Is this Toronto’s coming of age?

March 13th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

In a scholarly work this past week from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, we learned that the City of Toronto is ready to cut the parental apron strings of the Province of Ontario. If you have never been involved in Toronto politics, you might even believe that is possible.

It took this writer back to an event in the early fall of 1969. Driving down Yonge Street to the office, we stopped the car for a red light at Dundas Street. Shortly after stopping a head appeared in front of the car hood and it was glaring at me. It was David Crombie, a lecturer at Ryerson at the time, he was obviously on his way to work.

David detoured and came around to the driver’s side of the car—where the window was conveniently open. He stuck his head in the window and said: “Peter, you and I are friends, so I am not going to tell you what I thought of your article in the paper yesterday about myself and CIVAC.

“But I have to warn you, watch out for Shirley (his wife). She’s mad.” And with that David drew himself up to his full 5 foot, eight inches or so and stomped through the traffic to continue on his way to Ryerson.

David Crombie went on to his fun-filled career as Toronto’s ‘Tiny Perfect Mayor’ and as a Conservative Member of parliament in the Mulroney government. Your writer stayed safely away from Shirley Crombie.

But all we had written about was the facts. David and his friends were not going to solve Toronto’s problems with their civic action (CIVAC) party. And to make matters worse, we talked our late friend Senator Keith Davey into helping organize an attempt at bringing Liberal politics to Toronto’s various city halls. The laughter was a little forced later on when we referred to it as our own Mack Sennett comedy.

The facts are that Toronto is the liberal engine that runs Ontario. The Ontario Landowners with their extreme right-wing ways can scream all they want but without Toronto, this province is a backwater worse off than Louisiana. And while outsiders can say they hate Toronto, those of us who really know the city love it. And the outsiders would miss it.

Whoever is in charge at Queen’s Park knows that they have to look after Toronto. It might be the adult child living in your basement but you never want it to leave. It has no political structure to help it survive in the wilds.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The Morning Line: Canada’s Conservatives (2).

March 12th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

Now you get the possible winners from among the 14 contenders for the Tory leadership. We have checked their blood lines, their daily workouts and their past performances and all we can tell you is that the following is possible.

THE POSSIBLES:

Kevin O’Leary, 20 to 1. Our only advice to Kevin O’Leary (if he had ever asked) was to not play the heavy on television and then show up in politics expecting to be loved. He was the guy on that investment show, you loved to hate. He earned it. And not speaking French and expecting to be welcomed with open arms by the Tories is dreaming. Forget it Kevin.

Kellie Leach, 15 to 1. This sitting M.P. took up the nettle of Trumpism and is still trying to figure out how to handle it. If people did not realize just how silly her ‘Canadian Values’ line is, they need to see that weird YouTube video she made to explain her values. You wonder what her and the camera crew were smoking at the time

Andrew Scheer, 12 to 1. This is the desperation candidate. He is a small version of Stephen Harper. He is making the best play for second and third choice votes we have seen so far. That alone puts him in the running. He’s young (37), maybe he can grow into the job—if the Tories can wait a dozen years!

Maxime Bernier, 10 to 1. The M.P. from Beauce is a Conservative’s conservative. He is about as far right as you can get and stay in the country. He carries some baggage in leaving sensitive documents at his girlfriend’s but those who have seen the pictures of her understand. He is also number one in fundraising. He lacks the more balanced appeal of a Stephen Harper but he is about number four in a field of 14.

Erin O’Toole, 9 to 1. This is a guy who looks better on paper than in person. His platform is carefully crafted and hits many of the right buttons. So what if he is a bit boring? He is building a good base in the Atlantic which was a smart move. Now he has to drive that truck west. He has a chance.

Lisa Raitt, 6 to 1. The rules are working for this lady. She has become the stand-in for Rona Ambrose who has done a good job as interim leader of the Conservatives. There is no doubt that Conservative women will give her a first, second or third place vote—just for being a woman in politics. She is also going to get a sympathy vote because of her husband’s health. She has a better chance than most people realize.

Michael Chong, 5 to 1. This could be a surprise for many Conservative M.P.s. Michael Chong might be the only candidate who has seriously thought about the party and its future. The other candidates do not understand his ‘big tent’ strategy. It is why he could so easily walk away with so many second, third and fourth place votes from Tories across the country—that is what it will take to win. It will be a close race but he could just make it happen.

Sorry folks, it is a tough call. Nothing is guaranteed but all Canadians should take an interest in what happens in this race—it will define the Conservative Party of Canada for years to come.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

 

The Morning Line: Canada’s Conservatives (1).

March 11th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

You can hardly deal with 14 contenders for the Tory leadership in just one commentary. We will divide our Morning Line into two parts: The Losers and the Possibles.

THE LOSERS:

Rick Peterson, 100 to 1. There seems to be no justification for this gentleman to be leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. While he is bilingual, that by itself is not a platform. He has no political experience and that might be why he proposes a flat tax and the elimination of corporate taxes. As the saying goes: The tax man cometh.

Pierre Lemieux, 99 to 1. The former Lieutenant Colonel in the Canadian military is also a former MP from the Ottawa area. He is a social conservative and is endorsed by Campaign Life. Enough said.

Deepak Obhrai, 95 to 1. The Member of Parliament from Calgary has been serving his electoral district for the past 20 years. If we could think of one possible reason for anyone outside of his riding to vote for him, we would tell you about it.

Andrew Saxton, 90 to 1. We flipped a coin between Saxton and Peterson to see who the biggest loser would be. Saxton also won because he had previously been a Member of Parliament. He has a ‘Canadian Dream’ that seems to be a ‘rags to riches’ story. But boring.

Brad Trost, 85 to 1. We used to like Saskatoon. As an M.P., Brad Trost is not a good ambassador for the city. He is a social conservative, a pro-pipeline advocate and does not think women should be allowed control of their own bodies. Just another Saskatchewan wannabe!

Steven Blaney, 55 to 1. The Quebec M.P. will come out of Quebec with a strong local vote but there is little growth for his law and order campaign outside his home province. He also wants a royal commission to go on some sort of a witch hunt to define Canadian values. It sometimes takes people more than a minute or so to figure out what a dumb idea that is.

Chris Alexander, 50 to 1. Given a smaller field of candidates, this former M.P. would get a higher number of second choice votes and make a better showing. As it is, he has been in the wrong place, at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing too often. He seems to lack political acumen.

Those are your long shots folks. What works against all of them are the rules of the voting. All electoral districts share the same voting strength and the winner needs 50 per cent plus one vote. That means that the party will have to count second, third and fourth place votes before a winner starts to emerge. It really will be the losers who are the choosers.

We will discuss the ‘Possibles’ tomorrow.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Who’s sleeping in the Lincoln bedroom?

March 10th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

It used to be that if you donated enough to the American President’s political party, you could get an invite to sleep in the Lincoln bedroom at the White House. There is a possibility that is where President Trump is trying to sleep when in Washington. And Honest Abe is now haunting him.

Why else would the poor man be awake so early in the morning creating wild twits for posting on Twitter? Not that Honest Abe would condone such conduct but twitting would be long after his time. And it would be possible for Lincoln to roll the roles of the three ghosts of the past, present and future into one spectre.

The spectre could take special delight in playing the role of events in the present. He could show the President how his cabinet selections denied his worse attributes at their hearings before Congress. It would be the ghost’s turn to be confused when Trump told him that he had told them to say that. He did not want them all turned down.

But even a ghost would have trouble figuring out what will possibly happen in the future. Trump already has his legacy built—Trump Towers in cities around the world. He built them for himself—his pyramids reaching for the heavens. They were built as the ideal resting places for the ugly Americans who want nothing foreign in their travels. These are Americans who want to say they are travelled but stay at American hotels with American food and American spoken there.

It is a legacy of shame. Most of these hotels are just franchised to use the Trump name. They will all be wanting to get rid of that name sooner than later. What started out as beacons to the rich and fastidious are now just focal points for protests against America and its xenophobic President.

But Trump will probably continue to be his own best customer at the Lincoln Bed and Breakfast. He bought himself that bed and now he can sleep in it.

What he has also bought himself the enmity of many millions of Americans as well as people around the world. He has lavished them with lies. And he has earned their distrust with his crudity, their displeasure with his misogyny and their derision for his bigotry.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Where our New Democrats are headed?

March 9th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

Now that Canada’s New Democratic Party has some thinking and articulate players running for the national leadership, we better pay some attention. The hope is that Canadians will find out where the former Co-operative Commonwealth Federation—the party of Tommy Douglas—is headed in the 21st Century. The not so subtle nudging we are seeing today is towards something called Democratic Socialism.

But the problem is that few of us understand the term. The current interest in it was launched by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders during the run-up to the American Democratic National Convention of 2016. Bernie used the term to distinguish himself from the elitist control of the Democratic Party by people such as the Clintons. It was Bernie’s energy and enthusiasm that both helped and hindered Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Bernie was a pied piper to the younger Americans who agreed with the vision he presented and the excitement it built. Bernie countered the blandness of the Clinton campaign with ideas and proposals that made sense to the young who were facing an uncertain future once they completed university. America needed these new ideas.

Rhetorical argument abounded in the political science realm over the use of the Democratic Socialist label but who says the Senator did not have the right to establish his own interpretation.

While traditional socialists wanted the control of the means of production to be operated solely for the benefit of society, it would not work in modern society. In today’s Democratic Socialism, the corporations must be required to work for society in a socially responsible manner. The problem is that America’s out of control corporate giants are too bent on creating a tiered society of castes controlled by the one per cent.

What the New Democratic Party needs to do is to finish dumping the airy-fairy LEAP Manifesto and start to define a democratic socialism that could work in the 21st Century. This could be a democratic socialism that recognizes the liberal emphasis on individual rights. The time has long gone when the individual had to submit to a dictatorship of the proletariat.

In Canada, we now have 14 people running for the leadership of the Conservative Party. There seems to be no interesting direction in their presentations. We can only hope that the four NDP leadership candidates now in the field can bring fresh thinking and new ideas to Canadians.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

What would Dr. Goebbels say?

March 8th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

Did you miss the new lie from Donald Trump? He dreamed up a complaint that President Obama had his phones at Trump Tower in New York tapped during the campaign last year. It seems a novel suggestion but nobody can come up with any idea why Obama would bother. If you really want to know what Donald Trump is thinking about, all you need is a Twitter account.

Thankfully today, we have news media to keep up to date with the twits on Twitter for us. Since there is no more colossal waste of time than Internet social media (other than writing a blog), we can turn our minds to the more important concerns of the day.

Like what has happened with President Trump’s latest twits? He wants Congress to waste its valuable time investigating President Obama. The Congressional leaders do not seem very interested. Mr. Trump’s good friend running the Federal Bureau of Investigation thinks it is pile of something best handled with a pitchfork. The reviled news media are laughing.

What is a guy to do? Has Mrs. Trump’s little boy shouted “Wolf” too often?

It is time to call in the experts. Which is not something that Mr. Trump does very often. The only problem is that the world’s leading expert in the big lie committed suicide in 1945.

But even if Herr Doktor Josef Goebbels, Adolph Hitler’s propaganda Minister was around to give advice, he might tell Trump he is a ‘dumbkopf.’ What needs to be remembered is that there has to be some grain of substance on which you hang the big lie. It does not have to be something that would pass muster with intelligent people but could be accepted by people with a grudge.

For example, last year there was a very large number of very gullible people who bought the Trump lie that Hillary Clinton should not have used her private server for e-mails while Secretary of State. It was obviously an error in judgement rather than illegal. It is just that people who did not think Mrs. Clinton had the right to a personal life and personal friends during her time as Secretary, who would see anything wrong in it.

For Trump to continue to promote that lie would be actionable in court for anyone but a politician. And chanting “Lock her up” is not part of the Nicene Creed. Clinton had no idea of how much that chant would cost her on November 8 and she never handled it properly.

But President Obama is not running for anything. The fact that Donald Trump is so single-mindedly involved today in tearing down Obama’s legacy just makes Trump look meaner, less intelligent, less gracious and less of a person than the job of President requires.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

A liberal look at leadership.

March 7th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

Ontario Liberals are finally realizing that there is a problem at Queen’s Park. It appears to be endemic. It affects every political party on the premises. It is the serious lack of leadership. Even the Liberal Party backbenchers are drawing lots to see who will be the Cassius who drives the first (rhetorical) knife in the back of Premier Kathleen Wynne.

Wynne has done what she could. She has been driving a tired and worn-out Liberal horse and buggy for too long. It needs to be refreshed, re-challenged and recharged for the good of the province. It is a party that desperately needs to see a new future.

But the future is not a feature with Wynne. She is a North Toronto right wing reactionary. She won the leadership of the Liberal Party by trickery and manipulation. Her deal with the devil seemed to have been with former Ontario Premier David Peterson and fellow candidate Glen Murray, MPP for the adjoining Toronto electoral district.

Looking at the news media’s selection of possible replacements does not fill our heart with cheer. MPPs such as Eric Hoskins and Charles Sousa could not dump their campaigns fast enough in the last leadership convention to climb aboard the Wynne bandwagon. They were looked after; not the voters.

At the same time, MPPs Steven Del Luca from Vaughan, Yasir Naqvi from Ottawa, Michael Coteau from Toronto (East York) and Mitzie Hunter from Toronto (Scarborough) are all fresher cabinet faces with potential. Each of the them might be able to talk about their vision for Ontario if out from under the oppressive leadership of Kathleen Wynne.

And, do not forget Sandra Pupatello. She is not to be confused with the lacklustre regime of Kathleen Wynne as she was not in the Legislature at the time. She has the experience, the drive and the ideas that could work for us.

In the meantime, Kathleen Wynne is saying that her reduction of costs for electric power will pay political dividends next year. What that remaining time means for this government is more time for the opposition parties to develop their strategies. While few are impressed with the leadership of either party, nobody says Conservative Patrick Brown or New Democrat Andrea Horwath are stupid.

Without concrete and visible action by the Liberals over the next 12 months, they will be going into an election campaign bound and ready for slaughter. The best action might be an entirely new leadership, new direction and new faces on the firing line with the voters.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Ontario is billing it forward.

March 6th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

If you have heard of paying it forward, you should have no problem with the concept of billing something forward. It is the reverse of paying it forward. It is when you take a bill, you had put off for tomorrow and you stick it in a drawer to pay next year. It is the same as remortgaging your home for a longer period. You make smaller payments and pay for another ten years.

The Ontario Liberals under Kathleen Wynne have taken this desperation route to solving the province’s current mess in electricity billing. It might be the equivalent of doing business with payday-loan shysters but the Liberals are counting on it to save their bacon in next year’s provincial election. They might be whistling past the graveyard.

While long term, no Ontario political party has ever solved the problems with financing Ontario’s electricity generation and distribution. None of them are that smart. Between contracting to pay what clean energy really costs, canceling half built gas generation plants and trying to sell off the electricity distribution system, the Ontario Liberals have had entirely too much time to really screw things up.

But, let’s face facts, this leaderless Liberal party with its foolish sense of entitlement has really run its course. It is only the fact that the opposition parties are in worse shape as far leadership and ideas that gives the Liberals the nerve to say “Vote for us. They are losers too!”

It is not that Ontario voters do not deserve this problem. The facts are that any idiot politician can promise cheaper electricity and none can deliver. Ontario long ago ran out of places to build hydro dams. Instead of making sweetheart power deals with neighbouring Manitoba and Quebec, Ontario went nuclear—to the dismay of many of its citizens. And who said that clean energy was cheap?

The hard news to swallow is that with the continued loss of manufacturing in Ontario is freeing up electrical capacity. There are many times now when we do not need the power we are producing. We should be building the infrastructure needed today to electrify the rail lines across Ontario as well as the commuter lines.

What Ontario so desperately needs are leaders who can lead and politicians with vision. Oh, how we would if we could!

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

And we thought Harper was an autocrat?

March 5th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

It was Pierre Trudeau in 1970 who said “Just watch me,” and showed us the real power of the Prime Minister’s Office. Later it was Stephen Harper who showed us how a Prime Minister can abuse that power to use it to his own ends to keep his sheep-like party in power. And yet there is no one challenging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s complete control of the Liberal Party of Canada. He has converted what once was an open and democratic party into a top-down, one-man oligarchy.

The Liberal Party has become Justin Trudeau’s personal automated teller machine (ATM) for non-public funding of what Trudeau authorises. His party executive has become his police to ensure correct thinking in the party. The party organisation is a rubber stamp for those candidates for office he selects.

Toronto Star national affairs writer Chantal Hébert wrote the other day of her surprise at Trudeau’s interference in the Quebec electoral district nomination for the April 3 bye-election in Saint-Laurent. Frankly, many wonder what was the last truly open nomination meeting in Quebec after Trudeau’s own nomination by the party?

Since Stéphane Dion the former M.P. for Saint-Laurent won it in the last nine elections, it is considered greased rails for someone Justin Trudeau wants in his cabinet.

There is no guarantee though in John McCallum’s former Markham-Thornhill riding. It looked ridiculous when the party cut off the new member sign-ups retro-actively. It looked worse when a possible candidate was forced to quit the race. We can only assume there was an acclamation for the candidate from Trudeau’s office. Markham-Thornhill has interesting demographics and it will be the party that has the best ground game and with the correct ethnic balance running up to April 3 that could have the edge in the bye-election.

If Trudeau throws himself into that Toronto area bye-election during March, it will also be interesting to see what Toronto’s concerned environmentalists do to him to show up his hypocrisy. If they miss the opportunity, they are not likely to have another chance until the 2019 election.

And there will not be many Liberals who will have a chance to argue with Trudeau about his environmental betrayal at party gatherings. Policy discussions under his autocratic rule are rigidly regimented. As anyone can call themselves a Liberal, pay no membership fee, it will be the size of the donations to the party that will be noted.

It is very sad to see that a Liberal Party that Pierre Trudeau helped make a leader in promoting individual rights has been neutered by his eldest son.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Asking the right people.

March 4th, 2017 by Peter Lowry

The report from Ottawa is that the Liberal government wants Canada’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE) to advise politicians and Elections Canada on computer security. Just why these should be the people to ask is the important question?

And since the listening agency is no longer so secret, one can now ask that question. It was in the early days of World War II that Canada started to develop a lead in signals intelligence when its researchers were listening in to the short-wave conversations of the Nazi regime and Vichy France. Combined with the learning from the Hydra operation on signal propagation at a top- secret training camp on Lake Ontario just west of the Oshawa General Motors properties, Canada came out of the war a leader in radio technology.

That is why nobody really questions the CSE expertise in listening to worldwide communications. In an era of digital communications, they have also become very expert in using computers to help them do their job. Whether the organization would also be adept at preventing hacking or even have expert knowledge of the processes is a question that needs answering. Nor do we expect the other partners in what has been known as ECHELON or the ‘Five Eyes’ (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States) have more such expertise in house.

We need to remember that most hacking of major computer systems is done by insiders. They can walk out the front door of the organization with the information and nobody can track it on them. Whether inspired by greed or a grudge, all organizations are vulnerable. The supposed expertise in Moscow or Beijing in computer hacking seems more inspired by Hollywood thrillers than reality.

And hacking a properly distributed voting system in an election is highly unlikely. A hack attempt using bots (robotic programs) would be immediately tracked and eliminated. A hack using the proper codes could only hack one voter at a time. Many years ago, we called that ‘personation.’ Attempts at such hacking can be tracked and the perpetrators will find a very old law applies and they could go to jail. It is not worth it.

Secure, fast, efficient and inexpensive distributed government servers can handle national elections electronically with ease. You could vote from home, from a telephone, at work, at your local library at any government office or at the local riding returning office. Canada has the computer expertise and the political experience to do it today.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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