Archive for September, 2013

Harper’s ‘Hail Mary’ for Keystone XL.

Monday, September 9th, 2013

A ‘Hail Mary’ is that final play in the football game where you have to go for the goal or nothing. That is the play Prime Minister Stephen Harper is making to U.S. President Barack Obama to get him to approve TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline to carry Athabasca tar sands bitumen to the Texas Gulf Coast. It is likely the most hypocritical move the Conservative Prime Minister has ever made.

Harper has put Obama in the position of being able to save Canadians from their own leader. And there is no reason why Obama would. Our only hope is that he recognizes the play for what it is. It is desperation. It is a lie. It cannot be done.

Harper is offering to see if Canada can meet any environmental standards that the Americans want if the President approves the Keystone XL pipeline. Since any attempt to fill that pipeline with bitumen slurry would require a huge increase in pollution just from having it extracted from the tar sands, the offer is hollow.

Where the real lie lies is in the processing of that bitumen into synthetic oil. That is what lays the carbon footprint far and wide. The objective in sending the tar sands product to the Texas Gulf Coast has never been to refine it there. The Texas Gulf ports provide access to ocean tankers that can take the bitumen to countries that do not care about the pollution. If you cannot see the carbon pollution does the loss of the polar ice matter?

What is most infuriating about Mr. Harper’s hypocrisy is that he has been running advertisements ad nauseam on the taxpayer’s dollar telling Canadians how the government is controlling pollution in the tar sands. They have not. Every deadline for the release of those environmental standards has been missed. And we suspect that it is the unwillingness of the tar sands exploiters to agree to any controls and the Harper government is letting them dictate to us.

If Obama agrees to the Keystone XL pipeline, what will happen is that Harper will not be in office when the Americans realize the falseness of his claims. And neither will Obama be in office for that matter.

What could bite America in the ass with this travesty is a very large, very polluting spill of bitumen slurry somewhere in Middle America. That might be justice but let us hope beyond hope that it never happens.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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The progressive left is just an urban legend.

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

Toronto Council’s left wing councillors love to show off their power. And Mayor Rob Ford could not be a better foil for them. The only problem is that Toronto ends up without direction, leadership, ideas, or a future. It is a shame as it had the potential to be a great city.

There might be a bit of a bias in this. This is the city where we were born and where we spent our formative years after the Second World War. It grew so fast at that time and we were used to people living in their basement until the first floor of their home could be built. We understood the needs of rapid growth and the city accommodated it. Toronto built Canada’s first subway and ran a first class transit system. We built new roads and widened old ones, bringing in the additional labour we needed from Europe and the rest of the world. Our city might have been smaller then but it had an unlimited future.

But Toronto has developed a supposed left wing of council that today preys on the downtown wards. These are not people who care about people. These are people who realized their power under left-wing Mayor David Miller. They want to use that power for their own ends. Under a single, amalgamated government, Toronto has become a city divided. It is downtown versus the suburbs.

And with this growing dichotomy, came a reversal of roles. The downtown left-wing councillors became the preservationists, the conservatives. The suburbs continued the struggle for growth and relief from the city’s traffic congestion. A good example of the problem is that the left has no sympathy for the problems of air travellers and want to stop growth of the Island airport. Given the chance, the left will build barriers to the best business success story of Toronto in the 21st Century. The city of Toronto needs Porter Airlines more than Porter Airlines needs the city. If the city lets the left wing of council fabricate alarms over jet noise and other potential problems such as pollution, it will be a cruel disservice to a great city.

The left wing is looking for Olivia Chow to take on Ford for the mayoralty next year and, without other options, she could win. That would be a very sad end to the long term growth of Toronto. All you need to do to understand the concern is check Chow’s voting record for the years she was on Toronto Council. This is no leader. This is not a progressive. Chow is the same problem as Rob Ford. You cannot turn an uninspired ward healer into an effective mayor.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Letting in the political fringe.

Saturday, September 7th, 2013

The local Sun Media newspaper in Babel is very thin. It has very little advertising and little budget. It therefore welcomes free articles from local writers. Some of these writers are from the political fringe. An example this week was an article by a political hopeful boosting a September conference at Geneva Park near Orillia. Attendees at the conference hope to resurrect the idea of proportional voting in Canada. This idea has been firmly rejected by voters in Ontario and defeated twice by voters in B.C.

The premise the fringe keep harping on is that voters are wasting their votes under the present first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting system used in Canada. Their argument is that if they can win five per cent of the popular vote in an election that they should have five per cent of the seats in the parliament or legislature. In a simplistic way that might make sense to some people.

The problem is that to make proportional voting work, you have to vote for parties rather than people. The reason that voting for parties is common in some parts of the world is because of the low literacy rates in those countries. Parties are identified by symbols and people vote for the symbol of the party they prefer. Under proportional voting, the percentages of the votes are calculated and party members are appointed to the parliament in the ratio of the vote. If the Greens, for example get five per cent of the vote, they are given five per cent of the seats. This includes the party leader and his or her choice of who they want with them. In Canada, we are literate enough that we do not need party symbols. We can vote for the person we prefer to have represent us.

It is that basic. We have more than enough people who will vote for the party leader instead of looking at what the local candidate can contribute. To encourage more of that type of voting will turn parliament and the legislatures into nothing more than sheep pens for the party faithful. If you have ever wondered why it is so difficult for Prime Minister Harper to put together a strong Cabinet, you just have to look at some of the nebbishes who have been sent to Ottawa to support him.

And if you want a good example of the kind of parliament you will have where Members are selected by the Prime Minister of the day, take a look at the Canadian Senate!


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Political survival for party leaders.

Friday, September 6th, 2013

Reading a political survival strategy for Ontario Conservative Leader Timmy Hudak proposed by Bob Hepburn in the Toronto Star the other day, it seems that what he says applies at all political leaders—and not even just in Ontario. Mind you, Ontario has been without leadership for some time now and you wonder when there will be some solutions. And it is sure not just thinking of yourself as premier.

Even Kathleen Wynne does not think of herself as premier. She might be sitting in the seat but it sure does not fit her. Here she is talking about conversations and conciliation when nobody gives a damn. Wynne does not seem to have any clear grasp of the role, responsibility and rigours of the office. She appears to have done nothing in six months as premier except keep herself in office by sucking up to the New Democrats.

Not that New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath can even think of herself as premier. She is the type of person mixed fruit drinks were invented for—she would be confused picking a single fruit drink for breakfast. She neither thinks, acts, talks nor leads her party in any direction that would justify thinking of her as premier.

And then here was Bob Hepburn trying to propose Conservative Leader Timmy Hudak as a solution. Bob notes that Timmy needs a plan to convince voters that he is the best person to lead the province. The only problem with Timmy is that he wants Ontario to be just like Alabama. Timmy seems to seriously believe that Ontario should have with no minimum wage and a right to work law.

Bob complains that the position papers Timmy’s office has released are just full of vague generalities about how he would cut all the government services and jobs. He thinks Timmy needs to be more positive.

He also advises Timmy to be more personable and to be a solutions provider. He also suggests that the Tory leader tell us more about the private Timmy Hudak. He says that Timmy could be wasting his time at political gatherings and might better speak to the populace at cultural and sporting events. (If he tells us his story between hockey periods it could really increase the beer sales.)

Mind you, this advice might not work as well for the other two leaders. While all three party leaders need public speaking training, better writers, clearer direction and to act more human, we might not want to know all that much more about their personal lives.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Marois sells inferiority.

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

Quebec’s sovereignty soliloquists believe they have a free hand to sell separatism to their captive audience. Quebec Premier Pauline Marois bragged to the media recently that her Parti Québécois are planning a campaign for sovereignty without a referendum in sight. It is like an uncomfortable rash on our country’s backside and we will have to pony up the money for some anti-sovereignist salve. Most Canadians are weary of this separation crap and she might just be counting on the backlash.

But Canada has more important problems. And Marois is kidding herself if she thinks any campaign will influence Prime Minister Harper’s attitude towards Quebec. He figures he owes nothing to Quebec and being loved there is not high on his bucket list. There is little to be gained from him in the time he has left in the big-boy chair.

Marois’ bigger problem is the two federal party leaders from Quebec. New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau are part of the reality with which the Parti Québécois has to deal. How do you sell Quebecers that they are inferior to the rest of Canada when two of their own are vying for the top job in the country? The myth that Pierre Trudeau betrayed them is ancient lore and does not tarnish the son.

And what is Pauline Marois selling? In a world where people strive to learn to work together, what is the point of separatism? What does anyone in Quebec gain if they did get rid of the blockheads from the rest of Canada? At least the Canadian blockheads cared. Try all that shit on American blockheads and Quebecers will really learn about discrimination. It is bad enough in the areas of Florida where Quebecers like to congregate in winter.

The only people who have anything to gain from separation from Canada are Quebec’s notables—the bilingual intelligentsia and industrialists who could then become bigger fish in the smaller pond. The only barrier to Quebecers being abused and used by their own notables is that the rest of Canada cares.

What Pauline Marois does not understand in her separatism efforts and in discriminatory sallies such as her silly charter of values is that Canada is considered to be one of the most tolerant and friendliest countries in the world. She is harming our reputation.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Wither without Verizon on the horizon?

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

Somebody took away Prime Minister Harper’s big stick. Verizon has declined the opportunity to come up here and play in the Bell-Rogers-Telus sandbox. Do the Canadian telecom trio look pleased? Yes they do. Did they scare off Verizon? Not really. You do know who is going to get screwed now, do you not? Okay consumers: just open your wallets and assume the position.

Face it. Somebody has to pay for the millions of dollars in advertising that was never necessary in the first place. Bell, Rogers and Telus wasted all that money and they want it back from the consumer. You only thought you were paying too much for cell phones and all those cute whistles and bells that come with them? Just you wait.

Have you ever thought how cheap it would be to make a cellular telephone that was nothing other than a voice-communication device? Or a nice little tiny camera that would allow you to record people doing stupid things and then transmit the video to others? What about a little hand-held computer or television? And how about having something just for texting? Texting should be a junior cell phone device that allows for even adult-size fingers to send little messages to other people who cannot spell.

But no, you only think that you need a device that can do all those tricks. And that is why they want three year contracts so that they can squeeze every nickel out of you for using the device. Do you know there are Canadians who have never taken a picture with their cell phone and would not know how if the opportunity came along? It is you people who want your cell phone to do everything that are driving up the prices. The people building those complex devices are usually earning less than a dollar an hour. Guess who the thieves are who make all the bucks on them?

Even the funny farm people at the Fraser Institute have come out in favour of a more competitive market without the government kissing up to companies such as Verizon. The Institute wants to end any restrictions on foreign ownership rather than give preferential treatment to one large foreign-owned company. True to its origins, the Institute says a more competitive market should be the government objective. It is a $19 billion market in Canada and you would expect there should be some room for more innovation, competition and much lower prices.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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A duplicitous Charles Sousa?

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

An old friend down in Windsor has posited in a blog that Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa is running a covert campaign for Kathleen Wynne’s job. While it is a mildly amusing hypothesis, you have to remember that the Windsor area of Ontario thrives on putative political putsches. And the Liberals in the area have yet to forgive Wynne for defeating Windsor’s own Sandra Pupatello for the job of Premier.

But to accuse Charles Sousa of plotting anything more complex than where to eat lunch is paying a disservice to the gentleman. With Charles, what you see is what you get. He lacks duplicity. He lacks ideas. He is a banker for goodness sake.

Frankly, Charles could not scurry fast enough over to Kathleen Wynne’s side when he saw how the voting was going at the tightly controlled convention that chose her. He had obviously been offered the finance job for his obeisance and he bought the deal. Our Morning Line had positioned him at 9 to 1 odds and he seemed to agree with us. And the only reason we gave him those good odds was because he is also a nice guy.

But he has disappointed us in the finance portfolio. By agreeing to force down the automobile insurance rates to please the New Democrats, you know that the insurance people are just going to deliver less on claims. Consumers are going to lose and we can all blame Charles.

And he is continuing to ignore the need to sell off the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) stores to the private sector. Just because Tory Leader Timmy Hudak’s henchmen have convinced him to get on that bandwagon is no excuse not to do it. Charles is ignoring the best way to solve the deficit problem and look like a hero at the same time.

While he obviously does not have the final say in who heads what board, he has not helped the situation at Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG) and at the LCBO by appointing safe, uninspiring chairs to two critically important boards.

Neither Charles nor Kathleen Wynne have stimulated very much in their first six months in their jobs. At a best guess they have another six months to get their act together. And there is little hope if they continue down the path where they are now headed.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Harper can skate backwards.

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

Do you feel that you have been getting mixed messages from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) lately? It is like watching a fast-paced hockey game. The puck and the teams keep changing ends. From a hawkish stance a week ago, we are now seeing a more reticent Prime Minister and PMO staff. It seems that war with Syria has moved to a back burner. And it was not cooler heads in Canada that made the difference. It was the combination of a vote in the British Parliament and a smart move by U.S. President Barack Obama.

After all, how could an Anglophile such as Harper be condoning a war against Syria when the Mother of Parliaments has voted against it? The fact that a group of Tory backbenchers voted against Brit Prime Minister David Cameron’s wanting to retaliate against Syria changed positions in other parts of the world.

What was thought to be a fait accompli earned an overnight note of caution. The dogs of war were given a time out. President Obama was forced to spread the blame. Losing such an important ally as Great Britain carried with it a note of caution. What, he reasoned, might work is to force the Republicans in his impossible Congress to face their supporters and either go along with him against the Syrians or give him a way out.

His solution is to take Syrian reprisal for using chemical weapons to Congress. Let them authorize it. If they say yes, he is vindicated and goes to war without sanction of the United Nations or his European allies. If the Congress says no, he has kept his word and it is Congress’ fault that he could not carry out the promised reprisals. This is a win-win for Obama.

And what is Harper going to do? His mouthpiece Andrew MacDougall tells the media that Mr. Harper is going to speak severely to Russia’s Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit next week. This is if the Russian President will give him an audience. One would expect that at any private meeting, the Russian bear is going to listen to Harper impatiently while the Canadian explains the situation as he sees it in Syria. He also intends to complain about Russia’s treatment of homosexuals. When he is finished his statement, Putin is liable to growl: “So what are you going to do about it, sweet cheeks?”


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Do you expect a humbled Hudak?

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

The Ontario Conservatives’ hapless leader Timmy Hudak is a continuing problem for his caucus and party. Ontario pundits have continued to have their say about him and nobody knows anything they did not previously know and worried about. And if Timmy and his political handlers have no idea what to do, how is the party meeting in three weeks going to solve anything?

The basic problem is that nobody in the Conservative party can honestly say they are overwhelmed with Timmy Hudak’s performance as leader. If he is honest about it, Timmy is probably just as concerned about his performance as anyone else. The party buys him the best advice that it can find and Timmy keeps falling on his face. It is not whether he is actually a nice guy or not. That is not what anyone is worried about. The problem is that the voters of Ontario seem convinced that Timmy is a dumb schmuck. And there is no cure for dumb.

But that is only problem number one. The next question is what the hell the party intends to do about it? The Conservative gathering later this month has decided that delegates can vote for a leadership review. What help will that be?

Are the party faithful going to vote for a new leader when they have absolutely no idea who the new leader might be? Sorry, it does not work that way. When Brian Mulroney stabbed Joe Clark in the back and ousted him as federal party leader back in the 1980s, Clark still got more than 60 per cent party support at the convention. Mulroney had to count on Clark’s pride to get the leadership contest he ultimately won.

And, in this case, the party is setting a barrier of 60 per cent in favour of having a leadership convention to replacing the present leader. Even if Timmy Hudak only gets 41 per cent of the vote, it is enough to keep him in the driver’s seat. And you know he will do better than that. They do not call it the Conservative party for no reason.

You can do all the automated telephone polls you wish but the only way the Conservatives are going to dump Timmy Hudak is if you give them a viable alternative. And there is no viable alternative in sight.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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