Archive for October, 2014

The baffling Beer Store battle.

Friday, October 31st, 2014

Maybe Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne does not like beer. Sometimes when you get together over a bottle or so of beer, you can solve this type of problem. It simply does not work when a major participant in the problem does not drink beer. Or maybe it is her partner Jane who does the beer runs. Maybe we would be better off talking to Jane.

But we have to do something about the beer problem in this province. Sure we also want to do something about the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO). The only reason that we emphasize the Beer Stores today is that LCBO stores do not stink as bad as Beer Stores. Our olfactory senses have had enough.

Do you know that one of those awful Beer Stores near us is being rebuilt? They are actually rebuilding the new store around the smell of the old store. You would think that the smell of the old store is an historic site! We have to hope that the local police do not accidently bring a cadaver sniffing dog to that Beer Store. The poor dog might go crazy and the dumb cop might have to go without his beer.

We thought we had solved the beer problem by buying our beer at the LCBO but the LCBO only carries six-packs. With company coming who drink my beer what we really wanted the other day was a 12-pack. We even tried to argue with the clerk that if the Beer Store did not have the larger pack they would give us two sixes for the price of a 12. The clerk looked directly at the ceiling surveillance monitor and gave us the company line. It boiled down to something like “Tough beans buster.”

It sure would be nice to go to either a Beer Store or an LCBO store and be treated like a valued customer instead of an incipient bother. They will, of course, be nice to you if you make a point of being nice to them and not ask stupid questions.

But as much as we think highly of the nice people in Japan who bottle Sapporo beer while owning half of Sleeman Brewery and thereby owning a share in the Ontario Beer Stores and Brewers’ Warehousing, we wonder why they do? Why do we countenance a foreign-owned cartel that runs smelly Beer Stores controlling our beer sales?

How about it Ms. Wynne? Do you or your partner really like those smelly Beer Stores?


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Is Ontario Doug Ford’s next campaign?

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

Former Toronto mayoralty candidate Doug Ford says he might want to go on to fame as leader of the Ontario Conservatives. This is serious folks. Doug Ford is the guy who said that what the Ontario Conservatives really need is an enema. We would all have a good laugh and go home if it were not for the fact he might be serious about his next challenge.

And the reason many Conservatives are cottoning to the idea is the showing the older Ford brother made in the recent Toronto election. Sure, Ford Nation as it is called really belongs to Rob Ford. Rob Ford loaned this army to his brother for the recent mayoralty race because of Rob’s illness and what happened gave political experts something of a surprise. Doug Ford, in a very short period, grew the size of the support

In a municipal election that saw some 60 per cent of Toronto’s eligible electors go to the polls, Doug Ford polled 34 per cent of the vote. He produced at least 30,000 votes more than the highest projections. While he was beaten by the 40 per cent vote for John Tory, it is the voting pattern that told the tale of the city. The 23 per cent who voted for former MP Olivia Chow made no difference.

Doug Ford won in the north of Etobicoke and in most of Scarborough. These are provincial riding areas where the Provincial PCs have never dreamed of winning. They are the lowest income areas of the city. The voters are the most impoverished, poorly housed and least educated losers in the city. If you can get them angry enough, they will vote to get even.

It takes a populist politician with the least to lose to motivate these voters. They will vote for the irrational, for the bigot, for the fascist, for the inflamed rhetoric. The rules in municipal elections allowed Ford to use his own money to fund and drive a less than smooth or well organized mob of supporters. It was a campaign that thrived on ignorance and bias. If some of the promises conflicted and confused, so be it. Never give your supporters time to think. It would just puzzle them.

The guy having the best laugh at the prospect of Doug Ford in the race for the leadership is former leader Timmy Hudak. A win by Doug Ford would vindicate him.

And the frightening thing is that the combination of Doug Ford’s Ford Nation and the Ontario Landowners’ rural strength could defeat the Liberals. They would only win once.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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The marching music of M’sieur Mulcair.

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

Leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party Thomas Mulcair faces a fascinating challenge in the coming year. He is attempting to choose the right march music for his election band to play. There are three genres from which he can choose: He could select Ragtime of the party’s beginnings as the socialists of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF). He personally might lean more to the era of Rock and Roll. And then he might adapt to crossover with today’s pop music.

It is to be assumed that Mr. Mulcair will reject the early Ragtime and swing tunes of socialism. The implied strife and revolution of socialism has been rejected in Canada over the years and those who fought for social justice in those early times were more often honoured after but never in their day.

There was a considerable uplift in the tunes of the Rock and Roll era as unions dominated the former CCF, renaming it as the New Democratic Party. While the earlier stridency for social justice still prevailed in the party, the union support muted the message to fit with the self-serving mantra of union solidarity. The satisfaction of the unions tended to stifle the social justice message.

But it is in the confusion of crossover in today’s pop music that presents Mr. Mulcair with his greatest challenge. In attempting to paper the past with the social democrat label, he is conflicted with the crowded central right of the political spectrum.

In Ontario recently we saw the provincial New Democrats go down in flames because they offered no alternative to the ruling Liberals. They were trapped on the political right of a supposedly left budget. And yet it was just a weak attempt at half measures designed to force an election.

So what is Mr. Mulcair to do? Is he fish or fowl? Here he has proved his ability in prosecuting the role of being the Official Opposition in parliament. Or has he left his party behind? Is Thomas Mulcair even a socialist? Is he a union supporter? Is he a social democrat? Or is he a Quebec Liberal?

And before you answer any of those questions, maybe you should look at his Quebec caucus of accidents. In the collapse of the Bloc Québécois in 2011, many Quebec voters parked their votes with the so-called Orange Wave. It was not much of a wave and more of an undertow. The vote gave the finger to the Conservatives and the Liberals, demolished the Bloc and threw the New Democrats into an imbalance with serious questions about its future in Canadian politics.

Mr. Mulcair needs to pick his party’s marching music. There is little time left.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Wynne wins in Toronto shoot-out.

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne pulled it off. She got her candidate into the mayor’s chair in Toronto. Despite disturbing early tabulations, John Tory emerged as the peoples’ choice for mayor. And if you did not know that John Tory was Wynne’s choice, what do you think her aide Tom Allison was doing in Tory’s campaign headquarters? And was there really any other choice but John Tory?

Torontonians need to remember always that the city is a creature of the province. It is not separate. It does not do its own thing. The past four years of Rob Ford was an aberration and this recent campaign had the task to fix it. Mind you it was frightening to see a bald, bellicose and bloated Rob Ford accepting the cheers of his sycophants at his Ward 2 headquarters promising to be back in the mayor‘s chair in four years.

But even a healthy Rob Ford lacks the funds and strategic smarts to take on Queen’s Park. Through the second half of the Twentieth Century, people who cared about Toronto endlessly batted their heads against all Ontario parties on the need for reform of Toronto governance. The attitude at Queen’s Park was “Let them worry about potholes and garbage and we will solve the big questions.”

They never did solve the big questions. All Toronto got was incremental solutions to its on-going problems. It got boroughs and Metropolitan governance but all that did was confuse and frustrate the civic voters. Subways were built but always too late. Planning itself became an endless argument.

And when Premier Michael Harris abruptly amalgamated the city, he solved none of the governance problems and downloaded social costs that the city was completely unequipped to handle. Amalgamation became the fighting ground between the city and its suburbs. It is said that it was being opposed to the amalgamation that brought the present premier into Ontario politics. She has wisely been silent about this since becoming in a position to fix some of the problems.

But we wish John Tory well in the coming four years. He has a city council that has far more experience than he does in the manipulation of the civic processes. He will bring cooperation and conciliation to a more respectful administration. Now let’s see what the bastards do to him?


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Liberals are progressives Ms. Wynne.

Monday, October 27th, 2014

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne needs to check her dictionary. She needs to understand the definition of the word ‘liberal.’ Oxford says it best. In politics it means “favourable to democratic reform and individual liberty.” Could it be any easier to understand? You can expand on that but it gives you the basics. It is why we are not particularly pleased with Ms. Wynne and her sham of a “Liberal” government.

Nothing says “reactionary” and “conservative” better than a closed mind. And Ms. Wynne and her ministers have certainly convinced us of their closed minds. The recent farce of a report from TD Bank’s Ed Clark and his panel of political has-beens stuck firmly to the government orders to neither privatize liquor and wine sales nor loosen the reins on beer sales.

What is galling about this is that someone such as Clark should recognize the long-term financial gains for the government in privatization of liquor and wine distribution and the better distribution of beer sales. The government would not only earn more in annual revenues and in taxes but more convenient distribution would help solve some of the abuses in alcoholic beverages consumption. It certainly does not take a merchandising genius to understand that the smaller packages of beer that would sell the most in convenience and food stores would earn more taxes.

The throne speech that this government used to open our provincial parliament recently was not liberal. It was a litany of conservative bromides. It emphasized infrastructure needs over peoples’ needs. It put the financial deficit ahead of the deficits in health care and social services. It offered more to business and less to the citizens who had put their confidence in this government. And it will be interesting to watch as the plans for the retirement benefit supplement are finalized whether Ontario citizens will really benefit from the investment fund created.

And please do not point to the recent budget as being progressive. It was a budget of half measures planned to annoy the New Democrats into an election. Which it did.

The Ontario Liberals do not seem to understand that they were the best of a poor choice in the last provincial election. The opposition parties helped to defeat themselves. They had leadership problems and strategic problems. They fumbled the ball.

That gives the Wynne government the next four years to prove that it can be progressive and liberal. It is the time for the big ideas that capture the imaginations of the voters. It is a time for real reform. It is a time to lead. Or they can sit back and coast for four years. And then they will be tossed out.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Your way, their way and the Brown way.

Sunday, October 26th, 2014

It paints a picture. Patrick. Brown, Babel’s Member of Parliament, was cowering with the Conservative caucus the other day when a confused gunman went down the hall in parliament outside the caucus room. This breach of security was an affront to Canadians and to our democracy. And what is Mr. Brown doing? He is texting his favourite reporter.

We have to be mindful of course that Mr. Brown is doing double duty these days. He is going to Ottawa to vote at his party’s call and he is running for the leadership of the Ontario provincial Conservative Party. He sees no conflict in trying to be in both roles at once. It is likely that last Wednesday he might have been wishing he was somewhere other than Ottawa.

But here was Brown, fulfilling his purpose in life—to get his name in the paper. This guy is desperate. He sends a text to the local reporter to say that he cannot tell her what has happened in the caucus room. He did admit that he was shocked by what was going on. He did not think it should be allowed to happen in Canada.

If Mr. Brown just paid attention to what is being said about the Islamic jihadists in Syria and Iraq by his government, he might have figured it out. If he had paid attention when Canadian fighter aircraft were sent to the Middle East to bomb the jihadists, he might have thought that the jihadists might like to get back at us.

The jihadists in Syria and Iraq are the product of a civil war in Syria and unsettled times in Iraq. They are among the best funded and public relations savvy criminals to ever come out of the Middle East. They know the value of propaganda. They also know that hundreds of thousands of Muslims have come to North America, where they are welcomed into a free, tolerant and open society. They also know losers among the younger generation of Muslims or converts can be radicalized to support their objectives.

But maybe that is all too deep for Mr. Brown to comprehend. Here is a guy who makes his political decisions as a retail politician. He thinks any publicity is good publicity. He leans on charities to give him coverage. He inundates his electoral district with poor quality mailings promoting himself. He is running for the leadership of the provincial party to gain more attention.

He sometimes gets the attention he wants. He should also get the ridicule he deserves.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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How the Hair hastens havoc.

Saturday, October 25th, 2014

We were all deeply concerned the other day. It just takes time to think it through. How awful that this sad, mentally-deranged person with a gun be enabled to attack and kill one of our soldiers standing ceremonial guard duty at Canada’s national memorial to our dead of foreign wars.

And we also need to share the common concern for our parliamentarians closeted in caucus as a gunman runs amok in the Hall of Honour. This place is the core of our democracy and it has to be respected.

It is only in retrospect that Canadians need to better understand how the Hair and his cronies hasten along the crazies who see Canada as the enemy of Islam. He uses the rhetoric of bigotry instead of understanding. He promotes resolution by gun instead of dialogue. He preys on the fragile mind. He uses the words of a narrow and biased world.

And that is what helps create an environment for evil.

Just where is this prime minister taking our beautiful country? He poses as a great friend of Israel to win the votes of Canada’s Jewish citizens. Yet, can the Hair live with or understand the turmoil and retribution that influences the daily lives of the people of Israel? Instead of bringing Canada’s good will and negotiations to the Middle East table, the Hair brings partisanship. He helps nobody.

He hardly helps the Americans in their current concerns. Canada’s friendship with the Americans can hardly be forever sullied by saying ‘no.’ Good friends give honest advice not insincere flattery. A good friend stands ready to help when that is really what the friend needs.

Canadians want to be honest brokers to a peaceful world. We want to use diplomacy, not guns. Canadians know that the real bravery is in being peacekeepers, not warriors. Canada shares the cultures of many nations. It welcomes the peoples of all nations. It wants to be welcome by all nations in turn.

Canadians do not want to engage in senseless wars. They do not seek retribution. They want to seek conciliation. The Hair took away the control of long guns. It was a sick person with a long gun behind that caucus room door. The Hair has spoken in parliament to the destruction of the jihadists without understanding how he was sowing the dragon’s teeth for more of the same.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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A year can be forever in politics.

Friday, October 24th, 2014

It will feel like a year long federal election campaign between now and October 2015. Wars have not lasted as long. Yet, despite all the strategies at play, the key decisions by the real electors will not be made until September and October next year.

Much of the first six to nine months will be taken up with making sure of each party’s base vote. Regionally and demographically, you can define the base for each of the main political parties. In the same sense as most rich, white males vote Conservative, many mid-income, educated, females vote Liberal and a high percentage of unionized, working class vote New Democrat, you can see why inner cities tend to vote New Democrat, single-family suburbs tend to vote Liberal and prosperous farmers vote Conservative.

The political chore is to first shore up your own vote and, when time allows, you show the flag in enemy-held electoral districts. There are also 30 new ridings in play this year and no party is assured a win in those. They receive special attention.

While nobody trusts polls today, the fact that they consistently show Justin Trudeau and his Liberals in the lead, gives the Conservatives and New Democrats a target. In fact if Mr. Harper can find a way to keep the Liberals and New Democrats more evenly matched, the better the chance for his Conservatives.

But it is regional concerns that cause the most headaches in theses early stages. With the promised demise of the Bloc Québécois, many polls are showing the New Democrats as the recipients of that vote. What these polls are really showing is that there is no other place at this time that the separatist vote wants to go. They are unlikely to play on that swing before the end of September next year. They might dislike the Trudeau name but they hate Harper more.

The other likely regional shifts are in Ontario and British Columbia. With Justin Trudeau’s Liberals likely to win more than half of Ontario’s 138 seats next year, all three parties are spending a great deal of time and effort in that playground. British Columbia has a special place for Trudeau and if he can solve the Gordian knot he has gotten into in relation to pipelines, British Columbia can dish him up a very fine majority government.

We have lots of time during the year for Justin Trudeau to learn to look like a statesman, Thomas Mulcair to look smart and Stephen Harper to look human.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Discrimination in municipal voting.

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

You know you are a second-class citizen in Ontario if you are a tenant and have moved since last time you voted in a municipal election. The municipal people across Ontario explain it simply: if you are a tenant, you are responsible to register to vote. If you are a real property owner, you are on the tax rolls and you are automatically on the voters’ list.

This situation is hardly an improvement over the time when the federal and provincial electoral officers hired enumerators before each election to create the voters’ lists. Even the city was enumerated by the commercial collection for the city directory. These are long gone but they never were as discriminatory.

But since tenants do not turn out to vote in huge numbers, the politicians say that tenants do not care. They do not worry very much about tenant issues in their municipalities. And since the politicians do not care, why should the city staff? And the problems for tenants continue to snowball.

The politicians get their comeuppance when they think condominiums are full of tenants. Many are not and these people are often home owners and voters. And that is why smart politicians give condos high priority for rainy campaigning days.

Mind you, here in Babel, we are all second class citizens when it came to voting this year. The city still uses an antiquated voting system that actually creates a paper trail. This is a system that figuratively includes both belts and suspenders. Four years ago, the system came unglued when the voting unit counts where tallied (supposedly automatically) by the city computers. Between the delay at the polling booths to ensure everybody in line got to vote and the cumbersome system, we were about an hour and a half late finding out the final results.

When it was suggested that the city should make the move this year to start using Internet voting, the civil servants seemed horrified at the suggestion. As silly as it is, they seem to like their strangely mixed system. All the voter sees is that this very helpful person goes into the voting booth area with them and one-at-a-time tells the voters how to cast their ballot. This takes more time with some than others but each voter is given access to the correct school trustee vote and the correct list of ward councillor aspirants.

They are then left alone to make their choices. What we found was that the explanation took at least a minute (with no questions or concerns) and then about 15 seconds to vote and to end up with a screen ready for the next voter. All in all, it is not very efficient or fast and those machines look very expensive. And we bet the new software every election costs more than a few dollars.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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Checking back on the Morning Line for Toronto.

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

This is a repeat of Babel-on-the-Bay’s entry of September 4 this year. It has been an overly long and arduous municipal campaign for Toronto voters and candidates. As we always used to say to our campaign workers: Vote early…and often!

This mayoralty contest has been an uphill battle for broadcaster John Tory. His instinct was right last year when it was obvious that he saw no redemption for him in going after the mayor’s job. The people who convinced him to run were also right.

Toronto needs John Tory more than John Tory needs the city. He is a businessman with typical business strengths and weaknesses. He can make decisions and stick with them. He is a strong leader and has demonstrated the ability to negotiate. He is also a political person. He is a Conservative in the Bill Davis mould. Those long-ago breakfasts with Brampton Bill at the Park Plaza paid off handsomely for the young lawyer and along with his relationship with Ted Rogers got John Tory away from a boring career with the family law firm.

John Tory knows Toronto far better than any competitor in the mayoralty race. He knows what the city needs and he knows how to make it happen. Gridlock and transit needs have kept his campaign focussed on what Toronto most needs at this time. His SmartTrack surface rail solution is the most practical and cost-sensitive answer to keeping the city moving. It is the right direction. It is neither a new nor overly expensive solution and fits in well with the Ontario government’s plan to electrify and speed commuter lines in and around Toronto.

He is the only candidate for mayor who can make this simple solution happen. And it needs to happen as soon as possible.

Another thing Torontonians can count on with Tory is that he will create a working executive committee that will take back the reins of control of the city from the civil servants. It means we will see more actual progress in Toronto in the next four years than we have seen in the last 15, since Toronto’s forced and poorly managed amalgamation.

All John Tory has to do over the time left before the election is articulate his feelings and belief in Toronto as a great city. Despite all the foolish and ill-considered insults from the Chow people, Tory has kept his cool. He has stayed on track.

We wish John Tory well. He has not had an easy time of it and he has a tough job ahead of him as Mayor of Toronto.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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