Archive for February, 2013

Babel, by definition, is corrupt.

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

A regular reader of Babel-on-the-Bay admitted the other day that he was not interested when the subject of the day is Babel. He likes the description of Babel as a one-pony town but he claims that it is just not an interesting venue for political discussion. Despising the local Conservative MP is hardly unique in his estimation. He lives in Toronto and he ignores that city council. He probably voted for Rob Ford but he keeps it quiet. What he does not realize is that with his attitude, he is in fact encouraging the corruption of that government.

We have to give a damn. We have to watch what is going on. To give do-nothing assent to incompetence and indolence and chicanery means you will get the corrupt kind of government that you deserve. And in Babel, we have the conditions that breed corruption.

We lack the important safeguards such as a strong and knowledgeable news media. Between the TorStar-owned grocery flier wrap and the poor relation of the Toronto Sun, there might be one and a half real print reporters in this town who are grossly underpaid and expected to spend their time writing obits and editing information on pot-luck suppers and other coming events. The local television station provides secondary runs of shows for the CTV network and the local Rogers cable station seems to have difficulty in distinguishing between reporting news and making news. And what people think of the local radio outlets is best left unsaid.

Well-funded and interested ratepayer associations are key to making citizen voices heard by council. The only effective one in Babel was euchred recently when it failed to support its own candidate in an ill-timed by-election in its ward. It did not even seem to know the business in which the winning candidate was involved.

Citizen participation in council committees can be an important source of two-way communication but not in Babel. Those bringing ideas to the committees or directly to council have their ideas brushed aside without semblance of consideration. Even if the petitioner makes it past council, the city staff will bury the upstart’s ideas forever. One of the really clever ways to manipulate the situation with a really persistent idea is to bring in independent consultants who will report exactly what city staff wants to hear.

Oh yes, you thought that the mayor and council were your voice on council. Not in Babel. The city staff manage this city the way they want, and you should not forget it.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Is there a ‘political memory’?

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Quebec students are starting their warm-up exercises early this year. Their studies are, of course, important but there is nothing like a good protest to meet members of a sexual persuasion that interests you, to get some healthy outdoor exercise, vent your lungs and to get physical with thugs from the various police forces. And yet it all appears to be instigated by Quebec’s Pequiste Premier Pauline Marois. She seems to be blind to the reason she won the last provincial election.

Are political memories that short? What caused the downfall of former Premier Jean Charest? Was it not the same damn issue? Are not tuition fees in Quebec always the lowest such fees in Canada? And do the students care? They are students. They need little excuse to join the revolution. Any tuition fees annoy them. Any increase in tuition fees is, to them, an act of war. You would think that Pauline Marois would know that.

It reminds you of Bob Rae, now temporary leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, when he was New Democratic Premier of Ontario. He was sitting on the provincial throne looking good until he was convinced that some austerity was in order in the province. He turned to the teachers and other unionized workers in the province and told them to pony up. All he asked them for was for a wage freeze and some unpaid days off. Next thing we knew, a guy named Michael Harris was Premier of Ontario.

And yet there was Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty just a year ago telling the teachers and other unionists that they were going to have to, once again, help Ontario out of its deficit. And when you think of how hard those teachers worked to help Mr. McGuinty get re-elected, it was enough to make you cry. Nobody seems to have a political memory.

And sure, we can sit here in Ontario and laugh at the foolish Pequiste and her problems in Quebec but not for long. We in Ontario have lucked out with an apparently docile student population in this province whose parents have more money than brains. Yah, they want their son or daughter to be a doctor or lawyer or whatever but there is a tipping point on costs and we probably have already passed it.

Tuition rates in Ontario are an outrage. Any history buff can tell you that when students finally get mad, they can become a potent force. Fuck with them at your peril.

And any true liberal knows that individual rights include the right to learning. Our objective should be to eliminate tuition fees. Chew on that for a bit Premier Wynne.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Can the Roman Church discover democracy?

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Canadian Liberals are experimenting with universal suffrage in selecting the party’s next leader. You too can vote. You do not even have to be a Liberal Party member as long as you are not actively supporting some other political party. We have even heard of people resigning their membership in other parties to join the Liberals in voting. Just think what might happen if the Church of Rome went along with that method? The mind boggles.

Would it hold the promise of never again having the church trying to survive the cloying conservatism of another Pope Benedict? Not likely. Not with what Cardinal Collins of Toronto said to the media who came to see him leave for the Conclave of Cardinals to replace Benedict. He told them that the biggest challenge facing the church in Canada is ‘rampant individualism.’ And can you believe that Collins is one of 118 fusty old men who get to choose the most powerful church leader in the world?

As Canadians, we should get down on our knees and thank some God for all these rampant individualists among us. The ones who fail us and do the most damage are those who quietly leave the church of their childhood but still allow their children to be indoctrinated. They are continuing on a path of failure. It is like driving a car that has a rear view mirror larger than the windshield. There is only a wasted past for such a church.

The Roman Church relies on its numbers and a third world that is still trapped in ignorance. Some in the church see this as a time for an African Pope to be chosen. It is possible that some might appreciate a Pope from a country where women are still traded and treated as cattle. Why would you expect more from a church run by dried up old men with only faint memories of the joys of female companionship?

But then universal suffrage would have its own problems. The Liberal Party in Canada might have already come to the conclusion that it is not the perfect solution. We already have our rock star!


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Revelling in others’ marketing mistakes.

Monday, February 25th, 2013

It is quite sad that the Toronto Star editorial writers seem to have so little understanding of the vagaries and ups and downs of the market place. Maybe being part of a vast, monolithic organization as Torstar causes them to be somewhat immune to such concerns.  In one of their many anti-casino diatribes, they appeared to be chortling over the misfortunes of a multi-billion dollar resort casino in Atlantic City.

Yet, maybe there is a message in this. The problem with Revel, the Atlantic City casino resort, is that it denied everything. It was much too ritzy to survive in that tacky-town market. It ignored the day-trippers from New York who built that city. It focussed on an ocean that everyone turned their back on. It was a marketing experiment by people who must have flunked Marketing 101. And they spent billions during the second worst time in American economic history.

What Paul Godfrey and friends have against calling a casino a casino, we will never know. We can tell you truthfully that nobody visits Atlantic City to see the ocean, be pampered in luxury hotels and enjoy fine cuisine. They come to gamble, dammit.

So what does that mean in Toronto? Why are we talking resort hotels on the Exhibition grounds? Why would anyone want to overcrowd the Convention Centre, basket ball/hockey palace and baseball park area with more hotel rooms and a casino? The truth is that Toronto is already a destination. It has lots of great hotels, wonderful restaurants representing the world of cuisine, the best of theatres, sports, parks and entertainments. All it needs is a few casinos to spice things up and be a full service city.

If you pushed a bit, Woodbine Entertainment could have table games in place in less than a month. It already has a casino in place, if it would just get rid of some of those slots. There are also a bunch of questionable banquet halls around the city where casinos could spring up like magic.

Be honest people. Toronto will never be Las Vegas North. You really do not want it to be. You want Toronto to be the open, friendly, welcoming city that accepts people, it always has been. You do not want to force your standards on others. You believe in live and let live. And if people want to gamble—which is quite legal—you want it to be in friendly, well managed, properly regulated premises. That should be our only concern.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Go left Justin Trudeau, go left.

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

After a slow start in the federal Liberal leadership race, MP Justin Trudeau is only now starting to find traction with the left wing of his party. He has stopped shooting from the hip, telling people what he thinks they want to hear and feeding the Conservatives their attack ads. He is starting to have a more positive impact on public opinion polls. If he can just stay to the left side of the political divide, he will be the only choice for the Liberal Party leadership and for the country.

The polls tell the story. We are starting to see a gradual reversal in Conservative trends in Ontario. Polls show that with Justin Trudeau as leader, federal Liberals once again improve their position with women, while also attracting votes away from the New Democrats. These are key areas where votes have to come from.

The other source of new votes is from among the disaffected, the youth and the generation that lost contact with a party that lacked direction and consistency. There was no common thread between Jean Chrétien, Paul Martin, Stéphane Dion and Michael Ignatieff. The name Liberal was not enough. Today, the name Liberal has no clear meaning to almost 40 per cent of Canadian voters. It has to be given meaning.

The Trudeau name can only gain Justin a moment’s attention. He has to make the most of the moment. He has to evoke recognition of what the name means to Canadians. History says the name evokes a tradition of individual rights. He has to exemplify that. It also evokes controversy. He has to always be ready to handle that too.

Leadership is fragile. The first task of any leader is to ensure his or her support. Justin has made the right moves by promising to return control over nominations to local party members. In this way, he has assured Liberal members that he will restore democracy to the party and that is the key to party support. He also needs to assure party members that they will have the say on the broad policy directions of the party.

What we are now seeing in the polls is a cautious but positive change and it is from the left. Justin is not competing for support from Harper and the Conservatives but from Mulcair and the New Democrats. That is where the votes are that can beat Harper. We should always remember that Liberals are the party that brought old age pensions and Medicare to Canada. And we are the party that fights for individual rights.

But the party has a long way to go to once again earn the trust of Canadians. Justin Trudeau has to have the fire and the youth and the drive to lead. We have to help him with the policies and the vision. Right wing Liberals can go join Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. We do not need them. We do not need their hypocrisy. We have to care about people first. We can be a real party. The challenges are great. We have a job to do.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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The indomitable Eugene Whelan: 1924 – 2013.

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

In the land around Windsor, Ontario there are giants. They have included leaders and liberals. The most unusual was Eugene Whelan.

Gene was a most uncommon example of the common man. He was a farmer who left an extra large footprint in the halls of Canada’s Parliament. He set a standard during 22 years as a Member of Parliament that few can match. There was much applause when Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau recognized that Gene was the ideal Minister of Agriculture for Canada.

He never had much to say but when he spoke, you paid attention. He never worried too much about syntax or tense. His words were plain and easy to understand. He spoke up for the farmer and you learned much by listening. If you thought you knew a damn thing about marketing of farm products, you could always learn more from Gene.

He never minced words but you had to listen carefully because he never spoke loudly or worried too much about clear or proper pronunciation. His sentences were short. He used simple words. They were effective words. Sometimes they might not have been politically correct but you knew there was nothing mean spirited about him.

Those who knew Gene well shared much laughter with him over the years. His droll and quiet humour was a special pleasure. He enjoyed it most when the laugh could be on him.

You had to know him well to tell him what you thought of his stupid green Stetson but you could sure find the big guy in a crowd. And where he ever acquired a taste for crème de menthe, we never had the nerve to ask.

It was good to know Gene Whelan. He will be remembered.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Tories have opening at Queen’s Park.

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Some Conservative friends want to run a want ad for the opening at Queen’s Park. They want to fill the position of Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition and Leader of the Ontario Conservative Party. The previous job holder, Tiny Tim Hudak, appears to have left the building.

It is not as though Timmy has given up. Nor has he resigned. They just think it is time for Timmy to admit that he is not up to the job. It is time to end the embarrassment. Timmy just needs to look back to his predecessor, John Tory. John knew when it was time to resign. He gave the party his best shot. He did not need to be told when to turn in his key to the leader’s office. He left with grace and his head held high.

Now is Timmy’s time. He gave it his best shot in the last Ontario election. He has had more than a year as Leader of the Opposition in a minority house of cards. He effectively turned the job of Leader of the Opposition over to New Democrat Andrea Horwath. And Andrea pulled it off with her virtue intact. There were no demands on her. She even kept the job alive when the former Premier prorogued the Legislature so that the Liberals could have some playtime to pick a new leader.

And now there is a new leader and a new Throne Speech and all that Timmy finds to say is that the new cabinet is too big and he will not support the speech. First of all, Timmy has to understand that you end up with a lot of political debts to pay when you win both the Leader’s and Premier’s job at the same time. And everyone understands that the Leader of the Opposition will not support the Throne Speech but you are also supposed to pick a few things from it and propose alternatives. That is the job stupid!

Instead of doing his job in the old tried and proven ways, Timmy has been showering the news media with supposed white papers of policy alternatives that are of no interest to anybody. His transit solutions could cost him the vote of every Conservative on Toronto City Council. His white paper on post-secondary education is earning him derision from students and academics across the province.

What Conservatives are now realizing is that Tiny Tim has stopped trying to build to win in Ontario. He is using politics of division. He divides people not to conquer but purely for the sake of dividing. He wants to see the day that we have walled cities again to keep his rural riff-raff away from the decent people. He does not understand that some of those decent people are well-meaning but obviously misguided Conservatives.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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The attack on Canada’s last Duchess.

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Browning’s Last Duchess was painted on a wall,

Looking as if she were alive, was the poet’s call.

Our lovely Duchess Kate is prisoner of the Brits,

Damned as a royal breeder, gives some Brits fits.


Writer Hilary Mantel, was she who did Kate in,

Imagine calling her a shop-window mannequin?

A double Booker Prize winner missed by a mile.

She tells us our Kate: has a perfect plastic smile.


The Brit tabloid papers have all been treated ill,

They stand accused of using the Duchess as fill.

Who will get the first picture of the baby bump?

Are Mantel’s books gonna be sent to the dump?


But why does Stephen Harper use the royals so?

Do Canadians really care which is best of show?

Does he think we care if she becomes a Queen?

Canada is its own country. Where has he been?


Canadians treat Kate with respect, but I relate,

This country has to elect its own head of state.

The Brits can have their royals and a nobility,

They are not needed in a land of opportunity!


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Timmy can smell the fear.

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

While we can all appreciate the need to quickly get the Ontario legislature back in business, a little more time to consider the throne speech would have helped. NDP leader Andrea Horwath gave the speech guarded approval yesterday but Conservative leader Tiny Tim Hudak rejected it. There was little to please either leader. Worse, there was little to capture the imagination of the voters. And Tiny Tim could smell the fear.

The throne speech was long on rhetoric and short on facts. It was supposed to be a feel good speech and all it did was give the impatient among us cramps in our buttocks. And it should be pointed out to the Wynne government that the only people who give a damn about when Ontario gets rid of its deficit is the bond rating service of Standard and Poors.

Throne speeches have changed a bit over the years. They started out as a dull detailing of the legislation to be put forward by the government during a session of parliament. Today, the speech is written to reach the voters and to provide them with an appreciation of what this wonderful, fearless government is going to present during the session and the opposition can only oppose at their peril.

With what we heard yesterday, it was a darn good thing that Andrea Horwath had already promised to support it. No real liberal could support such bilge.

The throne speech was a melange of old and new, the forgotten and the forlorn. Who does not want to help our youth find jobs, improve the skills of our workforce, fix social assistance programs, aid people with disabilities to find employment and build a strong, prosperous province. Now how many times have we heard that?

There was nothing new in what took about 3800 words. Oh yes, there were the usual curtsies in the direction of putting aboriginal communities to work, trotting out more all-day kindergarten and continuing the tutition grants for undergraduates, home care for the elderly, better access to mental health services and home renovation tax credits. The list was interminable and, in case anyone was left out, they promised they are going to create opportunities for everyone.

But what the silly speech failed to do was to provide leadership, to surprise, please, thrill, innovate, wow, challenge, build or propose a future for Ontario on which we could sign-on and work together for a better future for all.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Martha Hall Findlay does Babel.

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

Babel Liberals got 50 minutes with leadership contender, former MP Martha Hall Findlay yesterday. That was fair. If you had to choose between a dozen Babel Liberals and a chance to appear live on CTV2 and do a remote to CTV’s National News, you would also rush the local Liberals.

Have we ever told you that Martha Hall Findlay is smart, sophisticated and sexy?  We have met before. She has a dominant presence and is a glib and knowledgeable speaker. She is just not our kind of Liberal. She is right wing, likes oil-sands pipelines, dislikes farm marketing boards and she lost our favourite electoral district of Willowdale to the Conservatives in the last election. Martha can be a bit controversial.

Yet those few Liberals she met in Babel yesterday were impressed. She got her slip in the debate Saturday out of the way first and everyone was happy that she had apologized to MP Justin Trudeau for the unintentional insult. She did her set piece in a rush and even included a statement on why she is running for the leadership. It seems she wants to revitalize the Liberal Party and she feels this can happen best by her leading it.

Martha became a bit testy when challenged on her appointment to Willowdale riding. She did win it twice. And at no time did she say anything about the party leaders’ ability to appoint candidates in electoral districts. Other candidates are now making it very clear that they will return authority over nominations to the local Liberal Party associations.

There did not seem to be any reason to question Martha on her opinion about cooperating with the NDP. She might have reached across the table and strangled the questioner.

In Martha’s right-wing world, she seems to see the Liberal Party as the responsible managers of the economy and the guardians of Canada’s reputation around the world as peacekeepers and honest brokers. She also seems to see the party as firmly in the camp of free traders, building an economy based on supplying the world with Canada’s resources.

While small in numbers, the meeting with Babel Liberals will do her some good. There were more than a few second votes landed for her in the preferential balloting. And the Liberals she met can influence more votes than were present. This Liberal, not so much.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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