Posts Tagged ‘Conservative’

Longingly looking for liberalism.

Friday, November 24th, 2017

A correspondent from British Columbia recently asked “What is a Liberal party bereft of liberalism?” He was, of course, describing the situation today where the Conservative parties are moving farther and farther to the harshest right, Liberals are the new Conservative-Light and the New Democrats are lost in a confused and undetermined world of the centre-left.

It is a situation desperately in need of new definition and new alliances. What we appear to have is our political structures moving further and further away from their mobs. And contrary to the limited perceptions of our putative leaders, they are driving their natural supporters away.

Look around the world or even here at home. There is political insecurity as voters wrestle with their frustrations. They want something different but are finding it difficult to articulate. Some leaders are connecting; We are thinking of Emmanuel Macron in France, Bernie Sanders in the U.S.A. while on the other hand we have Trump in the U.S. and the rise of the far right in Europe.

The resilience of Donald Trump’s support is surprising pundits. Valérie Plante’s mayoral victory in Montreal and the ability of Naheed Nenshi to fight off a strong attack from the right in Calgary are catching us all by surprise. You can no longer trust political logic.

Stephen Harper swore he would move Canada permanently to the right of the political spectrum. All he moved us to was that final distaste for his oppressive form of right-wing libertarianism. He made a mantra of balanced budgets and the voters moved to a braver, deficit promoting Liberal Party.

But where is Justin Trudeau in this political turmoil? He talks the talk of saving an environmentally threatened world and approves the senseless pollution extremes of pipelines for bitumen. He makes promises to his party for power and then betrays the party. He promises voting reform without understanding the options. He promises new peacekeeping without understanding the realities of the world’s needs. He bemoans the privileged attitude of the Senate while creating a new privileged class of elites to continue the cost to Canadians for a Senate that is unwanted and unneeded.

What Canada needs is a new social democratic party of the centre-left. The New Democrats need to drop their ties to “me-first” unions and move along with real liberals to this new party. The Conservatives can fade into a futile future with their mean and selfish attitudes. Liberals will find their future as progressives challenged from the left. And voters will have new options, better government and, in time, a modern constitution for their country.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Watt’s ugly leopard doesn’t wash.

Sunday, November 19th, 2017

We might be mangling some metaphors here but Jaime Watt can never wash the spots off that ugly leopard. The head of Navigator Ltd., Mr. Watt has spent many years advising Conservatives in the fine art of winning votes. He might be taking on too much of a challenge to try to sell us on Ontario Conservative Leader Patrick Brown.

Watt tells us in a recent op-ed in the Toronto Star that he believes that the Ontario Liberals have been the government in Ontario for the past 14 years because they are keen political operators and they connected with Ontarians. I think he jests!

The truth is that after the experience of being pissed on by Conservative Premier Mike Harris, the Tories have taken a long time making any comeback with Ontario voters. They had even endured three terms of ‘Premier Dad’ McGuinty and then seemed prepared to replace his replacement with a Conservative.

It almost happened but someone advised then Conservative Leader Timmy Hudak that he should promise to fire a hundred thousand Ontario civil servants. He did not understand that he was threatening the jobs and family stability of more than a million Ontario voters.

Coincidentally, Timmy made that promise to an audience at the Barrie Country Club. Patrick Brown (then a backbencher in Stephen Harper’s government) was the first person to jump up and congratulate Timmy on his brilliant idea. He probably realized then that Timmy would be vacating the leadership job soon.

And contrary to Jaime Watt’s view, Brown’s taking the leadership of the Ontario Conservatives was no accident. It was a carefully planned and executed con job. And in taking the leadership by less than fair means, Brown has turned loose all that is mean, unscrupulous and disgusting about Conservative activists in Ontario. Lawsuits and even a charge of fraud are being made over how people have been trying to win nominations.

Watt wisely concludes that the Liberal brand is struggling these days and that Brown is there to take advantage of it. Watt says this is why Brown is trying to shed all his former extremist positions that could offend voters.

Watt seems to think it is mean to suggest that Brown acts as a weather vane on policies and yet uses Trump’s strategies of vilifying his opponent.

Frankly, Mr. Watt’s reasoning does not appear to be a particularly good sample of Navigator Ltd.’s strategic thinking.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Chuckles’ Canned Conservatism.

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

In discussing the ebbing strength of the democracy of Canada’s Conservative parties yesterday, we never got to the major problem faced by the federal Conservatives. Their problem is one of leadership. If there ever was a good example of the mediocrity produced by preferential voting, the Conservative party faces that problem today in its leadership.

Andrew ‘Chuckles’ Scheer’s leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada should have come in a can—marked ‘Open in an emergency only.’ The former Speaker in the only majority Conservative Parliament under Stephen Harper, Scheer was the leadership candidate with the least to offer the party. He was simply the second, third or fourth choice of too many Conservative members.

A social conservative from Saskatchewan, Scheer has the perpetually surprised look of a deer caught in the headlights. You just know that he will stay there awaiting the impact.

But he got lucky lately. While the Trudeau Liberals are on a death watch for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Tories found their bonanza in Provence. And Bill Morneau’s French villa was only part of his problems. While the rest of the cabinet was distracted, Trudeau’s finance minister found himself engulfed in charges of conflict of interest and being rich. And the charge of being rich became incendiary.

It seems that neither Morneau nor the Parliamentary Ethics Commissioner had the political smarts to realize she had hung the finance minister out as a target for the opposition parties. At this late stage the ethics commissioner has had to open an investigation into the possible conflict of interest between the minister’s business interests, that deal in pension programs, and his changes in tax positions of pension funds.

Few voters will have the understanding of what any investigation will find. Guilt or innocence will be irrelevant.

When ‘Chuckles’ and his pack in the House of Commons first started baying after the finance minister, we carefully explained that the finance minister was in the position of Caesar’s wife. It was not a question of guilt or innocence. It was the very inference of wrong-doing. Bill Morneau should have been asked for his resignation then.

And do you not bet that the Conservatives, with a target in their sights, are sorry now that they opened the can labelled ‘Scheer.’

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Diminished democracy of Canada’s Conservatives.

Monday, November 13th, 2017

In looking at the major political parties in Canada in their headlong dash for irrelevancy, we might as well start with the Conservatives. Since the end of the 90s and the machinations of Stephen Harper to finally achieve the promise to ‘unite the right’ across Canada, the separated federal and provincial conservative parties have been struggling.

Harper was very much a top-down leader. His new Conservative Party of Canada was dominated by the Reform-Alliance members that swamped the older progressive conservative base across the country. The party became his piggy bank and his mob. He used the federal party when needed for appearances and forgot about it most of the time.

During the Harper years in Ottawa, the provincial Conservative parties became something of a ghost in the Atlantic. Everyone assumes they exist but sightings are rare. The Quebec Liberals are more Conservative than Liberal as is the Saskatchewan Party that represents the right-wing Tories and right-wing Liberals of that province. Jason Kenney’s reverse take-over of the Alberta right wing with his new United Party was a classic in manipulation and he is now mounting a relentless attack on the NDP government from outside the legislature. The Conservatives are the government in Manitoba and the NDP has a very thin hold on things in B.C.

The malaise in Ontario is symptomatic. After the careless spree of the Mike Harris Conservative government at the turn of the century, the party there fell on hard times. With Membership below 20,000 in Canada’s largest province, the party was easy pickings for an opportunist who had worked out a scheme to sign up about 40,000 new immigrants from the Asian sub-continent. Nobody called Patrick brown for paying most of the registration fees and he took the reins of a party that used to have some principles.

For someone with the ability to lead akin to that of a gerbil, Brown has used vicious attack ads on the Internet and TV in a helter-skelter manner to try to defame the Premier and create a “Corrupt Hillary” aura around her. The only researched result of the ads so far is to lower both him and the Premier in the estimation of Ontario voters.

To add insult in Ontario, the erratic governance of Conservative candidate nominations for next year’s election has created questionable results, angered riding executives and led to lawsuits

The farce continues with the upcoming policy convention of the Ontario Conservatives later in November. As Brown has no idea of where to lead the party, he is using this convention to provide some carefully directed policy stands that he thinks the voters will respond to in the June vote. The response at this convention by the older, more progressive, Conservatives from the Bill Davis era to this sham of a conference will tell us much.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The despotism of First-Past-the-Post?

Sunday, November 12th, 2017

One of our favourite political bloggers wrote a desperate ‘cri de Coeur’ the other day against what he perceives as the despotism of first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting. He lives on Canada’s Left Coast and writes under the pseudonym ‘The Mound of Sound.’ Rather than simply refuting his assertions, I think it is important to find the source of his anguish.

To begin, there is his suggestion that 40 per cent support in FPTP voting can make any leader a despot. (Even Donald Trump needed the undemocratic Electoral College system to win the U.S. presidency.) We Canadians had a special House committee on electoral reform brought forward by the Trudeau Liberals. It was made up from all parties and spent a summer listening to submissions and writing a report on alternatives to FPTP voting. You know their conclusion. No change was made.

FPTP is not evil. It has worked for the people for hundreds of years. And if you want a real headache, check out how the Roman Republic elected its tribunes. One of the reasons to appreciate FPTP is that it is one of the most difficult systems of voting to cheat.

Maybe it is the simplicity of FPTP that turns off some intellectuals. If it is that simple, it has got to be wrong?

If your objection to FPTP is based on the ability of someone to win with less than 50.1 per cent of the vote—then fight for run-off elections. That is still much simpler and more democratic than other suggestions. You should not be enticed by preferential voting—it is not the same.

But before you demand change in how we vote, do you not think we should widen our outlook? Should we not take a look at the basics of our democracy—our political parties? Is it right for the Sikh community in Canada to swamp the membership of the federal New Democrats on behalf of that party’s new leader? Was that misogynistic and corrupted campaign in Alberta the way to choose a new Conservative leader for Alberta? Was it right for Brown in Ontario to buy the memberships for tens of thousands of immigrants to be the choice of Ontario Conservatives?

And does it surprise you to learn that the federal Conservatives and Liberals are funded from the same purses? What makes you think either party is run in a democratic fashion?

Before we have a liberal democracy in Canada we need liberal democratic parties. We have much work to do.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

‘Chuckles’ chooses chaos.

Sunday, November 5th, 2017

Have you ever wondered at how Members of Parliament can keep on speaking while being constantly heckled? It seems it is all part of the theatre that parliament provides and is a big part of the daily question period. There will always be exceptions but the chaos heckling creates can be easily quieted if just three of the players in the House said “Enough is enough.”

The guy with the most power to quiet things does not have the largest problem. Prime Minister Trudeau, through his Liberal House Leader, MP Bardish Chagger, can easily insist on bringing the Liberal side of the House’s noise levels down to reasonable. The question is whether they would want to—given the heavy heckling to which they are under every day?

Smaller parties such as the New Democrats have to really speak up if they want their heckling to be heard. These MPs tend to be the most vocal when they feel they are being mislead or not being given an answer they consider truthful. During the recent leadership race, there was little attention paid to the NDP’s performance in the House and it will take MP Guy Caron, new party leader Jagmeet Singh’s choice as house leader, time to assert some authority.

The largest problem in the heckling chorus are the 96 Conservatives who are the official opposition in the House of Commons. With their new leader this year, Andrew ‘Chuckles’ Scheer MP and his shrill house leader, MP Candice Bergen from Manitoba, we are certainly hearing from the pack.

And when you consider that “Chuckles’ has served as Speaker of the House, he knows very well the chaos that heckling creates for the House and the spectators. He also knows how the television cameras are directed to focus only on the speaker and people watching on the parliamentary channel across Canada have no idea which party is creating the noise behind the camera.

While the majority of parliamentarians feel that the heckling in the House is out of control, it is these opposition members who keep the practice alive.

Part of the shame is that even female members of Scheer’s party have complained about the sexist and inappropriate heckling. The truth is that this party has no intention of giving up on heckling. They seem to believe that: when in doubt, you should shout.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The anti-women legacy of Patrick Brown.

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

Patrick Brown was first elected to the ultra-Conservative Barrie, Ontario city council at age 22. As a Barrie councillor, he fit right in. It took him another four years to win election in the local federal electoral district and be part of the back-bench yes-men for Prime Minister Stephen Harper. It was in Ottawa, that he showed his true social conservative colors and voted against women’s rights and same sex marriage. His legacy in Barrie is that of a repressive environment that makes Barrie one of the worst cities in Canada for women.

A recent assessment by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives places Barrie as number 23 of a list of 25 Canadian cities in their addressing women’s needs. The study measures local concerns such as economic security, health care, community leadership, educational opportunities and security within the community. Barrie is a sorry case.

While you can hardly blame it all on Patrick Brown, his lack of interest in women’s issues, his social conservative upbringing and the apparent dislike of him on the part of single women tend to mark him as part of the problem, instead of a solution.

The basic conservatism of city council does not help either. It hardly matters if the mayor wants to show leadership or not. The mayor alone cannot fight recalcitrant attitudes among city staff nor continually pit his or her one vote against the rest of council. Leadership takes a lot more political smarts than we have seen in the last three mayors of this poor benighted town.

One of the efforts in which Patrick Brown thinks he can claim Brownie points is the serious problems the city has had in providing doctors for a rapidly growing population. His solution was to allow doctors to cherry pick their ideal patient list and if those selections did not include the aged or chronically ill, that was tough on those people—the last ones who should be left to walk-in clinics.

Where Barrie has suffered the most is that nobody is taking a serious look at the type of businesses the city is attracting. Call centres and retail work do not contribute many high paying jobs. The council think that financial companies’ computerized back rooms are a big deal but they contribute only about one well-paying job per 100 square metres of space for the computers. Well-paying jobs for women take considerations such as day-care opportunities and after-school activities. These are not concerns, politicians such as Patrick Brown worries over.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Excessives beat Progressives in Alberta.

Monday, October 30th, 2017

Friends in Alberta have been asking why this commentary had nothing to say about the race to run that province’s United Conservative Party? It was not because we did not have an opinion. It was sleazy, it was corrupt, it was predictable and we wanted no part of it.

I never thought in this lifetime that I would have any sympathy for Brian Jean, the former head of the Wildrose Party. I used to have a cat with more political smarts than Jean. The cat always knew which stranger’s lap to climb up on. Jean blew it. He let himself be had.

Not that Jean and his Wildrose yahoos ever concerned us. It is the old Conservative Party of Alberta that will be missed. Those people might have been misled in some instances but their hearts were in the right place. They might have engaged in some unseemly rhetoric over the years but they are decent people and they are concerned Canadians. And they seem to have no idea what they are now in for.

I am too far away to comment on the people behind Jason Kenney but if he gives you the creeps, his backers will likely scare hell out of you.

When I first saw Jason Kenney in Ottawa and learned about his background, I had serious misgivings about him. When I saw what he was doing in some of the ethnic communities, it was a level of hypocrisy that I had never seen from a Conservative operative before.

This is the guy who showed his friend Patrick Brown from Ontario how to line up tens of thousands of immigrants from India to steal the leadership of Ontario Conservative Party. He and Brown are fellow rabid social conservatives. They are used to lying about it. They will be what you want them to be in exchange for your vote.

Originally, I paired Jason Kenney with Ottawa M.P. John Baird who worked closely with Kenney in the Harper cabinet. I called the two fat and forty-something bachelors the Bobbsey Twins.

But seeing how nasty Kenney and his sycophants were back in Alberta with women in his own party made me wonder if Albertans were missing something. Kenney has a lot to learn about being a gentleman and it strikes me that Premier Rachel Notley might just give him some lessons in the coming months.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Bad bodings for Brown.

Thursday, October 26th, 2017

A large piece of the Ontario provincial Conservative’s election campaign went bye-bye the other day. Brown and his buddies must have been sitting around the party headquarters war room contemplating what might have been. The directed verdict of a Sudbury, Ontario judge cut the campaign off at the knees. The campaign using Donald Trump’s “Corrupt Hillary” theme would not work.

The problem for Brown and buddies is that any claim of corruption had to have a believability factor. You not only needed people who dislike the premier anyway but you needed that “maybe” factor. Without that maybe factor, the voters would know you were blowing smoke.

Consider how unlikely it would have been for Trump to win that election in the United States if there was not a question mark in many voters’ minds that maybe Hillary Clinton really was corrupt. And then, it was the credibility given the claim, in the last few days of the election, by the former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, that threw the election. Finding out that the information was wrong after the election does not get your vote back.

Donald Trump had the money and the cunning and the lack of scruples and the luck to create the perfect storm. He also had a woman as an opponent who expected him to try to act like a politician and make mistakes. Trump was a political mistake from the get-go. His money made his campaign possible and his naiveté worked for him.

Brown’s problem is that his life is politics. He seems to have no problem doing what is mean, vicious and uncaring but his reflexes are directional and predictably political. He is unlikely to survive a debate with Kathleen Wynne. He does not operate on that plateau. It could be good television if it happens.

Brown’s buddies will have to find a stronger way to link Kathleen Wynne with corruption. We have seen in the test commercials that they are taking a reading on the idea of some mysterious “friends of Kathleen” being the benefactors of corruption but that is unlikely to catch on. The older gas plant kafuffle cannot do the job alone as the premier was never directly involved.

It would be nice to say that we are sorry that Patrick Brown is having these problems: But we are not.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

 

 

It’s like a long race on turf.

Monday, October 16th, 2017

The next Ontario general election is scheduled to be held June 7, 2018. This race will be like a mile and a half on the turf track and requires horses with great endurance and energy. That makes it the time for the old and tired to retire. And that is what is happening with all parties at Queen’s Park.

As the largest party among the incumbents, the Liberals are expected to have the highest turnover.  The noisiest of the changes are among the contested nominations for the Progressive Conservative Party. The quiet changes are among the New Democratic Party which has already lost its deputy leader because he knew this branch of the party is going nowhere.

There is no question that the Queen’s Park Liberals need turnover. After 14 years in power, the party has promises to keep, legacies to earn. Neither Toronto’s Brad Duguid nor Glen Murray will be missed in cabinet or in Ontario politics. Nor do the Liberals need to keep dragging the anchor of Deb Matthews from London. The older Liz Sandals will be missed though for the calming and knowledge she brought to the education portfolio.

The conflict for Premier Wynne is that she needs to hold on to every MPP in her caucus who looks like he or she can hold their riding. There are no guarantees with the shake up in electoral district boundaries. And there is always lots of time after an election for recriminations.

Sure, Wynne should have resigned in the past year and given a new, younger leader a chance. There is no more time for that speculation. Win or lose, Wynne is what the Liberals have to offer. Hopefully there will be a comer among the younger Liberal MPPs.

But like the last election, Wynne’s strengths are experience, position and the lack of effective opposition. Not that the Conservatives are not going to continue to tear at her like a pack of wild dogs. She is no fool and she is street smart. They have no idea of what will bring her down.

If this were a turf contest at Woodbine Racetrack, none of the party leaders would be leading the pack. None of the three are good for the distance. The voters want better and deserve better.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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