Buffalo Declarations and other Bull.

February 25th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

There is an odour emanating from the politics of self justification in Alberta. And it is not that of the wild prairie rose. It is the greed and the false tears and it is the manure that helps it grow.

I remember as a young man, standing at the government dock on the shores of Cold Lake. I was looking across the water as I waited for the Beaver (the kind that fly) to come in on its floats to take me further north. I remember thinking this is awesome country.

But it does not need these avaricious politicians who pander to millionaires and foreign resource robbers who tear into the ground to attack our heritage and despoil our future. It does not need these mindless politicians who pander to their voters by blaming eastern politicians for their shortcomings.

Did all Alberta politicians fail Economics 101? Do they not realize that Teck Resources quit the idea of the largest, most polluting open-pit mine in the tar sands because the company realized that it could not make money? Any smart investment analyst will tell you there is no future in bitumen. There is no booming market in oil futures.

But then we have to contend with the ignorance of the Buffalo Declaration that underlines Alberta MP’s political efforts to undermine our Canada. Please, please tell me in what way is Alberta not an equal partner in this Canada?

And, for God’s sake, in what way is Alberta culturally different from the rest of the country (other than Quebec)? I have always found that I get excellent and friendly service in Calgary despite whatever accent people from Ontario might have.

The four Alberta politicians who wrote that silly Buffalo Declaration are not speaking for all their constituents nor is their whining very helpful. It is an interesting counterpoint to the LEAP Manifesto of the NDP. It is also going nowhere.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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It’s Barnum and Bailey Time.

February 24th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

It’s pandemic, it’s frightening, it’s Barnum and Bailey Time. The circus has come to rescue politics from crushing boredom. In America, in Canada and around the world, the clowns, the aerialists, the lion tamers and the bareback riders are doing their stuff in the realm of politics. And it is the World-Wide Web that rules.

Whether it is by blogging, or Facebook, or twitting, or using YouTube, we have the power. We have the power to inform or to misinform. To lead and to mislead. And we should be afraid. Be very afraid. The crazies can use that power against us.

This occurred to me on the weekend as the democrats gathered in Las Vegas to play craps with the future of America. And Michael Bloomberg was there to try to convince the party that their best hope is a billionaire, former republican from New York. And the democrats gathered around the craps table to see if Bloomberg could roll his point. He spent millions on the effort and he lost. Why would America want another braggart and billionaire to fear.

But you can hardly point to the Americans as the fools. The rest of the world have their own circus acts. Here in Ontario, we have that dumb-ass Doug Ford wasting millions in taxpayers’ dollars to learn how a province is run. If he bankrupts us in the process, of what value will be his knowledge?

And speaking of learning, Canada has a prime minister who has also been learning on the job. So far, without much success. He plays at Mr. Dress-Up, he looks better in grease paint. And how do you like him in war paint?

How about that world-famous aerialist Boris Johnson in the United Kingdom? If that guy ever looses his grip in the rarified air of the big top, he will make a hell of a mess in the sawdust of the middle ring.

And are you not glad that Emmanuel Macron of France had a whip and a chair to control the ‘yellow jackets’?

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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The Beer Store’s small planning error.

February 23rd, 2020 by Peter Lowry

It was reliably reported the other day that Ted Moroz, president of Ontario’s Brewers’ Retail Inc., that operates the Beer Stores, has reported making a mistake to his foreign owners. It seems there was a shortfall of about $13 million of the usual $400 million, or so, in revenue last year. And why he would not have planned for this shortfall is the critical question?

The real question is why did it come as a surprise? At a time when the government was hustling Loblaws and other large grocery outlets to sell beer, why would the Beer Store not realize that a part of their potential retail sales were leaving the nest?

What was really a surprise is that Moroz claimed that the drop was only $13 million. It is obvious that the constantly increasing prices, that are set by Brewers’ Retail, are covering up more than a simple shortfall on cashflow.

And this was at a time when the LCBO and the grocers were only allowed to sell singles or six packs. If you wanted a better priced, larger package, your only choice was the Beer Store.

It also pays to remember that Brewers’ Retail is a giant in the recycling business. With all alcoholic beverage containers being recycled through the one retail operation, I would really like to know more of the detail in the business’ cash flow. You can say it is a private company all you like but it is still a monopoly.

This is one of the real reasons that the threats from the foreign Brewers, who own about 90 per cent of the beer production in Ontario, are such a joke. They say they will sue the government if it wants to sell more of their beer in convenience stores. Does a dog bite the hand that feeds it?

And how many companies do you know that have their prices protected by the government to prevent retailers from having weekly specials on the beer aisle?

Doug Ford tells us that he does not drink. He just knows that Ontario beer drinkers have waited for a very long time to get even with those bastards who have controlled our beer. Go get ’em, tiger!

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Planes, Trains and Ski-Doos.

February 22nd, 2020 by Peter Lowry

There is no more of an icon of business to Canadians than Bombardier. The company had its beginnings in 1935, with the snow coach designed by mechanic Joseph-Armand Bombardier. Since then, the company has experienced all the thrills and frights of a seemingly endless roller coaster ride of acquisitions, spin-offs and fire sales of entire divisions. And do not forget the generous government funds, to periodically rescue the company. Still, in the past five years, the company is reported to have lost 50 per cent of its value.

Bombardier today is a maker of private jets. One model is currently the largest of all corporate jet aircraft. The company has enough orders in hand to stay in business for the next two years. Then it might have to look for the next corporate saviour.

Corporate jets are a very volatile market. It has its feasts and famines. Most corporate jet manufacturers are also in the much more stable military aircraft business. The military is always in the market.

But Canada lost out on the military market in 1959 when the irascible prime minister John Diefenbaker said the Avro Arrow cost too much. He put 50,000 Canadians out of work. He made a bonanza of talent available to high technology firms in the U.S. Canada lost more than the fastest, long-range fighter aircraft in the world at the time but we chased away many of the technologists who were building it.

I was thinking of this when bemoaning the lack of high-speed trains in Canada. Despite the complaints about the high-speed Amtrak trains for the U.S. and the delays with the Toronto streetcars, Bombardier was the company that could give Canada the leap ahead into high-speed/green-energy train service across Canada.

This is the project that Canada needs to bring it into the 21st Century. It is the project that can pull this country back together. All we need are some politicians with guts and vision.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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The difference between men and boys.

February 21st, 2020 by Peter Lowry

It seems that the difference between men and boys is generally believed to be the size of their toys. We might see a real-life difference soon if former MPP Steven Del Duca wins the leadership of the Ontario liberals. And, then again, we might find that Del Duca is not all that different from Ontario premier Doug Ford.

They both like playing with trains. They do not seem to like just being observers. They want to pull on those engineers’ caps and toot the whistle themselves. Organizationally, Ford should leave the job to his transport minister, but since that is currently Caroline Mulroney, she knows far less than he does on the subject—not that he knows much!

Del Duca, at least, did a stint as transport minister under Kathleen Wynne. He got demoted before he could get Metrolinx to add a GO station in his riding. Not only is it considered a no-no at Queen’s Park to interfere with an arms-length planning agency such as Metrolinx, the station in Del Duca’s riding had already been considered and found unnecessary.

But we should all be more curious about Doug Ford’s ‘Ontario Line.’ This is a Toronto subway line that starts from nowhere—somewhere around the Exhibition Grounds—and ends up at the extremely busy junction of Don Mills and Eglinton Avenue. It makes you wonder just what he has in mind for the Lake Ontario end of the line? And why is the plan feeding that supposed relief line into an already congested junction at the Eglinton end?

But his problems are hardly as obvious as when Ford wanted the provincial police to provide him with a large van with a bed in it for him to tour Ontario. We will have to write that one off as inexperience. Our only concern might be if Ford ever gets to understand his job. He would be even more dangerous than he is now.

Mind you, two years from now, Ontario voters could be faced with continuing to write off the NDP and having to choose between a more experienced Doug Ford and a Steven Del Duca, who understudied Kathleen Wynne.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Reading compliments into comments.

February 20th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

It was not until about the third rereading of a complaint the other day that I recognized the compliments in it. And I am pleased to report that most of the comments on Babel-on-the-Bay are complimentary. Though not always.

When you write a daily commentary on the topic of politics, I must admit that there are some days that the hot cup of coffee does not warm you to the subject. And a daily effort can be demanding. The other day, on the subject of The land the law forgot, the complaints were heated.

The most interesting was one from a gentleman in Toronto who described himself as a Canadian Senior Citizen. Since it did not contain any scatological words, I will pass some of the comments on to you. I will let you judge.

The first sentence was that this was “Very likely the most disappointing post (from me)” he has ever read.

I will take that as a compliment. My regular readers are precious to me.  I am not writing to piss them off but to, hopefully, inform and entertain.

He further tells me that my post was “Shallow, uninformed, biased…even lazy.” Which he found “quite surprising.” So do I.

I think I had best plead guilty to the ‘lazy.’ These are not supposed to be learned tomes. They are intended to be brief and breezy, easily digested, comments on the state of our politics.

I was also appalled that this senior citizen should accuse the RCMP of having snipers on Wet’suwet’en territory. This story appears to have originated in the United Kingdom and has no credibility. And, as far as I know, the only rifles in the Mounties’ arsenals are carbines with which they might hit the broad side of a barn from less than 10 metres.

But I stand behind my comments in The land the law forgot. There is considerable depth behind those few comments and a deep concern for our native peoples. I fault the politicians, who say much and do little.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Not all pipelines are created equal.

February 19th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

It would appear there are questions about pipelines that are dividing this country. They are dividing people, they are dividing scientists, they are dividing concerned environmentalists. The only problem is that maybe 10 to 15 per cent of the population understand what the argument is about and the other 85 per cent will take a stand anyway.

As a writer I have always taken some pride in my ability to research complex issues. I think I have spent most of the last two days researching Coastal Gaslink’s pipeline proposal and actions on this file and I honestly cannot fault the company. I see that they have done a responsible job in meeting the concerns of the government and of the native peoples whose lands they are crossing.

These Coastal Gaslink people are laying a 48-inch pipeline to transport natural gas within B.C. that is far safer and far more environmentally friendly than the twinning of the Trans Mountain pipeline to pump tar sands bitumen to Vancouver. I, quite honestly, would rather have neither, as I fear the long-term consequences of shale fracking for natural  gas, but, between the two, Trans Mountain is a disaster waiting to happen. A leak from the Trans Mountain pipes can be irreparably destructive; a leak from the Coastal Gaslink pipe dissipates in the wind.

It is important to remember that natural gas does not become LNG until it is cooled to -160° C. That only happens to load it on a specially-built ship.

Yet all the general public hears is that pipelines are safer than trains and/or that pipelines are bad. Most people neither know nor care about what is being shipped in either. Nor are many drivers in Canada and the United States aware that most of the carbon-based fuel for gas or diesel powered vehicles and equipment arrives in their area via a vast network of pipelines.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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The land the law forgot.

February 18th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

We have heard the prime minister say more than a few times that Canada is a country of law. What does not seem clear is the question of applying these laws to Canada’s native population. Are they not given the protection of our laws? Are they allowed to cherry pick the laws they like and the laws they do not think apply to them?

And one thing we know for sure is that there is no ‘Divine Right’ of hereditary chiefs. These people have a position only if their tribe gives it to them. They have no position in dealing with legal matters with outsiders. And they are not above the law.

And how do you expect the rest of Canada’s population to respect the law if natives are immune to it?

The situation has gone past ridiculous. We even have stupid non-native Canadians supporting them. The other day, we saw some ignorant people bring supplies to the Mohawks blocking rail lines in Ontario. It is a bad time of year for these particular Mohawks to carry out their traditional importing business across Lake Ontario.

When you think of the time and trouble those pipeline people took to negotiate a deal with the elected band councils in B.C. and the natives can, with impunity, trespass and block the normal course of commerce in other parts of Canada, there is something wrong.

Mr. Trudeau should realize that this is very, very wrong. He should be allowed to take some time to do his foreign affairs thing while his cabinet do their jobs in his absence. Instead those wimps in his cabinet are having so-so conversations with people who are breaking the law. Where was his vaunted deputy prime minister when we needed her?

Canadian history is not particularly crowded with Indian wars such as they had in the United States. The only real punch-up we had was with the Métis on the Prairies. All I know is that we try to respect Canada’s aboriginals and we hardly get much love in return.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Coteau fights on for Ontario leadership.

February 17th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

In an e-mail the other day, Michael Coteau promised his supporters that he will fight on against the status quo for Ontario liberals. With Steven Del Duca poised with a majority of elected delegates, Coteau stands Canute-like challenging the tides. It will be decided quickly on March 7 at the Mississauga International Centre when the ex officio voters join the delegates from ridings and various liberal clubs. There is little reason to expect a majority of ex officio voters to vote for party reform. They have an invested interest in the status quo.

With the Del Duca campaign orchestrated by Queen’s Park denizen, Tom Allison, I have no expectation of any surprises. Allison was the supposed organizing guru behind both Ontario liberal leaders Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne.

While my days at Queen’s Park pre-dated Allison’s, I always wanted to keep the party moving forward. I felt that Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne would have been more comfortable in a conservative government. I did give McGuinty credit for his better protection of the Ontario environment and cleaning up the mess left to Ontario by the Mike Harris conservatives.

But I saw Wynne as reactionary and more interested in the news conferences about what she intended to do rather than the actual action. I was appalled at the manipulation she did in the deal with Glen Murray, the MPP in Toronto Centre, the week before the delegated convention that chose her as leader of the liberal party. By his stepping out of the race at that point, he dropped all his delegates into the independent category, knowing the ones from his riding would vote for her. The move added to the corruption of an already corrupt system of choosing the leader.

I do not trust Stephen Del Duca to be a progressive leader of the liberal party. Real liberals can do better.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Playing with trains.

February 16th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

Is Gillian Steward, formerly with the Toronto Star, now working for Jason Kenney’s pipeline and bitumen propaganda war room in Calgary? In an opinion piece labelled “Shipping oil by train is too dangerous.” Steward seems to be framing the argument for the Trudeau cabinet to move ahead on the Trans Mountain pipeline despite the new $12.6 billion price tag for twinning the line. That approval will then trigger approval of the massive Teck Resources Frontier open pit tar sands mine in North-Eastern Alberta to feed bitumen to the pipeline.

But in the meantime, Canadian National and Canadian Pacific railways have procured thousands of tanker cars to meet the needs of the landlocked industry. The province even stimulated that tanker car acquisition by buying 4000 of them.

Having some of those tanker cars getting derailed is not good advertising for the railways. Two of those derailments near Guernsey, Saskatchewan are being touted as clear evidence that rail transport is not safe. Maybe there would be some believers if we just knew exactly what was in those rail cars and what caused those derailments.

First of all, diluted bitumen is not all that flammable. A lot depends on what material has been used to dilute it. And why would transport minister Marc Garneau tell the railways to slow down rather than getting them to inspect their tracks more frequently?

Raising the spectre of Lac Mégantic in 2013 has nothing to do with the transport today of bitumen. In that disastrous incident, highly flammable crude oil from the Bakken fracking operations in North Dakota was mislabelled and carelessly handled. It was a disaster just waiting to happen.

And, for another matter, not all tanker cars are carrying crude oil. Many materials can be carried in these cars. These materials need to be properly identified and precautions taken when necessary. I always assumed mislabelling is a criminal offence.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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