Potholes on the Yellow Brick Road.

January 28th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

While the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and the Cowardly Lion are still planning their trip with Dorothy to the Emerald City and the October election in Canada, it is best to check for potholes. Peering into one of these potholes the other day, I saw Canada’s former ambassador to China sitting in it and wondering how he got there.

This is a serious hazard for the Cowardly Lion. It took Justin Trudeau almost a week to fire our politico-cum-ambassador. The arguments must have raged at the Prime Minister’s Office but it took a second attempt to put foot in mouth that got McCallum bounced. And nobody ever said McCallum was wrong—wrong to tell the truth, maybe.

It is against this news background that author Jonathan Manthorpe is making hay selling his new book on China, Claws of the Panda. I have not read it yet but I am still waiting for Jon to autograph my copy of his first book, The Power and the Tories about the Bill Davis government in Ontario.

Interestingly, while Jon was in China trying to fathom the depth of the country’s munist government, I was watching Beijing extend its influence into Canadian-Chinese news media. I had the impression that those people understood more about the future of newspaper publishing than Conrad Black, Paul Godfrey and Torstar’s John Honderich, bined.

My best source of information at the time were the many delegations from Beijing that I took on tours and entertained for a puter pany. They usually assumed I was a fellow technologist and they always enjoyed their visit. It earned me many invitations from other high level visits from Beijing.

But it is Hauwei’s inscrutable technologies and the extradition of Hauwei executive Meng Wanzhou affair that has the Canadian public wondering. First of all, explaining 5G networks is a tough job and how this technology can give Hauwei access to state secrets is not an easy subject for politicians to digest.

But then you also need to understand Canada’s relationship in the Five Eyes which allows us to listen in on everybody else. Which begs the question is how the hell is any of this explained to a dolt such as Donald Trump? And that clown has someone with all the nuclear codes sitting outside his door?

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Copyright 2019 ? Peter Lowry

plaints, ments, criticisms and pliments can be sent to? peter@lowry.me

First pick a direction.

January 27th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

It is ridiculous that people are speculating about the possible leaders of the Ontario liberal party so soon. We do have a choice. And the old adage says, we can decide now and repent at leisure. As we have mentioned before, we first want to figure out where the party is going.

Looking back at the provincial scene, it is hard to say what direction the party was choosing when it chose the leader first. Kathleen Wynne’s background was touted as left wing but quickly proved that, if she had any direction in mind at all, it was liberal socially and conservative economically. The exception was in her last campaign when she opened the left-wing floodgates and confused the voters.

Her predecessor, Dalton McGuinty was an old-time middle-of-the-road liberal who did a good job on schools and protecting the environment but he was very bad in managing people—particularly those in his government’s cabinet.

The only recent liberal premier before that was David Peterson—basically a nice guy who proved to be a neoliberal. While the province was ready for what he offered, he failed to build any rapport with Ontario voters.

What Ontario voters are really looking for in Queen’s Park is a to have a party in power that really is there for the people. This is a government responsible for the delivery of effective Medicare in the province, as well as ensuring that we have schools, colleges and universities that meet our needs for today and tomorrow. It is the level of government that deals with our daily living, our municipalities, our infrastructure (roads and bridges and public transit), our environment and a myriad of services that contribute to our quality of life.

These services require a government that understands that we are individuals with individual needs. We are not a collective. Nor are we necessarily petitive. We are not satisfied with minimal cost services. We want the best services at a reasonable cost. We want to be respected in the delivery of the services in a friendly society.

Real liberals believe in that type of society.

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Copyright 2019 ? Peter Lowry

plaints, ments, criticisms and pliments can be sent to? peter@lowry.me

“Keep your enemies closer.”

January 26th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

Born in Chicago in 1901, my mother never did entirely lose the biases of her upbringing. She was something of a traffic hazard the way she drove her walker in the seniors’ residence in downtown Toronto where she spent her final years.

I remember one time she was proudly telling me how she got her fellow seniors out to vote for our new provincial attorney general in the David Peterson government. While it was mon knowledge that Ian Scott was gay, he considered it a personal matter and it was never mentioned publicly when he ran in politics. I will never know what perversely caused me to say to mother that the Toronto gay munity would be appreciative of her seeing the light.

The trouble was, she was smart as ever and when she realized what I was telling her, she proved she was as feisty as ever, even in her nineties. And yet she had raised six children and I have never heard a discriminatory or intolerant word from any of my siblings. We lived in the heart of the Church and Wellesley neighbourhood as children and knew at a young age far more about human sexuality and tolerance than many people ever learn as adults.

But my point today is that I am deeply disappointed with the Toronto LGBT munity. (And I do not add the ‘Q’ to that because I have never called anyone ‘queer’ in my life and I am not going to start now.)

What I am concerned about is Toronto’s Pride Parade. It is beyond understanding that there are people in the munity who are set on destroying the best example of openness and tolerance that we have ever known. I understood it when it was just those ‘Black Lives Matter’ wannabes who were causing trouble just to get attention for themselves. Now you have people denying the inclusiveness of the parade to try to keep uniformed police out of the parade.

Whatever the hell is their plaint about Toronto police, they should take it to the Police Services Board. The Pride Parade is a place for all.

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Copyright 2019 ? Peter Lowry

plaints, ments, criticisms and pliments can be sent to? peter@lowry.me

John McCallum is no diplomat.

January 25th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

Canada’s ambassador to China never was a diplomat. He is a politician. Maybe he has always been too much of a neoliberal to my taste but he finally did what Justin Trudeau could not. He told the truth about the situation of chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou of Huawei. And he made it public.

As much as it might have been an error to appoint the Markham, Ontario, politician to the ambassadorial post, it certainly paid off when Justin Trudeau and his staff did not seem to understand the political implications of the Huawei executive’s detention and possible extradition to the U.S.

Trudeau was wrong to simply use the argument that Canada is a country of law, conflicting with the Chinese oligarchical system of governance. U.S. president Donald Trump opened a door by saying that the U.S. could use the charge against Weng as leverage in the current China-U.S. trade dispute. For the U.S. to use the case as leverage in a trade dispute could be grounds for a Canadian judge to deny the extradition.

Also, ambassador McCallum mentioned the extraterritorial factors, without elaborating. It is assumed that he was referring to the U.S. lawmakers’ penchant for creating laws that pertain to actions in countries other than the U.S. These are rarely recognized in Canada.

And that is the third factor the ambassador mentioned. He noted that the Iran sanctions on which the case against Huawei is based are not recognized in Canada. John McCallum is not a lawyer but it sounds like he had some good advice from some lawyers before he made his ments.

McCallum can even say he was out of line, later. He is unlikely to want to put that genie back in the bottle.

And when the prime minister goes out of his way to not criticize his former cabinet colleague for going off the approved (?) talking points, one wonders if the entire scenario was not planned carefully? It is certainly possible but I do not think the denizens of the Prime Minister’s Office are that smart.

Bravo John McCallum.

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Copyright 2019 ? Peter Lowry

plaints, ments, criticisms and pliments can be sent to? peter@lowry.me

Ford follows Forrest.

January 24th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

Remember the famous line from the blockbuster film: Forrest Gump??? It was “Stupid is as stupid does.” The point was that stupid people keep on doing stupid things because that is what they are.

But if the Economic Club of Canada audience gave Ontario premier Doug Ford a standing ovation for his speech the other day, who is stupid now?

Mind you, there are those of us who recognize the private pany, known as the Economic Club, as offering events that are nothing more than profit-making entertainment for egos. You should hardly confuse the pany’s ‘pop-up’ audiences for its events as necessarily having anything to do with the study of economics.

And for the premier of Ontario to stand up before the news media and that audience and encourage the belief that a carbon tax would take Ontario into a recession is irresponsible. The man has absolutely no credibility in the field of economics nor a realistic basis for his claim. At the same time, there are media panies that delight in scandalously using such claims for shock headlines.

What real economists consider the minor impact of any carbon taxes, is premier Ford’s bogey man. He was there to create fear. He is looking for public support for him to wage a war with prime minister Trudeau. Luckily, to-date, Mr. Trudeau has mainly ignored his claims.

As it is now, Mr. Ford has launched a storm on social media with economists and others who recognized the ridiculous nature of his claims. Social media do tend to remind you of the old joke on the t-shirt that have an arrow pointing right or left and say, “I’m with stupid.”

But for the citizens of Ontario, Ford reminds them almost every day of the adage of Forrest Gump’s momma who always said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.

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Copyright 2019 ? Peter Lowry

plaints, ments, criticisms and pliments can be sent to? peter@lowry.me

The dynamics are different.

January 23rd, 2019 by Peter Lowry

When talking about dynamics in politics, we are talking about what will influence the political oute. And in looking at the uping by-elections in three federal electoral districts on February 25, we have to deal with each district as a separate entity.

Reading the tea leaves for the three by-elections is especially important because these will be the last federal by-elections before the general election scheduled for October, this year.

The plexity starts in Burnaby South. The electoral district in Vancouver, B.C. was previously held by Kennedy Stewart of the NDP. Mr. Stewart resigned to run successfully as an independent candidate for Vancouver mayor. He strongly opposes having the Trans Mountain pipeline expanded and ing through the city to transfer diluted bitumen from the Athabasca and Cold Lake tar sands to ocean tankers in Burrard Inlet.

Despite the resignation of the initial liberal candidate, her replacement is a former Speaker of the B.C. Legislature, also of Chinese heritage. With 38 per cent of the district population of Chinese descent, he has the same base as the previous candidate.

If the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh can get out the word forcefully that he opposes the Trans Mountain, he will likely get a lot of help in getting out his vote. Mind you he will have the prime minister and lots of cabinet ministers in the riding smothering the voters with kindness.

Pipelines are of nowhere near the importance in Montreal’s Outremont electoral district. The NDP consider this riding important in that it was former NDP leader Tom Mulcair’s seat. It is also a must-win seat in October for the liberals if they are to hold their majority in parliament.

The third by-election is in Ontario’s York-Simcoe electoral district. The fiefdom of federal conservative Peter Van Loan for the past 14 years, York-Simcoe was a cake-walk for conservative Caroline Mulroney in the recent provincial election. The conservatives could be too confident.

Like all by-elections, the key in all three districts is identifying your voters and getting them out to vote. To do that in February takes far more volunteers than the areas can produce. They will need help from other electoral districts. In by-elections, it is the party with the best ground game that wins.

If the liberals win none of the by-elections, they are in trouble.

If the liberals win just one of the by-elections, it will mean the October election will be hard fought.

If the liberals win two of the by-elections, it means the status quo in October.

And if the liberals win all three of the by-elections, the Toronto Maple Leaf hockey team is also likely to win the Stanley Cup.

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Copyright 2019 ? Peter Lowry

plaints, ments, criticisms and pliments can be sent to? peter@lowry.me

Wishy-washy on the Wall.

January 22nd, 2019 by Peter Lowry

It is beginning to look like there is some daylight between president Donald Trump and a faction of his Republican followers. It happened last Saturday during Trump’s speech to save his wall. He was using people already in the U.S. to trade for the $5.7 billion he needs for the initial parts of his wall. He was offering a stay of deportation for the DACA people (Dreamers) who know no other home than in America.

And, as expected, the Democratic leadership in Congress told Trump to ‘Get stuffed.’ Not that anyone can be proud of their stance while hundreds of thousands of American government employees continue to be unpaid. Mr. Trump continues to hold these people up as hostages.

But that is Mr. Trump’s choice. He has chosen to make the government employees suffer while he petulantly demands that the American taxpayers pay for his ill-considered wall. He promised that wall to his claque of followers in the 2016 election. He even promised them that it would be at no cost to Americans. He, somewhat stupidly, promised those people that the Mexicans would want to pay for the wall. Since then, the Mexican government has made it very clear that they do not pay for obscenities such as walls.

In this current Trump fiasco, he is going tit-for-tat with a very experienced politician in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She has even disinvited him to make the customary State of the Union address to congress at the end of the month. His only response, so far, is to cancel the Air Force jet that was going to take Pelosi and a House of Representatives delegation to the Middle East.

And so, it continues: Mr. Trump would rather play childish games. He would rather have close to a million government workers and their dependants angry with him for keeping their paychecks from them. At one time, he had almost 63 million Americans vote for him. He keeps finding ways to cut down that number of supporters.

And, even worse for Trump, he is angering his extremist supporters who want him to start deporting the DACA people right away. They think he is going soft on them.

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Copyright 2019 ? Peter Lowry

plaints, ments, criticisms and pliments can be sent to? peter@lowry.me

An Olive Branch to Alberta?

January 21st, 2019 by Peter Lowry

It was last April when Babel-on-the-Bay mented on the Toronto Star’s Quisling-like coverage of the Alberta tar sands quandary by Star business writer David Olive. We were pleased to note the other day that Olive has seen the light. In a recent opinion piece, he suggests that Albertans should get serious about the province’s future.

Olive picks up on the Alberta tendency to ride the rollercoaster of oil-industry feasts and famines. He even points out that most of the oil money profits (when they happen) go to out-of-province investors rather than to the citizens of the province. What he considers as inexplicable is the province’s lack of forward planning.

Olive is old enough to remember the heyday of Burns Foods and Gainers when Alberta was processing world-class beef products for Eastern Canada and world markets. The province also seems to have turned its collective backs on the high-tech potential out of the University of Alberta and a strong dairy sector.

While Olive still panders to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) desire to call bitumen ‘heavy crude,’ he admits that he is astonished that Calgarians, particularly, seem to have no concept of how long it takes to get a pipeline approved and built in Canada. (And if Jason Kenney thinks it is because we believe in democracy; tough beans.)

Olive says he is surprised by Albertans who seem to think everyone other than themselves is to blame when the price of crude oil drops. He is surprised that Albertans still do not understand why Peter Lougheed urged economic diversification. They would much rather damn a Trudeau for their pipedreams.

What surprises me about Olive’s article was his thinking that all bitumen mining in Alberta is open pit. That is the impression that CAPP seems to encourage by using the old news clips and pictures from Suncor. People in the east seem unaware that most bitumen is now flushed up from deep underground by forcing hot water down to the bitumen seams. Those wildlife-killing settling ponds that are taking over the northern Alberta landscape are the residue from bitumen extraction.

And Olive does not think premier Rachel Notley helped inter-provincial relations by saying in a Toronto speech recently that Canadians who are not lucky enough to live in her province were holding Alberta up for ransom. No doubt she could also improve relations by stopping those false-news mercials that say doubling the Trans Mountain pipeline is good for all Canadians.

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Copyright 2019 ? Peter Lowry

plaints, ments, criticisms and pliments can be sent to? peter@lowry.me

Parsing the political petulance.

January 20th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

Had an opportunity the other day to measure the mood of local liberals after the humiliation of last June’s provincial election. It was the annual meeting of the provincial party for Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte in central Ontario. All you had to do was mention premier Doug Ford and eyes rolled and teeth gnashed.

This electoral district was a rollercoaster of possibilities from the confused conservative events of January 2018 through to a very disappointing election day. We started with Ontario conservative leader Patrick Brown as the known candidate to tackle and ended up losing the electoral district to a parachute candidate, a carpetbagger appointed by Doug Ford.

It was not the largest turnout I had seen at an annual meeting for the liberal party in the area. It was a predominantly male group and the average age had to be close to 50. There was a definite lack of younger liberals. This group has its work cut out for it.

But the numbers were better than expected. The demographics were of concern but it was an unfamiliar location for the meeting and the wind chill outside was down to about -16 C.

And, we lost all three of our invited speakers. They were three of our seven MPPs from Queen’s Park who are testing their possibilities for a run at the party leadership—and all from Toronto. Two begged off with colds and the third was a no-show. (More about them another time.)

Once the business of electoral district elections was out of the way, the chair (a former MPP himself) asked for an open discussion of why the liberals lost so badly last June. He introduced the theme himself: anger.

There was general agreement on the anger. Where the disagreement emerged was the nature of that anger. Some thought it was just that the liberal government had run out of gas. Some thought it was Premier Wynne herself—she certainly came across as arrogant.

What worried me was those who thought the liberals had veered too far to the left and needed to e back to a more middle ground.

Personally, I think it is the reverse. Wynne is really one of those liberal socially and financially conservative liberals who tend to confuse the voters. And she made her own mistakes. The Sudbury candidate fixing fiasco was never forgiven. And the selling off of part of Hydro One was seen as bad advice, badly executed. The rest was just chatter.

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Copyright 2019 ? Peter Lowry

plaints, ments, criticisms and pliments can be sent to? peter@lowry.me

Trump can: You can’t.

January 19th, 2019 by Peter Lowry

Social media are a trap just waiting for the unwary politician. While I have tested some of the major social media apps, I try to stay away from them like the plague. They are not mainstream. They are not only overrated but they are for people who need to get a life. And what makes you think you can convince a non-voter to go to the polls and vote for you?

But social media do present a problem for the serious politician. It has bee part of the munications mix. You should always be careful to understand the demographics of the programs. You need to have people from within that demographic to look after what you feed it. I never advise candidates to do their own entries. Check it occasionally but you have far more important things to do.

Your job is called pressing the flesh! And you best keep the pressing to a firm handshake. Meeting the voters and making a favourable impression is your job. And if you do not like doing that, stay out of politics. And do not say or write something in Mandarin or Punjabi or Urdu that you think is exclusive to your supporters. The listeners and readers are not all your supporters.

And it is very important that you remember that Donald Trump in the United States can get away with saying something stupid. It is expected of him. He can say something stupid and he is still president and a billionaire. You say something stupid and you might be toast like the gal who was supposed to be running for the liberals in the Burnaby South by-election.

It would also be wise, if you are supporting a particular political party and want to be a candidate, to stick to supporting the party’s positions on the current issues. And it is also wise to be very careful of adding anything to the party position. What seems logical to you might not be logical to other party members and candidates.

A candidate is always criss-crossing the electoral district, meeting groups, attending all-candidate meetings, coffee parties, and talking to individual voters. You have to be everywhere and be noticed as being everywhere. It is what candidates do.

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Copyright 2019 ? Peter Lowry

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