The pandemic that killed small businesses.

January 17th, 2021 by Peter Lowry

It has always been obvious that while our politicians will say positive things about small and entrepreneurial businesses, the big box stores are all they can see. And nothing has culled the field of small business faster than the second wave of the pandemic.

But it was not covid-19 that did the deed. It was government shutting our small business down without compensation that sealed their fate. While we expect a high percentage of start-ups will fail within the year, there seems to be no justification for our politicians to accelerate their demise.

And we are not just thinking restaurants here. Restaurants have been given a chance if they can find profit in pick-up and delivery. People still want good food. Other retailers who can deliver goods and services without traffic through their premises also have an opportunity at survival.

Yet if I ran a clothing store, for example, I would need a strong customer base and a liberal return policy, to survive the erratic lock-downs of this pandemic. Even then, you would have a hard time even making your overhead.

And with the opportunities left for restaurants, they need to make better deals with the various smart-phone apps who can put them in the poor house with their delivery charges. And even then, restauranteurs need to realize that they want to keep the 15 to 25 per cent of their customers who do not have smart phones. Sure, about 80 per cent of the Canadian population are now claimed to be using smart phones. That does not say much for our common sense as many of these users can ill-afford to pay the outrageous rates that Canadian telecoms are charging.

Our politicians are going to lose the advantages they gained by spending so lavishly during the first wave.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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In defense of dissent.

January 16th, 2021 by Peter Lowry

Is it better to be known for your friends or your enemies? When does a dissenter become the hero? Or is dissent the sad role of the aged curmudgeon? I always admired Pierre Trudeau, father of our present prime minister, for his handling of dissent. He treated it as an intellectual challenge. He also gave as good as he got when the dissent was broached in boorish terms.

This all comes to mind as the premier of Ontario continues to throw dissenters out of his caucus at Queen’s Park. He needs to be careful about that as there are more than a few in his caucus biding their time until the opportunity comes along to use their knives (figuratively) on their inexperienced leader.

It would be very foolish of Ford to heave ten or more of the conservative caucus aside and leave himself with a minority government. It would not be likely to survive for long.

You could name many among his conservative caucus who have differing ambitions and agendas. The conservative party is known for its amalgam of social, fiscal and just plain mean conservatives and the very few who care about their constituents. A populist such as Ford has little political ideology but tends to follow in his father’s footsteps in serving conservativism.

He would probably be surprised at how many of his caucus are quiet believers in American Donald Trump. They admire the Trump bigotry, misogyny and support for the monied class but are also smart enough to keep this admiration out of the public awareness.

If Ford really threw MPP Randy Hillier out of the conservative caucus for being behind the Ontario Landowners, he could be in for a surprise. His rural supporters include the Landowners and he dare not alienate them.

It is probably best to only express dissent if you are not a member of a provincial assembly or federal parliament. It is in a blog such as this that you can complain about the hypocrisy of political leaders—particularly of your own political party.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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Ford unlocks his lockdown.

January 15th, 2021 by Peter Lowry

It is not just Ontario residents who are confused. They are in a “lockdown” that nobody understands. The wife and I very much wanted to see an old friend this weekend. We finally figured out that under premier Ford’s lockdown rules, the two of us could not go and visit the other person but the one person could come and see us. Go figure that one?

To be honest with you, I never have been a fan of Mr. Ford. He is a label salesman gone amok. He was the worst councilor ever on Toronto city council for one term. He lost in his attempt at immediately running for mayor and landed in the premier’s job more by accident than design.

As premier of Canada’s most populous province, he immediately proved himself vindictive—disrupting the Toronto elections by reducing the number of councilors. He showed his true colors as an anti-environmentalist—promising developers they would be able to build on Toronto’s natural aquifer.

And while he never really provided us beer drinkers with his promised buck-a-beer, he proved his calling by ordering libelous stickers making false claims about the federal government’s carbon tax—until the courts instructed the province to take them down.

But when the pandemic first swept through Ontario, Ford was unprepared and rarely listened to anybody. It is the second wave that is threatening to decimate our population that has left him confused and angry. He begs and blusters for the news media instead of directing them to scientific sources. He, shamelessly, uses his cabinet colleagues to confuse and cover for him. He uses expert sources as a last resort.

It is his latest lockdown that has left us all in the dark. He tells us what is open and closed and what hours the open can be open. And what makes no sense is who can be dealing out the front door and who can invite you in to shop and why the big box stores are open when the desperate small store can starve.

This must be what happens when a label salesman tries to run a province. Let us hope that Ontario remembers when the opportunity for change comes along.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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Black’s pal Trump.

January 14th, 2021 by Peter Lowry

If Bob Hepburn of the Toronto Star had not raised it, I never would have noticed. It has been about ten years since Conrad Black was released from prison in the United States and deported to Canada. Obviously, he is more comfortable holing up in Toronto’s Bridal Path area in a $20 million plus mansion. I am of the opinion that Canada should have deported him to England a long time ago.

Since president Trump pardoned Black and has more recently pardoned some of Black’s co-conspirators, I guess we are not supposed to call Black a felon and jailbird anymore. And after all, he never was convicted of anything in Canada.

I assume Black has been doing Zoom appearances on the American right-wing talk shows or something in support of his friend Donald Trump. It was no surprise when Hepburn reported on this feature in Conrad’s life—competing with Rudy Guiliani as to who is Trump’s BFF.

Hepburn tells us that Black is appalled at the way Americans are treating his friend.  I guess news of the second impeachment of Donald Trump is not included in Black’s daily read of the National Post.

But then we gather that Black does not believe Trump incited all those deplorables to riot in Washington last week. He considers the rioters as something other than Trump supporters. He also believes that is disgraceful for the republican party leadership to be deserting Trump in this time of Trump’s greatest need.

After all, Black seems to believe that the democrats stole the election and that Trump’s tales of voter fraud last November had merit.

It is obvious that at 76, Black should retire the spotlight and try to eke out a reasonable style of living with his wife Barbara and his last $100 million. It is tougher and tougher for us seniors these days. Have you seen the price of caviar lately?


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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It’s not your father’s liberal party.

January 13th, 2021 by Peter Lowry

When Pierre Trudeau resigned his leadership of the liberal party in 1984, it was a robust organization with supporters across Canada. The president of the party was B.C. liberal Iona Campagnolo. She was the party president that when the new leader John Turner was caught by the media patting her backside—made a joke of it by turning it around and patting his.

It is regrettable to think that there will not be much left of the party whenever Justin Trudeau decides his time is done. Rather than work with a strong and independent party, Justin Trudeau prefers it be subservient and totally under his direction. Nobody runs for office in the party without his approval. And nobody runs to be a liberal candidate for parliament without his approval.

Trudeau had told the party he would not interfere in the choice of the party in the electoral districts before the party made him leader. It became clear in his first election as leader in 2015, that he would choose who he wanted as candidates. His inner circle people are always a mirror image of the forty-something prime minister, reflecting his attitudes, his direction and his ignoring the party’s wishes.

He told the party and his supporters in the 2015 election campaign that it would be the last time that they voted under the first-past-the-post style of voting. That promise bombed under a democratic institutions minister who was chosen more for her gender than her knowledge of democratic institutions.

Even his gender-balanced cabinet soon lost its gender balance when he found that changes where inevitable with time. Luckily the best performer in his cabinet over their first term in government was Chrystia Freeland, the foreign affaires minister who became deputy prime minister and the first female minister of finance in Trudeau’s minority cabinet in 2020.

Justin Trudeau is maturing in the job but he still has a way to go before he learns the importance of having a strong, independent party behind him as prime minister. He also has a long way to go to becoming the kind of prime minister as was his father.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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Politics of the pandemic.

January 12th, 2021 by Peter Lowry

It has been fascinating watching politicians learning about the politics of a pandemic. It has been a learning experience for all of them. Some take naturally to the challenge, while others find it a struggle.

Thinking of the positive ones first, I have to admit that prime minister Justin Trudeau fell into the pandemic cesspool and came out smelling of roses. While I ridiculed his popping out of the Rideau Cottage, as though it was a cuckoo clock, those were very effective sessions. Not only did the media and the public pay attention but they came to trust his statements. Trudeau had reason to laugh at the opposition in parliament. He stood alone in front of the cottage and the listeners had every reason to believe him.

People such as Doctor Theresa Tam, Canada’s Public Health officer, brought the technical expertise to support the prime minister but not on the same set. Best to let her and the lesser politicians play back-up from an official site while the prime minister played his game as a single.

Interestingly, premier Doug Ford from Ontario does not have the younger Trudeau’s confidence. He seems afraid of his ignorance. Ford brings his health minister, his former treasurer, his education minister and other minions to dance a quadrille with him around the microphones.

But Ford still manages to get himself in trouble. He blusters when caught out. He announces that there will be an announcement—and you hope he remembers. He comes across too often as dull-witted and uncaring.

Premier François Legault of Quebec seems to be a cross between Robert Bourassa and Maurice Duplessis. You have to annoy him to get him to make the next move. I keep waiting to see him leading the police in sweeping people off the streets of Montreal.

But the one who really takes the cake is the premier of Alberta. He is almost as bad as Trump in the United States and that guy with the bad haircut in the United Kingdom. All of those men have proved conclusively that they are not effective leaders. Jason Kenney has been leading Alberta down the garden path for too long. He is a narcissist, a misogynist and a fool and seems to have forgotten all the lessons by his mentor Stephen Harper.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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In praise of liberalism.

January 11th, 2021 by Peter Lowry

Being a liberal is not just some fuzzy feeling. It is a commitment to life. It matters not the color of your skin. It matters not whether you are rich or poor. It matters not the extent of your education. It depends on your caring. It depends on your ability to grasp the needs of your fellow humans. The need is to be progressive. To keep an open mind.

Liberals ignore the false news of the ill-informed. They reject the foolishness of unthinkingly believing in social media posts of those with personal agendas. Liberals do not rush to judgement.

Also, a liberal allows no one to put themselves above others. A liberal looks down on no one. There is no upper class. There is no middle class. There is no lower class. Nobody need be labelled.

You might hear someone claim they are a social liberal and an economic conservative. That person is not a liberal. Their statement is a conflict.

An economic or any kind of conservative can be a basically selfish person. While we have known many a conservative who is not selfish and is a warm and caring person, it is not the type you usually meet in politics. Too many conservatives preach a cant of small government, balanced budgets, an open economy and the devil take those who fall behind. They come across as mean and uncaring.

They will tell their constituents to stay home during the pandemic and then take off on a foreign holiday. They will leave behind social media postings to make people think they are at home. They know that they are doing wrong but they consider themselves to be privileged.

But privilege can also be the problem with liberal politicians. People ask why some liberals are fed up with Justin Trudeau. Sure, he looks good popping out of the Rideau Cottage to speak about the pandemic. That hardly lets him off the hook about the TransMountain pipeline that is just designed to send the pollution of that oil sands bitumen to other countries which can be blamed for the world-wide pollution.

And it is hard to forget his elitist approach to the Senate and court appointments, his failure to keep two key women in his cabinet and his dress-up trip to India. Nobody’s perfect.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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Exit President Trump.

January 10th, 2021 by Peter Lowry

It has been America’s shame. The past four years of the American presidency has shown the world a failure of democracy in the strongest country in the world. When you do not pay attention, when you do not care, you can get a president like Donald Trump.

It needs to be said that Donald Trump incited the vandals who attacked the Washington Capitol the other day. He did not lead them. They were but a leaderless rabble, revelling in the destruction and chaos they could cause. Only their hapless leader, hiding in the White House, knew to fear them. We should all be thankful that Donald Trump is no leader. Yes, he was the primary instigator but he has never shown the ability to lead.

Look at the pandemic as it cuts a broad swath through the heartland of the United States of America. Trump does not know what to do. He did not know to listen to the available experts. He did less than nothing. He led Americans in the direction of disease and death. He led in ignorance. He did not know that the best thing to do when you do not know what to do is to shut up.

It was his ability to understand what frustrated and annoyed his voters four years ago that we did not comprehend. He was surprised as the rest of us when his followers managed to win him the College of Electors and the presidency.

Trump feeds on ignorance. His rallies with his followers are lessons in demagoguery. His followers today will tell you that he helped expand the United States economy. Yes, he did, but only if you want to ignore the cost to the environment. You can knock down mountains in Appalachia for cheap and highly polluting coal. You can foolishly approve pipelines for pollution creating routes for bitumen to get where this tar sands product can do the most environmental damage. And you can only think you are making America great when all you are doing is pissing off your neighbours, your allies, your friends.

We will not miss Mr. Trump. We will not miss his bigotry. We will not miss a man who mistreats children. We will not miss a man who builds walls against his neighbours. We will not miss a man who treats his country’s enemies as friends and its friends as enemies.

I think there will be a collective sigh of relief when he leaves the Washington White House. He will no longer be able to abuse the power of the presidency.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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Lasting in lockdown.

January 9th, 2021 by Peter Lowry

Happy New Year to you! We spend Christmas and New Years hunkered around the television binge-watching The Crown on Netflix.  Nobody got our seasons greetings because just when I was about to send them, my computer died. Between Amazon, Best Buy and Costco, I found I could not buy a computer on-line because my e-mail was not working. Without being able to respond to e-mails, I could not prove who I was.

Luckily, I have a wonderful extended family spread over North America and my problems with computers became a cause celeb. It was like being on the receiving end of a ‘go-fund-me’ effort. Cheques have been arriving from the next generation to more than pay for the computer and software I am now using. I could not be more pleased. I feel they are now complicit in encouraging me to keep writing my scurrilous commentaries.

And speaking of that, please do not get the wrong idea because I have been watching Netflix’s opus about the British crown. I am still vehemently opposed to the idea of Canada having a sovereign.

While I must admit that Peter Morgan and the other writers did an excellent job of putting some intelligent words into the mouths of their callow characters, the royals still came across to me as vain, shallow, self-indulgent people. Let’s face it, there are those who already believed the Queen Mother was a lush, Margaret a slut, Phillip a philanderer, Charles a self-obsessed whiner, Anne a bitch, Andrew a pompous ass and Edward a poof. And they consider themselves our betters?

And if you think the Brit royals are a disappointment, you should meet some of their counterparts on the continent. You have to admit that Queen Victoria did nobody any favours repopulating the royal houses of Europe.

The only thing I think the writers got wrong was some of the details of the Falklands War. It was not exactly the ideal legacy for prime minister Margaret Thatcher. There were some very amusing aspects of that war, as well as the heartless and needless deaths, that the writers could have mentioned.

But we appreciate the gift of Netflix from a niece and her husband to help us get through the lockdown. It is a difficult time for everybody. Let’s get vaccinated against Covid-19 as soon as possible and get back to enjoying a full life in this wonderful country.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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We are coming back.

January 7th, 2021 by Peter Lowry

Yes, we are starting to get the urge to write. It has been a longer hiatus than intended. Today we are just doing a test with one of our favourite commentaries from 2016. I expect the discouragement in writing political commentaries is the short life of many of the comments. Occasionally one has a long life—an excellent example is the following which was written in response to one of our less complimentary comments about the U.K.


While Babel-on-the-Bay was urged to produce a morning line on the Brexit vote, the decision was made that it was far too close to forecast. And it was. Along with the disappointment of the morning after, the in-box contained a 1900-word diatribe on our ‘pompous’ Brexit commentary. Never has 400 or so words of comment produced so much vitriol.

It is freely admitted that the Brexit commentary was far too casually handled and poorly edited. We all need a good editor. And it is also admitted that this ignorant colonial can never get the names of Great Britain, the United Kingdom and its various subjects and components right but who cares that much? Canadians learn all that stuff in grade school and quickly forget about it. You have to also swear allegiance to the Queen when you join the Canadian military but you forget about it after you leave.

We were also accused of taking liberties in using the royal ‘we.’ In years of teaching writing to business people, the point was always made that only a child writing to Mommy from camp starts sentences with ‘I.’ The point is that Mommy cares about you; people receiving a business letter from you do not. If you write about what others care about, you will get their attention.

Obviously, we did that with this gentleman. He told us he was annoyed as hell. He disagreed with our opinion. Oddly enough, that is also our objective. While reasonably confident in our opinion, we do like to receive comment from readers to keep us on our toes. This gentleman showed us how angry older men can get. He wanted to put a trapdoor under our toes and a noose around our neck.

He sees corporatism as the problem and the neoliberalism of the politicians as the support structure that maintains the corporatism. A former Brit, he sees his adopted country of Canada as being ruled by foreign corporations and decries our politicians’ desire for mounting numbers of free trade pacts. He just does not recognize that the problem is more about political laziness and carelessness than plotting.

The writer sees Babel-on-the-Bay’s ‘lordly’ take on Brexit and the Brits as an example of our failure to understand that everything was going down the drain for the average person in the UK. Frankly we also read a lot of bigotry and ignorance in the scenario. The entire fiasco could not have been better directed by England’s famed Boulting Brothers.


Copyright 2016 and 2021 © Peter Lowry

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