Archive for November, 2014

The hard heart of the Hair.

Sunday, November 30th, 2014

You could barely hear over the running up of the A310 engines at Ottawa Airport. The Hair and his chatelaine stood at the door of the giant aircraft waving goodbye to their adoring throng from the Prime Minister’s Office. It sounded something like: “Suck it up folks. I’m going where it’s warm.”

And you can hardly blame the Hair for wanting to get out of cold and unwelcoming Ottawa. Those winds coming down the Ottawa Valley these days are winds of change.

And you really cannot expect the Hair, the hairdresser and the wife to travel all the way to Senegal for a meeting of the world’s French speaking nations in tourist class. That would be at least three airline connections and interminable waits in those holding pens they refer to as international waiting rooms.

But the Hair is sure leaving a mess behind. And why would he want to come back?

His legacy is in tatters. When his oil economy was steaming along at $100 a barrel, the Hair was king of all he surveyed. When real crude oil drops below $60 per barrel, he knows it is time to get out of town. Who wants to buy bitumen when real oil is cheaper?

And it is not as though anything else is going well. The premiers of Canada’s two largest provinces have formed a posse and they are out to get him. He not only owes them for killing most of their manufacturing but he needs to start keeping his word. He can hardly leave town for parts unknown anytime they come to Ottawa.

And that bunch of Tories he runs with is still the gang that can never shoot straight. That bumbling ex-cop who is supposed to look sympathetic with the veteran’s is going to get himself lynched. The kid who took the fall for the robbocalls got himself locked up and that is where the Hair’s former parliamentary secretary might also be headed. At least the guy from Peterborough had the good grace to resign his seat. And good luck on winning a by-election there!

With the Canadian dollar dropping like a rock, the Hair had better have some American dollars to buy fuel for that Airbus A310. Not that he is in a hurry to come home.

Why would the Hair want to rush back to listen to the snide comments from the Leader of the Opposition and that kid Trudeau. The last time he told the two other parties to go screw themselves, he had absolutely no idea that they would take him literally.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Mainly because Wall wants EnergyEast.

Saturday, November 29th, 2014

Ontario and Quebec Premiers Wynne and Couillard are welcoming Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall. He is making sales calls on behalf of TransCanada’s EnergyEast pipeline. He will probably be wearing one of those big white hats that most oil men like to affect. Not that Wall is really an oil man but he would like to think that eventually Saskatchewan’s shale gas and oil will start to flow east and maybe some of the Cold Lake tar sands bitumen that lies in Saskatchewan. It might never match dollar volumes of Saskatchewan’s potash mines but it is not small potatoes either.

Mind you, Wall seems to have some funny ideas about the value of the EnergyEast pipeline proposal that the National Energy Board in Calgary is now considering. In an op-ed in the Toronto Star the other day signed by Wall, he is reported to believe that the EnergyEast line will move conventional oil from Alberta and Saskatchewan to Eastern refineries to replace oil now imported from the Algeria, Iraq and the United States.

Since the Hardisty terminus seems to be planned for use by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) as the main pipeline feed for tar sands bitumen, the EnergyEast pipeline would be heated and under twice the pressure of a normal crude oil pipeline. It would not be of interest to most eastern refineries because of the pollution that goes with refining bitumen. The advantage of the EnergyEast pipeline to the CAPP members is that the tankers from the United States as well as from Algeria and Iraq would still unload their crude oil cargoes for Eastern refineries and then would take on cargoes of tar sands bitumen for countries that do not care about the pollution.

But somebody has to care. Couillard and Wynne might not be aware of the vast areas of tailing ponds in Alberta from tar sands extraction that are destroying that province’s environment. They do not seem to be aware that converting bitumen to usable oil products creates three times the pollution of normal refinery processing.

All that Mr. Wall seems to care about is the money.

EnergyEast is a proposal that will see an old gas pipeline through Ontario converted to pumping more than a million barrels a day of diluted bitumen. It will never be a question of if there are leaks. It is a question of how often and how bad.

In Quebec, EnergyEast is supposed to be built to a terminus on the St. Lawrence before heading south down to the Saint John River Valley to the Irving ocean tanker docks at Saint John. The Irvings do not want the pollution caused by refining bitumen.

The Ontario and Quebec premiers will be polite to Premier Wall. They will note that he makes a very desperate sales pitch.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Why does a culprit pick the judge?

Friday, November 28th, 2014

It must be one of those anomalies you come across in the Canadian judicial system. It is justifiable curiosity to wonder why someone as guilty as Chief William Blair of the Toronto Police Service gets to pick the judge to try his co-conspirator Police Superintendant David (Mark) Fenton? The first judge must have been sick from all the B.S. he was subjected to. This second choice judge seems to make a mockery of the process.

But why are Canadians being so damn quiescent? Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair is far guiltier of exceeding his authority than Supr. Fenton. Making Fenton the scapegoat more than four years after their despicable actions makes a mockery of justice in this country. It helps us remember: Canada is a country of law; not of justice.

If you doubt that little homily just ask any lawyer if former Canadian Conrad Black would have even been tried in Canada for stealing from his shareholders. Your lawyer will tell you that you would have to sue the bastard and the only people who would benefit from your lawsuit would be the lawyers. At least the Americans realized that Lord ‘Crossthepond’ belonged in jail and sent him.

And that must be where Bill Blair belongs. More than four years ago we are told Blair asked Queen’s Park what law enabled him to shut down the area of the G20 in Toronto. We heard he was given an act that was wrong for the circumstances, out of date and superseded by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He chose not to challenge the act he was given. Blair chose to ignore the rights of Canadians. He chose to arrest and imprison Canadians without right to counsel, without charge, under appalling conditions and in contravention of Canadian law.

In the three days of the G20 Summit, Toronto’s Bill Blair had a total of 25,000 trained police officers available to him to keep the peace in Toronto. Canadians watched on television while this enormous number of officers walked away as a small group of anarchists, mainly Black Bloc from Montreal, smashed shop windows and burnt police cars in downtown Toronto. Many people thought the police must be busy elsewhere. They were not. They watched on their own closed circuit links and local television as they allowed the mayhem. When they finally did act it was entirely out of proportion. The Black Bloc seemed to be just an excuse.

Bill Blair is leaving Toronto next year. When does he pay for his G20 actions?

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Okay, Global’s Tom Clark has been redeemed.

Thursday, November 27th, 2014

After receiving various complaints from readers about the recent critical posting about Global Television’s Tom Clark, it is time to recant. The truth is that this writer has always been a solid fan of Tom’s work. It also helps that his late father, Joseph A.P. Clark was not only a good friend and mentor but preceded us as head of communications for the Liberal Party in Ontario back in the 1960s. (Tom was still at Upper Canada College at the time.)

The complaint about the easy ride given to Alberta Premier Jim Prentice on Tom’s West Block show was much more of a jab at Calgary-based Shaw Media than any criticism of Tom. He was just doing his job. And he does it well.

Some readers felt that Tom vindicated himself for the Premier Prentice soft lobs by ripping apart Conservative MP Colin Carrie on the following week’s show. Carrie, a chiropractor from Oshawa, is parliamentary secretary to the minister of the environment. Carrie was not particularly forthcoming in answering questions about the environment and did not seem aware of what Prime Minister Harper promised. You ended up with the impression that Carrie was sent to do Tom’s show as a sacrificial lamb.

Conversely, the show Tom did at the Halifax International Security Forum on November 23 was an outstanding bit of journalism and it should have been a longer program. The show hardly brushed the surface of what needed to be openly discussed. The questions about border security alone were good for more than a couple hours.

But like any news show of its kind, Tom’s West Block is only as good as the guests that the interviewer can attract. If Tom ripped apart every Conservative sycophant appearing on his show, he would soon be accused of being a Liberal supporter and the show would lose its balance and our interest.

It was also intriguing a while ago when Tom invited the three major party leaders up in his bush plane for a ride-interview. Justin Trudeau of the Liberals seemed to really enjoy the experience. We have not seen Tom Mulcair of the New Democrats yet but it might not be his thing. We know there is no way Tom Clark will ever get Prime Minister Harper out of his controlled environment. It is this type of thinking that makes Tom a leader in his field. We wish him well.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Which twin has the Toni?

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

During a career in public relations in Canada, you kept an eye on what was happening in PR south of the border as well as the Canadian market. You always wanted to be aware of what firms were doing for their clients. A firm watched over the last 60 years was started by the late Daniel Edelman who opened a firm with his name on it in Chicago in 1952. One of Dan’s first clients was Toni Home Permanents for whom he had previously worked. His most noted accomplishment for Toni was the strategy of doing media tours throughout the United States with twins posing the question: “Which twin has the Toni?”

As you can imagine, Dan’s stunt opened the door to many marketing public relations programs focussed on product awareness and sales. When you could measure actual sales of product through PR, contract renewals were always easier.

It certainly works for Dan’s firm, now run by his son, which has become the largest public relations firm in the world. Edelman has more than 5000 employees worldwide and annual billings of the privately held firm are reputed to be in excess of $700 million.

One of the major challenges for the firm is its client TransCanada Pipelines. It has been estimated that TransCanada paid the Washington office of Edelman more than $50 million to try to get the Keystone XL pipeline past the legislative barriers in the United States.

Despite the lack of success to-date, TransCanada must like something about Edelman’s Washington office. They have also retained the same office to convince Canadians of the benefits of TransCanada’s EnergyEast pipeline project that runs from Hardisty, Alberta to Saint John, New Brunswick. And this is no nickel and dime campaign!

Many Canadians are becoming nauseous from the repetition of TransCanada’s television advertising that shows ubiquitous greenery and the hoary tag line that “we not only work here, but we live and play here.”

But it is the more insidious assault that a firm such as Edelman mounts that works on the acceptance of their versions of the truth. An editorial in a local newspaper last week screamed of Edelman’s expertise. The writer in this case does well with farm reports but this one was way out of his league. He wrote about how North Americans need to work together to unify their strategies for our new-found energy self-sufficiency. The ideas in that editorial were pure Edelman and pro TransCanada Pipelines.

Having worked the corridors of both Ottawa and Washington over the years, it is amusing to note that the our Conservative government has hired the Ottawa office of PR firm FleishmanHilliard to influence Washington to approve the TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline while the Washington office of Edelman is doing the EnergyEast job in Canada.

Maybe both PR company offices should pay heed to those EnergyEast TV commercials and work where they live and play!

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Please come back Curmudgeon.

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

This is like a plaintive cry in the night across the prairie. A fellow blogger who goes under the pen name The Curmudgeon, a.k.a. The Mound of Sound, says he has had too much and he is giving up on Justin Trudeau and the Liberals.

But the problem is that the Curmudgeon is one of the brighter Liberal bloggers in Canada. He is among those who write about liberalism and its future. He is a thinker and we need him. It is far too big a job to do alone. Given a free hand, Justin Trudeau and his dubious brain trust could reduce the Liberal Party to fewer seats in the House of Commons than poor Michael Ignatieff.

At least the Curmudgeon does not spend all his time polishing his ego as most bloggers do. He can even use big words and spell them properly. And he says what he thinks.

The final straw for the Curmudgeon was the flip-flops of gymnastic hypocrisy by Trudeau the Lesser (the Curmudgeon’s term for our Dauphin) over Israeli discrimination. And if people do not recognize the blind, stupid discrimination in some of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s actions, they are just not paying attention. Getting even with Hamas by killing Palestinian civilians might feel good at the time but it is very bad for long-term relations.

You are a wise person Curmudgeon and you know that you just get people mad if you call the Israeli Prime Minister a fascist. That does not win friends and influence people. It is neither diplomatic nor productive.

At the same time, it is incorrect to suggest that the Israelis are racist. There might be some understandable but unwarranted tribalism but geneticists have concluded that the intermarriage of the Diaspora has eliminated most uniquely racial characteristics of the world population defined as Jewish. It is just that the various tribes wishing to live in the Levant need to learn to live together in peace.

You are of course forgiven for referring to your Liberal friends as “you Liberal bastards.” As Pierre Trudeau noted in reference to a scatological comment by President Richard Nixon of the U.S. “I have been called worse things by better people.”

Half of the Liberals in Babel already hate this writer but the sage among us must speak out for reason. At least we care about liberalism and where the Liberal Party is headed. And somebody has to tell Justin when he is screwing up.

And to be totally honest: is there anyone else you could vote for?

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Is EnergyEast Justin Trudeau’s Waterloo?

Monday, November 24th, 2014

How often have we seen a single issue become the real turning point in an election? It hardly matters how tired and out-of-touch the party in power might be, you still need that one idea that makes the turn-over happen. Nobody wins if all you say is that it is time for change. The change must be evident. It must be real. It must have relevance.

You can imagine how at this time Justin Trudeau and his brain trust are examining the potential obstacles and opportunities in the coming election. He has to define where he and the Liberal Party stand. And one of the potential hot buttons is the EnergyEast pipeline of TransCanada Pipelines. This one issue could be as key to winning in Quebec as the blocking of the Northern Gateway and the expanded Kinder Morgan pipelines is to winning in British Columbia.

But it could also be Justin Trudeau’s Waterloo. He cannot vacillate on issues related to the tar sands. As a party the Liberal Party has to say “No” to the large scale exploitation of the Athabasca and Cold Lake tar sands. The public has to be told of the threat that tar sands oil is to our planet. They have to learn that converting tar sands bitumen to refined oil products creates three times the pollution of regular crude oil. This goes far beyond the destruction of the environment in Northern Alberta. Canadians cannot allow that pipeline to pump the poison that will destroy our planet across the country for foreign markets just for paycheques in Alberta.

EnergyEast pipeline through Quebec is not only being pushed by the Conservatives and encouraged by the New Democrats but it is supported by one of the most desperate and expensive public relations programs ever undertaken in Canada. And if Justin Trudeau buys into it, he will lose the election. Because of the routing of EnergyEast in Ontario, it lacks the weight of exposure and concern it is generating in Quebec. Quebec will vote for the party that exposes the sham of EnergyEast and says “No.”

At this point many Quebecers are telling the pollsters that they are parking their votes with the New Democrats. They will not stay there. The pro-pipeline stance of the New Democrats is the Trojan horse that will spell destruction of the party. That leaves a policy path for the Liberal Party as wide as the St. Lawrence River.

If the Liberal Party does not come out against EnergyEast, Quebec voters will have no choice but to resurrect the Bloc Québécois. There is only one refinery in Quebec that is willing to spread the pollution of refining Alberta tar sands bitumen. The owners of that refinery operate out of Calgary.

But it is no secret that the ultimate destination of EnergyEast will be the new loading docks for ocean-going tankers in Saint John, New Brunswick. All Quebec will ever get out of that pipeline is the very real risk of serious pollution from pipeline spills.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

Sometimes, you cannot choose your friends.

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

A casual observation made in a commentary the other day about the difficulties of having Americans as neighbours and friends evoked some questions. It comes down to the fact that Canadians have little choice. You might think we Canadians get kicked around now but just think of what it would be like if Americans actively disliked us?

You could never drive to Florida in the winter again. Imagine every state along the way getting a piece of you. From new state taxes just for us to special speed traps, you would be too poor to stay long in Florida if you even got there. You would yearn for those good old days when the Americans only patronized you. Even your American relatives would not let you visit them unless you flew—God forbid you should park a car with Canadian plates in their driveway.

What you have to remember is that almost half of the population in that country are born-again, gun-loving, Tea Party Republicans who despise any foreign, colored, impoverished or possibly sexual deviant person who does not look or talk like them.

There are also Democrats in the U.S.A. who look and talk like Republicans just to confuse matters. There are also quite a few Latinos and blacks whose ancestors came to America long before many of the red-neck Republicans’ ancestors. There are also some native American Indian survivors. Which makes the point that in a land of more than 300 motley millions, they probably would not all dislike Canadians at the same time.

In fact, the principal American, President Obama is not as annoyed with Canadians as he is tired of the constant pressure from Prime Minister Harper and his friends to put through the Keystone XL pipeline. He knows that there are lots of us Canadians who are saying, “Good on you Mr. Obama, screw TransCanada Pipelines.”

Maybe one of these days Prime Minister Harper is going to realize that he cannot have both a customs plaza at Canada’s new bridge to Detroit and Keystone XL too. It is a safe bet that Mr. Obama would go along with the bridge plaza for $250 million if Mr. Harper would just shut up about Keystone. He has enough right-wing conservatives nagging at him in Congress.

But Obama has that warm feeling that comes from knowing that he will probably outlast that hard-ass Harper. His term of office is not up until 2016. Mr. Harper’s term of office is likely to end next year. And Canadians will be their old lovable selves again.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

What about Blair’s role at the G20?

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

Are Canadians supposed to believe that Toronto police Chief Bill Blair is just an unindicted co-conspirator in the illegal actions of the Toronto police during the G20 in Toronto in 2010? It is somewhat late for him to claim that he did not know that he was breaching the rights of Canadian citizens during the police actions of that dreadful weekend. Simply getting rid of Blair is not the answer.

Toronto Police Superintendant David (Mark) Fenton is currently the only senior officer charged and is now before a tribunal under the Police Services Act. He is charged with five acts of unlawful arrest and discreditable conduct during that weekend when some 1100 people were arrested and detained. It seems Supt. Fenton was the officer who ordered the unwarranted kettling incidents of walkers and gawkers in downtown Toronto, nowhere near the G20 meetings. His lawyer claims that Mr. Fenton’s defence is that while he ordered the arrests, he was not responsible for how officers carried out his orders. (Seriously, his lawyer is quoted saying that by the Toronto Star, Nov. 21/14.)

This defence is what brings us back to William Blair. Canadian police forces are organized as quasi-military organizations and there is always a well defined chain of command. The initial and ongoing training of police officers is designed to ensure an understanding and proper follow-through of orders from those officers over you. Senior officers who give ambiguous orders do not remain officers for long. Police officers of all ranks who prove they cannot follow legal orders from superior officers do not stay long on a properly run police force.

And the buck stops in the office of the Chief of Police. That confusing array of emblems on Bill Blair’s uniform epaulets say he is the boss. He is responsible. If people under him are not trained to do their job as ordered, it is the chief’s problem.

What everyone needs to understand is that Toronto, Ontario is not Ferguson, Missouri. Canadian police had never used kettling tactics before June 2010. They do not need army surplus equipment with which to frighten citizens. Canadian police should never have to block, contain or arrest citizens who are lawfully on the street.

Toronto police have a long way to go to recover from the damage done to their reputation in that summer weekend in 2010. There were politicians to blame aplenty. There were confusing orders given to the Toronto Chief of Police. He had the responsibility to have them clarified. He did not. He was wrong. His police acted improperly. He is to blame.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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

The rich are different, Mr. Clark.

Friday, November 21st, 2014

There is something irrepressible about TD Bank’s Ed Clark. He wants to give advice in areas beyond a banker’s experience. The other day, he handed in another seriously flawed report to the Ontario government and now he is giving advice to the rich. Being one of the rich himself, he is advising them to be more charitable. While nobody will disagree, the rich are not always the best people to decide where this largess should go.

One of the first things you learn in charitable fund-raising is how there is a broad range of potential donors with just as broad a range of ways to motivate them. While the one per cent can provide some very large gifts and the top ten per cent of earners can give your cause a lift, it is the average wage earners who stay committed to your cause who make the year-after-year difference. And while fads such as a bucket of cold water and ice can produce interesting peaks in fund-raising, the annual signature campaigns (the ones identified with your cause) are what you count on.

But like a garden, these signature campaigns need constant tending, nurturing, pruning and new ideas to keep your cause current and in the public mind.

Some fund-raising experts concentrate their efforts on those one-time generous gifts of the one per cent. It helps if you have a building to name or an important prize to identify. There are egos to be stroked and descendants to be flattered. Despite the urge to just rent out this naming, you really have to wait for a generation to die off before you can tack new names on well known edifices such as Toronto’s SkyDome or O’Keefe Centre.

And thank goodness the one per cent are no longer wasting their money on ostentatious mausoleums. University buildings and named wings on hospitals are really much more practical and appreciated. The largest ever of one of these gifts in Canada to health sciences was announced the other day by the family of the late Ted Rogers. A total gift of $130 million will not do much to burnish the image of the company that bears his name but will go a long way to furthering heart research.

But the big problem is that we do not always make the best choices on what to do with our money. It is ours and we get to do as we wish. For example, Bill Gates is one of the richest people in the world and the foundation he and his wife run concentrates on problems in Africa. What Gates forgets is that a large percentage of that money was made in North America. There is also poverty, hunger, ignorance and needs in North America. While the needs in Africa are dire and have to be addressed, there is still validity to the old adage that charity begins at home.

And while Ed Clark’s advice to his fellow top earners is appreciated and obviously warm hearted, we each need to contribute in those areas where we are comfortable that the money is used properly. Being sceptical and checking carefully always makes sense.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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