A shadow from the right.

February 10th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

On behalf of the Right Honourable Clarence Decatur Howe, I object. There were many assumptions made about the man when he was alive and many more after his passing. My problem is with what the C.D. Howe Institute does in his name. He does not deserve the presentations of the political right wing that bear his name today.

Howe was never a true politician. He was a man of his times. He was from neither the left or right of the political spectrum. In many ways, he failed as a politician and achieved as a great Canadian.

C.D., as he was known, came into politics in the Great Depression as he needed a job and the country needed a businessman to help correct the problems the depression had created. He was a bull in a china shop in parliament. He just got the job done.

This is the man who got Canadian National Railways back on track. He established the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC-Radio Canada). This is the guy who gave the country a national airline, Air Canada (as Trans-Canada Airlines at the time).

Where C.D. really proved his worth to Canada was in the Second World War. They called him ‘Minister of Everything.’ He put the country on a war footing and never looked back. He organized business people who knew production into dollar-per-year volunteers in the war effort. He might have tread on a few toes during the war but he and the Mackenzie King government did the job required and changed Canada forever.

But there was also the assumption that C.D. was doing this as a businessman. That is a misconception. At no time, in the years C.D. served his adopted country, did he do it for just business reasons. He did it for the country. He always acknowledged the supremacy of parliament. He was a liberal of his day. He was probably more of a neoliberal than we would tolerate today

C.D. Howe was talented and tenacious, tough and thorough. I hardly think he would be pleased that his shadow of effectiveness lives on in the hands of the right wing in the institute named after him. Reading the recent shadow budget for Canada produced for the Institute, it reads as though written by careless conservative ideologues. It lacks compassion, it lacks vision and it is a disservice to a great Canadian.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

‘Super-agencies,’ been there; done that.

February 9th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

Health care in Ontario is a machine of many parts. It seems the Ford government wants to start collecting those parts into one super agency. The only problem with this is that there once was a super agency responsible for health care in the province. It was called the Ministry of Health. And it was the ministry itself that created all the disparate parts of the system with which the public is faced today.

Do the parts work well? Not really. Would a super agency work well? Not really. Would a super agency save money? Not in the long run.

But the mystical theory of all conservatives is that the fewer the agencies involved, efficiencies will follow. In theory, they are right. The only problem is that when you make a mistake in health care, you are mistreating people. It gets noticed faster.

When the 14 local health integration networks (LHINs) were established in Ontario, it was an attempt to take critical local decisions down to where they could be made closer to the needs of the patient. This localized arrangement was further structured more recently when local services such as home health services were taken over by the LHINs. If the idea was to reduce the heat on the Ministry of Health, it failed. And if the idea was to cut down on the size of the Ministry of Health, it failed.

The best guess of the Ford government’s intentions is that the 14 LHINs might be reduced to five regional oversight bodies. How this is supposed to save money is not clear to people who know how governments add and subtract. It is definitely not as simple as dividing by 14 and multiplying by five.

The danger that is obvious in this mathematical exercise is that many of the local services could be orphaned again. And woe to the local politician who gets caught in the cross fire. All I know is that for every act of kindness for a patient in Toronto, some sick soul is getting screwed out in the boonies.

It is disconcerting that health minister Christine Elliott—who was supposed to be one of the adults at the cabinet table—keeps talking about some sort of health care transformational policy that is coming.

It is even more disturbing that we hear that premier Ford has appointed his crony Rueben Devlin, former CEO of Humber River Hospital, to come up with this transformational policy at an annual stipend of $348,000 per year.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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Forget the Queen, save the Magna Carta.

February 8th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

If the Brexit-related events in the next few months get ugly, the Brits have a plan in place to keep the Queen and her immediate family from harms way. We can only hope that these plans are somewhat better than prime minister Theresa May’s ongoing revisions to Brexit. And frankly the Queen is in better hands than the people who think she needs saving from a possible melee over the consequences of Brexit.

After all, the Brits have been singing God Save the Queen for so long now, she should have some safe-passage credits built up with God as well as the populace of the United Kingdom. And if her mother and father could stay in London during the Blitz, Elizabeth II can stay in London for the trials of Brexit.

But what Theresa May and her friends in the Mother of Parliaments are missing is the changing complexion of the Brexit problem. Maybe the Magna Carta could help resolve the problems. It is not the words of the document that the nobles had the English King John sign in 1215 that are important. It is the wealth of documentation produced from it over the centuries since.

The Magna Carta contributed to the basic freedoms of the people and their rights. In many ways it has taken too long to come to an understanding of where those freedoms have brought—not only the Brits, but the entire world.

I really doubt that PM May and her friends in parliament understand all the assumptions, bigotry, complexes, doubts, etc. etc. of the Brexit vote. I think that vote took the wind from the sails of people who thought they were doing something noble. It is doubtful that they would vote for Brexit today—knowing what they do now.

They cannot take the United Kingdom back to the past. That public house has already called “time.”  The future of the world is the continuing coming together of peoples and countries. A true world government could be many years in the future. In the meantime, the UK has to help build a better European Union.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

‘Dirty Thirties’ solutions for Ford.

February 7th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

Ontario premier Doug Ford must admire the past. His government keeps reaching back in time to the solutions of the 1930s. The latest is to return to those times when a landlord could hire thugs as bailiffs and physically remove a tenant. They would toss impoverished tenants and their pitiful possessions on the street.

A body of rules regarding landlord and tenant relations has been built over the intervening 80 years. The Ford government is not only thinking of scrapping some of these rules. Their objective seems to be to refute them. They even want to reduce the 11 days allowed before someone can be evicted to just six days.

These revisions in the law are claimed to be part of the government’s plan to boost the availability of much needed housing in Ontario. It is difficult to imagine how this strategy would have any noticeable affect on the quantity of housing in the province. We are supposed to hear about the plan to increase housing supply sometime in the Spring.

It just reminds us too much of the Stephen Harper era in Ottawa when people would ask about the environmental rules for tar sands exploitation in Alberta. We were constantly told that these rules were coming.  It never happened on Mr. Harper’s watch.

It seems Mr. Ford and his friends are fans of the 1930s. They want to take Ontario back to that era. We should also bear in mind where that attitude took the economy of the times.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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A nation in a state of stasis.

February 6th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

A nation in stasis is a state that can neither move forward nor back as the forces in play remain equal and opposed. And this is the State of the Union as reported by American president Donald Trump. His report of exaggerations and lies and threats was of a quarreling nation, going nowhere.

In a nation two years from possible resolution in another election, the report should have been on the efforts to conciliate, to seek compromise, and to ensure nobody suffers. Mr. trump is too self-centred for simple solutions.

But he was ominously quiet in preparing for his speech. He is treating it as important. While others were setting odds on the number of lies, he would tell, he was seriously working on what lies to tell.

Whatever that intent was, it failed.

It was a fatuous address by a petty person. It was hyperbole, built on careless claims. It was racism doubled down. It was the same-old, same-old introductions of exaggerations of small people in the audience clawing to claim their 30-seconds of fame.

It was your typical routine of meaningless standing ovations. Yet, who counts? When the Vestal Virgins in white of the democratic party disagreed, they remained seated.

A pained Speaker Pelosi and a pensive Vice President Pense formed a backdrop of a divided nation.

The military chiefs of staff sat together as witches brewing the pot of the Kool-Aid of war.

The man stood before a nation divided and told them they were fools. He told them he would again shame the nation with a government shutdown if he does not get the blackmail needed for his wall.

He disgraced his nation with his intemperate remarks. A racist, a bully, a narcissist of note, Mr. Trump brings no honour to his nation.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

The meaning of Milton.

February 5th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

Watch out Lisa Raitt. The liberals are coming. As conservative MP for Milton electoral district, Lisa Raitt has a long, hard fight ahead of her to try to hold on to the riding this coming Fall. Milton is not only a change riding but it is a win needed to meet liberal hopes for a majority government after October 21.

And if Lisa Raitt had been in that hall in Milton the other day and watched that crowd of more than a thousand there to see the prime minister, she would be worried. Few were her supporters. These people not only showed approval for the liberal prime minister but they also showed the changing demographics of Canada.

This is why Milton was on the schedule for prime minister Trudeau’s series of town hall meetings in warming up for the coming election. With an increase of close to 30,000 new voters since the last election, no party can take Milton for granted.

Raitt can expect little loyalty. Her reputation as a tough politician is well earned but her overreach for the party leadership in 2017 earned her little recognition from the voters. And her connections with the harbour boards of both Toronto and Hamilton identify her as more of an outsider than a local product.

And her liberal opponent, Adam van Koeverden, an Olympic medal winner for Canada, has strong area connections. If he is connecting with the young people in the riding and builds the canvas teams that will be needed, he could have the winning combination.

I can remember doing some canvassing in the area of Milton electoral district that was in the north part of Burlington some 20 years ago when a good friend was the candidate. That part of the riding was mostly new homes at that time but you could still see the farmers’ fields that have been built upon since.

The voters were open and friendly. Canvassing there was fun. You learned a lot if you took the time to listen. While my friend lost to the conservative instincts of the older parts of Halton County at that time, I fully expect the area newcomers will be making the decision this election year.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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Lies, hyperbole and alt truths.

February 4th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

What has happened to politics? And what has happened to the decency that it used to have? We all know that U.S. president Donald Trump creates his own truths but we also know that he is not really a politician. He does not know any better.

Justin Trudeau knows better. He was raised in politics. His father was quite good about telling the truth—and, sometimes, regretted it.

But that did not stop Justin Trudeau from using some hyperbole (exaggeration for emphasis) last week in the House of Commons. He claimed that his government has “helped more than a million Canadians find affordable housing.”

Defending the prime minister’s exaggeration, Adam Vaughan, parliamentary secretary to the minister of social development, explained that while the actual results created housing for less than a million Canadians, some double counting was involved. He stated that this was necessary to provide “rhetorical advantage.”

What it sounds like, is Vaughan is saying that Justin Trudeau, who used to be a school teacher, could stand up in front of a class and tell the children that it is alright to lie, to make your point. This is a frequently used rationale for telling lies.

But reality is that there is no need to lie. There is a long journey from truth to the way station of hyperbole and on to the alt truth. We see the alt (alternative) truth everyday in television commercials such as the current heavy saturation of ads for what Alberta calls an “oil” pipeline. What they do not want you to know is that it is to carry the highly-polluting bitumen from the tar sands. They want the public to think of it as just crude oil.

In this election year, we are going to hear many more alt truths. My favourite Alt truth last year was Ontario conservative Doug Ford’s slogan, ‘For the People.’ We spend a lot of time trying to figure out what people Ford meant. I am waiting for this year’s campaign when Andrew Scheer’s conservatives try to convince us that we should not be concerned about the environment. I bet the Tories will have a slogan for that.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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A Feisty Fedeli files on Brown.

February 3rd, 2019 by Peter Lowry

If I had ever written a proper review of Patrick Brown’s tell-all book on his political take down, I would have paid far more attention to his relationships with the Tory caucus at Queen’s Park and particularly Vic Fedeli the MPP from North Bay. Fedeli, now Doug Ford’s finance minister, is suing Brown and his publisher for exactly the same $8 million that Brown is suing Bell Media’s CTV News.

It was hardly a review of Brown’s supposedly tell-all book that I wrote at the end of December. My only surprise on the comments I made was the immediate response from his publisher. While you would expect a publisher to be defensive about what he decides to publish, Dean Baxendale of Optimum Publishing appeared admiring. I admitted openly that I had only read half the book before giving up. The truth was that, in my humble opinion, it was badly written, poorly edited and the inside pages lacked decent design. When the publisher said that I had missed the essence of the book, it did not surprise me. It was hard to find any other reason for the book than to make some quick cash.

What surprised me was that I had more of a back and forth dialogue with his publisher than I had ever had with Patrick Brown over the 12 years that we both lived in Barrie. We have been at many of the same meetings over those years in Barrie and in Ottawa.

But now it is obvious that Vic Fedeli does not like Patrick’s writing either. To suggest that a gentleman such as Fideli did something untoward such as “workplace sexual harassment” would cause him some consternation. Insults are one thing but claims of impropriety are not acceptable. As Mr. Brown has found himself, such claims cause law suits and paying lots and lots to lawyers.

The statement of claim is reported to have said that Mr. Fedeli was described in the book as having “a holier-than-thou attitude and being a suck-up.” This was along with being described as “toxic, power-hungry, anti-democratic and a political opportunist.” While comments such as this about politicians are rarely cause for law suits, Mr. Brown would be well advised to restrain himself from childish name calling.

In my last e-mail from Brown’s publisher, he advised me that, in regards to Mr. Brown’s book, it will “long be studied after you and I are dead.” That thought really chokes me up.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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The Senate of Canada sleeps on.

February 2nd, 2019 by Peter Lowry

It was surprising. A regular reader who frequently agrees with Babel-on-the-Bay has changed his mind about the undemocratic anachronism of Canada’s Senate. Now he thinks he likes the elitist appointments. He met a Senator he likes.

I used to know a lot of Senators I liked. That hardly means that I think it is right to have an appointed Senate in a democratic nation.

But this chap thinks that because he met one Senator who seemed to have her wits about her and knew a few things, the Senate is some how necessary.

But the opening question is: Why do we need a Senate? It seems it was suggested by Queen Victoria’s ministers to slow down the impetuous actions of those people who were elected. It was to be a House of sober(?) second thought. It is for a serious (supposedly) non-partisan review of legislation. The Brits have a House of Lords. And how well does that work?

Our reader was impressed that this Senator he met was neither a lawyer nor a politician. All this meant was that she had neither the training to understand the legal structure of laws nor the easy familiarity with the political implications of the bills the Senate was asked to review. And why do we tenure these people until age 75? There is nothing magical about that age.

I seriously believe that the Senate is just one of those hold-overs from the Victorian era that should be studied and modernized or abolished. And if we need review of legislation, we could hire independent panels of people with expertise in the subject matter to review legislation at a much lower cost than the Senate of Canada.

Canada is a large and complex country. I like to think that it is a country with good instincts. It is the ability of a country to change and adapt with changing times and changing technologies that will give it the strength it needs in the future. And always remember, when it comes to governance, nothing is impossible.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

 

Di Iorio does district a disservice.

February 1st, 2019 by Peter Lowry

Nicola Di Iorio M.P. for Saint Leonard-Saint Michel in Montreal has finally resigned his seat in the House of Commons He has been missing from parliament since last September and had been talking about resigning since April before that. By the time, a new Member takes over after the October, 2019 election, the riding will have been without representation for more than a year.

To add insult to injury, Di Iorio says he should be the one choosing the new MP for the electoral district. Instead of having just one vote as the former MP, he thinks he should have the right to choose his successor. He does not think the riding party association should have the right to choose the candidate. He insults his riding people as incompetent to make the decision.

But what if he chooses someone like himself who paid more attention to moonlighting as a labour lawyer than in the job in Ottawa. MPs are now paid $170,000 a year and that is not for a part-time job.

Believe it or not, MPs are not just elected to vote for whatever their party tells them. There are committee meetings, fact-finding missions, responsibilities in the House and answering to constituents that take a great deal of an MP’s time.

And, most important, MPs get to talk about their concerns and their constituent’s concerns in regional and national caucus meetings and party leaders ignore this input at their peril. There are even MPs who take the time to meet with constituents in open meetings in the district to discuss government legislation and get local input.

MPs such as Di Iorio are rarely re-elected. Every voter deserves have a Member of Parliament who listens to his/her concerns. Voting for just the person leading the party is a losers’ game. It is the road that takes us to totalitarianism.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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