Posts Tagged ‘Ontario’

Denzil decides to do his duty.

Sunday, December 10th, 2017

Toronto Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong seems to have heard the clarion call of distant trumpets. He tells people that he is challenging for the Progressive Conservative candidacy in York East electoral district. Knowing the voters in that part of Toronto as I do, this is not really exciting news.

While Denzil might believe he can leap small buildings at a bound, he has never proved to be a super guy in the political scheme of things. He is a social conservative and an avowed penny-pincher to extremes but his experience with the city will take him nowhere at Queen’s Park. They are different venues and require a different understanding of human needs.

It is this difference that is why Denzil’s blanket approval of the conservative platform is meaningless.   Fixing potholes is not a learning platform for the provincial concerns for health care and education needs. These are the two largest attention consuming and spending needs in the Ontario legislature. To bring an anti-spending attitude alone to that picnic is a disservice to the voters. Understanding the issues comes first.

The biggest trap in the conservative platform is the decision by the people preparing it to support a carbon tax over the present cap and trade approach. I, for one, agree with that decision but not how they are using it. They think ‘revenue neutral’ means that they give the carbon tax money back to the taxpayers through efforts such as tax cuts. If you are just going to churn the carbon tax money into other revenue needs, why bother? It would be less trouble if you left the carbon tax in the taxpayers’ pockets in the first place.

Tax cuts are only designed to impress the greedy. (The greedy are voters too, you know.) Tax cuts do not belong at the head of the agenda. And if the people who sign those guarantees of performance were honest, they would never sign them.

Denzil is counting on the current distaste for Kathleen Wynne as premier to influence East York voters and to dump a good M.P.P. Michael Coteau who has been serving as minister of children and youth services. Coteau has won the last two elections in the electoral district by more than 50 per cent of the vote. He is a good M.P.P. and could be a keeper.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Tories try sleight-of-hand with transit.

Tuesday, December 5th, 2017

When we first saw the Ontario Conservative’s proposal for Toronto Transit, we thought it was one of the silliest we had heard for a while. It just made no sense why they thought the provincial government would make less a mess of the job of running the subways and light-rail systems than the city. It turns out that what they are really proposing is changing the ownership on a lease-back type deal.

It seems when Toronto Mayor John Tory saw the idea, he also asked if they were that crazy. He had no idea how they could keep Toronto’s transit running in an integrated manner. It turned out that the Brown Conservatives only want to have the assets on their books instead of on the city’s books. By having tangible assets behind the debt, it becomes a way to hide other debt.

It is all sleight of hand. Now you see it, now you do not see it. Debt enables accountants to do their magic. As long as it is a lien against a substantive asset, it effectively disappears. You have balanced your books.

I was surprised as a business executive when I learned that the goodwill of the company was whatever you needed to make the balance sheet balance. Provincial governments certainly do not seem to build up much goodwill. They do need assets to offset debt. That is why it always seems a desperation measure when the politicians want to sell off assets.

Only a banker would have told the Kathleen Wynne government to sell off Ontario’s Hydro One electrical distribution network. They could have kept the golden goose and sold off the Liquor Control Board. The booze network is worth far more than the sum of its parts and the liquor taxes keep on giving.

But why would Wynne care about that? She could make herself look foolish announcing new booze outlets at her friends at Loblaws.

But it is Patrick Brown we are dissing today. Obviously, his accountant friends had come up with this great idea to take the transit assets away from the city. They have no thought of running the system but they have far more use for the transit assets than the city people.

But, as I said when this first came up, kids just love playing with trains.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Does Ontario come with an owner’s manual?

Saturday, December 2nd, 2017

Maybe Patrick Brown forgot to ask. It has been clear that Premier Kathleen Wynne has been playing the job by ear for the past four years. It is just that the former do-nothing back bencher from the Harper government wants Wynne’s job. The Globe and Mail tells us that Brown is a pragmatist on steroids and the Toronto Star’s Rick Salutin thinks he is merely returning to the zeitgeist of the Bill Davis era in Ontario.

As very few of us understand Rick Salutin, we have to go along with the Globe and Mail on this one. The only problem is that the Globe points out that some of the Conservative promises are more liberal than anything the Ontario Liberals are offering. Maybe Brown’s model is the Trudeau government in Ottawa.

All we know here in Patrick Brown’s electoral district is that the putz will say anything to get elected.

The only thing I regret is that the Conservatives must have read my criticisms of Kathleen Wynne’s Cap and Trade system. They are absolutely right to get behind the federal carbon tax. While it must be causing apoplexy in some Toronto board rooms, the carbon tax is the most open way to force people to help save this planet.

But nobody ever suggested that the carbon tax should fund personal income tax cuts. A proper carbon tax is designed to be revenue neutral and only a Libertarian would see it as a chance for tax cuts.

If any among us has had time to study all 147 promises in that Conservative work of fiction, they must be wondering where the cuts are hiding. You can hardly move that much revenue to popular promises without cutting the hell out of some critical programs. You have to figure that doctors’ incomes will be the only safe zone in the health care budget. (With the help of Brown’s campaign manager, Walied Soliman, greed won control of the Ontario Medical Association this past year.)

While the men in suits that seemed to dominate the Conservative gathering were applauding the new Patrick Brown, there was a feeling of déjà vu to the events. It felt like a piece meal plucking of a goody from here and a goody from there. Yes, Brown had a new haircut but it was the same schmuck we have known for years, reading the teleprompter.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Promises and Political Promises.

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

The magazine style “policy platform” handed out to the Ontario Conservative elite at their get-together last weekend is a style of political literature that was developed many years ago. The glossy magazine is a strong sales style that the voter might keep a bit longer. Adding a full-page guarantee was an idea that popped up occasionally when the writers ran out of policies. The only drawback is if you win the election, the people who keep the magazine the longest are your supporters and they will notice how few promises you keep.

The problem with promises are that governments are elected to govern and the minutia of day to day governance, their party ideology and reality get in the way of keeping promises such as a chicken in every pot.

But you are the sucker who believed them.

The other problem with all the promises made is that they are mainly half-baked, ill-considered ideas that are presented in very positive terms. These are not necessarily panaceas.

Some are very bad ideas. An example of a very bad idea is the one the Conservatives are making about taking over the planning and building of subways in Toronto. What they are suggesting is taking the process from one set of incompetent politicians and giving it to another group of incompetent politicians. The only difference is that the people affected will have less say.

Frankly, if a third of the election promises of any party are ever addressed, the voters should be surprised. One of Canada’s best loved Prime Ministers in the last quarter century was Jean Chrétien. His 1993 Red Book of promises was a work of fiction that was supposedly based on the Liberal Party’s Aylmer Policy Conference. Did he rid us of the hated Goods and Services Tax? Did he cancel the North American Free Trade Agreement? Of course not!

What is the most serious flaw in all these promises is that you need to understand the people making the promises. You need to decide whether these people really have your best interests at heart? If Patrick Brown has been a social conservative all his life, would you wonder at why he now says he is not? If he never had an idea in his life that helped people in Ontario, why does he now promote all these helpful ideas? Do you think we would elect him if he told the truth about himself?

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

A station ghosts have forgotten.

Tuesday, November 28th, 2017

As the winds of yet another winter blow through the beautifully restored but empty train station by Kempenfelt Bay, you wonder at the foolishness of Barrie’s city council. In the words of an old television series, they see nothing, they know nothing.

The story of the train station started about 700 years ago when nomadic aboriginals would sometimes camp at the shallows at the south-west corner of Kempenfelt Bay to fish and enjoy the cooling breezes from Lake Simcoe. There might have even been some disputes with other tribes about the right to camp there.

Europeans only started showing up 300 years ago when the area served as a portage point on the way to the head of the lakes. It was about 200 years ago that a village started at the portage on the north side of the bay and a village called Allandale started at the south-west. Trains have been coming to Allandale since 1853.

Today, Allandale is in the centre of the City of Barrie and the train station lands have become the de facto GO Train terminus and bus station. The only problem is that the preserved train station (built in 1905) remains unused. GO Train services are all automated, tickets are in a machine, buses pick up and discharge passengers. The only problem is that nobody knows anything and nobody sees anything. Only ghosts are in residence.

My barber, who has a small shop near the bus entrance, has noticed one problem. People who have to wait for a bus or train have no amenities. There are no snacks or coffee purveyed and there are no washrooms. When in need of a washroom, people sometimes ask her. She does not really have public facilities, but she is not cruel.

When the small business owner asked her local councillor about this problem, he assured her there were facilities. She checked the entire site again and realized that her local councillor did not know squat. So much for him.

When she told me about the problem, I checked with Barrie’s mayor. He acknowledged the problem. But it is Metrolinx’s problem, he told me. They are responsible for the GO Trains, buses and facilities but not the unused train station. It is an historic site, owned by the city. It might be a long time before it is open to the public for any purpose.

It seems nobody is in any rush. With the discovery of some possibly human bone fragments on the site that could be 200 or 700 years old, the Ontario Coalition of Indigenous Peoples (OCIP) has demanded that the land and the station be turned over to them as an aboriginal burial site. Since other local aboriginal tribes and groups seem skeptical of OCIP’s bonafides, there has been no rush for the city to give away a multi-million dollar restored train station and the site.

But nothing more is expected until the Wilfrid Laurier associate professor of Indigenous studies hired by the city gets around to a fourth level study of the site next summer, looking for historical artifacts.

It  seems like a long time to wait for a washroom.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Patrick’s pathetic policy pantomime.

Monday, November 27th, 2017

It was a come from behind event. Ontario Conservative Party Leader Brown hosted a party event over the weekend. Some of the media had noticed that he had no policies. He therefore had an event to announce some policies to start building the scenery for next June’s provincial election. He had already set the centerpiece by refusing to vote for an increased minimum wage and improvements in Ontario’s workplace standards. He was coming from behind until this weekend.

Since the event was in the British Christmas pantomime style, it was based on fairy tales, slapstick and rather broad humour. It was an event to please the children.

My favourite policy promise was that the Conservatives would take over subways from Toronto. Children love playing with trains. Instead of Toronto having an integrated transit system, the Tories would likely disintegrate it.

But, you will love these promises, the Tories say they are going to cut taxes, spend more, take another 12 per cent off Hydro prices, balance the books and pay down the provincial debt. And if you do not believe that he can do it, he is giving you a written guarantee. I bet that really convinces you of Patrick Brown’s sincerity!

Maybe that is why if you buy into Brown’s promises and elect him, he will spend $1.9 billion more on Ontario mental health needs.

It seems Brown has searched Ontario history so that he can find a Conservative that Ontario voters actually liked and he could try to copy. He had to go all the way back to the days of Bill Davis. While many liked Bill when he was Premier—because he has always been a stand-up guy—it would be taking Ontario back about a third of a century while we have to live with the realities of today.

But there were other new realities as well. On the weekend, the party was introduced to the new Patrick Brown. Yes, there has been another remake. He was sporting a new haircut. The first effort did not take and he had gone back to looking like a nerd.

Brown still does not seem to be a hot item with the ladies but he wants to prove he is warm hearted. To do this, he notes he has sleepovers for his sister’s three boys at his Toronto pad. He also tells us that he has been faithful to the promise he made his mother when he was nine-years old. He still does not drink alcohol. There was no mention of the change in marijuana rules coming in July next year.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

There’s a great job opening here.

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017

This is not your standard help wanted situation. Into every life there is an opportunity that comes knocking. This is an opportunity beyond your wildest dreams. It is fame and fortune. There are no limits. You just have to seize the opportunity. It is not for the faint of heart.

To start with, you had better like people. That will be a unique experience here. Male or female hardly matters. Likeability is key. Life experience or education matter. You better like hard work. And the harder you work, others will work harder to help you.

This is a political job. There are many good people in politics today but we need more. If you are old enough to vote and young enough to want to build a better future for all, we need you. You have to be a leader among people and a team player with the Liberal Party.

Did we mention Liberal? Nobody goes to Queen’s Park to get things done if they are not connected with a political party. This could be your party. And it needs leadership. It needs a progressive hand at the wheel. There will be an opening in leadership coming soon.

And that leadership needs someone with a clear vision of what Ontario should be. It needs someone who can attract young people and show them that politics can deal in the possible, be the peoples’ problem solver and lead.

Think of the recent events in the Montreal mayoralty race. Valérie Plante was a first term councillor. Few were complaining about the business as usual attitude of incumbent Denis Coderre. Plante won because she excited the Montreal voters.

We want the same type of excitement in Ontario electoral district of Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte.

The last Liberal to run in that riding lost by just 86 votes. (Federal vote recount, 2015.) In June 2018, the Conservative candidate will be Patrick Brown. The difference will be that these people know Patrick Brown. They know he did nothing in Ottawa. They expect nothing from him in Queen’s Park. They think they are supposed to vote for him because he is the party leader. They would really like to have someone more interesting.

Are you that person? You can apply to the Ontario Liberal Party at 10 St. Mary Street in Toronto, if you wish. I can also supply names of key Liberals in the riding, if that is what you want. What I can promise you is this: Brown can be beaten.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Watt’s ugly leopard doesn’t wash.

Sunday, November 19th, 2017

We might be mangling some metaphors here but Jaime Watt can never wash the spots off that ugly leopard. The head of Navigator Ltd., Mr. Watt has spent many years advising Conservatives in the fine art of winning votes. He might be taking on too much of a challenge to try to sell us on Ontario Conservative Leader Patrick Brown.

Watt tells us in a recent op-ed in the Toronto Star that he believes that the Ontario Liberals have been the government in Ontario for the past 14 years because they are keen political operators and they connected with Ontarians. I think he jests!

The truth is that after the experience of being pissed on by Conservative Premier Mike Harris, the Tories have taken a long time making any comeback with Ontario voters. They had even endured three terms of ‘Premier Dad’ McGuinty and then seemed prepared to replace his replacement with a Conservative.

It almost happened but someone advised then Conservative Leader Timmy Hudak that he should promise to fire a hundred thousand Ontario civil servants. He did not understand that he was threatening the jobs and family stability of more than a million Ontario voters.

Coincidentally, Timmy made that promise to an audience at the Barrie Country Club. Patrick Brown (then a backbencher in Stephen Harper’s government) was the first person to jump up and congratulate Timmy on his brilliant idea. He probably realized then that Timmy would be vacating the leadership job soon.

And contrary to Jaime Watt’s view, Brown’s taking the leadership of the Ontario Conservatives was no accident. It was a carefully planned and executed con job. And in taking the leadership by less than fair means, Brown has turned loose all that is mean, unscrupulous and disgusting about Conservative activists in Ontario. Lawsuits and even a charge of fraud are being made over how people have been trying to win nominations.

Watt wisely concludes that the Liberal brand is struggling these days and that Brown is there to take advantage of it. Watt says this is why Brown is trying to shed all his former extremist positions that could offend voters.

Watt seems to think it is mean to suggest that Brown acts as a weather vane on policies and yet uses Trump’s strategies of vilifying his opponent.

Frankly, Mr. Watt’s reasoning does not appear to be a particularly good sample of Navigator Ltd.’s strategic thinking.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The withering world of Premier Wynne.

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

Most successful politicians feed on their egos. It is what carries them through the tough times, the questionable times and eases their doubts and concerns. It also blinds then to the disasters of their own creation. For Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, it is her ego that prevents her from realizing that she is head of a less and less viable political party. Little is left of the Provincial Liberal Party structure she took over from former premier Dalton McGuinty.

And the dry rot of the Ontario party that is so evidenced in constituencies across the province has finally been discovered in the heart of Toronto. It took a wake-up and a shake of his head for former deputy premier in the McGuinty government, George Smitherman, to find that his once vibrant party organization in Toronto Centre is now moribund.

Not that it matters for George! When some of his supporters suggested him as a provincial candidate again in his Toronto-Centre constituency, they were told that he is unacceptable as a candidate. It seems no has-beens need apply.

The reason, we hear, is that the riding, which is centred in Toronto’s gay community, is being offered by the premier to Toronto councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam. A publicly declared lesbian, Wong-Tam is better known as a New Democratic Party supporter and she most often votes with the downtown NDP councillors. It is hard to imagine Wong-Tam running for the same political party as the right-wing Liberal councillor Shelley Carroll. Carroll has been appointed as Liberal candidate for Don Valley North in North York.

You will note that the Liberals seem to appoint their candidates in most ridings today as the Liberal party continues to deteriorate under Wynne’s leadership. In Barrie, we have the embarrassment of the provincial party not even seeming to have a constituency association to support a candidate in the Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte electoral district. Maybe some sacrificial lamb will be chosen closer to the election to put up a few signs and serve as the Liberal candidate.

The fact that it is the electoral district chosen by Conservative leader Patrick Brown makes it seem doubly foolish. Many Barrie residents are in a mood with Brown to reject him as a candidate and the Liberal Party, if it were run properly, would accept the challenge of encouraging the best possible candidates to contest an open nomination. Patrick Brown can be beaten.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The anti-women legacy of Patrick Brown.

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

Patrick Brown was first elected to the ultra-Conservative Barrie, Ontario city council at age 22. As a Barrie councillor, he fit right in. It took him another four years to win election in the local federal electoral district and be part of the back-bench yes-men for Prime Minister Stephen Harper. It was in Ottawa, that he showed his true social conservative colors and voted against women’s rights and same sex marriage. His legacy in Barrie is that of a repressive environment that makes Barrie one of the worst cities in Canada for women.

A recent assessment by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives places Barrie as number 23 of a list of 25 Canadian cities in their addressing women’s needs. The study measures local concerns such as economic security, health care, community leadership, educational opportunities and security within the community. Barrie is a sorry case.

While you can hardly blame it all on Patrick Brown, his lack of interest in women’s issues, his social conservative upbringing and the apparent dislike of him on the part of single women tend to mark him as part of the problem, instead of a solution.

The basic conservatism of city council does not help either. It hardly matters if the mayor wants to show leadership or not. The mayor alone cannot fight recalcitrant attitudes among city staff nor continually pit his or her one vote against the rest of council. Leadership takes a lot more political smarts than we have seen in the last three mayors of this poor benighted town.

One of the efforts in which Patrick Brown thinks he can claim Brownie points is the serious problems the city has had in providing doctors for a rapidly growing population. His solution was to allow doctors to cherry pick their ideal patient list and if those selections did not include the aged or chronically ill, that was tough on those people—the last ones who should be left to walk-in clinics.

Where Barrie has suffered the most is that nobody is taking a serious look at the type of businesses the city is attracting. Call centres and retail work do not contribute many high paying jobs. The council think that financial companies’ computerized back rooms are a big deal but they contribute only about one well-paying job per 100 square metres of space for the computers. Well-paying jobs for women take considerations such as day-care opportunities and after-school activities. These are not concerns, politicians such as Patrick Brown worries over.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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