Devolving Deception.

April 24th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

When responsibilities are passed to a lower level (devolved), it helps to have a glossary of terms available so that the lesser levels will get their words right. It seems that Toronto Star writer David Olive has stuck carefully to this glossary in his story on the weekend touting the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Olive hits just the right note in his puff piece when he starts with concern that the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion over the Rocky Mountains will never be built. And to drive home his concern, he calls it an “oil” pipeline. Never once in 87 centimetres of copy does he refer to the bitumen the expanded pipeline is designed to carry to tidewater on the B.C. coast.

Olive is concerned that the lack of the expanded pipeline will do serious damage to Canada. He is worried that Kinder Morgan has suspended work on the Texas company’s $7 billion pipeline expansion.

He refers to the to the Alberta tar sands product as being landlocked. This is despite the coming availability of TransCanada Pipeline’s Keystone XL that President Trump has insisted be built with its access to the Texas gulf ports. There is also the already approved replacement of Enbridge Line 3 to Superior, Wisconsin (despite meeting some resistance in Minnesota) also offers possible access for bitumen to the Great Lakes. And let us not forget the 300,000 barrels per day that can already be shipped through the existing Kinder Morgan line to Burrard Inlet.

We are not really clear if the Kinder Morgan expansion to high-pressure, heated bitumen through the new dual system at almost 900,000 barrels per day is based on need or greed.

For all the weeping and wailing of Alberta and federal politicians, nobody wants to explain publicly why the Alberta companies do not want to convert their bitumen to synthetic crude oil in Alberta.

Olive seems to have the idea that the Athabasca tar sands product would not be discounted the way it is today if the company could just get it to third world customers who are not worried about its excessive polluting. You would expect that any country with the expertise to refine bitumen into synthetic crude oil would also have the knowledge that bitumen costs more to refine and creates serious amounts of highly polluting bitumen slag in the process.

He goes on to compare the tar sands output to Maya crude from Mexico. Maya crude might have many impurities but it is still crude oil, not bitumen.

Our advice to Mr. Olive is that, before he writes more on this complex subject, he read more than the oil sands producers’ handouts.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Horwath has been heard from.

April 23rd, 2018 by Peter Lowry

News from the front lines of the pre-election election campaign in Ontario: The New Democratic Party does exist. As irrelevant as the NDP might be in this pre-election period, it was nice to see what might be the entire membership of the party forming a human wall for their leader. And there was their cherubic leader, Andrea Horwath, fronting for foolishness.

This will be Andrea Horwath’s third campaign as NDP leader for Ontario. Despite the federal Mulcair mess, NDP leaders are supposed to have at least three tries. If they changed leaders every time they lose, they could eventually run out of members who have not had a try at being leader.

We are feeling a little malicious today and maybe we can get a media friend to ask Andrea a question. I think we would all like to know if she is supporting John Horgan of B.C. or Rachel Notley of Alberta? Her two, much more successful, NDP friends are arguing over a pipeline and eventually all Canadians are going to have to come to grips with the issue.

But before we forget, the news is that the Ontario NDP has a book of promises for the election. The party can promise anything anyway. It has only one chance in a hundred of having to implement any of them.

The funny thing about these promises is that the public will have no idea how to separate the NDP promises from the liberal promises. It is just too darn hard to tell them apart.

The only promise that annoyed me was the NDP are promising free university tuition for students who cannot pass a means test. The only position this liberal will agree with is free tuition for all. University students are too old to be reliant on parents to pay for their tuition. It leaves parents in an improper position of authority over their adult children.

But it is nice of Andrea Horwath to spend the time in the coming election backing up the liberal promises.

Both parties will spend the election period slagging that guy Ford. It will eventually be understood by most voters that he has absolutely no idea what he is talking about.

No doubt even Andrea’s loyal Hamilton voters are going to vote liberal this time around to make sure that an irresponsible guy like Ford does not take over the premier’s office.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Stapling, spindling and folding Ford.

April 22nd, 2018 by Peter Lowry

Millennials might not be as familiar with the admonition we used to read on our household bills. Before the Internet, our bills were often delivered to us as data processing punch cards. We dutifully mailed these cards back to the supplier, along with our cheques. It was considered a no-no to mangle the punch card and cause it to clog the mechanical reader.

But in this case, we are thinking of conservative leader Doug Ford as something of a punch card. And we are not all that pleased with how Premier Wynne is handling him. Sure, we started out suggesting that he was Trump-lite but by no stretch is he much like the real Donald Trump.

And the way, Kathleen Wynne is referring to him as Trump-like, it is coming across as a compliment. She cannot afford to forget she is premier. She cannot afford to get down in the mud to wrestle with a pig.

It is alright for her campaign guy David Herle to refer to Ford as a “bit of a dick.” Many of us have called Ford much worse.

As premier, she has to handle Ford smarter. When he accusingly suggests there should be an audit of the books while she has been premier, she has to say: Sure, that is done every year anyway and while that is going on, we could also audit of his company’s books when he was selling labels.

Nobody doubts that Kathleen Wynne is tough. She also needs to prove she is smarter. She has to ridicule him with faint praise. She has to paint a picture of him in short pants. She has to show that he fails to understand the job he is applying for. She has to kindly show that he is nowhere ready for the job.

There was a clip of former mayor Hazel McCallion of Mississauga on the news the other day. Hazel was lacing up her hockey skates. This woman is in her mid-90s and she is still tough as a whip. She should give lessons to much younger Kathleen Wynne.

The premier needs to raise her game for this election. The strongest argument the opposition parties are making is that the liberals have been in power for 15 years. So, what? The liberals have done a hell of a lot of good for this province over that time. Does anyone really think Doug Ford would bring anything other than troubles?

The only people Doug Ford would help are millionaires such as the medical specialists who run the OMA. The bad news for the people on lower incomes, who might think of voting conservative is that Ford would not know what to do to help them. Wynne has to show that Ford only wants the job to feed his own ego.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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The price of success for Netflix.

April 21st, 2018 by Peter Lowry

As Netflix keeps adding to millions of subscribers, so do the costs to customers. There is no free lunch and what started as the poor man’s alternative to network programming has become a ravenous giant in the network TV class.

And giants are noticed. How long will it be before the taxman comes calling? Netflix has had a free ride in Canada for far too long. We all share the wealth in this country.

But there never was that much of a saving with Netflix anyway. How much is that box that makes Netflix work? Alternatively, you might want to spend thousands on a smart TV. Mind you, you should never buy a toy smarter than yourself. You end up with the neighbour’s 12-year old showing you how to make the thing work.

And the monthly expense for Netflix includes your Internet connection.

In Canada, with our cabal-controlled Internet pricing, you might be looking at more than $60 per month to have sufficient bandwidth for decent streaming video. And they will charge you more if you are binge-watching.

And just watch as this upstart Netflix takes on the TV networks with original programming. How did you like the Netflix effort with the series Crown? Oh, not a royalist are you? Our French speaking friends gave very short comment on the Marseilles miniseries. Maybe it will do better dubbed in English?

Netflix needs to face the facts that the TV networks have had far more years of making programming mistakes. And where is Netflix going to get some sports? Pre-recorded Tiddley-Winks tournaments, simply will not cut it.

From the Olympics down to neighbourhood street hockey, Canadians love their sports. It is the sponsors and the advertisers who bring us into the world of professional hockey, golf, baseball, football and Netflix has yet to compete in that area.

And what about news? Your television is irreplaceably a source of news that allows you to quickly check the different network treatments of the news and to verify its authenticity. The day is long gone that the family could gather around the radio to learn of important events.

The stock experts have been raving lately about how Netflix is growing. They should always remember how it is easy to blow up a balloon and how fast it can deflate.

And, it is much easier to live without Netflix than to live without live television network news.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

 

A Commonwealth at bargain price.

April 20th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

Our prime minister Justin Trudeau has been in London this past week, pressing the flesh with the long-running Commonwealth of Nations. The Commonwealth, as we usually call it is the fallout of the old British Commonwealth and is made up of former colonies and protectorates of times past when Great Britain ruled the seas.

This bit of tourism lore is only noted because an usually astute Toronto Star columnist was complaining yesterday about the $12 million per year that he thinks Canada wastes on this pretentiousness.

To the contrary mon frère, the Commonwealth is ours at a bargain price and if our country ever comes of age, the Commonwealth will welcome our leadership. And that is a very substantial block to have backing you up in the halls of the United Nations.

Regrettably, our prime minister is going to waste our friends’ time at this year’s meeting. He is going to give the same old-same old lecture on human rights, LGBT rights and gender equality. It is not that these subjects are not worthy of attention but the prime minister fails to give the recalcitrant little nations who ignore these basic human rights concrete reason as to why they should listen.

Better research and attention to these backward countries’ needs might solve the problems they are having in understanding the subject. Because leadership is what this group needs. The crown can provide the platitudes at these meetings. Canada can supply the meat and potatoes facts that make the need clearer.

What the organisation could be is a listening post in world affairs helping all of the countries in their foreign affairs, trade and tourism interests. These are the dollars and pence issues that can make the organisation more worthwhile. What nation would fail to pay its dues when the organisation is adding to its gross domestic product.

Since four of the five members the ‘Five Eyes’ Intelligence community are Commonwealth countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and United Kingdom) there is also a briefing taking place for that group of four, without the presence of Donald Trump of the United States. This will include an intense look at the Russian interference in elections on the Internet. I am sure this will be the most important and productive session at the Commonwealth meeting.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Ford’s flock is fleeting.

April 19th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

In analyzing a political situation, you have to weigh many factors. According to the public pollsters, the upcoming Ontario voting seems to be decided. I hate to poop on the pollsters’ parade but you should always check some very pertinent points before buying into the B.S. The questions start with survey technique, sample size, completed interviews, refused and incomplete interviews, qualifying questions, demographic balance, and the percentage who did not have an answer to the basic questions. Without these answers, the pollster might as well have jotted down those percentages on his or her luncheon napkin while asking mother what she thinks.

What we are seeing in the current circumstances is the steady erosion of the Ford share of attention. It is like the small spike likely today for the NDP. They announced some policies and people who normally ignore them felt that they should pay a bit of attention. Changes such as that will continue through to election day. That is the final poll. It is the one that counts.

Ford’s base is not as large as the pollsters are saying. He brought his late brother’s Ford Nation to the party but most already were conservative voters. These are the angry, lower income conservatives in Toronto spread around the inner city in the suburbs. They can do things in municipal elections but can hardly compete with strong, experienced and organized liberal party organizations in the upcoming provincial contest.

Where Ford is showing strength at the moment is in the more determined conservative strongholds in the Greater Toronto Area, with the rural Ontario Landowners Association and the religious right (social conservatives).

But what is floating the Ford bubble are the unsophisticated, new voters either coming of age to vote or recent immigrants gaining their citizenship. These people are naïve about politics and are only hearing the braggadocio of Ford.  There is a continuing and serious imbalance recently in the Ford funnies versus the weary stuff from Wynne. And until Wynne can change those ratios and pull ahead in the social media as well as the traditional media, she will look like a loser.

And the ratios will change. Wynne is not the sort to remain silent. She will be calling out Ford for his lies and obvious ignorance. She will be armed for bear when she debates Ford—if a debate happens. She is going to show those new voters that Ford is a loser.

And nobody loves a loser.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

A Confrontation of Confederation.

April 18th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

Even on a government VIP  Airbus, a flight from Lima, Peru to Ottawa is over 11 hours. I did that type of flight more than once and they were always an awful experience. I was able to reset my watch and I knew what time it was. My problem was that for a week, I kept asking what day it was.

When on a holiday, the jet lag is a minor problem but when you have serious meetings when you arrive, it is a very different matter. That is just one reason there were no great expectations for prime minister Justin Trudeau in his hastily called meeting in Ottawa the other day.

The meeting was the one with premiers Rachel Notley of Alberta and John Horgan of British Columbia. Our prime minister was going to use his super political powers to resolve a dispute they have been having. It was about a pipeline. It was no surprise that nothing was resolved.

Maybe we were not expecting much would come of the meeting but it is still a concern that nothing could be accomplished. If Canadians are lucky, the matter might get tied up at the supreme court. The justices are probably of a mind to throw it out but could do us all a favour by considering it for a year or two. The desperation at this stage is that it does not become a series of serious confrontations. If the army has to be called in to restore ‘order,’ the entire country could react badly.

Even the American Kinder Morgan pipeline people have recognized that they cannot restart their expansion efforts without protests. They have built extensive barricades around their Burrard Inlet port facilities to ensure the safety of their employees and their investment.

The very worst thing the company has done is to announce a deadline of May 31, for the federal or Alberta government to show the confidence to the financial community that this pipeline expansion will happen. That is a red flag to both sides of this confrontation of confederation.

There is a strange irony that Pierre Trudeau did so much to help pull Canada’s confederation together. It is his son who has the nerve to call himself an environmentalist who thinks he can ignore the concerns of those who care. The bad economic choices of Alberta politicians are hardly the stuff of a confident and consensual confederation.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Please come back Patrick Brown.

April 17th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

We will have to take back some of those nasty names we have called Barrie’s Patrick Brown. Sure, he is a sleazebag but he is hardly as ignorant or as frightening as Doug Ford. If we could just have our choice of sleazebag, I guess we would prefer the one we know.

The main difference between the two conservatives is that Brown is a more experienced politician. He would still not know the difference between a good policy idea or a dumb policy idea but he does know some smart people who would. He got those smart people to create a policy booklet for him that was introduced last November as ‘The People’s Guarantee.’ With that booklet in hand, Patrick’s conservatives were running higher in the polls than where Ford is today.

I must have been laughing as hard as other progressives as we watched Doug Ford slag Patrick’s ‘guarantee’ booklet throughout the conservative’s desperation leadership contest. All leadership candidates had signed pledges that they would run on the ‘guarantee’ booklet’s promises but Doug Ford’s word is not very good. In breaking ranks, he forced the other candidates to break their promises. He trashed Patrick’s promise of a having a carbon tax instead of the Wynne government’s Cap and Trade program.

The carbon tax support was an untypically smart move by Brown. He must have been told that Cap and Trade confuses voters and is too secretive, while a carbon tax is very straight forward and transparent. And since the federal government was saying it would impose a carbon tax anyway, why would Brown not support it?

And Brown would have had the political experience to handle Tanya Granic Allen. The social conservatives with their oppressive demands are scaring Doug Ford but Brown would have Tanya toeing the line or out of the contest to be a conservative candidate. As a social conservative himself, Brown learned the lesson the hard way and he would take control.

If I was a really loyal liberal, I guess I would concede that Ford is easier for Wynne to tear apart in a debate. Did he really agree to that one debate? It is my guess that the conservatives will try to keep Doug Ford as far away from Kathleen Wynne as possible.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

A Truth Squad for Doug Ford?

April 16th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

Here is a million-dollar idea for the Ontario liberals. It came to me as I read the news that the party was going to waste a million dollars on television advertisements to tell Ontario voters that Doug Ford tells lies. I suppose I should charge them, but it was not my idea. It belonged to the late Keith Davey, the master political strategist for the Liberal Party in the last half of the 20th Century.

It was Keith’s idea but he had to get the approval of Walter Gordon who was liberal campaign manager in 1963 and party leader Lester Pearson. Nobody was enthused. The toughest arguments against it were by liberal stalwart Judy LaMarsh, whom Keith wanted to head up the truth squad. I was just a young volunteer at the time but I knew that John Diefenbaker would tear into her.

Judy and her troop were welcomed by prime minister Diefenbaker at the first event and there were seats reserved for them at the front of the hall. It was classic Diefenbaker when he tore into them. Judy and team only needed to take Mr. Diefenbaker’s scorn at two more events before Keith said “That is enough.”  He had made his point.

The strategist’s point was that Mr. Diefenbaker was making free with the truth and the news media did the best job of telling the voters. Everyone was laughing but it was at Mr. Diefenbaker’s expense.

And that is the objective with Doug Ford. The difference was that Mr. Diefenbaker was a wily old Prairie lawyer, skilled at talking around the truth. Doug Ford simply does not know what he is talking about.

A good example is his promise to fire the chief executive of Hydro One. Ford cannot imagine anyone earning six million a year and so he will fire him. The only trouble is to do that he would have to start by firing the entire board of Hydro One. And only then could he fire the chief executive officer. By the time the dust settled on the law suits involved, the company could have another $20 million or more to make up from electricity transmission rates.

If the liberals just keep making the point that Doug Ford does not know what he is doing, they can turn around those ridiculous public opinion polls. The 2018 provincial election in Ontario is far from decided.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

The end of the gas plant affair.

April 15th, 2018 by Peter Lowry

The Ontario gas plant affair has ended badly. There are no good guys in the story. It was a sorry tale of misinformation and harangue. It was public participation gone rotten. It was political perfidy. It cost us all.

And David Livingston is the fall guy. He was premier McGuinty’s right-hand man. Nobody should be that loyal. Nobody has the right to tell someone to break the law. Livingston got a token prison sentence. It is still an unfair price for a fall guy to pay.

What price should former premier Dalton McGuinty pay? What price should then campaign chief Greg Sorbara pay?

And we need to remember that the conservatives and the NDP are hardly blameless. They stirred the pot. They incited the local citizens to protest the relatively innocuous gas plants. They loudly demanded they be cancelled. If your local candidate from any party mentions this business on the campaign trail, you will know him or her for a hypocrite.

Sometimes we make decisions in a campaign that are not thought through. We might have had too little time to weigh the pros and cons. When more recently in the midst of a federal election, Justin Trudeau promised that it would be the last election under first-past-the-post rules. He did not lie deliberately. He had simply not given the thought a thorough look. He did not even understand the impact of the promise.

Nor did anyone have any idea what cancelling those gas plants would cost. It was a careless and costly move. It was not a proud day for politicians.

The people who should also be sharing the blame are those who raved against the plants. They were being given an advantage that most Ontario communities could only hope for. They were being provided with local back-up electrical generation for times of extreme heat or cold to keep their air conditioners or furnaces working and their lights turned on. Gas generation plants can come up to speed quickly and meet emergency needs.

And typical of NIMBYs everywhere, the people who complained the most about plants they had never seen, would be the first to complain bitterly in brown outs or electrical system failures. Listen to them about the cost of electrical transmission from back-up plants many miles away.

But now you have your fall guy. Mr. Livingston is carrying that cross for a lot of people. We can all be silent as he goes by.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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