The secret lists of our political parties.

September 2nd, 2019 by Peter Lowry

They are like the lists Santa Claus is supposed to keep at the North Pole as to which children are naughty or nice. With millions of listings for the voters of Canada, the raw data of name and address is provided to registered political parties by Elections Canada. It soon becomes a party-specific and confidential list of voters in each electoral district as each party adds information as to who is believed to be voting for which party.

In the case of the liberal party, the list is called Liberalist and also contains information about who has registered as a liberal with the party and how much they have donated to the party.

The most reliable information gained during the election campaign is what canvassers are told when they come to your door. And people that you thought were pollsters doing surveys also provide information for the lists. Back when I had direct access to the lists, I had to go in and change my own information periodically because I rarely told survey personnel the truth and never told the truth to automated calls.

If the canvasser determines you are a vote for his or her candidate and if you have not voted prior to election day, you can count of getting phone calls and people knocking on your door on election day. Their purpose is to make sure you vote.

This effort is very serious. In my riding of Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, had the liberals been able to find just one additional voter per poll, to go and vote liberal in the 2015 election, the liberals would have won the riding instead of the conservative.

How parties collect and use personal information has mainly been ignored across Canada. This might change though as various privacy authorities realize what information those databases contain and how easy they might be to hack. There is not that careful a screening of people gaining access to these political databases.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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Left, Right and In-Between.

September 1st, 2019 by Peter Lowry

Labelling people is always a mistake. Even in psychiatry, people show tendencies down different pathologies. You hesitate to label them. In politics people are often confused by the parties in an election making promises outside their usual right or left-wing stance. During an election is no time to be doctrinaire.

I think it was Paul Martin Jr. who used the slogan, in private, “Campaign Left, Rule Right.” Whether he did or not, he was the first federal liberal leader I refused to support. I despised the way he could so callously strip Canada of much of the federal support for social programs during the Chrétien years. And I think a large number of Canadians agreed with me. The only problem was that I regretted my anger when we ended up with Stephen Harper as the booby prize. He was even further to the right than Martin.

It is amusing that in John Ivison’s recent book on Trudeau, that the author thinks Canada might be less progressive than Trudeau seems to believe. I really do not think Canadians vote right or left. They vote for leadership. They vote for the leader who appears to be taking the country in the direction necessary. And many just vote for the guy or gal running in their riding who best represents them.

John A, Macdonald and his confreres put this country together with vision and bands of steel. His thing was the railroad linking the country together. And, come hell or high water, he achieved that goal.

I think today, Canadians have too many pressures on them to come to a common understanding of where this country should be headed. All it should take is leadership and, frankly, we are not getting any. There is not one leader of a federal party in Canada worth a damn.

I would make something of an exception for Elizabeth May but her problem is that rag-tag bunch behind her that could not even run a Tim Hortons franchise. And do not ask them if they are right or left. Most would have to ask their leader.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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The Change in Chuckles.

August 31st, 2019 by Peter Lowry

Did you notice the change in conservative leader Andrew Scheer? I was watching a Blue Jays game the other day and they had a political commercial between innings featuring him. It was not smoke and mirrors but make up. His prominent cheek bones had seemingly disappeared. I walked over to the high definition large screen TV and had a close look. That was it, just make up.

It probably will not help. He is still ‘Chuckles’ to many Canadians. We first noticed him when he was chosen house speaker for Stephen Harper’s last four years as prime minister. It was a time of unruliness in the commons for the conservatives, the insulting answers to serious questions in question period, the lack of decorum, and the uncontrolled conservative members of parliament.

It was not a surprise that the conservatives would compromise on Chuckles when choosing a new leader four years ago. The tide for Justin Trudeau’s liberals was still running strong at the time. Nobody seriously thought of Chuckles as a threat to him. Scheer was the stop-gap leader. He was just someone to hold down the job and to be replaced after this coming election.

Imagine the consternation when the tide for Justin turned to the ebb. He is hardly as smooth and as ready for being prime minister as so many thought he was. He makes foolish promises, he can be arrogant and he can make mistakes—even if he doesn’t admit it!

But imagine the consternation in conservative ranks when the polls started to say Chuckles could be the next prime minister. That blew the sleep out of many conservative eyes. What the hell were they going to do now?

But not so Kenney, Curly (Ford) and Moe. The three premiers thought that the Prairie religious conservative Scheer would be very cooperative with them—and they liked that idea. They were throwing their weight with Chuckles.

As the old Looney Toons cartoons used to say: “Th-Th-That’s all folks.”

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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Senator Peter Harder tries harder.

August 30th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

Former civil servant, Peter Harder really likes his new job in the Senate of Canada. As an independent(?) appointee to this body, he is also the government representative in the senate. Whether he is really an independent seems to be something of a wink-wink-elbow-jab condition open to interpretation.

And as many of his cohorts might concur, if the rest of those supposedly independent senators were really independent, running that place would be akin to the task of herding cats.

But luckily, as most of those habitués would attest, those independents seem to have a curious affection for the political party that appointed them as independents. Would you not have a warm and fuzzy feeling for the person who gave you a cushy job, paid at the same rate as a real member of parliament, guaranteed until you reach age 75 and a generous pension thereafter?

And I do not care how you spell ‘independent,’ Peter Harder was appointed by Justin Trudeau. And Harder knows where his boss’ office is located. It is hardly surprising that Harder thinks this new approach should be enshrined in legislation. He even has the nerve to say “I think Canadians would prefer a Senate that is less partisan, that seeks to improve legislation where appropriate, but doesn’t view itself as a challenging chamber to the political legitimacy of the House of Commons.” (From a Canadian Press interview.)

If Mr. Harder has the nerve to make such assumptions about Canadians, maybe he should be corrected on what he believes is the purpose of the Senate of Canada. It does have the right to challenge the Commons and that was its purpose when created by the founding colonies of Canada in concert with the powers that existed then at the parliament of Westminster.

The Senate exists today as an illegitimate and undemocratic embarrassment. Until it is either abolished or replaced with a properly elected body, Canada gets no value from it.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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Our political parties fail democracy.

August 29th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

The party members have no one to blame but themselves. They have let the top-down party system run their parties since the Chrétien era. It was the simple change that required the party leader to sign off on the party’s candidates. It gave the party leader total control of the party. Nobody can run as a party candidate without the approval of a faceless committee—working for the leader.

In the liberal party, it is called a ‘green-light committee.’ The committee decides by its own standards (and on direction of the party leader’s minions) who will or will not be a candidate for the party. They try to keep the committee anonymous. With the potential for lawsuits, that is not a bad idea.

But when it is your riding that has no candidate this late with the election looming, you start to have dark thoughts about that committee. Maybe no as angry as the Quebec liberal riding executive in Vimy, who just lost their sitting member because it appears she was not meeting the standards of the green-light committee.

But there were also some angry liberals in my riding of Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte early Monday morning, when they got automated calls from the liberal party headquarters in Ottawa cancelling their nomination meeting scheduled for that evening.

It was not as though we were left without a candidate. The reason for the cancellation was that they had cancelled the green-light for one of our two possible candidates. Of, course, no reason was given, or questions answered. It was just that we did not need as large a hall for an acclamation event. It felt like we were being told “Here’s the candidate, we approved for you.” Like it or lump it!

We Canadians tell the rest of the world that it is great to live in a democracy. We should practice what we preach.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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There is an App for door-knocking?

August 28th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

Having trained thousands over the years in the fun and accomplishments in knocking on doors for your local politician, I still know a bit about the art of identifying your vote. And that is what you are doing at all those doors on which you bruise your knuckles. You are finding out how the inhabitants of that household intend to vote.

I remember comparing notes with former Ontario premier David Peterson’s father on the subject. In a Toronto area by-election one time, he was getting the canvassers to come back to the committee rooms to be debriefed by C.-M. Peterson personally. That gentleman really understood what door-knocking was all about.

My first lesson in real door-knocking was when coming up against the NDP’s David Lewis family. I was something of an observer in that campaign. Former evangelist and then a newspaper executive, Charles Templeton was running for a by-election seat in the Ontario legislature. Despite having some of the most experienced liberals working on his campaign, Chuck got his head served to him on a platter. The NDP clobbered us.

And that was the last time where the NDP did that to a candidate of mine. The key was that your canvassers had to take ownership of their polls. Either alone or as a team, the canvassers had to know the voters in the poll and how they intended to vote. On election day or sooner, the canvassers had to make sure that the people supporting their party got to the polls and voted.

If someone, as reported by Susan Delacourt of the Toronto Star, said they can access this new smart phone app and find out that one per cent of the households asked liberal canvassers about SNC-Lavalin, I would pay heightened attention to that concern. I would want to know if the person indicated a voting intention, the demographics of the household and the approximate age of the person being interviewed.

It is something like the question I would ask if the householder told the canvasser to get the hell off their porch. Was this request made before or after the canvasser identified with a particular political party?

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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To be in Biarritz in August.

August 27th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

It is like making the scene in Gstaad in February, you really should do Biarritz in August. It is reserved for the world of the rich and famous and now the world leaders. While the Boris Johnson’s and Donald Trump’s might have lowered the bar somewhat, Emmanuel Macron knows how to throw a good party. And he knows how to treat guests.

There will be no wrangling at the French president’s party. He has already told them there will be no communique of agreement. He expects little agreement. Macron considers the tiff between the European Union and Boris Johnson and his Brexit problems are puny beside the concern for the Amazon rainforest in Brazil.

I expect the other world leaders to be civil and they will be reluctant to tell Donald Trump how childish is his trade war with China. He is not smart enough to realize that his stupidity is driving the world into a serious economic recession.

And speaking of dim bulbs, it was disgusting to see Boris Johnson going all buddy-buddy with Justin Trudeau as though the colonies could save the U.K. from economic disaster when it is outside the European Union. Trudeau has to keep out of the Brexit mess if he really wants the CETA trade deal ratified any time soon.

Macron even sprang a surprise guest on the world leaders in an attempt to reduce the tensions with the Iranians. It fell a bit flat but good for the French for trying.

While Macron is so busy trying to be a good host, it was Donald Tusk, president of the European Council who was trying desperately to pull the G5 or 6 or 7 or 8 back to its purpose of cooperation and trade. These countries account for the majority of the world’s trade and if they cannot work together, we are in a worse mess than we thought.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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On running a national campaign.

August 26th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

My late friend Senator Keith Davey used to start every day at his office with a ruled pad on which he would make all his notes for the day in amazingly small scribbles. Whether checking on perceptions of a current proposal by Pierre Trudeau’s government or reviewing a day’s progress during a national campaign, it was always just a single page that told the story. And Keith told it well.

I think the Rainmaker (as Keith was sometimes called) would have had to learn something about smart phones and texting to do that same type of research today. When you consider that a national campaign now consists of 338 electoral districts in a faster-paced world, I doubt his system would be as reliable as it was.

If anything worries me about the current campaign, it is that while those wrapped in the Ottawa mystique think it is just a repeat of their successful campaign of 2015, it is not possible.

In 2015, there was a hard core of the old liberals ready to work with whomever Justin Trudeau wanted to lead the parade. The Harper government was burnt out and the time was right for change. Trudeau and the team had an easy romp into office. He thought he had done it with ‘Sunny Days’ but the truth was it was those geriatrics of the old liberal party who had pulled together in hopes of the old glory days of Trudeau’s father. They shared that win proudly.

But Trudeau the Younger dismissed them. There was no rebuilding of the party after the election. It was a time of dismissal. The old liberals became not proud members of a party but a collection of names from which donations were requested almost daily.

The truth is that the old party is dying off and there is no renewal. There is no pride in liberalism. The political edge is being lost to the populists and braggarts of the right.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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When Dougie can’t recant again.

August 25th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

There is a growing problem for the Ontario conservative government at Queen’s Park. Occasionally, the government realizes it made a boo-boo. Frankly, it has had a lot of opportunity for this in the last year but, only occasionally, the cabinet will have what might be referred to as a “Come to Jesus event” when it realizes it did not do the job properly. It has to back track.

This would like that guy with the bad hair cut in the United Kingdom’s parliament finally admitting that Brexit was a really stupid idea.

Mind you, the funny farm at Queen’s park is not supposed to do anything as dumb.

Yet, Dougie and the gang do make the odd boo-boo. Take the ‘class-size’ instructions to school boards. The school boards were told that they should start increasing average class sizes (above grade 4) from the present 22 students to 28 over the next four years. It was up to the boards how they would accomplish this but the net result in the first year was to save the province $250 million.

As you can imagine there were the loud screams and incantations directed at Dougie and the gang but they were immune to that. The school boards did not like it but they moved things around, fired excess teachers and support staff and assured Queen’s Park that their will would be done.

What we expect happened was that the new education minister who was told to fix the mess noted that there were new contracts to be negotiated this fall with the province’s teachers. It seems he had paid attention in school and had an understanding of cause and effect. He realized that he was going to be faced by some really pissed off teachers this fall.

And that might just be why the school boards are currently trying to figure out how to unfire a lot of teachers!

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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Singh is preying on fears.

August 24th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

New democratic party leader Jagmeet Singh seems to think that the big and uncontrolled world is too much for our young people. He tells them life is ripping them off. He tells them that the world is a place of low-paid, menial jobs. He warns them of escalating tuition costs, insurmountable mountains of student debt and rapacious cellphone and credit-card companies.

And Jagmeet wonders why the Green party is pushing the NDP down to a possible fourth place finish in the coming election?

Politicians used to promise a chicken in every pot. The NDP leader is wanting to appear more modern and is only promising to lead the parade demanding justice. It can hardly hold a candle to Justin Trudeau’s promise that we can all join his wondrous middle class. The only people who might not be interested in joining the middle class are the much-maligned multimillionaires.

But Jagmeet promises to tax the rich so that they too can join the middle class.

Thinking back to when I was young and looking forward to my first vote in a federal election, I would not have bought the NDP proposals. I saw the world in a different way. I saw it as an exciting opportunity, an adventure and an endless opportunity for wonderful experiences. I saw no boundaries to success as I stepped away from the safe haven of caring family.

And I made a point of learning about politics and politicians as I thought about what it meant to vote. I was in a position that provided me an opportunity to not only meet my local politicians but I also met the prime minister of the time, John George Diefenbaker, and his main opponent, Lester Bowles Pearson. The men impressed me and I had memorable conversations with each.

But it was the liberal candidate in my riding who impressed me and won my support for him and his party. It launched me into a lifelong interest and involvement in politics.

This is the first federal election in 60 years in which I do not see an obvious result. It fascinates me and I will continue to try to give you a daily commentary on where our politicians are headed.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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