Posts Tagged ‘Harper’

Diminishing Democracy.

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

Around the world, from Venezuela to Poland, from Turkey to America, we are watching the destruction of democracy. Those who believe in democracy are routinely arrested, beaten, detained or killed on the streets of once-safe cities. It is a challenge everywhere. There is no safe haven.

And Canada is no bastion of democracy. Former Prime Minister Harper routinely showed us his distain for parliament and democratic principles. Prime Minister Trudeau is no saviour of democracy either as he disrespects and destroys the Liberal Party. Like Harper before him, Trudeau uses his party as a political ATM. He only comes calling for funds.

The political corruption and destruction of democracy has moved fast and furious in the United States where Donald Trump measures his supporters in their gullibility. He calls them together regularly to rally and reassure him of their fealty. They feed his narcissism and eat up his lies.

The political parties of the United Stares of America are on the downside of favour with the people. The two main parties are hopelessly committed to their monied masters. They replace concern for the people with ideology and argue that everything that goes wrong is the ‘other guys’ fault. And only the very rich in America have influence. They are the ones who collect politicians like they used to collect stuffed trophies of the hunt.

And nobody cares. Their attention is to their royalty; their entertainers. The youth would rather devote themselves to social media on the ever more intrusive Internet—allowing Big Brother to catalogue their lives in the electronic prisons of the uninformed.

And what happened to the friendly police who used to help the elderly across the street? The politicians arm the police like storm troopers to protect us from what?

And not even the tyrant sleeps soundly. Political and corporate oligarchies are unstable at best as they keep to ideologies of the past. Even the oligarchs of Russia reap early harvests as they show lack of faith in the coming dawn. Will there be democracy tomorrow?


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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How would Harper have handled Trump?

Sunday, June 11th, 2017

When listening to Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland give her very important speech on the new world order, there was one disturbing thought. It was a silly question as to how would our previous prime minister have handled the situation? The one thing for sure was that Stephen Harper would never have allowed his foreign affairs minister to make such an important speech. It could have only been Harper himself in the spotlight.

And the more you think of it, you realize that the speech lost something by being delivered in the House of Commons. Harper would have taken it far from the Hill. He might have even taken the speech to New York or Philadelphia. That would have guaranteed world-wide attention.

Mind you it has been most of a century since anyone gave a truly momentous speech in our House of Commons. And that speaker was a Brit by the name of Winston Churchill.

Freeland’s speech was in essence a proposed walk-around to the situation with American President Trump. And it never needed to mention his name. (The only insult the son of a bitch recognizes is being ignored.)

And Freeland’s proposed solutions are long overdue. Canadians have really had enough of being treated as two-legged pets by the Americans.

We might have counted on their protecting us under the North American Air Defence Agreement (NORAD) but who the hell is protecting us from Trump? (Are we hoping he will invade Mexico first?)

But it would sure be nice to have a real Canadian military again. Trump will be long gone before we get our military up to snuff but it will be the effort made that counts. We might even get fighter aircraft to meet Canada’s needs.

Harper would not have liked the spending part of the speech. It would be more his style to only threaten to have a real Canadian military. Yet he would have agreed to going after more bi-lateral trade deals to try to keep Canada on its feet if Trump continues to destroy the American economy with his ignorance.

But would Harper have really stood up to what is going on in the Disturbed States of America? Probably not.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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In the steps of the Hair or of Trump?

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

There could be as many as 14 contenders for the upcoming Conservative leadership contest on-stage in Moncton tonight. Which candidates will take their cue from the Hair (Stephen Harper) and who will want to try the President-Elect Donald Trump style is the question?

The Moncton event is our first chance to hear from some of these contenders. They have been coming (and one going) for a while and nobody has paid much attention. If you had to pick one to emulate the Harper approach, it is likely to be Maxime Bernier. The MP for Beauce, Quebec takes you straight down the Conservative line with the exception of advocating legalized marijuana. Other than that, he is just as boring as most of the other candidates.

The candidates who might steal the show could be either Kellie Leitch, MP for Simcoe-Grey or Chris Alexander, the former MP and former ambassador to Afghanistan. Leitch tells us that her hero is Donald Trump and she is the one who thinks immigrants to this country should be tested for their knowledge of Canadian values. (Whatever they are?)

It was Alexander and Leitch who introduced the Tory tip-line for ‘barbaric cultural practices’ in the last federal election. Leitch’s latest talking point has been for getting rid of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

But Alexander did her one better in Edmonton the other day. He was talking to a fair-sized crowd of Conservative supporters. They were outdoors and there to object to carbon taxes and he got them chanting “Lock her up” to keep warm. This chant was in reference to Alberta Premier Rachel Notley. It was not only a disgustingly ignorant chant but did not reflect any Canadian value that we can think of.

But it is the very fact of having up to 14 nonentities willing to put down a $100,000 deposit and provide 300 signatures from Conservative party members in 10 electoral districts that has us wondering. You would think that alone would keep the numbers down. These wannabes’ do not even seem daunted by the spending limit on their campaigns of $5 million each.

And even one or two more are expected to jump in. We have still not heard a firm ‘no’ from Boy Wonder Kevin O’Leary. He might be studying Donald Trump’s style before making his announcement.

In any event, Babel-on-the-Bay will not be announcing its Morning Line on the Conservative leadership until mid March. And please remember a morning line is just a handicapper’s aid in assessing the possibilities in a race. You only need a few visits to race tracks to know how often the morning line can be wrong.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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What’s Jason Kenney doing? And who cares?

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

Yes, the Conservative Party of Canada is having a convention in a year or so to pick a new leader. After all, the party could hardly allow temporary leader Rona Ambrose time to get comfortable at Stornoway. So far, it is a very thin field of applicants. Though what would you expect when the leader in 2019 could get his or her head handed to them by Justin Trudeau’s Liberals. Nobody thinks the bloom will be off Justin that soon.

The real leader is waiting to be discovered in the lead up to the next leadership convention circa 2021.

You have to admit that Stephen Harper’s former minister of everything, Calgary MP Jason Kenney, could be having fun. He is the most relaxed he has ever been in the past ten years. And he can afford to keep the news media guessing. Maybe it strikes his funny-bone. Maybe he is just feeling perverse. Whatever, it must be fun to turn the tables on the media.

Can you imagine the problems the media have in turning in more than 500 words of copy on the suspected contestants for the Tory leadership? And that would be with Maxime Bernier, Michael Chong, Tony Clement, Kellie Leitch, Erin O’Toole(?) and Lisa Raitt combined.

Of course, they can do more than 500 words on why Doug Ford, Peter MacKay and Kevin O’Leary are not in the race and probably never will be.

And that leaves the heir presumptive, Jason Kenney. After all the time he spent understudying the Hair, Kenney has to be taken at least half seriously.

But in the meantime the question has come up about uniting the right in Alberta and defeating the upstart New Democrats in that Ark of Conservatism. That might just be easier said than done. You have to remember that the Conservative Premier and Wildrose leader who last tried to do that are no longer on the Alberta political scene. Jason Kenney might not be in good enough fighting trim to take on the Wildrose. And never assume that Wildrose would not be above suggesting that Mr. Kenney’s possible sexual orientation needs to come out of the closet. Those people know their bigots like good golfers know their divots.

But the real problem for the Conservative Party is that it is bleeding support among both the rationalists and the fanatics. Without the heavy hand of a Harper or a Manning on the helm, the party is at the mercy of populists and extremists. It has to find some direction.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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Harper goes “quietly into the night.”

Friday, May 27th, 2016

That line from Shakespeare’s Henry V is a haunting phrase that can give deep meaning to a legacy. The only problem for Canada’s failed and former Prime Minister Stephen Harper is his lack of a legacy. He united the right and rode that tiger into power. Yet he could never dismount. He ruled firmly from atop the beast. He rode it into a legacy of failure.

Harper’s was not a proud sojourn of power. Compared to Pierre Trudeau’s patriating of the Constitution and Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Harper is a sorry figure. He denied global warming, he ignored science and refused the long-form census, he prorogued parliament to keep his grip on power, he used foreign affairs to win electoral districts and he insulted the President of the United States. He was hardly an innovative leader.

But he micro-managed the government from a barricaded Prime Minister’s Office. It was from there that he cast his edicts, appointments, publicly paid advertising and attacks on the opposition alike. He rejected friendships, confidants and well-meaning advice with the same dismissiveness. He stood alone for almost ten years as prime minister.

To us, he was always ‘The Hair.’ His perfectly positioned hair piece was kept carefully lacquered in place. He is probably the only world leader who showed up at G-7 and G-20 meetings with his own hairdresser. It was likely also why he earned a reputation for always being late for the group photo.

And what will he do in this quiet time to come? He did not speak of the future in addressing the Conservative Party at its meeting in Vancouver. It was nothing more than platitudes. It will be his swan song. It is part of going quietly. He has nobody to blame but himself.

He can hardly disclaim his choices for the Senate of Canada. He never liked or respected the ‘other place’ anyway. His manipulative appointments caused the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party over expenses and claimed residences. Canada is hardly the type of country that would allow the R.C.M. Police to charge the real guilty party in that fiasco.

He will not be best known for fighting with the Supreme Court either as that was just one more battle he could not win. And yet he was in many ways one of the best political strategists we have ever seen operate. As time went on, he picked his battles with less care. His efforts are already turning to dust.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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The Tory’s terribly trying times.

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

It is hardly the best of times for Canada’s Conservatives. Their former leader has gone on to his reward: oblivion. Oh sure, the Hair is still around but he is now a nonentity. His temporary replacement, Rona Ambrose rode her horse out of the west to try to humanize her party but it seems like a lost cause. The sputtering start to some sort of party leadership race offers no surprises and no superheroes.

The important thing to remember about this race is that it will not start in earnest until early in 2017. There is lots of time to test the waters, put together an organization and raise from $2 million to $5 million for expenses.

With as many as ten or eleven possible leadership candidates, the best service Babel-on-the-Bay can provide for non-conservatives is a capsule comment on each possible candidate:

Maxime Bernier is expected to serve as the token Quebec candidate and will be thanked at some stage for his service.

Michael Chong from Ontario wants to be the Bernie Sanders of the campaign. Most conservatives will find him too brash by half.

Tony Clement looks like he wants to rumble but the washroom-builder from Parry Sound-Muskoka is just a summer wonder.

Doug Ford of Toronto fame is thinking of investing some of his family’s money into gaining notoriety as a candidate. He would do better if he was a better politician.

Heavyweight contender Jason Kenney from Calgary might drop to a lower weight class for his run but he is not every conservative’s cup of tea.

Kellie Leitch from the next-door riding of Simcoe-Grey always reminds us of Leacock’s Sunshine Sketches of a Small Town. She is very small town.

You have to admit that Nova Scotia’s Peter MacKay is getting better publicity by saying he will not run. He should keep saying it.

Kevin O’Leary who was never our favourite dragon on the CBC show Dragon’s Den wants to be the Donald Trump of the Tory race. When he sees what happens to Trump in the U.S., he might change his mind.

Michelle Rempel of Calgary could add something to the campaign but it is unlikely to be depth.

And last and least is Brad Wall of Saskatchewan. The Liberal-Conservative or Conservative-Liberal premier is a great spokesperson for the pipeline people and no one else.

Oh well, maybe the Conservatives will do better in 2022.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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Party conventions are always about money.

Sunday, March 27th, 2016

The first thing learned about political conventions is that it always has to be at a profit. The second is that if there is nothing contentious, create something. You always have to fill the hall.

And filling the hall does not seem to be a problem for any of the three political party conventions planned over the next couple months.

The May meeting of the Liberal Party of Canada in Winnipeg will be a love-in and by far the largest of the events. The party’s Liberalist has been worked hard and thoroughly to turn out the faithful. The Liberals are coming to celebrate their victory last October and to get their kudos. Just look at the registration costs and you can easily compute the profit that goes into the party bank account. And the attendees will get their money’s worth: just line up for your selfie with Justin on the left.

The New Democrat convention in Edmonton at the end of April is the low-budget political event but then it will also be the most intense. Party Leader Thomas Mulcair has been working the party for some time now to try to keep his job. While the NDP has made a tradition of not automatically dumping their failed leaders, they probably should with Tom Mulcair. He might think he deserves another chance in 2019 but the only excuse for the party to keep him is to keep the seat warm and plan for a better leader in 2024. The only problem is that not all the delegates are long range thinkers.

The most interesting of the three party conventions in the offing is the Conservative Party of Canada meeting in Vancouver at the same time as the Liberals are in Winnipeg. This apparatchik would most like to be a fly on the wall in those hospitality suites. The most important topics at this conference are ‘Who’ and ‘How.’

Those are interwoven subjects because you can hardly get one without the other. The legacy of Stephen Harper could be entirely in the hands of former Minister of everything Jason Kenney. Kenney is playing it low key and is waiting to see how the field of potential leadership candidates emerges.

But this will be the leadership kick-off for the Conservatives. Michael Chong MP from Ontario has already launched and working the smaller ‘C’ conservatives. If he is smart(?) Peter MacKay might stay home in Nova Scotia. There is a very broad opening between Kenney and Chong and nature hates a vacuum. There will be more.

Frankly, it is a great time to be a political commentator.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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Honourable Members All!

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

A reader brought up what he considers a serious weakness in first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting yesterday. It is the assumption that we elect “honourable members’ to our legislatures and the House of Commons and select the same for our Senate. The member we elect with at least a plurality is assumed capable of representing all voters in the electoral district despite their political leanings. The reader points out that Stephen Harper drove a stake through the heart of that idealistic concept over the past nine years.

The reader explains that the unfettered partisanship of the Harper regime robbed Canadians of the primary checks and balances needed in our parliamentary system. Political assistants and Members of Parliament going to jail over carrying this partisanship too far is hardly the answer.

What voters seem to be failing in is the ability to assess our political candidates in anything beyond which party leader they support. Our political parties, in turn, are failing badly in demanding high standards among the party’s candidates. They seem to prefer fealty to intelligence. They also fail in building their party membership, facilitating policy development, promoting the party’s philosophy and developing new election workers. And our MPs and MPPs fail us as they act like rude undisciplined children in our legislatures and parliament while all initiatives come from the Premier or Prime Minister’s Office.

On today’s Internet, we are seeing the emerging centralized party structures of the future built around a charismatic ‘Big Brother.’ The party is told how to think, how to tithe to the central fundraising that gives no accounting of its receipts and expenditures to the citizens, contributors or Elections Canada.

For lack of answers to these problems, Justin Trudeau’s brain trust told us that the answer is to change how we vote. What that has to do with the quality of party candidates has not been made clear. Maybe it is like the elitist committee to recommend elite candidates for Senate appointments. It will make no difference at all but it will give the politicians someone to blame when we get a bad apple.

Stephen Harper has no one else to blame than himself for Senator Mike Duffy. Mind you, Justin Trudeau will have no one else to blame but himself when he finds how difficult it is to get his government’s legislation through his ‘elite’ Senate.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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But what if FPTP isn’t broke?

Monday, February 15th, 2016

You almost hate to ask the question. What is wrong with the way Canadians vote? There seems to be an assumption by some people that first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting is a failure. Does that mean you have to dump FPTP and take a flier on some other theoretically improved voting system? And why is it better?

The only people really dissatisfied with FPTP voting are the people who typically come third or fourth in the voting. This can be a very frustrating position, Despite being the choice of as much as 25 per cent of the voters, your party can end up with as few as ten per cent of the seats in parliament or a legislature. And the winning party can often win a majority of the seats with only 40 per cent of the popular vote.

Two of the simplest ways to correct that supposed inequity are a primary system that reduces the election to just two contestants per constituency or a run-off vote pitting the top two contestants against each other. And bear in mind that primaries or run-offs are very different from a preferential or transferable voting systems. In both the primary or run-off system, the voter has breathing time to consider the final outcome.

Another way to overcome the supposed inequity of FPTP is strategic voting. While many voters were disappointed in the seeming failure of strategic voting during the last federal election, it actually was working. It just works at a different level. There is a surprisingly large block of eligible voters in Canada who have no affiliation nor interest in politics. They are mainly young voters. Almost three million of these usually non-voters went to the polls last October. They mostly voted Liberal.

Those new voters were voting for the change that the Liberals under Trudeau were offering. There was no specific agenda item that caught their attention. It was the weariness with the Harper Conservatives and the failure of the New Democrats to ignite interest that let the Liberals win these new voters and gain the majority. And it is a unique feature of FPTP voting that took the Liberals from third party to a majority.

There is no harm done if study of FPTP voting and our democracy results in a better understanding. There could be harm done if the people involved in the study are committed to change. Canada might just have the best system of all: FPTP.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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With thanks to the Hair.

Monday, October 12th, 2015

This has been the weekend for firming up the opinions and decisions on our federal election in Canada. We are in the last week of a long and exhausting campaign. And it is all thanks to the Hair. He set the election date. He called for the writ early in an attempt to beggar the other parties. He put his ideology ahead of the concerns of Canadians. It is all contributing to the downfall of the Hair. We can thank the perpetrator for the outcome.

From a position of almost total control of the campaign two months ago, the Hair is on his knees. And for him, that is not a position of prayer. He has exhausted his repertoire, he has failed in his rhetoric, he has wasted his resources and he has been found wanting.

Talking to many Canadians over this weekend, the young at a family wedding, friends in the city, friends here in Barrie, the air seems to becoming cleaner already. We all know why the lines are long at the advance polls over this weekend.

If it takes a foolish woman with her niqab to bring down the Hair, so be it. It is not an argument of any merit. He has already been exposed for what he is by a picture of a child lying dead on a far-away beach.

A lot of confidence is being shown in Justin Trudeau. The Liberals chose him in desperation. The Hair raised him to stardom. If you slander an opponent, you have to understand how your own supporters will react. You embarrass your supporters at your peril. And the more you sling mud, the more that splatters on you.

And as predicted, Trudeau has proved he is the Energizer Bunny of the 2015 campaign. He is still beating that Liberal drum that few were listening to at the beginning of the campaign. Now he is drumming in the stragglers. He wants to keep drumming for a majority government. It is in sight.

The vaunted Orange Wave has crashed on the rocky reality of Quebec politics. Thomas Mulcair does not want to come third. And nobody wants the Bloc to once again obstruct the working of parliament for narrow objectives.

There will be no Hallelujah pass for the Hair in this political season. His time is over.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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