Can the Tory race get more boring?

February 5th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

This is ridiculous. So far, this is not a race, it is more like a baby crawl. The conservative party of Canada, midwifed by Stephen Harper at the turn of the century, has fallen on hard times. And, so far, only one of the two candidates has ponied up his $300,000 fee for the privilege of contesting for the party leadership.

But look what the race has to offer. They are Mr. Bland and Mr. Blander. They are white bread loaves on a multi-grain shelf. In a country going forward, the conservatives are reaching back to the past.

It was over 20 years ago that Peter MacKay served up the Progressive Conservative Party of the past to the ravages of Harper and his hard-nosed western posse of Reform. As Jean Charest discovered recently this is not his PC party of the 1990s. He looked, he saw, he fled.

The apparatchiks of the conservative hegemony—with the greed of its westerners, the narrow focus of the social conservatives and the ‘quid pro quo’ of its financiers—tried to keep Pierre Poilievre in the race for some balance. They failed. Poilievre is a westerner who had come east to where his name made it easier to get elected. He now found himself caught between easterners—like a weasel between two hamsters. They could have smothered him.

And did we mention Erin O’Toole MP? He is not to be disturbed at the moment. He is beating the bushes for the angels his campaign needs to compete. It is no small step.

But what the conservatives really need is leadership. The only thing the party can possibly offer its supporters is a path to power. Without someone capable of producing that result, this leadership race is just another race to nowhere.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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The greed that consumes Alberta.

February 4th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

It was at the end of December that Babel-on-the-Bay discussed the hopes of Alberta premier Jason Kenney for the Teck Frontier mine in North-East Alberta. The proposed open-pit tar sands mine, north of Fort McMurray, would be Canada’s largest and is planned to produce 260,000 barrels of bitumen per day for processing into synthetic oil.  It has also been mentioned that the operations would also produce more than four million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year for the next forty years.

It is quite obvious that the political leaders of Alberta have their own climate agenda—do nothing—get the money.

Some Albertans will attempt to tell you that they have been mitigating to minimize the greenhouse gas emissions of this project. Mitigating means reducing the harm that this amount of greenhouse gas emissions can cause. Can they tell you of even one of the millions of tonnes of greenhouse emissions from which our earth will be saved?

And yet the federal government is continuing to debate the wisdom of approving the project. Despite the continuing threats of insurrection and separation from the Alberta premier, there are still members of the federal cabinet who are resisting this additional hypocrisy that will make a lie of any and all efforts to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. There is no magic that will enable Canada to get to net zero greenhouse emissions when we are adding such huge amounts of pollution instead of converting to clean energy.

We need to remember that this 20 billion-dollar project is on top of federal government completing the Trans Mountain pipeline. How else do you think all that additional bitumen would get to world markets.

But despite the protestations of the prime minister, Kenney continues to accuse him of dragging his feet on the Trans Mountain. The only conclusion you can come to is that, in Alberta, Justin Trudeau will never be the poster boy of the year. Greed is the watchword.


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Fool Britannia.

February 3rd, 2020 by Peter Lowry

Brexit has come. Brexit is gone. And what does it mean? Has the English Channel widened? Are they filling in the Chunnel? Are the Chunnel trains still running? What does it all mean and do we care on the west side of the Atlantic?

It seems unfair that the Brits will have to prostrate themselves before a jury of their peers in Brussels, to learn their fate. They have most of the year left to work out some accommodation. If I were in their position, I would not want a clown such as Boris Johnson to work out the details. He is no negotiator. He is a blowhard.

I remember when, as a youngster in Canada, we were taught patriotic songs about Britannia ruling the waves and all that stuff. I guess the only waves they can rule today would have to be in a wave pool.

But we do feel badly over here that the United Kingdom has come to this. The nation never has played well with its continental partners. Maybe there is too much history involved.

What has to be recognized is that much of the support for Brexit came from false perceptions of the benefits and requirements for a successful partnership. My feeling was that the UK politicos who never took part in the EU structure undermined the bureaucrats in Brussels. Instead of discouraging the bigotry, they encouraged it and instead of helping sell the benefits of the common market, they put it down.

Johnson hailed the fact of Brexit as a new beginning. I thought that the Brits had their real beginning when the Romans went back to Rome to get dry and warm. You can call the next 2000 years on those islands interesting but you can hardly call them progressive. Have you ever seen another country so determined to fight progress every step of the way, year after year?

Well, they just took another step backwards in time. What does that benefit them?


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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‘If the system works; corrupt it.’

February 2nd, 2020 by Peter Lowry

The carpetbagger from Severn, Ontario is certainly doing the job for Ontario premier Doug Ford. Those conservatives who resented the appointment of Doug Downey as conservative candidate in our riding of Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte would have to agree that he is jumping to his master’s bidding. Look at what he is attempting to pass off as an independent recommendation in changing how we appoint judges in this province.

It must all stem from the complaints when Doug had barely warmed the premier’s chair and he tried to appoint a friend as head of the provincial police. This was accompanied by a request for the provincial police to fund a van with sleeping accommodations for the premier to travel about the province.

He might have gotten away with it if his attorney general at the time, Caroline Mulroney, had been trained in law in Canada and had ever practiced law anywhere other than New York State. As you can imagine, the premier’s wishes were soon a hilarious topic around the water coolers in the attorney general’s ministry, and then the Bay Street bars, and then everyone knew. It took a while to figure out what to do with Brian Mulroney’s kid but Ford found another job for her.

And then Ford found the perfect patsy, the small-town lawyer he had appointed to my riding to keep Patrick Brown from running to succeed himself. This guy probably never even looks up from his notes when his driver drives through his riding on Highway 400 on his way from his office at Queen’s Park to his home in Severn.

But his proposed changes in appointing judges has got him noticed. As is typical of the Doug Ford government, nobody had complained about how judges are appointed. Ontario has an international reputation for how it appoints judges. It has a respected judicial appointments advisory committee that screens applicants and ranks at least two qualified applicants for each open position for the attorney general. In the rare case, the attorney general might ask for more.

The proposed change is that the attorney general wants a list of all the qualified applicants for the position. That is recreating the old patronage system. It is many steps backwards for Ontario.


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Can an atheist claim ‘divine right?

February 1st, 2020 by Peter Lowry

This might not be a theological question. How can a well-known American lawyer stand in front of the senate and the nation and tell us a man elected by the self-serving rabble of America, is really the choice of God? When Alan Dershowitz defended Donald Trump in his senate trial by claiming that he was not guilty of abuse of office because of his divine right as president, he held the country up to ridicule by the rest of the world.

But the problem with God selecting Mr. Trump to be the leader of the world is not for him to be the next Noah and build an ark. Donald Trump is the flood.

Thankfully, the white house will not float. Nor will any of the Trump pleasure palaces up and down the east coast of America.

The last English-speaking person to be defended on the claim of divine right of kings was Charles 1 of England. A week or so after using that defence, Charles stepped out a window and they chopped off his head.

Since they stopped beheading kings with delusions, we have been more practical about this divine right business. What it comes down to in today’s world is a basic contract. If you choose, or a party chooses you to run for a certain political position, there is a usually a defined role applied in that position. Nobody gets a carte blanche to do as they wish in any position. It would not make sense.

The theory is that the public purse pays you a defined amount during the contract to carry out the job. No matter how high up the position and generous the salary, nobody pays you to break the law. There is no place in this contract that allows God to intercede and bestow additional powers on you or enable God to forgive you your crimes.

We do have to admit though that Donald Trump has led something of a charmed life. There are people who consider him a thief and a scoundrel. He is a womanizer and person who has been known to scoff at those who obey the Ten Commandments. Maybe, it is about time, God got in a few licks of His own.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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When NIMBY’s win, we all lose.

January 31st, 2020 by Peter Lowry

It has been almost a year since Barrie city council decided to do further research on a safe injection site in their town. Some of my neighbours were there to tell the councillors that they did not want it in their neighbourhood. I am sorry I was not there. I would have forgiven the neighbours who did not know better. I would not have forgiven the councillors who had a moral responsibility to lead and failed us.

The location chosen by an expert group lead by the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, the Gilbert Centre and Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) was at the CMHA district centre just a few doors up Mulcaster Street from Barrie City Hall. It is across the street from the Ontario courts. That is why most of the larger homes in the area have been converted to lawyers’ offices. The experts had researched the question for about a year before deciding on this location.

And yet they were told that is not enough. The detractors claimed that the year of work was “fundamentally flawed.” They failed to explain how they also thought it was something that could “devastate a neighbourhood.”

Another complaint from the NIMBY’s was that it was too close to the David Busby Centre that deals with outreach to the homeless. The fact it is nearby seems irrelevant when you realize the difference in clientele. It also seems a puzzle as to just how big these people think Barrie’s downtown might be?

As important as it is that these people be heard, you have to wonder how nine people can convince council to bend to their will. Barrie has a critical situation in connection to the consumption of opioids. It is reputed to have the second worst problem among large cities in Ontario. Councillor Keenan Aylwin claimed that further delay in approving a site will lead to “dozens more deaths.”

It is hard for anyone to justify the unnecessary deaths caused by this further delay in what is an urgent need. Barrie council had a responsibility to its citizens and it should have done its job. For a bunch of NIMBY’s to come to council to delay this further is a disgrace for the entire city.


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The newest ‘persecuted class.’

January 30th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

It has always been amusing that the news media make a point of having reporters on hand who represent this persecuted class or that one. They are always at the ready to claim that the racial group or demographic they represent is being persecuted by the presumed powers who are running things. What is amusing about this is what I have always thought of as the Pogo Effect. This is cartoonist Walt Kelly’s creation from the Okefenokee Swamp. Pogo is a possum who has met the enemy and discovered that ‘It is us.’

But we saw the ultimate conclusion of this thinking the other day. It was in a detailed explanation of the quandary facing the republican senators in the Trump trial. A senior Washington bureau chief of a Canadian newspaper was saying that the newest persecuted class in the United States is republicans. Standing in the vanguard of this class is the much-pilloried Donald Trump.

And now tell that to a kid from a hardscrabble childhood in downtown Toronto. Please do not tell me about the vagaries of life and the feeling of rejection. Ill-fitting, hand-me-down clothes and a bad haircut are just as identifying as skin colour and the shape of your eyes.

But we hardly need a tag day for American republicans. The republican senators in Washington are a self-serving lot. Their masters are the real climate-change deniers. They are the spawn of John D. Rockefeller’s oil barons, the coal exploiters who are destroying the Appalachian Mountains, and the military-industrial complex who thrive on the rumours of war. And more to be pitied are the adherents to this warped and dying concept of right-wing politics spreading like a disease across the continent.

History will not be kind to the Trump presidency. It will be a dark blob on the story of a once-envied nation. A nation that is being reduced to a ‘could have been.’


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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The politician and the poser.

January 29th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

We met with one of the Ontario liberal leadership candidates the other day. He is Michael Coteau, MPP for Don Valley East. His pitch to the liberals present was impressive. He has style, he is progressive, he is articulate and he is relaxed. Listening to his talk I saw an interesting counterpoint to the efforts of education minister Stephen Lecce.

The biggest difference was that Coteau had spent two terms in office as a school trustee in Toronto before becoming a member of the legislature. He could discuss the current strife between the conservatives and the school boards without notes, without a teleprompter and with obvious candour. In fact, he had some good advice for Mr. Lecce.

Lecce’s problem is that he lacks the depth in his portfolio. He was thrown into it to try to rescue the conservative government’s heavy-handed approach to change—which, in their terms, is known as ‘Our way or the highway.’

He had no way of knowing the history of the class-size wars between government and the teachers’ unions. He obviously was not aware of the resistance from educators over the last forty years to academic courses being taught on computers. And firing supposedly excess teachers across the province in preparation for these changes, got more than the teachers’ backs up.

As Michael Coteau said to the liberals, the premier and the minister had obviously not done their homework.

In balance to the Coteau presentation (which was in Orillia), education minister Lecce was in Barrie for a photo opportunity with Barrie-Springwater—Oro-Medonte MPP Doug Downey (from Severn, Ontario) and the other local conservative member of the legislature.  The subject of the day was bullying. Now this is a subject with which Lecce should be familiar, as he is a graduate of St. Michael’s College School, a private school for boys in Toronto that is famous for high annual fees and its bullying experience.


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Who do you trust?

January 28th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

Trust seems to be on a sliding scale throughout your life. Trust is as simple as giving your baby a small toss and the loving feeling as the child squeals with laughter as you catch and hold the little tyke to you. Trust is family. Trust is in holding the child’s hand as you teach him or her how to safely cross a street. And trust transfers over the years as the young adult steadies the elder as you also journey through life.

Trust is earned. Trust is learned. Trust is what helps sustain us through our years. The retailer wants our trust in the products and services offered. The police, fire and emergency services want our trust should their services be needed. The news media want our trust that their reporting is fair and balanced. Our teachers and educators want our trust of their lessons. Our neighbours want our trust in exchange for theirs. Communities live and thrive in trust.

And yet, how can we trust politicians? Do they all speak the language of ambiguity? Do they speak through a smoke-screen of ‘ifs’? Do they consider their knowledge and logic superior to ours? Do they offer a future or are they locked into the fixed tenets of their ideology?

It would pay us well to consider. Are we seeking Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ or are we enjoining other locked-in visions of long-dead philosophers? Since Marx and Engels did not envision a vibrant, educated middle class, who then represent today’s proletariat?

What we have to face today is the growing dissatisfaction with our politicians. The reality is that we need politicians who can prove they have earned our trust. We want to be represented by the person who grew up next door. We want them to be tireless in negotiating a better life for all.

We want to be able to trust them.


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The conservative leadership is no prize.

January 27th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

The problem most people seem to be having with taking on the leadership of the conservative party is the party itself. Jean Charest said it best when he said that the party had changed much since he was involved federally back in the 90s. He was too much of a gentleman to note that the conservative party has become the playground of a nasty bunch of self-obsessed ideologues.

It was Stephen Harper who drove that truck downhill in Canada. And his lead disciples are Jason Kenney in Alberta and Doug Ford in Ontario. The crazies are in command. Look at Donald Trump in the United States. He is using the Republican’s Grand Old Party as cannon fodder in his battle against impeachment.

Back in the 1970s and 80s, I used to laughingly say some of my best friends were conservatives. But I was serious that in that time frame that there were conservatives who had some good ideas and cared about people other than themselves. I admired many of them.

In fact, my problem today is that too many of the liberals we are hearing from are more like the conservatives of 50 years ago. They have stopped being progressive. They are using conservative excuses. They take a baby step and call it a stride forward. And when it comes to the environment, I am very much worried about where today’s liberals are headed.

The other day a political commentator compared turning down a chance at being prime minister to Prince Harry and his duchess wanting to dump the trappings of royalty. I think that was reaching but there are some similarities in the feeling of uselessness of being royal and in the life of a back-bench member of parliament.

I have no idea who could have got to Pierre Poilievre. Maybe the pit bull had a revelation and stepped out of the race. Or maybe, it was that the pit bull realized that he did not have the stuff of a leader. He has to stay in the role, he does best.


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