Archive for June, 2014

Progressives should be pleased, not pugilistic.

Friday, June 20th, 2014

Where does a person who poses as a progressive Liberal get off saying other political bloggers are ‘damn fools’? More than one blogger called correctly for the Liberal majority on June 12. Babel-on-the-Bay forecast a Liberal majority government in Ontario on June 6. That was no fluke. It was based on experience. Studying and using many polling techniques over the years helps but you also have to have an instinct for how people react and respond to mass stimuli. Babel-on-the-Bay is rarely far from the mark.

This not to say we did not make an interesting mistake in our forecast. We over-estimated the losses of the New Democrats. We were influenced heavily by the feelings of New Democrat supporters in Toronto. Their anger cost the New Democrats three of their key seats in that city. If Toronto New Democrats have their way at the next New Democrat convention, Leader Andrea Horwath will be toast.

It was hardly a surprise that the pollsters were also getting a reading on that dissatisfaction with Horwath and her campaign. If a 100 per cent of the possible voters in Ontario went to the polls, it is likely that the New Democrats would have been reduced to below 15 per cent of the popular vote and seats. The fact only 52 per cent of eligible voters turned out to vote saved Horwath.

In the end it was Conservative Leader Tim Hudak who carried the can for the return of a Liberal majority. Elections are about success and failure. In simple terms for every action there must to be an equal and opposite reaction. The damaged Conservatives yielded the win to the Liberals.

But this does not explain Mr. Kinsella using his blog to call people liars. The bald statement that “anyone who said they saw Ontario’s majority Liberal before last Thursday was a damn liar…” is overreaching. It is also rude. It is also surprising from someone who purports to know something about slander and libel.

While Mr. Kinsell demanded an apology the last time Babel-on-the-Bay mentioned his name, maybe he would like to apologize to us this time. It is his option. We apologized promptly last time because we had said he made money from Sun Media. Since he told us he did not, we apologized. We might have been puzzled that he would do that for free but here we do this blog for free and have a lot of fun at it.

As usual, we always ask that you please keep the e-mails coming…except from New Democrats with no sense of humour!

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Gateway gets the Go.

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

So who is surprised? Prime Minister Stephen Harper has given Canadians the finger and approved the Northern Gateway pipeline to be built by Enbridge from Bruderheim, Alberta to Kitimat, B.C. The rhetoric will rage into the election next year. While we argue, three other pipelines will take up the task—and that is not counting the Keystone XL fiasco running south to the Texas tanker ports.

The only problem for the public is to learn the warning signs if they are being conned in regard to the controversy. The best indicator of bias is the language people use to make their case. These pipelines might have once carried natural gas or crude oil but the intent today of the pipelines—Keystone XL, Enbridge’s Line 9 through Toronto, TransCanada’s Energy East and Kinder Morgan—is to push heated and diluted bitumen at high pressure to its destination. That destination is usually an oil tanker because most Canadian oil refineries do not want the pollution problems with refining bitumen.

By no stretch of the imagination is bitumen oil. By removing impurities and much of the carbon molecules, bitumen can be refined into synthetic crude oil. It is not heavy oil, nor is it petroleum (petroleum is a product of crude oil). Nor is bitumen a made-up word such as ‘dilbit.’ It has to be labelled what it is because first-responders to a spill have to know what it is they have to do to contain it.

The reason why environmentalists go ape over bitumen is because it starts life with environmental damage and continues that damage until the carbon settles back into the earth and the process starts over. Currently washing bitumen out of tar sands uses massive amounts of hot water. This is disposed of in settling tanks in Alberta that leech chemicals into the ground water, the streams and rivers of our north country. This disposal does nobody any good.

The next step is to mix the bitumen with a polymer or other accelerant, heat it and then push it at high pressure through a pipeline that might have been originally built for natural gas or light crude oil. A sensible person does not suggest there “might” be a spill.” They simply say: “When there is a spill.” If the spill is on land, the lighter chemicals in the bitumen soup go into the ground water and the heavy stuff stays on the surface. In water, that process reverses. The bitumen gradually sinks to the bottom and you have an impossible clean-up problem and a lot of dead fish.

There is a businessman who is worried about a tanker spill in the ecologically sensitive coastal waters around Kitimat and he wants to build a large refinery and refine the bitumen in Kitimat. This is an interesting idea as the amount of refining needed for all that bitumen and the prevailing winds would produce a carbon footprint that would probably make Prince George and Edmonton uninhabitable within five years.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Ontario voters reject economists.

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

Watching economist Don Drummond on Tom Clark’s Global Television show the other day, you could understand why Ontario does not elect economists. Conservative Leader Timmy Hudak is an economist (?) and we are seeing the back of him. And people like Drummond need not apply.

Economics itself is not the dismal science. It is more the dismal dialogue of those who practice such a dark art. Drummond did not appear to offer anything positive. And, for that matter, neither did Timmy Hudak! It is not like that rare event of finding a bank manager with a sense of humour. You do your best to keep that one with you.

We mention bank managers by way of reintroducing Charles Sousa. We fully expect that Premier Kathleen Wynne is going to keep the Mississauga MPP on as Finance Minister. This is not because of Charles’ brilliance or particularly outstanding record. He just happens to be one of the members of the newly enlarged Liberal caucus at Queen’s Park with a background in banking. He has the dour demeanour of a banker but really is a nice guy when you get him away from behind a desk.

But has he blown all his humanitarian credentials in the left-wing budget he is supposed to reintroduce in a couple weeks? Does he have to stop there? Is there some code that says if he does something nice this year, he has to screw us next year? And hey, is that not what you are supposed to do when your party has a majority and three years before facing the next election?

Charles needs to notice that the Liberals won this election with a decidedly left-wing bent to their political promises. Ms. Wynne has positioned her party as doing things for people, not to people. It behoves Charles to continue to follow through on that train.

This will take creative thinking. The Liberals have made some expensive promises and Charles has to make sure that these promises are kept, pain and payment free. To do this, he needs help. He needs to optimize proved revenue sources. He needs more revenue from alcohol, casinos, entertainment and fun. Sure he can squeeze a few more dollars out of the high wage earners and corporations but the real revenues are in sin taxes.

Think of it Charles, you can give Woodbine Entertainment that casino it wants and thumb your nose at Toronto Council. Kanata, outside of Ottawa needs a casino resort also. You will be a hero if these places are in operation before the next election.

And how would you like to double your revenue on alcohol? We will save that gem for another day.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

They are after our voting method again.

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

It is a knee-jerk reaction after every election these days. It is when people realize that the winning party did not get 50 per cent of the vote. They complain because they think all parties should get seats in the legislature according to their share of the vote. And, of course, they do not.

It is because we North Americans still believe in a voting system that is called First-Past-the-Post. It is a very old and democratic system of electing representatives to represent us. We have not found a replacement for it that people understand as easily, or can meet their needs as well. It would be great to have run-off elections in some circumstances but nobody seems to want to pay for that.

The basic problem with the complainers is that they want to vote for a party instead of a candidate. In First-Past-the-Post, you can do both. If you do not have the time to meet or hear what your local candidate has to say, you can simply vote for the party of your choice. Our system is very accommodating that way. There is a widely held belief that in some ridings a party can run the village idiot and this person will win, simply because of the party he or she represents. That is the voters’ right.

Frankly, it has always been our impression that if all the voters in Babel met and talked at any length with the current Member of Parliament, he could not be elected dogcatcher. He has served repeated terms because of his party and name recognition and not because of his contribution in our nation’s parliament. He has never done anything in Ottawa worth the expense of sending him there.

And why should we send anyone to Ottawa just to vote for every stupid, ideological action of his or her political party?

And that is why we have been so opposed to people proposing proportional representation for Canada and the provinces. We need better representation in Ottawa than proportional representation provides. We need people chosen by the voters, not by the political parties. We need people who think about the needs of the voters, not the needs of their party. We desperately need people in parliament and our legislatures who represent the voters, not a party and its leader.

Democracy is a fragile form of government and we have got to protect it. We have to fight any threatened encroachment of our rights as citizens. We can trust no one with our rights and freedoms but ourselves.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Crockatt keeps the C.R.A.P. coming.

Monday, June 16th, 2014

Calgary Centre Member of Parliament Joan Crockatt has more CRAP for us than we suspected. It seems to prove that she is really in the running for the best CRAP of the Year Award. The former journalist has the advantage that she can disseminate CRAP on behalf of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources.

Fondly referred to as Crappies, CRAP Awards are named after the political practice of sending out news releases that are nothing more than Consolidated Reports on Approved Policies (CRAP). CRAP is the result of political party leaders not having the time to approve all the releases and speeches made by the members of their caucus and as long as the CRAP follows the guidelines of previously approved policies, they do not need approval. MPs are graded by the Leader’s office as to how well they stay within the approved guidelines.

The Best CRAP of the Year Award is saved for the politician sending out the best news release or making the most original speech based on a good CRAP.

Crockatt’s latest CRAP from the Natural Resources Committee tells us that Canada’s oil and gas industry has extended our average life spans. Not only that but an expert witness, University of Toronto geography professor Pierre Desrochers, assured the Commons Committee that every indicator of human well-being improved because we use carbon fuels. His theory is that we should share the benefits of our oil and gas with the rest of the world—“especially developing economies.”

Since there is no question but the Industrial Revolution of the mid 1700s benefitted from the ready availability of coal to power the invention of steam engines, you have to admit that the coal had benefit. It also created lots of pollution. Oil and gas came into common use later in the 1800s. That also created pollution but it also allowed science to move forward as more human labour was taken over by machines.

But since the Harper Conservatives are not interested in problems created by pollution or in solutions offered by science, they would much rather export oil and gas to developing nations that do not care about science or pollution either.

It is interesting to note that Crockatt tells us of the advice of one bureaucrat to the parliamentary committee was that Canada has an economic opportunity (with Alberta’s tar sands) but needs to act quickly. He might be right.

Ms. Crockatt’s CRAP is certainly earning her attention. She will probably continue to bury us in CRAP until the federal election next year.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Babel’s bewildered newbie MPP.

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

Some of the most surprised Liberal partisans in the recent Ontario election were here in Babel. Nobody, including the Liberal candidate, expected her to win the election. She obviously thought she was the traditional sacrificial lamb. She had been thrown into the fray after the election had been called and did not even have to meet the riding supporters at an uncontested nominating convention.

While there has been some bad blood between the Liberal federal and provincial riding associations, we would all have got behind the candidate just to stick it to the Conservative incumbent. We are also facing a major challenge next year with two new federal ridings and we need the campaigning practice and could use the provincial campaign as a run-up. That did not happen because of the ineptness of the local Whigs who run the provincial association.

But even Babel-on-the-Bay was caught flat-footed when we realized why the “sacrificial” candidate was going to win. The problem with this riding is mainly the south end of Barrie where much of the new housing has been built. Over the past decade, it has brought in more than 40,000 new voters with whom it is extremely hard to communicate. Many of these people head towards Toronto every working day and they have little loyalty, interest or involvement in their community.

What you have to do to overcome the communications problem is a very strong ground game. It means you need hundreds of trained and motivated canvassers, a carefully crafted build-up of literature, good feedback and analysis and a very strong get-out-the-vote program for both advance polls and election day. Babel does not see campaigns such as that very often. The last effort that came close was a mayoralty campaign four years ago (that was won easily), it just did not fit the Babel mould.

What we missed in dismissing Babel’s chances of being won by a Liberal this time was the lack of an occupation analysis in the south end of town. We knew from personal canvassing experience that there quite a few nurses, teachers and other civil servants living there but it was not until we were into the campaign that Conservative Leader Timmy Hudak made his colossal gaff in saying he would get rid of 100,000 provincial employees. Nobody in our local Liberal campaign realized that he had just given a million civil servants good reason to vote against him. Luckily there were enough here in Babel to defeat the incumbent Conservative MPP. They did not need Liberals urging them to get out and vote.

We would congratulate our new MPP but we have never had the opportunity to meet her.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

What was the Hair doing with that Aussie?

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

We wrote recently that Prime Minister Stephen Harper had no friends. That was a lie. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott dropped by early last week and he and his friend Stephen Harper had a love-in. The Hair has to like Abbott, he is the only elected Commonwealth leader further to the political right than Canada’s prime minister. Like many Aussies, Abbott is a Libertarian, misogynist racist but then nobody is perfect.

Please do not assume that we have any apprehensions about Australians. There are no people with whom we would rather spend time drinking beer with than Aussies. They are great fun. They are industrious. They are tough. They are great story tellers.

But you have to empathize with their women. Aussie men can often act as sexist louts. Their treatment of the Australian aboriginals makes us look downright generous to our first nations. It is important to bear in mind that Australia got its start as a penal colony for Great Britain. Aussies can often be very proud of their linage from this cutpurse or that forger. The problem with Canada is that the people who settled this land either came here because they were bribed to or, at least, came of their own free will.

If you are confused by the Australian Prime Minister being both a monarchist and head of Australia’s Liberal Party, you should be aware that the name of the party was picked by the Institute of Public Affairs in Australia in 1944 when they needed a replacement for the white-supremacist fascists of the Australia First Party. The Liberal Party in Australia is to the right of that country’s Conservative Party. It would be like Canada’s right-wing Fraser Institute creating the Conservative Party of Canada. Come to think of it, did they?

This is not to suggest that the Hair’s friend Mr. Abbott is all that popular back home. Most Aussie friends asked about him tend to scream a lot about “that bastard” and then become thankfully incoherent. He is not expected to enjoy as long a tenure as Prime Minister as the more subtle Mr. Harper.

One of the first things Mr. Abbott did when he became Prime Minister down under was to cancel the carbon tax and anything else environmental that denied business the right to rape and pollute at will. He even scrapped Australia’s department of climate change in case it ever found out anything. His generous tax cuts for corporations make the Hair look like a left-wing cheapskate.

The Hair should pick his friends more carefully.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Which half of Ontario voters voted?

Friday, June 13th, 2014

It is sure getting tough for a person to accurately forecast election results. Watching Tom Clark during the excellent election night coverage by Global Television, he asked a lovely looking communications consultant on Ms. Wynne’s team if she was surprised at the strong showing of the Liberals. As a long time insider in election campaigns, we were amazed when the young apparatchik confessed that she had no idea that the Liberals would get a majority. That was unbelievable.

It has always been easy to be wrong by two or three per cent, but a person in that position should have been fully prepared for the results. Hell, she could have been a regular reader of Babel-on-the-Bay and she would have been right on top of things. Babel-on-the-Bay has never been wrong in its forecasting. Sure we lost a loonie to a péquiste in the recent Quebec election because we forecast that the CAQ would not get more than 20 per cent of the vote. We paid the loonie begrudgingly when the CAQ came in at 22 per cent.

But what puzzled us in the preliminary figures last night was the relative strength of the Ontario New Democrats. They won seats in the Windsor area that showed more dissatisfaction in that part of the Province than expected. The Liberals need to take a hard look at that area and address some of the concerns more thoroughly.

It is also obvious that the NDP are in for tough times in Toronto. Without their strong union support across the downtown, the Liberals are going to continue to eat their lunch. The preliminary results showed the Liberal squeaker in Thornhill. We will hope that holds so that we can enjoy putting the screws to a poker buddy who lives in Thornhill and insisted on voting for the Conservative.

While it has never been a secret how we felt about Kathleen Wynne, we thought her speech last night was warm and to the point. It was hardly great as speeches go but why waste rhetoric when it is not needed.

Conversely, the Pillsbury Dough Girl, Andrea Horwath was too long and she forgot to resign. We will have to be patient for that. Timmy Hudak was surprisingly gracious in his swan song but why should he not?

But the Liberals have earned congratulations. We will put their feet to the fire on being progressive tomorrow,

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Did you show your voting licence?

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Tomorrow, we can bemoan the poor turnout of voters. This Ontario election will only serve to prove it is getting worse. Too many people have disconnected from the basics of our democracy. The only problem is that we are going about the solution the wrong way. We have got to stop urging the wrong people to vote. If you had to have a licence to vote, more people would participate.

“Vote as you wish, but vote” is a dumb slogan. We hardly need more ignorant people to vote. Not everyone is a political science major and not everyone pays attention to the news media, reads political propaganda or meets their candidate. And just because somebody is stupid does not mean they are not entitled to vote.

But if you had to prove your right to vote and prove you are paying a reasonable level of attention to what is going on around you, you should get a licence to vote. It would save a huge amount of money for the political parties as they would only pester the licensed voters. The licensed voters on your block would lord it over the unlicensed. Mothers would want their children to not only be doctors and lawyers but also licensed voters.

If you just once worked in an election as a deputy returning officer or poll clerk, you would realize the wisdom of this. If you have looked at what people do to ballots, the scrawled comments, the funny marks, you would understand that exercising the franchise is only one step in the process. You really need to know what you are doing.

Just think of the difference it would make if politicians knew that people were really listening. It might end the simplistic, meaningless slogans. It would mean that politicians would have to learn how to add up their promises. They could actually talk to voters instead of a claque of supporters bussed in for the event to impress the news media. It would produce intelligent questions from an attuned audience.

And, we can start young. It would be a key event with becoming an adult. Like the driver’s licence you got at 16, your voting licence would be the big event of 19. We could also start taking away the licences from the failing minds of seniors who know they have to vote but have forgotten why.

The only problem though is that parties in power such as the Conservatives would try to change the licencing law to ensure that only Conservative voters are licenced. That would certainly simplify things.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Third party election advertisers go too far.

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

There are 34 registered third party advertisers in the current Ontario election. In a perfect world, there would be none. There are more than enough lies emanating from the political parties involved in the election, why do we need more? Is the ability to pay the only criteria to allow people to try to influence the outcome of the election?

And, the truth be told, we should lump the pollsters in with the third party advertisers. They should all be banned and allow Ontario voters to listen to the politicians and make their own decisions.

Mind you there is one television commercial running that is probably the best political ad directed at Canadians we have ever seen. It is the one with hockey players in the background and stark red and black banners in the foreground. You never remember the advertiser’s name but it was certainly damning the Hudak PCs. That commercial should have been run by the Liberals instead of the insipid attack ads the party has been running.

Thankfully, it all ends tonight. You can prepare yourself for one final blast with the television news and then it is shut down. The day before election day and on election day itself, Ontario law forbids partisan advertising.

Whether pollsters are partisan is an ongoing argument. Some of them are certainly suspect. They usually start out the campaign with widely divergent views but come closer to the truth as it becomes apparent later in the campaign. It is particularly amusing to see the pollsters who at first assured you that the PCs where way out ahead of the pack change their minds later in the campaign. As things stand today, these early Tory supporters are hedging their bets and conceding a very close election.

It is when pollsters and third party advertisers work together that we really should suspect something. Telephone calls in Barrie yesterday were telling people that automated telephone surveys in that city show the Liberal candidate leading and the PC candidate second. The support was supposed to be 30 per cent to 28 per cent.

If that is the case in Barrie, we can expect a much larger Liberal majority for Ontario than we have already called. And the best news of all is that the Tories will be looking for a new leader as well as the New Democrats.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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