Archive for May, 2013

Dull, stolid, top heavy, another Liberal logo.

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

There was going to be a first in this blog. It was going to include a graphic of the new Ontario Liberal Party logotype. Well, maybe not. If and when we learn how to put pictures into this version of WordPress, we will do it. In the meantime, you will have to imagine a big red solid “L” for Learner and a red line and then a solid word “LIBERAL” and then a lighter word “ONTARIO.”  And this is supposed to be creative!

Having been involved in the production of numerous logotypes over the years, you find that each one tells its own story. Every new leader of the Liberal Party in Ontario seems to want to make their personal imprint and obviously Kathleen Wynne is no exception. It is too bad. This one seems to say more about her and the party than she intended.

They should have tried the logotype so that it read as Ontario Liberal. Liberal should be a foundation for the province, not something for the province to hold up. The typography puts the weight of the party on the province.

It is not a bad design for a fence. It is unconsciously defensive. We wonder just who it is designed to keep out.

It is a logo with absolutely no motion. It is not going anywhere. It gives you the impression that neither is the party.

It is visually top down. So is the party. It is a party that is unabashedly run from the top. The party leader is the boss. The party leader’s people pick the candidates, run the party, choose the policies, pick the party officials, hire the party staff and tell party members what to think, what to do and when to do it. Not that they really need those pesky party members anyway.

The only thing the Ontario Liberal Party has going for it is its opposition. It has an opposition that would keep Attila the Hun in power. The only thing that the Conservatives have not tried yet on Tiny Tim Hudak is a personality. New Democrat Andrea Horwath just needs to accept her personal trainer as her saviour.

But, as far as the logo is concerned, Wynne and her friends would have better spent the money on some relationship training. The first people they need to get involved in where the Ontario Liberals are going are the members of the party. They also have a stake in it.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Casinos and the Pope’s rules.

Monday, May 20th, 2013

It is supposed to be an Italian saying about the Pope and birth control. It is that people who do not play the game should not make the rules for those who play. Having a rule such as that would also certainly save a lot of time tomorrow when Toronto City Council debates casinos. Based on everything we have heard to-date, it will just be the ignorant leading the stupid. People who have never been in a casino in their life will tell you what they believe.

Say what you want about our former provincial gambling tsar but Paul Godfrey knows casinos and likes to gamble. He used to go on weekend junkets to Las Vegas. He has proved that he gambles as a politician and as a businessman. He bought the Post newspapers when all the smart money is going to the Internet. He is gambling on his newspapers being able to transition to the Internet.

And when Paul’s entire board of Ontario Lottery and Gaming resigned in protest over his firing, it was a deliberate kick in the teeth for Premier Kathleen Wynne. In this day and age, that is a rare show of solidarity.

But what we will see tomorrow at Toronto City Council will be the furthest thing from solidarity. The only event that could get that council working together would be Mayor Rob Ford’s resignation.

The major problems for any discussion at City Council are the demands that city staff think the politicians should ask of any casino complex. The demands are unreasonable, a very bad business model and a guarantee of the failure of any negotiations. It is as though city staff planned it that way.

In a more perfect world than that on display at Toronto Council, the result tomorrow should be approval of Woodbine Entertainment getting the casino table games the organization has always wanted. That will leave Markham and maybe Mississauga free to fight it out for a full-fledged casino complex down the road.  It would create an entertainment and convention centre for either municipality that would soon be the envy of their poor cousins in dreary old, bluestocking Toronto.

And as for Premier Wynne and her cabinet, they have to get some people at the helm of Ontario Lottery and Gaming who know something about the subject. There is no learning curve allowed.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Wait for it: Royal Northern Gateway Pipeline.

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

Have you heard the latest solution the Prime Minister’s Office is suggesting to move the damn bitumen pipelines along? It is so simple, they should have thought of it a year ago. They are going to proceed with the pipelines under the system of royal warrant. By Royal Warrant of Appointment, Enbridge Pipelines will be Supplier of Bitumen to the British Royal Family. Think of it! Can anyone deny Enbridge the right to supply Mr. Harper’s dearly loved Royals the right to their supply of bitumen?

And do not forget, it is not just our Sovereign who has the right to sell Royal Warrants. Her Consort, the Duke of Edinburgh, and her son, the Prince of Wales also have the right to issue the royal privileges. That way, doubling the Kinder Morgan line to Vancouver can be sanctioned under the auspices of the old duke and Charles can issue the Warrant for reversing Enbridge’s Line 9 in Ontario. All the lines are needed to get the bitumen out of Alberta. Mind you, they are still looking for some lesser way for Billy and Kate to add their imprimatur to the Keystone XL Pipeline in the United States. Yanks are impressed with Royals too you know!

Can you just see the pomp and ceremony that the Royals can bring to the signing of the deals to bring bitumen to the sea? Prince Harry can fill in for his grandmother but she can always be trucked out if essential to cowing the First Nations into allowing the Great White Mother (Enbridge, not Her Majesty) to run pipelines through lands granted them by Queen Victoria.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s ally in all of this is Brit Prime Minister David Cameron who is also helping sell bitumen to the European Market. The other European countries are shying away from bitumen because of the extremely high cost and large carbon footprint involved in processing bitumen into synthetic oil. And Europeans are not all that impressed with Brit royalty.

But they are big sellers in Canada in Stephen Harper’s opinion. He thinks Canadians are happy that he has spent so much money relabeling the Canadian military and army regiments as Royal this, or Royal that. The truth is that Canadians are not too interested but tend to live and let live but they are not about to cross the street for the royals.

The fine point of all of this great thinking, is the quiet aside Her Majesty made to Prince Philip when briefed by Prime Minister Cameron: “Dear, what in bloody hell is bitumen?”

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Lord Connie takes on Stuffy Tommy.

Saturday, May 18th, 2013

Whatever does Conrad Black have in mind? Since he got out of jail, he has come back to Canada and gone back to pontificating. He loves to show what an erudite writer he can be. He must still have some pull with the right-wing National Post. Last week he got a full page in the Post to lambaste New Democratic Leader Tommy Mulcair. It is what his intentions are that is not clear.

You would think that Stuffy Tommy Mulcair would be a lesser target for a wordsmith such as Lord Crossthepond, or whatever his title might be. The fact that Black is even back in Canada just goes to show you what nice people we Canucks can be. He gave us the finger to go play act at being a lord in England and we let him come back. It was the Americans who threw him in jail. Little did the Yankees care that a major piece of evidence came from his Toronto office where he and his chauffeur were taking the files out for a drive. Canadians just enjoyed the show. It was reality TV at its best.

But this does not explain why Lord Connie has a hard-on for Stuffy Tommy. Connie’s headline for his article in the National Post is: An insult to history’s REAL FEDERALISTS. (The mix of upper and lower case presented a nice two-line lead.)

Lord Connie, as usual, spends an inordinate amount of his 1000 words establishing his credentials as a writer and Quebec historian. While his book on Quebec Premier Maurice Duplessis was a snorer, it is still the definitive work on the subject. Those in the know, willingly acknowledge Lord Connie’s expertise in the subject area. It is just that he seems to lack a clear understanding of Canadians in general. He does not understand why some Canadians consider him an object of ridicule.

But as Lord Connie and his lady can explain, the very rich are very different from the rest of us. They only get in trouble because they can never be rich enough, never be honoured enough nor their wives thin enough.

While this might help understand Lord Connie, it is not clarifying why he should be defaming poor Tommy Mulcair. Tommy is really a Quebec Liberal and Quebec Liberals are not liberals in the normal sense. They are not liberal at all. Quebec Liberals have a direct linage from the political bleu through the Quebec Conservatives to the Union Nationale to today’s quasi-federalist, natural ruling Liberal Party in Quebec.

Lord Connie actually accuses Tommy Mulcair’s party of enticing Bloc Québécois separatists to vote NDP in the last federal election by being some sort of closet destroyer of Canadian unity. This, knowing Jack Layton, who led the NDP at the time, is a very strange claim. It is positively ridiculous. Maybe our Connie was in jail too long?

But that does not answer the question as to where Lord Connie is going with this. If by some chance he could renounce his lordshipness and get his Canadian citizenship back, will he then run for parliament? This question must be explored in more detail.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

What’s with wrong-way Wynne?

Friday, May 17th, 2013

Talking with a long-term political friend the other day, the best advice we could provide was to remind him of the old chestnut: Keep your friends close; keep your enemies closer. That is the advice someone forgot to supply Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. Firing Ontario Lottery’s Paul Godfrey yesterday was a foolish move. It could mean that the Liberal Premier’s house of cards is starting to crumble.

Using Godfrey to front for the government’s gambling addiction was a carry-over from the McGuinty regime that was working. (And let’s face it: not many of the McGuinty era schemes were.) Wynne had to keep her government in a denial space with Ontario’s bluestockings. For her to allow herself to be drawn into any of this Toronto casino debate is to allow the naysayers to make the connection.  She has far too many strikes against her already.

And Kathleen Wynne obviously knows absolutely nothing about the casino business. She almost lost her footing on the subject earlier in the year when she told Toronto Mayor Rob Ford that there would be no special deal for Toronto to host a casino. Her response to Ford showed a complete ignorance of both the casino business and the politics involved in the question.

This woman seems to forget that she has only been elected by the people in her electoral district in Toronto—which we seem to recall usually vote Conservative. She was chosen as Premier by a small group of sheep artfully culled from the provincial herd of Liberals by a corrupted selection process. Instead of preparing for the proper selection process based on an Ontario-wide vote, she has been clawing at anyone who questions her right to the Premier’s office.

Wynne’s wooing of New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath to keep her government in power has been nauseating. The Sousa budget that is supposed to be propped up by the New Democrats is a hodge-podge of failed ideas that lack credentials in either Liberal or NDP circles.

Wynne will not win this one by declaring herself tsar of all the gaming in Ontario. Her situation is doubly serious with the entire board of Ontario Lottery and Gaming resigning in support of Godfrey. She forgot, he has been in politics far longer and he knows more about politics than her.

Wynne’s days are numbered.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

You gotta love those BC voters.

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

When someone asked why this blog had no forecast on the BC election, the only answer was “Are you crazy? Nobody knows how BC voters will finally vote.”

And they did it again on Tuesday. You might disagree with what they did but, as usual, they made it a surprise. British Columbia voters are so convoluted in their voting, they even deny their vote after they cast it. It goes back to the days of Wacky Bennett who served as Premier for 20 years and you could never find a voter who would admit they voted for him. There is some sort of fog that envelopes the province just before the election that tells everyone how to confuse the pollsters this time.

One of the reasons for this dilemma is that all the parties in BC provincial politics are basically the same. They are right wing, further right wing, extremely right wing and to the right of Attila the Hun. The BC Liberal Party is run by a bunch of Conservatives. It has become extremely rare for the provincial New Democrats to have a left-wing thought. A BC union leader once explained it as “What do you expect when even the union members are right wing?”

It is a big part of the ‘lotus land’ mystique. It is the culture in BC to confuse those of us east of the Rocky Mountains. What if all those easterners decided to migrate west? There would be nobody left in Ottawa to run the country.

It would hardly matter in BC. What they do in the Lower Mainland is send all the provincial politicians to the Island in hopes that the ferry will sink. Federal politicians in BC are rather strange creatures but if you send them to Ottawa, maybe they will stay there and not come back to bother anyone.

In case you had not noticed in the party leadership contests for the Liberals and the New Democrats, the real mavericks in those races came from BC. These were very creative people who were out to embarrass their respective parties by acting intelligently. You noticed, of course, that Justin Trudeau tried to convince people that he was an honorary BCer because his mother was a Sinclair of BC fame.

But there are many of us easterners who know and love British Columbia. We know you for the beauty and majesty of your land, your coast and your islands. We know you for your wonderful sense of humour. We also know you for your political shenanigans.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Squeezing profit from Ontario gamblers.

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

At Casino Rama the other night, a gambler was wagering heavily at a blackjack table. He was a typical Ontario gambler in that he was wagering on two of the table spots and playing the extra bets offered. The agencies of the Ontario government that provide and regulate gambling were colluding to fleece this player of his money while the operators were quietly rooting for him. The rule in Ontario is that the government wants you to gamble and wants you to lose while the casino operators want you to win occasionally so that you come back..

And you can win, sometimes. Despite how most people play this popular casino game, blackjack is just a game of odds. It offers many thousands of variables. The key to the game is the knowledge that the odds are not in favour of the players. Even if you know the odds on every single combination, you can only win an average of 48 hands out of every hundred. That is better than roulette that will pay you as much as 35 to one on the number bets while the real odds are 38 to one. Blackjack odds are almost as good as the odds on craps which are the best deal in the house. The problem with craps is you have to know what you are doing.

But any idiot can play blackjack—and often does. And rules be damned. Some players wonder why people look at them strangely before leaving the table. You try to only comment on a play when asked. That was why the player the other evening did not know why he was losing. He was betting $75 each on two spots and putting another $25 chip in each spot for a bet on receiving a perfect pair in the first two cards.

The player was very impressed when he drew a pair of sixes, both of the same suit. For his $25 bet, the casino paid him 25 to one ($625) for which he was high-fiving everyone at the table—except the dealer who is not allowed to do that. What he did not seem to know was that the real odds of drawing a perfect pair is more like 35 to one. He was grossly underpaid for his bet.

And that is how the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) and Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG) are helping get more profit out of Ontario’s gamblers. They are encouraging the casino operators to come up with new, higher profit gimmicks to fleece the unsuspecting. And that is why the casino will cheerfully supply the gambler with a pamphlet explaining the mechanics of the games but not the odds. They are required to tell gamblers to set a limit but nowhere do they tell the occasional winner how to parlay their winnings or manage their money.

In Ontario, we deal excitement for the suckers. Just do not expect to win very often.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Peter Worthington: the last reporter.

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

When too many of the people you have known for many years are dying off, it makes you a bit introspective. With not seeing Peter Worthington for many years now, his death is a muted happening but still a sad one. The first time we met Peter was at one of our first Liberal Party conventions in the 1960s when doing news room duty. A young Peter Worthington came in and introduced himself.

Peter had been off in some part of the world for the Toronto Telegram and on returning had been given an easy political assignment. “I am here,” he explained, “to write about the convention jokes.” Not knowing him, we thought he was pulling our leg.

But he was not. He was always fun to talk with and we always had a good grip on our different roles, what was business and what was idle chit-chat. Peter was the consummate reporter. He always wanted to go for the story. It was a pleasure to work with him to make sure he got the story—at least from the proper perspective.

That was why we were surprised when he took on the editorial role with the start-up Toronto Sun. It was quickly apparent that Doug Creighton and his friends who established the Sun had something very different in mind. It was hard to understand how much editing a publication needed that was written for people who moved their lips as they read. Who edited the Sunshine Girl? The Sun was so different from the Globe and Mail that you wondered if it was for people on the same planet.

Peter always seemed wrong in the Sun environment. He always played the role of the guileless reporter in Ben Hecht’s classic play The Front page. He was never the hard-bitten editor who used people. He was good with people. He could draw them out. He could get the story.

But he shut down what could have been a lasting friendship when he decided to run for parliament. The first run was to make a point. The second was as a Conservative. Having made the same mistake with the Liberal Party, we would have advised him not to do it.

Politically, Peter leaned more to the conservatism of a Bill Davis. He saw conservative philosophies as something to choose from more than follow. He was no ideologue. Yet his financial conservatism was still more than the voters could handle. He set out to convince voters rather than to dialogue with them. He was too honest with them. He lost.

But he had the fire, he had the desire and he would have made a difference in Ottawa. He picked the wrong riding and the wrong voters and he went down to defeat. He did not know when to quit. Peter Worthington mattered.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Job-one Justin: Dump the damn Senate.

Monday, May 13th, 2013

The Senate of Canada has become the boil on Canada’s bum. It has become an object of scorn and derision for Canadians. It can no longer serve its original purpose and it is an anachronism that is a disgrace to democracy, our parliament and our country. If getting rid of the Senate was really Stephen Harper’s original objective, he has done it.

But someone else has to clean house. It can be an electoral booby-trap for Justin Trudeau. It is going to take some very careful manoeuvring to set the stage for something to be done about the Senate. It cannot be done without approval by the provinces—and if not by the provincial legislators, at least by the people of the provinces. That means that the best solution is by referendum.

Before you start to word that referendum, it might be a good idea to take a look at other problems with our outdated but repatriated British North America Act. What may have seemed like good ideas 150 years ago might be somewhat out of date today. For example, why should country colonized and built by peoples from the entire world have a head of state in London, England? And if we get rid of an appointed Senate, what can we do to the Governor General?

And while we are at it, the growing unfettered power of an imperial Prime Minister’s Office needs to have a few checks and balances. It might also be a good idea for some sort of advise and consent of parliament on appointments to our courts, crown corporations and myriad of boards and commissions that have so much power over us.

Justin, we are not talking about a small undertaking here. What might help would be an elected constitutional assembly. The easiest approach would be to elect three or four people per federal riding across Canada. These people are going to need a place to meet, transportation and accommodation over the one or two years the entire process might take. By setting some deadlines, we might be able to contain the costs.

But it is critically important we do it. Canada needs a constitution and controls and procedures that make sense in the 21st Century. Getting rid of an anachronistic and a misused Senate might be the beginning but the result can be a country of which we can all take a renewed pride. Our Canada is worth it.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Billy Blair’s bully boys blow G20 bugles.

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

There was a ceremony at Toronto Police Headquarters last Thursday. Almost three years after the despicable events of June 26 and June 27, 2010, Police Chief William Blair had some of his people recognized for their hard work after the fiasco of the G20. Nobody else wanted to recognize the police officers and others involved. Many citizens wanted the police to take responsibility for their own lack of judgement and malfeasance.

The fact that William Blair is still chief of police in Toronto proves that those really responsible for the events of the G20 have never been charged. Canadians are still waiting for a judicial inquiry into what happened. Who was responsible in Ottawa for the overwhelming use of Canadian police forces? Who was responsible at Queen’s Park for the improper and untested legislative orders? Who was responsible for the unwarranted detention of citizens without legal recourse? There are many more questions that remain unanswered because there are too many to blame.

But Blair’s Toronto Police were on the firing line and they forgot to serve and protect. The Toronto police failed in serving all Canadians. They acted in a brutal and unthinking manner. They reacted instead of following their plan. They were made to look like incompetent fools by a few anarchists. They shamed us all.

In a news release issued by the Toronto Police Service last week entitled G20 Investigative Project, it says that “On Saturday, June 26th, peaceful protesters were joined by a large group of violent participant’s intent on causing damage to private and public property.” Along with the bad grammar, improper punctuation and archaic writing style, the release went on to say that “The City of Toronto had never seen or experienced this level of civil disorder in our history in both the level of violence and property damage.”

What is wrong with this statement is that the police had advance warning of the small group of anarchists from Montreal bent on causing trouble. They tell us that they had police officers embedded in the crowd. Do these police know nothing about mob psychology? The entire incident could have been contained and stopped and the Toronto police stood by and watched.

The investigative project team that received the award was the group who looked at many thousands of pictures after the event to identify the small group of original anarchists and about the same number of foolish people who joined in. Instead of receiving awards, heads should have rolled.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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