Archive for September, 2012

Duncan decides to dive in.

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

“Jump in Dwight, the water is fine,” must have been the advice Ontario Treasurer Dwight Duncan got from his boss Dalton McGuinty. Now it is Duncan’s turn to be vilified by unions and public sector employees. His latest bill is denying a half million more Ontario workers the right to negotiate a fair contract or to strike. He and McGuinty are bringing back the gift of slavery to the people of Ontario.

Duncan has informed the news media that he thinks this legislation preserves the right to strike and will therefore pass the test of fairness in the courts. The problem the unions see is that the legislation allows the Minister to negate any contract that does not meet his approval, effectively denying them their rights.

How the legislation will sit with unionized employees in colleges, provincial agencies, hospitals and long-term care facilities is another question. The teachers unions have already promised to take the earlier contract freeze legislation to the Supreme Court and these other unions will look to making common cause with them.

So now we have the tandem team of McGuinty and Duncan leading the Ontario Liberal Party in their lemming-like run for the sea. They are leaving their opposition, Tiny Tim Hudak and Andrea Horwath standing on the sidelines cheering them on.

Tiny Tim Hudak even voted in favour of the earlier legislation slamming the teachers and is eager to put his ‘John Henry’ on the newer legislation from Duncan. Andrea Horwath wants the support of those workers and is standing at the sidelines clucking her tongue at the meanness of those nasty Liberals.

Those nasty Liberals are so busy ensuring their self destruction that they do not know that they are well on the way to enabling Ontario to have its second New Democratic government in 20 years. (If  Ontario voters are stupid enough to elect Conservative Tiny Tim, we would all have to jump into the sea with the lemmings.)

And do you know that 85 per cent of the party members at the Liberal Party conference in Ottawa this weekend voted in favour of McGuinty’s lemming-like behaviour? As we mentioned before, you need an alpha lemming to challenge the leadership to force the party to make a choice. The problem is that the alpha lemmings are drowned first.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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Who told Brown how to vote on this one?

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

In the House of Commons this past week, Babel MP Patrick Brown stood up to vote. As we hear very little of what Mr. Brown does in Ottawa, his vote was noted. He was one of more than half the Conservative caucus who voted in favour of the Commons studying if a fetus is a human being before the moment of birth. This was believed by all sides to be an effort to reopen the abortion debate.

But Babel voters are well aware of Mr. Brown’s seeming lack of interest in anything important in Ottawa. They expect that, as usual, someone has told him how to vote on this motion. It could be as simple as advice from Tory House Leader Peter Van Loan, whose riding of York Simcoe abuts the Barrie riding. Mind you, Prime Minister Stephen Harper would never have allowed Van Loan to order all Conservative MPs to vote for the motion. Maybe the odd one who needs extra help would be allowed.

There is also the possibility of his vote being encouraged by Citizenship Minister Jason Kenney. Kenney is now considered the leading social conservative in the Conservative caucus and that might explain the low state of affairs for that type of conservative these days. Kenney has so few leadership qualities, it is not likely he could lead a group of drunks to the local bar.

Some people might think it was Status of Women Minister Rona Ambrose who told Brown how to vote. This is unlikely though as she kept her voting intentions close to the vest, so to speak. With womens’ groups now screaming for her head, Ambrose was not about to broadcast her intentions.

Somebody told the media in Babel a couple weeks ago that Brown would like some help in deciding how to vote on this motion. Despite being raised as a Catholic, Brown probably did not have a cozy chat with the parish priest on the issue. Many of his constituents would have told him to vote ‘no’ on the issue if only he had really asked.

But Brown finally stood up on an issue with a vote that is likely to make most women mad at him. Many of these women have voted for Brown in the past because they wanted the smooth Stephen Harper as Prime Minister. It seems when you vote that way, you do not always get an MP that you would want to take home to meet the family.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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“Ready, aye ready, Mr. Harper, sir.”

Friday, September 28th, 2012

We have a tradition in Canada that the military serves at the will of the civilian authority. It means that currently Prime Minister Harper and his defence minister are the boss as far as Canada’s military is concerned. There are times though when you wonder what is behind it when the military brass appears to be too obsequious. Maybe it is the only way they can make a point.

Obviously the Defence Minister’s minions have been slow at the switch and have yet to give the right talking notes to Canada’s new air force chief. He seems to be well behind the curve in how to talk about the acquisition of F-35 fighters for his pilots. At a time when the politicians are pulling back from their earlier confidence in the purchase, the new head of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Lieutenant-General Yvan Blondin is still sounding gung-ho for the F-35 fighter.

It is not that we would accuse a lieutenant-general of being a suck-up but he does seem to be trying a bit too hard. To admit that the F-35 is already costing far too much and its delivery dates continue to be pushed into the future is really saying that the ultimate purchase might not happen. And that would be the good news for Canadians.

Blondin’s funniest comment to the news media at his swearing-in ceremony in Ottawa was that the lighter, single engine F-35 was better than a heavier twin-engine craft. He explained—with a straight face—that the lighter craft can carry more fuel and have greater range when patrolling the Arctic. And well it could—if it carries no armament.

But the truth is that to effectively patrol the Arctic, the general knows very well that these stealth fighters would require air-to-air refuelling and there goes the stealth benefit.

Mind you Blondin seems to understand that his political masters want him to be ready to attack, not defend. Stealth fighters such as the contemplated F-35 are supposed to be on the enemy without warning. That means the most vulnerable enemy for the Canadian air force would have to be New York State. Mind you, that might cause the other American states to be annoyed with us and they have far more planes and bigger weapons.

But to go around the world hoping to find more people to bomb and strafe such as in Libya is not the role Canadians prefer for their air force. Hopefully the government that replaces the Harper government in a few years will find a more suitable aircraft to replace our air force’s aging F-18s. How about a modern version of the Avro Arrow?


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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Keep them laughing Justin.

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

The news media announced MP Justin Trudeau’s candidacy for the Liberal Party leadership yesterday. He had to smile his way past the cameras, microphones and pencil-pushing pundits, even if he was just going to the washroom. We are told the real announcement is supposed to be next week.

Somebody will have to tell them that the news media do not select the Liberal Party’s leader. The party members and supporters do that and we have until next April to come to a conclusion. This is not a coronation the party is planning.  His father had no shoo-in 44 years ago and the son does not have the credentials that his father had.

Name recognition might mean a lot for the news media but Justin can hardly run on just his family name. He must campaign for the job as Justin, not as Pierre. When Pierre Trudeau announced his candidacy back in the fall of 1967, we already knew how smart he was and he had already made his bones as Minister of Justice in Mr. Pearson’s cabinet.

Justin has yet to tell Canadians where he stands. Having a boxing match with a Conservative senator is hardly the credentials needed to warrant any support for the job of leader. While he could suggest it might help keep a future cabinet in line, it is outside the usual guidelines.

The key is where he wants to lead the Liberal Party. Leading needs policy direction and to date, we have little knowledge of his policy priorities. Just being opposed to Harper’s Conservatives does not cut it. Canada’s embattled middle class needs a champion and that requires a left of centre policy position.

That means that Justin will need to explain more than just his position vis-à-vis Stephen Harper. He is also going to have to establish his position in relation to Thomas Mulcair. He will have to be far more radical in his approach than he has previously been in the House of Commons.

Ideally Justin needs to box Mulcair into the position of a merger of the New Democrats with the Liberal Party. He will need a brain trust to help him do that.

There is no question that Justin has the charm, glibness and savvy to win the leadership. The question from the party keeps coming back to where he wants to lead it?


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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Harper needs more discipline in the nursery.

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

The Bobbsey twins are getting harder and harder for Stephen Harper to manage. These kids are out of hand. With Foreign Minister John Baird (Bobbsey number one) and Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenny (Bobbsey number two) running roughshod over Canada’s reputation abroad, they are now emboldened to screw up things at home as well.

Kenny is so bored with handing out Canadian flags at citizenship ceremonies that he offered to take part in the debate about when a fetus becomes human. This is a back door attempt to bring abortion back to parliament and there are even some Conservative members upset about it.

You need have no concern about any enlightenment that Kenny might bring to the discussion. He was educated at Roman Catholic institutions in Saskatchewan and went on to broaden his education at a Jesuit college in San Francisco.

Luckily the debate on this issue lost by about two to one. We can give this question a rest for a while.  This will give Jason Kenney time to read a book on the subject—hopefully not one recommended by his parish priest.

John Baird brings a different set of problems to the Harper cabinet. His brand of conservative fervour is more in the Mike Harris mode. He made an appearance on Tom Clark’s West Block show last Sunday and the wife, who likes Tom‘s show most of the time, finally snorted and left the room. She figured she had better things to do with her time than listening to this guy.

And he does sound programmed. He sounds like he has the sound bites he wants to use stored on analogue tapes in his head and you seem to see him searching for the right bite—and they are all on the right politically.

But when you put all those sound bites together, they do not seem to make sense. His explanation of why the Iranian Embassy personnel were told to leave Ottawa makes little sense. He alludes to activities that he then says he cannot tell us about but when you think that through, you wonder if there are not a number of other embassies that should be kicked out of Ottawa.

And John Baird’s deal with his British counterpart is probably the most foolish step back to colonialism that the Harper government has ever made. The judgement of these two cabinet members is obviously amateur hour in Ottawa


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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Failed history for our foreign minister.

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

George Santayana wrote about 150 years ago that: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Maybe  Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird missed those history lessons about the time when Canada’s embassy needs were provided by the embassies of Great Britain. Baird is working with the Brits on a plan to combine British and Canadian embassies in some countries, taking us back to the past.

That is one easy way to comply with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s edict that there be a large picture of the Queen at every embassy.

But it is hardly going to save us half the cost of the photocopying machine.

Canadians have been mistreated at British embassies in our colonial past and hardly need to have the past repeated. It was in the 1925 that Prime Minister Mackenzie King brought Professor Oscar Douglas (OD) Skelton from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario to Ottawa to create a foreign affairs department for Canada. The move was long overdue.

The Brits often forgot their colonials in dealing with world affairs. A particular example was at the Paris Conference after the First World War. The Treaty of Versailles was delivered to the Commonwealth representatives only to be signed as part of the British Empire. Canada had lost more than 64,000 military personnel in the war and we were treated as lesser people.

What Baird does not seem to understand is that embassies and consular offices around the world play a vital role in assisting Canadian business to sell Canadian products and expertise. The trade experts at these offices provide briefings for business wishing to win contracts or sell products in the country and provide introductions to likely customers.

Maybe nobody has told Minister Baird that Brit businesses often compete with Canadian business people for the same customers. If he knew more about the business world, he might know why competing companies do not want to share the same office.

Maybe, he is under the impression that embassies just hand out student visas and tell people how wonderful it is to live in Canada. It might even surprise him that embassies only get a few Canadians coming in to ask what to do about the passport they lost.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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There is still time Ontario Liberals.

Monday, September 24th, 2012

The annual general meeting of the Ontario Liberals happens next weekend. It will take place in Ottawa and there is still time for Liberals to register. The only thing missing from all the reminders Liberals are receiving is the information about the vote that has to be held on Dalton McGuinty’s stewardship. This is the opportunity to dump the Ontario Liberal’s biggest liability as leader since Mitch Hepburn.

There is absolutely no redemption for Dalton McGuinty. While last year, he nosedived into a minority position, today, he could not be elected as chief dog catcher. And the only thing that saved him last year was the weakness of the opposition.

We all know that McGuinty is right wing. He is just not as far to the right as former Premier Mike Harris. We all know that McGuinty is a wus. He is just not as bad a wus as Opposition Leader Tiny Tim Hudak. We all know that McGuinty picks fights with the wrong people. He is just not as bad as Andrea Horwath who does not seem to know what to fight about.

We all can wonder why McGuinty is picking a fight with Ontario’s doctors when it is Ontario’s hospitals and Local Integrated Health Networks that are out of control. And this is not to mention, his friends the drug companies, who are given such open access to the province’s coffers.

We all wonder why McGuinty turned on his best friends the teachers. They not only turned out in droves to support his re-election last year but helped pay for the third-party advertising that vilified Tiny Tim Hudak.

McGuinty has made too many enemies during too long a stint as premier. His government let the police run amok over citizens’ rights during the G20 Summit in Toronto. He has denied basic rights to condominium owners and made renters look like a protected species. He has used a Ponzi scheme to turn our attention to green energy and needlessly drove up the cost of electricity. He has limited the health professionals available to look after the needs of Ontario citizens. And please do not get us started on his weak government and the fat Treasurer.

While we have many times referred to the McGuinty government as Whigs, the problem is that they pose themselves as liberals to the voting public. They are giving real liberals a bad name. Something has to be done.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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If you build it, the players will come.

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

Ontario Lottery and Gaming boss Paul Godfrey used to be a politician. He knows that if he is going to find the location for the Toronto area casino, he has to pit the area municipalities against each other. Each of them wants the jobs and tax revenues and they need the tourism.

But Paul also knows that you have to let politicians posture for the voters. It can be as ignorant and simplistic as alluding to some mysterious dark and evil side to gambling and as complex as weighing tax advantages against pressures on existing infrastructure. That is not Paul’s concern. He is trying to meet the revenue demands of his political masters at Queen’s Park. The province needs the money.

Politicians who think they are serving their voters by railing against casinos are more often, unwittingly, helping criminal elements continue their illegal gaming establishments in industrial and banquet hall facilities throughout the Metro area. Legal casinos can be policed. Illegal casinos are an invitation to trouble.

But, in many ways, for a politician to stand Canute-like to stem the tide of the public demands for pleasure palaces is just plain dumb. There are smart politicians in the Toronto area waiting to eat Toronto’s lunch. Markham, Mississauga and Vaughan all have land available for a gaming cum entertainment complex if Toronto does something stupid and leaves the opportunity for others.

Nobody argues that a prime location will be the west half of the Canadian National Exhibition grounds. A second favoured choice is the existing Woodbine Entertainment grounds in Etobicoke. Shoehorning the casino and other amenities into the existing Toronto Convention Centre would probably be a very dumb and overly expensive idea.

Mind you, expense is not a concern that is on the plate. It is the need to ensure that any monies coming into the endeavour are clean and legitimate come first. Apropos of some remarks made recently to the Charbonneau Commission in Montreal about Ontario organized crime, we certainly need to be vigilant about that.

It will be a shame though if we cannot find Canadian entrepreneurs for the casino and entertainment complex undertaking.  To send profits south will be a shame.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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An American mantra.

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012

If anything explains the current American malaise, it is the often heard mantra: It is not my responsibility. It defines America in the 21st Century. It causes the woeful state of American politics. It explains the economic meltdown of 2008.

The total lack of responsibility in the sub-prime mortgages that caused the economic collapse was not by the janitors in the banks but by the banks’ boards and operating officers. Canadian banks missed out on that gravy train on its way to the train wreck because of the conservatism of their rules and rulers. It will still take  America more than a few years to rebuild world confidence and to restore trust at home.

But what kind of America will emerge from this present abyss? The split in political direction is wide and far reaching. The battle is bitter. It sets the haves against the have-nots. It pits the intellectual against the ignorant. It invokes a holy crusade against the secular infidels within. And nobody expects to win at the ballot boxes. This is a house divided. It is an armed homeland of distrust, inured to bloodshed.

Give President Obama his due. He steered the ship of state through the first four years. He saved General Motors, he stabilized the banks, he fought and won the battle to bring Medicare to millions of Americans. If the sheer weight of his rhetoric could win, he could sleep easy in the White House.

But Americans are afraid.  They cannot see the truth through the lies of the politicians. They are the mightiest country in the world and they feel they are losing ground. They fear the rot of their cities as the war on drugs is lost.

And what choice are they offered. GOP candidate Mitt Romney is a millionaire and only his wife knows him as a person. He lacks any grasp of what is beyond America and yet he aspires to lead the world. His running mate, the man chosen to be a heart-beat from a Romney presidency, is a right-wing evangelical who knows even less about the real world and shows little interest in learning. Their candidacy is not an alternative to the Obama presidency but a sad commentary on how far the country has wandered from the ideals of America’s founding fathers.

French historian Alexis de Toqueville wrote of the States in the early 1800s that “I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America.” And it seems there has been little improvement since.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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You can fight city hall.

Friday, September 21st, 2012

“You can’t fight city hall’ is an American idiom for the frustration people feel in dealing with bureaucrats and politicians. The only problem with the statement is that it is not true. You not only can fight city hall but you should.

And we are not just talking about municipal politics. You will often hear people say it about all levels of bureaucracy. You can be talking about the appalling levels of bureaucracy you will discover in business. You can be talking about any level of police, the military, a hospital or the medical profession, the local law society, in fact any professional organization or union. You should never be afraid to fight any of them.

But do not get your hopes up about winning. Sometimes in losing we are nudging the bureaucrats closer to reform. And sometimes, you are just making your point.

But that makes the times you win even more delicious. For the past three years, for example, the taxes for our condominium unit have been the lowest per square foot in Babel. We might have been the only owners in Babel who read the instructions for appeal of the assessment and made a successful appeal. After you got through the initial rejections by the bureaucracy, the process was surprisingly easy.

The trick is often to work your way through the bureaucracy to find the person who can see things your way. One of our favourite stories is about the time we broke through in the parking ticket bureaucracy and were offered unlimited free parking at any time in the largest city in Canada. It took the combination of discovering a really stupid error made by the department and a carefully crafted letter to tell the bureaucrats about it. They were so pleased with the error being pointed out in such a nice way that we received a very surprising telephone call. During the three years and the many thousands it cost the city to correct the error, we had free parking. It was like winning at Monopoly.

Mind you, finding the right bureaucrat is not always a successful approach. We recently asked the mayor of Babel if approaching a particular bureaucrat might help resolve a concern with the municipality. The mayor responded that meeting with that bureaucrat would be an ideal solution. And the meeting could not have been more pleasant. The bureaucrat was warm and friendly, delighted to discuss that subject and to share thoughts on it with a concerned citizen. At the end of the conversation, we were emboldened to ask, “How can we help further in this regard?”

“You can’t,” we were told. “We will keep doing it our way, thank you.”

We will, at least, get an “I told you so!” out of that meeting. And that is just one more reason why fighting city hall can be worthwhile.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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