A final act of vengeance by Conservatives.

July 3rd, 2015 by Peter Lowry

The last bill of the Conservative government passed the Senate and received Royal Assent last week. It was Bill C-377, MP Russ Hiebert’s controversial private member’s Union Transparency bill that will now become law in 2016.

This is without question the most vindictive bill passed by the Harper government. It was ridiculed and blocked from Senate passage two years ago in an effort led by by former Conservative Senator Hugh Segal. It is nothing but a blatant attack on unions to hopefully cause disquiet among their membership. Mind you if Hiebert had just been smart enough to include business in the bill, we might have said “Okay. If it is supposed to keep the union membership better informed, why cannot business also keep their shareholders and creditors better informed?”

As you can imagine, this bill will be removed from the books on the election of either a Liberal or New Democrat government. The National Revenue Agency will obviously have a go slow policy on establishing regulations, on-line forms and instructions until the agency sees the lay of the land after the October 19 election.

But the bill was about all you could expect from a Conservative Party flunky such as Hiebert. In eleven years of being paid to represent his British Columbia riding, this is his biggest accomplishment. It was the first private member’s bill presented to parliament in 2011 and the final bill passed when that parliament rose at the end of June, 2015.

Hiebert even sent out a gleeful news release to all and sundry (including Babel-on-the-Bay) saying how pleased he was that his bill was passed. We are glad that Mr. Hiebert is glad but we sure are not impressed.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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Outsiders need not apply.

July 2nd, 2015 by Peter Lowry

If there was ever a closed shop in Ontario, it is that bunch of bozos ruling the roost down at the Ontario Legislature today. As an insider in all of this, you have to be embarrassed by it. While we might have fallen a bit out of favour over the years, we can still remember the day when you could hold your head high as a Liberal at Queen’s Park.

What annoying act of pomposity that is stuck in the craw today is the permanent appointment of TD Bank’s Ed Clark as grand poobah of everything important at Queen’s Park. This is the guy who thinks the Weston Family Trust should sell beer in Ontario. Nobody elected Clark to anything. With all of that talent concentrated in her office, can we expect Premier Wynne to be send the MPPs to collective farms to earn their keep?

Ed Clark’s appointment as permanent chair of the Premier’s advisory council on selling off all the government assets, reminds us of that really stupid television commercial being run about Justin Trudeau applying for the job of prime minister. You wonder what those supercilious jerks would say when they considered the other two applications.

But did anyone else get a chance to apply for Ed Clark’s job? Was the position advertised? Are there any qualifications required? Do you have to be an ex-banker? We already have an ex-banker in the finance job. His name is Charles Sousa. Obviously Premier Wynne does not trust Sousa. Why does she not fire Sousa as finance minister and give that job to Ed Clark? We expect he needs to be elected to hold that position.

But look at all Ed Clark has accomplished while filling in as a temp worker for Ms. Wynne. He has got Hydro One poised for the big rip-off. The Liberal government has removed all over-sight from the deal and is now prepared to make those selling the stock to the public richer than they were before. All we know for sure is that the hydro user is going to end up paying for everything. Who else would pay for this mistake?

And, oh yes, we should not forget the three card monte of beer sales in Ontario. It is only one in three of the so-called super-grocery-and-everything-else stores in Ontario that will be selling beer. Why it is one in three must be to keep the public guessing which ones have beer and provide some leverage for the recycling people at the old beer stores.

Yah, we know. The whole beer and wine and alcohol sales business in Ontario is an out-of-touch mess. So is the government of Ontario.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Consider a kinder Canada.

July 1st, 2015 by Peter Lowry

Canada Day this year marks the start of the serious political barbecue season leading up to the October federal election. There are promises to be made, hopes to be raised and disillusionments to come. It is so easy to promise nirvana and so damn hard to deliver. Bitter reality could set in with the first bleak snows of winter.

But consider this: what if the promise was just for a kinder Canada? Where would we start? Would we look after the very young and very old in our country first? Would we do something about the way we so cruelly mistreat our native population? Could we consider a living wage as a minimum wage? Can we really care about our environment?

Maybe we need to prove to the world once again that we are a kinder country. For too long now, Canada has been turning its back on goodness, grace and generosity. Can we open our hearts to the displaced? Can we find food in our land of plenty for those in the world who are hungry? Can we reject the cruelty of mindless bombing? Can we once again be one of the world’s respected peacekeepers?

Can Canada refuse the ideologues and incrementalists among us and take the giant steps that a brave and daring population want us to take? Big needs beg big solutions. A national drug plan is a daring step that would improve our economy. A guaranteed annual income would show the world it can be done. In an increasingly urban country can we build the subways and infrastructure that can make our cities more liveable?

Medicare is a great Canadian success story but it can be much better. Old Age Security needs to have more security. And we need to be sure that the support for our youth is really supporting our youth.

And if we said “yes” to a kinder Canada, can we start with those who want to be elected? Can we get their pledge to never be satisfied with a day in Ottawa that they do not help Canadians and others in need? Can they guarantee their daily efforts will be to end strife, terrorism, conflict and confrontation around the world through peaceful methods? Can they go to Ottawa to make a better Canada and a better world?

Canadians want hope this Canada Day. They deserve no less.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Is Mulcair peaking too soon?

June 30th, 2015 by Peter Lowry

Gosh, reading and listening to some political pundits, you would think that the coming federal election is already decided. It is all over but the shouting. It is one of those times when you wish you could take all those bets from the suckers. Frankly, this political apparatchik would not bet on New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair for prime minister.

It is certainly interesting to try to imagine Thomas Mulcair as prime minister but reality keeps getting in the way. Recently we wrote about the New Democrat leader that Canada needs a prime minister, not a prosecutor. And it is easy to imagine him as a crown attorney. His style and focus in the House of Commons since becoming Leader of the Opposition has been precisely that. He goes after the Conservative government with a prosecutorial style that many crowns must envy. He is relentless, pains-taking, eloquent and thrusts deeply in revealing the error of the Tory’s ways.

But a prime minister has to be a leader. A person who wants to be prime minister can ill afford to get into a mud-wrestling contest with Conservative Party hatchet men. To allow himself to be accused of mismanaging funds provided by the taxpayers for the operation of MP’s constituency offices had to be handled firmly and immediately. It is an accusation that cannot be allowed to fester over an election.

He put his party policies out for all to see early. He was trying for political advantage but it was hardly an advantage when he stumbled in explaining his own plans. You have to do the simple arithmetic. You have to have the impact of new taxation at the tip of the tongue. You have to know where you are taking your party. It is hardly the role of the news media to try to explain your program.

And what is all this talk about being middle-class? The escape clause must be when he calls it his “middle class values.” That must be a person who is above being middle class but wants to be just plain “Tom.”

There must be a middle-class ghost somewhere in this on-going campaign. Everyone talks about the middle class but none of them are sure they have ever met anyone from Canada’s middle class.

Thomas Mulcair might think he has won. He might as well stay home.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Quebec’s edge of the wedge.

June 29th, 2015 by Peter Lowry

You have got to watch those guys! There is nobody slipperier than a Quebec provincial politician. If they cannot get you coming, they get you going. They have the God complex. They are so sure of themselves. They even think they can control the Internet. They already know they can control free speech—all that is left is a minor jurisdictional dispute with Ottawa.

Since the Internet is provided by companies controlled by the federal government, Quebec might have a few problems with this fight. The province wants to block all web sites offering on-line gambling other than the web-site owned by Lotto-Quèbec. It is alright for them to rip off Quebec citizens but everyone else is verboten.

They actually think they can keep the interlopers out and enable Lotto-Quèbec to make another $10 million to $20 million per year of profits for the Quebec treasury. What some of the Quebec politicians might be thinking is that if it is easy to bar certain web sites why not start making lists of web sites that oppose Quebec’s separatists. Maybe it is easier to just ban any web site that is not in an acceptable language? There are so many possibilities.

But start with the easy targets. These first sites to be barred are just interlopers. No one cares about their rights.

But is that not where it always starts? And there had better be those who care. The very strength of the Internet is the borders it breaches. It is worrisome though when you realize that Quebec has never had a strong ethos of rights and freedoms. Last year’s Charter of Values was a good example of the problem. It was just one more example of how Quebec politicians were willing to take away freedoms from their own.

It suits the tribalism—the overriding emphasis on language and insularity. It encourages the petty would-be tyrants such as Pierre-Karl Pèladeau. Quebec is not an island. It is not an entity by itself. It has a vital role to play in the future of Canada. To isolate and build barriers is to attempt to deny destiny.

Nobody who understands the Internet will disagree that it lacks discipline. It is that very lack of discipline that enables it to work. It shouts of freedom. And it must remain free. It is for all who would want to use it.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

They also vote who don’t.

June 28th, 2015 by Peter Lowry

Reading another editorial the other day by a writer who did not understand the subject tends to lower one’s opinion of editorial writers. We might be better off if we just stop reading those fillers. Imagine if you will an editor shouting out to a writer who he thinks has nothing to do: “Harry, give me 800 words on why the numbers of people voting in elections is falling off.”

Harry, who normally writes obituaries, is challenged. He can look up the subject on the Internet and Google will turn up 500,000 citations in a couple seconds. He is fascinated by the people who blame the first-past-the-post voting system. The stories tell him that people feel cheated by the present system and he builds his story on that premise.

And another editorial writer takes the easy way out and fails to challenge, check and critique. It is all hokum. People who do not vote in elections always have plausible excuses. And they are not all uncaring or stupid. A brain surgeon in the midst of a delicate 12-hour operation can hardly take some time off to go vote. There are many distractions in today’s society and voting is not high on some peoples’ to-do list.

And, at the same time, you wish that radio personalities and editorial writers would stop telling people it does not matter how they vote but they should vote. Frankly there is no need for stupid people to vote for stupid politicians. We will get enough of those elected in any event.

With the distractions of today, we should consider ourselves lucky to get a turnout over 60 per cent of eligible voters. These voters also had other things to do. They came to vote because they have an objective. They came to elect someone. We hardly want people coming out to vote who are going to stand behind that tiny screen and go “eeny, meeny, miny, moe” down the list of candidates on the ballot.

You best leave sleeping dogs and reluctant voters lie. The fact that we do get as high a vote as we do in Canadian elections is to the credit of the political parties. Identifying and getting out your vote has become an advanced science in this country. And it is often the party with the most, best organized workers that carries the day.

The only thing that is not the case is the stupid suggestion that people do not vote because of the first-past-the-post voting system. The problem all the so-called ‘experts’ have with this premise is that they have never come up with a system that is better. The only way you can really make sure that the winner is the majority choice is with run-off elections.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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Toronto Star doesn’t know diddley.

June 27th, 2015 by Peter Lowry

Got up a bit late the other morning and found the wife grumbling over her coffee and the Toronto Star. She had read an editorial that annoyed her. Her complaint—on which she was quite voluble—was about the Star’s new stand on a casino at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto. Since she has always been in favour of having a full blown casino resort operation at that location, her complaint needed explanation. It turned out her complaint was about how little the writer knew about the subject.

Her first complaint was that the Star editorial writer suggested that blackjack and roulette tables could be added to Woodbine’s slots operation and it would be a full fledged casino. She considered that an insult to her and her fellow craps players. She does not consider a casino to be legitimate without at least one full-size craps table and a crew of at least four to keep it running smoothly. She is a purist: after trying the one-sided craps tables with their single croupier at the Casino de Montrèal, she has never been interested in going back to that casino.

But there is a strong possibility that her real complaint was the foolish suggestion in the Star that the casino at Woodbine should only operate 18-hours per day. The writer had the audacity to suggest that the casino close between 4 am and 10 am. That proves it: the writer is not knowledgeable and has probably never been to a casino in his or her life.

This is the kind of thinking that has hamstrung Atlantic City and cost it big in becoming a gambling destination. The wife and yours truly were once simultaneously ejected from an Atlantic City casino at 4 am. We had never been told that the casinos in that town closed every night. We were outraged. We were both on a roll. The wife was leading the riot at the craps tables and we were racking up some major loot at blackjack. And you never, ever interrupt a gambler on a roll. Atlantic City is also off the list.

And we could be dealing with similar problems in Ontario. We have newspaper editorial writers and politicians in this province ignorant about gambling and thinking they should make the rules. Few people really understand gambling. Not everybody wants to go to casinos. Yet they want to say ‘no’ to casinos for others. They say they are worried about people becoming addicted to gambling. Our society has far more serious problems with alcohol, drugs and tobacco.

Ignorant politicians who think they are protecting people from gambling addiction by saying ‘No’ to casinos are helping criminal elements to take gamblers’ money. Society can deal more easily with addictions that are out in the open. It is those that hide in back alleys that threaten us.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Pedal fast, pedal hard, death lurks.

June 26th, 2015 by Peter Lowry

As a youngster, exploring the City of Toronto by bicycle on bright summer days was a wonderful option and a great learning experience. Those were gentler times and traffic was not too congested in a city of less than a million people. Add another one and a half million people in the same area and you have an entirely different situation. Cycling in the same traffic lanes as automobiles on major arteries today means that cyclists are going to get injured and killed.

There are very good reasons for this inevitability. They are a temperate climate, topography and traffic congestion.

To start with, Toronto is in a temperate zone. With an average of about 121 centimetres (47 inches) of snow each year, over six and seven months, there are just too many days of bad biking. There are also quite a few days of rain that that can also make cycling less than pleasant. The problem this creates is that over the winter auto drivers forget about cyclists. After a really tough winter, they have had their own problems with traffic and cyclists’ sudden appearance in nice weather creates a new hazard.

This is not to say that it is not pleasant when some good weather shows itself to take your bike to work downtown. It is hardly a problem that first time after the winter because going downtown in Toronto can be mostly downhill. Coming back home up those hills is something else. And no cyclist wants a boost up the hill on someone’s front bumper.

But the main problem is that Toronto has been tied in political knots for too many years. The city has fallen behind in meeting its transit and transportation needs. With crumbling infrastructure and senior levels of government playing cat and mouse with their responsibilities, the city is a mess. City streets hardly need an additional challenge from bicycle enthusiasts. Toronto cannot move people. It cannot move goods. And the only solution we hear from the biking nuts is we should have stiffer fines for killing cyclists and pedestrians.

The facts are that these so-called ‘vulnerable’ cycling people are turned loose on city streets without any requirement for training whatsoever. Many are unaware of the dangers that await them on busy streets. Too many are unaware of even the basic rules of the road. They are just another statistic on their way to happen.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

The media feel the excitement.

June 25th, 2015 by Peter Lowry

Just about four months to the federal election and the news media can barely contain their excitement. Not since John Diefenbaker came out of the West like an avenging angel has an election been so fraught with possibilities. They have so many scenarios to write about. Change is in the air. Change is in all the Liberal and New Democrat speaking notes. The Conservatives just look worried.

And well they should. With two serious and challenging opposition parties poised to unseat them, the Conservatives should be questioning their strategy. They know that if the balance is maintained between the opposition parties, their majority could be safe. They can ill-afford any imbalance.

And, as for the media excitement, it is all a lot of B.S.

If you want to believe the media-instigated opinion polls, you can enjoy the delusions. They are not only wrong but they would be more accurate if done with Ouija boards. The only thing that can be determined by polling today is that the ill-considered Harper government is fading fast from the Canadian conscience.

The hand writing on the wall at their final feast in Ottawa says that the Conservatives have been found both wanting and wanton. They have taken Canadians for their last ride on the Tory tugboat. The smarter rats are deserting the ship. The lesser ones are clinging to the ship’s rail as it goes down. They have left Stephen Harper alone at the helm of a doomed ship.

And yet the media see this election as some type of weird dance—a sort of stand-up ménage-a-trois. They want to breathlessly announce which leader has assumed the Alpha male position for the week.

Yet the media all recognize that Stephen Harper is heading for a fall. His stony visage is better suited to a carving on a mountain than that of a living, breathing, warm person.

And what of that fusty little man who is so bravely leading the late Jack Layton’s Orange Wave back to oblivion? Canadians want a prime minister, not a prosecutor.

And that leaves the door open for young Justin Trudeau. And even if you do not think he is ready, he is still the best we have got.

But do you think the news media will be gracious about it when Justin is prime minister?

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

One of Justin Trudeau’s better moves.

June 24th, 2015 by Peter Lowry

It makes sense to make nice with the United States. It is surprising for many Canadians when that becomes necessary. Not since Prime Minister John Diefenbaker pissed off President John Kennedy have relations with the Americans been more in the dumpster. Not only has Prime Minister Stephen Harper been a nag about the Keystone XL pipeline but his open admiration for President Obama’s Republican opponents in Congress has hardly gone unnoticed.

The phony bonhomie played out between Harper and Obama at G-8/G-7 meetings has been shallow and forced for some time. Sure there have been other tiffs between the two countries’ leaders (Lester Pearson versus Lyndon Johnson and Pierre Trudeau versus Dick Nixon are good examples) but these tended to be quickly patched over and cordial relations continued. Fights with a neighbour are rarely productive.

Justin Trudeau noted all of this with more restraint than you would have expected. While he called Harper’s a belligerent brand of partisan politics, he used it as an example of the need for real change. He told his audience that Harper has been hectoring the Americans throughout the past decade. He explained that “Canada’s special relationship with the United States is not automatic. Like any strong relationship,” he said, “you have to put a lot of work into it.”

But Trudeau also suggested that better relations with Mexico can be a back door to relations with the U.S.A. He noted what he referred to as Harper’s “churlish” approach to Mexico. Trudeau promised to lift the visa restrictions on Mexican visitors to Canada and to work more cooperatively with Mexico. He sees Mexico as a better trade opportunity than Mr. Harper obviously has. It also makes good sense to build relations with the other smaller member of the North American Free Trade Agreement. There are times when Canada could use an ally in dealing with the United States about some aspects of the three countries’ free trade deal.

It was also good to notice that the Liberal leader had no comment on any merits of the Keystone XL pipeline. The Obama administration is well aware that the true purpose of that pipeline is to access ocean shipping capabilities on the Texas Gulf coast to send Alberta bitumen to countries around the world that do not care about the environmental damage of converting tar sands material into synthetic oil. Maybe it’s been explained to the Justin Trudeau that no matter where in the world it’s processed, it causes global warming and Canada shares the blame.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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