Archive for January, 2014

A not quite raging argument on royalty?

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

Always looking for material pro or con the royals, there was a web site discovered the other day that looked like a goldmine of liberal thought on Canada’s relationship with the monarchy. The immediate disappointment was that the last posting was over a year ago. Regrettably the search was in the Liberal Party of Canada website. If any party needs to take a clear stand on Canada and the royals, it should be the Liberals.

But it’s another “Ho-hum, who cares?” news day for the rusty, retro royals. Too bad Prince Harry had to abandon his jog or ski or whatever to the South Pole because of inclement weather. (What did he expect to find in those climes?)

His grandmother is over her year of jubilee and is setting out on making it through a 61st year on the throne without too much difficulty. The problem is that most of her Canadian subjects really do not care enough to be interested. Oh sure, they are polite about it. We all know that Canadians have a world-wide reputation for being too damn polite.

Yet those pickle-up-their-arse monarchist Conservatives have been spending taxpayer dollars to put the word “Royal” on everything except Tony Clements’ G8 Memorial Toilets.

Canadians will also be honoured this year by a visit in May by Prince Charles and his lovely wife Camilla. This year it is the turn of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Manitoba to do the meet-and-greet thing. Charley will pontificate while saying bloody well nothing and the lovely Camilla will simper along.

But what is this in aid of? While the monarchists think everything is bloody lovely, Canadians cannot understand why we bother. And the monarchy is a bother. It is getting in the way of reform of how this country is governed. It has to be brought forward as one of the governance factors that Canadians have to address.

Canadians, English, French, aboriginals and everyone else have to start thinking about constitutional repair. We need an elected congress of voters to come together and plan how Canada should be governed for the future. And everything has to be on the table. At a time when the Conservatives have destroyed any value we might have been getting from the Senate of Canada, Canadians want something done about it. It will take time, it will take argument, it will require a plan that Canadians can vote on. It has to be their plan to be approved and implemented. It probably will not include a monarchy.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Québéc’s PQ feeds on bigotry.

Monday, January 20th, 2014

The Québéc government’s Charter of Values proposal is earning the province ridicule. Premier Pauline Marois and her Parti Québécois government think it will make francophones in the province hunker down and blame everything on the rest of Canada.

But it is their own supporters who are making out the péquistes to be fools. In inviting people who are ignorant and bigoted to give testimony in support of the charter, they are building the case against themselves. In a testimony by a man and his wife the other day, the couple brought into sharp focus the need for Quebecers to learn more about other religions and customs.

The woman argued against having to take off her shoes before entering a mosque in Morocco. When she finally agreed and was allowed to enter, she was aghast to find people praying on their hands and knees on carpets. She was appalled at this way of praying and used it as an example to explain her desire to deny others their rights to religious freedom.

The woman did not indicate, while speaking in French, whether or not she had grown up Catholic in the predominantly Catholic province. If she had seen a Rite of Ordination in a Catholic Diocese, would she have been equally appalled at the sight of candidates for the priesthood lying prostrate on the floor before the alter during the chanting of the Litany?

Maybe our federal government should subject people intending to travel abroad to a written test before issuing a passport. This would help to ensure that they do not embarrass Canadians with their ignorance. At a minimum, fools should be forbade to visit places of worship that they do not wish to try to understand.

The funniest part of this testimony was the husband who testified that he had his pockets picked while visiting a Morrocan souk. While he claimed that it was two people with their faces and bodies covered, it is more likely these people had a different objective in mind for him. No self-respecting Moroccan pickpocket would ever be noticed relieving you of your wallet. Here again, the gentleman would have benefitted from some advice before visiting a market in that country.

It is nice to see that Quebecers can also hit it big on UTube. The clip of the couple’s appearance before the Commission studying the Charter of Values has already been seen by many thousands. It is not really how our friends in Québéc want to be known.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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The Hair takes a full Airbus to Israel.

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

We hear that Prime Minister Harper filled his A310 Airbus for his historic trip to Israel. This marks a new trend in tourism for the Prime Minister. Until the trip to Nelson Mandela’s funeral, he was content to take his hairdresser and a few lackeys to help carry his luggage. It was the funeral in South Africa that showed him that a full plane can get him even more publicity. And the lackeys love it.

This trip, even the Bobbsey Twins are allowed to share the treat. Imagine the excitement in Foreign Minister John Baird and Employment Minister Jason Kenney’s offices that they were to be part of the Hair’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land. While not quite the equivalent of a Muslim Haj, it is a unique opportunity to visit the birthplace of both Christianity and Judaism. Mind you, lots of stones have been thrown at many different devils there over the centuries.

It will be a busman’s holiday for John Baird as he gets to see how the Hair handles diplomacy. Mr. Harper will, of course, be lionized by the Israeli politicians for being such a stalwart, unquestioning friend of Israel. They have even decided to name a bird sanctuary in Israel after the Canadian Prime Minister. The Israelis have been assured that no other part of the world would honour him with anything that reflected on the environment. As Canadians know all about Mr. Harper’s concern for the environment, they can see the humour in the Israeli politicians’ choice.

One of the other cabinet ministers who is getting a free tour of the Holy Land at taxpayer expense is Toronto’s Joe Oliver, the Hair’s ersatz minister of natural resources. What unimaginable purpose the Hair would have for taking Mr. Oliver with him is explained by the fact that almost 25 per cent of Oliver’s voters are Jewish.

The Hair’s big moment will be when he is allowed to address the Knesset—the Israeli Parliament. You can be assured that the hairdresser will be at the top of her game that day and not a strand will be out of place. Most of what the Prime Minister will say will be platitudes as he has neither wisdom nor insight to share. His assurances of support against the more aggressive Israeli neighbours in the Middle East will also be hollow but his easy access to the Americans gives him a bit of leverage.

The Israeli politicians can be assured that they will hear no criticism of the wall they erected against their neighbours. There will be no criticism of their obduracy in negotiating fairly with the neighbouring states. They consider the Hair a mensch.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Ontario needs a dose of reality.

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has committed. She has called for pointless by-elections in the electoral districts of Thornhill and Niagara Falls in February. It is a waste of time, money and political capital. She could have done the right thing as a politician by calling a provincial election.

But, frankly, we are never sure if the name of Ontario premier and the word politician can be used in the same sentence.

While we tend to want to stay away from winter elections, it adds a dynamic to the campaign that needs to be added at this point of time. Ontario needs a hearty dose of reality to add to the decision making.

We have to face the fact that none of the parties or their leaders is particularly appealing. It is a situation that forces us to deal with candidates on a riding-by-riding basis. It will be a novelty but each voter needs to assess the candidates in his or her electoral district and pick the one that represents them best. In other words, this is not the time to vote for some dummy just because of his or her party label.

To vote by party label is lazy, stupid and irresponsible. And in Ontario, in the present day, why would you choose any party over another? What have the political parties in this province done for you lately? They use your money as though it belongs to them. They treat you as though you are an idiot. They lie to you. They blame others for all their mistakes. Most of us have been treated better by our teenagers.

This is ‘tough love’ time folks! To hold a by-election is nothing more than a feint to distract us. We need reality. We need a full-blown election now! We need to choose the best people. And that means we have to ignore party labels. You can hardly park your vote this time with Mother Goose and the New Democrats. We did that more than a decade ago and ended up with Rae Days and a dazed electorate. And we hardly dumb enough to want a reprise of Mike Harris and years of vendettas and union-management wars. And if Wynne and her Whigs do not know what they are doing, what is the point of supporting them?

The point is that the guys and gals running for a general election have to have a label on them to get the support of a party. It is up to us to ignore the labels and ask questions and vote by our own standards. Does this person represent you or not? Even if we have to wait until May or June for an election in the sunshine, we still have to vote smarter. It would just be better if it was sooner.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Who can afford what tar sands offer?

Friday, January 17th, 2014

It was a headline in the Toronto Star Business Section: “Now or never for oilsands, executives say.”  The answer that came immediately to mind was “How about never.”

The Toronto Star story was quoting Brian Ferguson, chief executive of Cenovus Energy  and Russ Girling, chief executive of TransCanada, the pipeline people. They were speaking to a Canadian Club meeting—spreading propaganda like farmers running the manure spreaders through their fields.

And it is propaganda. People who refer to the Athabasca Tar Sands as oilsands are trying to paint a false picture. TransCanada’s Girling was quoted as saying that the tar sands are responsible for only seven per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. He says that hardly makes the tar sands the world’s biggest carbon culprit. That is an interesting claim when you realize that tar sands production is currently in a slump because of the lack of transportation for the output. Using the industry’s own figures it means that the tar sands are going to be responsible for over 20 per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions when they get into full production with access to pipeline and rail shipping capabilities.

At a time when the world is facing the challenge of trying to reduce global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, these men are talking only about the challenge of capturing market share. They are putting their greed ahead of world need. Their only objective seems to be profit.

Their rationale is that if Canada does not supply the raw materials, the Americans will source them elsewhere. This is despite the fact that most American refineries do not want tar sands material to refine. All the proposed new or reversed or revamped pipelines are designed to export the tar sands output. TransCanada’s Keystone XL is designed to feed tankers in the Texas Gulf ports. Northern Gateway and the twinned Kinder Morgan lines in British Columbia are designed to feed Chinese tankers. The Irving interests in Saint John, New Brunswick have agreed to build a tanker port to transfer the output from the Enbridge and TransCanada eastern pipelines to ocean-going tankers.

But these seemingly smart business opportunists are going to face reality one day soon. They needed to pay attention to a news clip on television the other day about the pollution in China. The announcer explained that in the nearly deserted streets of Beijing with its more than 11 million people, the smog was at a pollution level about 20 times that which is considered safe. The Chinese really do not need to add refining tar sands bitumen to that mix.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Better a random act of kindness.

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

In a rushed lead written in Twitter yesterday, there was some unnecessary meanness. It was not intended. It just appeared in the Twitter space and was carelessly left there because there were other things needing attention. What started as humour became something else. It is a very human fault.

The meanness of the comment was not apparent until watching the local Global News segment at six pm and there was a news item about teaching children about kindness. The clip brought home the feeling that we were possibly handling the problems with Stephen Harper and his Conservative henchmen and women entirely wrong. Instead of ridicule, derision, mockery, blame and criticism, we should be showing them more compassion and kindness. If nothing else, it could start an entirely new trend in Canadian politics.

An example of this new trend could start with the next time Justice Minister Peter MacKay has an announcement on the government’s campaign against cyber-bullying to make. We could counter with a very positive statement about his lovely wife and their sweet new child. That would be far better than noting that the announcement was just another series of desperate advertisements that will be used to try to re-elect the Harper government. Can you see the difference that this will make?

And we could be nicer to the Bobbsey Twins. Foreign Minister John Baird and Employment Minister Jason Kenney are stalwart members of the Harper Cabinet. And we know they are loyal to a fault. There is no point in deriding them at every turn. When Jason Kenney announced the other day that the federal government might not bother with involving the provinces in its all-important Canada Job Grant Program, we could have been polite and not laughed.

Just because the money is going to come out of the provincial funds one way or another, provinces—other than Alberta and Saskatchewan—have made derogatory remarks about the heavily advertised program. And because the federal government spends so much money advertising the program does not mean it needs to exist. Did you note though the very fine cut to the new suit Jason was wearing when he made the announcement. It is by noticing these things that will enable us to be nicer to him.

Now that we have had a chance to think about this, it is unlikely that we will always find something nice to say about the Harper government. We will do our best.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Causing Conservative Controversy.

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Is a Conservative Party uprising in the offing? No. Is there dissension in the ranks? Yes. The importance of this for their opponents is that we have to pay attention and help keep the scabs from forming over these tears in the fabric of Canadian Conservatism. Nobody wants to smooth the ride for Stephen Harper when Canada goes to the polls next year.

From the roots of the Conservative Party in Alberta to the anti-Conservative streets of Toronto, there is rebellion and the challenge to Stephen Harper is to prevent the spread of the discontent. While in Alberta, the arguments might rage between the extreme Conservatives and the more extreme Conservatives, Harper’s major challenge is to hold together the soft underbelly of the Conservative Party: the oft-mentioned ghosts of conservatism, the red Tories whom we only hear about but never see these days.

In Alberta, the fights between unreformed Reform, Conservative and Wild-Rose Party adherents are becoming the stuff of sleepless nights for Stephen Harper. Mind you, not all Albertan MPs are as narrow-minded and unreformed Reform as Rob Anders MP for Calgary West. He is facing a serious challenge for the new Calgary Signal Hill electoral district by Conservatives who are tired of him embarrassing them.

Not all government MPs are running into fights over Alberta’s new ridings but some of them are quitting the rat race rather than face another term of being treated like a trained seal by Harper and the Prime Minister’s Office lackeys. Some of these people ran for nomination and election as Conservatives thinking they could go to Ottawa and make a difference. They were not allowed to make a difference—particularly if they thought they could change Canada’s position on abortion or same-sex marriage.

Potential Liberal and New Democrat candidates are watching some Western Canadian ridings with interest as the internal Conservative fighting is leaving the ridings open to improved possibilities for other parties. The work that Justin Trudeau has done in Alberta might have been questioned by Liberals at the time but if it can produce three or four victories in that province, the effort will be worthwhile.

While the Liberals expect to do better in the Atlantic and British Columbia, the major gains will be made in Ontario and Quebec. In Quebec, the Orange Wave will disappear into a sea of Liberal red, leaving the decision on the election in Ontario. Considered the heartland of fiscal Conservatism, Ontario is the one province where Harper can ill afford arguments between the religious right, libertarians and red Tories. Maybe, we should stir the pot for him!


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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The Tory’s Hudak is now an illusionist.

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Ontario Opposition Leader Timmy Hudak has a new career in mind. He wants to be a carnival illusionist. In an op-ed opinion page article yesterday in the Toronto Star, he was proposing a Million Jobs Act. This act, as he describes it, would be a masterful illusion in the category of Houdini’s greatest stunts.

In keeping with the huckster’s patter—and very bad mathematics, Timmy tells us he can pay down our provincial debt, freeze government salaries, train workers and free companies from government regulations—while reducing their corporate taxes. Somehow, this combination of actions is supposed to create a million jobs for Ontario’s half million unemployed. Timmy seems to have a problem connecting his solutions to the results he wants.

Maybe he has never seen the musical The Music Man. The huckster in that musical knew how to sell an illusion. And it is probably only a small jump from 76 Trombones to a million jobs. The lesson for Timmy in this is that the music man was building an image for the suckers. While the reality was that he was just selling the paraphernalia, he talked only about the band that was the promise. It is what we used to call selling the sizzle, not the steak.

Timmy needs to find the sizzle. His mentor, former Conservative Premier Mike Harris, sold his Common Sense Revolution until the voters realized he never had any. Timmy needs to learn how to build a mental picture of this supposed nirvana that he is promising Ontario families. Frankly there is no gravy train for Timmy to try to end at Queen’s park. That train has already left the station.

What Ontario needs from its leaders is leadership. It seems we have all had it up to the eyebrows with hearing what political leaders such as Wynne, Hudak and Horwath do not like—besides each other. Between the federal Conservatives’ anti-Ontario bias, the manufacturing jobs lost and the incompetence of these three, Ontario voters are in a seemingly hopeless situation.

Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa is our last chance. He can still bring in a budget that makes sense. He can button up the BS about the deficit and bring out a job creating budget. He can sell the Liquor Control Board and use that capital to start the ball rolling on great projects such as the Ring of Fire and the high-speed rail corridor from Windsor to Quebec City. That takes vision. That takes leadership.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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In this star-struck age?

Monday, January 13th, 2014

It was back in the 1970s in an advertising agency boardroom in New York, the president of the Canadian Multiple Sclerosis Society was being given a preview of that year’s proposed advertising campaign for the U.S. Multiple Sclerosis Society. The ads, headlined by Frank Sinatra and similar luminaries, were slick and professional. We thanked the Americans for their generosity but turned down their offer.

The show the other day by Neil Young reminded us very much of the incident. And do not get us wrong, Neil Young is a great talent as Frank Sinatra was back in his day. The problem is that Neil Young is no expert on tar sands in the same way as Frank Sinatra was no expert on Multiple Sclerosis.

The difference was that Neil Young was using his musical talent to raise money for a court challenge by the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. These people needed help and he was helping in the only way he can—using his talent. Where he might have erred was in comparing Fort McMurray to Hiroshima. That type of hyperbole might seem effective but it is taking the argument to a level that leaves little room for sensible discussion.

What the first nations people want is for the Canadian government to come to the bargaining table. They want the government to pay attention to the environmental and health problems that are arising because of the unfettered exploitation of their lands and rivers. The government, according to Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq, is claiming that the economic benefits outweigh the aboriginal concerns.

It is good that Neil Young is concerned. All Canadians should be concerned about the exploitation of the Athabasca tar sands. It is not only a continuing concern for the environment of these sensitive lands but the bitumen dug from the sands is an environmental hazard that keeps on polluting. Whether shipped by inadequate railway cars or through jury-rigged oil pipelines at high temperatures and high pressure, bitumen is a dangerous soup of toxic chemicals. When refined, it creates mountains of carbon slag that continue to pollute.

And, in case you think the Canadian Multiple Sclerosis Society was wrong to turn down Frank Sinatra, we can tell you today that it was the right decision. The realistic campaigns over the years for Multiple Sclerosis have made the society the third best known health charity in Canada. The society is a leader in the world-wide fight to end multiple sclerosis. Progress is being made.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Choose early, repent longer.

Sunday, January 12th, 2014

It really is foolish. There was a commentary the other day by Bob Hepburn of the Toronto Star that Toronto liberals are in a quandary about this year’s mayoralty race in their city. Bob is a bit early in suggesting that liberals need to make any decision. The problem for them is not to jump into this or that campaign. Their challenge is to find the right candidate for liberal-minded voters to support.

There is not one of the present or suspected candidates at this time who could meet any criteria for liberal support. Liberals might be losing organizational and fund-raising time but there is still plenty of time to field a better candidate for mayor.

And if you cannot find the perfect candidate by Labour Day, you can make some decisions. You can look at the situation in early September and you will have a darn good idea of who is going to win. If it is someone you can live with for the next four years, you can relax. You can save your funding and energy for the 2015 federal election—the one with important issues to fight.

If September comes and it looks like Ford is going to win, you have a problem. You better get to work for the one candidate who might beat him. A do-nothing Olivia Chow could be a better alternative to a destructive Rob Ford. That would be a non-liberal choice but it would save the city from further embarrassment. With Stintz, you have to hold your nose and hustle. She would seem like a breath of fresh air after Ford. Even John Tory might be past his best-before date but Toronto could relax a bit with four years of Tory.

But the problem is the city would go nowhere with any of those alternatives. Gridlock would continue to strangle a city without leadership. There would be no progress on transportation or serious infrastructure needs. The city would be spending much of its time on its knees at Queen’s Park and in Ottawa.

Toronto needs leadership. That is not what the usual suspects are offering. Leadership is a vision, a future, a city that knows where it is going. Those misfits and office-holders we seem stuck with on council should have little choice but to follow.

The ideal candidate for Toronto is a liberal. For Toronto is a liberal city. It is a melange of the old and the new. It looks to the future, not the past. It believes rather than destroys. It sets high standards. It can see the better future.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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