Who’s voting for stupid?

May 19th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

The ignorant and the gullible are on the march in America. They are coming to his rallies and buying his snake oil. Donald Trump has his eye on the prize: the November election. That is quite a prize for a serial killer who has already helped the pandemic take the life of more than 90,000 Americans—and this year is not even half over.

Is this not the guy who belittled the declaration of the pandemic and cut off the U.S. funding of the World Health Organization? Do you know that his followers think America is lucky to have him? They can watch people close to them dying and they think Trump is a gift from some funny farm Heaven.

These people are mixing and drinking their own Kool-Aid. Trump says he is taking an anti-malaria pill. Maybe he will also drink bleach.

He is promising his followers a vaccine by the end of the year. He sees the race for a vaccine as an economic contest to make money for Americans, instead of something that will be distributed freely around the world. In addition to this miracle of medical science he is also promising his supporters a miracle economic recovery in the next year.

Trump supporters tell us that we are lucky to have a businessman like Trump running things. They think that, as a businessman, he can help the economy to recover. He is certainly no businessman. People who really understand Trump know he is just a gambler who typically uses other people’s money. As a developer, he is used to promising much and delivering little.

If Trump had been more of a scholar, he would understand why the lack of organization in his country during the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918/1919 killed so many. It is disgraceful that his ignorance, disinterest and partisan approach make it impossible to create a co-ordinated approach in 2020.

But maybe the real villains in this event are Trump’s supporters. Theirs is hardly a statement of political allegiance. Trump is not political. He is too selfish and self-centered to be part of any party. And yet, it is likely die-hard republicans that are giving Trump a narrow edge—while helping him do irreparable damage to their party.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Planes, Trains and Trucks.

May 18th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

If you listen to some analysts, it would seem that Canada’s economy is based on airlines. That was a mistake that came down to us because of the Second World War. In putting Canada on a war footing, the ubiquitous DC-3 aircraft took responsibility for high-speed travel while railways became the drudge and trucks were relegated to regional needs. It is a pattern that has held Canada back since, in terms of both inter-provincial trade and relations.

While the U.S.A. launched that country’s inter-state highway network back in the Eisenhower era, it is seriously working today on networking 200+ mph electric trains.

And frankly, Ontario and Quebec residents are tired of the continued talk of ‘studying’ the needs in the Quebec city-to-Toronto corridor. Just electrifying the GO Train system in Ontario could go a long way to speeding up that service and accommodating more passengers. Less pollution would be a bonus.

But, if anything could kick-start the Canadian economy after the pandemic, it would be building the infrastructure and rolling stock needed for high-speed trains. Such an ambitious project could take 20 years to complete just the first phase. And it could be the major project that brings us quickly out of any downturns after covid-19 is beaten.

What guarantees us a downturn when the pandemic is done? The economy has taken its hits. It has nowhere to go but up.

The choice is very simple. We can be frightened by the bogeyman of debt or we can work to put it behind us. It will not be a question as to whether we can afford it? The question is can we afford not to?

There is no question that we will still need airlines for intercontinental travel. It would make sense for the federal government to nationalize Air Canada. That way they can be integrated instead of competitors.

The real challenge that faces us is where is the leadership our country needs to take up the challenge. And are our fellow Canadians willing to support the type of leadership we need? We need vision. We need to believe. The country is worth it. Are we?

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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When our world is on hold.

May 17th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

Every morning when waking up to this pandemic, I challenge myself to remember what day it is. I never realized how confining a person to their home could be so cruel. I work hard at keeping alert and interested in our world. Some days the newspaper crossword is a challenge and other days, simply frustrating. It is like politics, some days it is so simple and easily understood and some days it can be beyond belief.

Maybe that is why I enjoy writing about politics. While most of the comments from readers are positive lately, my wife cannot understand why I am not a fan of prime minister Justin Trudeau. She meets the guy a few times, gets added to his Christmas card list and she wants to protect him like a lioness with a cub.

What really gets to me is her way of ending arguments regarding Trudeau. She simply says, “Then, who are you going to vote for?”

She knows, she has me cold.

She knows darn well that there would be three moons in the sky before I would vote conservative. Conservatism goes against everything in which I believe. Conservatives, these days, are too often cruel, self-absorbed people. They think a jurisdiction that does anything for its citizens is a ‘nanny state.’ These people, when in power, try to impose their philosophy on others, like a wicked step mother.

The current leadership situation with Canada’s federal conservatives is a joke. The four contestants hoping to replace Andrew Scheer are shallow, unimpressive ideologues—which also explains Scheer.

And as for the new democratic party, it is based on a socialism that reflects the desperation of Canada of the 1930s. It has not had a new idea since Tommy Douglas retired from politics. The party is still dominated by labour unions that are far from progressive and have no interest in the effort to convert it into a modern social democratic party. It is just another ideology, seriously in need of a leader.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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An autopsy or a resuscitation?

May 16th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

An interesting question was raised in the Toronto Star the other day. There was an opinion piece by Bob Hepburn proposing a national commission on the reconstruction of the Canadian economy. This suggestion was based on some thinking by Greg Sorbara, a former Ontario treasurer, and Michael Mendelson, former Ontario deputy minister of the provincial cabinet office. It is the kind of suggestion that these types of thought leaders often develop over a decent bottle of single malt scotch.

But before you say a royal commission is a good answer, you should review Canada’s experience with royal commissions and the people running them.

The proposal reminds me of the Macdonald royal commission on the economic union and development prospects for Canada that was set up by Pierre Trudeau before he left office in the 1980s. Don Macdonald (Pierre Trudeau’s former finance minister, whom many of us referred to as ‘Thumper’) gave his report to Brian Mulroney’s conservatives. I really think Thumper had the report rewritten for Mulroney based on the demand of the Business Council on National Issues that Canada enter into a free trade agreement with the United States.

Canada has to be a trading nation but this particular drive was badly timed. It was when our country needed to be better aware of its own needs before entering those negotiations. Luckily, we were able to grandfather the Auto Pact into the free trade agreement arrived at between Mulroney’s conservatives and the George H. Bush administration.

The truth was that the North American pact and the later three-country addendum was more of a business-to-business deal than anything that recognized the needs of the 477 million people involved. And the recent reprise with Justin Trudeau’s liberals, Donald Trump’s republicans and president Andrés Obrador’s Mexicans at the table, was not much better.

What the business leaders seem to want is to be able to pick the most accommodating of jurisdictions with the weakest of labour and human rights laws for their processing and manufacturing operations. Luckily, Canada is not yet run by the Fraser Institute.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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It’s not Christmas in May!

May 15th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

How many times now have we seen prime minister Justin Trudeau pop out of Rideau Cottage with another package worth billions to offer succor to this group of Canadians or that? When asked about seniors, he just said, “They’re coming.” Well, he brought forward what they are doing for seniors the other day and I think Scrooge could have done better with a ‘Bah humbug!’

Maybe the prime minister does not know many seniors. The ones I know share the same problems. They are faced with constantly increasing costs while the volatile stock market plays havoc with their investments and retirement income funds. As they age, their buying power erodes and they can almost compute when it would be best for them to die. Mind you, I do not want covid-19 to rush that.

But, at this time of self-separation, it is actually difficult for seniors to spend much. If the government gives me any extra money this month, I will probably leave some of it in the bank for a while. My wife likes to cook, so we only order in occasionally. We are hardly going anywhere but our auto insurance rates go up. And we find grocery costs are climbing higher, we are paying more for our drugs and fat cats such as Bell Canada rip us off for Internet services. And where can we turn?

What seniors really need is a government that sticks with you. Seniors would do better with what the liberals promised last year. During the election, we were told that they would support a ten per cent increase in old age security (OAS) at age 75 and a 25 per cent increase in Canada pension plan (CPP) for survivors. That makes sense under current conditions.

We certainly need a realistic cost of living allowance with our CPP or with the OAS or guaranteed income supplement (GIS). Ideally, of course, it could all be combined in a guaranteed annual income system.

So next time Justin Trudeau pops out of the Rideau cottage cuckoo clock, I will just have to report to him that he and his neoliberal finance minister missed a good chance to help Canada’s seniors. This covid-19 might be thinning the ranks these days but they remain a viable force and those who are left will be out to vote next time.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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“Do as I say, not as I do.”

May 14th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

It is part of being of the political elite. We have no royals like the Brits. And we have little of America’s Hollywood. We have to settle for talking and speculating about our politicians. We put them on pedestals and then complain when they take advantage of their position to do as they wish.

And even a provincial premier can end up falling off their pedestal for doing what we were told specifically not to do. Premier Doug Ford of Ontario got ripped for telling us not to go north to our cottages over the Easter weekend. Yet he made a quick trip up to his family’s Lake Country cottage—to check the plumbing—we were told.

And then for Mothers’ Day, the premier had all four daughters home to honour their mother. He thinks that it is alright as he did not invite the sons-in-law. He apparently does not realize that they might be sleeping with his daughters.

But the elitist el supremo in this country is our prime minister. As the eldest son of Pierre Trudeau, Justin has spent a life of privilege. He hobnobs with the rich and famous. He is a long-time friend of the Aga Khan, one of the world’s ten richest royals. You might remember when the prime minister and his family spent Christmas with him on the Khan’s island in the Bahamas. (Last we heard, the RCMP still had not reimbursed the Khan for accommodating the PM’s security detail.)

Justin’s latest display of his elitism was sending his wife and children to Harrington Lake in Quebec last month after she recovered from her bout of covid-19 at Rideau Cottage in Ottawa. Travel between residences has been banned in both provinces and unnecessary travel between provinces is also being discouraged. While it is easy to understand the wish to visit with his wife and children, Canadians do not need a reminder that Justin Trudeau considers himself to be exempt from any rules.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Electing women.

May 13th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

When the wife was having a Zoom meeting the other day with her book club, she used my computer. For some reason, I could not load Zoom on her laptop. The connection was messy, she was late and my way of getting her there caused a funny echo for the others that I had to fix.

I mention this because I ended up listening to most of their discussion. They were discussing a book by a British author (Caroline Criado Perez from Oxford and the London School of Economics). It was on the data bias in a world (supposedly) designed for men. The book drove a clear wedge between the men and women in the club. The men seeing progress and the women not seeing enough.

While it is always easier to find gender imbalance in the United Kingdom, I was intrigued when they got to the gender imbalance in politics. Among an obviously well-educated audience of Canadians there seemed little awareness of some of the differences in North American politics. Canada’s parliament has come a long way from when Ellen Fairclough was the first woman in the federal cabinet. Yes, it is difficult for women in politics and there should be more of them.

I have worked with some wonderful women in politics over the years. I find they have different instincts, pressures, objectives and approaches than men. They tend to be more family oriented and nesters.

And they can be tough. One of my first mentors in politics was Jean Gertrude ‘True’ Davidson of East York (now part of Toronto). True was of the old breed of politicians and she never lost in all her municipal trials. She was probably why I enjoyed a friendship with Hazel McCallion in Mississauga. Hazel was mayor of Streetsville when we first met and soon mayor of the City of Mississauga. Her 36 years with that city is a remarkable legacy.

In more than 60 years in politics, I have always encouraged women to participate. They have much to offer.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Who will bell Ford?

May 12th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

Before you bell the cat, you had better learn something of its habits. This is not an animal that has been de-clawed nor rendered toothless. Nor has Ontario premier Doug Ford. You have to remember that Ford is a bully and a braggart and there are no Marquess of Queensbury rules in his erratic approach to politics.

While we have no idea yet on what the conservatives will build their next provincial campaign, we do know something about the party leaders who will be involved. And we have already mentioned the conservative’s Doug Ford. He has gained a bit of credibility during the pandemic but who knows what he will do to rattle voters before the June, 2022 provincial election.

We also have an idea who his opponents might be. The leader of the opposition is Andrea Horwath of the new democratic party. We have all seen her in inaction and if her party is happy with her leading the party, the public obviously is not. The only reason she became leader of the opposition in Ontario is because liberal Kathleen Wynne announced her party’s defeat before the public got a chance to vote. Horwath was the only alternative for those wary of Ford.

Kathleen Wynn’s replacement is Steven Del Duca, the former MPP from Vaughan. He has yet to seek a seat in the legislature. This makes it difficult for him to get much publicity or to ask questions of the conservative government.

From what I know about Del Duca and his key advisors is that they failed to contain or block Ford and his conservatives in 2018. I was not even impressed with how they made Del Duca leader of the party. He is right wing and from a different era of politics.

I am coming to believe that we will be going into a different political era post pandemic. I hardly think of Ford being the answer in the new politics. Nor do I see Horwath or Del Duca as being any improvement.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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After the Pandemic, Let’s Double Down.

May 11th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

Canada is going to come out of this pandemic stronger, more determined and in a better position to build a stronger future. And we could come out with a national debt of more than $700 billion. And, so what? We could double that debt and nobody would sneeze. We have two critical issues that need to be resolved. The first is a national minimum income program for every adult in the country. The second is a project to bind this country more tightly together.

The minimum income is a step with which we will measure ourselves as a nation. It is the measure of our decency. It is a measure of our caring. It has to be in an amount that can keep a person sheltered and fed, keep a graduate student at his or her studies. It does not need to be the same for everybody but it must be for everybody. Nobody needs to sleep on a street. No Canadian needs to go hungry.

The second is of equal or greater importance. It is the project we choose to bind our nation together. Sir John A. Macdonald saw it as a band of steel. Maybe he had an idea upon which we can build an even stronger nation. Only this time, it is a train system that connects all our major cities. It needs to be high-speed and electric.

We will need jobs for people after the pandemic and this project will provide many thousands of jobs. And there are many years of work to be done. When finished, it will open new opportunities in recreation, tourism, shipping, business travel. Maybe it will only cost $30 billion to build. It will earn the money back in revenue and taxes.

The first step deals with our decency. The second deals with our dreams. And the two steps are linked because they will bring us the new citizens we need to reach the ideal of 100 million Canadians.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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The cull.

May 10th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

Just memories for Mothers’ Day. Mother used to tell us six children that when her time came, she would expect us to send her off on her own ice flow. She had read somewhere that Canada’s northern aboriginals, the Inuit, did that with aged members who were no longer useful to the tribe. Luckily for her, she made it to her 97th year and passed peacefully in a pleasant, well run long-term care facility.

That was more than 20 years ago. She had lived through the Spanish Flu as a teenager and young adult in Chicago. What she would have made of covid-19, we can only guess. It probably would not have appealed to her as a way to cull the herd.

And that is the way this pandemic presents. Reading the world-wide reports on covid-19, a common thread is that long-term care facilities in many countries are the killing ground. It is costing us far too many of the old and infirm in our societies.

Covid-19 is not only a nasty way to die but it is also a lonely death. People in personal protective equipment bustling around trying to do what they can, just do not cut it. Despite their valiant efforts, there are no warm and fuzzy feelings in that scene.

The wife and I are both in the cross-hairs for this pandemic. Age and health conditions are on the wrong side of the ledger. Luckily, we are quite comfortable where we are self-isolated and with each others’ company. We are catching up on our reading and very bad television.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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