Archive for April, 2014

Get off the dime Justin.

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

Liberals are waiting for Leader Justin Trudeau to act and every day he dithers is another day when the party is losing sight of the objective. You can hardly expect everyone to be coming to the aid of the party when Justin lies to it. When he was chosen leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, he made the promise of no interference in riding nominations. He has not kept his word.

The breaking point was Trinity-Spadina riding in Toronto. Trudeau appointee David MacNaughton said that former candidate Christine McInnes could not run there in the upcoming by-election. That is not David MacNaughton’s decision to make. He was interfering in a Liberal Party internal matter. We stopped appointing dictators in the party quite some time ago.

But Justin Trudeau backed his underling. He supported MacNaughton’s stupid order. There has been discussion of supposed bullying of party supporters and about where certain star candidates might run in the 2015 election but these discussions are irrelevant. They are not matters demanding the attention of the party leader. These might be matters of importance to someone who wishes to micro-manage his political party but Justin Trudeau is supposed to be smarter than that.

As things stand now, Trudeau has taken time off his busy schedule to be seen promoting Toronto Councillor Adam Vaughan as a prospective candidate in Trinity-Spadina. Usually party leaders have the good grace to wait until a candidate has won the nomination to congratulate him on being the party’s candidate.

What is happening now is that the muttering around the party is growing. There is little sympathy for David MacNaughton’s role with the party and he will find less and less support for his advice. It could destroy his effectiveness in preparation and execution of the party strategy next year.

This disruption in Trinity-Spadina also bodes ominously for the by-election. While the new Member of Parliament will sit for less than a year before the 2015 general election, it is in the centre of Toronto where the Liberals absolutely have to win every seat. To give New Democrat candidate Joe Cressy a free pass to parliament puts him in a position to be a spoiler next year. The party will blame MacNaughton and their leader.

Justin Trudeau can ill afford an ineffective Ontario campaign organization. Ontario is the backbone of the Liberal Party. Every win in Ontario is a step to winning the election.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Ontario’s ‘overly ambitious’ gaming.

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

The recent audit report on Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG) proves once again that you should not audit something you do not understand. Gaming is based on promises of riches. It takes a gamer to understand that not everybody can win.

And you are hardly going to win when the politicians interfere with the promises. You cannot win when the reins are handed to civil servants. When Premier Kathleen Wynne fired Postmedia newspaper head Paul Godfrey as chair of OLG a year ago, it should have been understood that all bets were off. In gaming terms the dice had been thrown off the craps table. Wynne thought she was making Godfrey the scapegoat for what was going to happen.

But politicians have to pay for their own mistakes. And this was a big one. Godfrey’s plan was going to double OLG revenues for the province. That plan was worth almost $2 billion a year and it could have been done. It just needed a gamer such as Paul to carry it off. He was willing to brazen it out. He could have stared down the unrealistic dreams of the horse breeders. He could have talked turkey with foolish municipal politicians. One thing you learn in gaming, everyone has their price.

The one thing that auditors should talk about is money. That is their job. You verify the receipts, you check the expenses, you find out what is still in the bank. It is hardly the role of an auditor to tell you your plans are ‘overly optimistic.’ Why an auditor is even reporting on a now dead modernization plan for OLG is ‘problematical.’

That is just a small bonus for Wynne rivals Horwath and Hudak. Does an auditor time these things for the eve of an election?

The point is that the OLG is in trouble. It is ill-run, kicked around by politicians and on a down-hill slide unless somebody knowledgeable gets control of the situation. The big money lotteries are losing traction and support, the casinos are out of control as they scramble to meet business objectives and there is no growth offered in the planning.

The casinos are of special concern as they are inflicted with the cross control of two major provincial government departments as well as the interim civil service managers at OLG. The only problem is that the casino professionals who are supposed to be under the control of all these civil servants are a hell of a lot smarter than their bosses.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

The people trump the politicos.

Monday, April 28th, 2014

When the Supreme Court ruled the other day on Prime Minister Harper’s questions about changing the Senate, the answer was unanimous. It was also the answer that most people expected. For the House of Commons to make substantive changes in the Senate requires the approval of the provinces and of the Senate itself.

But the Supreme Court ruling left out the obvious alternative. The judges could not give that answer. The reason it was ignored is that the court can only rule on existing law, it cannot make law. That was why the Supreme Court could not say that the people can make the constitutional decisions. That is unwritten law.

To rule on the alternative, the court would first have to spend time on the question: Is Canada a democracy? The fact that most Canadians believe their country is a democracy would have a strong influence on the opinion. And if Canada is a democracy then the citizen body has the right to decide matters of general concern. That is what has been the concept of democracy since the time of the city states of Greece. That is also why Canada has had national referenda.

While there are some who would argue that Canada is an indirect democracy, with power vested in our elected governments at the provincial and federal level, the people have the residual right to retake the power. That can be through referral or rebellion but being Canadian we will probably just opt for agreement by the provinces.

And this is the time for action. Canada will celebrate 150 years of nationhood in 2017. It is time that we decided what type of a country we want to be. It is time we decided how we want to be governed. We need to make decisions about the role of England and its monarchy in our multi-cultural country. We need to assure Quebec of its long term role in a richer, successful bi-lingual country. We need to better define the role of our provincial governments in a vibrant, progressive country. We need to protect the differences as well as the needs of our peoples from coast to coast. We need to recognize the aspirations of our aboriginal population.

This will require a constitutional conference. And participants in that conference need to be elected. It will take time. It needs the good will of all. And constitutional decisions need to be put forward in a national referendum. It can be done.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Hair today, gone tomorrow.

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

It seems the Hair is out of step with Canadians. He is constantly rebuked by the Supreme Court, abused by his friends in the Senate, let down by his caucus, betrayed by underlings and his cabinet might all be vying for his job. As he said at Jim Flaherty’s funeral, not even his friends like him. It is so bad that the Hair is again contemplating his future. Does he even have one?

The Hair has reason to be deeply troubled. Someone needs to take this boy in hand and show him the difference between love and reality. He has walked away from his mentors such as Preston Manning and Tom Flanagan. His dream of a Triple-‘E’ Senate has crashed and burned. He cannot even give away a free trade deal in today’s protectionist world. His secret formula for winning the next election—the supposed Fair Election Act—has lost traction and credibility. His posturing as a world leader over the Ukraine has fallen flat. U.S. President Obama has kissed him off along with his Keystone pipeline plans for shipping Alberta bitumen.

And the Supreme Court has not only embarrassed him again and again but he is still up against it with the nation’s courtesans. We have to remember that politicians are not the only people who want to screw us for profit. As the Supreme’s pointed out, hookers also have rights. The clock is ticking and the Hair has less than a year to tell his rabid religious right supporters what he proposes to do about the rights of whores.

The Hair and his hairdresser would flee the country on his Airbus A310 but everyone he might visit is too busy for him these days. These things do have to be arranged in advance you know. Entertaining the Hair is an expensive proposition.

In musing last October about the possibility of the Hair resigning at his party’s Halloween convention, we saw it as more of a legacy question. Did he or did he not feel he had made an indelible mark on Canada?

Our guess was that he did not feel satisfied. And he still has more to apologize for than to crow about. His resource-based economic vision of Canada is a failure. His extremist right-wing supporters feel he has betrayed them. And no matter how he tries to manipulate elections, he has little hope of forcing the votes his way. Even the gerrymandering of this recent riding distribution has just led to fights within his party.

He could be sitting there in Ottawa right now, considering his mortality, thinking of his future. Does the Hair have a future?

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

The fat lady has yet to sing.

Saturday, April 26th, 2014

Public opinion polls can never replace voting. And the provincial election is not going to happen until New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath says it will. So, you might as well cool it. There will be lots more promises made and polls taken before the voters make the decision. Ontario voters might be conflicted and confused but they are not too complex.

And how much choice do they really have? If a born-again conservative gets to listen to Tiny Tim Hudak, he or she will realize that jumping off a cliff is also an option. It is when you know that Timmy is not even a reasonable clone of former Premier Mike Harris, that you understand the desperation. The last Ontario election was a trip downhill for Timmy and his troopers. If his campaign team gets smart this time and sends him on a family safari in Africa during the campaign, the Tories might have a chance.

Nobody knows where to send New Democrat Andrea Horwath. She will have the usual pocketful of goodies to scatter during the campaign but without a theme or focus, her campaign will be a yawning waste of time and money. She reminds voters of the Pillsbury dough boy. No matter where you poke her, all you are going to get is a giggle.

And speaking of giggles, have you met Ontario’s most earnest premier? In a series of convoluted backroom deals at the former Maple Leaf Gardens last year, she became leader of the Ontario Liberals and head of our provincial government. She has been clinging to power ever since. And the good ship Liberal has been sailing some stormy seas over that time.

But she has met the challenge with a constant series of financial promises that would be a stretch for the federal budget. She has been noted for her street scene commercials. If she could not get the police to close those roads for her, she would be road kill by now. Maybe she can get better writers and producers for her election campaign commercials.

But the truth is that if Ontario voters were all forced to go to the polls today to elect a new legislative assembly, most of us would be inclined to mark our ballot for “None of the above.” It might be time to go back to voting for the person in our riding who best represents us and our concerns. We could at least send some people we like to represent us at Queen’s Park.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Is public speaking a dying art?

Friday, April 25th, 2014

Listening to a political speech the other day was a disappointing experience. The speech was by someone who already had our vote. You just wished he cared enough about the audience and his speech to do it properly.

And a proper speech is not that difficult. It takes preparation and since he had taken the time to write his speech ahead it was obvious that he felt a level of obligation to his audience. And if he had thought to check on things ahead, he would also have had a lectern for his notes and a working microphone.

Did we mention that the speaker was paying for the event? Mind you, that crowd would be good for well over $20,000 in donations and would produce some key campaign workers. It was his campaign kick-off for re-election.

It would have been a better kick-off if the speech had been better organized. Sure the speech gave the obligatory thanks for the support last time, the excuses for what went wrong in the first term and the crowing about possible successes, reasons why some things did not work as planned and the high hopes for the next term. It was no barn burner. It was missing many of the ingredients that can take a speech from boring to a hit.

To be fair, the speech touched on a few notes to which the crowd was responsive. He was obviously chagrined by council’s unthinking sweeping out of town of people on lower incomes and he made the point strongly that he did not want his city to just be a bedroom community for the city down the highway. These points hit a deeper chord.

Maybe that was is good as you need to be to be a small town mayor. At the same time, there is no reason not to be better. When teaching public speaking there are only two texts that we use: Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (specifically, Mark Antony’s funeral oration)and Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Those texts and a willing student can work wonders

And it is more than just words. A great speech builds. It comes in layers. It creates images. It elicits nods of agreement. It uses the pull of power phrases. It weaves in ever greater crescendos. It evokes sounds of appreciation and spontaneous applause. This is because it involves the listeners, conscripts them and wins deeper and deeper levels of commitment. And it can create the actions that you want from them. Because without that success, what is the point of the effort?

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Rogers discovers customers.

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

Some Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) hearings remind us of acts from Shakespeare’s MacBeth. You can count on the weird sisters—commonly referred to as witches—to be there. You know them as Bell Canada, Rogers and Telus. And the CRTC is their cauldron of witches’ brew. It used to be that the CRTC was the master and the witches were the supplicants. Mr. Harper’s appointments have changed that. The witches now seem to be stage managing those plays.

That was why it was so funny the other day to read in the newspaper how the new Rogers Chief Executive Officer Guy Laurence, former head of Vodafone in England, is going to change things by being nice to customers. That will be a novelty. The witches have been in a race for the bottom in customer relations across Canada for years.

What is even funnier is that this silly Brit is telling us he is going to spruce up Hockey Night in Canada. And the best of bloody luck to him! First of all, Harper cuts CBC budgets some more and then Rogers mugs the peoples’ network to steal Hockey Night.

Laurence also wishfully told Rogers’ shareholders last week that after examining Rogers’ Canadian assets for the past three months, he has all the answers.

Frankly we always admired the late Ted Rogers. Ted’s genius in creating the Rogers phenomenon is a classic story of smart marketing. It was just Ted’s customer relations that was clueless. For years the company has been functioning behind a wall of what must be minimum wage call centres. It has no feel for the reality of the marketplace or its customers’ concerns.

When moving a few years ago, we called Rogers’ call centre and asked the price of a specific television-Internet package. The answer came back promptly that the cost would be $190 plus taxes per month. When we got over our sticker price shock we asked why. The answer we found later was that, where we were moving, Rogers had a lock on the cable access—nobody else was allowed to touch it. And then we found that Bell was offering Fibe television in the building and if we wanted to be guinea pigs for this new ultra high frequency digital subscriber line service, we could get it for half Rogers’ price. We came home to Bell. (To our regret of course but that is another story.)

We do hope that when Mr. Laurence attended the right schools in England that he paid full attention to Shakespeare’s tales of MacBeth. They might be salutary.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Mac’s Convenience should sue The Beer Store.

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Why not cut to the chase? The Beer Store advertising that is currently running on television is slandering every convenience store in Ontario. It is wrong. It is unfair. It should be stopped. If it takes a lawsuit: so what? What do you think lawyers are for?

Sure we have some disreputable convenience stores. Just because convenience stores can be allowed to sell cigarettes does not mean that all would be suitable to sell beer and wine. There have to be some standards and licensing requirements.

And speaking of standards, when was the last time Brewers’ Warehousing took a look at some of the disreputable beer stores in Ontario. The company probably gets complaints every day about the Anne Street store in Barrie and they have never done anything about it. Is that Beer Store staff adverse to swabbing the floor occasionally so that the customers do not get stuck to it?

When the Beer Store President Ted Moroz brags to the media about Ontario’s world-class beer retailing, it is enough to make you choke up your Molson. When some idiot at Queen’s Park decided that Brewers’ Warehousing would be bottle and can recycling headquarters for the province, recycling was set back 50 years.

Mind you those geniuses at Brewers’ Warehousing seem to know more about recycling than they do about marketing or merchandising. Marketing is a foreign language to these people. Their idea of merchandising goes as far as offering some cheap sports oriented beer gear. When it comes to beer merchandising, you can forget it. Nobody shops at a Beer Store. You get in, get your predetermined order and get out as fast as you can. And no gentleman asks a lady go to the Beer Store for him.

You have to admire the current campaign the Toronto Star is running against Ontario’s foreign-owned beer monopoly. Poor Martin Regg Cohn really has to stretch to come up with something new to write about it. If the Star editors would just turn Rosie DiManno loose on them they would have the beer monopoly screaming uncle in no time.

In Regg Cohn’s latest 1000 words on the subject, he made the point that the real objective here is “convenience.” Our convenience stores are not going to sell beer cheaper or even sell as many two-fours. And we might have to put some convenience stores out of business if they do not follow the rules. Too bad we cannot do that to the beer stores that are doing a rotten job.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Rt. Hon. Herb Gray, P.C., C.C., Q.C. 1931 – 2014

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Herb Gray was smart, funny, wise, impish, a mentor and a friend. And it was a friendship that lasted over 50 years. We met over copy he had sent to the then party publication Liberal Action in the early 1960s. He had just been elected to parliament in Windsor West and he quickly established himself as one of the leading left-wing thinkers in the party. He was our maven.

Herb set some amazing records in Ottawa. He served continuously in Parliament for more than 39 years. He was in parliament during the time of eight different prime ministers. He served in many cabinet portfolios. He served as Leader of the Opposition. He was Deputy Prime Minister. He was respected on all sides of the House.

He must have been on his honeymoon when he brought Sharon to a party meeting at Trent University in 1967. She charmed us all.

Herb served his Canada. He earned his honours. His was a good life.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

Comments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

The return of the F-35 Lightning.

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

We thought the aircraft deal was dead. After months free of hype for the purchase of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning (II), we thought the civil servants, the military and the Harper government had finally put finis on buying that aircraft. Maybe that was only until they are sending some of our few F-18 Hornets in harms way to help Ukraine.

If those aging Hornets start shooting at someone who can shoot back, we are going to be in immediate need of some new aircraft. It turns out that in Ottawa the wheels are greased for the return of the totally inadequate Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning. The government appears to be delaying the announcement of the return as they debate how to handle the new price tag of US$92 million per aircraft instead of the original US$50 million

But the reason you sometimes hear the F-35 called the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is because the entire plan is to keep the United States in control. The plan is to have all American allies not only pay dues to be members of the American Flying Club but to keep on paying throughout the life cycle of the aircraft. And Stephen Harper and his friends so dearly want to be members of the American’s club.

It matters little that the F-35 is the wrong type of aircraft for Canada’s needs. Membership in the club is more important. This is also despite the Americans refusing to release the software needed to repair the aircraft. The Americans want to keep control by keeping the software from their allies. And, in case our software experts crack the code, we will find that the software we get is not the same nor as complete as the Americans use in their own aircraft—so much for working together.

If we really want an American aircraft, we should only consider buying the F-22 Raptor. This aircraft is much faster and is a twin engine aircraft with the range to cover our north. The F-35 cannot cross our Arctic without being refuelled. And nobody has come up with stealth aircraft for refuelling.

Mind you, the Americans are refusing to sell any F-22 Raptors to their allies. For some reason, they want to keep this really stealthy and sophisticated aircraft to themselves. For treatment such as this Canada cancelled the Avro C-105 Arrow!

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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