Canadians are waiting for the Hair.

January 29th, 2015 by Peter Lowry

The lights are on late in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). The price of crude oil is less than $50 a barrel. The Canadian dollar is trading just under 80 cents American. The surplus promised in the 2014-15 fiscal year is gone. The federal budget that was expected in March is being put off until April or May, or later. The Bank of Canada prime lending rate has been dropped to 0.75 per cent to stabilize the currency. What is the Hair to do?

Part of the problem is that the Hair has foolishly decided to try for a fourth term as Prime Minister. He can hardly run on the strength of his management of Canada’s economy. The economy is in the toilet. He snubbed manufacturing and opted for tar sands exports.

His own finance minister, the late Jim Flaherty, told him that offering rich parents income splitting would be giving money to the wrong people. The Hair not only did it but pre-announced his largess just before the price of oil went into the tank. Now he has done it and cannot pay for it.

And the Hair has sent Canadians into harm’s way in Iraq. He sent them on a crusade to smite the infidel of the New Caliphate. These people are the brigands who also call themselves the Islamic State. We really know them as thieves, cowards and murderers.

But they shake their fists at us in our peaceful homes and threaten to bring their jihad to us. It will just be an excuse for the Hair to propose draconian laws that infringe on the rights and freedoms of Canadians of all colors and faiths.

But what are Canadians really worried about? It must be the hair! Looking at Babel-on-the-Bay’s stats on Google Analytics this morning tells all. The most viewed posting in this blog is not about beer or bitumen or even the dangers of xenophobia. There has been a steady stream of readers of the archives (more than 6000 and counting) and is continuing to access this blog’s first reference to the Prime Minister’s hairpiece. There was even an e-mail from a reader today suggesting that a wig was a goofy form of deception.

If that was the only thing that the Hair did to deceive Canadians, we would be getting off easy.

When a man in the Prime Minister’s position flies around the world with his personal hairdresser, you should worry. And if you were going to vote for him because he always looks so prime ministerial, just think of what it costs us.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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Oh sure, let’s blame Question Period.

January 28th, 2015 by Peter Lowry

The Prime Minister must be smiling. You can tell because his make-up is a bit askew. Someone told him that his favourite newspaper wants to get rid of Question Period in the House of Commons. As he explained to an aide, “Without Question Period, I would never have to show up in that damn place except for budgets and Throne Speeches.”

He does like to look prime ministerial and periodically, when he sees the time is right, he will rise in the House to allay the concerns of the overly curious Opposition. While sometimes his answers bear little relationship to the question asked, he relishes the opportunity to extol the record of his administration.

When it comes to obfuscation though, he used to rely on minions such as his Parliamentary Secretary who is chosen for his or her gullibility and eagerness to do what the Prime Minister’s staff tells him or her to do. We even had one recently who cried when apologizing to the House for being less than forthcoming when answering questions for the Prime Minister.

But while the Prime Minister’s supporters might think of Question Period as something of a bother, it is actually more like a safety valve. It is the only time in the day that government MPs have any chance to let off a little steam. They get to shout rude things to the people across the floor and get it off their chest. Such rude behaviour is frowned on in committee meetings as that is where the real work of the house is done.

The problem is that committee meetings are boring and not routinely telecast and it means Canadians are left in the dark as to what is going on. Were it not for Question Period, most Canadians would not even know that Ottawa is where they send their tax money. They also think they might be happier if our parliamentarians were more polite to each other. Why? Do they think being polite would make a difference?

And we should not be blaming television for the lack of public interest when fully half of citizens are learning about our politics from television. Can you imagine relying on Sun Media for our information about our government?

What Canadians need to do is send better qualified people to Ottawa. Choosing some nebbish merely because he or she represents this leader or that leader is a disservice to your neighbours. When you send good people to Ottawa, you can feel better about what is going on in parliament.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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Ontario’s booze battle becomes a bar brawl.

January 27th, 2015 by Peter Lowry

Remember in the old western movies when the bad guy would punch the hero and everyone in the bar got into the fight. That is how it feels now that people are getting involved in the argument about beer, wine and liquor sales in Ontario.

It started as a dignified discussion of the disgusting inadequacies of Ontario’s Beer Stores and the foolishness of the politicians who continued to use the situation for their own interests. What it has evolved into is a revolt among beer drinkers and Liquor Control Board customers and trouble for Premier Wynne’s Whigs. They are now attempting to assess how little they need to do to quiet the riot.

One of their problems is that Finance Minister Charles Sousa has been emboldened by his banker–led council on government assets. They are telling him he can get more money from beer. His party also gets lots of political donations from the beer barons if they will just maintain the status quo. Meanwhile consumers are looking for real change. These are the consumers who voted for Wynne last year because they thought she was progressive. If is this demand is not met, the anger will grow louder.

It is certainly not this blog that is turning the tide. This blog is read mainly by politicos and media people. (And more than 200 of you are not even in Canada.) Babel-on-the-Bay has stood alone among Liberal and progressive bloggers in Ontario demanding change. We have to give the credit for the current weakening of the political stand in the booze battle to the Toronto Star. This blog might have been the gnat that annoyed the politicians but it is the Toronto Star with more than a half million Saturday readers that scares them into action. Wynne’s Whigs can ill-afford to give the finger to the Toronto Star.

Fighting valiantly for consumer support, the Beer Store and the Liquor Control Board (LCBO) have launched an advertising war in a last ditch attempt to stem the tide. It might cause a delaying action for the LCBO but the Beer Store will be changing. No matter what changes Ontario Finance Minister Sousa makes, it is likely to be an inadequate half-measure. We expect that anything less than allowing convenience stores to sell beer and Ontario wines will bring little succour to his government.

But when beer is resolved, it will become a battle over the LCBO. The facts are clear that the provincial government can raise more in taxes from freeing the liquor stores than continuing to force an uncomfortable, poorly merchandised and weak monopoly on the voters. And the one-time revenues from the sale of LCBO assets would go a long way to paying for electrifying GO trains or running a railway north to the Circle of Fire.

It might take the next three years to make the changes that are necessary in liquor sales but that is all the time the Wynne government will have. The government has to prove it is progressive and it will be popular moves such as opening beer and wine sales to convenience stores and privatizing the LCBO stores that give it the opportunity.

Ontario voters have made it very clear that they are no longer satisfied with paternalistic government. They were set to toss Premier McGuinty but he read the tea leaves and left. Wynne has a rare opportunity during this majority mandate to be progressive and daring. She made ground with her solution for pensions but she has a long way to go to bring Ontario into the 21st Century. To do that, she has to get out front and lead.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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Lord Cross-the-Pond still ponders.

January 26th, 2015 by Peter Lowry

Finding another commentary by Lord Cross-the-Pond, Conrad Black, in this past weekend’s National Post only proves that he really needs something serious to do. And we can assure him that his friend Paul Godfrey needs no help in running the National Post and Sun Media newspapers into the ground until the American money lenders are satisfied. It is heart-warming to see that Lord Connie still thinks of people like us as lumpen-left. It is too bad that he cannot find something he knows about to write about.

And hopefully Paul Godfrey is not paying Connie anything for those overly long blog postings. It is not that we always disagree with what we read in these wandering diatribes. For example his erudite and insightful observations of the Roman Catholic Church such as ”just a superstition-mongering humbug, claptrap and hallelujah factory run by septuagenarian celibates and closeted homosexuals, (who) are themselves too dyspeptic or self-obsessed to procreate in self-sustaining numbers” are facile and bang-on no matter how much Connie denies it. He blames that kind of thinking on us lumpen-left.

In his usual fashion, Lord Connie solves all the problems of the Middle East from the days of the Children’s Crusade to today’s equivalent sponsored by Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. He thinks that the West is blameless under the circumstances and that there is just a rampant jealousy among the Arabs for our ability to make democracy work, for at least the wealthy in our society.

What Connie really needs to do is to take a course at the University of Toronto on what ever part of the world he wants to write about and learn first, write second. While taking advantage of that learning institute, he might also take a modern communications course. He would find that short sentences, simple words, clear thoughts are what constitute modern communication. Proving you know big words and can stream them in paragraph-long sentences is somewhat passé.

And, since he might have still been in prison when Barak Obama was elected in the United States, he might not be aware that Obama only wanted to get the American’s the hell out of Dodge in the country they call Eye-Rack. These brigands who call themselves the new Caliphate or Islamic State were created by enemies of Bashar el Assad in Syria. They only wandered into Iraq to steal the oil that helps pay for their weapons.

What we would also suggest to Connie is that even if his visitor’s permit might not be expired yet, he might head back across the Pond any time. The Brits might appreciate him more than us Canucks.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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It is recess time in the Ontario PC leadership.

January 25th, 2015 by Peter Lowry

It is like a middle school recess time. You should not need playground monitors but it is still a good idea to periodically look outside and make sure there are no brawls. We are pleased to report that nothing very much is happening that was not expected to happen.

What we can tell you is that everyone is in place and playing nice. The cut-off for nominations is the end of January and there does not appear to be anyone else rushing to get more signatures in ten electoral districts. The next important date is February 28 when the membership cut-off is supposed to take place.

The months of March and April are set aside for candidates to challenge each others’ memberships. This would be a minor tempest at best and will not be of much public interest. While this is an every member vote, the maximum votes from each electoral district is fixed at 100. They are going to be adding percentages in this exercise.

What is most interesting about the rules is that it will still be the losers who pick the winners—even if they are not there to do it. Counting the vote will be an exercise in taking off the losers and adding their second, third and possibly even fourth choice to the remaining candidates until somebody is at 50.1 per cent or better. With voting completed by May 7, the results should be known in a few days.

While it is a bit early for morning line handicapping, Oshawa’s Christine Elliott MPP is still the party favourite. The older Progressive Conservatives are solidly behind her and while she is unlikely to walk away with the first ballot, she should have a good lead.

The pit bull of the race is the much more aggressive Lisa MacLeod MPP from Nepean. With most Ontario Conservatives thinking of her as a more strident Christine Elliott, she is in a clear second place.

Of the three men in the race, Vic Fedeli MPP from Nipissing best fits the image of the successful businessman.

Monte McNaughton MPP from Lambton-Kent-Middlesex is now the darling of the Campaign Life and the religious right.

The one we think of as the guy in short pants is Barrie MP Patrick Brown. People have a lot of fun trying to figure out what the heck Brown thinks he is doing in this race. He is out classed, out gunned and out of his mind if he thinks he is going to achieve anything other than the most derision. He is likely to be the first one dropped from the race but God only knows what name his foolish supporters will put number two beside.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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Is Canada racist? No. Is there racism in Canada? Yes.

January 24th, 2015 by Peter Lowry

The announcements of the concern about racism the other day in Winnipeg came as no surprise. That part of this country has been trying to stuff the racism genie back in the bottle since the confluence of the Assiniboine and Red Rivers was the site of an early trading post. Give the city the credit it deserves though, the racism is now exposed and the city has a chance to work on the problems. It is just too bad that Montreal does not do the same. It continues as the most racist city in Canada.

And we are not talking of mistreatment of Canada’s aboriginal and Métis people in Montreal. We are talking the insidious distrust of anyone who is not racially or tribally pure laine. While there is sometimes a misunderstanding of cultural sensitivities between the anglo and francophone populations in Quebec, there is no excuse for the continued demand for an intolerant ‘Charter of Values’ as promoted by the Parti Québécois during the last provincial election.

But when the ruling Liberals under Philippe Couilliard also promise a version of the values charter, you are right to question the motives. Is this pandering to that insipient intolerance? Quebec politicians of all stripes seem to feed off a culture of intolerance. It goes back to the battle on the Plains of Abraham. It was supported by the clerics of the Catholic Church in Lower Canada. And then, as the church lost its influence, politicians found it useful. It took the Supreme Court of Canada two decades to finally squash Premier Maurice Duplessis’s infamous Padlock Law but even then the jurists failed to address anything more than the fact the province did not have jurisdiction to pass the law.

Both Thomas Mulcair of the New Democrats and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau are sensitive to the issue. Scratch hard enough with either and you see the defensiveness they hold for Quebec. They are Quebeckers first and federal politicians second. Mulcair stabilizes his Quebec sensitivity with his French passport. The younger Trudeau balances with his maternal ties in British Columbia.

There are obviously few Quebecers who want to link the pure laine or de souche (hard liner) attitudes in Quebec to an inferiority complex. That would be like a feather pillow with little resistance and less impression. The problems are the politicians who will skate with it because of its potential for them to gain ground for their own ambitions. Everyone saw in the introduction of Pierre-Karl Péladeau to separatist politics last year that it was a horse he wanted to ride. While Péladeau won his rural seat in the National Assembly last year, his naϊveté helped pull down his separatist party.

Any Canadian from other parts of Canada who has travelled in Quebec and knows its people will tell you that Quebecers can play in the first line of any team they choose. There is no rational for any values charter that does not recognize that diversity of Quebec is its strength. The diversity of Canada is something in which we all take pride.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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If there is Will, he will find a way.

January 23rd, 2015 by Peter Lowry

Not being a regular reader of the Washington Post, we might not have read many columns by George F. Will. It was only when Toronto’s National Post picked up one of his commentaries last weekend that we had the fun of trying to figure out how his mind works—or maybe does not. What appeared to start out as a mindless Republican tarring of America’s first black President, was found to include some mindless repetition of TransCanada Pipelines’ news releases.

This guy Will must be a staunch anti-environmentalist. Yet he has the temerity to say about President Obama that “his mind has always been as closed as an unshucked oyster.” Will adds that the more Mr. Obama talks about the pipeline, “the more ignorant he seems.” Would it be politically incorrect under these circumstances to suggest Mr. Will is guilty of being the pot that is calling the kettle ‘black’?

Mr. Will talks as though he cares about Canada leaving the wealth of the Athabasca and Cold Lake tar sands in the ground. Why should he give a damn? The states of California and Utah both have large tar sands deposits that also would be better off staying in the ground. Will seems to prefer to ridicule people who point out that tar sands are the dirtiest source of oil in the world. Just in refining the tar sands bitumen to synthetic crude oil produces three times the carbon of crude oil refining. The bitumen coke residue of the processing is dirtier than the most polluting coal.

If Mr. Will had any knowledge of his topic, he would have known that Alberta Premier Jim Prentice and the top brass of Enbridge were in Texas before his commentary went to press re-announcing the three-year old Flanagan South pipeline project from Pontiac, Illinois southwest to Cushing, Oklahoma where it connects to existing pipelines to the Texas Gulf Coast. While it is a less direct route than Keystone XL, it does not require State Department or Presidential approval. It has always been the bitumen pumping backup for the Alberta tar sands.

Mr. Will accuses people who care about the environment of working from some environmental catechism. We can assure him that we do not. He obviously does not understand the difference between oil and bitumen despite bitumen being the source of pitch used to waterproof the galleys that plied the Mediterranean back when the pyramids were being built.

If Mr. Will even had a clue as to the reasons for the currently low prices for oil, he would know that the last thing we need is to speed climate change for unnecessary profit.

But that seems to be what Republicans want.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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The Hair regrets his fixed voting dates.

January 22nd, 2015 by Peter Lowry

The best laid schemes of mice and Hair often go for nought. (Robbie Burns said that much better.) Fixed election dates for Canada were an easy promise to keep back in 2006 but they have never really worked well for the Hair. With a looming election date of October 19 for this year, the Hair must want to call the whole thing off.

And he had such lovely plans. He had everything dovetailed so nicely. He started with all those ambitious goodies to use the planned surplus this year. He announced them last November. Finance Minister Joe Oliver would start the election year with Jim Flaherty’s planned surplus but leave nothing for the opposition to promise their goodies.

But is it all a game to befuddle the voters? Despite his avowal at year end less than a month ago that the October 19 date is firm, speculation is again rampant that the Hair will take the country to the polls before July 1. And under normal circumstances it is what any other Prime Minister might do.

But not the Hair. He wants everyone to think he is keeping his word—until he breaks it.

Does he really want that nebbish Finance Minister Oliver to stand up in the House of Commons in April or May and admit that the vaunted surplus is just smoke and mirrors?

Does the Hair want his promises to the rich of income splitting and child benefits to be the cause of further deficits?

Does he want to admit that his resource-based economic strategy for Canada is just a deck of cards?

And what is going to happen in the next few months that could change things?

Does the Hair have a better crystal ball than anyone else?

And you can hardly blame any of this on that stuffy little Mr. Mulcair or on the darling of the middle class, Justin Trudeau. The Hair brought it all on himself. He said ‘tough’ as the east lost more of its manufacturing base. He was counting on tar sands for synthetic oil. He was counting on pipelines. He wanted Northern Gateway and an expanded Kinder Morgan pipeline to fill tankers in British Columbia. The TransCanada Keystone XL would reach the Texas Gulf ports. The old Enbridge and TransCanada pipelines to the east coast could fill even more. And there is back-up in rail and trucking. Who knew what problems would arise?

All that the Hair knows for sure is that fixed election dates for a country with a parliamentary system of government is a really dumb idea.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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Bobbsey twin booed by Bedouins.

January 21st, 2015 by Peter Lowry

They are displeased with Canada in Ramallah. Palestinians threw eggs, shoes and insults at Canada’s foreign minister the other day in the acting capital of the Palestinian State in the West Bank. And this Bobbsey twin deserved every curse, epithet and derisive comment that he received. And he should get the same treatment in Canada for the damage he is doing to Canada’s reputation.

Foreign Minister John Baird along with his boss Prime Minister Stephen Harper has brought shame on Canada. By pandering to the Israelis to win votes from Jews in Canada, they have only angered the Muslim world and brought shame on us. This is not what Canadians expect nor want from its foreign affairs. Our ancestors came to this country to live in peace and harmony with all. Ours is a country where tolerance is treasured and respect for the individual is a right.

And someone such as Baird goes to the Middle East to stir the flames of intolerance and allow individual rights to be trampled. If he does not know how to act properly when representing us, he should be denied a passport.

It took many years of patient and thoughtful work at the United Nations and around the world for Canada to earn respect and admiration for its being an honest broker. It no longer has the respect nor is it an honest broker. With Harper and Baird manipulating foreign affairs, Canada is now known as a toady for the Americans, a panderer for domestic votes in Israel and the Ukraine and subservient subjects of the British Royals. It is embarrassing for Canadians who used to be able to be proud of their country no matter where they might travel in the world.

When Prime Minister Harper virtually bribed African countries with Canadian aid money to make Former Governor General Michaëlle Jean Secretary-General of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (assembly of French-speaking nations), it was an embarrassment. It was not the easy approval that one would expect.

It is why Canada has been repeatedly denied a seat on the United Nations Security Council where our country once served with honour. And while Canadians have already tired of the way the Conservatives are running the country and embarrassing us around the world, it will take many years for the next government to repair the damage the Conservatives have done.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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Oh, to be middle class again.

January 20th, 2015 by Peter Lowry

Are you old enough to remember when being middle class was the place to be? That was back when you had a detached house in the suburbs with a two-car garage (full of bicycles), two kids and three televisions. You lived from paycheque to paycheque but you could still go to the Caribbean or Europe for a couple weeks at the right time of year. Well, now you are a senior, you are finding out how the poor people live.

And it is not just the upset of being called ‘Dearie’ by middle-aged cashiers but the fact that half your purchases are from the ‘Reduced to Clear’ table. Never mind that gas is cheaper, that old sedan has only so many trips to Walmart left in it. And the government is talking of reprocessing your driver’s license anyway.

The real problem is as a senior you have been forgotten by all the political parties. The Conservatives are only coming up with benefits for rich people with kids. It was like Ontario PC Leader Timmy Hudak who used “hard-working families” in every second line of his stump speeches in the last Ontario election.

If you were still middle class, even Tommy Mulcair’s New Democrats would still love you. No longer interested in the poor, Mulcair outlined his plan to go after middle class voters to his party last week. He wants to keep the Conservatives’ bribes for middle class child care benefits while establishing a $15 per day child care service. He intends to use the same funds as the Conservatives would have used for income splitting—and if that does not help, he will increase corporate taxes.

The blame for all of this middle class pandering rests with Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. He has been travelling across Canada as he says, from sea to sea to sea, taking selfies with as many middle class Canadians as he can find.

The only problem all the parties are finding is that the middle class is a quickly disappearing breed. The stretch today from poverty to comfortable in economic terms is a wide and mainly empty gulf. Back in the middle of the 20th Century, a cocky middle class had just won a world war and nothing could stop us. We were defining the politics of the day and feeling empowered. The unions were strong and were bringing the labouring class into prominence and political heft as part of the middle class of the day.

We had the power and yet we were beaten back from the gates of true democracy. The one per cent had no use for Pierre Trudeau’s Just Society and we were the ones who paid the price for the inflationary times and then the alternating slide into recession. Unions were discredited, a degree was no guarantee of a job and the middle class became a myth. It only exists today in the rhetoric of political speak.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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