Posts Tagged ‘Trudeau’

Waiting for Mr. Trump.

Monday, February 6th, 2017

The reporters and pundits are causing unnecessary concerns. Does anyone really believe that Justin Trudeau cannot handle a meeting with Donald Trump? What is to worry about? Trudeau meets Trump; each takes a couple selfies; they ask about the respective families; tell each other, we’ve got to get together for a state dinner sometime and kissy, kissy, goodbye. And then act coy with the media.

It is a no-brainer for both leaders. Is there anything that Donald Trump does not think he knows about Canada? Is there anything that Donald Trump might know about American history that school teacher Trudeau does not already know?

Do you think it might be a contest of egos? They both have lots of that. We have never seen Trump without a shirt but he is a lot older than Trudeau and arm-wrestling might be out. Nor would either care to try to outdrink the other. These guys have nothing in common. The possibility that Trump might be a billionaire is not something that would matter to Trudeau. He is comfortably off and would not be impressed. And he knows better billionaires.

And does Trump even know that Canada is a signatory to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)? Does he have a clue as to how the Canada-U.S. Auto Pact came about and what the almost 50-year old agreement means to both countries?

If Trump dares to tear up NAFTA, Americans are going to find that the fool is playing a zero-sum game. Trade is a two-way street. For every Canadian or Mexican he puts out of work, he can count on losing an American job. Trump could drive all of North America into a depression.

The truth is that Donald Trump is a bully. We all saw how he backed off when he met the Mexican President during last fall’s campaign. He gushed like a school girl when meeting British Prime Minister May recently. He will be hopelessly jealous of Trudeau’s relative youth and good looks.

But he does not seem to multi-task well. That can be beneficial to a business person who takes on one task at a time but the U.S. presidency requires an incumbent who can quickly move from one problem to the next. The Canadian’s visit will be a vague memory the day after they meet.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Weep not for vote reform.

Saturday, February 4th, 2017

Among each successive generation there are those who seek to change how we elect our representatives to run our cities, our provinces and our country. Good for them. It is important that we think about it. We need to be sure we have the best system possible. And we do. Now that we have completed our study, we have moved the file to the bottom of the pile as there are other issues to address.

You will notice that Prime Minister Trudeau did not dispense with the department with the removal of Mariam Monsef as minister of democratic institutions. He gave the job to M.P. Karina Gould who is also a newcomer to government but with an impressive curriculum vitae. And while taking away voting reform in the new mandate letter, her challenges are no less daunting.

The Senate situation is far from solved. Appointments to our courts, commissions and crown corporations can hardly be handled by elitist selection committees. The concern for cyber security implies that the government and Elections Canada would like to move firmly in the direction of Internet voting. There is certainly a long way to go in bringing some sunshine on political fundraising and spending by parties and third parties in elections. Launching an independent body to arrange election debates is also long overdue as is fixing the falsely named Fair Elections Act. And if she can find time to address the problems with the Access to Information Act, the prime minister thinks it will be a job well done.

But what the prime minister fails to address are the concerns about his power and the control over the government exercised by the Prime Minister’s Office. This could be the greatest challenge we face. Every time someone says that the Donald Trump situation could not happen here, we wonder how much worse it could be. There are checks and balances in the constitution of our neighbours in America that do not exist in our parliamentary system. There could easily be a time when Trump will wish he could shut down Congress as easily as our prime minister can prorogue parliament.

Canada has a constitution designed for a parliamentary system rich in precedent. All we missed was the precedents. Maybe because we never had to contend with an Oliver Cromwell, we lack some safeguards.

It is about time Canada took a hard look at its constitutional problems. It might even justify the cost of a department to worry about our democratic institutions. It is also long past time for our country to assemble a democratically elected constitutional parliament to propose some constitutional amendments to the voters. God knows we cannot get our politicians to address the mounting problems.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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The fix in foreign affairs.

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

When Stéphane Dion was so unceremoniously dumped from foreign affairs by Prime Minister Trudeau, all most people could say was they hoped it worked. How would you feel if you were the new foreign affairs minister and the PM kept casting about for the advice needed to handle the situation in Washington? And how does anyone keep tabs on that fast-changing scene?

And it hardly matters a damn if our new Minister Chrystia Freeland knows all about Washington. If she does not understand Donald Trump, she is just going to be one more example of road-kill on the Beltway. Nor does it help if she has the keys to Foggy Bottom. (Foggy Bottom is an older area of the District of Columbia where the Department of State is located.) The bad news is that anyone of any importance at State Freeland might have known is gone. They were not fired. The department leadership listened to Trump, studied Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State and quit en masse.

And there is little hope for Freeland’s second line of defense, her media contacts. Those of her contacts still in the profession are busy digging their foxholes around the White House as Trump and his alternative facts people check their Ouija boards for the news facts of the day.

Frankly there is more reason for concern about our day to day relations in Washington with Trudeau appointee David MacNaughton heading up our embassy. After the pitiful performance MacNaughton turned in during the 2015 election campaign, his political pay-off should have been a poorly located shoe-shine stand on Sparks Street in Ottawa.

And if Trudeau is waiting anxiously for an invitation to meet Trump, frankly he should be busy that day. Trump has already shown his hand. With the Mexican president already having told Trump to get stuffed, Trump wants to make allies of those nice Canadians. What he also expects is a quid pro quo for approving the damn Keystone XL pipeline. Obviously, we need to convince the fool that it is more to his benefit than ours. He probably moved on it prematurely because he wants to keep Trudeau and Mexican President Peña Nieto from ganging up on him. He has probably been told by now that renegotiation of NAFTA would take from two to three years and would probably not benefit the U.S.

And Freeland could never pull a stunt with Trump such as she pulled in the deal with the European Union. She would be playing right into his hands. If she walked out on him, she would find herself declared persona non grata.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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As the world wearies of Trump.

Thursday, January 26th, 2017

This is a bad sign. A world becoming wearied of President Trump already? It signifies an acceptance of something abnormal and dangerous. When the king seats his fool on the throne, is the fool now king?

And if you accept the largess of the fool while the fool sits on the throne, are you not the greater fool?

When a Trump triumphant fouls the fabric of common sense, silences science, pardons polluters and panders to the providers of pipelines, is he not the fool?

But are those of us concerned about our environment being gamed? There are many steps to go before this Keystone XL pipeline is put into its bed of earth. In the two years of delay given to us by President Obama, other routes have been utilized. And is there really a need for a glut of tar sands bitumen reaching the Texas Gulf ports when the pipeline is finished?

And who are the real fools when Prime Minister Trudeau and Alberta’s Premier Rachel Notley cheer approval of President Trump’s executive order to bring the pipeline back on the construction schedule? Are there really jobs to be saved north of the U.S. border? Or is it just more destruction of the Alberta landscape as settling ponds overgrow the environment.

An Associated Press photographer was allowed into the Oval Office to photograph the President with his signed executive order. It was interesting to see the increased bagginess under the eyes, the unkempt white hair, the growing flaccidness of his 70-year old face and the hardness of Mr. Trump’s expression. This is a man pushing himself as though the devil is about to foreclose on their pact.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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When a leader betrays a Canadian legacy.

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

There was a time back in the Pearson-Trudeau era when tensions ran through English-French relations at the usual flash points in Montreal and Ottawa. And those of us not fully bilingual were the bruised. It is sad to tell of the disappointments suffered from those you had supported so fiercely.

That is why so many Canadians were understandably annoyed with Justin Trudeau last week in his Quebec town-hall meetings. For the Prime Minister to refuse to answer an English language question (about language rights) in English to an Anglophone questioner was both ignorant and ridiculous. If his late father had been witness to that immature lack of judgement, he would have wanted to spank him.

Justin Trudeau used the thin and fallacious argument that as they were in Quebec, he should answer in French. Somebody got to him afterwards and it needs to be reported that he did apologize later but the damage was done.

Insulting people over their limitations in one or another of our official languages can be very foolish. Many of us have spend a great deal of time and money over the years to try to improve our fluency. This is not always an easy task when you do not have an ear for languages. Back when this writer was building a new Quebec division of the Canadian Multiple Sclerosis Society, it was necessary to give a series of talks to people across Quebec. It took a great deal of discipline and practice to learn to give those talks in French. It was very gratifying in some ways that in the question period afterwards that people assumed a competence in the language that really did not exist.

But it is also why we laugh, in turn, at millionaire Kevin O’Leary who seems to think he is God’s gift to the Conservative Party. This guy, who was born in Quebec, more than 60 years ago, attended Quebec colleges and Royal Military College Saint-Jean where he could have become bilingual—and did not. It is just so unlikely that he could become bilingual at this stage of his life that it is laughable.

The last federal Conservative leader in Canada who did not speak French was John George Diefenbaker. While a conservative populist, as O’Leary considers himself, Diefenbaker respected Canada’s official languages. O’Leary has obviously never cared.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Even an elite Senate needs direction.

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

It seems you cannot keep a newspaper person from writing. Even with a sinecure such as a guaranteed salary for sitting in the Senate (until age 75) former La Presse editor André Pratte keeps writing. The past week it was a piece he wrote for the Toronto Star on why an evolving Senate must adapt.

As a so-called independent senator, Pratte might just be biting the hand that feeds him. Mind you, he does say that the institution is changing at “lightening speed.” Whether for the better would be a judgement call. He does say that spending controls are in place—an improvement to be sure.

The only qualification on this lightening speed of change is that they do have to wait until enough senators turn 75 and retire for the independents to really rule the roost. The only problem he notes is that the independent senators are disorganized. Well, what a surprise that is!

Why it should matter is anybody’s guess. Elites in our Canadian society tend to be apolitical. You hardly have time for politics if you busy being an elite and loved by one and all. Elites are typically above the political. They look down on it as a tawdry profession.

And that is who Prime Minister Trudeau is busily putting in the Senate as soon as space is available. Basically, they seem to be people who consider their new profession to be beneath them. Do they only take it for the money?

Back when we had political parties in the Senate, we knew what we were up against. With Trudeau’s elites running the Second Chamber you will never know what you are getting.

It seems that Pratte has found out that the Senate of Canada has considerable powers and he deplores the coming lack of direction without the political guidance that was there in the party senators. He even thinks that this situation needs to be rethought. He does not seem to have any idea how the lack of political guidance can be fixed.

Obviously Prime Minister Justin Trudeau never thought it through either. It was just another thought from the lip. He really needs to book some thinking time into his daily schedule.

And as for writer Pratte, we suggest that he reread George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Finding out why some pigs are more equal than others might help him understand Canada’s Senate dilemma.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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When a friend gives a friend a lift.

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

This is not the prime minister’s problem. It must be the ethics and conflict of interest commissioner’s problem. This commissioner acts independently and reports to parliament on those issues that might involve the ethics or any conflict of interest on the part of federally elected persons. We hear that she is currently looking into a helicopter ride for Prime Minister Trudeau and his family to reach the private island of the Aga Khan in the Bahamas.

Forget the fact that the Aga Khan is the world-wide spiritual leader of about 25 million Ismaili Shia Muslims and he is one of the most progressive (and richest) leaders in the Muslim world. The Trudeau’s spent their Christmas break visiting the Aga Khan—who is a family friend.

And what do you do when a family friend sends a car to the airport to pick up you and the family. You accept graciously. You do not worry about checking first with the ethics and conflict of interest commissioner. It would be rude to the family friend. Do you offer to pay a friend whatever the cost for driver and fuel might be? Really?

The fact that the car in this case is a helicopter is irrelevant. If you can own an island in the Bahamas, having a private helicopter is just a convenience. There is only one major commercial airport for all those islands and having a helicopter is a smart move. And since it is the Aga Khan’s helicopter you would expect it to have both first-class maintenance and maybe even some divine intervention when flying in rough weather.

The ethics and conflict of interest commissioner has a tough job. We often wondered during the Harper years where the line was drawn for the PM’s personal hairdresser. It is certainly obvious that Justin Trudeau does not have a hairdresser, no matter how badly he needs one.

And we also think that the PM and his family have a complaint for the ethics commissioner. It is about the news media. Parliament goes to a good deal of expense and inconvenience to accommodate Canada’s fourth estate. They block corridors, ignore fire regulations, set up microphones where they want and generally create a nuisance. And to make matters worse, when the PM and his family want some private time on a family break, the media are complaining that he must be doing something sneaky and secret.

Christmas might be a Christian holiday but the entire country understands that Christmas and New Year’s are important times to be with family and friends. The ethics commissioner needs to remind the press gallery about their lack of manners.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Put in a word for us when you see the PM.

Saturday, January 14th, 2017

So, what are you going to tell the prime minister? He’s coming to see you. You just need to contact your Liberal M.P. to get an invitation. He is not coming to our riding. We lost to the Conservatives by 86 votes.

And please do not ask the PM if it is cold enough for him. He is a Canadian. He knows about our winters. Besides, he just got back after he and the family spent some warm time at the Bahamian island of the Aga Khan.

But now it is back to reality and the grind and the PM wants to know what is on your mind. The poor guy has so many newbies in his cabinet that they are not making as much progress as he would like. He wants you to help kick-start them with some good ideas.

And believe it or not, he wants to spend money. Lots of it. He not only promised us a deficit of 180 billion dollars but there is more if you need it. His finance minister Bill Morneau wants us to buy into an idea where we get investors around the world to pay for our infrastructure needs. All these investors with deep pockets have to do is pay for it and they get a nice revenue stream once the idea starts to make money.

One idea is that now—if ever—is the time for Canada to get into the world-wide craze for high-speed rail lines. What we are talking about is getting from Toronto Union Station to Montreal Central Station in one and a half hours. That is far faster than by Air Canada, is more comfortable and does not pollute.

If you like, you can impress Mr. Trudeau by pointing out that we are just about the last major country in the world to join this parade. Tell him that in Uzbekistan, you can get from Tashkent to Samarkand (about the same distance as Montreal to Toronto) by a 250 km/h train.

The beauty of getting people to invest in trains and other forms of transit is that there is revenue flow. It means the investor can be assured of a flow of profit from the investment. Whether the investor is Canadian or European—where there are now hundreds of high-speed trains criss-crossing the continent (and England)—is not as important as our need in Canada to move people and goods efficiently and without pollution.

But that is our hobby horse. It is absolutely beyond us why there is so little progress in this field in Canada—a country that was created by railroads. You might have another idea that could be as good. Go for it. Justin Trudeau has come to listen.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Culling Canada’s Cabinet.

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

Cabinet making and cabinet tending are different requirements of a prime minister. Those were sunny days in late 2015 when Prime Minister Trudeau chose his first cabinet. Change can come quickly at busy times. What we have to realize is that his perspective on the need for change is quite different from our perspectives.

Trudeau has direct contact with his ministers while we get most of our impressions through the filter of the news media.

But despite this difference, we can well understand most of his changes. The most difficult for him must have been the retiring of foreign affairs minister Stéphane Dion. While we will reserve judgement on replacing Dion with newcomer Chrystia Freeland, the job could be more of a challenge for her than she expects. Misogynists such as Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin will tend to ignore her.

And she is following a class act. Stéphane Dion got a bum rap from the Liberal Party and voters. No, he does not communicate well in English but he is probably the smartest foreign affairs minister we have had since the days of Lester Pearson.

Trudeau had to do something about democratic institutions minister Miriam Monsef. Watching her in action has been a bit of a surprise. She has that porcelain prettiness of Persian women without their usual reticence. It was her outspokenness in dumping the blame on the special committee’s report for a lack of direction in her portfolio that got her in the most trouble.

The only surprise was the removal of John McCallum. There was a point late last year when we were curious about the reported comment of the immigration minister that we should go slower on accepting Syrian refugees. That seemed to be the opposite to Trudeau’s gung-ho approach and we were wondering if McCallum’s natural conservatism was running counter to Trudeau’s neoliberalism. Any rift between them could not be that bad if McCallum is now being trusted to handle relations with China as our ambassador. Bejing has the capability of replacing much of the trade we currently have with the United States if Trump foolishly tears up the North American free trade Agreement (NAFTA).

We will have comments on the newbies in cabinet once they have been briefed and ready to talk to the media.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Let’s march to our own drummer.

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

It was hardly a surprise when the Prime Minister’s Office said he was not attending Donald Trump’s inauguration in Washington next week. Frankly, the Canadian prime minister would just be in the way. It was more of a surprise that he would not be attending the concurrent world economic conference in Davos, Switzerland. It seems that our Prime Minister has decided he would rather talk to some Canadians that week.

It reminds us of the 1972 federal election that Pierre Trudeau almost lost because he said he was going to have a conversation with Canadians. It was because of that resulting minority government that Pierre Trudeau brought more political people into his office and gave Liberal organizer Keith Davey his old job back.

But there is no concern over our current prime minister missing Donald Trump’s inauguration and ‘celebration.’ And, frankly, the after parties could be quite depressing. Nor would Trump would want someone younger and better looking to compete with on the inauguration stage. He suffers enough just standing near outgoing President Obama. Obama’s eight years in the Oval Office have certainly greyed his hair but he is still a lot younger than his replacement.

It was quite a reach the other day when a writer tried to compare the impact Franklin Roosevelt had as President of the U.S. to the potential impact of Donald Trump. Trump might be a change-agent businessman but he is a special maverick breed of businessman: a developer. They play by different rules. It is like in the movie business, you are only as good as your last blockbuster. And besides, Roosevelt cared about people other than himself. Many would argue he was the greatest President Americans ever had.

Somebody must have said something to the powers that be in the Prime Minister’s office about the perceived elitism of our prime minister. Last year at the Davos gathering of the rich and famous, Justin Trudeau was the flavour of the month. Maybe there were just too many pictures fed back to Canada of him cavorting with the moneyed of the world. This year, those of us who belong to the hoi polloi get him.

We certainly hope that we will get him more fairly distributed than when the special parliamentary committee on electoral reform visited with Canadians last summer. More than 13 million Canadians in Ontario got a half day visit in Toronto while many smaller provinces got two or three visits.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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