Toronto’s urgent need for unity.

August 4th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

It is a daunting prospect. No matter who is elected to what position in Toronto in the October municipal election, the Ford conservatives will be in their face for the next four years. And the only way to face it is with a united front. And to do that, you have to have a group running for mayor and most of the councillor spots on a united ticket.

You do not have to call it party politics. You could call it Tory’s Troublemakers and get the job done. What you want is to elect the mayor and at least 13 councillors who agree to giving Toronto some good government and really serving Torontonians. Since the Ford crew at Queen’s Park are remnants from the far right of the conservative party in Ontario, you might not want to identify as conservatives.

But bear in mind, your major problem will be the potential for the NDP to unite behind a mayoralty candidate such as Jennifer Keesmaat. While Doug Ford has left them few wards with easy wins for the NDP, that is still the group likely to provide the opposition at city hall.

And you definitely do not want to annoy any liberal candidates. If you could combine the liberal and conservative support for Tory’s Troublemakers, it should give you a majority on city council. It will be your chance to put through some very positive programs for the city.

There is not a lot of time to put this together but you should be able to put your candidates in a room and work out a common platform that you can all support. You might have your candidates bring supporters to an open meeting where they could pass judgement on the plans. You can invite the media to see your hard work and get a major boost for your platform and your candidates. And if you play your cards right, you will beat the NDP.

Ad hoc parties are a tenuous approach but, in time you could grow your group into a Toronto party that can stand up to Queen’s Park and negotiate better arrangements for the city.

The truth is that the threat of secession from Ontario is spurious. Toronto needs Ontario just as much as Ontario needs Toronto. They just need to see the need for each other.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Ford’s Valkyrie are in flight.

August 3rd, 2018 by Peter Lowry

Cue the Wagnerian music. Ford’s Valkyrie are choosing who lives and dies in Ontario. While Ford makes war on his old colleagues in Toronto city hall, his cabinet Valkyrie are slashing and burning liberal attempts at humanity. Both Christine Elliott as health minister and Lisa MacLeod as social services minister are busy gutting desperately needed programs and program increases for the people.

It seems Doug Ford, in his drive to be the new premier of Ontario, forgot to tell us what “For the People’ meant. It certainly did not include the halt the lame, the mentally ill and the indigent. It certainly did not include either old and tired social assistance programs or new program trials.

Christine Elliott is on the fast track, in her secondary role as deputy premier. She had the first kick at the increase planned for mental health spending in Ontario. At a time when mental health patients are slipping through the cracks in the system, she cancelled an increase in spending. It seems we are leaving the serious problems for the police. And we all know how rarely the police know what to do in dealing with the mentally ill—if they do not shoot them first?

Mind you Lisa MacLeod was surprisingly generous. She found that there was a planned three per cent increase due for the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) which can pay up to $1151 per month depending on rent. At a time when a staple such as peanut butter has gone up about 20 per cent, that increase of about $30 per month was going to be welcomed by all recipients, So Lisa MacLeod reduced the increase to 1.5 per cent. Maybe she might think the recipients will be half as pleased. Not that they would be likely to vote conservative anyway.

But it was Lisa MacLeod’s telling the news media of the killing of the basic income program test that caught everyone off guard. We were promised that this test would continue under a conservative government. It seems they lied.

Oh well, it was a foolish test that Kathleen Wynne did not seem to understand and would have proved little. They were not testing the impact of the program against another community of equal size. They cherry-picked individuals within some communities to test. I have no idea what that proves about a guaranteed annual income program?

Obviously, for conservatives, it proves nothing.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Dougie doesn’t do distress.

August 2nd, 2018 by Peter Lowry

At the end of April this year, a truck was driven down Yonge Street in north Toronto on a quest to murder. The driver succeeded in killing 10 people and injuring 14. Mayor John Tory was there on the scene soonest, Premier Kathleen Wynne came. NDP leader Andrea Horwath came. The prime minister of Canada came. Doug Ford, the man running for premier of Ontario on the slogan ‘For the People,’ was too busy campaigning.

And then we had the random shootings in Greektown on Toronto Danforth. Mayor Tory was there soonest. As premier, Doug Ford read a statement to the legislature. And since the prime minister was coming at the time of the funerals, the premier showed up for a vigil.

This is one of the toughest parts of the politician’s job. It requires that fine balance between showing your concern and appearing to be taking advantage of it for the exposure. Mayor John Tory does it well. Maybe it is because he gets more fires and shootings and other types of disasters in a large city. He also has the constant down-in-the-mouth expression of a St. Bernard. He was born to be a first responder.

But Doug Ford does not do concern well. He lacks empathy. He is too self-centred to feel for others. No doubt he has to let his staff pick the timing, prepare his off-the-cuff remarks and tell him how to dress and how to look. It is not in his DNA.

But nobody wants that brash loud-mouth at quiet moments of contemplation anyway. Doug Ford’s problem is that he only has an on-off switch. There is no volume control.

Ford’s attitude seems to permeate the entire conservative caucus at Queen’s Park. They applaud the brashness of their leader. They appear to revel in their party’s ignorance of climate change. They share the myopia when it comes to the growing demand for gun controls. And at a time of increasingly horrendous criminal attacks on complete strangers, they concur on the throttling back of funds for mental health solutions.

At a time of growing need for better government, Ontario has opted for ignorance. When better solutions should be sought to growing needs in fields of provincial jurisdiction, Ontario voters have chosen comic-book heroes. This is not a time to be proud of what we have done.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Trump rides the Tiger.

August 1st, 2018 by Peter Lowry

When you choose to ride the tiger, there is no option but to stay aboard. This situation with Donald Trump is increasingly serious. It was emphasized and underlined the other day when the publisher of the New York Times warned the American president that he was endangering lives with his inflammatory rhetoric. While the publisher was obviously more concerned about the safety of members of the news media, the problem can have an equal and opposite impact on the safety of the president.

When the president of the United States so blatantly chooses to lie with the cretins of the National Rifle Association (NRA) can he be safe from the crazies within the organization? We would hardly expect that anybody has to send a note from their analyst along with their membership dues.

And the American Secret Service can hardly be expected to admonish the person they are supposed to protect. Could they catch him sending twits in the middle of the night and take his iPhone away from him? Maybe they could just turn off the White House Wi-fi at night and let everyone get a decent night’s sleep?

Trump seems terrified of letting the news media do their job. If the information is about his administration, it is obviously ‘fake news’ to the president. The New York Times publisher was also very concerned that the president’s claims about the negative coverage are endangering journalists. The publisher does not want his employees shot just for doing their job.

But is the situation worse than that? Is America heading towards another civil war? If California and New York cannot be divided into six states, will federal elections in America continue to be dominated by the red states?

Or will the blue states rise again?

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

The Patrick Brown legacy lives on.

July 31st, 2018 by Peter Lowry

It is like a bad smell that does not go away. There was some relief in Barrie during the period when Patrick Brown was living the high life in Toronto as leader of the Ontario conservatives. It was the complaints by two young, unidentified Barrie ladies that caused him to resign as conservative leader. And it was the vindictiveness of fellow conservative MPPs that convinced him not to run to replace himself as leader or to contest the Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte provincial electoral district as a conservative.

But like a bad penny, Patrick Brown keeps showing up—recently as a home owner in Mississauga—then as a candidate for Peel Region chair—and then, just as suddenly—candidate for mayor of Brampton.

Patrick Brown of Barrie is a political conniver. Some people think he is a pretty good ‘retail politician’ in the sense that he knows all the angles to work on voters. Yet he abuses those angles. He is slippery and has little respect for truth. He is only in it for himself.

Brown spent years in Ottawa and never made a contribution to his party policy or on behalf of his constituents. On free votes he voted against women’s rights and to re-open abortion arguments.

The old political term for Brown is “carpetbagger.” He little cares for the needs of Peel region voters but he figured to make around $200,000 per year in the newly elected role as regional chair. He took a quick look around when premier Ford slammed close that opportunity and selected mayor Linda Jeffrey of Brampton as the only potential opportunity. He has no personal connection with Brampton but figures, in the current times, his being a conservative and Jeffery being a former provincial liberal cabinet minister gives him a chance at winning. He knew better than to go after Bonnie Crombie in Mississauga (where he now lives) who has done a good job replacing a retired Hazel McCallion.

What reminded me of this was Brown’s acolyte, Alex Nutall MP, who is very proud of taking over Brown’s role at Hockey Night in Barrie this year. I think Royal Victoria Hospital and the other charities getting involved should get a forensic audit of this event in recent years. They might not know the kind of legacy to which they have tied themselves.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Ford-style mathematics and The Kingfish.

July 30th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

Even health minister Christine Elliott is going along with the mathematics used by the new Ontario premier. Once you accept that two and two add up to zero, you are one of the true believers. The only problem is that when we are so obviously in need of improving mental health services is no time to fool with the mental health funding as planned by the previous provincial regime.

Recent events on Toronto’s Yonge Street and then in Greektown on the Danforth tell us that serious mental health problems are being allowed to escape our notice, our concern and possible action. It is worrisome when the new health minister starts her job denying the allocation of funds needed to address mental health problems.

But can we expect more than summary decisions of this summer session of the Ontario legislature? There was no examination or discussion of the whys and wherefores of the York University strike and how to prevent such a disruption for the students in the future. The process was cursory.

In the same sense, does the conservative government want more than a cursory study of the bill to end “cap and trade” carbon pricing? Will we just see “Ford” mathematics used to qualify his ten-cent drop in the price of gasoline. And will we even notice the drop in the ever-increasing profits for the oil refining companies?

Would that we could have had any warning of changes in Toronto municipal ward boundaries? Should there be 24 city councillors or 47? Are not the voters in Toronto interested parties in that discussion? And do we understand what is the role of a councillor as opposed to a member of parliament or of the legislature? Instead of having dialogue on these issues, we are being ruled autocratically. Elections of regional chairs are being summarily cancelled. And is that a decision that we should discuss? Is it from spite—or some other spurious reason?

Is this the style of public discussion that Dougie is proposing to use to send sex education for Ontario students back in time? Does Dougie think he can now rule Ontario by fiat.

We initially assumed that Doug Ford would be like Donald Trump Lite. We are rethinking that and are starting to see him in more the role of a governor from the past in Louisiana, known as Huey P. Long. The story of Huey Long could be a cautionary tale. He called himself ‘The Kingfish.’

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

 

The Ford Follies fumble forward.

July 29th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

To be truthful, I had a hard time controlling my laughter reading the revelations on premier Doug Ford’s plans for Toronto and the municipal elections in Ontario. I am now convinced that Dougie is dumber than former Ontario premier Mike Harris. It was Harris who amalgamated Metro Toronto and left it in deplorable disarray 20-years ago.

If the Ford followers at Queen’s Park were truthful, they would mostly admit that it is high time that the good burghers of Toronto paid the piper. Those from outside the GTA are convinced that it is Toronto that sucks up all the good air (and money) of this province.

And if Dougie has something of a vendetta going with arch enemies such as Patrick Brown and Steven Del Duca, well why not get even? With the two of them looking for easy election as chair of Peel and York regions respectively, they were looking for an easy run at a lucrative job. This was to be the first public election for those positions and they both thought it would be a breeze. Those guys know something that has been kept secret in municipal elections for far too long: name recognition wins. Incompetence hardly matters.

The laugh might be on Dougie though for cancelling the chairs’ elections as Patrick Brown raced to file a nomination for mayor of Brampton. (Brampton is a city of just over a half million above Mississauga and west of Toronto.) Hopefully, the last laugh will be for Brampton mayor Linda Jeffrey, who will be no pushover. If that putz Brown looks like he is giving Linda any trouble, this old liberal apparatchik will be heading down to Brampton, volunteering to help her.

But the Toronto situation is providing the best laughs. Imagine the grin on John Tory’s face when former city planner Jennifer Keesmaat announced she is running against him. She might be the favourite of the bike-riding NDP but those people have their own problems.

Can you imagine those vaunted NDPers, Mike Layton and Joe Cressy, going head to head for a single downtown ward? I can hardly guess who will blink first but someone will have to step in to resolve that one.

No doubt some enterprising lawyer is dashing between already-nominated candidates putting together a lawsuit to cover monies they have already spent in now changed wards. Campaigns have to be completely re-evaluated and some will be abandoned in frustration.

The question is how are the voters going to accept this mess? I think we all need to listen to the voters very carefully.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

 

Horgan pays the price.

July 28th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

British Columbia premier John Horgan is paying his debts. He wanted to be premier and it cost him an accord with the BC Green party, headed by MLA John Weaver. One of the conditions is to again offer BC voters an opportunity to vote on changing how they elect their provincial government. John Horgan’s NDP government is calling for this vote later this year. It is a small price to pay for the continued support of the three Green Party members in the B.C. legislature.

But nothing ever runs smoothly. People are taking the government to court over the proposals and regulations for the referendum. In addition, the Green Party MLAs are talking about ending the accord over the NDP offering incentives for a very large Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) proposal. It is easy to understand the eagerness of the NDP for $40-billion LNG project that offers jobs for BC workers and long-term revenues to the province. The Greens are less eager to increase the carbon emissions and potential environmental problems with loading ocean-going LNG tankers.

If the NDP government had announced its proportional representation on FaceBook, it would probably have received more initial dislikes than likes. The government allows for three alternative plans, each more confusing than the previous proposal. The least complicated is the mixed-member proportional system such as was rejected by Ontario voters in 2007 by a vote of about two to one. The second is more like the single-transferable vote that B.C. voters failed to approve twice. And the third choice is a previously untried system of rural voters voting proportional and urban voters voting for a MLA in normal electoral districts. None of the options is truly proportional.

But most of the emerging arguments are over how the NDP government is managing the voting. It will be a mail-in ballot and ignores the Internet availability. The main bone of contention is that the NDP government will select who will be the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ sides and only those two groups will be allowed to advertise and promote their opinion. No ‘Maybe’ or ‘What If’’ options are to be considered.

Mind you, the good news is that after two elections with one of those options, the populace will be allowed an opportunity to vote to return to First Past the Post (FPTP) voting. I guess that opportunity would be better than the only recourse to be an insurrection.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Doug is doubling down.

July 27th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

Is it fun yet watching our new Ontario premier doubling down with our money? Doug Ford has given the back of his hand to all the efforts in the recent years to protect our environment. He wants to take us back to what was the middle ages of sex education. You would think the damn fool would take it easy at first. After all, he has four years to really screw up.

But Dougie is a man on a mission. He has sent the unions at York University back to their classrooms in anger. His solution was to solve nothing. He left the blame on the university board when it belonged on Queen’s Park He is afraid the people of Ontario will find out he is a fraud.

He has Queen’s park settling in for a rare summer session. He wants to see just how much consternation he can cause. He is a man on a mission. He has a city to consternate and political enemies to obliterate.

This will not be a time of well thought-through improvements. It will be a time of slash and burn. The barbarians have breeched the gates.

Education and health will lead the way in the tumbrils to the public pillories. They account for the bulk of Queen’s Park expenses and must bear the brunt of the cost cutting.

And we already know that there will be little of the truth told as these ideologues struggle with the realities of multi-billion cost overruns. We already saw the truth trampled as Dougie pronounced that there was no cost in getting the Hydro One chair to leave. Some of this conservative government contract cutting will take years to wend its way through a slowed and under-funded court system.

The reality is that Dougie has absolutely no idea what the conservative’s hatred of clean energy efforts will cost to liquidate. Will the occasional wind turbine be left turning in the wind as a nostalgic note from the past?

But where Dougie will really sell his soul is in getting even with his municipal enemies from Toronto. There is more to come than to just reducing the number of councillors and settling old scores.

And then there is that promise of ‘a buck a beer’ and even buying beer in convenience stores. Hopefully that will be resolved in what is left of this simmering hot summer in Ontario.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Patching the health care problems.

July 26th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

With former Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins helping the federal government and Doug Ford tearing into the make-do solutions in Ontario, we might be in more trouble in adding pharmacare to health care than we thought possible. We already know that Doug Ford’s argument for a patchwork solution is unworkable but just where Hoskins and the feds are headed also has a question mark on it.

As health minister for Ontario over the past four years, Hoskins has always had a frazzled look about him. He seemed to have no idea what to do about the increasingly onerous demands of the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) specialists who seemed to think their fees should be unlimited. And these demands by the specialists were being made while people outside the large cities in Ontario were increasingly desperate for general practitioners to come and provide coverage in their community.

I always assumed that those speeches the health minister made in support of a national pharmacare program were also being delivered to his Ontario cabinet colleagues. His problem was that former premier Wynne never saw a good program that she could not chop up into chewable chunks.

But Wynne’s stepping-stone steps for Ontario are down the tubes now as Doug Ford is set on teaching us all to pay our own way. Ford is determined even to the extent of taking back pharmaceutical coverage from anyone under 25 who has a health plan on their own or through a parent with coverage through their company, union or organization.

If Ontario’s new premier thinks his plans will save anybody money, he is definitely confused. Unless there is a single buyer of pharmaceuticals for the province (or all of Canada), there will never be any control. And to even suggest that insurance companies selling health plans, with pharmaceutical coverage included, are not motivated by profit, is delusional.

Ontario has had enough of the Doug Ford-Mike Harris approach to health care. Seniors were promised by Wynne that they would have the $100 per year plus the up to $6 co-pay per script ended after January 1, 2019. That will obviously not be happening. Even though the co-pay approach was a serious amount for those taking a range of drugs each day. They will be lucky if the Ford government does not increase it.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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