Same-old, same-old Tory party.

May 5th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

This conservative leadership contest is a disaster. What started out to be dull and boring has been made doubly dull and boring. We are now advised that we will know who has won the conservative party leadership on August 27. Surprise, surprise, Peter MacKay will likely be crowned. Boring wins again!

This mentary could probably end with that one paragraph. That is all it is worth.

But it seems that likely loser, Erin O’Toole, has a strategy. He is supposing that, for some reason, a slim majority of party voters decide that Peter Mackay is the most boring of all candidates. There are four candidates and O’Toole’s strategy is to try to be every conservative voter’s second choice. That way, in a tighter race, he could win on the second or third count. That is the beauty of the conservative ranked-choice balloting: It elects the most acceptable, not the most preferred.

What it means is that O’Toole needs to run a campaign savaging Peter MacKay and building up the confidence of the two other also-rans. He has to keep those other two in the running.

Mind you, it might be tough to keep social-conservative Derek Sloan in the race. When the MP made the gaffe of attacking Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief medical office of health, last week, many of his fellow conservative caucus members were calling for his head.

There might be other reasons to keep Leslyn Lewis in the race. It seems that $200,000 is a lot to spend on proving that the conservative party is not the white-bread party of old. When you listen to her social-conservative views, it is hard to think of her as a popular member of Toronto’s black munity.

But even if Peter MacKay’s campaign never does shake its doldrums, O’Toole is almost as boring. He reminds us of the Porky Pig character that used to break through the drum at the end of Looney Tunes cartoons, saying, “Th-Th-That’s all folks.”

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Copyright 2020 ? Peter Lowry

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And children should lead them.

May 4th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

The educators in Quebec might be smarter than we thought. Sending the children back to school is not as foolhardy as you might think. It will do much for the sanity of parents. It is even more beneficial for the children. These are immature minds that need to learn. They need the interaction with their peers. They need the structure of the classroom.

And there is also risk. We have been told that children are less likely to be carriers or to bee sick with covid-19. The major concern is for them to take the virus home with them or pass it to their teachers.

If I were a Quebec parent sending children off to school, I would want decontamination materials ready at the door when they got home. I would decontaminate them first and then hug them.

But it would be unlikely to take long to see if the opening is premature or not. There needs to be some constant testing. No society can afford to make teaching any riskier, than it is already. Nor do we take unnecessary risks with our children.

It appears that Quebec and Denmark will be the pioneering jurisdictions that will either prove or disprove the case. Denmark is doing a gradual opening, starting with younger children this month. Quebec is opening its schools after the May 24 weekend.

A key to the Quebec program will be that the parents are not required to send their children to school so soon. It is optional. This is likely to reduce class sizes which will make it easier for teachers to maintain some separation and to speed up the learning process. The students have already missed too many weeks of school.

It also needs to be noted that Quebec is still suffering the ravages of the virus. The worst of it is in long-term care facilities and seniors’ residences. The logic for Quebec’s Legault government is that if the schools can bee functional so can day-care facilities and that means, employees can be heading back to work. And the sooner that happens, the sooner we can start work on an economic recovery.

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Copyright 2020 ? Peter Lowry

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Glen’s coat of many colors turns Green.

May 3rd, 2020 by Peter Lowry

Former mayor of Winnipeg, former member of the Ontario legislature, former Ontario cabinet minister and former executive director of the Calgary-based Pembina Institute, Glen Murray, has a new quest. He wants to replace Elizabeth May as head of the Green Party of Canada. It might not be one of his best ideas.

What best illustrates the problem with Murray is when you google his name and the Pembina Institute. What you get is two announcements. One is his appointment as executive director of the institute and then, a year later, is his resignation. It makes you wonder what happened in between?

The only statement of interest about the resignation was made to a reporter at the time. It was the information that he was returning to Winnipeg, and ‘No, he was no longer interested in politics.’

Murray was the first openly gay mayor of a large Canadian city. When he came to Toronto, he quickly became part of Toronto’s large gay munity and when the local MPP stepped down, Murray was acclaimed to run for the liberals. He won in 2009 and served in the liberal cabinet over the next eight years in the portfolios of innovation and research, transportation, and environment and climate change.

Murray even ran for the leadership of the liberal party. He gave this up to make a deal with Kathleen Wynne two weeks before the convention. He virtually gave her the role of premier of Canada’s largest province. And served in her cabinet until his resignation in 2007. It was the next year that the party was decimated in the general election and conservative Doug Ford became premier.

The only acplishment that Murray took the credit for in the liberal cabinet was the implementation of cap-and-trade to lower carbon emissions. If this is what he has to offer Canada’s green party, they need to understand that cap-and-trade is something that is very hard to explain to the general public. It is carried on out of public view and requires lots of explanation to the voters.

Doug Ford killed cap-and-trade in Ontario as soon as he took over as premier. The voters will probably never know how much it cost them.

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Copyright 2020 ? Peter Lowry

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Trudeau’s triumph.

May 2nd, 2020 by Peter Lowry

Fess up, guys, prime minister Justin Trudeau has won. The wonder kid has changed his spots and been exactly what Canadians have needed. Santa Claus came early this year. Even Bob Hepburn of the Toronto Star says that the Trudeau haters have been proved wrong.

While I pointed out a while ago that Trudeau lucked into his ideal positioning, I have had to admit that he has handled it well. He might still be an elitist but even an elitist can accept his good luck.

But I must admit that his appearances out of the cuckoo clock at Rideau Cottage have worn thin. There is no need for him to continue in his singles showcase and he can join with the hoi polloi from the cabinet and senior civil servants for briefings. Almost daily briefings make sense as long as the covid-19 scene keeps fulminating.

What Bob Hepburn is ignoring is that those Trudeau haters who blame Justin for everything, including the flooding in Fort McMurray, Alberta, will still hate him after the battle against covid-19 is over.

What I am hoping is what he has learned throughout this experience sticks with him. What has annoyed me about Justin in the past has been his unabashed elitism. You cannot remain elitist though when you are forced to understand the serious neglect our society has shown for those less fortunate. What he has seen so many times now that programs designed in Ottawa to reach these people are very hard to create and very difficult to manage.

What he has to understand is that the one-per cent with whom he has hobnobbed all his life are the ones who are out-of-step with being Canadian. I always got the feeling that the middle class to which he was always referring when campaigning existed only in his own mind.

I keep getting the feeling that this country is going to be very different after we shut the door on covid-19. I think we have learned too much about our short-ings through this first half of 2020, to ever want to be the same country again.

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Copyright 2020 ? Peter Lowry

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On this day in May.

May 1st, 2020 by Peter Lowry

Before we send out more distress signals, we need to take stock of our situation. We have been hiding in our homes for less than two months while essential workers carry on the battle of the pandemic. The ing battles will be to restore a battered and in-debt economy. And what, if anything, will be the same?

Anything close to ‘normal’ is months away from now. We still have to beat covid-19. We are not there yet. And how can we plain if this self-isolation is saving lives?

But what worries us is how we are penning up our most vulnerable in long-term care facilities, seniors’ residences and assisted living. It reminds me of the pens at the stockyards.

I have an older brother living in a classy residence in a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts. He is a virtual prisoner in his apartment, while very caring building managers keep him well fed and informed. My brother tells us that he wants for nothing but the one thing the managers cannot hide is their fear of this disease.

He was one of the brothers who joined a dozen family members yesterday in a meeting on the Internet program Zoom. It was noisy, disjointed and confusing, as is any meeting of members of my family. It was fun.

But it showed me that it is absolutely amazing that they could make a similar meeting for about 300 members of our Canadian parliament work—after a fashion. As I think I said the other day: they might learn how to do it if they had more professional help and would listen to those experts. To get it right, will probably take them until the next scheduled federal election in three years—or the end of the coronavirus pandemic, whichever es first.

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Copyright 2020 ? Peter Lowry

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Some people never learn.

April 30th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

Writing about the ministry of education in Ontario yesterday reminded me of the time in the early 1980s when I plained, loudly, that Dr. Bette Stephenson, then minister of education, was out of her depth talking about puters. Nobody would have noticed if I had not said it on the CBC evening news. As a frequent spokesperson for the Canadian puter industry, I should not have said her announcement of the Icon class-room puter was ridiculous. It was almost ten years before the ministry of education would agree with me.

The point I was trying to make at the time was that puters keep evolving, software is changing for the better (maybe) and different types of platforms are being introduced. It is not just Mac and Windows anymore.

I thought an amusing article in the Toronto Star by a harassed mother of three youngsters said it all yesterday when she found that three children in different grades need three different puters. The headline noted that she may chuck the Chromebook out the window. She found out what I was trying to tell the late Bette Stephenson, 40 years ago, the hard way.

It was why I laughed at the current minister when he first talked about puter-assisted education for Ontario students. I had a puter terminal in our kids’ playroom for a couple years around 1979-80 and I showed them how to access the General Education Development (GED) programs on it. I wanted to see how they reacted to the learning programs. They had little interest in the learning but quickly found the games. By the time he was 12, my son was already a backgammon wiz.

Developing puter-assisted learning is a very plicated marriage of puter expertise and teaching skills. It has to capture the interest of the student. It requires extensive testing and it has to be kept up to date. If you think it will save the ministry money, you have more to learn than the students.

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Copyright 2020 ? Peter Lowry

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Give Ford the credit he deserves.

April 29th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

Premier Doug Ford of Ontario had two choices. He could continue the bombast and bluff of his usual approach to politics, or he could learn from his mistakes and tone down the rhetoric. His new approach is far from perfect but it shows that unlike his first year as premier, he can learn. It is good to see, but is it a smoke screen or reform?

In the provincial briefings that he learned to do from Justin Trudeau, you get the feeling that he would prefer to do the act as a single. Maybe it was from watching Trudeau that he realized he had neither the glibness nor the experience. He always has some experienced political people at those briefings, to try to keep him out of trouble.

It was like the experience with the teachers. When Lisa Thompson MPP fumbled the 25-plus billion education budget in Ontario, she was just doing what she was told. She was told to save money. Thompson followed her conservative instincts, fired teachers and increased class sizes.

But what neither Thompson nor Ford seemed to understand was that it was the teachers and their unions that had been keeping the liberals in power until the 2018 election. They had awoken a sleeping giant. They reminded the teachers’ unions of their strengths. The unions savaged Thompson. They drew more attention to the Ford government’s ineptness in power.

Ford had to bring in the A-team. He had kept the smooth-talking Stephen Lecce, a young conservative who was trained by auto dealer Al Palladini and impressed Stephen Harper, in reserve.

When Lecce, in his sharp suits and sophisticated tonsorial style, appeared to settle down the teachers, the battle was joined. To Doug Ford’s disappointment, the battle was won by the teachers. Lecce, in a creased suit and badly in need of a barber has signed armistices with the major teachers’ unions.

But it was minor news pared to the pandemic. That is the ongoing battle that consumes us all. Doug Ford has learned some lessons. It will be interesting to see if he remembers them after Ontario gets back to work.

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Copyright 2020 ? Peter Lowry

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It’s all about politics.

April 28th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

There was a suggestion in the news the other day that few of us are interested in politics at this time. The assumption was that the coronavirus has chased politics out of the driver’s seat of the daily news. In my humble opinion, that is just so much twaddle. The coronavirus was not sent our way by all-powerful gods. We ended up in this mess because somewhere, some politicians screwed up.

The most reliable reports, at this time, are that the politicians in charge in Wuhan City of China were afraid to bother the top dog politicians in Beijing. They became concerned about an unusual flu that was going around. And then things got out of hand, like people dying. You know what happened when the bosses in Beijing found out.

Nobody wanted to hear the news from the world health folks either. When they declared the novel coronavirus to be a pandemic, nobody had any reason to be happy—unless they had a stockpile of personal protective equipment.

Somebody had let the disease dogs out.

To make matters worse, it was all run by the politicians. Some smart politicians listened to the advice of their medical experts and acted accordingly. Some did not like what their medical people told them and twitted their frustrations. That guy in the American white house, told us it was just a passing fancy. It would go away. The mess in the United States today can be laid at the feet of this man who nobody thinks of as a politician.

People such as Captain Canada, in the person of Justin Trudeau, saw a need for leadership. Despite his minority federal government, the prime minister drew the provincial premiers into his magic circle. What the news media see as political unanimity, you should know it for what it is: political opportunity. If our prime minister could just get a haircut, the world would return to normal.

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Copyright 2020 ? Peter Lowry

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Making a stand, in Dixie.

April 27th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

It is only appropriate. If any music is right for the coronavirus in the United States, it is Dixie. In the American Civil War, Dixie was the song of defiance and it took many from the American South to a needless and untimely death.

This came to mind the other day while trying to decipher one of those plex graphs in The Economist that was being used to try to explain the pattern of occurrences and rates of death from covid-19 across the United States of America. (This was in the North American edition of the British journal.)

Giving up on the confused graph, the real shock of the story, for me, was the ment in the last paragraph of the article that the states of Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee were relaxing their lock-down restrictions. Those rednecks in the heart of Dixie have probably had enough of governments telling them what to do and have decided to take things into their own hands.

The point of the Economist article was that the mortality rate for covid-19 was much higher in areas of higher heart disease and diabetes and with fewer hospitals equipped with intensive care units. That is a good description of that part of Appalachia.

The article also noted that the disease is also more prevalent in places where people are crowded together, such as in New York City. The difference is that in New York, there are good hospitals and a willing population that supports a governor who took the reins and knows what he is doing. Those factors can contribute to a lower death rate.

But we have been seeing on the news how the citizens of many of the southern states have been being more and more dissatisfied with restrictions forced on the population because of covid-19.

It is really a shame that the United States lacks effective national leadership in this time of crisis.

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Copyright 2020 ? Peter Lowry

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Ontario NDP: A party of survivors.

April 26th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

If you came to Ontario recently, you would have a problem figuring out what goes on at the provincial parliament at Queen’s Park. With that big blowhard who seems to be running things, this seems to be a one-party government. And you are even more convinced when you are told that the Pollyanna with the dimples is leader of the opposition.

This is Andrea Horwath’s eleventh year as leader of the Ontario new democratic party and everyone seems to wonder why? It is because she is not a leader. At best, you can say she is a survivor.

It was in the 2018 provincial election that the incumbent premier, liberal Kathleen Wynne, disgraced herself and her party by resigning before the election was over. It not only allowed Doug Ford and the conservatives to win a majority government but it left the new democrats as official opposition.

And it should be clarified that the NDP did not win the right to be the official opposition. They got the position by default. This was an election where nobody won. It was an election where everybody lost. And the voters lost the most. They were not all that sure what they were voting for. They were only sure as to who they were voting against.

It hardly helped the liberals that premier Wynne ran a campaign of seemingly more and more spending while lacking a rational reason for the voters to consider the party. The conservatives ran a consistent attack campaign on the liberals with promises of lower costs for gasoline, hydro and the unusual promise of $1 beer. When they actually carried out those promises, few noticed.

The first year and a half of the conservative government became chaotic as the government tried to lower expenditures on education, for example, by reducing the number of teachers and increasing class sizes. The biggest problem though was that they were picking on people who were willing to fight back. There was turmoil and there was only a small voice from the leader of the opposition. Nobody paid much attention to her.

And now we have a pandemic for the Ontario government to fight. Who needs an opposition at that time?

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Copyright 2020 ? Peter Lowry

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