Archive for October, 2011

Old arguments; same busybodies!

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Some days Babel is a smaller one-pony town than other days.  One of the problems with this pretend city is that too many services are controlled by the farmers of Simcoe County. Not only is Simcoe County the biggest county in Ontario but it seems to have more out-of-touch busybodies per square kilometre than you should properly stack in a square mile.  What brings them to mind today is that the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit is wagging a collective finger at Babel and telling us not to go along with selling beer and wine in the local convenience stores.

The statement from a spokesperson for the health unit actually said “We know that increased availability leads to increased consumption which leads to alcohol-related harm.”  That was the same statement as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union used 100 years ago that got the booze industry in this province into the messed-up monopolies that it is today.

We have no idea as to what the health unit spokesperson knows or what the WCTU spokeswomen knew 100 years ago but that statement shows they do not know what they are talking about.  In fact, if anything, the opposite is the case.

When people buy something from a ‘convenience’ store, it is because the store is convenient for them and they tend to buy smaller quantities of the desired product.  This is because they know that if they want more, the store is convenient for them.  This is why manufacturers who sell through convenience stores tend to provide the stores with six-packs as opposed to two-fours.  Less product is sold for a higher profit.

But you can hardly expect a health unit to know a damn thing about modern marketing.  All we know is that if we are going to drive over to that disgusting Beer Store cum bottle return dump on Anne Street, we are going to get enough beer to make the trip worthwhile.  We always feel that we need a hot bath with lots of soap after visiting there.

So let’s hear a cheer for the stalwarts at all the convenience stores in Babel.  Keep fighting the good fight guys and gals.  We are with  you!

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Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

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

The Commonwealth: An anachronism built on avarice.

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

It was all designed by Adam Smith, the father of capitalism.  He said grow the opium poppies in India, ship the product on British ships, sell it to the Chinese and send the profits to London.  That way the gentry of England could buy furs from the Canadian colony to keep the Lords and their Ladies warm and dry.  Today there are still 54 countries in the British Commonwealth of Nations that was built on the rape and pillage, greed and avarice that Adam Smith legitimatized.

And the tenuous thread that holds the motley assortment of countries in the Commonwealth together is the monarchy.  There are still 16 of these nations that actually claim the British Monarch as their head of state.  Some of the others have their own King, Queen or Leader for Life but these wannabes all play second fiddle and stand in awe of the wealth and substance of England’s sovereign.

But the Commonwealth is in failing health.  Even with the British Queen herself making a guest appearance, some of the heads of state failed to make an appearance.  Mind you, there are some of them who would be deposed if they made the mistake of leaving their country.  There are even some who are attending who might not be head of state for long if Quantas Airline does not end its labour dispute and get them home soon.

One of the major problems of the Commonwealth is the lack of shared direction.  If other Commonwealth heads disagree with a member’s approach to human rights, who is going to make them change?  Expulsion from the Commonwealth is no longer the threat it used to be.  Bribery might work but who is going to put up the big bucks?

As the last vestige of British colonialism, the Commonwealth has little to sustain it other than the generosity of Australia and Canada and the influence they, along with Great  Britain, have on the Americans.  What the Commonwealth might not be able to fund, the Americans might.  The Americans are today’s imperialists.

What the Commonwealth has to recognize is that the British monarchy is on its last legs.  The amused agreement to a change in Great Britain’s primogeniture laws in respect to the monarchy is a small band-aid.  No Commonwealth leader is likely to go home and find his or her government will not support the change—except for Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron.  He might be in for a fight with the Church of England over the clause to let royals marry Catholics.

There is more than just the pomp and ceremony of its meetings for the Commonwealth.  It is another avenue for communication and support between nations.  It might have lost the commercial values promoted by Adam Smith but it offers additional communications between peoples.  In that, it does some good.

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Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

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

Are the NDP flying high on Layton’s legacy?

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

Commenting on the Jack Layton funeral event in our August 28 blog, the question was asked if Canada’s New Democratic Party can fly to greater heights on Jack Layton’s image.  The article ended with the statement, “Ask that question again in October.”  We now know the answer is “No.”

Provincial NDP Leader Andrea Horwath hardly needs to share any of the credit with a ghost for her party’s increase of seven seats in the recent provincial election. The provincial NDP, taking just one seat from the Liberals in Toronto, hardly swept the city Jack Layton claimed as his base.  She did better in Northern Ontario because of McGuinty ignoring the area.

In the meantime, a field of eight has emerged to do battle for Layton’s leadership of the federal NDP.  Three are front runners.  They are MP Thomas Mulcair from Montreal, Brian Topp, the party president, and MP Peggy Nash from Toronto. They are, in turn, the maverick, the choice of the greybeards, and the woman candidate.  None of the three holds a candle to Jack Layton.

And yet, the one to watch is Peggy Nash.  She is old school.  She is the real socialist of the three.  She has also proven herself in making a comeback in the 2011 election to win over Liberal star Gerard Kennedy to regain her Toronto-High Park seat in the Commons.  Her Canadian Auto Workers background will work for her in an election in which every member of the party has a vote.

If it were a delegated convention, an apparatchik such as Brian Topp would have an advantage with his support by the power brokers of the party.  His union, ACTRA (Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists), cannot add much to his numbers in an all-party vote and it is also hard to decipher what his lack a seat in parliament will mean to the rank and file.

Thomas Mulcair, the Montreal candidate, is an enigma.  As a former Liberal Cabinet Minister in Quebec, he has a long way to go to be known and accepted by the NDP outside of his province.  The sparseness of party membership in that province makes his task almost insurmountable.

As one Quebec-based journalist mused, the media has no way of guessing how the all-party voting will go.  She is right.  And neither can the party be expected to know.

There will be no Layton legacy but it will still be an interesting race for the NDP leadership.

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Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

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

Let’s have a Parliament with rubber walls.

Friday, October 28th, 2011

Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae is worried that if any more members are added to Canada’s parliament and they will be spilling out onto the front lawns.  He is also worried about 30 additional MP’s costing us another $25 million a year.  Better we should worry about the quality of people we send there.  If we choose more like we are sending today, a rubber room might be the most practical answer.

In successive Canadian parliaments, constantly fixed with band-aids since Confederation, myopic governments continue to ignore the desperate need to review how this country is governed.  The criminal waste, the frustrations, the rising divisions, the ill will and the injustices of the present form of government must be addressed.  There are just too many fixes that are too long overdue.

The Senate of Canada makes a mockery of democracy.  The monarchy in Canada is a failed fairy tale.  People only think there is impartiality in Supreme Court appointments. Your civil rights are protected in Canada—if you can afford a lawyer.  We continue to mistreat our aboriginal peoples.  We awkwardly try to ape the American political system with a British form of government.

And every ten years, after a census, we are told more lies about representation by population.  The entire population of Prince Edward Island is the same as the Barrie electoral district in Ontario. PEI’s population of 135,000 is represented by four Members of Parliament.  That makes PEI voters about fives times better represented than the citizens of Barrie, Ontario.

Now Prime Minister Harper has proposed that the electoral districts in Ontario be redistributed and Ontario get 15 more members of parliament.  That is still not representation by population but is the best he can do until we fix the way this country is run.  He will also allocate more seats to Alberta and British Columbia to reflect but not completely compensate for the growth of population in those provinces.

But Mr. Harper is still giving three new seats to Quebec so that Quebecers will not be too mad about their lessening lock on Canada’s governance.   It is the province’s own discrimination in immigration and its draconian language laws that discourage people from coming to the province.  It is a part of the country that has much to offer all of us but the notables continue to try to enforce a quasi separation for their own ends.

The only way we could ever get a representation by population in parliament, the way it is presently being done, is to have about 700 new members.  With over a thousand members, the walls would really have to be made of rubber—and we would need to be able to lock all the doors from the outside!

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Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

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

America’s paranoia: Sitting with a sick friend (2).

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

This item first ran on September 10, 2011.  It has been removed from that date because, in error, we left it open for comments.  There have been too many comments for us to respond.  There were two negative comments out of many hundreds.  About ten per cent of the comments were automated spam—easy to delete.

To those who wished to support the thinking in their facebook and blog pages, please feel free but please recognize our copyright.  Serious queries can be directed to peter@lowry.me

 

President Barrack Obama, in a recent open letter to Canadian Prime Minister Harper, referred to the enduring friendship between Canada and the United States of America.  As in any friendship, the relationship has been strained at times.  The George W. Bush years in the American White House showed how difficult that relationship could be.

The fallout from the events of 9/11 proved the greatest strain.  Osama bin Laden won.      The perpetrator of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington in 2001 drove America into a state of paranoia from which it has yet to recover. Canada has been sitting up with its sick friend and earning the brunt of the invective that paranoid minds can deliver.  A once proudly open and friendly border now wears the scars of barbed wire and fear.  The symptoms of delusions of grandeur led our neighbour into aggressive jingoism and interminable foreign wars of retribution.  Its suspicions and lack of trust built a wall against Mexico and endless demands on Canadian friends.

America does not know those who are its friends.  Nor does it look closely enough at its enemies within.  It is a country in turmoil.  The hard-edged nihilism of the American right wing is a destructive force, more powerful than anything bin Laden could have conceived.  The frustrated inability of American politicians to come to grips with the inadequacies of the American system of government speaks volumes about them.

Americans have destroyed the potential of air travel to make the world smaller, safer and more friendly.  Instead, air travel has become a distrustful, herding of sheep into flying pens of pain.

Wall Street continues to define capitalism to the world with its credo of greed.  American business is forced to operate in an atmosphere of distrust and suspicion.  The country’s own bankers drove their fellow Americans into revolving depressions for which nobody has come up with a cure.

Americans are dishonouring their dead of 9/11 by accepting the lessened freedoms of Homeland Security.  They must not accept the indignities of air travel with their heads between their legs.  They should not support the expenses (financial and human) of war over medicare.  Why choose the politics of hatred over the politics of reason?

Walk with your friends America.  Hold your head high.  Build a future of hope.  Seek your strength within.

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Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

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

Klees clutches for the brass ring.

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

You have to admire a guy who gives it a shot.  You admire it even if the shot is by a neo-conservative such as MPP Frank Klees.  Frank has decided to take a run at the Speaker’s job at Queen’s Park.  It is an interesting career direction but obviously a swan song for his role as heir-apparent to provincial Conservative Leader Tim Hudak.

Heir-apparents to losers become losers themselves.  Think back to Kim Campbell following Brian Mulroney as Prime Minister or Ernie Eves chasing Mike Harris as Premier of Ontario.  Nobody gave a damn about their credentials or differences from their predecessors.  They carried the can for them.

And nobody would want to deliberately carry the can for Tim Hudak.  Besides, Frank Klees is seven years older than Tim.  And Tim is unlikely to retire tomorrow.   The math does not work in Frank’s favour.

Tim Hudak has reason to be annoyed with Klees as his defection to the speaker’s job will effectively make the Legislature a draw.  If Klees is elected Speaker, it would mean 53 Liberals on the Speaker’s right and 53 Conservative and NDP members on the Speaker’s left.  While the Speaker only votes in case of a tie, the Speaker has limited options.

The good news is that Frank Klees would make an excellent speaker.  He can bring a degree of fairness and experience to the Speaker’s chair better than Liberal contenders for the job.  There are four Liberals also reaching for the brass ring.  Of the four, David Zimmer, MPP for Willowdale, is probably best qualified for the job.

Frank Klees has been in the Ontario Legislature the longest of all present candidates and probably has the best understanding of the role of the Speaker of the House.  He will obviously enjoy the perquisites of the Speaker as well as the higher pay.  Given a good report card by all parties in the next four years, he might even have the opportunity to return as Speaker if re-elected in the next election.  Otherwise, he can return to the business world, with a nice pension from the Ontario Legislature later on.

It must be one of those times when Premier Dalton McGuinty regrets the increased democracy in the Legislature.  Until 1990, the Speaker was chosen by the Premier in consultation with the leaders of the other parties.  Now the Speaker is elected by all members by secret ballot.  The secret ballot is the kicker because it will do no good for Tim Hudak to tell his Conservatives not to vote for Klees.  It could be just a half dozen Tory supporters that could put him over the top.

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Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

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

The right is not always wrong.

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Being right wing does not mean all your decisions are wrong.  When Premier Michael Harris of Ontario amalgamated Toronto into a single city, many of us on the left of politics stood to cheer.  While Harris might have done it for the wrong reasons, the action was right.  It is also for the wrong reasons that the Ford boys might cause Toronto to get its first full service (legal) Casino.

Given the right blend of circumstances—such as the desperate search for revenues and a minority provincial government—the city could end up with as many as three casinos over the next five or six years.  The hypocrisy of the Liberals over casinos can give way to reality if the Ford boys push the issue.  The Ford’s want the revenues to end up in municipal coffers and it will be interesting to see how Horwath’s provincial NDP handle the issues involved.  While Hudak’s opposition Conservatives can out-hypocritize the Liberals any day, he will have to hold out for a larger share of the gambling pie.

While some savants are betting on just a single casino to rescue the dying Ontario Place down in the lake off the Exhibition grounds, there is really a need for three casinos.  You have to recognize the primary position of Woodbine Entertainment in the equation.  Ontario Lottery and Gaming has to fight for Woodbine’s right to a full casino.  There are also the strong arguments for Ontario Place being a centre for family entertainment.  To turn Ontario Place into a purely adult entertainment area can raise many objections.

Mind you there would not be anywhere near as many objections to tearing down the west end of Exhibition Park and building a new and modern casino in that location.  That would be urban renewal at its best.

In case you are wondering about the third casino, you might not be aware of the strength of the Chinese lobby in Toronto.  A Chinese-themed casino would fit perfectly in North Scarborough or in Markham.  The police will tell you that something has to be done about the illegal casino’s in that area and it is time people recognized the simple solution.

The only serious objectors to this will be those greedy people in Niagara Falls and Rama.  They have been taking advantage of Toronto gamblers for too many years now and Toronto needs the revenue.  So suck it up!

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Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

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

The Long-Gun registry is under the gun.

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

Every time we see a bumper sticker on some redneck’s truck, asking us to end the Long-Gun registry, there is an urge to T-bone the vehicle.  We just drive on because we realize that the person is probably ignorant of the usefulness of the Canadian Firearms Registry and why rifles and shotguns (long guns) should continue to be registered.  And maybe we are annoyed because so few people understand the issue.  We also recognize that our annoyance over this is based on knowing that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is really going to waste the money already spent on adding long guns to the registry.  That action by the Tories is unconscionable.

It would be like the Ontario Government killing the e-Health program because of the typical government waste involved in reinventing technology for computerized patient health records.  Those computerized patient records will save lives.  They will also, in the long run, save a great deal of money.

But killing the Long-Gun registry has nothing to do with the cost of creating and maintaining it.  This action is based on a corrupt ideology.  It is catering to ignorance.  It is something Conservatives use to divide rural and urban Canadians.  It is based on pandering to a lunatic fringe of conservatism.  Stephen Harper should be embarrassed that these people are his supporters.

When we found out that the former police chief in Babel was opposed to including long guns in the registry, it told us a great deal about the quality of policing in this city.  That guy was one of the very few police chiefs in Canada who did not praise the registry for its usefulness in helping police serve their community.

What is also annoying is that the Long-Gun registry is a compromise on top of an accommodation.  Nobody is the slightest bit concerned about the varmint rifle a farmer might keep handy in the back kitchen.  Nobody cares.  If you use the weapon against another person, it is quite unlikely that the police would suggest adding a fine for not registering the weapon to the more serious charges.  Nobody is harassing farmers about their long guns.

By the way, despite the hysteria of Toronto television stations, the highest murder rate by population in Canada is in Saskatchewan.  And, even then, only about a third of Canadian murderers use guns.    There is no problem in this country with having guns for hunting, varmint control and target shooting, or even in being a collector.  No politicians are suggesting that this is wrong.

Wasting the money spent on the registration of rifles and shotguns is something Mr. Harper and his people will have to answer for.

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Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

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

A back door to unity of the left.

Friday, October 21st, 2011

British Columbia candidate for the NDP leadership, MP Nathan Cullen, has a back door approach for his party to have an accommodation with the Liberals.  It is simple.  He wants the local ridings to decide if they will run a Liberal or NDP candidate.  When the parties agree on who will run against the Tories, the other party will not run a candidate there.  It is a suggestion that likely sets him far apart from fellow candidate Brian Topp.  It is also likely to meet ridicule and derision from a few of the people who like to think they run the Liberal Party of Canada.

While this writer sympathizes with what Cullen is attempting, it is not really a practical solution.  As things stand, the leader of either party has the power to negate such decisions by appointing a candidate for the electoral district over any objections from the local party members.  This very undemocratic state of affairs obviously never bothered Jack Layton when he was leader.  (Who do you think appointed all those unusual NDP candidates in Quebec earlier this year?)

Changing the constitution of both parties in time for the next federal election would be a daunting task.  Both parties have people with a vested interest in the status quo.

While the unions have been gradually losing their influence in the NDP, there are still union members of the party from the old school of socialism.  These socialists are not social democrats in the understood use of the label.  They are people who still see their role as that of carrying on the class struggle.  To them, Liberals are the enemy.

Of course, there are also Liberals who want a piece of the action in that confrontation. These are Liberal Party members whose views are much closer to those of the Conservatives.  Liberal philosophy is based more on the rights of the individual in society than a dogma of the left or right.

The clash Liberals have with Conservatives is the right wing lack of concern for the individual in favour of property rights, their subjugation of women and concern for the conservation of wealth.  Conversely, Liberals have less and less conflict with social democratic philosophy which has greatly softened the socialist emphasis on the rights of the collective.

Those of us who take the left-of-centre position in the Liberal party come from a position of a strong social consciousness.  We recognize that we cannot claim equality for the individual in our society until health care, education, shelter needs and employment opportunity are truly equal for all Canadians.  We have a long way to go.  We can only start by ensuring that all who share our dream can work together.

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Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

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

Let’s all buy America.

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

They call it gall.  If they did not invent it, the Americans certainly improved on it.  It combines the wiliness of the Yankee trader with the open faced theft of the Midwesterner and the ‘Gee-shucks’ cornpone of the southerner and the brashness of the Californians.  U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson has got it in spades.  He actually said that the ‘Buy America’ conditions of President Obama’s $447 billion economic proposal currently before Congress are good for Canadians.

In his briefing when he became ambassador, they should have told Mr. Jacobson that Canadians have a basic understanding of the trickle-down theory of economics.  To that, it should be added that Canadians really do not like being pissed on.

Canadians have this idea that when you make a deal with somebody, you try to live up to your side of the bargain.  Consider a deal such as ‘Free Trade.’  It does not mean free trade when it is convenient.  It does not mean, you can change the conditions whenever you feel like it.  People expect you to keep your word.

Like it or not, free trade ties economies together.  The economies of the participants sink or swim in the same pool.  They can grow and flourish together.  They can go down the drain together.  The idea is that they are bigger together and can withstand more set backs and can share the successes.  Free trade can be a very successful arrangement.  It has also proved a very unsuccessful arrangement when one or more partners in such agreements unilaterally screw around with the deal.

Canadians are being told that President Obama cannot get his economic rescue package past the ignorant Republicans in Congress if he does not have a ‘Buy America’ clause included in the package.  Here we always thought that Republicans understood free trade and helped promote it.  If they cannot pass this bill and still keep their commitments to free trade, screw ‘em.

Mind you, since Prime Minister Harper let U.S. Steel buy Stelco so that they could shut down our steel production, we are having a hard time seeing how a clause about only using American steel in projects sponsored by this package can matter.

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Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

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