Archive for September, 2017

In search of leadership.

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

This is not as simple as Diogenes with his lamp, searching for an honest man. There are many possibilities in life for leadership and many who believe they can fill the need. In Canada, we tend to assume that when the need arises, a leader will step forward. We could not be more wrong in our assumptions and our best example of this is our municipalities—where, in most cases, we lack the organizational structures that can support leadership.

I was thinking of this today because of the ongoing complaints of the Toronto news media about where Toronto Mayor John Tory is leading the city. Mind you, the term leading might be inappropriate in this situation. It is a task more like herding.

In Toronto today, the voters elect a mayor citywide and 44 councillors in their individual wards. While most of these people are or become affiliated with this or that political party, there is no party platform or discipline to hold them accountable. They run on their own platform in their own neighbourhood. They are accountable only to their own voters. And if that is more than 35 per cent of the potential voters, it is considered a high turnout.

Watching various mayors put together their coalitions over the years, it seemed to be more of exercise in personality than of politics. They made it personal. It was more a moral persuasion than political party discipline.

A recent report on Toronto City Hall commissioned by the Toronto Sun Newspaper hardly solved the problems. A major recommendation was that council could have more time for the important stuff if it delegated more community problems to the existing community councils. Nobody seems to have pointed out that this would be moving the city backward.

The newspaper’s plan also included somebody having to write consumer-friendly write-ups on issues that the council was bringing up for debate—and here we thought that was the role of the news media!

Actually, nothing is going to improve on the municipal front until a provincial leader realizes that the lack of political accountability in Toronto is the biggest problem. This true leader will liberate the city’s serfs.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

What ‘New’ Democratic Party?

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

We are hearing that ‘Love is in the air’ and the New Democratic Party of Canada is facing the future to the beat of new drums. Everyone anticipates that this new day will start with the election of the new leader of the party. And if you believe all this guff, I have a fine piece of swampland in the Ontario north in which you might want to invest.

The first part of all this B.S. is the news media believing the NDP is a social democratic party. That is further from the facts that any human can throw. When the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) was founded by Tommy Douglas and J.S. Woodsworth in 1932, it was a socialist party with agrarian roots.

In 1961, the CCF became the base of the New Democratic Party (NDP). It was a deal made with the Canadian Labour Congress and the party structure was committed to organized labour. It was and still is a party of labour. That is not the basis for social democracy. Labour can best be described as organized collectivism. It is a mutual protective society. It is rarely interested in the overall concerns of its society—other than when it affects them.

Social democrats are people who can work within a democratic structure to effect reforms. They are progressives who want to build a better future for their society. They recognize the rights of the individual ahead of the collective. They build on human excellence.

But who among the four candidates really understands this need for a social democratic party? Who is the progressive? And who can lead?

Listening to the four candidates on Sunday in Hamilton it was obvious that Guy Caron was the thinker. The Quebec MP had the positions that he felt the party should take. What he could not demonstrate was the leadership the party needs.

Charlie Angus was up to the challenge. The Northern Ontario MP showed his empathy for the long-time party members who want to help define where the party is going. He was the only one to note the need to keep the faith with seniors and promised to advocate for them.

Niki Ashton was also in good form. The Manitoba MP showed that she was the last true prairie socialist and she stuck to her guns.

The newcomer Jagmeet Singh showed up with his drummers. The Ontario MPP brought some showmanship to the event.

What nobody brought was a future for Canada’s New Democrats.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The late, unlamented Equifax.

Monday, September 18th, 2017

It is just one of the many problems faced by Canadians because of our outmoded constitution. Responsibility for credit reporting companies resides with the provincial governments. It enables the large federally incorporated American firms to just add Canadians to their portfolio almost as an afterthought. And when hackers have free access to Equifax data and download over 140 million records for their own use, there is little differentiation between the American and Canadian information that they download. They have use for both.

It reminds me of an experience I had a few years ago when I made my first and last purchase at a new Target store in Canada. Target in Canada fed its sales information south of the border and I soon found that someone was using ATMs in Pittsburgh to try to empty my bank account. My bank was kindly translating my money to American funds to save time for the criminal.

I should mention that the bank replaced the money. The bank considered the retail breach to be part of the cost of doing business.

But that is not the case with Equifax. While you might have signed away your rights to your own data the last time you opened a savings or checking account, applied for a credit card or a mortgage, you probably never did read all that fine print. Nor did you necessarily agree that Equifax could retain all the data on you forever in their, obviously insecure, databases.

Since class-action lawsuits have already been launched in the United States and in Canada, we can only hope that the lawyers involved understand computer database operations. They obviously already know that the company failed to install safeguard software in their system that would have blocked the point of access for the hackers.

Hackers are the guerilla force in the computer wars. It is a continuing battle to find and fix the weak points in systems the hackers are seeking to find.

As much as many people laugh at what hackers can find in their searches, they should be aware that it costs us all. When the banks get ripped off, who do you think pays for it: we the customers.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

In defence of Conrad Black?

Sunday, September 17th, 2017

Lord ‘Cross-the-Pond’ Black has never needed us to defend him. He is a man of immense ego living out his life in the last of his estates. His love of the written word could have been the cause for him to destroy a business empire—all for the sake of trying to save his failing newspapers. Given his setbacks in life, give him credit, he still writes with clarity in the beauty of the English language.

But who is this Toronto Star writer who complains so bitterly about Conrad writing in the National Post that racism is ‘practically dead in North America.’ Is he challenging her livelihood? Is she working under some editorial direction to unearth racism wherever she can find it?

Of course, Black’s perception of racism would be totally different from hers. He is a septuagenarian, born at different times and who has lived in an entirely different environment and enjoyed a different life style.  The point of his story appears to be decrying racism. What is her problem?

Does the Star writer expect all ‘white men’ to pack up and return to the Europe or wherever of our forefathers? That would certainly do a lot of good!

It is unlikely that there are many who could vouch for Conrad’s sincerity but he does decry the racism that he could have witnessed over the years. That seems to be the appropriate stance in this day. And what more can we really do? We know that bigotry goes with ignorance. In life, it is possible to feel both sides of discrimination and we know we like neither side.

But one should never make more of it than one ought. It seems that the more firmly we disavow the racism of the past, the more we are accused of ignoring the racism of the past. You simply cannot win this argument.

But to accuse all whites of being bigots is bigotry in itself.

And why can we not look on the good side of this? As a parent, I am as appalled at the concept of all black schools as I would be at the idea of all white schools. I am just as appalled by separating children by the religion of their parents. In Canada’s increasingly secular society, we should have no place for religious schools to indoctrinate children.

We need to reach a time when we do not pass the mistakes of the past to our children. These mistakes can take many forms.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Does Wynne win with weed?

Saturday, September 16th, 2017

Everyone seems to be a bit nonplused by the possibility of Premier Kathleen Wynne promoting the sales of marijuana in Ontario. It might not be the best idea to come down the turnpike recently but it is certainly creating consternation. If Wynne and her Liberal sheep continue in their usual form, we voters will be the ones shorn.

The first question you might ask is what qualities would you want in a store that sells legal marijuana? Would you prefer a group that knew something about marketing? Would you prefer a group who knew something about the product they are selling? Would you prefer that a store is a short walk to in your neighbourhood or a long drive to a suburban mall?

As you can see, there are more than a few questions. Now tell us what kind of a company fits. Do you think the Liquor Control Board knows anything about marketing, or knows much about marijuana or will there be a store convenient to you to fill your needs? Or will you care?

Of course, you would hardly expect the government to follow the old distribution patterns and locate all its stores within a block and a half of every high school in the province. This means we expect the stores to reach out to new markets.

Maybe the LCBO could get Premier Wynne to promote marijuana for seniors. They could create commercials saying that weed is the best way to forget the aches and pains of aging. Mind you that would mean that there would need to be a related delivery service. How about we give that part of it to Amazon?

Maybe the major market for marijuana is just the aging hippies who have not heard that smoking is bad for them.

But the serious question here is whether Wynne and her Liberals are going to benefit from anything other than the profits from selling marijuana. When they pick the LCBO to do the marketing, it was just the same old song, all over again. And they are going to use the old water torture trick of opening a few stores at a time. Wynne never does anything all at once. It is like the booze in Loblaws, raising the minimum wage or the selling off of Hydro One. If it works once, why not do it again and again?

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Canada’s NDP: In the eye of the storm.

Friday, September 15th, 2017

It is that period of calm before all hell breaks loose. Everything you could have done, has been done. Everything you have set in motion is now in motion. You are waiting for the results. You cannot sleep. All possible scenarios seem to slip unwished for into your mind. You are waiting for the decision of the voters.

Everyone in politics has been there but never as serious as the candidates for the leadership of a political party. This month it is the New Democratic Party’s turn. Voting starts in a few days. The answer will likely be announced on October 1.

This is one of those simple votes. One member is one vote. Easy to understand and easy to do and easy to count.

Well, maybe.

The only thing that confuses people is the ballot. It follows the recent Conservative Party ballot that caused a lot of questions afterwards. They tell us that the printed ballot allows people to show their first, second, third and fourth choice. And, in theory, people can change their mind between ballots—if they are voting on line.

But whether a second vote will be needed is debateable. When you have reason to expect Jagmeet Singh could have over 50 per cent of the votes on the first ballot, there might be no reason for any further counting.

It could certainly produce a lot of Google searches on Sikhism. It is not a well-known religion and frankly there is not that much to go on unless you can read Punjabi. Sikhs have ten gurus, quite a few saints and five centuries of history. It does make for interesting reading.

While Charlie Angus M.P. will make a very good showing, his total vote combined with the votes of Niki Ashton M.P. and Guy Caron M.P. might not be able to match the total vote for Singh.

And whether Jagmeet Singh can be expected to lead Canada’s NDP anywhere is a question best answered after the ballots are counted.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

 

Frum, from hunger!

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation news used to have balanced panels to help Canadians understand issues. That idea seems to be gone along with Peter Mansbridge. Instead we can now get a biased, neo-conservative David Frum being lobbed soft-ball questions by an admiring news reader. And who trusts that?

What is even more annoying, Barbara Frum’s kid told us nothing we did not already know about his friend Donald Trump. After all, how many times do you have to hear about Trump’s narcissism before you start to understand it?

You almost feel relieved these days when a deadly hurricane can replace the daily ‘Fear of Trump’ newscasts.

Not that Frum can replace anything. His great claim to fame is that he wrote the “axis of evil” line for former U.S. President George W. Bush. As a political speech writer, he had obviously never learned that you do not claim credit for what you have written for others. The copyright belongs to those who pay you to write for them.

Even the times when I wrote speeches for free for my M.P. or for friends in politics, it was never revealed to the media who had written the speech. There was the odd time that it was obvious who had written it but the media would go along.

This has got me thinking back over my political career and maybe I was wrong to never personally publicize my political involvement. I was a ‘spin doctor’ long before they called the role ‘spin doctor.’ And I never called campaign operations a ‘war room.’ While I used to train campaign workers with quotes from von Clausewitz’ On War, I never believed in a War Room. It sounded too confining. The only way you can stay current with what is happening in a campaign is to constantly listen to the voters and feel the mood. If you are cloistered or only listening to sycophants, you are what is called ‘drinking your own bath water.’ You will delude yourself.

That is why I am concerned about the CBC failing its audience of people who want to not only hear the news but also to hear why. People like Frum hardly provide balance. We expect balanced news from the CBC.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The water of life.

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

A handful of snow melting on a peak in the Rockies can become part of a torrent by the time it reaches the ocean. It is the water of life for the creatures of both land and sea. It is a place for salmon to spawn, the creatures of the forest to drink and humans to take their waters. It feeds the green of our forests, the growth of our cash crops and the needs of our towns, cities and farms.

And it is so fragile. The disgrace is if we spill the contents of a pipeline loaded with diluted bitumen into those waters. From the tiny babbling brooks to the mightiest of rivers, diluted bitumen is the threat of death. It floats down river to when its diluent is washed away and then it sinks, there on the bottom to conflict with the ecosystem.

Diluted bitumen is not crude oil. It is enabled to go through a pipeline by heating that pipeline and forcing it through the pipeline at greater pressure. It is not a question as to will the pipeline fail but when?

Ask the 70,000 people who live along the North Saskatchewan River. The Husky spill of bitumen on that river travelled 370 kilometres before it was just an oil slick that continued to contaminate. The bitumen had settled along the river bottom. And that was less than 250,000 litres of diluted bitumen that denied potable water to humans and animals alike.

Ask the people of Michigan along the Kalamazoo River and its tributaries. The Enbridge bitumen spill in Michigan cost more than US$2 billion and will never really be cleaned up. That bitumen that settled in the rivers has just become part of Michigan’s ecosystem.

And when Prime Minister Trudeau broke faith with the ecology and allowed the expansion of the Kinder-Morgan Trans-mountain pipeline, he was not just saying “go ahead and double the pipeline.” He was changing the old pipeline (built in the 1950s) to heat it and to increase the pressure. Along with the new pipeline being added, Kinder-Morgan will be able to triple the amount of diluted bitumen, it can send to the ocean port. This will greatly increase the tanker traffic around the B.C. coast.

As the aboriginal tribes of our west coast remind us, we are endangering the water of life. Is it worth it?

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Money has its privileges.

Tuesday, September 12th, 2017

They named the provincial Conservative candidate for York-Simcoe the other day. There will be no sweaty contested nomination meeting for former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s kid. Caroline Mulroney got a free pass. And just to drive the point home, at the announcement, she harangued the provincial Liberals for wanting to raise the minimum wage in Ontario.

Obviously Caroline Mulroney has never walked in shoes where the soles were falling off. Her life of privilege at the Prime Minister’s residence and at university in Boston and New York hardly prepared her for the ardour of representing the rural and the rich in their estates in York-Simcoe.

Or is she still remodeling that estate in Georgina as a weekend home for her family? Her husband works for New York’s Blackstone Investment Group of hedge fund fame and probably will want to spend the work week in Toronto.

But maybe it all depends on the schools their four pre-teens are attending?

It is what Caroline Mulroney can possibly contribute at Queen’s Park that has us stumped. She has absolutely no grounding in provincial matters. Reading what someone else thinks about the raising of the minimum wage in Ontario would take a lot more understanding of what poverty means and the trials of living on less than a minimum wage.

Mind you Caroline Mulroney will make an attractive candidate for Patrick Brown to hide behind. He wants people to forget the sleazy way he swamped the membership of the Ontario Conservatives to take the leadership by default. Nobody had thought of signing up more than 40,000 temporary members of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. They were mainly from the Indian Sub-Continent and nobody questioned whether they had paid their own membership or not. The 20,000 long-time members of the Conservative Party never had a chance.

But that has nothing to do with Caroline Mulroney. She had to listen to people commenting on how sleazy her father was all her life. She probably learned to ignore it.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

The reluctant reformers!

Monday, September 11th, 2017

It must have confused Justin Trudeau’s campaign team in the 2015 federal election when they realized that Thomas Mulcair and his New Democratic Party were running to the political right of them. Their first problem in that overly long election campaign was how to stretch out their planned promises. And obviously more supposed reform promises had to be added.

But promising reform and delivering on the promises are different things. Policies that are proposed just to make the party look like reformers are often hard to deliver.

The most obvious slip from cup to lip was Justin Trudeau’s promise of voting reform. Whomever came up with that idea without thinking it through is no genius. And giving responsibility for the file to a political newbie was a disaster. For those who took the time to follow the special parliamentary committee’s hearings and carefully read its comprehensive report, would have found a wealth of information. The solution will be there when Canada finally corrects its out of date constitution.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau seems to be in the hot seat more than anyone else in cabinet but Canadians are still waiting for him to produce more than an update on the old-fashioned Baby Bonus. He let us all down by not ending the stock option payments for the one per cent and now he is under fire for wanting to do something about our privileged private corporations.

It warms the cockles of our hearts when those earning vulgar incomes are told they might not be able to sprinkle money around the family just to lower their taxes. If a convenience store really pays family members for their work, they deserve it. You can hardly suggest that a brain surgeon’s family are helping out in the operating room.

The Trudeau government’s most serious failures as reformers are in the environmental and the marijuana files. Justin Trudeau blew away all his credentials as an environmentalist when he approved pipelines for diluted bitumen from the tar sands.

And our sense is that it was a bad idea to rely on a retired cop to figure out how to legalize marijuana. The involvement has gone a long way beyond the original intent to simply decriminalize weed. And turning the individual provinces loose to make money on pot does not make the federal government less culpable. Judging by the Ontario government’s planned role out of legal Mary Jane, this looks like a marketing disaster.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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