Archive for February, 2016

Donald Trump: Master of the Free World?

Monday, February 29th, 2016

Some readers assumed we were sampling liberalized pot when we suggested that Donald Trump could win the American Presidency. Frankly it is not something we care to bet on. We just accept the logic. There are too many factors that can weigh in favour of a Trump win and it is too early to quantify them.

But that is hardly the same as giving Donald Trump a pass to the Presidency. First he has to win the Republican nomination. Bringing out Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey as his first heavy Republican support is not exactly starting at the top. In politics, you have to lead with your strong suite. He is going to be sorry soon for those nasty remarks about Jeb Bush. And he needs to realize that bikers, losers and Tea Party crazies are not the most reliable delegates to the upcoming Republican convention.

We expect the Democratic candidate to be Hillary Clinton and she is a far smarter politician than Trump could ever be. And if he thinks he can trash-talk Hillary over e-mails as a cornerstone issue, he knows nothing about voters either. Voters care about the issues that affect them. They also have a sense of fair play and if they see this boor attacking the lady, he could get a lesson in manners.

Mind you, this is a guy who has survived in the cut-throat, corrupt and conniving atmosphere of real estate development. Not that there is much difference between that and American politics. In real estate, you just hope the guy finally loses it all and becomes a nobody. That also sounds like politics. The only real difference is that in real estate development you beg people for money to put together your wild schemes. In politics, you just raise taxes.

At the same time, putting any trust in Donald Trump as President is not a very sane idea. Did you know that he has promised to build a wall between Mexico and America? He is also going to keep Muslims out of the dear-old U S of A. Maybe he will evict the United Nations from New York while he is at it.

Many Democrats are thinking that Trump will be easy to beat. What they might not be considering is the weakness of their own party’s position. There is a large measure of disappointment in the country over Obama’s perceived use of rhetoric over action. Bill Clinton is still seen as a negative in considering his wife. And Bernie Sanders has made it very clear that Hillary is not a force for reform. We will just have to wait for the fireworks in September and October to place a bet.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Political parties promote populism.

Sunday, February 28th, 2016

There are people who actually fear for the future of political parties as populism grabs more of the attention in the current American primaries. It is not something you need to worry about. Political parties need the periodic peak of populism to bring them up-to-date to the reality of the times.

In Canada populism was what elected John Diefenbaker and Pierre Trudeau back in the 1900s. It was the obvious surge behind the sweep by Justin Trudeau in Canada in 2015. And then there is the antithesis of common sense in America currently of populist Republican Donald Trump and his Democrat counterpart Bernie Sanders.

Populism can be of the right or the left. It can be of the religious and economic conservatism in Canada of the Alberta-based Reform Party of Preston Manning or the agrarian left of 19th Century American populist William Jennings Bryan.

But pundits are beginning to wonder if the Republican Party in America has bitten off far more than it can chew by turning Donald Trump lose on the archaic, corrupt and outmoded primary system in the U.S.

And what better way to ensure ultimate reform?

While nobody in politics is embarrassed by populism, there are times when it can get out of hand. Taking down a populist leader can be a fearful fight. A good example was when Dalton Camp, president of the Progressive Conservative Party of the period decided that John Diefenbaker should no longer be the parliamentary leader of the party. The fight was classic and Dalton found that the old bull had lots of fight left in him.

Populism in itself is not a political movement. The short-lived Populist Party in the United States merged into the Democratic Party in the late 1800s. It is usually an anti-establishment movement that attracts the disaffected and the angry.

Bernie Sanders has only scratched the surface of the anti-one percent anger among the American left but he is too late and too old to carry it to victory.

Donald Trump is very different as he is pulling together the angry right as an anti-establishment candidate. Trump does not give a damn what he says: all he promises his followers is that he will tell them anything he wants, when he wants. And they love it.

Trump might even become President. The only promise we can make is that the Tea Party Republicans who think he is so great today would be trying to impeach him before he was President for more than a year. He is politically stupider than George W. Bush.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

A conservative budget from Premier Wynne.

Saturday, February 27th, 2016

Patrick Brown, eat your heart out. As leader of Ontario’s Conservative Party, it is no fun having all your good potential tax moves made by conservatives in liberal clothing. The Ontario budget read so dutifully by Finance Minister Charles Sousa the other day made a mockery of liberalism and usurped traditional Conservative space.

Imagine if you are a senior in Ontario and eking out your remaining existence on about $3000. a month in pensions and federal government largess. You have just been slammed with a 70 per cent increase in annual drug benefit fees and another dollar per prescription of co-payment. These are supposed to be your golden years if the God damn provincial government would leave you some of the gold you have left.

Maybe somebody told Premier Wynne that seniors never change their life-time voting patterns. Just try us Ms. Wynne.

When Babel-on-the-Bay wrote that tongue in cheek commentary about university students turning to prostitution to pay the exorbitant fees for a higher education, we obviously had no idea that the budget would wade into the subject (higher costs not prostitution).

But how can the Ontario government be so stupid as to make a mess of funding higher education? This is just as bad as their silly incremental approach to booze distribution. They do nothing but half measures and make a mess of just doing that little. Do they have any idea of the size of the bureaucracy that will be needed to sort out all the claims and counter claims of such an ignorant method of funding higher education?

First of all, it has to be marks that entitle our young people to enter college or university level programs. Whether their parents have or have not got the money is irrelevant. The government can neither award nor penalize students for the wealth of their parents. And stop charging us outrageously for parking on campuses that belong to all.

It seems the government wants kudos for scrapping the fees for Drive Clean emission testing. That was always an annoying tax. The only problem now is that the government is giving the “testers’ a greater incentive to find something they can “fix.” This is another fine example of corporate care over consumer care.

And another thing: you can stuff the projections on a balanced budget wherever you like but it is nothing but silly guesswork. The budget will balance whenever revenues rise to meet expenditures. Any householder knows that.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Finding out the truth on Cap and Trade.

Friday, February 26th, 2016

It is like you are saving the world one added tax at a time. Only politicians would believe that the refineries and gas providers would be constrained from polluting by a tax on the end users. And why is the consumer tax imposed before the supposed industry caps are even attempted?

Ontario’s new Cap and Trade deal in combination with California and Quebec is nothing but a tax grab before the federal governments get into the same larcenous act. And if you believe that there will be some savings from electricity for Ontario users down the road, you probably also believe in the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny and Santa Claus.

And yes, it is the perfect time for the government in Ontario to impose the new gas taxes. Both gasoline and natural gas are at the lowest price levels we have seen for many years. When prices for regular gas normalize at the pumps within the next couple years to something in the range of $1.36 per litre, the government is hoping we will not notice the more than six cents for the province’s cap and trade tax and we are paying GST on top of it.

What is annoyingly syrupy about the entire deal is that Premier Wynne and her minions are posing the entire tax with the virtue of saving our planet. It seems our cap-and-trade tax money will be used to replace normal tax money to pay for virtuous objectives such as greatly expanded public transit around metropolitan areas and particularly Toronto.

This is the smoke screen that is being thrown up while we wonder just how realistic some of the environmental objectives might be. The problem with the idea of reducing greenhouse emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 is that God knows how few of us will be here then to demand our money back.

This entire scheme smacks of corporate care not consumer care. In Ontario, we still have the potential for corruption in corporate political donations and in third-party advertising that makes a joke of spending controls on politicians.

Is it any surprise that we are facing billions in new taxes while our politicians are wrapping themselves in the righteous cloaks of saving the environment? It seems the worst pollution was the words coming from the Ontario finance minister when he read his budget news yesterday.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

And with a minor in hooking.

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

It certainly is expensive to get through university these days and we hear that more and more undergraduates are shopping their bodies to keep themselves in class. And some are doing it in the world’s oldest profession. They might not like to use the word but they are still prostituting themselves.

But can you think of a more worthy objective than to earn a degree in the process? You can hardly blame someone who prefers giving blow jobs to having to pour coffee at Tim’s just to eat Kraft Dinners. It is your choice. And there are many forms of prostitution and a girl or guy can pick their level. Mind you, the day is passed when an undergraduate can earn improved grades by simply leading on the old professor. University is the real TV reality show these days.

And the number of gals and guys who have the gumption—and salable bodies—are growing. The economics of getting a degree are driving that bus. Determination can overcome revulsion and mother’s advice any day.

And this phenomenon is making further hypocrites of our politicians in Ottawa as they dither over Supreme Court demands to take better care of our sex workers. Selling your body is not just the oldest profession but it is time honoured down to the travesty of marriage vows. “Do you Prudence, promise to love, honour and spread your legs whenever Horace wants in fulfilling these vows?”

It is a vast improvement these days that marriage seems to be the thing you do if your relationship can survive three or four years of cohabitation.

But sex as a unique part of marriage went home to mother many years ago. Married sex is like keeping your Ferrari from leaving your driveway. It is safe but can be terribly boring.

But back in university, we need to spread the good word. Whether you find a sugar daddy (or sugar mommy) on the Internet or join the nearest stroll, it is all part of the learning experience. Your first job in university is not to pick your ultimate profession but to learn about yourself. And it is also advisable to learn to respect yourself and your fellow humans. Our human sexual nature travels the path of the seasons of life. These are the learning years.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Bugger bogeyman Brown.

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

It is hardly likely that Opposition Leader Patrick Brown is giving Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne sleepless nights. It is a combination of her ego, her handlers and the confidence that Brown will eventually make the monster mistake.

It was as recent as two years ago when former Conservative Leader Timmy Hudak stood in front of a business crowd at the Barrie Golf Club—with Patrick Brown (then a Member of Parliament) front and centre and applauding wildly—and announced that he was going to cut 100,000 provincial civil servant jobs. That was the monster mistake of 2014 that gave Ms. Wynne a very much undeserved majority at Queen’s Park.

Can you not just imagine Patrick Brown facing that ugly puss of his in the mirror every morning and saying his mantra: “I will not screw up, I will not screw up.”

While a bunch of ethnic groups are feeling flattered these days over the attention that the Ontario Tories are now paying them, there are also lots of old white Tories saying “Who’s this Patrick Brown schmuck?” The guy’s only claim to fame is that he stole the leadership of his provincial party.

That is a great example to our children: “If you can’t win honestly, try the Brown way.”

You have to admit though that Premier Wynne showed a lot of balls to think she could win Whitby – Oshawa electoral district. The former member Christine Elliott did a terrible job of letting Conservatives in the area know why she did not want to stay at Queen’s Park under Brown’s so-called leadership. If more than 30 per cent of the voters had gone to the polls, Wynne would have just been even more embarrassed.

It was a stupid by-election—at the worst time of year. And there was absolutely no need to embarrass Prime Minister Trudeau in the process.

By the way, did anyone take note of the New Democrat performance? And do you really expect NDP Leader Andrea Horwath to do a repeat pratfall in the next Ontario election?

And Patrick Brown is hardly Premier Wynne’s problem. She now has two years to start to look like she knows what she is doing. Selling off Hydro One is doing nothing for her. Her idea of liberalising booze sales in Ontario is nothing but a blue-stocking nightmare. The people of Ontario want to see their future. Kathleen Wynne has to present something far better than she has done so far.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Measuring Mr. Morneau.

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau is a political newby. While he carries solid credits from the Toronto financial community, the gloves and all bets come off on March 22. First budgets are like that. He had better be wearing Kevlar undershorts as well as the traditional new shoes when he brings in that budget. He is already in a defensive mode.

His problem is that the expectations have already been set too high. And he is showing weakness in Ottawa’s children’s hour known as “Question Period.” It is rude, inane and repetitious testing and he has to suffer through it. He might wonder how his Teflon Leader Justin Trudeau slides through the questions but he is already grasping at straws.

Trudeau, with no financial credentials, can hardly step into the Finance Minister’s place and handle many questions for him. That buck stops with Bill.

Morneau’s only advantage so far is that he has far more personality and charm than Joe Oliver. In fact, Joe Oliver had neither in that job.

All the same, Morneau is going to take some hits for the team in March.

But he can hardly spin out his budget ahead of time in the hopes of making friends in the media. He can be assured that, in print at least, he has very few friends.

What he needs to do is prove that he is smarter. One of the things he might do is take the Bombardier file from the Prime Minister and make it his. He knows we have to be seen to be helping Bombardier survive—the company has already started some ritual layoffs to make it look more desperate. Companies such as Bombardier are always going to be going through lean and fat years in their economic cycle. Finance needs to launch a program of buying Treasury stock from the company in the lean years and releasing them to the market or back to the company in the fat years.

But that approach does not include buying into pipelines to aid Alberta’s oil sands exploiters. Alberta needs help diversifying its economy. Oil sands are anathema to Canada’s need for clean energy.

With the announcement of the budget date in four weeks, it means the budget has already been sent to the translators and it is being readied for the printers. It is not the qualities of the reader that are to be measured Mr. Morneau. It is the measure of the words.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

The terror of Trump.

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

If you really do not understand Donald Trump, your favourite psychiatrist might be able to help. You can also just think of Trump as another cathartic solution to the American condition. He is not that unusual a happening in politics.

Trump is not even the first billionaire to have delusions of the power of his money. Texan Ross Perot was well ahead of Trump when he took on Bill Clinton and George H. Bush in the 1992 Presidential election. It should also be noted that as foolish as some people thought Perot to be, at least his business dealings did not build on the bankruptcies and manipulations of the real estate transactions of “The Donald.” More and more people around the world are coming to the opinion that the name “Trump” on any building should be properly followed by a question mark.

But it is Trump the politician that has people really wondering. The only interesting comparison is the history of the Weimar Republic in Germany in the 1920s and 30s. Trump lacks the Brown Shirt support but his “solutions” to America’s problems carry much of the verve and clarity of Mein Kampf.

Trump the politician has much the same characteristics of a living politician in the form of Toronto’s former mayor and current Councillor Rob Ford. Ford was thought to be a buffoon when he first ran for mayor of that city but the righteous anger of society’s losers was not well understood by the bulk of political apparatchiks of the time.

The many millions of America’s losers have long sought a champion. While pushing the hot buttons of anger, bigotry, frustration and rage, the Grand Old Party was tolling its own death knell. This is not just the religious, the ignorant, the ignoble and the downtrodden who want to get even. This is populism at its worst.

Even America’s Democrats are struggling with the populist supporters of Bernie Sanders without realizing, they have their own angry and frustrated voters with which to contend.

The only regret is that America seems to be learning nothing from the situation. The rest of the world can hardly isolate Asylum America until it cures itself. We need to be understanding and as helpful as we can be. God Bless America: Somebody has to help!

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

It’s leadership that builds our future.

Sunday, February 21st, 2016

This is just an idle thought for a bleak February in Barrie. It is what a difference leadership can make. This comes to mind with the sour grapes announcement by Laurentian University that they are dumping their partnership staff and students at Georgian College. It reflects the abysmal failure of the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, Barrie City Council, Georgian College and the college’s University Partnership program. There was no leadership.

And it is leadership that greases the gears of this world in which we live. And frankly, Barrie will have none of that. This city is run by a grossly conservative cabal of civil servants, pathetic politicians and outside interests that hardly give a damn for our city.

There is no better example of this disgrace than Patrick Brown MPP. In years of representing this city in Ottawa, he never once demonstrated any leadership that would aid his city. As Ontario opposition leader, Brown harps at the Wynne government over the Hydro One fiasco that has already left the barn. Yet what did Brown say about the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities denying Barrie a university? Nothing.

Did you know that Kingston, Ontario that hosts the prestigious Queen’s University is much smaller than Barrie? The very successful Georgian College could become Georgian University at the stroke of a pen at Queen’s Park and it would open an entirely new vista for the city and for Simcoe County.

But do not look to City Council for help. Those milk toasts get their leadership from the city’s civil servants and that is taking the city nowhere. One look at that train station to nowhere on the bay will tell you where this city is headed—but watch the realty taxes keep rising.

Barrie City Council is so weak and leaderless it cannot even save Central Collegiate from being demolished. It is the only high school available in downtown Barrie and Simcoe County’s school ‘experts’ are going to bus our downtown students to portables in the burgeoning suburbs. This city cannot even look after its high school students.

And please do not laugh at the Liberal MPP presently representing Barrie at Queen’s Park. She was picked to be exactly what she is: a vote for Ms. Wynne.

Now if we had someone such as former Georgian College president Brian Tamblyn running provincially two years from now, we could have a Member of the Legislature who knew what he was talking about and could get things done. He is a potential MPP who would stand up for Barrie and make sure that the city had the facilities it needs. You wonder who could talk him into running?

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

It’s a Wynne-Wynne for wine in Ontario.

Saturday, February 20th, 2016

It was like a fanfare of trumpets and drums for the announcement of the coming of some decent wine to Ontario grocery stores. Not immediately and not all at once and with a myriad of confusing rules but foreign and domestic wine will be available in some grocery stores this fall and more in the years to come. It is not as big a deal as it is touted but it is going to be milked for all the publicity the politicians can get.

And would you believe letters-to-the-editor decrying the greater availability of demon alcohol. It is almost as though they were written in the premier’s office to try to show that she is progressive.

She is not. All this progressive stuff is coming from a banker she asked to guide her through the shoals of Ontario politics. Like most bankers, he writes liberal headlines and conservative small print.

It is like Ontario VQA (Ontario wine that meets some standards) will be the only wine sold in about half the currently anointed grocery stores. You can be kind and call most of the stuff sold in the store kiosks today as ‘plonk.’ The plonk is to be moved to those stores’ food shelves instead of being in a separate kiosk. You can be assured though that people who like wines will still not drink it. It will take another five years for the favoured of the larger grocery stores to be selling beer and both foreign and domestic wines as routine.

And that is what it should have been from day one. This incremental expansion of distribution is an outrageously blatant grab at publicity, licence fees and political donations. Nobody involved seems to give a damn about the public.

This same attitude that the public does not matter is prevalent throughout the beer market in Ontario. The other day talking to a Beer Store employee, the question was asked “Why is my brand never in the same place week-to-week in your walk-in cooler?” The simple answer was that different brands are shipped at different times and they put the new stock where there is space. This is not merchandising; this is uncaring.

And that is why we should never allow politicians (or their favourite banker) to make decisions about any commodity. We are the people who choose the politicians. And we are the people who should choose where we want to buy the products we use and consume. We might need to start with more enlightened politicians.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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