Archive for September, 2016

Another redneck heard from.

Friday, September 30th, 2016

You would think in this era of instant communications and extensive broadcast media coverage throughout rural Canada, there would be little excuse for rural politicians to have so little understanding of their country. And yet, Leamington, Ontario Mayor John Paterson has joined Conservative MP Kelly Leitch in demanding that newcomers to Canada conform to their version of Canadian culture.

Xenophobia must be rampant. (Our Oxford Concise tells us that xenophobia is a morbid fear of foreigners.) Promoted by Trump in the U.S. and shouted out throughout Europe, xenophobes have been less evident in Canada. They can be embarrassing—like the bad manners of that premier’s son who stood in line to greet the royals with his hands in his pockets.

But the small-town mayor further embarrasses Canadians by suggesting that Canada’s history is tied to Great Britain and the monarchy. He thinks those ties are more important than promoting multiculturalism. It makes one wonder about the quality of his education about Canada.

The first question for both of these Ontario rednecks is what the heck do they think Canadian values might be? They need to think long and hard before answering that question. It might also help if they can also think about the answer in French and some of the country’s aboriginal languages.

Mayor Paterson says “Come to Canada and be Canadian.” He thinks that means you have to be an Anglophone and a monarchist. We expect Kelly Leitch would echo that but we have never heard her say it.

But in the same way as the Republican candidate for the U.S. presidency uses this fear of foreigners to rail against Latino’s, Muslims, blacks and women, you begin to wonder if there is anyone he likes besides himself. These Ontario rednecks are certainly not doing their political careers much good. Leitch is hardly going to take her campaign for the Conservative leadership to Quebec. While her Canadian values might translate and have a certain appeal to the Parti Québécois, those people are not really in tune with your typical Conservative Party supporters.

Canada has every right to be proud of its reputation around the world for its tolerance and acceptance of multiculturalism. It is a wonderful country but it only takes a few dimwits with the wrong attitude to screw things up!

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Lessons from the world of twits.

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

The first question for today: ‘Is there life after Twitter?’ Front-page news the other day at the Toronto Star was that columnist Paul Wells is boycotting Twitter. It is a form of protest. He will forego his 30 tweets per day and his 60,000 followers until Twitter gets its censorship problems corrected to Mr. Wells’ satisfaction.

So welcome to the real world Mr. Wells. Welcome to the Twitter-free universe. This is your chance to get a life. You can walk around your city with your head held high—no longer myopically peering at your smart phone. You no longer even need that weather app; you can look up at the sky. And you can look at the world around you.

You could even be ahead of that guy Trump in the U.S. He has far more followers of his twits than you. He is a braggart and a buffoon and he entertains. Just wait for his reaction in November when he finds there is no app that will get those Twitterites to follow him to the polls.

A few years ago a grandson convinced us to give Twitter another trial. He said that all writers have to promote themselves on Twitter. That was not true. Twitter proves to be a colossal waste of time. If every Twitterite took that time to read a few good books, they would have something interesting to talk about. They would know more about their world. They would know more about people and how they live.

We spent many years of being an early adopter of things technical. The first home computers, the radio telephone in the car before the concept of cells was developed. Boy, did we have the gadgets—usually at excessive cost and then the analysis, report and rejection.

Social media has done almost as much for the Internet as pornography. Both build users. They both repel. Social media is intrusive, dangerous, exploitive, vulgar and eventually nauseating—come to think of it, so is pornography.

So good on you Paul Wells. You might have done the deed for your own purposes but you could be helping free the slaves of social media. Think of all those young people learning to interact properly with their peers instead of sexting. Think of the exercise our youth will get as they go out to explore their neighbourhood without the life-line of a smart phone. They will be the ones looking around them in wonder. They might be seeing their real world for the first time.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Protecting public assets.

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

What government, municipal, provincial or federal, has not looked longingly to selling off public companies as a fast way to some ready cash? The government can promise to do nothing but good with the money. The only problem is that once the asset is gone, there is no more revenue from it beyond its corporate taxes.

But there are exceptions. There are assets that can be sold off and improve their revenues to the government. It was hoped that the lotteries component of Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG) could be one of these assets. The objective of dealing through a service provider, is that the government would gain from the company’s creativity, experience and knowledge of the business. The government would still get most of the revenues generated but would share a reasonable operating profit with the purchaser.

It is obvious that none of the three major companies bidding on the OLG operation was offering enough money to the government to make the deal worthwhile. The government lottery operations might not be as creative and aggressive as private enterprise but the government apparently still likes the return it is getting.

This would not necessarily be the case if the Ontario government sold off the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO). It is obvious to any business analyst that the parts of the LCBO are worth far more than the whole. Private sector wine merchants are long overdue in Ontario and the government gets the licensing revenue as well as the alcohol taxes. Selling six packs of beer is a bludgeon to upgrade and improve Ontario convenience stores.

And if the LCBO is really the largest importer of wines in North America, that business could be worth more than all the stores combined. All it has to do is look outward beyond the province, instead of inward. It could become a giant in the business.

And there is a huge recycling business in the province that can be separated and stop interfering with how customers buy their beer.

But instead a smart sell-off the Ontario government wants to sell off some of Hydro One that is already infuriating customers across Ontario because of the electrical distribution operator’s sloppy billing practices. Premier Wynne hardly needs more of Ontario’s rural electricity users hating her.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Donald Trump: Ego Erectus.

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

The world was witness. Someone said yesterday that Republican Donald Trump would win the first of the presidential debates last night because he was experienced in using television. He obviously forgot everything he ever learned when he walked on that stage last night. He also forgot that it was not all about him.

The contrast between the two candidates was dramatic. Secretary Clinton was almost frighteningly political. Trump was abusive and a bully and talked over her and the moderator. She rattled off a list of policies at the beginning and then watched as Trump tried to take the debate down his personal rabbit hole. She seized the lead position of polished politician and held on to it for the rest of the evening.

Trump wasted the audience’s time. He gave a litany of old tales of the Rust Belt that he must have learned at his daddy’s knee. He made wild and unrealistic promises that no serious person could believe. The only sham he left out was the Mexican wall and we were all waiting for it. Instead he got caught up in the President Obama Birther story and somehow wanted to stay with the story when his audience wanted him to get over it.

It might have been a better evening if there had been a stronger moderator. Mind you, keeping Trump on subject is a tough task.

Trump thought he got one good lick in against his opponent when he said she decided to stay home instead of being out campaigning in recent days. He was saying he did not see the need to prepare for the debate (which became obvious). Her comeback was yes, she prepared for the debate and she was also prepared to be president.

We are not saying here that any votes changed among the viewers of the debate. That would be an unrealistic objective. Trump was Trump and Clinton was Clinton. Though Clinton was at her best. Trump’s claque will have to write the evening off as a weak effort. Clinton’s supporters will be cheered by her performance.

But there is still six more weeks of this presidential water torture. Trump will continue his self-aggrandizement and bluster, his rash promises and his pie in the sky lies, his strutting and posturing.

What the debate showed was that Hillary Clinton is the only choice on November 8. She deserves to win. Trump is somewhere back there with the Neanderthals of North America. They are the breed we do not need.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Oh, what wimps these Liberals be!

Monday, September 26th, 2016

This would have run sooner if we had not written the weekend’s commentaries earlier last week. Have these Liberals learned nothing from watching former Prime Minister Harper over the years? Those hypocrites on the Conservative benches ridiculed the new and experimental House Leader who gamely tried to stick her fingers in the dike. The neophyte MP tried to stonewall the Conservative and New Democrat opposition

But then, to make matters worse, the Prime Minister’s Office caved in to the criticism. Justin Trudeau’s key people, Katie Telford and Gerald Butts said “Mia culpa” on their moving expenses and undid almost a year of hard work in the inner sanctum of Trudeau’s office. They made the prime minister look naïve and made themselves look twice as guilty by promising to return some of the expense money.

Did anyone think to check with a firm that supplies re-location services to business? Looking at the figures that were released, it appears that the government got off on the cheap.

And there are nine years of figures available to compare the costs of moving Conservatives in similar positions to and from Ottawa. Somebody finally got around to look at those—and could have included a ratio for inflation.

At a time when the Conservatives needed something to entertain them, the new Liberal House Leader was hardly doing her job. And where Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef was born did not qualify for any discussion. Anyone who can find the border of Iran and Afghanistan on a map of the world would know that the one objective of anyone born there is to get out of that land that God forgot.

But the point of this is that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau can forget his promises to the voters, he can forget his promises to the environmentalists, he can forget his promises to our first peoples but the last people you desert are your staff. You forget them at your peril because you will never get people as loyal again. Any replacement you hire will be aware that you threw their predecessor under the bus. You can never live that down. It was the beginning of the end for Mr. Harper. It could also eventually prove to be the turning point for Justin Trudeau.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Dullness Reigns.

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

It was during one of the overly warm days in this past August that are often referred to as the dog days of summer. It had to be a dog day because a reporter with a major Canadian newspaper got away with comparing the royal offspring of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to pedigree dogs. She thought the royal offspring were cuter than dogs but it proved that sometimes you can slip things past the best editors.

While this writer might disapprove of things royal, the pretences of it in Canada and is definitely not a monarchist, he would not compare the royal children to being bred like pedigree dogs. That seems to be going too far.

Mind you, we certainly agree with the writer that the monarchy—in Canada—is a massively expensive, outmoded institution. Canadians get none of the tourism advantages that the royals offer the Brits. We just get to kiss the hem occasionally when they do a walk about here just to remind us that we are part of the foolishness.

The Cambridge’s sire and dam along with their princely and princessly(?) young progeny are on the Canadian west coast to wow us colonials. Somehow it reminds us of an election being due soon out there and guess who will be front and centre with the royals while in beautiful British Columbia.

The wayward writer who started this compares the royals to the Kardashians. The first time this writer asked someone “What the hell is a Kardashian(?)” the follow-up to the answer was “You have got to be kidding!”

But after giving it some thought, we conceded that “Well, we guess the Americans have to have their form of royals, too.”

The best description of Canada’s royals was the newspaper writer’s suggestion that the royals are like a living, breathing incarnation of the Yule log television channel—an “intoxicating spectacle of dullness, as comforting and mind-numbing as it is predictable.”

But the writer (Emma Teitel of the Toronto Star) gets her best quote from Robert Finch, Dominion Chairman of the Monarchist League of Canada. He tells us that “the one thing that remains constant is the Queen. I think that continuity is reassuring for Canadians.”

Maybe dullness can reign but this writer loses interest in the Yule log channel after a very short time of watching.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Selling Canada or just selling PR?

Saturday, September 24th, 2016

Found in the pile on the desk today was an op-ed written a few weeks ago by a former communications director for Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. A quick re-read had us smiling. It reminded us too much of being a young public relations person almost 50 years ago. Back then Hill + Knowlton Canada did not exist but the company was a prestige PR firm in the United States.

At the time, we joined a well-established Canadian PR firm and only found out afterward it was the Canadian affiliate of New York City-based Hill + Knowlton. While we found that the disciplines needed for the larger firm were beneficial to us, the relationship was more beneficial to them than it became for us. It was about four years later that Hill + Knowlton Canada was in operation. We parted amicably.

But the point of this is the recent op-ed by the Hill + Knowlton Canada vice-chairman, Peter Donolo. It proposed putting more money into branding Canada to cash in on the new popularity of the Liberal government and the ‘star appeal’ of our new prime minister.

Donolo thinks that $100 million per year would be a good start to an international campaign to build on Canada’s brand. That is the kind of money that PR firms only get from clients such as trans-continental pipelines. And Donolo wants to seize the moment—if not the day!

Mind you, thinking back, that was what this PR guy was doing for free back in the 1970s. In travelling around the world for the International Federation of Multiple Sclerosis Societies at that time, holding news conferences in many countries and getting in good plugs for Canadian scientific research, we always got good coverage for Canada.

While there was some slippage in the perception of our country during the Harper years, Canada has usually been high on the list of likeable countries. There is no question that we are perceived as more exciting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the helm.

But a $100 million might be the Hill + Knowlton budget but Tourism Canada can sell Canada effectively for much less. We have to pitch Canada as a tourism destination. We can do that by bringing the foreign writers and videographers to see what we have to offer. And we have plenty.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

 

How far Bill Davis’ party has fallen.

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

We can admit it now but could not when he was Premier of Ontario, Bill Davis is a decent guy. As much as he likes to pose as the bastion of the right, Bill has always liked people and is a caring, compassionate person. If he was much younger and leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives today, Kathleen Wynne and her neo-Liberals could pack their bags.

But Bill Davis’ party has fallen on hard times. The triumvirate of leaders, Harris, Hudak and now Brown have not helped. John Tory, who as a young man attended Bill’s breakfasts at the old Park Plaza Hotel, might have been an exception during his brief stint as Conservative Leader but his timing against Premier ‘Dad’ Dalton McGuinty was bad. And he blew it by going against the hard core right of his own party by offering more support for parochial schools.

The present leader Patrick Brown is causing further splits in the party by denying his roots as a religious right conservative. He has managed to get all factions of the Conservative Party angry with him for his constant flip-flops. He can hardly deny his vote against women’s rights and against same -sex marriage when he was a Member of Parliament. Attending Toronto’s Pride Parade this year only showed what a hypocrite he can be.

Current public opinion polls are useless as no Ontario voters outside of Barrie really know anything about Patrick Brown. And those voters do not know much. Bill Davis must be appalled at the thought of a person such as Brown sitting in his old office at Queen’s Park.

But the more serious problem is that Premier Wynne and her caucus are not doing the job. They lack direction, attention, discretion, determination and intention. They only use half measures when bold steps are needed. They use band aids instead of solutions. They have no discernable leadership or philosophy.

It hardly adds up to anything better than Patrick Brown running Bill Davis’ old party or the New Democrats under the hapless Andrea Horwath.

But as much as Ontario voters might think The Wynne Liberals are less than productive, they have absolutely no idea how bad Brown would be.

When Bill Davis was premier, there was a certain trust that he earned. That would not be what Ontario would get with Brown. Brown is a manipulator with the personality of a nerd. Women tend to lose interest in him very quickly. Men just do not like him. He really does not belong in the same party as former Premier Bill Davis.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

The pride in losing.

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

The submission by Fair Vote Canada to the special parliamentary committee on electoral reform recently claimed that 9 million voters in the 2015 federal election were unable to make their votes count. This assumption was made because they voted for losing candidates. And they did not even get a lollipop for their trouble.

That is how it should be. Frankly, voting for a losing candidate can be a badge of honour. You might be surprised at the number of times this writer has wrestled over determining just which candidates on the lists of municipal candidates would be losers. At one time we actually went through lists of up to eight municipal offices requiring a vote and carefully voted for a loser in every category. It felt good. There is a pride to standing against the mob.

And we are hardly the first person willing to show disagreement. We used to have a vote for local hydro commissioners in the Toronto area. The way to get elected to the job was to have a P.Eng degree after your name. They finally got that business stopped.

But there is one important item on which Fair Vote Canada (not to be confused with the original Fair Vote organization in the United States) has erred. They worry about the voters who feel frustrated because they live in a ‘safe riding.’ They should stop worrying. There is no such thing as a ‘safe riding.’ Never as long as there is more than one candidate.

Over-confident candidates can often find themselves to be losers. You face new voters in every election. The young come of age and new residents move into the electoral district. District boundaries are redrawn. The incumbent often has an advantage but that can be reversed by a smart opponent.

The concerns for what the detractors of first-past-the-post voting call our democratic deficit include such areas as demographic diversity, pandering to voters in swing ridings, hyper-partisanship, unrelenting party discipline and policy lurches when new governments undo what a new government considers the excesses of the previous government. Why these problems of partisan politics would be different under proportional representation is never really explained.

But what kind of wimps are we encouraging today that we do not want anyone to lose. This writer wants right-wing ideologues to lose. People who do not care about our environment should be losers. And people who attempt to impose their rigid ethos on others should be prepared to lose.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

No guts, no glory, no re-election.

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

Ontario’s Liberals have to stop whistling past the graveyard. That American idiom means that they are ignoring sure destruction. And nothing said it better than the recent rebooting of the Legislature with a joke of a throne speech read by the Lieutenant Governor.

It was no throne speech. It was a stop-gap to oblivion. It put another band aid on electricity rates and solved nothing. The problem quite frankly is that there is no one in the Legislature capable of running this province. There are no leaders. There is no direction.

Does anyone have any idea what Ms. Wynne’s political stance might be? We already know that the Conservative leader will go whatever way he can find some votes. And that silly New Democrat leader is nothing but a nebbish. Welcome to a province where the only option for the voter is to vote for ‘None of the above.’

The only policies we have seen Premier Wynne espouse are the ones she steals from other parties. She takes on the pension problems brought forward by the NDP and then steals their pledge to take the tax off electricity charges. Only—typical of her—she only goes part way. She gets lucky and dumps the pension problem to the Trudeau Liberals and then just gives a tax rebate on run-away electricity charges.

There is nothing any other party can think of that the Premier cannot find a way to handle conservatively. We should not forget the former PC Leader Timmy Hudak took the lead in suggesting liberalizing beer sales until somebody convinced him to turn off that tap.

But what Wynne is doing is ludicrous. She is actually allowing less than ten per cent of the large grocery stores to sell warm six-packs of beer. Not in this town though. The only place to buy beer downtown in this writer’s city of more than 135,000 is the province’s most disgusting beer store.

And the other day, Kathleen Wynne announced her ‘Liberal’ stalwarts to run the 2018 Liberal election effort. If these are the same Pat Sorbara and Vince Borg who wandered the halls at Queen’s Park some 30 years ago, we will not get our hopes up.

One of these days Ontario might finally have a government of grown-ups that will realize that selling off how you distribute electricity is a no-no and selling off the Liquor Control Board stores is the golden goose that can continue to pay off in gold.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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