Archive for September, 2013

First you need principles, Ms. Wynne.

Monday, September 30th, 2013

If you do not like the mess when racoons get into your garbage, you can tell Premier Kathleen Wynne about it. If you want to kill or at least discourage those pesky animals, the Premier will listen. She needs policies for the coming provincial election. She has even had the party create a website—commonground.ontarioliberal.ca—to let you send her your ideas.

But there is a caution to those sending ideas. Any suggestions not in accordance with the party’s objects (objectives?) may not be considered. The only problem with that is you will have a hard time determining what the Ontario party’s objects might be.

In fact, Kathleen Wynne would probably be a bit tongue-tied if you threw that question at her. She neither talks the talk nor walks the walk of modern liberalism. She is far more conservative than liberal in the traditional sense. She is a reactionary. She figures she has done the job when she dumps problems onto committees and gets them off her desk. Never in her speeches that we have heard since she became Liberal party leader has she told us what it means to her to be a liberal.

The only thing we have definitely heard is a resounding ‘No’ to Babel-on-the-Bay’s suggestions that she modernize alcohol sales in Ontario. That response has little to do with political philosophy and a lot to do with ignorance.

It was like when she fired publisher Paul Godfrey as chair of Ontario Lottery and Gaming. Paul had done what he had been asked to do to modernize gaming in Ontario and show how it could produce more revenue for the government. For a Conservative, he did a heck of a good job. Kathleen first tied his hands in Toronto and then she fired him. She never gave the guy a chance.

It is getting so bad that every time there is another appointment at a senior level of Ontario boards and commissions, you get the feeling that the province has taken another giant step backward.

What worries this liberal is the way Wynne is headed she is laying down a red carpet for that schmuck Timmy Hudak and his unrepentant Mike Harris Tories. Paul Martin did it federally in 2006 and now Kathleen Wynne is going to do it to Ontario. Why should the voters settle for a pseudo-Conservative government when they can have the real thing?

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Babel’s backward burghers blunder on.

Sunday, September 29th, 2013

Babel-on-the-Bay knows that our readers are not very interested in parochial items about our modest little city here on the shores of Kempenfelt Bay. We are only telling you this tale as fair warning. The jewel of Babel has always been our beautiful beaches and the joys of bikini watching on hot summer days. It  is with heavy heart therefore that we advise you that after next year, when visiting Babel in the summer, you would be well advised to bring a gas mask with you should there not be an adequate off-lake breeze.

The backward burghers of Babel have ordained that there will only be every second week garbage collection starting in 2015. Desperate Babel citizens will be turning to any available dumpster, public waste receptacle or convenient ditch to rid themselves of their more odorous refuse in the weeks between collections. It will do little for Babel’s reputation as a summer playground.

But that does not seem to be the concern of Babel’s backward burghers on city council. These people only seem to do what city staffers tell them to do in any event. And city staffers are completely uninterested in the ideas and suggestions of Babel citizens.

Just try to provide these people with some good ideas. Last time we were at a city council meeting, we were showing them how they could earn more money from waste and help the environment. They were not interested.

We suggested that they could at least support the use of garburators in condos because they were not collecting green bins from these taxpayers. They wanted to keep the extra money, thank you. They had absolutely no interest in how garburators can enrich the methane production from sewage and add to the heat and power generation capability of the sewage treatment plant. Instead they choose to remain ignorant of the potential revenues and continue to burn off excess methane while heating the water of Lake Simcoe to the detriment of the lake environment and the fishing.

Babel could be a really fine town if it were not for the blundering burghers that get elected to city council and the ultra-conservative municipal staff that does things their way. Did you know that they still pay to truck the contents of the city’s green bins more than 100 kilometres from town to get rid of it—one of the best sources of renewable, clean burning energy?

And they have already proved that they consider condo dwellers as silent simpletons who willingly pay exorbitant taxes and are willing to receive little consideration in return. Maybe next year, during the municipal election, someone is going to realize the potential of those condo votes!

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Wynne’s Whigs sell us short.

Saturday, September 28th, 2013

What did we say the other day about half measures by governments that have no idea where they are going? Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne seems to have fallen into that trap. Obviously somebody got to her and told her she needed to be seen doing something about how we sell alcoholic beverages. That was dumb. The stipulation needed to be made that first she learn something about the subject.

Can you imagine the ignorance of what she told Paul Bliss of CTV News? While admitting that Ontario has extremely restrictive laws on alcohol sales, she made some naive comments about Ontario’s wine industry. She seems to think that craft wines are something farmers do after they have milked the cows. She has no concept of the years of investment people put into their vineyards and the exacting science of wine making. She thinks the selling their wines can be done at farmers’ markets on Saturday morning.

And now she tells us that she has created a panel of officials from government ministries to advise the politicians on how to help the industry. This seems to be her way of doing the premier’s job; just keep turning problems over to committees and do nothing. What insights officials from the ministries of finance, economic trade and development and the ministry of agriculture can contribute to the marketing of wines is open to question.

What we do know is that this is not working for Ontario. What is really wrong is the closed-minded ignorance of Wynne’s Whigs. Ontario has suffered under almost a hundred years of Women’s Christian Temperance Union edicts about alcohol sales and nobody seems to have told the politicians that the WCTU is dead. It has not had any sway in Ontario since the Second World War. And to compound their ignorance, Wynne’s Whigs have appointed a lawyer with no apparent knowledge of the market or the workings of the organization to chair a moribund LCBO.

The Ontario government is losing huge revenues by not privatizing the LCBO. Obviously it should hang on to the buying power of the organization because it is the largest single buyer in the world of alcoholic beverages. The revenue it can generate as a wholesale distributor alone is close to a billion dollars per year. Where else in the entire government can you sell off an asset and continue to make more money from it each year than you did before you sold it?

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Harper’s friends form formidable phalanx.

Friday, September 27th, 2013

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has interesting friends. As the Prime Minister said in New York the other day, neither he nor his friends take ‘No’ for an answer. It was bad enough when we were ridiculing him and Jim Flaherty for lionizing Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. It is less than funny when you learn who Harper has lobbying in Congress for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline to send Alberta bitumen to the Texas Gulf seaports. Harper’s best friend selling the tar sands pipeline is none other than Texas Senator Ted Cruz. This is the guy who recently provided a 21-hour speaking marathon in the American Senate in his Tea-Party inspired effort to destroy the American economy.

But he at least stands foursquare with Harper and TransCanada Pipelines. He seems to think that the Texas refineries want that highly polluting tar sands bitumen to refine because they will do a cleaner job of refining it than the Chinese. He also thinks that the pipeline will create lots of jobs. Just how a pipeline creates jobs, he does not know.

Senator Cruz’s message to President Obama is that the Keystone XL pipeline is not a hard decision. He told a Washington news conference the other day that “There are a lot of decisions facing this country and there are hard decisions and easy decisions. This is a no brainer. This is not a hard decision.”

Obviously the Senator does not understand the concerns. And in his ongoing role as spokesman for the Texas Tea Party, he continues to prove that he has a somewhat warped view. Canadians would also be the most surprised at his comments about the new American healthcare program now getting underway. Cruz does not like what he calls ‘Obamacare.’ Since it has already been passed into law in America, the Alberta born Senator from Texas is trying to stop the government from funding it. His strategy is to force his country into bankruptcy and let it dissolve into anarchy.

Both he and his friend Prime Minister Stephen Harper are political ideologues. They are fixated on their own agendas. Lucky for Canadians, Mr. Harper is a bit smarter than Mr. Cruz. Stephen Harper is a more up tight kind of guy. Even in a private speech, Stephen Harper would not make some of the remarks that Ted Cruz made in his recent filibuster. Even in a filibuster, you do not refer to your fellow Republicans as being like Nazi-appeasers in 1930’s Germany.

By the way, did we mention that Stephen Harper’s friend Ted Cruz hopes to run for President of the United States of America in the upcoming presidential election?

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Tilting at Toronto transit troubles.

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

Who won what? How do you compare $660 million from the federal government to $1.4 billion from the province and say Toronto Mayor Ford won? What did he win? And for someone to win, you have to assume somebody lost. Who lost here? And as a former Scarborough resident, you have to be annoyed at people who infer that being from Scarborough, you are stupid.

And to suggest that Scarborough residents do not know that the funds for transit come from the same taxpayer pockets makes this a silly game. Sure, Ontario Transportation Minister Glen Murray made a foolish play when he unilaterally announced that the province would pay for a two-stop surface subway extension to replace that silly tramway that carries people from the subway to Scarborough Town Centre. That was a dumb play.

Murray left himself wide open for the one-two puck handling of Prime Minister Harper and Finance Minister Flaherty. Harper made the break-away and Flaherty flipped the puck into the net. And Toronto Mayor Ford was the noisy spectator. Premier Wynne should put Murray out of his misery and replace him in goal.

Maybe Murray is getting all his advice from former MPP George Smitherman. George might be able to give Glen some advice about his electoral district but he proved in the last mayoralty campaign that he knows nothing about Toronto suburbs.

Just think of how much more effective Murray’s announcement would have been if he had been backed at the event by all the Liberal Members of the Legislature from Scarborough. He could have even talked to them about the announcement and received some good input. And there must be one or two of the municipal councillors from Scarborough who would also provide some advice.

But then Wynne and her Whigs are always trying to wing it. And they are running out of options. Some political adviser to Conservative Leader Tim Hudak has finally got through to him and Timmy is now supporting Wynne’s pathetic program. The Tories have figured she will run out of initiatives in less than a month and will have few alternatives to calling an election for November.

After all, Wynne has never listened to the Liberal Party in Ontario and seems to have no interest in looking to the party for any policies or democratically selected candidates. You have to admire her loyalty to those who got her to her present position but they might just leave her out on that icy ledge for a long cold winter.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

The challenge in Toronto-Centre.

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

It is something of a dry run. If Justin Trudeau is going to make a difference as Liberal Party leader in the federal election expected in 2015, the Liberals have to win the yet to be called Toronto-Centre by-election. It is the electoral district made vacant by the resignation of the Liberal’s recent interim leader Bob Rae. You would figure that the Liberals already have a leg up but you have to recognize that the New Democrats are just as determined and they also have a star candidate. It will be no cakewalk.

Toronto-Centre is the heart and soul of Toronto. It is written big. It is Yorkville, Moore Park and Rosedale, St. James Town, Cabbagetown and Regent Park, Moss Park, Trefann Court and The Distillery District.  It is streets such as Parliament, Sherbourne and Jarvis and Yonge and Bay. It is Church and Wellesley which is its own domain under the rainbow flag. It is citadels such as the Masonic Temple, Maple Leaf Gardens, The Eaton Centre, the ghost of the long-gone Mutual Street Arena, Massey Hall as well as the Anglican’s St. James Cathedral and the Catholic’s St. Michael’s Cathedral, Metropolitan United and Holy Trinity. It is St. Michael’s Hospital and the City Morgue.

Nobody runs just one campaign in Toronto-Centre. It is many campaigns. And be very careful of assumptions about any of the communities that make up this urban melange. You have to listen very carefully to all communities. And lots of luck to any party that tries to bring in anyone from somewhere else to manage its campaign. It has to be people who know the taste of these streets.

And you can count on the New Democrats to know that. They like to think they own Toronto’s downtown. They consider Toronto-Centre to be their domain as well as the adjoining ridings. They can turn out the troops from across the city and flood the riding. They will canvas not just to identify their vote but also to proselytize.

Some observers are suggesting that the NDP will be running a nastier campaign but in downtown Toronto, they have never been very friendly to Liberals anyway. There is also the possibility of a Conservative candidate acting as a political stalking horse to drive some of the Conservative vote toward the NDP. The Liberals have to be prepared. They have to be smarter.

You have two strong women candidates and they are up there with some of the smartest candidates we have ever seen go head to head. Either one will be a powerful asset in Ottawa. If the Conservatives pick some sacrificial guy, he is likely to be ignored.

But we will discuss the candidates once the by-election is called. You can never review the play until you have seen the actors speak their lines.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

The Hair helps His Honour.

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

You could tell from the news clips of yesterday’s event that the Hair is enjoying his holiday. With Parliament prorogued until late October, the hair has time to visit with friends and cronies such as Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. Of course, the Hair tries to stay out of Toronto so Mayor Ford had to go to Mississauga for the meeting.

But it was all good news for Ford Nation. No specifics mind you. The Hair told the assembled news media and His Honour that the federal government stood ready to write a cheque to pay for His Honour’s much maligned subways. It certainly made the province’s transportation minister with his recent offer of $1.4 billion for a two-stop surface subway to look like a piker.

You just know that when the Hair and his Finance Minister Jim Flaherty get around to deciding how much, it will certainly be more than a measly $1.4 billion. After all, there will have to be at least another six announcements of the Hair’s largesse before there will even be a cheque cut for the down payment. And that will only happen if the Hair is re-elected in the next federal election.

But the Hair looked very good as the cameras caught the commotion. There was nary a strand out of place—a sincere credit to his hairdresser’s art. And there he was properly dressed in suit and tie and a picture of perfection beside His Honour “The Slob.”

(Babel-on-the-Bay apologizes to anyone affronted by this disrespect for the Toronto mayor. It is beyond us as to why that man cannot buy some clothes that fit. Surely, they must still make shirts with size 20 necks. Does nobody look after that guy?)

But, we digress. Obviously the Hair does not have enough to do when on another prorogation vacation. Here he came down to the wilds of Mississauga to stick a finger in the eye of the Ontario government and we are looking at the picture of him and his friend the Mayor and going into peals of laughter. If you are old enough, the picture reminds you of Laurel and Hardy—“Here’s another nice mess you have gotten me into”—or if you are younger—it might be more like Abbott and Costello—“but who’s on first?”

The rest of Ontario is becoming increasing tired of the posturing and political tantrums consuming all levels of government over Toronto’s transportation problems. The city is hopelessly snarled in traffic jams of its own making. Poor planning, foolish budgeting and political infighting have left the city snarled in its own excesses. The only thing for sure is that it will take people far smarter than the present powers to solve it.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Putting the LCBO out of its misery.

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

Limp half measures by people who have no idea where they are going seem to be the action plan for the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO). What else would you expect from an organization run by a bunch of lawyers and has-been politicians? Who else would you expect to screw up a $5 billion business so badly?

The most serious problem with the way the LCBO is run is that the government has to settle for $1.7 billion in revenues this year when it could have done much better. And this is not considering the revenues just from the sales of LCBO stores, new licenses and the ongoing revenues from a centralized buying agency for the province.

Because nobody is suggesting that we sell off the only benefit Ontario has gained from the LCBO to-date. That is that this agency is the largest centralized purchaser of wine and spirits in the world. Run properly as a wholesaler of wines and spirits, nobody could compete with it. While private retailers would want the opportunity to arrange special buys and labelling from wineries around the world, there is no reason why the former LCBO importer and distributer could not also provide that service to these deals. The profits from that business alone would not be unsubstantial.

Licensing and inspecting wine and spirits retailers, grocery stores and convenience stores will be a huge task and a serious revenue generator for Ontario. There will be no lack of work for former LCBO employees. Privatization will generate more jobs in the long run. Convenience stores that want to sell beer and wine will have to hire adults to manage their stores at all times. Privatized liquor stores will vie to hire wine experts and knowledgeable bartenders to advise a more challenging clientele. And we have not even mentioned the growing tax revenue from smarter marketing.

We can forget the people who are being really stupid on this question. They are the bluestockings who still think they should have a say on how we sell beer, wine and liquor. The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) no longer holds sway in Ontario. Ignorance is no excuse for politicians to think they should support the status quo. Times have changed. The private sector can do a far better job of providing the service to the public that Ontario wants.

This is not an issue to be argued between political parties. It is an issue that sensible people see as a foolish anachronism and the politician who continues to fight the issue is going to be put out to pasture.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Burying Blackberry before the buyers.

Saturday, September 21st, 2013

Thursday nights on CBC’s National News there is an excellent panel of pundits, usually monitored by news reader Peter Mansbridge. The panellists are Chantal Hébert of the Toronto Star, Andrew Coyne of the National Post and Bruce Anderson of his own consulting firm, Anderson Insight. Their topic last Thursday evening was the supposed demise of the company known as Blackberry. The only concern of this viewer was that the funeral might be premature.

This can happen when you pull a panel of experts out of their field of expertise. With Andrew Coyne’s sardonic view from the political right, he is no apologist for Stephen Harper but he has little sympathy for the other political parties. He looks at the world through political glasses.

Similarly Bruce Anderson frames the world of politics in the mysterious numerology of research. He understands the origin of the numbers so misused by politicians. He brings a greybeard’s credibility to the panel.

Chantal Hébert’s expertise is in bridging Canada’s language divide. In both her writings and her commentary, she disguises her personal feelings well and you get a relatively dispassionate discourse. And she is most often right.

But all three were teetering on the brink trying to discuss how Canadians feel about the fiasco at Blackberry. The former Research in Motion rose fast, lived hard and appears to be dying young in the volatile world of telecommunications. Those of us unable to type with our thumbs lost out on the experience.

The only problem is that we should consider putting off the eulogies until there is something to embalm. If we had buried Apple every time the business pundits said it was dead, we would have had to attend a lot more funerals.

And while the CBC panel had interesting points, they had no real expertise in the question of whether Canadians need Canadian business success stories. While they might give you a comfy feeling, you would really rather the Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup.

Remember that the two greatest business success stories in Canada’s history are the Canadian Pacific Railway and Bell Canada. And lots of Canadians hate those two companies with unrestrained passion. In more than a few years in public relations for business in Canada, we have found that people care more about companies acting as good citizens than their origins.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

What it takes to turn out the Tories.

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Toronto Star columnist Martin Reg Cohn advises us that there will be no regicide (the act of murdering the king or leader) at the Conservative convention in London, Ontario this weekend. Darn it. He is spoiling all our fun. We were counting on Opposition Leader Timmy Hudak at least sweating about his possible ouster.

And what is wrong with dissent anyway? It is helping to turn what promised to be a really dull political event into a media circus. It is encouraging the membership to attend. It is the dream of every party treasurer to make money on policy conventions.

Anything that encourages Ontario Conservatives to think about their hopeless leadership plight is worthwhile. These people have been going around like zombies since electing Timmy leader of their party in June 2009. Sure, he has been a disaster but he is their disaster and they are trying to learn to live with it.

After all, it is not as though there was some alternative. Who else have the Tories got? There is no doubt Randy Hillier’s zany Ontario Landowners would like to see him in the driver’s seat. Those people make the Texas Tea Party look sensible.

And Timmy has already told the party what he wants them to support in the way of policy. He has published his so-called White Papers on everything except the proper way to have Conservative sex.

With Timmy, it seems that what you see is what you get. The only problem is that in the last Ontario election the voters looked at Timmy and rejected him. Despite his leading the polls when the election writ was issued, Timmy managed to convince a lot of Conservative voters that they had more important things to do than vote on election day.

Timmy did the same thing to Conservative voters as Dalton McGuinty did to Liberal voters and Andrea Horwath did to New Democrats. All three leaders bored the voters. Nobody led anyone anywhere. The platforms were predictable, the speeches put people to sleep and nobody had any useful answers to the voters’ questions. The 2011 election in Ontario resolved nothing.

And neither will the Conservative convention this weekend. They should pass a special motion of thanks though to the people presenting the motion to dump Timmy. It helped turn out the Tories!

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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