Archive for September, 2015

Time for a new navigator at Queen’s Park.

Sunday, September 20th, 2015

The other day Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa was quoted as saying “We are trying to navigate through this thing.” He was talking about selling beer in grocery stores. Frankly if he is still trying to navigate this seemingly thorny issue, the Ontario Liberals need a new navigator.

It might even help if this new navigator knew something about merchandising, grocery stores, the beer business and what Ontario citizens want.

And would someone please silence that Greek chorus from the beer store union? They are saying that a third of the people leaving a grocery store with beer will be drunk. They must be taking advertising 101 and the ‘Big Lie’ from the Harper Conservatives.

But please do not take any lip from that jerk from Barrie posing as the new leader of the opposition. Mind you that jerk is going to keep the Wynne Liberals in power as long as he runs(?) the Tories and Ms. Horwath runs what is left of the provincial NDP.

The point here is that nobody seems to understand is that government is not about running things: it is about serving the needs of the citizens. That includes important things like health care, education, highways, the energy supply and municipal and provincial policing. Selling beer is an incidental. There are some blue stocking people who do not even drink beer; what right do they have to a say? The majority of people who want to buy beer just want greater convenience in their purchasing.

And having beer available in a third of the province’s large grocery stores is the furthest thing from convenient. When you really want to buy a six-pack is when you walk down to the corner convenience store. Did you read that—the operative word was ‘convenience.’ Mr. Sousa should take heed.

What is really galling people right now is you have a banker as finance minister and you have a banker telling him how to sell beer, That is something like the dumb leading the stupid. To make matters worse, they probably both drink single-malt scotch.

And do not get us going about the ignorance of selling part of Hydro One. That is just another way to screw Ontario citizens on energy costs. Sousa and Wynne are damn lucky there is a federal election going on and we do not have time to really give them Hell!

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

It’s the overage that should worry you.

Saturday, September 19th, 2015

At one time in a varied career, we were trained in grocery store management. It culminated in being a very young district manager for a large group of stores. This is mentioned as groceries were one of the last all cash businesses and the smart manager watched the cash registers as closely as he watched the back door. When you are dealing in such a close margin business as groceries, you have to be sharp. One of the first signs of trouble with a cashier is not shortages on the till at the end of a shift but overages. Shortages can be accidental or careless. When a till is over too often, you look closer.

It was the recent surprise and delight of Stephen Harper at the $1.9 billion surplus from the last fiscal year of our government that brought this to mind. And with Tony Clement as the government’s cashier as President of the Treasury Board, it did not allay suspicions about the nature of this windfall.

Canadians can never forget that Tony Clement was the guy who built lavish public washrooms and other facilities for his riding with $50 million of Border Services money. This was needed he said when the G-7 countries met at Deerhurst Resort in 2010. It was certainly helpful for Tony’s re-election in Parry Sound riding in 2011.

Clement is a product of former Ontario Premier Michael Harris’ ‘Common Sense Revolution’ of the 1990s. He is an extremist conservative ideologue and is located somewhere in the vicinity of Stephen Harper’s right hand—if anyone could get that close to their fearless leader.

But he has been the obedient servant as Canada’s guy holding the purse strings. Nobody has built any washrooms on Tony’s watch. His job was to tighten the purse strings and that is what he did.

Tony saved money. He closed veteran’s offices that he did not think were needed–despite the protests from veterans.

Tony had money allocated in the federal budget to buy new carbines and training in their use for the R.C.M. Police. They needed these to supplement their pistols. While Mounties were being killed by people with more long-range weapons, Tony doled out the money as some sort of Scrooge.

Many departments of government complained about not getting funds allocated but Tony was adamant. He was there to save money, not to spend it.

Mr. Harper was surprised and pleased by a less than one per cent saving of the federal budget. He should give Tony Clement a medal.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

‘Well, look,’ Mr. Harper.

Friday, September 18th, 2015

Just when you are hoping that politics in Canada will not sink any lower, you get an evening of politics even worse.

It started innocuously with the evening news on Shaw’s Global National with Dawna Friezen. Every newscast today seems to have its own panel of experts ready to tell us all what to think. Global is no exception. The only problem was that this panel was made up of surrogates for the three major party leaders. Friezen quickly lost control of the panel and the control room did not have the smarts to cut certain microphones. Great start!

And then we tuned in the debate being broadcast from Calgary to advertise the Toronto Globe and Mail. We thought we would have to watch it on streaming video on the computer but we found it by accident on Hamilton’s orphan television station.

And it also started with another inane panel. These were all Globe and Mail employees trying to show us how smart they are. They are not but we had lots of time to make popcorn and settle down for the show.

Nice set though. It looked like the parliament buildings. In Calgary?

The moderator was some other high Globe and Mail mucky-muck. He should never be hired by the local primary school as recess monitor. He looked like he wanted to get into the mêlée rather than control it.

And if Stephen Harper had started just one more sentence with “Well look,” the wife was going throw the popcorn bowl at an expensive flat screen television. Luckily she got bored and fell asleep before he said it ten more times.

Even after the debate, it continued. The CBC National News was ready with its panel to analyze the debate. It goes on forever! And that guy from the National Post, who has an opinion on everything, thought Mr. Harper won the debate. That shows how biased he is.

At least Peter Mansbridge controls his panel. When he asked Chantal Hébert who she thought had won, she demurred but said the Radio-Canada people with whom she was watching in Montreal thought Mr. Trudeau won.

And, in a sense, he did. He was the only participant with any vision of where he was going. Mr. Harper was the same old-same old. And Mr. Mulcair was smarmy and trying hard to be funny. He failed.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Taking lessons in pandering.

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

In an otherwise pleasant evening the other day, we attended a Canadian Association of Retired People (CARP) meeting to hear the local political candidates. Since Barrie has been split in half for this federal tryst, we had to listen to the candidates from two ridings. It certainly was not double the fun.

The Green Party and New Democrats were a quartet that was loud, strident and sure of their parties’ platforms. Whether they had any personal contribution to make in Ottawa seemed to be a mute point. The Liberal candidates were interesting and brought their individual strengths to the party. What struck us though were the problems faced by the Conservative candidates in coping with the format of the meeting.

All candidates were asked the same set questions that they were expected to answer in a tightly controlled time frame. As both Conservative candidates had the same party song sheet to read from, you could understand why their party headquarters advised them to stay away from these situations. Most Conservative candidates are staying away from all all-candidate meetings. The Barrie candidates have both served on Barrie City Council and figured they could handle it. They did at first but their answers to the questions seemed similar, irrelevant and pure fiction.

By the fourth question, the Barrie-Innisfil Conservative did not feel like reading the same answer as his compatriot and got into an off-the-script diatribe against pandering to voters by going around the country bribing taxpayers with their own money. What was really funny about it was that his leader Stephen Harper was out in Vancouver at the time pretending to play bingo at a seniors’ event and offering single seniors a tax credit for voting Conservative.

What surprised the Barrie audience was that the candidate actually knew the definition of a panderer beyond offering sexual services. Mind you if he really needed a picture of pandering he only needed to consider Stephen Harper and the millions spent pandering to the Jewish vote in Canada. When some schmuck candidate was whining to him at the Temple Wall about wanting a picture for his campaign literature, Harper should have seen the error of his ways.

But he did not. Instead Harper went on to pander to Canada’s extensive Ukrainian Diaspora by insulting Russia’s Putin. He might have been right in his assessment of the Russian leader but it showed that he had a lot to learn about international diplomacy.

And all of this came to us as we sat in a pew of a funeral parlour chapel in Barrie.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Who is hiding under your bed?

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015

Canada’s ‘tough on terror’ prime minister wants you to be afraid. He wants you to believe there might be a bogeyman jihadist under your bed. It is the reason for his anti-terrorism Bill C-51 that his majority government forced into law before the election. It is a bad law that supposedly let’s Canada’s security forces look under your bed for you.

And if the news media will just let the Stephen Harper campaign to get back on script, he will tell you all about it. Security is part of Mr. Harper’s spiel for law and order in our generally peaceful land. What he really needs to emphasize his point is to get some Islamic State jihadists over here to run around with guns to scare the populace.

But with the court challenges mounting against the draconian Bill C-51, it looks like more and more Canadians think the bill goes beyond what Canada needs. They have no enthusiasm for allowing or paying for the security forces to look under peoples’ beds.

And paying for increased intrusion on Canadians’ rights and freedoms is the main problem with the bill. It places a great deal more responsibility on the federal police, the security investigation service and the border guardians than they have the personnel or financial resources to handle. They simply cannot do the tasks the bill calls for.

It was obviously in the campaign script for Mr. Harper to start promising specific funding objectives for the security people. This would enable him to show how tough he is on crime. It would also show his Conservative base that he is doing what they want.

Mr. Harper has also been trying to get to his law and order script by pointing to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and blaming them for the refugee crisis in Europe. All we really need to do is bomb the oil fields and pipelines that are bringing those brigands millions of black market oil dollars a day and block their financing from Saudi Arabia to end their involvement. And then all that is needed is for some country to bomb Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to end the war.

But the wiser role for Canada is to stay out of foreign wars that do not involve us. We need to use diplomacy and we need to do a better job of delivering foreign aid. We certainly need to speed up our bringing refugees to safety in our country.

But before we fund Mr. Harper’s Bill C-51 to make sure we are safe in our beds, we should remind Mr. Harper of the words of Justin Trudeau’s father: The state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

If you fail to try, you are guaranteed to fail.

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

While watching from the catbird seat in Barrie, Toronto is still our city. We were both born in Toronto. We wept for the Leafs through the 70s and 80s. We were there for the Jays in their first World Series and the repeat. We bet on John Tory as mayor last year to return our city’s honour. We saw the Pan-Am Games as a provincial success. We were enthusiastic for the Olympics because it is a rite of passage for a great city. We could not be more disappointed with the ignorance of the naysayers.

Great cities lead. They build iconic beacons such as the CN Tower, SkyDome and a leaky but identifying city hall. They create wildly successful festivals such as Pride, Caribana and Taste of the Danforth. The world looks to Toronto as a leader in fashion, film, music, theatre, serving foods of the world and a tourist Mecca. And everyone should be embarrassed for how long it is taking to have a world-class casino.

And Toronto is a city where people feel safe. It is safety without boredom. It is a city of churches without much proselytizing. It is where the hookers are not too aggressive as they offer their services. It is a polite city. It is generally clean. The city water tastes good. Even the police tend to be deferential.

So who elected the misanthropes who are against a bid for the Olympics? We understand former Mayor Rob Ford. He is against anything that might be progressive—especially if it was not his idea. That bunch of downtown councillors are sad sacks who are against anything that might get them off their bicycles. They feel it is a bad day when they cannot think of something to retard the growth and success of the city.

If Vancouver can do a Winter Olympics and Montreal can do a Summer Olympics, then Toronto can do a Summer Olympics to make all Canadians proud. And this has to be remembered: we are carrying our country on our shoulders. We are helping restore Canada’s international reputation. It has been going downhill in the past decade and we have to help rebuild it.

Canada cannot take pride in its athletes if we do not step to the bar and host our share of Olympic Games. It is an obligation we have to accept. This is a time for leadership.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Closer to home: Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte.

Monday, September 14th, 2015

When first viewing the boundaries of the new federal electoral districts that now divide the City of Barrie, the reaction was ‘Why would they do anything that silly?’ It was when the Ontario Commission came to town that the term ‘Gerrymander’ came to mind. It was also after listening to local Conservatives compliment the commission on the brilliance of the design that we were convinced. And when we realized that the other local party organizations were not going to complain, we left in disgust.

Canada does not have a strong tradition of gerrymandering. It is an American term that describes the manipulation of the boundaries of an electoral district to the benefit of a particular party or race. What happened to Barrie is that with many younger, well-educated homeowners moving into a rapidly growing city, the trend was towards more progressive voting. By cutting the city in half, there was an opportunity to add heavily Conservative rural areas to the urban vote.

And that is why both Liberal candidates, each with a riding two-thirds urban and one-third rural, have their work cut out for them. The riding of Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte has the added ignominy of having Canada’s least effective Member of Parliament Patrick Brown being elected to the Legislature of Ontario during the federal election by the voters in Springwater and Oro-Medonte townships who live in the provincial riding of Simcoe-North.

And the Conservative candidate for Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte has shadowed the new leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives. He apprenticed the guy for years. He served two terms as a Barrie Councillor ineffectually without getting more than a few people mad at him and now thinks he is ready for Ottawa.

Mind you, he needs little preparation to be as bad as his predecessor. The first time we heard him speak to Barrie Council at a council meeting, we asked someone why they did not fix his microphone. The answer was that his microphone worked fine. He mumbles. When asked why he did not take speaking lessons, the answer was that he had nothing important to say. This guy was chosen by the federal Conservatives after he got bounced from a provincial nomination contest because he tried to break the rules and pay the membership fees for some of his sign-ups.

This prize Conservative candidate can best be explained as being too young to have a biography and has never held a job long enough to have a career. He wants to be our MP. He is running against the President Emeritus of Georgian College who helped develop the college into one of the top community colleges in Ontario.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Are they damning democracy?

Sunday, September 13th, 2015

It is appalling the number of Canadians who say they want voter reform without bothering to research or understand the subject. Sitting in an audience recently with apparently a high percentage of New Democrat supporters, it was surprising how eager they are to reform how we vote. The speaker made an inane claim for proportional voting and they applauded wildly.

What these enthusiasts do not understand is that to adopt proportional representation in this country is to give up on democracy. We have this tradition of electing our best and brightest to our provincial capitols and our nation’s capitol. It is a system that has suffered greatly the last couple decades but we can hardly give up on it without a fight.

Proportional representation was initially designed to accommodate illiterate voters. The voter only needs to make a mark for a party by name or pictograph. The various parties are then entitled to choose members of the governing council according to their share of the vote.

Canada’s First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) system came to us from England where it started with people gathering at the village square to shout out their preference for a member of parliament. It is our ability to choose our member of parliament that is the most precious part of our system of government. This person answers to us.

Admittedly we have far too many people in this country who just vote for a party without considering the individual. Thankfully there are still some who do not want to vote for the village idiot just because he or she represents their favourite party.

What we are considering is that in as much as the same people pushing voting reform want to do something about the Senate of Canada, they can make the senate proportional according to the FPTP vote for the House of Commons. While the negotiations for that with the Province of Quebec would be interesting, there might just be a formula that would work.

This suggestion would give us the opportunity to renew the senate after every federal election. That would reduce its sense of entitlement, increase its energy and reflect a more contemporary attitude. And since the FPTP system can produce majorities of seats in the commons without a majority of the popular vote, the government party would not necessarily have a majority in the senate. This would ensure a more balanced examination of legislation by the senate and give the country better government.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Who is under the bus?

Saturday, September 12th, 2015

The reason political campaign buses are so big is that there needs to be enough people to be used as scapegoats when things go wrong. And in all campaigns, winning or losing, things will go wrong. The infamous Murphy of Murphy’s Law rides on every bus.

A critical measure of any party leader is how he or she responds when the inevitable glitch happens. That response can be anything from a quiet word with the malefactor to the screeching halt of the bus to deposit you at the side of the road. At that point you might as well throw yourself under the bus. Your days as a campaign guru are over.

While there is usually a continuing effort to keep spirits up in a collegial atmosphere, a very clear hierarchy is determined early on the bus. And you stay away from the leader’s space unless you have a briefing responsibility. To be called forward to talk to the leader is an honour that is cherished.

But there are tensions and nail biting on that bus to last a lifetime. Those with media responsibilities keep their sanity by often riding in the follow-bus with the news media. There is enough tension there if the media feel you are going too far in spinning the day’s story. They can also be lavish in their ridicule when you try to rescue your guy from the day’s gaff on the platform.

Stephen Harper did Campaign Manager Jenni Byrne a favour sending her back to the Ottawa headquarters this past week. Obviously the spin on the story was not by any of her friends. That is a very soft landing though for a scapegoat. It should also be noted that if she really is the campaign manager, she should be running the campaign from the party headquarters anyway.

The media reported that the prime minister huddled with some pals in Toronto after that to review where the Conservative campaign was at. The first thing that is hard to believe is that Stephen Harper has pals!

What the dinner probably revealed is that the Conservative campaign is tanking. And what really upset these obviously wealthy ‘pals’ is the possibility of the foolish ads about the Liberal’s Trudeau being young helping Mulcair’s NDP, not the Conservatives.

But one of the firmest rules on the bus is the ‘Las Vegas Rule’ that what happens on the bus, stays on the bus. When a bus develops too many leaks, it usually means the entire campaign is about to go under.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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

Building better bigotry.

Friday, September 11th, 2015

Growing up in Toronto after the Second World War, we always had ready lessons in the problems faced by the children of refugees and immigrants. The children were the rapid adapters of the language and culture they found. They sought acceptance by their peer groups among native-born children. And, in turn, we saw the conflicts created between the old-country parents and their children as the children became more acclimatized and familiar with North American ways.

The tragedy of these cultural conflicts cannot be better expressed than the current conflict between Ontario’s school system and the densely packed immigrant population in an area such as Toronto’s Thorncliffe Park. Having lived in that community when first married and before buying our first home in North York, we know the area. The dramatic difference in Thorncliffe today is the once run-of-the-mill North-American shopping mall in the centre of that mass of apartment buildings now has many of the characteristics of an Arab souk (bazaar).

While many new immigrants like to live where they have the support of so many others, it can cause serious problems. Their children are getting far less opportunity to interface with children born in this country. Their integration is being retarded. It is harder to find the acceptance they need and want. Estrangement can often build resentment.

And now they are being used as pawns in a tug of war between their parent’s and the Ontario school system over sex education. The parents’ objections to the relatively tame discussion points for teachers in the health curriculum are perceived as being based more on ignorance than any religious grounds. The children need the education to cope in this country. They are not living in the old country. Nobody expects the parents to integrate easily into this foreign culture but they have to allow their children to adapt. This country and its culture are a package deal. It is based on tolerance.

What is wrong here is that without the language needed to understand what they hear, the children will get their sex education on the street from less reliable sources. In this freer society they can be more vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. These are just children who want to be like their classmates while their parents appear to be used by others’ to further political agendas.

And speaking of political agendas, you should not wait for the federal Conservatives to rush to the aid of the Syrian and Iraqi refugees flooding into Europe. They will work up a few crocodile tears for appearances but the last thing their extreme right-wing Conservative supporters want is a large number of Muslims impacting the demographics in this country.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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