Archive for April, 2012

Come to Canada and be exploited.

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his federal henchmen are changing the rules again. After many successful years of bringing foreign workers into Canada when needed, the Conservatives feel that the rules do not allow for their business friends to exploit these workers. They are going to change that.

Human Resources Minister Diane Finley announced the changes in the past week. The good news is that the government is promising to fast track the approvals for companies with a successful record in hiring temporary foreign workers. The bad news is that the government is going to allow them to pay as much as 15 per cent less than a Canadian worker might make in the same job. This pay scale information is wrapped in some ambiguity in the legislation but the intent seems clear.

Of the approximately 300,000 workers now in Canada on a temporary worker visa, there have been few problems, few reports of exploitation and few complaints from Canadians about the program. While most think of these people as doing the backbreaking menial work associated with the agribusiness, they were actually brought in originally because of a lack of skilled workers in occupations such as software development. The key to their acceptance by Canadians has been the promise that they will be treated the same as Canadian workers and paid the same wages as a Canadian would be offered. That is what the new legislation will change.

If you are the type that reads into the Conservatives right-wing objectives, you might just think that the Conservatives intend to use this to force down Canadian wages. And they will. By cutting off Canadians from Employment Insurance if they will not take the lower wages, they can drive down some salary levels even further.

The exploitation of new immigrants and visa workers has created serious trouble in Europe as racism and hatreds are fed by the extremists on the right. It is the trade-off for Canada’s Conservatives as they gain friends with deeper pockets who can exploit the foreign workers and also hire Canadians for less. It is cynical, brutal and inhumane but Harper’s people go where the money can be found.

Human Resources Minister Finley made the announcement of the changes in the program in Alberta last Wednesday. Where do you think Alberta is getting the oil-sands workers that are needed to fill those pipelines with crude oil?

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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

Ontario’s schizophrenic Whigs.

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

We hate to talk so much about Ontario’s Whigs but we are worried about them. We have never heard of collective schizophrenia before. To see signs of disconnection with reality, actions that are unrelated to intent and such obvious delusions from the Ontario government are matters of very serious concern. Maybe if the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) adds some shrinks to its bargaining unit, their next sit-down with the government negotiators might give us some answers.

It is getting so bad that recently one of Ontario’s top medical teaching specialists—one of the guys who earns and actually deserves more than $500,000 a year—ignored the recommendations of the resident who had done the detailed examination and launched directly into one of our occasional political discussions. He said he could care less about more money but he wanted to know where the Ministry of Health was headed. There were no good answers for him.

Like him, we also had high hopes for Deb Mathews when David Caplan was dumped from the Health Ministry. Mathews has a lot going for her and she took the initial orientation in stride despite it being just in time for a tough Ontario election last year. Sure, she was blind-sided by the Ornge helicopter business but that was a legacy that was none of her doing. She is cleaning house as quickly as possible.

What confuses the electorate in Ontario is that we have a government in this province that cries poor-mouth one day and the next day tells us our economic growth is better than forecasts. The Treasurer in Ontario supplies crying towels with his neoconservative budget and then rails against the New Democrats who want a two-per cent surtax on the filthy rich. And the Treasurer has the gall to tell us that the NDP’s two-per cent surtax is “high-spending.”

What we really cannot get over is how they can brag so loudly about how their plan is working while demanding that the public sector are going to get a pay freeze. What did the civil servants do wrong that they have to be the goats?

The Whigs tell us that Ontario is a North American leader in job creation and they have yet to get any of the public sector people to agree to their pay freeze. When Standard and Poor’s put the province on ‘Watch,’ it was not a down grade. The ratings people are as curious as we are to see if the Ontario budget can actually work.

The health specialist had the last word in our budget discussion. He closed the chat by saying, ‘Lose 20 pounds by the next time you come and see me.” It makes you wonder what he might say to our chubby Ontario Treasurer Dwight Duncan.

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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

 

Ontario’s Whigs want to help Hudak?

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

There is something wrong here. We hear that the Ontario Liberal government is concerned about Tiny Tim Hudak’s negativism. We are told by Dalton McGuinty’s people that Timmy’s Conservatives should be helping keep the Whigs out of the clutches of the rapacious New Democratic Party (NDP). How did the world get turned so backwards in this province?

There was a time when we liberals demanded of David Peterson’s people that they negotiate immediately with the NDP to end the threat of a Conservative minority government. It was 1985 and we issued in the first Liberal government in Ontario since Liberal Premier Mitch Hepburn went back to Elgin County in 1942 to watch the grass grow. (The Conservatives soon defeated his replacement, Harry Nixon.)

As Premier, David Peterson never had much chance to figure out where he was in the political spectrum but he never felt he had to apologize for making a deal with the NDP. Yet here we have McGuinty complaining that he would rather make a deal with someone as ignorant as Conservative Tim Hudak than make a deal with Andrea Horwath of the NDP. This is enough to make a real liberal want to cry.

What Dalton McGuinty does not understand is that Ontario does not want or need two right wing political parties. If he even knew where the middle ground might be, he is a long way to the right of it. Ontario Liberals should not have to hold their nose when voting for provincial Liberal Party candidates. McGuinty has got to go.

Nothing makes that clearer than the fight Health Minister Deb Mathews is currently having with the Ontario Medical Association (OMA). As the purported saviour of the political playpen of Ontario health services, Mathews is actually arguing with the OMA over whether we need more doctors. Almost a million Ontario residents cannot get a family doctor and she is refusing to pay for additional doctors. The OMA has made it very clear that they will accept a freeze on the doctor’s incomes if the money goes to new doctors. It could not be plainer that the OMA is trying to solve the problem of looking after patients and the provincial government only cares about the money.

As Ontario citizens, it is our responsibility to back the doctors. How many of those people making over $500,000 a year do you think are doctors? We should make the NDP wealth surtax at least four per cent. The doctors will not mind. They would consider it a direct contribution to good health care for the people of Ontario. After all, Dalton McGuinty does not give a damn.

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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

 

Mike Harris’ people are rescuing Hudak.

Friday, April 27th, 2012

The Ontario Conservatives have called in the first team. The rumour seems clear that Leslie Noble and Tom Long are taking over the management of Conservative leader Tim Hudak’s next provincial campaign. This remains in the rumour category because Noble and Long want to keep their respective private sector clients until telling them “So sorry, the Conservative Party calls.”

There are those among us that did not think Tom Long would accept the campaign management position because he might still harbour visions of replacing Tiny Tim as Conservative leader in Ontario. Since his failed bid in going for the national leadership of the Alliance Party in 2000, Long has longed for a return to the political spotlight. He is the type of person who likes to start at the top.

Teamed with Leslie Noble and Hudak’s wife Deb Hutton, it will be like the backroom of Mike Harris’ successful campaigns in 1995 and 1999. One thing you can count on is that there will not be a mistake such as Hudak’s last campaign manager, Mike Spiro, made in 2011. Spiro had a solid strategy going into the campaign but the length of the run-up to that campaign did him in. He did not adapt as needed through the summer to deal with the obvious concerns of Ontario voters over the economy.

But whether Tiny Tim can be resurrected is the problem. The current dissention in the Conservative back benches is not as much the problem as Hudak himself. He did not seem to remain up for campaigning last year. It was either the length of that campaign or he tires too easily. They might have to find a new strategy to fortify his presence throughout the campaign. Worst case they could send him on a holiday somewhere and tell everyone he has a communicable disease. Have we ever had a winner on a sympathy vote in Ontario?

The good news for the Tory brain trust is that the next provincial campaign is likely to be before the end of 2013 and will happen fast. It looks like the NDP will instigate it as that party has the most to gain in dumping McGuinty. It certainly cannot continue to support him. McGuinty has abused the NDP and shows no intention of coming over to the left side of the political ledger.

The only thing that can change the game is the early resignation of Dalton McGuinty. He has a brief window before the federal party gets into its leadership contest and once that is in full swing, there will be no room for a provincial event. Politics is always interesting.

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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

Enbridge plays the double-fumble pipeline ploy.

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

The energy and pipeline company Enbridge is nothing if not determined. It is going to get Alberta’s heavy tar-sands crude to markets that need oil of any type. The company’s latest ploy is to start asking permission to reverse eastern pipelines. The first of these is a line that runs down from Sarnia to near Hamilton. By reversing the flow of oil, it can link to other pipelines to the East coast. These are pipelines that previously carried foreign oil from the coast to refineries in Ontario.

What concerns environmentalists is the higher risk of serious pollution occurring from the tar-sands crude. It is shipped at a higher temperature and under greater pressure to improve the flow. These changes increase the chances of a break in the line and the damage can be disastrous to a fragile environmental area. The heavy bitumen from the tar sands is the thickest form of oil and once spilt in a liquid form, it is almost impossible to remove from the soil. It can also leach into underground water sources and pollute the water with sulphur and a brew of other deadly chemicals.

Chemical experts are questioning why this form of crude cannot be refined to a state more like gasoline or home heating oil wherein it can be more safely sent by pipeline without the high risk to the environment. If it was at a stage where it floats, there would be a much easier task to clean up a spill.

Enbridge is now fighting the pipeline wars on three fronts. Its Northern Gateway Pipeline over the Rockies to Kitimat in British Columbia is getting pushed by the Harper government but the provincial government is waiting to see how the environmental hearings play out. Even with a federal fast-tracking of the hearings, it will take at least two years to reach a conclusion. And nobody thinks it will be positive for Enbridge.

Trans-Canada’s struggle for approvals of the XL Pipeline south to the refineries in Texas has become a political football in the election-year climate in the U.S.  Enbridge is quiet about its plans to cut into its east-west pipelines further east in the U.S. and then backtrack toTexas but the company must be playing a role in those machinations. And now with the East Coast attempt, they have gone every direction but north to try to move the heavy tar-sands product.

The Enbridge executives must be learning that no matter how much Prime Minister Harper loves you, life can still be a bitch!

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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

Premeir McGuinty calls it the NDP tax.

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

If you make more than $500,000 a year in Ontario, you are going to have to pay the NDP tax. It is a surtax of two per cent of money you earn over $500,000. a year. Obviously, if you make that kind of money, you will not have to miss your grand tour of Europe next year. In fact, if Premier McGuinty had not made such a fuss about it, you might not have noticed the tax unless your accountant pointed it out to you.

If you pay this tax, it is a badge of honour. You should fly an orange flag from the battlements of your Ontario mansions. It means you are doing your part to end the deficit caused by the financial woes of 2008. General Motors paid back the money it was given back then. You are now doing your part.

Unfortunately, some of us do not make as much money. We are unable to join you in the role of deficit fighter. Mind you, we also had damn little to do with the bad times that hit us in 2008. Our banks might not have been caught up in the sub-prime mortgage scandal. We might not have been involved in Wall Street ponzi schemes. In fact, most Canadians had no involvement whatsoever in the cause of the financial hard times nor in the ham-fisted remedies utilized by our reluctant governments.

But we can assure you, we have paid and paid. We are paying the higher municipal taxes now because of the accelerated infrastructure programs forced on our municipalities by federal and provincial governments. We are paying other taxes that disappear into the maw of deficit reduction. We are paying the employment insurance and welfare for the people laid off by governments to reduce costs.

As long as you understand, we are all doing our part here. Mind you, it is a bit churlish of Premier McGuinty to call it the NDP tax that you high earners are paying. After all, it is not as though his Whigs have a majority at Queen’s Park.

McGuinty needed some cooperation and he sure was not going to get it from Tiny Tim Hudak and that odd assortment of Ontario Landowners and Harrisites who call themselves Conservatives. Some of his own caucus have been complaining about Tiny Tim leaving the field to the New Democratic Party’s Andrea Horwath when he would not play the negotiation game. Andrea preened for the news media while Tiny Tim when home to sulk.

It was certainly indicative of how much future cooperation Dalton McGuinty is going to get when instead of voting for the revised budget, the NDP sat on their hands and abstained from voting. That let the Liberal budget pass but we might lay a few dollars on an election before the end of next year in Ontario.

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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

Wildrose are Stephen Harper’s volk.

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

You can imagine the Wildrose Alliance adherents gathering their belongings and families, loading their Voortrekker wagons, shouldering their long guns and setting off north to new lands. They are a tough breed. It is too bad that the tundra to the north of Alberta is so forbidding. They hardly want to go there. And their real leader, Stephen Harper, is too busy in Ottawa to lead them.

It means the spaced-out Trekees of the Wildrose Alliance will have to suck it up for the next four years. Alison Redford is Premier with a 61-member majority and the rabid Wildrose supporters will have to settle for Redford’s watered down Conservatism. She will have an opposition made up of Danielle Smith and more than dozen Wildrose snapping at her heels. That must not be a pleasant prospect for Redford after seeing how comfortable Smith is with the media and how they respond to her.

It was the media that almost made Smith the winner. With Tom Flanagan manipulating the Wildrose campaign, the media followed his trail of bread crumbs to favourable polls. Some of those polls were quite fanciful and the news media obviously wanted to be suckered into believing and reporting them.

But Flanagan went too far. His propaganda campaign for Wildrose reached such a crescendo of conviction that it scared many of Alberta’s Liberal party supporters. Enough of these stalwarts switched their votes to keep Smith and her Libertarian mob out. The Liberal voters opted to support the less strident and more trusted Progressive Conservatives. It leaves the real, non-Conservative opposition in the Alberta Legislature to five Liberals and four NDPers until the next election.

What is really scary about Smith is her loose cannon approach to Canadian politics. While she calls herself a Libertarian, it is not a term for which academics can agree on a definition, nor do most people understand the implications of the term. Yet, it is probably the only word that describes her extreme conservative views other than a comparison to the American Tea Party. There have been many groups such as the Tea Party emerge from the American southwest over the years. They are something that should be kept in the closet and only brought out to scare the kids on Halloween.

Sometimes, you get the feeling that Prime Minister Harper wants to keep the extremists around to make him look almost sensible. The only problem is that when you check back over some of the diatribes Harper used to write for the National Citizens Coalition (NCC), you realize he and Danielle Smith are reading from the same page.

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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

The sorry state of Harper’s broadcasters.

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Where is a body to turn for decent news coverage? We used to get such excellent Canadian and world news from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation but generations of parsimonious politicians have cut the Corp to the bone. And Mr. Harper hates it anyway. There is nothing much to report from CBC headquarters these days other than some dying gasps of quality programming, the last fitful hours of our heritage Hockey Night in Canada and news anchor Peter Mansbridge fading to black.

What struck us the other day was that the CBC was not the only news organization being reduced to poverty. CTV is owned by Bell Canada, one of the cheapest corporations since Adam Smith invented capitalism. The cheapness regime now at CTV was expected and a deteriorating news service is going downhill fast with Bell holding the purse strings. Judging by the Toronto area news, you have an over-aged gang of newscasters, giggling over their inside jokes and doing little but promoting CTV’s commercial programs.

Mind you, Global Television appears to be no better. Self promotion is just one problem. Global gives you an hour and a half of evening news in Southern Ontario that is not only loaded with self promotion but every major news item gets repeated up to four times. Being somewhat fresher on the scene in Southern Ontario, the Global personnel are younger, more attractively coiffed and do not seem to waste time liking each other.

Viewing in Toronto has a little scope. For example, city-centric CITY TV is an alternative, of sorts. Having ignored it for some years now, we have not heard of any change. The news style was always breezy but it seemed that the reporter/camera people were afraid they would fall off the earth if they went north of Eglinton Avenue.

There are rumours that CTV2 has a television station here in Babel. It is so pathetic that when Babelites think of local television, they think of Rogers Cable’s community channel.

There is also Mr. Harper’s favourite, Sun Television. Never wanting to and with no such intention, we do not think we have ever watched it. Sun Media publishes the local newspaper in Babel. That is enough bias to stomach.

But the point is that Mr. Harper is to blame. He let Shaw and Bell Canada end up owning the major commercial English-language radio and television networks in Canada. He finally got rid of the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission chair who tried to do his job properly. He failed because Mr. Harper wanted friendly broadcasters. He got them.

But there is a pathetic addition to this disgraceful story. Watching Global Television news the other evening, we were treated to a news clip about the dear old Queen of Canada. She is having another birthday or something and the Royals were out trooping the colors with the guys in red coats and tall fur hats. At the end of the news clip on Global, we saw that it was provided to Her Majesty’s loyal Canadian subjects by the London Bureau of CBS News of the United States of America.

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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

Can’t Ontario Whigs live off the vigorish?

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

It looks like the New Democratic Party in Ontario is going to force Dalton McGuinty’s Whigs to tax people earning over $500,000 per year. And here we thought the Whigs had solved the province’s financial problems by finally promising a decent casino in Toronto. They can expect far more revenue from the vigorish at their casinos than the nickels and dimes they will get from people making vulgarly high incomes.

Vigorish, or ‘the vig,’ as it is often called in gambling circles, is the margin the casino keeps from the actual payoff to gamblers and the real odds. It is this vigorish that really challenges gamblers when they try to beat the house. It is the tightness of the vigorish in Craps, for example, that attracts gamblers because, if they know the odds, it is the fairest game in the casino. Yet the casino can still pay for the staff the game needs by milking the Craps players who lose on the high vigorish mid-table propositions.

It is like all the variations accompanying Blackjack today. For example, by betting on getting a ‘Perfect Pair’ on your first two cards, you are betting that you will have a mixed pair (the same value but of a red and black suit) and the casino will pay you six to one on your bet. They will pay you 12 to one for a pair the same color and 25 to one for a pair of the same suit. It does not speak well for the quality of mathematical teaching in Ontario that people cannot quickly see that the casino is keeping a great deal of their money if they go along with that foolish a bet.

Mind you David Olive of the Toronto Star tells us that casinos are a no-growth business. He tells us that casino habitués are middle-aged and old. He does not approve of casinos. That is why we are gathering at the Toronto Star building in Toronto tomorrow to trip him with our canes and run over him with our walkers. He is obviously much to busy pontificating about them to go to casinos, so he does not go and that is his right. He needs to recognize our rights.

He is worried, for some reason, that we seniors are a stagnant population and it means that the Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG) casinos will have to try to steal business from each other. We only wish. The OLG monopoly, like any other monopoly, has damn little concern for its customers and the most concern for its bottom line. Just look at Bell Canada. That is one hell of a role model for casinos!

David Olive, and the Toronto Star, seem worried that the OLG may have finally tapped out the market. He should talk to MGM about that. Now that is a business that knows what it is doing. It builds wonderful casino resorts that put Ontario’s pathetic lottery and gaming people to shame. MGM might not pay quite as much vigorish to the provincial coffers but it would certainly show the politicians what real casinos are all about.

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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

Every blog has its reason.

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

The following was originally run October 8, 2009.  We need to run it more than just every couple years.

Have you ever asked a blogger why? Did you get an answer? Did you get an honest answer? You wanted to know why they did it. You cannot believe that so many people have that big an ego. Could they really consider their pontificating so profound?

Or is the answer very simple. Take the case of this blog. What is it all about?  Why call Barrie, Ontario Babel? Simple answer: I am a professional writer. As a writer, I am available for hire. I write for people who pay me. If someone needs a writer to produce a speech, a lecture, a presentation, a brochure, a résumé, a book, a script, a poem or a posting for twitter, I am your ghost. The web site babelonthebay.com is a sampler. It showcases my wares.

It helps that I love writing.

I also make it easy for people who wish to hire me. Take a speech, for example. All you need to tell me is to whom you will be speaking, what is the subject and if you are for it or against it. You can tell me more if you wish but I am mindful of the time a client gave me a two-hour explanation of a 15-minute speech he needed. He was angry when he read my first draft. “This is just what I told you,” he blustered. “What have you contributed?” I thought I had done an excellent editing job.

And then there are clients who are not interested in your view. I was once offered more than twice my normal rate for a 50-minute lecture a client was giving at an American university. The reason for the higher rate was that the client was extremely rightwing politically. The client might have got a standing ovation for his speech but I deserved every penny of that fat fee for fiction writing.

Hands up everyone who thinks all business people write their own presentations. Those of you with your hands up; you must also believe in the tooth fairy. When I started writing presentations for others, we were still using slide shows. PowerPoint makes life much easier.

Modern low-cost, on-demand publishing has given impetuous to the world of business book ghost writing. It has reached a point that if you open a restaurant, the opening can be shared with the introduction of your new book of recipes that is a regular reminder of a good place to eat out. You have an auto parts firm, so you produce a book of tips on doing minor auto repairs. No matter what your business, there is a book that can be written that reminds people that they should deal with you because you are the expert. Just leave the writing to an expert at writing.

I am not sure I want to resume writing résumés. I used to brag that nobody I wrote a résumé for ever failed to land a suitable job. Today, it is necessary to qualify that bravado. One problem is that younger people do not trust someone my age to know their audience. And they might be right. Today, there are many barriers to getting your résumé to the person with whom you really need to communicate. I still believe in my résumés but I am losing touch with those barriers. It is becoming more of a team effort.

Poetry is something else. I tend to inflict it only on friends and family. While they are not always enthusiastic about my poems, they are kind.

What some people say is missing from this sampler blog is humour. I apologize for that.  I have been accused of being a bit capricious with whimsy. That is the reason that I refer to Barrie as Babel. I think Barrie gets a bad rap. Babel is a more whimsical place, more open and accepting. Babel seeks challenges and opportunities. Barrie is a harsher, colder environment, full of potholes and bars, hockey players and hookers. (Yah, I know, your sister plays right wing.)

But I love twitter. This is a venue where writers can shine. Effective tweets are full of alliterative allusions, weighty words of wisdom and devoted to doggerel. It is a medium that eschews whole sentences while demanding clarity. It is in twitter where everybody knows your name but not the name of your writer. Can you imagine a writing gig that pays you to write less than 280 characters a day? It’s golden!

And one last comment about the art: Writing to precisely fill a column is a big part of a writer’s training. A column is usually limited to an average of 800 words. As is this one.

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Enquire about rates and deliveries at peter@lowry.me