Archive for October, 2011

Brown is back with the booty.

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

The wise men of Babel know when to cast their bread on the waters of Kempenfelt Bay.   It was mentioned in the blog of September 17 this year that city council gave Impresario Brown the Molson Centre for free to promote himself.  Well, the boy is back with the moola!  He showed up with $5.8 million of taxpayers’ money for Babel Transit.

And any charity that thinks it is also entitled to the Molson Centre for free had better note that return on investment.  The curling club, for example, can hardly expect the Molson Centre to waive fees of $15,000 just because the Ontario curling finals might bring a couple million in revenue to Babel hotels and restaurants during the Ides of February. The going rate is now $2.9 million payback for every $5000 from Babel Council.  The wise men of Babel are tough bargainers.

Imagine Impresario Brown’s chagrin when a giant pumpkin beat him to the front page picture in the Babel Backward.  He had to settle for page three.  They let the mayor drive the bus for the picture.  The three people in the picture are showing so much teeth that you would think the photographer was in fear of being bitten.

But before we get carried away by such good news maybe we should note that the $5.8 million was still our money.  It was good money that we taxpayers sent to Ottawa to run this country.  If we had been asked, would we have volunteered it for the purpose of a local Conservative looking good through this largesse?

And besides, who says that this $5.8 million is going to a good cause?  Has anyone really thought seriously about Babel Transit?  The drivers of those buses are the people who recently voted to go on strike against the private company that runs Babel Transit for the city.  And, do not forget, the wise men of Babel have set aside another $17 million to build a nice warm garage to keep our large smelly diesel buses comfy on winter nights.

But what we cannot figure out is why, for the next 20 years, are we going to use big, smelly diesel buses?  Hybrid and straight electric buses are becoming much more popular for use in smaller cities.  And it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that one size of bus does not fit all routes.  We will come back to this subject in time.  The wise men of Babel need a wake-up call.


Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

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Leadership under a red sky.

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Without leadership, the red sky illuminates the occupying movements in our cities that can only dissolve into anarchy.  The 99 per cent will fracture itself into the multitude.  Malcontent, frustrated, rudderless, adrift in an incomprehensible economic storm, we continue to struggle with currents taking us into the unknown.

But the question remains: what do we want?

What does anyone want?  Stability and opportunity come first to mind.  Love and fulfilment are very personal goals.    The intellect must be fed along with the body.  And shelter for our Canadian winters.  We are human, so we always want more.  What the occupying movement indicates is that it wants fairness.  Grossly inflated wealth for a few is a problem when others are paying the price.

But if the much maligned one per cent gave all of their wealth in equal proportions to the 99 per cent, we would all be poor.  That is not a solution.  Why not promote fairness?  Does the chief executive officer need to be paid millions when workers get minimum wages?  Do executives deserve bonuses when the workers cannot get a raise?  We do not need to dictate fairness, we need to understand it.

Do we, as a society, ensure opportunity?  Higher education is for those who can use it.  No person should be denied that which they are capable of doing.

Health care is a right.  A clean environment must be our heritage.  Child care is for all, the most precious of society.

There will be pessimists who will sound the alarm, saying this is not attainable.  It might not be today but, if we work together today, it might be attainable tomorrow.

Leadership says that this is the direction in which we want to go.  Leadership is asking people to share in the task of getting us where we want to go.  It is not a direction that takes us over the backs of others.  It is a direction in which we can all share.

And we must share equally.  In sharing, we are equal.  In sharing, we have direction.  Our goals come to realization.  And our sky is no longer burning.


Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

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Red sky.

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

Most of us have heard the saying about a red sky at night or a red sky in the morning but few can sleep under a sky that remains red throughout the night.  A fire has lighted the sky and the animals of the forest know to run from it.  We humans seem to lack the instinct to tell us which way to run.

It was a fire that was lit in the Arab countries and we called it the Arab Spring.  For all we know, it could also portend an Arab Winter.  Fools rejoiced at the revolution but how could they know the intent of the emerging rulers.  NATO helped the revolutionaries of Libya but who has vetted these new rulers?  What is their future?

The Greeks rioted over the inequities of their government trying to collect oppressive taxes.  Imperious Americans and Canadians told the Europeans to fix their financial house of cards.  And yet, like the vaunted Oriental stability, our economies are built on the shifting sands of greed and the dictates of those who gain from our mistakes.

The red sky has come to the Americas.  People are protesting.  They are setting fire to Wall Street, to the streets of America.  They are lighting a fire among the supposedly acquiescent Canadians.  They want the rich to pay but know that will not solve the problems.  They know that the 99 per cent they claim to be are not blameless.  It is their frustration that is palpable.  They lack demands because they have no answers.

We listen to the experts and we know even less.  One expert says the world’s systems are collapsing and another expert says we are on the edge of accelerated growth.  And the bankers demand the police protect them from the anarchy of the masses that make no demands.  Even the anarchists are at a loss because anarchy has failed them as a cause.

Each of us has our frustration.  Our investments have failed us.  Costs keep rising.  The politicians promise answers and deliver confusion and posturing.  Those who raise the prices on the commodities we need use the money to pay themselves more.  We cannot see tomorrow.  All we see is the red sky.

There is no leadership in the red sky.  It disquiets.  It threatens.  It frustrates us. It begs leadership.  And the leadership will come.  It might not be the leadership we want.

It will not be the rhetoric of an Obama.  The American right wing has eviscerated Barrack Obama.  He rescued General Motors and Wall Street and earned the enmity of his constituency.  Canadians are faced with four years of a Stephen Harper who won  office by crudely attacking his opponent and lying to Canadians.  Canadian liberals are leaderless and lack direction.  The NDP are lost in a revolution which their philosophy cannot comprehend.  There is no succour in sight.

Only a new politics can put its arms around the needs of the red sky.  Only new thinking can overcome the fire that burns through the night.  We must speak out for the people.


Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

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When will Babel come of age?

Saturday, October 15th, 2011

There is a time in people’s lives when they come of age.  They do not see it or feel it but they mature and their life changes, hopefully for the better.  In Babel, a city so dominated by the Christian Council, we would expect that with that maturity comes a sense of charity—of love and respect for our fellows with whom we share this wonderful city.

Is that a faint hope?

We have just come through the second hard fought election campaign in this year.  We had a federal election in May and then the provincial election in October.  Neither local result pleased this writer.  Despite the result, we respect the right of any individual to vote as they wish, to show their allegiance with a lawn sign or by working for this or that candidate.  That is democratic.

When we first came to Babel we were surprised at the minimal smattering of signs for candidates.  We were surprised at the seeming lack of activity for political candidates.  At first we thought of it as small town reserve.  We realize now that it is a lack of political maturity in this city.  Babel needs to grow up.  It is time to realize that politics is neither a tea and crumpets game decided over croquet in East Babel nor is it a game for hoodlums wherein they can freely destroy people’s property.

We all have a responsibility to make sure that hoodlums who disrespect people’s right to vote as they wish are punished.  For them to target the Little Avenue home of Colin Wilson, the Liberal candidate in the federal election, and do thousands of dollars in damage to vehicles on his property is a serious criminal act.  Colin and others who showed that they cared about who runs our country and province were exercising rights we all share.  To deny that right to a few is to deny the rights of all.

No candidate for political office—who knows the cost of signs and the efforts required to have them placed—would ever condone hooliganism such as we saw here in Babel in this month.  And it was too targeted and wide-spread to be just a teenage prank.  This is not the type of thing over which we can just roll our eyes and say ‘Kids will be kids.’

Babel needs to grow up.  These hoodlums need to be punished.


Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

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Marketing a modern monarchy.

Friday, October 14th, 2011

Yesterday’s spoof on the monarchy was a bit premature.  Since then, Prime Minister Harper has agreed with changing the 1701 Act of Settlement and the Toronto Star has waded into the issue.  It must be more important than anyone thought.  Obviously, we should not be making light of it.

Yet, it is hard not to think of all the foolishness as being played out in the boardroom of a very expensive marketing firm.  It is a basic marketing problem.  It is like when they got the Queen to look all serious and kindly towards Princess Diana after she was killed.  The people who produced that funeral event—right down to the surly brother—deserved academy awards.  The Queen’s bit of acting was definitely a starring role.

Today’s royal pain in the ass is Charley with his bride Camilla.  All the marketing people can do is keep the focus on Willy and Kate.  They are not only much better looking, they are more regal and more acceptable.  The visuals of dowdy old Camilla going around cutting ribbons and opening livestock fairs is not only repugnant to Commonwealth countries who use the monarchy for their own purposes but hardly sits well with the Brits.  The Brits have to live with the Royals on a daily basis and the tabloids are not about to let them forget that.

But, never fear, the Toronto Star has come to their rescue.  In a secondary editorial today, the Star said that it would be a bit of alright if women’s liberation came to the law of primogeniture.  The editorial writer agreed that the eldest child—boy or girl—should inherit the throne.  What was interesting was that the Star writer also agreed to the suggested change that would allow a British monarch to marry a Roman Catholic.

What the Star is sticking its oar into there is the problem that the British monarch is not only the titular head of 16 countries (including the United Kingdom) but is also titular head of the Church of England.  If Prime Minister Cameron can get around the religious bigotry in his own country, it will be a breath of fresh air.

But none of this changes the fact that we all look like silly asses supporting a relic of the past such as the monarchy.  Let us be rid of it!


Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

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Making a modern monarchy.

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

The Brits must be desperate.  Prime Minister David Cameron in the U.K. is hoping to get all the colonials to agree to a change in the law of succession to the British throne.  He wants to revise the law of primogeniture.  What he really wants is the women’s vote.

The English interpretation of the law of primogeniture has always been that it meant the eldest male offspring was the one to inherit all estates, wealth and titles when the father died.  This has been the way Britain has tried to prevent the dissipation of wealth for the landed gentry for more than 2000 years.  And the Brits really do like their traditions.

But times are changing.  Cameron can hardly continue to piss off British feminists who recognize the insult to women inherent in the male-only provision of the British Act of Settlement that was passed into law in 1701.  Cameron also has to recognize the problems created by Charles and Camilla, as they have first dibs on the throne when Elizabeth dies.

What makes revising the succession laws a problem is that the Commonwealth nations, the ones who share the British monarchy, have to agree to the change.  That means that 16 nations (out of 54 in the Commonwealth) have to agree.

Canada is no problem.  While he has already said he does not want Canadians to have an open debate on the issue, a monarchist like Prime Minister Harper will hop to and do the proper thing: agreeing to the change.   After all, it is sort of a motherhood issue!

The change means that the weight of the empire falls on poor Kate.  This lady is expected to produce an heir who will be number three in succession to the throne.  That is a lot of weight for her to carry.  If she does not get pregnant soon, the monarchists will be looking to younger brother Harry to prove that he is virile.  Such are the trials and tribulations of monarchy.


Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

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Babel’s Bobbsey Twins in blue.

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

In conversation with a Georgian College professor over Thanksgiving weekend, the topic of the electors’ choice in Babel came up.  He opined that Babel seems to prefer do- nothing members of the House of Commons and the Ontario Legislature.  “They are only voting for the leader,” he explained.  “They don’t care who is running locally.”

This must be why we have the Bobbsey Twins representing us in Parliament and the Ontario Legislature.  There is little positive to say about these Bobbsey Twins.

It is his third term, so the federal twin is finally being allowed to present a private member’s bill in Parliament. He earned the right in a lottery among back benchers with nothing to do.  They are letting him present a bill in Parliament on something he would know very little about.  It is a bill on breast cancer screening.  We would probably be better off if that twin just sent his proxy to the Prime Minister and then there would be no need for Mr. Harper to tell him what to do.  And just think of the expense of sending him to Ottawa that would save!

Twin Two is a neophyte in comparison.  And he will be in the Opposition at the Ontario Legislature.  No private member bills from him would have a chance.  This is a guy who failed to get re-elected after one term representing Babel’s Ward 3 on city council.  He could also give his proxy to his leader, Tiny Tim Hudak.  Just think of what that would have saved us when Joe Tascona was driving back and forth from Babel.  (Some people think Joe drove home to Babel by way of Timmins.)  If we are smart, we will get the new kid a GO Train pass.

What our Bobbsey Twins have in common is that they both came out of the incubator of Babel City Council.  They were blue babies.  They both left city council in the same shape as they found it: leaning to the right.

Mind you, there is much that Twin One can teach Twin Two.  First comes the skating lessons.  Twin One wants no competition for his Hockey Night in Babel so he will have to let Twin Two in on that game.  Twin Two can be the pretend captain of the Losers.  He has the experience.   Mind you, there are lots of charities that need champions, so Twin One can show Twin Two how to cash in on the publicity.

Babel media will be eager to give the Bobbsey Twins lots of publicity over the next four years.  It will have some Babel mothers beaming to see the sweet little urchins at play


Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

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A Babel bedtime story.

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Babel mothers pass it to their babies as bedtime stories.  It includes the secrets that Babel hides from the prying eyes of other Ontario residents.  It is the secret story of the greening of Babel.

It is a story that does not go with the macho image of the town.  It conflicts with the image of the town as a string of bars along Dunlop Street.  It confuses the traveller who thinks the city is just miles and miles of big box stores along the provincial highway.  It conflicts with the stories of Babel being a city of hookers and hockey players.

And the secret is more than the fabulous waterfront around beautiful Kempenfelt Bay.  Babel’s investment in clean water and parks and trails and fireworks and entertainments is part of the secret that is gradually leaking out to the rest of the province.  And if City Council ever gets its act together on the Allandale station lands, it will be the anchor of Babel as a North American tourist destination.

Nobody looks across the street from the station at the Water Pollution Control Centre or notices that its function is as the city’s sewage works.  Did you know that this city operation is one of the most modern in Ontario?  Did you know it produces hundreds of thousands of dollars of electric energy and heat each year from human waste?  Have you noticed that it delivers clean water back to the bay from our toilets?  We just take some tasty fish from the bay and let our children swim in its waters.

The secret is also in the small things.  It is like Babel using LED lighting in all its traffic lights.  The LEDs save energy and last longer.

It is the same with capturing methane gas from the landfill site up on Ferndale North.  Methane gas is the same formula as natural gas and is easily used.  Mind you, there will be less over time as the city continues to be a leader in waste diversion.  We put less into landfill every day.

Maybe the guys down at Misty’s have missed the point but this city is doing things.  Maybe we need to pay more attention.  It need not be secret!


Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

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Thoughts on being thankful.

Monday, October 10th, 2011

The concerned in America gather against Wall Street.  The anarchists in Canada eye Bay Street.  People are wary of all brands of politicians.  And across Canada, families gather to be thankful.

The Canadian Thanksgiving is in the warmth of Indian Summer here in Ontario.  For what we can be thankful, let us be.  We are the Grinches who stole the Thanksgiving turkey from Ontario’s politicians.  We are the Grinches of distrust.  Yet we have little direction for our anguish.

We should be thankful that Canadians contribute so generously to food banks.  In the United States they have to use food stamps and there are now over 45 million Americans receiving them.

Bet you feel all warm and fuzzy for Prime Minister Harper’s friends who he appointed to the Senate.  These people are being paid a guaranteed $132,000 per year for a part-time job until they are 75 to do what Mr. Harper tells them to do.  Would you like to sit one of those turkeys down at your dinner table?

It must be nice to have a guaranteed job until you are 75.  If you aspire to be a supreme court judge, just have your right-wing bonafides ready for Mr. Harper to vet.  By the way, he needs a new chair of the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission who will do as told.

Just be thankful that you are not a steel worker from Hamilton.  Harper let U.S. Steel buy Stelco and the steel workers got screwed.  The City of Hamilton used to be in the steel business.  Saskatchewan voted Conservative, so Mr. Harper refused to sell PotashCorp.

Just be thankful that you are not in the way of that huge pipeline being rammed through the heart of America to take our oil sands output down to the Texas refineries.  How much do you think that oil will cost when it gets back to our gas stations?

This Thanksgiving we are thankful that we live in this beautiful country called Canada.  We can only hope that over the next four years, Mr. Harper does not screw things up to the point that they are beyond repair.


Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

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If ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ were candy and nuts.

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

This writer was wrong.  There, it is admitted.  We are the only blog writer in Ontario who has no excuse.  We actually thought that Premier McGuinty and his Liberals could hold on to a slim majority in the October 6 election.

But what do we know?  Talking to people in different parts of Ontario over the last week, we heard nothing but complaints.  Many people with normally strong views admitted that they had not yet made up their minds.  They would discuss their leanings and then ask for our views. A few who usually voted Liberal were thinking of voting Green as a protest.  They admitted it was a wasted vote but they felt that no party was on their side.

That was the most honest comment we got.  People felt that no party was speaking for them.  They watch costs climb and know that there is nobody to speak out about it.  And they are not concerned about luxuries.  They mention the price of bread, a pound of butter, ground beef, lettuce.  And have you priced celery lately?  People shudder at the price of a litre of gasoline and know that the Harper government will do nothing about the price fixing by the oil companies..

People are mad but have no one they trust.  The Conservative attack ads against McGuinty as the ‘Taxman’ made the point but Tim Hudak’s Conservatives did not benefit.  Hudak’s team played the bigotry and division cards and divided the province—rural against urban.  McGuinty took the north for granted and handed it to Horwath and  her NDP team.  He is premier of a house divided.

How do you predict the outcome when only half the eligible voters bothered to vote?  It came down to who was motivated.   People had plenty of opportunity to vote and yet only 600,000 people bothered to vote on the many available days of advance voting.  These advance voters were knowledgeable voters a well as those working on the election either for returning offices or for parties.

How did we expect people to vote positively when there was no leadership.  McGuinty is a wus and a dull, uninteresting party leader and premier.  The only cause he has every championed successfully is all-day kindergarten.  He is paying for renewable energy with a ponzi scheme.  He is not a liberal but a whig, mired in the 19th Century.

But Tiny Tim Hudak scared nobody.  He pandered to the extremists on the right.  He should keep the speech writer who did his speech on election night.  It was the first honest speech he made.

Andrea Horwath disappointed us.  She could have cashed in on the latent Layton sympathy but never got her act together.  She produced no clear message.  She had pissed off teachers going in to the election, lost the auto workers and then maligned the hospital workers—some unionist!  Only the north bought her.

Our late mother-in-law had many little sayings from her childhood.  She used to say “If ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas.”  And that sums up the Ontario Legislature.


Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

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