Breaking Faith with Canadians.

November 29th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

Before people started accepting news in free form as whatever was trending on social media, we were encouraging business and government to work together. We called it by various names such as business-government partnerships but the essential component was the need to understand that the ultimate beneficiary was supposed to be the Canadian public.

In the late 1980s, one of the more remarkable examples of this partnership was SkyDome in Toronto, where the Blue Jays came to play baseball. At a shared public-private cost of around $600 million, few people really understood the benefits to the people of Toronto, of Ontario or Canada.

For one, it put more lustre for Toronto on the world map. It generated billions in tourism. It drove a steady stream of rebuilding to that part of Canada’s largest city. It helped bring Toronto to life. At least it did until ignorant provincial politicians paid off the debt of about $400 million and sold the building to private interests, including Labatt Breweries, for $151 million. Which seemed like quite a bargain despite the continued financial problems of the time. Labatt’s solution was to sell SkyDome in 2004 to Rogers Communications for $25 million.

But the death knell of any landmark is when you try to give it a new and commercial name. It is still our SkyDome, to us old time baseball fans.

But would you believe that these people who got SkyDome for a song, are now talking about tearing it down. They think they can build another smaller baseball park, with natural grass, nearby.

This new park would be further ‘enhanced,’ according to the proponents with new condominiums and office towers to improve the revenues from the property.

Luckily, the land that SkyDome sits on is not part of the deal for which these schemers paid so little. The lands are leased from a federal government-owned company that specify the only use for these old railway lands is for a ball park and entertainment facility. We might be lucky if this agency says ‘No’ to this new plan.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Blame stupidity and short-sightedness.

November 28th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

We used to have some control in Canada about who bought and sold our industry. If you are smart enough to realize that you might be desperate for a vaccine to cure a new coronavirus some day. You would have kept Connaught Laboratories in Toronto working on vaccines and other products such as insulin, for Canadians and world markets. As it is, we are waiting for initial shipments of covid-19 vaccines from companies in the U.S. and Britain.

A week ago, conservative health critic MP Michelle Rempel Garner criticized the Trudeau government saying “This is gross incompetence that’s going to cost Canadians their lives and their jobs.”

The only problem with this complaint was that Connaught Laboratory and it’s vaccine production capabilities were sold to a French company under a privatization program initiated by the conservative government of Brian Mulroney in the 1980s. Production of insulin and other products of Connaught were then shifted to Europe. That leaves two European companies and one American company producing insulin that was invented in Canada.

Connaught Laboratories was created by a famous Canadian, Dr. John G. Fitzgerald. It was originally opened to produce antitoxin for diphtheria and then gained more notoriety producing Banting and Best’s insulin. Fitzgerald eventually sold a successful Connaught to the University of Toronto for one dollar. The university took the gift ,that was given to them in good faith, and later sold it to the Canadian government for $29 million.

In addition to not having vaccine production ready for the covid-19 pandemic, Canada is hardly first in line for the vaccines now being produced in the United States and Great Britain.

On a personal note, I remember buying insulin for my diabetic son before the Mulroney sale of the former Connaught Labs. Two vials lasted him almost a month and cost about $10 each. Today, American-made insulin is costing him $30 per vial. He figures he cannot complain. If he was in the United States, he could be charged closer to $300 per vial.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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

The auditor versus the label salesman.

November 27th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

It might not be a fair fight but Ontario voters are enjoying it. The ups and downs and the tantrums of former label salesman and now premier Doug Ford are generally entertaining but when he and the province’s auditor general cross swords, the province can see the problems with better clarity.

The problem might be that both of the protagonists are out of their depth. The problem is that Doug Ford’s limited education and political experience, ill prepared him to do battle with both a coronavirus and an experienced auditor general.

You can also make the claim that, once again, auditor general Bonnie Lysyk has overstepped the bounds of her job. That does not make her wrong in telling us that Ford and his Tories are doing a lousy job on the pandemic. When the conservative premiers have made it very clear to Ottawa that the federal role is to do nothing but send money, we have to hope they know what they are doing.

And we agree that Bonnie Lysyk continues to exceed her financial accountability role to point out the lousy job the politicians are doing. She has also pointed out that the province’s medical officer of health is also not doing his job.

But why should that matter when the Ford government is not listening to him either.

What this all boils down to is that once again, the auditor general of Ontario has pointed out the deep pile of do-do that the Ontario government is driving us into. That is her job. How she does it is another matter. She did the same things to the liberals when they were in power.

But we know for a fact now that Ford and his Tories are doing a lousy job. And we have also learned that Ford’s minister of health is no better at her job than the premier is at his.

We hear a retired army general will be reporting in at Queen’s Park to take over distribution logistics for coming vaccines. Let’s hope that he does a better job at that than the politicians have done so far.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Parsing Pierre Poilievre.

November 26th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

Pierre Poilievre, conservative member of parliament for Carleton electoral district in the Ottawa area of Ontario, has described himself as a political junkie. He was born and educated in Alberta, worked for politicians such as Jason Kenney and Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day. He came east to find a riding that could be won despite his French name.

But he is still an Albertan and appears to think of the current prime minister’s father as the Great Satan. Poilievre impresses us as sitting on the extreme right-wing of Canadian politics—in seeming contrast to conservative leader Erin O’Toole’s talk of finding a middle ground for the party. Maybe Poilievre would be happier with a leader more like U.S. president Donald Trump.

But Erin O’Toole seems not to notice his finance critic’s flirting with extreme right-wing conspiracy theories and consorting with fake news.

Poilievre is currently running a petition to “STOP THE GREAT RESET.” He must think ‘the great reset’ means something other than the need for fresh thinking after the pandemic is over. Many politicians are concerned about those in our societies who have been most harmed by the pandemic. The great reset is nothing more than ideas for bringing these people more into the mainstream of our societies.

But an extremist such as Poilievre has no interest in these concerns and can ignore their plight. This is a guy with a political objective that could even include the prime minister’s office in Ottawa.

It has been fascinating watching him on Zoom in the pandemic parliament. He is one of the few MPs to appear on Zoom with full television make-up, professional back-ground set and lighting. He is not missing any opportunity to look sharp and seek greater fortune.

The only problem is that he still comes across as a mean little bastard. We do not wish him well.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Whatever happened to Uncle Malcolm?

November 25th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

It can be awkward when you have relatives who support Donald Trump. They think of him as a cross between God and the great leader. He can do no wrong. They are also born-again Christians and they are convinced that I am going to Hell anyway.

As long as I am destined to go to some place that does not accommodate people like Trump, I am sure I will be happy.

But you should see how these people skate when I ask them whatever happened to Uncle Malcolm. Malcolm died of covid-19 last month. I have not seen him for the past three years. Last time I saw him, he was California-bound for fame and fortune.

But these people have answers for everything. Malcolm’s death is a hoax as far as they are concerned. They think he is alive and well and living the good life in the Golden State. They actually believe that the deaths of a quarter-million Americans from the pandemic, to-date, are a hoax.

And, of course, they believe that their Mr. Trump won the November 3 election. They think the new president elect is also a hoax. They think the demon Joe Biden should be tried for treason.

You come away from a conversation with people like this deeply troubled. And the funny part is that they obviously consider you the nut who needs an intervention. It is the way their voices soften when speaking to you. They do not want to use their outdoor voices and scare you. I think they are convinced I am someone from the deep state.

It is disconcerting to be on the receiving end of their intervention.

I think when the pandemic is over, I am going to have to go to California and check on Malcolm’s grave site. I am sure he is toes up somewhere.

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(This is with apologies to family members who read this blog. No, Malcolm’s not your uncle. As the expression goes: Bob’s your uncle!)

 

Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Trump battles grief and the ocean tides.

November 24th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

As though commanding the ocean tide, the imperial Donald Trump continues his petulant arguments about his electoral college defeat by Joe Biden. No doubt his efforts to nullify the election are just another step in a life of dishonesty and delusion.

But Trump is still in the denial stage. With two months to go before he must vacate the White House, there is little time for him seek revenge on the democrat replacing him. Firing faltering supporters might satisfy him briefly but there is little time left for any loyal replacements. Or, maybe the question is, are there many loyal ones left?

What is impossible to say is what the stages of grief are for a person such as Donald Trump. While he is still in the denial stage, the question is will he move on to a stage such as anger? Or does anger override all the symptoms of his loss?

Trump has certainly been on a high for the past four years. The loss of his position is not supposed to be as serious as a loss of someone close to him. There just does not seem to be anyone close to him that he would care as much about.

This guy is not going to settle for just being called ‘Mr. President’ for the rest of his life. He wants to keep the power. While he might attempt it, there is a bargaining stage to grief but this is a man who is above that. He does not bargain, not with the Devil nor God, nor any democrat.

And it is hardly likely that author Elisabeth Kübler-Ross was thinking of the same situation when she wrote about death, dying and grieving. We cannot be sure but it is highly unlikely that Mr. Trump concurs. He would deny he is grieving. He would most likely prefer to get even.

What he is left with at this time are the stages of depression and acceptance. Frankly, he already seems depressed. It is just that he would have no idea of how to reach the stage of acceptance.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Back to the Bully Pulpit.

November 23rd, 2020 by Peter Lowry

It might have been a term coined by U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt but our prime minister Justin Trudeau did the bully pulpit one better. It was living in Rideau Cottage while the official residence at 21 Sussex was under repair. Trudeau did a cuckoo clock single out the front door of the cottage to address the latest news of the coronavirus.

Where lesser Luminoso would need support by technical experts or henchmen, our prime minister does it alone.

It actually seems more crowded all the time at the Ontario political updates. Despite the team effort, Doug Ford is losing traction with his voters as he rants on. His problem is that he little understands the experts and leans heavily on his own solutions. People are questioning the science behind some of his answers. The largest puzzle he presented recently is closing virtually all small business in the most populous cities in the province while leaving the schools in operation. And it will not help to look to education minister Stephen Lecce for answers.

But even from his bully pulpit, Justin Trudeau knows better than to challenge how some conservative premiers are handling the pandemic problems. Health care is in the hands of the provinces and the feds would be crazy to intervene. All Trudeau can really do is support the provincial efforts and plead for public cooperation in these serious times.

Even when we have some vaccines in the offing, the rapidly escalating case loads of pandemic sufferers is of growing concern. Hospitals in some provinces are reaching capacity and there are fewer and fewer healthy health care workers to fill the gaps.

But what Trudeau can do is throw more aid money into the maw of the coronavirus. In some provinces we are looking at disaster as more and more of our small businesses are ordered to shut their doors, never able to re-open. We will suffer the sores of this pandemic for years to come.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Doug Ford buys Ontario.

November 22nd, 2020 by Peter Lowry

Listening to premier Doug Ford blow on about his Buy Ontario pitch brings back memories. After all I go back to the days when the province used to promote doing home renovation jobs in winter “When men and materials are available.”

But Doug’s objective is to compete with president-elect Joe Biden’s ‘Buy America’ speech fillers. You have probably noted that American politicians usually include this idea when their speech seems to be lacking substance. It is just a filler, easily said, soon forgotten.

Doug should listen to a very experienced politician he knows by the name of Hazel McCallion, the former mayor of Mississauga. Hazel spent most of her life building her city and she still has words to the wise for political newbie’s such as Ford.

I remember years ago when I was working in Mississauga and one of the division heads wandered into my office. He wanted to know why the City of Mississauga was not buying his product. He wanted me to talk to the mayor and city council about this. Since some of his division’s products were made in the area, he thought they should have more consideration.

I explained that I did not have time for such a presentation myself but it would probably be better if he made the presentation himself. I fed his ego a bit, told him how to arrange to make the presentation and sent him on his way.  I already knew exactly what Hazel would do to him.

She had a stock answer for companies with their local-source product presentations. She would give them a lecture about how Mississauga attracted industry such as his because the city provided excellent services at the lowest tax rate of any city in Ontario. And one of the ways that they could offer the lowest tax rate was that they always bought at the lowest price.

My only addendum to that is that we need to challenge our local companies to innovate, to add value and to be good corporate citizens. It is hard not to want do business with those companies.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Pandemic Profiteers.

November 21st, 2020 by Peter Lowry

As a young man, I was trained by two different grocery chains in management of large grocery stores. Later in life, traveling around the world, I would often visit grocery stores, not to see what was different but to admire what was the same. From Hamburg to Kyoto, I could drink in the familiar odours, measure the familiar aisles and re-orient myself.

But today there is a difference in my home town grocery outlets. It is a sense of mounting annoyance. It is a less civil environment. It is the edginess of the staff. It is in the hurries of store management. It is the mounting prices for bread and bacon, milk, butter and potatoes.

The newspapers are finally catching the unrest and reporting on the unconscionable profits being harvested by the publicly reported grocery chains. Reporters are aghast at what they see as skyrocketing prices. Housewives on tight budgets wear worried frowns.

What is worse; nothing will be done about it. Our politicians have been enslaved to the food chain for many years. The conservatives live and die by the farmer voters. The liberals are caught up with the processors and middle marketers. And the NDP are supposed to be the last bastion for the urban consumer. Nobody rocks the boat.

But it is not like the integrated oil companies that merely ensure their profits with managed retail pricing of their goods. Purveying groceries is a much more complicated business. Food chains can stretch many thousands of miles as the seasons mitigate the supply. Processing is often concentrated in low-labour cost countries. A can of peas can have a low percentage mark-up because of its long shelf life, while a head of lettuce loses value daily. And meats make the profits for the chains.

But prices are gouging as each retail chain follows the other up the pricing for profit path. No chain backs down when it comes to dividends.

And what greater profits will they reap as the pandemic denies us the ability to fight back as recalcitrant politicians are baffled by the coronavirus?

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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See no; Hear no; Speak no solutions.

November 20th, 2020 by Peter Lowry

The three wise monkeys are alive and well and hiding from reality in Ottawa. At a time when a recent Environics poll shows that 64 per cent of Canadians support a guaranteed annual income program is a time for action. It is not a time to procrastinate, to put off solutions. It is not a time for our politicians to look like monkeys.

The first thing is to stop looking at a guaranteed income program as a massive support program. What we already have is a massive support program providing for our children, our seniors, our Medicare, Canadians out of work, our education and our programs for people living with disabilities.

What we need is a proper assessment by our politicians of what Canadians need and how to get the help they need to them. And what better time than when our country is torn by the rigours of a pandemic.

Our economy is a just as much at risk is our health. The two are too interdependent. At a time when our economy is in turmoil is the time to launch a guaranteed system. It addresses the immediate problems and builds strength for the future.

What we need to understand is that there are many benefits included in a guaranteed annual program. And there will be many adjustments to make as it proceeds. There will be the immediate impact on minimum wages. We can hardly pay people not to work. Incentives, benefits and self-worth are important considerations.

Raising the goods and services taxes a few percentage points will be an important step in balancing the costs of the program. The need for the money paid out to flow quickly back into the economy is also obvious. Giving it to people who will just put it in the bank is somewhat less effective but ensuring it eventually flows back to the government in a growing tax base is an important objective.

And just think of the good use all those civil servants in Ottawa could be put to when we no longer have a myriad of programs to run. We are quite likely going to benefit greatly from a guaranteed income.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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