Measuring mediocrity.

February 10th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

Having been party to writing political rule books in the past, it took little time to find the loopholes and errors in the 2018 Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership rule book. I did not compare them, side by side, but I figure the major change is the date on each page. It makes the same silly mistakes as the last book that helped Patrick Brown steal the leadership.

The only major difference between the two events is that there are another 17 electoral districts to be included in the count. If an electoral district has 100 or less votes cast, each vote will be counted as one. If there are 500 votes cast in an electoral district, each vote will be worth 20 per cent of a vote. The maximum number of votes that could be tallied is 12,400.

What really complicates matters and makes it almost impossible to forecast the vote is that the party members are encouraged to state their preference by numbering each candidate according to their order of preference. This is the foolish type of voting that helped ‘Chuckles’ Scheer win as what can be perceived as the thirteenth choice in the federal Conservative race.

This means that Doug Ford has to get out of his comfort zone in Toronto and meet our farmers. Caroline Mulroney has to get out and meet real Conservatives. Christine Elliott needs to make peace with more of the caucus and get their help.

What makes this particular contest so daunting is the timeline. There is simply not enough time for candidates to meet and press the flesh of the party. The good news is also that there is no time to organize and co-opt closely knit ethnic groups who are spread across the province.

The election was effectively called for as of January 26. People who want to vote have until February 16 to pay their membership in the party. Voting will be from Friday, March 2 until Thursday March 8. They are arranging a little party event for the membership (and the news media) to announce the winner on Saturday, March 10 (less than three months before the provincial election).

The only problem that might have candidates stumbling is the demand in the candidate rules, Section 5.2.1(b), that says to be eligible to run in this leadership, they must support the party policy as detailed at the November 2017 policy conference—which includes a carbon tax.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Justin in the pipeline pretzel position.

February 9th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

It is new to yoga. Among the latest postures for the ancient health and fitness practice is the pipeline pretzel position. It is for those who believe they can make money from the tar sands while reducing the carbon we are spewing into our environment. While we might all look silly in the downward dog posture, the pipeline pretzel is only for the very agile.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau showed us how agile you need to be at a recent town hall event on Vancouver Island. It was not the selfie-king’s finest hour. He lost his cool.

And, let me assure you, politician’s who cannot find their cool, do not have a lengthy career in politics. When Conservative Joe Clark rejected the 66 per cent support for his leadership by his party and called for a new leadership convention, it was the end of a potential career in the top job.

Another good example was when Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown recently refused to be cool about some questionable allegations by unidentified people. Where is Patrick now?

Does yoga meditation not teach people to be cool? When people are out to get you, paranoid or not, it is important to practice your deep breathing exercises.

It made no sense for the prime minister to get into arguments with the protestors on Vancouver Island. Telling police to eject protestors is not the image of Justin we all know and love. He blew it.

It seems to be what happens to people who think they can suck and blow at the same time. Justin is not the Teflon Tiger such as Trump in Washington. Trump has never been or will be a cultured, conservationist, respected, likeable leader. When he ran for the presidency, he posed as a populist, ignorant bastard and he lives up to that promise.

Trudeau, on the other hand, told us he loves liberals, women, the environment, the middle class and babies. He never told us about his rich friends, his lack of interest in fully taxing the one per cent, his elitism and that his government would approve the Kinder-Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. It has left some of us Liberals with the uneasy feeling that we have been had.

And besides, making like a pipeline pretzel is a ridiculous posture.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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When the music stops.

February 8th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

The game is called Musical Chairs. You might have played it as a child. If there are ten players, you start with nine chairs together in line, alternating facing in opposite directions. When the music starts the players are lined up and walk around the line of chairs. When the music stops everyone scrambles for a chair. The person who does not get seated is out and gets to take a chair and themselves out of the game. And then the music starts again.

It is also a game for adults. It can offer interesting variables. A political version has been going on recently in the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. Instead of chairs in the line-up you have potential party leaders. The people marching around the line of politicians are political apparatchiks looking for candidates for whom they might work. When the music stops, they can pitch the closest possible candidate. Those who make successful pitches get to carry off a candidate. And then the music starts again.

I remember one time standing in the middle of a crowded ballroom in one of the larger hotels in Toronto, deep in conversation with a key candidate for a party leadership. It dawned on both of us that as long as we continued the conversation, nobody would bother us. We continued discussing—the relative merits of Tahiti for a winter get-away. We had both enjoyed the brief break from the political subject de jour. And then the music starts again.

I mention this political game because one of the factors to which I tend to pay attention in writing a morning line is which apparatchiks are working for which politicians. It is a bit like picking horses based on who trains them. For example, I noted today that Patrick Brown’s key guy is now working for Caroline Mulroney. It was something of a warning sign. It means that Patrick is quite unlikely to seek to succeed himself. He would need his friend Toronto lawyer Walied Soliman to tell him what to do.  And then the music starts again.

If the entire field in this current PC race are these three candidates (See No Evil, Hear No Evil and Speak No Evil), we will still have an interesting race. It would be Ford versus the elites, Mulroney versus the news media and Elliott versus the caucus. Each has their strengths and weaknesses. And then the music starts again.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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And now there are three.

February 7th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

Even in this shortest of all leadership races, it is too early to produce a morning line on the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party contest. How are you expected to consider workouts and past performance for this mixed bag of candidates? And when you only have three—so far—you have to wait until the official cut off.

Doug Ford was the first out from his mother’s basement. (The media love the inference that the millionaire Ford lives in his mother’s basement.) The former councillor and the guy John Tory beat for the Toronto mayoralty, Ford is probably the richest wannabe in the race.

Ford is busy rallying his late brother’s Ford Nation to his cause but how many will pay up to become short-term Tories is a good question? Here is Ford running a campaign against the Toronto elites when all the time, he is one of those elites.

And speaking of elites, this will be the first chance anyone will have to not vote for Caroline Mulroney. If the name sounds familiar, it is because her daddy was one of the most vilified prime ministers in Canada’s history. It was a quarter century ago but many of us remember ‘Lyin’ Brian.

Caroline Mulroney has a father who is a liability, four children in private schools and an American husband in Toronto. And they recently bought a week-end country estate in Geogina, Ontario. It is so that Caroline can run for a seat at Queen’s Park in the safe Conservative electoral district of York-Simcoe.

So far, it is two wannabes taking on the older pro. None of them have a seat currently at Queen’s Park. Christine Elliott walked away from her Whitby-Oshawa seat when Patrick Brown stole the leadership from her in the last race. She was so angry at the time that she never went back to Queen’s Park. Premier Kathleen Wynne gave her a way out by offering Christine a plum government appointment. She was ideally suited to the job and it is reputed to have paid $220,000 per year.

But there must have been some other offers made to bring Christine back to Queen’s Park. She might have lost twice already in tries for the leadership but she is the widow of Conservative icon Jim Flaherty, Stephen Harper’s finance minister. She likely has a base of at least 15,000 Ontario Tories ready to vote for her.

While most political observers assumed that Brown lied about the 200,000 members of the Conservative Party. Vic Fedeli might not even have the right figure at 125,000. The better guess is that there are between 60,000 to 75,000 votes to go after. We will give you an idea where they might go, after the candidate cut off.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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The NDP and the LEAP liability.

February 6th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

This is unbelievable. The New Democratic Party is having a convention in mid February and we hear the LEAP Manifesto seems to be the selected song book. Not only is the document two years older but it was out of date when introduced in Edmonton to the consternation of the Alberta NDP. It was not helpful in building solidarity. And if the NDP even wants a future, the party has to come to some clear understanding of the party’s purpose.

There have been many false starts for the NDP over the years. There was the socialist start to Tommy Douglas’ Prairie-based Cooperative Commonwealth Federation and then the union-based NDP that David Lewis took into the 70s. Always the bridesmaid, Jack Layton introduced the populism the party needed at the turn of the century. Where a devout Sikh wants to take the party has yet to be determined.

But LEAP is not a direction. It is naïve. It has some of the same thought as Donald Trump’s populism. It even takes the same xenophobic stand on trade agreements. It seeks nirvana without the hard work involved. It offers handouts without considering the cost involved. It treats our first nations people as deserving wards of the state.

And please do not bring us the populism of America’s Bernie Sanders. He lost to Hillary Clinton but helped Trump take her down. As remarkable as Bernie’s drive for the Democratic nomination might have been, he failed to understand the effects of his campaign.

The cost-conscious NDP are not even bringing in the A-team speakers from America and the United Kingdom to help make their case. Mind you, anyone who wants to listen to the blokes who are set on destroying all the value the U.K. built while in the European Union are wasting their time. There is one word that explains why the Brexit vote happened. It is ‘bigotry.’

But neither Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders nor Brit Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn have anything to tell you about how to achieve what you really want from your party. It is obvious that you want power. You must be tired of standing outside the wrought iron fences around Canada’s parliament buildings. You want a crack at running things.

I think you need a purpose first and then you can make a plan.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Trashing Trump.

February 5th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

It is the new cottage industry in North America—and probably the entire world. We just need our daily fix on what is wrong with American President Donald Trump. The best laughs are at the artificial attempts to temper the tragedy by mentioning something nice about him. We were reminded of this the other day when a writer who is a student of language history told us that we might be wrong to laugh at Trump’s use and abuse of English.

The writer stunned this writer by saying that Trump is not a bad orator and that he knows how to use language to good effect. That came as a surprise.

One of the important aspects of the English language is that it is a living language and it continues to change at a remarkable pace.

But when you describe Trump as an orator, is that with or without a teleprompter? Is if from a prepared text or is it off the cuff? And what mood was he in when he delivered it?

Trump’s State of the Nation address was articulate, boring, self-aggrandizing and too long. It was not Mr. Trump’s usual form. While I am sure he interfered with the writing process, it did show a professional touch.

Trump talking to his lumpen proletariat followers is another matter entirely. He loves his Lump (as I like to think of them). He uses what he thinks is their bad grammar. He repeats himself constantly. The language is gross and over the top. If he is not ignorant, then he must think his audience is.

Before writing about Trump, you really need to see how he handles his rallies. He reminds me of the line in the old Brit sea shanty: We’ll rant and we’ll roar like true British sailors.

Trump’s Lump are a broad spectrum of America. They are older in Florida than they are in Ohio. They chant “Lock her up” about Hillary Clinton with equal enthusiasm. You could be at a Sunday morning prayer meeting if the guy up front was not a well-known non-believer, misogynist and philanderer.

My favourites in Trump’s Lump are the bikers, American Nazis, gun enthusiasts from the NRA and holly rollers who share his xenophobic view of the world. Those religious right love Trump and their fellow church goers—as long as they are white.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Our leaders need to ‘man up.’

February 4th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

It is unlikely that in this era of #MeToo that we can find many men willing to stick their neck out—or any other body part, for that matter. It is just that the we are getting into the realms of ridiculousness with some of today’s witch (or more accurately, warlock) hunts. Our political leaders are starting to look like a bunch of wusses in their eagerness to ruin careers needlessly.

And they are all to blame. It was when New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh called for an investigation of charges coming second-hand from another MP, that we really hit the depth. How dare Singh use such flimsy evidence to besmirch the character of someone he has not worked with in parliament?

And ‘Chuckles’ Scheer is just as ridiculous. Chuckles wants someone to investigate a former MP. Why? If the guy (former MP Rick Dyskstra) is no longer in parliament, what business is it of the leader of the Conservative Party? This problem came up under Stephen Harper’s watch. Would you also like to investigate Sir John A. McDonald’s boozing on the job?

And who made Justin Trudeau chief hall monitor for this kindergarten on the Rideau? We hardly need a blue-stocking feminist policing MPs. It is nowhere in the job description. If an MP embarrasses himself and his party, the leader can kick him out of caucus. Until then, the leader should butt out.

Once, many years ago, when leaving the Parliament buildings on a Wednesday evening, I gave a couple older liberal ladies I knew from a neighboring riding in Toronto a lift to the airport. Wednesdays in Ottawa were known as Wonderful Wednesdays at the time. It was an evening off for MPs and what ‘Chuckles’ does not worry about after eight, got started early. We happened to drive past two very friendly couples on the sidewalk and too late I realized the males were the ladies’ MP and a well-known senior aide.

As I explained to the MP the next time I saw him, he might get some glares at his next meeting with his riding executive. I could not convince those two women that he and his friend were just making sure those two young ladies got to their car safely. I at least got them laughing about it.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Justin’s dad had no rule book.

February 3rd, 2018 by Peter Lowry

Frankly, I am getting tired of this schmaltzy feminist dialogue from the prime minister. Enough is enough. He needs a new playbook.

This business reminds me of the time his father gave a feminist speech to a dinner in Toronto at the Royal York Hotel. I had a table with the key media people and I invited former Conservative Party President Dalton Camp (who had media credentials) to join us. Camp was a superb raconteur and helped keep the table laughing. The only downer of the evening was listening to Pierre simpering and extolling the roles played by women in society.

The party was giving out medals that night commemorating the dinner. Dalton’s line on the medal was that we all deserved one for having to listen to Pierre’s speech. We Toronto Liberals were not in the know that Pierre was on his way to Vancouver to marry Justin’s mother.

If we had known that it was Pierre’s bachelor dinner, we could have livened up the proceedings. It was a year later that we presented Pierre with a pint-sized Toronto Maple Leaf hockey uniform for Christmas-baby Justin.

What got me on this nostalgia kick was the prime minister’s claim to the news media that he did not “have a rule book that’s been handed down by Wilfrid Laurier.” It was a damn silly statement to what was probably a damn silly question.

As much as I agree with the joke that conservatives come to Ottawa to drink and liberals come to get laid, there are both kinds in both parties. I usually knew who was a straight arrow and who was not on the front benches. I was lucky at the time that I was frequently in Ottawa as three of my oldest brother’s daughters were working there. They were fun and they helped keep their favourite uncle out of trouble.

But, of course there can be no rule book to keep politicians out of the beds of the nation. Pierre Trudeau was once worried about one of his cabinet members frequenting gay bars. Senator Keith Davey explained Pierre’s concern to me. The problem was that Keith was just as likely to not know what to do as would Pierre. All I could advise them was that as long as the minister stuck to making friends in places where you are required to be an adult, the news media would say nothing.

Justin Trudeau needs to recognize that the relationships between individuals have come a long way in Canada’s 150 years. Both men and women away from home might like to have a drink and they might even like to engage in a friendly sexual romp. If the parties involved are adults and it is consensual, it is their business.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Brown’s fans fight for fairness.

February 2nd, 2018 by Peter Lowry

How do you petition public opinion? How many signatures on Facebook would impress the hoi polloi? Would you send the results to Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook? Just how do you defend against accusations handled entirely within the court of public opinion?

Talking to one of the people behind the Facebook petition on behalf of the fallen conservative provincial party leader, I tried to dig into the effort. It seemed to be such a terrible waste of time.

It appears they just want to get their former MP, now former provincial party leader Patrick Brown, a day in court. They consider the media’s treatment of the case to be unfair. They see the entire situation as unfair. Which it is. The problem is that Patrick Brown dug his own grave. He never accepted any of the help that was there for him.

As a public relations professional and a political operative for many years, I see various strategies that might have rescued him. None of them would have worked with an overwrought, out-of-control client. When he failed to pay attention to his campaign staff, he left them no option but to resign.

Not that this writer is going to miss Patrick Brown. Watching him in action in Barrie and Ottawa, I would not cross the street for him even if he was handing out $100 bills

But, in answer to the people who want a day in court for Patrick, the one avenue left open for him is the PC leadership convention in March. That is his only road to redemption. He has to run to replace himself. Nobody can block him in the leadership. Vic Fedeli said he would not let him run as a PC candidate but the interim leader cannot stop a fellow MPP from running for the leadership.

Brown can brush off the allegations of the young ladies as an unfortunate attempt to get rid of him. He is a lawyer and he knows what their testimony would be worth in court.

He has to run in the campaign on his platform that he introduced in November. His people wrote it and his picture is on it. Why pay for a new front cover?

But the putz has to remember that when he hires people to tell him what to do, he should do what they tell him. He has to stop making an ass of himself.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Trump follows the formula.

February 1st, 2018 by Peter Lowry

That did not need to be the real Donald Trump addressing Americans the other evening. The State of the Nation address is now down to a formula that a trained monkey could handle if you just dubbed in the usual clichés and platitudes. I spent the obligatory hour and 20 minutes wondering if Hillary Clinton would have read, at least the first half, differently?

Clinton would have made the same entrance: the crowd scene around the entranceway; people leaning down to shake hands; pointing to someone in the crowd and waving; the obligatory time to finally get to the podium. And what was all the applause about? Did they think the presidential cavalcade could not find the Congress?

Luckily, the teleprompters were in place. There was no need for the speaker to also think. The words were simple. The media were ready with their tally sheets to check off the standing ovations.

Trump launched almost immediately into his American heroes who were strategically placed in the hall. Why somebody thought it a good idea to embarrass these people further by introducing them is beyond us. It at least provides a break and a stretch—and is listed as another standing ovation.

While there were the usual trite offers of bipartisanship offered, this was Mr. Trump’s night and he was not about to let anyone forget it.

I liked the line about the old tax system being broken. Are not all of them broken? That feeling soon passed as we suffered through the tax-cut heroes. That was worse than expected.

The hypocrisy of Trump’s exultation of “In God we trust” was bad enough but when one of his heroes that he introduced was a 12-year old who put flags on graves, it was bordering on stomach churning schmaltz.

His report on the ecology was a list of the increased carbon his administration is letting lose on the environment. It was nothing more than help for his friends in the coal business and a free rein for General Motors to pollute.

Trump stayed away from mentioning the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) but he gave no succor to concerns. I expect he and his so-called negotiators have a timeframe in mind to cancel the pact. When, we do not know. When it happens, do not be too surprised.

From there, Mr. Trump’s rant concentrated on his hate for immigrants and his love for the military. The real State of the Nation is for his citizens to handle—as best they can.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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