Archive for July, 2014

The lies we sew come back to haunt.

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Having at one time tried swimming off the government dock at Cold Lake, Alberta, we can assure you that the lake is accurately named, year ‘round. There is not much in the way of entertainments around the air base located near by and it did not take many ‘Dare yah’s’ to get young airmen to jump into that frigid water. Nobody could stay in for long.

But now we find they found a use for some of that water. A company called Canadian Natural Resources Limited is reported to be using a technology that involves heating water to steam and pumping the steam into deep wells in the Cold Lake Tar Sands area. What this company mines is not by any stretch of the imagination oil. It is not even ‘heavy oil.’ What comes from these wells is bitumen, sand and seriously polluted water. It is certainly not in an emulsion.

And once you find out what it is doing, we also find that the company is not very prompt in telling us about some of its technical problems. Canadians are only hearing now about problems that appear to have originated at least two years ago. There has been either one very serious spill or a series of spills that is effecting the local environment. How do you minimize the spill of some 1.2 million litres of polluted water, sand and bitumen?

While the company admits to the sighting of some 100 animal carcasses that were probably killed by the spill, it is actually a rather chilling statistic. Small carcasses would have been removed by predatory birds who would have in turned died and the loss of local wildlife would encompass many, many hectares of very sensitive land.

But this is a company that does not want to tell you very much about their processes and problems. It is targeting to mine and process and refine up to 500,000 barrels of synthetic crude oil from bitumen per day. That comes to roughly $50 million per day in revenue for the company. And you can do the math from there. What are a few dead animals, a polluted environment and a carbon footprint that will reach across Canada compared to that type of money?

So you might lie a little. You can make up words that cover up what you are doing. You hide the little mistakes. Heh, what is a million litres of bitumen when you have billions of litres? Though, it is probably not as much fun getting your buddies to jump off the government dock at Cold Lake today.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

We need a broader ‘Do Not Annoy’ list.

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

If we can have a ‘do not call’ list, why can we not have a do-not-mail list? It does no good to put a ‘no-junk mail’ admonition on your mailbox but even if Canada Post is not very automated, surely it can handle a ‘Do not mail’ list. All we really need is to eliminate the junk mail from our Member of Parliament.

If it was ordinary junk mail all you have to do is sort your mail near your blue box. To-day, with electronic billing, you rarely get bills and even the government uses direct deposit instead of cheques. Our Christmas cards are all shifting quickly to the Internet.

But that crap from our MP is the problem. You are too mad at what it says to want to send it to recycling. It could pollute your blue box. You want to crumple it and feed it to him. This man and his staff are so ignorant that they send you blatant lies and think you are going to buy in.

Can you believe that they can send out one of those badly printed, ugly flyers telling you the Harper government has more than tripled the number of countries Canada has free-trade agreements with (sic)? You know they have not.

And to say that Canada and the European Union have a free-trade agreement is the stupidest lie of all. Canada is lucky to be given the time of day by the EU. It seems that the possible agreement that we are supposedly working on with the EU is being considered a stalking horse for the American agreement with the EU. It seems the Germans are the ones who blew the whistle on the possible Canadian agreement. Yet there are few countries in the EU who give companies such unfettered rein that the North American courts are cluttered with companies in lawsuits with government.

But our MP here in Babel is far too ignorant of these problems related to international trade. You are sometimes amazed to note that he can lace-up his own ice skates.

But the good news is that we have heard that this gentleman is going to run again in the new riding that encompasses the south half of the old Babel riding. We are lucky enough to live in the north half of Babel that will now run as far north as the fabled fun little town of Mariposa

Mind you, the local Liberal Party in Babel figures Babel voters are going to get a two-for-one deal here. We could quite easily end up with two Liberals elected here instead of one useless Conservative. That would be okay.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Conservatives inciting to hatred.

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Those Harper Conservatives really know how to turn up the rhetoric! First of all some dimwit thought it would be appropriate to have a rally in support of Israel on the lawn at Queen’s Park. The participants would have been smarter to stay in their comfortable rocket-free homes in Toronto and buy more Israeli bonds.

But you can hardly have a rally at Queen’s Park without greetings from the Prime Minister (of Canada?). Sure, Prime Minister Harper has never seen a mob he disliked. To be safe though, he sent Toronto MP John Carmichael to read an incendiary letter. There were the expected roars of approval when the MP read that Hamas’ reprehensible actions require Israel to defend itself. It seems that Mr. Harper stands four-square for Israeli soldiers killing civilians and children in Gaza. That was it for calming troubled waters or easing the tensions in Queen’s Park.

It seems that some people who might disagree with the killing in Gaza found out about the peaceful Jewish rally. Many of these people strongly disapproved of war and some might have had relatives trying to live in Gaza. These people decided to show their own flags and to shout a lot. Luckily the Toronto Police made a demarcation line down the centre of the park so that the various protagonists could shout obscenities at each other but no touchy was allowed.

This worked fairly well until one young jerk arrived carrying a placard that looked like an Israeli flag with the Nazi swastika replacing the Star of David. Obviously the Toronto Police on site did not seem to understand the legal or practical definition of ‘Incite to riot.’ The news media did and the cameras had their pic of the day. A stalwart, reported to be from the Jewish Defence League, took understandable exception to this placard and crossed the line of demarcation and proceeded to physically remonstrate the young gentleman. At this point a police officer interceded and took the young gentleman and his stupid placard from the scene. We are told no arrests were made.

What should have happened is that cooler heads in the Toronto Jewish community should have realized that no good would come of this event and it should have been discouraged. They should also have recognized that greetings from the Prime Minister would be nothing more than pandering for the Jewish vote and it should also have been discouraged. And the rest of us, who might disapprove of killing on any grounds, would like everyone involved to go home, in peace.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

The real Tragedy in the Commons are the MPs.

Monday, July 28th, 2014

By the time you finish reading Alison Loat’s book for the Samara Institute Tragedy in the Commons you are in a state of despair. You wonder why collectively these former Members of Parliament who were interviewed for the book ever ran for office. Eager or reluctant, they chose their own road to perdition. And yet, in leaving parliament, they had much to say about what is wrong but little to say about how we can fix the growing problems with our political system in Canada.

The concept of the book is something like asking weevils to explain how to restore a tree to health after they have bored their way through it.

It is not until you come to the end of the book and are amazed at the list of 80 former parliamentarians who had so little insight for this book. Most are never even quoted. And yet there are names missing who might have had much to say. Maybe the late Rt. Hon. Herb Gray’s ill health prevented an interview but his insight, intelligence and experience were some of the obvious reasons why he was so respected in parliament.

Knowing many of the people interviewed helps to understand some of their quotes. Having watched parliament with great interest from the Diefenbaker Détente through to the Harper Horror, it is easy to recount the obvious failures of parliament to adjust to the changing needs of Canadian society. It is also easy to see how party leaders have increasingly abused the trust of the parliamentary process.

When Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau once said “Just watch me” to the news media, he was admitting that he understood the lack of safeguards on the power of his office.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper treats the parliamentary process as Penelope’s tapestry that can be woven in daylight and the stitches removed in the night. He can prorogue parliament at will and has turned the custom of question period into a farce of questions with no answers.

The Samara Institute did Canadians a regrettable disservice with Tragedy in the Commons. It does little more than stick a toe into the waters of how Canadians are served by governments. It ignores the systemic failure of our governments to further democracy to meet the needs of a very different society than that of the time of federation.

Canada is a society today that is built on diversity. We are capable of greatness as a nation. It is our governments that fail us.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Are these Luddites stupid or ignorant?

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

‘Stupid’ is a derogatory term for a person who appears slow-witted and might not be able to grasp simple concepts. ‘Ignorant’ refers to a person who just seems uninformed. ‘Luddites’ are people who, during the industrial revolution in England, sought to destroy the machines that they perceived as threatening their livelihood.

Today’s lesson is about city clerks in Ontario who are charged under provincial law with managing the process of municipal elections. While it might seem more appropriate to choose someone less biased as to the outcome in these elections, most city clerks take their election responsibilities quite seriously. The only problem is that if municipal electors ever took their role more seriously, the clerks would be inundated with angry voters who find how inadequate the voting arrangements are in most municipalities.

And that starts with our largest municipality, Toronto. In February this year, Toronto’s not overly effective city council took time off from berating their mayor to vote in favour of electronic voting processes to enable disabled voters an opportunity to cast a vote this fall. To nobody’s surprise, Toronto’s city clerk cancelled this worthwhile exercise because she believed there was insufficient time to implement such a program in time for advance voting this year.

Timing was why this writer—with more than 30 years experience in the computer industry that included being president and then chairman of a company that specialized in database development and high level encryption—made an appointment with the Babel City Clerk over two years ago to see if something could be done about the inconvenient municipal voting in this city. It was not a fun experience. Mind you, Babel’s City Clerk is a very pleasant and friendly person. She was gracious and interested in discussing voting and the various concerns. It was only when wrapping up the conversation that we felt knee-capped. To the question: “What can we do to help?” her response was, “Nothing.” She seemed quite satisfied with the awkward, cumbersome, inadequate, slow and vulnerable system that has been discouraging Babel voters.

While Ontario municipalities such as Markham and Peterborough have been spearheading the development of Internet voting for the past ten years, most Ontario’s municipalities still claim their concern is about security. What some city clerks might not understand is that Internet voting can be far more secure than the antiquated systems they have been using for municipal elections in recent years.

Regrettably Internet voting is not the panacea to getting increased voter participation but the easier and more convenient we make it for people to vote, the more chance citizens will take an interest and vote responsibly.

But when they go to vote this fall, Ontario voters can make up their own minds about who are the ignorant, stupid or Luddites.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

The ambition of Ontario Lottery and Gaming.

Saturday, July 26th, 2014

In July 2010 the Ontario government gave Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG) new direction. It pointed to a new future. It was a future where OLG would be more market-driven and responsive to consumers. It was to involve the private sector and advanced technologies in its growth. And a new OLG would evolve that would have a clearer mandate, efficiencies and be more effective.

And in being more effective, the government made it clear that OLG would create thousands of new jobs in the gaming industry, another 4000 or so new jobs in the service industry, find about $3 billion in private sector investment and add more than a billion in new annual revenue for the province. This was not a sit-on-your-ass mandate.

But sit-on-your-ass was what the province got. When OLG chair Paul Godfrey pissed off the burghers of Toronto and Gramma Wynne fired him that was the end of the OLG dream. The province has civil servants running the OLG into the ground now and the dream of riches and ease for the Ontario Treasurer are dead and dying. And Ontario is missing the jobs, the investment and that all important revenue.

But, what the hell, Finance Minister Sousa can always raise taxes. Right? All he has to say is that if you do not want casinos in your back yard, you will, of course, be pleased to pay more taxes? That is about to happen on a chilly weekend in July!

The facts are that the City of Toronto has a totally dysfunctional city council playing with a disgraceful amount of money on behalf of a very confused citizenry. And it is the province’s fault. Instead of helping the city with its management problems, Queen’s Park compounds them in doling out promised infrastructure grants for transportation systems that the city so desperately needs but fights about instead.

And who is going to be so stupid as to complain if the province says: Casinos are legal and there will be one at Woodbine Race Track. Most people do not even know that the site is in Toronto. The province could even put in another casino in Markham or Durham as part of some other deal and nobody would mind. With four years to the next election, nobody would remember that Charles Sousa was dictatorial; just smart.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Conservatives are covering their causes.

Friday, July 25th, 2014

There must be an election due in the next year. Why else would the Harper government minions be running around in the heat of the summer pandering to Conservative interest groups? Take the inappropriately labelled Public “Safety” Minister Steven Blaney, for example. He showed up at a Northern Ontario gun club the other day to announce convenient changes in the rules for happy gun owners. These changes might make some sense in such a remote rural setting but he should try to explain his changes to people at Dundas and Yonge Streets in Toronto.

But you have to admit, the gun nuts love the Tories. We are not talking here about the farmer who keeps a varmint rifle to deter four-legged chicken thieves. The Tories best friends are the wing-nuts who think a fully automatic assault rifle is for target practice. These are the ones who cannot wait for their next home invasion to try out the killing power of their new 45 calibre hand gun.

You would think these people would still be honeymooning with the Tories since the killing of the long gun registry. And the Tories are the people who were going to protect Canadians from financial waste. The destruction of that life-saving aid for our police forces was probably the worst waste of our money (other than Mr. Harper’s hairdresser) since the Tories won a majority in 2011.

But if you are going to pander to your interest groups, you might as well do it well. Take the duplication of licenses needed to own and use firearms. With a single license covering both ownership and use, the Tories are encouraging the collector to take that collectible off their wall and shoot someone or something. It sounds like something they should think about a bit more.

And, typical of the Tories, they are thinking of also causing confusion between federal and provincial regulations. Restricted firearms need a provincial permit to be transported in some provinces and the federal government is thinking of over-riding that requirement. It shows how helpful our federal government can be to its friends.

Meanwhile the police are asking the Ontario government to allow cops to confiscate the auto and the driver’s licence of individuals found with an illegal weapon in their vehicle. And the feds should really reconsider the title of the Public ‘Safety’ Minister.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

The Bully Pulpit of the Paul’s.

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

This is not the Apostle Saint Paul under discussion here. Libertarian extremists Ron Paul and his son Randal Paul are something else. The senior Paul is still the cantankerous fanatic who took his pre-Tea Party Libertarian followers to seek the American Presidency in 1988 and tried in both 2008 and 2012 to win the Republican presidential nomination. While the older Paul is almost retired from politics at 78, his son “Rand” is readying for a presidential bid in 2016 from his Senate seat for the State of Kentucky. What is frightening about it is the highly sophisticated use of the Internet by the Paul’s. It is the real bully pulpit.

While in the usual sense, a bully pulpit is a position of power from which one can speak with authority, the Paul’s are actually using the Internet to create that authority. As their high-powered public relations people put it, the Paul’s are using the Internet to crowd source what they see as a digital bully pulpit. This is a giant step beyond being ‘liked’ on Facebook. The Paul Plan is to dominate.

Rather than call their supporters Libertarians, the Paul’s refer to their supporters as “liberty-minded” and obviously Republican. Their objective is to drive the political energy of the extreme right wing of American politics into feeding ideas, support, names of activists and local leadership from the grass roots to the Bully Pulpit that encompasses the Paul’s sites. It is a pyramid building exercise that could be the envy of Amway.

What the Paul’s are doing is creating conveyance. They see themselves as opening the flood gates for the real wishes of the American people. All that Randal Paul needs to do is offer leadership. He wants to be able to scratch today’s itch for millions of Americans. It is terribly simple and frightening as hell.

When you consider that almost half of the American population have no real love for their fellow man, Paul’s job is easy. Washington inside the Beltway is the enemy. Foreigners are to be distrusted and they are not even sure about Canadians. Business is good and welfare is bad. And no, young “Rand” is not named after former right-wing guru Ayn Rand but he might as well be.

The Paul’s Internet platform is based on Voices of Liberty, a supposedly ‘non-partisan’ site for exchange of right-wing theories, rants, ideas and arguments. And how do we know all about this? The public relations people for the Paul’s sent this blog a news release about it because we have readers in the United States of America.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Political parties never die. They merge.

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Some of our kindly readers have send notes asking what happened to Babel-on-the-Bay’s forecast in May of the immanent demise of the Ontario New Democrats. Yes, there were some brazen forecasts of such departure and logically we could show you where we were right and where we might have been blind-sided.

But the truth of the matter is that the New Democrats in Ontario have nowhere to go. The provincial election tore the heart out of the NDP in Toronto. The Windsor area Liberals might have been more pissed than we realized but you can hardly run around the province taking peoples’ temperatures–especially in Windsor where they seem to prefer rectal thermometers.

But on balance, in the provincial election, the New Democrats went nowhere with a miserably low turnout at the polls. And it puts a question mark to the supposed ability of New Democrats to pull out their vote. Even in the recent federal by-election in Trinity Spadina, the NDP loser was a person reputed to be one of the top guns in the party in the ground game. That spells real trouble for New Democrat darling Olivia Chow’s chances in this fall’s mayoralty race.

But the person to keep an eye on in the next while is Ontario New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath. She forced the party’s gamble in bringing about the provincial election. She ran the worst do-nothing campaign we have seen from the New Democrats. She ignored the panic of her party’s old guard. The campaign was Andrea’s to screw up and she sure did. Her head is on the block. She has time to decide to go with dignity and arrange for an orderly transition. She had better do it before the knives come out at the approaching convention.

But the guy looking at Ontario with pain on his face is federal New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair. He is the one with the most to lose. He knows he will gain nothing and can lose much in Quebec next year. He was counting on Ontario to give the federal party a new base. He knows now, it will not happen.

It is time for Mulcair to sit down with Justin Trudeau. It is the ordained time for change. It is time for realizations. Mulcair and his party can fade into the woodwork of Parliament next year or they can buy into a brighter, progressive future. What they need to point out to Liberal Leader Trudeau is that in sharing the social democrat patina in Canadian politics benefits both parties. We need one strong social democrat party in Canada and we can achieve that in a merging of the Liberal Party and the New Democrats.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Yes, charities can harangue governments.

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

There is nothing new about charity chill. No party in power wants to be harangued about what they are doing wrong. Mind you the Conservative government has definitely gone overboard in forcing Canada Revenue Agency to conduct expensive audits of charitable organizations that annoy the government.

Over thirty years ago, the Liberal government of the time was also threatening charities. As the then head of a major health agency, some of our board of directors were quite concerned that we might be going too far in defying government edicts about lobbying. This presented a problem when Finance Minister Marc Lalonde cut basic research funding in Canada in a government-wide cost-cutting effort.

A very determined new group called Canadians for Health Research headed by Pat Guyda in Montreal took point in the offensive. The group recognized that they needed some experienced help. They came to this writer and said, will you talk to the Commons Finance Committee for us? Our objectives were the same so why not?

The speech was presented in the Railway Committee Room in the Centre Block of the House of Commons. It was carefully crafted and more of a sermon than a political speech. The lesson for the effort was the late Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ book On Death and Dying. It needed about 20 minutes. Invited to address the committee from beside the chair, the MP leaned over and said, “Peter, can you keep this to five minutes, we need to break for lunch.”

When the speech was finished, 20 minutes later, there was hardly a dry eye in the room. We were not aware of at the time that a senior New Democrat MP took a copy of the speech intended for the news media to the Commons that day and read it into proceedings in Hansard.

The upshot of the matter was that we were all pleasantly surprised when Marc Lalonde’s department suddenly found some extra money to restore the funding for basic health research that year. Mind you we have to continue our vigilance and Canadians for Health Research needs our continued assistance to focus attention on basic health research needs in Canada.

While slightly side-tracked here, we would use a different approach in the case of the current government going after environmental charities. While deeply concerned about our environment and future health of Canadians, we do not see environmental groups as charities. These groups need more freedom. It is our country’s future we are dealing with and we all have to buy in. When collecting money for environmental causes, we are selling shares in our country and our children’s future. This is not charity, this is a duty.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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