Archive for September, 2011

Fighting windmills in the 21st Century.

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

‘Tiny Tim’ Hudak and his Luddite supporters in Ontario should have lived in The Netherlands of the 15th Century.  It was in this period that the people of the lowlands adopted a Persian invention, the windmill, to pump the water from their fields.  People who objected to the adoption of windmills for this purpose were probably thrown off the wrong side of the nearest dike.  There is no record of anyone becoming ill because a windmill was built nearby.  Back then, Luddites knew their place.

While the endless variety of picturesque windmills is a tourist attraction in The Netherlands today, wind turbines have yet to win broad acceptance in Ontario.  And turning wind turbines into political footballs is not improving the acceptance process.  Tiny Tim Hudak has much to answer for.

But it is not just people such as Hudak with their questionable mathematics, myopic perceptions, political contrivances and silly histrionics causing problems for the early adopters of wind energy in Ontario.  There are endless battles being fought across the province with ignorance.  And you find it here, you find it there, you find it everywhere.  Local politicians endlessly expel hot air on the subject, local municipal officials mindlessly and pointlessly pontificate, local power distribution companies cannot be bothered, scientists scratch their heads trying to understand the objections and puzzled citizens are caught in the middle.

Frankly, first responders to cases of people afflicted by wind turbines should be psychiatrists.  Those who complain about the aesthetics have obviously no understanding of form and function.  Wind turbines are an art form in themselves.  They are far more pleasant on the eyes than black swaths of solar panels.

An early objector to wind turbines in Ontario was a fellow from Scarborough who complained stridently about the strange idea of having wind turbines on towers out in Lake Ontario, off the Scarborough Bluffs.  Many agreed with this gentleman.  It is obvious that the higher winds would be at higher elevations and the wind turbines would have been far more successful on top of the Scarborough Bluffs.

Even here in Babel, the simple proposal for a test wind turbine atop the mountain the municipality has created with garbage has become mired in an endless treadmill of obfuscation.  Obviously Tiny Tim is not the only deterrent to progress in this province.

But he and his supporters certainly should not be elected for it.


Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

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If you want boring, try municipal politics.

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

The dog days of summer continue into the fall. The most contentious issue on city council recently was a dog park.  Somebody forgot to scoop on that one.  Frankly, there is nothing positive to report.  So why say anything?

Mind you, we went to the grand opening of the new community theatre on Saturday.  We Babelites call it the ‘Taj Mady.’  It cost every household in Babel more than $140 each.  And a lot of arguments.  We are wondering how to get our money back.  It will hold about 150 patrons of the arts if you fold open every seat.  It is on three floors and we were in one opulent room in the basement and the wife asked, “What is this?”  The answer was “the ladies’ washroom.”  We beat a hasty retreat.  The signage could be improved and certainly made more obvious.  We did note, it has those nifty Dyson blade hand driers.  Cool.

From there we went to a craft beer bar on Dunlop for lunch.  The waitress looked at us in distain when we requested a Labatt’s Blue.

We really should not complain about the cost of the community theatre.  Not when you compare it to the cost of the historic Allandale Station.  The city has spent more than seven million on that without having a clue as to what use it will be put.  We keep suggesting that it might be useful as a train station but that is too simple.  They are building another train station on the road behind the old station and it has a tunnel under the tracks for some reason we cannot fathom.  It was supposed to be operational late last year and the current projection has been changed from sometime this fall to between Christmas and New Years.  That is not only too specific for Babel but extremely unlikely.

We are annoyed with city planners over the ridiculous plans for the Lakefront.  They are going to cause more chaos on the Lakeshore for the next two years moving the road over to accommodate more park and more parking.  Would anyone like to buy a nice condo that has already been surrounded with the dust of construction for the past four years?

If we really wanted to say anything negative about City Council this summer it would have been over the vote to give Impresario MP Brown the Molson Centre free for an event wherein he could promote himself.  City Council’s excuse was that the funds raised go to Royal Victoria Hospital.  The crass Mr. Brown just gets the publicity he wants.  And on that basis, the councillor for Ward 8 should have declared a conflict of interest as she was also promoted as a skater at the event.  That would have meant the motion to give Mr. Brown the centre for free would have been defeated on the split vote.


Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

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An Ontario election update.

Friday, September 16th, 2011

The October 6 provincial election might be recorded as the most boring and predictable election in Ontario history.  To-date, there is really nothing interesting to write about.  Premier Dalton McGuinty is doing much better than expected.  Challenger Tim Hudak, the Conservative leader, is stumbling and fumbling and looking less like any kind of leader every day.  The NDP’s secret weapon, Andrea Horwath, is remaining a secret.

There was a clip on the TV news the other day of Premier Dalton McGuinty looking human.  Somebody brought a dog onto where he was doing the daily stand-up scene and he made a comment about dogs and politicians.  Believe it or not, he laughed. He made a comment that came across as honest and relaxed.  It was the first time voters have seen him not looking like he has a broom up his rear.  The Liberals should take the campaign away from the broom-up-their-rear people who have been running McGuinty’s campaign and just run the clip with the dog as a commercial for the rest of the campaign.  That would be an easy win.

At the same time ‘Tiny Tim’ Hudak is taking Ontario’s Tories down a slippery slope.  His campaign has lost focus.  For a guy who stayed so on-script for the previous seven months, it is hard to explain what has happened to him.  His first critical error was to bite on the Liberal’s tax credit for helping new Canadians gain some work experience.  Calling new Canadians ‘foreigners’ is a foolish thing to do when you are trying to win the new Canadian vote.  And then he became mired in technology that he did not understand.  He has no comprehension of the problems related to Global Positioning Systems and computer monitoring but he is touting a provincial monitoring system for sex offenders that would make the problems and costs of eHealth look like small change.

We hear the NDP are rushing out a 30-second commercial that tries to humanize a very human lady.  That will further confuse the message.  As things stand, the NDP brain trust has left a trail of confused voters across the province and some of them had wanted to vote NDP.

What both the Conservatives and NDP have forgotten is that it is not the people who normally vote for your party who you need to win.  You have to win among the truly undecided.  It would help if you even win some of your opponents’ supporters. They need a reason to vote for you.  And attack ads are dangerous when there are more than two parties.

It should always be remembered that in May 2008, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives had spend millions trashing Liberal Michael Ignatieff.  In the election, the Conservatives increased their vote by two per cent of Canadian voters.  The NDP spent that campaign on a positive note promoting their leader Jack Layton.  The NDP improved their vote by better than 12 per cent.

But politicians are the last to change.


Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

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Harper kept out of Ground Zero ceremony.

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

They put Prime Minister Stephen Harper in his place the other day.  The Americans rejected him and the Brits patronized him.  President Obama forgot to send Canada’s Prime Minister an invitation to the tenth anniversary and dedication ceremony at the former World Trade Center.  They brushed him off and sent him to a garden party at Hanover Square.

The little park at Hanover Square in Lower Manhattan is known as the British Garden and was given to the United Kingdom by the City of New York to recognize the 67 U.K. citizens who perished in the fall of the World Trade Center.  In some fast footwork, the park is to be renamed to encompass Great Britain and its Commonwealth countries.  The condescending treatment by the Brits fits with Mr. Harper’s recent actions in making sure the Queen’s portrait is hung properly in all Canadian embassies and consulates and in returning the Canadian military to the names of the former “Royal” services.  In his usual wooden way, Mr. Harper said to the media and his entourage the he would like to extend his gratitude to the British Garden Memorial Trust for their gesture.

You have to admit that Harper and his handlers did the best they could in an embarrassing and demeaning situation.  One of Mr. Harper’s aides lamely suggested that it was not possible for the New York Police to protect Harper because of the threats to the ceremony where they were already protecting a past and present President of the U.S.A.

The speech Harper read to his audience was a sample of the hurried and makeshift visit he made.  You figure if he has to tell his audience that he is Prime Minister of Canada, you know the usually cocky guy has been thrown off his game.  The speech said nothing and meant less.  It was trite and mundane.

It was interesting that Harper was the only foreign leader in New York on this day of memories.  Why he would go when he was so obviously not invited is a puzzler.  It is understood that some 180 Canadian police officers who went to New York for the day where allowed to attend the Ground Zero dedication.  Then, they were sent over to the British Garden to provide an audience for Mr. Harper.

If you happen to be talking with Mr. Harper in the next week, be sure to ask him if he saw any good shows while in the Big Apple.


Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

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They suckered Tim from the get go.

Monday, September 12th, 2011

The Ontario Liberals did it so innocently.  It was a minor announcement.  There was little fanfare.  Tim Hudak went for the bait and now he is floundering on the shore, ready for the mercy kill.  The provincial Conservative leader broke the cardinal rule of political campaigns: make your plan and stick to it.  He has been suckered.

Someone smarter than Tim would have been curious about the timing.  A smarter person might have remembered that the announcement sounded very much like a plan put forward by the Conservatives in the Ontario Legislature last year.  And, besides, in a campaign about billions in budgets to run this province, a $12 million plan to help a few new Canadians get the job experience they need, is really small potatoes.

But Tim bit.  He is flailing out at the “foreigners” who are being helped with the hard-earned cash of real Canadians.  What he does not realize is that the positive response he is getting is from his own voters.  Tim is drinking his own bath water.  He already has a lock on the bigot vote.  Why waste time to go after it again?

When then Conservative Leader John Tory made his gaffe in the 2007 election in supporting faith-based schools, it was a different kind of mistake.  Tory stepped out of the game plan and did something that was anathema to his voters.  You conflict your voters at your peril.

By attacking “foreigners” as he is, Tim Hudak is narrowing his vote.  The breakthrough that his federal party made earlier this year with the Toronto area ethnic communities was based on hard work in those communities.  Tim blew that the first time he opened his mouth about the Liberal program.  Who but newer Canadians understand the frustrations people feel when they cannot use the training they received in another country because of their lack of ease with the language.  This program is a critical step needed to improve and upgrade our workforce. And they must be Canadians first.

Poor Tim has been had.


Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

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The symbols of our Canada.

Friday, September 9th, 2011

It is reported that the Harper federal Conservatives are quietly re-installing pictures of the Queen in consulates and embassies.  Amazingly some of our media have discerned a pattern as the government has also recently returned our armed forces to being “royal” forces.  It is probably the last hurrah for royalty in Canada and Harper is looking silly.

Canadians are tired of the foolishness of royalty.  The use of the word “royal” and pictures of the queen are symbols of Canada’s past.  They are hardly symbols of our present or our future.

It is symbols of our country that are important to us and we would be far better off arguing about those.  For example, there are Canadians who want the Mint to put the head of a moose on both the front and back of the Canadian quarter.  This can not only end confusion between a nickel and a quarter but we could have spirited debates whether the face should not be an elegant western elk and the back end left as a moth-eaten eastern moose.

Of course, it is long overdue for deceased prime ministers to be honoured on all our currency.  The voting seems solid on the Right Honourable John George Diefenbaker having his face on the loonie.  That leaves the toonie for the Right Honourable Lester Bowles Pearson.  With Laurier and Macdonald already enshrined on the fives and tens and Mackenzie King on the fifty, the twenty is available for Pierre Eliot Trudeau.  We could create a three dollar shinplaster for Depression-era R.B. Bennett.

We must certainly save the Canadian penny for when Mr. Harper has gone to the reward of his maker in the great western skies.  Mr. Harper trained to be an economist and a penny seems to be appropriate for him.  Just think of all the drawers and socks and chamber pots, he could fill.

Canada is a country of many vistas, changing vegetation, different flora and fauna but it is its people who give it the distinction of a country


Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

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Learning about Conservative reasoning.

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

There was an interesting letter to the editor in one of the Babel newspapers recently that provided a window on provincial conservative thinking.  The writer makes an educated argument in favour of conservatives, such as Ontario Leader Tim Hudak, taking a more middle of the road political stance.  While the use of the word “astroturfing”–a public relations term for creating a false grass roots movement—makes us curious about the writer, the argument is quite lucid.

The writer is concerned about the penchant of Mr. Hudak to cater to the more extreme elements of the political right.  He believes that Ontario voters want conservative governments at all levels but that they want a more middle of the road conservatism.  He sees today’s politics as a “race to the middle.”

And that is where we differ.  Too many people have tramped through the middle ground over the years and pissed on it.  The middle in Canadian politics is a very muddy place.

In a way, Rob Ford in Toronto last year was a breath of fresh air: what you saw was what you got. It had nothing to do with former Mayor David Miller.  Miller was already history.  Ford’s message was not of change but of retrenchment.  People wanted to take a breather.  And it surely was not the guy’s charisma!  Ford was running as the suburban candidate against a downtown gay guy who was almost as right wing as he.  Former Deputy Premier George Smitherman did not understand the suburbs were the home of homophobia and he defeated himself.  Ford was the beneficiary.

Looking at the Stephen Harper example is closer to making the conservative writer’s point.  There is no question but that Prime Minister Harper wears the cloak of the middle right with a certain amount of style.  It is this hypocrisy of Harper’s that infuriates many Canadians.  No, he will not talk about abortion but will keep money from foreign aid programs that try to help women.  Nobody knows what he will do in the next four years but we can guarantee you that most Canadians are not going to like it.

The funniest statement the writer makes is when he points out that Hudak does not have Rob Ford’s charisma.  He says it leaves Hudak no option but to elbow his way into the race for the political middle.  It means Hudak will have to reject the help of the ultra-right Ontario Landowners Association.  It could also mean Hudak should not be kicking off his formal campaign by dissing newcomers to Ontario.  That certainly panders to the lowest common denominator in politics.

But when you consider that former Premier Michael Harris is Tim Hudak’s hero and role model, he does not set the bar very high.


Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

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They’re off, in the quadrennial Ontario stakes.

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

They’re at post! They’re off.  Ho-hum.  Despite all good intentions to mix federal, provincial and municipal activities in this blog, it must be reported that while there are a couple good federal and municipal stories on hold, awaiting further research, nothing much is happening.  The feds are laying low and plotting and the municipal crowd took most of the summer off.

That leaves us with the Andrea, Dalton and Timmy show.  The three of them officially went into high gear today.  The phoney war is over.  The real campaign can finally begin.  It shows us the foolishness of fixed election dates.  We see it in the continuous campaigning in the U.S. with their two and four year election cycles and now Ontario’s fixed elections every four years.  People are actually bored with the election campaign before it officially begins.

The guy to beat in the Ontario race is Dalton.  He had a 16-seat edge in the legislature just ended and his handlers are desperately trying to give him a personality implant.  They might be wasting their time.  Nobody has ever proved that a personality is necessary in Ontario.  You only have to go back to the 1950s when Leslie Frost won three majority governments in a row in 1951, 1955 and 1959 to realize just how boring a premier can be.  Boring works.

Young Timmy Hudak, the provincial Conservative challenger, has his work cut out for him.  Earlier this year, Timmy had a lead in the polls and started to race for the finish line while Dalton sat back and watched.  Timmy has never taken the tortoise and hare stories seriously and he is now getting all kinds of advice from worried Ontario Tories.  Most expected him to stick to his Mike Harris persona.  Some are concerned about him playing footsy with the neo-conservative Ontario Landowners Association.  Others think he should be more like Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.  What is happening is that he is conflicted and having trouble remembering his lines.  This is no time for him to be trying to figure out where he is going.

The one really wondering where she is going is Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.  She is trying her damnedest to figure out the impact of national leader Jack Layton’s death on her party.  She knows she will gain but how much is the question.  Her best bet is to say nothing, look good and accept the fallout.  Her party has no idea where it is going anyway.


Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

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Who is that masked advertiser?

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Third party advertising is allowed in Ontario election campaigns.  This means that whether you agree with it or not, people who are not running in the election can advertise to tell you how to vote.  And if you are wondering who the heck is running that strange campaign seemingly against(?) kids, it is the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario.

What the teachers are trying to tell you is that, if you like kids, you really do not want to vote for that nasty Tim Hudak’s Conservative Party.  So far the message has been so subtle that most people are simply wondering what the campaign is all about.  Hopefully, soon, all will be revealed.

And that is just one of the reasons that many jurisdictions do not allow third party advertising in election campaigns.  They can certainly create a serious confusion factor in the campaign.  The more serious problem is that it creates loopholes for people to get around any effort to control amounts people can spend on the campaign.  It leaves an opening for charges that the election was purchased by the people with the most money to spend.  It also allows an opening for extremist and irresponsible advertising.

For example, we have yet to hear from the Ontario Landowners Association.  These people have been building a bankroll that can be used to counter the teachers and support Tim Hudak’s Conservatives.  No doubt Hudak will take any help he can get but these people are extreme right wing and they can really scare the more middle ground Tories.

The landowners are rural Ontario and ruthless in their demands.  They are neo-conservatives and more like Libertarians in supporting a mantra of the rights of property and their hatred for centralized government.  They have a band of support in ridings, outside the major cities, anchored by Windsor and Sarnia on the west to Ottawa on the East.  These ridings are critical to a Conservative win and only a few are good fighting ground for McGinty’s Liberals.

Many people are equating the landowners with the American Tea Party movement that came out of Texas.  It was 50 years ago that this same grade of wackos was driving the John Birch Society movement and they have never lost their hard edge.

If people such as these landowners stick to financial and manpower support for their rural candidates, they can be effective.  If they address the entire province through the media with their hatred for liberalism and socialism, there is no telling how mean-spirited this provincial election campaign can become.


Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

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Hudak huffs and puffs at crime.

Monday, September 5th, 2011

Provincial Conservative Leader Tim Hudak comes to Babel so often that someone suggested that he and the local Conservative candidate are dating.  If the wise-acre had seen Deb Hutton, Hudak’s prizefight manager and wife, lately, Tim is probably very cautious about that.  More likely, Tim has found how easy it is for Conservatives to get media coverage in this town.

He was back in Babel last week for a huff and puff session on law and order.  This happens whenever the Tories are hard up for an election issue, they trot out their latest huff and puff on law and order.  Even if the latest crime statistics say crime is down, the Tories tell you they will increase crime so that they can do something about it.

Tim’s latest news is that he will personally put GPS trackers on all the criminals so that the police will know where they are to prevent a crime or to arrest them.  You would think that someone in the Conservative Party would have the computer smarts to explain to Tim that he is talking about an outrageously expensive monitoring system.

At the same time, someone who understands GPS technology should tell him about the technical limitations of global positioning systems that he is ignoring.  And, if all else fails, a criminal lawyer should explain to him that the courts might start to balk at the idea of condemning people to life-long monitoring.  In Ontario, people have rights!

The local provincial Conservative candidate actually said something at this announcement.  Instead of the usual bobble-head act, the former councillor said he agreed with his leader.  He was quoted in the local newspaper as saying that he has two kids and “these guys have a 90 per cent recidivism rate.”  It makes you wonder if the candidate gets his statistics from his kids or if the reporter understood what he said.

That seems to sum up the next weeks of campaigning in Ontario.  Leaders with plans that they do not understand will travel the province, addressing small audiences of party members.  Local candidates will loyally stand by their leaders, backing them up with statements that make no sense.  And then there are the local news media that do no research, nor question silly statements and slavishly report the foolishness.  Thankfully, it will be over on October 6.


Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

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