Archive for April, 2018

Dark days descending on Ontario.

Monday, April 30th, 2018

It is frightening. We have been studying the mood of voters across Ontario and we do not like what we are seeing and hearing. We are not even into the writ period of the coming election. We are hardly ready to prepare our Morning Line this far ahead but some of what we are seeing is disturbing.

It is the same attitude we had trouble with in Mr. Trump’s win in the United States. We could not see how that blustering bastard could pull it off.

No, Doug Ford is not much like Donald Trump. He is a pale imitation. He is a blowhard and incompetent. Most voters already know that

But people who say they are going to vote for him do not care.

That was the factor that we missed with Donald Trump. We thought that rational people would realize that Trump could do irreparable harm to the United States of America.

But people who want retribution do not care. They want to get even.

And there are two fresh factors throwing us a curve in Ontario. The first is the ‘Me Too’ movement. It is driving a serious wedge in the relations between men and women. It is launching a war between the sexes such as we have never seen before. It has gone past justice to just piling on. It is not a swing in attitude to which you have an opportunity to say “Now stop.”

Those of us who have partnered so equally and openly with each other and the LGTB communities over the years are seeing the divisions and the tensions the ‘Me Too’ movement is causing.

The other incident that is horrifying many of us is the van that was driven down Toronto’s Yonge Street on a sunny day in April. We are seeing it as a sick hatred of the other sex by a very disturbed individual. There is a sad feeling that this needs to be addressed. Society has to recognize the problem. There is no pill for it. Doug Ford is not the answer. He is an irrational get even!

You hardly have to love our lesbian premier. She is too cold for the grandmother role.

But she is a politician. She can pull a coalition behind her. She can be trusted. She knows how to handle the job. You do not have to love her.

And for all her weaknesses, she knew what to do after the horror on Yonge Street. She promoted healing. Doug Ford was nowhere to be seen.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Arguing ad nauseam with auditors.

Sunday, April 29th, 2018

Ontario auditor general Bonnie Lysyk looks like an auditor. She also thinks as an auditor. She is one of those people who always cover themselves by saying that they do things according to standard industry practices. The only problem she has is that there are not many jurisdictions comparable to the Province of Ontario. She has few standards to go by.

It means that the auditor is often winging it. And when she changes her mind on something, all hell can break loose.

Maybe that was what she had in mind when she charged the Ontario government the other day of making fast and loose with accounting for the province’s finances. It was just part of an ongoing argument but the timing was obviously designed to embarrass the government just before a provincial election. Lysyk was inferring that the government was hiding part of the planned deficit for the coming year.

The main item in this complaint is the pension fund for teachers and government employees in which the province shares liability. It was sixteen years ago that the Harris conservative government asked the then auditor to show that fund as an asset on the government books. And if you were looking after $11 billion, you might also think of it as an asset.

The problem is that two years ago, auditor general Lysyk changed her mind. You could imagine the screams of horror from the government at the big hole she was driving into their accounts. They have been arguing ever since.

And just to add some icing to the cake, Lysyk has also turned thumbs down on finance minister Charles Sousa’s borrowing money to reduce the electricity rates by 25 per cent. It seems everyone but Lysyk likes the lower electricity rates. The government does not want that debt on its books so it went on the books of the new Ontario Power Generation Trust that is owned by the government but is treated as a private company. That means the trust does not get the low government borrowing rates but pays commercial rates. Ms. Lysyk might have some grounds for this complaint but who wants to be first to pay higher rates for electricity?

As you can imagine, Bonnie Lysyk is the new hero of the opposition parties at Queen’s Park. All the opposition parties are going to do is claim that the liberals have been cooking the books again. And if you get into the details, nobody is going to understand anyway—certainly not Doug Ford.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Chuckles brings home a report card.

Saturday, April 28th, 2018

Andrew ‘Chuckles’ Scheer has spent the better part of a year in Ottawa as leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. A report card is due. Will we like the report on that purportedly placid Prairie politician?

Will he reprise the docile and easy-going speaker of the house role he played for the former prime minister? Do our parliamentarians still refer to him as ‘Harper’s boy’?

You might be surprised to hear that he has now been retrained as an attack dog and he can be ferocious when standing on his hind legs. He stands in place in the House and almost drools as he focusses in on the prime minister. And it is not to praise him.

Chuckles is quite adamant that our prime minister is an empty suit, a wastrel and a waster of public monies, a hypocrite in his policies and is taking the country in entirely the wrong direction. In fact, according to Chuckles, the liberal leader does nothing right.

His only problem is that very few Canadians pay much attention to what Chuckles has to say in the House of Commons. They do not know him and if they did, they might not like him.

Chuckles is more than a bit boring. He and his wife are practicing Catholics and have five children. He is a social conservative. He has been known among the conservative caucus as Stephen Harper with a smile.  He ran for the leadership last year on a slogan of being a real conservative and a real leader. Not all conservatives believed his slogan. He won on the 13th ballot with 50.9 per cent of the vote over second-place Maxime Bernier’s 49. 1 per cent.

If he really brought home a report card for his first year as opposition leader, it would probably report that he does not always play well with the other children. He has been known to complain that the liberal government has not done something and when they do it, he complains that that they did it. He went to England recently to promote himself with the people back home. He got failing grades in diplomatic relations with the U.K. government.

Chuckles is also busy preparing for his first test as conservative leader in next year’s federal election. The consensus is that he will be lucky to survive as party leader.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

“The Long Goodbye.”

Friday, April 27th, 2018

Not to give it the suspense of mystery writer Raymond Chandler’s character Philip Marlowe, but Patrick Brown has taken far too long to say goodbye. It has been two months since he called a hasty news conference at Queen’s Park. Within the day, he was gone from being party leader and poster boy for the Conservative “Guarantee” booklet and a renewed leadership race was on.

To put it mildly, Patrick let the dogs out! We soon understood what his fellow MPPs at Queen’s Park thought of him. His seat in the Ontario Legislature was moved to an out-of-the-way corner. He was ejected from caucus. He was ostracized. Interim leader Vic Fideli did not want him running in the coming provincial election.

The only thing the caucus could not do was prevent him from running in the leadership race to succeed himself. He was in and then he was out without any sensible explanation.

What made no sense at all was the statements that CTV News released from the two women complaining about Brown. One told him she did not want to go to bed with him and he drove her home. The other did not like his penis in her mouth, so he did up his fly and drove her home. Luckily, one of them admitted later that she really was old enough at the time.

But what did these young ladies expect when he invited them up to his bedroom: to play with his electric trains? Patrick needs to pick up his casual companions at a better class of bars. He should also just be friends with his staff and play with ladies in his own age group.

What amazes us though is that Patrick never stops holding himself up for ridicule. Last week, he published a four-page, four-color insert in the local newspaper. It reads like a job application. It is a terrible waste of money but I have a suspicion that the taxpayers footed the bill. It is nothing but self-aggrandisement that takes you through his career at city hall, in parliament in Ottawa and at Queen’s Park. And that was just page one. The next three pages are presented as snapshots of his days in office. All I got out of it was that he has had three jobs, did little and accomplished less. And he has absolutely no idea as to what to do next.

We hope you find a new job soon Patrick.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Fraser Institute starts with conclusions.

Thursday, April 26th, 2018

As any experienced writer can tell you, the toughest challenge is to write a report to a predetermined conclusion. This is also why knowledgeable readers are often skeptical of Fraser Institute reports. It seems as though the institute only pays for reports that favour its right-wing stance.

There was therefore new hope the other day to read one of their reports that was purported to be an analysis of why both the Liberals and Tories in Ontario were wrong on their minimum wage stance. The authors were listed as Charles Lamman and Hugh MacIntyre of institute staff.

The report started by zeroing in on the Liberal government’s approach. There were the typical arguments about lost employment and fewer benefits and fewer hours but little recognition of alternatives such as skills upgrading opportunities offered by the government. The dollars and ‘sense’ of this issue goes far beyond the cold mathematics and cruel assumptions.

The reality today in Ontario is what this report seems to ignore. You have to start with what it costs for food, shelter, clothing and transportation. A minimum wage of less than a living wage is not only cruel but it is designed to keep people at that level. A business that has to rely on its employees working at below a living wage is not a business that we should welcome in our communities. We already make exceptions for the teenagers getting some work experience outside of school hours. That is not how we should pay adults with family responsibilities.

The researchers at least admit that Doug Ford’s PC minimum wage platform is wrong-headed and shows a dreadful lack of knowledge about the provincial tax structure and reality. Ford’s proposal that the minimum be left at $14 per hour and then increase with inflation is an attempt to keep Ontario’s minimum wage workers at below the poverty line.

The Fraser Institute writers further confuse the issue of minimum wage by mixing it with a discussion of a guaranteed minimum income program. While a guaranteed minimum is a desirable direction, Canadians need to understand the privacy they would have to forego, if they opted for that approach. People look to their work and their families for fulfillment in life. Money is not always the first priority.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Different directions for divided liberals.

Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

Prime minister Justin Trudeau needs to check the direction in which his mob is headed. It is very hard to get out front to lead them when you are headed in opposite directions. Seeing the directions and concerns of the Liberal Party of Canada at the Halifax gathering last weekend, Trudeau needs to reassess the makeup and direction and priorities of himself and his cabinet.

The truth is today that Liberal Party supporters are predominantly to the left of the political spectrum. They are also to the left of Justin Trudeau and his cabinet. While Trudeau has changed the party to try to prevent it from showing much organization and discipline, he has also made it harder to control. Environment minister Catherine McKenna and natural resources minister Jim Carr can talk the talk of their portfolios but the party knows them to be hypocrites when they support the twinning of the Texas owned Trans Mountain pipeline.

Trudeau needs to realize that next year it is not the elites around his office but the people in the electoral districts who will knock on doors with literature in hand. They are the people who made the breakthrough for Trudeau in 2015 and are needed to defend his less than perfect record in the 2019 federal election.

The prime minister might think that all he needs to do for the party is stand for a few selfies and talk sunny days but the party has shown its concern for where this country is going. The ones who came to Halifax want Pharmacare to match with Medicare. They want to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of drugs to show the user that helping them is more important than penalizing them for addiction.

And it was the young liberals who brought forward reforms for those in sex work. Liberal forums have been hearing for more than fifty years of the need to decriminalize prostitution and to recognize the work of sex surrogates and sex workers as a critical outlet for societal needs.

But it is not the prime minister and his cabinet that should act as the naysayers to these proposals. They have to recognize that the need is to study and consider by a progressive and understanding society. Being conscious of the needs is the beginning.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Devolving Deception.

Tuesday, April 24th, 2018

When responsibilities are passed to a lower level (devolved), it helps to have a glossary of terms available so that the lesser levels will get their words right. It seems that Toronto Star writer David Olive has stuck carefully to this glossary in his story on the weekend touting the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Olive hits just the right note in his puff piece when he starts with concern that the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion over the Rocky Mountains will never be built. And to drive home his concern, he calls it an “oil” pipeline. Never once in 87 centimetres of copy does he refer to the bitumen the expanded pipeline is designed to carry to tidewater on the B.C. coast.

Olive is concerned that the lack of the expanded pipeline will do serious damage to Canada. He is worried that Kinder Morgan has suspended work on the Texas company’s $7 billion pipeline expansion.

He refers to the to the Alberta tar sands product as being landlocked. This is despite the coming availability of TransCanada Pipeline’s Keystone XL that President Trump has insisted be built with its access to the Texas gulf ports. There is also the already approved replacement of Enbridge Line 3 to Superior, Wisconsin (despite meeting some resistance in Minnesota) also offers possible access for bitumen to the Great Lakes. And let us not forget the 300,000 barrels per day that can already be shipped through the existing Kinder Morgan line to Burrard Inlet.

We are not really clear if the Kinder Morgan expansion to high-pressure, heated bitumen through the new dual system at almost 900,000 barrels per day is based on need or greed.

For all the weeping and wailing of Alberta and federal politicians, nobody wants to explain publicly why the Alberta companies do not want to convert their bitumen to synthetic crude oil in Alberta.

Olive seems to have the idea that the Athabasca tar sands product would not be discounted the way it is today if the company could just get it to third world customers who are not worried about its excessive polluting. You would expect that any country with the expertise to refine bitumen into synthetic crude oil would also have the knowledge that bitumen costs more to refine and creates serious amounts of highly polluting bitumen slag in the process.

He goes on to compare the tar sands output to Maya crude from Mexico. Maya crude might have many impurities but it is still crude oil, not bitumen.

Our advice to Mr. Olive is that, before he writes more on this complex subject, he read more than the tar sands producers’ handouts.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Horwath has been heard from.

Monday, April 23rd, 2018

News from the front lines of the pre-election election campaign in Ontario: The New Democratic Party does exist. As irrelevant as the NDP might be in this pre-election period, it was nice to see what might be the entire membership of the party forming a human wall for their leader. And there was their cherubic leader, Andrea Horwath, fronting for foolishness.

This will be Andrea Horwath’s third campaign as NDP leader for Ontario. Despite the federal Mulcair mess, NDP leaders are supposed to have at least three tries. If they changed leaders every time they lose, they could eventually run out of members who have not had a try at being leader.

We are feeling a little malicious today and maybe we can get a media friend to ask Andrea a question. I think we would all like to know if she is supporting John Horgan of B.C. or Rachel Notley of Alberta? Her two, much more successful, NDP friends are arguing over a pipeline and eventually all Canadians are going to have to come to grips with the issue.

But before we forget, the news is that the Ontario NDP has a book of promises for the election. The party can promise anything anyway. It has only one chance in a hundred of having to implement any of them.

The funny thing about these promises is that the public will have no idea how to separate the NDP promises from the liberal promises. It is just too darn hard to tell them apart.

The only promise that annoyed me was the NDP are promising free university tuition for students who cannot pass a means test. The only position this liberal will agree with is free tuition for all. University students are too old to be reliant on parents to pay for their tuition. It leaves parents in an improper position of authority over their adult children.

But it is nice of Andrea Horwath to spend the time in the coming election backing up the liberal promises.

Both parties will spend the election period slagging that guy Ford. It will eventually be understood by most voters that he has absolutely no idea what he is talking about.

No doubt even Andrea’s loyal Hamilton voters are going to vote liberal this time around to make sure that an irresponsible guy like Ford does not take over the premier’s office.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Stapling, spindling and folding Ford.

Sunday, April 22nd, 2018

Millennials might not be as familiar with the admonition we used to read on our household bills. Before the Internet, our bills were often delivered to us as data processing punch cards. We dutifully mailed these cards back to the supplier, along with our cheques. It was considered a no-no to mangle the punch card and cause it to clog the mechanical reader.

But in this case, we are thinking of conservative leader Doug Ford as something of a punch card. And we are not all that pleased with how Premier Wynne is handling him. Sure, we started out suggesting that he was Trump-lite but by no stretch is he much like the real Donald Trump.

And the way, Kathleen Wynne is referring to him as Trump-like, it is coming across as a compliment. She cannot afford to forget she is premier. She cannot afford to get down in the mud to wrestle with a pig.

It is alright for her campaign guy David Herle to refer to Ford as a “bit of a dick.” Many of us have called Ford much worse.

As premier, she has to handle Ford smarter. When he accusingly suggests there should be an audit of the books while she has been premier, she has to say: Sure, that is done every year anyway and while that is going on, we could also audit of his company’s books when he was selling labels.

Nobody doubts that Kathleen Wynne is tough. She also needs to prove she is smarter. She has to ridicule him with faint praise. She has to paint a picture of him in short pants. She has to show that he fails to understand the job he is applying for. She has to kindly show that he is nowhere ready for the job.

There was a clip of former mayor Hazel McCallion of Mississauga on the news the other day. Hazel was lacing up her hockey skates. This woman is in her mid-90s and she is still tough as a whip. She should give lessons to much younger Kathleen Wynne.

The premier needs to raise her game for this election. The strongest argument the opposition parties are making is that the liberals have been in power for 15 years. So, what? The liberals have done a hell of a lot of good for this province over that time. Does anyone really think Doug Ford would bring anything other than troubles?

The only people Doug Ford would help are millionaires such as the medical specialists who run the OMA. The bad news for the people on lower incomes, who might think of voting conservative is that Ford would not know what to do to help them. Wynne has to show that Ford only wants the job to feed his own ego.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

The price of success for Netflix.

Saturday, April 21st, 2018

As Netflix keeps adding to millions of subscribers, so do the costs to customers. There is no free lunch and what started as the poor man’s alternative to network programming has become a ravenous giant in the network TV class.

And giants are noticed. How long will it be before the taxman comes calling? Netflix has had a free ride in Canada for far too long. We all share the wealth in this country.

But there never was that much of a saving with Netflix anyway. How much is that box that makes Netflix work? Alternatively, you might want to spend thousands on a smart TV. Mind you, you should never buy a toy smarter than yourself. You end up with the neighbour’s 12-year old showing you how to make the thing work.

And the monthly expense for Netflix includes your Internet connection.

In Canada, with our cabal-controlled Internet pricing, you might be looking at more than $60 per month to have sufficient bandwidth for decent streaming video. And they will charge you more if you are binge-watching.

And just watch as this upstart Netflix takes on the TV networks with original programming. How did you like the Netflix effort with the series Crown? Oh, not a royalist are you? Our French speaking friends gave very short comment on the Marseilles miniseries. Maybe it will do better dubbed in English?

Netflix needs to face the facts that the TV networks have had far more years of making programming mistakes. And where is Netflix going to get some sports? Pre-recorded Tiddley-Winks tournaments, simply will not cut it.

From the Olympics down to neighbourhood street hockey, Canadians love their sports. It is the sponsors and the advertisers who bring us into the world of professional hockey, golf, baseball, football and Netflix has yet to compete in that area.

And what about news? Your television is irreplaceably a source of news that allows you to quickly check the different network treatments of the news and to verify its authenticity. The day is long gone that the family could gather around the radio to learn of important events.

The stock experts have been raving lately about how Netflix is growing. They should always remember how it is easy to blow up a balloon and how fast it can deflate.

And, it is much easier to live without Netflix than to live without live television network news.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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