Posts Tagged ‘Ontario’

Granny Wynne knows best.

Sunday, June 25th, 2017

The current argument between Ontario’s New Democrats and the Ontario Liberals is like a school yard spat over who did what. It is not only childish but it makes both sides of the argument look foolish. They are arguing over who thought of having a mediocre pharmacare plan first. Neither side has much of which to be very proud.

The point is that not having a universal pharmacare program works at cross purposes to the intent of Canada’s Medicare program. It means that those of us who take our meds are paying more for them and those who cannot afford them, fail to take them and drive up the cost of Medicare.

It is good to see that the NDP are thinking about real needs. Just why they would suggest that only the 125 most commonly prescribed drugs be free to the public is something that only they can explain. It is like saying ‘Tough beans’ to those with an uncommon problem. Since the Liberals are offering to fund the full 4000 or so listed drugs up until age 25, that must be saying ‘Tough beans’ to those between 25 and 65—which does not make really good sense either.

But you have to give this round to Granny Wynne and her Liberals. A small step in the right direction is better than no progress at all. Even the Ontario health minister, Eric Hoskins, has been pitching pharmacare to anyone who would listen for years.

Mind you we started calling the Ontario premier Granny because anything she was going to do took a long time to happen. It is similar to when she finally admitted that the Ontario minimum wage should be $15 per hour. Did she launch it in reasonable time? No. She is taking two years and staging the increase over that time.

The one strong benefit of this pharmacare plan is that of the intense pressure on a Liberal or New Democrat government (should one or the other get elected next year) will be to complete the universality of the plan. The likelihood of any Conservative government doing anything other than finding ways of cutting back the plan would be extremely unlikely.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Did he say ‘Premier’ Brown?

Monday, June 12th, 2017

It was the kind of chill that our granny used to say was caused by someone walking on her grave. It is the combination of cold and a sad premonition. It was the feeling left the other day when noting Bob Hepburn’s column in the Toronto Star about getting cosy saying ‘Premier Brown.’

There was a problem reading the article after spewing morning coffee all over that page. Bob Hepburn really knows how to upset a guy. We were both there when Mike Harris tramped to victory in Ontario with his ‘Common Sense Revolution.’ Patrick Brown could be a far more serious problem for Ontario than Mike Harris.

First of all, Patrick Brown is smarter than Harris. He studied Harris closely as president of the Conservative youth wing from 1998 to 2002 and as a vice-president of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. This is a guy who eats, sleeps and is totally absorbed in politics.

But his weakness is that he has no public persona nor does he have any particular concern for people. That TV commercial that makes an issue of his speech impediment as a child is a thinly disguised attempt to alibi him. After all, if Ontario could elect a lesbian as premier, how far do you have to go to elect a nerd?

But Brown’s problems run deeper than that. His early religious training would have helped prepare him to be a Catholic priest, not a politician. His flip-flops on abortion, same sex marriage and gay rights might have annoyed social conservatives in Ontario but that is the politician speaking. He has never really taken a stand on anything else.

In his time as an MP in Ottawa, Brown never made a contribution. He said what he was told to say. In his riding, he spent inordinate amounts of taxpayers’ money promoting different charities. The gullible among the voters were heard to say, “Isn’t it marvelous what he does for charity?” It was all in aid of keeping his name in front of the voters. The charities could have done better without him.

But the question unanswered in Bob Hepburn’s op-ed piece is about Brown’s relations with women. We know where the Premier stands. Why is it, over years of seeing this guy in action, do we get the impression that he does not like women? They certainly do not seem to take to him.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The omens are in the ridings Ms. Wynne.

Friday, June 9th, 2017

The true politico pays attention to what is happening in the electoral districts. Those readings mean far more than the public opinion polls that are such a waste of time in the year before the election. If you do not grasp what is happening in the field, you are not even in the race.

The late Keith Davey was the Yoda of all Liberal politicos. His daily routine included calls across Canada. When he called, you quickly briefed him on the ridings you had heard from. You knew the detail he wanted. He kept his daily notes in tiny cramped handwriting on a single sheet of foolscap. Any time the prime minister wanted a party briefing, those were Keith’s notes.

Ontario is now in a one year countdown to an election on June 7, 2018. The heavy action is in the Conservative electoral district associations. Being conservative, they rarely get into fist-fights at their nomination meetings. It is the number of complaints coming into Tory headquarters that indicate the heated contests at nomination meetings. It seems that if the party leader can steal his leadership, why should not aspiring MPPs steal their nomination.

The best example of how the Tory nominations are being conducted have been the claims of ballot-box stuffing in both Ottawa and Hamilton. You should not have to count more ballots than there were distributed to voters. Chicanery, deceit, intimidation and signing up the local cemetery are all practiced ways of ensuring your candidate the nomination.

What the current action tells us is that electoral districts that used to always vote Liberal are now in play. No Liberal seat is safe. And Patrick Brown has got his tame party executive to ignore the shenanigans in the ridings.

But the problem in all of this is that there is no corresponding activity in the Liberal electoral district associations. The quiet there is deafening. The Liberal Party in Ontario has become a top-down organization. The provincial Liberals are never asked about policy directions. They do not expect to choose their own candidates. The party will tell them eventually who will be their sacrificial lamb.

Premier Wynne is running out the clock.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Tory Odd Couple Challenge Wynne.

Monday, June 5th, 2017

A pair of losers could be Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s nemesis. Meet ‘The Kid’ and the ‘Big Guy.’ They just got back from the Soo were they took a solid Liberal seat in a bye-election by 40 per cent of the votes. These cowpokes are riding high in the saddle.

But they are an unlikely couple. The Kid looks like a nerd, sounds like a nerd and is a nerd. He is leader of the Ontario Conservatives. He is Patrick Brown from Barrie, Ontario. He is a backroom political manipulator who got carried away with his own ego. He stole his party’s leadership with the age-old trick of signing up ethnics en masse. Nobody called him for cheating. Who knows how many paid their own membership? (And why do you think the federal party changed the rules for its leadership contest and required individual credit card number or personal cheque with each membership?)

The Big Guy is more interesting. He is the late Rob Ford’s older brother. He is what is referred to in show business as a Second Banana. He is the side kick who does not get the girl. He is brunt of the jokes. He always comes second, never first. Doug Ford’s management of the family business must have cost so much that the family want him to run in politics instead. It was his younger brother sweeping into the Toronto mayoralty in 2010 that allowed him to win the council seat Rob vacated. He lost to fellow Conservative John Tory when he tried to replace his brother in the mayoralty race in 2014.

What is amusing about the relationship of Patrick Brown and Doug Ford is that each needs the other. Brown needs the key to Ford Nation—the collection of malcontents across Toronto who bought into the populist promise of Rob Ford to “end the gravy train at Toronto city hall.” To defeat the Wynne Liberals, Brown has to win seats in Toronto. Brown does not understand Toronto and does not appeal to Toronto voters.

Ford, in turn, has to know by now that he cannot count on Ford Nation alone to carry him. He needs the party support that Brown can give him. These guys need each other. They deserve each other.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

“Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.”

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

That hackneyed expression is used to describe politicians who stupidly work to defeat themselves. A good example today is the desperation we are seeing at Queen’s Park as the Liberal’s Premier Kathleen Wynne continues to destroy the Liberal legacy in Ontario. She has so many irons in so many fires that the voters are completely confused.

Good government for Ontario does not seem to be Ms. Wynne’s operating theory. Instead, she dabbles. She is a reactionary dabbler. You show her a problem and she will question what is the smallest effort needed to say she is doing something about it.

Today she is mired in the argument as to whether we or our children should pay for the expense of government incompetence at managing electric power for this province. And before Patrick Brown smirks at this statement, it should be noted that all flavours of politicians are equally inept.

It was to Ms. Wynne’s credit though that she saw through the hypocrisy of the other parties and made a move to introduce beer and better wines in grocery stores. She destroyed herself and her party by turning the introduction into a form of water torture. It will be years before we will just assume that any large grocery store will have a booze section. And there is not a single damn grocery store in Barrie carrying beer or wine yet. That is not only obvious and petty just because it is where that schmuck Conservative leader Patrick Brown is running next year.

Mind you, the beer and wine fiasco is nowhere near the colossal stupidity of suggesting that the first high-speed trains in Ontario should be from Toronto’s Union Station to cabinet colleague Deb Matthews’ electoral district in London, Ontario. How dumb do you think the voters are in this province?

And even as late as yesterday, Wynne announced that it will take her government two more years to get the minimum wage up to $15 per hour. Our kids have action dolls that provide more action than Premier Wynne.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

We can blame Cousin Oliver.

Friday, May 26th, 2017

It is all Oliver Mowat’s fault. The myopic Father of Confederation had a mainly rural and agrarian Ontario to oversee in the early years of confederation. His picture hangs over our desk today, not as a distant relation but in the form of a preserved and framed, full front-page of a Saturday Globe published in 1893.  The lead story recognizes Sir Oliver’s then 21-year tenure as Ontario’s premier.

But Ontario is a very different place today than the Province of Upper Canada that came into the Canadian confederation 150 years ago this July 1. Cousin Oliver would probably have something snarky to say about the picture of his one-time colleague Canada’s first Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald on the same wall. The two of them had very different views of confederation. Our preference is the country as foreseen by Sir John.

Yet, it was Sir Oliver who won those early battles taken to London that defined this country. He saw Canada as an outrider to the British ship of state. He saw us as a supplier of raw materials to English industry. He wanted strong provinces that could dictate to a national government of convenience. The British adjudicators of the time agreed with Sir Oliver.

But Sir John had his revenge. He built the national links of steel that drew Canada into one. His Canada was from sea to sea.

Give Oliver the credit he deserves in building Ontario into the powerhouse of confederation. It was his short-sightedness that left us with a constricting constitution that is so unsuited to the needs of our modern Canada.

Who knew in 1867 that Canada would outgrow the concept of the Commonwealth? Who knew in those early years of confederation that Canada could become a production powerhouse to help change the course of European and World Wars?

Let’s give Oliver the credit he deserves. He was a wily politician. He took George Brown and Edward Blake’s early Liberals and led them for 24 years as Premier of Ontario. He put together a voting coalition that included Catholics and working class voters. It was said about him that he was supported strongly by both the liquor interests and the prohibitionists. Cousin Oliver was a Liberal.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Fixing Ontario’s out-of-date work laws.

Friday, May 19th, 2017

Ontario Labour Minister Kevin Flynn has a tough road to travel with the Wynne Cabinet. He is seeking to address the antiquated labour laws in Ontario. He wants to restore balance to the rights of part-time workers. He wants to guarantee a minimum wage on which someone can live. What will be interesting in these deliberations will be the blocks the Wynne government puts in the way.

The full package is just too much to expect of a cautious and conservative government such as Wynne runs. She will probably agree to the raising of the minimum wage except it will be piecemeal and behind the poverty curve.

She will likely agree to making it easier to unionize rather than to really digging into the wrongs of the workplace. Her cabinet would have little understanding of the pride of place in the working environment and the need for individual rights in employment. Unions are not the only answer and addressing those rights under collective agreements cannot necessarily enable individual rights in the workplace.

While Kevin Flynn might want to overcome some of the problems in unionizing widely dispersed workers, he seems to be ignoring what can be done in labour law to improve their lot. He seems to also be unaware that the federal and provincial governments are both guilty of having massive numbers of employees under contract that treat them as contractors without benefits or many rights.

Moving temporary workers to an improved vacation pay—allowing for a minimum of three-weeks actual time off with pay is a minor step. Ensuring temporary workers of the same benefits as full-time employees is key to sorting out what is temporary work and what is full-time employment.

But the minimum wage question is still the key question that Flynn has to fight on. The Wynne Cabinet has already dug a line that can also bury them after the election next June. All they have to do is leave the minimum wage behind the poverty line.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The piecemeal processes of Premier Wynne.

Sunday, April 30th, 2017

“Ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages: Let me draw your attention to the left ring of our three-ring circus. Here for your entertainment and edification is our finance minister who has just passed the miracle of a balanced budget. Charles Sousa will now amaze you further by proposing a new pharmacare program to swamp the proposal of the NDP.”

And he did. In his geared-for-election budget, the Ontario finance minister proposed a piecemeal pharmacare program for Ontario residents under the age of 25. It is the same drug benefit program that applies to seniors and people receiving provincial support. The difference from what the New Democrats proposed is that it applies to the gamut of 4400 listed drugs as opposed to the more restrictive list of the most commonly used 125 prescription drugs as proposed by the NDP.

All it does though is remind Ontario voters of the penchant of the Liberal government for doing things piecemeal. When their banker advised them to sell off the electricity distribution system in Ontario, they broke it into small lots and started selling off a bit at a time. It helped remind Ontario voters each time that they will end up contributing to the profits for those buyers.

It was the same when the province’s banker advised them to sell wine and beer in grocery stores. They thought that was such a great idea that they announced it several times, added hard ciders for another couple media events and spaced the selection of stores over a couple years so that they could have lots more media events. And in the meantime, nobody knows which grocer is selling beer and which is not.

It is as though the Wynne Liberals have decided that if anything is worth doing, it can best be done many times. That will leave the final stage of having pharmacare for those between 25 and 64—that we should have had since the beginning of Medicare in Canada.

Since Ontario has 40 per cent of Canada’s population, the federal government will get into the act at some stage and make it universal in Canada.

Mind you, that genius Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown complained about this program needing a means test. It will be interesting to see how he will apply a means test to children. He should hardly be concerned about the parents paying for them. They will anyway in their taxes but it will be much less because of the buying power of the government and the fact we will have healthier kids, more likely taking their prescribed medicines.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

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