Posts Tagged ‘Ontario’

Something borrowed, something blue.

Monday, April 24th, 2017

Watching the news conference events last week at Toronto’s Liberty Village, you could not help but note what a modern setting it would be for a wedding. This must have been just a rehearsal though as Premier Kathleen Wynne and Finance Minister Charles Sousa delivered their promises. They even had something borrowed to tell us and they both looked blue.

The premier and her treasurer were there to attempt to cool the rapidly rising prices in the real estate market in the Toronto area. They had a potpourri of solutions ranging from one borrowed from Vancouver and rent controls for income properties. What they did not have was realistic solutions for the Toronto area.

It hardly seemed to matter that the situation in Vancouver was quite different. With as many as 60,000 high-priced properties sitting vacant in the west coast city, these properties had become targets for vandalism and salvage. When a 15 per cent foreign-buyer tax was imposed by the province and the city increased real estate taxes for vacant homes, foreign buyers switched their interest to the Seattle market. And Vancouver is not sure how much home prices will go down, if at all.

The difference is that in Toronto foreign investors might be just under five per cent of the market and are hardly a major problem. The tax will unlikely earn much for the province. Nor would an additional city vacancy tax earn much for Toronto.

In all their plans, these politicians had no comment on the real estate flipping that is a constant headache in the Toronto market. Maybe there are fewer at current prices but the people who can buy cheap, put some lipstick on the property and then sell for a healthy profit are still a major cause of prices going up 33 per cent year over year.

While it would be difficult (and boring) to cover all 16 points of the Ontario government’s proposed program (that have yet to be passed in the Legislature). The only other important change will be the extended rental controls. These have now been extended to all rental properties in the area around Toronto.

These changes will limit landlords to a 2.5 per cent increase in rentals (which can be routinely applied every year). Owners will also be able to pass on the costs of major property improvements.

To allay the usual complaints that rent controls are a disincentive to developers, the province will be passing a number of tax incentives for developers and funding a $125 million worth of incentive payments. How long that will last, we do not know.

What probably makes the politicians blue is that they have caused havoc and confusion to the spring sales for about 45,000 real estate agents during their busiest season. They should have more political smarts.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

You can call it a ‘Wynne Win.’

Friday, April 21st, 2017

Ontario’s political pundits are all running with scissors these days forecasting the resignation of Premier Kathleen Wynne. Quite properly, she is scoffing at these rumours and promising to carry on. It could be the death knell of the Liberal’s dynasty of the last 14 years.

But is it? In a few days, we will be hearing the final plea of repentance from Charles Sousa in his guise as finance minister. He will balance the budget to please the people who worry about debt. He will offer the goodies for the people whose votes can be bought with their own money. He will bring more sunshine to our spring. He will then have a year to show that his promises are real.

But, is that a winning formula? Do deathbed repentances work? Can you really recover from arrogance? Does it really justify slavishly following the apolitical advice of a retired banker? He told the premier to sell off the hydro distribution system in Ontario. She did and angered voters across the province. He told her to add beer and wine to grocery stores and do it piecemeal to piss off the voters who both wanted it and those who did not.

Nobody denies that Wynne is a poor leader. Her cabinet makes little traction with the voters and the backbenchers are a mix of those who need experience and those who need retirement. (Those speaking up must be those intending to retire anyway.)

Wynne got her job through manipulation and political theatre. She took pride in being the first lesbian premier of Ontario and then found nobody cared. Her cabinet are mostly self-serving retreads who have little to offer. Wynne thinks of herself as some kind of progressive but she has never done anything that was neither reactionary nor manipulative. She seems to think you can replace leadership with panels and studies.

Wynne’s obvious plan for the election next year is to show up her opponents as feckless and incompetent. They are but that does not excuse her shortcomings.

The anomaly in all of this is the Ontario economy that is improving every day. It is hardly to the credit of the Ontario government that Ontario is picking up the slack for the foolish tar sands economy of Alberta.

But it might account for a write-off of the New Democratic Party’s chances next year. And by next year, Ontario voters will have learned that Conservative Leader Brown is a useless putz. It seems to be unfair to offer them three such useless leaders but it says a lot about the state of politics in Ontario today.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Did April Fool come early this year?

Saturday, April 1st, 2017

We read in the Toronto Star the other day about some ‘go-bold’ re-election strategy being used by Premier Kathleen Wynne. We practically wet our pants laughing until we realized the item was written by Bob Hepburn. Bob has always been a quite astute observer of things political for the Star over the years, so we read it carefully.

He confirms the sagacity of his views when he says up front that Kathleen Wynne has a snow-ball’s chance in Hell of winning re-election in 2018.

But. And it is always in the ‘But’ isn’t it? Bob believes that Wynne is going to brave it out, stick around, and lead a dispirited party into its Armageddon in 2018. And that is just about the stupidest advice we have ever seen given to a sitting politician in all our years in politics.

To make matters worse, Bob thinks Wynne is considering a bold and aggressive and even ‘progressive’ strategy. He thinks she has been told to ‘Go bold, or go home.’ That would certainly be a novelty for her. It is a strategy of winning the ‘middle class.’ It worked for Justin Trudeau, we are told..

Bob thinks the first sign of this strategy will be in the budget this April. He believes the Wynne Liberals will announce an increase in the minimum wage for Ontario to $15 per hour. That will probably be scheduled to start at the same time that we find that pigs can fly.

We already knew about the mock test of a guaranteed annual income in Ontario that is being proposed but we have heard of those fantasies before. They come and go at the whim of desperate governments. They are only mentioned when the party in power is in serious trouble.

But Bob says that the Wynne Liberals will also attempt a sweeping modernization of Ontario’s labour and workplace laws. Since these are only about 75 years out of date, we might have to wait a bit. It is quite likely they will have to wait until those damn flying pigs agree to either potty training or to wearing diapers.

By the by, all of this business of pigs and pie in the sky planning is part of Charles Sousa’s first balanced budget. And we all know how determined Charles is to do this, do we not?

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Where are Ontario politics headed?

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

There have been some political polls in Ontario recently that have caused a buzz in the news media. If the media had just checked back to before the last provincial election, they would have seen a similar pattern in the public preferences a year before that election. It certainly supports the claim that the only polls that matter are the ones on election day.

But polls can be useful indicators for politicians. There is no question that the current Conservative figures are inflated. The Tories have a leader who is an unknown quantity and every effort is expected to be made to create an acceptable persona for him before the 2018 provincial election.

The current polls are particularly disquieting for the governing Liberals. It is becoming obvious that Premier Wynne’s poor performance just might have dragged the party down to unrecoverable levels. If she had any respect for her party, she would have called for a leadership convention by May of this year to give her replacement time to gain traction with the voters.

It is hard to ignore the New Democrat leader but until she joins a gym and gets the party interested in a future, it has none.

The leader needing the most scrutiny by the voters is the Conservative leader. After using dishonest tactics to steal the party leadership last year, Patrick Brown is still an unknown quantity even to members of the Conservative Party, let alone the voters. Most of the people his organizers signed up as temporary Conservative Party members never knew him.

Brown is a 38-year old bachelor who has spent his entire adult life in politics. His answer to most questions is to tell you what he thinks you want to hear. He has no small talk. He bores women. They are not interested. He is a social conservative and voted against women’s rights when an MP in Ottawa. He has since earned the enmity of social conservatives in Ontario for not openly supporting them.

For people who do care about this province and its citizens, the provincial election coming on June 7, 2018 is worrisome. There is no category appearing on the ballot for ‘None of the above.’ We have to make choices. We need to send the very best person on our ballot to Queen’s Park. We need people who will speak for their constituents. We need people we can respect and who respect us.

Ontario voters will need to think long and hard on this one.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

For whom the Tolls Toll.

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

The premier’s office at Queen’s Park in Toronto has many roles. One of those is as a woodshed wherein one disciplines recalcitrant municipal minions who fail to realize that the provincial party in power makes all the rules.

There was an awkward bit on a news clip last week of the Premier of Ontario and the Mayor of Toronto both trying to get out the premier’s office door at the same time. It would have been funnier if the mayor had not been so angry. He had not only been woodshedded in the traditional manner but he felt he had been treated as a little boy in short pants. And he did not like it.

The waiting news media observed the mayor and premier doing the ritual handshake before following the mayor down the hall to get the lowdown on the spanking. To put it simply, the mayor felt he had been betrayed.

Mayor John Tory was still in the provincial legislature when he gave the news guys and gals an earful on what he considered the duplicity of the premier. He had obviously wasted a lot of political capital in promoting the idea and getting the support needed on city council. He had been told originally that the premier was on side.

The entire fiasco was about the city wanting to impose road tolls on the two provincial highways that still go to downtown Toronto. The Don Valley Parkway (Highway 404) and the Gardiner Expressway (Queen Elizabeth Way) are maintained by the city. While it might not have been as dumb an idea as the province wanting to charge tolls for less congested highway lanes running around the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), it still got heavy static from the surrounding municipalities.

The governing Ontario Liberals are quite concerned about the electoral districts around the GTA being wooed with some success by the desperate Conservatives. With an election looming in the next year, these concerns are being taken seriously. This is not the time to annoy those voters any more than they might already be.

Frankly, Mayor Tory should be pilloried for the entire idea. If the foolish idea caught on with Toronto, the province would be forced to allow tolls on provincial highways running through cities and towns across the province. Thinking of the Queensway (Highway 417) in Ottawa, there would be a strong possibility of causing another Upper Canada Rebellion.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Premier Wynne: Colour her gone.

Monday, January 16th, 2017

It seems more and more likely that Premier Kathleen Wynne and her Ontario Liberals are on the slippery side of the slope. Nothing says it more emphatically than the situation in which we find ourselves here in Babel. (You know Babel as Barrie, Ontario.)

We are less than two years from a tough election situation here in Barrie and there has been no sign of provincial Liberal activity. Normally you would expect some evidence of action. Especially since there needs to be new provincial electoral district associations created by the political parties, you would have expected that to happen by now. You would have expected a candidate search committee to be activated by the Liberals to talk to potential candidates and be sure they are aware of what is required of them.

What makes this doubly important is that this is the riding that PC Leader Patrick Brown has chosen to contest. It is hard to imagine there are many Conservatives with any common sense wanting that nerd representing them at Queen’s Park. He is not a leader. He has nothing to offer the party or the voters. He flip-flops on issues trying to convince people he is on their side—whatever that is. He is incapable of leading the fractious Conservative caucus. He has no direction and would be a serious embarrassment to Ontario if he accidently became Premier.

But the good news is that we can defeat him here in Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte. And when we defeat him, the Ontario Conservatives would have an opportunity to call a new leadership convention—one where Brown and others would not be allowed to cheat. Just think of it: an honest political leadership convention.

And if the election just produced a Liberal minority government, maybe Kathleen Wynne would also take the opportunity to resign. She has not led the Liberals into anything but trouble.

There is no reason that the New Democrats could not take the opportunity to also dump their inept leader Andrea Horwath. She is not leading them anywhere anyway.

Ontario is in a very unusual political situation. It has three major party leaders who all need to be replaced. And then, after getting a chance to assess the results of some new leadership, we could vote again. We might have a chance to get it right.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Not everyone hates Premier Wynne.

Friday, January 6th, 2017

It is too bad that Ontario Premier Wynne has no politically smart advisors or staff. Here it is the first week of 2017 and the foolish lady is deep in the do-do of her own making.

By selecting the beginning of January to launch her ill-fated cap and trade program, she has been ripped off by the oil companies who multiplied her increases by four to five times. Wynne’s average of 4.4 cents per litre on cap and trade might not have caused a ruckus but 16 to 20 cents per litre was the increase the voters saw at the pumps.

And Ontario residents are complaining about Wynne and her Liberals instead of the rapacious oil companies. How politically astute is that?

Obviously, Wynne’s timing sucks. The oil companies can come up with all kinds of reasons for their increases. Wynne should have dumped the cap and trade deal with Quebec and California and supported the Trudeau government’s carbon tax. That would have let Prime Minister Trudeau take the blame for the increase. He has some goodwill to spare; Wynne does not.

The basic problem is that the voters do not understand cap and trade. To voters a tax is a tax. Most can understand a carbon tax. And even more voters understand global warming. There might be a cause and effect confusion here but most can understand that gasoline and diesel engines pollute our air.

But cap and trade is a system based on industry wide negotiations with politicians to set caps on emissions. If you come under the cap, you might have some emissions to trade with a company that cannot meet its commitments. This trade goes on between companies. The public is not advised of what is going on between companies but pays for it in retail prices.

In simple terms a carbon tax is an open and easy to understand system. Cap and trade is a largely hidden and hard to understand system. And with Ontario and Quebec firms trading with California companies, who knows what is going on?

Quite frankly, it is our opinion that Kathleen Wynne is not suited to politics. Her only reason for winning the 2014 provincial election was that the she had no opposition. Timmy Hudak of the Conservatives and Andrea Horwath of the New Democrats handed her that election on a platter.

And we are heading for a situation where history can repeat itself. The New Democrats cannot find a replacement for loser Horwath. And that putz Patrick Brown who stole the Conservative leadership does not have a clue as to how to get his caucus behind him. People are finally figuring out that he has no direction for the Conservative Party and he is incapable of leading a boy scout troop.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The grandstanding of Patrick Brown.

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

People who prefer to grandstand in politics can be a pain in the ass. There are times when a politician should to take a stand on an issue but that is when you can reason and suggest alternatives to help solve the problem. Our Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition in Ontario does not believe in such niceties. He just goes for the jugular.

And to make matters worse, his latest attack is more of an attack on a former leader of his own party than an attack on the Liberal’s Premier Wynne. John Tory who is now a very popular Mayor of Toronto was Conservative leader in Ontario from 2004 until 2009. It is the mayor’s proposal to charge tolls on the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway that Brown is dissing. Brown is asking the Premier not to agree with Tory’s proposal.

It is examples such as this that Ontario voters should pay attention to before telling pollsters that they would choose Brown over Wynne in the election less than two years from now.

What people have to realize is that for the mayor’s proposal to work, people need alternatives to those city expressways. As it is you might as well refer to those city-owned highways as stall-ways. They are grossly overcrowded from very early in the morning to late at night.

But what alternatives are people proposing to help alleviate the problems? The province and the federal government have been doing their part to offer infrastructure funds to build light rail or subways as well as fund improved transit connections for commuters. It is the constant confusion as to the city’s  direction that has put Toronto so far behind in meeting infrastructure needs.

And now we have Patrick Brown MPP, a small-town boy from Barrie who is sticking his oar into Toronto’s all too muddied waters. He might have stolen the leadership of his political party last year but he failed to buy any more brains or knowledge to go with the job.

Brown’s predecessor Michael Harris might have thought he was fixing things back in the 1990s when he amalgamated the City of Toronto with its burgeoning suburbs but he failed to give the city, now more than four times the size, effective governance. It seems that no Ontario government wants to have a strong and capable government in Toronto.

But if we had Patrick Brown running the province, we would all be in trouble.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

The rise of the exurbanites.

Monday, November 14th, 2016

Trump reached for it in America and the exurbanites coalesced behind him. With these new rural voters who have fled the cities and in sync with the traditional American Gothic farmers, he dominated state after state. These people resent and fear our conglomerate cities, the liberal attitudes they promote and the crush of the ethnic hordes. Many of these exurbanites commute to the cities for work and they hate it. The buttons are there; you just have to press them.

It is a supposedly easy route to power. There are two good examples of politicians seeking out those voters here in Ontario. They are the ones working that grungy side of the street. They are MP Kellie Leitch from Simcoe-Grey who is trying to muscle in on the federal party leadership and Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown, currently representing Simcoe-North. They are here in adjoining ridings in central Ontario, pandering to the same type of narrow-minded, bitter and easy to anger voters.

And if you think Barrie voters are going to elect Patrick Brown in the 2018 provincial election, you are wrong. Barrie was deliberately gerrymandered under the Conservatives to cut the city in half and give each half a solid slice of exurbanite and rural voters. The edge in both north and south Barrie ridings goes to the Conservatives.

Brown’s current problems in Ontario are that unlike Donald Trump, he tries to keep a foot on each side of the street. He is a social conservative and he tries to find the middle ground. Eventually he is going to find that there is no middle ground and make a decision.

Meanwhile, in the safe ground of small town and rural Simcoe-Grey, MP Kellie Leitch is moving forward with her hate-filled Canadian-values campaign for her party’s leadership. Donald Trump is her hero.

Leitch has neither the money nor the ego of a Donald Trump and is hardly expected to sustain this aspect of her campaign under the intense pressure by her colleagues in Ottawa to tone it down. What her fellow MPs are concerned about is not as much as whether she wins the leadership but the very real concern of creating a schism in Canada’s Conservative Party. A large block of the urban Conservative vote across the country are progressive conservatives who pride themselves in not being knee-jerk rednecks. They will never buy into Dr. Leitch’s Canadian-values, anti-immigrant B.S. and you cannot win Ontario without winning any urban seats.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

The drip torture by the Wynne government.

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

Maybe they think they are too classy for simple water torture or boarding. The Ontario Liberals are inflicting an alcohol torture on the poor consumer. First, you have to find out which super grocery stores have just beer and cider or wine and beer or just a kiosk for plonk. There are now 67 out of about 1500 larger grocery stores selling both beer and some real wine.

But do not get these new stores confused with those older kiosks that sell Ontario wines and wines made from foreign concentrate. Those wines are for when you are desperate and do not have time to go to a real liquor store.

This booze roll out by the province has been undertaken with constant news media ballyhoo and the poorest results we have ever seen. After a career in public and government relations with a side interest in politics, this is the stupidest travesty we have ever seen a sitting government inflict on itself.

These foolish people are going to be forced to add more stores so that it can find some new communities in which to hold beer, wine and cider announcements. In an announcement that must have been in the provincial electoral district of York Centre, they even rolled out their recuperating(?) MPP Monte Kwinter (who is 85) in a wheel chair for him to be cheered by his happy constituents.

But the silliest part of this is that in the stores where the province is getting its share of the revenue from alcohol sales, the sales hours for these products are determined by the hours of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO).

Some convenience! If the idea behind this ridiculous roll out is to provide convenience for the consumer, why have the inconvenience of saying ‘no’ at certain hours. If you have ever noticed, grocery stores try to be open at hours convenient to the public. These are people who understand what their customers want. The LCBO is run by bureaucrats. They are not paid to care what the customer wants.

What also strikes us as odd is that in no time during this forever rollout of booze sales has there been a single grocery store selected in the City of Barrie. This city has a population of over 140,000 thirsty souls and we do have some very nice (and large) grocery stores. We do not feel personally slighted but you might wonder if it is because Barrie is where the cranky leader of the opposition, Conservative Patrick Brown, will be running in the next election?

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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