Archive for July, 2013

A submission to the National Energy Board.

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Submission A53195: Commenting on Enbridge Pipelines Inc. Line 9B Reversal and Line 9 Capacity Expansion Project.

According to the National Energy Board’s stated purpose, it is to promote safety and security, environmental protection and efficient energy infrastructure and markets in the Canadian public interest… And on this basis alone, the Line 9 Capacity Expansion Project cannot be allowed to run through Canada’s largest city.

It is not a question as to whether Enbridge Pipelines is going to be extra vigilant, more thorough in testing and inspecting, or wants to call bitumen slurry by some other name, a spill can be a disaster in the lives of people. Ask the people who live along the Kalamazoo River and its tributaries in Michigan. What has three years of trying to clean up the mess of that bitumen slurry spill meant to them?

Enbridge certainly does not want nor expect a spill in Toronto. One of the reasons most people have not been aware of this pipeline through the city is that it runs mostly through a high-voltage power line right of way and there was very little awareness of the installation two decades ago.

With the very serious ecological concerns for carrying bitumen instead of crude oil, there is little hope of this application not becoming much broader knowledge.

Bitumen is not crude oil, neither light nor heavy. In order to flow, bitumen must be diluted. Possible diluents include synthetic crude and naphtha. Heating can also improve the flow and this is done by adding a natural gas heater at every pumping station. Also, increasing the pressure will speed flow, putting additional strain on an old pipeline.

Mind you, the application makes little reference to the shipping of bitumen. One gets the impression that this is a minor item in the general scheme—if it were not for the forecasts of the amount of oils sands bitumen the various companies in Alberta are forecasting that they intend to ship.

When the writer offered to develop some scenarios for the National Energy Board, it was to intervene as a citizen who had knowledge of the area in which the line travels through Toronto. We offered to research scenarios of what a range of spills could mean in a dense urban environment. Research of this type draws heavily on the pipeline company, area emergency first-responders, public services (including transit) and interviews with managers of office buildings and condominiums in the area. Commercial preparation of scenarios of this type can take from six to 12 month and can cost hundreds of thousands. As a commenter, it is not possible to provide that level of work nor can we expect the cooperation of Enbridge for such a task.

What we have therefore decided to do is provide a selection of commentaries we have written for our blog, The blog, Babel-on-the-Bay ( babelonthebay.com ) is a political commentary. Two of the comments touch on the type of studies we had in mind and the others are various commentaries that reference the Line 9B Reversal and Line 9 Capacity Expansion Project.

(To access postings click on the link.)

Commentary #1

BABEL-ON-THE-BAY  July 14, 2012

http://babelonthebay.com/2012/07/14/calamity-kalamazoo-cancel-b-c-pipeline/

 

Commentary #2

BABEL-ON-THE-BAY  February 12, 2013

http://babelonthebay.com/2013/02/12/tar-sands-politicians-pipelines-greed/

 

Commentary #3

BABEL-ON-THE-BAY  March 16, 2013

http://babelonthebay.com/2013/05/19/wait-for-it-the-royal-northern-gateway-pipeline/

Commentary #4

BABEL-ON-THE-BAY  June 5, 2013

http://babelonthebay.com/2013/06/05/first-hurdle-the-national-energy-board/

 

Commentary #5

BABEL-ON-THE-BAY  June 9, 2013

http://babelonthebay.com/2013/06/09/alberta-bitumen-seeks-the-sea/

 

Commentary #6

BABEL-ON-THE-BAY  June 15, 2013

http://babelonthebay.com/2013/06/15/understanding-the-language-of-bitumen/

 

Commentary #7

BABEL-ON-THE-BAY  June 29, 2013

http://babelonthebay.com/2013/06/29/big-brother-blows-the-bitumen-bugle/

 

Commentary #8

BABEL-ON-THE-BAY  July 3, 2013

http://babelonthebay.com/2013/07/03/the-bother-of-bitumen/

 

Commentary #9

BABEL-ON-THE-BAY  July 8, 2013

http://babelonthebay.com/2013/07/08/bitumen-in-toronto-scenario-1/

 

Commentary #10

BABEL-ON-THE-BAY  July 9, 2013

http://babelonthebay.com/2013/07/09/the-lies-that-bind/

 

Commentary #11

BABEL-ON-THE-BAY  July 18, 2013

http://babelonthebay.com/2013/07/18/has-enbridge-every-lied-to-you-before/

 

Commentary #12

BABEL-ON-THE-BAY  July 20, 2013

http://babelonthebay.com/2013/07/20/heaven-knows-the-neb-doesnt/

 

Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

 

Wynne whistles for by-election wins.

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Wishing for it might not do the trick for Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. She desperately needs to win at least three of the five by-elections in Ontario this Thursday. That would leave one each for Hudak’s Conservatives and Horwath’s New Democrats. That assures that their jobs are safe and Wynne can then go into a general election early next year with some confidence.

Maybe she can. Kathleen Wynne has never been tested as a cross-Ontario brand. We have no idea as to her performance in a general election. And anything less that three seats staying Liberal in these by-elections spells trouble for Wynne as Premier. There are lots of questions.

If job creation is the measure that Ontario voters are going to use, she has already lost. She also has the anchor round her neck of the cancelled gas-plants in Mississauga and Oakville. There are still too many of the same players in that sandbox.

What makes little sense was an e-mail to Liberals last month signed by Jane Rounthwaithe, Kathleen Wynne’s partner. It was a stick in the eye to anyone the least bit homophobic. The pictures of Wynne and Justin Trudeau at the Gay Pride parade said it much more effectively if the story was inclusion.

For Liberals across Ontario, the problem with Wynne is that they are in the dark as to where she wants to lead the party. Leading it out of trouble would only be the first part as the party does need some positive direction. Her problem is though that she needs to be able to attribute her policy directions to the membership of the party. Her remarks last week to the other premiers suggesting that the Senate of Canada could just be reformed instead of abolished did not seem to be a general discussion topic at any Ontario Liberal policy conference in the past 30 or 40 years.

And, as has been mentioned before, the news media describe Kathleen Wynne as a left-leaning politician. The problem is that too many left-leaning Liberals in Ontario have never got that e-mail. We would be delighted to welcome her to our midst—should she every bend in that direction.

The only things shoring up Premier Kathleen Wynne are Tiny Tim Hudak and Andrea Horwath. This is not a wealth of choice.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

The summer skater surfaces.

Monday, July 29th, 2013

Babel heard from its boy MP the other day. Hockey Night is coming up. This is when the Member of Parliament’s staff and friends throw a fund-raiser for the local hospital and we all pay for it. We probably pay far more than is raised for the hospital but we do not seem to have any audited reports to on which to base our questions.

What started out as nothing more than some self-promotion for the MP has become something of an institution. People in this town like their hockey. A mid-August reminder of our winter game is welcomed as long as nobody questions the high cost of putting the ice into the Molson Centre for the evening. That seems to be paid, without much question, by our basically conservative town council.

It seems that the Corson family is from the town and son Shane and his friend D’Arcy Tucker have been helpful in getting NHL alumni to come out to support the game. This has also added some Hockey Night in Canada broadcasters to the mix and fans get to see some of the personalities who are part of the color and action of our game.

Promotion of the hockey event is covered in part by the tax-payer funded constituent mailings of the MP. Who pays for the newspaper and radio advertising, we have no idea.

As both an experienced charity fund raiser and a political fund raiser, it has always been our instinct to keep such events very separate. When a fund-raising event is given a political slant, it discourages other party’s supporters from participating. It creates a barrier to achieving optimum results for the charity. In the long-term it harms the charity.

It has often seemed to us that a non-partisan event of this type for the local hospital would eventually do a much better job of fund-raising and promotion for the hospital. As it stands at this time, it would be a difficult transition. The ownership of the event has just gone too far.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Knee-jerks to Trudeau on pot.

Sunday, July 28th, 2013

Having listened to Liberals argue over legalizing marijuana for the past 50 years, it is important to understand exactly what Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said last week in Vancouver. He was hardly calling for wide availability of pot. What he says is that it should be treated the same as alcohol and cigarettes. And that is where most liberals have been arguing we should be standing.

But this stand must embarrass the right wing of the Liberal party. Their most common objection to it is “how will it effect our relations with the Repressed States of America?” What will happen is that most intellectuals and liberals in the U.S. will be impressed with our good sense. The American right wing is not going to like us more anyway.

Peter MacKay, as Harper’s new Justice Minister, responded to media requests for comment by not attacking the idea on merit. Instead, MacKay said he finds it strange that “Trudeau would be talking about legalization as a priority at this time.” In the midst of a hot summer, it makes you wonder when might be a good time to talk about it?

He pointed out that the Harper government has no intention of legalizing marijuana. He equated drug use to violence as a societal ill. After all, the Tories want to fill more prisons.

The confused New Democrat spokesperson, Deputy Leader Megan Leslie, referred to Trudeau’s statement as ‘political pandering.’ In as much as legalization of marijuana is in the NDP policy books, they are probably just annoyed that Trudeau and the Liberals took a stance first. She also mentioned the concerns with the American attitude to Canada acting unilaterally on the issue which could cause some increased border tensions.

Neither of the other parties bothered to point out that marijuana use can impair judgement. It has also been known to cause respiratory problems for heavy marijuana smokers.  This is probably why Trudeau made the point that he would not want to encourage people to use it. His objective is respect Canadians and their choices. That is what liberals do!

Maybe we could advertise it in the U.S. “Keep your guns. Have you tried our brownies?”

Mind you, the legalization and controls on marijuana could add another dimension to the federal government’s anti-smoking campaign.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Helping hold on to Hudak.

Saturday, July 27th, 2013

You realize of course that any win for the Conservatives in these five current by-elections in Ontario is just going to encourage Conservative leader Tiny Tim Hudak. Is that fair? Does Ontario really deserve Hudak? Did anyone in the Liberal brain trust know what they were doing when they put Wynne’s government in this position?

If Finance Minister Charles Sousa had brought out a Liberal budget earlier this year, we could have forced the New Democrats into defeating the government. There was no question but the Conservatives were guaranteed to want the election. They are going to give Timmy Hudak one more chance before they turf him out of the leadership.

Until Wynne gets her feet wet in a general election, she remains a pretender to the job of Premier. She only became Premier because of a corrupted leadership race that left liberals unsure and wary. Liberals want to give her a chance but the so-called conciliator is not showing any leadership. Her seven-point plan for party renewal and reform has yet to produce any ideas, direction or reform. And while the media might refer to her as being left of centre, the progressives in the Liberal Party have seen no evidence of that.

Item six in Wynne’s plan for party renewal and reform was to increase party member involvement in policy development. Some effort in this area would have been helpful before she did the flip-flop at the Premiers’ meeting this week on the abolition of the Canadian Senate. She seemed to forget some of the strictures of what passes for a constitution in this country. We have a long way to go before we can even begin to discuss an elected or reformed Senate.

Conservative problems with Timmy Hudak are far more serious than those Liberals have with Wynne. Hudak is Michael Harris Light. He is just an acolyte. He has none of the charm nor does he have the smarts of Michael Harris. He is all that was wrong with Harris without understanding where Harris went overboard and destroyed his government. Hudak is an ideologue without a conscience. He is incapable of running anything as complex as a government for Ontario.

If a whimsical electorate realize they will change nothing by sending five opposition members to Queen’s Park, we are hung with Hudak until we do have a general election.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Why Chow should run for Toronto mayor.

Friday, July 26th, 2013

It is the perfect scenario. Olivia Chow steps down from her job as MP next year. She runs for Toronto mayor. Chow loses. Toronto wins. Chow retires from politics. Toronto wins.

Could you think of a better win-win situation? It might disappoint some New Democrats and leave a few pundits with egg foo yung on their face but they will certainly deserve the ridicule they receive.

The question none of the experts or pundits are prepared to answer is just what does Olivia Chow bring to this banquet? Name recognition is not enough. In 27 years in Toronto politics, Chow has no identifiable accomplishment to her name. She is not a leader. She is not even a very daring follower. She is certainly no political strategist. And if you think she is a consensus builder, you should find out what she has built.

Some people work hard. Some people work smart. Olivia Chow can do neither. A nine-month campaign for mayor of Toronto would grind your Chow down to a Chihuahua.

Look at the job. A Toronto mayor has to sort out a motley council and find a few allies who will work for power. The rest will sit back and wait for their opportunities to tear the incumbent mayor to shreds. At the same time, the mayor can fall back on potential allies on city staff. Put the right mix of staff and political allies together and you can make the system work. It can work for you if you are not too ambitious. There are few progressives at city hall.

At the very best, Olivia Chow could get sympathetic support from the left wing of council. These left wingers are against more than they are for. And they are concentrated downtown. It would take just one term to thoroughly alienate the suburbs. It could resurrect a Rob Ford.

Making a city of over two million people work requires leadership and political structure. The voters need to know ahead of time what people are going to do in office. Some day, a smart politician will go around the different city wards and make some deals. He is going to give a bunch of ward candidates green shirts and say to the voters: “Vote for the guys in the green shirts and vote for me and you will get good government, lower taxes and a chicken in every pot.” Not everyone will believe this candidate but it sounds a hell of lot better than what city voters have today.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

How can a liberal be a monarchist?

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

If it had just stayed on Twitter, nobody would have cared. Since only twits tweet, there is little point in reading them. Yet there is one particular writer of large ego who repeats his tweets on his so-called blog. Why, we do not know. He wrote the other day that he thinks crazed republicans are as bad as crazed atheists and they should keep their bloody opinions to themselves. Being both a crazed atheist and a sort-of crazed republican, we think that he should get stuffed.

While happy to discuss religion with all but Seventh Day Adventists, we do not write about it as we have never found many people are interested. Besides, religion can be a bit of a crutch for some poor people and it is best you leave them alone.

But the monarchy is another matter. As a student of British history, the mysteries of the British love of monarchs are clearly understood. Good on them. Let the Brits keep them.

As for Canadians, the monarchy is a crock that needs to be done away with. The monarchy is not only a continuing excuse for the lack of a democratically chosen head of state for our country but is sending all the wrong messages to our youth.

In a democratic country, to promote anything that favours rank and privilege is ludicrous. Monarchs are like dead fish. They are just as useful and they give off a bad odour if left around too long.

But what this really reveals is that this so-called Liberal tweeter-cum-blogger is not very liberal. A liberal is a person who strives for the rights of the individual in society. A liberal is a reformer who seeks to further the rights of individuals, their rights to fulfilment through education and opportunity, their rights to healthcare, access to services and a life of freedom of expression and ideas.

Reform should be second nature to true liberals as we seek to create a better society for all. We must always be looking for opportunities for progress. We must always keep an open mind to ideas.

As we would say to any nice young couple making a life together and welcoming their first child, we wish the young Windsor’s well. Do we welcome their child as third in line for the hereditary role of Canada’s chief of state? We think not.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Casting runes in the heat of summer.

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

Political polling has never been an exact science. It has always required an overview of common sense, mathematical probability, historical data, statistical smoothing and wishful thinking. Then, and only then, could you report the result you wanted in the first place. In the past 50 years, little has changed.

Looking at the mix of polls being obtained from the five by-elections in Ontario, we can safely say that nobody really knows what will happen. What we are hearing is an assortment of pretty good guesses mixed with a bunch of longed for wishes. The one thing we know for sure is that the automated telephone calls that are annoying voters in the five electoral districts are producing less reliable results than those derived from the entrails of animal sacrifices.

Since animal sacrifices are a no-no in this age of political correctness, we have to settle for ‘Press one for candidate number two.’ What the pollsters cheerfully admit is that the four-year old’s who answer many of the telephones are more truthful in their response than the adults who stay on the line long enough to indicate something. The fact that those aged 19 to 35 are seriously under represented in the sample is casually covered by guesswork. Voter’s comments about the stupidity of the call are thankfully not recorded.

What these by-elections really need is a return to good old common sense. As a politico, we have to go with the troops on the street analysis. This means that we would be surprised if Ottawa South went anything but Liberal. The Liberals here can probably out-man the other parties by about two to one. Every worker means three more votes and when only 30 to 40 per cent of the voters are going to show, do your own math.

This approach also applies to Scarborough-Guildwood.  The Liberals will swamp the opposition and bring an interesting new personality, Mitzie Hunter, to Queen’s Park.

In Etobicoke-Lakeshore, there will be more Conservatives with whom to contend and it makes for a more even fight. The wild card there is Tiny Tim Hudak. It the Conservative leader keeps his mouth shut and lets Doug Holyday run in his own way, the Liberals are in a hell of a fight.

London-West has some of the same problems. The voters here are a bit more forgiving of Timmy Hudak but if he gets in their face, there is no telling.

The troops on the street are missing in Windsor.-Tecumseh. There is little sympathy for former MPP Dwight Duncan’s scurrying exit and resentment over the outcome of the Ontario Liberal leadership. With the Liberals staying home, the New Democrats are getting something of a free ride.  Andrea Horwath will trumpet that win far and wide.

But be cautious in placing your bets. We are still waiting for the fat lady to sing.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Parsing Noblesse Oblige.

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

Travelling around the world building linkages and creating cooperation in the world-wide research effort to cure multiple sclerosis was an eye-opener in terms of understanding charity. In North America, we have built our own model of noblesse oblige. It is quite different from the European version. Europe built from antiquity. North America built from need. And then there are the countries where charity has been politicized.

Politicizing charity is dangerous when you allow a charity to be co-opted for political purpose. We have that problem at the local level here in Babel with the Conservative Member of Parliament. He is one of Stephen Harper’s drones. He has no use in Ottawa where he is something of an errand boy for cabinet members—to ask the softball questions in Parliament, to extend debate and vote as told. It is in his ignorance and lack of having something to do that he uses local charities in Babel for self promotion. It harms the charities when he loses interest and involvement, it costs them supporters who resent this political intrusion and it creates false expectations among those the charity is supporting.

And politicians have little or no understanding of noblesse oblige. The interpretation in Europe is literal. It is accepted as an obligation. It is not charity. It is a requirement of  society. You ignore the obligation at the risk of censure by your peers. There are funny offshoots of this. In Germany, for example, many of the charities are run and staffed by women. It is considered women’s work. This goes back to feudal times when the lord of the manor ran the farm and his women ministered to the serfs.

In North America, we replaced the nobles with business executives. The oligarchical structure of business and professions made them the logical hunting ground for organizational talent and influence. The only difference was that it was cast in the moral imperative instead of as an obligation of birth or class.

What has also happened over the years is that this involvement has filtered down in business and young people who might not be sought out as a source of funds are volunteering judiciously for select charities to add the information to their resumes. What is good for the boss is good for the page seeking promotion to knighthood.

The glues that link these nobles and pages of business are the people who care. These are people who understand the problem. They often know through first-hand experience, living with or knowing people whom the charity has been created to help. Many of the health charities of today came into existence because of the frustration of these people in seeking aid for those afflicted.

This growing support for charities in North America has taken charity into being a big business sector in itself. It is a major source of employment, of funding for research and of funding for support systems in our society. The concept of noblesse oblige has come a long way.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

When economic action plan advertising fails.

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

Somebody should get a bill for this. Babel-on-the-Bay has been telling people for free that the Conservative government’s well advertised economic action plan is a crock. Do they listen to us? No. They have to do studies to prove it. Now that it has been proved, where does that leave us?

There has been a debate raging here as to whether Babel-on-the-Bay should not produce suitable crying towels for Canadians. It seems to be the appropriate hand-out. All we ever seem to do in this country is bitch about things. The idea came a-cropper when we tested it on the wife. “You’re going to waste our money on what?” was all she asked. The government should test their programs on her.

Of course, it is easier to get answers from the wife than the government. Canadian Press had to use Freedom of Information legislation to find out that Canadians are generally dismissive of the Conservative government’s self-aggrandizing advertising. The government had spent $29,000 for a Harris-Decima poll that told them what we had already told them for free.

But when you find out that the Tory government has spent $330,000 just on polls related to its economic action plan, you are not getting the entire story. Creating one of these ‘feel-good’ advertisements can cost as much as $100,000. These ads might look like they were created in someone’s kitchen with a cell-phone camera, but you have to add on all the agency fees, finders’ fees, talent fees, friend-of-a-politician fees, residual fees, lighting, art direction, camera direction, political direction and coffee for the crew, you can see how it is a bit of a contest to see how fast you can spend taxpayers’ money.

To the chagrin of the government, the latest survey found that nobody had bothered to call the toll-free number for more information on the government’s economic action plan. Operators were of course, standing by—hopefully doing something useful while the telephones were not ringing. Luckily a few people were referring to the web site for more information—all three of them. Here we must reveal that one of the visitors to the site was this writer. Having a special interest in web sites, we checked out the economic action plan site. We can duly report that the site is pretentious, confusing and really says nothing—but it is obviously expensive and tries hard.

As with anything done by the Conservative government, its economic action plan fails to stimulate the economy or Canadians. It is ideologically driven, shallow and lacks any basis in truth or economics.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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