Archive for March, 2017

Kevin O’Leary meets a real reality.

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

Welcome to Canadian politics, Kevin O’Leary. You have brought a few laughs to an otherwise dismal contest for leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada. Though you would think someone from reality television would know what to expect? Did you really think leadership races are run within some foolish rules? And that anybody pays for someone’s membership in the party without knowing how they will vote.

Kevin, you have a lot to learn; besides French. Blowing the whistle on a fellow candidate is pretty amateur stuff. You cannot be that naïve. You have embarrassed the party by making the officials dump a bunch of memberships. (Did the people being dumped get their membership fee back?) Now all the memberships remaining are on the up and up. Sure?

Kevin, you should have run for the Ontario party leadership last year. Did you know that schmuck Patrick Brown swamped the provincial party membership with close to 40,000 new sign-ups? The provincial officials took the memberships and took the money and nobody ever heard a word of complaint. And did you really think all those recent immigrants from India and Pakistan who Brown had signed up in the provincial party paid their own membership fee?

But, Kevin, you would hardly expect a few thousand ‘instant’ members are going to make a big difference in the federal race? The way the voting is structured for the national leadership, it is virtually impossible to buy the leadership. You would need at least 60,000 instant members spread fairly evenly across 338 electoral districts. The problem is not the more than $225,000 for the memberships but the organization needed to collect your member’s ballots and mail them in for them. And then you would still need those second votes from all the other losing candidates to be sure.  The federal party did not want to make it too difficult but they certainly did not want a schlemiel like Brown walking away wearing the leader’s tiara.

Kevin, you might have done Maxime Bernier a favour. Even if you did not name names, he might have told his supporters it was his memberships that were tossed. If he can afford to lose that many first votes and laugh about it, this race might be more confused than we thought.

Kevin, this might seem odd to you but the decision in this race will be made by 13 losing candidates. Yes, you are one also. Every candidate wants those losers to tell their supporters who to support second. And that will decide the ultimate winner.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Shell bites the bitumen bullet.

Monday, March 20th, 2017

This story takes us back to the 1970s and a lengthy discussion with a board member of Royal Dutch Shell. He was a “works committee” member of the board and our discussion was enlightening. He represented the employees of Shell on its board and was a highly-respected university professor. He was in Toronto visiting his son who was also a professor at York University.

At the time this writer was giving lectures at universities across Ontario on the social responsibility of business. We had been intrigued by the then current agreement with the union for Shell Canada’s workers at the Sarnia refinery. It was an intelligent document that recognized the responsibilities of both the workers and the employers. In effect, it seemed to say ‘we are all adults here and we need to carry out our responsibilities in a mutually respectful manner.’ That was not the usual preamble in other union agreements at the time.

To the European professor this did not seem unusual. He was more intrigued with the problems North Americans create with their more adversarial industrial relations. At the same time, he was interested in the concept of good citizenship for international companies in the countries where they operated. At the time, we recognized pollution from petroleum-based products as a mainly urban problem but was not yet being addressed as a world-wide problem. We were only starting to learn about recovering oil from tar sands.

But more recently the concern has been: What is a responsible company such as Royal Dutch Shell doing in the Alberta tar sands? Shell even had the Quest Carbon Capture project that was burying a million tons of carbon per year from upgrading tar sands bitumen to synthetic crude oil. Despite this and other efforts, Shell finally said “No” to the tar sands. It took a loss in the billions. It bought out minority investors such as Marathon Oil and sold out at billions less than cost to Calgary-based Canadian Natural Resources.

It cost the Canadian conglomerate close to $13 billion but at the bargain price from Shell, it can make money at prices for crude of less than $50 per barrel.

But to make back the billions it cost, Canadian Natural Resources needs those pipelines to tidewater promised by Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

What will an Ontario pilot prove?

Sunday, March 19th, 2017

The possible acceptance of a pilot project in Ontario of the idea of government providing a basic guaranteed income to its citizens is long overdue. There have been previous pilots—opened with great ballyhoo and then quietly dropped when the political will failed us.

But like all such pilots, they are dramatically over-managed, over-promoted and are virtually guaranteed to fail to meet over-inflated expectations. What is important to realize about these programs is that they replace a myriad of government band-aids for the unemployed, the unemployable, the handicapped, the marginalized and those families locked in a cycle of poverty because of mental or physical health.

One of the keys to simplifying the program is to have the individuals and families to be assisted make their own application. In some cases, this application might be made on their behalf by a government agency or a non-government charitable agency. Those not needing some or all of the support money will have it taxed back to the government. Ideally this type of program allows for graduated taxation on earnings to encourage self-help.

One of the more interesting results noted in the Manitoba “Minicom” guaranteed income test years ago was the reduction in hospital visits and stays. Keeping people from worrying about money seemed to help keep them out of hospital.

But, by any measure, a guaranteed income makes a dramatic change in attitudes for the entire population. It redirects a major part of the government social services agencies that interface with the public, enabling them to do their jobs more effectively and providing better service to the public. Over time, it could also reflect in a realignment of these agencies and cost savings.

There are the usual arguments going on across Ontario about this test. The main concern is that the guaranteed amount has to be high enough to sustain an individual or family in today’s society. Welfare rates in Ontario today are a disgrace and we have to get ahead of the poverty curve. You cannot expect an Ontario resident to have any quality of life today on an income of less than $1500 per month along with full medical and dental coverage. If the government thinks it can do the test for less than what people can live on, they are only doing the test to ensure failure.

We will be watching.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Could Chantal Hébert be so diabolical?

Saturday, March 18th, 2017

Is it whimsy or a diabolical intent? Is Toronto Star political guru Chantal Hébert really that devious? She recently proposed that Rona Ambrose, the federal interim leader for the Conservatives as the ideal person to step in and take over the reins of the combined provincial Conservatives in Alberta.

That is a wonderful proposal and we should all get behind it. Maybe we could excuse New Democrat Rachel Notley for not participating but Conservatives and Liberals can appreciate the irony. It would be justice writ big.

First of all, it would relegate that blow-hard Jason Kenney to the position of second fiddle. That is the most he deserves. And what would really feel good would be the fact that a woman put him in his place. After what happened to the women in the Alberta Conservative leadership race and the way they were treated by Kenney’s supporters, he deserves to be walked on by a lot of very sharp high heels.

And surely nobody is going to shed a tear for Wildrose Leader Brian Jean. Where the Hell is he taking that bunch of malingering malcontents? While we might have had a lot of sympathy for the Wildrose leader last year during the wildfire in his electoral district, it is time to face the facts. He would be taking on far more than he could chew to fight Kenney for the combined party leadership. He would need a lot of help to take on Stephen Harper’s go-to guy.

And we would strongly advise anybody to not take on Jason Kenney down some dark alley. He has probably never heard of the Marquis of Queensbury’s or any other rules of engagement.

But the suggestion of getting Rona Ambrose to challenge both Jean and Kenney for the combined conservative leadership is delicious. Rona is far tougher than either and she has proved it in her handling of the Conservative Party of Canada since the 2015 rout in parliament. She calls it as she sees it and she has kept the Liberals’ feet to the fire in an otherwise docile House of Commons.

And while we all know that polls taken today will be meaningless down the road, an Ambrose versus Notley battle for Alberta might just be a fair fight. What would make it even more interesting would be the resurrected Alberta Liberal Party with the fallout of progressive conservatives from a more right-wing Conservative Party.

We all need to face the facts that the days of narrow-minded Alberta-centric governments is coming to an end. All of us, as Canadians, have a responsibility to the entire country. We have to live together and build together. We have to care together. We have to share responsibility for our environment. It builds our future.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Is Trudeau fighting out of his weight class?

Friday, March 17th, 2017

The reason why boxing promoters will not allow a lightweight boxer to take on a heavyweight is that the lightweight might not last two minutes. The lightweight might be fast on his feet but the heavyweight only needs to land one punch. That is why Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau needs all the help he can get to take on U.S. President Trump.

The most urgent problem today is the proposed cuts in the American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Trump hardly gives a damn about the environment. He has shown that with his decisions on pipelines and coal mines. Maybe he did not know that the EPA is responsible for U.S. federal support in keeping the Great Lakes clean and fit to provide water for millions of Americans. Those Americans include those in some states that were key in winning the presidency for Trump.

And it is not as though it is a matter of talking Trump out of some of his positions or getting him to like Justin Trudeau. He forgets. Even in his recent speech to Congress, he made several conflicting statements. He is erratic. He does not give a damn about Canadians. They are just like Americans to him. Only they seem to want to live where it can get cold.

One of the biggest mistakes Trudeau might have made is the Canadian ambassador in Washington. Of course, the choice of David MacNaughton as ambassador was made before the Trump disaster happened. No doubt with a Clinton presidency, MacNaughton would have been right at home. As it is now he is going to need constant hand-holding by the trained diplomats. He is no political problem solver. He proved that when he was Justin Trudeau’s point man for Ontario in the last election. The appointment was his reward for the Liberals winning, That was despite his being so obviously out of touch with what was really happening in Ontario.

To make matters worse Trump has Trudeau buffaloed as well. Trudeau thought he made the right impression when he and Trump met. Trump forgot the Canadian’s name as he went out the door. And how does he think he will handle Trump’s reopening of the mid-term emissions controls for new automobiles? It looks like an attempt to release all auto manufacturing controls in North America and is in direct conflict with Canada’s objectives.

Is Trump the Darth Vader who takes Trudeau over to the dark side.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Airing the rants of the Right.

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

Canadians are too politically correct to accept a politician such as right-wing Geert Wilders who has been running in the Netherlands for that country’s parliamentary elections yesterday. At one point the pollsters were suggesting that the right-wing anti-Islam, anti-EU politician’s Freedom Party could get as much as 20 per cent of the popular vote. And in Holland, with proportional representation, that means 20 per cent of the seats.

But the question needs to be raised in Canada as to whether it is better to air those opinions or suppress them?

First, we know that Wilders and his party will not be able to be part of the government. The Dutch Liberals under Mark Rutte with more than 25 seats will be putting together the coalition that will rule for the next four years. There is no way that they would invite Wilders to be part of that coalition.

From the sidelines, Wilder will be shrill in his ongoing message of hate.

But does that not give us more time to refute the garbage he spouts?

And you should bear in mind that, compared to Wilders, President Trump is a diplomat.

Our home-grown right, such as M.P. Kellie Leitch have to use code words for bigotry or they would face the wrath of their own party.

The problem in Canada is that with our first-past-the-post electoral system is that the major political parties have to take the “big tent” approach to gather the voting support for a majority. You get the Liberals running with a broad left-wing appeal and then ruling with right wing gusto. The Conservatives never seem to mention their denials of women’s and gay rights during an election but you know the pressure is always there. And the New Democrat’s attempts at right-wing promises create their own nemesis.

Our failure in North America to face these issues directly could be part of the reason that so many of us were wrong in calling last year’s American election. From Hillary Clinton on down the chain, we failed to see the real strength of Trump. He was feeding the chauvinism, he was building a wall of ignorance, he believed in the bigotry. And he told the biggest lies.

We have to accept the blame. We have to block bastards like Trump. Their lies must be exposed. Their causes challenged.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Revisiting the hopes of Dr. Zamboni.

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

As past president of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, we have known for a long time that the Liberation treatment for Multiple Sclerosis patients does not work. It never had credibility to begin with. It was over seven years ago that Dr. Paulo Zamboni of Ferrara, Italy excitedly announced a treatment he had developed to increase the drainage of blood from the brain of MS patients. A Canadian replication of the treatment with a double-blind study has shown conclusively that the procedure makes no difference.

But consider the cost. Thousands of Canadian MS patients spend anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 at special ‘clinics’ in other countries. That was in addition to their travel and hotel costs. Canadian doctors were very reluctant to provide any post-operative care for a procedure that was not even considered safe in Canada. In some cases the treatment was a scam. And there were deaths from the treatment in clinics outside Canada.

It was not the W5 program on CTV that caused most of the stir for the Zamboni treatment. It was the CTV news programs that promoted the program for the network. They sensationalized the supposed cure. That was when the promotion crossed the line.

And then there were the politicians who jumped on the bandwagon. One of the first was the then M.P. for Barrie, Ontario who is now leader of the Ontario Conservative Party. Mr. Brown has never met a charitable cause that he cannot jump aboard to publicize himself.

But to be fair, politicians from other parties wanted aboard the publicity train. Two Liberal M.P.s who are also medical doctors thought the procedure should be fast-tracked and they spoke out on behalf of the procedure without really understanding what they were promoting.

The problem had to be resolved by the Canadian MS Society with the aid of the medical research community across Canada. The first problem, we assume, must have been finding a safe and fair way to test the theory while providing a placebo test that could verify the results. And then you have to find a researcher who can find the time to handle a lengthy double-blind study with sufficient patients to produce credible results.

Now, eight years after the fact, we conclusively know that the Liberation treatment treats nothing. It does not work.

But, joy oh joy, the people who promote these off-shore ‘clinics’ called CCSVI Ontario were reported to have the nerve to tell a newspaper reporter that this extremely costly Canadian study was “sham science.”

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

What happened in Saint-Laurent?

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

All rebellions have to start somewhere. And it looks like Justin Trudeau miscalculated and let one start in the Quebec electoral district of Saint-Laurent. The riding had been held by Stéphane Dion until Trudeau bounced him from the cabinet and sent him to be ambassador to the European Union and Germany. It looks like the Liberals in Saint-Laurent started the revolution without their good friend Stéphane.

Despite Trudeau refusing to authorize the candidacy of his choice’s most likely competitor, his candidate lost anyway. Yolande James, a former immigration minister in the Jean Charest provincial cabinet and more recently a commentator on politics for Radio-Canada was defeated. She was defeated by a previously unknown 26-year old high school teacher who lives in the electoral district.

The word is that the chosen candidate’s name is Emmanuella Lambropolus and she was more surprised than anyone else when she won. She had assumed that she would be defeated when she heard of Justin Trudeau’s choice of James. Rather than give up, she and her team just kept on working. They must have wanted to make as good a showing as possible.

It does not speak well for Justin Trudeau’s judgement. He had trouble in dumping Stéphane Dion even with the plum diplomatic assignment. And then he left what he thought were minor opponents to make the nomination meeting look a little more democratic. That bit him on the bum.

But what we are really puzzled about is the political acumen of a Radio-Canada political commentator who gets parachuted into a riding and thinks they do not have to work for the nomination. What we tell every potential candidate is that your nomination campaign has to be a sample of the hard work you are promising your supporters in the coming election.

Hard work is obviously no stranger to the winning candidate. She fought for her riding and she won. And she taught Justin Trudeau a lesson that he desperately needed to learn. Never take Liberals for granted.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Is this Toronto’s coming of age?

Monday, March 13th, 2017

In a scholarly work this past week from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, we learned that the City of Toronto is ready to cut the parental apron strings of the Province of Ontario. If you have never been involved in Toronto politics, you might even believe that is possible.

It took this writer back to an event in the early fall of 1969. Driving down Yonge Street to the office, we stopped the car for a red light at Dundas Street. Shortly after stopping a head appeared in front of the car hood and it was glaring at me. It was David Crombie, a lecturer at Ryerson at the time, he was obviously on his way to work.

David detoured and came around to the driver’s side of the car—where the window was conveniently open. He stuck his head in the window and said: “Peter, you and I are friends, so I am not going to tell you what I thought of your article in the paper yesterday about myself and CIVAC.

“But I have to warn you, watch out for Shirley (his wife). She’s mad.” And with that David drew himself up to his full 5 foot, eight inches or so and stomped through the traffic to continue on his way to Ryerson.

David Crombie went on to his fun-filled career as Toronto’s ‘Tiny Perfect Mayor’ and as a Conservative Member of parliament in the Mulroney government. Your writer stayed safely away from Shirley Crombie.

But all we had written about was the facts. David and his friends were not going to solve Toronto’s problems with their civic action (CIVAC) party. And to make matters worse, we talked our late friend Senator Keith Davey into helping organize an attempt at bringing Liberal politics to Toronto’s various city halls. The laughter was a little forced later on when we referred to it as our own Mack Sennett comedy.

The facts are that Toronto is the liberal engine that runs Ontario. The Ontario Landowners with their extreme right-wing ways can scream all they want but without Toronto, this province is a backwater worse off than Louisiana. And while outsiders can say they hate Toronto, those of us who really know the city love it. And the outsiders would miss it.

Whoever is in charge at Queen’s Park knows that they have to look after Toronto. It might be the adult child living in your basement but you never want it to leave. It has no political structure to help it survive in the wilds.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The Morning Line: Canada’s Conservatives (2).

Sunday, March 12th, 2017

Now you get the possible winners from among the 14 contenders for the Tory leadership. We have checked their blood lines, their daily workouts and their past performances and all we can tell you is that the following is possible.

THE POSSIBLES:

Kevin O’Leary, 20 to 1. Our only advice to Kevin O’Leary (if he had ever asked) was to not play the heavy on television and then show up in politics expecting to be loved. He was the guy on that investment show, you loved to hate. He earned it. And not speaking French and expecting to be welcomed with open arms by the Tories is dreaming. Forget it Kevin.

Kellie Leach, 15 to 1. This sitting M.P. took up the nettle of Trumpism and is still trying to figure out how to handle it. If people did not realize just how silly her ‘Canadian Values’ line is, they need to see that weird YouTube video she made to explain her values. You wonder what her and the camera crew were smoking at the time

Andrew Scheer, 12 to 1. This is the desperation candidate. He is a small version of Stephen Harper. He is making the best play for second and third choice votes we have seen so far. That alone puts him in the running. He’s young (37), maybe he can grow into the job—if the Tories can wait a dozen years!

Maxime Bernier, 10 to 1. The M.P. from Beauce is a Conservative’s conservative. He is about as far right as you can get and stay in the country. He carries some baggage in leaving sensitive documents at his girlfriend’s but those who have seen the pictures of her understand. He is also number one in fundraising. He lacks the more balanced appeal of a Stephen Harper but he is about number four in a field of 14.

Erin O’Toole, 9 to 1. This is a guy who looks better on paper than in person. His platform is carefully crafted and hits many of the right buttons. So what if he is a bit boring? He is building a good base in the Atlantic which was a smart move. Now he has to drive that truck west. He has a chance.

Lisa Raitt, 6 to 1. The rules are working for this lady. She has become the stand-in for Rona Ambrose who has done a good job as interim leader of the Conservatives. There is no doubt that Conservative women will give her a first, second or third place vote—just for being a woman in politics. She is also going to get a sympathy vote because of her husband’s health. She has a better chance than most people realize.

Michael Chong, 5 to 1. This could be a surprise for many Conservative M.P.s. Michael Chong might be the only candidate who has seriously thought about the party and its future. The other candidates do not understand his ‘big tent’ strategy. It is why he could so easily walk away with so many second, third and fourth place votes from Tories across the country—that is what it will take to win. It will be a close race but he could just make it happen.

Sorry folks, it is a tough call. Nothing is guaranteed but all Canadians should take an interest in what happens in this race—it will define the Conservative Party of Canada for years to come.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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