Archive for May, 2018

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

Three-ring circus versus horse race.

Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

Whatever you want to say about the Ontario election that is going on now, it could never have been a three-ring circus production by P.T. Barnum or his partner James Bailey. The simplest explanation is that if you consider the performer who keeps multiple plates spinning atop long sticks, you realize that the act requires close concentration in the ring. You can hardly concentrate on your plates in ring two if the elephants in ring three decide to charge across and stomp the tigers in ring one. You are going to have a lot of smashed plates.

That is why in politics, the race track analogy is much better. It does not matter how many horses are in the race, there are only one or two favourites. Most times, you get just one winner. A racing form can tell you about the breeding, training, work outs, performance and the jockey.

The trouble is many a maverick considers politics an invitation to easy fame and fortune. There are also those who think they can buy their way. They use bluster instead of eloquence. They play fast and loose with the truth and the facts. They run on ego.

In the current situation in Ontario, there seems to be nothing achieved by pointing out how morally corrupt a person such as Doug Ford can be. His supporters know that. They do not care.

What they do not understand is that what they are doing is bear baiting. This has been illegal in Canada since before Canada was a country. They have turned the conservative dogs loose on the liberals for no reason more than they do not like progress. They despise the idea of a tax on carbon to protect the environment. They do not believe women can manage their own bodies. They do not understand what a fair minimum wage means. They consider the mess at Ontario Hydro as a liberal problem—yet it has taken all three parties and many years to really screw things up with Hydro.

But do not expect that pompous Mr. Ford to save you. His only instinct is self-aggrandizement. His experience with elected office is one term as a Toronto councillor where he spent his time trying to keep his brother, the mayor, sober and off crack cocaine. He is a braggart with an ego and a wannabe with no credentials. Four years would be far too long to tolerate him as premier of this key province of Canada.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

TV ads do not get the vote out.

Monday, May 14th, 2018

There is a fascination with political advertising. It seems to be more for their entertainment value than their efficacy. I just have yet to see an ad that would get a voter off the lounger and out to the polls to vote.

I think the best of the current batch of TV ads running is the liberal one that is titled “Real Doug Ford.” It is a classic attack ad that takes his stands and graphically denounces them. The ad makes good use of black and white and color to emphasize the messages. Does it work? Hard to tell. My impression is that many of the Doug Ford supporters are more interested in bashing Ms. Wynne than checking out Ford’s credentials.

The current TV ad that does not work for me is the conservative ad that gathers a lot of short clips from Doug Ford events. Maybe the message is subliminal. I think personally that it is too much like the Trump rallies in the U.S. where President Trump preens and reassures himself that these people at least love him. Whatever the message might be, it is lost in the fast cuts and confusion.

And, speaking of confusion, have you seen the NDP ad that features two ordinary-type people and red, blue and orange balls. They keep getting hit by the different balls and then the woman throws a basket with one of the orange balls. Maybe that is just too subtle for this old apparatchik.

I suspect that these ads will quickly become background to the campaign. I am a firm believer that in politics, the only effective campaign is the individual candidate’s ground game. This is the relentless and determined door knocking that can identify the individual candidate’s vote. Once identified, the candidate’s team knows who to make sure has voted on election day.

I am also convinced that candidate campaigns would be missing an important opportunity if all advance polling days were not treated the same as the final polling day. The relaxed rules make it vital to ensure as many of your identified voters as possible have voted. Never leave it until the last minute.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

 

The Opera ain’t over.

Sunday, May 13th, 2018

First off today, we want to apologize. We have been thoroughly castigated by family and readers for being rude to Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath the other day. I sincerely apologize to her for my comments on her weight. That was inappropriate. At the same time, I stand by my comments on her outfit. She was definitely not respecting the viewers nor dressed to go to the same event as Mr. Ford and Ms. Wynne.

But after that disquieting kickoff of the campaign by CITY-TV, I had to go out and do more serious investigation of what is going on with the Ontario election.

One of my shorter excursions was to the local liberal campaign office where Premier Wynne was scheduled to stop by. It was not old home week. A friend drove and he had us at the campaign office a full 15 minutes before the scheduled event.

But this event was on liberal time and it was an hour and 20 minutes before Kathleen Wynne arrived. The event got full coverage from the television networks and print media. There were lots of serious young apparatchiks going around fussing and re-arranging during the wait. It gave me a chance to say ‘hi’ to some local liberals and to meet the liberal candidate. He seems like a bright and articulate young man. Readers in Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte should get to know Jeff Kerk.

Premier Wynne was the star today and I was quite re-assured by her presentation. She was relaxed, personable, enthusiastic and warm—and why should she not be when talking to a friendly, enthusiastic group of liberals?

I think what this excursion reminded me of was some of the basic realities of this campaign. Whether I agree with all the changes in Ontario brought about by the Wynne government, it accomplished a great deal of good for us. This government has been instrumental in addressing environmental problems, it has introduced a liberalisation of alcohol sales in large grocery stores and we have fewer unemployed than we had during the previous 20 years. And only the mean-spirited would disagree with raising the minimum wage in Ontario to $15 per hour.

One of the ways, this government has helped create jobs is in the building of new hospitals, schools, transit ways, subways and highways. It did its job.

And why would we change to someone as inexperienced as Doug Ford? There is more of this campaign to come.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Which half will vote?

Saturday, May 12th, 2018

There is a supposition that following the low turnouts of voters in Ontario elections in 2011 and 2014, there will be a similar low turnout in June of 2018. The question that confounds politicians and pollsters is which half of the voters will come to the polls. And if you are waiting for the 18 to 24 age group to rise up and vote, we better find an issue to cause them to rise up.

You hardly need an issue for seniors. These people are the equalizers in any election. They feel it is their duty to vote. And they do. When you talk to them at their door or in seniors’ residences, they are mostly quite certain of the intention to vote and they have usually made up their minds earlier on how they will vote. The few of this group who are truly floaters between parties, take delight in confounding pollsters and political party workers. Usually, it comes down to which party is promising more for seniors.

(I will never forget the time I was taking a senior home after voting and she told me she had voted for the New Democratic Party candidate. I, politely as possible, asked her why she had called the liberal campaign office for a ride to vote? She explained, as we arrived at her house, that liberals are always on time, polite and drive nicer automobiles.)

While Babel-on-the-Bay’s Morning Line on the provincial election will be published next week, I can tell you now that what we are hearing across the province is disconcerting. There is a palpable anger and an “I don’t give a damn attitude” about this coming election.

The good news is that more and more, women are going to make the difference. Many of them have come to dislike Doug Ford. It is more of a lack of trust than anything else. They do not trust him on women’s rights and they are becoming convinced that he could not even run a household budget. They think he is too vague in what he is going to do for the province and these business efficiencies he is talking about sound like pie in the sky.

And as much as they are not sure they want Kathleen Wynne to continue as premier, they do not think she is a crook. They figure Doug Ford would be much more likely to fudge on his expense account. When it comes to competence, they are much more likely to trust Kathleen Wynne.

And these are the people more likely to vote.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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