Posts Tagged ‘Harper’

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.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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The Hair harasses NAFTA hopefuls.

Monday, November 6th, 2017

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is still on life support. The end of his first year in office and President Donald Trump has not yet ended the more than US$ one trillion in trade between the three countries. Maybe he was waiting for some help from critics of the Canadian Prime Minister to help him make his case for canceling.

The ally, he must have been waiting for was The Hair: Former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Not that we would recommend the Hair for successful trade negotiations. His help in these circumstances is to pour oil on an already tense situation. The Americans are making outrageous demands on our negotiators and Harper tells clients of his consulting firm that the Trudeau Liberals are too quick to reject some of the demands. It should be noted that Harper never completed a successful free trade agreement—he kept claiming the European Community Agreement was completed but it was only finalized after the Liberals took over in Ottawa.

The Hair actually complains that Canada is aligning itself too closely to Mexico to the consternation of the Americans. (Maybe he has never heard the old adage about divide and conquer.)

And true to his extremist right-wing principles, Harper claims that Canada is wrong to put labour rights on the table along with such subjects as gender equality and Indigenous rights and concerns for environmental protection. Obviously, he seems to consider these unimportant matters.

A commentator such as myself is expected to take pot shots at those negotiating NAFTA for us but it is considered very bad manners for a previous Prime Minister. And when you consider that Trudeau even hired former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to help out with the negotiations, it gives you an idea of the seriousness with which the situation is being handled.

Mind you, it is obvious that nobody thought of calling on Harper to help with the current negotiations. This is the guy who bickered with President Obama over the Keystone XL pipeline through the United States. As soon as Trump was in office, he put out an executive order telling TransCanada to build its Keystone pipeline. Mind you, it is likely that it will never be completed under today’s oil economics.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Hébert hails the Hair.

Sunday, September 10th, 2017

It is unlikely that many of political commentator Chantal Hébert’s fans read her Toronto Star columns for the humour. It is only occasionally that she writes with her tongue firmly in cheek. If you missed her most recent column, you missed a gem. She actually wrote of how the Hair (Stephen Harper) saved Canada from Quebec separatism. The joke was only softened by her giving credit for the suggestion to Harper’s former aide Carl Vallée, writing in L’actualité magazine.

It is hard to believe that the 2015 federal election was anything more than Quebec making common cause with the rest of Canada to get rid of Harper and his government. Nor was it much other than Tom Mulcair getting all flustered about niqabs and forgetting the NDP had any policies that washed out Quebec’s Orange Wave.

While there is a vestigial bigotry in Quebec that can be annoying at times, it’s use by Pauline Marois backfired on her and the Parti Québécois. Harper might have made note for his future, fictional, autobiography but he made no public comment at the time.

The simple facts are that the Parti Québécois spent the second half of the Hair’s regime in Ottawa finding its own way to perdition. When the separatist party chose Pierre Karl Péladeau as leader in 2015, we figured that was it for the dreams of René Lévesque. A millionaire, a confirmed union buster and a political dilettante, Péladeau was anathema to anything Lévesque had stood for.

At the same time, the Bloc Québécois became a non-party in the House of Commons and of no use to Quebec separatists. That more than anything else has spelled the lack of enthusiasm today for Quebec separatism.

What Vallée is telling us, Hébert says, is that Harper redirected Quebec attention to a left-right dialogue instead of a go-stay argument. While there is merit to that idea, it could hardly benefit Harper. In fact, it is hardly likely that it was deliberate.

When Babel-on-the-Bay saw which way the wind was blowing in Quebec, we put all our bets on a Liberal majority government in 2015. The simple facts were that Harper was the architect of nothing. He was a spent force.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Lottsa’ Luck Senator Duffy!

Sunday, August 27th, 2017

Senator Mike Duffy already has his payoff. He is still being paid as a member of Canada’s parliament. The report that he wants to sue the Senate and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is an insult to both bodies.

And the suggestion that Duffy’s case is anything like that of Omar Khadr is erroneous, disgusting and misleading. The Duffy trial was over his sense of entitlement and privilege. Whether we agree with the judge or not, he was found not guilty. And that should have been the end of it.

Duffy was reinstated in the senate and life goes on. He was never shot, tortured or incarcerated as was Khadr. Duffy was never denied his rights as a Canadian citizen.

Unlike fellow journalist on the political scene, Allan Fotheringham, Duffy’s campaign to become a senator was subtle. The ‘Foth’ publicly enlisted reader support to tell the prime minister what an excellent senator he would be, while ‘The Duff’ went right to the one vote that mattered, that of Prime Minister Harper.

As Senator Duffy, he traveled Canada with Prime Minister Harper as his opening act. He was much in demand by other cabinet members to do their intros. And nobody seemed to care that Duffy was supposed to be a senator from Prince Edward Island, who lived in Ottawa. That deception was reported to be Stephen Harper’s idea, not Duffy’s.  And is it a big deal if the senator’s expense reports were somewhat confusing and overly generous?

They are all supposed to be honourable men and women in the Senate of Canada. Who gives a damn about how the citizens feel about it? It is a place of sinecure and privilege for the friends of our leaders.

It is very difficult to come to grips with Duffy’s claim that he was let down by the Canadian legal system. What could possibly be the problem when superior court judges, who are appointed by this political party or that political party, are the people to deal with questions of propriety of political apparatchiks in the Canadian Parliament. Is this not a fair system? Why does he not sue the guy who got him into the mess: Stephen Harper?


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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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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