Archive for November, 2016

Justin Trudeau betrays the environment.

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

Babel-on-the-Bay intended to run a very sincere support today of Justin Trudeau’s eulogy for the late Cuban Leader Fidel Castro. It was ready for posting. And then we learned that the damn fool had announced approval of twinning the American-owned Kinder-Morgan TransMountain pipeline. All the kind words are off the table.

Justin Trudeau’s timing is terrible. It is as though he is in a snit because he does not seem to be getting the support he wants to end first-past-the-post voting. He is like a child striking out. He just blew every effort his government has made to protect our environment. The Kinder-Morgan twinned pipeline will add tons of carbon to the world environment every year. There is no carbon tax high enough to alleviate the damage.

It is absolute hypocrisy to think that you can send the output of the tar sands to other countries and not be responsible for the extremes of pollution destroying our planet. Exploiting the tar sands, itself, is damaging the environment in Alberta and Saskatchewan. And that is only the beginning. Converting that tar sands gunk to synthetic crude oil produces huge piles of carbon known as bitumen slag. It can be burned for more pollution. And that is before this now ersatz crude oil is refined into further polluting products.

Many of the opponents to the Kinder-Morgan pipeline are concerned about the environment from over the Rockies, across B.C. and on to tankers headed through the Straits of Juan de Fuca. Remember that these pipelines will now be high-pressure, heated pipes to move more of the tar sands output. It is never the question of if there is a spill but when.

We suppose it will be the same for the approved Enbridge Line Three that will carry the tar sands output south into the American pipeline network and to the Texas Gulf coast where it can also be loaded on ocean-going tankers.

What we would like to see at the next sitting of the House of Commons is B,C. MPs rising in their seats and asking to be seated with Green leader Elizabeth May. At least she knows how to fight this stupidity and greed.

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And a footnote:

There was one paragraph in the planned item for today. It is worth passing on:

“And anyone who has read German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s condolences to the Cuban people will appreciate its diplomatic mastery. She has probably never met the man nor visited his country but said everything necessary and nothing untoward.”

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Lord Black lauds buddy Trump.

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

You get the feeling that there could be another boring book by Lord ‘Cross-the-Pond’ in this. Yes, Conrad Black came out of seclusion on his Toronto estate the other day to promote another book that will look good on your coffee table. He told the news media that his raison d’etre for the lordly appearance was to defend his pal Donald Trump. He managed to both insult and needlessly flatter his Global News interviewer while name-dropping throughout an argumentative interview.

Black’s text for the interview was that his close pal Donald Trump is not a fascist. He actually appears to believe that the pompous ass is going to be a very productive President of the United States. In a rapid series of name-droppings, Black explained that his good friends, the Clintons and members of the Bush dynasty had raped and pillaged the scene in Washington for much too long and his pal Trump would certainly fix things.

The interviewer (Toronto-based newsman Alan Carter) remained stuck in the groove that Trump might be a fascist. He did not seem to understand that one takes considerable risk in arguing polemics with the likes of Lord Black. Wiser heads in discussing the Trump phenomenon see him as more of a laissez-faire capitalist than a fascist.

Trump’s only serious fascist trait has been in the use of the big lie as introduced in the 1930s by Hitler’s information minister Doktor Josef Göebbels. President-elect Trump seems to have cottoned to the idea that if you tell an outrageous lie often enough, some people will eventually accept it as the truth.

Oddly enough the counter point to the Conrad Black interview was the earlier interview on the Global Television Focus Ontario program with Doug Ford who has also just published a book on Ford Nation in memory of his brother Rob. Doug Ford comes across as something of a rube in comparison to Lord Black. You get the feeling that both of them should jump with both feet into the Conservative Party of Canada leadership.

You want redemption, Conrad, there is your chance.

You want redemption Doug, there you go.

Oh poop, we forgot the citizenship problem. To our knowledge, Conrad is still not a Canadian.

Oh well, he could get a work permit as a temporary foreign worker and act as Dr. Leitch’s campaign manager. If that did not stir the pot, we would at least be assured that her literature is grammatically correct.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

That Tory Leprechaun Leitch.

Monday, November 28th, 2016

You would swear that woman was a graduate of Trump University rather than a medical specialist. We are talking about Kellie Leitch M.P. here. She is the Conservative member for the next door electoral district of Simcoe-Grey. It is a rural riding of farms and small towns, including Utopia. (We bet you did not know that Utopia is a village in Essa Township.)

But Kellie has not always been a small-town person. She studied business at Dalhousie University in Halifax, medicine at the University of Toronto and at Queen’s University in Kingston, and taught for a while at the Shulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Western Ontario. With this background, you would expect her to be more sophisticated than she acts.

But this is the person who, along with the former MP Chris Alexander, announced the Conservative’s embarrassing “tip line” where we could report on the “barbaric cultural practices” of our neighbours. It might have contributed to Alexander losing his seat in last year’s election but Leitch only suffered a drop of less than two per cent of her vote.

Emboldened by her strong support from Simcoe-Grey, Leitch has thrown her hat into the contest to replace Stephen Harper as leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. Like in the situation with Donald Trump, you might wonder what qualifies Kellie Leitch for this job even after five years in Ottawa.

So far, Leitch seems to be the candidate making waves. The only other excitement recently was Parry Sound-Muskoka MP Tony Clement quitting the race. It was the first time that some people knew there was a contest in the offing.

But Leitch must have listened well to her hero Donald Trump. Her problem is that she seems reluctant to take on her own Conservative Party shibboleths so she has to dig at issues that skate around the standard Tory line. Her “Canadian values” patter panders to the racist side of the party while her newer demands to dump the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation are in tune with the economic Conservatives’ demands to use tax money only for “economically necessary” expenses. You can see where she is headed with this approach and it would be a shame to say where as it would just provide her with the route.

You can hardly compare the Leitch leadership campaign to Trump’s run for the Republican presidency. He warmed up by viciously attacking the weaknesses of his Republican opponents. By the time of the Cleveland party convention he had the Republican Party in total disarray. Leitch can hardly match that trick.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

A failure to communicate.

Sunday, November 27th, 2016

After a lifetime of communicating with government, we blew it. We really wanted to help the Trudeau government solve its problems with the leader’s promise that 2015 would be the last federal election using first-past-the-post voting. And dammit all we tried.

When we knew that the MP for Peterborough would be holding that portfolio, we offered our help. We communicated with Minister Monsef at her office in Ottawa and offered assistance. We were ignored. From a time when Mayors, MPs, MPPs, Senators and Cabinet Ministers were often welcome guests in our Toronto home, we were now ignored.

But maybe it was an error. We followed up with the chair of the special commons committee on electoral reform, asking how we might be of assistance. He at least responded. He sent us down the rabbit hole of asking the committee for an invitation. Nobody on the committee seemed to know this guy who claimed some expertise. He must not be important. Forget him.

It was not as though many of the points we would have made were not made by others. We were looking at the questions from a different perspective. We are hardly opposed to change. We were just concerned about the kind of political parties, the type of candidates attracted and the quality of government that Canadians could expect from proposed changes.

Having looked at government in different parts of the world, studying voting methodology and actively participating in all aspects of Canadian elections for many years, there was something to impart. We have observed the cheating, the manipulation and the corruption of electoral processes as well as the challenges facing newer electronic voting systems. For example, it has always proved amusing that officials would keep the individual voting process off line while the real danger of hacking the system was in the eventual electronic accumulation of the total vote.

It was interesting to study the reports on the special committee’s hearings. And it was also easy to concur with experts throughout the committee’s hearings who admitted that no system of voting is perfect. People can always find something to complain about.

But you cannot look at the voting systems in isolation. Proportional voting looks very simple until you get deeper into the parties’ involvement, the selection of candidates, the powers of the political leaders and the possibilities of recall. You have to be able to follow through and you have to know where you want to go.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Will Toronto charge for parking on the DVP?

Saturday, November 26th, 2016

Did you hear that Toronto Council is now considering making the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway toll roads? This is hardly the first time the suggestion has been made and it is probably not the last. It shows you how desperate the city is for revenue other than taxing businesses and homes.

When the Toronto voters chose John Tory as mayor two years ago, it was in high hopes that he would bring a businesslike and workable approach to the city’s financial woes. Mind you there is nothing new in these woes and nothing really new in Tory’s various solutions.

But surprisingly there was general approval by the pundits in Tory’s midterm reports recently. Despite the poor guy wrecking his home life and working day and night to satisfy his constituents, the problems he faces are the same ole-same ole! It is an impossible task.

The problem is that the province holds all the cards and only deals them to the city as necessary for political advantage. The mayor might get the big bucks and the prestige of the chain of office but it is a job without joy. It is an attempt to lead without followers. Tory will always have more followers on Facebook than on city council.

You have to remember that the mayor might have some perks but he or she has only one vote on council. And the knives are now out on his taking leadership on the road tolls for the Gardiner and the Don Valley Parkway.

Without getting into the merits, or lack thereof, in the toll plan, it has all the earmarks of a trap for the unwary. It is not going to happen without specific approval from the province. And the possibilities of bringing any strong support from city council are close to nil.

The province can hang Tory by the thumbs at the first expressway overpass and laugh as he swings in the breeze. His entire case hangs on the assumption that 40 per cent of the Parkway and Expressway users are from out of town. You know it is alright for him to screw those people. The problem will be in the 60 per cent of users who already pay more than enough to park on those parking lots in morning and evening rushhours.

Maybe John can charge half the price per toll for plates showing a Toronto address and full price for the outsiders?

Or, even better, we could have responsible government for the city through the encouragement of political parties on the municipal scene. It would be nice to see a mayor and councillors elected on a party platform and then have to stand for re-election on its success or failure.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Waiting for your train.

Friday, November 25th, 2016

Ontario’s MetroLinx people came to Barrie the other day to talk about planning for the future of the GO Train commuter line to Toronto. The good news is that it is the intent to electrify and twin the line by 2025. The bad news is that it will take that long. And there are many decisions to be made as the work progresses.

As the Barrie line is just one of the lines feeding commuters daily into Toronto, it has to take its place among the planned priorities. Many of the questions though will impact planning for all the lines. These questions are critical to speed of the system, energy costs, noise levels and convenience for connections. If they are not made in the best interest of all concerned they will be very expensive to correct in the future.

The type of trains will be the first concern. They make many stops, need to be of uniform maximum length for the stations and usually have driver cabs on the first and last cars. These lighter trains with power to all wheels can accelerate faster, stop faster, are cheaper to maintain and use less energy. Some high-speed trains such as the InterContinental Express (ICE) in Germany and the Shinkansen in Japan are built on the same principle but the Train à Grand Vitesse (TGV) in France uses heavier electric locomotives for high-speed (300 km/h plus) trains going greater distances.

Another advantage to individually-powered cars for commuter lines is the use of regenerative braking. This means that when slowing down, the trains are generating power that can be providing the acceleration to another train. With the many stops of a commuter line, this provides substantial power savings and lower cost maintenance for the braking systems.

But before we get these new electric trains on the Barrie line we have to twin the line. Luckily the existing right-of-way provides the room for two sets of tracks but when most of the overpasses and underpasses were built, they were built for just the existing single track line. There is lots of construction ahead.

One thing we should not forget to mention is that the new electric service will not only be faster, more efficient and (in the long run) cheaper, but it will also be much quieter. Commuters might need to set a wake up call on their phones for the end of the shorter trip to the city and home.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

It was not Trump’s win; It was Clinton’s loss.

Thursday, November 24th, 2016

We were all guilty. Our prejudice said Trump cannot win. We just did not look hard at Hillary. She thought she was winning. She acted like she was winning. She was running a losing campaign and we all got sucked in because we could not believe in Trump.

Who could believe in a guy who objectifies women, alienates Latinos, puts down blacks and lies like a fascist. From day one, we tried to ignore him. He is no politician, he lacked a fund-raising organization, he had no state by state teams of workers, he knew little about domestic policy and less about foreign affairs. He was just a side show. At first.

And he had a stupid slogan. He said that he was going to make America great again. You saw it on signs and hats and bumper stickers everywhere. He kept saying it from the beginning right through to the end of the campaign. He obviously could not come up with a better slogan, so he stuck to it.

Do you remember what Hillary Clinton’s slogan was?

And then she made a mistake: she referred to some of Trump’s supporters as ‘deplorables.’ That was when the pundits became mired in the possibilities. We had seen the bikers, the red necks, the gun crazies and the angry coming to Trump and we saw them as a disorganized rabble. Nobody expects a mob such as that to even find a voting booth.

What we were not willing to see were the holy rollers and social conservatives who were voting for the Anti-Christ because they had nowhere else to go. We were not counting the exurbanite and rural voters. These were the people who were swallowing the garbage about ‘dishonest Hillary.’ Like any good lie, it just had to be said often enough to become a truth. Otherwise sane people were telling us that Hillary Clinton should be locked up. For what? When did the law suddenly forbid using your own choice of e-mail server?

Trump was just being a good con man. It is how he built his wealth. His loud lying, cheating and stealing are simple tools to accomplish his objectives. It will be very interesting to see how these skills serve him in the White House.

But we do not need a tag day for Hillary Clinton. She let us down. She failed to understand the message of Bernie Sanders. She did not understand that it was not enough to appear smarter and cooler in the television debates. She did not understand how to fight a street fighter. Like many of us, she tried to handle him as though he was a politician.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Does Wynne cry for liberalism?

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

Did you hear that Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne got all teary at the Liberal Party gathering this past weekend? Not being there, are we to assume these were crocodile tears or tears of frustration? Or were they just a notation on her script saying ‘tears here’? You never know what her reaction is to being pilloried for the inadequate job she is doing.

But in the spirit of concern for her emotional stability, we will try to be more helpful.

First of all, if you like to have people think of you as a progressive, you have to act like one. This might be difficult for Ms. Wynne but to be a progressive, you have to be an agent for change in our society. And to be a liberal, you have to have concern for the rights of the individual. That means that you have to work at ensuring that the individual has the freedom and opportunity to enjoy the lifestyle that they choose.

We need to take a serious look at this agent for change agenda of yours. When will it start? We agree that the fixes on pensions was overdue and you did a good job of dumping the problem on the federal government. Good show! Now what is next? You have to be more than a one act pony.

How about giving some speed and credibility to your electrifying and speeding up the GO Trains? Or better yet get your friends in Ottawa and Quebec City together for a little brainstorming on high-speed electric trains to give us better and ‘Greener’ travel between our major cities. That just might be the profitable type of infrastructure spending needed to attract that foreign investment.

The point is that there are lots of dramatic and worthwhile opportunities in our society for a progressive government. Nobody other than some of the unions are interested in the self-serving New Democrats. You should start now establishing that the raving Patrick Brown has no better answers on what to do about hydro pricing.

And stop the stupid water torture. If you want grocery stores to sell booze, let them. Stop the damn guessing games about who sells what. You cannot keep trying to be half pregnant. It just looks silly.

And the most important thing for a true liberal today is to make sure that every child in the province has all the education and training readily available to them as their life unfolds. Let the conservatives among us be the repressive bastards if they want that appellation. And we need more universities across the province—not just in Toronto.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

Let’s have a tag day for journalists.

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

Professor Penny Collenette wrote in the Toronto Star the other day that “all news is not fit to print.” Frankly Penny, your problem is that you need to define ‘news.’ Do we really know how to separate bias, comment, opinion, speculation and reporting from the comic pages?

And do we have the right to define news for others?

We are all concerned that journalism is dying. Tirades, whether by a Rosie DiManno in the Toronto Star or in a Trump tweet in Twitter, are still tirades. They are also, in some cases, news.

If they start editing FaceBook and Twitter and the like for the news value, these mindless platforms for self aggrandizement will go broke. Mark Zuckerberg would have to go back to Harvard and learn something. Some people would have to go back to wearing a trench coat and nothing else to satisfy their need for exposure. They could use the telephone to assure themselves that they have friends.

But saving journalism will not happen with a shield law that protects the news persons’ sources. In fact, it would drive journalism into further depths of distrust. Any writer has to stand firm for what they claim. Protecting an unnamed source is not the answer.

If you are concerned about the butchering of truth during the recent American election, there is a simple test the writer should try. Just be your own editor for a while. You will find that the mind sees what it thinks is there. You can miss some terrible clunkers.

In the same way, the avid supporter will accuse your opponent of using words that really should have been attributed to you but they did not fit with the persona you have created in their mind. We saw it throughout Trump’s campaign for the American presidency that no matter how crude and bellicose and misogynist Trump could be, he still had his loyal handmaidens.

North Americans hardly live in something as specious as a ‘post-factual’ society. We know that facts matter.

But facts are also a matter of belief. If we really believe that we can sail off the edge of the world today, the fact that the world is round will still be argued by many tomorrow

Maybe we need to understand why, as in the last line of George Orwell’s 1984, we can all love Big Brother.

And people who deliberately use the Big Lie of totalitarianism can come to the same miserable end as Doktor Josef Göebbels.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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

 

Take no solace in bad governance.

Monday, November 21st, 2016

Did you hear that Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is staying in her job? We were in Ottawa last week during the bye-election in Ottawa-Vanier. It was no surprise that the Liberal candidate won. These are happy days in Ottawa. The malaise at Queen’s Park appears distant and of little consequence.

Yet these are the drabbest of days in the Niagara region. Former Conservative Leader Timmy Hudak’s electoral district also stayed true to its gothic conservatism in a bye-election. “And a little child shall lead them.” (Yes, we know that the Bible verse referred to a child leading the animals of prey who laid down with their lunch. Give us some license here!)

But the bye-election stand-off solves nothing. The Liberal majority at Queen’s Park is safe—for now. Conservative Leader Patrick Brown added another straw to the load of his burden of leadership. Now he has another reminder of his narrow social conservatism in the party caucus. He can run (he is a marathoner) but he cannot hide from his own narrow-minded past.

It is the dichotomy of Ontario politics. Rural and small-town Ontario is Conservative. The urban majority are more progressive. You see it so clearly from the spiralling towers of the condominiums of city life. It is the advances of higher education, the forced mix and accommodations of city life, and the realization that the person from a land far away is not so different when you live side by each.

But bigotry blooms where the pseudo politicians pander to ignorance. In the same way as Trump marched across the farming states of America, we see a band of Ontario Landowners flailing at progress across central Ontario. We see a conniving and determined Conservative leader like Brown feeding on the failings of Ontario’s right-wing Liberals at Queen’s Park.

If Wynne tries to win Ontario in 2018, she will fail us. A true leader serves. A false leader commands. There is no leadership today from any Ontario political party. It will be a sorry election in 2018 with Brown, Horwath and Wynne. They are nebbish. They are not leaders.

There is no solace for Ontario.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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