Archive for September, 2013

Chow for mayor? Don’t bet on it.

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

The pollsters are telling us that Olivia Chow can be mayor of Toronto after the next municipal election—more than a year from now. The only problem is that the polls are meaningless. They are based on too many suppositions. There are just too many ‘ifs.’

And who is surprised to see that polls show Rob Ford’s base vote is holding? What point is an automated telephone poll of a sample of voters when you know that less than four out of ten people will vote? And you have absolutely no idea what will motivate people to get out and vote a year from now.

All the polls show at this time is that there is a substantial anyone-but-Ford attitude in Toronto. The high figure for Chow is what is referred to as a ‘parked vote.’ These are respondents who know they do not want to vote for Ford and will indicate the alternative that is offered—even though they would not vote for that person if they thought about it.

It is just that it is far too early to think about it. Ask people where they are headed after Labour Day next September. That is when their opinions will start to formulate. It is when you hope that the number of voters who will vote for or against something specific will exceed the number of voters who vote because they are supposed to vote and have no clue as to why they are going to vote for Tom, Dick or Harriet.

Municipal elections in Ontario are nothing better than a crapshoot. They are easy to win if you are serious. They are a road hazard if your objective is to unseat someone. In an open race without an incumbent, the mathematics is easy. All you have to do is multiply each of you serious workers by 30 to 40 and that will tell you your vote number.

It is reported that Olivia Chow has even had a book produced in support of her campaign. The danger with that tactic is that the hardcover will probably be remaindered prior to the election. And it is extremely rare that type of book makes it into mass-market paperback. It all depends on how fictional it might be.

The one thing we know is that Olivia Chow is no leader. Ford has many more problems.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Policy pillars for the 2015 election.

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

Nobody wants to reveal their plan too early. The key is to take ownership of the major issue(s) at a time when your opponents are already committed and can only respond. At this time, there are probably three issues from which to choose and use with different emphasis. They are the economy, the environment and renewal.

While all are obvious and all parties will touch on them, it is building that basic pillar of each party’s campaign that will need to be credible, doable, understandable and visionary. And then you have to know how to market it to voters.

The economic pillar has been the mainstay of the Conservative’s last three election campaigns and that party has eroded its credibility over time with the excessive advertising of its meaningless economic action plan. It would also be a difficult subject for both the Liberals and the New Democrats if not linked to a specific program. It is therefore the economic program rather than the broad brush of economic action which has to be communicated and sold to the voters.

Judging by the Conservatives current efforts to sell themselves on environmental issues, their opponents might be overconfident of their own bona fides. It has already been determined that nobody understands carbon taxes (or any other kind of taxes) and you are best to stay away from them. The only problem is that the Conservatives have been lying about what kind of oil they want to ship out of Alberta for so long, there is a constituency that believes the propaganda. Nobody wants to bomb Alberta’s ambitions but we really need to find an alternative to the horribly polluting tar sands.

Renewal is the least clear policy pillar as it offers more minefields than easy targets. It is far more than just getting rid of the non-elected Senate. It is renewal of our democracy, our constitution, our country’s reputation around the world, our friendship with America, our relations with Great Britain, our use of the English monarchy, the role of the non-elected Governor General and the need to take a look at our country after 150 years.

While the Conservative party will have defined itself over the past four years of power, that can be both a positive and a negative. It is the presumptions about the Liberals and New Democrats that will cause the most problems for those parties. The Liberal Party of Canada really needs to define itself better than the vague BS that is used today. And the New Democrats have to decide if they are unionist socialists or some kind of social democrats. Both parties need to understand that what they decide they want to be needs to be credible.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Mass murder in Lac-Mégantic

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

The Dangerous Goods Driver’s Handbook for Canada starts with a disclaimer that states:

“The transportation of dangerous goods is subject to complicated and changing Government regulations. Transport Canada has a comprehensive set  of regulations, which must be observed when transporting dangerous goods.”

And it is law. If you are going to ship dangerous goods in Canada, you are subject to these government regulations. If you fail to comply with these regulations, you are committing a criminal offense. And it seems logical that if anybody dies because of your criminal offense, one of the charges will be murder.

And that is why we are waiting for the other shoe to drop on the Lac-Mégantic disaster. On September 13 The Financial Post said that the Transportation Safety Board had found that crude oil in the rail tank cars had been mislabelled. It was further stated in the article that the responsibility for the labelling of the material rests with the importer who provided the bill of lading for the shipment of these dangerous goods through Canada. The Financial Post claims this was the responsibility of Irving Oil of New Brunswick.

Since 47 people have been determined to have died in the events at Lac-Mégantic on July 6, 2013, it appears to be the second most serious mass murder in Canadian history after Air India Flight 182.

While to the average person, crude oil is crude oil, there are actually three different transportation categories. They require increasingly rigorous precautions, containers and safety measures. What works against safety is that the lower the flash point or simply the more flammable the crude oil, the more it costs to ship it safely. And this is in a mainly self-regulated industry.

Somewhere between the North Dakota origin of the crude oil and its crossing into Canada, that crude oil was labelled as less flammable than it actually was. That was why the 72 tanker cars were suitable for a safer product but not for the real danger.

While the Sûreté du Quebec has informed the media that they are going to make an arrest soon, they lack the authority to make an arrest in Saint John, New Brunswick. And, while it might be a bit of a stretch to arrest one of the late K.C. Irving’s sons, it seems appropriate. Despite everyone looking for a middle management scapegoat, it is the top people in the company who are responsible for the company’s ethos. And dear old KC left us with an ethos of greed.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Who speaks for atheists in Quebec?

Monday, September 16th, 2013

It seems to always be columnist Heather Mallick at the Toronto Star who gets the tough assignments. The other day she wrote, as an atheist, in opposition to the Quebec Charter of Values. That is one really tough assignment.

After all, who has the right to speak for atheists? Since, by definition, being an atheist is nothing more than a disbelief in the existence of God, it is hardly an organized group. There is little discussion of this disbelief in the study of comparative religions. Nobody gets a Ph.D. in atheism. There are no seminaries for atheists.

And nobody cares about agnostics either. An agnostic is just an atheist who wants to keep his or her options open in case of being wrong. Why they think they can opt in when standing in front of St. Peter, is a good question?

But frankly we should be concerned that there are no talking heads that the media can turn to when they need a meaningful quote from an atheist. And how should an atheist feel about the Quebec Charter of Values? Do we get to proselytize by wearing distinctive head gear or something easily identified as a cross or a star? No, we suffer the ignominy of looking just like everyone else. We are so boring.

Yet, Heather Mallick comes to our rescue. She is cynical about the silly advertisement by an Ontario hospital hoping to hire all these religiously identified staff that is expected to flee this new Quebec pogrom. She ridicules the hospital’s use of an attractive female in a head scarf as being as overly selective in their public relations as Premier Pauline Marois and the Quebec government appear careless.

Heather says that this mess of a charter is “a rat’s nest of manufactured offence.”  It is her opinion that the matter makes Canada’s most progressive province look bad.

It is and it does. All you have to be is Canadian to be outraged by the deliberate and blatant bigotry of the separatists in Quebec to come up with this offensive plan. Being an atheist is irrelevant.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Bill Blair your tumbrel is waiting.

Sunday, September 15th, 2013

The two-wheel cart known as a tumbrel was developed originally for agriculture work as it could be pulled by a single draft animal and the simple, two-wheel design made it easy to dump contents, such as manure. The carts came into renown because of their use to haul prisoners to the guillotine during the French Revolution. There would be a form of justice to use one to haul Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair before the courts for his actions during the days of the infamous Toronto G20.

While the Toronto Police Chief is hardly the only unindicted participant in the extremes of abuse of Canadian law at the time, he remains the loudest hypocrite. The police were under his command and he has never been called to account for it.

It does no good that finally one of his policemen has been convicted for using excessive force.  Despite Blair’s denials, the videos of the event clearly showed the brutality of the officer beating the citizen. And the other police in the video were allowing it. They were all equally guilty.

Blair’s police enabled and participated in inappropriate treatment of Canadian citizens. They failed to protect our citizens and our property when a few anarchists were running wild in downtown Toronto. The police had enough personnel available to set 100 trained policemen to capture and arrest each of those criminals and they stood back and watched. They used it as provocation against the curious, the gawker, the innocent and the citizen going about legitimate business. The police under Blair abused us all.

There is nothing new in the Police Services Board failing to do its job. It is a badly structured system of control. It can be a sham. Police like to be a power onto themselves.

But there must always be a time of accounting. Bill Blair, this is your time.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Babel’s MPP mentioned in dispatches.

Saturday, September 14th, 2013

When ‘mentioned in dispatches’ it means a Brit or Canadian soldier has been written up by a superior officer for conspicuous bravery in the face of the enemy. We mention this (somewhat sarcastically) as our Member of the Provincial Parliament (MPP) had a jolly extensive write-up this week in the local tabloids for finding the enemy and vanquishing her. In his quest to find cost savings for Babel families in the battlefields of Queen’s Park, our MPP has sought to replace a part-time paid staffer with an unpaid volunteer.

It could have been good news for the MPP but the part-time staffer has fired back. She has filed a complaint with the Ministry of Labour that questions whether an employer can replace a paid worker with an unpaid person who works in a voluntary or intern relationship. One would assume the MPP, who used to be a human resources consultant, would have known about that question.

It is not as though the young lady had not proved willing and able to do the job. It was a routine administrative job in the MPP’s Babel office. She had served as an unpaid intern originally and then accepted an offer to be paid to do the job on a part-time basis. Her work must have been satisfactory since her contract was renewed for the past summer.

If it was not for the MPP’s background in human relations, this might have been an honest mistake. Here we have all been waiting breathlessly to hear what our fledgling MPP is accomplishing for us at the Ontario Legislature in Toronto and this is the best we get. We do not even know if he is going to vote for Timmy Hudak to continue as his party leader in the party gathering later this month. Will he challenge Timmy’s continued tenure or will he not?

With his background in human relations work, you would also think the MPP might be taking a stand on the private member’s bill that one of his caucus colleague’s has proposed that will end the union shop at the very successful Ontario-based EllisDon construction company. We have not heard what he is doing about that either.

Frankly it seems somewhat unfair that Babel is represented by two seemingly useless Conservatives in Ottawa and in Queen’s Park. The federal member has all kinds of staff and is constantly in our face with everything except information about his individual contribution to our Canadian government.  The provincial Conservative stands (or sits) somewhere out of the limelight at the Ontario Legislature. Neither one appears to be doing us any good!


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Mulcair, in motion.

Friday, September 13th, 2013

They took New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair to Saskatchewan this week. It was like bringing him home to be baptized. Here they were in Saskatchewan, the home of Tommy Douglas socialism, and Mulcair is a gruff old bugger in a suit. And both he and the suit are ‘pur laine.’

Pur laine (pure wool) is the Quebec French expression for those who trace their roots back as real Quebecers. Mulcair can trace his roots on his mother’s side back to Quebec Premier Honoré Mercier. He also holds duel citizenship in Canada and France.

But he is no Jack Layton. Layton grew up in the Quebec Anglo community of Hudson and his family left with other Anglos in the rising tide of Quebec nationalism and stricter language laws. Layton’s ragged colloquial French of his childhood with the simplistic New Democrat policies appealed to Quebecers who had tired of going nowhere with the Bloc Quebecois.

But it was a one-time thing. Mulcair thinks he can fight Prime Minister Stephen Harper on the economy and he has no credibility or background that says he knows the subject. He lacks the openness of Justin Trudeau. He lacks trust. He is neither of the working class nor of the elite. He remains an enigma in both of Canada’s solitudes.

Watching Mulcair in the House of Commons, you can see how he enjoys the attack. He sees the opportunity and the weakness of the Harper government but he fails to take the attack outside the House. He is not translating the language of the Commons into the more cutting and expanded language of the news media. He fails to reach the voters.

In Saskatchewan he told his caucus that they have two years to go before the election. That is a tight timetable for a political party to pull everything necessary together for what will be a tough three-way fight. And Mulcair is the least equipped to take on both opponents. Both he and Harper will try to trivialize Justin Trudeau but Trudeau will ignore them both while he drives at motivating and delivering the younger vote with challenges, ideas and idealism.

Jack Layton could never handle Stephen Harper and never really tried. The surprise for Mulcair will be that the Harper he dealt with in the House of Commons is not the man on message that he will face on the hustings. He will have a tough learning experience.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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The Hair needs better speech writers.

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

It must be the high turnover in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). Did nobody notice when the last speechwriters left? Yesterday we found out that the Hair needs until October 16 to finish writing a new throne speech. We appreciate that a speech of this magnitude requires broad input and lots of approvals but more than a week for the job is excessive. Unless, what you are really doing is stalling?

One possibility is that the office is waiting to hear from President Obama about the Keystone XL pipeline. The Hair has asked Obama for an environmental to-do list so that the American President can approve the $5 billion project to take Athabasca tar sands bitumen to the Texas Gulf Coast shipping ports. This wait might be in vain as Mr. Obama currently has his hands full with questions about Syria.

Is the Hair so really bereft of ideas? Can the Fraser Institute not help him? Has Finance Minister Jim Flaherty run out of corporate taxes to cut? Cannot the government find some new boats for the navy? How about solving the need for modern helicopters? How about scrapping Statistics Canada altogether so we do not have to hear how the gap between rich and poor keeps widening? And then there is Environment Canada. Can we not put it out of its misery? And could not the Hair replace the National Energy Board with a simple rubber stamp?

Cost savings are so simple for ignorant people. The Hair and his Conservatives are very good at saving money. It is the smart person who knows how to invest in the future. That is why there is no future for the Hair and his friends.

But a speech will be cobbled. That is what governments do, eventually. This will be a geared-to-election speech full of platitudes and promises of the nirvana to come. The Governor General will read the speech as though he wrote it himself. This unelected representative of the Queen will tell us what his government is going to do about the unelected Senate. We are going to hear more about the government’s battle with the telecommunications companies to bring order and lower prices to cell phone usage.

The problem we have with forecasting what will be in the throne speech is that the Hair and his friends have an entirely different set of priorities than someone who cares about people and how the rest of the world feels about our Canada.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Marois builds bigotry best!

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois is using us all. She is using the ingrained bigotry of Quebec to turn Quebecers against fellow Canadians. She is using the liberal multiculturalism of Canada to insult Canadians. She is scratching at wounds on both sides of the Canadian language divide. Her Charter of Values is a vicious attack on Canadian values that could tear the country apart.

And in his ignorance Employment Minister Jason Kenney is playing right into Marois’ game plan. By threatening to use the courts to disavow the Quebec Charter, he has added another argument for separation to the Quebec psyche. And no matter who wins the argument, Marois has accomplished her objective.

It was former Premier Jacques Parizeau who complained bitterly about Quebec’s ethnic minorities after losing the 1995 referendum. Pauline Marois is solving the problem that Parizeau perceived. She is telling the visible minorities to conform to Quebec or get out of her province. The Charter of Values is discriminatory and bigoted and racist and she wins if it starts the exodus of visible minorities from Quebec. It is the same type of pogrom as was used to get rid of many of the Anglophones who shared Quebec prior to the draconian language laws that have never been properly challenged.

But you cannot solve this problem from outside Quebec. Somebody should have explained that to Calgary’s Jason Kenney before he started shooting off his mouth. Bigotry has to be addressed head on. One of the problems in Quebec is that bigotry seems to be confused with being devoted to your own religion. There is probably a vulgar word in French for bigotry that says it better but we will leave that to people in Quebec.

This values charter can probably be handled best by Quebec politicians such as Justin Trudeau. He appeals to the younger Quebecers who are the target of Marois’ plan. They are the ones most susceptible to the casual bigotry of Quebec but Trudeau can show them where it is wrong. He can appeal to them for a fairness that they can understand. He can also appeal to them with the opportunities that a more open society can offer to them and their children. He can help them shut the door on the bigotry of Quebec’s past.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Mme Premier, do you know where you’re going?

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

The Ontario Legislature met yesterday. Premier Wynne was in the white of a bride to launch the fall session. She had already told the opposition that they will need to cooperate or she will call an election. If that is a choice she is offering, we respectfully choose an election.

And the reasoning is simple. It is because we have absolutely no idea where this Ontario government is headed.

It is not because we do not want to hear any more about cancelling the damn gas plants in Mississauga and Oakville. That is now a decision for Ontario voters. If you tie up the Legislature with that argument, you are not doing anything constructive.

And before you sneak that Ellis-Don legislation through the Legislature, maybe you should make it government legislation and explain it better to us slower voters. How does throwing out its union shop benefit anyone other than the owners of the company? And why should our legislators vote to do that?

It seems that Mac’s Milk has thrown down the gauntlet on beer sales and your government is being left at the starting line. It is very easy for the government to turn that around and say ‘upgrade your convenience store and you too can sell beer.’ It does not need to be cheaper. It does not have to be in big packages. It just needs to be convenient. Somebody has to bring this province into the 21st Century!

Or is Ontario some wondrous Brigadoon that appears every hundred years from the mists of time? Is the Family Compact that runs this province now just a bunch of lawyers in expensive suits?

There are so many opportunities for Ontario to progress. It needs new controls on election spending and you should have no problem getting the other parties to agree to outlaw groups such as ‘Working Families’ who had so much influence in the last Ontario election. And how about ending all business and union contributions?

What Ontario must have is a government that will be proactive in creating meaningful employment opportunities. It has to be an open and honest government. It has to be a government that ensures the voters of a level playing field for all parties. Let’s not let Ontario disappear again into the mists of time.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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