Archive for February, 2018

A tag day for journalism.

Sunday, February 18th, 2018

It should be admitted up front that this writer is a news junky. With a career in public relations and politics, I believe in the independence of CBC/Radio Canada and I have been known to pester the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). A strong, independent news media makes for a strong nation.

But I am concerned about the Trudeau government promising some help for journalism in Canada. It makes you wonder if we have any pennies to burn.

It also makes me wonder if we really need to support a millionaire such as Pierre Karl Péladeau and his Journal de Montréal or PostMedia’s Paul Godfrey?

And do we really need to listen to John Honderich of the Toronto Star crying the blues about the state of Canadian journalism? It makes a good two-hanky cry until you realize he just made a deal with the Paul Godfrey to close down another bunch of local papers in Ontario.

The news media is a business Mr. Prime Minister. We know you do not understand how business works but the worst thing you can do for a failing business is to throw money at it. What business needs is customers. And if they do not know what to do with customers, they are not in business anyway.

The best thing we can do to promote good business is to level the playing field. That means we need to change some of the rules for the Internet. I know that it is hard to understand but it is important to recognize that sophisticated system is also a business. Maybe a bit more complex, but still a business. Like any business operating in Canada, this Internet business has to pay its taxes. The free ride has to end.

We have to remember that news is a commodity and somebody has to pay for it. If it is being paid for by advertising, we have to tax the advertising. If advertising crosses the border into Canada, it can pay Canadian taxes. Those clicks on the Internet are not free, If Google gets rich on Canadian advertising, then they better pay their way. Same with Facebook and all that other so-called social media.

And while you are at it, that stuff on Netflix that crosses the border and earns money is building up a substantial bill from us. Please go get it paid.

-30-

Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

“Patrick! Come back!”

Saturday, February 17th, 2018

In the iconic western, Shane, the gunfighter rides off into the prairie night and the movie ends. I had no idea that Ontario Conservative MPP Patrick Brown would come back. I have written about the reality that running to replace himself is his only road to redemption but why would the damn fool listen to me? I was as stunned as everyone else when he jumped into the leadership race at the last minute.

What is Patrick Brown coming back to? By joining the race to replace himself, Brown faces further humiliation and sure defeat. His Sub-Continent temporary members of the Ontario PCs are gone. There is no time to sign them up again. When temporary leader Vic Fideli went through the supposed 200,000 members of the party, he would at least have scrubbed most of the obvious Indian and Sikh names Brown signed up from two years ago. Why would they renew their membership? They can no longer vote for him.

But how can anyone who watched that perp-walk with the media out of the Ontario Legislature on January 24 welcome Patrick Brown back? The caucus have now made it very clear that they never wanted Patrick Brown as leader. They certainly do not want him back.

And this situation has very little to do with the supposed indiscretions of Brown. The claims of CTV as to his impropriety with young women are scurrilous at best. They were just a good excuse to get rid of the wrong leader. He is hardly going to be successful in suing the television network.

What it is about was the stupidity of how Brown handled the charges. It showed him as immature, emotional and unable to deal with crisis. His appearance before the news media that cold January night was an embarrassment for the Conservative caucus and the Conservative Party. They had to get rid of this jerk and they got lucky. He resigned in an emotional state. He could not control himself. Those are characteristics we can never have in a party leader or premier.

What annoys me about this is that I have been working on putting together the Morning Line for the Ontario Tory leadership race. Now I have to tear up all my figures and recompute. Brown has created a wild card. He has always been a bother.

-30-

Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Righting policy on the right.

Friday, February 16th, 2018

Former Tory Leader Patrick Brown thought he had it made last November. He had the policy for the 2018 provincial election nailed down. He had what he thought was a wonderful book that could grace the coffee tables of the province with a great picture of him on the cover. Patrick’s provincial Progressive Conservatives were going to destroy the Liberal dynasty in Ontario.

But some dirty dog destroyed Patrick’s dream. It might not have been Ford that came up with the scheme to wreck the ‘unsinkable’ Patrick Brown but somebody pulled the plug on him. Maybe it was Caroline Mulroney. Her kid brother Ben works for CTV. Did he feed the gossip about Brown to the CTV news department? It depends on whether you like conspiracy theories.

Whatever. The problem is that Brown is out and somebody has to replace him. You would think that whomever the new leader of the party might be, they would be smart to put a new cover on the old policy book. It would save a lot of time, money and grief.

But millionaire Doug Ford would never worry about that. It was the Ford father who made the millions. The problem is that even while smoking crack cocaine, Toronto’s late Mayor Rob Ford was always twice the politician than his brother.

Four candidates are out on the campaign trail these days playing havoc with Patrick Brown’s carefully crafted, supposedly middle-of-the-road policies. If you are a social conservative, you might even have your own candidate—ditzy enough to pay $125,000 to lose. This fourth candidate is no D’Artagnan. Mind you Porthos, Athos and Aramis (otherwise known as Doug, Caroline and Christine) have been mining that social Conservative vein for the past week with their various ‘accommodations for sex education.’

It is the same with a carbon tax. Even an arch conservative such as Preston Manning says that a carbon tax is probably the only effective way we will ever find to start reducing the amount of carbon spewing into our environment. Again, Doug said he would fight against any carbon tax. Despite the rule book for this leadership saying candidates have to toe the line on policy, it is Doug Ford’s lead that other candidates are following.

The Ontario Conservatives have a situation where Doug Ford is turning out to be the de facto leader.

-30-

Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Out of the limelight for Patrick Brown.

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

Have you heard that old politicos just fade away? Younger ones are noisier. For example, take Barrie’s favourite son, Patrick Brown. If you hitch your horse in front of any of the many saloons on Barrie’s main street, you are welcome inside but you best not say too loudly that Patrick Brown is a putz. There is some of misplaced loyalty here about.

But, Patrick Brown needs to look for a new way to make a living. You have to realize that a guy like Brown has nowhere near the savior faire of TV anchor Steve Paikin. There are venturesome ladies who might like to cut a notch in their bedpost for a TV personality such as Paikin. And if he really did invite (in a gentlemanly manner, no doubt) publicity-hungry Sarah Thomson to enjoy some casual sex with him, she should have been flattered. All she needed to say was a polite ’yes, please’ or ‘no, thank you.’

Brown is an entirely different matter. This is a guy who appears to be awkward and immature with women. He is no ‘playboy.’ No doubt he could possibly achieve some success with understanding women in their 30s. Yet, he goes after the much younger who are initially attracted to his political position but then find he has nothing of interest to talk about.

There is certainly nothing for those young ladies to complain about to CTV. If they were invited to Brown’s home after drinking too much and accepted, did they think he was looking forward to a spritely game of Monopoly? In both cases, they said they lost interest and asked to be taken home. He did. What is the problem? Is CTV complaining about his bad judgement or bad politics?

Brown ended up with three problems. First he was too upset to listen to his staff. He was paying them for advice and he was stupid not to listen to them. Being upset on camera is not a sympathetic position. It is too much like regretting being caught.

The second problem for Brown was that in his absence from Queen’s Park, the knives came out. Conservative MPPs could now say what they really thought of Brown.  They do not like him.

The third problem is that he will never get elected in Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, unless the Liberals run someone as immature against him.

-30-

Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Joining the #IMBUSYTOO movement.

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

What can be more appropriate for Saint Valentine’s Day than to recognize true love. And even if it is not true, it is what passes for true love over in Ole Blighty! It is the upcoming nuptials of Prince Harry and his American bride Megan. Have you got your invitation yet?

It must have been U.S. President Donald Trump who started the #IMBUSYTOO trend on Twitter. He was miffed when he heard that Barack Obama was getting an invitation and he was not. He warded off embarrassment by sending out a twit saying that he was too busy to attend that day. He had no idea what day it was but he knew he would be too busy.

Donald Trump’s idea caught on. Self-important Washington politicians quickly joined in and twitted their regrets. They know that you can never trust the U.S. Mail to get you something on time from a foreign address such as Buckingham Palace.

But the wife is threatening to start a #IMNOTBUSY movement in retaliation. And if her invite does arrive, she tells me she will find a new plus-one to take with her.

Luckily, I expect that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be invited to represent all us Canadians. He at least knows which fork to use in what soup course when dining with the Brit royals. And he might even take wife Sophie—what mother does not want to check out current wedding ideas for that time she might be mother-of-the-bride.

The prime minister might as well get his fill of all this silliness of having royalty for Canada while he can. They are kind of cute. They are like the pandas that are about to leave the Toronto Zoo. We were watching a news clip of one of the little buggers playing in the snow the other day and the wife said she was glad we went down to the city to see them. She knows I would not cross the street to see the Brit royals. That is despite that Brit royals likely bath more often than pandas.

But I might send an idea for a new money maker to our lottery people. We could have a huge pool on how long we expect Harry’s Megan to put up with all that being royal crap. I expect the old Queen has insisted on an iron-clad pre-nuptial agreement. (She is not about to share the crown jewels.) My guess is that this wedding for Megan will be good for about three years.

Have a great Valentine’s Day!

-30-

Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Jagmeet’s first challenge.

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018

The new leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party (NDP) has been busier than you think. Taking his party’s leadership was Jagmeet Singh’s easiest task. His journeys around Canada since then have been to convince the party members that an observant Sikh does not have two heads and can also be an effective politician. Now he has an excellent opportunity to show that he can lead his party. This coming weekend at the party’s annual conference in Ottawa is his first serious challenge. He has a badly fractured party to heal and bring together.

Unique among Canada’s federal political parties, the NDP is based on its provincial organizations. Two of these provincial bodies are at war. The B.C. and Alberta parties are well past the nasty names phase. This is a war over the delivery of bitumen to tidewater and you best not to get between protagonists in that war.

And this battle will not stay in the west. The entire party will want to take sides. The LEAP Manifesto, which is a problem in its own right, will be the battle flag for the anti-bitumen warriors.

The person watching the closest to see what Jagmeet Singh does in this situation will be Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He is caught up in the same war. Jagmeet’s only advantage is that he has yet to take a stand. The prime minister has already had his cabinet approve the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Trudeau’s minister of natural resources has proposed new safeguards for our coastal waters and his environment minister has backstopped with more promises of environmental protection—to little avail.

The last thing that Trudeau really wants to do is to enforce the federal government’s powers to make the Trans-Mountain expansion happen. That would cost him most of his Liberal MPs in B.C. in the 2019 election. He can expect no offsetting gains in Alberta.

What Jagmeet needs is a solution that would stop the squabbling in his own party. He has been travelling in selected areas of Canada to ensure that he has the support within the NDP to even address the problem.

He now has an excellent opportunity to show his party that an effective politician can also solve the bitumen war.

We should all wish Jagmeet Singh well in this opportunity.

-30-

Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

In search of truth.

Monday, February 12th, 2018

There was an article in The Economist recently that discussed “Truth Decay.” It is an amusing headline for an awful truth. People have lost their confidence in the news media. It is not just in North America, it is everywhere. What we are reading the most today is opinion—and there is a plethora of opinions and not enough good reporters.

We are well past the point of confluence where the streams of journalism, print and broadcast news media and the digital world were joined. Print and broadcast have struggled and consolidated to remain profitable and are still in business to joust with the digital. And, at the same time, the digital outlets have presented us with a confused and untrustworthy environment for news in these transitioning times.

One of the serious failures in this digital era is Facebook. This is a highly intrusive social media outlet that also supplies a news feed feature for millions of followers. It takes its news feeds from anywhere, without care, without human thought. What it lacks is the trust that we had in the older media. Facebook’s algorithms do not have the insight to separate the burgeoning dross from the news that might be truth. It is not edited, as material is selected as trending by algorithm, based on your previous reading. This can lead the ignorant down the garden path

You can also be assured that there is nothing new or news about Twitter. Social media is a container to trap a vapid consumer society. The social media follower is sheep to be shorn—drones, in need of getting a life.

And it is not that bloggers are safe from critique. They often seem to be egos, seeking to be free. There are many who still need to learn to write. We all need editors. We need to define ourselves better.

When starting Babel-on-the-Bay.com ten years ago, the idea was to provide a depository for some written output. Frankly, I have been amazed at the thousands of people every year from around the world who read our archived material on voting systems.

It was only when I realized how many people were also interested in our experience and comments on politics that I made Babel-on-the-Bay.com a daily item. It is drawn from today’s news headlines but it is just one politico’s take on recent political events.

It is my hobby. It gets me up early each day. It is fun. No matter how roundly I might castigate some poor politician, please remember that I am having fun doing it. And no matter how thorough my research, I am as prone to error as any writer. I always welcome your comments.

-30-

Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Confidential candidate Caroline.

Sunday, February 11th, 2018

How much do we really know about Caroline Mulroney? She wants to be a member of the Ontario legislature. She wants to be leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. She even wants to be premier of Ontario. This woman wants all of this and we all know so very little about her. And we hear she says: politics is just a matter of opportunity.

What has puzzled us since Caroline Mulroney first appeared on the political horizon is her reluctance to deal with the major news media in Ontario. When her father first got involved in politics, he virtually climbed over the warm (and alive) body of former Prime Minister Joe Clark to get to his buddies in the news media. All the time Brian Mulroney was prime minister, he always made sure that the media gang in the back of the plane were well fed, watered and lied to. Maybe his daughter saw into his final fall from grace and blamed the media for some part of it.

But her weekend get-away estate in Georgina is not a good stepping stone to the premier’s office. It might only be a safe Tory seat for her to get into the legislature. The real action is down in Toronto and her best base for that is her and her husband’s Forest Hill mansion.

That Saccharine campaign launch that Milton MP Lisa Raitt chaired for candidate Caroline Mulroney was an embarrassment. For her to not take questions from the audience or news media made a farce of the entire proceeding and lost her ground in the race to replace Patrick Brown.

Believe it or not, when you are running for the leadership of your political party, the party members want to feel some warmth and a kinship with you. Caroline makes this even more difficult with her American husband, Andrew Lapham, and four children in private schools. What percentage of rank and file members of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party would be able to pay for having four children in private schools? (I’ll bet the answer is less than three per cent.)

This political junky is looking forward to the upcoming debate between, probably, just the three already declared contestants. It will be a shame if Ms. Mulroney’s campaign team report that she has laryngitis that day.

-30-

Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Measuring mediocrity.

Saturday, February 10th, 2018

Having been party to writing political rule books in the past, it took little time to find the loopholes and errors in the 2018 Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership rule book. I did not compare them, side by side, but I figure the major change is the date on each page. It makes the same silly mistakes as the last book that helped Patrick Brown steal the leadership.

The only major difference between the two events is that there are another 17 electoral districts to be included in the count. If an electoral district has 100 or less votes cast, each vote will be counted as one. If there are 500 votes cast in an electoral district, each vote will be worth 20 per cent of a vote. The maximum number of votes that could be tallied is 12,400.

What really complicates matters and makes it almost impossible to forecast the vote is that the party members are encouraged to state their preference by numbering each candidate according to their order of preference. This is the foolish type of voting that helped ‘Chuckles’ Scheer win as what can be perceived as the thirteenth choice in the federal Conservative race.

This means that Doug Ford has to get out of his comfort zone in Toronto and meet our farmers. Caroline Mulroney has to get out and meet real Conservatives. Christine Elliott needs to make peace with more of the caucus and get their help.

What makes this particular contest so daunting is the timeline. There is simply not enough time for candidates to meet and press the flesh of the party. The good news is also that there is no time to organize and co-opt closely knit ethnic groups who are spread across the province.

The election was effectively called for as of January 26. People who want to vote have until February 16 to pay their membership in the party. Voting will be from Friday, March 2 until Thursday March 8. They are arranging a little party event for the membership (and the news media) to announce the winner on Saturday, March 10 (less than three months before the provincial election).

The only problem that might have candidates stumbling is the demand in the candidate rules, Section 5.2.1(b), that says to be eligible to run in this leadership, they must support the party policy as detailed at the November 2017 policy conference—which includes a carbon tax.

-30-

Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Justin in the pipeline pretzel position.

Friday, February 9th, 2018

It is new to yoga. Among the latest postures for the ancient health and fitness practice is the pipeline pretzel position. It is for those who believe they can make money from the tar sands while reducing the carbon we are spewing into our environment. While we might all look silly in the downward dog posture, the pipeline pretzel is only for the very agile.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau showed us how agile you need to be at a recent town hall event on Vancouver Island. It was not the selfie-king’s finest hour. He lost his cool.

And, let me assure you, politician’s who cannot find their cool, do not have a lengthy career in politics. When Conservative Joe Clark rejected the 66 per cent support for his leadership by his party and called for a new leadership convention, it was the end of a potential career in the top job.

Another good example was when Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown recently refused to be cool about some questionable allegations by unidentified people. Where is Patrick now?

Does yoga meditation not teach people to be cool? When people are out to get you, paranoid or not, it is important to practice your deep breathing exercises.

It made no sense for the prime minister to get into arguments with the protestors on Vancouver Island. Telling police to eject protestors is not the image of Justin we all know and love. He blew it.

It seems to be what happens to people who think they can suck and blow at the same time. Justin is not the Teflon Tiger such as Trump in Washington. Trump has never been or will be a cultured, conservationist, respected, likeable leader. When he ran for the presidency, he posed as a populist, ignorant bastard and he lives up to that promise.

Trudeau, on the other hand, told us he loves liberals, women, the environment, the middle class and babies. He never told us about his rich friends, his lack of interest in fully taxing the one per cent, his elitism and that his government would approve the Kinder-Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. It has left some of us Liberals with the uneasy feeling that we have been had.

And besides, making like a pipeline pretzel is a ridiculous posture.

-30-

Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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