Posts Tagged ‘Harper’

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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The blatant bigotry of the Hair.

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

The Hair had the support of the Bloc’s Gilles Duceppe in promoting bigotry the other evening. In the last of the badly arranged debate sessions of the 2015 election, Canadians saw their prime minister backed by a separatist asking for votes from bigots. It was probably the most tragic display of the election and nothing was solved by it only being in French and on the ATV television network controlled by Péquiste Leader Pierre-Karl Péladeau’s Quebecor.

And the Hair could not find a more fertile audience for his bigotry. When you spend the longest political campaign in recent Canadian history pandering to this group or that group, the Hair could hardly forget the bigots. He must believe that they are all Conservative voters at heart.

He knows a bigot is basically a self-centred person, uncaring and opinionated. Bigots vote for whatever party offers them the most and panders to their prejudices.

The source of this in Quebec has been the long-held resentment by some less educated Quebeckers of the English speaking majority in the rest of Canada. Quebec politicians play on this anguish like a piano. They will say that this attitude or that statement puts down Quebeckers. More imagined than real, the provincial migraine mounts.

The Bloc Québécois took these attitudeds to the Canadian Parliament where they only served to hurt Quebec. Quebeckers almost shook off the Bloc in the last election by voting for Jack Layton’s Orange Wave. It was their bad luck that a traditional Quebec politician took over as the new leader of the NDP soon afterwards.

And now we have prejudice running rampant over a Muslim woman’s niqab. This is one of the most puerile arguments in Canadian political history. The fact that only two women out of the hundreds of thousands taking part in Canadian citizenship ceremonies recently have been so foolish as to want to cover their face makes the argument childish.

But the Hair and his ally Gilles Duceppe can make hay of it in Quebec. If the Hair cannot win Conservative seats in Quebec, he prefers the Bloc get them rather than the Liberals or New Democrats.

The only hope left in this election is that Quebeckers recognize that the greatest need is to get rid of the Hair and his Conservatives. With the rest of the country lining up with the Liberals to help rid us of the Hair, we could do with more Liberals elected in Quebec. There are good people to choose from.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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Nostalgia for the era of the monster rally.

Monday, October 5th, 2015

As the ground game became more important in Canadian politics during the second half of the 20th Century, the monster rallies for the major parties lost their importance. The work involved in mounting the rallies took too much away from the ridings that needed the workers at the voters’ doors. There was a time though when we thought the rallies were worth it.

It was always risky but Liberals kept filling Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto through the sixties and the seventies. No precise information was ever given out but it was between 35 and 45 thousand tickets that were printed to fill the 16,000 seat arena. In the capacity of head of communications for the party in those years, a great deal of the time was taken up with reassuring party officials that there would be a good crowd. (And 40 years ago, we never would have dreamed of how inexpensive it is now to use the Internet and automated telephone calls to bring out the troops!)

The key to the attendance is still the busses that every riding within 200 kilometres is expected to fill to deliver the thousands of supporters. (Did you see the helicopter shots of the traffic jam with all those buses on Highway 410 on Sunday?) A great deal of pressure was put on the campaign managers to turn out every live body they could. That last rally the Liberal Party held for Mike Pearson in 1965 was moved from the Gardens to the Yorkdale Shopping Centre. As the largest mall in Canada at the time, it presented an interesting challenge. It was planned chaos.

You could not tell the Liberals from the shoppers unless they were carrying a sign. And you could only feel pity for the innocent shopper caught up in the tightly jammed throng. One of the organizers told us afterwards that Mr. Pearson was at his best trying to shout with a bullhorn from a stairway to the uncountable thousands of people.

Even at Maple Leaf Gardens, we always had a flatbed truck and bullhorns on standby for the leader to address the people we had to shut out of the event and blamed it on the Fire Marshall regulations.

But you will never see the Conservatives trying to showcase Stephen Harper in such an open event. They would be unable to keep out the riff-raff and there would be guaranteed protests and interruptions in the proceedings.

And we assume you could never put together one of Harper’s classic backdrops of the colours and cultures of Canada without an RCM Police and Security Investigation Service vetting them first. Mind you, the few times Harper’s organizers included children, he was obviously boring the poor kids. (Mind you the Trudeau children seemed fascinated by the Liberal bedlam in Brampton.)


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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Turning the corner on the 2015 election.

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

There are many wonderful readers of Babel-on-the-Bay. The other day one of our stalwarts sent an e-mail saying how warming it was to read that the Harper government is toast. Obviously some of the Conservative readers caught a bit of a chill in the words but so far nobody has argued. The best news is that Babel-on-the-Bay’s Morning Line forecast is falling into place. With just eight days until voters can start to give their opinion, the election is about to produce the expected result.

Despite the statistical possibility that the Conservatives could win the largest number of seats on October 20, it certainly could not be a majority. And without a majority, the opposition parties would never allow a Stephen Harper government to survive. The Governor General, sooner or later, would have to call on the largest opposition party to see if that party could win the confidence of the House of Commons. While Stephen Harper would probably have the funds left over to face another election, the two major opposition parties would call for a respite of at least a couple years.

The Liberal Party is on the up-swing. Even without the huge national television audience and the technical problems with the translations at Roy Thomson Hall, Justin Trudeau was the clear winner in the foreign affairs debate. He not only held his own but he made a strong pitch to Canada’s progressives that he knows where Canada wants to go and he knows how to get there. Anyone who has not seen a video clip of his argument with Harper that a Canadian is a Canadian is probably not a voter.

But that foreign affairs debate was New Democrat Thomas Mulcair’s to lose and he did. He was beset by his two opponents and lost to them. He came across as stuffy and belligerent. That is not the Prime Minister that Canadian’s want.

And to make matters worse for him in Quebec, the previous Montreal French-language debate did not do Mulcair any good. That debate allowed Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc Québécois to take on the New Democrats who had ravaged his party in 2011. Duceppe targeted Mulcair and by the end of the debate, the orange wave seemed barely a trickle.

If Justin Trudeau’s stock continues to rise with Canada’s progressive voters, the Liberals are within range of 150 seats in the next House of Commons. The Conservatives may be showing some life still and will reach for straws in the final weeks. They staged this terribly long election. They tried to wear Canadians down. It did not work.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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