Please come back Curmudgeon.

November 25th, 2014 by Peter Lowry

This is like a plaintive cry in the night across the prairie. A fellow blogger who goes under the pen name The Curmudgeon, a.k.a. The Mound of Sound, says he has had too much and he is giving up on Justin Trudeau and the Liberals.

But the problem is that the Curmudgeon is one of the brighter Liberal bloggers in Canada. He is among those who write about liberalism and its future. He is a thinker and we need him. It is far too big a job to do alone. Given a free hand, Justin Trudeau and his dubious brain trust could reduce the Liberal Party to fewer seats in the House of Commons than poor Michael Ignatieff.

At least the Curmudgeon does not spend all his time polishing his ego as most bloggers do. He can even use big words and spell them properly. And he says what he thinks.

The final straw for the Curmudgeon was the flip-flops of gymnastic hypocrisy by Trudeau the Lesser (the Curmudgeon’s term for our Dauphin) over Israeli discrimination. And if people do not recognize the blind, stupid discrimination in some of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s actions, they are just not paying attention. Getting even with Hamas by killing Palestinian civilians might feel good at the time but it is very bad for long-term relations.

You are a wise person Curmudgeon and you know that you just get people mad if you call the Israeli Prime Minister a fascist. That does not win friends and influence people. It is neither diplomatic nor productive.

At the same time, it is incorrect to suggest that the Israelis are racist. There might be some understandable but unwarranted tribalism but geneticists have concluded that the intermarriage of the Diaspora has eliminated most uniquely racial characteristics of the world population defined as Jewish. It is just that the various tribes wishing to live in the Levant need to learn to live together in peace.

You are of course forgiven for referring to your Liberal friends as “you Liberal bastards.” As Pierre Trudeau noted in reference to a scatological comment by President Richard Nixon of the U.S. “I have been called worse things by better people.”

Half of the Liberals in Babel already hate this writer but the sage among us must speak out for reason. At least we care about liberalism and where the Liberal Party is headed. And somebody has to tell Justin when he is screwing up.

And to be totally honest: is there anyone else you could vote for?

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Is EnergyEast Justin Trudeau’s Waterloo?

November 24th, 2014 by Peter Lowry

How often have we seen a single issue become the real turning point in an election? It hardly matters how tired and out-of-touch the party in power might be, you still need that one idea that makes the turn-over happen. Nobody wins if all you say is that it is time for change. The change must be evident. It must be real. It must have relevance.

You can imagine how at this time Justin Trudeau and his brain trust are examining the potential obstacles and opportunities in the coming election. He has to define where he and the Liberal Party stand. And one of the potential hot buttons is the EnergyEast pipeline of TransCanada Pipelines. This one issue could be as key to winning in Quebec as the blocking of the Northern Gateway and the expanded Kinder Morgan pipelines is to winning in British Columbia.

But it could also be Justin Trudeau’s Waterloo. He cannot vacillate on issues related to the tar sands. As a party the Liberal Party has to say “No” to the large scale exploitation of the Athabasca and Cold Lake tar sands. The public has to be told of the threat that tar sands oil is to our planet. They have to learn that converting tar sands bitumen to refined oil products creates three times the pollution of regular crude oil. This goes far beyond the destruction of the environment in Northern Alberta. Canadians cannot allow that pipeline to pump the poison that will destroy our planet across the country for foreign markets just for paycheques in Alberta.

EnergyEast pipeline through Quebec is not only being pushed by the Conservatives and encouraged by the New Democrats but it is supported by one of the most desperate and expensive public relations programs ever undertaken in Canada. And if Justin Trudeau buys into it, he will lose the election. Because of the routing of EnergyEast in Ontario, it lacks the weight of exposure and concern it is generating in Quebec. Quebec will vote for the party that exposes the sham of EnergyEast and says “No.”

At this point many Quebecers are telling the pollsters that they are parking their votes with the New Democrats. They will not stay there. The pro-pipeline stance of the New Democrats is the Trojan horse that will spell destruction of the party. That leaves a policy path for the Liberal Party as wide as the St. Lawrence River.

If the Liberal Party does not come out against EnergyEast, Quebec voters will have no choice but to resurrect the Bloc Québécois. There is only one refinery in Quebec that is willing to spread the pollution of refining Alberta tar sands bitumen. The owners of that refinery operate out of Calgary.

But it is no secret that the ultimate destination of EnergyEast will be the new loading docks for ocean-going tankers in Saint John, New Brunswick. All Quebec will ever get out of that pipeline is the very real risk of serious pollution from pipeline spills.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Sometimes, you cannot choose your friends.

November 23rd, 2014 by Peter Lowry

A casual observation made in a commentary the other day about the difficulties of having Americans as neighbours and friends evoked some questions. It comes down to the fact that Canadians have little choice. You might think we Canadians get kicked around now but just think of what it would be like if Americans actively disliked us?

You could never drive to Florida in the winter again. Imagine every state along the way getting a piece of you. From new state taxes just for us to special speed traps, you would be too poor to stay long in Florida if you even got there. You would yearn for those good old days when the Americans only patronized you. Even your American relatives would not let you visit them unless you flew—God forbid you should park a car with Canadian plates in their driveway.

What you have to remember is that almost half of the population in that country are born-again, gun-loving, Tea Party Republicans who despise any foreign, colored, impoverished or possibly sexual deviant person who does not look or talk like them.

There are also Democrats in the U.S.A. who look and talk like Republicans just to confuse matters. There are also quite a few Latinos and blacks whose ancestors came to America long before many of the red-neck Republicans’ ancestors. There are also some native American Indian survivors. Which makes the point that in a land of more than 300 motley millions, they probably would not all dislike Canadians at the same time.

In fact, the principal American, President Obama is not as annoyed with Canadians as he is tired of the constant pressure from Prime Minister Harper and his friends to put through the Keystone XL pipeline. He knows that there are lots of us Canadians who are saying, “Good on you Mr. Obama, screw TransCanada Pipelines.”

Maybe one of these days Prime Minister Harper is going to realize that he cannot have both a customs plaza at Canada’s new bridge to Detroit and Keystone XL too. It is a safe bet that Mr. Obama would go along with the bridge plaza for $250 million if Mr. Harper would just shut up about Keystone. He has enough right-wing conservatives nagging at him in Congress.

But Obama has that warm feeling that comes from knowing that he will probably outlast that hard-ass Harper. His term of office is not up until 2016. Mr. Harper’s term of office is likely to end next year. And Canadians will be their old lovable selves again.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

What about Blair’s role at the G20?

November 22nd, 2014 by Peter Lowry

Are Canadians supposed to believe that Toronto police Chief Bill Blair is just an unindicted co-conspirator in the illegal actions of the Toronto police during the G20 in Toronto in 2010? It is somewhat late for him to claim that he did not know that he was breaching the rights of Canadian citizens during the police actions of that dreadful weekend. Simply getting rid of Blair is not the answer.

Toronto Police Superintendant David (Mark) Fenton is currently the only senior officer charged and is now before a tribunal under the Police Services Act. He is charged with five acts of unlawful arrest and discreditable conduct during that weekend when some 1100 people were arrested and detained. It seems Supt. Fenton was the officer who ordered the unwarranted kettling incidents of walkers and gawkers in downtown Toronto, nowhere near the G20 meetings. His lawyer claims that Mr. Fenton’s defence is that while he ordered the arrests, he was not responsible for how officers carried out his orders. (Seriously, his lawyer is quoted saying that by the Toronto Star, Nov. 21/14.)

This defence is what brings us back to William Blair. Canadian police forces are organized as quasi-military organizations and there is always a well defined chain of command. The initial and ongoing training of police officers is designed to ensure an understanding and proper follow-through of orders from those officers over you. Senior officers who give ambiguous orders do not remain officers for long. Police officers of all ranks who prove they cannot follow legal orders from superior officers do not stay long on a properly run police force.

And the buck stops in the office of the Chief of Police. That confusing array of emblems on Bill Blair’s uniform epaulets say he is the boss. He is responsible. If people under him are not trained to do their job as ordered, it is the chief’s problem.

What everyone needs to understand is that Toronto, Ontario is not Ferguson, Missouri. Canadian police had never used kettling tactics before June 2010. They do not need army surplus equipment with which to frighten citizens. Canadian police should never have to block, contain or arrest citizens who are lawfully on the street.

Toronto police have a long way to go to recover from the damage done to their reputation in that summer weekend in 2010. There were politicians to blame aplenty. There were confusing orders given to the Toronto Chief of Police. He had the responsibility to have them clarified. He did not. He was wrong. His police acted improperly. He is to blame.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

The rich are different, Mr. Clark.

November 21st, 2014 by Peter Lowry

There is something irrepressible about TD Bank’s Ed Clark. He wants to give advice in areas beyond a banker’s experience. The other day, he handed in another seriously flawed report to the Ontario government and now he is giving advice to the rich. Being one of the rich himself, he is advising them to be more charitable. While nobody will disagree, the rich are not always the best people to decide where this largess should go.

One of the first things you learn in charitable fund-raising is how there is a broad range of potential donors with just as broad a range of ways to motivate them. While the one per cent can provide some very large gifts and the top ten per cent of earners can give your cause a lift, it is the average wage earners who stay committed to your cause who make the year-after-year difference. And while fads such as a bucket of cold water and ice can produce interesting peaks in fund-raising, the annual signature campaigns (the ones identified with your cause) are what you count on.

But like a garden, these signature campaigns need constant tending, nurturing, pruning and new ideas to keep your cause current and in the public mind.

Some fund-raising experts concentrate their efforts on those one-time generous gifts of the one per cent. It helps if you have a building to name or an important prize to identify. There are egos to be stroked and descendants to be flattered. Despite the urge to just rent out this naming, you really have to wait for a generation to die off before you can tack new names on well known edifices such as Toronto’s SkyDome or O’Keefe Centre.

And thank goodness the one per cent are no longer wasting their money on ostentatious mausoleums. University buildings and named wings on hospitals are really much more practical and appreciated. The largest ever of one of these gifts in Canada to health sciences was announced the other day by the family of the late Ted Rogers. A total gift of $130 million will not do much to burnish the image of the company that bears his name but will go a long way to furthering heart research.

But the big problem is that we do not always make the best choices on what to do with our money. It is ours and we get to do as we wish. For example, Bill Gates is one of the richest people in the world and the foundation he and his wife run concentrates on problems in Africa. What Gates forgets is that a large percentage of that money was made in North America. There is also poverty, hunger, ignorance and needs in North America. While the needs in Africa are dire and have to be addressed, there is still validity to the old adage that charity begins at home.

And while Ed Clark’s advice to his fellow top earners is appreciated and obviously warm hearted, we each need to contribute in those areas where we are comfortable that the money is used properly. Being sceptical and checking carefully always makes sense.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

The dubious diplomacy of the Hair.

November 20th, 2014 by Peter Lowry

Was there a sign at the Brisbane Airport last week barring diplomacy or diplomats entry to Australia? The way Vladimir Putin was treated at the G20 conference there was a disgrace. He is the leader of the Russian people and as their representative he deserves to be treated with courtesy. How would Canadians feel if the world leaders treated the Canadian Prime Minister so discourteously? And where does the Hair get off, thinking he can kick the school yard bully when he is down?

The world has over many centuries developed a code of diplomacy. It is designed to help prevent your emissaries being needlessly butchered before they have delivered their message of peace and friendship. And there are even diplomatic ways of informing the overly aggressive leader that his intentions in a neighbouring state are not reciprocated. Sure diplomatic sanctions might seem slow and less effective than a well-aimed kick but that kick can earn its own consequences.

The Hair needs to learn diplomacy. And he has to stop playing to numbskulls back in Canada who think Canadians can make enemies of the Russians. Sure the Americans will protect us from the wrath of the Russian bear but what price will the Americans exact for the aid? Being friends with the Americans is hard enough already.

The Hair has to stop making enemies for Canada. He is busy alienating much of the Muslim world. He has annoyed many at the United Nations. His government’s mistreatment of refugees is spreading alarm. The Americans are tired of him pandering to them while pushing pipelines for his highly polluting tar sands bitumen. And they hardly want his bitumen polluting south of the border.

It is not as though the Hair does not have a Minister of Foreign Affairs—such as he is. John Baird might be something other than competent but the Hair picked him and he might as well use him.

And there would be something poetic about John Baird getting in Mr. Putin’s face. This would be particularly if Mr. Baird explained to Mr. Putin that we are less discriminatory. Canadians are more tolerant of gentlemen who prefer other gentlemen for company.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Liar, liar, pants on fire.

November 19th, 2014 by Peter Lowry

Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa might not have been born a banker. He probably decided on that profession when the other kids picked on him in the school yard. He determined to get even. In a strange new ritual called the Fall Economic Statement, Charles sounded like he still had it in for the school yard bullies.

The economic report he made to the legislature was really nothing more than school boy bragging. He sure is going to get even with those tax cheats. He brags that he is going to nail tax cheats for some $700 million over the next four years. If he really thinks he will get that money, he is kidding us and himself.

The best way to get rid of tax cheats is to make it less worthwhile to cheat. The most expensive way is to arrest the cheats and to send them to prison. That costs far more than the amount of tax they have scammed. And if you think you only have to incarcerate a few “pour encourager les autres,” you have no idea how many different types of scams that are possible.

And with Ontario’s remodelling business built so shakily on tax dodges, he will be needlessly throwing people out of work if he clamps down on those tax loopholes. He would be far better off to add some taxes in that sector on equipment and materials. The province can allow the legitimate remodelling contractor to claim back the tax when he pays in the customers’ taxes on a related contract.

The really bad news in this school-yard dialogue was what Sousa said in regards to the foolish suggestions of TD Bank’s Ed Clark and his panel of has-been politicos. To take a one-time gain from selling hydro-electric distribution to people who will rip off the consumers is pathetic. To have the LCBO try to meet the local needs of ethnic groups is an exercise in the ridiculous.

But it was the plan to squeeze the Beer Store monopoly that indicated how really childish Sousa was in his economic statement. Instead of ending the idiocy of having a foreign-owned monopoly with their disgusting beer stores, Sousa gave up millions in potential revenues from better distribution of beer sales.

Frankly, it is becoming an embarrassment to admit that Charles Sousa and the Wynne government are supposed to be Liberals. We used to refer to them as Whigs which were an earlier version of Liberals. What they really are is Conservatives by another name.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Le Dauphin, with two speeches ready.

November 18th, 2014 by Peter Lowry

It is a tough job. When you have to have two speeches ready, you are likely to have to use the losing one. Writers hate them and politicians hate them. Your first one tells all about how you knew you were going to win. Your second one admits the loss but finds good signs in what happened. And if you cannot find something to crow about in the outcome, you are not much of a politician.

The Whitby-Oshawa by-election yesterday was one of those times. We knew that the Liberal’s biggest problem in winning was getting out the troops to in turn get out the vote. The result was better than we thought it would be. That speaks volumes.

It says that Liberal candidate Celina Caesar-Chavannes can win the riding next year—the ghost of Jim Flaherty was entitled to one more kick at the cat.

It spells serious trouble for Prime Minister Harper’s Conservatives next year. It confirms the probability of the federal Liberals taking more than 70 ridings in Ontario.

It tells us that New Democratic Leader Thomas Mulcair is in more trouble than we expected. Whitby-Oshawa used to be an area of strong union strength. New Democrat Trish McAuliffe, who came second in 2011, could not even garner 10 per cent of the vote this time. This is trouble with a capitol “T” for Mulcair.

But we best not lose sight of the messages it sends to the Liberals. It shows us that Justin Trudeau is not invincible. He is not “le Dauphin” who can just wave some magic wand and produce victories. He has to prove that he can be democratic. He has to prove that he will listen to the Liberal grass roots. He and his tight little team need to smarten up.

Canadians do not need to hear that the future is Liberal. They need to hear what that Liberal future holds. We need to start talking clearly about policies and plans. We have much to rebuild in Canada. People need to hear the Liberal priorities.

In both speeches prepared for last night, we would be seriously remiss not to recognize the great work of the Whitby-Oshawa Liberals and their superb candidate. They all worked hard. They knew how tough it would be from the beginning and they all did their part and they did it well. Congratulations.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Does the NDP know where it’s going?

November 17th, 2014 by Peter Lowry

Wow, it says here that 77 per cent at the Ontario New Democrat convention in Toronto this past weekend liked Leader Andrea Horwath. Were they given a choice? Did they have someone else in mind? It seems silly to read anything into these figures. If the New Democrats had an alternative in mind, we would have known.

And when you do not know where you are going, why hire a new chauffeur?

In a spirit of inter-party cooperation, maybe Babel-on-the-Bay can help. It has always been our opinion that in Ontario the New Democrats were discouraged by some of their union members from being true socialists and the Liberals were barred by their bankers from being true reformers. It has always been our opinion that unions and banks can be equally reactionary forces and some need to be stepped on periodically. There are those times when neither a particular union nor banker are doing anybody any good.

On the other hand, there is a very strong need in Ontario for social democracy. And the truth is that liberalism and social democracy are very similar. Many political scientists are prepared to admit that there is really very little difference.

It has been noted over the years that the conservative parties have enjoyed the in-fighting between the various social democratic factions. Too often the conservatives have benefitted from that in-fighting. It has been so bad at times that New Democratic voters have switched to the conservative candidate rather than concede victory to the nasty liberals. And that has even been reciprocated by some liberals who would not vote for the left. It left bad feelings and scars.

It is time now for a new beginning. And if you are waiting for the perfect timing, there is none. It will always be difficult. There will always be some election in the offing. And there are complications because of the different federal and provincial organizations.

What we need is for the olive branch to be offered. We might have to offer it more than a few times. It will also be hard to tell the bankers and unions to take a hike. There was a comfort level there that we all might miss.

Maybe Babel-on-the-Bay can help as something of a clearing house. You know where we stand. Where are you? Do you want to help? Let us know.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Can TD Bank help Ontario’s deficit?

November 16th, 2014 by Peter Lowry

If you are a TD Bank customer you should be concerned. Another interim report to the Ontario government has been received from TD Bank Chair Ed Clark. He and his panel of former politicians are supposed to be telling Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa what assets should be sold or become more profitable to help with the province’s deficit problem. What we are hearing does not sound like very good financial advice.

In his 77-page report amusingly entitled “Retain and Gain: Making Ontario’s Assets Work Better for Taxpayers and Consumers.” Clark seems to forget he is a banker and tells us how to create jobs in liquor stores and sell off hydro-electric distribution. And somehow, this is expected to make billions for Ontario. While the expertise Clark’s panel brings to liquor sales might be questionable, the collective expertise of the panel in electricity distribution is likely non existent.

What we would really like to know about these recommendations is what criteria are used to determine if something should be a monopoly or a competitive business? Maybe others wonder what we gain in Ontario by keeping some businesses as a monopoly. And what would we gain by having our monopoly liquor stores catering to the wishes of their local markets? Would not competitive independent retailers do a far better job of meeting the market needs for ethnic liquors and wines?

And what fairy godmother advised the panel to suggest privatizing Ontario’s confused mess of monopoly power distribution systems? And why do we get the impression that Clark and friends have got it all backwards?

Would it not be more logical to retain as a monopoly something that is a logical monopoly? If power distribution has no competition, what is to be gained from privatizing it? Would you not just be licensing people to take money from the taxpayers for a service requirement that government can more fairly satisfy?

On the other side of the coin, why not privatize those businesses that would benefit from privatization? If the government could make more revenue, the taxpayers have more choices and Ontario entrepreneurs get to do their stuff, what the hell is the Ontario government’s problem?

And to advise the government to rip off more money from the beer monopoly to keep their monopoly is advice we would not accept from any banker. This banker is way out of his depth and he should quit now.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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