to see the qualifications of the researchers and check the bias of the those commissioning the study before accepting its findings. In this writer’s estimation, the left-wing Broadbent Institute and the right-wing Fraser Institute are both frauds. Why would either of them bother to publish a study that did not fit their bias? The academics doing so many of these so-called studies seem to be biases for hire.

And there is just too much of this biased material being issued these days. The Americans have taken to calling it all false news. Soon, we will have difficulty sorting it all out.

The pity is that we used to respect the better news media that could afford to have the proper research done and give us balanced reporting. As the media lose advertising support and have to downsize, it seems to be this research capability that is the first to go. We end up with the dominant media in Quebec being controlled by a millionaire separatist and the rest of Canada being fed a diet rich in right-wing propaganda.

All this being said, there are some truths in the Broadbent Institute report. The basic thought is that you get what you pay for. Canada is not the highest taxed country nor the lowest taxed.

I found it very funny years ago when one of my brothers first made a few million dollars. He was normally quite right-wing in his attitude but he honestly admitted to me that he was embarrassed that Canada’s tax laws allowed him to keep more of the money than he expected. And was it not American billionaire Warren Buffett who complained a few years ago that his secretary paid a higher U.S. tax rate than he did?

Rich people who want to pay more taxes, should be encouraged to pay more.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The omens are in the ridings Ms. Wynne.

June 9th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

The true politico pays attention to what is happening in the electoral districts. Those readings mean far more than the public opinion polls that are such a waste of time in the year before the election. If you do not grasp what is happening in the field, you are not even in the race.

The late Keith Davey was the Yoda of all Liberal politicos. His daily routine included calls across Canada. When he called, you quickly briefed him on the ridings you had heard from. You knew the detail he wanted. He kept his daily notes in tiny cramped handwriting on a single sheet of foolscap. Any time the prime minister wanted a party briefing, those were Keith’s notes.

Ontario is now in a one year countdown to an election on June 7, 2018. The heavy action is in the Conservative electoral district associations. Being conservative, they rarely get into fist-fights at their nomination meetings. It is the number of complaints coming into Tory headquarters that indicate the heated contests at nomination meetings. It seems that if the party leader can steal his leadership, why should not aspiring MPPs steal their nomination.

The best example of how the Tory nominations are being conducted have been the claims of ballot-box stuffing in both Ottawa and Hamilton. You should not have to count more ballots than there were distributed to voters. Chicanery, deceit, intimidation and signing up the local cemetery are all practiced ways of ensuring your candidate the nomination.

What the current action tells us is that electoral districts that used to always vote Liberal are now in play. No Liberal seat is safe. And Patrick Brown has got his tame party executive to ignore the shenanigans in the ridings.

But the problem in all of this is that there is no corresponding activity in the Liberal electoral district associations. The quiet there is deafening. The Liberal Party in Ontario has become a top-down organization. The provincial Liberals are never asked about policy directions. They do not expect to choose their own candidates. The party will tell them eventually who will be their sacrificial lamb.

Premier Wynne is running out the clock.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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