Archive for December, 2013

Sex education for the Harper government.

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

The Supreme Court gave a gift recently to the Conservative Government that will keep on giving. It is the opportunity for Stephen Harper and his friends to learn about sex. They seem to be a very repressed bunch of people and any new learning on this subject should be welcome. And they will be tested on what they learn. The Supreme Court has only given them a year to write new laws for Canada on prostitution.

The first hurdle for the repressed among us is to understand that prostitution is a legal activity in this country. And the Supreme Court unanimously said that you cannot get around the law by putting sex workers at risk. The court said we must not deny prostitutes the relative safety of a bawdy house. Nor should we deny them the right to solicit customers or to hire protection. In short, the Supreme Court said take down the barriers that hide the truth of human sexuality and let prostitutes walk on the sunny—and safe—side of the street.

And any parent who is so worried about their impressionable children should worry more about what the kids see on television every day. The recent Conservative convention in Calgary ignorantly passed a resolution that said criminalize the John-not-the-Jane. It is quite likely that the Supreme Court would see that as exactly the same as today’s unworkable laws. In countries where they are trying to arrest the person purchasing sex instead of the seller, they are driving prostitution further and further into the darkness and the hands of the dangerous elements of society.

It is too bad that Conservatives in our society are so repressed in their sexual understanding. Sexuality is a multi-facetted jewel in human existence. It is what brings us together for the need for procreation, communication, affection, stimulation and expression of love and need. To deny sex to yourself is simply stupid. To try to deny it to others is the height of cruelty.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Should auld acquaintances be forgot?

Monday, December 30th, 2013

This is a look at political baggage Canadians are dragging into the New Year. And none is more fascinating than Nigel Wright. The former chief of staff to the prime minister has been keeping his own counsel long enough. Is there a six figure book deal in the offing? Could there be vindication for Stephen Harper? Was the prime minister really clueless about the deal Wright cut for poor Senator Duffy? We need Nigel’s testimony (under oath) to hopefully clear the air.

And then there is that gross friend of the prime minister and finance minister who is now one of the two mayors of Toronto. Nobody cares how really, really, really sorry he is that he smoked crack but he should wash out his mouth with laundry soap. That crude, calamitous creature is going to run for mayor again in 2014 and his opponents need to rethink their strategies. No likely winning candidate has come forward yet and if all the possibilities get into the race, Mr. Ford has a cakewalk.

One of Mayor Ford’s federal critics is also someone to watch in 2014. Having seen many pretenders over the years worry the edges of an incumbent’s patience, it looks like Employment Minister Jason Kenney is going to continue to rag Stephen Harper. While Kenney shares the honours with Foreign Minister John Baird as the Bobbsey Twins of the Conservative government, he is the least appealing as a prime ministerial pretender.

Kenney is on the extreme of the religious ideologues in the Conservative party and no Canadian woman who values her freedom and rights would want Kenney turned loose as prime minister. He is also abrasive. He has failed at getting cooperation from the provinces on the Conservative cornerstone job grant program and he was hardly subtle in dumping on the Premiers’ suggestions on the Canada Pension Plan.

The only question in doubt about Prime Minister Stephen Harper is the exact size of that hairpiece. Only Harper and his hairdresser know for sure.

Premiers to watch in 2014 are Christy Clark in B.C. and Pauline Marois in Quebec. Christy Clark has already been bought on the Northern Gateway pipeline and will be hung in effigy along with Stephen Harper by environmentalists. Pauline Marois is trying to prove that bigotry works and there is an ugly election looming in Quebec.

We would mention Kathleen Wynne in Ontario but it looks like she will be history after an Ontario election in 2014. There is no way she can win a majority. Mind you, there was a real glimmer of hope for Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa when he roared back at the Fed’s Jim Flaherty recently. He needs a budget that will dumbfound everyone to save himself if not his premier. We will give him a good price if he asks this writer to pen it for him.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Pension poaching on federal preserves.

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

That is an interesting strategy. We are supposed to ignore the blunders of the last ten years. Ontario Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne is going to run for re-election as premier on a strategy of fixing federal pensions. Lord knows, the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) needs fixing but this might not be waters in which she should be swimming.

It was 1967 when an Ontario premier last tried a political distraction on federal turf. It was Premier John Robarts who chaired the Confederation for Tomorrow Conference that tried to move Canada’s Premiers toward agreement on Canada’s constitution.  It was an impressive effort. It failed. The unfinished office building in which the meeting was held was a metaphor for the unfinished thinking of the people involved.

Nor has the brain-trust behind Kathleen Wynne thought this pension proposal through. For a plan to supplement the CPP to gain any traction with the voters, it has to cost little, promise much and apply across Canada. The problem is there is no current fix to the CPP that can be accommodated under traditional economic thinking or the current federal government. And Kathleen Wynne’s people are not outside-the-box people.

And she does not seem to be aware that when Ontario voters learn that nothing can change for the first ten years of a new plan, voters will lose interest. It is the old problem of paying forward. We need some faster gratification folks.

Where Kathleen Wynne and her people really fail is their lack of understanding of how their shenanigans could help balkanize our country. That, Canada does not need. We have enough problems with Quebec without trying to prove pequistes such as Quebec Premier Pauline Marois are right. A plan for a high-speed electrified rail corridor from Windsor to Quebec City could do more to bind Quebec with the rest of Canada than any other political strategy.

And if Kathleen Wynne really wants to show her colors as a Canadian federalist, she should address the bigotry of Quebec’s secularism charter. The federal Conservative’s have no understanding nor answer to the charter other than a court challenge. To rely on the courts in this circumstance is to enable Marois to win. That is the condition for separatism that she needs. Ontario has to talk togetherness.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

The bitterness of the bitumen battle.

Saturday, December 28th, 2013

Reading a story this morning about New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair and the upcoming battle for the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) in the next federal election was less than enlightening. If Tommy really believes what he said to the reporter, he is, as we used to say: Dreaming in Technicolor. Tommy’s support for the Enbridge pipeline to move heated bitumen slurry under high pressure through Toronto and area will be his nemesis.

The facts of the matter are that Tommy fails to connect with Toronto. Even without his support for the pipeline, his party is in trouble in all 47 ridings that will now make up the GTA. His support for the pipeline serves to make the point that he neither understands nor cares for the GTA. And we all know that Stephen Harper turned his back on the GTA when he built his coalition from Calgary.

The battle over bitumen will be bitter. Most people do not yet know what bitumen is. Some call it Dilbit, which merely means ‘diluted bitumen.’ Pipeline people call it Heavy Crude Oil, which is a lie—bitumen can be refined into synthetic crude oil in an extremely polluting process. Bitumen is simply the residue of tar sands after the sand has been washed out. It has also been called Pitch and was used to waterproof man’s earliest seagoing galleys. It was also used as mortar in early Mesopotamia. In our modern world of innovation, there is nothing new about bitumen.

From the moment the heavy motorized shovels dig the tar sands from the soil of Alberta, the process of pollution progresses. Vast reservoirs of polluted water are now used to try to evaporate the moisture back to what nature intended.

But the pollution process does not end there. Bitumen is a witch’s brew of heavy metals, chemicals and gasses mixed in heavy carbon molecules. It has the consistency of peanut butter. To pump it through a pipeline, it has to be mixed with light crude oil or other polymers and then heated to allow it to flow. And even then, the bitumen slurry has to be pumped under higher pressure than was used for crude oil. It is a recipe for disaster.

No Eastern Canadian refineries are equipped for constant refining of bitumen. Most of them do not want the pollution it causes. The mountains of bitumen coke residue that refining bitumen creates are just another form of pollution. It is the gift that keeps on polluting.

No thanks to politicians such as Tommy Mulcair who is so willing to trade off our environment for so few jobs. Torontonians should be prepared to roast Tommy Mulcair along with Stephen Harper when that Enbridge pipeline bursts and spreads fire, death and destruction in the GTA.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Is there hope for Ontario condo owners?

Friday, December 27th, 2013

With more than a million Ontario voters living in condominiums, you would think that condo owners would get more attention from Ontario politicians. You might even think that some of those politicians who are not in power would consider that condominium owners deserve ownership rights. The problem is that these political nitwits still think of condo owners as apartment renters. Yet, they do not even consider condo owners worthy of the same rights as renters.

Since the Condominium Act of 1998, condominium living in Ontario has been very much of a crap shoot. If you were lucky enough to get competent, fair, honest condominium management, you had hope. The only problem has been the large and growing bands of opportunists who see condominium owners as easy pickings. Would you waste time selling something like chimney repairs or driveway oiling to individual homeowners when you can sell more than 200 homeowners at once? An industry was born.

Property managers were the most serious need and they sprang from rental apartment buildings, shopping mall management, industrial parks and businesses that made money buying for others. A high rise condominium building can often have an annual buying power in the million-dollar plus range and this is not business to be sneezed at. This is opportunity and there is considerable interest in the riches of property management.

As is natural, law firms also got into the act—or at least read the Condominium Act and start to sell their services. There is always lots of conflict brewing and when times are slow, the creative firm can dream up new rules for condo owners to buy.

Engineers have had a field day. These worthies are supported by the Condominium Act and condo boards are supposed to listen to them. And that listening can cause a lot of expense that a smart homeowner would never agree to. But condo boards are the lowest common denominator of their buildings and they tend to do what their property manager tells them—especially if they think the property manager has read and understood the Condominium Act.

The biggest problem in condominium living is the Ontario government. In their ignorance the government tends to write new laws that supersede any previous laws and leave the previous law in limbo unless there is a court case to decide. That pleases lawyers, disquiets judges and keeps the hallowed halls of the Ontario Legislature a make-work place for idle politicians. And you only think that is funny until an incompetent condominium board decides you are going to have individual suite metering for electricity when your condo declaration says this is paid collectively—and you can spend the next five years of your life in the courts.

And it is all thanks to those incompetents at Queen’s Park.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Glad tidings from Regg Cohn of the Star.

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

You just hate to be the curmudgeon who is always complaining about those damn filthy, smelly beer stores in Ontario. A complainant can feel lonely. You start to doubt yourself. You feel guilty. You begin to think that you are the only person in this God-forsaken province who knows that Ontario is run by a bunch of ignorant, incompetent nincompoops.

But, Hark! Help is on the way. It is none other than Martin Regg Cohn, provincial political affairs columnist at the Toronto Star. And Martin is a true professional. He is not only a journalist of note but one who has reported from the capitals of the world. He has reported with distinction on our national affairs. He is the epitome of a gentleman of letters. And he says it the way it is: “The Beer Store is Ontario’s longest-running public disgrace and economic blight.”

Martin not only calls a spade a spade but he knows where to place the blame for this public disgrace. He lays the blame squarely on all the major political parties. He interviewed the three party leaders and found out what we already knew. Premier Kathleen Wynne told him everything was hunky-dory in beer heaven and she had no panel studying any change. New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath had not been scripted on that subject and therefore could not answer. And, even if her brain trust had studied the question, there are too many unionized workers involved to risk change.

That left the field clear for the Conservative’s prize, Timmy Hudak. Martin reports that Timmy is saving himself for the election. He admits that the status quo makes no sense and his party might offer beer drinkers more options. That would make sense only if the Conservative Party offered the voters a better option.

What seems to disquiet Martin about this Beer Store situation is that Ontario’s beer monopoly is owned by beer companies outside of Canada. In the great Canadian tradition, people such as Toronto’s famed E.P. Taylor became rich on beer and buying up competitors and then sold out to foreign interests—because they could come up with the price.

No matter who owns those disgusting, smelly, pig-sty-like Beer Stores, they have become nothing more than recycling dumps where your feet stick to the floors and you never know where to find the brand of beer you want to buy. Welcome aboard Martin.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Some political thoughts on 2013

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

It was certainly an active political year,

But not one that we will hold very dear.

New federal leaders for Liberals, NDP,

And that will change things, you’ll see.

 

Ontario’s Cabinet plays musical chairs,

A lady’s now bossing provincial affairs.

It seems very bad she has no opposition.

Not that the Premier minds her position.

 

Who thought Toronto’d make any news?

But things’ll happen when voters choose.

But why would the mayor be so explicit?

Has it anything to do with a crack habit?

 

Stephen Harper is still heading the PMO,

The gentleman remains a formidable foe.

Thomas Mulcair yearns to be a successor

But Justin Trudeau is not PET the Lesser.

 

But none of that trio will earn any kudos,

If pollution increases via tar sand fiascos.

Harper thinks Canada has an oil economy

That subject causes a growing dichotomy.

 

We’re placing our bets on Justin Trudeau,

If he has the best policies in his trousseau.

Some people fear he lacks a political heft,

He has to stand firmly on the political left.

 

Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

More thoughts on tidings from the Hair.

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

Taking a second look at that awful, overdone and trite Christmas message from the Prime Minister on Global was sad. Knowing that he was born and raised in Toronto did not allow him to use a down-east “Well look,” in every second sentence. He reminded you of the old joke about when you can tell an economist is lying: when his lips are moving.

And if you think Global reporter Jacques Bourbeau was not soft peddling the interview, you could not have been listening. It is the standard line in Conservative talking points to refer to the European Community trade discussions as a trade agreement. For a reporter to ask the Prime Minister about the “agreement” is ridiculous—and pandering. There is no trade agreement. There is only an agreement to negotiate. Canada and Europe are years away from any specific trade agreement.

In fact that entire interview was nothing but soft lobs. It was like skipping that perfectly flat rock on calm water. You left little ripples on the water but you achieved no depth until the last skip and the rock sank. That was when Bourbeau should have also sank.

It would have been far more interesting to discuss the ingenuous trip planned to Israel in the New Year. Other than panning for votes in Montreal and Toronto, what is the Hair going to do in Israel?

Why did Bourbeau not ask about the terrible shape the federal government is in? The only federal departments that have not been cut to the bone seem to be the Senate and the Prime Minister’s Office.

And there was no discussion of the passing of Nelson Mandela? If the Hair thought it was important enough to take some former prime ministers with him to South Africa for the funeral why was it not important to the interview? At least Mulroney and Chrétien came out of the inner sanctum on the government’s A310 and spoke to the reporters who were allowed to travel with the Hair. It is not a custom, the Hair encourages.

You could imagine Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair cringing as the reporter guilelessly played the Dr. Johnson to the Hair’s Boswell. Think of how Mulcair would have followed up those soft lobs about the Senate affair? The mind boggles. We already knew that the Hair was quite prepared to blame poor Nigel Wright for the entire year-long soap opera.

But as 2013 fades to a memory, the Hair will rewrite all the events to his advantage.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Tidings of comfort and joy from the Hair.

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

The Hair was in his environment. Every lock was in line. The light touch of make-up was set to the softer lighting. It was time for the Prime Minister’s holiday greetings to his nation. It was time to tell the peons how it is going to be.

This was the Shaw Media version of kiss-up to the Leader. It looked as though the Hair did not want Tom Clark to ask the questions so Jacques Bourbeau from the Ottawa news team did the honours. Bourbeau’s soft lob questions did the trick and the family setting was lovely. It was the perfect setting for the Hair to play Santa Claus.

But he did not. His answer on tar sands exploitation and the environment was a classic of bafflegab. You knew that he was going to B.S. the viewers from the start of the answer when he said: “Well look, I think there’s more to it than the emissions issue.” The rest of the answer was lost in a labyrinth of studies and reports on tankers and pipelines and comments on coal-fired electricity and greenhouse gas emissions and that the government just might bring in some standards and regulations, some day.

What was contained in that bafflegab was the information that his government has done nothing about the greenhouse gas emissions involved just in mining the tar sands. He feels that this is more of a continental question and he seems to want the United States to set the regulations and then the Canadian government can pay lip service to them. When you consider that Canada’s tar sands in the Athabasca region of Alberta are the largest such deposit in the world, that is probably the most mealy-mouthed excuse, Canadians have ever heard.

Frankly, Canadians are Scrooged. The Hair made it clear to all who would bother to listen that he does not give a damn about the environment and especially not when it gets in the way of profit.

It should also be noted that the Hair assured Mr. Bourbeau that the Conservatives have no intention of going on a wild spending spree when Finance Minister Jim Flaherty balanced the federal books in 2015. Why was that not a surprise?

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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

Canada’ military at war with Tories.

Saturday, December 21st, 2013

It is one of those times when you need retired generals to lead the charge. The war, at this time is with the government that pays them. And it is all about Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s balanced budgets. Flaherty—the Grinch—is taking another two billion from the military’s $20 billion to balance his 2015 budget and he is telling the military to suck it up and live with it.

Even with the additional cuts, the Conservative Cabinet is telling the military to maintain the current manning levels of 68,000 personnel. That will work if all 68,000 of these military personnel sit around playing tiddlywinks in their underwear instead of doing any training or using any of their expensive equipment. The only place the military had left to cut at this stage is in operations and equipment maintenance.

These additional cuts show the hypocrisy of the Conservative government. They have put their foolish promises to balance the federal budget ahead of the training and effectiveness of our military personnel and their ability to serve our country. Ships will stay in dock, planes will stay on the ground and tanks and trucks will be parked. The Army is currently in the process of mothballing 6800 heavy trucks. If troops want to go to areas were they can conduct training, they will probably have to march.

But, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, retired generals such as former chief of the defence staff, Rick Hillier are complaining bitterly. They consider the Conservative’s short-sightedness to be devastating to the preparedness of the armed forces.

It is not as though National Defence is the first federal department to feel the pinch. Thousands of former government employees are eking out a living today filling temporary positions under short term contracts and without benefits in the desperate attempt by departments to maintain a minimal level of service.

This approach to solving departmental needs has included the military. Non-uniformed employees of National Defence have also been decimated and this has transformed the department into a legion of consultants running up bills of $2 billion to $3 billion per year. For some reason, the government is not talking about that situation.

For the Conservative government, the situation with the military is something that the Prime Minister and his senior Cabinet Ministers would like to keep quiet. The preparedness and ability of the military to serve Canada is a vital issue with the party’s voter base and anything that impacts that is considered a serious dereliction of responsibility by those voters. They are not pleased with the present situation.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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