Archive for November, 2013

Rob Ford, Civic Commando?

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

The Rob Ford mayoralty situation in Toronto is just like trying to get rid of a Condo Commando. These are tenacious troublemakers for condominium boards. They are the bane of property managers and boards because they use the Ontario Condominium Act to terrorize the condo to get their way. Whether they are right or wrong is irrelevant as little else gets done while the war continues. Rob Ford is just like a condo commando on a much larger scale and even more difficult to control.

And the fault for both situations can be laid with the Ontario government. The laws governing the Corporation of the City of Toronto are cluttered, confusing, contradictory, and created by and for lawyers. They enrich the legal profession and beggar the rest of us. And if Rob Ford takes the city council to court, he just might be a bigger fool than we thought. It is a conflict that nobody can win.

The same Ontario Legislature wrote the Ontario Condominium Act. If people in Ontario had to pass an examination on the Condominium Act before they were allowed to buy a condominium apartment or town house, there would be very few condominium homes in this province.

And it never has been who is right or wrong. City Council in Toronto has just trampled over the power of the mayor. They have created a precedent that can now be used by any council against any mayor in the province. It is a threat. It crushes what little authority mayors previously had. They never really had much other than what custom allowed. Now they can be second-guessed at any time.

The province will have more and more civic conflicts. The Legislature will have to take the blame for more and more conflicted councils. And when the councils become conflicted, the civil servants will play. It all becomes an anti-democratic shambles.

The province has a responsibility to fix this. In the same way that it is looking at fixing the Condominium Act, it needs to look at how municipalities are supposed to function as opposed to how they really function—or not.

And in a city the size of Toronto, the citizens have to have responsible government. The city’s governance can no longer be left to a haphazard resemblance of democratic action. The people elected by citizens of the city must choose their own mayor. It must be a fellow councillor who can garner the most support. Sure it can cause party politics. It will enable the voters to know what they are voting for. It will create stability. It could even be honest government.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Countdown in Toronto Centre.

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

It is the week before election day in the federal riding of Toronto-Centre and it is when the campaigns go into the transition for election day. And no matter what your pollsters tell you, it all comes down to getting out your vote. Intentions are worthless unless you get them on ballots.

And the people who have lied to canvassers from multiple parties had better barricade their doors. The campaign organizations you said you will favour have you on their list. They will not be satisfied until you get out and vote.

If there is one thing that a long-time politico can add to the hubbub, do not trust the polls. Polls are nothing more than an indication of possible. They are neither sacrosanct nor honest. The interactive voice response calls on landlines in an electoral district such as Toronto-Centre are nothing more than an interesting guess. What you have to evaluate are the competing organizations.

There are only two candidates in this Toronto race. They are Chrystia Freeland, Liberal and Linda McQuaig, New Democrat. The others are irrelevant. Both the Liberal and New Democrat camps in Toronto will be turning out more workers on election day than they can use. The new Democrat workers will be more experienced and the Liberals will be younger and more energetic.

If the central organizations do the job right there will be nobody in those offices on election day other than a few people to answer telephones. Toronto Centre needs a minimum of ten district operations geared to different communities. It would be faster covering those communities by skateboard or bicycle if it is just decent weather. And it is not as much the 100 people you get to the polls early in the day that count but those last one or two stragglers just before the polls close.

We expect that Chrystia Freeland will be the winner in Toronto. She will attract the broad range of voters from the top to the bottom of the riding. She has the not so secret weapon, Justin Trudeau, working for her. Linda McQuaig might have done better without Tom Mulcair. Both candidates are outstanding. Either can make a significant contribution in parliament for us.

Liberals need to remember on November 25 that Toronto-Centre and Bourassa ridings are essential. We also need to win at least one of the two Manitoba ridings that are up for grabs. If Justin Trudeau and his team can win all four of the by-elections, Stephen Harper, Tom Mulcair and their teams will be scrambling to rethink what they have to do over the next two years.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

What is Wynne running from?

Monday, November 18th, 2013

There is a television advertisement running these days of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne running. It should have a warning on it to tell kids not to try this at home. Maybe the Premier can close county roads for her run to be recorded. Try running like that in the city and you would have imprints on your ass of automobile grills. She is not even running in the correct lane, against the traffic.

In the voice-over dialogue, she is not the slightest bit winded. She tells us she loves running. Maybe she should prove that and run for election. Waiting for next spring and to have an election when her government’s budget is defeated is a cheap political evasion.

And do you not love how she evades problems?

Wynne lives in Toronto and obviously does not understand the city. She tells us she got into politics because she did not agree when former Premier Mike Harris and his government amalgamated Toronto into a single city. He took a city that was not working and made it worse. And Kathleen Wynne disagreed with Harris’ part solution. What she had was no solution. And she has none now.

It was 40 years ago that we fought tooth and nail to bring party politics to Toronto. It was so damn obvious then what would happen—and by God, has it ever happened. We foolish young politicos at that time wanted a mayor who was responsible to the majority of councillors. That is what is called responsible government. What we have now—thanks to many years of myopic politicians at Queen’s Park—is irresponsible government. Nobody wants to admit the solution to the problem is to have the candidates for mayor run as councillors and then let the elected councillors pick their mayor. That causes party politics.

The solution has been there all along and Kathleen Wynne cannot run from it. If the Ontario Government would just once live up to its responsibilities, the province would have stepped in a long time ago. Toronto has become ungovernable. Council has been a constant contest between the inner city and the suburbs since Mike Harris left it in the present mess. A council that constantly wrangles about priorities cannot function. A council that hates its leadership is self destructive.

But Premier Kathleen Wynne says she does not know what to do. Opposition Leader and Conservative Leader Tim Hudak does not have a clue what to do. New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath does not seem to have a clue about anything.

Run Kathleen, run. You can run but you cannot run away from it.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Any idiot can play blackjack.

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

Periodically Babel-on-the-Bay tries to be helpful to Ontario gamblers. It is not that the rules are all that different but in Ontario you have two strong government ministries fighting over which one really rules gambling. It can also be fun to write about something you know about.

The one firm rule learned in years of dealing, playing and studying this game is that any idiot can play blackjack—and often does. And we can state categorically that having played blackjack in casinos around the world, it is our opinion that the very worst players are right here in the Province of Ontario. Be warned, you do not make friends by expressing that opinion at the gaming tables.

The problem is that many gamblers we see at Rama should be getting a charitable receipt from the casino for their donations. They make the classic mistakes of gamblers everywhere: They fail to manage their money; they do not increase their wager as they win; they try to guess the next card; they are suckers for silly propositions; they think playing two spots will reduce their losses; and they have no idea when to quit.

One of the rules about Ontario casinos and probably casinos everywhere is that you have to be an adult to play. Being of the age of majority, you are expected to manage your own money. Set a budget and stick to it. The casino does not need more of your money.

You win some and you lose some. Depending on how well you know the odds and play blackjack, you can win as much as 48 out of every 100 hands. If it goes in a win-lose-win-lose sequence it would be a waste of time because eventually the casino will have all your money. What makes it more interesting is that wins and losses tend to come in groups. A long series of losses drives people from the table. A long series of wins will only pay off if you increase your bet during that streak. You parlay your bet by keeping some of your winnings as profit and sending the rest out to win more.

People who hem and haw over drawing a card can drive good players crazy. If you are that new to the game, get one of those cue cards that explain when to hit or stay. You cannot guess the next card from a six or eight deck shoe. Just remember that the average card out of the shoe is a seven, not a face card.

And always remember that any of those propositions such as getting a perfect pair on your first two cards offers a great profit margin to the casino. Stick to bets where you know the odds.

The problem player is the one who wants to play two spaces. They see it as balancing their losses. They are wrong. The casino will let the person do it because the player can lose twice as fast. What annoys good players is these idiots can delay the game, make amateur mistakes and think they know what they are doing.

A final note on this subject for Ontario gamblers: you will be much happier about your gambling experience if you go home before you run out of money. Winning can be a very pleasant experience but leave some for the next player—casinos do not lose very often.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Prince Charles as a senior citizen.

Saturday, November 16th, 2013

At a time when most wage earners are retiring Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall is still waiting to do the job he was supposedly born to. He and his lovely wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, celebrated his birthday number 65 this week in Sri Lanka. Charles was in Sri Lanka to represent mommy at the Commonwealth Conference.

It should be mentioned that Prime Minister Stephen Harper was not there. He figured he could pass up this conference as a protest for the way the Sri Lankan Sinhalese government treated the rebellious Tamils. British Prime Minister David Cameron said something at the conference to the effect that you can better address human rights questions at the commonwealth conference by being there and discussing them. He even flew up to the Tamil part of the country to see for himself. Mr. Harper has never seen the Tamil problems first hand and was not there to hear Cameron’s report.

But Prince Charles is constrained in appearing on behalf of a figurehead from talking about meaningful things such as human rights. He wants to be a figurehead for all of Britain’s colonies. He can barely wait to be King of England and all its territories. He has to wait until mommy is dead. It is an archaic and quite cruel custom but monarchists think it should be done that way.

What is puzzling about this is that Charles really wants the job. When he was younger, he had to marry this very attractive young lady who looked like a princess and produced two nice-looking young heirs with her. While he was married to her, he was carrying on his extramarital affair with the lovely Camilla. That annoyed the princess and she ran off to have her own fun. That somehow got her dead.

Mr. Harper thinks that Canadians should be happy with this arrangement for Canada’s head of state. Here we have this nice old lady in Buckingham Palace as our Queen. We know she is because her face is on our $20-bill and our coins. Other than that, we do not seem to have much use for her. When she goes off to her reward, we will have King Charles III as our head of state.

King Charles III should be well aware that his ancestor, the Tudor Charles II was a bit of a swinger with lots of mistresses and reigned for about 15 years, it was Charles I, the father, who had his head chopped off. That is one of the disadvantages of being a figurehead. If people do not like the arrangement, they might decide that chopping off Charles’ head is one of the alternatives.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Rob Ford needs his fishing buddy Stephen Harper.

Friday, November 15th, 2013

There is no better form of bonding between men than fishing. It is a quiet introspective time that you share with a true buddy. And what better buddies could there be than Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford?

There are not many people who have been invited to the Prime Minister’s private Harrington Lake in the past few years. To drop a line in these waters puts you in the company of elites. It is a company of world leaders, great thinkers, of political power brokers and people who understand the pressures of leadership.

And you do not even have to eat what you catch. Mayor Ford admits that he does not really like to eat fish. He is strictly a sport fisherman and likes to stand and cast for bass.

The Prime Minister is more the type of fisherman who drops his line in the water and waits patiently for the fish to come to him. This tells you much about the two men.

They are unusual buddies. After all, how many buddies do you have who will kick in some $660 million to help you build a subway—after you have rejected an offer of $1.4 billion in funding from the Province of Ontario. It is one of those political games that can cause you to wonder if any of the principals knows what they are doing.

Both of these men are proud to be Conservatives. Along with Timmy Hudak, leader of the Ontario Conservatives, they make an interesting trio. Mind you, it is unlikely that Timmy Hudak has ever been invited to Harrington Lake.

Regrettably none of Stephen Harper’s more hooded personality has ever rubbed off on Rob Ford. You can just imagine the Prime Minister trying to explain political strategy to someone such as Rob Ford. Rob is hardly the type to understand caution, restraint, planning or scheming.

It is even more interesting to try to think of the lessons, Stephen Harper can learn from Rob Ford. And after thinking about it for a while and nothing comes to mind, it can make your head hurt.

It is really too bad that Harrington Lake will be freezing over soon. Rob Ford desperately needs to get away and gets his act together. And he needs the advice of his fishing buddy.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Stephen Harper’s scorched earth plan.

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

It was in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Halloween convention speech and we failed to recognize it. It is there in his disdain for Ottawa and its elites. It is there in his lack of a forecast for the future. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has just two years left in Ottawa and he is going to leave nothing but the political version of scorched earth.

Scorched earth is a basic principle of warfare. When you have to withdraw, you leave nothing for your enemies. You burn the crops and the shelter. You remove or kill all humans and animals and leave the corpses to rot and spread pestilence. It is considered an exigency of war.

It was left to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to  lay out the plan for all to see in his fall financial update. The Minister took his pitch to Edmonton to further disrespect our national capitol. Flaherty proudly told his western audience how he would defeat the deficit and even produce a supposed surplus. He told them that, given his druthers, he would prefer to use that surplus to pay down debt.

But he knows that surplus is false. It will be from the further gutting of approved government programs. It will be gained by not spending approved funding that is needed to run the country. It will be gained from the illusion of delayed payments. It will be there for the federal election in 2015. It is a surplus that does not exist.

What might have been a surplus will have been swallowed by the three “P’s” of the Conservative plan: Previously Promised Programs. Remember the much touted plan to double the tax free savings allowance for Canadians. Remember the promise of family income splitting in our taxes. And the surplus will vanish. All is illusion.

And the reality is that Stephen Harper expects his government will be replaced after the 2015 election. He cannot win because his centre cannot hold. His party cannot gain a foothold in Quebec and Ontario’s economy is struggling because he failed to protect it. He did not mind the store. Harper was too busy flying around the world in his personal Airbus A310 with his personal hairdresser. He found no votes in Kuala Lumpur.

Our crops must grow again and our hopes rest with Harper’s successor. There is going to be a reality check and no ideology can solve the financial mess left by the Conservatives. Canada’s taxation system will have to be stood on its head and shaken. We need the nickels and dimes that fall from the inverted pockets of the nation. We need new thinking. We need decency and resolve. It will not be solutions of elites from east or west. It has to be a peoples’ solution.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Does Tim Hudak really have a strategy?

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

There was a Toronto Star exclusive story the other day about a document that might be Ontario Conservative Leader Tim Hudak’s secret strategy for the upcoming provincial campaign. The Lord knows that Timmy needs all the help he can get. Yet if he follows the plan as described, he will be lucky to do better in the election than the provincial Green Party.

Going into the last provincial election, the Tories also had high hopes for Timmy. The polls showed him out front and destined to beat Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty. While Timmy actually did better than some of us expected he would, Ontario still ended up with a minority Liberal government.

The only difference in the plan this time from the last is the Conservative’s featuring of Rob Ford’s brother Doug as a star candidate in Toronto. The Tory strategists would be wise to remain flexible on that part of the plan.

The reporter tells us that the Conservative plan is for a hard right-wing anti-union strategy. That should surprise nobody. Timmy wants to kill the Rand Formula that has given us many years of relative labour-management peace in Ontario. It is part of Timmy’s plan to destroy the union movement in the province. We have no idea what unions ever did to Timmy but he is quite adamant on the issue.

The document says he will use the theme: “Allow choice in union membership.” What is odd about this is the Rand Formula does exactly that. It allows people to have choice on union membership—but not a free ride. All the Rand Formula has done for more than 60 years is to say that a person who works with union members on a shop floor pays the same amount in union dues as everyone else. That is how the formula keeps the peace.

The reporter tells us the plan includes a proposed day-to-day itinerary for the Conservative leader. It says that everything is scripted down to the minute. It also seems to read like anyone with a modicum of central campaign experience could have written it.

The plan even sets aside time for Timmy to have a few beers with the news media assigned to travel with him. Whether he even likes beer or the media want to have a beer with him seems to be of no concern to the writer.

It says Timmy should spell out what he is going to do for the first 100 days after the election. The reporter says there is no detail. That is because Timmy might spend his first 100 days after the election looking for a job. It will probably not be in a union shop.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Rob Ford news is now officially boring.

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

It took a lot of excruciatingly boring repetition and alarmist claims in the news media over many weeks but we can now declare the Mayor Rob Ford affair to be officially boring. It took time. It was more than some people could handle. It has finally been resolved. Official boredom sets in when the media are at the point that they are interviewing each other. That is boring.

When there was nothing new for a few days, the e-mail must have gone out from the Toronto Star. It might have said something like: Hey fellow news outlets, our Publisher John Cruikshank is available for interviews on how the Toronto Star broke the story of Rob Ford and his crack use. It got him on lots of weekend shows. We saw him a couple times. The best was with Tom Clark on Tom’s West Block show, Sunday on Global.

The media have reached a point where this mutual admiration society can think of nothing new in a story but to congratulate each other for breaking the story. Cruikshank wants all the credit. He was unable to buy the original crack video but explained it away saying that the Star did not want to give that much money to (unnamed) drug dealers! Oh? Yet, they paid someone (unnamed) for a video of Mr. Ford cursing in an animated discourse about what he was going to physically do to some (unnamed) person. Exactly why the Toronto Star thinks it should pay for videos to embarrass the mayor of the city was not explained.

One surprising note on Tom Clark’s show was an interview with an articulate gentleman who explained why he would still vote for Rob Ford. That was creative. You probably think of Ford Nation as knuckle draggers and people who move their lips while reading the pictures in the Toronto Sun. This guy appeared to have graduated from high school and he made his case quite well. As a concerned liberal, we might argue the case with him but we respect his right to make it.

As for the Toronto Star, many Torontonians can explain to you that the Star does not seem to like Mayor Ford. It also appears that Mayor Ford does not like or trust the Toronto Star. The Toronto Star has even complained to the Integrity Commissioner at City Hall about the Mayor discriminating against the newspaper. Any professional public relations person working for the mayor would hope to heal this rift as the Toronto Star does have a major influence on a sizable number of Toronto voters. The problem might be that Mayor Ford does not listen.

But until the media comes up with real news, boredom has set in and nobody is really listening to anybody.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

The Canadian crash of 2016.

Monday, November 11th, 2013

It will be former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s legacy. Forget free trade with Europe. Forget the adulation and fawning over him by the G8. Stephen Harper will be remembered for causing the greatest economic crash in Canadian history. Canada’s economy started to crumble when the Chinese state oil company CNOOC announced in early 2016 that it is dumping its investment in Canadian tar sands oil.

And there is nothing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau can do about it. Since China agreed to the proposed Pan-Asiatic environmental restrictions in the 2015 Asian Accord, it has been cleaning house and eliminating pollution. From being one of the most polluting countries, it has set anti-pollution standards that are the envy of the rest of the world. The announcement of the pull-out from the tar sands also happens to follow the proving of the vast oil reserves under the Gobi Desert in Mongolia that can easily be retrieved with environmentally safe fracking.

In the United States, the Keystone XL pipeline is under court order not to ship any bitumen or bitumen-based products. While former President Barack Obama had permitted the pipeline to be completed through the American Midwest, the new Republican President is sticking by his environmental promises to ‘Let no pollution on U.S. soil.’ This will curtail shipments through the Texas Gulf ports to certain non-environmentalist African countries.

Since an emboldened eco-terrorist group set fire to the Irving Oil tanker loading docks at Saint John, New Brunswick, there have been no East Coast shipments of bitumen. Whether Irving Oil will even consider rebuilding the docks depends on negotiations with insurance companies on the potential for future environmentalist action?

Since the shut down of tar sands operations in Alberta has thrown tens of thousands out of work in that province, layoffs and business bankruptcies have been reverberating across Canada. And with the loss of the huge oil tankers coming into Kitimat and Vancouver, the Northern Gateway and dual Kinder Morgan pipelines have been forced to shut down and business layoffs have become a daily routine throughout British Columbia.

A sign of the times are the newspaper advertisements in Eastern Canada for skilled workers to work on temporary visas at U.S. and Mexican plants. The employers like the Canadian work ethic and skills but the Canadians hired must be willing to work for 15 per cent less than local workers in those right-to-work jurisdictions.

All in all, it is a fitting tribute to former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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