Archive for May, 2018

Looking south; looking askance.

Friday, May 25th, 2018

While cheerfully ignoring the Trump presidency as much as possible these days, I am sure most of my readers do not mind. I find that he can be boring. He is as awful and as dangerous to world peace as ever but it feels good to ignore the bastard for at least a while.

But you cannot ignore America’s Congress. The situation there is going from worse to bad. I got a wonderful dissertation on neoliberalism the other day from one of our favourite readers on the left coast. My vote is to give him his doctorate for that alone. He even invoked my favourite speech by Theodore Roosevelt. I thought it was long forgotten.

I also seem to have forgotten that the best example of neoliberalism is the American congress. It would do wonders for democracy in the United States of America if the anger about the lack of gun control could be used to  rid America of lots of those bought-and-paid-for senators and representatives in November. Only in America could the Vice President be a bought-and-paid-for representative of those foul Koch brothers of New York.

And only in America can the corrupt of industry and the National Rifle Association fund the re-election of their Quislings. It hardly makes you wonder if it was the system itself that lead to the election of Donald Trump?

But we still seem to be in the dark about the involvement of the Russians in electing Trump. Hell, the Russians do not understand democracy. How can they be the people to defeat it?

The only good thing about it is that Trump is so busy fighting with the American Department of Justice, he is forgetting to screw up the negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement. Every once in a while, he stops to take a poke at the Chinese but they are learning how to handle him. They are playing at being inscrutable.

I was watching TV news of the supposed leader of the free world and his son-in-law in Jerusalem the other day and all I could see was that damn fool Netanyahu grinning like the cat that swallowed the canary. If someone smarter does not get between Benny and the Iranians, there is going to be another bloody holy war in the Middle East.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Hoist a quaff to the Queen’s birthday.

Thursday, May 24th, 2018

After ignoring the royal wedding the other day in the United Kingdom, we should give proper homage to dear Queen Victoria. As you might know, it is her birthday today and many are celebrating the occasion. Frankly I am amazed by the numbers of people from all over the world who turn each May to the archives of Babel-on-the-Bay to reread my 2013 tribute to Queen Victoria. I am in no way a monarchist.

And I hardly believe many of us Canadians are monarchists. Sure, there was a spate of gawkers on the weekend because of the wedding of Prince Harry and his actress bride. They suit each other. I hope it lasts. And it certainly was a beautiful spring day for the wedding over in old blighty.

The wedding was pageantry in the excess. The commentary was also an excess of treacle. The wife threatened me every time I offered to turn it off for her. She thought it was lovely. With the wedding running on Greenwich Mean Time, I had recorded it for her but then she also found the Canadian networks were rerunning it at a civilized hour. I think she watched it twice.

Of course, I love pageantry as much as the next bloke. The Brit royals certainly do pageantry well. They also get lots of practice. I thought they did the Diana funeral in ’97 with wonderful pomp. The Brits do a great stiff-upper-lip event but the undercurrents of why can be very interesting.

Even the foolishness of Brexit needs ceremony. I do not suppose that the Queen will fire the first shot across the Channel to make it official but I expect life will go on in Great Britain. The royals will continue to be an asset for tourism and the economy will struggle for a while. It is hard to be sympathetic after such foolishness—after all, it was based on bigotry.

I still cannot figure out what they are going to do about Charles once the Queen passes. At 93, Elizabeth II has set a record as the longest serving monarch but she threatened the Commonwealth leaders recently informing them quite defiantly that Charles would succeed her. Most would have preferred that the succession skip a generation but no such luck.

But you have to admit that having a thriving monarchy in the 21st century is truly a quaint idea. I have met some of the European royals and frankly none of them hold a candle to the British royals. So, hoist your glass high again in a toast: Long live the Queen!

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Where’s Justin?

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

Oh, we know where on this earth Prime Minister Trudeau might be located. We just wonder where his mind might be at? This country is going downhill morally and politically and our leader was recently down in New York giving a trite commencement address to graduates at New York University. He then headed to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston where he took part in a Solve Conference to address world problems.

We can hardly be caring about our prime minister being a feminist, in touch with the LGBTW communities, and a world-wide poster boy, when he should be here pulling this country in sensible directions. He has a mess of his own making now in B.C. and Alberta and his finance minister has just locked him into a catch-22 situation indemnifying a foreign-owned pipeline company against the legitimate right of Canadians to protest.

And what good is all his simpering diplomacy with Donald Trump when he has a Trump-wannabe trying to take over as premier in his backyard of Ontario? Is he afraid of Doug Ford? We remember how Premier Wynne helped Trudeau in the 2015 election. Is the PM just a fair-weather friend?

It also would not hurt if our prime minister learned a little more about the House of Commons. While Trudeau is busy out posing for selfies, the tory opposition is eating his lunch in parliament.

And if he knew a damn thing about the politics of the Middle East he would help not confuse matters by whining about one Canadian being shot in the midst of a blood bath. He should ask Israeli leader Netanyahu, “We all know President Trump’s an idiot to start this. What the hell is your excuse?”

And speaking of Trump, why are we sending our foreign affairs minister on these NAFTA pilgrimages? Does she not have anything more important to do? As long as Trump does nothing precipitous, we still have a working North American Free Trade Agreement. We have shown we are quite willing to negotiate but surely we have people smart enough to take notes working at the Washington and Mexico City embassies. Politicians are the ones who do the signing and take the credit or the blame as required.

And judging from the foreign minister’s reports from the front lines of the NAFTA negotiations, she does nothing to clarify the situation. She seems to be getting nowhere.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

The pollsters have peaked.

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018

“O, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive.”

Obviously, Sir Walter Scott had a better take on pollsters 200 years ago than we do today. Ontario voters have been bamboozled by the pollsters since the beginning of the current provincial campaign. As much as the thought of a Doug Ford led government amuses them, the pollsters have now said Andrea Horwath is also in contention. That thought did it. It is time for the grown ups to step forward.

It is not that Andrea and her new democrats have failed mathematics. Another billion or so in debt is not going to make or break the province and everybody makes mistakes in math. It is just that the new democrats are bringing nothing new to the table. There is less talent in the NDP caucus at Queen’s Park today than Bob Rae had with him when he accidently became premier in 1990. All the NDP proved at that time was that they would turn the government over to the incompetent Mike Harris.

But for a real incompetent, Doug Ford, would be hard to beat.

The smartest thing Doug Ford could do would be struck by some mysterious disease and not show up for the final leadership debate next week. More and more of his candidates have been struck by that mysterious disease and not shown up for debates in their electoral districts. It reminds me of the Quebec NDPer who went to Las Vegas for the 2011 federal election and won election.

I can think of more than a few candidates over the years who would have got more votes if they had gone fishing instead of wandering aimlessly where the voters could see them.

And as for Andrea Horwath, I thought we were done with her. People seem to think it is mean of me to mention her dress, deportment or demeanour. The problem is that she dresses like a refugee from a Russian gulag. She is not leading that bunch of no-goodniks in the NDP caucus anywhere and I defy you to tell me anything she has ever come up with on her own? Did you see her giggling her way through that first debate?

The problem we have is that Horwath is horrible, Ford is a fool and Wynne is supposedly the wicked witch of the north. What is likeable about any of them?

But I am going to vote for the liberal candidate in Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte because he seems like a decent guy and is the only acceptable candidate who could represent us. All the other candidates seem to only represent their parties.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Mixing baloney and beer.

Monday, May 21st, 2018

People in Ontario are starting to laugh over the desperate efforts of conservative leader Doug Ford to promise voters anything to vote for him. It took him until halfway through the campaign to come up with something I liked. Doug Ford has promised to have beer in convenience stores.

It is too bad that it would not be worth seeing him elected to make that happen. The last time I believed a promise like that was when liberal David Peterson promised it in 1985. I liked David and it was his minority government that brought in a bill to start the process. The bill was defeated at the time by the combined conservative and new democrat majority. That was as close as Ontario has ever come to doing something decent for its beer drinkers and its convenience stores.

We just laughed when conservative Timmy Hudak promised beer in convenience stores in the 2014 election. We knew at the time that Timmy was going nowhere but back home to Fort Erie.

It was Ed Clark, Kathleen Wynne’s nemesis, who lead her down the path of pandering to the large grocery chains. Once he had the poor premier on the ropes for trying to privatize Hydro One, they started the water torture with beer and wine in the large grocery stores. It was the constant drip of publicity from the politicians that got everyone tired of the possibility before we bought our first six-pack at Loblaws.

What I think is the disgrace of this approach are the oppressive regulations that the grocers have to tolerate to carry some beer, cider and wine on their shelves. And yet the regulations prevent them from making money on the products. They are offering the alcoholic products only to encourage the public to shop at their stores. And they are paying for the privilege.

Knowing the margins that grocery stores operate within, I see this as an onerous imposition on the grocery chains. It would also be impossible for convenience stores to work within the same regulations. We would have to give our convenience stores a boost in income to enable them to pay a living wage to their employees.

The truth is that our grocery chains hardly need alcohol to attract business. And the LCBO is just a cash cow feeding more than $2 billion a year into the treasury at Queen’s Park.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Bill Morneau’s neoliberalism.

Sunday, May 20th, 2018

We should make it clear that neoliberalism is something a real liberal abhors. Neoliberalism is like the corporatism of the Italian fascists of Benito Mussolini of the 1920s and 30s. It lets the corporate world manage its own affairs. It is like finance minister Bill Morneau announcing that the government will indemnify Texas-based Kinder Morgan against losses occurred in trying to run its current pipeline expansion across the Rockies to Burnaby, B.C. The expansion is being resisted by the British Columbia New Democratic government.

It is a sweetheart deal for Kinder Morgan!

To a real liberal, it is unconscionable. This offer by Morneau and the Ottawa liberals indemnifies Kinder Morgan from actions by the people and the government of British Columbia. It indemnifies Kinder Morgan from actions by our first nations. The federal government is offering to take responsibility for the costs of legitimate protest. It is saying the environmental concerns of Canadians do not matter.

Just what is Morneau thinking? How can a government even consider indemnifying a company against the possible actions of the people who elect that government?

We are not in Italy of 90-years ago.

What is also the tragedy in this political and environmental argument is that Canadians are not hearing the truth. People with the pipeline on their agenda, lie about the tar sands; they call them ‘oil sands.’ They lie about what the expanded Trans Mountain pipeline is designed to ship to Burnaby to be transferred to ocean tankers. They call it ‘heavy oil.’ It is not yet oil. It is diluted bitumen.

Humans have used bitumen for thousands of years. In the time of building the pyramids, bitumen was the tarry substance used to caulk the bottoms of boats that plied the Mediterranean. Converting bitumen to synthetic crude oil is one of the most polluting processes known. It creates more than three times the pollution of normal oil refining. It creates huge piles of carbon slag.

When you transmit bitumen by pipeline, it has to be thinned with lighter polymers, heated to keep it fluid and travels under increased pressure. And when bitumen is spilled, you can never completely clean it up if it gets into local streams and rivers.

If we let this neoliberalism get by us, just wait until these neoliberals try to get VIA Rail to run their trains on time. If our railways become self-regulating, we will have even more reason to remember Lac Mégantic!

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

We are not ready to surrender.

Saturday, May 19th, 2018

What are we coming to? When fair weather warriors are conceding defeat, are we all supposed to lay down our arms? I have been involved in too many comebacks to go along with that.

We should not get mad about the current situation. The smart get to work. What have we failed to do? What more is possible? For me, a campaign never ends. You have to maintain that enthusiasm that got you involved all the way. There is no letting up.

And the one thing you can be sure of is that Kathleen Wynne is not going to give up. There is nothing sadder than to see a politician lose his or her backbone. The situation in Ontario today is really an opportunity. It is an opportunity for the real leaders to step forward. It is an opportunity for politicians to do their primary job in our political system. It is taking the opportunity to win your own election.

If you thought you would get elected on your leader’s coat tails, forget it. If you thought your electoral district always voted for your party, forget about it. This election requires politicians who can win, with or without party endorsement. It is time to represent your voters.

There are many voters in your electoral district who want to see leadership. There are those who think Doug Ford is just a windbag making foolish promises he knows he cannot keep. Kathleen Wynne is no Godzilla but, at times, she has seemed cold and unresponsive. And Andrea Horwath is a not taking her party anywhere.

The candidates are not responsible to any of those leaders—unless you were appointed by one of them to run in a riding where you do not live.

But do not feel you need to hide your party affiliation. If you are a conservative, you need to be careful about what you are supporting. You have to admit that Mr. Ford is not always careful about what he promises people. If you are a NDP candidate, you really need to show how that party’s principles can benefit people in your community. If you are a liberal, you just have to remind people that the core ethic of liberalism is individual freedom.

And it is that freedom that we always have to fight for. It means equality of opportunity for all, an opportunity for a healthy environment, it is taxing people fairly to pay for the infrastructure and services of our society, and it is ensuring better education and health care for everybody.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

In defence of local media.

Friday, May 18th, 2018

It came as a surprise the other evening to learn that for the past two years, NDP activist Gerry Caplan has also been a resident of Barrie, Ontario. He had been invited to participate on a panel of mourners for the late, and frankly unlamented, Barrie Examiner newspaper. By the time Torstar wrote fini on the Examiner saga, it had been through more hands than a Dunlop Street hooker on a busy night.

I congratulated Dr. Caplan later for bringing a bit of humour to the discussion. I was less than pleased with the performance of the moderator Robyn Doolittle, a working journalist from the Toronto Globe and Mail. She offered clear evidence that she had no idea of what a community might be or how you hold it together.

The other two panelists were walking wounded from the demise of the late community newspapers in Barrie and Orillia. One was the former editor from the venerable Orillia Packet and Times and is obviously struggling with his new career as a reporter for an Internet-only newspaper.

As a one-time managing editor, I could have easily told them the realities of Torstar killing the Examiner and keeping its weekly grocery flyer wrap called the Barrie Advance. The editorial content of the Advance is only there as a form of bilge balancing but it is the only print media in a city of over 140,000.

Regrettably Barrie is not a community in itself. As a Barrie matron explained to us when we came here, you have to have three generations in a local cemetery before you can say you are from Barrie. It is a city of 30,000 with 110,000 interlopers who just live here. It is the fastest growing city in Canada. City council tries to please the 30,000 real Barriites and ignores the rest of us.

I tend to look at Barrie as a challenge in communication. As a former political activist, I look at the problem of reaching people in two electoral districts that split the city in half and add rigidly conservative rural areas to each half. The federal conservatives gerrymandered it that way to keep the area voting conservative. The local liberals had no clue they were being shafted.

While I found the panel discussion interesting, the lack of understanding of how to pull the community together was the panel’s problem. Nothing accomplished; we went home.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Mother’s magic money.

Thursday, May 17th, 2018

Listening to Ontario conservative leader Doug Ford recently reminded me of my early childhood in Toronto. Doug Ford never seems to worry about where the money for his promises will come from. Neither did I—as a child.

I remember during the Second World War and my mother was sole support for those of her six children she could keep with her. The salary she earned as a bookkeeper at a war plant was meager. It rented two rooms for us in an old house off Jarvis Street in downtown Toronto.

But mother had a secret that few families such as ours had. She had a card that worked like money. Us kids thought of it as mother’s magic money. Maybe we forgot this later in life after Diners’ Club cards (for the rich) appeared in 1950 and the universal VISA (as BankAmeriCard) and American Express cards made their appearance in 1958.

I just remember making a long walk one winter down Yonge Street to Eaton’s wonderland of an emporium. I had mother’s card in my pocket and an extra nickel to buy myself one of those frosted malteds in a cone. There was absolutely no surprise shown by a clerk when I presented my mother’s card and told her what I wanted—while still munching on my cone. I proudly pulled my new two-seater toboggan up Yonge Street and home. I now had the way to take all my newspapers with me as I did my deliveries, despite the deep snow of that winter.

But mother made a point of teaching us children that while it might be magic, briefly, the bill from her T. Eaton Company card had to be paid in full at the end of each month.

That is what Doug Ford seems to forget as he traverses Ontario these days promising simultaneous great expenditures and great tax cuts. All we need do is be foolish enough to vote for him and the magic money will flow. One thing is for sure: he has absolutely no clue as to how a conservative government will pay the bills.

And if we had one more group at Queen’s Park searching for ‘efficiencies,’ we would be spending far more on the people finding efficiencies than the amount of efficiencies found.

Maybe Mr. Ford simply does not care. He has always had others in the family business to worry about paying his bills there. All I know is that somebody might have to care.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

The Morning Line: Ontario’s dilemma.

Wednesday, May 16th, 2018

This is probably the most difficult Morning Line Babel-on-the-Bay has produced in ten years. It might just be the one that besmirches our reputation. The question in this election are the polls following the voters or are the voters following the polls?

But I am convinced that the pollsters are busy drinking their own bath water. They have no clue as to what is really happening in Ontario.

My only defence is  that a morning line is produced to provide a starting point for the totalizator that computes payouts for pari-mutuel betting at racetracks. It is the horses themselves that make a horse race.

Conservative Party: 1 to 1

I have always had this secret belief that Canadians had to be much smarter than Americans. They have to survive and thrive through our cold-cold winters. I was almost convinced of our superiority when the Americans (accidently) elected Donald Trump president. I was proud to say at the time, that Canadians would never do anything that dumb. Now, I am not so sure.

But I figure the voters of Ontario have three weeks left to come to their senses and keep a blow-hard, Trump wannabe like Doug Ford from becoming premier.

Liberal Party: 3 to 1

What really upsets me about this possible outcome is that I wrote over a year ago that Kathleen Wynne was the problem for the liberals. She did not have to prove it. Yet, much can happen over the next three weeks and if you want to bet anything on this election, you will be best to settle for even money.

Premier Wynne has one more chance to deliver the killing blow to Doug Ford in a debate format. She had better make the most of it. Now that Ford is out in the open and vulnerable to political challenge, his inexperience and bluster will show. She has to stop letting him set the agenda.

New Democratic Party: 9 to 1

This is Andrea Horwath’s third strike. The news media play up her long-shot status but nobody reasonable expects much from her and her team. The only thing she has going for her at the moment is that she is not as disliked as much as her opponents and might have to referee in a minority government situation. With the similarity between the NDP and liberal policies, she would have little problem in supporting the liberals. You have to figure that an NDP-conservative coalition would not last two weeks.

Summary

It might seem a bit rude to leave Mike Schreiner and his greens out of these figures but it is really out of respect for his feelings. You would not believe the odds against getting even one green party member elected at this time.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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