Archive for July, 2016

Betrayal by news media.

Sunday, July 31st, 2016

This is the “unkindest cut of all.” Luckily for William Shakespeare, he did not have to contend with the unkind vagaries of modern news media. Slipshod reporting and careless editing are feeding the problem but they are also helping the oil and gas industry to side-step the critics of shipping diluted bitumen through pipelines.

The latest incident in Saskatchewan has cut off the water supplies to cities such as North Battleford and Prince Albert on the North Saskatchewan River. Whether it is measured in barrels, cubic metres or litres, Husky Petroleum, the owner of the pipeline wants to keep the figure small but the best way to visualize the spill is to imagine poring at least three railway tank cars of diluted bitumen into the North Saskatchewan River upstream from North Battleford.

CTV, Canada’s largest television network and the CBC boldly refer to the spill as oil and give no explanation as to why it should require a diluent to enable it to be forced through a pipeline. The media pays no attention to the age of the pipeline and why it has been converted to allow heated contents to be pumped at a higher pressure. And you have to wonder why Global Television, owned by Calgary-based Shaw Communications, tries to ignore such a serious incident that has been reported by news media across Canada.

But the print media have been no better in describing the incident. A Globe and Mail article waxed poetic as people without water gathered on the shores of the North Saskatchewan and wondered about the brownish blobs floating by in an oily scum. The media neglected to mention that the diluent that enables the bitumen to be forced through the pipeline floats the pipeline contents down river but the heavy bits of bitumen gradually separate from the diluent hydrocarbons and sink to the bottom of the river.

(A scientist friend informed us recently that this bitumen does not create a new surface for the bottom of the river forever. It is believed that it takes between 20 and 30 years for the combination of bacterial action and silt filling in to return the river bottom to the production of vegetation to help support the waterway’s ecosystem.)

This recent spill makes you wonder just whose side the Canadian news media are on. They are certainly not bringing us impartial news.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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Mandatory voting is not in the cards.

Saturday, July 30th, 2016

It would be hard to think of anything sillier than for our Canadian politicians to make voting mandatory. They might just get more than they deserve. Anyone promoting the idea of making it mandatory probably has no idea of the why, when and how of voting by the general population. They might not realize that not voting also makes a clear statement.

While there might be a tendency for people who do not vote to be the first to complain about the results, they obviously have decided that they cannot make a change in the outcome. This could be frustration speaking in that the person feels they cannot effect change. It could be a dislike for all the candidates. More likely though, the actual act of voting might have been an inconvenience. The complaint about frustration can be just a cop-out.

The truth to be faced though is that politicians are not always the ones to promote the privilege of voting. The Conservative government’s so-called Fair Elections Act during the last parliament did not exactly encourage voting across all demographics. There was an automatic assumption that doing away with the practice of vouching—where a registered voter could vouch for a person lacking identification—would benefit the status quo. Also stopping the Chief Returning Officer from impartially promoting voting would also support the status quo. Despite these so obvious efforts, the government lost the subsequent election anyway.

It was the Conservative MPs themselves that stressed the importance of political parties taking responsibility for encouraging Canadians to vote. And while there have been claims made for some alternative systems of voting that they will encourage higher turnouts in elections, they are probably just as likely to cure baldness. It is probably not in any political party’s direct interest to just say ‘Vote as you like but be sure to vote.’

Over the past 100 years of Canadian elections, the political parties have developed more and more sophisticated systems of identifying their vote. ‘Can we count on your support?’ has never been an idle question from those ubiquitous door-to-door political canvassers.

Voting for elected positions at all levels of government has been an ingrained right of Canadians before Confederation in 1867. Our new citizens each year and our young people turning 19 can look forward to that right. It is their right. It is not a duty. They should be able to exercise that right if and when they wish.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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The Road to November.

Friday, July 29th, 2016

Last year Canadians were appalled at the beginning of August when they realized they were faced with a two and a half-month federal election campaign. Americans are faced with more than three months. They know they have a great deal to achieve in that limited time.

The biggest challenge for the major candidates is pacing. It is like two heavy weight boxers going into a 15-round bout. They have to be on their feet for the 15th round. Hillary Clinton has been there. She knows the rhythm that is needed. The Republican candidate does not.

Candidates want their policies to build and come together for the voters over the course of the campaign. The Republican candidate has never talked about his positive policies. Does he have any policies?

The one thing that is clear is that nobody can benefit from a campaign of slandering their opponent. It is like a joke. It can only be funny the first time.

And when the Republican candidate called for the Russian President to interfere in an American election the other day, he waved a flag of ignorance for all to see.

It can certainly not be the role of the Democratic nominee to spend the campaign correcting the errors and excesses of her opponent. She can leave that mainly to others. She is also fully qualified and able to defend herself and to attack the inadequacies of her opponent for the job he seeks.

But it was obvious to all in the convention hall Thursday evening that Hillary Clinton has good speech writers and she knows her stuff. The speech was almost a cacophony of good lines strung together. It was too long of course but there was a huge and friendly audience to cheer her on. It was the ideal time to reach many millions watching at home. It was a tribute to her stamina, her public speaking ability and her many years of preparation for this one event.

Forget the flatness of her daughter’s introduction. Hillary embraced the direction set by Bernie Sanders. She built the speech on the clear understanding that she can get things done. She offered a better future and Americans will be wise to choose it in November.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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Black Lives Matter organizers should get stuffed.

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

People who have worked with pop-up organizations over the years have learned to be wary. There are just too many that work the “poor-me” street and trade on Canadians’ instinctive succour of the underdog. While we have been trying to stay away from the subject of these people, it is clear that group calling itself Black Lives Matter in Canada has an agenda that goes beyond the black community.

This group is working the political angles. It is targeting exposure and media interest well beyond its natural territory. It is doubtful that they have much interest, concern or involvement in their own community.

They speak about police brutality with an American accent. They take their name and measure from the American Black Lives Matter. They seem to take no heed of Canadian attitudes and concerns. They are users, not contributors.

This group must be blind to the border between Canada and the U.S. They accuse Canadian police of the same brutalities as American history has bestowed on that country’s excesses. Nobody denies that Canada has had its own excesses. Carding, racial profiling, bigotry and police brutality have to be recognized, exorcized and stopped if and when and any time it happens.

But what happens in Canada can be solved in Canada. Nobody is perfect but it is by all communities working together that we improve our policing. Our communities do not want to be divided into black, brown, yellow, white or any other colour or religion, beliefs or country of origin. Our strength is in our diversity. We are always at our best when we work together.

Black Lives Matter is a false challenge in this country. It implies that the black community has been targeted in Canada. It implies that the black community are somehow apart from the mainstream. And that is an insult to this country. It was Canada that stood firm as beacon when blacks were still slaves in the U.S. It was the terminus of the Underground Railroad.

It would be silly to suggest that Canada has less prejudice than America nor should we take any pride in it being less. We must always strive for zero intolerance.

When Black Lives Matter used the Pride Parade in Toronto to try to make a statement, it was an insult to every black member of the LGBT community. They do not need to be patronized by these users who call themselves Black Lives Matter. Neither does the rest of the Canadian community.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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The Morning Line is Hillary by 2 -1.

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

It was during the Clinton White House years that many of us realized that the brains in the Clinton family are on the distaff side. And nothing pisses off ignorant men more than a smart woman. Which might help to explain why Hillary Clinton is the most despised Democratic candidate ever.

But she is not dishonest. She has never done anything for which she might have been indicted. She was an outstanding Secretary of State and performed honourably for America. She was a hard-working and effective Senator for the State of New York. She is highly qualified to be President of the United States of America.

And we will have Bill Clinton as First Gentleman for comic relief.

The only things Hillary has ever done that have led to criticism is to stand by her man, to stand by her country and to stand by the President.

Many people who criticize her in her role as Secretary of State do not seem to understand the role. The Secretary of State does not decide everything in foreign affairs. The secretary advises the Cabinet and the President and then implements the decisions. It is the Administration that takes responsibility.

If this writer has any axe to grind with Hillary Clinton as a prospective President, it is that she is too right of centre politically. We were hoping that more of Bernie Sanders would rub off on her during the primaries. America is not quite ready for a Bernie Sanders as President but the Medicare that Hillary Clinton fought for when her husband was President and Barack Obama got passed, was only one small step toward a kinder America.

But you have to like the agreement on the Democratic platform worked out with Clinton and Sanders input. What Americans heard from Bernie Sanders in his speech to the convention Monday night could go a long way toward a better America.

The Philadelphia convention will launch the positive campaign for the Democratic ticket in November. To implement the Democratic platform will take the combined efforts of a Democratic President, a Democratic Senate and a Democratic House of Representatives. That size of a win will take months of hard and relentless work.

Hillary Clinton will be a new kind of President for America. Her administration will set the groundwork for a better America.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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The political zoo keeper’s dilemma.

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

One of the difficult dilemmas facing you when organizing a major political convention, is keeping the news media in their cages, fed, watered and occupied. As mother used to tell us, the devil finds work for idle hands.

The media gather like vultures for the event. And the greater the challenge the party faces, the harsher are their observations. The organizers live by the adage that whatever goes wrong is supposed to. The party apparatchiks, who really make things happen, check everything constantly.

But the party prima donnas, chosen for their political potential, will try to force late and unnecessary changes. You are in constant conflict with people who have no interest in understanding the logistics. You are responsible for the news media and what they say. ‘Just get us good coverage.’

My goodness, why do you think the e-mails leak happened when it did? Timed for that hiatus between the conventions, the news media needed anything. They called for the chair of the Democratic National Convention to resign. Why? Did she leak the e-mails? She might have done an absolutely fabulous job of chairing the convention organization and the news media could care less. They pilloried her.

A national convention in the United States is an expenditure of many millions. It is four days of glitz, glamour, gluttony and guts. The arena is ringed with media boxes to provide them with the best view of the death throws of the political gladiators.

A good rule for the spin doctors of the party is to always have something for the news media to chew on. If there is no positive story available at 8 am, you had better create one.

As the party primaries in America have taken over the task of choosing the candidate for the party, the party conventions have become more and more a showcase for the candidate. The convention committee has had to stand down while the candidate’s team takes over. This can cause some acrimony and sometimes when something goes wrong, you wonder about its spontaneity.

But some things never change. These conventions develop a life of their own and delegates compare notes on them over the years. While the traditional news media might be giving way to social media, the spin doctors of the party just end up with a bigger zoo to look after.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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In the City of Brotherly Love.

Monday, July 25th, 2016

Philadelphia lends a panache to the Democratic National Convention this year that hard-scrabble Cleveland did not provide for the Republicans. The Republicans were hectored and urged to anger at their Trump Fest. Whereas Philadelphia can make history—as it once created a country—it can bring about a new reconciliation.

And that is what America needs. It was 84 years ago that Franklin Roosevelt launched a New Deal for America. Hillary Clinton now has an opportunity to launch a New America.

It will need a brave attempt to set aside the excesses of the past week and the strains of the past year. Hillary Clinton has to address the future. Americans have had enough of the past.

Americans want an end to bigotry. They want their country to be color neutral. They want peace with their neighbours. They know that friends are more fun.

And they know that Americans prefer to have their country’s neighbours as friends. They want trust, not walls. They want respect, not suspicion.

Americans need to have police that they can respect. They want police that use weapons as a last resort, not the first.

And they certainly do not want to see assault weapons in the hands of 14-year old gangbangers. Guns do not belong on peaceful streets. A gun might be a right in the country but it is also a responsibility. People need to prove they can handle that responsibility.

Trading deals with other countries have become a major step forward over the years. They make more sense than wars. Trade deals take time to discuss and to plan. They need to be fair to all concerned. With friends such as Canadians, it only took about 100 years to come to the first deal and both countries are still working out the kinks.

Hillary Clinton is not only breaking through the glass ceiling to become the first woman President of the United States of America. She bears more than the banner for her party as she bears the banner for all women. She will make them proud.

There will be many other speakers at the Democratic convention and there will probably be some rancour over the Republican event. No real democrat would be positive about the Republican nominee. And since everybody knows that, there is little need to mention his name. Why give him the publicity?


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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Going ‘All In’ on bitumen.

Sunday, July 24th, 2016

There were two stories in the Toronto Star the other day from Canada’s western oil patch. The major story was the one by business writer David Olive on Suncor’s gutsiest bet yet on Athabasca bitumen. The other story never mentioned bitumen. It is a Canadian Press story out of North Battleford, Saskatchewan where the city has had to shut down its water supply from the North Saskatchewan River because of a pipeline spill.

Olive’s story was bigger because it was about Suncor betting its $14.5 billion of debt to increase its output of bitumen over the next few years to more than 800,000 barrels per day. This is in the face of the current world crude oil glut that has driven the price of crude below the reasonable profit level for ersatz crude from bitumen. When others are deserting the tar sands, Suncor is buying. And it is buying at a time when the availability of pipelines to the oceans cannot be guaranteed.

It really makes one wonder though when the Canadian Press news story does not mention bitumen but describes a diluted bitumen spill. It seems Husky Energy admitted to spilling between 200,000 and 250,000 litres of what they refer to as “crude oil and other materials” more than 40 kilometres up river near Maidstone, Saskatchewan.

As they said that there were lighter hydrocarbons mixed in as a diluent (which is how bitumen is able to be pushed, along with heating and higher pressure, through a pipeline).

It is amazing to hear Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall’s reaction to the spill. He remains a supporter of pipelines as he says it is much safer than railway transport. He thinks rail transport creates more greenhouse gases.

The reporter probably forgot to ask Premier Wall what he thought of the recent fine imposed on Canada’s Enbridge  under the Clean Water Act in the United States of US$67 million and the additional US$100 million required to improve Enbridge’s pipeline in Michigan as a result of the Kalamazoo River spill in 2010.

As a note of caution to the North Battleford city fathers, they should be aware that the State of Michigan will never be able to restore the Kalamazoo River to its previous environmental condition. While the river itself will eventually ‘flush’ out the oily sheen on the water caused by the diluent, the bitumen itself sinks to the bottom of the river and becomes a ragged but permanent paving of the river bottom.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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Brown tries outrage over Hydro.

Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

It depends where you sit in the Ontario Legislature. The government benches mainly consider Ontario Hydro a golden goose. The opposition benches always consider it the government’s Achilles heel. And it seems the powers that be at all the disparate parts of Hydro think they can charge customers whatever they need to meet the government’s cash flow demands.

And there is a new politician in town sitting in the opposition who thinks he can make hay on the Hydro rip-offs. Its that new man-about-town at Queen’s Park who stole the leadership of the Ontario Tories last year.

What the Ontario voters are seeing at this time are test advertisements. And the voters are the guinea pigs. The current ad is new and angry. It was as though the Tories borrowed the idea from Donald Trump’s campaign for the American presidency. You see an angry less controlled Patrick Brown attacking the Wynne Liberals. If that ad tracks best with the pollsters, it will mean no more Mr. Nice Guy.

They have tried Patrick Brown now in many guises. They have tried dressing him up, giving him a salon hair cut, teaching him to lower his voice and scripting him. They even sent him to the Pride Parade. Very few in Ontario know him anyway so if they are ever going to find out how he should be presented, now is the time.

It was like in a recent report in the Globe and Mail, the female reporter wrote about Brown as a suave young man about town. She even seemed to consider him a pretty good catch. Brown should either hire her or marry her. It might be his only chance at seeming human.

For those of us who have watched Brown over the years in Barrie and in Ottawa, he is the least desirable type of person to be in politics. His background is small-town, conservative Christian and do-nothing politics. In nine years in Ottawa as an MP, he is noted for just two votes where he voted against women’s rights. He never had anything to say for himself in politics and latched onto charities to keep his name prominent in the community.

The bad news for that Globe and Mail reporter is that women who meet him seem to step back shortly after wondering what they had seen in him. He is not an appealing person to men or women. He is a poor public speaker with no small talk to help him out. He is a marathon runner, a mouth breather and something of a nerd.

But his first love is politics. He works at that.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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What has Trump left to say?

Friday, July 22nd, 2016

The party is over in Cleveland. The Republican Party is no longer the Grand Old Party. It is the party of Donald Trump. We endured his over-long rant on Thursday night and knew less when he was finished than was known when his daughter introduced her dear daddy. It was an hour and a quarter of stomach churning, silliness, sophistry, strutting and self-satisfied smirking.

And it was bad speech. Trump used Hillary Clinton’s name so often, you started to expect her to be in the wings, waiting for him to finish her introduction.

The speech even came as a surprise to many of the Republicans in the arena. They were not aware that they were promising day care along with promises to defeat the barbarians.  They would cheer when he promised tax cuts but where much quieter when he got to promises that would obviously cost Americans a lot of money.

The speech had no basic theme. Trump used so many possible slogans that you were hard pressed to figure out which he preferred. The best was when he pointed out that he had bilked the system so often that he alone knew how to fix it. He really smirked at that one.

But speaking of a smirking Donald, did you follow when he was pandering to the religious and evangelical Republicans. There was no prejudice he was not willing to use. He reiterated his well-know bigotry against immigrants, Mexicans and Muslims. Mind you, his daughter tried desperately to show her daddy as a paragon of supporting women’s rights. It makes you wonder how low the polls might be for him with women voters.

Leaving no rock unturned, Trump assured his audience that he will make sure the Supreme Court has judges that share their biases. And he got the most cheers in the night when he told of his love-in with the National Rifle Association and his commitment to Second Amendment—right to bear arms.

It was very hard to tell what he was going to use a renewed and rebuilt American army to do. It is either to lead the next Children’s Crusade into the Middle East or to solve the problems of America’s inner cities or to keep Canadians and Mexicans at bay when he ‘walks away from the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

What he proved conclusively in Cleveland was that he should not be running conventions and he definitely should not be considered as a possible President of the United States of America.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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